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Communications Networks

HTML5 Mobile Web Development

HTML5 first made my radar screen when Steve Jobs used it as the rationale for not including support for Adobe Flash on iPhones and iPads.  I had worked with a graphic typesetting programs that used font tagging before the first iteration of HTML. A good friend of mine, Chuck Musciano, wrote one of the first (and still one of the best) books on HTML

Later on, I kind of lost the HTML plot a bit.  I remember getting some warnings on a couple of my websites that I was failing some type of strict compliance, but frankly it wasn’t really that big of a deal.  Like a lot of standards, there was a pretty fair amount of wiggle room for interpretation of the HTML standards.  You needed to test all of your code against different browsers.  It was an economic decision to decide how much time and resources to invest in different browser platforms.

From what I was gathering from the Apple HTML5 buzz, it was definitely worth poking into.  I have been active with mobile platforms which have presented an increasingly fragmented bunch of display options.  Tablets have only made that an even bigger challenge.  It is becoming increasingly clear that the line between web applications and native device applications is getting increasingly blurry. 

HTML5 is intended to bring the web standards up to date and provide a framework for dealing with these issues.  It provides viewpoints as a means of supporting multiple devices.  It addresses video and local databases for offline storage. 

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I was intrigued when O’Reilly published HTML5 Mobile Web Development, a video series on HTML5 targeted at web professionals.  My hope was that a tutorial video would address some of the problems in trying to learn from books and provide more dynamic examples.  I really liked the content being presented, such as real life examples of how to structure pages, create a twitter app, add geolocation, and creating databases.

In practice, the videos didn’t quite work out as well as I had hoped.  I found some of the same challenges as I did when I took some pre-recorded graduate classes.  I found that even though Jake Carter was clearly an expert and had structured his ideas well, I had a really hard time keeping focused.  I have come to expect five minute “bite sized” chunks of information, which provide me with the ability to skip over the sections that I understand and go straight to the parts that I don’t.  I frankly don’t have the patience to sit still through hours of video. 

The series would really benefit from even some rudimentary interactivity such as putting a section at the front end describing what the learning objectives for each section were with a test at the end to see whether you had mastered the material or not. 

When videos are structured that way, I can start by reading the objectives, then take the test to find out whether or not I actually needed to watch the entire video.  That was much the same approach that I used with college text books.  If I knew the material and could pass the test at the end, I didn’t watch.  The fact was, I could figure out which of the 12 hours of video that I needed to watch, and which I didn’t.

I like the fact that O’Reilly is pushing the envelope, but found that this format just didn’t work for me. 

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