Online Reading

While I am still busy working on the mobile social software book chapter, I feel that my mind starts moving onward to do some creative (non-scientific) work. And so I read two very nice books on safari this evening. One was about programming JavaScript and the other one was about giving presentations. While both books are very inspiring, they were also so nicely written that it was possible to get through both books in one evening (including helping Marcus to get along with ldap errors). Both books are pretty recent and nice food for thought, so I like to recommend them.

The good parts of JavaScript

The first book is "JavaScript: The Good Parts" by Douglas Crockford, published on 2 May 2008 by O'Reilly (and on safari). There is quite a bunch of JavaScript and AJAX books around, but with most of them I had the bad feeling that there was nothing really new for non-beginners. This book is different. First of all it is not a book for beginners in JavaScript or programming in general. Instead the author looks thoroughly at the concepts and programming paradigms of JavaScript. By doing so Douglas Crockford highlights the aspects that make JavaScript such a powerful language for the web.

I liked the reflections on typing and object orientation from which I learned several new things - including some misconceptions I had with this part of the language myself (see past blog entires). From the book I learned, how much strictly typed programming languages influenced my view on object oriented programming. I found it quite enlightening to read that the entire classification paradigm (which I also mimicked in parts of my code) is part of the heritage of strongly typed languages, and that object orientation does not necessarily need classes to be efficient.

Another thing that I like with the book is that it also highlights those bits of JavaScript that are ugly and bad, and how they can be avoided. For example, I was not aware that there are several ways of testing if two variables are equal, and that exactly those operators that I use in my code are not always consistent in their runtime behaviour; or - as another example - that the value of NaN is not equal to itself.

Zen - or the Art of Presentation

The second book I read is "Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery" by Garr Reynolds (published by New Riders on 17 Dec 2007). I stumbled upon this book while browsing the publishers of my safari subscription. I knew the ZEN series for web development and expected something similar - and I got disappointed. Not that this book is bad, it simply does not come with inspiring examples of PowerPoint presentations as I expected. Instead the book explores the process of presenting as a whole.

The book comes with a lot of "inspiring" Zen style photos from iStock, which I disliked. They took too much space in the book, which means that the pages took "ages" to load and that they drew the attention from the spirit of the book. What I liked with the book is that Reynolds focused on using PowerPoint as part of a storytelling approach, which has to be constructed thoroughly. And this is what most of the book is about - preparing and designing the storytelling of presentations by making appropriate use of the technology.

Although the book does not come with many new insights, to me its power lies in stimulating and inspiring reflection on how I present and how I prepare my presentations.