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Head First Java - more diversity

Mark Ju
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 20, 2003
Posts: 117
Hello Kathy & Bert,
Like many others here, I greatly enjoyed your book Head First Java. I can't wait for your EJB book to come out.
However, reading throughout the book, I couldn't help but notice the lack of cultural diversity in the pictures! The software engineering field is very diverse and it would be nice to see that reflected in the pictures in your books.
Thanks!
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Do people really go through books looking for pictures that look like themselves?
Hey Kathy, your book needs more transvestite eskimo pictures. And where are the Tuvan throat singers! The lack of cultural diversity is making me ill!
:roll:


Associate Instructor - Hofstra University
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Mark Ju
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 20, 2003
Posts: 117
Obviously I did right?
Well, it wasn't so much as "Hey, there are no people that look like me! Where are all the elephant ear'd people?" as much as "Hey, there aren't ANY Asian/Black/Hispanic/Eskimo people. This doesn't reflect the world/America/programmers."
Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
The impression I got is that they were generally using a style that generally seemed to give a nod to America in the 50's and early 60's. Kind of the whole Leave it to Beaver, Ozzy and Harriet era. Stock images from that time would consist mostly of exactly the types of images that were included in the book. That was only my impression of the artistic style of the book, and I may very possibly be mistaken.
Ideally though, every book published on any subject that happens to contiain pictures of people should break down to a strict 75.1% white, 12.5% hispanic, 12.3% black, 3.6% asian, 0.9% American Indian or Alaskan Native, 5.5% "other", and 2.4% where the subject is multi-racial.
I can't say I particularly noticed the ethnic makeup of the book until you brought it up though. I would be willing to bet however that Mr. Woodruff, pictured on p.xxix, might disagree with your assertion that there aren't ANY pictures of non-white people in the book.
Mark Ju
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 20, 2003
Posts: 117
Jason,
Yes, I understood what the theme of the book was.
No, I do not expect a perfect percentage-by-percentage breakdown of each ethnic group to be represented in the book.
I only meant to point out that most characters in the book were white - which is great (and does not impede the quality and charm of the book).
But I would like to see more cultural diversity in future books - not necessarily people like me or transvestite eskimos (though that would be great too).
Kathy Sierra
Cowgirl and Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 10, 2002
Posts: 1572
Howdy Chris,
We really REALLY appreciate your comment, and I think we understand the spirit in which it's made.
Actually, the lack of diversity in the contemporary photos is the one thing that bugged us the most during development of the Java book (although you're the first person to bring it up to us.)
In the EJB book we now have a new source for *some* of the artwork, and it *does* have more diversity. Will it reflect the makeup of programmers worldwide? Definitely not -- to do that, we would have to have a HUGE budget for stock photography and, well, nobody does books for the Big Bucks they're gonna make
We *are* still using the retro theme in the EJB book (we switch to other themes after that, but I won't say what they are , and these 50's retro photography collections (there are very few) are quite limited, culturally. But that's because they are indeed representative of a completely fantasy world from American T.V. and movies of that era. Other themes will reflect the nature of the theme, and may be just as homogenized, although in a completely different way, because that theme is about a completely different cultural idea.

But the Head First format has both a theme (in this case retro) and also contemporary photos. In the book, we use those regular, non-themed, contemporary photos more to represent the developer's thoughts, as opposed to just something to remember, and in the EJB book, those 'developer' photos are considerably less whitebread than those of the Java book.
Now -- I have to say that Bert and I aren't interested in being politically correct; the book would lose some of its flavor and memoriability if it had to, say, remove the "LingerieExceptions" or the girl in the bathtub. That stuff is fun for us, fun for most readers, and most importantly -- it is less expected in a programming book, which helps with retention and recall. ("The learning theory made me do it!" )
However, we *do* feel that more diversity in the developer photos would make the book that much more interesting and appealing, and from a learning standpoint, that IS our goal
The EJB book, as I said, is also in the 'retro' theme, so that part will be, well, as it is in the Java book, but we're pretty sure that *nobody* reading this book is trying to personally relate to, for example, the two women in the kitchen discussing their package names for their quantum mechanical Jini appliances... and we know that this was not your point either.
But, if I understand what you were suggesting, I think that when the contemporary photos representing developers are there, the more variety the better. They won't represent YOU, perhaps, but it's probably more interesting if it might at least represent someone you might work with.
So, we really appreciate your comment about this, and I'm surprised nobody has mentioned it before now.
Chris, if you want to see some samples of the EJB book, please write to me directly. And if you have any more thoughts on what you've brought up here, please continue here (and also feel free to write to us directly).
kathy.sierra@wickedlysmart.com
cheers,
Kathy
frank davis
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 12, 2001
Posts: 1479
Originally posted by Chris G Lee:

The software engineering field is very diverse and it would be nice to see that reflected in the pictures in your books.
Thanks!


Edited out comment that didn't add to the discussion. - Pauline
[ September 27, 2003: Message edited by: Pauline McNamara ]
Rafael Lee
Greenhorn

Joined: Sep 06, 2003
Posts: 23
... The impression I got is that they were generally using a style that generally seemed to give a nod to America in the 50's and early 60's. ...

Possibly K & B are just nostalgic about their teen days... just kidding!
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
The moment readers of software engineering books are worrying about the political correctness of the authors because of their choice of artwork is a very sad one.
Kathy, maybe you should indeed release localised versions all over the world with not only artwork but text that is optimised for the social structure of each and every region in the world.
That would be the only way to avoid controversy.
What will Japanese say when you don't use the exact ethnic makeup of their country? If too many of your asians look like Koreans they may well be extremely insulted.
iow, just don't care about it. If your main concern is to be providing the correct racial mix in your illustrations that takes up so much time that the real content of the book gets impossible to write in the time available.
Just open that old box of family pictures your grandmother left you and use those


42
michael bradly
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 06, 2000
Posts: 112
I stumbled across this posting and for a moment thought I was at espn.com.
When reading a book by a Chinese author I'd be surprised to stumble upon a Moroccan, and when reading a book by an Egyptian writer I'd be surprised to stumble upon an Inuit. When reading a book on Java, I want to learn something about Java, not C++ nor VB.net nor cultural diversity, and generally don't dwell upon pictures in the book. However in the case of HeadFirst I must admitt I did pay attention to many of the pictures because they stuck a chord with me due to the absurdity of some as well as appealing to my liking of noir fiction and movies. However, I do find it hard to extrapolate that the lacking of "cultural diversity" in the pictures would either make this a better book or that there is something egregiously wrong in a programming book not being "inclusive" of all ethnicities.
Essentially I feel that this is a question of ethnicity as opposed to cultural diversity. There is nothing diverse about khaki pants and a blue shirt regardless of whether or not you are from India, Germany, or Argentina. If you are looking for cultural diversity, I believe an ethnography would be more suitable reading material then a programming book.
I find it ironic at times that there appears to me this interplay between homogenizing everyone as being equal while at the same time differentiating everyone as individuals. I've found this dichotomy to be detremental because it inhibits discourse because people are not equal yet pretend they are while at the same time can not discuss their individuality and distinctions from others without accusations of prejudice. I tend to find that literature can do this eqalitarianly and so I look for it there, not in a programming book.
Alas, before I have another beer and rant, to quote myself, "No matter what your ethnicity, the GAP makes everyone look white."
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Originally posted by michael bradly:
I find it ironic at times that there appears to me this interplay between homogenizing everyone as being equal while at the same time differentiating everyone as individuals. I've found this dichotomy to be detremental because it inhibits discourse because people are not equal yet pretend they are while at the same time can not discuss their individuality and distinctions from others without accusations of prejudice. I tend to find that literature can do this eqalitarianly and so I look for it there, not in a programming book.

Well said.
The same people who insist that everyone is equal are also the people who constantly make references to their differences in insisting that certain groups get preferential treatment or are specifically noted as existing.
Michael Ernest
High Plains Drifter
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 25, 2000
Posts: 7292

Chris Lee is a potential customer. In the narrowest sense, he's saying he'd like to see himself reflected in the contents of books aimed at his dollars. What other motivation does an author in search of an audience require?
Mark Ju
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 20, 2003
Posts: 117
Wow, I entirely forgot about this forum....
Kathy,
thanks for your generous response. I look forward to your future books.
Jeroen,
a localized version of the book wouldn't help me as I live in Texas. However, I think it would defeat the purpose of considering diversity at all in a book if you should merely substitute one set of homogenous pictures with another, equally unrealistic, set.
Michael Brady,
If China was as diverse as the US, then I would NOT be surprised to see non-Han pictures in a book by a Chinese author. But, that's not even the point. The point is: I made the suggestion to Kathy and Bert, educated US authors; not some Chinese or Moroccan author. If you fail to understand why racial issues are important to understand, I should point you to far superior minds than I at your local library. Or, visit your local ghetto and notice the high number of minorities.
Michael Ernest,
Thanks, but I'm not even interested in seeing myself reflected. I'd like to just see some diversity that reflects the audience/programmers/America.
This is really a minor point to a great book. I am trying to improve it (in my mind) and offer feedback - not incite some social commentary on race relations in the US (why in the world would I be qualified to partake in such a discussion?).
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
If my memory serves me right, there is a picture of a human head, separated from the body, whose mission is to highlight some points about abstract methods. Imagine now that it would be a Black or Asian guy on the picture!
What I am trying to say, graphic illustrations in the book serve to um.. illustrate very specific points. To mirror racial diversity among those employed as Java programmers would be, should I say, orthogonal to the book's main objectives.
Practically speaking, most pictures in Kathy&Bert book are humoristic, it's hard to find a place where minorities can appear without these very minorities being offended later. If even Bert and Kathy decided to follow your advice, they would have to be very careful about deciding in what context "racial diversity" is acceptable (and guaranteed, some people still would be offended) -- practically, this is very far from "realistic picture".
[ October 07, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]

Uncontrolled vocabularies
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Jim Yingst
Wanderer
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 18671
Indeed, the existing pictures in Head First Java reflect a sanitized stereotype of white middle American life in the middle twentieth century, as portrayed in the media. I'm not sure you want to see minority portrayals in this particular context; they'd probably be filled with stereotypes which would be deemed offessive by today's standards. I'm having visions of future Head First books with art based on 70's blaxploitation flicks, or Bruce Lee movies, or a cowboy-vs.-Indians shoot-'em-up. Be careful what you ask for.
[ October 07, 2003: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]

"I'm not back." - Bill Harding, Twister
Michael Ernest
High Plains Drifter
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 25, 2000
Posts: 7292

Originally posted by Chris G Lee:

Michael Ernest,
Thanks, but I'm not even interested in seeing myself reflected. I'd like to just see some diversity that reflects the audience/programmers/America.

Hm. Without any sense of why it matters to you personally, I'd have to agree your request does seem minor, if not pointless. Why do you bring it up? For the "greater good?"
[ October 07, 2003: Message edited by: Michael Ernest ]
Mark Ju
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 20, 2003
Posts: 117
Map,
Yes, I'd agree if the only minority shown was beheaded it would be very strange. I was just looking for some balance...
Jim,
I'm sure there were many positive non-racist pictures of minorities during that era in the US. I am asking for some balance - not racist pictures of the past. If that's how you perceive my request, then perhaps you are the one that needs to be careful...
Michael,
There is, indeed, selfish intention behind my request. As a minority in the workforce, I like to see a balanced and diverse workforce - of course, taking a backseat to actual competence of the workers. I also like to see diversity reflected in the literature we have - of course, taking a backseat to the actual content of the literature.
Why? Simply because it increases my own chances of surviving and thriving when people are not used to seeing only white males ascend the corporate latter. That being said, I see myself as an advocate for all minorities - women, handicapped, black, green, marketing majors, people under 5'5', gay, poor, rich, etc etc. Everyone's a minority...everyone needs an advocate.
But this background info does not relate to my original comment on Kathy's book, so please all you lawyers out there don't use it against me.
Jim Yingst
Wanderer
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 18671
Jim,
I'm sure there were many positive non-racist pictures of minorities during that era in the US. I am asking for some balance - not racist pictures of the past. If that's how you perceive my request, then perhaps you are the one that needs to be careful...

No I understand that's not what you're requesting, but I'm saying that I think that if you look for pictures of minorities in the popular media from this era (a) you won't find many, and (b) what you do find may be objectionable. Or now I'll add (c) you may find stuff that's nice and unobjectionable, but doesn't match the other pictures in character. The current Head First art has a comical feel to it - I find myself laughing at what I see as silly old sterotypes from an idealized world long gone (which my or may not have actually existed in that form, dunno since I wasn't around then). Putting in quiet dignified pictures of minorities would be a bit out of place, IMO - if they're included they should have the same sort of silly character as the other pictures. And I don't think that's going to be an easy task.
One other alternative comes to mind, and that's to take new pictures with content comparable to the old ones, but with minorities in place of whites. This could possibly be done in a humorous but inoffensive way that would mesh well with the existing style. But I'm thinking it would add considerably to the art costs. My guess is that the current art comes from actual period photos, which are considerably cheaper than staging and creating a bunch of new photos.
Now I'm far from an expert in any of this; I'm just making a bunch of guesses really. (I should also note that I don't own a copy of Head First; I'm just going by promo art and the memories I have from flipping through the book.) Maybe it's not so expensive to stage new photos. Maybe there actually are a lot of existing images of minorities which would fit well in the book, if you know where to look. Maybe some of the media image from that era would not be deemed offensive now. I dunno really; I'm just making the best guesses I can. But based on those guesses, I think the most realistic options here may be (a) keep the book as it is, or (b) don't use this art theme; do something else entirely. In an ideal world, I don't think any one book (or movie or TV show) should be responsible for maintaining a precise racial balance. But I do sympathize that it would be nice if overall, more books had a wider balance. I like the way Manning for example has costumes from all over the world on their covers, or New Riders has shots of cool ancient ruins from all over the place. Though of course these have nothing to do with the contents of the books. In Head First, the artwork has a more integral role, using humor to draw the reader's attention so as to more fully engage the reader's brain, and hopefully impart knowlege better. It may very well be possible to use more minoriy images while doing so, but there are a number of risks and difficulties involved, I think.
[ October 07, 2003: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
Mark Ju
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 20, 2003
Posts: 117
Jim,
I think we are mostly in agreement. I will add that I don't see why authors are bound by images of (biased) popular media. Can we show minorities in non-stereotypical ways, but weren't shown by the popular media at the time?
Anyway, this line of conversation is drifting away from my original point, which doesn't call for precise racial balance or exact percentage breakdowns of every minority group.
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Originally posted by Chris G Lee:
Jeroen,
a localized version of the book wouldn't help me as I live in Texas. However, I think it would defeat the purpose of considering diversity at all in a book if you should merely substitute one set of homogenous pictures with another, equally unrealistic, set.

Ever heard of sarcasm?
Kathy Sierra
Cowgirl and Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 10, 2002
Posts: 1572
Originally posted by Jim Yingst:
I'm having visions of future Head First books with art based on 70's blaxploitation flicks, or Bruce Lee movies, or a cowboy-vs.-Indians shoot-'em-up. Be careful what you ask for.

I forgot about this thread too!
Well, hate to break it to ya, but our next theme really IS classic kung fu. So there will indeed be a fairly consistent set of images from old kung fu movies, and a general kick-butt kung fu theme.
Anybody who wants to object... speak now or forever keep your mouth shut about it
But anyway I think some folks here should cut Chris Lee some slack! He made a reasonable point in a reasonable way, and although I'm not entirely sure I agree with the *reasons* for including more diversity, he made a good point and in fact you WILL find more diversity in the new EJB book. But as I said, I could give a s*** about being politically correct - if we tried to do that in a Head First book, we would surely suck the life out of it, and that would defeat the point. And for that same reason, we're making NO attempt to make the book easy to localize, or free of cultural-specific references. In fact, it's loaded with them. But again, if the book were watered down in a way that made it appropriate and culturally-neutral for everyone, it would no longer be a Head First book and a strong part of the learning theory would have been washed away.
But the diversity just makes it more interesting, and that works for us from a learning theory perspective. So, the *real* people (as opposed to the 50's theme people) are indeed a little more diverse and interesting this time, I think. To tell you the truth, though, we do not give one moment's thought to whether it's *appropriate* to portray such and such a character in a particular way, stereotypical or not. We DO use stereotypes in some places, but we're making fun of them, not promoting them.
However, I did have one woman actually claim that Head First Java was the most sexist computer book ever, and that it was incredibly sad that a WOMAN would do such damage, promoting sexist behavior in the IT world. Well, you can imagine what I told her And I forwarded her a letter we got from the head of an all-girls school, saying that they were all having a lot of fun with Head First Java as their computer programming class book. (The woman who complained was actually another author).
Now that I think about it, though, Head First Java probably is the SEXIEST programming book ever, but then again, that's not saying much, given the amount of sexiness in most computer books is pretty much zero. So, a cartoon picture of a "LingerieException" (which is actually just a bathing suit top).
But hey, we'll do almost anything to raise a pulse, since that one extra heartbeat can improve attention, understanding, and retention.
So... I'll be interested to see what kind of feedback we get from the EJB book (should be in stores within a week or two).
In the meantime, if anyone has a comment on the kung fu theme -- please let us know Personally we (and the other authors -- we have co-authors for the next two books) are pretty excited about it, and everyone is getting tired of the "Pleasantville" people. We have other themes on the list as well, but the "Shaft" thing and cowboys and indians isn't on the list. (Although if not for javaranch, I'd be doing a cowboy theme for sure. But I figure everyone here has already been cowboy'd about as much as they can stand )
cheers,
Kathy
p.s. O'Reilly figures that the people who buy the book are self-selecting... they KNOW who they are and whether it would appeal to them. And those who know they won't like it, normally won't buy it. I think that's why our reviews have generally been so positive... the people who would hate it simply don't buy it. It's really hard to mistake the book for a serious, dry, text-heavy book. In this case, you really CAN judge the book by its cover (and if the cover isn't enough, flip to any page in the book...) :
Johannes de Jong
tumbleweed
Bartender

Joined: Jan 27, 2001
Posts: 5089
I really can't understand the "fuzz" about the pictures. What Head First books have done is that they have made reading IT books fun to read. Look past the % of representation (or lack of it) of a certain group and see the intended fun.
 
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