Weblogs: Javascript

Promoting modern JavaScripting

Monday, July 18, 2005

On the Saturday following the @Media 2005 there was a JavaScript get-together up in London. Organised by Peter Paul Koch to discuss JavaScripting issues, like the naming problems of Ajax and DOM scripting.

Simon Willison and Jeremy Ruston

I found out about the gathering from Simon Willison's blog. I'm a fan of Simon's online work, so getting a chance to meet him in person was tempting. I'm not a people person, and meeting new people isn't something I do well, but with a little cajoling from Derek Featherstone, I decided to drop by and meet some of the scripting legends.

I got there, and almost left just as quickly, but I got waved over. Introducing myself and I find myself sitting next to Simon! We found out the others had been inside for quite some time so we headed down to the basement, via the bar, where I bought Simon a drink. Also bought a drink for someone else, and we got chatting. Said his name was Jeremy Ruston - the name rings a bell, but I can't put my finger on it. And it bugs me for days, until I rediscover TiddlyWiki. Small world! (And thanks for introducing yourself!)

The people I already met

Catching up with the rest of the JavaScript gang, there's about twenty of us all gathered around in a massive circle. I look around, see lots of faces. I recognised PPK since I stuttered a hello to him before the second day of @media 2005. Jeremy Keith I recognised, as well as Derek Featherstone. Chris Kaminski I recognised, Joe Clark introduced him to me the previous day, and I blanked horribly trying to recall who he was (even though I spent most of the few days before pouring over WaSP blog entries about Acid 2, most of them authored by Chris).

The big guns

Three guys I didn't recognise, but were obviously well respected. Simon Willison and Andy Budd were huddled around a Powerbook talking to someone about the imminent launch of Odeo - I'd seen the hype around Evan William's podcast web service, and recalled that an established and highly talented designer was doing the design work. We were looking at the design work from the designer himself - none other than Dunstan Orchard.

The loud guy in the corner turned out to be Stuart Langridge the guy behind the website that first introduced me to unobtrusive JavaScript. The quiet guy next to him turns out to be Dean Edwards, of IE7 fame.

The conversation

So what do a bunch of geeks interested in JavaScript talk about? ... After CSS, and document collaboration with SubEthaEdit. The conversation was loud, frantic, provoking in a number of ways. What struck me was the enthusiasm for JavaScript, the concerns it was being overlooked because of the JavaScript gallery type sites.

In the space of two hours we managed to derail PPK's well thought-out agenda and started seriously tackling the subject of making JavaScript attractive to the CSS designer. We agreed to start a group to promote well written JavaScript, and start talking about it. Perhaps WaSP would be interested in allowing us to be a Task Force, perhaps we go it alone.

Derek Featherstone got accessibility established as part of the direction we wanted to take. The idea got nods all around, with the point that we need to understand assistive technologies better so we could write our JavaScript to accommodate them.

Setting a new direction

It was a Saturday afternoon, June 11th, next to the replica of Sir Francis Drake's legendary Golden Hind that a new JavaScript adventure set sail. The camaraderie held up through the weeks, through the brainstorming sessions, through the strategy threads, through the non-design back and forths. WaSP invited us aboard as if we were already part of the family.

We've told the world today we are here. Ready and willing to explore, discover the delightful language of JavaScript, and the solid-standard Document Object Model. Over the coming months we want to show web developers JavaScript, in the right hands, is a tool well worth having in your toolbox. We want to also ensure our JavaScript doesn't unnecessarily lock people out, and by focusing on unobtrusive JavaScript, we endeavour to keep a clean separation between the content layer and the JavaScript behaviour layer.

Forward with hope

I hope over the next few months, web developers and designers who have learnt the standards way of developing websites will spend a little time with us exploring standards-based JavaScript. As Jeremy Keith pointed out, the Document Object Model was the third standard that WaSP fought so long and hard for. We know the HTML and CSS standards very well, lets not overlook DOM. A solid three legged stool is far more comfortable.

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