Develop Denver 2013

Last Thursday and Friday, three Aten developers – Garrett Dawson, Ryan Kois and Joe Crespo (that’s me) – descended on Develop Denver 2013 to learn about the latest tech, drink copious amounts of free coffee (also free beer), and generally geek out on development strategy with like-minded people who won’t immediately tune out, fall asleep, or fake an incoming call while we go into the weeds on the minutiae of various languages, libraries, frameworks... etc.

We were not alone. This year’s conference was triple the size of Develop Denver 2012. The sold out conference was held at Galvanize Space in Denver’s Golden Triangle. Galvanize is an open-office that embraces startup culture, freelancers of all stripes, and the entrepreneurial spirit. The two-track panels at the conference were standing-room only.

While philosophers can debate over whether math or love is humanity’s sole universal language, it’s undeniable Develop Denver 2013 ordained JavaScript to be the sole universal language among developers. JavaScript was at the core of the symposium and the focal point of every technical panel; diversity came only in the form of various JavaScript projects covered: jQuery (of course), Three.js, Rendr, Node.js, Backbone.js, Modernizr, Raphaël, Badass.js, and others.

Perhaps in a nod to the host space, Galvanize, there were some non-technical panels that discussed development as it pertains to business: how digital companies can survive the current landscape, reputation management, the Denver job market for both job seekers and employers, and startup opportunities for those ready to strike out on their own.

While not everything we heard about was new to us Atennauts, we were absolutely blown away by some of the panels. This conference may have been a one-note JavaScript development gabfest, but it followed the Unix philosophy: “Do one thing and do it well.”

The two stand out panels discussed three.js and Rendr.

Three.js is a JavaScript library that utilizes the WebGL API to create rich interactive 3D animations without the use of plugins, even better, it’s dead-simple for a developer to dive right in. One would call it a Flash-killer, if Flash weren’t already dead. In addition to creating an immersive web experience, three.js is a great platform for in-browser gaming, and it opens the door to rich mobile application development outside of the closed ecosystems found on mobile devices – particularly iOS. Of course, as a greater segment of the web audience uses WebGL-enabled browsers, and as this project matures, you may have three.js to thank for the next generation of gloriously distracting banner ads.... now in 3D!

Rendr is a lightweight library that allows developers to run Backbone.js apps on both client and server. Using JavaScript on both ends of the transaction between the browser and web host blurs the line between client/server and allows for a single codebase to be deployed across an entire project. Rendr was first committed in the last quarter of 2012, which means it’s on the cutting edge, and probably needs a little more time to cook. One can expect to see sweeping changes to the API that make this project not quite ready for prime time. That said, once this is ready for deployment on production, a single DRY (“Don’t Repeat Yourself”) codebase is incredibly enticing for developers looking to produce quality code.

Certainly, one can be critical of Develop Denver’s heavy JavaScript lean, but the big takeaway is that the conference inspired us to engage in new tech, and gave us some perspective on what our colleagues are up to in other development shops around town. True-to-form, the three of us did not wait for the conference to be over before launching our own pet projects using these JavaScript libraries.

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