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Perl black book

by kommesel (Sexton)
on Sep 05, 2001 at 18:20 UTC ( #110297=bookreview: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

Item Description: Programming book

Review Synopsis:

I'm not a programmer, but an EE. However I found Perl to be very useful to me in cutting down mechanical chores. I tried the Camel book, but being new to UNIX and to Perl, I couldn't understand the explanations, which were refrenced to something quiet obvious (not to me). I bought the Black Book, and found it to be very complete and easy to understand. The system guys in the company where I work, said that it contains more information on Perl than any other book they've seen. Including the camel book (yeah I know, it's blasphemy).As Kelly Bundy used to say: Ina butt shell, excellent buy and a rival to the Camel book, and in some issues, tops it.

Comment on Perl black book
Re: Perl black book
by RhetTbull (Curate) on Sep 05, 2001 at 19:49 UTC
    This node is being voted down and in fact made it on the Worst Nodes list for today, probably because kommesel said he liked it better than the Holy Camel Book. What gives folks? A new user took some time to write a review (albeit brief) of a book he found useful. That sounds worthwhile to me. He even prefaced his review by telling us he's not a programmer or perl geek so we know what context to read his review in. If you disagree with his review then writing about why you do or do not like the book in a comment is far more constructive and helpful to the Monastery than voting down the node. A negative vote doesn't tell us WHY you don't like or what's wrong with it. All the folks who voted this node down should go to the Confession Booth.

    --RT
      I have not voted for the node in either direction; I've not heard of this Black Book until now, but more importantely, the review tells me little about it that would influence my purchasing decisions.

      A growing problem/trend of PM latety in the Review areas is the quality of the Reviews. Before I get too far, let me slap this up:

      IMO!!

      I believe that if you are going to review something here at PM, you should consider giving out as many details as possible about the book or module, positive or negative, that would help me decide whether to use the item in question. Simply stating "I found it useful" doesn't help at all.

      Imaging if movie reviews were only listed by title and the number of stars that it was given; would that be helpful to determine what movie to go see? Definitely not, which is why most reviews give details such as the genre, the MPAA rating and any specific such as language or violence that earned it that rating, the actors and directors involved with it, the length of the movie, and maybe some 'preliminary' movies or material that you should be familiar with to fully enjoy the movie. Putting that all together, I now know if there's enough elements about the movie that I might want to see it.

      The same ought to go for book or module reviews. For book reviews, I would find it very helpful to know things such as the size, cost, and hardback/softback-ness of the book, year and publisher, a table of contents (particularly any references/appendix material), the amount of background and advanced material in it, the number of illustrations in it, and the amount of sample code in it. Most of this is factual, and thus should have no bias. However, it can help to improve a review. EGs: "This book has about 6 of 10 chapters dedicated to reviewing the basics of perl. Obviously, this book is not meant for the advanced perl programmer...". "While the book has frequent illustrations, these tend to be too large and reduces the amount of usable content in the book..." (Note those are not real reviews of any books, just examples). If it comes with a CD, information on what's on that too is helpful.

      Obviously, there's more on the 'personal' part of the review that's harder to distinguis. RhetTBull points out one aspect that I find helpful; stating what level the reviewer is and how helpful the book is too that level. Other aspects that should be considers is how readable it is (is it meant to be used as reference or can be taken on a plane or trip for casual reading?), quality of writing and code examples, organization of the book, how well the book met the reviews expectations, and other details that are going to vary depending on who reads it. Exactly what goes in here will all depend on what the book is and how the reviewer does it, but the more information a reviewer can give here, the better the review.

      For module reviews, again IMO, I believe there's a lot of fixed unbiased details that can be included to help out, including installation needs of a module, the amount of documentation associated with it, example code present, etc. Particularly for modules, I find it very helpful to have code of the module in use hopefully created by the reviewer, but borrowing code from the module isn't a bad thing either. If a module claims to be simple, but requires 4 function calls to do something simple, it's not a very good module, and an example would show that. A module review should go through all the general class of methods and objects that a module can provide, and any features that might be unique to the system. If module reviews for 2 or more compariable systems are done properly , I should be able to read those reviews side by side without resorting to looking at the module itself to determine which one will suit my needs. (Of course, a reviewer may completely miss a lacking/broken feature that they never would encounter that's critical for someone else, but here on PM, that's easily resolved since reviews can have additional feedback and be modified after posting to fix it).

      Again, this is all IMO, but I do believe that more in-depthness in reviews are needed here, at least to be more effective for my selection process. As of late, a lot of the reviews seem to be thin, and really have not helped me decide if I need a book or not. Of course, going by a review alone is poor, but when looking at filling a potental perl bookshelf or a module directory, a well-written review will at least help point me to good starting points.

      -----------------------------------------------------
      Dr. Michael K. Neylon - mneylon-pm@masemware.com || "You've left the lens cap of your mind on again, Pinky" - The Brain
      It's not what you know, but knowing how to find it if you don't know that's important

        IMRDO (In My Respectfully Differing Opinion ;--) you can _hope_ that people will write proper reviews, but there is not much you can really do to improve what they write.

        Especially the "factual" stuff. I can get the author bio and the number of pages from Think Geek or Amazon or my local bookstore. I don't care about the number of illustrations in a book, I'd rather the review writer spend more time telling me what he thought about the book than counting pictures! ;--)

        What is really interesting in a book review is whether the reviewer thinks the book is helpful, technically accurate and generally enjoyable. All of which are quite non-factual. And besides it is quite hard for a reviewer to judge both the helpfulness of a book (it has to be someone who needs to learn whats in the book) and its technical accuracy (in which case it helps if the reviewer knows a lot more than whats in the book).

        So a review that tells me who the reviewer is and then what he thought about the book is just fine. Other posters with different background can then comment and help the reader get the complete picture.

        At least this review showed us a book that I am sure few people here knew.

        And now back to some factual information: the book is 1400 pages, paperback, pretty thin paper I've been told, although I don't have the figures here, it was first published in August 1999, it looks like the current edition is still the 1rst (actually an important info, 1rst editions have more typos and errors than subsequent ones, plus publishers usually only prints a second edition if they've sold all of the first one), but there seems to be another one named the "CD-ROM edition" out there, it's listed price is $49.99 but its street price is around $35-$40. Is that enough non-biased info?

        Man, I don't think I've ever known so much about a book I will never buy!

      I didn't find it particularly useful, and don't care that he likes it better than the Camel, especially since he detailed what audience he's representing. What bothered me about the post was his awful grammar.

      I did not vote at all on it, one way or the other. If he had written better, and included a link and other info about the book, I might have ++'ed it for his effort.

        I agree with your point about including a link and other info. Given the original review it would be very tricky to find the book in a bookstore.

        The comment about grammar isn't very helpful. It's possible English isn't his first language. Lots of monks here aren't from the USA, this should be borne in mind when correcting spelling and grammar.

        If you really wanted to help with the grammar problem a /msg would probably have been better.

        Before coming out with comments like that it's useful to think why you're making them: to help the original author, as an example to others or to make yourself look superior (my own reasons for this post are probably a bit suspect there, I confess).

        Kevin O'Rourke

      I agree. Great book!! I have the first edition and office mates are ALWAYS borrowing it (for years sometimes - I know where it is!) My copy was so "in demand" that another colleague decided to just buy his own. The 2nd edition is out of print and the USED copies are going for $150+!! Pretty wild! It makes me very curious what was changed in the 2nd edition and why they didn't bring out a 3rd. RAT
Re: Perl black book
by mirod (Canon) on Sep 05, 2001 at 20:45 UTC

    I had never heard about this book, so I used my trusted Google, and actually came back with a bunch of pretty good reviews, which confirm what kommesel said about it, starting with Greg Smith's on Slashdot and Amazon's User reviews (but don't forget to boycott Amazon).

    In short it looks like a good book for people who already know other languages. It will infuriate the devout as often not choosing the Perl way, but as such it will not scare the newcomer. That's a valid angle for a book IMHO.

    Edit by tye to add missing >

      I had never heard about that book, too. So I am quit happy to get informed by brother kommesel.
      Just to add some information:The TOC and a sample chapter of the Book is availabe on the publishers site.

      Hanamaki
Re: Perl black book
by stefp (Vicar) on Sep 05, 2001 at 21:03 UTC
    There is no blasphemy. There is nothing worse than unquestionned dogms. Neverthless, I would be cautious about "solutions oriented books". I don't have read the "black book" so I can't say if it really belongs to that category. "Solutions books" can eventually turn people into cargo cult programming. Instead of trying to understand how things work, these people cut and paste code that has been known to work before. Even the resulting code "work", it may be a security threat or not be maintanable.

    If you want to progress, you must think long term and eventually read books that teach you concepts as well as examples of good code in a particular language. Programming Perl tutorial part is certainly too fast paced for a total beginner. I have heard that the new edition of Learning Perl has dropped reference to UNIX to be more geared towards beginners.

    added after reading mirod: There is a lot of talk about the fact there is more than one way to do it: according to Larry Wall it is ok to talk baby-perl... It is indeed nice to have a language that support baby-talk. But one have to eventually be able to read adult code. So books that shove perlisms under the carpet may be too limitative.

    Good readings...

    -- stefp

      the only reservation i have about your comments is that i'm leery about the characterization of the adoption of working solutions as cargo cult programming. from what i've seen in others as well as myself, we all tend to iterate through ascending (hopefully) levels of expertise, becoming more sophisticated with this or that as we develop. cookbooks can provide a structure for what at first seems overwhelming. isn't that partially the role of the perl cookbook?

      which is not to say that i haven't seen people get trapped in that mode, so i do understand your point.

How should you write a review?
by dragonchild (Archbishop) on Sep 05, 2001 at 22:55 UTC
    Prior to saying anything at all, I will say that I had not heard of this book and will be checking it out next time I'm at a bookstore with a copy.

    I will say that I voted this node down upon my initial reading of it primarily because the review, I felt, was very poorly done. I couldn't care less if someone said "Book A is better than Book B" ... so long as they backed it up in terms I can relate to.

    Before any of that, however, I would refer kommesel to a spellchecker and a grammar book. If you're going to take the effort to write a usable review, at least make it something I can read.

    I tried the Camel book, but being new to UNIX and to Perl, I couldn't understand the explanations, which were refrenced to something quiet obvious (not to me).

    Fair enough. A lot of people have this objection with the Camel book. (Though, my question is now why didn't you look at the Llama book?)

    I bought the Black Book, and found it to be very complete and easy to understand.

    Examples? Complete how? What does it have over Camel? Where is Camel lacking?

    The system guys in the company where I work, said that it contains more information on Perl than any other book they've seen.

    Again, I don't care about the system guys where you work. I care about your experiences with the book. Did you read it all? What did you learn from it? Would you recommend it for a novice? Expert? Guru? Should this be on Larry Wall's or Damian Conway's or merlyn's shelf?

    Yes, you told me about a resource you feel is excellent. Now, in a readable fashion, tell me why it's excellent. Sell me the book. Rave about it. Make me leave work right now and go buy it because my afternoon will be that much more productive.

    Update: Fixed spelling/grammar errors that Sifmole kindly pointed out. ("refrenced" was quoted verbatim.)

    ------
    We are the carpenters and bricklayers of the Information Age.

    Vote paco for President!

      Personally I don't think this place gets enough reviews... and you kicking in the teeth of someone who did bother to contribute isn't really going to help the situation.

      At least the individual bothered to write something. Perhaps, they didn't have the time to write a long detailed review but wanted to let others know about something they found.

      As for your rant about the system guys, I believe the individual was probably using them as support that programmer types he knew liked the book as well. Perfectly, reasonable information to add I think, since the writer identified themselves as a non-programmer.

      Examples? Complete how? What does it have over Camel? Where is Camel lacking?
      Did you bother to read what you quoted? The writer stated that they found the Camel book referenced (take note of that spelling, you might want to remember it when you are hacking people about their spelling and grammer. ) too much Unix in the explanations. As for "complete" -- well "complete" is a pretty good word if you felt the book contained all you were looking to find and didn't have time to redundantly list all of the features.

      Sell me the book. Rave about it.
      I disagree, tell me about the book. "Raving" tends to imply a lack of objectivity.

      On to glass houses....
      Before any of that, however, I would refer kommesel to a spellchecker and a grammar book. If you're going to take the effort to write a usable review, at least make it something I can read.

      • refrenced is not a word, perhaps you meant referenced? A spell checker would have caught that.
      • reccomend is not a word, perhaps you meant recommend? A spell checker would have caught that.
      • I couldn't care less if someone said that "Book A, grammar says you should remove the "that". A grammar checker would have caught that.
      So what don't you just hop down of that high-horse of yours and give the writer a break. Did you really add anything to the monestary with this message? The writer of the review added more than you did.

      We need to encourage sharing, not kick people in the teeth on their first posting. The posting could have been better, and we have most positively seen better written reviews; However, your response is written even more poorly from a stand point of adding anything to the monestary.

      Spelling and Grammar checker free

        I stand corrected with the spelling. (I still don't know how to spell reccomend, frankly.) I'm not going to argue on the grammar, either.

        However, your reply seems to indicate that you feel information, regardless of presentation and/or content, is worthwhile. My feeling is this: if you're going to present information to me, please have the decency to actually give me usable information in a format that I can understand it in.

        We have all taken classes where the textbook(s) were completely unreadable. Math and science classes are notorious for this, though certainly not the sole offenders. No-one would ever say that there was no information in those textbooks, but did you learn more from that or from a textbook that presented its information clearly, succinctly, and excited you to go learn more?

        This is one reason why the O'Reilly books are so popular - their presentation gives information out in easy doses that are fun to read. Had I learned Perl from a book similar to the one I learned Pascal from, I wouldn't be nearly as excited to use the language as I am today.

        Reviews should be the same. I would encourage kommesel to rewrite his review. If written well, I will gladly ++ it. In fact, I'll ++ any well-written, thought-out review, even if I disagree with the reviewer's conclusions. A node that's just slapped together and makes me work unnecessarily for the information it contains is not adding anything to the monastery. In fact, it's detracting from the overall quality of the monastery. A well-written review of Curious George or The Cat in the Hat does contribute. It gives a good example of a review, even if the node's information doesn't contribute to the collective knowledge of Perl.

        ------
        We are the carpenters and bricklayers of the Information Age.

        Vote paco for President!

Re (tilly) 1: Perl black book
by tilly (Archbishop) on Sep 05, 2001 at 23:40 UTC
    If this is the book that I am thinking of, I wouldn't rely on it.

    I knew someone who swore by it. Turns out that it had no error checks on any system calls in any of its examples. That is not a minor flaw, and wasn't the only one either...

Re: Perl black book
by Maclir (Curate) on Sep 06, 2001 at 03:15 UTC

    Some people have criticised the review because, in their opinion, the "Perl black Book" does not stress good Perl programming practices. (My interpretation). Baby-talk Perl. No error checking. Not the true Perl way.

    That may be true - but I first learned Perl from an online reference called "Introduction to Perl & CGI Programming". Many people here will foam at the mouth and cry "Sacriledge! Burn that heathen publication!" at the mention of that publication. Yes, I would not recommend people buying that book. BUT it got me interested in Perl, and wanting to know more, I bought the Camel book, the Llama book, and found this place. So my soul was saved, so to speak. But until I read and used the rather poor book initially, I didn't even know what Perl could do - to continue the metaphor, I didn't realise I had a soul.

    The moral - just because the reviewed book may not be the best, or even a recommended book for serious Perl programming (and programmers), kommesel found it good enough to start with. Hopefully, if all the nitpicking, back-biting and bitchiness hasn't turned him off this place, he may stay around long enough to advance his Perl knowledge to the point where he does understand the advnaced features of the language, and knows good ways to do things, and can understand why wome of the approaches and techniques people frown upon are dangerous.

    ++ to kommesel for having the guts to at least give us his impressions.

Re: Perl black book
by kommesel (Sexton) on Aug 14, 2002 at 11:26 UTC
    Well well, I am quiet amazed at the emotion that this little comment stirred. I'll add a few more things. A. My system guys, who are programmers, started to rely on it, even though they have the camel book. B. I am not an American, so my English can't be perfect. C. I wrote it for non programmers mainly. My scripts are made of very few lines D. Maybe I wasn't articulate enough, but what I meant was that the camel book takes for granted that I am skilled in UNIX. I am not, so this book can clearly not be suitable for me, right? That should also clear up something about reasons to prefer one book over the other. E. You don't need to a programmer in order to be a geek. F. You don't need to be a geek in order to be a programmer. G. People, the earth is polluted, terrorists are commiting horrible crimes, so save your energy for something a little more important than someone's taste in programming books.
      While looking at the worst nodes I saw your node, read it and imediatly upvoted it, because I think your opinion does not deserve to get downvoted. To be honest, IMHO, it does not deserve to get upvoted either. But this is a different story. While I think that I understand your anoyance, I will try to comment at first on your node:

      Well well, I am quiet amazed at the emotion that this little comment stirred. I'll add a few more things.
      Okay, I listen.


      A. My system guys, who are programmers, started to rely on it, even though t hey have the camel book.
      While this doesn't tell us wether the book is good or bad, it does give us valuable information about what happens in the real world. Except for some morons, this kind of information won't be a reason to downvote.

      B. I am not an American, so my English can't be perfect.
      Probably you should feel honored. Your English seems to be that good, that someone thought it is your native language. From my own experience I can say, at this site I have never seen a known non-native speaker of English to get flamed, because of his writing skills. I am a non-native speaker of English, too.

      C. I wrote it for non programmers mainly. My scripts are made of very few lines
      Here I cannot follow your logic. While I understand that you write for non programmers and your scripts are only a few lines long, I don't get the conection of this statements.
      (Semantic alert: "Programmers defined as professional programmers etc. Non programmers defined as people who do some programming, but programming is not close to be the main part of the job.)

      D. Maybe I wasn't articulate enough, but what I meant was that the camel book takes for granted that I am skilled in UNIX. I am not, so this book can clearly not be suitable for me, right? That should also clear up something about reasons to prefer one book over the other.
      Accepted! Only morons will vote you down or critize you for this opinion. (Disclaimer: I never use Windows. I would hate to use windows. Yes, for me Linux or Unix is the way to go, but I am not into OS wars. Everybody should use what he wants.)

      E. You don't need to a programmer in order to be a geek.
      F. You don't need to be a geek in order to be a programmer.

      Exactly my opinion! ... But were did this geek topic came up?

      G. People, the earth is polluted, terrorists are commiting horrible crimes, so save your energy for something a little more important than someone's taste in programming books.
      Yeah, we know about this horrible world and some may consider suing there parent s for giving birth and pressuring them to live in such an dangerous world.
      "How can any sane person give money to the Perl Foundation while you could save with the same amount of money one or more children in Africa?" or "How can a intelligent person write a book review, participate at Perl monks, etc. while the world is in such a bad shape?" comes to mind. Is leaving Perl monks and joining the Red Cross the way to go?
      Here you use manipulative language, probably a reason for some of us to downvote you.

      Come on, lets relax. While this whole discussion is in your thread most of the nodes don't comment on your review, but are basically a new topic about book reviews. Yes, that should have become a new thread discussing Perl Monks and Book Reviews. The whole stuff wasn't meant against you.
      Just one last word. Even if a new review of you won't have more content than this one, for me it would be a pleasure to read it. Actually, I would like to have as much reviews as I can get on any single book. Reviews are seldom duplicate work.

      sincerly yours,
      Hanamaki
Re: Perl black book
by coreolyn (Parson) on Aug 14, 2002 at 12:18 UTC

    I have the first version of this book and have noticed in the books stores that it has undergone a significant size change (smaller). I like the book. While I rely on the Camel for explanations, I find it is a great quick reference -- but then I'm a blasphemer that finds it easier to find things in books than perldocs.

    As for the 'quality' demand on reviews I think we can let each reader/writer make that decision for themselves. I don't remember reading anywhere that reviews had to be of a particular quality.

    coreolyn

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