All Day Hey! 2018 Reflections

Yesterday I took a trip to Leeds to All Day Hey!, a one-day one-track conference on topics across the front-end ecosystem. Now in its second year, All Day Hey! has managed to attract some top speakers, and curated an interesting day of diverse topics.

Every talk had something of value, but I don’t have space to write them up and couldn’t do them justice in this format. Instead, I’m going to pick out some of my top take-aways from the day that I think you’d most like to know.

If you want to know more about any of the topics covered, or any of the talks I haven’t written up then let me know! I’d be happy to chew your ear off about them some time, or arrange a way to pass on anything learned.

So here’s a list of the talks, speakers and topics. After the jump, my top lessons.

  • Unlocking the Power of CSS Grid LayoutRachel Andrew (CSS Grid, CSS standards)
  • Building Resilient Frontend SystemsIan Feather (Infrastructure, disaster recovery)
  • What is the Web without the Browser?Peter Gasston (Extended reality, future web)
  • Idea to Execution, and BeyondAshley Baxter (Product development)
  • Lightning Talks
  • CSS — Past, Present and FutureUna Kravets (Modern CSS, Houdini)
  • In the LoopJake Archibald (Event loop, JavaScript programming)

I first want to talk about mental health. Chris Witham gave a personal and inspiring speech on mental health in the workplace, highlighting that a third of sick notes signed by UK GPs are issued for mental health reasons. He identified a few practical things we can all do:

  1. Ensure your office is an environment where colleagues can say they’re having a bad day and be listened to and respected (without having to be probed or explain themselves)
  2. Regularly ask yourself “How am I?” and take the time to properly think about it (you could set a reminder in your phone to do this daily)
  3. Identify the place or conditions that make you happy and make sure you spend enough time there (e.g. working in your shed, exercising, spending time with family)

Chris also pointed to mental health first aid training which I hadn’t heard of before but I think could help improve our support of mental health in the University.

It’d feel wrong not to draw attention to Rachel Andrew’s talk on CSS Grid. Rachel has been an incredible advocate for Grid and learning about it from such an expert was wonderful (see her articles, books and the work of Jen Simmons for more).

I was particularly taken though by her explanation of the internationalisation of CSS. Notable in the CSS Grid specification is that rather than properties having names like “left” and “right”, they have “start” and “end”. This means that grids can be reoriented for right-to-left or bottom-to-top languages without the CSS semantics getting confused. You can define once and apply to every language.

I enjoyed hearing Ashley Baxter talk about Jack. She has invested a lot of time in building the product, despite tough times getting support and recognition from insurance providers, and talked about the realities of product development. Far from being a sad story, Ashley was inspiring and motivating. She provided some practical advice aimed at independent developers but which I think transitions to University work as well (the PMO might disagree with me here):

  1. Pick one project and focus on it
  2. Forecast that your project will have hard times, and prepare to work through them
  3. Focus on delivering a polished feature to release, rather than trying to do everything perfectly at once
  4. After release, develop your customer journey and continue to meet requirements

For anyone interested in the future of CSS, Una Kravets talk was full of exciting features (both present and upcoming), but Houdini was particularly interesting. It will allow developers to use JavaScript worklets within CSS, allowing us to extend functionality and cheaply polyfill features which are missing. There’s a really long article about Houdini on Smashing Magazine, as well as some practical demos by Vincent De Oliveira.

Lastly, I wanted to bring up Chris Kershaw’s talk about weight training. In his brief slot, Chris introduced us to weight training, explained the benefits (including improved mental health, positive attitude and better sleep), and noted why it was a good fit for software developers (away from a screen, doesn’t need to take lots of time, we suffer from burnout and stress). It was an uplifting talk, and really nice to see something at a conference about the life of being a developer alongside the technical content.

Again, if you want to know more about any of the talks, or the event itself, then please email me! If this has inspired you to go to a conference yourself, Smashing Magazine maintains a great list of what’s coming up (and there are far more besides).