Books Writing

With appreciation

his week is the last week for editing on the new book, and the editors are just now finishing up. I wanted to thank the folks who gifted me with their time and effort; providing reviews, technical and other editing, and suggestions. I had a good group of people and the book is going to be a superior product based on their effort:

Roger Johansson of 456 Berea Street was spot on with CSS, issues related to accessibility, as well as general markup and page design. He also managed to catch numerous typos.

Elaine Nelson of Emergency weblog provided not only tech editing, but also did an excellent job of content editing.

Roy Owens — not the singer. Roy also helped me on Learning JavaScript. Some people are gluttons for punishment.

Anne Zelenka of Anne 2.0 provided a higher level analyst view, as well as spotting gotchas, areas of confusion, and points of information that should have been included, but weren’t.

Jesse Skinner, from The Future of the Web who is an expert on unobtrusive Ajax, and is currently working on a Short Cut for O’Reilly on unobtrusive Ajax. Jesse specifically focused on the tech, and his extensive knowledge of the Ajax world was extremely valuable.

Anthony Holdener, who is writing O’Reilly’s Definitive Guide to Ajax, contributed edits for the first three chapters until he had to return to his book. I appreciate the extra effort.

Kathy Sierra, of Creating Passionate Users did a first chapter review and provided some excellent insight into refocusing the first chapter and making important points more discernible.

My main editor, Simon St. Laurent, of course. This is my third book with Simon. Did I mention, gluttons for punishment?

It is a lot of work to review a tech book. You’re not just reading the book, you’re:

  • looking for typos
  • looking for missed opportunities
  • watching out for uses of technology that could be improved
  • watching out for uses of technology that really need to be improved
  • helping to discover areas where the author has made a mistake (all authors make mistakes)
  • helping to sooth and tame wild, clumsy, and agitated phrases
  • doing all of this within the constraints of an awkward book template, under deadline, with an overly tired author

The editing team for a book is the author’s only support in what is a difficult task. They form the parachute when we’re free falling; the additional sets of eyes when our own are tired and strained. Of course, the editing team can also only do so much: in the end, whatever is missed is ultimately the responsibility of the author.

Thank you. Thank you all most sincerely, from the bottom of my book writing heart.


What Women Want

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Any one of us only knows those in a small slice of this environment. How else? We can’t spend all day and all night reading weblogs. That way lies madness.

As an example of knowing only a small selection of the voices, I was only recently made aware of the strong community of women academics in computing, engineering, and other sciences. Among these are Rants of a Feminist Engineer, who introduced many of the webloggers; FemaleCSGradStudent, who writes about the bubble bursting when realizing what it means to be a woman in the field:

My own bubble burst at the age of 26. It was the year I came to graduate school. Until then, I knew that there weren’t that many women in engineering and computer science, but I chalked it up to, “Well, we’re just catching up after the feminist revolution. It’s only been…50 years.” Despite evidence from the other fields that had been male dominated were now more equal, like family medicine, pyschology, and biology, I held firmly to that idea. I had been the only girl in my electrical engineering class. The only woman in my product group. One of four women on the plane to San Jose for the Embedded Systems Conference. But everyone had always been nice and supportive. I had friends and mentors. I had the support structure I needed to be successful. I worked in fun programs for girls in science to do my part to boost the numbers, to give back. The gender disparity hadn’t really punched me in the face yet. Not like it has in graduate school. Again. and again.

My hope for now is that I can return to a place where those support structures exist. Where the diverse contributions of many are appreciated, and folks are generally just nice.

Am I a woman scientist? who writes on the higher bar for women’s paper submissions, and See Jane Compute, who was recently interviewed. Among the questions and answers was the following:

Q4. You blog a lot about women’s experiences in an academic computing environment. How do you think those experiences are similar or different from women in other science/engineering/medicine disclines? Or even non-science fields like law or business?

Great question! I imagine that there are universal threads that run through the experiences of strong women in any field, whether it’s a more gender-equitable field like law or medicine or a field like CS or engineering that’s still struggling to achieve anywhere near respectable gender numbers. Things like not being listened to, or stereotyped because of the way one dresses or speaks, or not given a chance because “you’ll just run off and have babies”–these are universal parts of the experience of being a woman in our society. I think what makes the computing fields different, and from what I understand some of the “less enlightened” engineering and science fields (electrical engineering, physics), is the whole “macho culture”. Women are still made to feel like they just don’t belong in these fields, whether it’s because of the media images (the antisocial hacker, the almost total absence of women and their contributions in discussions of technical innovations and innovators) or the things we emphasize in the CS classroom and lab (bogging our students down in details and syntax, rather than focusing on the benefits and applications of computing) or even what we focus on to praise (“my code is faster/bigger/better than yours”). And it’s not just women–men who don’t fit the mold experience feelings of not belonging, too, although to a lesser extent. And that’s unhealthy for everyone. What I try to do through my blog is expose this culture, in all its unhealthiness, as a way of adding to the dialogue (hopefully) of how we can start to change this. I want to highlight, through my own experiences, why we should all be invested in changing the computing culture to something way more inclusive than it is now.

The academic and the applied in any field don’t always share the same concerns, or even the same understandings. However, as I read through these women’s posts, I realized that there is something we all share that reaches across the ivy: we’re women in fields where being such adds an extra element of challenge.

I’ve read in the last week, in daunting frequency, that the only reason women aren’t in computing is that we don’t want to be; that we women aren’t interested in computing, or engineering, or any other field where men are overrepresented (as one woman wrote).



First looks at Joost

s I edited the book today, while the snow blew in an oddly unendearing blizzard–alas, we missed the copper moon–I watched Joost. Specifically I watched a nice show on sleeper sharks, several episodes of National Geographic, and explored a bit with the other channels.

A television network hosted entirely through the web (Internet Protocol TV or IPTV) is the way of the future, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the major networks go this route eventually. At issue is bandwidth, not to mention integrity of signal. With Joost I found that sometimes the picture would be remarkably clear; other times, barely viewable. Still, all in all, for a beta product it was quite good.

I liked being able to pick any show I wanted, stop it, re-start it, and re-watch it if I wanted. The commercials are short and sweet, and I don’t begrudge the few minutes per show for them. What didn’t work is that Joost interrupts the program literally mid-word–it makes no use of markers to insert commercials in natural lulls. In addition, the commercials ended up being a uniform loud volume while the shows wavered in their loudness–leading me to having to hastily turn down the volume.

There’s a ‘young person’ feel to the service that I think is a serious mistake. A host from the service cracks about the ‘old people’ and the music videos seemed to feature young women who all sounded alike and all equally bared their navels, complete with navel rings.

Then there are the stripper shows. Ha! That got your attention.

Seriously, making assumptions about an audience could end up acting as a natural filter, which will end up hurting overall client numbers.

I don’t have cable or satellite, so Joost seems like a good alternative. However, I especially wanted to try out Joost because RDF plays a strong role in its infrastructure. According to Leo Simons:

We make extensive use of RDF in different places. It all starts with a core RDFS/Owl schema that is used to capture various kinds of information (think FOAF +imdb+RSS+a lot more). I suspect some parts of the modelling work that was done here will make it into future standards for online video.

We have a custom distributed digital asset management system (or DAM), built around jena-with-postgres at the moment for storage and (CRUD-like) management off all that RDF-ized information over a REST protcol.

Not only will this research go into Joost–at least part of the effort is going into TripleSoup:

TripleSoup is the simplest thing that you can do to turn your apache web server into a SPARQL endpoint.

TripleSoup will be an RDF store, tooling to work with that database, and a REST web interface to talk to that database using SPARQL, implemented as an apache webserver module.

Joost signed a deal with Viacom, which should begin to add to the content offered (Daily Show!) It’s a P2P service, a term we don’t hear very often now with the world’s seeming focus on all things Web 2.0. If this is P2P, what should happen is that my using the service also means that my PC participates in the network, providing resources for said network. I can’t find anything on that part of the application, but I’m assuming this is so. Or perhaps the true P2P is on the part of the networks involved.

Joost has a widget interface, which includes chat, a clock, and various other items of that nature, but to me, this isn’t something that’s too interesting. Either I want to watch television or I want to chat. If I wanted to do both at the same time, I’d get married again.

The interface is clean and relatively intuitive, especially if you’re used to Windows Media Center. All in all, it’s a pretty decent beta offering–true beta rather than than the, “Hi, we’re alpha, but beta is so much more cool. And it’s all fun anyway! *giggle*”. It has a way to go, though, as the current show I’m watching demonstrates, being full of stops and starts. Time to put on a movie.

Screenshots and another review.