Noel Rappin Writes Here

Tag: publishing

May 10, 2010: The need for eyeballs

Top Story Let’s start with this: there’s a small but embarrassing typo in the Pragazine article code. Especially since it was a) called out by the author of Mocha and b) was a direct copy from the book, and from the Lulu version before that, so it’s been public for about a year, and I’ve proofread that chapter at least five times. Which just goes to show… you never catch everything.

Ruby on Rails article

Just a quick mention that part 1 of my article series on using Rails to write iPhone apps is online at IBM Developerworks. Parts 2 and 3 will be published sometime in the rather near future. In other notes, Pathfinder has updated the company blog URL to Individual authors now have unique pages, I’m rappin. Recent pieces there include a quick welcome to RailsConf, and a two-part article on HTML and code markup in Rails, available here and here.

Quick Program Notes

A couple of updates on book and article news… It looks like the screencast/video thing is going to happen, thanks to Jim Minatel. The main constraint is that they’d like the videos to be about five minutes long. I think the first one will be setting up a Rails project in Subversion (chapter 2 of the book, essentially), and I’d do a remix of that chapter using Git if there’s interest.

You Say Tomato, I Say To-Mato

In the last week, I’ve had two separate editors at two separate companies make a bulk change in something I was working on. Specifically, they changed “plugin” to “plug-in”. This is driving me a little bit crazy. Which is right? Should I care? Quick research, designed to shore up my point of view… Wikipdia has it as “plugin”, with “plug-in” as an alternate. has it as “plug-in”, although that’s clearly an antiquated reference based on the definition (“capable of or designed for being connected to an electrical power source by plugging in or inserting”).

Video Killed the Radio Star

When you have a blog with as few comments as this one, you can give every comment the kind of personal attention it deserves. This one came through from an anonymous commenter: Noel, have you considred making a DVD video tutorial of your book? This will really help those who learn by watching videos. So what do you say? The short answer is not as any kind of official adjunct to the book.

Video Still Working On Killing The Radio Star

Annnddd… This, of course, is what I get for posting anything about Wiley late at night without checking. Jim Minatel from Wiley added the following comment: Noel: I’m interested in getting Wrox authors to to videos related to their books…. I can tell you what’s involved and see what we can do. So, contacting in progress. Further bulletins as events warrant. Or as events don’t warrant, I think further bulletins are inevitable.

BDD: Book Driven Development

(This one is also on the Pathfinder blog, but since it fits in here, I wanted the full text here…) Jay Fields, who has been posting a very nice sequence of nuts-and-bolts Ruby and Rails guidelines, pauses to talk about creating examples. It’s a topic I’ve wanted to write about here for a while, and this is as good a lead-in as any. Plus, I’m generally interested in how principles of software development apply or don’t apply in odd cases, and software being developed specifically for example purposes certainly qualifies as an odd case.

The Average Programming Book

One weird aspect of being a published writer is that you get very little information about sales. You see your own numbers (several months after the fact), but there’s no larger context, and no sense of what a reasonable expectation of sales might be. Which is why I love it when O’Reilly Radar puts up one of their periodic looks at the computer book market. I haven’t pored over stat line like this since I collected baseball cards when I was ten.

Hey, Free Book Samples!

As I’ve mentioned here a few times, I have a book coming out, “Professional Ruby on Rails”, available later this month. If you’d like a sneak peek, Wrox has put some samples online as PDF files. You can also just buy the book. Chapter 1 – This sets up the sample project used in the book, and talks about the new REST features in Rails. Table of Contents – Take a look at this to see if your favorite topic is covered.

Publication And Other Updates

First off, several pathfinder blog posts to catch up on… A two part series on a quick little testing tool that I wrote called testbed. Part 1. Part2. Predictions for 2008 How to test custom form builders in RSpec. I wrote this in the hope that somebody else won’t have to spend two hours Googling this. Coming soon, “Why I stopped using RSpec…” My contribution to a discussion on duck typing, Save the Duck!

Versions: Another promotion from the comments

Somebody anonymous asks: As most of the currently available books cover Rails 1.2, are you providing the code in the books also as Rails 1.2? The sample example in the book is Rails 2.0, which was Edge Rails when I started, and I just validated all the tests against 2.0.2 last week when I turned in the finished code samples. Where there’s a significant change between 1.2 and 2.

Professional Rails Online?

In response to the commenter who asked if there was going to be a beta book. UPDATE: Clearly I should ask about these things before I post. Jim Minatel from Wrox added the following in comments: There will be a PDF about six weeks after the print book, meaning end of March or thereabouts. There will also be an Amazon Kindle version, eventually. Also after 6 weeks, the book will be available via Wrox’s online subscription service: http://wrox.

Another Publication Update

Just got the next version of the book chapters for my examination. I’m not 100% sure exactly where these fit in the process. It looks like they’ve had a good look-see from a copyeditor, largely for style, clarity, and consistency. (Any lingering “we” sentences seem to have been pruned, for example). They produced a book-specific style guide, which is a listing of canonical forms for things like plugin names, capitalization of commands or tools and the like.

Things I Learned

Some things I learned about Rails and writing while working on this book: The great benefit of working on a project like this book is that it enabled me to compress about two years worth of research into Ruby and Rails tools into six months. In my case, this was a great opportunity to really dig into some tools to find that I’ve only been using a fraction of their power and also really get a sense of how elegant and flexible the tools are.

We're In Production Now...

I turned in the last chapter of Author Review on Monday, and Professional Ruby On Rails is now in production. Target release date is still mid-February, final page count will be in the range of 450. I was able to keep the test-first nature of the code going through nearly all of it, which I’m really happy with. The table of contents looks something like this (in theory, still subject to change…)

Quick Book Update

Couple quick things while I have a minute… Just turned in Chapter 10 (of 16) of the Rails book. Still mostly on schedule for a turn in on October 26, not quite sure what that implies for a print date As I write this, the wxPython book is at 11 thousand and change on Amazon, the highest I’ve seen in months, which is probably a fluke. Weirdly Amazon says it’s the #15 book on “Website Architecture & Usability”, which would be great if it was, you know, actually about website architecture usability…

Book Update

Here’s a couple notes on the current status of the Rails book and life in general. The Rails book is presently just about 30% done – first payment triggered (yay!). I’m reasonably happy about it so far, though definitely too close to it at the moment to have a clear sense of its quality. I do like the way the test integration is working out – it seems to help my descriptions of functionality to have the tests there.

A Customer!

Well, that’s a pleasant surprise. Somebody named Stephen has left a comment. And not one of those spam thingies, but some actual relevant questions about tech publishing. Answering them seemed like it might be fun.. I noticed there is a pdf version available of your books. Is this something you or the publisher insisted on? Have people shown an interest for this version or are they still overwhelmingly favouring the hard copy?

Book Updates

It’s been about a week or so of continued radio silence, so I thought I’d pop in with an update. I’m in the middle of chapter three of the Rails book. I think it’s going well, but nobody other then me has read the chapters yet, so that’s easy to say. My first milestone date is the end of the month, and four chapters done – that’s about one-quarter of the entire book.

Announcing: Professional Ruby on Rails

I’m pleased to be able to say that I’ve contracted for a new book, Professional Ruby on Rails, scheduled to be available in “early 2008”, hopefully February or March. The publisher is Wiley, through the Wrox imprint – the ones with the red covers and the author’s picture on them. Wiley wanted me to be sure and mention that the ISBN number is 9780470223888, so you’ll be ready to pre-order it the second that becomes possible.

Another IBM Article

It’s not exactly part five of the four part GWT series, but it is closely related. Please check out my newest article on IBM Developerworks: Simplify Ajax development using Cypal Studio for GWT. I actually wrote this a few months ago, when the tool was still called Googlipse, and the final publication was delayed a bit while I rechecked all the code and instructions, and changed the name throughout. One note: it seems as though the GWT 1.

State of the Art

O’Reilly Radar has been analyzing the state of the computer book market on a quarterly basis for a couple of years now. This link is to a drill-down into the Q1 2007 results for programming languages. The information is of some passing interest to me, both as an author and as language geek. Things that jumped out at me. Ruby is up a ton, and is now selling more than Perl and Python combined.

Fame and Fortune 2

To continue on the fame and fortune theme, I just got the first part of the statement wrapping up the first year of the wxPython book. (Since the book came out at the end of March, we got a first quarter statement which covered the first 10 days of the release). Anyway, I’m pleased. The fourth quarter statement was only about 5% down from the third quarter (I don’t have the exact numbers).

Fame And Fortune

Well, the Jython Book celebrated it’s fifth anniversary with a royalty statement showing that it had sold the grand total of two copies over the previous quarter. I think it might be played out. O’Reilly’s statements don’t give total accumulated sales count, just total accumulated royalties. I think it sold just on the low side of 6,000 copies, and is something like 500 short of earning out. Meantime the wxPython book still seems to be holding it’s Amazon rank, so I’m very curious what the next sales total is going to be.

GWT part 3 and 4

Sorry for not mentioning this earlier, but part three of the GWT series is now up on the IBM site at: This one is about remote procedure calls, and I’m pleased with how it turned out. I just got the proofs for the fourth and final article in this series, about deployment. I expect it to be online Tuesday, Feb 27th at:

GWT Article Now Online, Part Two

The second part of my IBM Developerworks series on Google Web Toolkit is now online at This one focuses mostly on the Derby database, and features a really quick and dirty database-to-Java conversion tool. Enjoy.

Playing in the Sandbox

This message showed up in the Manning Sandbox forum for wxPython In Action. After saying some nice things about the book, the poster has some suggestions: I would love to see an advanced volume covering topics such as XRC, using XML to define a screen layout; creating custom widgets… internationalization, and a full chapter or more expanding on chapter 5 “Creating your blueprint.” I find that… program organization is most important yet little seems to be written about it, for any programming language….

GWT Article Now Online

I’m happy to announce that Part One of my four part series on using Google Web Toolkit is now available at: This part focuses on creating a GUI front-end using GWT. In case you wonder about the lead time on these things, it was originally written in August, and slightly updated right before it was published. I think that the future part of the series will appear monthly. The next one is about using the Derby database as your back-end.

Less Frequently Asked Questions

Hi. Miss me? Thought not. Well, I’ve been feeling increasingly guilty about not posting something here, especially as the comments continue to trickle in – we’re up to eight now that I’ve cleared off some comment spam! I’m going to boldly ignore the three partially written posts and do another round of publishing questions. How’s the wxPython book selling? Not bad. Got my first-ever royalty check a couple of weeks ago (actually, a royalty direct deposit).

Now with sound

Robin Dunn and I were interviewed for Ron Stevens’ excellent Python 411 podcast – you can download and listen to the .mp3 file here. It’s about 45 minutes long, which should mean that Ron used nearly all of the interview. Hope you like it. It was a lot of fun to do. Thanks again to Ron for having us on, and also for the very nice review of the book he wrote on Slashdot.


I’m pleased to be able to link to a new article: Build cross-platform GUIs using wxWidgets available on the IBM developerWorks site. The original title was “wxWorld”, and it’s a quick look at wxPython, the wxWidgets toolkit, and some of the other wxWidgets language bindings. I had some fun digging through the different language tools trying to create short wx programs in each. Hope you like it.

Occasionally Asked Questions

I wouldn’t say it happens often, but I do sometimes get asked some questions about being a technical author. Seemed like a good place to start. For a long time, the most common question was Did you pick the animal on the cover of the Jython book? The answer is no. The cover animals are picked by the O’Reilly production team, and the mechanism they use for assigning animals to books is somewhat mystical.

Copyright 2021 Noel Rappin