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State of JavaScript: A conversation with Sacha Greif

Sacha Greif is the creator of the State of JavaScript, State of CSS, and State of GraphQL polls, which have become annual events enthusiastically followed by the front-end developer community. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Sacha about what she learned from taking the surveys and developing a reusable architecture for them, as well as her views on emerging technologies, front-end development trends, and more.

Sacha Greif, creator of the State of JavaScript survey. IDG

Sacha Greif is the developer behind the State of JavaScript, State of CSS, and State of GraphQL surveys.

matthew tyson: Hi Sacha, thanks for another great report on the state of JavaScript. It’s very useful for keeping up with what’s going on in JavaScript. The three surveys it produces require a great deal of effort. JavaScript’s status is like a public good that the community has come to trust. What keeps you committed to the project?

sacha greiff: It’s very motivating to work on something that people care about, and surveys are also an opportunity to have a (hopefully positive) impact on web development and work with a wide range of web technologies in the process. But beyond that, I hope to be able to build a sustainable business around surveys at some point in the future.

Tyson: Would you ever think of expanding to other languages ​​and platforms for a survey on the state of programming?

Greif: Yeah, it’s definitely something we could do one day. Before that, State of React is probably next on our list.

Tyson: When did you start branching out beyond State of JavaScript?

Greif: We’ve been wanting to expand horizontally to more surveys for a while now, and GraphQL seemed like a good first choice to go beyond CSS and JavaScript. Personally, I’ve used GraphQL for a while, and in fact our survey infrastructure is based on it. So it felt natural to target that community for a survey. In addition, there are also many questions about GraphQL tools, best practices, different approaches, etc., that could be answered with a survey.

Tyson: On a scale from 1 to 10, how much more effort has this project been than you thought?

Greif: I would say that in terms of effort, it was probably 50 percent more work than the State of JavaScript and State of CSS surveys from last year. That’s because our infrastructure is starting to get more mature and more reusable, and also because the scope was a little smaller. (I abandoned the idea of ​​making a custom GraphQL t-shirt or introducing new data visualizations, for example.)

Tyson: And your team? How many people contribute to the “State of…” surveys? How can people get involved?

Greif: Today, the main team is me and eric burelland then we have contributors like Lea Verou this year for the State of CSS survey design, Sarah Fossheim last year for the accessibility work, Raphael Benitte for data visualization and so on. I wrote more about how people can contribute here.

Tyson: What do you like most about working with the developer community?

Greif: The developer community can be huge, but taking these surveys gives me an excuse to interact with a lot of the people I admire and learn from, which ends up making it feel pretty close. Conversely, the surveys also encourage others to contact me, which I always appreciate as well.

Tyson: I’d like to ask you about something you may or may not have an opinion on: What do you think about machine learning and AI code generation? Will these technologies make developers obsolete?

Greif: Regarding AI code generation, I don’t really have a strong opinion. It will probably become more of a reference tool like Stack Overflow. I don’t see how you could make the developers obsolete because 1) you still need someone to write the original code that the AI ​​is using for your model, and 2) you still need someone to verify that the code the AI ​​wrote works and does. . what you expect it to be. At best, you could argue that developers will become more like reviewers and write less code themselves. But, as someone who does a lot of open sourcing, I can tell you that reviewing someone else’s code is often more work than writing your own from scratch.

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Tyson: What was the initial impetus for doing the State of JavaScript survey? How did you dream that?

Greif: Basically, the initial idea of ​​doing developer surveys came as a way to answer my own questions. At the time I was heavily involved with Meteor, which was an all-in-one JavaScript framework that made almost all of the technology decisions for you. (I’ve written a book on Meteor and also discussed my experience with Meteor as a pioneering JavaScript framework.) So when I started to venture outside of the Meteor ecosystem, I really felt a bit lost, especially since I could see that the most popular libraries in terms of raw usage didn’t always end up being the ones that provide the best developer experience. So from the beginning, I wanted to ask not only what libraries the developers were using, but also if they were happy enough to continue using them.

Tyson: Can you talk a bit about how you made the JavaScript survey app and site reusable?

Greif: Making the surveys as one-off projects was already a big task, but what really took a lot of effort was developing a reusable infrastructure that would allow us to scale out to more survey topics. Today we have two Next.js applications, two Node.js GraphQL APIs, a Gatsby codebase, and an Astro codebase, all of which have a specific role to play. So as you can imagine, maintaining all that code can be very time consuming.

But hopefully, we can eventually get to a point where launching a new survey just requires work in terms of survey design and work on the data visualizations, and everything else (data collection, processing, etc.) just it works smoothly based on the work we do. I have already done it in the past. (Here’s more about how State of JS/CSS surveys are run.)

Tyson: Yeah, it seems like a lot of work in terms of code and infrastructure. Can you talk a bit more about how things are built?

Greif: The big differentiator between “State of…” surveys and other more traditional surveys, at least technically speaking, is that all of our data is available via a live API instead of being compiled via unique scripts.

This allows us to create things like the new Data Explorer or chart filters where end users can dynamically choose which variables they want to compare and modify existing charts to create new data visualizations and hopefully generate new insights from them. our data.

The State of JavaScript survey includes a data visualization tool. IDG

Figure 1. The Data Explorer is a dynamic data visualization tool within “State of…” surveys.

Users can create custom visualizations using the Data Explorer. IDG

Figure 2. The Data Explorer allows users to create custom data visualizations.

Tyson: Are you using serverless or edge deployments like Vercel? Any thoughts there?

Greif: We use Vercel to host our survey app, but haven’t explored much beyond that.

Tyson: I was surprised by Bun’s sudden rise. I didn’t realize there was such a desire for a new approach to server-side JavaScript. What about you?

Greif: I think there’s always an appetite for new projects that can learn from what previous frameworks have done and start anew, keeping all these lessons in mind from the start. It happens all the time on the front-end, so it makes sense that runtimes would eventually experience the same kind of reorganization.

Tyson: What do you see happening in front-end development in 2023? Any major trends?

Greif: The main trend I see coming is to pay more attention to performance and handle more stuff on the server. This could have unintended consequences, for example, we might see a move “backwards” to the patterns we used before, such as using smaller, one-time JavaScript libraries that aren’t part of a larger framework.

Tyson: I see that you studied Mandarin and now you live in Japan. What is it like to live there?

Greif: I love Japan, and in terms of quality of life and environment, it’s a hard place to beat! But sometimes I get a little jealous of the developer community that my peers in other parts of the world seem to enjoy, as it can be a bit lonely here. Still, I have more than enough work to keep me busy!

Tyson: xie xieThank you very much Sasha. Keep up the good work!

Greif: Thank you for the opportunity to share a little more about my work! We definitely have a lot of exciting things planned for 2023. I encourage people to sign up for our mailing list so they don’t miss out on upcoming surveys and events.

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