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Does books serve their purpose in the constantly evolving, The Java World?!

Sree Va
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 28, 2007
Posts: 38
The core java technology itself, all the world based on it are evolving in such a fast phase that never happened in the entire IT history.
So,
does books serve their purpose in the constantly evolving, The Java World?!

Let us talk about it.


We believe that every being is divine, is God. Every soul is a sun covered over with clouds of ignorance; the difference between soul and soul is owing to the difference in density of these layers of clouds. - Swami Vivekananda
Barry Gaunt
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Joined: Aug 03, 2002
Posts: 7729
Sorry, this is the Sun Certified java Programmer's forum. Moving to the Bunkhouse where we talk about books...


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Getting someone to think and try something out is much more useful than just telling them the answer.
Ilja Preuss
author
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
Does *learning* serve a purpose in a constantly evolving world?


The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny - it is the light that guides your way. - Heraclitus
Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8803
    
    5
I think that it's extremely important for technical documentation to have focus. IMHO, a mistake that many technical authors make is to try to create a "one size fits all" solution. So, given my orientation, my first question is always:

Are you talking about learning books or reference books? (And, as I've said, I'm suspicious if the answer is "both" ).

So, if learning is the key, then I would say that in many cases, learning books don't have to stay absolutely current with the latest enhancement to a given technology. Of couse, sometimes a new feature is so fundamental that learning material simply has to be updated, but in many cases, new features don't really affect someone's fundamental understanding of a technology.

On the other hand, reference material really does need to be kept current, but usually the APIs and specs. do a pretty good job of that.

hth,

Bert
[ January 30, 2007: Message edited by: Bert Bates ]

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Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8803
    
    5
Hi Sree,

Now that I've seen that you've posted about this at least three times in several forums I have two things to say:

1 - Please don't post the same topic in multiple forums.

2 - Why do you keep knocking our book because it's 14 months old? There are probably a lot of valid critisisms you can make against the book, but this one seems really odd to me? Can you explain more about your concern?

Thanks,

Bert
Hung Tang
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 14, 2002
Posts: 148
This is a good topic.

I was book crazy when I started learning Java, about 5 years ago. Books were a great aid for me insofar that I discovered a lot of information that helped broaden my knowledge about (java)development in general. As time progresses, I find books more of a hindrance to my work, and I practically stopped buying them a couple years ago. I guess experience and lack of patience plays a big role in my style of learning.

Nowadays, all I need are running examples and their accompany source code to figure out how most technologies work. If these artifacts do not exist, then they aren't safe for me to invest my time. I learned Hibernate,Spring,JSF,EJB3,JMS,JBoss etc,etc. from analying tests, source code, documentation, forums. Each time I run through a few books on these type of technologies in my local book store, I came away usually disappointed not learning anything that I didn't already know. And if a book seems interesting, I usually find myself download the source code used in the book and examine that.

I realize it's not a very friendly approach to learning about a particular technology. Everyone learns differently I suppose. I have adapted differently over time to prefer a rather active and aggressive approach in order to keep up-to-date with current and future technologies.
Ilja Preuss
author
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
I agree that reference books are of questionable value - although, as someone who mostly uses Windows systems, I regularly keep looking into my "Linux in a Nutshell" for specific commands.

Books about specific technologies or frameworks can be good to give you a start in the technology. Especially if you like to read on your way to work, like me.

But the books that I wouldn't want to miss at all are those about timeless, mostly technology-agnostic topics: OO-design, Testing, the social aspects of software development etc. pp. ( http://bookshelved.org/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?IljaPreuss has a list of books I enjoyed most - it will give you a good impression of what I'm talking about.)
[ January 31, 2007: Message edited by: Ilja Preuss ]
Sree Va
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 28, 2007
Posts: 38
Originally posted by Bert Bates:
Hi Sree,

Now that I've seen that you've posted about this at least three times in several forums I have two things to say:

1 - Please don't post the same topic in multiple forums.

2 - Why do you keep knocking our book because it's 14 months old? There are probably a lot of valid critisisms you can make against the book, but this one seems really odd to me? Can you explain more about your concern?

Thanks,

Bert


Tree pulp, paper, ink, ink on paper is SO ANCIENT especially in IT.
Printing books on open source and selling is TOTAL UNETHICAL.
Making people stick to the old fashioned 'read book' habit is so NOT MODERN.
Open sources are 'Open' for a purpose.
When technology creators giving away their fresh sweat for free, doesn't it pinch you to sell your 14 month old sweat?
Geeks come together to make technology. Why not a technical writer joins them? So, the technology along with its publication becomes FREE/Open Source?

Please don't take me wrong. Think twice.

we are here to put a dent in the universe. -- Steve Jobs, Pirates of Silicon Valley.

I sincerely apologize for my words. I visualize a tree fall whenever I see paper.
Henry Wong
author
Sheriff

Joined: Sep 28, 2004
Posts: 18542
    
  40

Originally posted by Sree Va:

Tree pulp, paper, ink, ink on paper is SO ANCIENT especially in IT.
Printing books on open source and selling is TOTAL UNETHICAL.
Making people stick to the old fashioned 'read book' habit is so NOT MODERN.
Open sources are 'Open' for a purpose.
When technology creators giving away their fresh sweat for free, doesn't it pinch you to sell your 14 month old sweat?
Geeks come together to make technology. Why not a technical writer joins them? So, the technology along with its publication becomes FREE/Open Source?

Please don't take me wrong. Think twice.

we are here to put a dent in the universe. -- Steve Jobs, Pirates of Silicon Valley.

I sincerely apologize for my words. I visualize a tree fall whenever I see paper.



While this view is respectable, your views prior to this post has not been. You may think that they are the same view, but this post is talking about saving the trees, your previous posts were about bashing the (need for the) content.

This may be subtle, but in this connotation, you are being "green". In the previous, you can be considered a "book burner". I'm pretty sure that you didn't mean to come off that way -- just pointing out that your previous arguments may have actually hurt your cause.

Henry


Books: Java Threads, 3rd Edition, Jini in a Nutshell, and Java Gems (contributor)
Ilja Preuss
author
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
Originally posted by Sree Va:
Tree pulp, paper, ink, ink on paper is SO ANCIENT especially in IT.


Well, actually books have some serious advantages, at least for some of us. Of you don't agree, simply don't buy them.


Printing books on open source and selling is TOTAL UNETHICAL.


I don't see why that would be the case.


Making people stick to the old fashioned 'read book' habit is so NOT MODERN.


Noone is making anyone to stick to such a habit. If you don't want to read books, simply don't do it.

Personally, I very much prefer a good book over having to read a long document on the screen. Even for articles I typically prefer to print them for reading. I'm very peased to see that there are so many good authors out there providing me with the option to read good books.


Open sources are 'Open' for a purpose.


Yes. And that purpose is certainly *not* to prevent people from providing service for money.


When technology creators giving away their fresh sweat for free, doesn't it pinch you to sell your 14 month old sweat?
Geeks come together to make technology. Why not a technical writer joins them? So, the technology along with its publication becomes FREE/Open Source?


You are free to write as much documentation and give it away for free as you like. Until that happens, I'm happy to pay good writers for providing me with the documentation I need. (In fact there are quite a lot of open source projects which actually fund the development by providing payed support.)

I sincerely apologize for my words. I visualize a tree fall whenever I see paper.


I visualize that every freely available PDF file has made more trees fall than any book - most people actually print their PDFs on paper before they read them.
Ulf Dittmer
Marshal

Joined: Mar 22, 2005
Posts: 41129
    
  45
Printing books on open source and selling is TOTAL UNETHICAL.

While this view may be respectable in the sense that just about all viewpoints are respectable, it's highly controversial, to say the least. Many open source developers support their work by selling books or documentation based on their work (Lucene, iText, log4j, JFreeChart/JFreeReport come to mind). Some of these do have plentiful free documentation as well, some don't - that's the authors choice.

Maybe you could suggest how else the developers of these libraries can make a living, if they spend oodles of time producing extensive documentation that they then give away for free?

What's more, you're completely free to not buy these books. After all, the source code is available, from which you can figure out everything you need to know about how to use the software. Some folks prefer to learn faster by buying the book - nothing wrong with that.

Suggestion: Since you seem to be a proponent of the 'open everything' philosophy, why don't you give something back to the community by writing good documentation for one of the projects that does not have much, e.g. log4j or JFree? Your criticism of other people charging for their efforts would be a little bit more credible if you backed it up by your own sweat.

And I very much agree with Ilja that PDFs have not reduced the amount of paper used for printing significantly. They have made it easier to disseminate information widely, which in turn leads to more copies of them being printed.
[ February 02, 2007: Message edited by: Ulf Dittmer ]

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Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8803
    
    5
Hi Sree,

Controversial!

When technology creators giving away their fresh sweat for free, doesn't it pinch you to sell your 14 month old sweat?


Not really.

I've talked to a lot of open source participants. There are certainly some who participate for free, as a hobby, and that's wonderful. However, many (and frankly, I would guess most) open source participants do get compensation for their work. This can come through corporate sponsorship, sales of related software or documentation, etc.

paper, ink...we are here to put a dent in the universe


I agree with both of these concerns. However, there are lots of problems in this world, and I believe that one way to make a dent is to work in education, so for the time being, that's my focus. I'd love to see more ecologically friendly ways to make books, and computers too, for that matter. Perhaps someone who learns Java will end up being the person who figures out a greener way to make paper.

I guess the bottom line for me is that you have to start somewhere

Are you familiar with the OLPC project? That's something that we're researching right now, and we're hoping to be able to contribute some software to that effort.

hth,

Bert
Henry Wong
author
Sheriff

Joined: Sep 28, 2004
Posts: 18542
    
  40

I visualize that every freely available PDF file has made more trees fall than any book - most people actually print their PDFs on paper before they read them.


Another in agreement. I remember going through so many "paperless" initiatives in the mid 90's. Instead of have large file cabinets of paper documents, everything was online.

You found what you needed, printed it out, read it, and threw it away. There was no reason to save anything because the cabinets were either gone, or outdated because they couldn't be search as well as the online docs.


One thing that I noticed that does a great job at saving paper (for me, at least) are the "tooltip" docs. Like Microsoft Studio Intellisense, or Eclipse auto-complete help. These little popups don't clutter your screen with too much information, and is correct enough, that I no longer need to keep large stacks of printed Java Docs anymore.

Of course, I keep large stacks of everything else...

Henry
[ February 02, 2007: Message edited by: Henry Wong ]
Marcus Green
arch rival
Rancher

Joined: Sep 14, 1999
Posts: 2813
"Printing books on open source and selling is TOTAL UNETHICAL."

Could you explain why you thnk it is unethical, the statement make no sense at all to me. I have never heard of the author of free software objecting to others writing boooks about their creation.

Books have some excellent avantages in terms of portability, instant access no dependence on technology (batteries) and far more convenient reading experience than curent electronc methods.
[ February 04, 2007: Message edited by: Marcus Green ]

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