When Surface Acquaintaince Becomes Practical Knowledge

In my pursuit to become more literate in the web-development world I recently made a few purchases of technology books that I hope will accelerate my understanding of things like Ajax, DOM, Json, JavaScript, Java…etc. I know that there is a wealth of material available for free on the internets but there’s just something about a good book that makes learning so much easier. Key word there is good!

A good book I’ve just finished reading (and written a review on) is “Head Rush Ajax“by Brett McLaughlin. Thanks to the freaky layout and writing style (it’s definitely not your typical technical resource!) this was a book that I quickly worked through and at least now I have a firmer grasp of concepts that were just acquaintances before.

For instance, I now know:

  • AJAX – isn’t a new language. It is simply a “method” of coding (using existing languages – JavaScript primarily) to enable visitors of a web-page interact with a page without having to reload it. Of course, I already knew of AJAXian goodness from using all the various web-apps that apply it – but it’s neat to know that it’s really not that hard to work with – it certainly isn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be.
  • DOM – Wow! What was I missing! I had no idea there was such hidden power in the browser and that so much could be manipulated by accessing the DOM tree 🙂 Of course to seasoned developers the DOM is nothing new – but it was one of those terms I saw referenced and mentioned but never realized it’s application. Understanding DOM is one of those knowledge bits that kind of pieces the puzzle together for so many code snippets that didn’t make sense to me before. Now when I read a bit of Java-script I’ll know what document.getElementByID("gotcha") means. To any neophyte web-monkey’s reading this…learn DOM!
  • XML – Okay I knew a little bit of XML before reading this book but the book helped me understand the far-reaching applications of XML that I didn’t know of before.
  • JSON – Hee hee, now when someone mentions JSON I’ll know they aren’t talking about that guy from Friday the 13th. This JSON is so much cooler! But since the book just scratched the surface on JSON vs. XML there’s a lot more learning that I’ve gotta do with it.

Bottom line, I’m glad I invested a few bucks in the book. It will be a good resource for me as I try out AJAX on my own and has opened up a new world of web-application and website prettification that was just a dream for me before.

An added bonus? I’ve got some ideas for how I want to improve my Organize Series WordPress Plugin 😉

Announcing new Support Forum for Neurotic Plugins

Thanks to the suggestions of one of the users of my Organize Series WordPress plugin – I’ve decided to set up some support forums for the plugins that I write. For now, Organize Series is the only significant plugin I’ve published but the forums should make it easier for users to contribute towards future versions, report bugs, and request help with installation and usage. I’ve still left comments open on the plugin page for now BUT I will only be responding to support requests through the forums.

One year of Unfolding Neurons…missed the anniversary!

I’ve been struggling with a little bit of writer’s block for some time now. It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about – it’s just that I’ve been so overwhelmed with things happening in my life the last few months and the things I want to get done that writing entries to my blog has slowly made it’s way to the bottom of the to-do list.

Tonight I was just doing some reading and realized that I missed the one year birthday of Unfolding Neurons! May 13, 2006 was when I wrote my first article entitled “First Post” – I know, creative isn’t it? Back then Unfolding Neurons was known as ‘Yet another Ramble’, and was just an experiment trying out the new blogging software I came across called WordPress. In the past year I’ve grown to really love WordPress. I experimented with different themes, finally went out and got my own domain name (changing Yet Another Ramble to Unfolding Neurons in the process), created a new website to host the sermons that I preach at my church (using WordPress of course), redid my church website to use WordPress, created a family blog using WordPress, learned a lot of PHP and MySql and strengthened my knowledge of .css and html/x-html, designed a couple themes (not publicly released…too embarrassing), and released a WordPress plugin I wrote for organizing series of articles.

My knowledge of programming useful in web-development has grown exponentially and I’m discovering that I have a real joy and knack for working on internet related applications. Who knows what the next year will bring?

Of course, Unfolding Neurons continues to fulfill it’s purpose of being a brain dump of all the things filling my mind – albeit it’s turned out to be a bit more structured than I originally planned it to be. No doubt I probably don’t keep a lot of readers because of my jumping all over different topics on this blog but that’s just the way it is – I’m an eclectic guy and I wanted a place where I could record the various ideas, opinions, insights, and blabbers (a new word maybe?) that occur to me. Of course, I’ve learned to be careful of exactly what I do record but for the most part things on this site are as candid as it can be. Now that I’ve had some experience with the wonderful world of feeds and cross-blog publishing I’ll probably start up some more niche-oriented blogs in the coming year that will pull related posts from Unfolding Neurons.

I’m getting the itch to change the looks of Unfolding Neurons yet again…the current design and layout is starting to irritate me. Perhaps I’ll give another whirl at a custom theme…although I’ll probably just go with customizing one of the excellent existing themes already available from the great WordPress community!

Well, looking back over the past year makes me shudder a bit at the wealth of knowledge I’ve gained and the number of new things I’ve started in the online world. But that isn’t the whole picture of course. There’s so much more that has happened in my offline world as well…but that’s not for this post (and maybe just maybe will make it to a future post…if I get time that is 😉 )