When Margaret posted the note about her book, it piqued my interest,
so I went and got a copy. I've gone through it now, and thought I'd
post my thoughts on the book for others who might be thinking about
First, a disclaimer -- I don't know Margeret at all, and I know John
mostly from this list and because we've both run internet things
forever -- and while John and I don't always agree on stuff, I always
respect his opinion, even if we disagree. It was because he was a
co-author that I decided to check it out.
This book is going to be of different levels of interest to different
people. here's my quick summary:
"Boss just told me we need a community, whatever that is": B+
"I know how to run (name a service), looking to expand to other tools": B
"I've got a handle on doing this, I want to run my stuff better": C
"What do they know I don't know already?" : C-
The first 2/3 of the book, roughly, is technical stuff. That's split
up between mail lists (about 40%), IRC, Web-based services and
USENet, the latter three about equally represented. There's a fairly
strong bias towards e-mail as the core community technology, and
against web (not surprising given John's background). IRC, ICQ, and
other things are seen as supplementary tools.
The technical stuff is split roughly in half, between "how to use
this stuff" and "how to set up this stuff". The first part, on "how
to use this stuff" for each service, if you split out of this book
into a book of its own, is the one I'd love to beat my users over the
head with when they do stupid things -- it's a great end-user
overview of all of these tools, but, IMHO, more filler material in a
"how to build these things" book.
The book is a good "single source" for lots of interesting info and
reference copies of things like welcome messages. The suggested
rules, content, etc is in general pretty well thought out, and little
of it will honk off the users of this list.
The last third of the book is where you get away from "how to create
a list", "how to configure a list", "how to use a list" type details
to putting it together and running it, growing it, marketing it,
financing it -- the non-technical side of things. Again, there's lots
of good source material here (rules, FAQs, vendors, etc), all in a
central location, well-organized and well-thought-out. I don't think
there are any major revelations here, but it's a nice, fairly
conservative package of common sense.
Overall: I wish there'd been less material aimed at end-users instead
of admins, although for the person trying to figure all this out from
scratch, that's going to be more useful. You could build things by
using nothing but the recommendations in the book (use the welcome
messages, rules, etc without change) and not hurt yourself or look
like an idiot. The non-technical side of things was more what I was
looking for, and I found that content interesting but not
toe-tingling. Some good references, a number of things I plan on
looking into a bit more, but "not brain surgery".
My rating for the book: somewhere between a C and a C-. The less
you're comfortable with this stuff (and there are a lot of us who are
skilled at one technology, like lists, trying to figure out the other
ones -- in my case, I'm getting my hands around IRC right now), the
more useful this book is. And if you already know everything, you
don't need it at all, but who's in that category?
Not me, that's for sure. For me, this is a good
investigation-of-technology book, or a reference to hand to
interested novices. I'll also likely use it as a convenient reference
for their drafts of rules and etc. It's a book I'll keep on my
shelves, but not on my desk.
Good book, not great book. Not worth buying for any one technology,
but if you're building a site melding a number of tools together, or
trying to get a handle on running communities instead of lists, it
can be useful.
Chuq Von Rospach - Plaidworks Consulting (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org)
Apple Mail List Gnome (mailto:email@example.com)
You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.