Archived entries for Front End Engineering

More small pieces fit together more ways

In early February Todd Sampson wrote that The API is the Product. I think he’s right on. Behind the exciting buzz of sites and services that make getting bits of info online easy are some very cool APIs that let anybody and everybody create entirely new ways to input or output that same data. (The apparently trend to smaller pieces of data is interesting too, and part of the ease.)

Here are a few of those sites: FireEagle for location data (a single geocode), TripIt for travel data, Delicious for links data (a single URL+ tags), ThingFo for experience data (in 30 chars), Twitter for vitality data (140 chars).

These APIs make possible an undeniable wave of creative hacks within the small orbit of any of the services even individually. This growth testify to the mass variety of niche needs and personal priorities. It seems the ocean of data is really a petri dish.

When these hacks cross-pollenate — when the ins and outs of the data sets start sharing and talking with each other — things get even more interesting.

Those that dismiss mashups as simply “things on a map,” “widgets on a blog,” or “applications on facebook” don’t see the full power. I don’t claim to either, but important coolness seems inevitable when data becomes small and abundant while APIs become prolific and potent. More small pieces fit together more ways.

(Perhaps this is a small part of why Douglas Crockford says that “Mashups are the most interesting innovation in software development in decades.”)

Speaking at Web Design World in Chicago

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be giving two presentations at the Web Design World conference in Chicago in May. My first session, the plenary on Tuesday, defines and discusses Professional Frontend Engineering. The second explores way to enhance web sites with the YUI Library. (Full descriptions of both talks below.)

Speaking at Web Design World, Chicago, May 5-7 2008

You can save up to $300 on registration when you register online (or via 800-280-6218) and use my special promo code SPKOE. Plus, using that code is worth a couple drinks on me after the sessions!

Here are longer descriptions of the two sessions. I’m still creating both of them, so please feel free to leave a comment below with feedback or requests for stuff you’d like to hear about.

Professional Frontend Engineering

“In 2001, most web developers simply pushed pixels. The Web was pieced together by print designers and back-end engineers – almost no one was deeply focused on the front-end. Today, in 2008, as front-end engineers we author complex and efficient software and bend reluctant browsers to our will. And we are broadly recognized and respected as a first-order engineering specialization.

In this talk, I will define the characteristics and important practices of our discipline. I’ll discuss the key challenges we still face. And I’ll offer 13 tactical tips from the front lines that you can put into practice today.”

Enhancing Web Sites with the Yahoo! User Interface (YUI) Library

“YUI is chock full of more than 40 utilities, widgets and tools that make web development and browser-wrangling less painful for small personal sites and heavy-duty industry-leading applications alike. This all-new talk covers what’s new in 2008 (lots), what’s coming next (some very cool stuff), and some practical tips from the trenches. If you’re a seasoned YUI pro, you’ll learn about hidden features and optimization tips. If you’ve never heard of YUI, you’ll learn how to get started. And if you use a different library, you’ll learn about YUI’s library-agnostic tools for things like compression, profiling and unit testing. It’s gonna be fun.”

Meet Up?

I’m looking forward to meeting designers and developers from all around Chicagoland. Please drop me a comment or email if you’re gonna be at the show — or even just in the area — and want to catch up for a drink or dinner. (I’m also planning on being in Madison, Wisconsin — my hometown — the weekend before the conference. So give me a shout if you’re in that neck of the woods.

The Details

See you there!

Gotta Agree

Installing software people didn’t request erodes trust. It’s especially repugnant when it hitches a ride with a security or version update. Marshall Kirkpatrick’s right: downloading software has to be opt-in, not opt-out.

As technologists, we want up to date users. Beyond the real user-safety issues, it frustratingly holds us back. The oldest browser is the lowest common denominator and holds us all back. But sneaking new software into the sacred realm of auto-updating flows is unwise. We cannot take advantage of users at the exact moment we want them to trust us blindly and reflexively.

Multiple Apple products are within arm’s reach. My first technology experience several decades ago was on an Apple product. Love ‘em, but they should know better.

I’m glad John wrote his post.

HTML Slicers

I’ve heard about various services that charge a flat rate to chop Photoshop (etc) files into clean (X)HTML and CSS, generally for a flat fee and quick turnaround. The topic came up today when a freelancing application developer buddy asked me about this type of service.

So this morning I asked my twitter followers (follow me!) which services they knew of. Here’s what came back (in a matter of minutes – gotta love twitter!):

Then @jasonw22 pointed out that Jonathan Snook (a hero of mine) has a list of about 20 such services, and just this week posted a review of his experience auditioning the psd2html service.

If you’ve used any of these services, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below (and of other services you may know of or recommend).

I’ll report back on my friend’s experience.

(I must mention, in closing, that I’m skeptical of such services. I’ve spent the last several years of my career promoting the professionalism of frontend engineering, and so I have a twang of fear that these services are a step in the wrong direction. Then again, perhaps services such as these — if, in fact, the quality is there — prove that some aspects of “professional grade” web development are now par for the course. Jury’s still out.)

The 34-Blade Razor from Yahoo!

Congratulations to my friend and colleague Stoyan Stefanov for the publication of Yahoo!’s Latest Performance Breakthroughs after presenting them at the PHP Quebec Conference in Montreal last week. The 20 new tips bring to 34 the total performance tips his team at Yahoo! has published in the past two years.

Stoyan (who authors the phpied.com blog) is part of an established tradition of Yahoo! sharing performance research publicly and widely. Stoyan’s teammate Tenni Theurer concluded the official blog post announcing these data and findings by saying, “We share our findings so that others can join us in accelerating the user experience on the web.”

I agree. That’s why I was honored to help disperse their 14 Rules for Faster Web Sites in my presentation at the @Media conference in London last year.

And that’s why it was a special honor to write the foreward to Steve Souders’ High Performance Web Sites book for O’Reilly last year. (Steve used to head up the Performance team at Yahoo!.) In the foreward I tried to express why performance matters to professional frontend engineers:

Here is why it matters. As a frontend engineer, you hold a tremendous amount of power and responsibility. You’re the users’ last line of defense. The decisions you make directly shape their experience. I believe our number one job is to take care of them and to give them what they want—quickly. This book is a toolbox to create happy users (and bosses, too). Best of all, once you put these techniques in place—in most cases, a one-time tweak—you’ll be reaping the rewards far into the future.

Read more about Yahoo!’s Latest Performance Breakthroughs on the Yahoo! Developer Network site.

Presenting YUI at OSDC.TW in Taipei

It’s just been confirmed and announced that I’ll be speaking in Taiwan at the Open Source Developers’ Conference on the 12th and 13th of April 2008, on the campus of the School Of Continuing Education, Chinese Culture University in Taipei. My talk will offer an insider’s tour of the YUI Library:

The YUI Library is an open-source, a la carte JavaScript library for building richly interactive Web apps using techniques such as DOM scripting, DHTML, and AJAX. This library, free for the world to use, is the exact same code that is used globally and at massive scale on scores of Yahoo! sites. In this session, Yahoo!’s Nate Koechley will talk (and answer questions) about the design and technical philosophies behind YUI. You’ll learn what the library can do for you, where it’s heading, why and how Yahoo! decided to open-source it, and how you can use it to provide an outstanding user experience for your visitors.

OSDC.TW 2008 時間

在經過最後確認之後,我們已經正式公佈 OSDC.TW 2008 的時間跟地點:

時間:2008/4/12-13
地點:中國文化大學推廣教育部博愛校區 – 大新館



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