Remy Sharp on the web community and life after jQuery

Remy Sharp gives us a sneak peek at his upcoming talk at Generate in September

Remy Sharp is the co-author of Introducing HTML5, a curator at, creator of JS Bin and founder of the Full Frontal JavaScript conference. We chatted to him about jQuery, code playgrounds and his upcoming talk on Node and real-time.

What’s the best thing about working on the web right now?

In being asked this series of questions, I started to realise that my answers were all about people and not about technology, which surprised me. The "web" to me, is the "web community".

So what's the best thing about the web community right now? I think the best thing is also the worst thing: immediacy. The smallest of voices can be heard instantly across the web. It concerns me that our main platforms for being heard is mostly Facebook and Twitter, because the platform is proprietory. Yet, a voice heard through a proprietory platform is better than no voice at all.

I think the best thing about the web community is also the worst thing: immediacy

We, as a community, are connected on a digital level up the wazoo. I can draw an idea on a Post-it, photograph it and send it over Hangouts for your feedback in a matter of seconds. Or in 60 seconds I can have a brand new Linux machine running to test out a new idea, and immediately destroy it, costing me a matter of pennies for the privilege.

That's insane if you think back to the web in 2004. Yet this is a privilege, and somehow I still get pissed off that I can't get 4G for the 5 minutes I wait for the bus on the way to work. I'm constantly reminded of the conversation with Louis C.K.'s "Everything's Amazing, and Nobody's Happy":

Should designers learn to code?

Only if they care about how their work is interpreted for browsers. If a designer has some understanding of how code works, then they can design to that medium.

I'm no designer, but I'm pretty certain that a photographer understands the medium of the film that their picture is going to be exposed on.

I don't expect designers to be expert JavaScript developers, or Ruby, or Python or what have you. However, if they know what's possible, then that's empowering. Instead of being at the mercy of the developer who butchers their design, the designer can contribute and help direct the final result.

Is there life after jQuery?

I wasn't aware that "life after jQuery" was even on the table! Of course there is. For me, I used jQuery to help raise my game back in 2006 and for several years after.

I took my time learning JavaScript from jQuery's source code and today my projects often won't include jQuery until I want to more complex DOM manipulation.

There's even been a bit of backlash towards jQuery in the last year (justified or otherwise), but jQuery is definitely here to stay. It's a core tool for many, many developers (and I hope, designers too).

What does life after jQuery look like (for me)? I enjoy using the native DOM methods, like querySelector, dataset, classList, etc. Heck, I even made a super tiny "jQuery-like" library called min.js which gives me just enough jQuery idioms but still keeps me very close to the metal. Which is where I like to be.

What is JS Bin, and what are code playgrounds?

JS Bin has been a passion project of mine since September 2009, and as such it's pretty close to my heart. In a nutshell, JS Bin (and others) are places to sketch out ideas with code. The next steps from there might be sharing your work to help others understand, or perhaps show off your skill, or bug a colleague to help you fix the issue you replicated.

Our motto is "Hack. Learn. Fix. Teach." which I think captures what we want to see people using code playgrounds for. JS Bin has been free and open source all these years, and in the last few months I've released Pro accounts to sustain the development costs of the service. So as the months go on, I hope people throw their hat in to support us!

How important are conferences for the health of the web?

As I said before, I read "web" as "web community". So this question means even more. I believe it's extremely important for people to get out from their echo chambers and meet their peers.

We may be amazing at creating things using our computers, in a dark room, alone, but we need other people to show us how to do things differently.

What’s your Generate talk about?

There was some demand for a talk about Node and real-time. With my work on JS Bin, I know a bit about how to get "real-time" into an existing service.

I also intend to look at the more complicated questions such as "How do you execute a transaction that takes a long time, and still keep your service running?".

We've moved from a page-refresh web, to an Ajax web, to a streaming web. There's very little you actually need, technology-wise, to get to a streaming web, and my talk will show you how.

Sign up now for Generate London, which takes place on 26 September and has an outstanding speaker line-up including Dan Cederholm, Meagan Fisher and Jeremy Keith.


Tanya Combrinck is digital editor on net magazine.