Rey Bango

Web developer, honey badger

Book Review: Rework by 37Signals

rework-bookI decided to take a break from just reading development books and picked up a copy of Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hanson. If you don’t know there names, it’s almost certain you’d recognize (and probably used) their products like Basecamp, Highrise, Campfire and other goodness from 37Signals, the company they founded.

As professional developers it’s important to not only think in zeros and ones but also in how to make what you’re building great; both from a technical and customer perspective. The latter is really what I think the book is about. It’s definitely a business book and if you get it (which I recommend), you need to shift your thought process a little to understand how your development skills can be applied to building a business that’s successful and that customers love.

What I loved about the structure of this books is that it’s broken down into quick hit sections. There are no LONG, drawn out chapters that put you to sleep. The book is setup in main topic sections, each broken down into the quick-hit subtopics I was referring to. A main topic would be something like “Competitors” followed by sub-topics (usually a page or two) that dives into an area such as not copying another product or allowing your company to form it’s own culture as opposed to trying to dictate it.

I will say that in every major section, I got something valuable out of it and I could relate to a lot of the writings. For example, in the “Own your bad news”, I absolutely loved the advice of taking ownership when you mess up and being honest not only about the problem but how you’re going to fix it. And even something as simple as how to say you’re sorry resonated immensely. They were spot on with how annoying it is to hear someway say “We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.” How about something like, “I’m really sorry about this and we’re going to make it right.” Jason & DHH nailed that one.

And the list goes on and on. I came away with a different perspective on how I look at product development, customer relations, time management and more. The great thing is that it’s an incredibly easy read. You could probably finish it in a day. Overall, I think it’s a great book for anyone to read and if you’re starting up your own business, I would say it’s a must read.

Eloquent JavaScript is one of the Best JavaScript Books I’ve Read

The kind folks at No Starch sent me over a copy of the newly released book, Eloquent JavaScript by Marjin Haverbeke. I had already been recommending the namesake site as a must-read resource on my list of What to Read to Get Up to Speed in JavaScript so actually having the book was a welcome change. I know some people love to read stuff on the web but call me old fashioned in that I really like the feel of a book in my hands.

What I loved about this book is that it’s not your typical reference tomb. The basic premise is that it’s going to teach you proper constructs for writing solid JavaScript code as opposed to listing every method, attribute, data type or property ever included in the JavaScript language. It gets straight to the meat of JavaScript development, introducing you to the basic constructs of the language and then quickly diving into more complex topics such as partials and currying. This is all done in a step-by-step approach to give the reader an opportunity to not only digest the material but also see actual results in real-time. Definitely a great approach.

Differences Between the Site and the Book

As I mentioned the book is based on the great work that Marjin did on the namesake site. I’ve seen the site and absolutely love it but to me, I feel the book is a MUCH more organized version of his thoughts. The content is broken down into logical sections with better headers which makes conceptualizing specific areas much easier.

And again, I truly am partial to reading books instead of websites so for me, having the book was a real blessing.

What about JavaScript Libraries?

This book is really focused on the JavaScript language itself and not libraries. If you’re interested in really becoming a better JavaScript developer so you can take full advantage of your favorite library, then this book is a great choice. It’s a complementary selection.

Book Review: A Book Apart’s HTML5 for Web Designers by Jeremy Keith

I just finished A Book Apart’s first book titled HTML5 for Web Designers. The book, written by well-known developer Jeremy Keith, and provides an overview of HTML5. I was pretty hyped up to receive this book and pre-ordered it based on my experience with Jeremy’s previous book.

My Thoughts

If you’re totally new to HTML5, this book will give you a good overview of the new spec. It’s not a highly technical book and is meant to provide the reader with an understanding of the evolution of the spec as well as some of the most important features of HTML5 including Canvas, video and updated form capabilities. The book is very short (only 85 pages) and extremely easy to read, which allowed me to finish it off in about 2-3 days of non-contiguous reading. I also liked Jeremy’s use of humor throughout the book.

With that said, this book is definitely not a deep-dive into HTML5 and if you’re expecting to pick it up and actually learn how to use the new features, I think you’ll be disappointed. While there are some technical nuggets (especially around Canvas), the book is really just an overview with very little technical meat to it. And I believe that’s the way that A Book Apart is trying to promote their books; quick, easy-to-read materials that get you good information fast.

What I would recommend is that if you’re looking to get a 10,000 foot view of HTML5, pick up this book. It’s definitely worthwhile from that perspective. If you’re looking to better understand the implementation of specific features, then this is not the right choice. And I offer this recommendation whether you’re a developer or designer. Better resources for a deeper, technical understanding of HTML5 include:

Dive Into HTML5
HTML5 Demos
HTML5 Doctor

All of these are listed in the Resources section of the book and having read them previously truly are excellent sites for deep-diving into HTML5.

The Essential List of JavaScript, jQuery, HTML & CSS Books to Make You a Better Web Developer

Over the years, I’ve read or been recommended a number of books which are essential reading for professional web developers. I’ve compiled the list of books below to help the community find a comprehensive list of good books that can help them be better coders.

JavaScript

Professional JavaScript for Web Developers – My new favorite book. Almost 1,000 pages of VERY detailed JavaScript information. Written by Nicholas Zakas, Yahoo! Principal Front-end Engineer for Yahoo!’s home page and recommended by the YUI team as well. BUY THIS BOOK!

JavaScript: The Definitive Guide – Considered the Bible of JavaScript for its thorough coverage of JavaScript. You need to have this in your library, even as a reference.

DOM Scripting: Web Design with JavaScript and the Document Object Model – This is a good book to get you familiar with the DOM.

AdvancED DOM Scripting: Dynamic Web Design Techniques

Beginning JavaScript with DOM Scripting and Ajax: From Novice to Professional – The book by Christian Heilmann that really got me past the initial hump of plain ‘ole JavaScript. His writing style is awesome.

Object-Oriented JavaScript: Create scalable, reusable high-quality JavaScript applications and libraries – JUST BUY THIS BOOK! Stoyan did a great job of outlining OOJS principles and it’s been incredibly valuable.

JavaScript: The Good Parts – It’s certainly a good book and I would recommend reading it after one of the more intro books like JS for Web Developer by Nicholas Zakas.

Learning jQuery 1.3 – While covering jQuery v1.3, the techniques discussed are still useful and I still recommend the book highly.

Pro JavaScript Techniques – John Resig’s famous book on advanced JS techniques.

Secrets of the JavaScript Ninja – Still not out but considering that John Resig is that author, it’s sure to be great.

ppk on JavaScript, 1/e – One of the first books I picked up and great overview of the language.

Accelerated DOM Scripting with Ajax, APIs, and Libraries

Ajax Security – Billy Hoffman is the man when it comes to Ajax security and this books shows why.

jQuery Cookbook: Solutions & Examples for jQuery Developers (Animal Guide) – Tips & techniques from the jQuery team rolled up in a cookbook style. You can’t go wrong.

jQuery in Action, Second Edition – This is now updated for jQuery v1.4.x as well as jQuery UI 1.8.x. Definitely a must-have for jQuery developers

jQuery Enlightenment – Cody Lindley did an amazing job in outlining the best jQuery techniques in this self-published book. Totally worth the price.

Test-Driven JavaScript Development

jQuery: Novice to Ninja

HTML & CSS

Web Standards Solutions: The Markup and Style Handbook, Special Edition

Bulletproof Web Design: Improving flexibility and protecting against worst-case scenarios with XHTML and CSS (2nd Edition)

The Art & Science Of CSS – This is one of Sitepoint’s best CSS books. Loved it.

HTML Utopia: Designing Without Tables Using CSS, 2nd Edition – Not being a designer, I thought this book was a tremendous help in understanding how to better design sites.

Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML – This has been my goto book for some time. The Head First books are just so great at breaking down topics in easy to understand ways and this book is no exception.

Introducing HTML5 (Voices That Matter) – Going to get this soon mainly because it’s written by Remy Sharp and Bruce Lawson whom I respect tremendously, especially for their HTML5 & CSS3 savvy.

HTML5 For Web Designers – Just got this on 7/19/10. Need to read it by it’s by Jeremy Keith and he rocks.

CSS Cookbook, 3rd Edition (Animal Guide) – Just picked this up on a recommendation.

CSS: The Missing Manual – I keep hearing rave reviews about this book all over the place.

Site Performance & Enhancement

High Performance Web Sites: Essential Knowledge for Front-End Engineers – Steve Souders is the performance guru and if you want your apps to perform better, get this book and the one right below this one.

Even Faster Web Sites: Performance Best Practices for Web Developers

High Performance JavaScript (Build Faster Web Application Interfaces) – Again, another great book by Nicholas Zakas which outlines very important performance techniques for JavaScript applications.

Designing with Progressive Enhancement: Building the Web that Works for Everyone – Great book on progressive enhancement by the superstars at the Filament Group.

This is certainly not all inclusive and I’m sure there are other books out there that have been great. If you feel very passionate about a specific title, let me know via the comments and I’ll check it out.

Book Review: Crush It!

I picked up Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book Crush It!. I had the pleasure of seeing Gary give a presentation at FOWA Miami and the man can totally get you pumped up. So I really wanted to get this book to understand more about what drives him and if it’s something that can help me in my professional and personal life.

crushit

The book revolves around building your brand, something that I’ve been working hard on for some time. Yes, I have a brand and it’s called “Rey Bango”. This is why every account I create on social networking sites and even the domain name of my site is based on my name. In reading through the chapters, it was cool to be able to identify the things that I had already done and if anything, the book served to as reassurance that I was thinking along the same lines as someone very successful in brand building.

While I did like the book as a whole, the biggest value for me came after chapter 6 when he discusses about cultivating your community and ensuring authenticity in your approach. Much of what he discussed resonated with me because of the efforts I’ve made in helping to build the jQuery community as well as building my personal network of professionals. I especially liked his focus on maintaining authenticity & transparency with your community (i.e.: keep it real).

Prior to that, the information wasn’t very useful to me mainly because it focused on things I had already done to build my brand. If you’re just getting started on that though, I do feel that every chapter can be extremely helpful in understanding how to build awareness about you and your passion.

This is the first book I’ve read in a long time where I genuinely didn’t put it down from the moment I started reading it. It’s a short read (~150 pages) and I finished it in a day but it was well-worth the purchase. I’d say that anyone who is genuinely interested in raising their profile and building their brand should pick up this book. Don’t expect it to be a step-by-step tutorial with a lot of hand holding but do expect some good examples of what you can do and a decent explanation of the tools you can leverage to build your brand.

Update: If you look in the comments, Gary Vaynerchuk commented demonstrating that he does practice what he preaches in his book!

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