About Browsers and the Web

Late last year, Google released an illustrated online guidebook for everyday users who are curious about how browsers and the web work. In building 20 Things I Learned about Browsers and the Web with HTML5, JavaScript and CSS with our friends at Fi, we heard from many of you that you’d like to get your hands on the source code. Today, They’re open sourcing all the code for this web book at http://code.google.com/p/20thingsilearned, so that you can use and tinker with the code for your own projects.

20 Things I Learned was celebrated this year as an Official Honoree at the 15th Annual Webby Awards in the categories of Education, Best Visual Design (Function), and Best Practices. For those of you who missed our initial release last year, here’s a quick recap of the APIs behind some of the web book’s popular features:

  • The book uses the HTML5 canvas element to animate some of the illustrations in the book and enhance the experience with transitions between the hard cover and soft pages of the book. The page flips, including all shadows and highlights, are generated procedurally through JavaScript and drawn on canvas. You can read more about the page flips on this HTML5rocks tutorial.
  • The book takes advantage of the Application Cache API so that is can be read offline after a user’s first visit.
  • With the Local Storage API, readers can resume reading where they left off.
  • The History API provides a clutter-free URL structure that can be indexed by search engines.
  • CSS3 features such as web fonts, animations, gradients and shadows are used to enhance the visual appeal of the app.

With this open source release, we’ve also taken the opportunity to translate 20 Things I Learned into 15 languages: Bahasa Indonesia, Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Czech, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and Tagalog.

We hope that web books like 20 Things I Learned continue to inspire web developers to find compelling ways to bring the power of open web technologies to education. 20 Things I Learned is best experienced in Chrome or any up-to-date, HTML5-compliant modern browser. For those of you who’ve previously read this web book, don’t forget to hit refresh on your browser to see the new language options.

OpenStreetMap (Ramm, Topf and Chilton)

OpenStreetMap: Using and Enhancing the Free Map of the World
by Frederik Ramm, Jochen Topf and Steve Chilton
UIT Cambridge, 2010. Paperback, 352 pp.
ISBN 978-1-906860-11-0

Book cover: OpenStreetMap Last year saw the publication in English of two books about OpenStreetMap. This one, Frederik Ramm and Jochen Topf’s OpenStreetMap, saw three German editions before being translated into this English edition, which Steve Chilton assisted with.

This is a comprehensive manual on using OpenStreetMap and its data, covering everything from contributing user data to editing, to using and hacking OSM data on websites and in applications. In other words, it covers everything — though not necessarily in thorough detail, with lots of references to OSM wiki pages for more information.

Now I’ve always found the OSM wiki to be a bit overwhelming; I think that this book does a better job of getting people up to speed on using OSM than trying to navigate the wiki pages (which is how I got up to speed, and wished for something clearer). Those who spend a lot of time on OSM will do well to have this on their shelf.

I think OSM needs more contributors, at least in Canada, where edits I left unfinished months ago are unchanged when I get back to them. So I read this book with an eye as to whether it would help beginners contribute. The first two parts of the book do a very good job of introducing the mapping process — collecting tracks, editing map data — to beginners, or at least that’s my impression. I even learned a couple of new things, and I’m a little less trepidatious about using JOSM (all my edits to date have been with Potlatch).

But people who are only interested in uploading GPS tracks and editing the map, rather than using OSM data in mashups and applications, won’t need to read past page 160.

Things move fast in the tech world, and the book has already been overtaken in one regard: most of the examples use Potlatch 1, which has been replaced by Potlatch 2 as the default web editor; I had to work to remember how to use the old editor. Serves me right for taking so long to get to this review.

Schweitzer on The Only Thing

“Example is not the main thing
in influencing others. It is the
only thing.

–Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965)
German medical missionary
Nobel Peace Prize winner

You’re a part of the group that will make your company or organization something special (or not).


You won’t be fortunate enough to get things right every time, just be sure you’re always one of the people working toward the solution.