“A nearly impenetrable thicket of geekitude…”

Essential Blogging, by Powers et al.

Posted on June 6, 2003 at 12:02

Review of Essential Blogging, by Doctorow, Dornfest, Johnston, Powers (ed.), Trott and Trott.

Summary: good introduction to blogging systems, particularly if you’re trying to decide which system is right for you. You’re unlikely to need to read it twice.

The preface to this book says that “Our main objective is to help you select a blog system and get it up and running as soon as possible.” To that end, the main body of the text covers three different blogging systems, first at a basic level and later at an advanced one. An additional very short chapter on the Bloxsom system seems out of place in an introductory text.

The basic level chapters on Blogger, Radio Userland and Movable Type are easily sufficient to allow you to make a choice; this almost certainly means you’ll only want to read one of the three “advanced” chapters.

The “advanced” chapter that I read in detail was, of course, the one for the system I selected: Movable Type. In retrospect, almost all of the information this book contains relating to Movable Type is available elsewhere, either on the Movable Type site or in the on-line documentation. However, the book brings this all together in one place and provides a linear sequence to it: this means you may discover things by reading this book that you would miss in the equivalent on-line information.

As well as the system-specific information, there is a useful introductory chapter covering basic concepts and one describing different desktop client programs as distinct to the blogging systems themselves. A final Blogging Voices chapter containing quotes from individual bloggers provides hints and tips as well as some insight as to what (some) people think they are doing when they blog.

I’d say that this book succeeds in its primary aim, but the result is a book you’ll probably never read all of, and almost certainly only need to read once. As such, it is quite hard to justify the cover price of $29.95/£20.95.

Quite a lot of technical books fall into this category, either because you only want to read them once (like this book) or because you just want to skim them to get an overview of a subject. If, like me, you do a lot of this kind of reading, it may be worth considering O’Reilly’s Safari on-line service, where you can essentially rent books like this for around $2 per month. Safari has about 1500 books on line at the time of writing. You do need a permanent internet connection to access a service like this, but if you have one of those and don’t mind reading from a screen then it is definitely worth considering.