Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Editing Hacks

[reading: Tom Stafford & Matt Webb, "Mind Hacks"]

Started reading "Mind Hacks", which looked interesting in the bookshop but the formatting is already starting to annoy me. In that respect, it's the worst book-that's-just-a-printout-of-a-cool-website ever, and that's up against some pretty stiff competition.

  • A large fraction of the hacks refer the reader off to movie files or Flash animations on the web. Not very helpful for a physical book that you might want to read on a train.
  • "Color: The second color is used to indicate a cross-reference within the text". Except that there is no second color—the relevant parts just come out in a hard-to-read light gray.
  • The halftoning for photographs and some of the diagrams is poor—it looks like the output of an 1980's laserprinter.
  • I don't know what system they used to produce the book, but it's generated some real oddities in linebreaking (mostly around URLs). Favourite so far: a line break after the decimal point in "3.3" (page 144).

Still, the content might be OK once I get into it, and at least they include lots of references to the original literature.

[25-Nov-06] Edited to clarify that I'm complaining about the formatting rather than the content. Feeling slightly guilty given that one of the authors came over and commented. You'd think I'd have learnt my lesson about who finds what on tha intarweb.

[A:37385 B:3278 C:346 D:9187 E:34361 Total:84557]


Matt said...

(Matt Webb here.) Sorry about that!

If the content's not doing it for you, maybe try starting with the last chapter and going backwards. The book moves to higher level functions as it goes on, and some people prefer those more. I hope, through the annoyances, there's something there for you that makes the book worthwhile.


galloglass said...

Er, hi.

Apologies for the abuse; I've tried to clarify in the post that it's not the content I'm whinging about, just the formatting.

I love the idea of the book and the information in it; it's something I've been looking for for ages: a summary of the current state of research and experiment in cognitive neuroscience, together with references to the primary literature if you want to find out more. Plus neat parlour tricks.

Normally when I buy a book-of-a-website, I'm buying because I enjoyed reading the website and want to give something back to the authors—in which case, I'm not too bothered if the book is set as if someone just hit "Print" in a browser.

For this one, I'm actually reading the book first for a change—which makes formatting issues more visible.