Larry Osterman's WebLog

Confessions of an Old Fogey
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Looking for new skillz (turning the blog around)…

Looking for new skillz (turning the blog around)…

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Just for giggles, I went looking at the various job listings within Microsoft and outside Microsoft (no, I’m not going anywhere, I was just curious).  While looking, I realized that I had absolutely no marketable skills :).  Nobody seems to be hiring an OS developer these days.

To repeat and be even more clear: I’m *not* leaving Microsoft.  I’m *not* leaving Windows. 

I’m just looking for a book or two to read to improve my skills (I do this regularly – most of my recent reading has either been on Security or WPF and to be honest, I’m kinda bored of those topics so I’m interested in branching out beyond security and UI topics)…

I could run out and browse the bookstores (and I might just do that) but I figured “Hey, I’ve got a blog, why don’t I ask the folks who read my blog?”.  So let me turn the blog around and ask:

If I wanted to go out and learn web development, which books should I read? 

I’ve already read “Javascript: The ood Parts” and it was fascinating but it was more of a language book (and a very good language book), but it’s not a web development book.  So what books should I read to learn web development?

  • ASP.NET MVC is all the rage just now, if you fancy getting your head around it then you might want to read Pro MVC by Steven Sanderson:


  • Kev: I thouht that ASP.NET MVC was server side code, not client side.  I'm looking for client side development (continuing my "I want to learn UI programming" theme).

  • jQuery is a great tool for manipulating webpages.

    Book: jQuery In Action

  • "Design of Sites" is good, but it's not code per se.

  • Great suggestion from Zian - jQuery in Action is superb. Also check out Douglas Crockford's [Javascript: The Good Parts]( .. it gave me an entirely new appreciation of the language.

  • I'd say a book about Silverlight. There are many good ones, and Silverlight is great stuff.

  • Gah! Perhaps I should have read your entire post. Another book I enjoyed was Pragmatic Ajax (, co-authored by the chaps that started (which also is an excellent resource for client side development).

    Now that I think about it, all of The Pragmatic Programmers have been consistently worthwhile.

  • If you are not particular about web development, learning SSIS would be a pleasant experience.

  • Don't.

    Web development sucks. All web browsers are broken. Even if they're not, you need to act as if they are. You figure out how to do something from a book/tutorial, implement it, and then spend five times as long as you spent implementing it correctly working around bugs, limitation and missing features in all the popular browsers to make it actually work.

    You ever come across an API bug in OS/app development on a sane platform? It happens, but it's rare, right? Nearly all the time the problem is with your code, and figuring out *why* it's your code and then fixing your code makes you a better programmer. Fixing it makes your code better. When it's a bug in the API, that's frustrating. Especially when it only happens on some platforms. Tracking the bug down is hard. Figuring out how and where and when to work around it is frustrating because *it's supposed to work*, damnit! And it's not a proper fix, it's a workaround, a band-aid, an ugly hack.

    Web development is like that *all the time*.

    Nearly all the bug hunting is about working around browser bugs. None of this bug hunting is interesting, productive or fun, and cannot be interpreted as a useful learning experience (as you don't learn anything that can help you be in general a better developer, but rather just learn more and more and more about how annoying fscking web browsers are) or a productive use of your time, and does not give you any sense of achievement or accomplishment. Only a feeling that it really should not be this hard, and a sense of dread that you're going to have to go through all the same kind of crap again next time.

    Really, stay away.

  • As already said - jQuery is excellent. I'd be tempted by either of the books by jQuery's developer, John Resig, even though they aren't about jQuery (as already mentioned, jQuery In Action is a good book for jQuery).

    Or why not have a look at alternate server-side technologies, like Django, Rails or TurboGears? It'd certainly be a significant departure from ASP.NET :-)

    Or with F# entering the Visual Studio mainstream, maybe you could dip a toe into functional water? Real-World Haskell (pub. by O'Reilly) or Joe Armstrong's Erlang book (pub. by Pragmatic Programmers)?

  • +1 for jQuery, it's probably the most fun you'll have with Javascript. Diving into its internals to get a feel for how challenging cross-browser development is (if you're not already familiar with the pain) is also a nice pastime.

  • Thomas: While I agree that Silverlight is excellent, I'm looking for something that will teach me HTML+CSS+JavaScript programming.  

  • I’ve already read “Javascript: The ood Parts” ...

    Are you implying that Javascript programmers are Squid-faced humanoids?

  • It's a func choice, so long as you're not looking to go make a living from -- I accidentally picked up web design as part of a server-side career, luckily in the heady days when the field was just picking itself up after the dot-com crash -- it's different and easy enough to get some "Ooh! shiny!" out of that the server side never does.

    For tackling web development from the design side, for an introduction I'd go no further than Jeffrey Zeldman's Designing With Web Standards (3rd edition), and follow all the material it references.  

    Going back through his on-line magazine A List Apart ( will also be rewarding, as you can follow the evolution of the field from the days of "Netscape 4 sucks" through the realization that most browsers supported enough CSS to make it worth using, and thus to the present.

  • What Karellen said.

    I can't recommend any book, but when I was doing web development I made a habit of reading the relevant standards:

    With that basic knowledge under my belt, I was able to better understand what the various server engines/libraries I used were actually trying to do.

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