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Book Reviewed: ASP.NET AJAX in Action by Alessandro Gallo, David Barkol, Rama Vavilala

April 20th, 2008

The authors of ASP.NET AJAX in Action did an OK (Average) job at presenting the ASP.NET AJAX Framework. However; this book lacked objectivity and suffered from hype. The authors didn't seem to have proficient experience with the JavaScript language, or enough experience with other AJAX Frameworks / Libraries, or sufficient experience using the ASP.NET AJAX Framework in real world projects. This book sadly felt like most technical books – average.

Comments like “we recommend that…”, “because it makes no sense…”, “you must rely on a special method…”, “you must understand X,Y,Z to run complex client-side code without writing a single line of JavaScript” were discouraging. Many of the “whys” were left answered and the technical inner workings of the framework often trivialized. Don't get me wrong, writing a book is incredibly time consuming, but if you're an author, presenter or the like, and you don't fully understand something then admit it. Do some research, provide some links, or move on. Consistently making comments like these bring the integrity of the whole text into question.

The ASP.NET AJAX Framework itself is technically flawed, bloated, and almost entirely impractical. I was disappointed with the server-centric approach that both the book and ASP.NET AJAX Framework takes. I was disappointed that the book continually pushed JavaScript under the carpet as magic and at the end of the book I was pleased to see the promise of making “the JavaScript code disappear” never was  fulfilled. JavaScript is the very most important part of AJAX, without the 'J' in AJAX, we're left with nothing – just 'Asynchronous', 'And', heaps of more ugly 'XML'.

When reading this book, take the contents and the ASP.NET AJAX Framework with a grain of salt, if you're really serious about learning AJAX then read JavaScript: The Definitive Guide by David Flanagan.

I typically only contribute positive reviews, but I don't agree with the majority of reviews found on Amazon and hope this review provides some objectivity. I commend the authors on their hard work, I'm probably being too harsh with this review – I know it's tough to write a book, and imagine they made many sacrifices as they worked towards tight deadlines.

View my review on Amazon.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: .NET, AJAX, ASP.NET, ASP.NET AJAX, Book, JavaScript, Review Tags:
  1. Frank Rizzo
    May 5th, 2008 at 06:19 | #1

    Seems like your comments are more about the framework than the book itself. So perhaps you should keep your criticism directing to the right channels.

  2. Todd
    May 5th, 2008 at 06:20 | #2

    I have to agree with Frank. You posted a poor review that is mainly a rant about the framework, not the book. So it’s pretty much useless.

  3. Adam Kahtava
    May 5th, 2008 at 06:23 | #3

    @Frank and @Todd you’re IP addresses are the identical, which leads me to believe that your the same person.

    “Seems like your comments are more about the framework than the book itself”

    The ASP.NET AJAX Framework is embarrassing, and the book is average. I believe I made that point here: “The authors of ASP.NET AJAX in Action did an OK job at presenting the ASP.NET AJAX Framework.”

    While it would be hard to write a good (above average) book about a bad framework, it’s not impossible. To write a good book the authors would need to dive deeper into the framework, do more research and better answer the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “why”, and “hows”. This book focused on the “hows” – comments like: “because it makes no sense…” in a text are a cry for more research.

    You suggested that I “should keep your criticism directing to the right channels”. Which channel would that be? Are you suggesting that I keep my opinion to myself?

    Bottom line, if you bought into the ASP.NET AJAX Framework won’t want to hear anything bad about the topic.

    Something to ponder: “The barrier to being a book author, as near as I can tell, is virtually nonexistent. The signal to noise of book publishing is arguably not a heck of a lot better than what you’ll find on the wilds of the internet. Of the hundreds of programming books released every year, perhaps two are three are truly worth the time investment.” – http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/001108.html

    This book is probably noise and not a good time investment.

  4. May 5th, 2008 at 06:24 | #4

    I just wanted to point out, Frank and Todd, that this is a review, posted on a personal blog. .. Which means that the author is entitled to his own opinion, and is inherently “in the right channel”. If you disagree with his opinion, then make an argument for why you think he is wrong. .. Don’t just fire off a quick “you suck” sentence. It just makes you look bad and nullifies your opinion.

    As for what I think about the book, I agree with Adam’s review in a lot of ways. While the book does contain some helpful information if one is trying to explore the ASP.NET AJAX framework, there IS a lot of noise. I did give the book a good review on my blog, immediately after reading it, but I didn’t read it from cover to cover. I focused on the helpful areas and all but ignored the chapters that seemed out of place. For a “drag and drop” developer, perhaps the book would be a good start. To give a bit more of a positive spin, I work with ASP.NET AJAX every day, and I do keep this book around as a reference. There is some good between the covers, although as this review shows, you do need to pick and choose. I think part of the reason the book is lacking in areas is because the authors were guessing at a lot of what would actually be implemented in the framework.
    As for the framework itself, I’m not going to take the time to comment on that at the moment. As I said, I work with it every day and I do agree that there is a lot of bad. But a lot of people, for whatever reason, are using it, and there are good aspects, and definitely ways to leverage the libraries in positive ways.

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