Book Evaluation Guidelines & Motivation

Don't buy books by the pound!

Don't buy books by the pound!

There is a scene in the movie “Office Space,” where the starring is meeting with the “two Bobs” and makes an insightful revelation: “The thing Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy. It’s that I just don’t care. It’s a problem of motivation Bob, alright? Well, if I work my ass off and INATECH ships a few more units, I don’t see another dime. So where is the motivation? I have 8 different bosses, Bob. That means that when I make a mistake I have 8 different people coming and telling me about it. That’s my only real motivation, not to be hassled, that and the fear of not losing my job. But you know what, Bob? That will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.” 

Unfortunately, it seems many publishers know too well that they *usually* get paid by the pound of paper they sell. So the motivation to condense the material isn’t there. I’m writing this message because I believe we, as consumers, must find a way to reverse this trend and reward efficiency and other values that will make learning easier. Here are some guidelines I wish authors adhered to when writing books:

  1. Use Realistic, complete examples. Avoid overly academic, theoretical, half-baked datasets. Provide a cross section of simple, intermediate and complex material.
  2. Find a way to teach more than people signed up for. For example, go beyond mere drafting and modeling and into the realm of great Design by selecting great examples of Architecture or Engineering. Never show examples of “How Not to Do It.” I’m tempted to show you what I mean but I don’t want to embarrass anybody.
  3. Hire good technical editors who will not only polish the author’s language and grammar but who are able to find errors such as ambiguous instructions or other problems.
  4. Provide links to updated, repaired datasets as well as multimedia content including videos that show both screen captures and narration describing the steps that are being performed.
  5. Don’t simply regurgitate the material that comes with the program’s documentation. Instead, complement it and expand upon it as necessary. Don’t be afraid to take a radically different approach than the program developer’s intended.
  6. Prioritize the material. Don’t simply create an encyclopedic, dictionary-like tome. One of the main obligations of a good teacher is to show students “the critical inches.”
  7. Avoid repetition as much as possible. Take advantage of patterns and introduce the material in bulk, as applicable. For example, when discussing smart, parametric objects, look at all common properties together.
  8. Pay attention to sequence. Make the pre-requisites clear. This is obviously important in both math and construction. Make sure people aren’t tackling division before having mastered subtraction, and prevent the concrete slab on grade being poured before all the rough plumbing underneath it is installed.
  9. Try to go beyond mere training and into the realm of education. Very software specific material makes the life of a book be very limited. Treat the subject as a part of a bigger, more important whole such as Architecture, Project Management, or Problem Solving.
  10. Cater to multiple learning styles and temperaments.

Please take time to vote on your favorite publisher/author/books and post comments letting me know what you appreciate in a book, including great examples. In closing, I’d like to invite you to write and share your knowledge with others. After all, as Michael Angelo said, “creation is the best form of criticism.” If you’re not happy with the books out there, please write a better one.

Explore posts in the same categories: 3D BIM CAD, 3D Modeling, Autodesk, Basic Essential CAD, Community, Software Companies, Uncategorized

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