Archive for June, 2009

Release-It!

A review long overdue for a Jolt Award winner and one of the best architecture books on my bookshelf, Release-It!

I’ve recommended this book to many colleagues of mine and haven’t heard a disappointing review to date. I’ve heard the terms ‘pessimistic’ and ‘realistic’ used with equal frequency to describe this book. Having just completed my second reading, I can affirm that these terms are both representative take-aways. Nygard openly admits to being more than a bit paranoid about the way he approaches enterprise application architecture. Although this may seem alarming to many new to the IT field, those of us who have been around for a while recognize this as a necessary, at times life saving, defense mechanism.

Despite the presence of patterns, this is not really a pattern book that can be read piecemeal. It’s best read and enjoyed end-to-end. The books serves to teach us old dogs some new tricks as well as serving as a way to say “welcome to the field of enterprise application architecture” to team members new to this role.

Book Strengths

  • Real world production incidents, just in case you think: (a) you’re the only one who ever gets into such situations; or (b) such things don’t happen in the real world with large enterprise applications (where do you work?)
  • The patterns. Even though there’s no sample code, the real value is in describing and cataloging these patterns.

Book Weaknesses

  • Organizational inconsistency. Two sections of the book (Stability and Capacity) follow the anti-pattern / pattern approach while the other sections of the book (General System Design and Operations) follow more of a narrative approach.

Yeah, the book focuses almost entirely on Java-based systems but almost all of the book has direct applicability to other enterprise technologies. In the last chapter of the book, Adaptation, Nygard’s writing style tends to wander a bit and deviate towards a rant. However, it’s hard to fault him for this, especially when he states things so eloquently:

Real enterprises are always messier than the enterprise architecture would ever admit. New technologies never quite fully supplant old ones. A mishmash of integration technologies will be found, from flat-file transfer with batch processing to publish/subscribe messaging. Any strategy formulated predicated on creating a monoculture—whether it is a single integration technology or a single programming language—is doomed to be a costly failure.

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After more than a year-long hiatus, this entry marks my return to blogging. One of the things I decided to do to get myself back into the spirit of blogging was to change my blogging engine. I made the move from the .NET-based DasBlog to the more mainstream WordPress platform. I will be providing more information about the migration process (specifically, WordPress on IIS 7), helpful tools and tutorials, and useful WordPress plugins in an upcoming blog post.

WordPress for Business Bloggers

Knowing very little about how WordPress worked beforehand, I needed a book to jumpstart my involvement with the tool. After a bit of research, I settled on WordPress for Business Bloggers. This book, along with some basic Web-based tutorials on installing WordPress on IIS were all I needed to get myself up to speed. My detailed Amazon.com review of the book can be found below.

Touted as a ‘beyond the basics’ book targeted towards business bloggers, WordPress for Business Bloggers delivers a wealth of WordPress and blogging knowledge in the context of a fictitious case study. I picked up this book as a way to jumpstart my involvement with WordPress after several years of involvement with other blogging tools. I was not at all disappointed with the results.

Based upon my experiences, I can confidently assert that no experience with WordPress is necessary to benefit from this book. The book states the assumption of such knowledge up front and, after that, never returns to WordPress basics. Ample materials on WordPress installation, operations and configuration can be found online and I appreciate that the book didn’t spend any time rehashing these items.

Instead of focusing on simpler procedural activities, the book weaves together the challenges of solving business issues for Chiliguru, a fictitious business blog, with advanced WordPress operations, guidance, and plugins. The book manages to bridge the challenges of running a day-to-day blog with WordPress-specific knowledge in a unique style. One would be hard pressed to cobble together the information and knowledge this book imparts from the web-based tutorials currently available on the Internet. Examples of the unique content covered in this book include:

  • Search engine optimization, including coverage of keywords, permalinks, and sitemaps supported by a variety of WordPress plugins
  • Integrating social networking content from Twitter and Facebook into WordPress blogs
  • Blog statistics analysis with both WordPress stats and Google Analytics
  • Integration of Google AdSense and Amazon Affiliate programs into WordPress-based blogs
  • Coverage of advanced technical topics including: increasing scalability via WP Super Cache, using WordPress MU for multi-blog environments, and backing-up, restoring and moving WordPress blogs.

If you’re looking for a beginners guide to WordPress, this book is not for you. On the other hand, if you’ve accumulated some basic experience with WordPress or another blogging engine and you’re looking for insight and knowledge to take your WordPress blog to the next level, you really can’t go wrong with this book.

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