Friday, December 09, 2005

Ajax day out

I had the pleasure of attending the Carson Workshops 'Get Started with Ajax' beano led by Thomas Fuchs, a contributor to the Prototype Javascript framework, Ruby on Rails, & many other good things.

The event was well worth attending. The venue was good, easy to find, with nice nosh & a pleasant, not too pretentious, ambiance.

Thomas himself has an excellent grasp of English, altho he seemed to sound more germanic after my lunch time beer, as he warmed to his theme of the superior qualities of Ruby as a development framework. It was also particularly nice to see one of his Ruby examples refusing to work (been there before), despite repeated suggestions from the floor. It was sort of extreme programming gone mad as one after another, delegates shouted unsuccessful modifications. In the end Thomas thought it was a problem of an incompatible upgrade & I was left thanking Java for backwards compatibility. Nothing like this to put you off taking the next great leap forward.

What was particularly useful were the 'tales from the coalface'. The where/when not to use Ajax & some of the browser quirks. Thomas's insights might save your project weeks of head scratching and even possible failure. One tip was to return html fragments rather than xml because browser rendering tended to be quicker.

The real world examples were thought provoking & some were just plain cool. Others demonstrated Thomas's own stricture that just because you could use Ajax, it doesn't mean you should - at least one example had this in mind I think.

My only real gripe was that this wasn't really what I understand by a workshop. Sure, Thomas explained the code, & even wrote some there & then, however, no one else got to make the kind of mistakes that really teach you something. With 50 delegates, & a large topic, this was inevitable. Economics are economics. Yet, I'd have preferred the morning to be the overview & the lesssons learned, & the afternoon to have been given over to small group work building something that put Ajax to the test. Learning by doing is an established paradigm and it is ultimately more beneficial than listening to a speaker.

All in all, a worthwhile event & a good day out. Thomas is impressive in his way, & I think I've probably short cut my learning curve considerably. I'll take that as a result.
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