reptile7's JavaScript blog
Friday, March 18, 2005
March 2005

"A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people."
- Thomas Mann

Hello, everyone, and welcome to my blog. These are my first, tentative steps into the ‘blogosphere’ - wish me luck.

In general terms, I plan for this blog to be about programming for the Web, but I actually have a much more specific focus in mind: my blog entries, at least for the short term, will comprise a detailed, running commentary on my study of the JavaScript scripts at HTMLGoodies.

I have written to Joe Burns, the founder of HTMLGoodies, and informed him that I would launch such a blog. As of this writing, he hasn’t replied to me, so I can’t claim Joe’s ‘blessing’ for this project, but on the other hand, he hasn’t written back threatening to sue me, so onward we go.

I have no formal training in the use or programming of computers, although I’ve been using computers since the late 1980s when I was a graduate student. Today, like many people, I spend a lot of time on the Web, and it occurred to me, "Y’know, maybe I should learn something, at least a little bit, about how programming for the Web is done." Accordingly, I began a course of self-instruction in this regard with an article in the Fall 2001 issue of EarthLink’s now-defunct bLink magazine, "The ABCs of HTML" (p 32). (I’ll have more to say about EarthLink, my ISP, and instructional material relating to the Web at a later time.) This short, two-page introductory article on HTML concluded with a URL ( for "our [EarthLink’s] HTML tag reference" that annoyingly led to a "Page Not Found" page.

I emailed EarthLink’s customer support, asking "Does EarthLink still have a reference page on HTML tags and/or attributes on its Web site, and if so, can you please send me its URL? Thank you." The response: "With regards to your inquiry about the given site, we are very sorry to report that we have no more reference page [sic] on HTML tags. To help you, you may use the search tool on to get URLs about HTML tags." Pretty lame for an ISP of EarthLink’s stature, wouldn’t you say? But go to Google I did in my quest to learn more.

I soon found my way to HTMLGoodies. There are, to be sure, lots of sites on the Web that offer instructional material on HTML, but what sets HTMLGoodies apart, it seems to me, is that HTMLGoodies ‘assumes the least’ about a user’s beginning level of coding knowledge; in other words, it’s the most elementary of all the Web programming instruction sites that I’ve come across. Because I myself was starting from absolute scratch, I thus decided to have a go at HTMLGoodies ‘program’ and see what I could get out of it.

Since then, I have worked through the introductory primers and many of the accompanying tutorials on HTML and JavaScript at the HTMLGoodies site. Looking back, I have to confess that I did not find HTML, as a subject of study, to be particularly interesting; as its name implies, you take some text and then ‘mark it up’ so that it can be read by a Web browser - it’s sort of like proofreading, actually. But JavaScript was where this all took off for me. I immediately latched onto the algebraic nature of JavaScript - I liked algebra in "middle school" ("junior high school" in my case), so it stands to reason that I would like JavaScript. If you are comfortable with the concepts of variables and functions, both of which crop up in JavaScript, then you, too, may find JavaScript to be your cup of tea.

The JavaScript material at HTMLGoodies can be subdivided into three parts:
1) It begins with a series of 30 introductory Primers.
2) The Primers are supplemented with a series of "Script Tips".
3) Rounding things out is a collection of relatively more advanced tutorials.
As noted above, my blog will cover this material (or at least the Primers and Script Tips) in some depth.

Joe Burns and his JavaScript co-author Andree Growney have also written a book, JavaScript Goodies, that "is based on the most popular JavaScript tutorials at", according to - I myself haven’t seen/read it. (Perversely, Joe’s link to this book in JavaScript Primers #30 is broken.) You can see for yourself that the reviews of JavaScript Goodies are fairly mixed. Some folks think that Joe and his JavaScript work are the greatest thing since sliced bread, whereas others, particularly the hardcore computer-techie types, don’t like them at all. I myself can see both points of view. Most reviewers, even the critical ones, agree, in accord with my earlier comments, that the HTMLGoodies JavaScript material is a good starting point if you’ve never done any programming before. On the other hand, Joe can be sloppy, and he maddeningly seems to not check his work a lot of the time. I can confirm that if you are an obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive, detail-oriented sort of person (and I admit that I myself can be like this), then you are guaranteed to be annoyed by the JavaScript material at HTMLGoodies on at least a semi-regular basis.

Having said this, however, there is very much a limit as to how many stones I’m willing to throw at Joe. After all, Joe was the one who put all this stuff on the Web, where it can be accessed by people like me for free, in the first place. If I at times level criticism at Joe and HTMLGoodies, it is very much in the spirit of Sir Isaac Newton’s famous quote, "If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants."

For anyone who might read or follow this blog, let me repeat for the record that I am NOT a professional programmer, nor any sort of ‘expert’; I am a hobbyist. My own inexperience is to blame if I say something that is confusing or wrong. Comments that can bring me up-to-speed on a particular point are always welcome, and if I can make heads or tails of what you’ve said, then I may discuss it in the blog and hopefully make it a "teaching moment" for us all.

Let’s get rolling, shall we? Before getting started, I want to give credit where credit is due and mention a couple of external Web sites that have helped me get through the HTMLGoodies JavaScript scripts:
1) I have found the JavaScript resource at DevGuru to be essential, even if I find some of its examples to be confusing.
2) The folks at JavaScript Kit also run a highly useful site.
Hyperlinks to other resources will be provided where relevant.

Some final notes on my ‘Web interface’:
- my computer is a vintage iMac 350 whose currently installed operating system is Mac OS 9.1; (old school, I know)
- as noted above, EarthLink connects me to the Internet;
- my preferred Web browser is Internet Explorer* (version on my machine: 5.1.6), although is going to get me back into using Netscape.
(*I’m sure this disqualifies me from being a full-fledged member of the Cult of Mac; I also use Outlook Express as my email client, BTW.)

Speaking of platforms and browsers, I recognize that JavaScript can execute differently (a) on different browsers and also (b) on different versions of the same browser, so it wouldn’t surprise me that it will at times execute differently on different platforms. I consequently can’t promise you that what works on my computer will work on your computer if you are a non-Mac user, as you are statistically likely to be. As they say at LowEndMac, "Advice presented in good faith, but what works for one may not work for all."

OK, that’s it. In our next episode, we’ll take a brief look at HTMLGoodies’ JavaScript Primers #1. Do join us, won’t you?


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