RVA JavaScript Conference 2019

RVA JavaScript Conference was, unsurprisingly, Richmond's first conference dedicated to everything JavaScript. This was my first year attending, as well as my first time attending a local conference. I was the only person from Ippon to attend but had the chance to see many friends, former co-workers, and fellow RVA.js meetup attendees. This was very different from my usual conference experiences where I know virtually no one and what I like most about the Richmond JavaScript community. While all the speakers I saw were great, here are a couple that left me reflecting on the topic.

Micro Frontends in Enterprise Applications

Nick Holmstedt talked about how CoStar is implementing micro frontends, which is a very large topic of interest for me. If implemented poorly I believe micro frontends introduce more friction to the daily process of the developer than they are worth. I attended this talk because the only micro frontend I ever worked with was extremely interdependent and very opinionated, which causes a lot of issues for daily development. Your component of the application should in no way impact others in the ecosystem. CoStar's solution utilizes a reverse proxy to route to separate apps. With their solution, they can easily develop in the context of one component, as well as the whole app context. This leaves the proxy middleware to hold all of the shared contexts between apps and creates a reliance on the owning team to update that. However, I think that is an acceptable price to pay for most applications if they do not get too large.

Human Readable JavaScript: Using ES2015+ to Craft Better Code

Laurie Berth was a delight to listen to this year. As someone who is currently writing a lot of vanilla JavaScript, this talk was very interesting to me and made me think about the weirdness of JS, consistency in syntax I'm using throughout my code, and readability for others when I have to pass along my work. Laurie has a blog post here that covers some of the concepts of her talk. I wanted to point out three examples she uses that don't even encompass the entirety of that blog post on how identical code can be written in so many varying ways.

Example

const arr = [1,2,3]
let multipliedByTwo = arr.map(el => el*2)
// multipledByTwo is [2,4,6]

Now add optional parenthesis

const arr = [1,2,3]
let multipliedByTwo = arr.map((el) => el*2)

Now add curly braces and a return statement

const arr = [1,2,3]
let multipliedByTwo = arr.map((el) => { return el*2})

Who decides readability

The talk, in general, was very intriguing to see all of the variations you can have in JavaScript but left me with the lingering question of what choices we make when programming that will make our code the most readable. The answer is not always the same, but especially as a consultant it is something that must be kept in mind. Every project I am on will be handed off to someone else at one point or another. Generally, I think if you try to follow good practices and keep in mind that someone else will have to work on this after you leave, good decisions will be made. Will your choices be perfect? No, but how often do you look at your old code and think it can't be improved?

Things I'm excited for in JS

Laurie also mentioned two items that would be making their way into the JavaScript standards and those were nullish coalescing and optional chaining. If you don't know what they are, here's an example:

// Nullish Coalescing
var value = null ?? 'default string'; // in this case || will work for null/undefined, but not for falsy values like 0, '', and false


// Optional Chaining
// This helps get property values in a tree like structure without checking intermediary nodes
var street = response.body?.address?.street;
// without optional chaining
var street = response.body && response.body.address ? response.body.address.street : undefined;

For those that have used TypeScript you may already be familiar with optional chaining, but soon JavaScript will permit the reading of deeply nested properties without causing an error.

Delicious JavaScript: Delectable Explanations of the Power of JS

Adrienne Tacke gave a good talk on how she broke down the essential and most commonly used methods in JavaScript using examples centered around dessert. None of these functions were new to me, but I found her perspective on boiling down the explanations to something simple and framing it in a more relatable manner very helpful as a teaching tool. I've been in situations where I feel like I can't explain something any more clearly. However, I already have the familiarity with the function I used and the context I used it in. What ultimately led to the misunderstanding was introducing a new function in an unfamiliar context to someone else and not thinking about how they learn things. Relating the new concept to a context they are more familiar with removes half of the mystery! This is also similar to how I learned RxJS and fell in love with reactive programming, by using RxMarbles. When I wasn't looking at the functions in an abstracted code snippet with data I didn't know about, it was a lot easier to see how the functions behave. When you're first learning some documentation is very intimidating, that's why viewing how the functions work in a more relatable or interactive manner is so helpful.

A Tinder Love Story: How we created our WordPress blog in React...not PHP.

While probably the least relevant topic of the day, I found Kyle Boss from Tinder to be one of the most engaging speakers and got me interested in trying out Gatsby.js to create a site. Gatsby is a static Progressive Web App generator that leverages React. Gatsby only loads the critical HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and data. Then Gatsby will prefetch resources for other pages, which will make clicking around your site feel fast. Gatsby seems to have a really good use case for a personal site or blog.

Closing

The RVA JavaScript conference was a blast and I'm excited to see what is in store for 2020. Thanks to all of the organizers for such an awesome time!

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