London Web Standards – slides and further info

Sorry for the delay, but I finally got around to sticking my presentation from last month’s London Web Standards meet-up on slideshare. Slideshare is a bit naff to be honest, but it’ll do for now. If you click through to the talk on slideshare, you’ll be able to get my notes which should hopefully make the pictures more useful. Jake‘s busy syncing up both of our presentations to the videos so that we can show them on the BBC developer blog, so as soon as they’re available I’ll link those up too and you can view me in full hand-flapping, ranting form.

I think I speak for both of us when I say that we really enjoyed the evening – everyone was lovely and friendly and asked really excellent questions. Highly recommendable meet-up, and we’re both intending to try and make it to some of the future sessions.

Some useful links from my stuff:

31 thoughts on “London Web Standards – slides and further info”

  1. Glow is rubbish …… why design something thats already been built and tested by thousands of users worldwide. It’s why I’ll never take a contract at the BBC. Who can be bothered learning something that has such a narrow focus.

  2. Dave Sampson: Here’s why we built Glow http://goo.gl/rh2M.

    I’m interested in hearing your specific reasons on why you think Glow is rubbish & has a narrow focus. In my (admittedly biased) opinion, Glow has a wider focus than other libraries, which is why it was created.

    In terms of “why design something thats already been built and tested by thousands of users worldwide”, have a look at the number of operating systems, browser rendering engines, video compression formats etc etc that exist.

  3. Morning Jake – Hope you are well.

    To quote from your own documentation.

    “Other libraries will be able to drive forward new & exciting technologies, whereas Glow will be there for those who can’t adopt those technologies for browser support and accessibility reasons.”

    And therein lies the problem. It will become outdated soon enough and then where do people go? Do they then make the switch to JQuery or MooTools when in fact they could have been using these libraries from the very start.

    Let me ask you, how many other organisations, independent of the BBC, are currently using Glow?

  4. If you’ve assumed that Glow stands still while others move forward, that’s not the case. We move forward too, but our standards are stricter in certain areas.

    When it comes to picking a library to use on a site, the range of choice is a good thing. You should pick the library that meets your requirements best, not your favourite or the most popular one.

    In the scenario you made up, the user could have been using another library (others already met their requirements), and for some reason Glow became outdated for them (no longer met their requirements). I can’t really argue against that as it’s an invented situation, have you any evidence of this occurring?

    Similarly, I could invent a situation where a new feature was available in a new version of library X, but it was poor in terms of browser support and accessibility (no longer met their requirements). However, the same feature is in Glow (already met their requirements), now they have to move all their code over to Glow when they could have been using it from the start. Once again, invented situation, no evidence.

    In terms of how many organisations are using Glow outside of the BBC, it’s not a number I have. We only tend to hear from people when they need support as we don’t spend money research these things or marketing Glow. It’s certainly a smaller number than many other libraries. If I had the exactly number, what would you gain from knowing it? Are you saying that if it’s not popular outside the BBC, we shouldn’t be open source?

  5. Dave,

    Glow was created to meet the BBC’s needs, it has been released because it could be useful for other people in the same or similar boat. Pretty simple really.

    So when you said “why design something thats already been built and tested by thousands of users worldwide.” you were factually incorrect, as stated by Jake on the Developer blog “no existing libraries met our standards of browser support and accessibility”.

    Glow is far from “rubbish” as you so crudely put it.

    Glow is being used on and developed for one the most popular and high traffic websites on earth by some of the most talented developers and coders in the industry as part of a real front-end system with requirements and demands that would be enough to make most developers sit down and cry.

    Ah well, Haters gonna hate and all that.

  6. Jake – I question why license payers money is being used to fund an open source project in this way, particularly when there are already alternatives out there doing just as well. You cannot possibly tell me that there was no way you couldn’t have written a jquery plugin or an alternative to achieve the differences in what the BBC needs to cater for in terms of accessibility etc. Writing your own library seems overkill to me.

    Also how many new staff (permanent or contractors) know Glow right from the get-go? Very very few I would imagine. So then they need to spend further time and effort learning a new library when most already have existing knowledge of jquery etc, so thats additional time and money spent everytime someone new joins the BBC team.

    Also I know what the BBC is like. They come up with schemes like this, then slowly they all fall by the wayside as people leave etc. Like you said the BBC have implemented other various libraries of their own that have all long since disappeared. So all the money spent developing those libraries were ….. you have to admit ….. wasted. Why is Glow going to be any better? Because its open source? Well I could write my own library and declare it open source, but if no-one is using it, doesn’t mean it will progress any further.

  7. Paul – You can’t say plenty of people are using Glow and then cite just one example and even then its because you are an ex-BBC bod and are just using a library you are comfortable with. How many non-BBC bods, who haven’t used Glow ever before ever decide ‘OK we need to use a javascript library. Which one are we going to use? I know lets forget jQuery, MooTools etc, lets try out Glow.’

    Answer …… very few.

  8. “some of the most talented developers and coders in the industry”

    Errr ….. I used to work for the BBC. I know many people who work for them. I also know their payrates. Trust me. The most talented developers and coders in the industry don’t work for the rates the BBC pay.

    But get all defensive and convince yourself if you like that every coder in the BBC is the best of the best.

  9. It shouldn’t be a case of how many developers “know glow”, they are expected to know JAVASCRIPT and in which case should be able to get to grips with Glow in little or no time.

    I think the questions and comments you’re making are for the most part reasonable in light of what appears to be your level of understanding, just try to keep them constructive and polite and you will find people like Frances and Jake more than happy to help and discuss.

  10. Paul – Sorry buddy, gotta come back to you on this point.

    “they are expected to know JAVASCRIPT”

    Well as a contractor I’ve worked for many different companies and I can assure you there is a lot more people out there that know jQuery than know Javascript. In fact very few developers could actually code proper javascript, and isn’t that the point of the library, so that you can enter in a simple instruction and it will do the interpreting for you so you don’t have to learn heavy duty javascript.

    If the developers you hire all know javascript, then why bother developing a library at all. Just code whatever it is you want to do in Javascript and cut out the middle man that is the ‘library’.

  11. “Like you said the BBC have implemented other various libraries of their own that have all long since disappeared. So all the money spent developing those libraries were … you have to admit … wasted.”

    Hang on, so if something was useful once, but no longer useful, it’s a waste of time? So, VHS was a massive waste of money because we have other formats now?

    Being open source takes up very little of our time, in fact, I believe having the public eye on what we’re doing keeps quality high. We went open source because we could, and should. I wish other internal projects in various companies did this.

    Many people seem to think that 100% of the licence fee should be spent on them directly. The toilet paper in the staff toilets is technically paid for via the licence fee, doesn’t mean you can come and watch me take a shit :) Just because you don’t use the browsers or devices we have to support, doesn’t mean it’s a waste of your money.

    I appreciate there are a lot more developers who know how to code for a library rather than JavaScript itself. In the past, there were more developers using things like FrontPage and Dreamweaver than knew how to code HTML. I’d still rather hire someone who knew JavaScript & HTML rather than an abstraction of either of those alone.

    “If the developers you hire all know javascript, then why bother developing a library at all. Just code whatever it is you want to do in Javascript and cut out the middle man that is the ‘library’.”

    I think you’ve missed the point of a library. It’s not just there to help you do things you couldn’t otherwise do, it’s to make you do them quicker. For instance, I can create animations in pure JavaScript, I build the animation components in Glow so I know how to optimise such things. However, if I was making a webspage that required animation, I’d certainly use a library to save me the time.

    We deliberately made our NodeList jQuery-esque (as have many other libraries) to be familiar to developers so people with jQuery experience would find much of Glow familiar.

    I understand that you’ve got a favourite library and a certain degree of animosity towards the BBC, that’s ok. We’re not trying to prise you away from any other software :)

  12. Dave wrote “why license payers money is being used to fund an open source project in this way”

    Seems to me that the BBC devs built what they need *for themselves* first, but released it as open source afterwards as a ‘Brucey Bonus’.

    I pay the license fee but I don’t use Glow, yet I don’t feel that my money has been wasted. I think it’s great that Glow has been open sourced, and don’t see why it’s causing so much fuss. What a kerfuffle.

  13. > The most talented developers and coders in the industry don’t work for the rates the BBC pay.

    You’re probably right. I commute to and from the BBC 5 hours a day. I took a pay cut to work here. I do this because I love my job. I work everyday with people who give a shit about the work they do. Editorial workers in Learning burst their gut to make really good products on very limited budgets and I do my best to support them technically. These sites have to have very high levels of accessibility, which jQuery doesn’t support. jQuery is a great JS library – which I’ve used in the past – but Glow goes that extra mile that makes it a slightly higher product when it comes to accessibility.

    Schools and libraries that run Safari 2 on ancient computers still need to be able to run BBC sites. What’s the oldest PC/browser combination do you test your work in? Glow users have different requirements to the average jQuery user.

    Have you compared the documentation of Glow to jQuery? Glow’s docs rock, but to get the same level of understanding for jQuery you’d need to buy the book. And I think jQuery charge for enterprise level support, if a bug is found with Glow on the site a fix is normally made that very same day.

    Tom.
    (Former Glow dev)

  14. I’d just like to say that I am very much enjoying this very open debate about Glow. Can I just ask that it be kept on topic please. I think that making asinine comments about the quality of talent at the BBC is irrelevant. There are many extremely good developers at the Beeb (some of which are paid quite well – especially if they’re on expensive contractor rates) who enjoy working on such a large and well-respected website.

    Keep it technical, eh?

  15. Tom – I’m not disputing that the BBC needs to cater MORE in terms of the average website and as such jQuery by itself didnt cut the mustard. My point is, could you have not overriden the parts of jQuery that didnt quite suit your needs with a plugin. Was it really necessary to create a whole new javascript library. Is jQuery really that inaccessible? I think not.

    Also maybe Im biased in that I don’t want to spend my time learning a whole new library when 99% of the sites I work on aren’t as fussy as the BBC is when it comes to accessibility. Personally I think the BBC overdo the accessible thing anyway. They are just worried that they’ll be sued by the likes of the National Institue for the Blind etc because they are seen as a big fish.

    Look at the way the BBC is slashing funding towards their websites. Do you really think youre going to be able to offer the same level of service, catering for all levels of accessibility while still offering the same great content? Nope. Somethings got to give.

    Finally you seem to imply that because you have a dedication to the job that that makes up for the poor rates. Now that might be the case for you, it might even be the case for some of your workers, but by and large, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. I know many people who charge topwhack for their services. Are they committed to the organisations cause? Nope. But could they produce code in half the time and with fewer bugs than most others. Yep. Generally in life you get what you pay for. And as long as the BBC don’t pay what even would be market rates, they will never have the best coders no matter how much you convince yourself otherwise. Most people go to the BBC for their name on the ol CV and then leave after a couple of years.

  16. Francis – The only reason the quality of the BBC developers was brought up was due to Paul Smith who wrote how the BBC have the best developers in the world and that the code would be enough to make most developers sit down and cry.

    I was simply pointing out that that was rubbish and the BBC don’t have ‘better’ developers than other places. His implication was that anything developed out of the BBC had to be top rate and that the ‘little people’ like us wouldn’t understand. What a load of rubbish.

    I’m more than happy to keep it on topic and in fact will even make it easier to do so by asking this one question. Why did the BBC not simply write a ‘jquery plugin’ etc to override the parts of jquery they felt didnt suit their purpose, than rewrite an entire library that anyone new to the BBC is going to have to spend time learning, knowing full well that the moment they left the BBC this knowledge would all become redundant.

  17. Hello Dave. Welcome to the web industry.

    A company builds for its own needs. You might not agree with what the BBC wants to achieve (and I also think that the BBC is a tad too conservative) but, hey, the world would be boring if we all agreed on everything.

    I’m guessing the main reason for developing Glow was that it was the *optimal* solution for them and I would put money on it having been very carefully considered. They’re certainly not stupid and they’re obviously not doing it for a giggle. And you simply aren’t privy to every nuanced decision made.

    If a developer has to learn new skills or can’t take them elsewhere it’s tough. That’s the nature of work. Every company uses different systems.

    Also, you *don’t* know the payrates. Trust me. And you might want to research who you’re talking to when you say “they will never have the best coders”. Given your own naivety and comment regarding what you get if you pay peanuts I’m left wondering what genus *you* belong to.

  18. Dave: From the blog post I linked to in my first reply…

    “Forking an existing library to add the necessary browser support was an option, but that would still mean actively developing a library, and as the original library moved forward we’d be left maintaining code no longer supported by the original library.”

    I know you’ll appreciate this position, as you expressed concern about using a library that started off meeting requirements, but changed & no longer did :)

    Also…

    “Personally I think the BBC overdo the accessible thing anyway. They are just worried that they’ll be sued by the likes of the National Institue for the Blind etc because they are seen as a big fish.”

    That is an incredibly ignorant view. I suggest you have a look at some videos of less-able users trying to access the internet, it’s developers with your view that make their lives difficult.

    As I suggested before, you seem to think the whole licence fee should be spent on you, but you need to realise that others pay a licence fee too, some require the extra care we put into browser support and accessibility.

  19. Patrick – “Also, you *don’t* know the payrates. Trust me”

    Errr, an agency called me up 3 months ago stating the BBC were hiring contractors and paying X amount per day.

    So no offense buddy …. but I DO know the pay rates. I turned them down and got far more at my current position. So its funny how you put me down as an idiot, yet every other company I’ve worked for has deemed my skills being worthy of more than what the BBC pay.

    So who’s the naive fool now?

  20. Jake – You know darn well that jquery is not likely to die anytime soon. The same cannot be said of previous incarnations of BBC javascript libraries. So that argument doesn’t really hold.

    Also to point 2. Its all very well catering for ‘everyone’ but catering for everyone can also hold back innovation. Sometimes its better to give 90% of people a brilliant experience than 100% of people a good experience.

    Sometimes you can’t be everything to everyone. And the same holds true for the tinternet.

  21. > Finally you seem to imply that because you have a dedication to the job that that makes up for the poor rates.

    That wasn’t my point at all, my point was that not everyone is motivated by money. Just because I took a pay cut it doesn’t mean that I get paid peanuts.

    The amount of money you make doesn’t dictate how good you are at your job. If that was the case then all the most intelligent people in the UK would work in the city.

    To refer to Jake and Micmath (the other half of Glow) as “monkeys” beggers belief. They are the two cleverest people I’ve ever worked with.

    /t

  22. Tom, You seem like a clever guy, so don’t take this the wrong way, but what world do you live in when you think the amount of remuneration you pay someone has no bearing on the skill level they bring to a table.

    Lets say you have 2 projects you want done. With 1 project you offer all contractors £200 a day. With the other project you offer £300 a day to each contractor.

    Now according to your rules, there would be a 50/50 chance of either project being completed first because you don’t know which one will have the most talent. That people with a higher talent level wouldn’t be more likely to go for the higher paying roles.

    Come now Tom ….. do you really believe that? If you do, I wish you’d become my bookie if you were offering those kind of odds.

    You can’t talk about exceptions to a rule as though they ARE the rule.

  23. Dave, you are out of order sir.

    First off all don’t miss quote me. I actually said “by some of the most talented developers and coders in the industry”

    I find how you interpreted my comments very interesting.

    I made the point of stating how talented the developers in the BBC are in response to your off hand (and frankly disrespectful) dismissal of Glow as “rubbish”.

    It had nothing to do with “anything developed out of the BBC had to be top rate”.

    You are obviously whats known as a “hater” ( and nothing anybody says to you, no matter how tactful or considered is going to change your mind or get a constructive response.

    Good day to you sir.

  24. Paul – And how funny you choose to neglect your ‘would be enough to make most developers sit down and cry’ comment in your rebuttal. So basically the BBC is doing stuff that most developers would find to complicated to understand. Even though they are recruiting people at below market rates.

    Uhh …..OK. See thats the thing about the BBC. Spend too long there and you become blinded to the fact that actually the ‘real world’ also have developers that wouldn’t just ‘sit down and cry’ (your words) at the code the BBC produces. And that maybe, just maybe, the way the BBC does something isn’t necessarily the best way to go about things. And that maybe, just maybe, there are some people with terrific skills who actually take the position that rewards them monetarily for those skills (which isn’t the BBC).

    but nope, you convince yourself I’m a hater if that makes you think you’ve won the argument.

  25. What if project 2 was working for Disney (which I have done in the past) to produce a website that makes a large corporation money. And project 1 was working for the BBC to make websites that provide resources to teachers to help them teach children.

    I’d choose project 1, because what I spend the majority of my life doing is more important to me than how much money I earn.

    I’m not saying I’m the best developer in the world (or that I’m on a rubbish wage), just that I’d rather work in an environment where the management understand what it takes to make a website, and where the efforts of my hard work go towards something constructive for society.

    I’m definitely not the best developer in the world, but in my 13 years experience in our industry Jake and Micmath are the best developers I’ve come across. They work at the BBC.

    You are obviously motivated by money, good for you, we’re different that’s all.

  26. I 100% agree with you Tom except for the vital point that money does motivate a LOT of people. OK, I’ll give you my own personal example.

    If I chose to work for the BBC, rather than where I am now, the difference in pay almost covers my entire rent. Now I might like the BBC as a name on a CV and what they do. But if it comes down to ….. do you want to do the same job, get the same pay …… but with this job we’ll pay your rent for free (which is the largest expense for anyone), then I know what I (and a lot of other people) would do.

    Thats just a fact of life. I don’t necessarily agree with the rules, but thats the way it is.

    Great, now you’ve gone and made me feel all materialistic. I might have to take up a role with Coders Sans Frontiers ….. for coders who work without political borders ;)

  27. Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?

    To prevent this thread flaring up like a bad case of shingles, I am going to close the comments now.

    To summarise (aimed at no one in particular):

    1. Glow exists, whether you agree it should or not. The business case was made for it, funding obtained, and it was produced and, as Ian put it, open sourced as a “Brucie Bonus”. Jake’s blog post covers the bits that matter and I think he’s done a good job of trying to clarify queries in his responses. Unless you work at the BBC, you don’t really need to give it another thought – although you may wish to consider the numerous other pieces of proprietary software that most large companies produce and expect new joiners to learn and are never open-sourced or even known about.
    2. People who work at the BBC, on the whole, appear to enjoy it a lot and feel a great deal of patriotism to the company and will defend their colleagues, output and ethos when necessary. There really are amazing people who work at the BBC, or have done, or will do.
    3. Some people are more motivated by money. Others are motivated by wanting to work on projects they believe in. Others try to strike a happy balance. All of those things are OK.
    4. The BBC pays fine. I did a quick google and found the pay grade information, which I thought may only be internally available. It shows the range of salaries for given grades, and helpfully explains a bit about them. More information than is deserved, but the BBC developers who have been responding have been grades 8 and 9 (London, day rates). Whether you think those grades are generous enough or not doesn’t really matter, but at least we all know what the actual pay probably is for everyone involved. Contractor rates probably vary by team, location, and funding for individual projects. I recommend Glassdoor for assessing if you’re being fairly paid or how a company treats its staff.
    5. Trolls are greedy little beggars and shouldn’t be fed.

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