The bad parts of JavaScript, beautiful UX and the future


In our next installment of getting to know the Distill speakers, we feature John Paul, Matthew Weier O’Phinney and Patti Chan. They’ll cover good examples of UX, the pains and gains of JavaScript and the future of technology.

By the way, the conference schedule is now available and tickets are still available for Distill. Get yours now and join us for a good time on Treasure Island!

Matthew Weier O’Phinney, Project Lead, Zend Framework

1. What does the future of the web look like to you?

To be honest, I find it very hard to envision the future of the web, because I’ve been around long enough to see all my prior ideas look paltry in comparison to what has actually happened. “We’ll have images!” – and not only did we get images, we got animation and video, and even sound. “We’ll have the ability to interact with pages!” – not only did server-side technologies explode, but we got XHR and full-blown client-side UIs. “Web-based APIs!” – which then became the de-facto standard for all remote APIs, and the amount of data accessible via public APIs is mind-blowing.

The future of the web looks like whatever we want to make of it. What would I like to see? I’d like to be able to interact with the internet the way Star Trek characters interacted with their onboard computer in TNG: “Internet, take me home!”

2. What excites you most about the future of the web?

The fact that my children never knew a world without it, assume it will always be there, and will provide them the answers they need when they need them, no matter where they are. 3. What is technology doing to make the world awesome?

I see enormous potential in the ability to share DNA sequences – the ability to crowd-source solutions to the illnesses that plague humanity and the plants and animals we depend upon will likely be crucial in the coming decades. I also appreciate the transparency that the internet can potentially make possible in terms of law-making and keeping our elected officials honest; I want to see more legislation drafted in public, with public input.

And let’s be honest, we need tase-over-IP to become a reality, so we can make the internet a better place by ridding ourselves of trolls once and for all!

John Paul, Lead Architect, Conde Nast

1. Why do you hate Javascript? Kidding. What brought you to want to talk about real bad parts of the language?

:D I don’t hate it at all, but I play a hater on TV. I’ve been often put into the role of a JavaScript trainer for Java/Python/Ruby developers over the past few years, and through all of the complaints and cries, I found this common thread of issues that people legitimately had with the language. These problems were just in about how they were being explained, rather than really hidden complexities in the language, so I set out to document them to help with explaining them to people. 2.Should beginning developers start with Javascript (or similar) or maybe something more structured?

I don’t know if I’d say that JavaScript isn’t structured, but I think that JavaScript is just as good as any other dynamically and weakly typed language out there to get started with. I do think that it’s important to start learning with a PL in that category as someone makes the journey from hacker to developer to engineer.

3. What are recommended resources for learning Javascript best practices?

For someone who is just starting out, I’d say Read every single article, and you have a pretty good basis for JavaScript in the browser. After that, there’s Eloquent JavaScript, which is still a beginner book and free online, but a more rigorous treatment of the core language. Then, work for a few months with it and then read JavaScript: The Good Parts.

4. What is the future of the web/technology? What is the future? Well darn, I left my crystal ball flash app back in ‘99. All I know for sure is that the future will be a very fun ride to live through. With respect to JavaScript, I expect that it will continue to grow in popularity, especially once more of us can start using ES6. I have expectations that client side MVwhatever solutions like Ember will add features that allow server side rendering, and that will be the new standard way to develop web applications. That’s a different talk. Oh well. :-)

5. What is technology doing to make the world awesome?

You mean above and beyond growing ears on mice? Realistically, the list is endless. At the moment, I think that JavaScript powered robots are pretty cool. In terms of web development, JavaScript that controls satellites is pretty bad ass.

Patti Chan, Director of Project Management, Intridea

1. What’s the ultimate example of good UX/UI?

Ultimate example of good UX/UI is UX that you don’t notice. Like a steering wheel with comfy leather grips at the 10 and 2 position. Or the morning alarm on your smartphone that shows you how to instantly dismiss or snooze when your brain is only half-awake.

2. What do you think the future of UX/UI looks like?

The future of UX/UI is going to be simple, simple, simple. Interfaces will anticipate what we want to do, when we want to do it. UX that feels effortless even though a mountain of complex logic is working behind the scenes. Next, the future-future is getting so good at intelligence and effortlessness that we’re able to focus on adding delight to the experience. Subtle surprises and ways to challenge the user without impeding them.

3. What is the future of the web/technology?

The future of web and technology is learning how to amass and play upon data to make our UI’s smarter. It all goes towards the end user experience. Storage and computational power will continue to get cheaper and more efficient. At the exact same time, languages and frameworks (and browsers and mobile platforms) are evolving to make building fantastic UI’s less of a chore. All that time freed up from solving how to build lets us daydream about what to build.

4. What is technology doing to make the world awesome?

Technology is enabling so many things! Interestingly, it’s freeing us up to spend less time with technology and the more tedious aspects of our work. For example, we’re now able to ditch our commutes. High-speed internet, ubiquitous mics and web cams – which actually work well – combined with thoughtful collaboration tools mean that we can work remotely at our dream jobs and choose where we want to live. And that’s only on the individual “well-being” level. On a grander scale, we’re engineering sensors that know when fields need watering so that we can conserve water. We’re 3D printing protein that could eventually help the hunger crisis. The same technology is enabling amateur design enthusiasts to create original furniture. Technology is making the world away from our computers much richer and more rewarding.

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Elaine Greenberg


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