Web nerd for a day

Today was the State of the Browser one-day conference organised by London Web Standards. Which meant I had to wake up at stupid o’clock in order to be in North Greenwich somewhere in the vicinity of 9am, which was painful, but it was a good day – some interesting stuff out there, but unfortunately the chap who was going to talk on IE9 couldn’t come as his wife had been in a car crash the day before. Which was, of course, entirely understandable (I believe she’s fine though, if you were concerned) but I was a little astounded that Microsoft couldn’t manage to provide anybody else at all to talk about their latest and much-hyped browser to the people who have to develop for it. Who knows why? But bizarre. Apparently the guy who was supposed to speak is going to record the speech once everything settles down and it’ll be distributed to the attendees online, which is cool.

Anyway, the summary basically is: all browser manufacturers are doing cool stuff with HTML 5. They are not all doing the same cool stuff. Which was all kind of a given, but it was still quite nice to see the sort of cool stuff that’s being played with.

The breakout sessions were good – I went along to one on Jetpack, a new streamlined way of creating Add-Ons for Firefox 4 using only HTML, CSS and JavaScript, then one on “Performance Optimisation for HTML 5 apps” which wasn’t actually about HTML 5, it was about JavaScript. Still interesting and useful, though I was a little out of my depth in places.

There was a lot of JS being bandied about and I think the time has come to do a bit of refresher work on mine – I first learnt JavaScript from tutorials on the net way back in 2000, when it was an entirely different beast. Gluing on DOM manipulation and vague half-understood concepts of Object-Oriented Programming has not helped my confidence in my JS skills. I can write JavaScript, I’m just not really writing MODERN JavaScript.

I can read (eventually) what’s going on in a script, but I lack the skills to mostly be able to say “Oh, this and then that and … ah. This” – it’s more “um… I think this… then that? Maybe… ooh – what’s that???”. I can get there in the end, but it requires so much looking up and testing and re-testing to do the simplest thing that it’s just not the best use of my time for the client.

So I think some sort of brief refresher might be a good place to start. SitePoint is doing online training courses now and have a special deal for a 3-week JS course + a 3-week PHP course (which would also be very useful and hopefully consolidate the bits and pieces I’ve kind of picked up by poking at it in the past) plus 3 e-books on PHP/SQL sites and cloud hosting, all for less than the two courses would cost on their own.

Special’s only for a couple of days, so I’ll sleep on it and see how I feel about it in the morning. Feels like a lot to take on, when I’ve got so much to do anyway, but I’m beginning to feel like I need to do something just so I don’t flounder so much. Feel so old! And that wasn’t helped by the leader of the 2nd breakout session saying “Who remembers Netscape 4?” and me being the only person to raise a hand, while thinking to myself “I remember Netscape 3. And IE 2. Good grief. How did I ever get so old??” Things like this shouldn’t happen shortly before birthdays.

Had a great conversation over lunch too with Jamie Knight (and Lion) – really lovely to just be able to chat so freely with someone. Normally I find talking to strangers quite hard work – either it’s hard to find common ground, or I can’t think of anything to say or I end up feeling deeply inadequate, especially if the conversation takes a turn into unfamiliar waters. Of course, it can be rewarding too, but it’s just wonderful when the chat just flows along. Kinda made my day 🙂

Anyway, I ended up not staying till the end. By the early end of the second breakout session my brain felt extremely full, so I figured I wouldn’t hang around for the 45-odd minutes till the Q&A session started, but head home to a quiet cup on tea and a contemplate while my brain was still capable. Mmmm tea.

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