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Painting with broad brushes

by clintp (Curate)
on Sep 20, 2002 at 20:15 UTC ( [id://199614]=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Re: Re: Beginning Perl for system admins
in thread Beginning Perl for system admins

You had me there until the last paragraph.

Some SAMS books are bad. In fact, prior to 1999 I'd say *most* of SAMS books were bad. A lot of it has to do with the editorial process of which I've got firshand knowledge. So trust me there. Things have improved though.

The same could be said of any publisher. ORA and Manning both have some real stinkers on the shelf right now at my local bookstore.

My own "Teach Yourself X in Y" book has gotten very *good* reviews from both a readability and technical standpoint. It doesn't teach any bad habits that I've ever been told of, was widely tech reviewed in an open process by dozens in the Perl Community, has a friendly style to newbies, and as a result sells like gangbusters everywhere.

I'd send you one to review, except your attitude's a little hostile and negative right now and I don't know if it'd do any good.


On a related note, I've always held there's two kinds of tech books: ones you learn a subject with, and ones you use for reference. There are very few books that fit both categories well. The Llama is a *terrible* reference book, it's organized all wrong for that and it's not supposed to be a reference. But it's pretty good to learn from! The Camel is an *awful* introductory text to Perl. It far too steep and organized around the parts of the language and not tasks to be done with it. It's a great reference and map to the language.

Of course, by "learn a subject" I mean starting fairly low on the curve. If you're already an adept C, Lisp, Java, Shell, Pascal, Smalltalk, and C++ programmer and you're learning Perl for the first time you'd probably be happy with a reference and a few examples. If your programming experience is limited to BASIC and some Pascal you took in college then you're a different creature entirely.

Are there any books that do well at both? Possibly. K&R does a nice job, before it got too footnote-heavy in the second edition. But C's a microscopic subject compared to Perl. Steven's first edition of the Network Programming book got it right and does both well. His Unix book though was kind of steep for learning a new system, but great if you already new a bit of this and a little of that.

I borrow a learning book, spend some time with it, and then permanently loan it out again. I then go out and buy a reference book and keep it forever.

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Re: Painting with broad brushes
by Dog and Pony (Priest) on Sep 20, 2002 at 20:57 UTC
    You had me there until the last paragraph.
    Does that mean I shouldn't have written that one? ;-)

    On a more serious note, I don't for a second doubt what you say. Anyone can get better, I just haven't seen it first hand. It may sound as if I am judging from just one book, but that is not so - it is the only book I've ever bought myself like that, but I've repeatedly encountered those books at jobs. Ranging from ASP to XML, and all of them were equally bad from what I tried to learn from them. While I've only had good experiences with ORA books (and never read a Manning one).

    That said, it is very possible many of those books were a bit on the old side and thus fit in to your category of pre 1999.

    I suppose that it is also very possible that the form these books try to teach in does not fit me well, or at all. I think that is very true. I still stand by my "review" of the book in question, although I should really get my copy back and reread it to be fair to it. Of course I hold a grudge against it. :)

    However, even if SAMS has gotten better, even much better, they have repeatedly ruined their chances with me unless I get a good reason to think otherwise. Which in itself is a catch 22. But then again, as you point out, I am maybe not in their immideate target audience either.

    I have no reason to doubt that your book is excellent (I do not know which book it is), especially if it has gotten the positive attention you mention. Let's just say I am a gambling man, and my experience with SAMS as the dealer has taught me it is better to bet someplace else, even though now the rules may have changed. Just as I've "learnt" that ORA is usually a good bet. Is how one makes choices, based upon experience (and recommendations).

    I do agree that there are two different kinds of books. I guess I was disappointed that said book was neither, again IMO.

    I will now save this and go ++ your node, as it puts a good perspective to mine. :) I *still* think the same about SAMS books in general, but I will now promise to at least look at them before not buying them. *grin*

    A sidenote: As for reviewing your book, if it is Perl related, maybe I'll contact you a bit later. I am trying to breathe some life into my local PerlMongers group (in Gothenburg) that has apparently been sleeping for ages (same for the whole country, in fact), and if I succeed we could use some bookreviews and such. I'll even give it to someone else for the review if you like. :)

    Thank you.

    You have moved into a dark place.
    It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.
Re: Painting with broad brushes
by ignatz (Vicar) on Sep 21, 2002 at 18:21 UTC
    That's no fair. Their's nothing on your homepage to link you to anything. Don't be shy. Now you made me have to work and go and search google for clint Perl and 21 days in order to find it. Seems to be rather well liked, too.

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