Notes on CSSConf Australia 2016

I attended CSSConf Australia in Melbourne on the 30th of November. A couple days ago, I wrote some generic notes about my experience in this conference and JSConf. This post covers specifically my notes for CSSConf.

The videos for the talks have not been published individually, but the conference was streamed live via YouTube, so you can watch the archived stream (you will have to “jump” to each talk):

And now, to my notes!
Continue reading “Notes on CSSConf Australia 2016”

Notes on CSSConf Asia 2016

Previous notes on this conference were decidedly minimalist due to my massive jetlag and lack of rest. Let’s fix it now that I’m back to London–and also the videos are out!

I arrived to Singapore the day before the conference started, i.e. I was to be on a stage less than 24 hours after setting my feet on Singaporean land. This, you imagine well, is nothing less than a recipe for disaster. I slept little on the plane, and when I arrived to the hotel I just had a shower (ah that first shower after a long haul flight…!), went to the mall downstairs to get some food and came back to keep obsessing over my slides until I couldn’t resist it anymore, and went to finally sleep in a proper bed, although not enough, but I would not have been able to sleep more because I was agitated about the talk anyway.

So I was not in my best shape. I was cold, tired, unable to really articulate complicated thoughts. The only thing that was getting me going was adrenaline at that point, and copious amounts of it, judging by the crash afterwards. But let’s not anticipate events…

The venue

It was very nice and warm outdoors, specially coming from London where it was dark and chilly to the bone and we were wearing not only scarves but also gloves! and even hats! One of my favourite things about hot weather is that it’s the perfect excuse to have iced lattes. And so cold drink in hand I went to the theatre where the conference was held.

The entrance hall was fine, but indoors… indoors was a totally different experience. You needed one or two additional layers of clothes to be comfortable—more so if you’re not feeling great, as I was. Still, I sat and listened to the speakers before me.

Much as I love JS, I tend to have a sweet spot for CSS conf talks. They gravitate more towards design, UX and (would you believe it) CSS, which are topics which don’t usually attract the same level of attention, but affect everyone the same or more. So I was genuinely excited for the talks!

The talks

Rachel Andrews: Laying Out The Future With Grid And Flexbox

I had seen an earlier version of this talk last year at Fronteers in Amsterdam. Back then I sort of missed more examples, but this time there were plenty of them, and it was a very informative and useful talk. Plus many of the techniques will be available in stable browsers some time this year—do watch it and start learning so you can start using Grid this year! (you can already use flexbox today).

Kenneth Ormandy: Syntax Highlight Everything

When Kenneth started speaking, super fast and super charged, my first thought was “oh wow I don’t think I can handle this in my current state”… but I pushed myself to listen and the more I listened the more enthralled I became. There was so much good material, although the title seemed a bit contrived and slightly disconnected from the actual talk content: started talking about syntax highlighting but ended up going through new CSS font features…? But maybe if I rewatch it again I’ll think otherwise:

Chris Lienert: Access All Areas

A poignant talk on accessibility and best practices. Definitely got me thinking.

Sarah Drasner: Functional Animation

Sadly I didn’t finish watching this one, but what I saw was really good. Lots of info about do’s and don’ts about animation on the web, user flow, UX… all very good stuff! Happy to finally see the whole talk now!

And my talk: make websites, not apps

Normally, I find it this “hot outdoors-freezing indoors” concept baffling. But in this context it was debilitating.

Half way during my talk I noticed my hands were shaking because of the cold. The only other time I’ve felt like that was during my talk at CampJS 2015, but we were outdoors and it was almost winter, and at least I had a hot cup of coffee in my hand back then! Here I was just trying to squeeze some sense out of my tired, jetlagged brain while working really hard to vocalise and not shiver uncontrollably. Ahhh!

Still, I think it wasn’t too bad: I got the message across. Many people reached out to me afterwards, saying they felt very empowered by my advice and excited to keep practising their craft –CSS– and becoming even more proficient at it, without feeling demeaned or less of a developer because of they not using or developing JavaScript, or not developing apps.

Others were also excited by the prospect of rendering engines such as Servo‘s WebRender making their life easier so they can write readable CSS without worrying about implementation details or using obscure hacks.

Even more, someone got inspired by the key concept in my talk (building along the Web’s direction) and gave a lightning talk:

Thanks, Souvik! (slides are here, but unfortunately I don’t think the lightning talks were recorded).

So I will call it a success. I am not done with “banging this drum” yet, and a proper write up is coming, but you can check out my talk in the meantime:

(gosh, I sound so tired)

In which Sole eventually becomes really debilitated and leaves the venue to rest

My talk was the last one before lunch. Joshua Koo (mighty three.js contributor which wrote the text class amongst other cool particle stuff) suddenly became our restaurant guide, as a local. So we went to this indian vegetarian place, and it was lovely.

The issue is that we sat in a long table, and more and more people kept adding themselves to the group. What was initially 4 people grew to 6, 8, 10… I lost track. And people started to wait for each other’s food before starting to eat, which is fine in a table of four, but not when you have lost track of how many people are in the table. Cold bread is bad bread.

I was so hungry. I think I had had a muffin or something ridiculous like that, very early in the morning, and didn’t snack on anything on the first break. So I was really suffering as my food was in front of me and I was not able to eat it due to following the ‘social construct’, and meanwhile it was getting cold, and because I hadn’t slept or eaten much, I was also getting colder and colder. Eventually I gave up and started grabbing bits of the bread, and someone else kind of started doing the same, and the people whose food hadn’t come yet gave us the ‘approval’ to eat, so we could stop pretending to just be content with some morsels, and eat for reals.

We talked about various experiments we were working on. Joshua has always so many ideas going on! Sounds familiar? I showed him my early 3d presentation framework prototype, which heavily relies on his text to 3D code!

Unfortunately after about 15 minutes my adrenaline seemed to be gone. My brain refused to listen much more—I guess it preferred to focus on the food I had just given it. I started to zone out, and become more of a listener than an active person at the table. Soon after we went back to the conference venue for the next talks. Sarah was speaking, and it sounded so great and informative, but 2 minutes after I sat down I started to not only feel really cold beyond anything I had felt before, but also see things flying past my eyes. At which time I decided it was stupid to keep torturing myself, and I went back to the hotel for “a 15 minutes nap”.

It was way more than that.

I woke up with the usual disturbed sleep weirdness: dry mouth, a terrible headache, hungry again, and specially: not cold, and not seeing flying things past my eyes! Wonderful!

The conference was almost over—and with that and my massive headache, there was no point in going back. And I had already done my talk! It was OK. I walked around the neighbourhood. I found a strange shopping mall full of used text book shops. Shop after shop of text books, and other books, and office supplies and office furniture. Also a massive art and crafts store. A most peculiar shopping mall. Colonial houses mingling with practical high density colourful blocks. Clean streets. I walked through all that in a sort of dream state—am I really here? How is this so warm and nice, it was very cold yesterday? Or was it the day before yesterday already?

I had dinner, and went to bed again, happy to have met so many nice people and have inspired at least a handful of them. The community was very open and respectful, and it was really wonderful to talk to them, hear what they are working on, what they’re concerned about and learn about how the tech scene is right now in Singapore. I am still genuinely sorry that I was in such a terrible state and couldn’t make the most out of the conversation 😭

Thanks to Thomas, Aysha and Zell for having me! It was a pleasure 😃

Progressive enhancement does not mean “works when JavaScript is disabled”

This topic came up last Sunday when we were recording an episode for WeCodeSign, but the episode will take two weeks to be published, and it will also be in Spanish, so unless you are able to follow my quickly spoken Spanish, you will miss my Important Insights™ on this topic. Which is why I’m writing about it here.

Apparently there’s a misconception in which progressive enhancement has been fully equated with “works when JavaScript is disabled”. That is not the case, but I could see how someone who hasn’t been programming their entire life and is lost on the fire between the two sides will be really confused.

Continue reading “Progressive enhancement does not mean “works when JavaScript is disabled””

Reading list, 4

~~~~shameless plug~shameless plug~shameless plug~shameless plug~shameless plug~~~~

Cover of Butterflies EP First of all — a SHAMELESS PLUG! I released my Butterflies EP last week and if you’re into electronic music you might want to check it out! There’s also a Too Long; Didn’t Listen (TL;DL) 1:30 version in SoundCloud, just in case you’re too busy for a full album 😀


Now for the non-shameless-pluggy list of links!

6th-12th April

  • Atomic Design by Brad Frost – This is a book on progress on an intriguing solution to a most relevant problem: designing for the immense variety of devices we use to access the net. I haven’t had much time to look into it, but it won me with just the first chapter’s tagline: “Create design systems, not pages”. I’m looking forward to Brad’s talk in UpFrontConf Manchester!
  • And also from Brad: Accessibility and low powered devices, and as he describes it: “an interesting intersection between performance, accessibility, and devices”.
  • Mozilla’s Web API Exposure guidelines – Mozilla is not using prefixes on new APIs anymore and opting for browser flags instead. This not news, but more of a reminder.
  • It’s OK for your open source library to be a bit shitty by David R. MacIver — “It’s not a job after all, is it? We’re not paying you to do it.” – except for when it seems to be, and it’s so damn exhausting sometimes. But as David says: “If the world comes back to you and says “You are a bad person for not supporting this thing I need you to support” then fuck them. If they want that they should pay you for it, or do it themselves.”
  • Surprise! Feminism – a follow up by David R. MacIver too! Or: why you will see way less women in Open Source, as it takes free time and money, two things we on average have less of.
  • What Your Open Source Culture Really Says, Part One by Shanley Kane – there are so many thought provoking points in the article, but “The only thing holding this project remotely together is romanticized notions of free and open source software” is a good one to start challenging yourself with. Can projects survive on a romantic idea? (answer: most definitely not)
  • The Spanish entity in charge of issuing SSL certificates for most of the country’s administrative and governmental servers uses certificates that trigger “this certificate is invalid” warnings in browsers. Thanks to bureaucracy, the bug is dragging for 7 years already. Fascinating and sad read, including typos in manually copied hashes, processes getting stuck for months because people go on holidays, and technical misconfigurations.
  • Making Music. Creative strategies for Electronic music producers by Dennis DeSantis who apparently wrote the Ableton live manual? – I have never been able to figure out how Ableton works; there’s something in its UI that doesn’t quite click with my brain, but the book looks interesting (and also beautiful). There are some chapters online!
  • And finally, a FUN ONE: Golden Girls LEGO set! I am a TENTE person but… this is really fun!

Assorted bits and pieces

As we wrap the year and my brain is kind of hazy with the extra food, and the total shock to the system caused by staying in Spain these days, I thought it would be a splendid moment to collect a few things that I haven’t blogged about yet. So there we go:


In Hacks

We were brainstorming what to close the year with at the Mozilla Hacks blog, and we said: let’s make a best of 2014 post!

For some reason I ended up building a giant list of videos from talks that had an impact on me, whether technical or emotional, or both, and I that thought would be great to share with fellow developers. And then the planets aligned and there was a call to action to help test video playing in Firefox, so we ended up with You can’t go wrong watching JavaScript talks, inviting you to watch these videos AND help test video playing. Two birds with one stone! (but figuratively, we do not want to harm birds, okay? okay!).

Since it is a list I curated, it is full of cool things such as realtime graphics, emoji, Animated GIFs, Web Components, accessibility, healthy community building, web audio and other new and upcoming Web APIs, Firefox OS hardware hacking, and of course, some satire. Go watch them!


And then the videos for some talks I’ve given recently have been published also.

Here’s the one from CMD+R conf, a new conference in London for Mac/iOS developers which was really nice even though I don’t work on that field. The organiser watched my CascadiaJS 2014 talk and liked it, and asked me to repeat it.

I’m quite happy with how it turned out, and I’m even a tad sad that they cut out a bit of the silly chatter from when I jumped on the stage and was sort of adjusting my laptop. I think it was funny. Or maybe it wasn’t and that’s why they cut it out 😛

Then I also spoke at Full Frontal in Brighton, which is not a new conference but has a bit of a legendary aura already, so I was really proud to have been invited to speak there. I gave an introduction to Web Audio which was sort of similar to the Web Audio Hack Day introduction, but better. Everything gets better when you practice and repeat 😉


Potch and me were guests in the episode 20 from The Web Platform, hosted by Erik Isaksen. We discussed Web Components, solving out problems for other developers with Brick, the quests you have to go through when you want to use them today, proper component/code design, and some more topics such as accessibility or using components for fun with Audio Tags.

And finally… meet ups and upcoming talks!

I’m going to be hosting the first Ladies Who Code meetup at London of the year. The date is the 6th of January, and here’s the event/sign up page. Come join us at Mozilla London and hack on stuff with fellow ladies who code! 🙂

And then on the 13th of January I’ll be also giving an overview talk about Web Components at the first ever London Web Components meetup. Exciting! Here’s the event page, although I think there is a waiting list already.

Finally for-reals I’ll be speaking at the Mozilla room at FOSDEM about Firefox OS app development with node-firefox, a project that Nicola started when he interned at Mozilla last summer, and which I took over once he left because it was too awesome to let it rust.

Of course “app development with node-firefox” is too bland, so the title of the talk is actually Superturbocharging Firefox OS app development with node-firefox. In my defense I came up with that title while I was jetlagged and incubating a severe cold, so I feel zero guilt about this superhyperbolic title 😛

Merry belated whatevers!