btripp_books (btripp_books) wrote,
btripp_books
btripp_books

Another of these ...

OK, maybe it's the color scheme, but every time I pick up a "for Dummies" book I get that nasty guilt thing that all English Majors get when coming in contact with a Cliffs Notes volume! I generally reserve these for situations where I've learned something sometime in the past, and have forgotten most of it (be the subject wine or Visual Basic) via disuse, yet know that I knew it and just need to have those synapses cleaned up and firing again.

Manny Hernandez's Ning for Dummies is rather a different situation in that it's pretty much the only reference for the Ning social-networking platform (on which I'm developing various sites for friends/clients), and I needed this as a short-cut to get around some of the steeper learning curves involved!

Of course, there are challenges to reviewing a "how-to" book that take me out of my standard non-fiction "comfort zone", and especially in that I told the author (via Twitter communications) that I would be reviewing his book ... so I'm likely to be trying to stay more on-topic here than one might expect if this was not the case.

Now, as noted, I have been involved in working with Ning sites for the past 6-9 months, being part of a team that produced a half a dozen projects based on the platform, so I probably have much more familiarity with it than most people coming to the book. However, I was not the "tech lead" on any but the ones that I'm personally working on, so the "crunchier" bits were always lurking just behind the curtain. That said, my initial impression of Ning for Dummies was that it was pretty much three books, one for total beginners, one for mid-level users, and one for folks (like me) who wanted or needed to "get under the hood". I didn't start sticking in slips of paper (for bookmarks) until Chapter 12, towards the end of part 3 (out of 6) so a bit over half the book was "stuff I knew" (albeit there were things laid out in a clearer manner than I'd ever encountered them), and a bit less than half of the book dealing with stuff that I'd either not figured out yet, or hadn't had to deal with (such as the parts of "marketing" the site within the Ning universe).

One substantial problem the book has can hardly be laid at the feet of the author, however, as this comes from the rapid pace of development that Ning has been going through. I follow several Ning feeds on Twitter, and there are new developments coming out weekly, so as new as this is, it's going to be very quickly outdated!

There are currently over a million Ning-based sites out there, ranging from the huge (half a million members on rapper 50¢'s site) to the tiny ... and with this book, I'm pretty sure that anybody with basic web-sense (and a smattering of HTML) could add another one in a couple of hours if they were so inclined. The first third of the book is very basic, and walks the reader step-by-step through what they need to do to start up a Ning-platform site.

The second third of the book pretty much bridges between the intro and expert levels, with a lot of very useful "now you do this" instructions that clarify a lot of things which are not particularly intuitive. Then, of course, there are the "under the hood" parts, as well as bits about getting people to join up (I was referring to a section in here just this afternoon to get over a problem that had come up on one site).

Since this is brand new, you're not likely to get any price break on it (aside from Amazon's 34% discount), but if you're wanting to do a Ning site, and don't have patience to try to dig through the less-than-stellar instructions that Ning has to offer, Ning for Dummies will help!


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