I returned on Sunday from Beijing, where I presented at the Mozilla Developer Conference (warning: all-Mandarin page). Twice, in fact. I made a presentation about the Add-ons World (available here), and ended up stepping in for Paul Rouget, who couldn’t make it. His presentation on HTML 5 is really great and it didn’t take much effort on my part to talk about it. All of his demos are prerecorded, so the presentation is pretty much snafu-free, unlike my presentation or Myk’s, both of which had (minor) technical difficulties during the live demo. I tried following some of Chris Hellman’s recommendations this time around, but I didn’t go as far as recording my demos. Oh, well.
My presentation is meant to be a starting point for those interested in add-on development. It contains many links on how to get started making extensions, GM scripts, SDK add-ons, Personas, Themes, and even mentions language packs, search engines and dictionaries. They include a trivial add-on that translates a string on a webpage, developed as a GM script, as an SDK add-on, and as an extension. Then I compare code complexity, flexibility, the security framework and other characteristics, trying to give developers a balanced view and good information on how to choose any of the above when building an add-on. Of course I can only gloss over the details during a 40-minute presentation; hence all the links. In the end of the presentation I briefly cover publishing on AMO, add-on monetization, and the plans for an add-on marketplace. I tried to personalize it a bit for the Chinese audience, so some things may not make as much sense.
The Q&A session was surprising, in that the developers who asked questions were very knowledgeable in add-on development and had very specific questions. Some had very well-established products and demoed some really advanced add-ons. There’s such great add-on development happening in China that I wish we had a much better communication channel with developers over there. That’s something we need to work on.
Overall, the trip was excellent. The presentation went well, I got in touch with a number of developers in the area, and most importantly we had plenty of time to talk to the Mozilla Online team. I discussed our add-on performance initiative with them, which is specially relevant for them given that the default Firefox install for China includes about 10 add-ons preinstalled. A number of them also joined the AMO Editors team, which is actively looking for new members. I’m really happy because there are many add-ons that are only testable in China, by people who understand the language and local websites.
And, of course, the food and the sights we managed to squeeze into one day of touring around were all fantastic. I’d like to thank the Mozilla Online team again for the invitation and organizing this very successful event. Special thanks to 张羽 (Rachel Zhang) for taking care of us. I’m sure she feels like on holiday this week
Random anecdote: I’m riding the subway by myself on the way to meet a friend who lives in Beijing, pointlessly trying to appear as if I do this all the time. Then some guy approaches me and starts speaking in what I assume was Mandarin, pointing to a cellphone he has in his hands. While I’m deciding how to react to this, I look at the phone and see a picture of me at the conference. Heh. It was just an attendant who was really happy to run into me in the subway. We managed to talk a little bit during the subway ride. Very friendly guy. So, there