Alma developers Samu and Joonas popped over to beautiful autumn Stockholm to visit Nordic.js, a two-day Javascript conference organized since 2014. This year it was held in an ex-industrial estate Nobelberget. Past venues include an old brewery and the Stockholm archipelago. The event is put together with lots of style and pizazz, making it feel like the Flow Festival of IT conferences.

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Outside hangout area
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The lobby

Paul Kinlan from Google and Sacha Greif talked about where Javascript and Browser APIs are at right now. Sacha showed some new results from his site The State of Javascript, like that React is winning and there’s loads of interest in GraphQL. Paul had plenty of exciting anecdotes and examples about PWAs, and the more obscure APIs like window.postMessage(). He also talked about how his framework Web Intents was abandoned. Paul’s talk centered around how the web is losing its interconnected nature in the age of web apps, when for example images hosted in one app can’t be edited from another app. Paul’s blog is here.

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Presenters Unn (left) and MPJ on stage
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Stage and floor

Ben Schwarz, founder of Calibre, and Léonie Watson from W3C spoke about less glamorous but that much more important engineering aspects of web development. Ben showed through very interesting statistics how harmful the current web app bloat can be, considering the average internet connections and devices. He has articles about the subject on Medium. Lèonie demonstrated empirically what breaks web pages and apps to people who use a screen reader. Key message was to use HTML in a semantically correct way, and to avoid ARIA attributes unless you’re absolutely sure about what you’re doing. She also showed how difficult it is to get custom interactions to behave as well as native ones.

Technical writer Harriet Lawrence and Karolina Szczur showed what makes communities inclusive. Harriet had some concrete examples about how technical documentation and communication can easily be made more positive. I wish someone made a “style guide” to tech communication with her advice.

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Samu enjoying kanelbulle made by the world's best baker Håkan Johansson
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Food trucks and outside hangout

On the more specific technical talks, Laney Kuenzel Zamore and Adam Kramer from Facebook presented an introduction to GraphQL, and the new subscriptions feature. Feross Aboukhadijeh, the founder of Webtorrent, did some live coding examples of his wicked P2P projects. Rachel Andrew gave a solid tutorial on the new CSS Grid. Learn it on her site Grid by example. Guillermo Rauch of ultra-hip Zeit did a live hello word with Next.js, and left us wanting more. Mars Jullian from Netflix shared her excellent tips on reusable React components - slides are here. Of course there were many more, but these are the real quality ones that stuck with me.

Thursday ended with laser and UV illuminated ping pong, accompanied with a bit of techno music. We didn’t get to play. Friday ended with Festen - “a party for all hackers, designers and creatives in Stockholm”, including a fun “code in the dark” event, where contestants tried to replicate a web page without previewing their code. Windows95Man from Finland performed, and many others.

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Techno ping pong with lasers
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First heat of "code in the dark"

Listening to presentations for two days is tiring work. Fortunately everything was so well organized and ran so smoothly, that attending was a real pleasure. All in all, Nordic.js gets a “five out of five, would attend again” rating from us. Looking forward to another trip.