Many of you are planning to go on holidays soon. I know I am. And I’m confident that you don’t want to spend your valuable free days doing perfectly nothing or – even worse – read that Da Vinci Code for the third time. So during the next week or so, I will point you to some books that you may want to pack in your suitcase. Yes, books. Good, old-fashioned paper. There’s nothing else left in these scarce moments in which you don’t have a high-speech Internet connection nearby. And it’s just fine too. Otherwise you would miss that brilliant opportunity to read Head Rush Ajax.
It’s not a book that I would recommend to you because of its metaphysical depths: it actually introduces you to a programming approach to building highly interactive websites and in the meantime you also figure out how to sell snowboards, you build a coffee maker and you even watch a boxing match.

Well, maybe that is metaphysical after all.
Never mind.
I also don’t think most of you dear readers need to learn how to program in this asynchronous AJAX style. But especially if you are an IT-architect trying to avoid becoming an anachronism, this is a good opportunity to bring yourself up-to-date again with some interesting things happening on the Internet. The feedback on the recent Mummification Item certainly proved that there are some architects that would benefit from a reality check.
And you know you need an update if you still think AJAX has something to do with soccer (and for that matter, let’s not discuss soccer here; in the current phase of the world championships the Dutch are busy erasing the subject from their collective conscience).
I’m not sure yet though, if AJAX is really, really good news. Many people always liked the simplicity and standardization of typical browser-based applications and now – with AJAX and Rich Internet Technology – user interfaces are becoming smarter, faster and more colourful again. Maybe even a bit too much for my own taste. I like the idea of a user controlling an application, not the other way around.
It’s just that Rich Internet Technology enables designers to create any user interface they like. Seems to be the perfect recipe for creating an utter chaos of unbalanced, home-made browser experiences. And then maybe, just maybe, it’s better to have one user interface style after all. Microsoft may be right on track with their ‘Office style’ of applications: it is probably much more attractive to use SAP modules right from the familiar Outlook agenda interface than through any home-made browser application, AJAX-based or not. When we showed the results of an early proof-of-concept of this ‘DUET’ technology on the recent SAPPHIRE conference, it sure provoked a lot of positive feedback.
So this is apparently what you get when browser applications become slightly too diverse: you’re downright happy again to use the old, familiar Outlook. Who would have thought of that?
Gartner consultant Loek Bakker recently argued that we don’t need oriental philosophy in architecture. I don’t fully agree (although I appreciated his item). I like the idea of a ZEN garden – clean, basic, orderly – as the starting point for enlightenment. We need ZEN gardens in our user interfaces too. And we’re not getting any closer with Rich Internet Technology, if applied in the wrong way.
Well, back to the book. Head Rush Ajax is written in this typical ‘Head First’ style: funny, visual, challenging and – as the publisher insists – designed for the way your brain works. Agreed, you may like or dislike the style. And you may or may not be code-phobic. But the book is build in a consistent, simple way. And that’s something you miss, every now and then in the age of Too Much User Interface.