A Banner Week for Our Publishing Team
Bookscan -- Week Ending 2/12/06

Publishing Hacks

A couple of weeks ago I got an e-mail from Robbie Allen, a fellow who has a blog called Publishing Hacks. I’ve spent the last few days reading through many of his posts and I would encourage you to do the same. Several of the 11 items covered in his Internet Publishing Manifesto are topics that have also appeared on my blog. He also recently started a series of posts on problems with the print publishing industry.

Thanks for the message, Robbie. Publishing Hacks is now in my Bloglines feed and I plan to keep a close eye on it.


Robbie Allen

Thanks Joe. Keep up the good work with your blog. It is one of the best in the publishing industry.

Joel Fugazzotto

I like much of Robbie's industry analysis. The big challenge (for all publishers) of course will be to create a working revenue model for content delivered only on the net.

Joe Wikert

Robbie, thanks for the kind words. Joel, I'm with you 110%! I think it will be interesting to track the various experiments publishers (and non-publishers!) will try on this front in the coming months/years.

anders tomilsson

They may have struck a chord and saying it meant something to you, when do you envision putting any of those things into play?

A better question (as a developer) is: why did Michael Kay's first book (2nd edition was an update of the first - what is referred to in Microsoft terms as "pass the hat" - there wasn't a need for 98SE or ME but because shipping of XP was delayed, they needed some revenue to keep the shareholders (and the market in general) happy. Now that Microsoft Office is responsible for 1/3 of their income, there's not a pass the hat needed ...at least...not so much unless you look at a few numbers. (see below)

Anyway, XSLT 3rd Edition is Mr. Kay's first work since the WROX assets were absorbed. XSLT has changed significantly, and so has the book, requiring a near rewrite. Mr. Kay's abilities haven't dropped. What's changed? Did someone ghost it? If not, there's only one other change. And regardless of what people write on cover copy, are known to give good billing in periodicals, most in the development community are flipping through the pages, looking to see how many slices of fish are inserted between pages. (i.e. it's wrapped around fish) One would hope the editorial staff would diagnose the problem and rectify it. The "why" can be narrowed to a small number of reasons. I think they're pretty straightforward and I'm not looking to present what the list likely is unless you're also willing to open yourself in terms of honesty in agreement or volunteering what is true when any of us veer off-course. (I don't think that's going to happen so I'll leave that exercise to be completed internally) Countering with "We've gotten so much favorable (press|readers|yadda) But I'm talking about digging through that.

Now, as far as Microsoft's numbers go, there are two important figures in the Microsoft world. And they are both size fifteen burrs under Ballmer's saddle. Neither of them is Google, but I'll mention that down a ways. Here are the terrible twos: Microsoft believes 1/3 of all Windows (specifically the O/S in "Windows" products). Activation was expected to alleviate this problem, but it's not difficult to bypass the problem. Some of those copies are also late betas or RCs because they have been easier to obtain, don't require activation, and the issues which are married to them are seen as worthwhile.

Now for the biggie: 2000. As in Windows 2000, Office 2000, and Visual Studio 6 (which should be listed along with the other two). These things rule as a triumverate in a *lot* of business|corporate locations. Tens of thousands are a severe understatement. It's been estimated to be [handily] in the six figures. And while Microsoft's greatest asset is marketing & sales, these Three Kings have got their underwear in such a bind they put another pair on just to increase the pain after they become accustomed to the first pair. How do you break it? Seriously? And once you come up with a plan, turn things around and play the other side of the board and see how things come out. Or vice-versa; i.e. reverse the order. As a short detour, it's like playing chess. The reason so many people suck at it is because they cannot put themselves in their opponent's seat. "Hmmm. If I move here, and they move there, then I can move here, and they'll move there, then I'll move here, and checkmate!" Unfortunately, the moves they are looking at for the opposition to make against them are the most beneficial for them, not the opponent. And this is why a lot of things suck in general. When there are two ardent opponents, give them the opposite roles and see what happens.

Anyway, Marketing & Sales. They haven't figured out how to untie the Gordian knot and in this case, they don't have a big enough or sharp enough sword to apply lateral thinking. As a decision maker in a decent-sized business, why would you want to unload your "2000 Triplets"? You don't need new hardware, your software is intact, both for use and development. Upgrading means new hardware, new software, new features to learn, yadda, yadda. And how much is that going to cost you to get to XP, which will be outdated - come December 1 (European Time)? You'd have to do the same thing again. Right now, they're in a nice soft place.

Microsoft had said they were going to try and make IE7 require XP-minimum and their Calculator Plus the same way. I don't think either of those is going to convince any of us who are decision-makers to switch horses. If you aren't careful when you install Calulator Plus, it'll overwrite your original one. Personally, I like to have both. As for IE7, if I want tabs, I use Firefox. Driving us to Vista because of inherent RSS support is BFD. Finally, it appears a fairly substantial percentage of current PCs won't be able to run Vista in "full-steam mode" because they just aren't capable of handling the horsepower and graphics necessary to do so. Once again, Microsoft demonstrates why hardware companies love them.

The other burr under Ballmer's saddle, and one he pulls off oh-so-well, is Google. It's rare, if not impossible, to find him referring to Google as anything but a search engine. And that's intentional. He doesn't want anyone to think of Google as anything but a search engine. Hey, Microsoft sees it as a search engine and that must make it true. Accusing him of fiat is an understatement. With his ego, ukase is a better term. Does anyone know if this guy has a personal life? We know out of the original three, two of them actually have a life: Paul Allen, who escaped the clutches of death, resigned from the board and has an active life; Bill, who after taking on Melinda to be his bride (she was the product manager of Microsoft Bob, if you want something to show off about, Microsoft Trivia-speak wise). But we never hear about what Ballmer's doing aside from looking like he's ready to pop a vein. Unless he's preparing for a Year One of an Annual Chair Throwing Contest, guaranteeing Bobby Knight and Ballmer will appear to throw out the first chair (cute, eh?) if not actually provide some comementary and lessons between periods.


Jim Minatel

I am the acquisitions editor here on Michael Kay's 2 most recent books - both XSLT 2.0 and XPath 2.0 books. I'm not sure I entirely understand all the of your question but I'll do my best to answer what I think I see.
First, yes, Michael did revise the XSLT book himself and also wrote the spinoff XPath book.
They were published because of the new 2.0 spec that Michael was overseeing at the time.
Because of the technical growth of both XSLT and XPath, Michael's advice to us which we followed was that they specs were too big to cover well in one book as in previous editions and we should publish separate XSLT and XPath volumes.

If that doesn't address the part of your comment specific to his books, please let me know.

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