Reactathon 2018

I had the privilege of attending Reactathon Advanced in San Francisco last week. It was my first conference and I had so much fun that I’m planning to make a yearly excursion to San Francisco, if not more often.

What follows is a really quick writeup of what appealed to me. Definitely not trying to leave anything out, I just wrote up what I remembered without looking at my notes, and did my best to find video and slides for those talks.


The most fun part of the conference for me was getting to meet fellow developers like @marcdwong and @k_2052 and talk shop for a while. As a freelancer in the middle of nowhere it made me realize I haven’t been doing a great job of that up to this point. I also didn’t get everyone’s contact info, so if you met me, please reach out via Twitter or email so we can stay in touch.

Monday, March 25 - Reactiflux Meetup

On Monday there was a one-off Reactiflux meetup at Docker HQ. Reactiflux is an online chat server on Discord for discussing React, JavaScript & other software development topics. It’s the first internet forum/chat about coding I’ve participated in in quite a while.

When I was starting out programming, we had IRC. If you don’t know how IRC worked, basically you would go onto IRC, ask for help, someone would call you a moron and tell you to RTFM, then you’d go play Counter-Strike for another five years instead of learning to code. Or at least that’s how I remember it. Reactiflux is pretty much the opposite, definitely check it out.

It was cool to put faces to some of the names in there and meet some people in a more laid back environment before the conference. Particularly @Sonicrida, @slightlytyler, @Bahamut and @acemarke who I hung out with with in and around the conference.

Wednesday, March 27 - Day #2

Building a self-documenting component library for your company - David Wells

What I remember about this talk was mainly the hilarious opener about dinosaurs. Definitely watch the first two minutes or so.

React, Powered by WebAssembly - Jay Phelps

Very approachable summary of WebAssembly and its current state. I’m still anxiously awaiting the resolution of things like GC and interaction with the DOM, but really excited for the future of WebAssembly.

Motion in JavaScript - Kaylie Kwon

I’m a very recent entry to the world of serious frontend stuff, so it was excellent to see a summation of all my options when it comes to animation.

GraphQL outside the box - Tyler Martinez

This talk was really interesting; the gist of it is that Docker has an enterprise offering with a REST backend they can’t change because their customers depend on the REST endpoints. So they use GraphQL purely on the client side and gain the benefits for their own frontend.

As a freelancer who doesn’t always have control over the backend, it’s great to have this option in my toolbox. Also, from what I’ve seen of GraphQL libraries, the server-side GraphQL support outside of the JavaScript ecosystem (Python, go) seems to be fairly immature at this point, so it’s interesting to consider for some applications I already have running as a way to get started immediately while waiting for them to progress.

Serverless-side Rendering with AWS and Parcel.js

Really good breakdown of the challenges of rendering React in a serverless environment. I’ll be referring back to this talk when I get around to actually doing this.

Thursday, March 28 - Day #3

Type-safe React with ReasonML - Jared Forsyth

I’ve had one foot on the line for a while now (TypeScript user), so it was great that Jared addressed what ReasonML brings to the table over something like TypeScript, and how well it integrates with React.

I’m very interested in local reducers. So many React components are basically tiny state machines, so being able to formalize and check that through the type system seems like a huge win for productivity.

I’m really pumped to write something in ReasonML this year.

Charts from Scratch in React - Christina Holland

I deal with charts once in a blue moon, and I usually end up scratching my head when it comes to more complex visualizations.

There are great off-the-shelf libraries for when you need pie, line charts, etc, but it was really fantastic to see a systematic breakdown of my options for making more unique, interactive visualizations with and without React, and it’s nice to know there’s a middle ground between cookie cutter charts and statistics PhD d3 stuff.

Intro to testing React Components with Jest - Rachel Ralston

Great guide to testing React components with Jest.

Apparently this talk was supposed to be on Tuesday but there were some A/V issues; as someone who’s interested in speaking at conference, what I found really encouraging was how supportive the conference organizers and attendees were about re-scheduling this talk for Thursday and ensuring the speaker could deliver the full talk without issues.

A Postgres-backed GraphQL BAAS - Tanmai Gopal

I have been dimly aware of postgraphile for some time, but it seems like hasura.io goes quite a bit farther, such as building user authentication on top of postgres’s existing and mature implementation of users and groups.

As far as I can tell, both products create a GraphQL server from a postgres schema.

Since I’m already using postgres and not using GraphQL, this talk was really interesting to me as a way of getting to use GraphQL in my apps with little to no server-side work. This is definitely something I plan to check out as soon as possible.

React-Based Content Management with Netlify CMS & Gatsby - Matt Biilmaan

Netlify is another product I’ve been aware of for a while, but the talk has finally inspired me to try it out. I use jekyll a lot, both for my personal site but also on various client projects and as a design mockup tool. Although I’m generally comfortable working at the command line, once sites get past a certain size it can definitely become unwieldy, so I can see the attraction of a real CMS even just for sites with one user writing content.

On this site, for example, I’m always accidentally publishing articles before they’re complete because I forget to set the front matter correctly. I’m trying to write more longform tutorial content and a visual preview would probably help a lot with that.

Really quick summary of Reactathon

Blockchain and GraphQL, GraphQL and Blockchain. I’d say about half the advanced talks were about GraphQL in one capacity or another, and now I’m really fired up to finally dig in and explore it.

Image credit: Benjamin Horn on flickr.com, used under Creative Commons.