Saturday, August 9, 2008

Data Book: It Starts Here

I've written several technical books in the past, and for the last couple of years--while I recovered from the last one--I've been mulling over what to write on next. I have a couple of clearly defined goals.:
  • First, it should be on something with more permanence than a particular version of a product or technology; lthose are too short-lived, too questionable a return, and they don't really make any kind of long-term contribution to the field.
  • Second, I'm not going to put myself under a deadline and steal away time from my family or other obligations. This book will be written at its own pace.
  • Third, I see no reason in this day and age to go through a publisher. Publishers control your content and what happens to it and edit it in ways you might not like. I'd really like to try things from the other side of the fence this time, creating and developing the material online at its own pace without pressure. Perhaps when it seems to be in a finished state and there is good feedback to support that conclusion I will look into getting it published. In the meantime it'll be here, online.

So what to write on? There are several candidate ideas, but the one I'm going to focus on for awhile is a book about... Data. It seems to me there is a lot to say on the subject, yet it seems to get relatively little coverage compared to platforms, programs, technologies, and development methodologies. From data formats to data structures to reliable data transmission to privacy to databases to archiving to content rendition, there's a lot to cover. A good understanding of data and data handling is critical if you're building anything at all the software world.

I have an inspiration for how such a book would be best be laid out. A few years back, well-known technical author Charles Petzold wrote a book simply entitled Code. And what a book it was! It started out presenting computer code concepts in terms anyone could understand, beginning with kids doing morse code via flashlight. By the end of the book we're deep into processor design and language compilers and other advanced subjects, but we got there step by step. Moreover, this book had something to offer both those with a computer background and those without.

It seems to me a great companion to Code would be a volume on Data, focusing not on instructions and processing but rather on the information that flows in, through, and out of computers. And so that's my goal: to write a book on data, starting simple with the lowly bit and working my way up. I'd love to have help from online readers, so don't be bashful in making suggestions or sending in feedback.

All my posts related to this will be tagged "Data Book".

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