Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Node.js – Server-side JavaScript24

Last Friday I was lucky enough to attend Remy Sharp‘s one day Node.js workshop in London.

nodejs - server side javascript

The course started, rather conveniently, from the very beginning and concisely covered the basic installation of node.js and getting up and running with node package manager.

Next we used express.js, a node web framework, to rapidly build and deploy a data-driven webapp complete with custom url routing, and EJS page templating. As if this wasn’t already enough, we then wrote another line or two of code to add a fully functional JSON API to provide access our site’s data… amazing!

For me this was the highlight of the day. The speed with which new prototypes can be built and deployed is astonishing. Express JS kind of reminded me of the CodeIgniter PHP framework except it was quicker and easier to work with in almost every respect.

After a very impressive two course lunch, complete with a salad bar (all included in the ticket price) we headed back to the classroom to learn how to create a variety of web servers to support:

For the lazier readers amongst you, there is a good summary of all these technologies over at the HTML5Doctor blog.

Unfortunately, due to evolution of the workshop syllabus throughout Remy’s tour, learning about databases (MongoDB) was no longer in scope for the course. However, thanks to the solid foundation I got from the rest of the course, I am now confident that I can work this part out on my own.

WARNING: After a couple of beers it seems Remy has a tendency to get over-excited whilst demoing his pet projects. If there are any full pints on the table, get your laptop and bag out of the way ASAP!

All in all a great day. I left feeling inspired to build new things, eager to learn more and smelling somewhat beery, thanks Remy.

iPhone Development Course24

I have just completed a fantastic three-day iPhone development course run by @aral.

The course was an excellent introduction to xCode, Objective-C and the iOS SDK. In addition to this it really helped to cement the principles of OOP in my mind. Much to my delight, the example projects were very well thought out and could be applied to many real world applications.


Aral was a knowledgeable and enthusiastic teacher with a real passion for user experience. Big thanks to Yell for funding my place on the course and an even bigger thanks to Aral for opening the door to the App Store.

To find out more details about future dates for this course check out Aral’s website.

Full Frontal 2009 – Back to Brighton25

Last Friday I got up early and headed south on the train. My destination was the Duke of York Picturehouse in sunny (couldn’t be farther from the truth) Brighton. The reason for this outing was the first ever Full Frontal JavaScript conference, organised and curated by Remy Sharp (@rem).


On arrival in Brighton I was faced with a 10 minute uphill trudge in the rain. This was not an ideal start to the day but, before too long I had successfully navigated to my destination, which as had been pointed out to me a couple of days earlier “cannot be missed” due to a massive pair of stocking-clad legs sticking out of the roof. After a well needed cup of tea and two (yeah that’s right, two!) pain au chocolat I settled down into what must have been the most comfortable conference seat ever and prepared myself for the day’s talks.

Full Frontal 2009 Itinerary

A day of firsts…

Full frontal was a day of firsts… It was the first time I had been to a purely javascript conference, it was the first time I had properly understood closures (thanks to @robertnyman) and most importantly, it was the first time I had ever been to a conference where I had enjoyed every single talk. This was a brilliant suprise because in the past at conferences I have always found myself clock-watching in at least one presentation and wishing it would finish so I could go and get another free tea and danish.

The highlight of the day for me was Robert Nyman’s talk, which was a fantastic (albeit heavily Ben Affleck orientated) summary of everything you needed to know in order to be a JavaScript wizard. I also really enjoyed Jake Archibald’s talk on performing your own JavaScript performance research and how best to incorporate JavaScript libraries. The humour and enthusiasm he put into this potentially very boring topic was excellent.

Original presentation methods

Another thing that really impressed was the quality and originality of the presentation materials used, with three out of the seven talks not using powerpoint or keynote. Jake Archibald’s presentation was done entirely in flash, which despite being a little controversial for a JavaScript conference was incredibly well designed and animated. Stuart Langridge had made his own Javascript/CSS3 web-based presentation software, which he later told me would be available to download once he could sort out all the “fucking trigonometry”. Last but not least was Simon Willison’s presentation, which consisted of an original and brave navigation around 16 Mac OSX spaces arranged in a 4 x 4 grid, it was pretty hectic but it worked.

All in all the conference was a wonderful success and I really hope it happens again in 2010. The night ended with what was possibly the best burger I have ever tasted and a few beers at the OHSO Social on Brighton beach. Higher resolution versions of my photos are available on flickr along with many others in the Full Frontal Conference pool.

HTML5 and CSS3 wizardry wokshop06

At 6:15am on Wednesday 2nd September I left Reading to travel to Brighton. On arrival, after a swift Sausage McMuffin breakfast, I headed to the Clearleft office to attend a workshop entitled HTML5 and CSS3 Wizardry.

img_3020CSS3 workshop in progessBrighton pier


The workshop which was part of dConstruct 2009 was split into two halves. In the morning Jeremy Keith (@adactio) explained the evolution of HTML. This interesting journey covered the complete history of HTML and introduced the various individuals and associations responsible for its development over the years. The focus then shifted to the future of HTML and new HTML5 specification. Jeremy introduced the new doctypes, tags and attributes available to web authors and gave examples of their usage. Much like Remy Sharp’s HTML5 presentation at geek in the park a few weeks earlier Jeremy explained how these new tags can be incorporated into existing websites and how best to approach support in older browsers.

Jeremy was also very keen to highlight areas of the spec which he believed could be improved. In particular the disambiguation of the usage of section/article tags and similarly the figure/aside tags. He also raised concerns about the strict and counter-intuitive usage defined for the new footer tag*. Jeremy encouraged others to get involved with the WHATWG mailing list and raise any concerns before the working draft deadline in October.

* The very next day the footer tag specification was amended to be more inline with the header element… hooray!


The afternoon session run by Richard Rutter (@clagnut) and Natalie Downe (@Natbat) focused on CSS3. The talk covered, in detail, a large number of the new CSS3 modules and discussed how best to implement these new technologies without compromising backwards compatibility. Of particular interest to me was the advanced use of border-radius and understanding the full list of options available for box-shadow.

Towards the end of the session they demonstrated some of the more bizarre elements of CSS3. The weirdest of these by far was the css3 template module, a quirky new way to define a web page layout by drawing an ASCII art blue print (complete with dimensions) within your CSS file… very strange indeed.

The venue and hospitality at the workshop were great, the presentations were well researched and hugely informative. Unfortunately, due to the experimental nature of the content covered I felt that there was very little that I could implement at work due of the huge proportion of our users still using legacy browsers. With such a small audience and no immediate impact on revenue I think it will be a long time before large corporate websites will invest any significant resources into CSS3 related projects. On a brighter note the examples demonstrated contained some inspiring eye-candy which I will definitely consider for personal projects outside of the corporate environment.

After an enjoyable early evening drink in The Fountain Head and some fish and chips on Brighton pier I returned to Reading.

Geek in the park 200916

Yesterday I spent an enjoyable afternoon in Jephson Gardens, Royal Leamington Spa, for this year’s Geek in the Park event. The afternoon consisted of lounging in the sun, feasting on our picnic and drinking rather a lot of red wine. This was interspersed with several somewhat amateur rounds of ‘keepy uppy’ none of which lasted very long because of the glorious heat. Later on in the afternoon we were lucky enough to get ringside seats for a drunken brawl between two of Leamington’s finest skinhead cider connoisseurs. This incredibly one-sided fight disbanded after the three rounds of pummeling and was then cleaned up by the local police.

Jephson Garden's band stand, geek in the park 2009

As seven o’clock approached the geeks gathered in the south east corner of the park, between the bandstand and the Royal Pump Rooms, our home for the evening. The conference room was smaller than I had expected but was very pleasant. I decided to get the beers in before the first talk, however this turned out to be a lot harder than I had expected. Both Carlsberg and John Smiths had run dry and then the barkeep proceeded to tell me that the single bottle of corona was only in the fridge ‘just in case’. Eventually, armed with a bottle of Bud I settled in my seat ready for the first talk.

Simon Collison – ‘Nailing your own projects’

Simon Collison, nailing your own projects

First up was Simon Collison (@colly) who was talking about project management and process. Particular focus was given to the strategies used at Erskine Design when redesigning their own portfolio website. Simon sung the praises of several project management/planning tools including basecamp, codebase and some hexagonal magnets for team brainstorming from logo visual. Simon then went on to share some of the tools he likes to use to collect inspirational materials and share them with his team online. Using LittleSnapper and Dropbox Erskine are able to create communal, collaborative mood boards. The talk was an interesting insight into how Erskine design approach a project as a team and I found it quite motivating.

Remy Sharp – ‘HTML5 and friends’

Remy Sharp, HTML5 and Friends

After a short interval and more amusement from the barkeep pooring coke all over his hand instead of in the glass I returned to my seat for the second half of the evening. Next up was Remy Sharp (@rem) who was here to talk about ‘HTML5 and Friends’. I had already read a fair amount of Remy’s HTML 5 work on his blog and on the HTML 5 Doctor website so I was familiar with a lot of his material. Despite this it was great to have these ideas reinforced and demonstrated in person. It was also nice to see the personality behind the pages of words that had filled my screen over the previous weeks. The take home message from the talk was HTML 5 is ready to start implementing now and with minimal effort the core features can be made to work in all major browsers.

All in all it was a great day and I will definitely keep an eye open for more geek in the park events. You can see the rest of my photos on flickr. Big thanks to @doodlemoonch for driving to Leamington Spa and back.

Slides from the presentations

Simon Collison – ‘Nailing your own projects’
Remy Sharp – ‘HTML5 and friends’