XTech 2006 Thoughts

Just got back from XTech - here's some thoughts on the conference.

I'm not going to give detailed notes on each talk, as Suw did such a great job (starting here).

The Bad

Tuesday was the Ajax Developer day. It started reasonably well, with a good introduction to the Yahoo User interface Library by Simon (of course, I would say that) and a thought provoking discussion of ajax from Alex Russell (even if he wasn't there to deliver it personally). Jeremy's Hijax talk was also very interesting, although I've seen him discuss it before several times.

But in the afternoon it started to go a little downhill. There were just a few too many pitches by vendors with products that claim to avoid the need to write javascript. I'm quite skeptical of these, particularly when the alternative they present is writing in some overly verbose xml markup language they've invented. I'd personally rather have the transferable skill - and it's not like javascript is a difficult programming language or learn or write. And none of them talked about how to handle cases their framework didn't solve, or bugs in the framework.

This is just a case of the conference reflecting the wider state of the industry, and its trend towards all encompassing javascript frameworks written by people that don't like the language.

It really didn't help that the guy presenting on E4X, which I was quite looking forward to, just didn't turn up.

The Good

After Tuesday I was a little depressed about things, but Wednesday and Thursday more than made up for it.

The highlights included Steve Coast's talk about Open Street Map, which was inspiring, and demonstrated just how far they'd come.

It was followed up by another highlight - Mark Nottingham's talk on web caching, discussing you could speed up web apps by thinking hard about how your site is served. It generated loads of ideas for me, some of which I hope to follow-up with in the next few months.

Ryan's discussion on microformats wasn't quite what I was expecting, but was refreshing nontheless. A lot of projects could do with emulating their focus on solving a users problems.

The conference as a whole had a really intimate feel (despite the huge rooms). I think this was as a result of the really high ratio of speakers to attendees (something like 1 in 4) and there not being one dominant clique. Whatever the reasons, it made the conference really enjoyable.

The confusing

There was a lot of discussion of the benefits of declarative markup. I understand the idea, but I'm not sure I agree. But that's a subject for another day.

All in all, a great conference, and a great job by Edd of pulling it all together.

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