My "Ajax Experience" Itinerary

'The Ajax Experience' banner.

From Sunday afternoon until Wednesday night, I'll be reporting from The Ajax Experience in Boston, the premier gathering of developers interested in building Ajax-ified web applications.

Take a look at the conference schedule. Content-wise, it's pretty meaty (six tracks!) and seems to offer something for Ajax developers of all levels. It's also pretty intense, with Monday's and Tuesday's sessions running until 6:45 and evening panel discussions running until 9 p.m.. I don't think I've seen a schedule this hardcore since RailsConf back in June.

Over the next couple of days, I'll be posting my general impressions and detailed notes and photos from the sessions I attend. I'll also be incorporating my notes into an internal training session at Tucows.

I have to tip my hat to Brent Ashley, local developer and longtime friend of Tucows. He's a presenter at the conference and as such, was entitled to two freebie passes, one of which he gave to me. He'll be doing a talk on alternate transport mechanisms, which I will attend.

Sessions I'm Considering

As I mentioned earlier, there are 6 tracks in this conference, which means that there are so many sessions to choose from. I'm approaching the conference as a programmer who's looking to take his first serious dip into Ajax development, which means that all the web application development I've done got user input via form submissions and I've done almost no JavaScript programming. Another consideration: I'm trying to find stuff that meshes well with Ruby on Rails.

Based on that, here are the sessions I'm considering:

Date and Time Sessions I'm Considering
Session Set 1:
Monday, October 23
1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Session sets 1 and 2 have a couple of two-parters that I'm considering.

One is Glenn Vanderburg's "There's a Real Programming Language in There!" series, which might be a good choice for me -- most of the work I've done with JavaScript is cutting and pasting stuff from other sites. It would definitely pay off to have some fundamentals.

Another is Justin Gehtland's series on the Prototype JavaScript framework, which integrates very well with Rails -- something else I'm starting to study -- and I also believe that it's the most widely-used of the bunch, since it provides a lot additional power to JavaScript. There isn't much documentation on Prototype, so it might pay off to attend this series.

Session Set 2:
Monday, October 23
3:30 to 5:00 p.m.

Which session I attend this time around will depend on the session I caught previously; I'll simply attend part 2 of the session I attended in session set 1.

Session Set 3:
Monday, October 23
5:15 to 6:45 p.m.

Most conferences are beginning to wrap up the day's sessions around this time, but this one isn't! At 5:15, it's time for the third set of sessions!

If I attend Justin Gehtland's series on Prototype earlier that afternoon, his presentation on the UI and visual effects library is a natural choice.

I've also listed some of the other sessions that I considered interesting; I might attend one of them if I'm feeling the need for a change of pace.

Session Set 4:
Tuesday, October 24
8:30 to 10:00 p.m.

I have the option of catching another two-parter on an Ajax framework. This time, it's Alex Russell's series on the Dojo framework.

However, I don't want to get too "frameworked out" and am leaning towards catching Cal Evans' "My First Ajax Mashup" presentation. Cal's the editor of the excellent PHP site Zend Developer Zone, and I had the pleasure of meeting him at the recent php|works conference here in Toronto.

Session Set 5:
Tuesday, October 24
10:30 to 12:00 p.m.

This one's got part 2 of the Dojo presentation, but I'm thinking of catching either the Unobstrusive Ajax with Rails or the Yahoo! accessibility presentation.

Session Set 6:
Tuesday, October 24
2:00 to 3:30 p.m.

Decisions, decisions. I'm going to have to think about this one.

Session Set 7:
Tuesday, October 24
4:00 to 5:30 p.m.

I'm leaning towards catching Douglas Crockford's presentation on JSON. After all, it's a useful data format, and there's the matter that he understood JavaScript way back in 2001 when most of us thought of it as a toy language.

Session Set 8:
Wednesday, October 25
9:00 to 10:30 p.m.

The last set of choices! Once again, I'm leaning towards the Douglas Crockford presentation.

Session Set 9:
Wednesday, October 25
11:00 to 12:30 p.m.

There's no question: I'll be at Brent Ashley's Ajax Transport Layer Alternatives. I'll be there not only because I owe it to him for giving me a complimentary pass, but also because as a relative newbie to JavaScript client coding, it's probably a good idea for me to see an overview of alternatives to the XMLHttpRequest object -- IFRAMEs, images and cookies, JavaScript-on-demand and Flash.

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Re: My "Ajax Experience" Itinerary
You'll be getting a CD at the start of the show that has all the content, but in the meantime you can go to the slide presentations page and download either the entire slide set (103Mb zipped) or each of the separate PDFs.

This will help you when you are deciding between two sessions that happen at the same time. Often you will find that one of the two conflicting sessions has slides that by and large allow you to learn it without being there while the other makes it obvious that there is a lot of adhoc explanation going on that you won't want to miss.

Of course, as a longtime DemoCamper, I'm not using Powerpoint at all, instead I have my presentation in TiddlyWiki format which allows me to be tangential. I've serialized it in PDF format for inclusion in the slides though.
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