We were lucky enough to attend the fifth Forward Web Summit this past August, a 9-day event in San Francisco devoted to JavaScript. Over the course of the week, there was a series of full-day, interactive workshops, followed by a day of panels and discussions with some of the best in the industry. We attended discussions covering advanced fundamentals, a deep dive into the React Framework, ES6, and JavaScript in the mobile browser ecosystem.

After being fully immersed in all of the latest frameworks and buzzwords, the most thought-provoking workshop was, surprisingly, not one that covered any sort of new technology. Kyle Simpson’s Advanced JavaScript Fundamentals workshop took a step back from what’s changing in the JavaScript world, and focused on the bare bones of the language. Today, it can be overwhelmingly difficult to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies. By the time developers learn one framework, it feels like it’s time to learn another one. Also, especially for new learners, frameworks and libraries can act as a crutch for those who never bother learning plain JS. This is not to discredit something like React, as it’s an incredibly useful and efficient way to build UIs, but it’s important to have a complete understanding of JavaScript fundamentals to build upon.

Kyle Simpson made a great point of noting how important it is to understand not only why your code doesn’t work, but also why it does work. At the beginning of the workshop, he asked, “Who has ever written JavaScript that didn’t work, and couldn’t understand why?” As expected, the entire room raised their hands. He then asked, “Who has ever written JavaScript that did work, and couldn’t understand why?” yielding the same response. Every developer has experienced magically functioning JavaScript that works in a way they didn’t expect. Especially living in an age where a Stack Overflow solution is just a Google search away, developers can copy and paste a script without fully understanding it. Short-term, this may work, but it disadvantages the developer upon modifications and debugging. While it’s useful to read books and watch tutorials that only cover “the good parts” of JavaScript, developers should aim to grasp the language in its entirety.

Overall, Forward JS was an eye-opening week of professional development. Attending workshops and courses gave us a new perspective on the JavaScript world. Aside from the courses, Forward JS was a great way to meet with other developers, exchange thoughts on the language, and gain insight on what other people are learning. We learned a lot in San Francisco this year and look forward to attending other Forward events in the future!

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