In: Reviews > Book Reviews
Published on November 13, 2006
This is a book that can safely be handed to anyone with the desire to bend the behavioral layer of a website to her will, and is fairly bursting with concrete explanations of best practices that solidify the guru’s understanding while gently guiding the neophyte toward the mountaintop.
The thing that initially impressed me about the book was its methodology. I’ve seen many books that attempt to build specialized example scripts to fit each chapter or section, crafting fairly abstract situations that require the precise thing that’s just been discussed. This is a great way to drill specific bits of knowledge into the reader’s head, but is a fairly miserable way of instilling an understanding of the concepts’ practical use.
In contrast, Koch has extracted eight scripts from commercial projects he’s built for real-world clients. These example scripts form the logical core of the book, and each chapter specifically examines a piece of each. Instead of building examples around the material he thinks he should probably cover, he’s crafted the explanations around the concepts he knows you need in order to successfully meet clients’ requirements. The emphasis is on the real world, and everything in the book pushes in that direction.
Highs and Lows
However, I think Koch falls into the typical programming-book trap of explaining a bit too much historical background before moving into the real meat of the topic. I understand why it can be a valuable exercise, but I think parts of the book’s introductory chapters are bogged down with information that simply isn’t relevant enough to the process of creating working web pages today. These sections stand out in my mind only because the book’s programming content is so solidly practical and useful.
In essence, it reminds me of how I learned to work on the web in the first place: careful examination of other people’s work. At its best, this book is a clearly annotated view source of Koch’s projects. It’s a comprehensive exploration of Koch’s thoughts about the problems he’s run into (problems that you’ll run into, too), how he approached them, and ultimately how he’s solved them.