Most helpful critical review
Leaving me with more questions than answers.
on October 5, 2003
My definition of a good dummies book is one that answers questions rather than raise more of them. I've read up to chapter 5 so far in this book and already my mind is swarming with dozens of questions. And it's frustrating knowing that they aren't answered, or at least, not at this point.
I'm reading this book from cover to cover - I'm not using it as a reference. I really want to learn Perl. Therefore, I was hoping to truly understand WHY certain things are the way they are in this language... not just that "this does that." That's only 1/2 of the battle in programming. We have to know how these functions/variables relate to each other. That's what programming is all about - relations... but relationships aren't defined clearly (so far) in this book.
For example, the author goes through 2 examples of perl programs in Chapter 4. He illustrates what each part of the script does, but this is only partially satisfactory. Half of the displayed functions are definitions, instead of explanations. I found myself asking "Okay, so why is that part important? How does it relate to the other parts? Why does that need to be included? The chomp variable? Why include that here? Sure, I know what it DOES, but why include it here? Which variables are native to Perl and which aren't?" Many, many questions.
It feels like Chapter 4 belongs towards the end of the book, after we understand all of the basic functions/variables, etc. I skimmed through the book and found answers to questions I had at the beginning - which isn't very efficient.
I understand why something is important about 50% of the time with Perl for Dummies. The other 50% is spent looking in other chapters for answers, doing mental gymnastics in my head, or just moving on, hoping it will be explained in the next page or so.
Perhaps he does explain it, but not enough to my satisfaction. Or maybe it's all cleaned up in later chapters. It sounds like he wrote this assuming we would be able to figure out any missing parts. The book needs more clarity. I'm left more confused than enlightened.
It was only after applying a bit of my own computer know-how that I finally got a script to work - frustrating when the author doesn't make it clear you can make paths to the files you want to use Perl on. I eventually figured it out... but aren't Dummies books supposed to explain these things?
I'm not reviewing this book out of ignorance or disrespect for the author's knowledge and experience. He obviously knows what he is doing. I've programmed in Java before and it's easy to see the similarities. I'm also an experienced web developer.
I just wonder how I could be scratching my head so many times when this book is supposed adapt to the fact that I am a dummy. Good start, but gets confusing quickly.
If the book gets any better as I read, I will re-review it and adjust its rating accordingly.