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Calling SL4iA Readers - Help Me Make Silverlight 5 in Action Better

Pete Brown - 06 June 2011

Over the weekend, I saw my first truly bad Amazon review for Silverlight 4 in Action. I've been really happy with reviews so far (28 reviews, 4 1/2 stars average), but this one, and a meh 3 star review before it both point to the same issue with the current text. That first 1 star review really stings (you put a lot of yourself in a book like this), but I'm taking it to heart to see how I can make the next book better.

The issue brought to light here was that I assume too much knowledge on the part of the reader. For clarity, the book is targeted towards people who know .NET and C#, and can find their way around the IDE (instructions on how to drag and drop stuff from the toolbox is not something I'm wasting page space on). However, I get the impression that, at least in these cases, the readers felt I was assuming even more beyond that.

So, as I'm actively working on Silverlight 5 in Action, I'd like to know from you, my readers, if you've run across this when reading SL4iA. If so, please help me make SL5 in Action better by letting me know a few examples of places were you struggled because I assumed too much or was otherwise unclear.

I'm very excited about Silverlight 5 in Action. Like SL4iA, it's a labor of love. I want it to be an awesome book that really helps developers with one of my favorite technologies.

posted by Pete Brown on Monday, June 6, 2011
filed under:        

21 comments for “Calling SL4iA Readers - Help Me Make Silverlight 5 in Action Better”

  1. Ben Hayatsays:
    Pete, their comment [from my point of view] is none sense. You need to be a [at least] a semi professional developer to develop SL application. And you need to know .Net, VS, LINQ, WCF and etc. to build a complete app. A single book cannot cover all these subjects.

    Honestly, I encourage you for version 5 to make the book MORE advance. You should dig deeper in the new features and give the advance users a SL Bible.
    My two cents.
  2. Eduardosays:
    Don't worry. One star reviews are very helpful when I'm about to buy a book. Why? Because if the bad thing is that the book is too advanced (nonsense), then I will buy it.

    All good books have bad reviews, but these bad reviews helps me understand the ins and outs of the book (or any other product)

  3. Marcsays:
    If I read "to advanced" I get very curious...
    I'm tired of books for everyone. Show really cool advanced "action" with your book and I'll have it on my shelf.

    Giving best practices how a Silverlight project could be organized and proven design concepts (e.g. advanced MVVM usage) is always a bonus to the ususal feature-list books.
    Most books concentrate too much on WCF RIA - I encourage not to do so. WCF RIA might be cool for a lot people, but not for everyone.

    Best luck for your book!
  4. Scott Marlowesays:
    I'm actually in the middle of reading SL4 In Action for the first time now. Can't say I agree with the 1 star reviewer. I'll wait until I'm finished before commenting, but so far I think it's providing good info. I don't need small details; I've been programming in .NET and Silverlight for a while now. Maybe the MVVM section could have been expanded, but it's not like there aren't a thousand other sources out there providing info on DI, etc. I think if you included *everything*, your book would be one of those 1,000+ page doorstops.
  5. Ian Smithsays:
    I read a lot of technical books, and quite frankly many of them are very poor and don't warrant half the score they get on average on Amazon. YOUR BOOK IS NOT ONE OF THEM. It's very clear you cared about the book and spent a lot of time on each chapter - not just on the first couple of chapters and then a mad rush towards the end as your deadline approached, the way so many books are these days. It's one of the few books I've purchased in dead tree and electronic format. It's odd that the 1 star reviewer much preferred the Pro Silverlight book since that book goes into a lot of detail where it doesn't need to, and then omits whole areas that need to be covered. It was a great book when it covered Silverlight 2, but each new version has only really made token changes to cover the new release. Your book is "the Bible" for Silverlight 4, despite some stiff competition. Stick with what you did the first time around for the next edition and most of your potential audience will be very happy. Thanks for a great book.
  6. Michael O'Flahertysays:
    Frankly, of all the Silverlight books out there, yours has been the most valuable. You are a great writer and make tough subjects easy. We have a very complex app and the areas in Silverlight that were rough for us are validation and the grid (so we would not object to those areas being beefed up - ha!) Regardless, you are always going to have narcissists writing reviews, so I would not put too much weight on an occasional bad review. Keep up the great work!
  7. Stuart Leitchsays:
    I'm currently reading your book and would also agree with the other comments above that your book is not too advanced. For the professional developer, I find it to be more often the case that books are too basic, assuming that the reader has very little knowledge. I would prefer Google/Bing to compensate for gaps in basic knowledge rather than have a book bloated with beginner stuff. No book can cater to all audiences and I think your book hits the sweet spot for the majority of professional developers and I would not deviate from the path you took with the current edition of the book. I second Ian that a lot of technical books are poorly written and a chore to read. Yours is well written and refreshing.
  8. Chrissays:
    I'm an experienced SL developer, having first started with WPF. I honestly can't get interested in most SL books I've bought because they're not advanced enough! I would buy a "super advanced" book on SL in a heart beat. I'm even having a tough time getting through a new WP7 book I bought because it assumes that XAML and XAML topics are new. I know author's are in the business of selling books, but, I would find it rare to complain that a technical book was too advanced. The problem is that SL is now approaching version 5. Many devs have been with it since the beginning. I want to exploit all that is new. I want to read about advanced topics not covered in detail on blogs. But, I guess as an author you have to allow for the fact that there will be first time SL developers starting with SL 5. Yep, it is a tough position to be in.
  9. Tad Andersonsays:

    That dude is clearly missing a few cards in his deck. I found your book to be a refreshing approach. Full review here:

    Just do what you did in the last one and you'll have 99% of us giving 5 stars again. (there will always be that 1% that is in a world of their own)
  10. Shawn Martinsays:
    I'm a LOB developer who's been doing .NET development since v1 and Silverlight since v3. I learned Silverlight from on-the-job mentoring, Matthew MacDonald's SL3 book and lots of blog reading. I thought his book was an extremely well written introduction to Silverlight. I bought your book because I saw some of the pre-release material and found it to be very valuable and because I wanted to make sure I kept up with SL4.

    When I read your book I had the exact opposite problem as that of your 1 star reviewer - there was too much background information. I found myself skipping entire chapters and struggling to focus in some of the other chapters. I thought it was well written and loaded with information that I didn't know, but I had to slog through enough that I did already know that it became tedious.

    I'm going to echo what pretty much everyone here has said: I don't think it's possible to create one reasonably sized book that covers Silverlight for a beginner and yet covers advanced topics in depth. Personally I'd love to see your next book focus on the advanced topics and drop even more of the beginner material. Partly that's just selfishness based on my current skill level, but I'd also argue that other writers have the beginner material covered and you might be the only writer who can cover the advanced topics adequately.

    Specifically, I'd love to see more detail on what goes on under the hood in the layout system, XAML parsing, template instantiation and management, binding and perhaps a chapter on advanced troubleshooting with something like Silverlight Spy.
  11. william simons says:
    One of the things that really makes me extremely mad is their are too many silverlight books made for dummies. Let's face they(the writers) try to cover many topics and unfortunately none of them are covered with the attention to detail they need to be covered. For example, building a wcf ria class library, n-tier design etc Matthew mcdonald's was supposed to be profession, however he really failed(miserably) to cover what silverlight is all about
    DATA FOR DEVELOPERS.Thank you for writing sl 4. Your book covered mvvm, silverlight wcf ria
    and you gave us a huge gift when you showed what a mvvm class library is about(data and a wcf service)
    I suggest you ponder these points:(Please get feedback on what developers want!!)
    DON'T attempt to cover too much (too lightly)
    Please remember my biggest complaints Most writers try to write too much information and not enough depth.
    Concentrate on quality(make sure your subjects cover in depth)For example on 0ne of your chapters
    1 data building a silverlight data class n-tier(EF code first) 2 bulding a wcf service3 validation4 authentication5 authorization
    a wcf class library busines layer apply that to mvvm and web context etc. Pete you need to challenge the developer into an enterprise solution, yes, I am talking about mvvm toolkits prism etc.
  12. leosays:
    Pete, in this case this bad marketing is working better than the good marketing,

    the key word "too advanced" is a red flag for people that don't like BS books.

    Keep you with the good work, I already have you sl4ia book and I look forward for your sl5ia book as well.
  13. Xamaleonsays:
    Hi Pete,

    I read the critics...The second one seems more or less the kind of:
    "I don't know what the hell you're talking about...
    and even if I understood a word of what you meant, it still wouldn't be true..."
    Welcome to the wide world of critics...

    It's obvious that all books cannot be written for the same target audience...
    I guess it would be pretty hard -if not impossible - for an author to reach and gather
    each one and everyone in the same basket... so I believe it's important
    to define content criterias right from the start and once those are clearly established
    it's essential to stay on the same path,
    Otherwise one risks to fall in the a kind of "deja vu redundancy stuff" like we may find
    in some books.

    I took time to read your book and I must say I pretty much appreciated the content overall.

    Like many C# ("code behind vets converted to MVVM") I adopted the MVVM pattern for some time now
    and feel pretty much at ease with it.
    Though relevant informations didn't always come right out of the box at first and required a fair amount
    of search and reading on blogs. One obvious question that always seemed to prevailed was if the MVVM pattern is so important to
    SLV programmers, why don't authors write at least a decent chapter on it in their book...
    not just add a line reference...
    I never really searched for "already cooked code" though, as I often felt that "cut and paste" would lead me nowhere.
    The important thing for me was to find some decent MVVM logic approach which I could refer to and later adapt to my own scenarios.

    Perhaps what made a big difference for me in your book Silveright 4 in Action
    is that I really liked your approach of MVVM in Chapter 16: Structuring and testing with the MVVM/View Model pattern
    I also liked your comments about WCF RIA Services on Chapter 17, which also cleared some false assumptions.

    So all in all, if you're planning to share your expertise up to an advanced "real life context" level in your
    next book then I'm in ;)
  14. Lisasays:
    Pete, It's a great book! I've been a developer for 20 years and just decided to try out Silverlight this spring. Your book was the first one I bought and it was what convinced me to go down the Silverlight road. What I appreciate most about your book is that as a beginner I was able to learn so much from it, but even more valuable to me, was that as my skills progressed, there was still so much your book had to offer. So selfishly, I want SL5iA to be more advanced! I feel that a poor review among so many good reviews is a reflection on the reviewer. Quite frankly, if you make your living developing software, you shouldn't expect any hand-holding. Considering all the resources that are available today for skill advancement vs. what was available when I first learned programming in the mid-1980s, - people need to quit whining!! I can’t wait for SL5iA! I will definitely buy it! Make it as in-depth and advanced as you can – it makes us better! Thanks for you dedication.
  15. william simons says:
    I also wanted to comment I enjoyed your silverlight 4 book. I really hope in your next book, I really hope
    you make it more advanced. I'm a data guy so I hope you consider using n-tier principles, class libraries, prism etc.
  16. Kingsleysays:
    Hi pete fantastic book please make SL 5 super advanced push every advanced topic to the limit
    I build SL multithreaded real time applications with transitional animations and interactivity am also hoping to use it to power a small virtual robot as a test so let us know the extreme limit of what can be done with sl 5 LOB, data templates, animation, 3d matrices, audio/visual, silverlight spy testing and trouble shooting, advanced toolkits and best of all Patterns of different kinds of apps I am reading Sl4iA it is brilliant the one star reviewer made me buy your book as it showed it is advanced and he/she needs a book for dummies or pro silverlight 4 perhaps there is google ad well as silverlight.net to learn basics from - waiting expectedly for fully grown up Sl 5 also please cover more access to local resources on the pc and inner workings of Xaml .thanks
  17. Robertsays:
    Hey Pete;

    First I loved your book, I'm still fighting to get up to speed in Silverlight & Serviced based programming. Like many programmers, I own probably 20+ books and all of them waste my time with the first 1/3 giving me a crash course in basic programming. I like how your book hit the ground running, some of the examples left me scratching my head wondering where I was supposed to put the code example into my project, but that only reinforced my learning and making sense of it in the end.

    As far as ideas for the next book, I do have a few ideas that I would (or would have) found beneficial in slia 4.

    A example 'project' that progresses through the book and simulated real work problems..
    1. Adding fields to the DB and then updating the model and how to update the Domain service.
    2. Maybe a chapter using OpenAccess from Telerik instead of Entity Framework
    3. I've still yet to see a example of this, what I think is very common scenario:
    Create a page that displays the data for a entity or presentation model
    When in edit/add mode the associated fields should then become combo boxes, radio buttons, etc to allow the user to choose from the foreign key related lookup tables.
    Then based on those choices submit the changes through the context.

    Thanks Pete, your book is definitely 5 star in my opinion.


  18. D.Vasanthnidhisays:
    Respected sir,

    There are many people out there who dont know silverlight and who are working in dotnet and especially in
    India.This book will be definitely be useful for people who dont know silverlight.The people who critised you
    should i guess be people who already know silverlight.The people who know Silverlight should not go for these types of books.For them i suggest to go for problem design solutions books.Wich contain project explained in detail.Something like that.A bit more advanced for them.But for new people to silverlight you cannot expect them to understand the advanced concepts in silverlight.I would like to request you to write a book
    with a single silverlight web application covering all concepts from beginning to end.By covering concepts
    as a project even a new person will be able to do 2 things first to understand the concepts then he gets to see
    how the concepts are used in a project.Thanks

    with regards,

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