Speaker interview: Andy Hume
Andy works in the engineering team at Twitter. He was previously software architect at the Guardian, and engineering manager at Microsoft.
What piece of advice do you wish you’d received when you first started out in development?
Don’t concentrate too much on specialising, and don’t pigeon hole yourself. People are too quick to specialise in front-end or back-end, whereas the reality is a large part of our skill is just being an experienced and talented developer. Never stop being curious. If something interests you, learn it. What you learn will undoubtedly inform both your overall skill as a developer, as well as whatever your specialism might be.
What’s your favourite underrated tool/piece of software/resource for development?
The web testing framework, Selenium. I’ve used Selenium on/off in different scenarios since its genesis nearly ten years ago. It isn’t particularly easy to get started with, and it takes significant time and effort to maintain useful cross-browser tests; but the value it provides in automating regression testing, even if only for a small subset of your application, is often under-estimated.
What new technology are you most interested in learning?
I’m starting to better grasp the real implications of functional reactive programming, and why it might be important to the architecture of complex web apps. Although we’re not always in a position to rewrite large applications just to appraise a new style of development, I’m looking forward to bringing more of these principles into the day-to-day coding we do on TweetDeck.
How do you balance work and life, with so many new FE dev tools coming out all the time?
I don’t worry too much about it. When something new and interesting emerges I find some time to look at it. But if I’m fed up of work and want to spend an evening playing Fifa, or a weekend with friends, then that’s fine. Yes, there are a lot of new front end technologies and methodologies emerging recently - but I normally let my network of more enlightened colleagues tell me which of those are worth exploring. If you’re tuned in to the right people, it’s amazing how you can bluff your way through.
What new/upcoming browser features do you think will most change the future of web development?
Unquestionably ServiceWorker. It’s ostensibly to allow offline capability in web applications, but I see it’s possibilities as stretching far beyond that. It has huge implications for performance best practices, progressive enhancement and responsive design. I’ll spend some time in my talk (Architecting resilient front-ends) touching on it some of its possibilities now it’s started landing in Chrome.
What do you think is missing from browser APIs?
I’d just like more transparency on what different vendors are prioritising and working on. We’ve come an awfully long way in the last ten years since Mozilla and Google stole the initiative out from under Microsoft’s nose, but there’s still horrible blanks from some vendors that make it difficult to know what is arriving and when. Or whether it will ever arrive!