tiConf speaker Ronald Treur

Ronald TreurIt has been a while, but we continue our series of tiConf speaker interviews with Ronald Treur. He’s a tiDev author, co-founder of Snowciety (powered by Titanium), co-lead of the Amsterdam Titanium meetup and he will speak about making the most of your single JS thread at next week’s tiConf EU in Amsterdam.

Tell us something about yourself

I’m 33 years of age and happily living in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Though it’s pretty awesome to have the conference close to home, it does mean there will be less to explore outside of the conference for me this time ;-) I guess I’ll use this time to track every Dutch developer down in order to promote our monthly Amsterdam Titanium Meetup. And with some luck, I might be able to help out those of you visiting from abroad with any questions you might have!

You and development, how did that start?

I think I was about fourteen years old when my dad told me we would be getting an internet connection. The next day I visited my local library and borrowed whatever books I could find on HTML. Having started teaching myself how to program a few years earlier (Basic mostly) and knowing I wanted to be a developer, I couldn’t wait to create my very own personal presence on the web. I had the first iteration of my personal homepage finished before our modem had even arrived, and I have been busy creating websites ever since. Later on I studied Computer Science with the idea to get into the gaming industry, but afterwards there were simply too many great opportunities that allowed me to remain on the fore-front of web-development, so I simply kept at it.

And how did you go from web to app?

About three years ago a I started a company, together with my co-founder Timan Rebel, called Snowciety. Our aim was to create a better mobile experience for wintersport enthusiasts. There already were a few apps out there that logged your speed and distance throughout the day, but we knew we could do better than that. We wanted to add a strong social layer, since most of us who go skiing or snowboarding take their friends and family with them. They are not working out, they’re enjoying their time on the snow, together.

So why Titanium?

With neither of us having any prior app-building experience, we looked around and decided to give Titanium a try. Coming from a web-development background, we already had a fair amount of JavaScript experience, so we got off to a quick start. However, Titanium three years ago was a far cry from what we’re used to nowadays. It lacked a great many features, was riddled with bugs and didn’t yet have the vibrant community it has today. We kept on using it however as it showed great promise. And I am happy we did!

How did you see Titanium evolve since then?

Today things are very different. Titanium has matured, Alloy is clear proof of this and though some bugs remain – they always do – these mostly occur in edge cases only. The community has blossomed and expanded as well, with tiConf and tiDev.io as shining examples of its power and enthusiasm. I am happy to be a part of it!

Can you share some of your contributions?

I have been co-organising the Amsterdam Titanium Meetup for a while. A presentation I gave there earlier this year, on the Single threaded nature of Titanium was well received and is the reason I am also presenting (it) at tiConf EU in Amsterdam. Because it’s a relatively complex topic I also wrote a lengthy (3-part) article on the topic at TiDev.io.

After having submitted my proposal for TiConf, I have been working on two open-source projects that might be of interest. The first is a (heavily WIP) mini-framework called graviton.TaskManager that should help developers improve the responsiveness of their apps. The second is a module for Alloy that enables developers to write their TSS using a more syntactically awesome style sheet language, which I’ve dubbed STSS. If writing Sassy TSS sounds as good to you as it does to me, then please download the latest version and help me test it.

How do you see the future of Titanium?

I couldn’t be happier with the prospect of Ti.Next and Alloy 2.0. These new version will really move the platform to a whole nother level. Switching to a different platform has never occurred to me. If not Titanium then I would be developing natively. So far speed was the only argument native development had going, but when Ti.Next will be released to the public, none remain!

Why should people check out your talk at tiConf?

They should attend because what I am about to explain will definitely improve the apps they create using Titanium. I met quite a few Titanium developers who blamed Titanium for their app being unresponsive at times. My message to those attending:

“It’s not Titanium you dummy! You’re simply not doing it right!”

Sounds arrogant? I agree, but feedback so far has led me to believe this holds true for a very large group of developers out there. I guess the only way to find out is by attending! ;-)

The problem is that no one ever told us to pay attention to this particular issue. So developers are definitely not to blame. Up until December last year I was ignorant of this as well, but now that I figured it out, I hope to spread this knowledge to as many developers as possible.

So in short, what will your talk be like?

During my talk I will explain how to improve the responsiveness of your mobile app. It will be in-depth and possibly a little complex, because I will need to explain what happens under the hood. In short: Due to Titanium’s single threaded nature, traffic jams occur a lot. When your app’s user taps a button, other processes are still being performed, and that ‘tap’-event will simply be added to the back of the queue. If you don’t manage those jams (or preferably prevent them!) your app will become unresponsive at times. I will explain what causes this, and more importantly: how to solve it!

Why do you look forward to tiConf yourself?

I had a blast attending the first tiConf in Valencia, Spain in 2013. It will be good to meet some of you I met there last year. And who knows, I might make some new acquaintances!

As for what I am looking forward to most, that would be those sessions that might help me get more performance out of Titanium. Or rather out of the app created with it. And yes I am aware that my own talk falls into the same category. It simply illustrates my interest in the topic ;-) Last year in Valencia there were some great talks about improving performance as well. And most of them, unlike my presentation this year, shared simple tips you could use right away. I like those talks the best, being a performance-addict myself!

And of course I look forward to hearing the latest on Ti.Next and whatever else is going on at Appcelerator!

– Thanks Ronald!

App imagineer: Imagining, Engineering & Speaking about Native mobile Apps with Appcelerator Titanium & Alloy • Meetup organizer • Certified Expert • Titan