Early thoughts on jQuery Conference 2010 Boston

Having just spent a whirlwind of a weekend in-and-around Boston for the jQuery Conference Boston 2010, I wanted to share as many thoughts as can as quickly as possible.  I was struck by how much different the tone of this year's event was; and it was really refreshing to see.

Last year, and indeed in any jQuery-focused event, the tone has always been about people using jQuery to "do cool stuff (easily)." It's really great; this reason is exactly why so many people gravitate to jQuery in the first place.  However, in his first-day keynote, John Resig hit us with an interesting statistic: jQuery is now used on nearly an third of all websites.  That figure, aside from being absolutely staggering, suggests that the message has been heard loud and clear already: You can use jQuery to make your life better as a developer!

So here we are in October 2010 and the trends of what people are doing with Javascript on the web are changing; the focus is clearly shifting to building what Adobe loves to term "Rich Internet Applications (RIAs)" in Javascript, HTML, and CSS. And I'm happy to say that the jQuery community, especially the wonderful group of speakers, really stepped up and understood that this year's challenges were new to these developers raised on jQuery.

I think I really realized how different this year's event was when Rebecca Murphey started talking about design patterns in her presentation. Mediators, Pub / Sub, the Observer pattern; these just aren't topics that I'm accustomed to hearing about when talking to (most) Javascript developers.  I even think I heard mention of a factory (though, I admit, that thought terrifies me as the factory pattern immediately brings Java to mind with its AbstractDeckOfCardsFactoryFactory implementations).   Could it be that we're close to inviting the Gang of Four to Javascript conferences? Well; maybe not. But Rebecca's talk really crystalized the thought in my mind; Javascript, you've come a long way, baby!

It's not that design patterns are new to Javascript; take for example the Prototype pattern which is an integral part of the language. Event bubbling can certainly be viewed as an implementation of the Chain of Responsibility pattern. But these concepts are likely very new to a great many Javascript developers. And, to be honest, why shouldn't they be? For years, Javascript has been derided as nothing more than a toy language practiced primarily by designers with delusions that they were capable of "writing code."

Instead of talking exclusively about fun effects (which Karl Swedberg did, wonderfully, by the way) we had talks on code structure and best practices. Garann Means talked about how utilizing template techniques helped her team reduce 12,000 lines of code to 4,000.  Thomas Reynolds talked about structuring multi-thousand-line applications using MVC. And there were multiple talks on testing including conversation of TDD, and systematic integration testing! These aren't "form validation" and "pop up a modal" examples; these are real applications built in javascript and it's quite exciting to see our community embracing the future.

I've got more to say, and a ton more thoughts on the conference. For now, if what I saw this weekend at #jqcon was any indication of the way not only the jQuery community is going, but the JS community in general, the future looks pretty damn bright!