This is a guest post by Lena Plaksina, one of 8 students sponsored to attend WDCNZ 2015
The answer, when it comes to web, is ‘it depends’
— Sarah Mei
Another instalment of WDCNZ wrapped up last Thursday night, sooner than you could say “HTML5”. The jam-packed day consisted of nine 45-minute sessions, including talks from local and international speakers, live code demos and a panel on the future of CSS. In the middle of this powerhouse of knowledge and experience were 8 students (myself included), sponsored by amazing companies in the community to come along and see, in the hopes that one day, we can go on to do (and maybe even teach).
Articles like this one often warrant a run down of highlights, but when it comes to WDCNZ, this becomes a nearly impossible task, as the caliber of speakers was incredibly high and every talk delivered far more than expected, so I’ll try to cover as much ground as I can.
The morning talks were lead by two incredible women in tech — Sarah Mei, who tried to help the audience determine whether their code was too SOLID (and what they could do about it), and Estelle Weyl who delivered a loaded overview of HTML5 form elements and how to use them effectively.
Sarah Mei’s talk focused on the consequences of quickly acquiring an unwieldy code base and how developers could fix, or even prevent that from happening. She re-defined Object-Oriented Design and introduced a brilliant chart that balanced the cost to change vs the cost to understand; where Procedures ended up in the acceptable, but undesirable “Low cost to change, high cost to understand” quadrant, sets of small objects moved to the quadrant that was “Low cost to change, but high cost to understand”, but really big objects and wrong sets of small objects populated the “high cost to change and understand” danger zone. So how do we move to writing code that has a low cost for both change and understanding? Sarah’s suggestion was STABLE — smell your code, solve tiny problems first, augment tests, back up (and start again), leave it better than you found it, and expect good reasons. Perhaps if we aim for our code to be a bit more STABLE, stopping the world to refactor it won’t be as necessary.
Estelle Weyl delivered a highly technical talk that had a lot less to do with strategy and a lot more to do with tactics. Her HTML5 web forms overview introduced me to a tonne of new attributes and input types. When I later found out that many of these elements have been available since as far back as 2010, I was absolutely astounded! You can see her funky slides here: estelle.github.io/forms/#slide1, or follow her on Twitter @estellevw for other great links and thoughts!
After the break, the first round of breakaway sessions started up and I watched a great talk on troubleshooting Node.JS, (which featured dozens of adorable cats and made me incredibly happy) and learned about Load Testing and Flame Graphs (something you should definitely investigate if you haven’t heard of it!). In the other room, Mads Kristensen delivered an exciting talk on web tooling and introduced lots of features in Visual Studio (https://code.visualstudio.com/Docs). I was particularly excited to see all of the Bootstrap-related shortcuts, such as auto-completing glyph icons with mini icon versions and a distinction between native Bootstrap CSS classes and ones created by the user.
After lunch, the panel on the future of CSS had some great advice on picking a good pre-processor — just ask yourself, “What’s the problem I need solved? Does this tool solve it?”, as well as delivering the general consensus that the only way to deal with bad CSS is to “burn it all down and start again!”. And following on with the front-end topic, Amanda Dorrell delivered a spectacular talk on “The fuzzy line between design and development”. The backbone of her talk was collaboration; the idea that designers and devs should be in each other’s meetings, working out elements together and sharing ideas. Amanda also proposed the “MVP Styleguide” — a fluid changing document that shows every component of a web site on one page for stylistic and functional coherence. I know this is definitely something I will be trying as a replacement for pixel-perfect PSDs!
The rest of the evening featured ORMs/Object Relational Mappers (Megan Bowra-Dean), calls for meaningful diversity in light of insightful and inadvertently cruel algorithms (Carina C. Zona) and service worker-enabled, push notification cats (Monica Dinculescu), teaching me first and foremost that out of all the things I’ve yet to learn, the biggest category are things I don’t know that I don’t know yet.
Unfortunately, my summary pales in comparison to the talks themselves, so you should most certainly look up these amazing people and find out more about their work and ideas! As always, WDCNZ filmed every single talk to share the knowledge these speakers brought as far and wide as possible, so if you’d like to hear more about any of the things I mentioned, head over to wdcnz.com or follow @wdcnz on Twitter to watch the videos once they’ve been put together.
The night finished with lovely chats with all the inspirational people involved with WDCNZ and a catch up with the rest of the students to share impressions!
I want to send a massive thank you to all the organisers, helpers, volunteers, speakers, sponsors and anyone else involved who made this huge effort possible and the success it was. And naturally, a big thank you to Summer of Tech and Xero for sponsoring students to attend great learning opportunities like this one.