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Philip & Alex's Guide to Web Publishing [Paperback]

Philip Greenspun
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (237 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 65.00 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

This book offers a general approach for how to think about publishing on the Web. The content ranges from insightful discussions of how to integrate relational databases with Web servers in a way to optimize Web server performance while enhancing the dynamic and interactive content of a Web site.

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From Amazon

This isn't another cookie-recipe approach to planning a successful Web site. Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing, by MIT veteran Philip Greenspun, is both broadly conceptual and deeply technical, and it assumes that the reader is willing to think seriously about the challenge of building a content site, a community site, or an e-commerce store before plunging in.

Although heavily Unix-oriented, it does not set out to proselytize a product, or even suggest that there is only one way to solve certain technical challenges. Rather, it encourages the reader to think about Web content and functionality as something designed to help visitors answer questions or do something useful. This may sound nebulous, but his observations about why Web sites go bad are illustrated with many well-chosen examples.

The core of the book is quite technical. Three long sections on publishing, community, and e-commerce architectures are illustrated by the author's data models and working open-source systems, so someone with C, SQL, and a good understanding of Internet Protocol (IP) under his or her belt will get the most out of the discussion. Such technical readers will find numerous Web addresses and other citations for further technical information. The author also invites readers to use his code if appropriate.

Although there is a lot of technical meat here, Greenspun dispenses with a dry, technical tone. Throughout, he manages to speak to the reader in a way that is always interesting and frequently bemused or ironic. The overall effect is that of a wry professor who knows his stuff, has thought about the problems, and isn't about to engage in commercial puffery. --Kathleen Caster

From Library Journal

A technical manual that is also a lavishly illustrated coffee-table book, this is the oddest, most interesting guide on web design and publishing this reviewer has ever read. "This book is a catalog of the mistakes that I've made while building more than 100 Web sites in the last five years," writes webmaster Greenspun, who teaches at MIT. Covering web publishing and web-based services in a lively, engaging tone, he makes complex technical ideas simple and accessible to beginners and nontechies who have to manage large web sites. Drop-dead photos taken by Greenspun and available for free on his site (www.photo.net) illustrate the text. Greenspun also gives away almost all the software he writes about and uses, and the entire book is available on the web (http://www. photo.net/wtr/thebook/). Still, all libraries should seriously consider getting one or two copies of the wonderful print version.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
This book covers such a wide range of subjects - HTML, web design, SQL, server configuration, e-commerce, accepting credit cards, scalability, futurology, search engines, choosing a database, the nature of buying software, system admin and loads more, all in great depth - that it's almost impossible to characterize the contents. It's also packed full of beautiful, but completely unrelated, photographs; all taken by the author!
Philip Greenspun runs a successful web consultancy with several very busy sites, and seems to have tried to distill all that he has learned into one book. A lot of what he says is very wise, and although I disagree with some of his technology choices, he has thought everything through in great detail. There are quite a few sections which I will re-read and study for my own projects, but many others I will never bother with again. The book's main drawback is its size, which makes it hard to cherry-pick just the bits you need.
If you are looking for ways to use the latest technology to make a web site look cool, this is not the book for you. If you are building or running a site or business with lots of users, and you want to keep them and avoid going crazy in the process, you need this book. And the photos really are good.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Still the book to recommend Nov. 2 2002
By Jon T
It's interesting how a lot of readers complain about the book being all about Phil's ego and Arsdigita,(the company he created that is now part of redhat). It seems those people didn't understand much of the book or found the subject disappointingly tougher than they thought... Yes, web publishing requires more intelligence and thoughfullness some would like to believe. And this book makes you realise that, whether 1998 or 2002.
Most web sites that are data driven these days still use the same principles explained in this book. Most don't use the ACS but the whole idea behind the ACS is one that comes from a sincere desire to facilitate the creation of dynamic (data driven) web sites.
One can tell Greenspun is more than a technologist, but a humanist as well. This would explain the appearance of the book some like to critisize. Certainly Greenspun ego is present, but what can you expect from someone who's got a vast array of knowledge and wisdom to share. Definitely a book any intelligent person will love.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know what it takes to create web services. Also, this book is the perfect reference for teaching a class on website development, in a manner that gives students a broad perspective before they delve into the inevitable geek stuff: web application programming, data models, and SQL queries. I've used this book at work to educate some of my cooworkers who were programmers or designers, and to give clients instructive lectures on the subject.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An opinionated book, and great fun June 16 2002
I came across a reference to this book while searching on the Internet for information on web design. I was looking for help with HTML. The link took me to the online version of the book and before I knew what was happening, I was so engrossed in the first chapter, I hadn't even asked myself what all this had to do with web-design! I have no experience with computer programming, little with databases, and only a little "Welcome to my Homepage"-type experience with design. But I was hooked. I have since bought and read the hardcopy version, and recommended it to anyone who will listen. Those who won't, I've told them about the "photo.net" site where they can find great photos.
Yes, Greenspun is opinionated - I laughed. Yes, he refers frequently to his own company "arsdigita". Yes, he blows his own trumpet. But he sticks to his anti-commercial principles: software and computer development would progress faster and benefit more people if people were less concerned with being proprietary. As an example, he has put his book, and many of the services he mentions, on the Internet for free. I liked his championship of the user, and of networked computers. Much of what he said made sense to me and helped me think more carefully about my own websites. People who say he is in it just for the money can hardly have read the whole book. As others have noted, this is not a "How-to" book on HTML, computer programming, or even web-design. It is a broad look at the place websites have, and could have, in our technological society, and puts some difficult yet stimulating questions before the web-designer. A book written with humanity, passion, and courage.
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Greenspun writes in a very direct, down-to-earth and, at times, self-critical manner. Graphics designers, MBA's, bloated corporate management and packaged Web solutions receive ruthless trashing (but: with good arguments to support the trashing). This book contains both technical information (albeit heavily biased towards AOLServer, TCL and Oracle) and clear explanations of the ideas and design choices.
Note, this is not a book that will teach you fancy HTML tags, really cool SQL queries or powerplay server-side scripting. You should read it for its ideas and then seek additional documentation for implementation specifics.
The book is printed on heavy, glossy paper and is stuffed with Greenspun's photographs (which may be appreciated much more at [...] a website he started several years ago). The quality of the book's binding is, sadly, quite insufficient. Even with proper care, several pages have fallen out within a few months.
In short: I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is serious about (starting in) Web design and, most importantly, online communities.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Book
Philip Greenspun is the creator of photo.net and a very entertaining author as well. This a great book for beginners to get an overview of web publishing, online communities, and... Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2004 by Terry Smith
2.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but woefully outdated
Let's face it folks, this book was already outdated when it came out in 1999 and today it's even worse. Read more
Published on Oct. 8 2002 by Ed Macauley
5.0 out of 5 stars Still one of the best books on database backed websites
I first read this book online back several years ago and the knowledge I gained helped me immensely in my professional career in enterprise database sites. Read more
Published on July 29 2002 by James A. Ross
5.0 out of 5 stars Stop what you are doing, and buy this book!
Do you remember the first time you used google? Didn't you want to run around and tell everyone about it, yet at the same time want to keep the secret of this gem to yourself? Read more
Published on March 20 2002 by David Boeke
1.0 out of 5 stars web publishing according to Weird Al Yankovic
How can you trust someone who is making jokes all the time? If they want to be a comedian, they should publish a comedy book like Irma Bombeck or Dave Barry. Read more
Published on Jan. 1 2002 by S. Clark
2.0 out of 5 stars Amusing, but sadly dated
Greenspun writes well. He gives a good, clear explanation of web development and e-commerce. And the jokes are often funny. Read more
Published on Nov. 27 2001
1.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful but not a "how to" book
What our follow reader Matt Dougherty said in his review is basically very accurate, with the exception that I am leaning more towards seeing Mr. Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2001 by Goksan
1.0 out of 5 stars Horrible. Don't fall for the egotistical propaganda.
On the surface this looks like a cool book. It's an easy read. It has lots of colorful pictures. Most of the stuff that Adolph...I mean Philip says makes sense. Read more
Published on June 26 2001 by MattDoc
5.0 out of 5 stars Web savvy, uncommon sense... and funny too.
One of the few technical books that has made me, at times, laugh out loud. For all the right reasons. The book covers essential understanding for building useful web sites. Read more
Published on April 25 2001 by Patrick J. Morrison
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