I found a review of my brother’s Magento book earlier today. Starting off with “However, I’m not really the type of person to give accolades unless something is absolutely stellar. As such, this post will primarily be about the shortcomings of the book” I wasn’t particularly surprised that there was more of a focus on negatives rather than positives.
Bearing in mind that I’m not the author, but I did see the process of writing the book, and helped put Mark and php|a together in the first place, I’ll address a few of the issues that Brandon brings up.
First to market
This became a bigger issue than I thought it would be. Varien promised last year that they’d have a 1.0 release in the first quarter of 2008. Look when Magento 1.0 was released – March 31, 2008. It doesn’t get any more ‘down to the wire’ than this. From what I see, they shipped to hit a release date, and (for what it’s worth) QA seemed to take a back seat.
What does this have to do with the book? php|a had committed to a certain ship date, which created a certain due date for Mark. About 2 weeks before the final Magento release, there was a very large codebase change, which affected large parts of what Mark had written. Having to go back and check/recheck the code, rewrite sections that were now technically ‘wrong’, and rewrite explanations about how some of the internals were working all took time which may have been better spent in other areas. This is not to throw the whole thing on php|a, or to point the finger at any one person, it’s simply what happened.
This was sort of a design decision, compounded by the time decision. There was an effort to avoid rehashing a lot of what’s already been written in the online Magento guide. This may have been taken too far, in that Brandon felt there were things missing from explanations. There was likely an assumption that the reader would be reading the book in conjunction with having gone through online material as well.
“However, the construction of a completely custom module seems so complex that Kismal either does not include all the finer nuances or simply cannot coherently describe its creation—a sign that does not particularly bode well.“ Doesn’t bode well for which party? The book, or Magento itself? I can tell you my own non-author impressions that Magento is likely far more complex than it needed to be for a 1.0 release. The phrase “bit off more than they could chew” springs to mind. I also understand that some of the complexity comes from rewrapping much of the ZendFramework with Magento’s code.
I fear I’m going to start to ramble, and I’m certainly not a Magento expert so I’ll leave some of the more specific issues to other people.
It may be hard to take what I say without a few grains of salt – Mark is my brother and we’ve worked together for a number of years. Those two points alone probably disqualify me from any claim of ‘objectivity’ (I’m not try to say I’m 100% objective either). There were certainly issues that, given more time, I know Mark would have wanted to delve in to. Also, given the fairly rapid changes that were happening in Magento, the curse of technical books in general – being out of date before the book is published – is something I know Mark was aware of, and I think tried to deal with as best as possible.
Having said all that, it was still good to find this first book review. I’m looking forward to reading more, and eventually reading some of my own book, the PHP Job Hunter’s Handbook.
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