Day two of the O’reilly/Adaptive Path AJAX confab in SF started as a continuation of day 1, with a series of presenters showing off their latest AJAX tricks.
Dunstan Orchard from Odeo / Apple spoke immediately before I did. He advocated writing a non-AJAX, basic html application first, and then adding in AJAX as “sugar”. This obviously facilitates backwards-compatibility, but it just as clearly limits the scope for AJAX-based interaction: AJAX is reduced to a tactical optimization rather than being central to the design. This is actually an eminently practical approach, particularly for large consumer sites (like apple) that demand backwards compatibility, and cannot afford to eliminate even corner-case browsers (like IE 5 on the Mac).
Dunstan’s website is a real kick. Lots of slick AJAX goodness to be found here.
I spoke right after Dunstan. I have to say that speaking at tech conferences has become very weird: everyone sits staring at their laptops, typing furiously while you talk. It’s hard to make eye contact or connect with an audience in this environment. People asked intelligent questions afterwards though, so I’m pretty sure they were taking notes and not playing solitaire. ;-> BigEmpty took some nice pics, including this weird one where the projector is superimposing the text onto my shirt.
I focused on what metaphors to use to explain this AJAX stuff to business stakeholders, and articulated speed (or reduced latency if you prefer) as the primary measurable value of the AJAX approach. I then showed how to build a predictive model for prefetching data in an AJAX application, and sketched out a basic cost model for deciding how much data is valuable to prefetch. I’ll post an article soon that summarizes the presentation better: eager readers can read my posting. For the impatient, Latency Must Die presents the basic gist of it.
More later … I have to get some client work done first!