The Future of Code is Speed

The Future of Code is Speed

Seattle, famous for music, rain and, of course, coffee, is also on the map for another reason: developer innovation. When John Shewchuk and I started on our DECODED journey – to learn more about the changing landscape of code – Seattle seemed like a natural place to start.

And no, not just because the city is very close to where Microsoft is headquartered. The truth is that Seattle was a natural place to start for multiple reasons – it’s becoming “Cloud City” – with Google, Microsoft and Amazon all with big operations here.

So, our first step into digging into modern applications was to think about user interface. And for us, that meant talking about Bootstrap. For those that aren’t familiar with Bootstrap – it’s a developer framework with JavaScript, HTML and CSS that can be used as a basis for creating websites, or web applications. We spoke to Bootstrap co-inventor Jacob Thornton to see where user interface is going now, and in the future.

We discussed the importance of grids, horrible 90s era websites, and many other things during our time with Jacob, and he raised many strong points about mistakes made in the past. Yet, what became quickly apparent is that, without popular support, most code is going, well, nowhere.

As with many things, developers and project leaders need to build communities around their projects and really open them up to the masses. This is nothing new – GitHub has provided this vital ecosystem for years now. But, luckily for us, Jacob was kind enough to explain a few of the finer points about fostering these important communities.

The growth of code

Using technology people know is important for the evolution of code. Bootstrap is an incredibly popular code framework that helps developers build out websites alongside designers. Bootstrap – which is actually a mobile first application that is attributed with the groundbreaking introduction of grids to web design – has been forked on Github 10,000 times, and is also the platform’s number one project. For Jacob, the success is partly driven by using code that Bootstrap’s users already know and love.

“In about 2011 and 2012 Mark Otto [Bootstrap’s other co-inventor] started working at Twitter and we started thinking about how we could have beautiful and consistent UI across both our external and internal apps,” Jacob told us. “We tried to do that by bringing together design and engineering and thinking ‘what is the way of melding those two methodologies?’.”

One of the ways of encouraging this development was to build a system based on a framework that encouraged consistency. In fact, at the time, Bootstrap was known as Twitter Blueprint as it was used across the social media organization. By building the system with technology and application that people already knew and loved, Jacob and Mark could encourage adoption – and the subsequent growth – of Bootstrap.

“We tried really hard to use technologies that people are already familiar with,” Jacob said. “We worked really closely with the jQuery team. We were also working with CSS, but now the Bootstrap community has shifted to SASS, we too will be shifting to SASS.”

Power to the people

In line with following the Bootstrap community to SASS, Jacob also pointed out how important listening to user feedback is when it comes to developing a platform for building applications such as these. Opening channels of communication, whichever is most comfortable for the end users, is a good way of keeping people engaged and onside when it comes to building communities to support projects – code included.

“We also brought a lot of extra stuff in from the community,” Jacob explained. “We have a super engaged Twitter audience and now we have a Slack channel, people are just giving us feedback left and right.”

Feedback is, of course, an important part of business and project development. Without it, we cannot learn and grow, or improve the things that mean the most to us. The receptivity from the Bootstrap founding team to their users – both their fans and detractors – is a big reason for the platform’s overall popularity and success.

“We spend hours on top of hours obsessing about documentation and we throw something out if we feel it’s too hard to get going,” he continued. “We are constantly listening to feedback from our users and we are really trying to bring all of that in.”

What does the future hold?

For Jacob and the team at Bootstrap, the future of code is one of speed that sees developers enjoying the very best of fast reaction platforms that allow them to build out applications in real time. This, of course, can only be realized if the technology is developed on, expanded on, and – you’ve guessed it – includes the feedback of the people that use it most.

“What am I excited about for the future of code, speed,” Jacob told us. “Going faster and doing more in less time and making that stuff better. There are things like Babel that are already allowing us to write [code] as if we were in the future. We don’t have to be the bottleneck anymore and we can try out these technologies before they are even implemented.”

Speed of code development and deployment is a theme we have seen time and time again while filming the DECODED series. It is a goal and aim that seems to unite an entire community. What Jacob and Mark at Bootstrap have shown us is that a united community of code developers and builders is exactly what is needed to drive us toward the golden future of software and coding for the industry as whole.

Coding moves ever onwards, but this is only possible because of the communication that takes place between coders at all walks of life. Some are veterans, others are just starting out: all have something to give. By being receptive to coding communities, developers will see real progress revealed before their very eyes – the future of code is speed.

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

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