‘Clojure Programming’ book finished

Yes — it’s finished! :-D

Early last month, after writing 190,000 words, editing away scads more, assembling and testing more than 1,000 code snippets and 20 full sample projects, and conceptualizing dozens of illustrations, Christophe, Brian, and I declared Clojure Programming done.  It’s been writhing its way through O’Reilly’s editorial process ever since.

I’d hoped that the book would be published before Clojure/West in mid-March, but alas, it was not to be.  It looks like it’ll drop in mid-April.

However, fret not! If you want to dig into Clojure Programming right away, you can read the final draft of it online.  Of course, you can preorder the dead-tree version of it as well; easy links to both options are available at clojurebook.com.  There, you’ll also find a full table of contents, some basic info on the book, and a way to join the clojurebook.com mailing list and a pointer to the book’s Twitter account.  We’ll be pushing various Clojure tips and links to useful tools and resources and announcing the availability of all sorts of book-related content on the site through the mailing list and Twitter feed; and, if things work out as I hope, some early access to and/or special offers for things that will help you get the most out of your Clojure experience in general.

So, thanks for your patience.  I think the book will end up being worth it.  Of course, I have to thank my coauthors; without Brian and Christophe, it simply would never have been finished, nor would it be as good as it is.  There’s a ton of other people that deserve credit too, but you’ll have to buy the book and read the acknowledgements to learn about them…

‘Clojure Programming’ book now available

Update [2011-08-23 18:49 UTC]: The Rough Cut of Clojure Programming has been updated significantly since this post originally went live.  Go check it out. :-)

Some time ago, I announced that I was coauthoring a book on Clojure for O’Reilly (see original announcement).  I’m very happy to report that an early and incomplete version of Clojure Programming is now available in Rough Cuts.

Rough Cuts is O’Reilly’s early-access program, similar to Manning’s MEAP.  By purchasing it now, you will be able to read the ebook via Safari as it progresses through its final stages, and leave feedback that we will take into account through that process.  Please make use of the comment/feedback facility on the book’s Safari page; we are eager to hear what you have to say about the book — though personally, I vacillate between hoping you’ll be gentle and hoping you’ll be brutal.

What’s in the first Rough Cut is actually the state of the book from about two months ago.  I dropped the ball on giving the final word to our editor to go ahead with the release, so I’m afraid you’re all getting this much later than you could (and should) have.  On the upside, there’s a lot of content queued up to be added to the Rough Cut, so you’ll be seeing new stuff stream in very rapidly from here on out.

I do want to apologize about (inadvertently) maintaining radio silence about the book since my original announcement.  Writing the book has ended up overlapping with a very busy time in my life, and I needed to recruit new coauthors mid-stream to boot.  Dave had some killer opportunities that he simply couldn’t turn down; his departure was unfortunate, but it gave me the great opportunity to work with two very well-known figures in the Clojure community:

  • Brian Carper, a stellar writer (I’d been a fan of his blog for some time) and former Ruby hacker (a perspective I wanted to make sure we serviced in the book well)
  • Christophe Grand, the author of a host of popular Clojure libraries such as Enlive, Parsley, and Moustache, and blogger of all things bleeding-edge in Clojure

I’m biased of course, but the book is shaping up to be what I think will be a great introduction to Clojure — especially for those coming from Java, Ruby, and Python — and simply none of it would have been possible if it were not for Brian and Christophe.  Thanks, guys! :-D

Preview and purchase the book: Clojure Programming

P.S. I just want to take a moment to let it settle in that, yes, O’Reilly is publishing a Lisp book, despite their explicitly discouraging Lisp topics in their book proposal guidelines.  (Sorry guys, a single friendly needling is warranted. ;-)) I know it’s not an old concept (they accepted our proposal, after all, and then there was the sadly ill-fated Lisp: Out of the Box), but now the bits are flowing, orders are being taken, and it can’t get much more official. Happy days indeed.

“Clojure Programming”, the book

Update: Clojure Programming is now available!

I’m very happy to announce that I and Dave Fayram (formerly of Powerset and Microsoft, and now of BankSimple) have recently committed to writing a book on Clojure, tentatively titled “Clojure Programming”, to be published by O’Reilly Media.

This is pretty significant news for me, but likely also for the broader Clojure community.  Having another Clojure book on the shelves is always a Good Thing™, even better if it’s from O’Reilly, the granddaddy of modern technology publishers.  That imprimatur will do nothing but help Clojure gain exposure, and perhaps in circles as yet unaware of the language.

I think the fabulous growth of the community and the (apparent) success of the other books out there have already made it clear that Clojure is here to stay as a serious language, more than ready for use by a broad population of programmers in real, production systems.  Dave and I are just thrilled that we have the opportunity to introduce the language, its facilities, and its general approach to the next wave or two of Clojure programmers.

I’m a better programmer and a better person for having wandered into #clojure in early 2008, and I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and know the array of wonderful people that have gathered around the language.  I’m hoping this will prove to be an opportunity for me to give back to the Clojure community as it has given to me.

Quickie FAQs

What will be the target audience, table of contents, publication date, &c?

At this point, writing has only recently begun, so there’s much to do and it would be foolish to discuss any specifics.  But, I’m excited, Dave’s excited, and I thought others might be too.

How will this affect Snowtide and Docuharvest?

It won’t.  Development of both PDFTextStream and Docuharvest will continue apace, if not accelerate over the coming months.

That’s all for now.  Wish us luck!

Xerox’s Inspirational Carlson and Wilson

I recently finished reading Xerox: American Samurai, an out-of-print business case study of sorts that tells the story of Xerox from a mid-1980’s (the book was published in 1986), decidedly American perspective of worrying how domestic industry would compete with the growing influence and capability of Asia, and Japan in particular. It’s a very entertaining read, something of a more business-side Soul of a New Machine: the core of the narrative is the engineering, marketing, manufacturing, and organizational efforts that brought about Xerox’s 10 Series copiers to market starting in 1982 (some of which appear to still be supported and in service!), which were to be Xerox’s response to the accelerating success of its Japanese competitors.  Along the way, the book weaves a story encompassing Xerox’s early days developing and commercializing electrophotography, its fantastic success in the late 1950’s and 1960’s, its “lost decade” in the 1970’s where innovation stagnated and the business began to fray, and finally its then-in-progress rejuvenation into the early 1980’s as Xerox slimmed down and refactored its business and engineering practices to compete effectively.

It’s a great story, but I’m not writing a book review.  Most striking about the book was the glimpse provided of Chester Carlson, the inventor of electrophotography, and Joseph C. Wilson, the co-founder of Xerox (née The Haloid Photographic Company).  As far as I can tell, these men were forces of nature unto themselves, and possessed an array of values and principles that I find inspirational.  Indeed, the book mentions more than once that part of what held Xerox together, especially in the bad years, was the legacy of its progenitors, Wilson and Carlson.

To illustrate, it would be best if I simply quoted from the book; here, from pages 54-56 (bold emphasis mine):

…Wilson never liked it when people referred to Xerox during its spectacular growth years as a Cinderella story.  The company earned its success, he said.  The only magic was the magic of hard work.

As a boy, Wilson grew up in the shadow of Kodak’s largest manufacturing facility in Rochester–Kodak Park.  His dream was to build a company as great as George Eastman’s.  He didn’t want to make a quick killing and then retire with his riches, he wanted his company to have an impact on the world. He wanted to make his company his life’s work, just as Eastman had done.

Chester Carlson and the 914 copier helped Wilson realize his dream. Carlson, the investor of xerography, filed his first patent in 1937, calling his discovery electrophotography.  His first successful image was made in 1938.  Over the next nine years he tried to sell his idea to more than twenty companies, including RCA, Remington Rand, General Electric, Kodak, and IBM.  They all turned him down, wondering why anyone would need a machine to do something you could do with carbon paper.

Although Carlson was often frustrated by the lack of interest in his invention, he never quit.  Sometimes he put his idea and equipment on the shelf for a few months, but soon the enthusiasm would return.  He scraped together a few hundred dollars in 1939, a large sum during the Depression, and had a prototype of an automatic copier built by a model shop in New York.  It didn’t work.  Another model maker got it working, briefly, but soon the war diverted expert machinists to more urgent tasks.  Carlson went back to demonstrating his process with manual plates.  Finally, in 1944, Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, signed a royalty-sharing agreement with him and began to develop the process.  A short time later, John Dessauer, Haloid’s director of research, showed Joe Wilson a technical article on Carlson’s electrophotography in Radio News. Haloid made the initial contacts with Battelle, and in 1947, it signed an agreement with Battelle and began funding research.  With the help of a professor from Ohio State University, the term “xerography,” Greek for “dry writing,” was coined.

The early manual copying process was excruciatingly slow, almost like developing a photographic print.  An early Haloid brochure describes Thirty-Nine Steps for making good copies on its first commercial copier, the Model A Xerox, which was sometimes called the Ox Box.  The best operators took two to three minutes to make a print, a long way from Carlson’s vision of an automatic machine.  Still, Wilson and Haloid pressed on.  Over the next thirteen years, Wilson committed more money than his company made to developing the process.

Carlson and Wilson both made fortunes on xerography; Carlson earned more than $200 million, Wilson more than $100 million. Their backgrounds and personalities were different, but both of them were reflective men who were concerned with more than money and business.  Carlson was a quiet, shy man from a poor family who struggled to put himself through college and never knew material comfort until late in life when the royalties from xerography finally started to arrive.  During the early years at Haloid, Dessauer once asked him out to lunch.  Carlson declined because he couldn’t afford to reciprocate.  When he made his great breakthrough in xerography he was working days in a patent office, going to law school at night, and doing his experiments on weekends.  He always felt uncomfortable in large groups and avoided public involvement in causes, although he anonymously donated millions of dollars to many of them.

Carlson was never on the regular Xerox payroll, though Wilson made several offers.  Instead, he preferred the independence of working as a consultant.  He died in 1968, at the age of sixty-two, of a heart attack.  A year before his death his wife asked him if he had any unfulfilled desires.  “Just one,” he said. “I would like to die a poor man.”  When he died he had given away more than $150 million. U Thant, secretary-general of the United Nations, sent this tribute to Carlson’s memorial service in honor of his substantial financial contributions: “His concern for the future of the human situation was genuine, and his dedication to the principles of the United Nations was profound.”

Wilson was a graduate of the Harvard Business School.  His father was president of Haloid before him and his grandfather had served as mayor of Rochester.  Unlike Carlson, Wilson was an outgoing person.  His speeches were as likely to contain quotes from Byron and Dostoyevski as they were to contain the latest earnings and revenue numbers.  Even after the company became successful, he would frequently lunch on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at his desk so he could catch up on his reading.  He welcomes involvement in community affairs, often speaking about the obligation of successful enterprises to contribute to society.   Wilson died in 1971, at the age of sixty-one, of a heart attack, while having lunch with the governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller.  A frayed, blue index card that he had carried since the early days of his career was found in his wallet.  It summarized his goals: “To be a whole man; to attain serenity through the creation of a family life of uncommon richness; through leadership of a business which brings happiness to its workers, serves well its customers and brings prosperity to its owners; by aiding a society threatened by fratricidal division to gain unity.”

The tenacity, dedication, and grounding principles of these individuals are remarkable, both on spec and compared to the fluff usually offered to entrepreneurs and business owners like myself as examples of success.  Carlson as the inventor and technologist and Wilson as the investor and clueful technical entrepreneur and executive would appear to be far better options.

For those that are interested, it looks like there are at least two other books specifically about Carlson and Wilson, at least in connection with their development of electrophotography and association with Xerox.