The Ajax Experience Day 1

Posted in the ajax experience by Kris Gray on September 30th, 2008

Another year another Ajax Experience. I’m certainly lucky that my company sees the benefits of these events and is willing to send me to them. I think I’ve learned a bunch from my last event and hope that I can present the information in an easier fashion.


This was a pretty similar keynote to the one last year. 

  • There was a brief mention of UX being crucial to the evolution of great, but no more follow up.
  • Ben and Dion did this thing where they setup a random buzzer and when it sounded they would trade off on who was speaking. Sure kept things interesting. 
  • More of a hello, this stuff is exciting talk.
Google Chrome
Its interesting that this year seams to be the year of the JavaScript engine. It was a big reason for the conception of a new browser on behalf of google. 
  • Started the browser project 2 years ago, when JavaScript engines weren’t getting a lot of attention.
  • Based on the rendering engine of WebKit. They liked webkit because it was fast.(May have been some other reasons but they escape my memory)
  • 3 Core principals (Stability, Performance, Developer Friendly)
  • Plan to continue development with those 3 principals in mind.
  • No never ending alert box
  • Use the nightlies, they haver lots of good stuff in them.
  • Linux and Mac are first class citizens in terms of importance, they just aren’t releasable yet.
Top 10 Cross Browser Issues
I was like 5 minutes late to this session so I didn’t catch the introductions, there was some good content in here that I’m just not going to be able to get to detailed on.
  • Dropping support for Safari 2. Doesn’t have good accessibility capabilities. 
  • Most on the panel agreed there are 2 main levels of support. Primary which means we want everything working perfectly in that browser, and the others where if its crashing we’ll fix it, otherwise maybe we’ll think about it.
  • There was a lengthy talk about browser detection vs feature detection. With jQuery moving to feature detection John was in the camp that if you do feature detection then you have future browser support. 
  • When do you begin testing a browser release seriously? Beta.
  • What browser inconsistencies do you despise the most? (No way to detect if an event is implemented, Rich text editors, accurate attribute values back from IE–href, HasLayout)
  • What JS Library would you suggest if you couldn’t suggest your own. (Prototype guy: jQuery, Dojo Guy: Goo, Yahoo Guy: jQuery, JohnResig: Prototype)
  • Would you ever consider consolidating the libraries? Not suprisingly dojo has already been doing this, the other libraries didn’t say anything.
That was the end of Day 1. Day 2 is 12 hours of learning fun, so I’ll have lots more to cover.
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Project Horror Story

Posted in entertainment by Kris Gray on September 24th, 2008

I’ve read a lot about process, methodologies, and project life cycles. I’ve been able to put those practices in place quite a bit, and I never though I would be involved in the type of project I am involved with now. I can’t but help blog about it, even though I know its not in my best interest to do so. Anyway, on with the show.

We (as in Method SF) were pulled in about 2 weeks ago to help out on a project that was frankly going into the toilet, quickly. The team had estimated about 8 days of work, for 3 developers to get it all done, and it turns out they were just freakishly optimistic.

The first thing that happens is that our two best flash guys get immediately put on the super hard feature of the site which is this fancy flash video selector.  Then, me and another guy get pulled in to do QA on HTML templates, which have yet to be integrated with the system. Finally, we pull in the last remaining guy on our tech team who wasn’t involved with the project (now 5 of us) to do additional QA and help out any way he can.

Now besides the fact that we know this is a recipe for failure (people go around quoting Mythical Man Month, and something about 9, 1 month baby’s) we still think it is the only way to get the project done by Monday. No not this next Monday (its Tuesday as I write this) but yesterday, which was supposed to be the end of development and the start of QA. They actually worked over the weekend to try to his this date, which doesn’t seem that silly but it gets more ridiculous.

They worked over the weekend, did a whole bunch of work, but it still turns out we won’t be ready to integrate what we are doing in our office with the other groups work till Thursday. We don’t actually expect to be done with development till Friday, and of course they are presenting to the client on Monday.

Now if its a little hard to understand the big WTF here, the gist is that they plan to code 12-14 hour days just to get every feature implemented by Friday, so they can show the client their nearly finished product. The expectations here are not beta quality, but QA complete, getting ready to ship work. That’s never going to happen. The project will be smoke, mirrors, and most likely a Blue Screen of Death.

Monday also happens to be the day that the other group is planning to start phase 2 of the project, with a whole new set of requirements. Not only do they plan to be finished with the current site, they want to add on a whole new batch of work, basically making a QA pass impossible.

All through this process we’ve made attempts to get the left over work estimated and real expectations set, tried to get the customers expectations modified, and basically try to do everything in a smart intelligent way considering we know that the site won’t actually be ready when everyone is really really hoping it will be.

Hoping won’t change reality, if there are 10 people working on 30 features, and its going to take a month, then stop hoping and start doing something productive. Like managing the client, telling them you F’d up and that its going to take longer then expected.

I can’t believe I’m on a project like this, absolutely horrendous.

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StackOverflow, seriously fun leisure reading.

Posted in entertainment by Kris Gray on September 19th, 2008

I’ve really been enjoying StackOverflow since it came out. If your not familiar with Jeff Atwood’s new site, here is the vision statement he blogged about at the onset of the project.


Stackoverflow is sort of like the anti-experts-exchange (minus the nausea-inducing sleaze and quasi-legal search engine gaming) meets wikipedia meets programming reddit. It is by programmers, for programmers, with the ultimate intent of collectively increasing the sum total of good programming knowledge in the world. No matter what programming language you use, or what operating system you call home. Better programming is our goal.


The core directive Jeff and Joel set out to address was the issue of a good place to go for development knowledge. If you had a question, there should be once place that you know it should either be answered already, or shortly after you ask it.  

Jeff even goes as far as putting up a witty inspirational image with the caption STACKOVERFLOW: None of us is as Dumb as All of Us. Which again references that knowledge-base aspect of the site.

But I’m finding the real value in this site is actually for entertainment purposes. I probably take a break 2-3 times a day, and with my iPhone, when I’m waiting for a meeting or Appt., I can be just browsing the internet 10-12 times a day just killing time. For me to be able to browse StackOverflow and check out what the latest greatest questions that have been asked, questions that I might be able to help out with, or just questions with funny answers that means I get to do more then kill time reading Digg I actually get to learn as my entertainment. 

With that in mind, I think you could take the following Venn diagram Jeff uses to describe the site, and move the Digg/Reddit circle right on top of that asterisk.

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