I’m retiring from book-writin’ (finally)

If you’ve known me in real life for more than a few years, then you’ve probably experienced my annual or biennial personal crisis in which I cycle through the following: “it’s time to refresh one of my books”, followed by “but I don’t wanna”, followed by “but I have just the best editor in the world and people still buy them and find them useful and come on it’s just a little work”, followed by missing every milestone we agreed to, followed by eventually pushing a thing over the finish line, followed by “never again!”

I’m good at this cycle. I’ve done it every year or so for 18 years. But no more. I’m finally done.

Six years or so ago (Dec 2011) I wrote a blog post called “Tech Books: Not Dead!”, in which I felt so strongly about an article in SD Times that concluded tech books were in fact not dead but people learn more from online material than they did in the past that I wrote a couple hundred words in agreement. Oh, the halcyon days of having that kind of time and relatively innocuous things to write about. I mean, I agreed with the darn thing and I still blogged about it. Who’d have thunk it? (In re-reading that old post, it’s actually pretty interesting and I vaguely recall times like that when I had coherent and interesting thoughts about stuff.)

A few days ago, the last new book by me hit the shelves (virtual or otherwise). It’s Sams Teach Yourself PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript All-in-One, and not much of it is wholly new material but rather a refresh of existing materials from two of my other books, Sams Teach Yourself HTML, CSS, & JavaScript All-in-One (2nd edition) and Sams Teach Yourself PHP, MySQL, and Apache All-in-One (5th edition). These were both quite popular books, and useful to boot. The new book takes the best parts of those two books, adds some new content, updates old content (all PHP is 7.1.x compatible, for example) and generally aims to do precisely what every other book I’ve written has had as its goal: give true beginners to some tech a text that scaffolds understanding by showing code that builds upon other code, and explains in plain-ish language the details of that code, as part of an experience that is in no way the be-all and end-all of education in these matters but instead exists as a very first step intended to illuminate the pathways of all the other steps you will need to take to become an expert in these areas. In other words, call it the first 40 hours on your path to 10,000 hours if you adhere to the notion of it taking 10,000 hours doing something to make one an expert.

When it comes to book-writin’, I’m not Laura Lemay, Molly Holzschlag, or Kathy Sierra, although those were the people I looked up to in terms of tone and voice, scaffolding the lessons, plain-ish language, and always keeping my audience in mind and not trying to make these books something they weren’t. For example, to this day my favorite comment ever about one of my PHP books was that “there isn’t enough Java in it.” It was then, sometime around 2005 I think, that I stopped reading comments.

So anyway, if you’ve learned a thing from a book of mine, either because you purchased it on your own or because you had to for a class, thanks for the dollar and please do something with your knowledge: pass it on, mentor someone, use it for civic tech, think critically about the world, whatevs. Just do good with code.

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