Saturday, November 4th, 2006

Getting Real, Getting an ISBN

I just received my copy of Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application by 37signals, presumably mostly Jason Fried. Getting Real was originally offered as a $19 PDF*. It’s now available for free in HTML. I ordered it from Lulu as a book. I like books.

Is it just me, or does Lulu remind you of Loompanics?**

Fried has a contrarian, but highly influential philosophy on web application development, encapsulated in phrases like “underdo your competitors,” “feature food” and “there’s nothing functional about a functional spec.” (A good introduction to Fried-ism is his talk “Lessons Learned Building Basecamp,” available as audio on IT Conversatios.) I find Fried a maddening mix of good and bad ideas, expressed with equal dogmatism. I disagree with him, but he’s sharpened my thinking. OPAC developers should read him and get scared that someone’s going to Basecamp the OPAC.

I’ll write a detailed review later, but I’ll start with appearances. Flipping through I’m annoyed at how flip and padded everything is. It reads like a speech. It bristles with paragraph-separated lists, long quotes from other books and miscellaneous indented matter. There are dozens of chapters and each one starts on a new page. The font’s too large, the margins too spacious. It’s like a teenager with a term paper that needs to be ten pages long. Whom are they kidding?

Finally, a LibraryThing raspberry for not having an ISBN. It’s called a book, it’s reviewed as a book, you can buy it as a book, but it has no ISBN? You can’t find Getting Real on Amazon, the LC—anywhere. Someone on LibraryThing entered it manually and others have been copying the record. (Copy my copy, it’s got better data.***) I guess ISBNs are another feature they’re underdoing.

*They apparently sold more than 20,000 copies. Since the PDF costs were zero, this nets a profit of $380,000. Did I mention I want to write a book about LibraryThing?
**That’s How to Start Your Own Country by Erwin S. Strauss, a guide and encyclopedia to “Micropatrological” projects, like Sealand and the Republic of Minerva. This is the sort of topic books used to be written about—now it’s web pages.
***Any catalogers want to help out by coming up with a reasonable Dewey and LCC?

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