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Comment Using ATG in 1998... (Score 4, Interesting) 109

I was using ATG's products back in 1998. This was before even Java Server Pages had caught on (one of my great regrets in life was having the opportunity to write a JSP book and turning it down :( ). If I remember correctly they even told us that Sun used some of their patents in developing JSP (though don't hold me to that, it was a long time ago). Their technology was very ColdFusion-like, trying to create an entire programming language complete with conditionals and looping structures all inside a markup syntax. But once you got used to it, it was very powerful. We ran our entire ecommerce platform on it for buying and selling mutual funds, encompassing 16 business units. It was a fun company, founded by some wanna-be rockstars (Jeet, really - not so much Joe). They threw a heck of a party. At least one of them ended with a shirtless Jeet playing guitar inside a gogo-dancer's cage. Ah, memories. I think that was the party that took place in New Orleans, where I bumped into my very drunk "customer advocate" coming down Bourbon Street, who asked me if I was having a good time. Apparently not as good as he was. Funny story - I got a tour of the place once. This was during a time when we were trying to use their brand new adapter for the content management system Documentum, and it was not going well. During the tour, before being shown engineering, my tour guide (Hi, Katja!) paused and asked me if I could identify my technical contact by sight. I said no, so the tour continued. I honestly think they were afraid I was going to make a scene. I used to own some stock, I'll have to go see if I ever dumped it.

Comment Ewwww, imagine "can't skip" technology? (Score 1) 194

It'd be one thing if they just stuck a random graphic here and there. But I expect that the trend would go in the same direction as the multi-page web article. Namely, ads in between the pages that you can't skip. Can you imagine how annoying that would make your book? "I've discovered the identity of the murderer. His name is....." "...and now a word from our sponsor." Brings to mind archaic memories of old radio shows where you really had no choice. I suppose if it's still just another page, you can hit just as fast and skip it. But how long before an ereader has some sort of Flash-like ability to play a quick movie? And then you're stuck.

Comment Just did it, here's my thoughts (Score 4, Informative) 184

It may be a little late for me to weigh in on this one, but I've just published an ebook (http://www.hearmysoulspeak.com) on Kindle within the last couple weeks, so I figured I'd offer my own experience from a different angle.

I'm not a traditional published author. This is my first book. Using the logic that an ebook has numerous formatting considerations that make it easier (far less worry about page numbers, page size, left/right concerns, etc...), I decided to go with the ebook in the hopes of making enough $$ that it'd be worth my time to properly format a print book.

The book is about Shakespeare (specifically, a collection of Shakespeare wedding material), and I knew two things - I should have some sort of credentials in the area I'm writing about, and some sort of way to market. I run a number of Shakespeare sites (http://www.shakespearegeek.com primarily among them), and have done so for a number of years. They've got a pretty good following. I thought I'd be all set there, at least as far as getting a jumpstart goes. I'm also a web guy for a living (though not a designer), so arranging a domain and getting some content on it was not much of a worry (http://www.hearmysoulspeak.com did I mention that?) My strategy has been "Have something acceptable up, then drive traffic, and then once you've got traffic up, worry about making a prettier site."

I did have an editor. You need an editor. You will make stupid typos, if nothing else, and you'll need another set of eyes to spot them. An editor also serves as your first reader, and can say things like "This part didn't make sense to me" or "You said the same thing here that you said over there." Get an editor. I lucked out, one of my regular readers who happens to be a college professor said he'd do it for me, and was very helpful.

The publishing part is actually the easiest. There are a zillion "ebook converter" apps out there. But instead of doing that, just go straight to Calibre (http://www.calibre-ebook.com), as it does everything. I originally started mine in LaTeX, because I was heading for print. Then I switched to PDF (easily converted) until eventually ending up with EPUB since it seemed popular. EPUB, for the curious, is basically just a zip file of HTML with some organizing context thrown in). See below, though, for thoughts on how to handle multiple formats.

Here's the tricky part of publishing, even if you do crank out multiple versions of your book : a) every publisher wants a different one, and b) you have to do it individually for each. I started out on Lulu, because that was the most efficient way I saw into the iPad store. iPad wants EPUB. Fine. But then I wanted to release a PDF version as well, to cover the wider case for people reading on a PC. Lulu can handle that - but it can't apparently associate them both on a singe page. So I'll forever have two products in their catalog. I can live with that.

Aha, but what about Kindle? Kindle has its own store, for one. And, it wants MOBI format. Ok, did that. Now I've got to maintain my book in two places.

Guess what happened last week? Barnes and Noble opened up their Pubit! store for the Nook. Yayyy, three places to maintain my book. I hear Borders has a project in the works as well.

I generated every format (EPUB, MOBI, PDF) of my book in Calibre, and then tweaked them by hand until they looked the way I wanted (or at least, as close as I could get). Although all of the ebook stores will do automatic conversion for you, keep in mind that your copy will end up looking terrible.

Your pages on all these stores will also look very plain, until you get some reviews. Seriously, go get some reviews. Give away as many copies as you can, and beg reviews. This is the stage I'm in now. I've got web reviews, but I'm trying to get people to take the time and go give Amazon or iPad reviews. They help. Nobody wants to feel like they're the first one taking a chance on what could be a piece of garbage.

Lessons learned so far? The publishing part was fun, and I'd do it again. Marketing, unless you're born to it, is harder than it looks and also a serious ethical dilemma. Every singlel time I try to promote my book in an online way (including now), I worry that I look spammy. Offline is different, you can talk about your book all you want and just seem annoying -- but, you have no way of telling whether you got any traffic out of that, either.

It will be disappointing. The day I published, a former coworker spotted it on Facebook and told me that he'd be picking it up that day. A week later I asked how it was, he said he hadn't gotten it yet. Two weeks later, he still hasn't. Get used to that. Family will back you up, and some friends. But if you think, like I did, that you've got any sort of following that will buy something from you just because they like to read what you've said online? Not so fast. Some will, sure, and I'm grateful to my followers that did. But it hasn't exactly catapulted me into phase 2 of my project yet.

Anyway, hope that added some value. Yes, this is self-promotional, but hopefully not spammy. See the difference? See the ethical dilemma? A link from slashdot, even in a comment, would be good traffic. It's a relevant topic, I have experience to add. Yet I can't help but think just by including my link, people will turn their nose up at it and move on. Who knows, maybe I'm oversensitive to that. Prove me wrong ;).

http://www.hearmysoulspeak.com/ - Wedding Quotations from Shakespeare

Comment Classroom of the Future (1989) (Score 2, Insightful) 269

I was in college from 1987-1991, and my "major qualifying project" (Worcester Polytech) was a workshop where I brought together local high school teachers from math, computer science and social studies for the day. I pitched the idea of a whole new type of computer classroom, state of the art, where everything was networked not just with their local counterparts but with similar schools all around the world. I talked to them about massive scale datasets, public information records, voting data, etc etc etc etc... the ability to run your own queries, to question what you're being handed in the newspaper every day. In other words, a whole bunch of stuff we take for granted these days - but a good number of years before the Web took off.

The computer science and math teachers heard "new computers" and said, "Great, we'll take it."

Then I dropped the surprise on them, and said that this new lab was for the social studies teachers. That this was about exploring all areas of study with computers - art, literature, politics, you name it. "Nonono," said the CS people, "You've been misinformed. *We* get the computers."

That did not surprise me. What surprised me is when the social studies teachers said "Yeah, they get the computers. We don't want them." All they saw was a burden, changes to the curriculum, technology they did not understand, and a new dependency on their coworkers to keep the machines up and running. They were perfectly happy to let the CS teachers teach programming and that would be that. No need for computers in any of the social studies (and, by extension, humanities) classrooms.

Funny how far we *have* come, honestly. If only we could take what's out there on the net at our fingertips, and integrate it more directly into students' education.

[ At the time, in my neighborhood, the "state of the art" schools had a Mac hooked up to a laser disc player, and the students would put together multimedia reports on John F Kennedy to present to the class. The more typical schools had text terminals of maybe the 286 variety, and would be taught keyboarding and other office skills. ]

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