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Archive for the ‘ASP.NET AJAX’ Category

Don’t Write Frameworks For Dummies

February 5th, 2009

Eric Evans offers this piece of advice:

Don’t write frameworks for dummies. [Frameworks designed by organizations] that assume some developers are not smart enough … are likely to fail because they underestimate the difficulty of … development. … This attitude also poisons the relationship between [the developers and framework designer]. – Eric Evans, Domain-Driven Design: Tackling Complexity in the Heart of Software

Evans goes on to make the point that there’s a fine line between designing for dummies, and providing useful encapsulation / abstraction. I found this advice interesting because I had been wrestling with whether the ASP.NET AJAX Framework is for Dummies.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: .NET, AJAX, ASP.NET, ASP.NET AJAX, Musings Tags:

Winforms / Webforms Can Make You Obsolete: Framework or Metaphor Lock-in is a Liability For Your Career

October 13th, 2008

I’ve always been uncomfortable with the ASP.NET Webform / Winform metaphor – I moved to ASP.NET from ASP 3.0 / PHP with no proper Windows development experience. The Webform / Winform metaphor was alien, but the code behind model and the ability to re-use controls drew me in, while the Webform metaphor became a tolerated evil. Today ASP.NET MVC and the announcement that Microsoft has embraced jQuery keeps me interested.

As developers, limiting ourselves to a single metaphor, framework, or programming language is a liability to our career. In order to remain employable and engaged with our work, we need to understand the higher level concepts surrounding our chosen development arena – if you’re working in the webspace this means knowing CSS, JavaScript, HTML, and more than one server-side language. Then beyond technologies and languages we should be looking at transcending principals like design patterns, and good design practices.

identifying with anything so strongly that it starts to give you emotional reaction is really bad. You never know when your language is going to be obsolete or … your favorite framework is going to be replaced. … I would love to see everybody learn a bunch of languages because it does make you a better programmer. … Most people will never switch languages. – Steve Yegge, stackoverflow podcast #25 

Microsoft and jQuery Finally: Thank-You!

September 28th, 2008

Microsoft is looking to make jQuery part of their official development platform … jQuery will be distributed with Visual Studio
- jQuery, Microsoft, and Nokia

Other links of interest:

I was completely blindsided by this decision.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: .NET, AJAX, ASP.NET, ASP.NET AJAX, JavaScript Tags:

Transparency: Considerations For Choosing a JavaScript / AJAX Framework

September 20th, 2008

A growing number of development teams are given the opportunity to choose their JavaScript / AJAX Frameworks. This choice is often thrown to the development team because the Architects are more concerned with the bigger picture, and the technical details are over the manager’s head. Letting the development team decide on the JavaScript / AJAX framework produces some great benefits: it gels the team, fosters project buy-in, and creates project excitement.

Now, developers can be pretty skeptical, and getting them to agree has been likened to herding cats, but a couple core considerations / values seem to surface when the decision is being made.

Considerations for choosing a JavaScript / AJAX Framework:

  • Transparency - Who are the framework’s development team and why should we trust them? Do these developers blog? Attend conferences? Are they featured on podcasts / videos? Is there a high or low turnover within the team? What are their passions? Is this just a job, do they like what they’re doing, are they a cog on a wheel? Are they experts in their field?
  • Competency - Based on the information gathered in the consideration above (transparency), how competent do we feel the development team is?
  • Community Support – How well is the framework supported on forums and blogs? If something were to go wrong can we gain access to the framework’s development team? Are there widespread experts using this framework readily available?
  • Reputation – How popular is the framework in the industry? Who uses it? Are there any white papers, success stories, case studies available?

One of the easiest ways for a developer to choose a framework is by looking at the developers that built it (and talking with those that are using it). As developers our day job will be stepping into someone else’s code for the duration of the project, working with a framework created by competent developers makes our jobs easy. Frameworks without transparency don’t allow us to gauge the competency of the developers or the framework.

Transparency is essential for JavaScript / AJAX Framework teams, JavaScript itself is open and transparent (not compiled yet), it follows that JavaScript / AJAX Framework along with their teams should also be transparent. When the decision for choosing a JavaScript / AJAX Framework is placed in the hands of developers the frameworks that don’t meet the above criteria sink to the bottom of the list.

The only way to succeed now is to be completely transparent, everything is exposed, everything you do – Gary Vaynerchuk 

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: AJAX, ASP.NET AJAX, JavaScript, Software Tags:

Writing a Control for the AJAX Control Toolkit: How ASP.NET AJAX Failed

June 7th, 2008

One of my resolutions this year was to contribute to the AJAX Control Toolkit for the ASP.NET AJAX Framework. I began my AJAX Control Toolkit development quest by digging into the online resources, reading ASP.NET AJAX in Action, and decomposing the AJAX Control Toolkit. I noted the huge learning curve required to developing a control, and continued to dig deeper. Once mired in ASP.NET AJAX a bad smell kept wafting by. Since then I’ve been trying to distinguish this smell.

What’s really wrong with ASP.NET AJAX?

  • It doesn’t plan for performance from day one
  • It treats AJAX as a classic computer science problem
  • It tries to turn JavaScript into a classical language which works against JavaScript’s dynamic, prototypical nature
  • It feels like a framework that was written for dummies (Don’t Write Frameworks For Dummies)

A Case Study: Why Plaxo.com Almost Failed

In the video: High-performance JavaScript: Why Everything You’ve Been Taught is Wrong (YUI Theater) Joseph Smarr discusses the challenges and lessons learned while developing Plaxo.com. While developing this AJAX centric application, the Plaxo team decided to include everything they could think of into their application. They created a framework to treat JavaScript as a classical language, they gave priority to features over performance, and… the project ALMOST FAILED. They were able to salvage their application by diverting their development efforts, making performance one of their top priorities, by unlearning everything they’d been taught about classical applications (instead embracing JavaScript), jettisoning unneeded framework bloat, and more.

Some of the points made in this video were:

  • Plan for performance from day one
  • AJAX is not a classic problem
  • JavaScript is not a classical programming language
  • User experience and a responsive application can make or break an application
  • Unneeded bloat in a framework, and an obtuse approach to using AJAX (treating AJAX and JavaScript as a classical language or classic computer science problem) has the potential to cripple your application

This Channel 9 video also mirrors these sentiments: Douglas Crockford, Alex Russell and Joseph Smarr: On the Past, Present and Future of JavaScript

How ASP.NET AJAX Failed: What can we learn from Plaxo?

The way the Plaxo team approached their application development is similar to how the ASP.NET AJAX Framework has been designed. Like Plaxo’s initial attempt ASP.NET AJAX attempts to mold JavaScript into a classical language, and attempts to treat JavaScript and AJAX as a classic computer science problem by heaping on more abstractions. Like Plaxo’s initial attempt ASP.NET AJAX also gives a low priority to performance. Plaxo was able to change their direction and salvaged their application, but the ASP.NET AJAX Framework is not in a position to make any sweeping changes – ASP.NET AJAX is going down the wrong path and it’s too late.

The ASP.NET AJAX Framework is probably another exercise in Framework Architecture (demoware) and a failure in practice. Its lack of use in the wild attests to these shortcomings – contrast the sites using ASP.NET AJAX with the sites using jQuery (Actions Speak Louder Than Words). Furthermore the places that ASP.NET AJAX does thrive (the small internal ASP.NET business apps that need some bling-bling) will also be the areas that Silverlight shines – Silverlight offers a better Microsoft centric programming model (less leaky Win Form / Web Form abstractions) that most Microsoft developers will embrace. Silverlight will probably divert the developers that currently embrace ASP.NET AJAX.

I don’t recommend the ASP.NET AJAX Framework and won’t be contributing to the AJAX Control Toolkit. My time is better spent elsewhere.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: .NET, AJAX, ASP.NET, ASP.NET AJAX, JavaScript Tags:

More on the perils of The ASP.NET AJAX Framework

June 3rd, 2008

There’s no need to whip a dead horse (I’ve probably been griping about the ASP.NET AJAX Framework for too long), but… Jon Galloway and a group of other notable gurus (K. Scott Allen, Scott Koon, and Kevin Dente) have started a podcast, their latest segment sparked my interest since it covered ASP.NET AJAX and AJAX Libraries / Frameworks in general.

I share their sentiments so I thought I’d post a brief but choppy transcript:

[ASP.NET AJAX] … does offer some some nice features, they did try to take some of the common pieces of the CLR that [.NET Developers are] used to working with and move that down into a JavaScript library. So you get classes like a WebRequest class that wraps the XMLHttpRequest … and they have a StringBuilder, and they added methods that we’re more accustom with …

that’s wonderful, but I don’t find myself needing those extensions all that often. If you want to do strictly client-side programming then something like jQuery offers you a lot more capabilities to do things that you really want to do client-side like sorting and CSS selectors. … That stuff is easy to do with an Update Panel and ASP.NET, but Update Panels aren’t always the best solution to use. …

the goals with ASP.NET AJAX was to integrate into the ASP.NET server-side model … that’s great for ASP.NET, but it needs more client-side features. … It works if your thinking from the ASP.NET control perspective, but if you look at it outside the ASP.NET model there are a lot easier ways to do it.

ASP.NET AJAX [development] seems to have come to a standstill I’m not seeing a lot of development in that area and the rest of these [AJAX] Frameworks are doing monthly releases. Every month that goes by [the ASP.NET AJAX Framework] falls further and further behind … it needs to evolve.

Listen to this podcast here: Technology Round Table Podcast #2 – AJAX Frameworks

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: .NET, AJAX, ASP.NET, ASP.NET AJAX, CSS, DOM, JavaScript Tags:

Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Goodbye ASP.NET AJAX

May 15th, 2008

An anticlimactic conclusion about the ASP.NET AJAX Framework – this framework’s niche seems to be the internal (intranet) business application realm that depend on ASP.NET Web-Forms. These applications have a handful of users, a couple developers, no performance or bandwidth requirements, little ambition for future growth, and the developers typically embrace dragging & dropping controls in Visual Studio. In this case the ASP.NET AJAX Framework provides some eye candy, and patches the broken Web-Form metaphor by cramming AJAX into the ASP.NET model, but then comes along the ASP.NET MVC Framework, Silverlight, WPF and … ??? Goodbye ASP.NET AJAX!

Interesting observations:

How many applications explicitly state that they use the ASP.NET AJAX Framework?

  • 25, this includes sites like DotNetNuke (with a reputation of being slow), view the list here.

How many of these applications are relatively high-traffic?

  • None. ZERO!

How many applications explicitly state that they use the YUI library?

How many of these applications are relatively high-traffic?

  • Quite a few. A couple notable sites: Flickr, Slashdot, Linkedin, Paypal, O’Reilly, My Opera.

How many applications explicitly state that they use the jQuery AJAX Library?

  • 516 and growing, view the list here.

How many of these applications are relatively high-traffic?

  • Many. A couple notable sites: Twitter, Digg, Dell, Slashdot, BBC, Netflix, Technorati, New York Post.

If no high-traffic application uses the ASP.NET AJAX Framework then why would you? Actions (or lack of action) often speak louder than words, and it appears that the ASP.NET AJAX Framework is not suitable for the real world.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: .NET, AJAX, ASP.NET, ASP.NET AJAX, JavaScript Tags:

The ASP.NET AJAX Framework is for Dummies

April 21st, 2008

The ASP.NET AJAX Framework is an embarrassing server-side centric approach to DHTML / AJAX web development. While most programming languages and frameworks come with both good and bad parts, the ASP.NET AJAX Framework is an example of a bad part – on the contrast the ASP.NET MVC Framework looks to be a good part.

What’s wrong with the ASP.NET AJAX Framework?

1 .NET Developers are DUMMIES!
The ASP.NET AJAX Framework appears to have been designed under the assumption that .NET developers are dummies and can’t learn or don’t want to learn JavaScript. That .NET Developers would rather hobble along with their familiar languages, then to learn something new. I understand that the ASP.NET community’s only real problem is education, so let’s ask: What is wrong with the ASP.NET Community? Then educate ourselves rather than becoming the .NET Developer statuesque. It’s patronizing to use a framework that assumes learning a new language is beyond our capabilities. Many of these other programming languages are more expressive than statically typed languages like most of the .NET languages. 

2. The “don’t write a line of JavaScript” abstraction leaks like a sieve
The Framework is intended to shelter .NET Developers from the JavaScript language. Which, like driving a car across North America without knowing how to pump gas, stops you dead. Either you depend on someone to pump your gas – depend on a 3rd party (vendors or the ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit) and their many authors to write your JavaScript – or you stop moving. As Web Developers, sooner or later learning how to pump your own JavaScript becomes a mandatory skill.

3. Client-side programming from the Server-side is a absurd
The AJAX Framework does back flips to translate server-side code into JavaScript, and then requires that you write JavaScript anyway. Save yourself the pain, learn JavaScript. One day The Law of Leaky Abstractions comes into play, the gas station attendant fills your gas tank with diesel – the AJAX Control Toolkit blows requires debugging and you have to learn JavaScript anyways.

4. Bloated, poor performance, bad user and developer experience
The AJAX Framework extends many of the native JavaScript objects as it attempts to turn JavaScript into a staticly typed programming language, and tries to hook into the ASP.NET life cycle, but all these features are unneeded as they are ALL already achievable through the native JavaScript language – if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then… err… could someone remind me why we need typed languages in a web browser? Anyhow; all these object extensions, enhancements, and upgrades, contribute to more scripts that need to be downloaded and increases the number of scripts running in your browser. Then there’s partial-page rendering and Update Panels which do full page post backs under the guise of AJAX. BAD! Client-side scripting is supposed to enhance the user experience not make it worse. Other AJAX Frameworks are built with performance as their number one goal, but in the ASP.NET AJAX Framework adding more widgets to JavaScript seemed to be the first priority, and performance an after thought.

5. Working against the grain is a waste of time
The AJAX Framework works against the grain, it would be nice if it embraced the JavaScript language. Very few of the concepts and metaphors used in the ASP.NET AJAX Framework transcend AJAX techniques or frameworks - your time is probably better spent learning how JavaScript works or how the other AJAX frameworks work.

6. Disconnected from the ASP.NET MVC Framework
The ASP.NET MVC Framework throws the ASP.NET life cycle away leaving more dead weight ASP.NET AJAX Framework script and rendering many of the AJAX Framework techniques moot.

7. The ASP.NET AJAX Framework almost over looks the ‘J’ in AJAX – ‘J’ stands for JavaScript (that’s GOOD)
JavaScript is the glue of the web, even the ASP.NET Framework depends heavily on JavaScript, it is not something to shy away from.

8. Aside from local intranet sites, no one really uses the ASP.NET AJAX Framework.
The AJAX Framework isn’t widely used. The ASP.NET AJAX site showcases 25 sites using ASP.NET AJAX. None of these applications appear to be high-traffic or moderately high-traffic applications. On the other hand, the YUI site showcases 89 sites, out of these sites, 6 sites (flickr, Slashdot, Linkedin, Paypal, O’Reilly, My Opera) could be considered high-traffic. Other AJAX libraries like jQuery, and Dojo compare similarly. Your time might be better spent learning one of the other AJAX frameworks.

If we (as .NET Developers) are going to claim we know AJAX, then let’s focus on the core of AJAX (JavaScript) and stop obscuring it in poor frameworks. Frankly the ASP.NET AJAX Framework is embarrassing, the web development community is laughing at the ASP.NET AJAX Framework and the Developers touting it.

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:

The ASP.NET AJAX Learning Curve

April 9th, 2008

The ASP.NET AJAX framework comes with a lot of baggage err… I mean… a huge learning curve when compared to other AJAX Frameworks like JQuery, YUI, Dojo, Prototype / Scriptaculous.

Here's a running list of the technologies, and concepts you'll encounter when digging into ASP.NET AJAX:

  • ASP.NET
    • The Page Life Cycle
    • The Control Life Cycle
    • Web Controls
    • User Controls
    • View State
    • Session State
    • Events
  • .NET / Classical Language
    • Interfaces
    • Inheritance
    • Delegates
    • Multicast Delegates
    • Assemblies
    • Properties (Get / Set)
    • Constructors

In addition to these, you also have the technologies universal to all JavaScript libraries:

  • JavaScript:
    • Closures
    • Object Literals
    • JSON
    • Events
    • DOM Manipulation
    • Prototypical Inheritance
    • Constructors
    • XMLHttpRequest
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS):
  • Web Services

The ASP.NET AJAX Framework is more complex than other AJAX frameworks, I'm continually lost in it's ambiguity as it attempts to skirt around the JavaScript language – I think this learning curve (and all it's confusion) is precisely why Silverlight has so much potential.

I'm still diving into the low-level details, but my first impressions of the ASP.NET AJAX Framework are:

  • Obscure, ambiguous, no clear vision – it offers multiple (resource intensive) ways to avoid writing JavaScript, but then requires that you write JavaScript anyways
  • Too server centric
  • Too heavy weight (I'm not appreciating how they're trying to turning JavaScript into a Java, C#, .NET clone, the overhead within the browser for these conversions seems like a huge performance bottleneck)
  • Has the potential for poor performance

Most of the other AJAX libraries have been written with performance, browser responsiveness, and User Experience as their number one priorities – I'm still not sure about ASP.NET AJAX.

How many ways can we try to avoid writing JavaScript? If an AJAX library doesn't enhance the User Experience then why use it? Regardless, I'm still digging deeper.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: AJAX, ASP.NET, ASP.NET AJAX, CSS, DOM, JavaScript, Software Tags: