akshay (36) [Avatar] Offline
About 40 days ago I complained about a ton of errors in this book:

I worked through most of it and tried to report anything I found that would help fix some of this, maybe help the next fella along. I undertand Early Access and how there could be a lot of things in flux then and trying to get a book out that was timely. But now a month and a half after the release all the problems remain.

Sorry, there is no excuse for this. You guys are getting paid for this and this is just gross incompetence all around - publisher, editor, author(s?). Look at the 2 reviews on Amazon or wade through these forums and you will see what I mean. The sad part is that this potentially the best most comprehensive intro book for Rails out there esp for someone like me - a c/perl systems guy new to webdev who wanted to quickly pickup rails but not the usual superficial overview. Somehow Manning et al have managed to butcher it. For all the TDD that the book talks about how about some proof reading, testing. 40 days - there is no excuse for not updating and fixing this. This is not hobby/free project.

The errata is all over the place, you need to wade the forums. Yes, I know about the pivotal tracker but it is not up2date and even the errata at http://manning.com/katz/errata.html was not even up2date with all the errors reported till then and is now grossly out of date.
Just look at Chapter 17 on engines. There are 3-4 major mistakes and you will not be able to get it running by following the code in the book and the code on github is out of date. Yeah I gave up on reporting errors because the previous ones never got fixed.

This stuff is easily fixed. Bad job manning. Ryan, you should have pushed these twats more. Don't mind me I am giving up recommending this book to anyone. What the hell happened to decent technical writing and taking pride in something that bears your name. For some reason this is very typical of web developer writers and the art of exposition is truly wasted on them. C had people like Kernighan, Pike writing about it. Unix had Stevens, Lions, Bach. Perl has people like Randal Schwartz. Ruby has David Black and Perrotta. But when it comes to webdev whether it is Rails, Catalyst, Django, PHP all the authors that they attract are just average at best. Maybe it's the lowest common denominator thing. Yes, I am pissed and I have every right to be especially as I have been fairly active trying to report these problems.
ryanbigg (423) [Avatar] Offline
Re: sorry guys, this is just a hatchet job all around
I am quite disappointed myself also. I wrote about it here: http://ryanbigg.com/2011/11/don-t-print-hard-copies/. Let me address each of your points, as the post doesn't really do that.

Your first point is that "You guys are getting paid for this". Just to make it clear: authors don't get shit. So far, I've personally received $1,184 for my work on the book. What is basically a year and a half's work. Something seems not right here, yes? I am expecting a cheque in December to fix that, but still even then it won't amount to a year and a half's part-time salary. Not even close.

Rule #1 about writing a book: Don't do it for the money.

Since I was done with the first version of the book I've been thinking about what I want do "post-book" while still providing updates for the book. I kept thinking that it would be nice to not have my weekends, nights and other sporadic free time sucked up by the writing process. Quite obviously, I will still do work on the book, it just won't be as "strong" as the year and a half I spent on it unless I can expect some kind of return from it. It's not a free project, you're right.

40 days may seem like a long time, but actually the book hasn't sold out in those 40 days. There are still first edition copies to be sold. Although I think that this is no excuse for not at least updating the ePub and Kindle versions (which were released last week).

The Pivotal tracker page tracks the errata that I have personally verified. The forums are an absolutely *terrible, terrible, terrible* way to track Errata. I would rather people submit them to a ticketing system of sorts and we can check "verified" and "complete" there, but cest la vie. I have about 15 emails from the forums in my inbox that I have been meaning to attend to, dating back to 21st October, but I've been pre-occupied with "post-book" things since then.

I would attend to them this weekend, except there's a Code Retreat on in Sydney run by Corey Haines which I may be helping facilitate on Saturday and on Sunday I'm tutoring somebody for $$.

Sunday's also my birthday. I will attend to all the unread email next week.

If Chapter 17 has issues, I want to know about them in another topic. We're not going to fix them unless someone points out exactly where they are. But we *will* absolutely fix them. I want to fix them, but Manning isn't exactly a Ferrari when it comes to speed.

And you're right, it's all very easily fixed. It would be easily fixed if we weren't printing dead tree copies.

The problem with dead tree copies is the process they have to go through. Fixing a code example is more than simply changing a couple of lines. If we need to add even a single line we need to ensure that the page layout isn't broken by that change. What *can* happen is that an image is orphaned on the next page or that the last few words of a paragraph can end up on the next page, making the text seem disjointed. Real, hardworking people need to go through the book and check these things when we make changes.

You need to understand that the C, Unix, Perl and Ruby books that you've mentioned have each gone through this process of constant iterations. They had, and maybe even *still* have errata that useful people like yourself have pointed out. They've been around *a lot* longer than this book and have had the time to get *closer to perfect*. This book is a baby in comparison!

I am offended by your remark that " this is very typical of web developer writers and the art of exposition is truly wasted on them", but I'll let it slide because you're angry and being rash. I take great pride in my writing and teaching skills, and to insult them is a grave personal insult. I truly hope you didn't mean it, because that would be terrible.

You are most definitely not being ignored. We are listening, we will fix all the problems that you point out and we will make the best Rails book that we can.

Thanks for your feedback!
akshay (36) [Avatar] Offline
Re: sorry guys, this is just a hatchet job all around
Ryan, first off thanks for responding. I am not trying to be a __dick__. I have been trying to provide as much constructive feedback as possible. Even when I solved my problems I'd report stuff just so that it might save someone else some time. So it's not a complete rant from someone who has spent no time on the book or trying to help his own cause.

Yeah the last part is a bit rash and angry - not directed towards you. Hell, I wouldn't even have bothered picking it up in the first place if it weren't written by two people extremely well qualified to write about it. See __THAT__ is the most frustrating part. It's an extremely well thought out book, well written but rushed. This is not new, I have mentioned this before. It's still better than the other stuff out there but a lot of time is wasted when something doesn't work right. You go, am I doing something wrong or maybe I have seen a dozen errors so far so maybe this is one of them? And you can't really go on because the rest depends on it. Now for me that is not a complete show stopper but someone who is a complete begineer might find it a lot more frustrating and move on to something else. Right there you have alienated a lot of readers. So here you have something with massive potential, way better than the other rails books, by quite some margin but it's last missing pieces that make it potentially unusable for a lot of people. Don't go by me, look at some of the reviews. And this is a shame because a little bit more work and it's all so easily fixed and is not an accurate representation of the work or the people involved.

Yeah, it's never quite about the money. There are far easier ways to do that. It's absolutely unacceptable that authors get paid that little - it's almost as bad or worse than the record labels. It's a general problem with some publishers like Manning, Apress etc. Especially when they have provided you little in the way of help, tools or editing/testing support staff etc. But maybe after this you are in a better position to dicate terms for the sequel. But also for sure the fact that you did this over a year is going to pay itself off many times over in other ways. So it is worth getting right even if you don't get a penny from Manning again.

I know the last part is bit of rant, my personal frustration with some the crap that gets published (mostly for the web stuff ;- ) and the fact that it was 5am. But seriously, take it as the highest compliment if someone puts you in the same bracket as any one of those guys. That probably means more is expected from you which a damn f*ing good thing.

So yeah, go yell at your publisher, your editor and everyone else in between. None of this is personally directed towards your ability to teach, write or knowledge of the stuff. That is fantastic. But writing a great book is a bit more than that especially when you are hamstrung by the jokers at Manning.
akshay (36) [Avatar] Offline
Re: sorry guys, this is just a hatchet job all around
2 more things

- The part about cucumber getting rid of web_steps and breaking the book is a non issue because it's easily fixed if you had just specified the version of cucumber used in the book. See the consistency and accuracy matters more. Most of the tools here are going to evolve so rapidly that expecting anyone, even superman, to keep it all up to date is unreasonable and there is little point to it.

You target audience, rails novices, will be able to extrapolate from the material and figure what has changed in a short span of time. A few things change say from 3.1 to 3.5 and someone with a good foundation is going to be able to figure it out. If you are so inclined maybe you can post something on what changed, a new appendix - "new changes in 3.2". When 4 comes out, yeah go update the whole thing. It's like applying patches.

On the other hand trying to keep up with the edge you invariably are going to break things and it is much, much harder for a novice to figure that out. It could be a simple thing that you would know but it might take the guy 30-40 min of searching and looking around, posting on forums to find out. And he can't go on, will ultimately get frustrated and find an alternative.

After a certain amount proficiency in any thing it is sometimes quite hard to imagine it from the learning perspective of someone who has no conception of a lot of things one might consider obvious. If your target audience were different then maybe you can try it but in this case it's not.

So really I would just freeze it the way it is and clean it up. That is easy, less than a week and it's worth it. That is the right way to do this. Hell, I'll even volunteer time to help you test it out or whatever else is needed.

- Second thing, happy birthday!
punker (1) [Avatar] Offline
Re: sorry guys, this is just a hatchet job all around
I was going to buy this book to learn Rails but now I'm concerned...the person who made this post said he's not recommending it, but are you actively discouraging people from using it? I'm not experienced enough in ruby or rails to be any kind of problem solver...can you give some more details about the errors you're encountering?
akshay (36) [Avatar] Offline
Re: sorry guys, this is just a hatchet job all around
Ryan has been taking care of all the small problems. I was just having a bad day and overreacted. Despite the few errors it is still hands down the best way to learn rails. The content and the layout is very well thought out. None of the other books cover topics like API design, authentication/authorization, rails engines, Rack and middleware. It's pretty comprehensive and timely. It's money well spent.
ryanbigg (423) [Avatar] Offline
Re: sorry guys, this is just a hatchet job all around
Thanks for the clarification akshay.

I've got two or three more things to update in the Errata and then I'll be shipping it off to Manning. I'm wanting to update the book really early on in the new year, preferably in January as I have some conferences in February that I'd like to spruik it at.

I wrote it to be the best Rails book out there and I honestly think we've done that. It has a couple of errors, but nothing too seriously damning that we can't fix in a next printing.