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Review JavaScript and Ajax for the Web, Sixth Edition (Visual QuickStart Guide)

Discussion in 'Articles, Reviews and Interviews' started by tripwire45, Nov 21, 2006.

  1. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    Book Review: JavaScript and Ajax for the Web, Sixth Edition (Visual QuickStart Guide)

    Authors: Tom Negrino and Dori Smith
    Format: Paperback: 512 pages
    Publisher: Peachpit Press; 6th edition (August 28, 2006)
    ISBN: 0321430328

    Review by James Pyles
    November 21, 2006

    This morning, I accidentally put my contact lenses in wrong (left in right eye, right in left eye) and when I got in my car to drive to work, I thought I was going blind. I quickly realized my mistake and fixed it when I got to my destination. My little misadventure is relevant because I got a similar feeling when I tried to read "JavaScript and Ajax for the Web". It's probably a consequence of the series format (and so the writers can hardly be faulted...blame the publishers instead) and as a result, I found it pretty hard to read this book let alone learn from it.

    The book is laid out with the graphics in the left-hand column and the text in the right-hand column of the page (there are a few exceptions). Even when there are no graphics on the page, all of the text is compressed to the right with the left side of the page remaining completely blank. I don't use web browsers and text editors that are longer than they are wide so all of the sample code had a completely unnatural appearance. Worse, lines of code that should have remained unbroken had to be broken to accommodate the page format. Among programmers, this is considered a "no-no".

    Nevertheless, I continued to pursue reading "JavaScript & AJAX" in the hope that the content would make up for it all. In fact, the JavaScript content is accurate and well presented in terms of the writing style. While the book assumes you have some familiarity with HTML, it is written for the JavaScript newbie and I could see that the actual text content would go a long way to teaching this language to the reader.

    One of the things I appreciated, at least in the intent, was the availability of a companion website that contains all of the sample code. It should be just a matter of going to the site, copying some source, pasting it in my text editor and having fun. Unfortunately, when I pulled up the site, I was confronted with a rather sparse webpage announcing that the Sixth Editon version of the site would be coming soon. I assumed that I'd received the book for review so quickly after it was published that the authors hadn't had the time to update their site. I checked and the book was published almost three months previously. To be fair, I suppose some major event could have interrupted Negrino and Smith and they just haven't been able to do the update yet...still, it didn't improve my impression of this product.

    When I read the title, I thought that the book would be comprised of (more or less) equal parts of JavaScript and AJAX. I expected a grounding in JavaScript and a graceful transition up the ladder to AJAX. Unfortunately, only about 60 pages of this 512 page book were devoted to AJAX-specific content. The title of Chapter 15 (the first of two "AJAX" chapters) is "Introducing AJAX" and an introduction to the language is all you get. It might have been better for the authors to have written a book strictly on JavaScript, then write an AJAX text as a companion book.

    The pluses are that Negrino and Smith do know JavaScript and they know how to teach JavaScript in terms of the text content. If their website were up to full speed (they did offer a zip file containing the sample code), it might have helped more. Still, I like the idea of a companion website and you don't have to register the book to gain access.

    The minuses (and sadly there are many) are that the series formatting (and I'm assuming this since I've not reviewed a Visual Quickstart Guide before) makes reading this book so incredibly difficult, that I found myself looking for any excuse to put it down and look at something less visually confusing. I am primarily a visual learner and expected this book to sell itself in that arena. Instead, the publishers allowed the visual learning concept to boomerang.

    My recommendations for Negrino and Smith are that for the Seventh Edition (if it's forthcoming), they work with Peachpit Press and utilize a completely different presentation format. I'd like to read a version that really would be a "Visual Quickstart Guide" and a "Quick and Easy Way" to learn JavaScript (no way was I going to learn the ins and outs of AJAX in just 60 pages). Also, if they are going to continue using a companion website (and I like the idea), please have it up and running at least within 30 days of the book's publication date. I'm sorry Tom and Dori. I think you are good writers and you know your content...but actually reading the book gives me headaches.
     
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  2. juice142

    juice142 Megabyte Poster

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    No offense mate, you are the professional writer, but it's spelt 'sparse' - even in American English. :rolleyes:

    Can I have one of your bucks :eek: if I do the Paypal thingy? :biggrin

    You the man, :thumbleft

    J.
     
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  3. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    According to dictionary.com, my spelling is correct. On the other hand...

    I think you meant "books"...of course you could have just been putting me on. :tongue
     
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  4. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    Trip, old buddy, I think your eyes are failing you... your word was spelled "sparce"... that's the entry for "sparse".
     
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  5. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    You're right. My bad. :oops:

    Thank goodness for the EDIT button. Does any one have any comments about the review other than the fact that I mispelled a word? :wink:
     
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  6. Bluerinse
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    Bluerinse Exabyte Poster

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    Yes, as with your other reviews, I enjoyed reading it James. It was fair honest and to the point. I particularly liked the fact that it was a negative review - clearly not an easy thing to do.

    Pete
     
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  7. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    What he said. As always, well written. Negative reviews are especially tough when you know the writers personally, as you seem to indicate at the end of your review.
     
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  8. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    Actually, I don't know them at all. It just seemed the best way to express what I wanted to say.

    Of course, I don't like writing "negative" reviews however I can't be dishonest either. I know how difficult it is having someone be critical of your work. It's no fun, especially when you work so hard to write the best book you can. In truth, I was less critical of the authors than of the book's formatting. If Peachpit's Visual Quickstart Guide had a different presentation, the review might have been quite different.
     
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