Some of the most innovative digital products in the world are built on React, React Native, and ReasonML. I traversed the globe to meet the pioneers of this movement, and to bring the best of what I learned back to Draftbit.


On a Saturday night in March, I boarded my flight from Chicago to Krakow to participate in App.js — the very first Expo conference in Europe. This was the first of four conferences at which I'd be speaking. Following App.js, I would next head to Vienna for Reason Conference, followed by MagnoliaJS Conference in Jackson, Mississippi (The Magnolia State's first-ever JavaScript conference), and then back to my hometown for GOTO Chicago 2019.

My goal for this trip was simple: Meet and learn from folks who are creating bleeding-edge apps in JavaScript and also share what Draftbit's accomplished with our community.

If you're reading this post and wondering what Reason or React are, here's a quick primer:

  • JavaScript (a.k.a. "JS") is the programming language of the web. It was created in 1995 and it's how websites (and mobile apps!) are still powered today.
  • React is a JS library for building user interfaces, or "UI's." Invented by Jordan Walke at Facebook, it has quickly become the standard for building modern web apps.
  • React Native is the version of React that specifically renders mobile components. React Native lets you build an app for all devices once, so you never have to decide between iOS or Android to start.
  • ReasonML (a.k.a. "Reason") is how the creator of React envisioned React to begin with. It's a new way to write JS that helps developers make less mistakes and write better, faster, safer coder with fewer bugs.

App.js - April 4 & 5

Krakow, Poland

App.js is the first ever Expo & React Native conference in Europe. Hosted by the Expo team and Software Mansion, App.js convenes developers from all over the world to learn about the future of Expo and the React Native universe.

From Slite.com
Presenting on Stage at App.js Conf. Thanks to Software Mansion for the photo!
What is Expo? It's the world's most powerful workflow for creating React Native apps. Fun fact: I was the first user of Expo!

As a member of the Expo & React Native developer community, this conference was hugely beneficial for me to understand how the React Native and Expo teams are paving the road for us. Also, since Draftbit is a partner of Expo's, I was able to continue forging stronger relationships with its core team that would keep our platform at the bleeding edge of what's possible in app development. This is huge for our Draftbit customers—many of the things on our product roadmap are simply not possible on other platforms.

I was also grateful to be featured as a presenter at App.js Conference. This year, I decided to talk about how we use Expo and React Native to build apps at Draftbit. It was really exciting for me to show how we're building our product on the shoulders of these giants. I hope you enjoy the presentation!

App.js Conf is a world class conference in my book. Thanks to Software Mansion and Expo for putting together an incredible week.

And here is a copy of my presentation:

From Slite.com
Thought I looked cute. Idk, might delete later. Thanks Software Mansion for the photo!

App.js Highlights

There were so many cool things happening at this conference that I am dedicating an entire section of this post to highlight them!

  • React Native Unimodules: These allow us to native features (think Bluetooth, Camera Access, and eventually advanced modules like Apple's ARKit) without having to eject from Expo. This makes it possible for us to build very advanced apps very quickly and seamlessly. Thanks Tomasz!
  • Transitions: Krzystof is doing some incredible things that we hope to use in Draftbit really soon!
  • Ad Hoc Builds: I'm super excited about what Quinlan is doing — it's so cool!
  • React Native Hooks: This new feature will allow us to output cleaner code for end users.
  • React Native Tips / Tricks: Thanks to Satyajit for an amazing breakdown.
From Slite.com
Speaker photos. Can you recognize any of these giants?! Thanks Software Mansion!

Reason Conference - April 11-13

Vienna, Austria

ReasonConf is a conference for the ReasonML developer community. At ReasonConf, I had the opportunity to spend a week with the core developers of Reason and discuss the feature roadmap and exchange ideas for how to improve the developer experience. I also learned from other product people (including Facebook devs) about how they're using Reason effectively.

Draftbit is currently the only app development platform that's written in Reason; and because Reason is a faster and more mistake-resistant way to write JavaScript, this means that over time our team has a competitive advantage on the rest of the app development marketplace!

I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak about how we're using Reason at Draftbit to improve our product. This was a fun talk to give! Have a look:

And here's a copy of my presentation:

ReasonConf Highlights:

  • Fun fact: Facebook Messenger is 100% written in ReasonML. Upon implementing, the developers went from 10 bug reports per week to less than 10 per year— for an app that's used by more than 1 billion people globally, that's amazing!
  • React Hooks Api: Reason has improved the developer experience by introducing a new API using React's hooks. This is a game-changer for us. Hats off to Ricky Vetter and team!
  • OneGraph: Attendees received a ton of helpful information about how to debug Reason code from Sean Grove (co-founder of OneGraph, which I highly recommend checking out!)

Thanks to Nik, Patrick and Andrey for putting together an incredible conference!

From Slite.com
Lunch with the Reason team and organizers of the conference in Vienna, Austria.

MagnoliaJS - April 18

Jackson, Mississippi, USA

MagnoliaJS is Mississippi's first-ever developer conference. There's an amazing community of devs thriving here, and I got to meet a ton of them at MagnoliaJS! Another cool thing about MagnoliaJS is that it's sponsored by the state of Mississippi, so there's clearly an interest in continuing to grow this community locally.

It's inspiring to see how much this tech community is producing, given how small it is. I've never seen a more passionate group of people who were excited to be at a conference; it had this very friendly small-town feel (just like its host town).

I have a ton of respect for J.C. Hiatt for putting on this conference by himself and Nader Dabit for hosting the speaker dinner and being a great host for us!

From Slite.com
The organizers and I thought this would be a great slide to promote the conference

A special thanks to the MagnoliaJS team for inviting me to speak! Here's a copy of my presentation for MagnoliaJS:

GOTO Chicago - April 29 to May 2

Chicago, IL, USA

Back where it all began! GOTO Chicago 2019 is a conference "for developers by developers" — it brings together innovators and thought leaders from all over the world to build the future! This event is hosted in cities around the world like Copenhagen, Berlin, and Amsterdam; but Chicago is the only U.S. host!

At GOTO I was honored with the chance to present what the "future" looks like for React Native and ReasonML. Here's my slide deck:

GOTO Chicago 2019 was the largest event Draftbit has ever presented, with over 1,000 developers in attendance. From meeting these great folks right in my hometown, I was able to drum up a lot of excitement around the idea that back-end devs could build robust front-ends using Draftbit to prototype. The response has been amazing!


So that's a wrap and now I'm excited to be back building Draftbit with my team! I'd love to meet you at the next event (Detroit Tech Watch June 29th!), so sign up for the Draftbit private beta so we can connect.