Beta Readers Needed for Amazon Web Services for Admins for Dummies

I still remember Amazon Web Services (AWS) when it was simply a method for getting information about Amazon products, making sales, and getting product status. The original web service didn’t do much, but people absolutely loved it, so it continued to evolve. Amazon has put a lot of work into AWS since that humble beginning and now you can perform all sorts of tasks that have nothing to do with buying or selling anything. You can create an entire IT structure for your organization that doesn’t involve any of the micromanagement, hardware purchases, software purchases, and other issues that kept IT from doing what it was supposed to do in the past—serving user needs in the most efficient manner possible.

There are a number of AWS books either published or currently in the process of being published, but these books don’t really answer the one question that everyone appears to be asking in the forums online, “How do I get started?” Most of the titles out there right now answer questions for a specific group after that group has installed the product and gotten started with it. AWS is immense and is naturally intimidating. Unfortunately, the getting started documentation from Amazon is incomplete, outdated, and hard to understand. Amazon Web Services for Admins for Dummies helps administrators (the focus group) and others (such as DevOps and developers) get started so that they can actually make use of that next level up book. Here are the sorts of things you see covered in the book:

  • Part I: Uncovering the AWS Landscape
    • Chapter 1: Starting Your AWS Adventure
    • Chapter 2: Obtaining Free Amazon Services
    • Chapter 3: Determining Which Services to Use
  • Part II: Configuring a Virtual Server
    • Chapter 4: Creating a Virtual Server Using EC2
    • Chapter 5: Managing Web Apps Using Elastic Beanstalk
    • Chapter 6: Responding to Events with Lambda
  • Part III: Working with Storage
    • Chapter 7: Working with Cloud Storage Using S3
    • Chapter 8: Managing Files Using Elastic File System
    • Chapter 9: Archiving Data Using Glacier
  • Part IV: Performing Basic Database Management
    • Chapter 10: Getting Basic DBMS Using RDS
    • Chapter 11: Moving Data Using Database Migration Service
    • Chapter 12: Gaining NoSQL Access Using DynamoDB
  • Part V: Interacting with Networks
    • Chapter 13: Isolating Cloud Resources Using Virtual Private Cloud
    • Chapter 14: Connecting Directly to AWS with Direct Connect
  • Part VI: Getting Free Software
    • Chapter 15: Using the Infrastructure Software
    • Chapter 16: Supporting Users with Business Software
  • Part VII: The Part of Tens
    • Chapter 17: Ten Ways to Deploy AWS Quickly
    • Chapter 18: Ten Must Have AWS Software Packages

As you can see, this book is going to give you a good start in working with AWS by helping you with the basics. Because of the subject matter, I really want to avoid making any errors in this book, which is where you come into play. I’m looking for beta readers who want to use AWS to perform basic administration tasks, even when those tasks are related to a home office. In fact, I have a strong interest in trying to meet the needs of the small-to-medium sized business (SMB) because many of the other books out there cover the enterprise to the exclusion of these smaller entities. As a beta reader, you get to see the material as I write it. Your comments will help me improve the text and make it easier to use.

As you can see from the outline, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is actually a huge array of services that can affect consumers, Small to Medium Sized Business (SMB), and enterprises. Using AWS, you can do everything from back up your personal hard drive to creating a full-fledged IT department in the cloud. The installed base is immense. You can find case studies of companies like Adobe and Netflix that use AWS at https://aws.amazon.com/solutions/case-studies/. AWS use isn’t just for private companies either—even the government is involved. That’s why Amazon Web Services for Admins for Dummies has a somewhat narrowly focused audience and emphasizes a specific set of tasks that it will help you perform. Otherwise, a single book couldn’t even begin to cover the topic.

In consideration of your time and effort, your name will appear in the Acknowledgements (unless you specifically request that we not provide it). You also get to read the book free of charge. Being a beta reader is both fun and educational. If you have any interest in reviewing this book, please contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com and will fill in all the details for you.

 

Reviews, Darned Reviews, and Statistics

A friend recently pointed me toward an article entitled, “Users who post ‘fake’ Amazon reviews could end up in court.” I’ve known for a long time that some authors do pay to get positive reviews for their books posted. In fact, some authors stoop to paying for negative reviews of competing works as well. Even though the actual technique used for cheating on reviews has changed, falsifying reviews is an age old problem. As the Romans might have said, caveat lector (let the reader beware). If there is a way to cheat at something, someone will most certainly find it and use it to gain a competitive advantage. Amazon and other online stores are quite probably fighting a losing battle, much as RIAA has in trying to get people to actually purchase their music (see Odd Fallout of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for a discussion of the ramifications of IP theft). The point is that some of those reviews you’ve been reading are written by people who are paid to provide either a glowing review of the owner’s product or lambaste a competitor’s product.

Of course, it’s important to understand the reasoning behind the publication of false reviews. The obvious reason is to gain endorsements that will likely result in better sales. However, that reason is actually too simple. At the bottom of everything is the use of statistics for all sorts of purposes today, including the ordering of items on sales sites. In many cases, the art of selling comes down to being the first seller on the list and having a price low enough that it’s not worth looking at the competitors. Consequently, sales often hinge on getting good statistics, rather than producing a good product. False reviews help achieve that goal.

I’ve spent a good deal of time emphasizing the true role of reviews in making a purchase. A review, any review you read, even mine, is someone’s opinion. When someone’s opinion tends to match your own, then reading the review could help you make a good buying decision. Likewise, if you know that someone’s opinion tends to run counter to your own, then a product they didn’t like may be just what you want. Reviews are useful decision making tools when viewed in the proper light. It’s important not to let a review blind you to what the reviewer is saying or to the benefits and costs of obtaining particular products.

Ferreting out false reviews can be hard, but it’s possible to weed out many of them. Reviews that seem too good or too dire to be true, probably are fakes. Few products get everything right. Likewise, even fewer products get everything wrong. Someone produces a product in the hope of making sales, so creating one that is so horrid as to be completely useless is rare (it does happen though and there are legal measures in place to deal with these incidences).

Looking for details in the review, as well as information that is likely false is also important. Some people will write a review without ever having actually used the product. You can’t review a product that you haven’t tried. When you read a review here, you can be sure that I’ve tried out every feature (unless otherwise noted). Of course, I’m also not running a test lab, so my opinion is based on my product usage—you might use the product in a different manner or in a different environment (always read the review thoroughly).

As you look for potential products to buy online, remember to take those reviews with a grain of salt. Look for reviews that are obviously false and ignore them. Make up your own mind based on experiences you’ve had with the vendor in the past or with similar products. Reviews don’t reduce your need to remain diligent in making smart purchases. Remember those Romans of old, caveat lector!

 

Technology Hoaxes Galore

Looking for insane uses of technology has given me no limit of mirth in the past. Whenever I need a good laugh, I’ll look at someone’s interpretive use of technology that couldn’t possibly ever work. Sometimes it makes for good entertainment, as in futuristic movies (where it can’t be proven that the technology won’t work that way someday), but some offenders just look silly.

I read an article some time ago and recently read it again today because it really did bring home the absurd use of technology in some situations. In this case, the author is pointing out the odd and nonsensical uses of technology in crime shows. You can read 6 Howlingly Unrealistic Hollywood Portrayals of Law Enforcement Using Computers for yourself to see if your favorite show makes obvious errors in computer use. The fact is that most people buy into these computer usage scenarios, even if they know better. There is a point where artistic license for the sake of making a show or movie entertaining ends and these shows definitely jump the shark. It would be just as easy to create a convincing scenario that might not be precisely true, but close enough to reality to make for a better program. (I recently did a review of Gravity—a movie that does the job right.)

However, you don’t have to look to the entertainment industry for examples of technology hoaxes (or gimmickry, such as Google Glass, that should be a hoax). The most recent example of such silliness is the Amazon.com plan to deliver packages less than five pounds via drone. A number of industry pundits enthusiastically embraced the technology—I’ll spare them the embarrassment of a public mention here. One person who wasn’t fooled in the least is John Dvorak who lampoons the attempt as nothing more than an advertizing stunt (and he does name names).

The act of perpetrating technology hoaxes isn’t new and you can count on more of them appearing in the future because people will remain gullible enough to believe them. (If I’m really concerned about a particular hoax, I’ll check it out on Hoax Busters or Snopes.com.) Using artistic license to explore what could be true is entertaining and definitely within the purview of good fiction. Purposely creating a hoax for the purpose of fooling the public into believing something that can’t ever work is something else.

At some point you have to point out the hoax for what it is. What is your view on technology hoaxes? Which technology assertions do you see as a potential hoax today? Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Guessing At What Your User Wants Doesn’t Work

Web-based applications seem determined to embrace a form of automation that really doesn’t make a lot of sense and it’s causing more than a little woe for end users. Personalization, the act of guessing what a user wants based on previous activity, is a serious problem. At one level, personalization is actually costing vendors sales. For example, because of my previous searches on Amazon, I couldn’t find a product I really wanted. Amazon kept suggesting items I didn’t want or need. I ended up buying the product on another site and only later found I could purchase it on Amazon for less money. (Not to pick on Amazon too much, I have the same sorts of problems with other sites such as Google.)

Adding personalization to an application is supposed to help a user find items of interest, but we often need to search for something other than the usual item or may not even know what we want. In these situations, personalization actually gets in the way. A recent article, “Personalization is collapsing the Web” expresses the idea clearly by pointing out that people are sometimes ill-informed about current issues because personalization hides relevant news from view. The problem is so prevalent that it now has a name, the filter bubble, as described in “Content Personalization: How Much Is Too Much?” Users can’t find the information they need and vendors are losing sales due to the filter bubble created by various search engine vendors such as Microsoft (in Bing).

In order to provide personalization, sites must track your every move. It isn’t just the National Security Agency (NSA) that snoops on you, but just about everyone else on the Web as well. To some extent, any suggestion that you have any privacy on the Web is simply unrealistic. However, there comes a point at which the snooping, categorization, and misinformed suggestions get to the point of ridiculous and savvy users start searching for alternatives. One such alternative espoused by writers such as John Dvorak is DuckDuckGo. At least it doesn’t track your every move or provide you with suggestions that you don’t need. The prying can even take odd turns, such as the woman who was arrested for researching a pressure cooker on Google.

Guessing, even if the guessing is informed by previous activity, usually won’t work for an application. In fact, it’s probably a bad practice for a lot of reasons. Here are the things that you should consider when thinking about adding personalization to your application.

 

  • Guesses are usually wrong because few personalization engines can actually understand user needs successfully.
  • Personalization can cost an organization money by hiding products, services, or information that a user really needs.
  • Wrongful suggestions reduce the confidence the user has in the application.
  • Tracking the user makes the user feel spied upon.
  • Time and resources required to track a user and offer personalized suggestions could be better spent by making the application faster, more reliable, and more secure.


Odd as it might seen, I have never yet encountered a situation where personalization was an aid to anything other than making me leave the site for a location that isn’t personalized. When viewing a news site, it’s better to see the top stories of the day and drill down into the less sensational stories as needed. In most cases, what I really need is a good search engine that helps me find what I want, once I know what it is. Let me know your thoughts about personalization at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.