Frontend United Athens

At the end of May, Frontend Developers of the Drupal ecosphere united in Athens, Greece for 3 days exchanging knowledge and pushing the envelope. Exploring brand new technologies whilst surrounded by centuries of history and culture.

Steve De Jonghe
Steve De Jonghe


I kind of forgot about the time zone difference between Greece and Belgium, so the little planning I made quickly fell apart. After getting settled in the hotel, I figured I would see how the walk to the venue was. Google estimated it at 1:14, but I’m sure I took longer as my route took me along a few landmarks. Regardless, I managed to get to the venue well in time for the Mozilla roadshow revolving mostly around WebVR, but also WebAssembly and WebGL. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the fact they brought out a powerful Razer laptop when it was time for the live WebVR stuff. They had a little spot set up for the rest of the conference where you could go play around with some VR 3D drawing tool, running in the browser, with the output on a screen in the lobby of the venue.

After the session, I ran into some familiar faces I hadn’t seen in awhile. We found a lovely little bar a stone's throw from the venue where we could do some catching up. It was decorated with old motorcycles and adverts for motor oil and such. After a couple hours, the Dutch delegation came barging in, so at this point half the bar was nerds. The staff didn’t seem to mind at all as they kept feeding us snacks. At around 3am I had to force myself to head back, because I knew the 1:14 walk back was gonna take longer, especially because I passed by the Panathenaic Stadium on my way back and couldn’t help but stop and stare in awe for a bit. I had passed by there during the day, but it looks so much nicer at night, without any pesky tourists running around.


Forgot to set my alarm this morning, along with the long walk, scenic to the venue, it means I missed Lea Verou’s talk on CSS variables. After getting some coffee in my system, I went to see Patrick Kettner’s talk entitled “Javascript without javascript”, revolving mostly around transpilers that allow you to write in any language and have it output valid Javascript. After that I went to see Nir Kaufman’s “Angular in 60 minutes”. I was already familiar with most of it, but Nir is such a lovely presenter, I didn’t get bored.

For lunch, I joined the Belgian delegation to a place called “Bubbles the bar” just around the corner from the venue. Their menu looked interesting, but it turned out they didn’t have most of the things on there. The slow service made for a lot of time to catch up and get acquainted with the new Belgian kids on the block.

After lunch, it was time for Ruben Teijeiro’s “Headless Drupal” where he gave us an idea of what direction core is headed to. After that was probably my favorite presentation of the entire conference, Mark Conroy’s “Back to the Future: No More Static Mockups!”. Aside from the usual PhotoShop-bashing, Mark went on to point out that even tools like InVision pale in comparison to having actual HTML components validated. I feel like a lot of people in the room went on to research things like PatternLab afterwards. Mark’s thick Irish accent just made the whole presentation even more of a delight. The last presentation of the day was Jonathan Snook’s “Responsive Web Applications with Container Queries”. The basic gist was that styling based on screen width is problematic for component-based approach, Container Queries allow you to style based on the available space, but unfortunately there isn’t a spec for it yet and all implementations are 1-off JS libraries.

Friday evening, the conference organisers invited everyone to the Acropolis museum for a guided tour and drink afterwards, courtesy of Druid. The museum was built right on top of an active archeological site, with transparent glass flooring in various areas. The top floor layout was made to be an exact representation of the Parthenon, same dimensions and orientation. It also provided a really nice view of the Acropolis. During the tour around the museum, the guide pointed out several times that the obviously missing pieces can be found in a museum in London. After the museum, we all gathered for drinks and the descent into a hazy night began. Apparently at some point it was decided that the next Frontend United will be in Utrecht.


Frontend United 2017 Group picture


On my way to the venue, I got a bit distracted by this gigantic market I came across, so I ended up missing the first presentation on CSS Grids. I did catch most of Avraam Mavridis’ “Webpack: Core Concepts and Advance Topics”, which was pretty much what I had expected, bundling done right. After that I went to Natalya Shelburne’s “Art of CSS”. Unfortunately, this seemed to be pretty much the same as I’ve seen before.

For lunch, I joined the Belgian delegation and local Red Cross volunteers for some road side gyros. It was handy to have some locals with us because my Greek is pretty rusty. We went for a drink as well and ended up missing most of the first presentation of the afternoon.

I got back well in time for Lauri Eskola’s “State of the Drupal 8 frontend”. It was basically a discussion with the audience about the current issues in core in regards to stable themes and which can be safely subthemes across 8.x releases. The last presentation I went to was Patrick Kettner’s “Service Workers” where he outlined the basics of the how and the why. Service Workers basically allow you to use a single Worker process for your application across multiple tabs. This is basically a necessity if you develop an offline application that could update whilst a user has a stale tab open, as to avoid the user ending up with 2 different versions of your application in 2 different tables, at the same time.

After the last presentation, I met up with the Belgian delegation to take some time for a proper Greek meal before joining the rest of the conference attendees for drinks. The place we were supposed to go to for drinks was a bit too loud and packed so a few of us retreated to a slightly quieter place around the corner for a bit. 

I can’t wait for Utrecht next year!


Frontend United 2017