Reflections on Remix 2010

Last week, a small SitePoint contingent attended REMIX Australia where our own Matty Magain presented a very well-received talk on anonymous visitor data entitled ‘What We Know About You.’

Here’s my wrap up of the best of the rest.

The theme for this two-day conference was ‘Share the Web Love,’ and although Microsoft may not be the first company you associate with free love, the speaker list was notably broader than I might have expected.

James Senior – Microsoft and jQuery: A true love story.

On day one we saw Microsoft’s Web Evangelist James Senior present the backstory on Microsoft’s little-known involvement with the jQuery project.

Beginning in 2002, Microsoft had been developing their own in-house JavaScript library for inclusion with many of their products. However, in 2008, when it became clear that jQuery was a better solution, they began shipping it with ASP.NET and Visual Studio instead. On the surface, a perfectly hard-headed business decision.

James SeniorHowever according to James, Microsoft’s own Ajax Scripting Library did have a few strings to it’s bow that jQuery currently couldn’t replicate. John Resig agreed.

So, in February this year James and a small MS team sat down with the jQuery team to plan how they could help implement these features in the next version of jQuery. Microsoft now has fulltime developers and support staff dedicated to jQuery.

Could Microsoft be trying to hijack or subvert jQuery for it’s own reasons? Not at all. The Microsoft contributions go through exactly the same peer moderation processes that anyone contributor would face. They’re an enthusiastic part of an open collaboration and are presumably seeing the benefits. Yay.

James went on to show-off some of the fruits of their labor with a nifty jQuery templates demo that pulled Twitter search queries into a page. As we’ve used similar but much more long-winded code on SitePoint, it was hard not to be impressed by the elegance of this new code.

Surely, a happy-ever-after story there for everyone.

Windows Phone 7: The emperor has got some new threads – Nick Randolph

While there’s little doubt iPhone and Android are currently winning the mindshare battle, it appears that with Windows Phone 7, Microsoft finally has given developers something they can get genuinely excited about.

Before lunch on day one, Nick Randolph walked us through a typical Windows Phone 7 app creation project, diving back and forwards between Visual Studio and Expression Blend. Though the tech is outside my daily loop, it was a nice way to get a feel for the platform.

While I have to admit till now I’ve tended to view Silverlight as ‘Flash without the install base‘, Windows Phone 7 is going to pretty much eat and breathe Silverlight. Can Microsoft become a big player in the mobile OS market again? That remains to be seen, but if they do, Silverlight/Expression Blend skills will be in high demand.

Incidentally, if you’re curious about Windows Phone 7 development, Shane Morris recently wrote a great primer for us covering the key concepts. It’s a good starting point.

In-Depth Look at Internet Explorer 9 – Tatham Oddie

On day two, Tatham Oddie took us on a wonderous voyage through the shiny, new Internet Explorer 9 preview. If you’re not up to speed with this, although the ‘shell’ is the still quite primitive, the IE9 rendering engine is showing the early signs of a very worthy vehicle.

The highlights from Tatham’s demoed included:

  • Full W3C border-radius support
  • Native SVG (VML is finally buried)
  • Alpha-transparency support in CSS backgrounds (i.e. the ‘a’ in background-color: rgba(124, 78, 13, .5); ). Unllike CSS opacity. This lets you make a DIV semi-transparent without making everything inside semi-transparent too.
  • Some new advanced CSS selectors including first-child, last-child, and even odd and even.

Lachlan HardyUltimately, though there was lots to like, I was left with a slightly bitter/sweet taste. While, I’m really pleased that IE9 is looking like the Microsoft browser we all want, IE7 and IE8 seem like such missed opportunities to get there earlier. Ah, que sera.

Building The Open Web – Lachlan Hardy

The last session I saw on day two was Lachlan Hardy speaking at length on the cold, hard business reason for choosing Open standards over proprietary code.

Lachlan, as you may know, has been a long time and vocal standards advocate, but hearing him talk to an audience that wasn’t automatically convinced of the argument gave it a little more edge than usual.

Summary

Although the Beatles songs and psychedelic swirls are perhaps not how most of us think of Microsoft, I think you’ve really got to give some credit here.

It’s no great secret the standards community and Redmond haven’t always seen eye to eye, and the simplest and safest course would have been to pitch purely MS-centric content to their MS-friendly crowd. There would have been few complaints.

Instead they chose to showcase speakers like Lachlan, John Allsopp and Matty — speakers talking about technologies and, indeed, ideologies arguably outside Microsoft’s normal conversation sphere.

In the end I think the speakers, the audience and Microsoft all understood the great benefits in that.

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