Tags: bulletproofajax

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Hybrid Design and the Beauty of Standards

My speaking commitments at the Web 2.0 Expo have been fulfilled.

The panel I gatecrashed on Monday morning—The New Hybrid Designer—was a lot of fun. Richard deftly moderated the discussion and Chris, Kelly and I were only too eager to share our thoughts. Unfortunately Emily wasn’t able to make it. It may have been slightly confusing for people showing up to the panel which had Emily’s name listed but not mine; I can imagine that some of the audience were looking at me and thinking, “wow, Emily has really let herself go.”

I mentioned a few resources for developers looking to expand their design vocabulary to take in typography and grids:

Tuesday was the big day for me. I gave a solo presentation called The Beauty in Standards and Accessibility. My original intention was to give a crash course in web standards and accessibility but I realised that the real challenge would be to discuss the beauty part.

I reached back through history to find references and quotations to bolster my ramblings:

One of the tangents on which I veered off was Joseph Whitworth’s work with Charles Babbage. If you’re interested in following this up I highly recommend reading a book by Doron Swade called The Difference Engine: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer—originally released under the title The Cogwheel Brain in the UK

I really enjoyed giving this presentation and from the reaction of the people in the room, a lot of people enjoyed listening to it too. I was just happy that they indulged me in my esoteric wanderings.

On the morning of the presentation I schlepped a box full of copies of Bulletproof Ajax from my hotel to the conference centre so that I could give them away as prizes during Q and A. My talk was in the afternoon so I left the box in the speakers’ lounge for safe keeping. Once my talk was done and I had time for some questions, I said “I have some book… oh.” They were still in the speakers’ lounge.

Thus began our merry trek through the halls of the conference centre. I continued fielding questions from the enthusiastic crowd of followers eager to get their hands on a copy of my book. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer audience. I was only too happy to reward them with tokens of my appreciation in dead-tree form.

My lovely audience We got books!

Print matters

The Future of Web Apps conference finished with a day of workshops. I did a half day of beginning Ajax and had a lot of fun doing it.

I stuck around afterwards to sit in on Stefan Magdalinski’s workshop. Each workshop lasted just three hours—three and a half hours really, but there was coffee break in the middle. While I was frantically trying to cram my material into what seemed like a short space of time, Stefan was worried about having enough material to fill the alloted time. He needn’t have worried. He had plenty of stories from the trenches of They Work For You, Up My Street and the latest venture, Moo.com.

It was particularly enlightening to hear about the challenges of producing a physical product. It’s pretty clear from the success of great sites like Moo, JPEG Magazine and Threadless that there’s something special about holding a created object in your hands.

I had the pleasure of holding my own printed object in my hands when I got home from the day of workshops. New Riders—having inadvertently sent the original package to Dori’s house—sent an express delivery of two shiny copies of my brand new book, Bulletproof Ajax.

Bulletproof Ajax

Can you tell that I’m quite pleased with it?

Announcing Bulletproof Ajax

When I wrote DOM Scripting, I can’t say it was the most pleasant experience. I found the act of writing to be quite laborious. As anyone who has written a book will tell you, it’s a hell of a lot of work.

But then when the book was finished and I finally held it in my hands, I experienced a great feeling of satisfaction. Once the reviews started coming in — mostly more than favourable — I felt even better. Before too long, I had almost forgotten the pain that had gone into writing the thing in the first place.

It was while I was in this vulnerable state of the newly-chuffed author at last year’s South By SouthWest that I was wined and dined by a charming representative from New Riders. Before I knew it, I found myself agreeing to write another book, one about Ajax this time.

Once the contract was signed, I was back behind my laptop staring at a blank Word document. That’s when I started remembering the pain of writing the first book. Bugger.

Fast forward to today. I’m done. The book is called Bulletproof Ajax and it will be released in one month’s time.

As yet, I don’t have a physical copy in my hands but already I’ve got that warm glow of achievement. I’m really, really pleased with how the book has turned out.

Now, here’s the thing: I think that people will either love this book or hate it. I didn’t write a typical programming book. Instead, the book has a strong sense of narrative and a distinctive tone of voice. I’m hoping that this will appeal to a lot of people but I expect it’s equally likely that it will put other people off.

I wouldn’t have written this book if I didn’t feel there was a need for it. On the face of it, another book on Ajax doesn’t seem to be filling a niche. After all, there’s no shortage of Ajax books out there. But most of those Ajax books are written for programmers. Generally they’re aimed at server-side programmers well-versed in a “proper” programming language like Java, and who must now come to grips with JavaScript.

Bulletproof Ajax is different. It’s aimed at front-end developers and designers: the kind of people who are already well-versed in web standards; CSS, (X)HTML, and maybe a dab of JavaScript. But it’s certainly not aimed at hardcore programmers.

Just to be clear: this book is not a cookbook of code. Yes, there is code in there to illustrate the concepts but it’s the concepts that are really important. The code is meant simply as a starting point. I go into far more detail on the design challenges and philosophical implications of Ajax. That’s why I think people will either love this book or hate it.

Personally, I love it… but then I may be a little bit biased—like a parent talking about how special their child is.

I’ve created a website to go with the book. It’s got the introduction, the table of contents and the code samples. Rather than start up yet another blog, I’m going to continue talking about Ajax and JavaScript on the DOM Scripting blog and then pull in the latest entries on the front page of the Bulletproof Ajax site.

Oh, by the way, about the title… I have Dan’s blessing. I just thought it was such a great adjective to apply to my approach to Ajax that it fit like a glove. So minus points for originality but plus points for accuracy.

Bulletproof Ajax is available to pre-order from Amazon. Some of the details listed on the Amazon page have been plucked from thin air and will get updated soon: the book is closer to 200 pages than 300.

If the release date listed on Amazon is correct, then the book will be available just in time for Valentine’s day so you can go ahead and get a book on Ajax for that someone special in your life. XMLHttpRequest is a geek’s best friend.