Propose, Prepare, Present – How be a successful industry-conference speaker – #business #bookreview

Propose, Prepare, Present

How to become a successful, effective, and popular speaker at industry conferences
Alistair Croll
(O’Reilly – paperback, Kindle)

Entrepreneur, author, and analyst Alistair Croll has packed a lot of helpful how-to information into his well-focused new guidebook.

Croll speaks at industry conferences,  runs at least four conferences each year, and often selects the lucky few who will get to present, after he has sifted through and read hundreds of proposals.

If you think you are much too busy to read short, five-chapter text, Croll recommends you at least examine Chapter 3, “What Organizers Are Looking For.” There, he presents 11 things that can help get you chosen to speak at an industry conference and 11 hings that can get your conference proposal rejected.

“Nothing will get you refused as fast as a sales pitch,” he warns. “This is the single biggest reason for rejection in every conference I’ve run, across dozens of topics and hundreds of reviewers.”

Indeed, some conference organizers say, you should not mention your company’s product or service at all in your conference speech proposal. Instead, show that you can speak on big topics such as where your industry is going or major events or controversial trends currently affecting your industry and what can be done about them.

“Event organizers are in business, too,” Croll emphasizes. “They need to balance informative content that justifies the ticket price with provocation and entertainment that keeps people coming back.”

Si Dunn

Advertisements

Present Yourself: Using SlideShare to Grow Your Business – #business #bookreview

Present Yourself: Using SlideShare to Grow Your Business
Kit Seeborg and Andrea Meyer
(O’Reilly – paperback, Kindle)

“Huh? Sorry. What did you just say?

Welcome to our “always on” culture, where almost nobody pays full attention to anything anymore. Instead, we have  “continuous partial attention.” For example, people habitually, nervously, or irritatingly mess with handheld devices, social media, and other electronic distractions while you try to speak to them, teach them, sell them something, or promote a cause.

Welcome, as well, to a time when “[v]isual thinking has become more important in business, because we’re processing much more information [particularly nonlinear information] than ever before,” writers Kit Seeborg and Andrea Meyer point out in their new book.

“As a result, slide presentations have become the language of business,” they contend.

Present Yourself: Using SlideShare to Grow Your Business is an engaging, nicely illustrated, comprehensive guide that shows you how to promote your business, organization, or cause using the popular online presentation site and social sharing network, SlideShare.

(You can set up a free SlideShare account at its website or sign in using your LinkedIn or Facebook account.).

Seeborg’s and Meyer’s new book also examines some of the key problems business presenters now face and how to overcome them.

“The challenge of an ‘always on’ culture is that by not wanting to miss anything, people are ignoring some part of everything they tune into at once,” they write. “ For the public speaker, this means you have some of  your audience’s attention, but not all of it. Your talk is competing with the outside activities of the networks of every person in your audience who has a smartphone or Internet-connected device.”

They add: “Because today’s audience is engaged in continuous partial attention, presenters must put in extra effort to compete for the mindshare of a distracted audience. One way to win more audience attention is to include engaging visual slides with your presentation and show them intermittently instead of in parallel with your talk.

“Think of your slideshow as adding percussive punctuation to a talk instead of performing a continuous accompaniment. A speaker might talk for several minutes or more without showing a visual image on the screen. Then, in order to reinforce a point or introduce a new point, the presenter shows a slide or video. In this case, the presenter uses the visual media to punctuate the talk, breaking it up, adding interest and variety. This is a very different style from the traditional use of a slideshow–running in parallel to the spoken presentation.”

The book’s eight chapters focus on how to create and deliver presentations using SlideShare. And many of the tips can be adapted to other types of presentations, as well.

The chapters are:

  • Chapter 1: Visual Thinking – Focuses on visual communications in business.
  • Chapter 2: Getting Started – How to set up a free or Pro SlideShare account, upload presentations, and share with others.
  • Chapter 3: Events and Public Speaking – How to get more comfortable speaking before an audience (start small), how to be well prepared, and how to publicize your presentation.
  • Chapter 4: Content Marketing – You have many options, and SlideShare supports documents, PDFs, videos, and audio files, as well as slide presentations.
  • Chapter 5: Sell, Sell, Sell – How to make the most of encounters with buyers “short on time,” which now includes just about everybody.
  • Chapter 6: Research and Collaboration – Researching what’s available on SlideShare and using the site to collaborate with others.
  • Chapter 7: Recruiting, Hiring, and Getting Hired – How a visual résumé and portfolio can supplement a traditional résumé or curriculum vitae to produce a “full professional presence.”
  • Chapter 8: Organizational Outreach and Communication – Offers case studies and presentation how-to tips for startups, nonprofits, journalists, and government agencies.

One thing not covered in detail is “presentation design guidance.” The authors leave that area to other specialists. But you can get some good design ideas from many of the slides they present to illustrate their text.

If you are ready to try SlideShare or improve your skills at using it, Present Yourself can be a handy, helpful go-to guide for getting things done.

Si Dunn

Book Briefs: Four Works of Fiction & Nonfiction from the American Southwest – #bookreview

A Texas Jubilee: Thirteen Stories from the Lone Star State
James Ward Lee
(TCU Press – paperback, Kindle)

James Ward Lee, former English department chairman at the University of North Texas, has earned his membership in the Texas Literary Hall of Fame the hard way. He has written numerous books, short stories and other well-received works.

A Texas Jubilee, his entertaining and absorbing new short story collection, focuses on life in fictitious Bodark Springs, a small East Texas town, in the 1930s and 1940s.

The interconnected stories often have colorful characters, richly detailed local conflicts, and troubling events such as the arrival of an aged man claiming to be Jesse James and the occasional appearance of a bike messenger who delivers World War II death-notice telegrams. One of the best stories, “A Blue and Gray Christmas,” reflects on a grandmother’s early childhood memories of the Civil War.

Unsolved Mysteries of the Old West
W.C. Jameson
(Taylor Trade – paperback, Kindle)

Many of  writer and treasure hunter W.C. Jameson’s books and articles have entertained readers who love “the Old West and a good mystery.” This second edition contains 21 “baffling” tales that still stir up people’s imaginations and sometimes continue a few disputes.

One of the best of the “unsolved mysteries” in Jameson’s book involves an alien spacecraft that may–or may not–have crashed north of Fort Worth, Texas, in 1897, in the tiny town of Aurora.

On the Edge: Water, Immigration and Politics in the Southwest
Char Miller
(Trinity University Press – paperback, Kindle)

The American Southwest is a hotbed of water-supply controversies and immigration disputes, plus sharp political clashes over how to deal with both major issues.

In On the Edge, former Trinity University history professor Char Miller’s taut, insightful essays zero in on “the American Southwest, a region I have known, loved and misunderstood.” He reflects on San Antonio and Los Angeles and what is happening to “the borderlands that stretch between them.”

He puts special emphasis on sustainability and “the environmental pressures, judicial struggles, social injustices, and economic disparities that have troubled the communities I have resided in.”

Our Lost Border: Essays on Life Amid the Narco-Violence
Edited by Sarah Cortez and Sergio Troncoso
(Arte Publico Press – paperback)

Mexico’s gruesome narcotics wars and heightened U.S. border security efforts have disrupted many economic, cultural and personal ties between the American Southwest and Mexico.

This  eye-opening book’s 12 bilingual essays highlight key losses, including the casual ease with which tourists used to cross the border. One writer notes: “The typical American tourist (including Mexican Americans) had no passport; it wasn’t needed. They often did not plan ahead. People walked or drove across the border at El Paso/Ciudad Juarez, San Diego/Tijuana and…Nogales/Nogales…and found a vibrant restaurant with delicious food and even better music. This happenstance border crossing allowed for adventures and exploring for the day….”

While some of the essays are dispiriting, hope also emerges within this important collection.

Si Dunn

Python Cookbook, 3rd Edition – Breaking Away from Python 2 to Python 3 – #programming #bookreview

Python Cookbook, 3rd Edition
David Beazley & Brian K. Jones
(O’Reilly – paperback, Kindle)

PYTHON 3 users will be very pleased with this new book. Those who still cling to Python 2 likely will not.

Even though “most working Python programmers continue to use Python 2 in production,” its authors concede, and “Python 3 is not backward compatible with past versions,” this third edition of the popular Python Cookbook is intended to be used only with Python 3.3 and above.

“Just as Python 3 is about the future, this edition…represents a major change over past editions,” Beazley and Jones state. “First and foremost, this is meant to be a very forward looking book. All of the recipes have been written and tested with Python 3.3 without regard to past Python versions or the ‘old way’ of doing things. In fact, many of the recipes will only work with Python 3.3 and above.”

THEIR “ultimate goal,” they point out, was “to write a book of recipes based on the most modern tools and idioms possible. It is hoped that the recipes can serve as a guide for people writing new code in Python 3 or those who hope to modernize existing code.”

The 687-page Python Cookbook, 3rd Edition is not intended for beginning programmers. However, beginners can learn a few things from it and keep the book on their shelves for future use as they gain experience with Python 3.

And, it can be a helpful guide if you are working to update some Python 2 code to Python 3. According to the authors, “many of the recipes aim to illustrate features that are new to Python 3 and more likely to be unknown to even experienced programmers using older versions.”

THE book offers 15 chapters of how-to recipes organized into the following major categories:

  1. Data Structures and Algorithms
  2. Strings and Text
  3. Numbers, Dates, and Times
  4. Iterators and Generators
  5. Files and I/O
  6. Data Encoding and Processing
  7. Functions
  8. Classes and Objects
  9. Metaprogramming
  10. Modules and Packages
  11. Network and Web Programming
  12. Concurrency
  13. Utility Scripting and Administration
  14. Testing, Debugging, and Exceptions
  15. C Extensions

Each of the approximately 260 recipes is presented using a “problem-solution-discussion” format. Here are a few recipe titles chosen at random:

  • “Combining and Concatenating Strings”
  • “Reformatting Text to a Fixed Number of Columns”
  • “Bypassing Filename Encoding”
  • “Iterating over the Index-Value Pairs of a Sequence”
  • “Capturing Variables in Anonymous Functions”
  • “Implementing Stateful Objects or State Machines”
  • “Enforcing an Argument Signature on *args and **kwargs”
  • “Creating Custom Exceptions”
  • “Writing a Simple C Extension Module”

SOME of the book’s code examples are complete. But others, the authors caution, “are often just skeletons that provide essential information for getting started, but which require the reader to do more research to fill in the details.”

If you are serious about Python and keeping pace with its progress, you should seriously consider getting this excellent how-to book.

Si Dunn

Creating Mobile Apps with jQuery Mobile – A good & wide-ranging how-to guide – #programming #bookreview

Creating Mobile Appls with jQuery Mobile
Shane Gliser
(Packt Publishing – paperback, Kindle)

The long tagline on the cover of Shane Gliser’s new book deftly sums up its contents:  “Learn to make practical, unique, real-world sites that span a variety of industries and technologies with the world’s most popular mobile development library.”

Gliser unabashedly describes himself as a jQuery “fanboy…if it’s officially jQuery, I love it.” He is an experienced mobile developer and blogger who operates Roughly Brilliant Digital Studios. He also has some background in mobile UX (user experience).

Both aspects of that background serve him well in his smoothly written, nicely illustrated how-to book that zeroes in on jQuery Mobile, a  “touch-optimized” web framework for smartphones and tablets.

You may be surprised when you extract the 234-page book’s code examples and related items and find that the ZIP file is almost 100MB in size. Gliser covers a lot of ground in his 10 chapters. And each chapter contains a project.

Still, what you don’t do in the first chapter, “Prototyping jQuery Mobile,” is work at a computer. In the true spirit of UX, Gliser has you start first with a pen and some 3×5 note cards. Your goal is to rough out some designs for a jQuery Mobile website for a new pizzeria.

Why the ancient technology? “We are more willing to simply throw out a drawing that took less than 30 seconds to create,” Gliser writes. Otherwise, it’s too easy to stay locked into one design while trying different ways to make its code work. And: “Actually sketching by hand uses a different part of the brain and unlocks our creative centers.”

Best of all, working first with paper sketches enables team members who are not coders to contribute some comments, suggestions, and corrections for the emerging design.

In Chapter 2, “A Mom-and-Pop Mobile Website,” you step over to your computer with the paper prototype in hand and start converting the final design “into an actual jQuery Mobile (jQM) site that acts responsively and looks unique.” You also begin building “a configurable server-side PHP template,” and you work with custom fonts, page curl effects using CSS, and other aspects of creating and optimizing a mobile site.

“Mobile is a very unforgiving environment,” Gliser cautions, “and some of the tips in this section will make more difference than any of the ‘best coding practices.’” Indeed,  he wants you to be aware of optimization “at the beginning. You are going to do some awesome work and I don’t want you or your stakeholders to think it’s any less awesome, or slow, or anything else because you didn’t know the tricks to squeeze the most performance out of your systems. It’s never too early to impress people with the performance of your creations.”

Chapter 3, “Analytics, Long forms, and Front-end Validation,” moves beyond “dynamically link[ing] directly into the native GPS systems of iOS and Android.” Instead, Gliser introduces how to work with Google static maps, Google Analytics, long and multi-page forms, and jQuery Validate. As for static maps, he says, “Remember to always approach things from the user’s perspective. It’s not always about doing the coolest thing we can.” Indeed, a static map may be all the user needs to decide whether to drive to a business, such as a pizzeria, or just call for delivery. And, as for Google Analytics: “Every website should have analytics. If not, it’s difficult to say how many people are hitting your site, if we’re getting people through our conversion funnels, or what pages are causing people to leave our site.”

Meanwhile, desktop users are familiar with (and frequently irritated by) long forms and multi-page forms. Lengthy forms can be real deal-breakers for users trying to negotiate them on mobile devices. The author presents some ways to shorten long forms and break them “into several pages using jQuery Mobile.” And he emphasizes the importance of using the jQuery Validate plug-in to add validation to any page that has a form, so the user can see quickly and clearly that an entry has a problem.

The focus in Chapter 4, “QR Codes, Geolocation, Google Maps API, and HTML5 Video,” is on handling concepts that can be “applied to any business that has multiple physical locations.” Gliser uses a local movie theater chain as his development example. A site is created that makes use of QR codes, geolocation, Google Maps, and linking to YouTube movie previews. Then, he shows how to use embedded video to keep users on the movie chain’s site rather than sending them off to YouTube.

In Chapter 5, the goal is “to create an aggregating news site based off social media.” So the emphasis shifts to “Client-side Templating, JSON APIs, and HTML5 Web Storage.” Notes Gliser: “Honestly, from a purely pragmatic perspective, I believe that the template is the perfect place for code. The more flexible, the better. JSON holds the data and the templates are used to transform it. To draw a parallel, XML is the data format and XSL templates are used to transform. Nobody whines about logic in XSL; so I don’t see why it should be a problem in JS templates.”

Next, he shows how to patch into Twitter’s JSON API to get “the very latest set of trending topics” and “whittle down the response to only the part we want…and pass that array into JsRender for…well…rendering” in a manner that will be “a lot cleaner to read and maintain” than looping through JSON and using string concatenation to make the output.

Other topics in Chapter 5 include programmatically changing pages in jQuery Mobile, understanding how jQuery Mobile handles generated pages and Document Object Model (DOM) weight management, and working with RSS feeds. Gliser points out that there is still “a lot more information out there being fed by RSS feeds than by JSON feeds.” The chapter concludes with looks at how to use HTML5 web storage (it’s simple, yet it can get “especially tricky on mobile browsers”), and how to leverage the Google Feed API. Says Gliser: “The Google Feeds [sic] API can be fed several options, but at its core, it’s a way to specify an RSS or ATOM feed and get back a JSON representation.”

Chapter 6 jumps into “the music scene. We’re going to take the jQuery Mobile interface and turn it into a media player, artist showcase, and information hub that can be saved to people’s home screens,” Gliser writes. He proceeds to show how “ridiculously simple it can be to bring audio into your jQuery Mobile pages.” And he explains how to use HTML5 manifest “and a few other meta tags” to save an app to the home screen. Furthermore, he discusses how to test mobile sites using “Google Chrome (since its WebKit) or IE9 (for the Windows Phone)” as browsers that are shrunken down to mobile size. “Naturally, this does not substitute for real testing,” he cautions. “Always check your creations on real devices. That being said, the shrunken browser approach will usually get you 97.5 percent of the way there. Well…HTML5 Audio throws that operating model right out the window.”

Since “mobile phones are quickly becoming our photo albums,” Gliser’s Chapter 7, “Fully Responsive Photography,” shows first how to create a basic gallery using Photoswipe. Then, in a section focused on “supporting the full range of device sizes,” he explains how to start using responsive web design (RWD), “the concept of making a single page work for every device size.” The issues, of course, range from image sizes and resolutions to text sizes and character counts per line, on screens as small as smart phones and tablets, or larger.

In Chapter 8, “Integrating jQuery Mobile into Existing Sites,” three topics are key: (1) “Detecting mobile – server-side, client-side, and the combination of the two”; (2) “Mobilizing full site pages – the hard way”; and (3) Mobilizing full site pages – the easy way.” Gliser avoids some potential “geek war” controversies over “browser sniffing versus feature detection” when detecting mobile devices. He zeroes in first on detection using WURFL for “server-side database-driven browser sniffing.” He also shows how to do JavaScript-based browser sniffing, which he concedes may be “the worst possible way to detect mobile but it does have its virtues,” especially if your budget is small and you want to exclude older devices that can’t handle some new JavaScript templating. He also describes JavaScript-based feature detection using Modernizer and some other feature-detection methods.

As for mobilizing full-site pages “the hard way,” he states that there is really “only one good reason: to keep the content on the same page so that the user doesn’t have one page for mobile and one page for desktop. When emails and tweets and such are flying around, the user generally doesn’t care if  they’re sending out the mobile view or the desktop view and they shouldn’t.” He focuses on how “it’s pretty easy to tell what parts of a site would translate to mobile” and how to add data attributes to existing tags “to mobilize them. When jQuery’s libraries are not present on the page, these attributes will simply sit there and cause no harm. Then you can use one of our many detection techniques to decide when to throw the jQM libraries in.”

Mobilizing full-size pages “the easy way” involves, in his view, “nothing easier and cleaner than just creating a standalone jQuery Mobile page…and simply import the page we want with AJAX. We can then pull out the parts we want and leave the rest.” His code samples show how to do this.

Chapter 9, “Content Management Systems and jQM” looks at the pros and cons of using three different content management systems (CMS) with jQuery Mobile: WordPress, Drupal, and Adobe Experience Manager. “The key to get up and running quickly with any CMS is, realizing which plugins and themes to use,” Gliser writes.  He also explains how to use mobile theme switchers.

Drupal offers some standard plugins that provide contact forms, CAPTCHA, and custom database tables and forms, and enable you to “create full blown web apps, not just brochureware sites,” he notes. But: “The biggest downside to Drupal is that it has a bit of a learning curve if you want to tap its true power, Also, without some tuning, it can be a little slow and can really bloat your page’s code.” .

As for Adobe Experience Manager (AEM), Gliser merely introduces it as a “premier corporate CMS” and a “major CMS player that comes with complete jQuery Mobile examples.” He doesn’t show “how to install, configure, or code for AEM. That’s a subject for several training manuals the size of this book.”

Chapter 10, the final chapter, is titled “Putting It All Together — Flood.FM.” Using what you’ve learned in the book (including prototyping the interfaces on paper first), you create “a website where listeners will be greeted with music from local, independent bands across several genres and geographic regions.” Along the way, Gliser introduces Balsamiq, “a very popular UX tool for rapid prototyping.” He discusses using Model-View-Controller (MVC), Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM), and Model-View-Whatever (MV*) development structures with jQuery Mobile. He shows how to work with the Web Audio API , and he illustrates how to prompt users to download the Flood.FM app to their home screens. He finishes up with brief discussions of accelerometers, cameras, “APIs on the horizon,” plus “To app or not to app, that is the question” and whether you should compile an app or not. Finally, he shows PhoneGap Build, the “cloud-based build service for PhoneGap.”

Bottom line: Shane Gliser’s book covers a lot of  useful ground for those who are ready to learn jQuery Mobile.

Si Dunn