Tag Archives: Books

Book Signing 2.0?

Last night I attended a unique event – what we think is the first ever “virtual book signing”!

Well, you’ve just published a book… it’s all about working digitally and online “in the cloud”… and you want to publicise it and bring readers and friends in on the gig in a social way. My friend Kate Russell is exactly that person – she’s just published Working the Cloud and decided (somewhat experimentally) to hold a book signing that all of her friends, fans and readers could take part in.

So last night, a number of Kate’s friends and colleagues got together in London and contributed to a live broadcast Google Hangout, while she chatted with invited remote guests, along with a few folks who wanted to get copies of the book signed. We were in a “party room” and able to dip in to the conversations when appropriate.


The evening was a lot of fun, and I think the result was some interesting conversations about doing business using cloud services, as well as some learning about how these kinds of events can work 🙂 we even included some of my #techgrumps buddies in the hangout!

[youtube http://youtu.be/3KsZ5R74zwM]

Just to be clear – I wasn’t just “ligging” here – I’ve been a fan of Kate’s through her work on Webscape and Click and other endeavours for many years, and have been able to meet her at a few tech events, so I was really delighted to be invited along. I bought my copy, and I’ve read the book this week (it’s a very approachable style and easy to get into), and so far I’m about 60% through. I’ve reviewed the book on Amazon too, but I won’t repeat that word-for-word here!

Working the Cloud is a great read, and if you have watched Kate online or on broadcast, I’d say it’s “very Kate” in style… when I’m reading I can often hear her chatting through the content in my head. That means it is down-to-earth, practical, and useful. I’d say it’s a book aimed more to the small-t0-medium business market where folks are just trying to get their head around moving to using cloud-based online services; but it is also a great read for anyone wanting to learn which services really do offer the most value, and as I’ve tweeted lately, it also has some superb content covering online branding, identity, and use of social tools for communications and engagement. I’ve been online since, well, I started to borrow the school 14400 baud modem to dial up BBSes during the school holidays in the 80s – pre-Internet – and I live and breathe the cloud space, so I’m always excited by a book which still manages to surprise me with new things I’d not tried or heard of before – this is one of those!

Oh, and if you do pick up a copy, check out the fun Aurasma-app-based additional content you can unlock by pointing your smartphone at the cover – and check out the nice app for iOS and Android that enables Kate to share more information to keep things up-to-date. Really nice thinking and a way to apply digital tools to the age-old problem of currency of information in printed material.

Summary – thanks Kate for inviting me along, and well done on a lovely book!



Pern passes

This may seem like a total non-sequitur after my past few blog posts – but it is something I feel absolutely driven to post. Via a tweet from Cory Doctorow, I learned that Anne McCaffrey has died.

I’m 35 years old. More than 20 years ago, I was at school, studying for my GCSEs and later my A-levels. One of the subjects I studied was English Literature. I love reading. I love literature. I love imaginative, creative writing.

There was, obviously, a set curriculum of texts I was expected to read, learn, and internalise. Shakespeare, Dickens, Hardy, and others. I’m glad I have that grounding. I was also allowed to read anything I wanted, from an early age – and I gravitated towards novelisations of Star Trek, of the Neverending Story, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and other science fiction and fantasy stories.

Around the age of 12 or 13 I stumbled upon the Dragonriders of Pern series. At the time, I was interested in Games Workshop and Warhammer… a fantasy world involving dragons and, ultimately, a rediscovery of technology, was an obvious step.

So, I started to read the Pern chronicles. I remember reporting on them in my “reading diary” aged around 12 or 13 – a series of books about a near-mediaeval planet where dragonriders saved the population from the deadly Thread. It wasn’t until I read The White Dragon that I really appreciated that this wasn’t just a trash teen fantasy series – themes of erotic passion, love, independence, adventure, and intelligence were involved (and would connect to science fiction, computing and other directions beyond that tale).

I’m deeply saddened to learn that Anne McCaffrey has passed. Her tales and her books truly did light up my early teenage years. I loved the Dragonriders of Pern stories and I hope that others will connect with them in the same way in the future. Thank you, Anne.

Five books you (and I) should have read in 2008

It’s a simple list, this one. I’ve read the first two (both of which were excellent), and urgently need to read the other three!

  1. Here Comes Everybody – Clay Shirky
  2. Dreaming in Code – Scott Rosenberg
  3. Tribes – Seth Godin
  4. Grown Up Digital – Don Tapscott
  5. Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell

Did I grow up digital, or did I evolve digital?

The advice in today’s blog entry is that there are three things you should do.

Watch this short video:

If you liked that, listen to this podcast.

And if you liked that, go buy the book.

Seriously. Don Tapscott really gets this stuff, and I love these interviews.

Review: SOA Approach to Integration

Disclosure: I was offered a copy of this book to review by the publisher. I should also re-iterate the statement the sidebar of my blog – opinions stated here are entirely my own and do not reflect my employer’s positions or opinions.

Although I’ve been working in the SOA space for quite a few years already, I don’t read too many books about it. I guess my education in this space has been largely driven by practical experiences over a number of years with technologies like DCE, MQ and web services. I did briefly write about Sandy Carter’s book earlier in the year, but that was the last book I read on the subject.

SOA Approach to Integration from Packt Publishing is billed as “XML, Web services, ESB, and BPEL in real-world SOA projects”. There are several authors, with differing backgrounds but with experience heavily weighted towards the Java world and (looking at their bios) with a somewhat academic / research-oriented slant, although they clearly do have real-world experience too. Given the range of organisations they have worked with, I picked up the book looking forward to getting a non-IBM view of the SOA world!

The book is divided into 6 chapters. Sadly, there is an inconsistent level of approach – evident from the preface. Chapter 1 covers integration challenges, so is doing the standard scene-setting. Chapter 2 is a discussion of what SOA is, and some of the foundation technologies. However, Chapter 3 then goes on to talk about “various design anomalies that may arise while designing XML schemas”, which is a significant change of pace!

Chapters 1 and 2 are actually interesting… I was happy to read about some of the history of SOA and the way in which technology has evolved over the past 20 years. I first started out in the industry after leaving university dealing with technologies like DCE and TP monitors (discussed on page 40), so this was familiar territory for me. As a foundational discussion these are useful essays… but sadly they do feel a little like essays, rather than a book that builds a coherent message from beginning to end. A little superficial.

There are a couple of sections of the book which deserve mention. At one point the authors refer to an organisational integration architecture as being like a “city plan”, which made me smile as this was an analogy I first heard used by my colleague and good friend Richard Whyte on a project we first worked on about 5 years ago!

The XML chapter I mentioned just before is pretty advanced stuff, and really jars after the first couple of more high-level chapters. That isn’t to say that this is bad… actually I thought that the topics covered, for example the need to define a data dictionary, and some of the practical advice offered such as the suggestion of validating XML at the edge of the ESB if at all, is extremely valuable. It just felt as though it didn’t quite fit at this point in this book! It really scratches the surface – the author admits that the advice given is “meant for consideration only when you already know your system very well”, and given that the first 2 chapters provided a tentative approach to the whole SOA space, this isn’t where I’d expect the reader to be at this point!

Chapters 4 goes backwards a little to an SOA overview, and goes on to describe the IBM patterns for e-business. It also talks about interoperable WSDL, and suggests creating web service clients in multiple technologies to validate and test interoperability, which is a useful idea. Sadly, the code samples do not appear to be available on the publisher’s website, despite the statement in the book that they would be. This is a particular issue in chapter 5, where the authors take their vendor-independence so seriously that they resort to writing BPEL by hand… the chapter is filled with chunks of XML which the reader is expected to be able to read without any kind of overview diagram, when in reality most vendors provide tools to build this stuff for you.

The book talks in detail about web services and the WS-* standards. These discussions are useful, but there is no reference to other forms of interaction, notably REST (for example; NB I talked about IBM’s evolving views on REST and WOA back in April last year).

Interestingly, Nick Hortovanyi’s predictions for 2008 (recently pinged to me by a contact on del.icio.us) suggest that WS-* may be on the wane in terms of SOA usage:

Adoption of the SOA Architecture Style within enterprises will increase. However, unless machine generated, WS-* style service adoption will decrease.

I certainly believe that REST is becoming more interesting in an enterprise context. WS-* is fairly complicated to get one’s head around when you look at them from an XML level, so machine-generated documents are clearly on the increase. Nick also at least references SCA and SDO in his predictions; this book entirely fails to mention either of these important SOA concepts.

From a technology perspective, the book does cover both the JEE and .NET worlds, but is far more heavily weighted towards the former, including a detailed discussion of emerging ideas like JBI. It did discuss a bunch of ideas that were “foreign” (to me) such as itineraries, Process Oriented Architecture (POA), and others that IBM doesn’t talk about… but overall these concepts were covered in a patchwork manner that left me somewhat confused.

My final issue is that I had to submit around 20 errata to the publisher. These ranged from typos (“interactiond”, “TrasformationService”, “isdone”, “buzz-world”) to product name inaccuracies and inconsistencies, to back references that didn’t exist, to the fact that the sample code is not available. Very disappointing. Furthermore, I’m yet to receive any confirmation or acknowledgement that the errata submissions were received.

Overall, I would say that the book is aimed at architects and senior developers and is useful in a few parts… but as a whole it doesn’t hang together. It reads more like a series of extended and disconnected essays at differing levels of detail and which repeat one another. More seriously, for the cover price I would have expected slightly more effort in the proofreading and production 😦