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Dastardly Dan is calling out the Sheriff!

Dan Kehn
Dastardly Dan the Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 11, 2003
Posts: 120
As our "authors' week" winds down, I mused that it might be interesting to stir things up just a little before the JDG2E posse rides off into the sunset. My fellow co-authors will attest that I do have this natural tendency, so you've been forewarned. And since the Sheriff was so kind (and insightful!) to assign me the moniker Dastardly Dan, it seems only proper that I earn the title.
I'll use this public forum to challenge the Sheriff. Note that this is a one-time thing and I have no intention of makin' a habit of this. So in the spirit of good 'ol JavaRanch fun... let me take exception to part of the Sheriff's recent review of The Java Developer's Guide to Eclipse:
The authors of this book are part of a core IBM group formed to share knowledge of the Eclipse universal IDE. The first part of this book deals with using Eclipse from a Java developers point of view. I found this was not any more helpful than the documentation available on the Eclipse web site. Eclipse works extensively with plugins that can be integrated into the Eclipse environment to provide new functionality. I would have liked to see something on some of the more popular plugins such as those used to run application servers. Even a list of where to go to get plugins would have been helpful. Unfortunately, this part of the book only covers the basics of what comes with Eclipse and does not discuss any existing plugins.
The second part of the book, about 450 pages, covers writing your own plugins. This part of the book is excellent. It covers not just the basics, but virtually everything you need to know to write plugins. Whether you wish to code a new toolbar, editor, specialized view, or wizard, it is all covered in this section. With this book you will be writing plugins in a fraction of the time you would have otherwise spent. The book also contains exercises which allow you to test your new knowledge.
If your only goal is to use Eclipse then you don't need this book. If your desire is to write plugins then I wouldn't even try without it.

What part sticks in my craw? "If your only goal is to use Eclipse then you don't need this book." Oh, horse manure. Let me begin by pointing out that the book's title isn't "Eclipse Secrets Revealed" (hey, that's a snappy title... but I digress). While I argue that our book is loaded with insights, it doesn't claim to be the exclusive font of Eclipse knowledge. We vigorously debated this same point when selecting what to include. Every time a new article came out (and there's plenty of good ones on eclipse.org and developerWorks to name just two places) we agonized: Should we cover this topic? It is described in the online documentation. It is described in this newly available article. Can we present enough new information to make it worth the reader's time?
That's when we realized that the value of our book isn't just in "revelations" it may offer. There's also the step-wise presentation, easily adaptable solutions, associated exercises, and one-stop reference appeal. To use another analogy: Sun has written some very fine Java books. Nearly everything you'd ever want to know about the Java language has probably been said in one of their books. And yet why are two of the top five books in Amazon's Java top seller's list "just language" books? I would hope it is because these books present a new, fresh look on learning.
As I pondered the western skyline last night (coyotes howling in the distance, sounds of crickets abound, the crackling of the fire... OK, this isn't true but stay with me), I felt it would be a bit timid if all I had to offer as a challenge was noting an overlooked tidbit here, a missed hint there, a unmentioned list of steps over there. I wanted a succinct yet noteworthy example of something in Part I (Using Eclipse) that brought my point home. Not easily done, since I didn't write it and frankly I've only read it two or three times! Then as fate would have it, a fellow JavaRancher's question handed me the coup de gr�ce.
They asked about remote debugging (or at least that was what I offered as a solution). Not wanting to appear flagrantly self-promoting by giving them a page reference to our book, I looked to the Eclipse online documentation and found the section entitled Remote Debugging. I think "bingo!" Then I read for a few minutes, looking for instructions on how to hook things up. Everything looks great until I read:
More specific instructions for setting up a launch configuration for remote debugging should be obtained from your VM provider.

*Sigh*. No example, no end-to-end steps. Maybe not a dead end, but not looking overly promising either. So I turn to the same section in Part I of our book. Cool, what do I see? A clean explanation and a corresponding exercise in Part III that walks through it in detail.
I didn't attempt to set it up based solely on the information I found in the Eclipse documentation. However, I'll bet that it would keep many folks busy for awhile figuring out the last five percent that the above quote alludes to. And that's where something another reviewer wrote reminded me why we made the choices we did (dvorme on amazon.com):
It is obvious when reading this book that (as professional teachers/trainers) the authors of this book have already taught this information many times and know what tends to trip people up. Their writing style flows with the ease of great familiarity with and confidence about their material. And their code examples work.

Just like that, this reader nailed it. The name of the game isn't simply collecting and then restating what's available elsewhere in a different way -- it's sorting the chaff from the wheat, guiding the reader along their Eclipse learning experience. Sheriff, I'm not suggesting that you modify one word of your review. I wanted to share some author feedback in the hope that some background on the making of our book would incite you to take a second look with a different viewpoint.
This sort of reviewer / author discussion in a public forum is a bit "unorthodox" and in all likelihood, I'll delete this message before sunup (or sooner if my publisher or any of my co-authors see it!). Until then, just our little secret among a few early-riser JavaRanchers?
And notice that nowhere did I stoop to calling you a yellow-bellied stinkin' liar. Now off to find the nearest saloon and get rip roarin' drunk. There surely must be some cattle to rustle in these here parts...
-- Dastardly Dan
[ July 17, 2003: Message edited by: Dan Kehn ]

Co-author of <a href="http://www.jdg2e.com" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">The Java Developer's Guide to Eclipse</a>, 2nd Edition<br />(Yahoo group <a href="http://groups.yahoo.com/group/JDG2E/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">JDG2E</a>)
Sherry Shavor
Author
Greenhorn

Joined: Jul 15, 2003
Posts: 7
Dan,
Well said, and I can hear those hours of debates we had coming back to life. You are on a good point. I think as a team, and especially due to John's efforts the first part excels in making the extreme novice comfortable in getting started and also uncovering very cool features in the Java IDE that are shall we say, "less than obviously" provided via the UI. For the novice, I like that the text comes right out and says, "if you saw this", here is how to correct it. It relieves the reader of that frustration of starting to learn something new.
Sherry Shavor


<a href="http://www.awprofessional.com/titles/0321159640" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.awprofessional.com/titles/0321159640</a>
Dan Kehn
Dastardly Dan the Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 11, 2003
Posts: 120
Oh my, the JDG2E posse is up late tonight!
Before we break our arms patting ourselves on the back , let's also give credit where credit it due -- the hundreds of students and dozens of ISVs that gave us valuable feedback.
These tidbits are sprinkled throughout the book, sometime explicitly. For example, the "Using the Plug-in Development Environment" exercise includes a table at the end entitled Common Errors and Possible Resolutions. Did we track these all down? Hardly. It was in observing and correcting the same student mistakes over and over again that we finally documented them (in the "real" list, it goes on for pages and pages -- we trimmed them to the "most common of common errors" for reasons of brevity).
Well Sheriff, there's a little glimpse behind the scenes of the making of The Java Developer's Guide to Eclipse. BTW, do you want to have a real contest? Raffle off a book to whomever can guess what the original 1st draft page count was. Hint: The course of the same name includes exercises much like those in the book; they are over three hundred pages, almost one exercise per lecture . Only seven of them made the final cut in the book.
'nite all, the saloons close in a couple hours and I gotta skidaddle...
-- Dan
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
I shot the sheriff
But I did not shoot the deputy

- Bob Marley
OK, first I want you to notice two things. I read your book cover to cover (at more than 800 pages, no small accomplishement) and very seriously considered the material to arrive at my review. Second, I gave you 8 horseshoes (4 stars on Amazon) which is a very good rating.
That being said, I stand by my statement that if you are only using Eclipse to do Java programming, you don't need your book. If you aren't interested in doing plug-ins then (1) you really don't need any book because Eclipse just isn't that hard to use and (2) there are other books that concentrate more on just using Eclipse and cover using some of the plug-ins, a topic that your book doesn't cover.
If your book had just gone a little further and looked at installing the Tomcat plug-in or showed how to integrate Eclipse with an application server, I would probably have raved about the first section of the book. I just felt that this was such a huge hole since so many of us are doing server side development. The back of the book says that your book, "is the definitive Eclipse companion." I just thought that was over stating things a bit.
Ed Burnette, when he was here last week, stated that he thought your book and his book were complimentary. I think that states things well. There are some things that "Eclipse in Action" covers better that your book. There are other things that your book covers much better than his book (especially writing plug-ins).
As far as the section on writing plug-ins goes, I think one of the Amazon reviewers said it best, "I wish I'd had this information months ago. Within 10 minutes of getting the book, I was able to solve a programming problem that had been puzzling me for weeks."


Associate Instructor - Hofstra University
Amazon Top 750 reviewer - Blog - Unresolved References - Book Review Blog
Dan Kehn
Dastardly Dan the Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 11, 2003
Posts: 120
Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
I shot the sheriff
But I did not shoot the deputy

- Bob Marley

Who's the deputy? I'll get him (or her) later.
I agree that using Eclipse isn't rocket science. I got along just fine without any documentation at all back when it was a beta. Perhaps I'm not a fair standard to judge by, since I've been developing AD tools for most of my professional career. We've found that many developers prefer a gentle "hand holding" introduction to a new environment, hence why our book begins with how to effectively use the environment without further adornment.
I'm not an instructor by trade. I was brought onto the Eclipse Jumpstart team to help recruit ISVs to the platform by providing critical-mass skills of a developing technology ("ISV enablement" in IBM-speak). Teaching these materials was a practical necessity to that mission. As the demand grew to outstrip our capacity, we recognized that a book would probably be the only way to scale to the need. That's why our book covers the breadth and depth of plug-in development is does -- it represents several years of practical teaching experience -- and why I hope that you'd agree that it deserves recognition as the "definitive Eclipse [plug-in development] companion." It will be difficult for another book to match its scope on the subject anytime soon because we had the advantage of a 3+ year headstart.
I've read Eclipse in Action and like its Part I. Trivia: Did you know that Ed Burnett lives three doors down from me? It certainly is a small I/T world. Anyway, I agree that their Part I complements our book nicely, although I find there are more similarities than differences in five of the first seven chapters.
Thanks for listening and for reading all of the book as part of your review. Based on some reviews that I've read, I suspect that a few may have stopped at the Table of Contents. Your fortitude is greatly appreciated and we'll certainly take your comments into consideration for the second edition.
-- Dan
PS: OT - why doesn't this BB allow a preview of a message before posting it? I can't seem to type one message without having to edit it afterward.
[ July 18, 2003: Message edited by: Dan Kehn ]
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Two things:
(1) Ed Burnett happened to mention that he lived three doors from you when he was here last week.
(2) There are lots of things we don't like about UBB. "No preview" is only one of a long laundry list. We are looking at alternatives and perhaps one day we will go to a Java solution!
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Originally posted by Dan Kehn:
Who's the deputy? I'll get him (or her) later.

There is actually only one deputy on JavaRanch. I gave the title to my 10 year old daughter. Trust me, you don't want to mess with her!
Dan Kehn
Dastardly Dan the Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 11, 2003
Posts: 120
Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
If your book had just gone a little further and looked at installing the Tomcat plug-in or showed how to integrate Eclipse with an application server, I would probably have raved about the first section of the book. I just felt that this was such a huge hole since so many of us are doing server side development. The back of the book says that your book, "is the definitive Eclipse companion." I just thought that was over stating things a bit.

Sheriff, what a difference a year can make! Your point was well taken and we updated the second edition to include just what you proposed by adding Exercise 4, Developing a Simple Web Commerce Site with Eclipse.

While I've never mentioned it publically until now, your comments weighed heavily in our topic choices for Part I and we are grateful for your feedback. Thanks.
Jessica Sant
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 17, 2001
Posts: 4313

wahoo! go Tom!
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Woo Hoo! Send me the book and we'll see if you earned that rave review!
Dan Kehn
Dastardly Dan the Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 11, 2003
Posts: 120
Sheriff, no problem! Send me your snail mail and I'll get a copy right out.
Dan Kehn
Dastardly Dan the Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 11, 2003
Posts: 120
Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
Woo Hoo! Send me the book and we'll see if you earned that rave review!


Just read your review on amazon.com. Let me tell you, it made our day!

The first edition of this book was excellent for plug-in developers and helpful, although not vital, to all others. Two things make this new edition even better than the first edition. First, plug-in development in Eclipse is now so easy and so well explained in this book that there is no reason why anyone shouldn't be doing it. Have you ever worked with an IDE and thought, "why isn't this function available in the pop-up menu" or "why doesn't it have this feature"? Developing a plug-in will allow you to customize the functionality of Eclipse to provide the missing feature and this book will clearly explain exactly how to do that. Second, the section of the book that deals with developing with Eclipse has been improved with detailed chapters on team development including using CVS as well as an excellent example of integrating with Tomcat to develop an E-Commerce application.

The book is divided into two sections. The first 200 pages deal with using Eclipse and cover everything from the basics to complex team development issues. The next 600 pages cover everything you need to know about extending the functionality of Eclipse. The book ends with 200 pages of exercises that give detailed, step-by-step examples. Five exercises deal with using Eclipse while the rest show examples of extending Eclipse. It is a big book that covers a lot of material but it covers it clearly and with plenty of examples. If you buy one Eclipse book, this should be it.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://aspose.com/file-tools
 
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