ForwardJS SF 2018 Recap

ForwardJS was the first developer conference that I ever attended, and it was a pleasure to be able to attend again this year. Forward has been releasing batches of the recorded talks on YouTube, so I thought that I would share a few of my favorite talks from this year’s conference, along with the video and slides when available.

Design Systems at Scale

Sarah Federman – Experience Designer & Developer @ Adobe


  • My favorite part of going to conferences is learning from the trials and tribulations of other developers. This year I caught a few talks which explored how larger companies enforce consistency at scale. The keynote for the event, given by Sarah Federman of Adobe, was a perfect example of this. She presented Spectrum, the company’s design system.

Migrating the Frontend Stack from Python to React @ Yelp

Mark Larah – Full Stack Software Engineer @ Yelp


  • Mark Larah from Yelp shared his team’s journey in migrating its Python Cheetah template front-end to React components. Important questions they asked themselves before migrating included:
    • Is it worthwhile? Comparing benefits vs. time & cost
    • Can they migrate without disruptions?
    • How will it impact performance?

One Progressive Step at a Time – Inside Progressive Web Apps

Anas Raza Firdousi – Software Engineering Lead @ Apple

  • When I attended ForwardJS a few years ago, it was all about React.This year “progressive web apps” or “PWAs” kept popping up in talks. Anas Raza Firdousi from Apple gave a great intro to progressive web apps, taking the audience step by step through building a basic PWA.

Pinterest ♥ Mobile Web

Zack Argyle – Tech Lead @ Pinterest


  • The most fascinating talk I saw was from Pinterest. Zack Argyle shared how Pinterest rewrote their entire mobile web experience to be a PWA in only three months. While this change brought major performance improvements for mobile users, there was one major caveat. Before taking on such a task, you’ll need to have the resources to be able to maintain two separate sites. In Pinterest’s case, they needed a minimum of 20 developers just to maintain their new mobile site.

Optimizing React Applications

Roy Yu – Lead Software Engineer @ Chegg

Video & slides not currently available

  • My current project at work revolves around React and Redux, so Roy Yu’s talk on React optimization was a must see. I loved the talk because Roy emphasized the importance of developers fully understanding what is important to their customers, and using data to make the case with PMs and clients for the time and space to conduct optimization. The talk was also immediately actionable, with a plethora of tools suggested for identifying potential optimizations.

Notes from Forward JS

AKA baby’s first JavaScript conference

I’m not the hugest fan of JavaScript, so how did I find myself at Forward JS, a JS conference? Well, I’m on a number of email lists,and last week Girl Develop It was offering a great discount for Forward JS – $19 for the one day conference (no workshops), down from the original price of $249. I do love a bargain, and I figured that I would learn something, so I impulsively purchased a ticket.

The event took place at the Regency Ballroom. I think I saw CocoRosie play here a long time ago. One guy I talked to mentioned that he had his high school prom at the Regency. They do everything!

I tried to hit up as many talks as possible, but I got tired as the day wore on, and left before the afterparty.

Here’s what I saw:

How Your Brain is Conspiring Against You Making Good Software

  • Jenna Zeigen, Engineering Manager @ Digital Ocean
  • The keynote was pretty interesting. It was all about cognitive biases and how they affect development – from building teams, to coding to project planning. It pushed for greater diversity and inclusion, which seemed to be a theme of the conference.


Forward themed tampons! Yeah diversity! There were a lot more female attendees than I was expecting, and maybe half of the speakers I saw were women. It felt really good, and positive.

Coffee break – Coffee & Stroopwafels – Apparently last year they promised stroopwafels and there were none? They were delicious. Various tech companies had booths set up in the social hall, and I ended up learning about some cool technologies like IBM’s ez API builder, API Connect.


Bringing Dynamic Back

  • Raymond Camden, Developer Advocate @ IBM
  • This session was all about finding ways to make your static site more dynamic. I gave static a try with Jekyll and didn’t end up sticking with it, but this talk was still pretty helpful.

There’s a Bookmarklet for That!

  • Justine Lam, Web Developer @ ShareProgress
  • This talk was a lot shorter and more straightforward than I was expecting. I think it finished in 20 minutes when there were 40 minutes scheduled. Justine made bookmarklets look easy, so I’m working on my first one. It’s a bookmarklet to replace all images on a webpage with photos of Bill Clinton playing with balloons. I call it “Billoons.”


Lunch Break

React/Omniscient and Immutable – the Gateway Drugs of Functional Programming 

  • Erin Depew, Front End Engineer @
  • This one was incredibly popular, probably because it was about React, but also because it was held in the room where lunch had just ended, and there were so many people already seated that maybe they just decided to stay?
  • I got to see how uses React along with Omniscient and Immutable, and all the challenges they’ve run into along the way. I haven’t used React yet, but the talk was easy to follow. There wasn’t much emphasis on functional programming, which is what I was expecting from the title.


React Native: Learn From My Mistakes

  • Joe Fender, Senior Developer @ Lullabot
  • Another React talk (there were 4 total), things to consider when using React. I had a harder time following this talk. Guess it’s time to learn React!


Practical Performance Tips to Make your Cross Platform Mobile Apps Faster

  • Dr. Doris Chen, Senior Technology Evangelist @ Microsoft
  • I was excited about this one. It was basically tips and tricks for speeding up your apps. She was trying to condense an hour talk into 40 minutes so she didn’t quite make it to the end, but it was still enjoyable. One of the better tips: you don’t have to put event listeners on everything, just set it on the parent, and let bubbling up take care of that for you.

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Coffee Break – Milk & Cookies

By the time it was cookie time, I was exhausted. While I could have checked out another hour or so of lectures, I decided that it was a good time to call it quits. Overall, I’m really happy that I went. I met some interesting people, and the energy was good. Everybody, male/female, young/old was there to learn. Do I like JavaScript any more than before? I don’t know. It’s a useful language, that’s for sure.


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