Review of 'Ajax for Web Application Developers' by Kris Hadlock (2006)

The short stick: New to Ajax? You may want to look elsewhere ...

I've been working on the Web for a handful+ of years, but save for a brief stunt back in the late 90s, I haven't had much use for JavaScript (with the exception of a few one/two-liners). As such, I came to this book as a new-comer to Ajax.

I also like to learn by way of example, instead of explanation, so code examples are a big plus, if not a requirement.

Unfortunately, from this background, my expectations for this book appear to have been set too high.  Granted, it may be because of the lack of full examples in the book (and that they are not available online - more on this momentarily).  In fact, that's probably the only thing holding me back.

There's minor errors in code in the book as well, but that's to be expected, and a second edition/printing will fix most of these.  By itself, this shouldn't hold you back.

But as a beginner's resource, I'm not sure that this is the book you'd want to pick up.  I actually recommend that you take a look elsewhere, particularly online, for how to start with Ajax.

Once you've got the basics down, then you can take a look at this book, as it does provide from very good tips as far as keeping your code standardized.

Had I been the first reviewer, I would have given this book four stars.  Since I was not, I have decided to give it three.  This is because I feel it's a good book, but not for as large an audience as you may think, based upon reading the description.  Again, I feel that this book is more for if you've worked with Ajax, but not in a standard/formal way.


Regarding the code I mentioned above, while it's true that there is a zip file of the code files, I don't feel that it truly contains all of the necessary code.  Again, keep in mind that I like to work with full code examples, especially when we're talking about JavaScript (since code is sometimes required in the HEAD, and sometimes not).

I have another Developer's Library book, PHP and MySQL Web Development (the Third Edition), so that's part of why my expectations may have been so high.  But, I wasn't expecting the amount of full code that the ColdFusion MX 7 'blue books' provides. ;)

Even if you don't have a working application, let me see where you, the author, are at the end of a section or chapter, even if we're just creating one new file and/or adding code to an existing/new file.  This goes for whether you write online or not.  If there's code in a chapter, and it's not a snippet, than I'd like to see how the full document's code looks.

I don't care that it's not a complete application, I just may want to have your code on screen while I read through the chapter.

Update, 08/23/2007

On, another reviewer of this text referred to my review, particularly regarding my comments on not being for beginners. My comment on his review is below.

Hi Rich.

Since I think you were referring to me, I'll elaborate.

You're right that it doesn't say this book is for beginners, but even having expanded my knowledge since my original review, this book still falls far short of my expectations for a readable text for what the book's description offers.

From the book description, we find the following:

"Ajax for Web Application Developers provides the in-depth working knowledge of Ajax that web developers need to take their web applications to the next level."

This suggests to me that Web developers (id est, those who have developed for the Web, whether it be static or dynamic languages) can, with this book, begin down that dark path of using Ajax for their applications.

I think this book was marketed to beginners of Ajax (especially in some electronic newsletters around the time of its publication) when it most definitely should not have been.

I think even your review shows some of this confusion:

"It's a book for web application developers seeking to incorporate AJAX technology into web applications. I wouldn't expect a book with that kind of scope to be appropriate for beginners."

Perhaps our ideas of Web applications are different, but I'm frankly confused on why you'd implement Ajax on anything but a Web application (unless we were to focus on the iPhone and try to swim in those muddy, and getting muddier, waters).

I would like to hear your thoughts on this, as I may be missing a very important point.

BTW: I did, otherwise, find your review helpful and have marked it as such.