Some Thoughts on AJAX

3 Aug 2005 In: Technobabble

For several years now I have been working as a Web Application Developer. I started out working with my friend Jeremy reverse engineering and hacking up a PERL driven flat file database application to create a jobs website for Colorado State University.

Soon enough ASP came along and I moved up to creating true database driven websites with Microsoft Access and VBScript. I did a few projects with those tools before I woke up and moved on to using a LAMP environment. It was a lot like developing in ASP except with, you know, actual error messages and a heck of a lot more support on the web.

You would have to be living under a rock not to have heard all about AJAX if you are a web developer. Most every other technology worker has heard of it by now as well and it has been taking the internet by storm. One thing I find amusing are all the articles and examples I read of people who try and reject the term AJAX to describe a technique that they have been using for some time. I think they’re just jealous they didn’t come up with a name first.

Now on the cusp of releasing my first fully fledged AJAX based web application I feel like I have enough background to offer some comments and criticism. One major red flag that comes up for me are the use of SPI’s (Single Page Interfaces) and search engine compatibility. How can something spider and index your site, and provide links pointing back to it if there is only one URL for dozens of pages of content?

The other thing I have concerns about is usability. Working for a University means I have to be much more sensitive my potential audience than a corporate developer might be. I’m sure that these issues will be addressed as the movement progresses.

I love the way this new application feels. It’s so responsive and, well, it’s just cool. I wish I could share it with you but it handles confidential data. Once I got the hang of the mechanisms for communication the doors opened up and everything just got easy. If any of you are curious, here are some links that got me on the road to AJAX bliss.

Great PHP/MySQL AJAX Tutorial

Detailed Description of the XMLHTTPRequest Object
More XMLHTTPRequest Object Goodness
Working Examples of AJAX Applications
XMLHTTPRequest Usability Article
XMLHTTPRequest Wiki

Happy Birthday to Me

2 Aug 2005 In: Miscellaneous

Today is my birthday. I’m just shy of accumulating three decades of life on Earth. If you have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to give someone a lot of cash, or that rare exotic animal that is one of the last three in existence, send them now! 😀

Tragedy in Plastic

1 Aug 2005 In: Observations

Last week I took my lunch hour to run down to the Social Security office on the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver. After being turned away at the door for the Swiss army knife on my keychain I stashed it across the street behind a concrete trash bin and went back in. They gave me a number, 133, and there was no “now being served” sign to be found. I was told I could have a seat and wait or I could get in line and maybe I would be served before my number was called. In hindsight I cannot figure out why some people are given numbers and some are told to wait in line. It all seems rather silly.

So I got in line and stood there for some time. No numbers were called and no one in the line moved forward. Two of the four counters had plywood nailed over them and one of them was vacant. The center of the room had rows of hard chairs bolted to the floor and not one of them was vacant. I silently cursed at myself for leaving my book at the office. “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” would be a cheery escape compared to the faces and ambience of this cramped little room with fluorescent lighting.

The minutes crawled mercilessly by. Five minutes. Ten minutes. The line remained the same, the crowded seats stayed crowded. From what I could see not a single person had been helped. It was right about then that a woman in line up ahead of me caught my eye. She looked Hispanic, but with very light skin so I couldn’t be sure. Her short, dark, curly, oversized hair was accented by some poor silky looking black shirt. The synthetic fabric was stretched across her skin like an explorer, leaving no fold or crack unfound. After what appeared to be 5 or 6 decades on the planet, there was plenty of creative terrain to be displayed too.
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