Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: What the Plus! Google+ For the Rest of Us by Guy Kawasaki

What the Plus! Google+ for the Rest of Us

Guy Kawasaki is back with a new book What the Plus! Google+ for the Rest of Us that I was anxious to have them send over for review.  I have had the pleasure of interviewing Guy a couple of times now (see the archived audio interview here) and was sent Enchantment for review and liked his writing style. This book was not an exception to appreciating how he simplifies things.  As a Google+ early adopter I was curious to view it from the eyes of a new person but I came away learning a bunch of things along the way in the ~200 pages.

The chapters walk you through reasons Guy likes and believes in Google+, creating your profile and into mastering circles and streams.  He does a great job of explaining how circles work in simplified terms and why you should build your circles around you interest.  As well as share your own circles with others.

Before you start commenting away or posting your own material Guy explains how important your profile is to those to draw people in and have them circle you. I know I need to go back and now update mine a bit more. Your own picture is a key along with reasonable information about who you are and why they may find you interesting. All of us have something to share and that is what Google Plus is for.

Book review: Smashing WordPress (Third Edition)

Smashing WordPress Beyond the Blog Thord Daniel Hendengren has released the third update for the excellent book Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog. The five part and 14 chapter book is a bible for anyone wishing to work with WordPress as a platform. This is my third WordPress book review but I found myself coming back to the first two editions so I was anxious to review the third which is 350 pages.

Thord presumes a basic understanding of HTML, CSS and PHP. He starts the book with understanding a performing installs in the first section moving on to designing themes. Most people often look for free themes to begin and go from there. I was happy to see an entire section around plugins in section three before he covers some additional features and functions in the final section. I should mention there is also an appendix where he lists some plugins and themes to help you get started.

Even with all the WordPress sites I have installed and currently run (like this one ) there are always tips. Such things as configuring the server to use an external MySQL database are covered right away. I also learned how to adjust the default autosave and revision history amounts. An awesome tip for everyone.

Chapter two digs right into the core of WordPress including template files, themes and template tags (not t be confused with tags in posts describing content). Once you get a crash course on how those work he takes you right into the loop.

If you are going to do more than just apply a free template them knowing how PHP queries aka the loop work is a key to doing cool stuff. For example almost every theme has a loop that shows the latest blog posts. Without this code you would have static pages instead of ones showing the most recent updates. Chapter three does a great job of giving code samples for 25 pages.

Once you master some code Thord takes you into the design section of the book for theme creation basics, template files, loop usage, widgets and pages and pages of code samples.

The next two chapters deal with child themes and advanced theme usage taking WordPress to yet another level of functionality. I like how the author gives good design rules as well as the technical side. It is easy to make a junky looking theme. RSS feed building is a hidden gem inside chapter 6 so if you aren’t going to do advanced work make sure to find those pages to understand WordPress and RSS better.

Chapter 7 is not like other WordPress books that cover plugins. The author is not telling you the best ones of use. Instead he teaches how and why to build plugins. He finishes with using widgets to utilize the built plugins and extend WordPress functionality in chapter 8.

Section four starts with how WordPress can be a multiple author and strong content management system or CMS. I know I mentioned learning how to make WordPress fluid was a key of earlier chapters but he does cover how to use it best as a static site.

Everyone is all about social right now ans chapter 10 is built around his showing how to integrate Facebook, Twitter, URL shorteners, Google+ and even third party comment solutions. I actually use Disqus on all my sites.

Chapter 11 is cool design tricks and tips for proper 404 error pages. Media is becoming a must have feature and chapter 12 dogs into embedding and techniques for best presentation.

Chapters 13 and 14 deal with extra and uncommon usage with WordPress. It gives a great idea of the power of the platform and all the things you can make it do. He also points out things you shouldn’t use it for.

Finally the appendix is a great starter list of plugins and starter themes to get you moving quickly without developing your own. The author gives a reason why you would want to use them and a link (at the time of writing) where to grab them.

I know this is a much longer book review but anything less would not do this book justice. The third revision only strengthens why this is the go to source for More advanced WordPress understanding and examples.

Disclosure: the links for Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog are Amazon affiliate links but no compensation was given for the review, ever.

Book review: Social Game Design by Tim Fields and Brandon Cotton

Social Game Design: Monetization Methods and Mechanics

With the recent push of social business and gamification I wanted a viewpoint from the originators of the idea.  Social Game Design: Monetization Methods and Mechanics by Tim Social Game Design: Monetization Methods and MechanicsFields and Brandon Cotton comes from true successful experience.  Game designers lead the way in gamification and monetization with many of the tips applicable to social business design.

I am glad I was able to get this book for review after getting into the second chapter.  The first chapter was just introductory and gave you an idea on what the book does not cover.  I fully anticipated it to be about online and mobile games with tons of technique I could apply outside of that.

Chapter 2 has a subsection that summed up social business ideas in many enterprises.  Just being online or multiplayer in their words does not make you social.  This is a point often overlooked by businesses entering the deployment and ideas.  The ability to bring employees, partners and customers back again and again is a key component.

A highlight of the book is the interviews at the end of each section with major names in social game monetization.  They openly talk about how they built the empires and what mistakes they made along the way.  It is great knowledge and the same mistakes that we will all make.

While chapter 3 is only a few pages on the history of game monetization,chapter 4 gives the business reason to build social into the game or your company site if you look at it with the same lenses I did.  Industry terms were not as important that were shown in Chapter 5 but serve a good reference point for some analytics you will need when deploying.

I felt Chapter 7 was the most important one I read showing you how to acquire, keep and regain users.  Not only through innovation but by building in rewards and systems to keep them energized about your platform.  Acquiring the users is the highest cost a social business will have.  Providing value back to the enterprise is a grassroots effect.  Getting the data into the system and having it grow is where rewards, leaderboards and badges come into play.

For the gamers reading this the book definitely covers virtual goods, payment systems and forms of currency.  Being able to decide what platforms will be beneficial and how to set varying levels of gaming are all explored with great expertise.

This book has value for both the game writer and business trying to get into the social game.

Disclosure: The above links are Amazon affiliate links for the book.

Book Review: Securing the Cloud by Vic Winkler

As someone that works for a cloud provider, I anticipated finding this book, Securing the Cloud: Cloud Security Techniques and Tactics by Vic (J.R.) Winkler,  boring or not to contain any insight I would carry forward. I found out I was wrong just in the first two chapters. The goal of the book is not to tell you what cloud provider or form of solution to pick, but how to get to that choice.

The author works hard to simplify and break down each general area so the Securing the Cloud book coverseasoned IT professional or the CIO can easily digest each section. The structure and flow of the book takes you from the initial introduction to exactly what cloud computing and offerings exist and then blends into the differences in architecture before addressing security.

Legal aspects are not a deep topic in chapter 3. Each subsection could almost be a book of it’s own if someone wanted to write the very specific nuances each area required like HIPPA and EU Safe Harbor. Instead, the author highlights key and common risk issues and what should be evaluated and asked of yourself and the provider.

The middle chapters 4-6 work through the architecture, data security techniques and techniques for deployment in a secure fashion. Even though the chapters are about 30-50 pages each, the detail was perfect. I found the summary to be the place I started to understand what I was about to cover and then I read the chapter. It might be a personal preference but I like a higher overview right away to get a feel for where we are headed and stop points I can take.

Chapter 8 builds a checklist you need to begin the cloud provider selection process. Standards, verifications and even plain old claims are addressed. The author does well providing some basic criteria to start your own investigation into choosing a provider.

The two end chapters anticipate you have chosen a provider and now want to begin the basics operating your cloud security and architecture. These chapters are shorter than the middle ones where the meat of the book is anyway.

Overall I plan on reading this book again and making more bookmarks and notes. I wish I had gotten the digital version to make that whole process easier and I can see where the author can take subsections and additional writings as the interest in the cloud continues to grow for companies.

I suggest you get your hands on this now before making the leap into cloud technology to save a lot of time and effort after the fact.

Disclosure: the links for the book are all Amazon affiliate and I was not compensated to write any form of review for this book.