Ajax Experienced

By on October 7, 2008 1:51 pm

SitePen recently returned from Beantown, the host city to this year’s Dojo Developer Day (DDD) and The Ajax Experience, the largest annual conference dedicated to Ajax development. SitePenners in attendance included Joe Walker, Kris Zyp, Tom Trenka, Peter Higgins, and Alex Russell, all of whom must be applauded for their great presentations at both events. Kudos to all!

We began our week of Dojo on Saturday night at Jacob Wirth, discussing all things Ajax over beer n’ brats at this famous Boston location. On Sunday morning, I kicked off more formal festivities at the 5th Dojo Developer Day, hosted by IBM in Cambridge. Peter Higgins (SitePen’s Support engineer and Dojo’s new Project Lead) and I did a quick recap of our progress, and discussed plans for the 1.3 release later this year, and preliminary plans for 1.4 and beyond.

Lunch was filled with an impressive round of a dozen lightning demos. The bar has been raised, with this year’s demos consisting of polished, impressive, feature-rich applications in production. In the afternoon, we split up into breakout sessions to discuss various topics and to hack on Dojo.

In the evening, we headed to the Cambridge Brewing Company. A few minutes after being seated, another wave of people arrived that looked a lot like Dojo developers, only slightly different: attendees from the jQuery conference. Great minds think alike as the venue was perfect for post-event food, drinks, and conversation. The proposed food fight never happened; as it turns out, the Dojo guys tend to be taller on average than the jQuery team!

Dojo at CBC
Dojo Developer Day Dinner, Cambridge Brewing Company

This year’s conference featured a new concept: The Ajax Experience Framework Summit. As a supplement to the main conference, this free conference pre-event was co-sponsored by Adobe. Dojo, Prototype, and jQuery were each invited to host an event for five hours on Monday morning with tutorials, discussions, and more. Forward-thinking and liberal, we were given free reign to dominate a 5-hour mini-conference for users of Dojo and people interested in learning more about it. In typical SitePen & Dojo style, we crammed an amazing amount of content into our time slot and used every last minute to share as much information about Ajax and Dojo as possible.

Tom Trenka on DojoX
Tom Trenka shares his passion for DojoX at the Dojo Framework Summit

Peter and I started things off with a quick introduction to Dojo and recent happenings in the community. Peter then delivered a tutorial on Unobtrusive JavaScript with Dojo and another advanced Dojo tutorial for building web apps. Peter and Nikolai followed with a quick summary on how to get involved with Dojo. Many other key Dojo developers including Matthew Russell (Author, Dojo the Definitive Guide) James Burke (AOL), Nikolai Onken (Uxebu), Jayant Sai (ESRI), Chris Mitchell (IBM), and Bob Buffone (Nexaweb) all participated and the Dojo Framework Summit was a success!

As always, conferences provide us with the opportunity to chat with our clients, as well as new and veteran Dojo users and other members of the Ajax community and this was no different. It focused on the 100+ Dojo users and contributors in attendance telling us about how they use Dojo, asking great questions, and in general just getting to know each other. I think everyone is in agreement that great times were had by all.

Dojo Community
Dojo Framework Summit, Group Pic

Once the actual conference kicked off, Peter-Paul Koch moderated a session with Andrew Dupont (Prototype), Chris Heilman (YUI), John Resig (jQuery), and I (Dojo) that involved answering questions about how our toolkits address cross-browser DOM issues. Most interesting is that we agree on at least 80% of the topics discussed. When the question was asked as to whether we would ever consider merging any of the toolkits, it was revealed that the thought had crossed our minds but that in general, we have differences of opinion (the other 20%) that are too strong to ignore at this point in time. Maybe tomorrow.

From Left, Andrew Dupont, Dylan Schiemann, Chris Heilman and John Resig

jQuery had significant buzz at this conference given the recent announcement by Microsoft but it wasn’t the only project getting buzz. Seeing the astoundingly impressive applications people are building with Dojo was even more exciting for us. Dojo is clearly leading the charge for development of larger applications and Dojo Base is very competitive in features and performance. The new Dojo 1.2 release only helps make this easier.

On Tuesday, Brendan Eich gave a keynote on TraceMonkey, outlining the impressive and incredible performance improvements we are seeing in JavaScript engines. Kriz Zyp keenly noted that optimizations based on years of research are finally being realized in JavaScript, and proving it’s viability as a high-performance language. Of course, we’re still very frustrated that the JScript engine used in the majority web browser, Internet Explorer, is progressing at a snails pace, nowhere near the speed of the new VMs in Firefox, Safari, and Chrome.

SitePen strongly values high quality conferences as a great opportunity to connect with users of Dojo, DWR, and other great open source projects. We also think that conferences without high-quality content won’t attract great attendees. As such, in addition to our efforts on the Dojo events, SitePen conducted seven conference talks over the next two days. Our slides are available below for all of these talks.

In the afternoon, Kris Zyp kicked things off with a talk on “SOA in Web Applications and Using Web Services in Dojo.” The talk was very engaging and demonstrated Kris’ tremendous work at SitePen in making JSON, SOA, and Dojo much improved.

SitePen’s Joe Walker then presented his well-known and highly-attended session on web application security. After the talk, comments such as “I’m never letting my wife use the internet again” let us know that the talk was an effective presentation on the very real security risks we face as web application developers. The talk covered standard security issues, but also included breaking security news on topics such as Clickjacking.

Joe Walker on Web Application Security
Joe Walker Discussing Web App Security, The Ajax Experience

SitePen invests heavily in the success of Dojo, DWR, Persevere, cometD, and other open source efforts. As a company, we take significant interest in security, data, performance, and other topics that are of particular interest to our current and future clients.

The final event of the day was a panel moderated by the Ajaxians, featuring Douglas Crockford (Yahoo), Allen Wirfs-Brock (Microsoft), Brendan Eich (Mozilla, creator of JavaScript), John Resig (Mozilla, creator of jQuery), Joe Walker (SitePen, creator of DWR), and myself. It’s really unique for a conference to so prominently feature people from big companies and small companies and from open and proprietary projects alike. Other conferences tend to feature their paid sponsors only during key time slots.

The panel had an interesting format, in that the questions were chosen through Google Moderator, a web application that allowed attendees to vote important questions to the top of the list. By the second question, we were longing for the previous day’s panel. These questions were considerably more pointed! Some of the questions were rather technical and not necessarily right for the panel format, such as a seven minute comparison of emerging JavaScript engine technology, but I found it to be informative and engaging.

After the panel and dinner, I spent much of the evening as I usually do at these events: talking into the very late hours with people about JavaScript. While my primary focus is spending as much time as possible with Dojo users, we also spent considerable time engaging in dialog with the people creating and using jQuery, Prototype, YUI, and other toolkits such as JavaScriptMVC or history management “micro-toolkits”. One of the biggest benefits of these events is the ability to humanize. I think most of the community would be surprised with the amount of camaraderie that exists between us, and it is events like these that make this possible.

Wednesday featured five more SitePen talks! Alex Russell gave two Dojo talks, one covering DojoX’s Grid widget and the other focusing on Dojo Fundamentals.

Dojo Grids   Dojo Fundamentals

Joe Walker gave his first DWR 3.0 talk. I say first because 3.0 is quickly approaching release of DWR expected before the end of the year. Joe’s talk featured a quick summary of changes since last year’s Ajax Experience, and then introduced the new DWR Dojo Data Store, support for JSON / JSONP / JSON-RPC, and more. (Plug: In addition to Dojo and cometD, SitePen also offers support and development services for DWR-based applications)

Kris and Joe wrapped up the conference, competing head-to-head with talks on Persevere and Comet.

This Ajax Experience (Boston, 2008) was a great conference. I have to agree with Kris, Ben and Dion never fail to gather the best of the Ajax community for speakers, and this makes for significant conversations amongst the innovators in this field. Various SitePenners discussed mitigating the latest security threat, clickjacking, strategies for shims for HTML5 in legacy browsers, emerging RESTful architectures and JSON techniques on the web, and much, much more. The conference is small enough (300-400 people) that attendees can easily engage with the speakers.

SitePen has participated in The Ajax Experience since the beginning and we’re consistently impressed with the calibre of developers and companies it always attracts. Thanks to everyone who came out to Dojo Developer Day and if you didn’t make it this time, we hope to see you at the next one!