Web trends in science: javascript

When I first started out writing simple web pages circa 1995, JavaScript was frowned upon. It was a security risk, browser support was poor, people tended to switch it off, there were different versions and we were instructed that web page code should be compact, since most people had dialup connections.

Jump forward 10 years and a WWW without JavaScript is almost unthinkable, since it’s a major component of AJAX, which powers all the Web 2.0 applications that we know and love. It’s also used in Greasemonkey scripts, which have proved extremely useful to bioinformaticians and even merit academic publication.

Why am I musing on this topic? I’m sitting here with Zoho Writer in one Firefox tab and my CiteULike references in another. I’m thinking: surely with a little JavaScript, I could choose a reference from CiteULike and drop both a numbered citation and a formatted reference into Zoho Writer. I find myself visualising a Firefox addon in which I enter a CiteULike tag, get a drop-down list of references and insert into an online document with one click.

Sadly, I just don’t have the skills to take this further or much time to learn them. I have plenty of bookmarks on del.icio.us pointing to online tutorials, how-tos and teach yourself guides. If anyone has a favourite resource that they used to learn how to code JavaScript, XUL, Firefox extensions and the like, feel free to leave a comment.