A Toast to Computer Book Authors

Whenever a new biography is added to Wikipedia, an "articles for deletion" debate is likely to happen on whether the subject is notable enough to merit inclusion.

If the subject's a computer book author, you invariably get a comment from a Wikipedia editor like the one that was just made about best-selling O'Reilly author Shelley Powers:

I really don't believe that authoring a how-to technology book makes one a notable author. We might as well have articles for writers of toaster manuals.

He has a good point. I'm nine years into the profession of computer book authorship and still waiting for my first groupie. We might be the category of authors with the lowest adoring-fan to copies-sold ratio in publishing.


Ooh baby! Rogers has such cute books.

I've heard that the woman who wrote the SPSS official manuals in the 80s (and perhaps later) had groupies. When she gave workshops people would come up after and ask her to autograph their copies.

SPSS started out as just a manual sold in college bookstores; tapes of the mainframe code were sent out for free to a small group of social science stats folks.

Are you kidding? I've wanted to have leen Frisch's love child ever since the first edition of Essential System Administration!

(Sorry, Rogers. I'm sure your books are great, but Java just doesn't do it for me.)

You need an agent, Rogers. Get one with a foreign address, it adds that extra cachet. And seriously, to do it all right, you should operate as an offshore entity. Then you'll have some groupies.

Whenever I read computer books, I get a really strong craving for dim sum. Do you think there's a connection there?

I think the words "articles for deletion" should be enshrined, you know, like, carved in stone. As a monument to human folly, for all of us.

If for nothing else (and there is a lot of else) Shelley deserves a Wikipedia entry for her toaster-slaying fortitude in taking on Practical RDF.

Rather bizarrely, I did get quite a lot of fan mail from the first book I worked on (Pro Java Server or somesuch), from Indian students. I'd only contributed one chapter, but mine was the only email address in the thing. The messages ranged from the sweet & humbling to the very very strange, the latter I'm sure just due to language issues, but did feel a bit creepy at the time.

You may not yet have groupies Rogers, but I'm sure you're the only person in the profession who's hair has a cult following ;-)

Appreciate my hair while you can, Internet. I suspect it is not long for this world.

I do get nice letters from readers, which is one of the perks of the job, but a disconcerting number of compliments preface a really hard question or a poorly disguised attempt to get me to do a school assignment.

"Your book is great and it taught me a lot about Java! Please tell me how to develop a class that sorts a text file in alphabetical order using the quicksort technique by 8 a.m. tomorrow."

I used to get emails from Brazilians. They liked my DHTML book. If only I could have traveled to Brazil, I would have been a star...

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