Monday, April 4, 2016

Why I Speak at Conferences and You Should Too

Recently, I tried to gather all of the presentations that I have participated in during my career up to this point (~10 years). I was able to find materials for almost 20 different presentations or workshops that I have been a part of. This caused a question to come to mind: "why did I put myself through all of this pain"? Speaking in public is not easy for me. Especially when it comes to technical topics in front of a group of people the majority of which, I believe, are smarter than I am.

After pondering on this question for a few weeks I've come up with a few reasons.

Teaching Something is the Best Way to Learn It

It's not a big secret that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. However, I think that sometimes we forget this. The knowledge that I've gained from teaching workshops has been invaluable and I don't believe that I would have been as successful with out it.

Give Back

I defy you to give me an example of another industry that shares it's knowledge as freely and openly as web development. I'm continually impressed by the general attitude of most developers of willingness to share technical knowledge with anyone. As a self-taught developer, I have been especially dependent on this principle and consequently have felt motivated to contribute to it. One of the ways that I have done this is by speaking at conferences.

More than a Spectator

Attending a conference is about connecting with others and the technology that you are learning about. If you just sit and listen the whole time then you are missing out. Feeling like you are a part of the conference changes the entire experience.


I know that it sounds corny and cliche, but your story may be just the inspiration that someone in your audience needs to hear. Too often we assume that what we are working on isn't interesting to anyone else. Yet I believe that most people are wondering if what they are doing is correct and seeing someone else's work helps with that.

So I hope that when you register for your next conference you decide to submit a paper also. You will regret it!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Converting Dojo-AMD Project To TypeScript

At some point in every TypeScript introduction that I have been to, the presenter says something to the effect of:

Since TypeScript is a superset of JavaScript, all JavaScript is valid TypeScript. Getting started is easy. Just change the file name extensions from .js to .ts and then incrementally upgrade your code to TypeScript.

For Dojo/AMD-based projects, I’ve found this statement a little too good to be true. Following are the changes that I had to make (after changing the file extensions) to get the project back up and running again.

Module Imports

The first issue that I encountered was that my AMD module declaration did not work. While TypeScript can output AMD modules I couldn't find a way to author .ts file using AMD. So the first step was to convert all of my modules to the ES6-style that TypeScript uses. For example, this AMD module:

], function (
) {
    return declare([_WidgetBase], {...});

Would need to be changed to something like this:

import * as _WidgetBase from 'dijit/_WidgetBase';
import ToasterItem, { ToasterItemType } from './ToasterItem';
import * as aspect from 'dojo/aspect';
import * as dojoDeclare from 'dojo/_base/declare';
export default dojoDeclare([_WidgetBase, _TemplatedMixin]{...});

The understanding that I worked off of was that the import * as ModuleName from 'path/to/Module' format was for importing non-TypeScript/AMD modules (no default export) and import ModuleName from 'ModuleName' was for importing TypeScript modules.

Notice that I did not use declare as the import name for dojo/_base/declare. This is to prevent collisions with TypeScript's declare keyword.

Note: If you are going to be exporting your TypeScript class to AMD modules then non-TypeScript consumers will need to update their code to use the default property of the return module parameter (e.g. new Module.default(...);).

AMD Loader Plugins

The next problem that I encountered was trying to use the dojo/text! AMD plugin. The root of the problem is that the current version of TypeScript doesn't support globbing of AMD modules. There is an issue that you can follow that shows promise of a resolution to this problem in the future but for now we need a workaround.

The workaround to the problem is a bit of a pain. You need to declare an ambient declaration for each URL that you want to use with dojo/text!. For example:

declare module 'dojo/text!./templates/ToasterItem.html' {
    const ToasterItem: string;
    export = ToasterItem;
declare module 'dojo/text!./templates/Toaster.html' {
    const Toaster: string;
    export = Toaster

Exporting Types in Modules

For TypeScript modules that I used in other TypeScript modules I had to export the types in order to make the transpiler happy. So this meant a lot of duplicate property names and types between my dojo/_base/declare call and the type exports. For example:

export type ToasterItemType = dijit._WidgetBase & dijit._TemplatedMixin & {
    show(): void;
export default dojoDeclare([_WidgetBase, _TemplatedMixin]{
    duration: 5000,
    show() {...}

These were the major gotcha's that ran into when trying to convert a project to TypeScript. Here's a link to a simple project that I recently ported to TypeScript. It has almost no TypeScript upgrades (yet) other than what it took to get the project to run.

The dojo/typings repository is the source for ambient declarations for Dojo 1.x code and also has a lot of great resources to help convert Dojo-based projects to TypeScript.