Beta Readers Needed for an Updated Java Book

Quite some time ago I had announced the completion of Java eLearning Kit for Dummies. Well, sometimes things don’t go quite as planned in the publishing world and this edition of the book never quite got out the door. Fortunately, the book is still alive and those of you who eagerly anticipated the last book won’t be disappointed this time. What I’ll be doing is updating that previous manuscript to work with Java 8 and to include new Java 8 features such as lambda expressions.

Of course, I still want to avoid making any errors in the book if at all possible. That’s where you come into play. I need beta readers for this updated version of the book. You’ll get to hear about the latest Java 8 functionality and see it in action. This version of Java is really exciting because of the important changes it contains. As a beta reader, you’ll get to see the manuscript as I write it and make comments about the material it contains. In other words, you get to help shape the content of my book and make it a better product—one specifically designed to meet your needs.

Don’t worry about your credentials. In fact, that’s the entire purpose of the beta reader program. I want people who would actually read this book as participants, so your knowledge of Java is unimportant. This is a book for the beginner and doesn’t assume any knowledge on your part. In addition, the platform you use doesn’t matter. This book will address the requirements for using Java on the Mac, Windows, and Linux platforms. By the time you get done with the book, you’ll have gained new skills that you can use to better your position at work or to create applications as a hobby. No matter what your reason for wanting to learn Java, I’d love to hear from you as a potential beta reader because this book is for everyone who wants to learn something new about this language.

Anyone who participates will get their name mentioned in the Acknowledgements (unless you specifically mention that you’d rather not receive credit). The last edition of the book attracted 15 beta readers, all of whom contributed substantially to the high quality of that edition. If you’re interested in participating in this edition, I definitely welcome your input. Please contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com if you want to learn more about the beta reader program and this book in particular.

 

No Question Too Small

Sometimes reader questions take me by surprise. I simply didn’t think about the issue and there was no way I could have even thought about the issue in advance. For example, I recently received a question from a reader of HTML5 Programming with JavaScript For Dummies. It seemed that the first example wouldn’t work.

After asking all of the usual questions, I asked the reader to tell me what he was seeing on screen. It turned out the reader was getting the right result all the time, but wasn’t seeing the fancy skin I was using on my browser. Here’s the screenshot from the book.

9781118431665FG0101

The content that the reader should have been interested in is the heading, “My First JavaScript Example” and the subsequent paragraph, “This is a JavaScript test.” Those two items are the output from the example, not the browser itself. If you’re seeing the content I just described, then you’re seeing the correct result from the example—ignore the browser, it’s only there to act as a frame for the content.

The example is designed to work with any browser, decorated or not. Of course, I had looked at the content and the content was fine, but the reader pointed out that not everyone looks at just the content. Some people will look at the browser window as a whole and want their browser window to look the same (or nearly so). Normally I put a disclaimer about this in the book and I should have provided it in this book.

At issue here is the reader’s learning experience. No one should ever feel that a question is too small for me to answer. I really want you to learn something from my books and if an issue such as the decoration on my browser window is causing problems, then we’ll work through it together.

This particular issue has also demonstrated why beta readers are so important to my writing efforts. I ask for beta readers for each of my books for precisely this reason. I can’t see these sorts of issues myself because I have worked with computers for a long time and they’re simply invisible. What I need are fresh eyes to look at my work and tell me when I’m hiding the entire forest in the trees. Always feel free to contact me regarding any question you have, especially those simple questions most of us are hesitant to ask.

I also ask for your continued help in producing the best books possible. Whenever possible, volunteer to be a beta reader. I find your input incredibly helpful and useful. Let me know your thoughts about simple question or being a beta reader at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Developing with CSS3 for Dummies Beta Readers Needed

I’m starting a new book project for a book named CSS3 For Dummies. This is going to be an amazing book for developers who are frustrated reading through Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) books that are created for designers. Instead of focusing on creating new pages with interesting artistic elements, this book is designed around a developer who needs to make a page look professional and easy to navigate in the shortest time possible. Yes, you’ll get all the same sorts of information as those other books provide, but in a form that makes it easy for developers to work with CSS3.

This is a novice level book at the outset, but quickly moves toward intermediate level tasks. You’ll begin by learning the basics of CSS3, with an emphasis on what makes CSS3 unique. However, after you work through this introductory information, the pace quickly changes from other books you might have seen in the past. The book will focus on using third party libraries to create great results quickly. You’ll discover that there are all sorts of tricks you can use to get precisely the kind of presentation you want without spending hours to do it as you would when starting from scratch. The best part about this approach is that the vendor supporting the third party library takes responsibility for ensuring the layouts work on a wide range of platforms with all sorts of browsers; a task that can trip up even the best designer.

I’m assuming that you’ve at least looked at a few Web pages in the past, that you have some idea of what tags are and know the basic tags for a Web page (such as <html>, <head>, and <body>). I’m not assuming very much. You also need to know how to use your computer with some degree of competency. I’m looking for readers of any platform that supports HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS3. If you want to test my code on a smartphone, please do. I’m specifically targeting the Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms with this book, so I’d love to hear from developers in any of these environments.

It’s important to remember that beta readers provide direct input on my books while I’m writing them. In short, you get to help shape the final form of my book. Every beta reader comment is carefully considered and I implement as many of your suggestions as possible. Your input is incredibly important at this phase and unlike many other reader suggestions, you’ll see the results in the final product, rather than as a post on my blog after the fact.

Don’t worry about me bugging you for input. You sign up, I send the manuscript your way, and then, if you choose to provide suggestions on a particular chapter, you send the suggestions back to me. During the author review process (when I answer the questions of all of my editors), I’ll incorporate your suggestions. If you have any desire to work with CSS3 and would like to be a beta reader for this book, ask for details at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

HTML5/JavaScript Developer Beta Readers Needed

I’m starting a new book project for a book named HTML5 Programming with JavaScript For Dummies. I’ve always been excited about JavaScript because you can use it in so many places. This is the language you want to learn if you want to develop skills that transfer to any device, any operating system, and any environment that supports both HTML5 and JavaScript. This particular book will focus on applications that you typically run within a Web browser, but you can easily use the skills you learn here to perform other tasks with JavaScript.

This is a novice level book at the outset, but quickly moves toward intermediate level tasks. You won’t learn everything there is to know about JavaScript. Rather, you’ll get a great introduction to the language that will help you learn any additional skills you need at an accelerated rate.

I’m assuming that you’ve at least looked at a few Web pages in the past, that you have some idea of what tags are and know the basic tags for a Web page (such as <html>, <head>, and <body>). I’m not assuming very much. You also need to know how to use your computer with some degree of competency. I’m looking for readers of any platform that supports HTML5 and JavaScript. If you want to test my code on a cellphone, please do. I’m specifically targeting the Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms with this book, so I’d love to hear from developers in any of these environments.

It’s important to remember
that beta readers provide direct input on my books while I’m writing
them. In short, you get to help shape the final form of my book. Every
beta reader comment is carefully considered and I implement as many of
your suggestions as possible. Your input is incredibly important at this
phase and unlike many other reader suggestions, you’ll see the results
in the final product, rather than as a post on my blog after the fact.

Don’t
worry about me bugging you for input. You sign up, I send the
manuscript your way, and then, if you choose to provide suggestions on a
particular chapter, you send the suggestions back to me. During the
author review process (when I answer the questions of all of my
editors), I’ll incorporate your suggestions. If you have any desire to
work with HTML5/JavaScript and would like to be a beta reader for this book,
ask for details at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Windows 8 User Beta Readers Needed

I’m starting a new book project, Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference, which means that I’m looking for beta readers. I try to get as many beta readers as I can involved in the project to enure that everyone gets a quality product. As noted in my Errors in Writing post, even the best author is only as good as the help he gets from others.

This is a user level book. My target audience has experience working with Windows, but there isn’t any requirement to have used Windows 8 in the past. I’ll be focusing on the desktop experience, rather than the Metro interface, even though there will be some Metro topics included by necessity. You don’t have to be a geek in order to be a beta reader for this book. I’m looking for people at every experience level. In fact, the less skilled you are, the better, because you’ll ask the sorts of questions that other readers ask most often.

It’s important to remember that beta readers provide direct input on my books while I’m writing them. In short, you get to help shape the final form of my book. Every beta reader comment is carefully considered and I implement as many of your suggestions as possible. Your input is incredibly important at this phase and unlike many other reader suggestions, you’ll see the results in the final product, rather than as a post on my blog after the fact.

Don’t worry about me bugging you for input. You sign up, I send the manuscript your way, and then, if you choose to provide suggestions on a particular chapter, you send the suggestions back to me. During the author review process (when I answer the questions of all of my editors), I’ll incorporate your suggestions. If you have any desire to work with Windows 8 and would like to be a beta reader for this book, ask for details at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Developing the Reader Profile

A lot of people have written to ask me about writing books—about the techniques I use to develop a useful book. So far, all of my books are technical in nature. Not all of them are computer-related, but the majority are. The sorts of books that I write is changing and you’ll likely see me write books in other areas in the future. Whether I ever write fiction remains to be seen, but I do plan to branch out into other areas. No matter what I end up writing, I expect that I’ll use many of the same techniques when writing future books as I use to write my current books. Mainly, I need to find a way to communicate the ideas that I understand in a form that the reader can understand. It doesn’t matter what those ideas are—they exist in my head and I need to get them out of my head and into the reader’s head.

When I’m putting an outline together, I try to put myself in my reader’s shoes. Sometimes that means actually doing a little play acting and trying out things to see how I’d feel if I were the reader. Yes, conveying technology, or any other topic for that matter, means understanding the reader and how the reader feels. It means respecting the reader as a person and understanding that the reader has specific needs, as well as specific skills. Sometimes I’ll talk to the beta readers who are reading my books about issues or bounce ideas off the technical editor for my book. I’ll review materials online and see what people are discussing online. In short, I develop a profile of my reader and roll it around in my head until I can start to see a technology from the viewpoint of my reader. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s a necessary skill to develop.

In a way, I’m creating a relationship with what I think my reader will be. Beta readers do offer the opportunity to interact with actual readers, but my reading audience is relatively large, so it really does come down to creating a rapport with an idealized reader—one who encompasses everything I expect that my reader will be. The relationship takes form in a profile that I write down and review relatively often as I write the book. As I come across additional insights during the writing process, I develop the profile of my reader more fully. I keep constantly asking myself how I would talk about the subject at hand if I were sitting in a coffee shop (or some other relaxing environment) with the reader.

To a certain extent, I need to consider the reader’s need for self help. I can’t provide any reader with a specific answer for most problems the reader will encounter. To do so, I’d need to write immense books that no one would want to read because they’d be too bulky. I can provide the reader with knowledge and insights, but I can’t provide the reader with a precise response to any given problem because at the time I write my book, the problem is undefined. So the communication takes the form of ideas, rather than a specific procedure, in most cases.

Authors are hindered by a number of factors. The most important of these issues is the inability to communicate with the reader in real time. It’s the reason that I try to make myself so accessible through e-mail and by writing this blog. Even with these additional levels of communication, however, there are still barriers to communication. For example, I can’t easily read your body language to determine whether my response is actually helpful—I must make my best guess. When writing a book, I have to anticipate your needs and hope that my guesses are good ones because they are, in fact, guesses.

The reader profile doesn’t have to take a specific form, but it does need to provide you with a complete picture of the reader. Even if you define a few reader aspects incorrectly, having a reader profile will help you remain focused throughout the writing process on a particular reader. Here are the sorts of questions I ask myself when creating a reader profile:

 

  • What is the reader’s education level?
  • Will this reader understand these specific concepts?
  • When will the reader be reading my book?
  • How will the reader react to certain types of information?
  • Are there social biases I need to consider when communicating with this reader?
  • How does the reader view the subject at hand?
  • Is the reader likely to have language issues or special needs?
  • Will the reader be alone or part of a team?
  • How does the reader view me?


Most of my books require that I ask other questions, but this a good sampling of the sorts of questions that I ask myself. You’d think that with all of this effort spent considering my reader that I’d communicate quite well. However, there have been books where I ended up missing the reader completely with my profile. I directed the book at one audience, but another audience actually found the book more helpful and purchased more copies of it. When that happens, I get a lot of e-mail from a lot of disgruntled readers (and the online reviews are also less favorable). These failures require that I go back and review the premises on which I based my book and make corrections. I maintain statistics for the book, and if I get the chance to write an update, I tweak the reader profile accordingly to better meet the needs of the audience that purchased my book.

Anyone writing anything can benefit by creating a reader profile. If you currently write documentation, but don’t create a reader profile, I encourage you to do so because you’ll end up with a far better document as a result. As the years have passed, my profiles have gotten better, but I’m under no delusions that I’ll ever write the perfect profile. Even so, I’d never consider writing a book now without creating a reader profile first. Let me know your thoughts about using reader profiles at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Beta Readers Required for a Java Book

I’m just starting a new book on Java. This book is meant for the beginner. I’m not assuming you’ve written one line of code in your entire life. The book content does assume that you’re at least familiar with your hardware and operating system, and that you’ve used some simple applications, such as a text editor. I’m really excited about this book because it uses some new forms of media to present the information to you. It’s not just a book, but an entire training course. This is going to part of the Dummies eLearning Kit series (see Windows 7 eLearning Kit as an example).

Naturally I want this book to be as perfect as I can make it. However, as I’ve pointed out in my Errors in Writing post, the more eyes I can get to look at my manuscript, the better. That’s where you come in. Beta readers provide the extra sets of eyes needed to turn a good book into a great book. Your input will affect everyone else who reads this book!

This isn’t just a Windows book either (although I’ll be including Windows as one of the operating systems). I’ll be working with Linux, Solaris, and Mac readers as well, so I really need a lot of eyes look at this book. As always, beta readers who send me constructive comments for at least three chapters will receive a free copy of the book. They’ll also see their name prominently displayed in the book Acknowledgments.

I’ll be turning in the first chapter soon, but there is still plenty of time to get going on this book. If you want to participate in this book project, just contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com for all of the details. Anyone who has always wanted to discover the joys of programming in Java, a language with fantastic cross-platform support, will want to read this book. Get in on the ground floor and make a difference! No prior experience required! You absolutely don’t need to be a geek to get involved in this project .

 

Not Mere Words

A number of readers and editors have asked me about the pains I take in choosing words for my books and articles. Let’s say that it was a revelation that has prompted me to work so hard to create the right word combinations. It came to me one day while I was looking at samples in a paint store. I was looking at paint chips for just the right sort of white. The store must have had twenty or more versions of white—everything from antique white to Arizona white. The winter white intrigued me because it almost looked a bit blue in the store’s light. The idea is that each name is supposed to express the nuance of colorto create a picture in the viewer’s mind.

Many people see words as text. However, text is an abstraction of a wordthe presentation of that word on paper or on screen. Words are expressions of ideas. A word creates a picture of an idea or object in the viewer’s or hearer’s mind. Using the right word transfers an idea precisely from your mind to the mind of someone you want to share an idea with. Consequently, like the paint samples in the store, the nuance of words you choose is important if you want to maintain the clarity of the idea. Winter white isn’t the same as antique white, much as submitting to someone’s authority isn’t the same as acquiescing to someone’s authority. You’ll find both words on the same page in a thesaurus, but they’re different. There is a nuance of difference in the meaning.

There is another important lesson you can learn from paint chips. When you place a winter white chip next to a blue chip, the blue in winter white stands out clearly. However, place the same winter white chip next to a red chip and suddenly winter white looks more white than blue. The context of the paint chip has changed. Likewise, the subtle meaning of a word changes in relation to the words around it. You must consider the context of the word in order to understand its true meaning. In fact, most dictionaries include multiple meanings for a word in order to convey this sense of context.

However, a word is an expression of an idea and not the idea itself. Both the writer and the reader must understand the word in order for the transference of an idea to take place. When the writer and reader have the same understanding of the word, the transference is clear, but it become less clear as the understanding of the two diverge. When a reader doesn’t understand a word, there isn’t any transference at all. Consequently, a well-read author could use terms that a reader doesn’t understand, with the result that reader is confused, not educated or entertained. So, better authors define unusual terms in context, to help readers understand the term and still derive the nuance of meaning the author originally intended.

Technical writing is perhaps one of the more difficult mediums when it comes to word choice. An author needs to convey ideas precisely, which means that a significant range of word choice is both warranted and necessary. However, in order to educate the broadest range of readers, the author is necessarily limited by the need to simplify the text, so as many people as possible can understand it. This dichotomy presents the author with a serious dilemma that editors can sometimes make worse by insisting only on accuracy or only on simplicity, without considering the art behind the writing. (A good editor supplies alternative terms that the author can choose from in order to retain clarity without increasing complexity.) The need to convey ideas clearly in a form the reader can understand is one of the reasons I use beta readers to help refine the content of my books. Beta readers act as a sanity check by helping the author determine which words truly are beyond the average reader’s understanding.

All this leads to a practice that I’ve had since the day of my vision in the paint store. I learn a new word each day. In fact, I use two sources: A.Word.A.Day and Dictionary.com. Both sources send a new word to my e-mail each morning and I choose the word I want to learn that day from them. I may not use all of these words in a book, but the words do expose me to new ideas that will appear at some time in my books. Words are expressions of ideasthe more you learn, the more ideas you possess. What is one of your favorite words? Have you ever found yourself unable to convey an idea because you lack the appropriate word? Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Errors in Writing

I get upwards of 65 e-mails about my books on most days. Some of the conversations I have with readers are amazing and many readers have continued to write me for years. It’s gratifying to know that my books are helping people—it’s the reason I continue writing. Although I make a living from writing, I could easily make more money doing just about anything else. The thought that I might help someone do something special is why I stay in this business. When I actually hear about some bit of information that has really helped someone, it makes my day. I just can’t get the smile off my face afterward.

Of course, I’m constantly striving to improve my writing and I do everything I can to help the editors that work with me do a better job too. Good editors are the author’s friend and keep him from looking like an idiot to the reading public. In fact, it’s the search for better ways to accomplish tasks that has led me to create the beta reader program. Essentially, a beta reader is someone who reads my books as I write them and provides feedback. The extra pair of eyes can make a big difference. Beta readers who provide constructive feedback on at least three chapters receive my thanks in the book’s Acknowledgments and a free copy of the published book. (If you’d like to be a beta reader, please contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com for additional details.)

You’d think that with all the pairs of eyes looking at my books, they’d come out error free. After all, it isn’t just me looking at the book, but several editors and the beta readers as well. Unfortunate as it might seem, my books still come out with an error or two in them. The more technical the topic, the greater the opportunity for errors to creep in. Naturally, the errors are amazingly easy for just about everyone else to pick up! (I must admit to asking myself how I could have missed something so utterly obvious.) When there is an error found in the book, I’ll provide the information to the publisher so it’s fixed in the next printing. The error will also appear on the book’s errata page on the publisher’s site. If the error is significant enough, I’ll blog about it as well. In short, I want you to have a good reading experience so I’ll do everything I can to hunt the errors down and correct them.

However, not every seeming error is actually an error. There are times where an apparent error is simply a difference of opinion or possibly a configuration difference between my system and the reader’s system. I’ll still try to figure these errors out, but I can’t always guarantee that I’ll fix things in your favor. After all, another reader has probably found still other results or has yet another opinion on how I should present material in the book.

The long and short of things is that despite my best efforts, you’ll probably encounter an error or two in my books and I apologize for them in advance. We’ll also continue have differences of opinion and that’s usually the source for new ideas and new ways of viewing things. I’m honest enough to admit that I do need your help in creating better books, so I’ll always listen to you and think about what you have to say. I hope that you’ll continue to read my books and do amazing things with the information you find therein. The results of your researches are truly the reason I remain in this business and I realize that we’re in this together. Thanks for your continued support!