Eric Meyer has been writing about and working on the web for nearly 20 years. His personal website, MeyerWeb.com, continues to be an invaluable resource for devs interested in practical demos as well as the theoretical side of CSS.
More recently, Eric planned and co-hosted An Event Apart in Austin, one of a series of conferences across the United States geared towards web professionals.
Matt: First of all, you just wrapped up An Event Apart 2012 in Austin, which you co-hosted and helped organize. How was the turnout? What are your top takeaways from the conference?
We had a great turnout! Over 400 incredibly sharp and passionate web professionals were there, and it was a really great time. As for the content, there were two takeaways for me: one, that mobile continues to be a huge and in many ways unknown force in our industry; and that community is at the heart of everything we do. We agree together on the direction web design takes, the way standards are advanced, even the way browsers evolve. It’s easy to think that Web Stuff Just Happens, but it doesn’t. It never did.
Are you already planning another Event in Austin for next year?
Well, we haven’t announced next year’s schedule, so I can’t officially comment. But just between you and me, if you keep an eye on the AEA site in early August, I think you’ll be pleased.
What about you? How is your time split these days between writing, speaking and coding? Do you still do client projects?
I actually spend a fair amount of time on An Event Apart; like any growing business, it requires a lot of administrative upkeep. Beyond that, most of my time is spent on writing and the research that goes into that writing, some of which is coding. Speaking is a sometime demand, though when I’m writing a new talk, it’s a pretty heavy demand. I always try to put a lot into my talks.
What do you do to keep your coding skills sharp? Ever feel out of practice, or is it just like riding a bike?
Looking at all the insane stuff the kids are creating these days, I feel like I’m always out of practice! It’s a real struggle to keep up with everything that’s being discovered and tried. A lot of how I keep up to date is by checking out other people’s work, pulling it apart, analyzing it, and seeing if I can take a step or two further. I also do a lot of testing of CSS rules ranging from basic to insane, just to see what falls out. Sometimes it’s a browser bug, more often it’s a gap in my understanding, and occasionally it’s a nifty way of doing or looking at some aspect of CSS.
Let’s talk a bit about CSS, which is the main theme in your books. What unreleased features are you looking forward to the most in CSS3?
Grid Layout, Grid Layout, and Grid Layout. The lack of a strong layout system has been a huge hole in CSS from the day it was created, and it looks like it might finally be filled. Taken together with Flexbox, which is rapidly deploying, and possibly Regions— we’ll see if there’s uptake of that one– there is an enormous area of web design that will open up. The jump in expressive power will easily rival the early-2000s period, when CSS finally settled in as a stable technology.
There are also some nifty selector patterns on the drawing boards, and CSS Filters seem pretty interesting, but Grid Layout is the titan in the room. We need it. I can’t wait for it to finally arrive.
You’ve been working on and writing about the web since 1993–what is that keeps you coming back to front-end development day after day, and year after year? Does it still interest you as much as it used to?
In a lot of ways, it’s like being married to the same person for almost 20 years. You might get frustrated with them sometimes, even angry, but there’s a deep connection there that can be very hard to quantify. Why do we love what we love? Any explanations tend to come off as rationalizations, or sound disgustingly pale in comparison to how we feel. There’s just something about the web that caught me from the first, and whatever that was has yet to loosen its hold.
But if nothing else, I think the web is so ever-changing, so powerful, and still so very promising, it would be hard not to stay interested.
What projects in the development community are you excited about lately?
Nothing in specific, though in general I’m always glad to see CSS frameworks and extensions (like LESS and Sass) explore new ideas. They help point the way to where CSS itself should go; or, more rarely, to show where CSS shouldn’t go. It’s awesome to have a community that experiments–they’re the trailblazers for the specifications just as much as any browser team.
On the interwebs: @meyerweb / MeyerWeb.com