Review of the book Designing Multi-Device Experiences by @michall79

The state of  the mobile marketplace currently, depending on which continent we are in, is split between Apple’s iOS platform and Google’s Android and it’s hardware variants, and the fierce competition doesn’t look like it will stop anytime soon. What this means for developers and startups, is that if you opt for one platform over another, means you forego anywhere between 40-60% of the market instantly.

Many sensible businesses choose one platform to focus their mobile efforts on, most notably iOS, before evolving to other mobile platforms. The book Designing Multi-Device Experiences: An Ecosystem Approach to User Experiences across Devices by Michal Levin (@michall79) provides a methodically comprehensive discussion into how to extend and span the user experience and usability across multiple disparate devices, be it mobile, tablet, or desktop, and inferentially even wearable devices.

The author presents a practical framework, based on the three Cs — Consistent, Complementary, and Continuous approaches to explain different distribution of experiences, from equality to attributive experiences. From the initial four chapters which identify the theory of these framework approaches, the author then dives into the realms of integrative design principles, and rather than choose between the different approaches, how you can selectively pick the best on a module-by-module basis.

The book culminates in the penultimate chapter, with a dissertation of Multi-Device Analytics, and how to measure the device ecosystem performances, across various metrics.  The 8-chapter book is quite concise, easy to read and provides a platform for you to go out and do some of your own research, devise your own lean analytics and scope your strategy and roadmap more effectively (not to mention efficiently). I enjoyed the author’s style, the book made sense to me, and the case-studies of companies and other products mentioned in the book adds weight and substance to the author’s framework assertions.

Concise: 5

Level: 3

PriorKnowledge: For Product Managers, Startup Designers/Developers and those who are interested in planning to roll out apps across multiple platforms. The book does not assume any technical development knowledge.

My rating : 4.5

AuthorMichal Levin (@michall79)
TitleDesigning Multi-Device Experiences: An Ecosystem Approach to User Experiences across Devices
Publisher: O’Reilly Media
Date: February 2014

Review of Mac OS X Productivity Tips for Developers


Screenshot 2014-01-27 12.12.47Screenshot 2014-01-27 12.12.47

Matthew J McCullough( @matthewmccull‎ ) and Tim Berglund (@tlberglund) are back again with a new video series, Mac OS X Productivity Tips for Developers which is a concise set of videos to help developers keep ahead of their daily programming workflows.

This video course shows you how to apply a wide range of tools and techniques—including shell enhancements, markdown files, and spotlight filters, to name a few—to help you become a more productive developer on the Mac OS X platform.

I first encountered these dynamic O’Reilly authors back when I watched the Mastering Advanced Git video series back in 2012, which was of course based on Matthew’s book, Version Control with Git, 2nd Edition, and hands-down, it took me to watching and reading those two book/video combinations to actually move from subversion to git, which is a remarkable feat, to get a developer to move source control repo preferences.

Knowing how convincing they were at that, I’ve decided to review Mac OS X Productivity Tips for Developers which was great at providing bite-size tips on improving your workflow. It’s not required to be digested sequentially, so you can go ahead and cherry-pick things that apply to you, bit-by-bit and learn something new every day.

The first video tutorial I looked at was “Source Control Assistants”, followed by Web Service Helpers and Pasteboard command line, as those are the most immediate topics based on what I’m currently working on. Learning Ruby on Rails, I wanted to master my command line more as I am becoming more git command-line savvy, and working with REST APIs in RoR, perhaps looking at the toolbox of other developers might help.

In fact a lot of the videos are aimed at developers becoming more comfortable with using terminal, from using curl to tig for a fancy ASCII view experience. Matthew and Tim were both great at explaining the reasoning for each of the workflows, and for programmers, it’s not just about the theory of coding, which you can get from books and tutorials and practice, but looking at how others work, helps adjust your environment accordingly, which is just as important.

Some things are much better done as videos than books, and MAC OS X Productivity Tips for Developers certainly fits that logic.

Other topics in this video series include:


Table of ContentsTable of Contents
Table of Contents

I’ve enjoyed the video tutorials I’ve watched so far, thoroughly informative, and for me, learning something new every day, on my bus ride to work, I can show off something new to my colleagues. Five thumbs up, a great investment for the aspiring as well as seasoned developers.

Concise: 5

Level: 5

Prior Knowledge: You need to be a developer, have a mac and have some familiarity with using Terminal

Myrating: 5

 

Author: Matthew McCullough, Tim Berglund

TitleMac OS X Productivity Tips for Developers: Supercharge Your Daily Programming Workflow

Publisher: O’Reilly Media

Year: DECEMBER 2013

Review of HTML5 Pocket Reference by Jennifer Niederst Robbins

The ever-so useful Pocket reference, Review of HTML5 Pocket Reference by Jennifer Niederst Robbins is in it’s fifth revision, and not a lot to say about it. it’s a consistently neat dictionary reference of the HTML5 tags and attributes, that I personally find handy to have by my side when I do HTML stuff, as do the seasoned HTML programming monkeys. Whilst it has no bells and whistles, the book has the precise structural flow of element, description, usage, attributes and example, so you know exactly what each element does, both in definition as well as contextually.
 


Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 2.09.52 PMScreen Shot 2013-08-30 at 2.09.52 PM

Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 2.09.52 PM


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Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 2.10.04 PM

The book is under 200 pages, easy to read and find and extremely concise, as you would want any dedicated reference book. And I prefer having such books as ebooks because it makes searching for specific elements a lot quicker, by clicking or pressing an element in the index, or Command & F’ing the specific element I am after.

Concise: [rating=5]

Level: [rating=3]

Prior Knowledge: HTML knowledge is assumed, as this is a reference book, although it would suite the novice as well as seasoned HTML programmers just as well.

My rating :[rating=4.5]

 

AuthorJennifer Robbins

TitleHTML 5 Pocket Reference

Publisher: O’Reilly Media

Year: July 2013 

Review of Mac Hacks | Chris Seibold

smorgasbord cookbook of recipes to help you get the most of your mac, Mac Hacks helps the novice-to-middle level users tweak their machines to be more automative, customised to his or her needs. Chris Seibold adds that link for the average user, to become more of a power-user, and inspire the reader to look beyond the book for similar hacks, in quest of his or her environment-setup utopia.
The book starts by encouraging the user to backup his or her computer, because as you know, hacks don’t always turn out the way they should, so protecting one’s computer and being able to revert to the initial state is ideal. So okay, having done that, the user also provides information on creating a flash backup and various other handy utility tricks, to get your computer and your account manageable.

The second chapter is where the tasty part of the book commences, and the chapter  is Lion OS specific, but provides ways to manage the general user experiences, from making the notification less intrusive, to other sorts of Lion-specific quirks that you haven’t come to appreciate, moving into from Mountain Lion.

The following chapter gets into less OSX-version specific tasks, from tweaking one’s browser, adding/removing flash, tweaking various networking settings, playing around with how icons look on your desktop, and plenty more. Chapter 5 moves to the automation section of the book, using Apple’s in-built Automator tool, to allow for orchestration of files from your desktop, to be moved automatically to certain designated folders, to making iTunes work in a more fluid process. The author then looks at some ‘Unix Fun’, which albeit is probably too advanced for some novice readers, but provides some informative stuff for the rest of us, looking to move to the next stage of hacking. With some Unix trickery, one could tweak how the dock looks, how certain effects like the glass effect show. Chapter 7 then talks about security, and ways of securing one’s computer beyond the standard default.

The later chapters deal with more advanced software and hardware hacks, from getting your computer to recognise you, to giving your computer a polycarbonate dye bath, or turning your macbook into a tablet, which is certainly not for the light-hearted guys.

In total, over 52 hacks, not everything will be for everyone, but structured in an easy-to-follow and non-dependent, non-sequential way to cherry pick the hacks that suite you. I found some interesting tips in the Unix section, but certainly a book you would want to keep and reference when you need to complete a certain goal, but more importantly, this book is only a start. It will encourage you to take different paths, from learning more about Unix, to finding your own terminal-tips for tweaking certain other aspects of your environment.

I found the book to be concise and well written, succinct and relevant, but for the niche folks who want to add some personality to their macs.

 

[box type=”bio”]

Concise: [rating=5]

Level: [rating=2.5]

Prior Knowledge: Some general computing knowledge, you need to have used a mac for a while and know where to find things. Some unix and terminal experience couldn’t hurt either.

My rating :[rating=4.0]

[/box]

Author: Matt Doyle
TitleMac Hacks
Publisher: O’Reilly Media

Year: March 2013 

 

Vanity versus Real Metrics : Extract from ‘Lean Analytics’

The latest book I have picked up is a book titled Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll, Benjamin Yoskovitz, which is a book aimed at start-up entrepreneurs to understand responsive metric feedback and make better-informed decisions.

Whether you’re a startup founder trying to disrupt an industry or an intrapreneur trying to provoke change from within, your biggest challenge is creating a product people actually want. This book shows you how to validate your initial idea, find the right customers, decide what to build, how to monetize your business, and how to spread the word.

An interesting topic of Vanity versus Real Metrics grabbed my attention, which declared that many companies fail to embrace the ‘data’ part of the ‘data-driven’ mantra they self-proclaim to follow. If a company has a piece of data from which one cannot act upon, it is considered vanity metric, which fails to inform and guide one’s business model. and help decide on a course of action.

So, when evaluating a metric, it’s important to ask yourself: What will I do differently based on this information? and if you can’t answer that, you probably shouldn’t worry about the metric much, and if you don;t know which metric would change your organisation’s behaviour, you are not a data-driven company.

So, if you look at total sign-ups, this is a vanity metric because the number can only increase over time, and thus tells you nothing about what those users are doing and whether they are valuable to you. Total active users on the other hand is a bit better, presuming you have defined what an active user is exactly, but it is still a vanity metric as it will gradually increase over time, as well.

The real metric of interest is the percentage of users active, a real actionable one, and it tells us about the level of engagement your users have with your product, and changes to your product reflects in the metric. So it gives you the visibility to experiment, learn and iterate with the metric. Another interesting metric to look at is the number of users acquired over a specific time period. This is a good metric in allowing you to compare different marketing approaches, such as Facebook or Twitter campaign, a Reddit campaign in the second , LinkedIn in the third and so forth, allowing you to segment experiments by time. It’s actionable, so it is quite the opposite of vanity, allowing you to compare various campaigns and work out where to focus your spending on.

Actionable metrics aren’t magic, they won’t tell you what to do, but at least it allows you to react based on data, and experiment, tweak and the metric is reflected, based on your actions.

 

I will be reviewing this book in full, in the future, so stay tuned, or better yet, go out and buy this book.

 

Jump Start CoffeeScript
AuthorAlistair Croll, Benjamin Yoskovitz
Title
Lean Analytics
Publisher: O’Reilly Media
Year: March 2013

 

Review of iOS 6 Programming Cookbook

iOS 6 Programming Cookbook follows on from iOS 5 Cookbook, which I thoroughly enjoyed by 

Vandad Nahavandipoor, this is the third revision I am reviewing, with incremental improvements to keep you up to date with the latest version of iOS. For the most part, you can review my previous reviews on this book, for which I consider this book to be a fantastic and essential part of your programming literature toolkit. It goes through the normal problem–>solution–>discussion process to allow you to quickly identify which topic matches your needs and then explains that topic concisely with an example, rather than go through all the fluff. The fluff is left for the discussion part in case you wanted to know more. But if this isn’t your ideal way of learning, in a non-linear but contextual method, then keep this book as a reference.

With the latest additions to iOS 6 including tops such as Apple’s Passbook implementation, so this book devotes a chapter or two on Pass Kit, the API to allow you to implement a loyalty card system on your app (or even exclusive of an app).  New runtime features  have also been included in this revision, as well as examining Auto-Layout, a new way to layout your UI elements within a XiB file (or programmatically). iCloud has also been given some love as it matures through iOS, by the author, which is good.

Overall, I don’t have any complaints, the changes are incremental and if you own the previous edition, it may be questionable whether it is worth the upgrade, but otherwise, a fantastic book with solid examples and features.

Concise: [rating=5]

Level: [rating=2]

PriorKnowledge: Basic OOP experiencce

Myrating :[rating=4.5]

 

iOS 6 Programming Cookbook

Author: Vandad Nahavandipoor

TitleiOS 6 Programming Cookbook, 3rd Edition

Publisher: O’Reilly Media

Year: November 2012

Review of Master Mobile Web Apps with jQuery Mobile | Matt Doyle

I have spent some time over the past few years reading and reviewing many jQuery books, but must admit I have struggled to have any jQuery sink in. I don’t come from a javascript background, but rather from a Flex background, and have dabbled a bit in trying to work with javascript, and there are lot of books out there, but the structure and sequence in which they tried to teach me javascript, got me lost. The same with jQuery and jQuery mobile books, there some very well written books out there, but those books are for those who do have the javascript foundational knowledge, embedded in their brains.
Just recently, I was handed a copy of Master Mobile Web Apps with jQuery Mobilethird ed., by Matt Doyle, a ‘jQuery Mobile’ book that really hit the sweet spot, for someone who is interested in picking up some jQuery skills, but not to get drowned in all the javascript jargon and code. The level of detail in each chapter had been well thought out and scoped, just enough to give a reader like me all the tools and knowledge to start building mobile apps right away, and worry about coding later on.

Matt Doyle introduces jQuery concepts and lays out the essentials in the first three chapters of the book, with a simple tutorial on creating a basic jQuery page right from scratch, with buttons and a toolbar, to whet your appetite. Chapters 5,6 and 7 then deal specifically with creating buttons, toolbars, popups and dialogue boxes, from basics to customising the behaviour and look and feel, in a very fluid manner. Typical of most chapters, the author would set out the chapter by showing the most basic and clear example snippet code, such as:

To turn a link into a button, add a data-role=”button” attribute to the link:

<a href=”view-recipe.html” data-role=”button”>View Recipe</a>

A coding example would then be followed by graphical illustrations to show what effect your code would have. Matt would then dive into deeper detail on how to adjust various properties and customise a button for example, using a reference table for the various markup options and preview of the result.


jQuery reference tablejQuery reference table
jQuery reference table

A specifically useful chapter for me was chapter 7, which went into creating interesting forms, in jQuery mobile, from layout the various controls, whilst not getting too detailed on the mechanics of submitting a form, leaving that for the later chapters. Chapter 10 marked the start of the more advanced topics, for those of us who want to customise their app even further, and contrary to the section heading, it wasn’t as intimidating or terribly complex that many of the other books fall into.

The advanced section only had three chapters, Theming jQuery mobile, which showed various options, from playing around with the default template, to using Theme-Roller to develop your own themes. I was quite impressed the author had so much detail on how to use the third-party website to to really customise the look and feel, which was comforting as it saved me having to look elsewhere for a user guide.

Chapter 11 then focused on some javascript, which you do have to know, in order to make the app functional, and not just focus on the aesthetics, by showing you how to deal with clicks and responding to actions, working with event handlers and creating javascript-powered dynamic pages, which is quite cool. Chapters 12 and 13, the final two chapters focused solely on two separate jQuery mobile apps, from start to finish, to hone in the skills you learned in the book, and solidify your knowledge, and further supplemented by the appendix chapters, which are reference guides for various tags and properties.

Overall, I am a very big fan of this book, I think after reading this book, jQuery won’t be as intimidating. Sure, I won’t go on linkedIn and call myself a jQuery wizard after this, but from this book, it provides you with the confidence to go out and pick up other javascript and jQuery books, to further understand the coding side of things, to supplement the widgets and controls you now know how to do. The book is just the right thickness, not too detailed, not too short that it leaves you hungry and unsatisfied. I am really recommending this book, as one of my favourite jQuery books.

Concise: [rating=4.5]

Level: [rating=2.0]

Prior Knowledge: None,but some HTML is advisable. Javascript is a plus, but if you already know standard jQuery, you might be skipping certain chapters.

My rating :[rating=4.5]

 


Master Mobile Web Apps with jQuery MobileMaster Mobile Web Apps with jQuery Mobile
Master Mobile Web Apps with jQuery Mobile

Author: Matt Doyle

TitleMaster Mobile Web Apps with jQuery Mobile, 3rd ed.

Publisher: Elated Books

Year: October 2012

Review of Photoshop CS6 Unlocked: 101 Tips, Tricks, and Techniques | by Corrie Haffly

A different kind of Photoshop book, Corrie Haffley presents a book that is aimed specifically for web developers, and the sequence and structuring of this book makes that quite obvious from the start. It begins by giving the reader a flavour of essential tasks to paint a general overview of important tasks that the user will dive into later in the book, then goes into a cookbook recipe of ‘how to achieve certain things’. The reader will from the onset learn to do very specific tasks, such as creating round corners for images, creating that coupon dotted effect, creating various types of buttons, working with various text effects and impressions, to doing various other image manipulations, and so forth. In chapter 9, the author works on more advanced Photoshop techniques, from working with batch commands to creating watermarks.

I must say though, this book probably isn’t targeted towards me per-se, as it is very light on complex concepts, and I would have liked to have more focus on creating a a website from a Photoshop design via slicing, working with CSS layers etc, but perhaps this is better served in a web designer book with a chapter on Photoshop.

The book is otherwise light in other areas, and I feel a more traditional cookbook approach with short but more detailed concepts for web design would be nicer. Perhaps a section on creating icons for web and mobile apps, creating cool banners and ads, would be useful. My recommendation is that this book is a ‘not necessary but ok’ to have, for those who need to use Photoshop in a minimalist way, without having to do anything overly complicated, but I would like to encourage that person to pick up a Photoshop book or do a short course, because you would want to go beyond what this book offers, because you will want to further tweak stuff for your clients.

Concise: [rating=4]

Level: [rating=2.0]

Prior Knowledge: None,but you are encouraged to pick up a more detailed Photoshop book, to gain a better understanding of fundamental concepts.

My rating :[rating=2.5]

 

Author: Corrie Haffly

TitlePhotoshop CS6 Unlocked, 2nd Edition

Publisher: O’Reilly Media

Year: July 2012

Review of Learning Ruby | by Michael Fitzgerald

My first into the foray of  Ruby, a pre-cursor for me before going into Ruby on Rails. I have always wanted to read about something that has been talked about by quite a large cult of followers on the internet, so without any prior knowledge or experience in this language, I decided Learning Ruby by Michael Fitzgerald would be my first ‘Hello World’ book to pick up. This book certainly fit the intention of a beginner who wanted to get into the world of Ruby, and this book has a plethora of examples to get you going, along with revision questions at the end of each chapter to solidify your knowledge of the chapter’s contents.
But bare in mind, this book teaches you primarily the basics, with any of the interesting Rails stuff, the author is providing you just a taste of the flavour, giving you a chance to take the next step in subsequent books (which I will hopefully review soon and learn a bit of myself). Looking at the chapters the author does provide in the book, the author begins with the Ruby Basics, talking about the history of the language, installing and setting up the language on your specific platform. The author then provides a Quick Tour of Ruby in the second chapter, going into variables, operators, reserved words and OOP concepts, before going deeper into Conditional Logic and  Strings and Math operators in the following three chapters.

Chapter 5 deals with Arrays, how to access and manipulate and sort, which is the bread-and-butter of any good programmer, before looking at Array’s other cousin, Hashes in chapter 6, before looking at accessing, manipulating and writing files. Chapter 9 gets into the real interest stuff with OOP, talking about Classes and working with Ruby in a more modern way that draws parallels with other familiar object-oriented languages you have worked with before. The final two chapters, More Fun with Ruby and A Short Guide to Ruby on Rails, are your rewarding chapters, to give you a sense of practical uses of Ruby and introducing you to Ruby on Rails.

The author in my opinion has done a great job of introducing you to the basic concepts of programming in Ruby, and even though he does talk about the basics of the language, I do think you need to have the basic principles of programming in OOP as a prior knowledge, so if you have worked with Java or any other similar language, this book should be easy enough for you to pick-up without any issues. The book isn’t too lengthy either, and serves as a good appetiser toward becoming a more professional Ruby geek. I recommend this book, and thoroughly enjoyed my introduction into the world of Ruby. Stay tuned for some future Ruby blogs and reviews from me, after this….

[box type=”bio”]

Concise: [rating=4]

Level: [rating=1.5]

Prior Knowledge: Basic Objective-Oriented principles knowledge and some experience.

My rating :[rating=4.0]

[/box]

Author: Michael Fitzgerald
Title
Learning Ruby, 1st Edition
Publisher: O’Reilly Media
Year: May 2007

 

Review of Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson

It has been a while since I have done a review, so I have been in a bit of a hiatus, but I thought i’d ease back into it with a less technical but more philosophical book, which is why I have opted to review Beyond Bullet Points, by Cliff AtkinsonThe intent of the book is to hone in on your powerpoint presentation skills, in order to be concise, targeted and clear when you are out there in a board meeting, or making a pitch. The book is into it’s third iteration, after the first one kicked off in 2005, but the differences between the iterations are incremental and minimal. Because of a lot of the tips are best done illustratively in this book, I would go for the e-book as opposed to the black-and-white physical books.

The book goes through each chapter, building on how to convey your message or story in a sensible organised manner, which was especially focused on in chapter four – Planning your first five slides, which aids in constructing your most important section of information in. The book details other useful tips, such as what colours to use, what background to use, when and where to place graphics/icons.

I have certainly been of the belief that presenting is an art, as you know, and not being one to want to read the queue cards religiously, I aspire to be more like the Steve Jobs of presenting, going by what is in your head, being minimalist with the presentation to avoid distracting the audience. This book highlights a lot of the implicit logic in doing so, but structuring an essay into a presentation, and the presentation into something that isn’t boring or redundant, is the lesson you will take from reading this book.

The book is clear and logical, and Cliff has done a good job of covering all aspects of presenting, but it would be nice to be able to summarise everything in a page or two at the end, because I’m pretty sure I would forget all of this by the time I have to make my next presentation. Therefore, a reference-style chapter that summarises everything would be recommended. All in all, I am happy with this book, it achieves what it promises to do, and I find Cliff’s writing st lye to be enjoyable as a light read (meaning a nontechnical read).

Concise: [rating=4]

Level: [rating=2.5]

Prior Knowledge: None, this isn’t a technical book, but a good business read

My rating :[rating=3.5]

 

Author: Cliff Atkinson

Title:Beyond Bullet Points, 3rd Edition

Publisher: O’Reilly Media

Year: April 2011