React Rally 2018 Impressions

React Rally is a two-day conference focused on React and JavaScript held in Salt Lake City, UT. In 2018, there were 20 talks covering the broad and ever-changing space that is the JavaScript world. Most of them are available to view on the React Rally Youtube channel. Jamie Role and Jared Chapiewsky attended on behalf of Earthling. Here are their favorite parts.

Jamie’s React-tions

As a shy person, it can be hard to go to places where I know there are going to be a lot of people. But boy, was I glad I crawled out of my shell for React Rally! It’s not often you get to meet developers from all over the country (and world really) working on the same technologies as you. The talks were amazing and covered everything from frameworks to social responsibility. Advice on how to deal with the React framework is what most folks expect from a React conference, and React Rally definitely delivered. In one great example, Ryan Moore covered the component lifecycle in a brilliant and creative presentation where he gave a musical representation to each lifecycle event and explained the events. At the end, his group played a piece as a component went through its lifecycle. Being a person that loves music and coding, it was fun to watch. Jennifer Wong dug through the actual framework code to help us understand what is happening under the hood. Being a developer, sometimes it’s just easy to look through the APIs to find what you want and not actually look to see what the code is doing. Other great talks covered using React in new and creative ways. Often times it’s easy just to think of React as a web framework and that’s all it’s good for. Sunil Pai gave a presentation on how they’re using React to help power the Oculus VR experience and Feather gave a presentation on how Nvidia is using React to help with AI. Eve Porcello’s presentation on GraphQL was a lot of fun. She did an interactive game with the audience while live coding. Which any of you developers know, live coding is just asking for disaster, but it worked! We often forget how much responsibility we have as developers and how much we can help, but presenters at React Rally did a fantastic job of both inspiring action and giving solid advice on how to make a difference. Carrie Maxwell’s presentation helped highlight how we can use our skills to help those who have been struck by disaster get back up on their feet a little faster. As people who work in tech, we often forget about those who don’t have reliable internet connections. Sophia Shoemaker showed us how they used React to help orphans in Ghana in areas where they often did not have an internet connection when they were in the field. Henry Zhu reminded us to be kind to our fellow developers. Working on open-source libraries comes with enormous amounts of stress from within and without. Other highlights
  • Brian Holt – Spoke about how we should try to break our code in all kinds of ways, so we can better deal with the failures.
  • What’s old is new! Functional programming and type systems are making a comeback.
  • Michael Chan – We should build our code so that’s it’s flexible to real-world demands.
  • Coffee Truck!
On a side note, it was pretty awesome to see how many female presenters and attendees were present. Sure, there is still a long way to go to close the gender gap in tech, but it feels like we’re making progress!

Jared’s React-tions

I felt there were two major themes at React Rally this year. One, that we should use our skills to create meaningful, useful things. Two, that we should ignore thought leaders and pressure to do things the “right” way all the time. At first, it might seem like these themes contradict each other, but I think they offer a reflection on the ideals of programming versus reality.  We all wish we could be paid to work on meaningful things all the time, but that’s not usually the case. Luckily as Carrie Maxwell pointed out in her talk “React(ing) in a Crisis”, there are lots of options to donate our programming skills to meaningful causes! Even if we are lucky enough to be paid to work on something meaningful, it’s still important to not get caught up in the hype of writing perfect code. Michael Chan’s talk, “Hot Garbage: Clean Code is Dead”, taught me that we aren’t builders, we are farmers. We create living code, that changes constantly with new requirements, technologies, etc. Instead of focusing on writing clean code, we should focus on making code that’s pliable, composable, reasonable, and, perhaps most importantly, removable. Some other highlights:
  • Henry Zhu’s gave an amazing and brave talk on the stress of being an open-source maintainer. We should all have more patience and kindness for those working on the libraries we love and consider donating if we can.
  • Justin Falcone explained how Chaos Engineering could help make our code last for years or decades if it needs to
  • Eve Porcello blew my mind with a hilarious interactive GraphQL demo. I’m going to for sure give GraphQL another look.
  • Ryan Florence hinted at some big changes coming with how we write our React Components via React Fiber/Suspense