jQuery UK 2013 - A summary

By: James


  • javascript
  • jquery
  • conferences

jQuery UK Jabberwocky


On Friday a couple of us attended jQuery UK 2013 in Oxford. It’s only the second time the conference has been held, and from what I could gather it was far larger this time around. The day started really well, with signposts and “white rabbit” paw prints leading the way to the venue right from the station. The theme of the conference was Alice in Wonderland (hence the rabbit prints) and the sponsor hall came complete with a giant jabberwocky.

After coffee and pastries it was soon time to get started. Everyone piled in to the main room and started tweeting dubious jokes as soon as they realised there was a live Twitter wall on the right of the stage. The lack of wifi was a hot topic, but it wasn’t much of an issue. John Wards of White October, the conference organisers, kicked things off with a short introduction and then handed over to Brendan Eich, who, being the creator of JavaScript, understandably received a great reception.

Brendan Eich

Brendan’s talk focussed mainly on features of the upcoming ECMAScript 6, and the future ES7. There was a lot of interesting content, although not a huge amount of new information for people who keep up to date with es-discuss regularly.

Brendan Eich

A couple of demos of the Unreal engine, compiled to JavaScript, running in the browser with WebGL got an understandably excited reaction. The power of Emscripten and asm.js looks absolutely amazing and is definitely something to keep an eye on over the next year or so. You can read more about that on the Mozilla blog, and I highly recommend you watch the very impressive videos.

Brendan also showed off his bright orange mobile phone and mentioned that the first developer preview Firefox OS devices will be available soon from Geeksphone.

Next up was Richard D. Worth, executive director of the jQuery foundation.

Richard D. Worth

Richard’s talk, “jQuery 1.9 and 2.0 - Present and Future”, gave us some great insights into the direction of the jQuery project. He started with some impressive statistics, pointing out that 91.2% of the websites that use JavaScript use jQuery. That’s a huge number, far higher than I would have guessed.

He also confirmed the dropping of support for Internet Explorer 8 and below in jQuery 2.0, and made it clear that the team will continue to maintain the 1.9 branch, guaranteeing an API match between 1.x and 2.x as of 1.10. There was also confirmation of the new modular build system for 2.0, which means you are free to customise your copy of jQuery to suit your needs. For example, if you’re only targeting newer environments with querySelectorAll support, you can leave out Sizzle completely.

After Richard there was time for a short break before moving on to Remy Sharp.

Remy Sharp

For a jQuery conference, Remy’s talk about why not to use jQuery sounded like it might be a little out of place, but actually turned out great. He explained why we shouldn’t rely upon jQuery for everything when native JavaScript and DOM methods can often achieve the same effect in the same amount of code.

Slide by Remy Sharp

A lot of his points are even more valid with the release of jQuery 2.0. If you’re only supporting modern environments there is no reason to not start using, for example, native ES5 array methods such as Array.prototype.forEach instead of jQuery.each, and CSS3 animations instead of jQuery UI.

He introduced a new open source project, min.js, aimed at providing a barebones jQuery-compatible API that simply wraps native DOM methods. It could be a useful tool for anyone aiming to strip jQuery out of projects that only need to work in newer browsers.

Next to take to the stage was Adam J. Sontag.

Adam J. Sontag

Having never seen a talk by Adam before, this one was definitely one of my highlights. He’s a hugely entertaining speaker. The talk was pretty much contradictory to Remy’s, explaining that “jQuery is a Swiss Army knife and that’s OK”. He pointed out that jQuery was his “gateway drug” to JavaScript, something which a lot of people in the room could relate to, and a very good reason to stop criticising people who use it. He finished up with a brilliant rebuttal of the common “jQuery is too big” argument. “jQuery is gigantic… you know what else is gigantic? JPEGs!”.

After Adam’s talk there was time for Doug Neiner before lunch.

Doug Neiner

I was looking forward to Doug’s talk in particular. It was all about finite state machines in JavaScript with Machina.js. Unfortunately for Doug he seemed to be suffering from a bit of a sore throat and was quite squeaky throughout.

Doug Neiner

He gave a good introduction to finite state machines in JavaScript with an excellent analogy to the transmission in a car, and demonstrated how the code to model this could quickly get messy. He then introduced Machina and showed how it can make the previous example much cleaner, before moving on to a real-world online/offline state example.

Overall, Doug’s talk was excellent and packed with decent example code. There’s too much of it to talk about here so I highly recommend you take a look through his slides.


Next up was a break for lunch, with loads of free food, Red Bull, and a giant cake provided by White October for their 10th anniversary. The live Twitter wall was back online, so cue many more poor jokes. Tweets containing script tags seemed to be a favourite, just to make sure the organisers were properly sanitising user input!


By this point, the one song that had been playing on repeat during all the intervals was definitely starting to become annoying!

The lunch break also featured a set of short “rising stars” talks, by upcoming speakers. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see any of these but by all accounts they were pretty good.

Garann Means

After the break, Garann Means talked about developing full-stack applications in JavaScript with Node, jQuery, websockets and MVC, with a focus on events.

This talk was interesting to us since we have been taking a similar approach with a lot of our JavaScript tools and libraries recently here at Global Personals.

Following Garann was Ilya Grigorik, Web Performance Engineer at Google.

Ilya Grigorik

For me, Ilya’s talk was the highlight of the day. The title, “Wait, Chrome DevTools can do THAT?” didn’t suggest anything particularly exciting, but I learned so much from it. Again, there’s so much to cover that I can’t fit it in here, but watch out for a follow-up post when we’ve spent a bit of time playing around with all the new Chrome DevTools features.

He started with a reminder of Chrome Canary, and by the look of Twitter since this was a good idea since there were a surprising number of people unaware of it. There was also a really useful link to Code School lessons on DevTools.

Highlights of the talk included custom themes and panels, remote mobile debugging and HAR exports. I can’t recommend this talk highly enough, so check out the slides. After another short break, John Bender was up next.

John Bender

John is a member of the jQuery mobile team and the co-creator of Vagrant. His talk was about improving the speed of DOM manipulation with jQuery by applying ideas from category theory.

John Bender

The talk was fairly maths-heavy but relatively easy to follow and included some really interesting ideas. I, along with many of the other attendees, had never really considered the application of mathematical models to something like jQuery and the DOM.

John also introduced Wield, a small library developed out of many of the ideas presented in his talk, designed to abstract the collections and DOM manipulation APIs of jQuery and offer improved performance. It’s definitely worth checking out.

After that we moved on to Joe Pettersson, interaction designer and UI engineer.

Joe Pettersson

Joe talked about testing, with a big focus on legacy versions of Internet Explorer. We were reminded of the IE VMs now available from Microsoft and showed how you can use tools such as Jenkins and Selenium to automate browser testing across virtual machines communicating with a central hub.

Joe Pettersson

There were some really useful ideas in this talk, especially since this is something we are currently looking at implementing here. Joe’s sentiment of wanting to “stab the JScript engine with a fork” was shared by many. This talk was the penultimate session of the day and we moved on to Jason Scott, a jQuery mobile team member at BlackBerry.

Jason Scott

In the final talk of the day, Jason explained the virtues of building an experience for your users rather than “just another framework”. He showed us how BlackBerry leverage the power of jQuery mobile to create better user experiences, including a demo of a custom jQuery mobile theme designed to mimic the native BlackBerry 10 interface.

After party

And with that we were done! Everyone moved back into the sponsor hall for jBeery, a jQuery-inspired beer festival featuring various rebranded local ales and more good food. This was an ingenious idea and it seems like everyone had a brilliant evening. Who wouldn’t when there’s free beer all night? I stayed around for most of the night and chatted to some really interesting people.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed jQuery UK 2013 and would like to thank White October and John Wards for putting on such a brilliant event. Let’s hope for more of the same next year.

Burritos Beer

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