I’m a teacher and that means I thing or two about how to get people to learn new skills. Many’s the time I’ve wanted to grab an author of a computer book by the mouse balls and smash them in the face with a keyboard. I mean, these people are supposed to be good at logic, right? If so, why does their writing seem so completely illogical. Websites written to “help” you do technical stuff are pretty much the same. Usually, these begin something like this; “This book/website/blog post is written for absolute beginners…” That’s the point at which you should simply turn away and cry. I usually make it to, oooh, about the third paragraph. By that point, I can’t see any logical connection between the points the writer is making. I’m lost. I give up.
Not only does he write in a simple and engaging style, his writing actually makes sense. There wasn’t a single point in this 500+ page book where I felt I’d lost the plot. I followed it the entire way through. That in itself would be enough, but there’s more. He doesn’t have you build some completely meaningless website or project as you go. This really irritates me because I have no desire to create an animated rock or a site that processes sales for a sports company. In case you thought I made those up, they were examples in other books I also looked at.
Instead, he takes you through simple examples and tutorials which are designed specifically for the task you are applying them to. What I really liked about the tutorials was that at each stage, he explains why you have to do what you’re being asked to do and reminds you of earlier sections in the book where these aspects were covered. In fact, the entire book is filled with cross-referencing which means that if on page 482 you have find yourself a victim of your own humanity and can’t remember what was discussed on page 145, he’ll remind you of it. This is just one example of the way McFarland shows that he has a good understanding of who he’s writing for.
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