Jack Franklin on his passion for JavaScript

Jack Franklin hasn't even left university and already he's a published author. He tells us how it happened.

One of the 10 nominees for Young Developer of the Year in the 2014 net Awards, Jack Franklin is an author, writer, developer and student. He published his first book, Beginning jQuery, last year, and is a regular fixture on the speaking circuit.

He has always got various projects on the go, and enthusiastically shares his knowledge. We chatted to him to find out more.

What are your main areas of expertise?

I spend most of my time working with JavaScript, running the JavaScript Playground tutorial site and doing a lot of work with NodeJS also. If I'm not writing JavaScript, I'm usually found writing Ruby, normally with a framework like Sinatra or in some cases Rails, along with plenty of tests.

I really enjoy focusing on tooling, and am a huge fan of the plethora of tools like Bower, Grunt, Gulp, Yeoman and others. I'm a huge evangelist for automation and have spoken a number of times about automating mundane and common tasks - being lazy as a developer is a good trait to have! I have also worked extensively with the jQuery library, and last year wrote a book on it.

Give us a summary of your career so far.

I was first exposed to the web when I was 14 - my Dad and I decided to build a website for my local Sunday league football team. I wrote some dreadful HTML and CSS, but it worked, and I was hooked from there. I spent a lot of time learning PHP before getting into JavaScript, which I quickly discovered I enjoyed most of all, before getting back into back-end development with Ruby about two years ago.

In 2010 I moved to Bath to start a Computer Science degree at the University of Bath, which I will complete in about four months time. I took a year out to join Kainos as a developer, during which time I was fortunate enough to work with the Government Digital Service building GOV.UK and numerous other projects.

I am a Google Developer Expert on the Chrome HTML platform and spend as much time as I can on open source. In August after graduation, I'll be joining the team at GoCardless as a full stack developer.

What have you been working on over the last year?

I've been dedicating a lot more time to attending and talking at web events, and spoke in late 2013 at net magazine's Generate Conf (video online) and Future of Web Applications in London. I also kept the JavaScript Playground going, with a particular focus on NodeJS and BackboneJS.

A lot of the last year has been focused on my university studies, where for my dissertation I'm flying remote control helicopters through gesture recognition. I've written and recorded some video series for Tuts Premium, on CoffeeScript and on building Node CLI tools, and have collaborated with Tom Ashworth on Pulldown, a really handy tool for downloading libraries effortlessly.

There are nearly 2000 Code Clubs in the UK

Aside from that I've been making a big effort to improve my editing ability and have started a small blog documenting my efforts, called TIL: Vim. Another thing I've really focused on is software architecture, and particularly applying that to front-end code, which I don't think enough people do.

I'm working on Confident jQuery, a book all about writing maintainable, well-structured and architectured code that will survive the tests of time. I'm also doing it to try out Leanpub and the self-publication route.

Finally, I'm currently hoping to join a local school in Bath to help run a CodeClub and help teach school children programming, which is something I'm hugely passionate about, as discovering HTML and then PHP when I was 13/14 has changed my life.

What have been the particular high points of your career?

It sounds cheesy, but being nominated for the net awards in 2013 and now in 2014 has been one of the most rewarding things to have happened to me. To have developers in the industry think that I've done something worthwhile enough to spend the time nominating me is such a reward and motivator.

The proudest moment so far has to be becoming a published author, particularly on the day the physical copies of the book finally arrived at the office. To hold the book in my hand after all the hours of work it took was just brilliant.

What are you excited about at the moment?

I'm really keen to keep pushing the notion of front-end architecture. It's odd, I find that back-end development communities such as Ruby, PHP and others have a lot of resources on architecture, but even MVC-type JS libraries like Angular and Ember don't really define a specific convention.

All code could benefit from a better structure, whether it be a 10,000 line AngularJS app or a 100 line jQuery carousel, and it's something I want to talk about more in the coming months. I've also just started learning AngularJS, and despite my initial concerns I've so far found it liberating, the style of code you write with it is one I'm really enjoying.

Tools like Gulp are becoming increasingly popular

I've also found myself using Browserify more and more to enable CommonJS module usage on front-end JavaScript, and have dabbled with GulpJS as an alternative to GruntJS.

As always with these things, there's been a bit of a "Grunt sucks, Gulp is awesome" bandwagon, but the right answer is always "it depends". I enjoy playing with new tools though to try to find the use cases and which tool fits them best.

Tell us about an important lesson you've learned in your career.

Write, write and then write some more. I attribute a whole load of the things I've managed to do to writing. A lot of my speaking opportunities have been helped by my writing, I got to write a book on the back of my blogging, and I've also managed to help others learn by writing, which is the most rewarding thing I do, and still the thing I enjoy the most.

A lot of the time I'll write a post on a topic or library purely because there is nothing better to test your knowledge than teaching it to someone. Writing is a great chance to not only improve your writing skills (I look at old blog posts and cringe), but also your technical knowledge.

Name an 'unsung hero', someone you admire who deserves more recognition for their work.

Not a day goes by that I don't use something that Sindre Sorhus hasn't been involved with, whether it be Yeoman, Grunt, or any of the numerous open source projects he's involved with. Sindre does a huge amount for JavaScript via all his open source work.

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