Category Archives: Book Reviews

My collection of book reviews.

Review of Pro JavaScript Techniques

TLDR – #quarantineandchill gave me the opportunity to read a JavaScript book from 2006 by jQuery creator, John Resig. What could possibly be relevant? Parts 3-5: Unobtrusive JavaScript, Ajax and The Future of JavaScript.


Introduction

Books. How many of us have them? I for one have several but just because I own a collection doesn’t mean I’ve read them all. I’m trying to improve on that habit and in doing so, I recently discovered a purchase which I had not touched at all. 

What adds to the problem is that this is a tech book and for those of you who’ve touched on this type of literature, you know that it can be a very dry read.

That said, this book was and is for the most part still an important one to highlight. For all the web development addicts out there, this contribution is from John Resig, the creator of jQuery. His book, Pro JavaScript Techniques is almost 350 pages of content breaking down JavaScript implementations for commonplace interactions. Here’s the kicker – this book has a copyright of 2006 but there is a 2015 second edition.

Summary

Ironically, I could very well say that all chapters are important but that defeats the purpose. However, when tying in the lessons to modern day problems, three specific parts are very much everlasting:

PART 3 Unobtrusive JavaScript

Chapter 5: The Document Object Model

Take a tour of the HTML you use routinely through the perspective of the DOM. Here, you’ll take a glimpse of what the makeup of an HTML element looks like from JavaScript’s point of view, what you can do with it, how you can access it (by selector, XPath, etc.) and its surrounding parts like text, siblings and attributes.

Chapter 6: Events

Go head first into the crucial aspects of event bubbling, capturing and canceling. This deep dive will teach you how to tie user-driven behavior to an HTML element of your choice (e.g. clicking a button tag) and how that event is managed should more HTML be encapsulating that element. You’ll also learn ways on overwriting default web browser behavior (e.g. clicking an anchor tag – you may not want it heading into another page).

Chapter 7: JavaScript and CSS

Use plain ol’ vanilla JavaScript to access an element’s current style properties or create them on the fly, determine the x and y position of any element you reference, toggle visibility, animations, examine the viewport and play around with scrolling behaviors.

But the drag and drop section referenced some older technologies like script.aculo.us and moo.fx. I’d say it’s worth the read if you want to simply review on how code was organized. On the basis of that alone, it’s pretty clean (see Module Pattern by Addy Osmani).

Chapter 8: Improving Forms

In my opinion, this section alone is the BIGGEST win. Learn form validation in an exceptionally straightforward way. The markup alone is crystal clear and when you add John’s opinion on layering in validations for required fields, pattern matching and displaying error messages, it creates for a fairly strong HTML form for everyday use. I’d recommend you visit the codebase for more details.

PART 4 Ajax

Chapter 10: Introduction to Ajax

While deceptively simple, the concept of Ajax web applications is a powerful one.

Chapter 10: Introduction to Ajax (p. 232)

John provides a rundown of the full Ajax process and what’s involved with the HTTP request and response. He also provides insight on error handling and the types of data that gets passed back and forth between client and server. If you’re a server-side developer that makes APIs for a living, you would appreciate this chapter.

PART 5 The Future of JavaScript

Chapter 14: Where is JavaScript Going?

If you believe hindsight is 20/20 then give this chapter a go. Let expectations meet reality and observe what really did take place like Array Extras (p. 289-90) and Let Scoping (p. 290). Gloss over on what could have been by way of Comet (p. 301-03).

Conclusion

So, why did I bother with such an old book? A lot of us have John Resig to thank for not pulling our hair out when dealing with Internet Explorer. For those of you entering the field now, this comment holds zero weight but for those of us who developed sites and apps which pre-date the original iPhone and Google Chrome, know how much of a pain it was to equalize the playing field in what was then an IE6 marketplace. This book offered options on how to address the browser ecosystems of that time.

If taking this writeup at face value, you’ll want to ensure you are at minimum, a solid beginner at web development. Understand your HTML and CSS first, then you can begin to ponder why you’d need JavaScript in the first place. Rightfully so, this book (and I assume its 2015 follow-up) fits the bill for beginners and intermediates. If you feel you are far past this level, this book is not for you.

But for me personally, it was worth the time to at least leaf through these pages once before I set it back on the shelf. Some comments still hold true to this day (especially PARTS 3 and 4) and that’s ultimately what drove me to come full circle with the book as JavaScript sets foot into the next decade.


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Review of Soft Skills

Introduction

Coding is hard. And if you aren’t careful, it’ll suck you down a rabbit hole costing you the chance to be mindful of everything else. And that’s where this book comes into play.

Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual by John Sonmez, is a book which helped me understand that there’s more to this career path than creating object oriented code or deploying things into a cloud.

Here’s my summary and why I think you should add this to your developer book shelf.

Summary

The book is broken down into 7 thoughtful sections including: “Career”, “Marketing Yourself”, “Learning”, “Productivity”, “Financial”, “Fitness” and “Spirit”.

Sections are divided into chapters, with each chapter offering advice in short order and action items to do at the end. Think of this as a tiny list for you to digest. Use it as a way to take stock to then apply to your situation.

What’s Important

At 400ish pages in length, here’s what you’ll want to focus on first.

Career

People skills: You need them more than you think – a 5 page pep talk on informing you that it’s not all about code. John channels his inner Dale Carnegie to give advice on the ineffectiveness of criticizing other people, the value in avoiding arguments and more.

Marketing Yourself

Marketing basics for code monkeys – this headfirst explanation is written for the developer to understand the value of marketing oneself and options on how to do so.

Learning

Finding gaps in your knowledge – take inventory of where your knowledge gaps are with this series of written exercises challenging you to write down your questions and hardships with an intention to revisit them down the line.

Productivity

Pomodoro Technique – a timing exercise applicable to your daily work life. Although I don’t prescribe to the timer down to the exact second, I still leverage some form of this pattern throughout my day. It’s a nice flow of focus and rest that I strongly recommend you explore.

Financial

What are you going to do with your paycheck? – John paints a broad brush on finances, consistent in his opinions like other financial experts. Stop thinking short term and distinguishing between an asset and a liability are my personal favorites.

Fitness

Why you need to hack your health – a commitment to your health. Need I say more?

Spirit

Having the right mental attitude: Rebooting – this chapter molds itself as a personal reflection you must take when it comes to your thoughts. Essentially, techniques are given on how to take an x-ray of your thoughts and what to do with them next.

Conclusion

Enjoy the read. Don’t barrel through it. Read it in order. Jump around. It doesn’t matter.

John’s tone is very empathic. His narrative offers a sense of calm throughout and the format is set up for readers to consume advice in digestible pieces. If you choose to be in the software development career for the long haul, buy this book and never let it go.



This post may contain affiliate links. Should you make a purchase by clicking on any of the links, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Read my full affiliate disclosure here.

Review of WordPress In Easy Steps

Introduction

WordPress in easy steps by Darryl Bartlett, is a book which saved me when I was tasked with maintaining my company’s WordPress website. At last pass, the website was officially on PHP 7. Whereas my last freelance project used PHP 4.

Yikes 😶 .

I needed an insurance policy and I found this book to be a saving grace in helping me survive the modern day WordPress ecosystem.

Summary

The contents of this book are broken down into 11 condensed topics including: “Introduction to WordPress”, “Dashboard & Users”, “Appearance & Themes”, “Creating Content”,”Plugins”, “Creating an Online Store”, “Settings & Tools”, “SEO & Social Media”, “User Interaction”, “Tips & Tricks” and “Advanced WordPress”.

All chapters are condensed, straight to the point and are thoughtfully written. It’s not a complex read at all and each topic is fully supported with clear illustrations.

What’s Important

In order to thrive, you first must survive. And in my opinion out of all of the topics discussed you’ll want to focus on these 5 chapters first:

Dashboard & Users

You’re going to need to know the sidebar and the dashboard as a whole once logged in. The advice here breaks down the out of box WordPress sidebar and its available menu options. Find your way through the dashboard quickly and learn to add users to give them specific roles. Heads up, the more involved your WordPress development is (namely adding more plugins), the probability of your sidebar and dashboard becoming bloated would be high.

Appearance & Themes

Augmenting the look of your website will mean hitting the installed theme of your WordPress site. Here you’ll get the basics of what a theme is, how to install, upload and edit them.

Creating Content

Part of the grunt work will simply be adding or editing your site content. In this chapter, you’ll learn to distinguish between posts and pages and learn how to add text, images, video and audio.

Plugins

Most complex problems you encounter can most likely be solved in two ways: you code your way into solving the issue or you download a plugin from the open source community. Learn how to find, install, update and even edit a plugin. In my opinion, plugins are both a gift and a curse but you’re going to have to understand them, regardless. That said, I do not recommend you edit a plugin ever. That may break any licensing terms or cause undesirable side effects. Put that responsibility on the developer that built that plugin. Write a support ticket or contact them directly.

Settings & Tools

Learn the underpinnings of your WordPress ecosystem. Toggle each of the core settings and observe what they do. As important as it is to create a cool experience on the front-end, you’ll need to know what buttons to push behind the scenes to keep the entire house in order.

Conclusion

I strongly believe you could read this entire book in one focused hour. This book is a great utility to keep in arms reach when you need to quickly learn the outs of your WordPress environment. This isn’t a book to teach you WordPress on an academic level. It’s a book designed to keep the plane that’s already flying to still be at altitude.

If you’re looking to be immersed in the technical how-tos I’d recommend starting off with the source itself, WordPress.org. To add a bit of flavor, opinion and friendly guidance, follow Chris Coyier and CSS Tricks.



This post may contain affiliate links. Should you make a purchase by clicking on any of the links, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Read my full affiliate disclosure here.