Kotlin seems like the future of Android development. It is a new statically-typed programming language that runs on JVM, with a very refined syntax and enhanced features. There is a lot to love about it. Kotlin is interoperable with Java, which should reduce the risk of future incompatibility. The additional language features such as Function Extensions and High Order Function make it much more extensible and scalable. The code is concise with data classes, single expression function, infix and many more… enough said. Kotlin is just great!
In its third year and bigger than ever, Respond Australia's Responsive Web Design Conference, was held for the first time in two cities, over two days. Kicking off on the 7th April at the National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour.
On Wednesday 2nd March - Friday 4th March, I attended the first Try! Swift developers conference in Tokyo, Japan. As Apple’s new programming language begins to grow and mature it is now receiving a large amount of attention throughout the developer community. This conference was a great opportunity for developers of the iOS, tvOS, watchOS and Mac OS X platforms to present on the ways they are pushing the limits of the language. It has opened up many unique discussions on the ways the language itself can be improved, some of the drawbacks that exist and most importantly the best practices that have revealed themselves already within the community.
Bilue recently turned 5 years old, and we held a party at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney just to celebrate. With some space left over to decorate we decided we wanted to build something a little different for our staff, customers and family to interact with. The brief we landed on was to create something unique, exciting and modern that encompassed the skill and flare that is involved in each and every day in the life of the Bilue team.
For some reason Google Analytics doesn't expose a dimension that represents which specific model of iPhone/iPad that the user is using (iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPad Mini 2, et al). This makes it very difficult to track your mobile users' usage by specific device type.
On Thursday 10 December, once nothing more than a $10,000 credit card debt and now a Sydney-based technology startup, Atlassian raised $US462 million in a much anticipated Initial Public Offering (IPO). It goes to show that now is as good a time as ever to push forward, break down barriers and achieve something bold.
Dependency management is a tricky problem to solve, even more so on iOS projects where we have to concern ourselves with things like code signing, embedded binaries, and so on. In recent years, a couple of solutions to this problem have presented themselves, each with different approaches and guiding philosophies, and each with their own tradeoffs to consider.
Imagine the entire web was just static. Filled in by nothing but words, information and meaningless black and white text. We would all spend a lot less time using the internet.
Don’t settle for what exists, care enough to push the envelope and design the best solution possible.
Technology and the web are incredibly exciting and yet still so new. Compared to other industries such as banking, mining or automotive it is still in its infancy, and people are doing amazing work to shape it and explore how far it can be stretched. Being so young allows us to try new approaches, make mistakes and discover new design processes and development practices that will help improve what we build.
Events such as Web Directions 2015 help the industry grow by bringing its leaders together to impart their wisdom. After two days, I felt like my head was ready to explode from excitement, learning and ridiculously excessive amounts of coffee. Web Directions challenged my existing development processes, reinforced my inner values and exposed me to a few excitingly new perspectives of thinking.
Cap Watkins, VP of Design at Buzzfeed delivered the conference opening keynote, emphasising a need for developers and designers to work closer than ever before. He introduced us to processes at Buzzfeed whereby designers and developers sit down monthly to work through minor styling bug fixes that would otherwise be de-prioritised. Designers were encouraged to be involved, learn CSS and make contributions to a codebase instead of relying on developers to make these less important changes.
I find Cap’s attitude inspiring. In my own experience I’ve found that collaboration among teams directly leads to an increase in quality.
Developers should also be expanding the breadth of their knowledge. Courtney Hemphill addressed these ideas in her talk on animation algorithms. She encouraged exploring the ways tweaking easing functions adds entirely new dimensions to a design - beyond what a designer would typically achieve.
Addressing these visual animation problems through code and logic we can further integrate design thinking into our process. By integrating knowledge from other disciplines, as developers we become more than just ‘code monkeys’. Instead, we can create fun, exhilarating web experiences. Who doesn’t want to do that?
This year’s code track was a flurry of everything that is cooler than whatever it is you’re currently doing. Programming can sometimes feel like you’re just writing the same lines of CSS over and over again - but the engineering speakers inspired developers to experiment with new methods, libraries and properties - each wielding their own success stories from real world projects.
With the uptake of the Angular and React frameworks as well as modules with ES6, there’s been a shift towards component-based development. Functionally, components have a local scope so that they don’t interfere with one another. This isn’t true for CSS. Mark Dalgleish and Glen Maddern introduced their solution - CSS Modules. This framework uses Webpack to create locally-scoped CSS classes that only apply to the component where they’re referenced. The result is cleaner, modular CSS files and reusable base classes both of which I will be keen to embrace.
An underlying theme of many talks was about how creatives need to think more about the impact of what they’re building. To deeply explore the needs of user groups that are not normally considered. An example - Government. Tom Loosemore talked through rebuilding gov.uk to create a less frustrating online experience. He presented solutions to combine data from multiple sources, removing the need for users to re-enter information already stored away somewhere in a database. Reconceptualising user behaviour addressed key issues in new ways, an approach which extends beyond government.
Developers, on the other hand, simply don’t care enough about the products we’re building. The internet is obese, and we’re all too lazy to fix the problem. Maciej Ceglowski’s challenge is to build websites smaller than Russian literature (which is usually fairly small). Remove the oversized videos, uncompressed images, unnecessarily heavy ads - they're all just bloat. We’re all guilty of ignoring the implications of page load times and need to be thinking more consciously. Give the user critical content first - then stop. Does my user care? No? Then why include it?
Go back to the basics, simplify size, simplify quantity and create a more usable web.
Web Directions was a call-to-arms. The web is fresh, it’s pliable and we can still shape it. I’ve been playing with plenty of ideas I've learned, I intend to keep learning and experimenting with new technologies, new theories and improving my code in the process. Yes, there will always be more to do, but adopting an integrated approach to thinking, improving code and caring about what we build and who we build for will create an enjoyable, exciting internet for people to enjoy. I'm excited to see what direction the industry will take as it continues to grow.
For some more information and thoughts about the conference, read Amy Balsdon's Takeaways from Web Directions 2015.