I have contacted Joshua Eichorn, author of HTML_AJAX for an interview and as promised here is the interview. I asked Joshua about AJAX, HTML_AJAX, his experience, projects, current status,future projects and much more.
Hatem : Who is Joshua Eichorn ?
I’m a 25 year old currently living in Phoenix Arizona. I grew up in Sturgis Michigan, and moved to Phoenix in 1999 to go to Arizona State University. I graduated from ASU in 2003 with a Computer Information Systems Degree. I’m active in the local PHP community helping run the users group (http://azphp.org). I’ve been writing and thinking about AJAX and PHP for about a year now (before it was called AJAX) and I’ve been trying to help it gain traction in the PHP community. I’m also the creator of phpDocumentor (http://phpdoc.org) and the lead developer behind HTML_AJAX.
Currently I work for Uversa Inc (http://uversainc.com) developing Open Source solutions for the medical industry as well as doing lots other custom PHP development.
Hatem : When did you start working with PHP ?
I started doing some real PHP development in 1999, and made the first phpDocumentor release in late 2000.
Hatem : You started contributing to PEAR project with the popular PhpDocumentor and today HTML_AJAX, can you tell us about your PEAR experience ?
I’ve been involved in PEAR since pretty early in its existence, I started out lurking and eventually became more involved through phpDocumentor. PEAR has always been an interesting experience, it contains a large number of strong developers who always seem to have an opinion on every issue. This has made for some trying times in the past as PEAR tried to refine it goals. In the past year or so PEAR has been a pleasure to work with, the new package acceptance process works well, and new developers have been very accepting to feedback. Its also been great to get extra help from the PEAR QA team on maintaining phpDocumentor since i’m no longer doing much actual development on it.
Hatem : From the server side scripting into client side scripting, how was the introduction of AJAX in PEAR ?
I think people were quite happy to see support for a new technology in PEAR.
Hatem : Many developers didn’t find yet the ideal AJAX implementation for them so they start their own, how could HTML_AJAX provide answer for these developers ?
Hatem : PEAR is certainly the biggest PHP project, but I always notice that PEAR packages are difficult to integrate into PHP projects even that they provide excellent solutions, can HTML_AJAX be an exception ?
I hope were able to do better then most projects in that respect. HTML_AJAX tries to provide a good out of the box experience while still leaving the basic building blocks accessible for tight integration to any framework someone might have. I’m especially interested in frameworks that tightly integrate HTML_AJAX so if your thinking of developing one let me know.
Hatem : Where will you place HTML_AJAX compared to all other AJAX implementations available ?
HTML_AJAX tries to keep its focused limited its just a communication library, its not going to provide support for visual effects or drag n’ drop (though it may provide drop in integration with something that does) Feature wise HTML_AJAX is a combination of sajax, JPSpan, XAJAX, and SACK Maturity wise HTML_AJAX is pretty solid but it does have a large feature set so its more likely to still have a bug lurking around then something like sajax.
Hatem : What’s the current HTML_AJAX status ?
On the road to a beta release, lots of focus on increasing browser compatibility and getting API’s ready for stabilization.
Hatem : What’s next for HTML_AJAX ?
Mainly the 1.0 release, there are a couple projects
Hatem : HTML_AJAX is in alpha stage and you have a third maintainer who joined the project, what is still needed for the stable version ?
I’m pushing to get a beta release done soon really all its waiting for is a though API review. PEAR requires that stable packages not break backwards compatibility by changing there API so I want to make sure the current design doesn’t have any major flaws in it. The final stable release will also need a good browser compatibility test suite so we can give people the assurance that it will work on almost any browser. Getting this stuff done is all about having enough developer time, but with good community involvement I’m sure will get there.
Hatem : What tools are you using for debug, test … ?
I use the Firefox Live headers extension quite a bit. But most of my debugging is using the tools built into HTML_AJAX, HTML_AJAX_Util.varDump is quite handy.
Hatem : Can you tell us about case studies, or your own experience with AJAX applications ?
I originally started using AJAX in Clearhealth, it provided us with a solution to a lot of user interface problems like selecting a patient. Drop downs don’t work once you put a couple thousand patients in them, and doing a multi-step popup/search/select process was just too slow.
I think the most important goal in web development is providing a great user experience. AJAX is important because it allows you to improve interactivity and decrease task time, not because its the buzzword of the year.
Hatem : Your future projects ?
I’m currently working on a AJAX book for Addison-Wesley I hope to have it out some time this summer. Besides that I’ll be continuing to focus on HTML_AJAX and increasing its use in Clearhealth, a GPL practice management application, that I develop for my employer.
Hatem : AJAX was the buzz of Web 2.0, what do you think will be the buzz of Web 3.0 ?
I’m not sure what the next buzz will be caused but I think it will be surrounding new technologies like SVG or the new WHAT HTML extensions that will bring a full rich application development environment directly too the browser. But its hard too say AJAX and the rest of the Web 2.0 buzz has been around for years, its just a matter of things hitting a tipping point where a broad community thinks its a great thing to do.