Functional Light and Rethinking Async JS Workshop featuring Kyle Simpson

Do statements like "A monad is just a monoid in the category of endofunctors" intimidate or confuse you? Then you are not alone. Fortunately, you don't need to understand what an endofunctor is to utilize the powerful concepts behind functional programming.

In a 2-day workshop hosted at Origin Code Academy, Kyle Simpson (also known as "getify") lead students through a wide range of JavaScript topics around functional programming and async patterns. Kyle Simpson is the author of the widely read You Don't Know JS book series, which explores the core mechanisms of the JavaScript language.

Functional programming (often abbreviated FP) is a programming paradigm. It advocates for the use of building software by composing pure functions to avoid shared states, mutable data, and side-effects. This is different from object-oriented programming, in which data is contained in objects and colocated with methods that act on it.

After a deep dive into the world of FP, the workshop turned its focus to async operations. Aysnc is short for "asynchronous", a term used to describe how data flows through a computer program. In synchronous programs, you wait for something to finish before moving on to another task, which could cause an entire application to freeze while waiting for an operation to complete. However, when you execute something asynchronously, you can move on to another task before it finishes.

Those who are familiar with async will also probably be familiar with another term: callback hell. If a program needs the result from a method to continue its operations (a dependency), the conventional way to "freeze" the computation and have the "rest of it" execute later (asynchronously) is to put "the rest of it" inside a callback. However, with multiple dependencies that can often end up looking like this:


Code like the above example is intuitively difficult to read, even for experienced programmers. This makes it harder to follow, harder to refactor, and harder to test. It’s ultimately costlier to maintain and more likely to have bugs.

In the workshop, Kyle explained alternative ways to manage async in ways that were more reliable and easier to maintain. He explored callbacks, thunks, promises, generators, and reactive observables. For anyone looking to take their JavaScript game to the next level, his Advanced JavaScript series is available here on Pluralsight and covers many of the same topics.

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