Reflecting on Ember Conf 2016

Reflecting on Ember Conf 2016

Rene Rubalcava | April 3, 2016

Last week I had the opportunity to attend EmberConf 2016 in Portland, Oregon from Esri. Ember is one of the frameworks used for application development here, so it was really good to catch up on current development in the community. First off, I had to fly, which I'm not a fan of, but I'm getting better. I didn't freak, so let's call it a win.

So for the past year or so, I've done a lot of Ember development. I even wrote a post about writing an ember-cli addon. I've dug in deep into the Ember guts, and let me tell you, it's pretty gutsy in there.

Ember is an interesting framework. I would say that maybe two to three years ago, it had an odd learning curve. It follows the convention over configuration aspect of it. There are parts of your application that will be created for you if you decide not to override their behavior and this could be a WTF moment if you aren't used to it. I think ember-cli has helped to simplify much of the learning curve issues with Ember. And it really is using best practices for Ember development.

This was my first EmberConf, and one thing right off the bat I think I could immediately see, was a strong community of users. Everyone was really friendly and having a good time.

The keynote kicked kicked things off and it's pretty apparent there has been a lot of work focused on increasing performance in Ember. Glimmer was all the rage this year and for good reason. It's pretty damn fast. Glimmer is the DOM engine developed for Ember, but note, it doesn't look like you have to use Ember for it. There's a demo app here with source.

There were two tracks of sessions this year and I pretty much stayed in the track 1 room, which seemed to cover some more technical details. There were some really good presenters and it's tough to try and cover all the sessions in detail. The Service Worker presentation was real interesting with lots of tips on taking your apps offline and utilizing both AppCache and Service Workers and the browser pains we all feel.

I was really interested in the presentation on building Electron apps with Ember. This is something I've dabbled in and this talk gave me some ideas I'll be testing out.

The one that stood out for me on day one the Dissecting an Ember CLI build talk. This presentation went deep on the build steps and the broccoli steps used in Ember CLI. For anyone that has done any addon development, this talk should definitely have been on your must-see list.

On day two, we got to see more in depth stuff about Ember CLI and some updates on what's to come. One of the things discussed was the idea of Ember Engines. There is a repo here. Here's a deck on it. Basically engines is to help developers manage loading Ember apps in Ember apps, like loading a blog page or maybe loading admin pages into your app. This is the kind of stuff I've struggled with in Ember. Ember CLI wants you to build a single JavaScript file for your application, aside from the vendor file. It was even brought up that some of these can get pretty big, such as 12MB and up. You may have code that isn't needed by all pages of your app. You may even have pages that are only needed for certain users based on authentication. It looks like engines will help solve that problem. It's something I've tried working on using the ember-cli-amd addon, for use with the ArcGIS JS API. Plus, let's face it, asynchronousity is something needed for large apps where you may want to bundle parts of your application. I'd have to wait and get my hands dirty with engines myself, but it seems to me that a lot of these issues could be alleviated if Ember CLI had some form of AMD support via RequireJS. The loader they use is pretty close to being almondjs. The whole loader is synchronous, there is no async involved at the moment. I could take Ember on it's own and use it with an AMD loader, but not in Ember CLI. I don't know, that is of course just my opinion, but I'll have to actually try engines to get a better feel for it.

The talk by James Kyle of babeljs fame was also really good. He basically crammed the creation of a simple Lisp to JavaScript compiler into a 30 minutes session, with some hand drawn slides. It added fuel to a fire I had with colleagues the night before about the differences between a compiler and a transpiler. Talk about geek talk.

There was an immutability talk that I thoroughly enjoyed, as it works really well with the Data Down, Actions Up that Ember embraces. I picked up some good tips from this talk as well. This is one of those talks where I want to go over the samples in more depth. I follow some similar patterns in my development and I'm always looking for some in-depth perspective on these things.

It was at this point that I had to leave early to catch my flight. I missed the Glimmer talk, which I heard went really in depth on the topic. I am really looking forward to seeing this video and trying out Glimmer outside of an Ember app.

So it was a great experience overall and it was definitely something I'll be doing again next year. I also had quite a bit of fun with the snapchat filters for the event. Which, by the way you can find me on snapchat under odoenet.

Ember really is a very nice framework and it's pretty easy to onboard new developers with and like I've always said, if you are in a team environment and want everyone on the same page, it's tough to wrong with Ember. I look forward to see what cool stuff comes out this year!