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By the Book

Text by John Lampard

For many bloggers their writing is a labour of love. And while few could imagine being approached by a publisher and asked to write a book as a result of their efforts, that is exactly what happened to Melbourne web designer Cameron Adams.

Cameron has recently completed co-writing The JavaScript Anthology, with British freelance web developer James Edwards. In early 2005, Sitepoint, a publisher specialising in content for web professionals, contacted Cameron, after seeing his blog at The Man in Blue, and asked if he would be interested in writing a JavaScript book.

Motivated by the prospect of having such an achievement to his name, Cameron required little persuasion.

“I naturally leapt at the idea. After thinking a little bit about the reasoning behind the book, it made sense because 2005 was the year when JavaScript was re-included into the future of the web,” he says.

“Google’s host of applications relied heavily upon it, as did the slew of other Web 2.0, AJAX powered applications, like Flickr, Basecamp, Meebo, and Netvibes, amongst others.”

Cameron presenting at Web Essentials 2005
Cameron presenting at Web Essentials 2005
© Photo by Amit Karmakar

Once Cameron’s proposal for the structure and content of the book was finalised, the publisher teamed him up with James in April 2005 to begin writing. This was to speed up production, and capitalise of the resurgence of interest in JavaScript, says Cameron.

“With the popularity of Web 2.0 applications a focus was naturally placed upon the technologies behind them, and how they could be incorporated into other websites. But aside from those who were writing the cutting edge stuff, the average level of JavaScript knowledge had slid pretty rapidly in the years since the dot com crash,” he says.

The JavaScript Anthology provides an extensive range of solutions for JavaScript aided web-page interaction, covering anything from rounding numbers, to drag-and-drop interfaces, and creating web-page editors. Also included are working examples, and access to a downloadable code library.

While collaborating with a partner on the other side of the world had its moments, Cameron and James, communicating mostly via instant messaging, had little trouble establishing a working relationship. The partnership proved extremely worthwhile given James’ considerable expertise in the field, says Cameron.

The JavaScript Anthology cover
Cover of The JavaScript Anthology

“James is an extremely avid supporter of accessibility, be it in HTML or JavaScript, so he’s always approaching problems from that angle; which has produced some really great discussion about each other’s work,” he says.

“He’s probably most well known for his uber–comprehensive menu–ing system, Ultimate Drop Down Menu, which is mouse accessible, keyboard accessible, screen reader accessible, and God knows what else. Llamas can probably use it!”

While writing a book of this nature requires considerable thought, given the rapid innovation and change of web technologies, the proposition is far more viable today, than during the browser wars of the late nineties, for example.

During this period, browser manufacturers often using propriety technologies, were almost making up the rules as they went along. Cameron is confident that with the increasing adoption of web standards, printed technical references will better stand the test of time.

“The push into web standards – HTML/XML, CSS, JavaScript, the Document Object Model – has given modern web development a very stable platform to build upon. This means that you’ll be able to print a book today and rely upon the information in that book remaining current for years to come,” he says.