I just asked 23,000 developers what they think of JavaScript. Here’s what I learned.

I recently published our results for the 2017 edition of the annual State of JavaScript survey, collected from over 23,000 developers.

The results revealed many things, from popularity trends to salary breakdowns. You’ll want to take a look for yourself if you haven’t done so already. But among all these data, here are the 10 things that stood out most to me.

Even if you’ve already seen the results, you might want to check out the new Features and Opinions sections we’ve just added.



A Zero-Math Introduction to Markov Chain Monte Carlo Methods

For many of us, Bayesian statistics is voodoo magic at best, or completely subjective nonsense at worst. Among the trademarks of the Bayesian approach, Markov chain Monte Carlo methods are especially mysterious. They’re math-heavy and computationally expensive procedures for sure, but the basic reasoning behind them, like so much else in data science, can be made intuitive. That is my goal here.

So, what are Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods? The short answer is:

MCMC methods are used to approximate the posterior distribution of a parameter of interest by random sampling in a probabilistic space.

In this article, I will explain that short answer, without any math.


Oh shit, git!

Git is hard: screwing up is easy, and figuring out how to fix your mistakes is fucking impossible. Git documentation has this chicken and egg problem where you can’t search for how to get yourself out of a mess, unless you already know the name of the thing you need to know about in order to fix your problem.

So here are some bad situations I’ve gotten myself into, and how I eventually got myself out of them in plain english*.



Managing AWS Lambda Function Concurrency

One of the key benefits of serverless applications is the ease in which they can scale to meet traffic demands or requests, with little to no need for capacity planning. In AWS Lambda, which is the core of the serverless platform at AWS, the unit of scale is a concurrent execution. This refers to the number of executions of your function code that are happening at any given time.

Thinking about concurrent executions as a unit of scale is a fairly unique concept. In this post, I dive deeper into this and talk about how you can make use of per function concurrency limits in Lambda.

Understanding concurrency in Lambda

Instead of diving right into the guts of how Lambda works, here’s an appetizing analogy: a magical pizza.
Yes, a magical pizza!

This magical pizza has some unique properties:

  • It has a fixed maximum number of slices, such as 8.
  • Slices automatically re-appear after they are consumed.
  • When you take a slice from the pizza, it does not re-appear until it has been completely consumed.
  • One person can take multiple slices at a time.
  • You can easily ask to have the number of slices increased, but they remain fixed at any point in time otherwise.

Now that the magical pizza’s properties are defined, here’s a hypothetical situation of some friends sharing this pizza.

Shawn, Kate, Daniela, Chuck, Ian and Avleen get together every Friday to share a pizza and catch up on their week. As there is just six of them, they can easily all enjoy a slice of pizza at a time. As they finish each slice, it re-appears in the pizza pan and they can take another slice again. Given the magical properties of their pizza, they can continue to eat all they want, but with two very important constraints:

  • If any of them take too many slices at once, the others may not get as much as they want.
  • If they take too many slices, they might also eat too much and get sick.

One particular week, some of the friends are hungrier than the rest, taking two slices at a time instead of just one. If more than two of them try to take two pieces at a time, this can cause contention for pizza slices. Some of them would wait hungry for the slices to re-appear. They could ask for a pizza with more slices, but then run the same risk again later if more hungry friends join than planned for.

What can they do?

If the friends agreed to accept a limit for the maximum number of slices they each eat concurrently, both of these issues are avoided. Some could have a maximum of 2 of the 8 slices, or other concurrency limits that were more or less. Just so long as they kept it at or under eight total slices to be eaten at one time. This would keep any from going hungry or eating too much. The six friends can happily enjoy their magical pizza without worry!



The Case for Learned Index Structures

Indexes are models: a B-Tree-Index can be seen as a model to map a key to the position of a record within a sorted array, a Hash-Index as a model to map a key to a position of a record within an unsorted array, and a BitMap-Index as a model to indicate if a data record exists or not. In this exploratory research paper, we start from this premise and posit that all existing index structures can be replaced with other types of models, including deep-learning models, which we term learned indexes. The key idea is that a model can learn the sort order or structure of lookup keys and use this signal to effectively predict the position or existence of records. We theoretically analyze under which conditions learned indexes outperform traditional index structures and describe the main challenges in designing learned index structures. Our initial results show, that by using neural nets we are able to outperform cache-optimized B-Trees by up to 70% in speed while saving an order-of-magnitude in memory over several real-world data sets. More importantly though, we believe that the idea of replacing core components of a data management system through learned models has far reaching implications for future systems designs and that this work just provides a glimpse of what might be possible.



Realtime applications using Android Architecture Components with Kotlin

Android Architecture Components version 1.0.0 has now been released, this means their API’s are now stable and you should be more comfortable with adopting it in your projects.

What are Android Architecture Components?

Android Architecture components (AAC) are a set of Android libraries that help you structure your application in a way that is robust, testable, and maintainable.

In this post, we are going to discuss how to structure an Android Application’s code for realtime updates using Android Architecture Components. We will be talking specifically about using ViewModel and LiveData to build an Android application that will be updating in realtime.



Neural Networks in JavaScript with deeplearn.js

A couple of my recent articles gave an introduction into a subfield of artificial intelligence by implementing foundational machine learning algorithms in JavaScript (e.g. linear regression with gradient descentlinear regression with normal equation or logistic regression with gradient descent). These machine learning algorithms were implemented from scratch in JavaScript by using the math.js node package for linear algebra (e.g. matrix operations) and calculus. You can find all of these machine learning algorithms grouped in a GitHub organization. If you find any flaws in them, please help me out to make the organization a great learning resource for others. I intend to grow the amount of repositories showcasing different machine learning algorithms to provide web developers a starting point when they enter the domain of machine learning.

Personally, I found it becomes quite complex and challenging to implement those algorithms from scratch at some point. Especially when combining JavaScript and neural networks with the implementation of forward and back propagation. Since I am learning about neural networks myself at the moment, I started to look for libraries doing the job for me. Hopefully I am able to catch up with those foundational implementations to publish them in the GitHub organization in the future. However, for now, as I researched about potential candidates to facilitate neural networks in JavaScript, I came across deeplearn.js which was recently released by Google. So I gave it a shot. In this article / tutorial, I want to share my experiences by implementing with you a neural network in JavaScript with deeplearn.js to solve a real world problem for web accessibility.

I highly recommend to take the Machine Learning course by Andrew Ng. This article will not explain the machine learning algorithms in detail, but only demonstrate their usage in JavaScript. The course on the other hand goes into detail and explains these algorithms in an amazing quality. At this point in time of writing the article, I learn about the topic myself and try to internalize my learnings by writing about them and applying them in JavaScript. If you find any parts for improvements, please reach out in the comments or create a Issue/Pull Request on GitHub.