A few points about Node Summit 2018 - Naver Labs Europe

Node Summit is a NodeJS* focused conference that takes place in San Francisco every year where NodeJS experts from around the world gather together in the same place for a week.

The conference is strongly focused on techniques and engineering. There were over 1000 attendees and 80 speakers this year from some of the world’s biggest tech companies. The conference was divided into 3 parts. Day Zero is basically additional conferences where it’s less crowded and you can actually have a chat with the speakers. Main Conference days are the core of the Node Summit with 3 tracks in parallel and some keynotes in-between. Training days are two days of half-day training sessions on NodeJS and other FullStack related technologies. I was lucky enough to have an early bird ticket which included Day Zero and Main Conferences days. It took place the week of the 23rd July.

Following is a mix of my personal feelings about what I saw with the stuff that I learned when I was there.

Integration and feedback of NodeJS

NodeJS has been around since 2009. It’s now one of the biggest open source projects. Since 2015, the number of Node modules has outmatched all other major package managers. These days the number of modules is around 700 000! To give you an idea of huge this is, Maven has a bit more than 200 000 modules. One of the reasons for this success is that it uses Javascript (or js), the most used language in the world. NodeJS means front end developers can use the same language in the front and back end (https://slides.com/seldo/take-back-control). Another reason behind the success of Node is its non-blocking event driven architecture which gives amazing performance in handling lots of requests.

Needless to say, a lot of the usual big tech companies were present. But what’s interesting is that a lot of non-tech ones were there to talk about Node and what they’re doing with it. A good example of this was presented by Alex Grigoryan who heads up engineering for the Online Grocery business at Walmart Labs. They’re using use Node and other technologies for the Walmart grocery app proving the maturity of the technology at production level.

Photo of Alex Grigoryan, Walmart Labs at Node Summit 2018

Alex Grigoryan, Walmart Labs, talking about Node and what he’s doing with it at Node Summit, 2018

This maturity featured in quite a few talks like those on internationalization modules (Alolita Sharma, AWS), microservice platform creation feedback (Joe Groseclose, Spring) or how Node is helping the BBC to enter voice first formats (Sarah Jessica Leivers, BBC). Thanks to Matteo Collina I discovered a really useful tool suite called https://clinicjs.org/ which I’ve tested since I got back. It’s a powerful profiling suite that’s really helpful in understanding what’s under low performance node and how to optimize it.

NodeJS Community

NodeJS has evolved so quickly thanks to its large, welcoming community. The top NodeJS contributors were there encouraging everyone to contribute to NodeJS or to give feedback on what they want to see in future versions.

The NodeJS Community is extremely open with lots of free tutorials, courses and meet-ups.

James Snell in his talk about HTTP/2 in Node is very clear about how the community is at the center of the process and how NodeJS depends on community feedback.

Another great talk was given by Tanya Butenko on ‘Nodegirls’ and how Node and the community help women, non-binary and trans people to learn Node and javascript or even become software engineers.
During Day Zero, I went to the San Francisco Nodeschool workshop where it was nice to code and get feedback from the experts in the room. Check out https://nodeschool.io/ to see what you can learn.

NodeJS and Javascript Evolutions

The other big topic at the summit is always how Node and Javascript are evolving.

Regarding Node JS, the await and promise of async were at the center of a lot of talks. The end of callback hell is near. Other new things were the addition of async_hook (James Snell, nearForm) and N-API (Arunesh Chandra, Microsoft) in the latest versions of Node. These open up a lot of possibilities in terms of tracing, maintenance and performance enhancement. In the Snell talk mentioned earlier he obviously spoke about the support of HTTP/2 in Node and how we can use it (see also his blog on this).

On the JavaScript size, Ben Ilegbodu (Eventbrite) talked about the future of JS for the coming year and explained the ECMAScript proposal process. JavaScript evolves quickly with a new version out almost every year now with awesome new features. For ES2018, I’m really enthusiastic about the rest and spread properties (http://2ality.com/2016/10/rest-spread-properties.html). The other big thing I’m waiting for is optional chaining but it’s only at stage 1 (proposal) (https://github.com/tc39/proposal-optional-chaining). We can however use both right now using typescript or babel.

Photo of Ben Ilegbodu, Eventbrite at Node Summit 2018

Ben Ilegbodu, Eventbrite, talking about the future JavaScript at Node Summit 2018

The idea of open talk panel discussions that focused on one topic with multiple speakers and one moderator worked really well. The focus meant that the different points of view were easy to get across as well as the differing expectations of NodeJS. Kudos to the organizers of the summit who did a great job. The summit really was made to make it easy to learn more about Node, coding, new frameworks and tools. I hope to make it back next year.

Photo of Panel discussion ‘NODE.JS and the Frameworks of the Web’ at NODE Summit

Panel discussion, ‘NODE.JS and the Frameworks of the Web’. James Snell (nearform), Dane Shaw (dshaw LLC), Igor Minar (Google), Justin Fagnani (Google) and moderator Tracy Lee (This Dot).

*  NodeJS is one of the most popular backend development platforms. It’s an open source cross platform server-side platform built on Google Chromium’s JavaScript Engine (V8 Engine).  Asynchronous programming is the key feature of Node making it one of today’s best performing backend platforms.