Writing For A Book Exposes My Ignorance

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I was recently approached by some people I know purely through blogging and IM conversations to write on a topic for a book they are putting together. Of course I was honored and appreciative that they thought of me, even after finding out there would be no payment for the work. Doh!

In any case, I am taking their lead by not discussing what the book is about, except to say that I am writing about tools that I use all the time. In attempting to cover these tools in sufficient detail, I realized how little I really knew about them. These are software utilities that I use every day, but as is the case with many tools, I wasn’t using them to their full capacity. I had quickly learned just what I needed to know to get stuff done and stopped there. How lazy and counterproductive of me!

Of course as developers, we all need to find that balance between spending the time to RTFM and just plowing along and getting to work. Back in the day, we called this the Commodore Shuffle (though I am sure there are many names for this phenomena). This is the technique of figuring out how to use a piece of software by playing around with it and clicking on everything that moves. Unfortunately, this often will only cover the surface of what a piece of software can do.

I think I will try skimming the manual more often now.

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2 responses

  1. Avatar for Joe Brinkman
    Joe Brinkman April 3rd, 2006

    After working on the original DotNetNuke book, I thought that I would spend some time reading it. Over a year later I still find things in that book that I never knew about the software. Just a couple of weeks ago I was explaining to Shaun about a certain feature, finally I just gave him a page reference back to the book. Even though we both are active on the project it is not possible to know all the ins-and-outs of such a large product. Writing the book helped solidify my knowledge in a few areas while highlighting my total lack of knowledge in others.
    Whatever you do, have fun during the writing, and just remember that your publisher will always want your chapter "yesterday", but is always willing to accept it "tomorrow".

  2. Avatar for Gaurave Sehgal
    Gaurave Sehgal April 4th, 2006

    I think RTFM is the most difficult and interesting part in a developers life. Every day something new is coming and you have to remain updated while working on it. one gathers only that much information what ever is needed to make a piece of code working or to make use of that tool.
    I have found that people who read a little more becomes so called technically fundoo people and rest becomes managers.
    So its always a confusion how to RTFM.