SxSW panel - JavaScript: the Big Picture

Next March I'll be heading off to Austin to be at SxSW. Thrifty as always, I'm looking for ways and means of getting free admission, and the most obvious solution was to send in a panel proposal. Since this year SxSW allows people to vote for panels they'd like to see, you should vote for me if you'd like to hear me speak about JavaScript (and get me a free ticket). The panel is called "JavaScript: the Big Picture" and it's somewhere near the top of the list in SxSW's Panel Picker.

For those lucky few of you who already own the book, I want to talk about the social stuff I discuss in the Afterword. For those who still have to do without my concentrated wisdom, here's a summary:

My panel will not be technical. Instead, I'd like to address some of the social issues that face JavaScript nowadays, issues I also touched on in my JavaScript and "serious" programmers entry. Not entirely coincidentally, this entry has about the highest overall comment quality on the QuirksBlog, which means (I suppose) that people are truly interested in the subject. In turn, that means the panel could prove to be quite interesting.

Basically, my social JavaScript thesis runs as follows (and note that I'm exaggerating a bit; I'm more interested in defining general trends than in assessing the exact strengths and weaknesses of individual JavaScript programmers, so most likely my thesis doesn't quite apply to your situation):

  1. Right now, JavaScript is being written by two distinct groups: web developers and application developers.
  2. The web developers' strong points are good knowledge of accessibility, HTML and CSS, as well as immersion in the ideas of the CSS revolution. Their weak points are sloppy spaghetti-coding and a general lack of knowledge about application design.
  3. The application developers' strong points are strict coding practices and lots of knowledge about application design. Their weak points are a total disinterest in accessibility and sloppy HTML coding practices.
  4. As is obvious from the preceding, both groups can learn a lot from the other. Unfortunately I don't really see any knowledge sharing being practiced on a large scale.
  5. Besides, once the Ajax hype folds and JavaScript is no longer cool, many application developers will return to their original languages and forget about JavaScript. (This also happened in 1999/2000 when he DHTML hype ended.)
  6. As a result, once the Ajax hype has folded, web developers will once more rule supreme the JavaScript scene.
  7. Since in the mean time web developers still haven't learned to code properly and to design applications, in the eyes of the application developers JavaScript will continue to be that little Java-like language for people who can't program.
  8. When the next hype arrives around 2010/2011, nothing will have changed. Application developers will still disdain web developers, and will still refuse to accept that web developers have knowledge the application developers need.
  9. We'll start all over again at point 1, except that "Ajax" will be replaced by an as-yet-uninvented acronym.

How can we break these cycles? Right now I have no idea, but the problem needs to be discussed, and SxSW is the obvious place to discuss it. Maybe I'll have had a bright idea by then, or maybe someone in the audience will make the winning suggestion.

In any case, if you're coming to SxSW and would like to hear more about these social problems, vote for "JavaScript: the Big Picture" in SxSW's Panel Picker.

This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer. You can also follow him on Twitter.
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1 Posted by Philip Withnall on 25 September 2006 | Permalink

Just to make it easier for people, ppk's panel is in both the "education/sociological" and "hacks/programming" categories. I've voted for it. :-)

2 Posted by Andy James on 26 September 2006 | Permalink

That's too many subjects to pick from in SxSW 2007. I have picked your panel already. I think many attendees would pick the same panel as its topic, which contains some thoughts about "social issues that face JavaScript" is relatively rare.

3 Posted by Ben Darlow on 26 September 2006 | Permalink

A shame I shan't be going to SxSW; this looks like a very interesting subject and one close to where my work currently lies. I'd like to see more talks along these lines, discussing the social and moral implications of what we do. It certainly beats having a load of slides filled with code (although those sort of speakers are mercifully rare).

4 Posted by Harmen Janssen on 26 September 2006 | Permalink

I've voted for you.
Not sure if I can attend SxSW, but I trust you'll upload a video-/podcast for your voters when you're back ;)

5 Posted by a college student on 23 October 2006 | Permalink

Bridging the gap between web and application develops sounds like a noble challenge and I'm interested to see what you think up.

I used to experience a big gap when talking amoungst designers and developers. Then I found the bridge: usability. Both parties by default are generally terrible at it, both can become better in their respected fields by understanding it, and each party has very value input to contribute when brainstorming how to implement it.