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Personal Book Promotions Rant  RSS feed

 
Gregg Bolinger
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People often take things for granted. Especially when things are going super smooth for a very long time. Then all of a sudden it breaks and a first reaction is to get pissed. That's an easy reaction. What is more difficult is to step back for a moment and analize the situation from other perspectives. That's especially true when it's someone and not something that has let you down.

Thomas Paul was the first person I personally know of that ran the book promotions. And he did a wonderful job. Tom needed a break and the task was taken over by Dirk Schreckmann who also did a superb job. Dirk, unfortunately, left us. Tom stepped back up to the plate. Then Tom left for good. Then I took over. Notice any patterns here? I am not saying that the book promo job drives people away, but it is one of the more time consuming tasks that we have. And it is performed for little to no graditude.

The only real time I here any feedback on the book promotions is when something is wrong. But that's true in life. Everywhere you go people are quick to complain but slow to complement. Like I said before, we take things for granted when things are going well.

Javaranch is made up and ran by volinteers. That means we work for free. We spend time away from our families, away from our friends, and even away from work to provide the community with a super friendly place for people to learn Java. Along the way we added some perks for our members like the Cattle Drive, Book Promotions, and the Javaranch Journal, just to name a few. While we strive to provide all these services as best we can, we are human. <GASP!> I know, it's hard to believe. And the fact is we have families, friends, and work. And sometimes those obligations take precedence over Javaranch.

In Feburary of this year, my grandfather went into the hospital. He had gone into septic shock and all his organs were infected with deadly bacteria. If you don't know what septic shock is, google it. After an initial first operation he had to be on a breathing machine with a tube down his throat. He couldn't talk, he had glokoma and was already blind in one eye and couldn't wear his glasses, so he couldn't really see. He also had to wear hearing aids in both ears, but unfortunately could not wear them in the hospital so he was, in escence, deaf. He also had to be strapped down to keep him from pulling tubes out of his body. He was 85. After 22 days of fighting the infection that took over his entire body, an infection that ate away at his liver, his kidneys, his lungs, and his heart, he died.

During this time I was traveling quite a bit back and forth from where I live to where my folks live to help out, too see my grandfather, to help take care of my grandmother, and to say good-bye. Unfortunately, some of my extra ciricular activities suffered along the way. And one of those was the book promotions.

I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. I am not looking for sympathy. Frankly, I find it disgusting that I feel like I need to devulge personal heart breaking details to a group of people just so they might understand why they didn't get some free book about some silly programming language.

All I want anyone to grasp from this is that it's easy to bitch about something that didn't go your way. It's easy to point fingers at someone else and blame them. It's easy to jump to the wrong conclusion. It's easy to assume things. But things aren't always quite so simple.

I know the book promotions haven't ran smoothly further back than Feburary. I know some people are waiting on books they won over a year ago. Believe it or not, we've done about all we can about those books. And frankly, those book are probably out dated as it is anyway. We are currently working on different solutions to solve some of the problems we've had in the past. But frankly, it will never be perfect, because we aren't perfect. <GASP!>. I know, hard to believe.

So the next time you feel like bitching about something around here, maybe instead you think about something good that happened to you because of Javaranch, and pay someone a compliment instead. Maybe you stop taking things for granted. Maybe you realize, it's just a book. Maybe you realize we are human. And maybe, if you don't have anything nice to say, you just don't say anything at all.

[ April 10, 2006: Message edited by: Gregg Bolinger ]
[ April 10, 2006: Message edited by: Gregg Bolinger ]
 
Theodore Casser
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Wow.

First, my heart absolutely goes out to you. Having gone through a loss very recently of someone to whom I was close, I can sympathize entirely and hope that you and yours are doing well.

On the score of the books... I think a lot of us oftentimes lose sight of the fact that the books are just a bonus on top of everything we get out of this community, not a to-be-taken-for-granted part of membership. Plus, as my wife the business major would remind me, it's far easier for those consuming a resource to complain then to recognize when something's good. (And as one of those waiting on a book for a year plus, I know you've been quite pro-active on chasing them down, as can be seen by mails in my box.)

All I can say is this: Illegitimi non carborundum.
 
Maximilian Xavier Stocker
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I am truly sorry to hear of your loss.

Everybody's life has difficulties though. Would you like to hear mine? Short version in the past 4 years 7 of my 10 closest family members died including my mother who had terminal brain cancer and whom I took care of for the last 6 months of her life. My father went crazy after all this and had a sex change.

Everyone's life has tragedies. It doesn't make them any less tragic. But you are not the only one.

I added the comments I did to the other thread because it was being discussed again and it is not the first time this issue has come up.

One of the common responses given in threads like this is essentially "we are volunteers so get bent". I don't have a problem with this per se but I do have a problem when people have volunteered suggestions, help and their time and are either outright refused or ignored.

I volunteered to fix the JavaScript code and I did.

I volunteered to look at fixing other code on this site to patch problems. I was offered the source in a zip (or tar ball or something) but when I responded in the affirmative and asked for the code I have heard nothing since. Now I realize that I took some time to respond as I would volunteer spare time that I have just like anybody else. And I realize the bartender in question may simply not have responded because they are busy.

But it's a bit much to suggest that nobody will help and it's all on the poor volunteers here when people do volunteer to help and then are waiting to be able to help.

And the same goes for the book promotions. This seems to be a common and recurring problem and I think it looks bad for JavaRanch. The last time this came up that I saw I commented towards the individual who posted that they should consider the volunteer nature of this forum and they responded that they would volunteer to help run the promotion. There was no follow up.

It seems to me, again based on what I have read previously on this topic, that the number one issue is that the books are not recieved from the publisher/author whoever. Considering this I made what I think is a resonable suggestion... don't run the promotions without the material in hand.

If the problem is that yoo (or anyone else) is too busy for whatever reasons than don't tun the promotions. Nobody says there has to be any book promotions at all and personally I think that no promotions are much better than promotions that routinley don't seem to get resolved.

Anyway just to be clear I am volunteering here and now to run the book promotions. I rather suspect that I will not be taken up on this offer but since I am making it and making it sincerely then I do think I have a right to comment on the book promotions and they way they are percieved since I am ready, willing and able to accept the responsibility for running them.
 
Jim Yingst
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[Max]: I was offered the source in a zip (or tar ball or something) but when I responded in the affirmative and asked for the code I have heard nothing since.

Oh dear... that would be me. I hadn't seen your response; on a hunch I just spent some time searching my spam folder and lo and behold, there it was. The contents didn't look anything like spam of course. I accidentally marked a bunch of stuff as spam a couple months ago while archiving mails; I thought I undid all the damage, but apparently not. Oops. Sorry, Max. I'll respond further you in e-mail shortly.

Regarding the book promo stuff, it looks like a big part of what Gregg is responding to here was a snarky comment from another poster embedded in what was a congratulations thread, which promptly derailed the conversation. Didn't exactly set a good tone for reasonable conversation. Maybe the thing to do now is for the involved parties to take a few deep breaths before responding, lest we build up some bad blood here. I know you're both helpful people with the community's best interests at heart.
[ April 10, 2006: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
 
Gregg Bolinger
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But you are not the only one

I never said I was. You missed the point.

we are volunteers so get bent

Ok, so you have inferred the "get bent" portion. And I can see how you have done so. The reason that the whole volinteer thing gets thrown around is because we want to make sure that people don't forget that. And not in the sense that we are holier than thou because we volinteer our time to Javaranch. But so that member's expectations can stay somewhat in check. And to be honest, some people really don't know. So when they complain about something and we tell them that, they are like "Oh, ok. I understand then. No sweat."

I volunteered to fix the JavaScript code and I did.

I was not aware of this. Thank you very much.

But it's a bit much to suggest that nobody will help and it's all on the poor volunteers here when people do volunteer to help and then are waiting to be able to help.
...
Anyway just to be clear I am volunteering here and now to run the book promotions.


I clumped that together to keep from repeating myself. We appreciate the offer. However, most duties around here are only available for staff. It's one our many fringe benefits.

Considering this I made what I think is a resonable suggestion... don't run the promotions without the material in hand.

That is a reasonable suggestion. However, since the publishers are the ones that send the books, it's not really possible. I suppose if someone wanted to volinteer the cost of shipping the books we could have the publisher ship them to someone, and then we ship them ourselves. But currently, that is not an option.

I added the comments I did to the other thread because it was being discussed again and it is not the first time this issue has come up.

And I wasn't targeting anyone one person in that other thread. The thread was about subject matter A and several people started discussing subject matter B. That's thread hijacking and it's not appropriate.

I am not trying to say that no one should ever complain. If no one complained at all, we'd think we were all doing everything 100% correct. And that's not the case. And we don't pretend to do everything right all the time. But as human beings I think that when all you hear are complaints you are less likely to strive for things better. If you are working hard and doing the best you can and all people do is come down on you, what motivation is there to keep working hard?
 
Maximilian Xavier Stocker
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Considering this I made what I think is a resonable suggestion... don't run the promotions without the material in hand.

That is a reasonable suggestion. However, since the publishers are the ones that send the books, it's not really possible. I suppose if someone wanted to volinteer the cost of shipping the books we could have the publisher ship them to someone, and then we ship them ourselves. But currently, that is not an option.


This seems most unfortunate. It comes across that JavaRanch is getting taken advantage of when this happens. At least to me.

If you are working hard and doing the best you can and all people do is come down on you, what motivation is there to keep working hard?


I agree.

My intent was not to say that you or anyone else who has been involved has been doing a bad job. It's just that it doesn't seem to be going very well. That's the perception. Not to blame somebody but like I said I think it would be better not to have the promotions at all than have continuing problems if it's simply alot of thankless work and the problems are out of your control anyway.

And sorry to step sideways again in this thread but I just want to make clear to Jim that I do not blame him either. Everyone is busy. I realize that... it took me a month to get back to Jim in the first place.

Anyway I did not make any comments for the sake of complaining. I made them because I would like to see (what in my mind) would be improvements. And I certainly didn't mean to say that anybody "sucks" or is doing a bad job... partially as the word job implies pay which isn't happening here. Believe me I run another forum as a volunteer and sometimes I would like to /dev/null every complaint. But then I remember that people cared enough to complain so that must count for something...
 
Christophe Verré
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That discussion went pretty far. It seems that I was the one putting oil on fire
I have to feel personally attacked here, even if you're not aiming at one person,
being one of those who kept asking about the whereabouts of book promotions.
If nobody does, how would you feel ? "What the hell with promotions, nobody cares" ?
When asking, I was told :
1. Moving to Javaranch, the person concerned will reply
2. We are volunteers

I have to make one thing clear first : I was not blaming anybody here, not even complaining.
Just asking : what happens ?
Why did I write, as Jim says, a 'snarky' comment in the 9K counter thread ?
Because I had no reply although Gregg was still posting to other forums.
I was expecting something like "Hey guys, promotion was cancelled" or "hey guys, Winners will be announced later", but nothing.
I was expecting too much, sorry for that.

I'll try to be brief.

Gregg,

Frankly, I find it disgusting that I feel like I need to devulge personal heart breaking details to a group of people just so they might understand why they didn't get some free book about some silly programming language

You did not have to. A simple reply would have been enough. No reply is not very kind.
I thought that you didn't notice the questions about the promotion, that's why I wrote that snarky comment in the other post.

It's easy to point fingers at someone else and blame them.

Who is blaming who ? As far as I'm concerned, I'm not blaming anybody.

It's easy to jump to the wrong conclusion

You're jumping both feets in it here.

But frankly, it will never be perfect, because we aren't perfect

Nobody is. I'm surely not.

if you don't have anything nice to say, you just don't say anything at all

Not the way things go I'm afraid.

Maximilian,
Everyone's life has tragedies. It doesn't make them any less tragic. But you are not the only one.

Right. I've had my share of losses to.

we are volunteers so get bent

I think that volunteers still have some responsability.
Concerning the promotions, I think that there is at least a responsability to inform the ranchers about what's going on.

Jim,
snarky comment from another poster

I don't mind being named here. Snarky comments make things move. I'm glad we've put everything on the table. I feel sorry that it went so far though.

Didn't exactly set a good tone for reasonable conversation

Sorry I've tried several times. But no response. I'm very awkward (sarcastic?) asking things.
[ April 10, 2006: Message edited by: Satou kurinosuke ]
 
Peter Sin
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I think I should post this reply in April 1.

End All Book Promotion

or

You have no chance to win some books again if you say negative words to the book promotion.

I think the latter one is more practical.
 
Ilja Preuss
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Originally posted by Gregg Bolinger:

Considering this I made what I think is a resonable suggestion... don't run the promotions without the material in hand.

That is a reasonable suggestion. However, since the publishers are the ones that send the books, it's not really possible. I suppose if someone wanted to volinteer the cost of shipping the books we could have the publisher ship them to someone, and then we ship them ourselves. But currently, that is not an option.


It would also hold us from scheduling books before they get published, which means that the promotions would have to be hold much after the book got published. I suspect that wouldn't work very well.
 
paul wheaton
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It seems we're not sure who was the first to say "we are volunteers so get bent" - so I would like to stake a claim to that.

The cool thing is that with this we have all the license in the world to do whatever the hell we want. Or lounge around watching tv all day doing nothing. Ahhhhhhh the freedom!

Blame? Fault? For what? How can a volunteer ever be blamed? It isn't like there was some sort of agreement that the volunteer would perform a service and get something in return.

Maximilian .... yeah .... we're watching you ... and I have to admit I really like the new stuff you brought - I use it all the time ...

As for the book promotions not happening for a bit and for any other failure at JavaRanch: These are all MY FAULT. I should have been tracking that and found a backup - or managed it myself. For the files being passed around, I should have known that was going on and done something when things got stuck.

Anything not happening when it should happen is my fault. This is the forum to bring it up and this is the place where you are most likely to get a response. Usually, somebody else saves me the effort of needing to track something or answer something and I have to admit that I get pretty sloppy at times. My fault. 100%. Everything here is mine. Therefore I take full responsibility for all shortcomings. I'm tickled pink that this small army of people do all that they do and make this place a hundred times cooler than it would be if it were just me by myself.

I was the first guy to do the book promotions. I gotta say it is a helluva lot of work! I know that Carl made it a little easier, then Thomas made it a little easier still, then Dirk and now Gregg. But you can only automate so much! Maybe it now takes half the time. You still gotta talk to the publishers, line up the books, talk to the authors, get the authors to show up, compose and send out the mailing (along with all the hassles that our mailer sometimes has), respond to all the folks saying "stop emailing me this crap!" announce the promotion, update the main forum page to show the promotion is happening, maybe put up a banner about the promotion, delete loads of posts where people are saying "give me a book!", help massage the posts into something useful for the authors, participants and JavaRanch, take down the promotional messages, figure out the winners, announce the winners, get their snail mail addresses, pass that on to the publishers and then hassle the publishers to hold up their end of the deal. Then update the promo page with all the latest. Then there are constant complaints from all sorts of angles, the stupidist of which are those people complaining that they think they aren't winning enough books. Lots of fun is the people that knowingly live in a country where any form of delivery is nearly impossible complaining that they didn't get the book when the publishers have sent them three copies.

Oh yeah ... I was going to make a point in here somewhere and I got to rambling.

Thanks Gregg for helping me out with this. If anybody hassles you about it, just let me know and I'll give them a healthy kick in the nuts.

Please start a new thread for each thing that seems it could be improved on JavaRanch. If anything seems to be less than optimal, please start a new thread for that too. If there is a thread that appears to have not gotten appropriate attention in a timely manner, please reply that thread with the word "bump".

In summary (as if this thread isn't long enough) I want to make it crystal clear that it is impossible (at least on this site) for a volunteer to ever forget to do anything. These people have zero obligations. They are users of the site recognized for being super helpful and kind. I then give them a set of keys with my hat in hand asking them to take the keys and use them as they see fit when they have the whim. Frequently, these people do such a good job of taking something on that **I** get sloppy.

Gregg, I am so sorry that your recent pain has been compounded by this thread. It's my fault. I wish I could undo it. Give me a call, e-mail, anything, and I'll do anything I can to make it right with you.
 
Peter Sin
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Gregg,

Unreasonable complaints mean NOTHING.
But we are facing many irrational complaints each day.
 
Linda Walters
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Gregg,

First and formost, please accept my most sincere, if belated, condolences for your grandfather's passing. There are very few things that are as painful or as stressful as loosing a loved one.

I too do a fair amount of volunteer work and I know that it can be every bit as demanding as your "day job". There are times when I wonder why I bother, especially when some otherwise loving, compassionate person in the Buddhist non-profit the web site of which I designed and maintain pro bono begins complaining about the lack of content on one or two pages a few days after I get out of a week in the hospital with a staph infection!

Believe me I needed to chant the name of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara quite a few times to take care of my anger on that one!

So why do we do it?

Because we know it is right. We know that we have a personal, karmic need to help others, even, perhaps, especially, those who do not appreciate it.

So, Thank you, Gregg for all that you do to make Java Ranch a really great place.

A lotus for you,

Linda
 
Christophe Verré
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Paul,
Thank you for the clarification. A hell of a job it is.
Maybe you could mention about how time consuming a book promotion is:
http://www.javaranch.com/bookpromo.jsp

I'm sorry for having changed the topic of Gregg's 9K thread.
I'll try to get less involved, or less straight-forward.
 
Gregg Bolinger
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Originally posted by Satou kurinosuke:
I'll try to get less involved,


If anything, get more involved. It's what makes Javaranch so great!
 
Michael Dunn
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Hi Gregg,

did Mauro Marinilli manage to contact you regarding a book promotion for
his new book?

from this thread
http://www.coderanch.com/t/342400/GUI/java/New-book-Advanced-Java-GUIs

he sent me an email saying he was eager, and the publisher said OK.
I forwarded this to you, and replied to Mauro to contact you direct.

Just wondering if it made it into the future promo list, as the book
sounds very interesting (for those interested in swing).
 
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