Recently by Simon St. Laurent

I've been surprising people more people than I expected lately with the revelation that it's possible to write iPhone and Android applications as a pile of HTML and CSS documents with some accompanying JavaScript. I'm far from the first to...
Standards, formal or not, make the Internet, the Web, and much much more run. Unfortunately, the process of creating standards can make both sausage factories and political processes look like excellent places to visit. Though lots of people say "just give me the results I want", I've learned that the process used to create a specification really matters. Shifting to a standards model where developers innovate and users select might produce cleaner standards with less design by committee.
A key group of technically savvy people could do a lot to improve projects, not just document them.
One of the best things about Rails is that it's under constant development. New features appear constantly, and the upcoming 3.0 release even streamlines the architecture substantially. This wonderful track record of incremental development gives developers an ever-better set of tools to work with, but is really difficult for those of us documenting those tools in old-fashioned ink and paper. I'm very happy to announce that O'Reilly has released the Live Edition of Learning Rails, which brings the book up to date from its original November 2008 release (covering Rails 2.1.0) to last month (covering Rails 2.3.5), as well as incorporating errata.
Some of the most fascinating technical writing I've encountered recently was written 170 years ago. How is that possible? And just how different was it? The Joiner and Cabinet Maker is a recent re-issue of a long-forgotten 1839 book on an apprenticeship in woodworking. Unlike most books of the time, it covers the first few steps into woodworking in detail, rather than providing a vague general description or covering only advanced techiques. This reprint, though, goes beyond the usual simple reproduction or even explanatory notes. It includes notes, yes, but also a detailed introduction, a recreation of the projects in modern prose and photographs, DVD slideshows, SketchUp diagrams, and an appendix on the techniques used to print the originals. Though it is intended as a book about woodworking, it also does a tremendous job demonstrating changes in technical writing.
Recent claims that Adobe is blocking HTML5 are glaringly wrong, reflecting mostly the incompatibilities between the two organizations, the W3C and WHATWG, sharing the process. Ideally, I'd like to see the W3C take its consensus-based process seriously, and the WHATWG agree to abide by that. Realistically, I just can't see either part of that happening. The W3C is too willing to bend; the WHATWG too unwilling.
Back in 1984, when the Macintosh 128K had just arrived, I wandered down to Chemung Electronics to take a look at this supposed upgrade from the Apple ][ world. It was okay until I asked the salesman, "so how do I write programs on this thing?" He laughed and said I'd have to buy that separately. They'd even have to special-order it. Today, I find myself reading pieces from a lot of good people (Tim Bray, Alex Payne) who share the dismay of my 13-year-old self. How could Apple release a product so exclusively oriented to consumption, rather than production?
As I'm writing this, twenty people are watching their peers write code. They aren't looking over anyone's shoulders, or doing peer programming - they're watching mirrors of screens at the TopCoder Open, seeing exactly how competitors work their way through algorithm problems in C++, Java, and C#. Is this something we should be doing more of?
I've worked on lots of collaborative books before. Now, I'm starting on something different: a book written by competition. We're asking TopCoder participants to create a book about how to participate in TopCoder contests, the TopCoder Cookbook. Cookbooks are a natural fit for books with multiple authors, as each recipe can be fairly self-contained, sequence is less critical, and there's room for a wide range of subjects and levels related to a given topic.
Twenty years of change are shifting technology from top-down broadcast-model documentation and training to a more conversational approach that shrinks the social distance between teacher and learner, personalizing our experience.

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