"full stack" entries

Renaming isomorphic JavaScript?

What you need to know to make an informed choice.

Abbott and Costello performing "Who's on First?"

Abbott and Costello performing “Who’s on First?”

Abbott and Costello’s signature wordplay sketch “Who’s on First?” is one of the most renowned comedic routines of all time. Trying to describe the routine here will do it little justice, you’ll just have to watch it yourself. As funny as it may be, the sketch reveals a crucial fact: names are important. Good names should be self-explanatory, precise and reveal intent. Bad names leave people confused and aggravated and should be avoided at all cost. When we write code, we must always think about variable names, function names, file names, etc. But naming things is hard. Phil Karlton probably said it best: “There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things.”

Since Node.js was first released in 2009, many developers have started discussing and implementing ways to share JavaScript code between the web application server and the browser. This sharing of JavaScript code allows for assembling web pages on either the client or server, with the benefits of faster initial page load times and improved search engine optimization. The name of this approach was coined by Charlie Robbins and later popularized by Spike Brehm as “isomorphic” JavaScript. Such applications are isomorphic in the sense that they take on equal (ἴσος: isos) form or shape (μορφή: morphe) regardless of which environment they are running on, be it the browser or the server.

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Full-stack tensions on the Web

How much do you need to know?

Vista_de_la_Biblioteca_VasconcelosI expected that CSSDevConf would be primarily a show about front-end work, focused on work in clients and specifically in browsers. I kept running into conversations, though, about the challenges of moving between the front and back end, the client and the server side. Some were from developers suddenly told that they had to become “full-stack developers” covering the whole spectrum, while others were from front-end engineers suddenly finding a flood of back-end developers tinkering with the client side of their applications. “Full-stack” isn’t always a cheerful story.

In the early days of the Web, “full-stack” was normal. While there were certainly people who focused on running web servers or designing sites as beautiful as the technology would allow, there were lots of webmasters who knew how to design a site, write HTML, manage a server, and maybe write some CGI code for early applications.

Formal separation of concerns among HTML, CSS, and JavaScript made it easier to share responsibilities among specialists. As the dot-com boom proceeded, specialization accelerated, with dedicated designers, programmers, and sysadmins coming to the work. Perhaps there were too many titles.

Even as the bust set in, specialization remained the trend because Web projects — especially on the server side — had grown far more complicated. They weren’t just a server and a few scripts, but a complete stack, including templates, logic, and usually a database. Whether you preferred the LAMP stack, a Microsoft ASP stack, or perhaps Java servlets and JSP, the server side rapidly became its own complex arena. Intranet development in particular exploded as a way to build server-based applications that could (cheaply) connect data sources to users on multiple platforms. Writing web apps was faster and cheaper than writing desktop apps, with more tolerance for platform variation.
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Next-generation Web apps with full stack JavaScript

Power scalable Web apps with 100% JavaScript

stones-1652-BSince its introduction, JavaScript was often seen as a limited object-oriented language that had many “bad” parts. The situation today is almost the opposite.

In competition with Java, C#, and Ruby, JavaScript is developing one of the largest ecosystems for web applications today. Why, as it seems, is a language made for web browsers gaining traction for building next-generation web applications on the server-side too?

In fact, you can see another example of disruptive innovation at work. As Clayton Christensen explained in his innovation theory, affordability and access are important drivers behind technology shifts. While the LAMP stack and its peers with Ruby, Python, Java, and C# provide the foundations for many server-side web applications today, JavaScript ships natively with web browsers, which enables a much larger part of the digital population to experiment with web development. In addition to lower costs of infrastructure and easier installation, companies get access to a larger pool of web developers.
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Tell us your full-stack story

Your views on full-stack development could be featured at OSCON. Here’s how.

We’re putting together a series of short videos that explores the trend of full-stack development from the point of view of people who consider themselves to be full-stack developers—as well as those who’d like to be.

We’ll use select submissions for the video pre-rolls that run before keynotes at OSCON. Videos may also be featured on O’Reilly Radar.

This means your insightful perspective on full-stack development could be seen by new developers and industry experts alike.

Want to participate? Here’s what you need to do:

Submissions are due by the end of the day on Monday, July 14. Read more…

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Open teaching stacks help us teach at scale

Use teaching stacks to drive growth.

Elliott Hauser is CEO of Trinket, a startup focused on creating open sourced teaching materials. He is also a Python instructor at UNC Chapel Hill.

Well-developed tools for teaching are crucial to the spread of open source software and programming languages. Stacks like those used by the Young Coders Tutorial and Mozilla Software Carpentry are having national and international impact by enabling more people to teach more often.

The spread of tech depends on teaching

Software won’t replace teachers. But teachers need great software for teaching. The success and growth of technical communities are largely dependent on the availability of teaching stacks appropriate to teaching their technologies. Resources like try git or interactivepython.org not only help students on their own but also equip instructors to teach these topics without also having to discover the best tools for doing so. In that way, they play the same function as open source Web stacks: getting us up and running quickly with time-tested and community-backed tools. Thank goodness I don’t need to write a database just to write a website; I can use open source software instead. As an instructor teaching others to code websites, what’s the equivalent tool set? That’s what I mean by Teaching Stack: a collection of open tools that help individual instructors teach technology at scale.

Elements of a great teaching stack

Here are some of the major components of a teaching stack for a hands-on technology course:

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Driving demand for full-stack developers

A closer look at the forces causing demand

Buzzwords in the software industry arise and then die off with startling frequency. Ambiguous terms such as “growth hacker”, “sales engineer” and “rockstar developer” trip a developer’s spidey sense that the person saying them is just handwaving. However, occasionally a new term is created to articulate a programming skill set based on demand due to changes in the software development industry.

In 2013 the search term “full stack developer” took off on Google Trends and began appearing in numerous tech startup job postings. In this term’s case there are several real trends driving developers to invest in learning and identifying as full stack developers.


The usage of the full stack developer term is driven by several larger trends in software development. Read more…