Congratulations jQuery, winner of Open Source JavaScript Libraries Award

I participated as a judge for Packt Publishing’s open source JavaScript libraries award. Today, they’ve announced the winner: jQuery. Open source JavaScript is stronger than ever, and all of the entrants in the award have made great strides in the past year. Runners-up Raphaël and Mootools deserve great praise for the work they’ve put into both their products and community.

Packt’s press release is below and includes a quote from this blogger.

jQuery wins the 2010 Open Source JavaScript Libraries Award

Birmingham, UK. 18 November 2010

Packt Publishing is pleased to announce that jQuery has won the inaugural Open Source JavaScript Libraries Award category in the 2010 Open Source Awards. The Award is a new category introduced to the Open Source Awards this year, featuring libraries of pre-written JavaScript controls which allow for easier development of RIAs (Rich Internet Applications), visually enhanced applications or smoother server-side JavaScript functionalities.

“On behalf of the entire jQuery Team, let me first say thanks to Packt Publishing for this award.

I’d also like to give a huge thanks to the community of designers and developers that use jQuery daily and felt the urge to vote for jQuery as their favorite JavaScript library. We’ll use this prize to further the development of the jQuery Project.” Said Ralph Whitbeck, jQuery core team member.

“While jQuery hasn’t undergone any radical change in the past year, the project has continued to evolve at the same frenetic pace and the 1.4 release included a wide range of small but important improvements.” Added Michael Mahemoff, Google developer advocate, HTML5/JavaScript specialist and one of the judges for the 2010 Open Source JavaScript Libraries category. “jQuery covers all bases as its performance is high priority, it is easy to use, has a huge community, great documentation, and an excellent plugin ecosystem.”

While jQuery occupied the top spot in the 2010 Open Source JavaScript Libraries category, the other two extremely popular finalists Raphaël and Mootools tied and both projects will be awarded the first runner up position.

With this announcement, the 2010 Open Source Awards has two more categories left, including the Open Source CMS category, for which results will be announced November 19th.

Teaching Maths and Problem-Solving: TED Talk

I just caught this genius talk from Dan Meyer on teaching maths, and more generally, problem-solving. It appealed to me because of the emphasis on learning through concrete things, not abstractions.

Watch for the way students are hand-fed the answers in conventional learning environments. In one case, an otherwise-fine worded problem concludes with a parenthesised reference to a similar problem. In another problem, the ski lift, the modelling is provided at the same time as the question is asked.

Meyer’s main point is that worded problems should feel real, and students should really sit there and struggle with them for a while. He uses the example of a water pump – how long does it take to fill up? Great question, but the typical math textbook presents it in this weird abstract and wordly way:

This is the 21st century, so we can better represent the problem like this:

The whole problem is just a photo and a simple question. Now you have something you can struggle with. Eventually you’ll get sick of talking in long-winded ways about the concepts and you’ll start to introduce abstract modelling. The modelling comes from the conversation, not vice-versa.

But wait, we said this is the twenty-first century, so Meyer goes one better and actually shows a video of the water tank filling up.

Now it’s filling up agonisingly slowly, and all the students have successfully been baited into really wanting to know when will this thing end. They are on equal footing when coming up with intuitive guesses and the mathematical modelling falls from that.

This all reminds me of the tension you’re supposed to feel when reading the problem and forces of a design pattern. You’re supposed to feel a little queasy as you realise how all the forces are in conflict with each other, and then the sense of relief from the answer that resolves the tension.

I’ll finish off with Meyer’s practical tips:

  • Use multimedia
  • Encourage student intuition
  • Ask the shortest question you can
  • Let students build the problem
  • Be less helpful

It’s Nice if HTML5 Showcases Work on All Modern Browsers, but Essential? No way.

Chris Heilmann says it’s a problem that HTML5 demos work only in certain environments:

The problem that a lot of HTML5 demos have right now though is that they only work in a certain environment. Showcase presentations like Paul Irish’s The State of HTML5: Inaugural Address even need more than one browser to work and Paul switches them during his talk. This is a feat of HTML5 right now – not everything works the same across browsers and you want to show off some of the cool things by sticking to one browser and others in another browser.

and mentioned Toby’s excellent 3d video showcase:

Whilst the original Tweet by Tobias stated that a Chrome Dev Channel build is needed as the browser to see the demo, retweets and others omitted that piece of information. This is bad. As you can see in the screencast above all I saw was broken implementations – even in Chrome. Only Safari showed it the way it was intended.

A few things:

  • I agree with Chris insofar as yes, it’s better and communicates the portability coolness factor of HTML5, if we can write demos that work across many browsers and devices.
  • Agile is good. It says you work lean and don’t do unnecessary work. The main point of a demo is to provoke imaginations and discussions. 80-20 rule…80% of its value is already served in one browser, but it could easily take twice as long to make it work across all the modern browsers. That’s a lot of work for the 20% of extra value derived by the demonstration of portability.
  • People are willing to suspend their imagination. With demos, it’s important to know when and how people suspend their imagination. If you stand there and blag through a Powerpoint presentation, the credibility of your underlying idea is zero or less. But on the other hand, if you show something in Firefox or Chrome, it uses standard HTML5 features which are already supported, or in the process of being supported by other browsers too, people can make the stretch.
  • It’s a good idea for showcase makers to publish which browsers the showcase is expected to support. And then let other browsers try it out anyway once the user understands it probably won’t work anyway. Such a declaration unburdens Tweeters and other sharers from always including disclaimers.
  • This is something that happens across the board. I’ve been incessantly showing http://chalk.37signals.com in European events this past week, despite the fact it’s iPad-only. It’s just that damn new and shiny, I’m willing to overlook that detail. Likewise, I wish the various Moz round video demos worked in Chrome, but they don’t, but I’ve still talked about them.

BTW I was one of those who tweeted the demo, Chrome-only disclaimer missing and all. I’m also the guy who invited Toby and Uxebu to present in this session. I also have a Flip recording of the event which I’ll upload as soon as I’m in a comfortable wifi situation, i.e. in a couple more days.)

None of this says demos shouldn’t be portable. In the equivalent session at GDD Russia, we had a wonderful demo from Opera’s Vadeem Makeev. When I spoke to him in the lead-up to prepare the presentation, he told me we can just load it up and it will work in any browser. That’s the great thing about the web, and it’s excellent to have demos like this to point to, to show it really can work across all browsers. But should every 0.1 alpha edition showcase go that length? I don’t think so.