Letters to the Editor: Debates galore!

This month readers quiz our columnists on progress bars for applets; Microsoft rebuts William Blundon's Netscape bonanza; Laurence Vanhelsuwe talks ethics with Waite Group Press; and readers applaud Windows over the Mac for Java development. Plus: In case you didn't already know it -- now's your chance to shape JavaWorld's future!

"Reader Survey: Shape the future of JavaWorld!" /javaworld/jw-07-1997/jw-07-readersurvey.html

Tell us what you want!

To the editor:

I'd like to see reader discussion forums on JavaWorld's Web site. Has there been any thought of creating some?

Thanx,

Liam Breck

Info-Mac Archive

Liam, Actually, we're considering both discussion forums and chat, among other things, as evidenced in our latest JavaWorld reader survey. Initial results indicate readers would like a JavaWorld discussion forum, but we're expecting lots more feedback in coming weeks. Please give us your feedback: Go to "Reader Survey: Shape the future of JavaWorld!" (http://www.javaworld.com/jw-07-1997/jw-07-readersurvey.html) in the July 1997 issue and tell us what you want. Based largely on reader responses (and as resources allow), we'll add new features and columns in the coming months, so now's your chance to shape JavaWorld's future! Michael O'Connell,

Editor-in-Chief

Book review: Lemay's latest "Java 1.1" title fails to deliver by Laurence Vanhelsuwe /javaworld/jw-08-1997/jw-08-bookreview.html

The Waite Group Press responds

Dear Mr. O'Connell:

Publishers never enjoy reading negative reviews (http://www.javaworld.com/jw-08-1997/jw-08-bookreview.html) of their books. But we get used to it, and accept the brickbats along with the praise.

Sometimes, however, the author of a book review crosses the line of objectivity and slams someone else's work for purely personal reasons. That's OK too, because however motivated, it's still protected first-amendment speech. But it's not good journalism.

I believe that is the case with Laurence Vanhelsuwe's review of Waite Group Press's book, Laura Lemay's Java 1.1 Interactive Course. Whether or not his technical criticisms of that book are valid, it is apparent that the author worked especially hard to misunderstand several key aspects of the book, namely the manner in which it covered Java 1.1 and the nature of its interactivity.

The intent of this book was to teach Java basics, and to provide a much-requested update on the 1.1 JDK, which had just been released when the book was published. The book contains nearly 200 pages of 1.1-specific material, as well as chapter-by-chapter notations on the differences between 1.02 and 1.1. This proportion of brand-new content, in our view, justified the use of 1.1 in the title. Mr. Vanhelsuwe disagrees, and the matter is a reasonable point of debate.

But to claim that Waite Group is "trying to pull a fast one" by describing this as a book about 1.1, and therefore needs a reminder in publishing ethics, is simply an unsubstantiated insult. Multiple authors and editors worked hard to make Laura Lemay's excellent Java 1.02 book into a "bridge" to 1.1. There was nothing dishonorable in their intent. Mr. Vanhelsuwe may not like the result, but we have done more than put a new cover on an old text in order to fool would-be programmers.

Mr. Vanhelsuwe also criticizes the book's interactive components, claiming that he expected the interactivity to be on the CD-ROM, rather than on a Web site. This is hard to understand, as the URL for the interactive eZone site is on the front cover and the spine; a two-page gatefold cover describes all the features of the site; and the first ten pages of the text outline how readers can access and use the eZone. Had Mr. Vanhelsuwe spent any time investigating our Web site, he would also have learned that the Continuing Education Units given by Marquette University for Waite Group's Interactive Courses are not automatically issued, but require taking a special final exam, supplied by Marquette. Mr.Vanhelsuwe may not be fond of online learning, but to state that the book is "not interactive at all" is just untrue.

The reasons behind Mr. Vanhelsuwe's unbalanced and unfair review become clear when you check his own authorial record. Not only is he the author of Mastering JavaBeans (as the review's author bio states), but he is also the author of Mastering Java and Mastering Java 1.1, all from Sybex. In short, he has a competitive title to our Java 1.1 book, and it is only reasonable to assume that some of his vituperation stems from a desire to slam the competition.

This is, of course, his right, as it is your right to publish what he says. However, in the interests of full disclosure, the fact of his authorship of a competitive title should have been made clear by your editorial staff. Point-of-view journalism is a fine and respectable practice; but the reader has the right to know whether there might be some conflict of interest, or strong personal motivations for an author's opinion. Playing fair with the reader is the editor's responsibility.

I welcome your thoughts on this issue.

Sincerely,

Charles Drucker

Associate Publisher,

Waite Group Press

Laurence Vanhelsuwe replies: Hi Charles, Let me start by stating that my review (http://www.javaworld.com/jw-08-1997/jw-08-bookreview.html) was meant to give strong negative feedback to your marketing department, not those at the Waite Group Press who are trying to do things right. Now let me address your points: Content:

You contend that the book I reviewed does more than "put a new cover on an old text" as it "contains nearly 200 pages of 1.1-specific material, as well as chapter-by-chapter notations on the differences between 1.02 and 1.1." Can you please point out exactly where these pages are in the book? Exactly where in Chapters 1-21 can the reader can find clear mention of the differences between 1.0.2 and 1.1? Throughout my review I had both the 1.02 and the 1.1 books on hand, and I compared the two quite thoroughly. In addition, I was very familiar with the TYS book, having bought it last year, so I knew something was rotten from the start. Interactivity:

When I visited your Web site I discovered the same can of worms that other readers have discovered in trying to use the eZone: Mentors and Webmasters not responding to email and a ten-question limit for an entire 1194-page book. I think we should stop pretending and get back to the truth: When readers buy an interactive book with a CD-ROM on the back, they expect to find the interactivity on the CD, not on the Web. Bias:

You suggest that my review was biased by a competitive agenda; reasonable assumption, but not true. Though I was the "main" author of Mastering Java, I was never even consulted for Mastering Java 1.1. More importantly, I always keep competitive bias in mind when reviewing a book, and I'm very careful not to slam books without sound reason. I detest dishonesty and lack of ethics in modern business, which is exactly why I had to review Lemay's book just as I did. Ethics:

I am proud that JavaWorld had the guts to publish my review because it reflects their trust in my independence and my opinions and expertise as a Java programmer and author. And many share my opinion of this book. In fact, I have never received as much feedback from readers as for this single article. And nearly all of them praise my article and its no-nonsense approach. Those who had already bought the book completely agree (including at least one Waite insider) with my review and additionally provided me with even MORE criticisms about the book and about the eZone. (See the other reader letters below for a sampling of feedback.) I think the best thing the Waite Group Press can do now is to exploit the information you've been given for all it's worth. You've made a big mistake with this book. I've criticized it in public and loads of your readers share my opinion. If you avoid making this mistake again in the future you will be a better company for it. Sincerely,

Laurence Vanhelsuwe

Editors' note:

JavaWorld

agrees it should have been acknowledged in the author bio within this review that the reviewer himself wrote a book that arguably competes with the Waite Group book that is the subject of the article. The article has been updated to reflect this fact. But

JavaWorld

firmly stands behind this review, and believes the feedback from numerous readers further supports the validity of its criticisms.

Readers have their say

Laurence,

Thanks for saving me 0.00.

Cheers,

Bill Kling

I read with interest your review (http://www.javaworld.com/jw-08-1997/jw-08-bookreview.html) of Laura Lemay's Java 1.1 Interactive Course. I just completed the Sun Certified Java Programmer Examination, for which I used multiple books to study.

I used Lemay's book. And, yes, completed the interactive course on the Web and took the related examination for Continuing Education credits from Marquette University. The online course did have errors and omissions. And, yes, it was mostly 1.0x. However, there were numerous new sections about 1.1.

You should remember that it is difficult to develop in 1.1. Even Sun's examination still covers only 1.0x. As to the bloated nature of the book, I found myself constantly using the diagrams and class references found in the back as I studied for the exam. Also, Lemay's sections on the NMI, JVM, security and networking are among the best I have seen.

Other sources I used include Java in a Nutshell (both editions), Peter Van Der Linden's Just Java, and the online tutorial at sun.com.

Sometimes I think Java book reviews are about as deep as the books themselves, and as full of sound and fury as the marketing hype surrounding the language.

Yours truly,

Tom Dorgan.

Hi Laurence,

Your review (http://www.javaworld.com/jw-08-1997/jw-08-bookreview.html) was right on target. I purchased the Waite Group book above others because I thought the concept of an interactive course over the Web was a good idea.

It took only as long as the first quiz to set the tone: The Web site wasn't functional, so it was several days before I could even log on. When I did log on, the answers to the quiz were often incorrect (both on the Web and in the book) and their online "mentor" never responded to my questions.

This happened again and again. Everyone in the course chat group experienced the same problems.

It may sound like I'm just grumbling, but it's theft when you spend 0.00 for a book that is supposed to be one thing and it turns out to be something completely different.

Take care and keep the reviews coming,

Best regards,

Bill Rugg.

Laurence,

I don't personally know about the Lemay 1.1 Interactive Course, but I am getting sick and tired of being forced to all but read entire books at the bookstore just to protect myself from buying crap.

I have never seen so much blatant resume-building in my life. No one has anything new to say about Java. I personally know several authors of Java books. I would say, maybe, one in five actually has any depth of knowledge at all. The rest seem to have based their book on someone else's book. And now all of these clowns are writing their Java 1.1 versions based on their 1.0x versions!

Again, thanks for fighting the good fight.

Thomas McGraw

Hi Laurence,

I was just reading your review. I appreciate your criticism of the Java book flood. However, is the book really that bad? I've gotten through five chapters so far, and I've learned a lot.

I'm planning to write applets for use in the general Web browsing community, and since most people do not have Java 1.1 enabled browsers, this book is as good as any and, according to the page count, more detailed than most, right?

Alex Linde

Alex, I never said there wasn't enough material to learn from. That's not the problem with this book. The problem is at a higher level. The title has "1.1" in it, so the book should talk about Java 1.1, not Java 1.0.2. The interactive aspect is also nowhere near what an average, reasonable reader might expect. Laurence

Laurence,

Right on!

I have been waiting to hear someone expound on the Waite Group Press's "get it to market or bust" publishing technique.

Though I have not had the misfortune to purchase the Java 1.1 Interactive Course, I did make the mistake of picking up a copy of their Visual Basic 5 Interactive Course.

Besides my disappointment with the interlacktivity of the "eZone" and the illogical flow of the book, the copy was riddled with typographical errors -- many of which appeared in the example code, causing me to have to debug their tutorials. This bush-league quality spurned me to write a respectful yet blunt letter to Waite Group, which has gone unanswered.

I am sick and tired of being sucked into these epic tomes of inanity in the search for legitimate learning aids. Congrats on your review -- hopefully our voices will be heard and someone will start to produce some quality books.

Troy Hitch

Blundon's Corner: Microsoft's Internet Explorer moves may create a Netscape bonanza, by William Blundon /javaworld/jw-08-1997/jw-08-blundon.html

Microsoft bites back

Mr. Blundon, The crux of your recent article in JavaWorld titled "Microsoft's Internet Explorer moves may create a Netscape bonanza" is your assertion that "untrusted applets downloaded to and executed by Internet Explorer have free rein to do on the client system whatever they wish."

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