I recently put a question on Twitter asking about the difference between an experienced/advanced developer’s “fluff” and and a beginner’s learning tool. The replies I got a indicated that there are at least a couple of different perspectives out there depending on which angle you take as well as where you fall in the beginner-to-advanced experience levels. While there weren’t hundreds of people replying to that tweet, there were enough that I wanted to do a quick post to put them together and extend the question to my blog readers.
My initial tweet:
Would you agree that what some call “fluff” in tech reading/writing, others might call previously unknown info (a.k.a. “learning”)?
A more detailed version of that question with more than 140 characters allowed:
Within many tech books, you’ll find explanations of topics that advanced developers have known for years but beginners have never even known existed. While the simplest answer is to look at the target audience of the book (beginner, intermediate, advanced), the question still presents itself within smaller breakdowns of those experience levels. To take the middle ground, let’s say the book in question is targeted at the intermediate level and that one person from each of the three levels is reading it. Does the beginner dev view the explanation of certain topics as useful information while the advanced dev views it as nothing more than regurgitated information from places like Adobe livedocs? Based on the responses I received, I think the answer may not be a straight up yes or no. So here’s a general breakdown of the different views I’ve seen. They all make complete sense to me if I step back and view them with different thoughts. I’d love to hear more so feel free to add your point of view to the comments.
There were a few people replying that felt this kind of information was undeniably considered fluff. They want to get to the meat of the information on which the book was written. If they came across anything they didn’t understand or already know, they would rather turn to livedocs, APIs, etc.
A “necessary evil”
Another thought was that it may be fluff, but someone is learning from it. While reader A may come across information of which he is fully aware, (s)he tends to skip past it without thinking too much of it and knows that reader B may learn a quick lesson while reading the book. (I think I favor this one)
One stop learning
Some people look at it as a sort of “one stop shop” where they could get everything they need without putting the book down. If a developer is reading a book which is covering topics that developer has never worked with, they can learn it all right there. This line of thought may seem a bit lazy on the surface, but may also be efficient for the lesson at hand. If a beginner developer is reading about classes but has no idea when to use private vs protected, they don’t have to stop reading the book to go look it up online. Instead, they get the explanation right there in the book and they continue on with their learning.
So that’s it. There’s the question and those are the general thoughts people presented as answers. Now it’s your turn. How do you view that type of information in a tech book?