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howdy Kathy and Bert - non java questions...

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Hey there you guys, anyone on the night shift over there?
I really, really, really wish this book had been around a couple years ago. If nothing else, there'd probably be more space on the java part of my book shelf today.
I have a ton of questions, mostly about how you wrote the book and other human object behavior. I'll just pile them up in front of you and let you decide what to divulge...
There's definitely those folks who believe that if it ain't dry it ain't serious. I tend to think there's cultural differences about this too (I've seen German climatology books without a single graphic ) . Did it feel like a big risk to aim only for the rest of us, the ones who read the comics page of the newspaper first?
Are the folks who appear in the photos people you know? Are they still your friends? Or did you have to find "models"?
I see a zillion decisions about layout - did you get a lot of control? Does O'Reilly have an attic full of artists dying to come up with these kind of graphics, or did you have to find them yourselves? Is the handwritten-looking font made especially for the book, or did it exist already?
Do you have different tasks when you create a book together or do you wrangle over, eh, I mean collaborate on everything?
I like Larry's thought, "I'm toast", and it's corresponding graphic, but I wonder if it gets lost on non-Americans. What kind of discussions did you have about how far to go with the conversational style and these kinds of expressions particularly?
Do coding exercises have solutions?
OK that's it, better get a little work done.
[ June 04, 2003: Message edited by: Pauline McNamara ]
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Pauline -
Great questions! I'll take a stab, and I'm sure Kathy will too!
- Were we worried about taking risks? Well the fantasic people at O'Reilly were very supportive throughout the process, and I'd say that we wrote this book the same way we've taught live - as if our lives depended on it.
Seriously, we've both spent a lot of time in front of clients, and we always took the orientation of bending whatever rules were necessary to make sure that actual learning took place.
- The art? Mostly stock, with a few friends and relatives thrown in for fun.
- We (Kathy 98%, Bert 2%), did all the layouts except for the cover.
- We have different tasks, and we brainstorm... a lot.
- We talked about internationalization and localization. We are both really tired of homogenizing the life out of good content, so our hope is that if a few things slip by some international readers, everybody will still get a lot of the fun stuff. (I also believe most techies have English as a second language.) Plus, it''s hard enough to be funny in one language (only time will tell if we are).
- Code solutions. All of the longer code exercise solutions are on the website for downloading. The shorter exercises will be posted soon!
Cowgirl and Author
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Hey Marlene! We only *just* learned, by the way, that you did not get a draft copy of the book. They decided to wait until the *real* printed book was out, so yours should be arriving shortly
OK, now to your questions...
Yes, there will definitely be plenty of people who believe that if is isn't dry, it isn't serious. We hope that if they secretly would *enjoy* the nature of this book, that they will be persuaded by the *serious* endorsements of the book from top technial gurus (the IBM guy, Ken Arnold, etc.)
We also hope that some people will take the time to explore or at least read about the learning principles behind it, so that even if they didn't believe it could be serious, they will see that the *fun* was used for a specific learning purpose, and not just for the sake of fun.
But there will be some who will simply HATE it, even if they believe that it would work better than the alternatives. Not everyone will appreciate the style, and some people will probably even be offended by a little bit of it.
We believe that if you try to be all things to all people, and please everyone, that you will lose most of the life in the book. And it is that life that means so much to whether you learn or not.
So, we're hoping to get not just the people who read the comics first, but even the ones who don't... if they are willing to give it a try, we're fairly confident that they will learn from it. Again, unless they hate it. It is certainly for a younger audience than some text books -- although a few 'oldsters' (and I'm afraid that Bert and I are edging toward that category) may like it, it is more geared towards the under-35 group who are much more visually sensitive and attuned because of the way visual media has changed so dramatically over the last 20 years. Also, it has a fair amount of 'attitude'.
The people in the photos are mostly from stock collections, but also some from our own photography. The artwork is primarily custom painted/drawn.
As Bert said, we had full 100% control over the layout, and designed it from scratch. First, we had to design (with O'Reilly) what the actual format would be, and most Head First books will be pretty similar. Although we have had to come up with some new things for the Head First books that will also be certification study guides (as our EJB book will be).
We did the graphics ourselve, except for the outside cover. The handwriting font is from a wonderful font designer named Chank Diesel. He sells a lot of very cool fonts.
The interesting challenge for us now is to work with other authors who want to do a book in the Head First series. Most authors will *not* necessarily be able or prepared to do the graphics themselves, so we will probably partner / co-author with authors at first to help them get going. Some authors will find their own graphic designer to work with, but since the artwork is designed to support the learning, an author would not be able to do a Head First book unless they can at least come up with the visual *ideas*. In other words, an author won't necessarily have to create the graphics themselves, or do the actual layout, but they WILL have to come up with the ideas, since a graphic designer who does not understand the topic would not know what to put.
What we do NOT want is a book that has pasted-on graphics, just for decoration. They are crucial to the learning, so it is the subject-matter expert who needs to come up with the ideas. But then it is easy for someone else to 'render' the artwork.
The conversational style and attitude are both crucial for the learning, so we are, in some ways, limiting the internationalization of the book as a tradeoff to making it a more powerful experience. But we hope that people will benefit anyway, just as people benefit from javaranch even if they do not understand all of the cowboy themes, or the jokes and terminology that people use.
You know, when Walt Disney makes a kids' film, they deliberately put a lot of references in that ONLY adults would understand. They do this so the adults who have to sit through the film can have some fun to. The fact that the kids do not understand these jokes or references (or so the parents think ) does not hurt their ability to benefit from the film. By the way, we just saw "Finding Nemo" (went will all adults), and it's wonderful.
But it has a whole running storyline about Alcoholics Anonymous...
We will have some very interesting challenges and issues about localization, that we and O'Reilly are only just barely beginning to look at. For now, we are going to let the readers tell us what they really need.
But you just gave me an idea, Pauline -- perhaps we need a 'translation' guide on our web site
That would be pretty fun, to have people from other languages and cultures explain what 'I'm toast' means! Or all of the other references that are more culturally (and sometimes AGE) specific.
Anyway, once again, if anybody out there has an interest in doing a Head First book, on something very technical (there won't be any "Head First Word" books, for example), please let us know! People are already asking O'Reilly, "So when are you going to do Head First <insert topic> ?"
Do not threaten THIS beaver! Not even with this tiny ad:
Building a Better World in your Backyard by Paul Wheaton and Shawn Klassen-Koop
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