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  #1 (permalink)  
Old June 4th, 2003, 11:08 AM
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Default Quality Assurance

I agree with Trey. My experience with Wrox books has also been mixed. The ASP series of books were very good. But, the first edition Beginning series of .NET titles, like Beginning C#, were a mess, the lack of editing was very apparent. That's the biggest problem I have with these books, the subject matter is good, the concepts are good. But, the mispellings, omissions, misinformation and poor code samples(oh lord, the code samples, are almost always buggy) are a disservice to every reader who spent their hard earned money. If readers can find these errors so easily, why in heavan's name can't book editors find them first??? Answer: because they don't bother trying, last minute changes are made by authors and no one checks them and books get rushed out the door. Like Trey said, a big part of that has to do with multiple authors submitting and changing the material at different and last minute times before printing.

I also agree that being the very first publisher to rush a poor quality book out the door on a new technology is a mistake and hurts a publishers reputation. A higher quality book that ships later will pay off in the end. The assumption by publishers that they can just post errata and release second editions to fix all the errors is just plain negligence. It's akin to buggy software that gets sold with the assumption that patches will just get installed and new versions will get sold. Again, negligence.

I hope Wiley is just what the doctor ordered. To assist in this effort, why not beta test the books, just like you would software? Give out pre-release versions to a bunch of readers, give them x amount of time and let them find as many errors as possible. Perhaps let the volunteer readers choose which chapters to review from a sign-up web page, and when those chapters fill up, they have to pick from other chapters. This way the books get full coverage. In exchange, reviewers should get a free copy of the final release and their name added to the book under a reviewers section. A nice gesture that could possibly help a reviewers career. Would also look good for Wiley to show their quality control effort in each book. Sounds fair to me. A win/win for Wiley and reviewers. I'm sure many of the subscribers on this forum would be interested. I sure would! Heck, I'll even sign an NDA if need be.

Dan Maltes
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Old June 4th, 2003, 11:15 AM
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As a "Beta Tester" of books for Classic Wrox, I can tell you that's just what took place. "Technical Reviewers" (I worked on .NET Framework) read each page looking for problems. Made suggestions and tested the code.

here is the problem as I see it: They didn't pay enough. "Good" reviewers (like I belive I was) stoped reviewing because it takes too long to really do it right. I'd spend two or three days reviewing a chapter and get paid less for it then I'd make consulting for an hour. My time was more valuable than that.

If Wiley recognizes the value of the Technical Reviewer and pays a rate that is viable, perhaps quality will improve.


Hal Levy
Daddyshome, LLC
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Old June 4th, 2003, 11:59 AM
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Hal,
   I assumed there were paid reviewers, but my thoughts were that they are probably in short supply due to financial reasons and time constraints, as you stated, so if some how volunteer reviewers could somehow get a crack at these books it could help supplement the efforts. The differnce between the paid and the volunteer is, of course, that the paid reveiwer is held accountable and must meet deadlines to earn their keep, but the volunteers would be under less stringent expectations. Perhaps having to fill out scheduled surveys on their progress, wherein the surveys have specific questions on them. If they don't respond, they don't get their final release book and no mention in it. This is often done with beta software volunteers. With this in mind, the volunteer process is not relied on as the "main" mechanism for reviewing a book, but as a "supplemental" way of reviewing a book.
Perhaps I'm the only dope willing to volunteer? Just give me a free final copy of the book and a mention in it and I'll sign an NDA and give it a crack. ;) Um, of course, giving out too many free books to volunteers would have to be limited.
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Old June 4th, 2003, 06:34 PM
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Dan,

It's important to note that they can't wait for people to "get around" to it. One of the issues with CW (Classic Wrox) is they always wanted things out FAST and FIRST. Reviewers were given pages and told to review them and get them back in days. Careful examination wasn't always possible in the timeframes we were given. That's why you will only find my name in the .NET Framework book. I was disatisfied with the pay scale and the timeframes.

Like I said, I think if Wiley is interested in Q&A on the Wrox titles they will need to find good reviewers and pay them a rate that is worthy of their time. I can tell you the "prestige" of being listed as a reviewer doesn't get you very far- It's not helped my career at all.

The main writers- Guys like Lhotka, Sussman and Homer- they get some prestige :)

I'd be thrilled to write a book- as with reviewing, the timeframes are too short. That's why the authors make mistakes and that's why the reviewers miss them.

I remember being at the WROX Confrence in Washington DC (Where P2P was born- an interesting story in itself..) and talking with some of the writers (who will remain nameless) and the #1 complaint each one of them had was the timeframe in which a book went from idea to publication. They all said they wanted more time.



Hal Levy
Daddyshome, LLC
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Old June 5th, 2003, 04:01 AM
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I rather like the idea of helping review on a per chapter (or something) basis. I did actually do this when I was consulting on the same project as one of the authors of the Excel 2000 VBA book. Stephen was apreciative of my help, but unfortunately the project was finished before the book, so I never got a copy and had to buy my own :( But on the whole, I 'm with you Dan :)
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Old June 5th, 2003, 08:42 AM
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Hal,
And therein lies the problem, the "rush" factor. Being the first book on a topic, but a poor quality one, IMHO, is worse than being a little late and top shelf. Why? Because you drive repeat customers away with a second rate product. The more reliable product will keep consumers coming back for more.
This is exactly how my company used to release software, rush it out the door, and it was buggy. Our customers were initially elated to get the new features, but then the elation turned into anger when reliability went down the tubes. In some cases we lost the customers all together. Well, my boss got the message and went to a TQM model and things have been better. Not perfect, but much better.
Obviously you cant wait an extra 6 months to a year to release a book because by then the subject matter is probably out dated. But, isn't an extra 6 - 12 weeks possible to get it right?


Dan Maltes
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Old June 6th, 2003, 04:26 AM
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Hold on a minute having a technical reviewer is all fine and well, but surely the author should have tested any code to make sure it worked. Personally I wouldn't want to put my name to anything unless I knew it worked especially if it were a book full of code. It doesn't instill faith in the authors ability otherwise.

What ever makes life easy
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Old June 27th, 2003, 05:10 AM
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True, authors should test code and most probably do.
But typos do slip in, editors cut things and maybe cut too much to get the chapter a few lines shorter so it fits in one page less, etc. etc.
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