Friday, 17 January 2014

NgConf - Day 2 Start Update

Ngconf officially kicked off yesterday, and has been pretty manic.

I managed to get a quick 'teaser' video edited and up covering the Angular Bootcamp pre-conference workshop day with John Lindquist yesterday over on my Vimeo Ngconf Channel but little else.

If you want to get a feel for what we learnt at the conference's first day (yesterday) I recommend reading Jeremy Likness' blog post on the subject which is far better than anything I would have written.

Angular JS Utah Meetup Group

On Tuesday, thanks to the kindness of strangers (Rob Stinogle - thanks Rob!) I attended the local Utah Angular JS Meetup group, held approximately 30 miles from the hotel. It was a very well organised user group held on AtTask premises which were impressive to say the least.

The two talks on "Angular Gotchas" and "Directives for dynamic Angular Forms" reinforced a common theme that's come up when talking to other Angular developers over the last few days here at the conference: a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and there's a lot of 'blind leading the blind' going on (myself included in that group, although hopefully I'm a lot wiser on that front than I was this time last year!)

Utah seems to have a very vibrant user community here, and I'm jealous. All the big tech companies are here and actively recruiting Angular developers - demand is way higher than supply. The AngularJS Meetup group organiser (Matt) who works at AtTask, told me they (Utah) have five JavaScript focussed meetup groups so that it's possible to attend one user group meeting every week.

AngularJS Bootcamp Day

The challenge for Angular folk is to understand best practices (a Best Practices doc has been promised from the Angular team for some time but there's still no concrete date and of course 'best practices' are changing the same way Angular is changing all the time anyway). Unfortunately, not everyone has access to the Pluralsight course that covers a lot of this stuff in an easy to understand way, and the difficulty of putting that document together is perhaps demonstrated in Joe Eames course where examples sometimes contradict advice given just a few minutes earlier anyway. There are a lot of opinions that don't necessarily gel when it comes to things like how to structure your code, whether lazy loading is a good thing given the current state of Angular etc etc

The AngularJS Bootcamp pre-conference 'training' session from John Lindquist who works full time for JetBrains but out of hours runs, was excellent. As expected (and hoped for on my part), the majority of attendees appeared to be fairly seasoned developers, rather than complete beginners which the originally advertised course was aimed at, which meant that there were some great discussions around some of the basic things new Angular developers struggle with.

I thought John's comment about using just the HTML to judge the 'quality' of any Angular app he's asked to look at, not even going near the JavaScript, was a good reminder to all of us of the original design goals of Angular (developed to help designers rather than developers perse) and getting your head around the different approach and 'the Angular way' that so many here are talking about, but don't necessarily appear to have fully grasped.

John's advice re directives - to just dive in and write them even if you were pretty sure you wouldn't use them for any particular scenario, just as a way to avoid being afraid of them - was an excellent one, although as the "Dynamic Forms" talk at the user group demonstrated, you need to understand Angular thoroughly if you're going to avoid writing lots of code in directives to perform functionality that's already there without the need for any new code!

Angular documentation gets a lot of flack for being the reason the learning curve is so hard, but it has recently been updated and as Angular creator Misko Hevery said at a Q&A panel at the end of the first day, there are two problems with the documentation, but one of them is people not reading it.

Compared to the situation a year ago, life is much easier for the Angular developer now that we have excellent resources like the free videos (they were around a year ago, but nowhere near as many of them as now), and a whole raft of new books, including ng-book which looks to be excellent, as well as a whole raft of excellent Pluralsight online training courses presented by a whole bunch of folk far cleverer than me.

This is a Hasty Blog Post!

I'm typing this blog post in the main ballroom as the second day of the conference is about to kick in, after attending a Firebase 'office hours' session which started at 7.30am, and with a bunch of hack talks that are scheduled to run through to 10pm tonight (despite this being the last day of the conference) it's unlikely I'll get a chance to update this blog until after I return to the UK.

For me that's a positive thing that shows there's no 'flab' in the conference schedule. Ngconf has been excellent, and a huge improvement on the last couple of Microsoft conferences I attended. The enthusiasm here for the basic technology is genuine, as opposed to artificially injected by a large marketing team giving away 'free' hardware along with the endless marketing pitches on 'strategic' technologies they've just thought up, sometimes only a few days beforehand (yes, that's a dig at the PDC WPF/E, which later got renamed to Silverlight, annoucements. Silverlight has been the subject of a ton of jokes here, despite the overwhelmingly Java-oriented rather than .NET-oriented attendee crowd)

The single track approach, which I was initially disappointed with when it was announced, has worked incredibly well just because every session has been interesting and the organisers have clearly picked the best speakers and the best topics. The fact that the main room has people assembled ready for a 9am formal kickoff speaks volumes about the passion the developer community has for Angular and its keen interest in what's to come.

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