How Babies Train Good Authors

by Brett McLaughlin

Two days ago, my wife gave birth to our first child, a little baby boy ;-) Dean (who is actually Brett Dean McLaughlin, Jr.) managed to teach me a lot in our stay at the hospital, and managed to give me an excuse to mention him in this 'blog.

When it comes to technical talk, I'm pretty comfortable; however, it's a whole different story when babies and medicine enter into the picture. There are about two million things that can go wrong, and that's just with the baby. Add the million or so things that can happen to mommy, and it gets pretty daunting. Add to that fatigue from sleep deprivation, pressure to get things right the first time, and general anxiety, it becomes an explosive situation.

Enter the doctor...

...and, if you've got a good doctor (we do), things suddenly become clear. These incredibly difficult technical terms and conditions are made understandable to even a mildly intelligent person, as long as they listen carefully. Confidence is returned, joy enters in, and baby, mommy, and daddy end up happy.

Of course, if you've been paying attention, you realize that I've described exactly the situation that most O'Reilly book buyers and readers are in: high pressure, low error tolerance, and faced with topics they aren't sure about how to approach. How do you ever wade through such treacherous waters?

Enter the author...

And if the author is good, not hung up on showing off their mastery of technical terms and acronyms, and patient, readers are quickly brought up to speed. They work better, they learn more, and generally get the job done, often learning some tips and tricks along the way.

So the lesson I learned? Well, it's mostly to get over yourself. Those doctors could have come in and spit out 18-syllable words and leave with a smug smile, knowing they had convinced me that I knew nothing, and they knew everything. But that's not the point; all that education and practical experience is not to show off, but to bring others to the same level, preferably as fast as possible. I daresay this will help me refine my books better; to use the simpler approach as opposed to the more complex; to worry about getting the point across, even if that means using a silly example or analogy.

Ultimately, code you write is like a baby; you want to understand it, mold it, know everything that there is to know about it. If O'Reilly can't play doctor and help you along the way, then we're wasting our money and your time. I hope we're doing well; I know I'm committed to trying even harder!


2002-12-30 21:28:01
Good Lesson
Hi Bret,
Good lesson learnt. for us also. Expecting eagerly for your next book on webservices.