* We assume.

Nordic.js is a JavaScript conference that takes place annually (since 2014) in Stockholm, Sweden. We attended the 2017 conference; here’s our perspective on the event.

About the conference

The conference took place over two days (Thursday and Friday), which inspired us to combine it with a Stockholm sightseeing weekend ;-) JavaScript celebrity MPJ co-moderated the conference alongside Unn Swanström. As there was only one track, disciplined visitors could catch all talks. This year, Nordic.js was located in a former fabric hall in Stockholm’s old industrial area Sickla. The venue helped create a festival-like atmosphere and inspired creative thought. The conference featured a broad range of talks with topics ranging from accessibility over ECMAScript standardization and inclusion to web technology evolution.

Notable talks

While we genuinely enjoyed all talks, the following selection stroke us as particularly noteworthy.

Harriet Lawrence on sociolinguistics in tech communications

In her talk Sociolinguistics and the Javascript community: a love story, Harriet elaborated on the importance of careful and explicit communications. While Harriet’s talk seemed to be targeted at open source contributors and maintainers, its essence applies to all software development projects and especially large-scale projects. These projects involve large and often geographically distributed groups of people, who might not be aware of each other’s cultural backgrounds and communication preferences.

Important advice she gave included:

  • avoid sarcasm and in-jokes,
  • don’t assume highly specific technical expertise in how-tos and README files,
  • always provide explicit feedback.

The slides of her talk are available here on GitHub.

I liked this talk because it offered hands-on advice on how to improve communications within tech teams.

Léonie Watson on web accessibility

Léonie, a member of W3C’s Advisory Board, presented some techniques to remove common barriers that might prevent people with disabilities to interact with websites. Her talk You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off! focused on the navigation and semantic meaning of elements in the browser’s element tree (DOM) – two key aspects of reading websites with a screen reader.

One issue is the repurposing of purely structural HTML elements like <div> or <span> for interaction. While elements like <button> or <a> are clearly identified by a screen reader as interactive elements, a <div> with a click-handler (e.g. <div onClick="function() {}">Click me!</div>) is not. While this repurposing should generally be avoided there might be certain situations where it’s inevitable. In these cases the ARIA standard provides a way of annotating non-semantic HTML elements to add context.

In our example this would look like this: <div role="button" onClick="function() {}">Click me!</div>. The “role” attribute tells screen readers that we are dealing with an interactable element. This is just one example of the many ways that ARIA helps to make website more accessible. You can find more examples in Léonie’s slides at http://decks.tink.uk/2017/frontendunited/index.html.

I liked this talk because it explained with practical examples how to consider accessibility in your everyday developer life.

Claudia Hernández on JavaScript without alphanumerics

Claudia’s talk Down the Rabbit Hole: JS in Wonderland about JavaScript’s quirks was arguably the most entertaining presentation of the conference. The Dailymotion engineer presented a six-character ((![]+)) subset of JavaScript (as presented on this website) that allows running any program by creatively exploiting JavaScript’s lack of type safety. For example, this JSFiddle contains the (![]+)-equivalent of alert('Signavio'). You find (a 2016 version of) Claudia’s slides here on Speaker Deck.

I liked this talk because it was so geekily entertaining!

Conclusion

With its broad range of interesting talks and its friendly, creative atmosphere, Nordic.js is a welcome excuse to visit Stockholm and get a glimpse of late Scandinavian summer. See you there next year!

Jon Flobrant