Fronteers Conference 2011 - Day 2

Here's an overview of day two of the Fronteers Conference. For day one see: Fronteers Conference 2011 - Day One

Web Components and Model Driven Views - Alex Russell

Alex Russell's presentation was a really interesting look at the state of modern browsers along with the deatails on some really shiny but potentially controversial new features that are currently being worked on in webkit.

First was a look at how the speed of new browser versions being released affects the progress of the web. With slides based on the browser adoption graphs in this ars technica article, it's clear that Internet Explorer users tend to be much slower to upgrade their browsers. Especially with Firefox's new release schedule both Chrome and Firefox are seeing much faster uptake of new versions. Faster releases means browsers are beginning to evolve more quickly resulting in a faster rate of progress. All of which can only be good for the web.

Moving beyond this Alex took a look at aspect of web components. First up was scoped CSS, the idea here being that you can "scope" CSS to a specific element. In this way that CSS will only apply to the children of that element.

Next was a look at Web Components. The first part of this is API that allows you to extend the DOM and create your own custom elements. The example given was the creation of a Comment object. Next a feature called DOM Shadow allows you to "hide" or make private the subtree that your custom object is created from so that it's invisible to anything else. Interestingly, this is already something used in the development of video controls in webkit. This allows you to make something with divs and spans but hide the implementation details from the world. Depending on your point of view this is either fantastic news or will leave you feeling a little bit icky.

Lastly was a look at templating and model driven views which really do look good. It allows a template to be bound to data in such a way that when the data changes the template is updated. Definitely looks to be useful.

To see the full set of slides head over to

The New Developer Workflow - Divya Manian

This presentation was a walkthrough of steps that make-up the work flow of a modern web developer from using Version Control to deciding what browser features to use and when to use polyfills or not, vendor prefixes, CSS preprocessors and build scripts.

I enjoyed the walk-through of the features and capabilities of Compass (a CSS preprocessor). From a personal stand-point I've ever used SASS or LESS but seeing some of the features that Divya talked about I can see some worthwhile use-cases (time to try it out on a personal project maybe :)).

The New Developer Workflow Slides

HTML5 Forms - KISS time - Robert Nyman

Robert's presentation was an honest look at the features of HTML5 forms and provided really good practical information on where the issues are and where as a developer you need to be careful.

Of particular interest was a number of caveats around using form validation features. For example: Required attribute will pass if you just submit a space. Email validation can't cope with international characters e.g: rö won't work. Pattern attributes can be submitted if they are empty (This is counter-intuitive though a commenter at the end of the session pointed out it makes sense that you would to use the required attr as well).

Overall the key takeaway here was the new HTML5 form features are cool, but like everything else they need to be used with care.

CreativeJS - beauty in the browser - Seb Lee-Delisle

This was perhaps the most surprising presentation of the event. Seb has a fantastic speaking style, very down to earth and good humoured. His presentation was in two parts, first was looking at how to create beautiful particle effects using JavaScript. Seb showed some very simple code which produced fantastic results. The approach was to create effects such as smoke and roman-candle like firework effects by approximating the physics and making it look just about right rather than spending a lot longer nailing an effect based on a 100% accurate physics model.

To play with all of this the files are on github.

The next part was Seb's software which turned the audiences mobiles into a giant display. This was mind-blowingly creative and a fascinating demonstration. The problems involved in this are pretty big, first was that of synchronising the signals sent to the phones so they would display in sync. This was done by measuring the delay from sending data to each phone. The next, even bigger problem was that of identifying where in the audience a given phone was. My understanding is that the software sends a pattern to each phone which it then looks for in the camera pointing at the audience. Having identified the location the audiences phones could then be used like a big display. Very cool stuff indeed!

jQuery and the Open Source Process - John Resig

John Resig talked in detail about how JQuery became popular through being very responsive to users in the early days and through building and fostering a community by being open and transparent.

In your @font-face - Jake Archibald

Jake's talk was very good - highly entertaining and also packed with interesting details about the potential issues and pitfalls in using web-fonts today.

There's a number of problems to solve from how browsers treat @font-face, how to reduce the weight of fonts to download by reducing the glyphs used, to the way in which browser actually download the fonts to use them. All in all it's a royal mess. Lastly Jake looked at how the way browser download fonts affects the final rendering.

Bottom line was that it really shouldn't be this hard.

Jakes slides can be found at

The Prestige of being a web developer - Christian Heilmann

Christian's closing presentation was built around a theme of the film "the Prestige". Christian made lots of good points about how we can be better developers by being inventive, learning from others, contributing to projects through documentation or submitting bugs and being open about what we do.

Slides and audio with a transcript are available on Christian's blog

And that was it.

A big thank-you to the speakers and organisers for putting on an excellent conference.

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