Key among the events at the second day of the Jam.Dev online event was the concluding “fireside chat” with RedwoodJS creator and Github founder Tom Preston-Warner, in which Preston-Warner imagined a more full-stack edge architecture, something he is working on RedwoodJS to create. (Coverage of day one is here.)
“It always makes me think of Ajax when google maps first came out and it blew everyone’s mind because you could drag this map around it will just load stuff in automatically. And this concept that Ajax became, it was out there, all the pieces were there but nobody thought about it and no one could really leverage it because no one could talk about it until Ajax was coined. And now this concept this more complex concept had a name and everyone could talk about how they were going to do Ajax. And to me jamstack is the same kind of a thing.”
He went on to note that “the industry needed a name for what the jamstack is, this collection of technologies that allows you to have better security, faster sites, all of these characteristics that jamstack has are now wrapped up in one word that you can talk to your colleagues about, talk to your boss about, that Netlify can talk to their customers about.”
“You can push all of these things out as far to the edge as you can, and you can get a level of architectural simplicity and scalability for a tremendously small amount of effort. Thinking about that made me want to find a framework that was going to let me do that.”
Another session concerned with somewhat alternative frameworks walked through a mix of Jamstack and Angular. The presenter, Netlify Developer Experience Engineer Tara Manicsic called the combination “Jamgular.” What was nice about the session was that it featured Tara on a highwire of live demonstration and viewers got a good view into what had to happen, complete with lots of detail, in the actual work of building and configuring an Angular project. The flip-side was that, as tends to happen with live coding, various things didn’t go as expected and, well, it was like real programming.
A less-known detail that came forward was that Angular has built-in support for generating a folder containing the static output for a project, so even though Angular doesn’t come up as frequently in jamstack conversation, it’s definitely in the hunt.
Manicsic was asked by an attendee why she’d mentioned in passing that redirects were important. The point here was that a user can request something using a URL that is redirected at the CDN edge and sent to an edge handler (a function running serverlessly at the CDN). The callback is made so that it includes data about the edge node where the call originated, so that geographically specific actions can be taken.
Gatsby Software Engineer Obinna Ekwuno gave a more philosophical talk about when it’s good to simplify architectures and when too much gets lost in the simplification. While he pointed to some interesting tensions between having to learn lots of frameworks and libraries to find one’s way through the jamstack world (and even more as the line between front-end and back-end blurs), it seemed like we are doomed to live with those complexities for the foreseeable future.
Agility CMS President Joel Varty tackled what is surely one of the major questions that pops up around Jamstack front ends: where “everything else” goes – things like user registration, authentication, restricted access, user-generated-content, commerce and search. His talk met with lots of approval in the conference chat stream, insofar as it created a lot of clarity around the big picture of jamstack’s many architectural elements.
Jamstack, Varty said, plays mind games with us to make it hard to know, especially when first getting acquainted, to know where a given snippet of code will actually be executed.
Tessa Mero’s walkthrough of the Cloudinary (where she is a developer advocate) options for media accessibility was interesting, in that Cloudinary does indeed do some interesting tricks like using AI to automatically generate ALT tag text for images, checking photos for potential problems when viewed by color-blind users, and providing machine-generated captioning for videos. She also pointed to several open resources for testing accessibility issues.
Ohad Eder-Pressman, cofounder and ceo of Stackbit, presented two open tools that Stackbit has created for spinning up various flavors of jamstack site. A site called Jamstack.new let’s you pick a theme, a static-site generator, and a headless store for content, then creates an instance nearly instantaneously. The company also maintains jamstackthemes.dev, which is a repository for, you guessed it, themes that can be used with various frameworks.