The Data Journalism Handbook – Get new skills for a new career that’s actually in demand – #bookreview

The Data Journalism Handbook: How Journalists Can Use Data to Improve the News
Edited by Jonathan Gray, Liliana Bounegru, and Lucy Chambers
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

Arise, ye downtrodden, unemployed newspaper and magazine writers and editors yearning to be working again as journalists. Data journalism apparently is hiring.

Data journalism? I didn’t know, either, until I read this intriguing and hopeful collection of essays, how-to reports, and case studies written by journalists now working as, or helping train, data journalists in the United States and other parts of the world.

Data journalism, according to Paul Bradshaw of Birmingham City University, combines “the traditional ‘nose for news’ and ability to tell a compelling story with the sheer scale and range of digital information now available.”

Traditional journalists should view that swelling tide of information not as a mind-numbing, overwhelming flood but ”as an opportunity,” says Mirko Lorenz of Deutsche Welle. “By using data, the job of journalists shifts its main focus from being the first ones to report to being the ones telling us what a certain development actually means.”

He adds: “Data journalists or data scientists… are already a sought-after group of employees, not only in the media. Companies and institutions around the world are looking for ‘sense makers’ and professionals who know how to dig through data and transform it into something tangible.”

So, how do you transform yourself from an ex-investigative reporter now working at a shoe store into a prizewinning data journalist?

A bit of training. And, a willingness to bend your stubborn brain in a few new directions, according to this excellent and eye-opening book.

Yes, you may still be able to use the inverted-pyramid writing style and the “five W’s and H” you learned in J-school. But more importantly, you will now need to show you have some good skills in (drum roll, please)…Microsoft Excel.

That’s it? No, not quite.

Google Docs, SQL, Python, Django, R, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, screen scrapers, graphics packages – these are just a few more of the working data journalists’ favorite things. Skills in some these, plus a journalism background, can help you become part of a team that finds, analyzes and presents information in a clear and graphical way.

 You may dig up and present accurate data that reveals, for example, how tax dollars are being wasted by a certain school official, or how crime has increased in a particular neighborhood, or how extended drought is causing high unemployment among those who rely on lakes or rivers for income.

You might burrow deep into publically accessible data and come up with a story that changes the course of a major election or alters national discourse.

Who are today’s leading practitioners of data journalism? The New York Times, the Texas Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, the BBC, Zeit Online, and numerous others are cited in this book.

The Data Journalism Handbook grew out of MozFest 2011 and is a project of the European Journalism Centre and the Open Knowledge Foundation.

This book can show you “how data can be either the course of data journalism or a tool with which the story is told—or both.”

If you are looking for new ways to use journalism skills that you thought were outmoded, The Data Journalism Handbook can give you both hope and a clear roadmap toward a possible new career.

Si Dunn

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MOS Study Guide for Microsoft Office 365 – MOS Exam 77-891, Coming Soon – #bookreview

MOS Study Guide for Microsoft Office 365
John Pierce
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $11.99)

 A Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) is someone who has, according to the author, “demonstrated proficiency by passing a certification exam in one or more Microsoft Office applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, and OneNote, as well as SharePoint and Office 365.”

If you specifically want to earn a Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification in Microsoft Office 365, John Pierce’s new book is the official study guide for the test.

This 205-page book covers Office 365 MOS Exam 77-891, which will be released sometime in fall 2012.

The study guide is divided into four chapters that are well-organized, cleanly written, and adequately illustrated. The chapters are:

  • Navigating Office 365
  • Communicating by Using Office 365 Outlook Web App
  • Communicating by Using Lync Online
  • Managing Sites in SharePoint Online

Pierce states that the Outlook Web App and SharePoint Online provide “the foundation for your team site” when using Office 365 in a multiuser environment. The Outlook Web App “is the online version of the desktop e-mail, scheduling, and contact management application.” SharePoint’s uses include “managing shared content, tracking tasks, posting announcements, and managing business workflows.” Lync Online, meanwhile, is an excellent tool “for collaborating on content in real time,” as well as sending emails or instant messages.

“Candidates for MOS-level certification are expected to successfully complete a wide range of standard business tasks,” Pierce says, and “[s]uccessful candidates generally have six or more months of experience with a specific Office application, including either formal, instructor-led training or self-study using MOS-approved books, guides or interactive computer-based materials.”

Even if you use Office 365 in a one-person small business, or if you have not yet decided to pursue an Office 365 certification, this inexpensive book can help you get a solid handle on how to use the product’s three key online applications.

Purchasers of MOS Study Guide for Microsoft Office 365 are offered a 25% discount on the MOS 77-891 exam fee from Certiport.

Si Dunn

Security and Privacy for Microsoft Office 2010 Users – #bookreview #in

Security and Privacy for Microsoft Office 2010 Users
Mitch Tulloch
(Microsoft Press,
paperback, list price $9.99; Kindle edition, $0.00)
 

If you work for a company that uses Microsoft Office products, or if you have them in your own business, you may be concerned about security and privacy as you publish documents, download documents or collaborate on projects online. Indeed, there may be formal security and privacy restrictions in place.

At the same time, because of workload, you may have little time for formal training in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. And you may not get much guidance on how you are supposed to comply with your employer’s restrictions. Indeed, you may be required and expected to just learn this stuff on your own.

This handy 84-page guidebook can help. Using typical office scenarios, it covers a number of everyday topics. These include working with Protected View, removing private information from documents, signing documents digitally, marking documents as final so they can’t be modified, encrypting documents, password-only access to documents, and restricting who can edit a document.

Security and Privacy for Microsoft Office 2010 Users is recommended for intermediate-level users of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. But the examples and illustrations are clear enough for Microsoft Office newcomers, as well.

Si Dunn

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SharePoint 2010 for Project Management, 2nd Edition – #bookreview

SharePoint 2010 for Project Management, 2nd Edition
By Dux Raymond Sy
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $44.99; Kindle edition, list price $34.99)

Project management now provides the top use of Microsoft SharePoint 2010, and this updated edition quickly jumps straight into using SharePoint to create and run a Project Management Information System (PMIS). 

The book is written and structured for those “not interested in the nitty-gritty technical details of SharePoint,” the author says. His work “is focused on helping you leverage SharePoint for project management regardless of what industry you are in.”

And he emphasizes: “If you are interested in using SharePoint to deploy a corporate portal, create an ecommerce website, or develop a proprietary SharePoint application, this is not the book for you.”

In organizations large and small and even for individual users, “[t]he main purpose of SharePoint is to empower users with document management and team collaboration tools,” the author notes.  He points out that “SharePoint does not refer to a specific product or technology. Using the phrase ‘Microsoft SharePoint’ is like using the phrase ‘Microsoft Office.” It refers to several aspects of collaborative solutions.”

 This new edition is aimed at project managers, project team members, program managers, IT/IS directors and SharePoint consultants.

The 209-page book has nine chapters:

  • 1. Project Kickoff
  • 2. Setting Up the PMIS
  • 3. Adding PMIS Components
  • 4. Adding Stakeholders to the PMIS
  • 5. Supporting Team Collaboration
  • 6. Project Tracking
  • 7. Project Reporting
  • 8. Integrating PM Tools
  • 9. Project Closing

SharePoint 2010 for Project Management, 2nd Edition is well-written and tightly focused, with how-to instructions and illustrations on nearly every page.  It also provides a case study so readers can practice applying PMIS skills in SharePoint.

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Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. His latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle.

Send in the Clouds: 2 New SharePoint 2010 Books from Microsoft Press – #bookreview

Microsoft Press recently has released two new books intended to help attract and train more users of  its SharePoint 2010 software and services. 

SharePoint is Microsoft’s suite of software tools designed to help “make it easier for people work together,” whether they are in the same office or scattered around the planet.

One of the new books focuses on SharePoint Foundation 2010, “the software that will get organizations started using SharePoint.” It is aimed at readers who “need to understand how to accomplish what they need to do.”

The other book is intended “primarily for IT professionals, IT architects, and IT decisions makers who want to understand the capabilities of SharePoint in the cloud….”

Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 Inside Out
By Errin O’Connor, Penelope Coventry, Tony Lanphier, Jonathan Lightfoot,
Thomas Resing and Michael Doyle

(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $49.99; Kindle edition, list price $39.99)

Microsoft SharePoint is a suite of tools that enables an organization or business to “share, exchange, and distribute information to their employees, partners, shareholders, and customers.” The software “is designed around an easy-to-use web-based interface that is fully integrated with Microsoft Office,” the six authors say.

If you are completely new to SharePoint Foundation 2010, read two easier books first,  Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Plain & Simple and Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 Step-by-Step. Then tackle this “Inside Out” book.

This new “Inside Out” edition is intended “for readers who have some experience with SharePoint Foundation 2010 and are fairly comfortable finding their way around the product,” the authors emphasize.

SharePoint 2010 has been termed a significant improvement over earlier versions, and the “entry-level component,” SharePoint Foundation 2010, can be downloaded free from Microsoft.

The authors point out that “[y]ou don’t need to be a programmer (although it is helpful) to use the building blocks in SharePoint 2010. Even without using code, you can create highly customized business solutions in a matter of minutes.”

SharePoint Foundation 2010 “provides a robust collection of services that can be used to build powerful web solutions.” And: “It forms the basis for a number of other SharePoint products such as SharePoint Server 2010 and Office 365,which incorporates Microsoft’s SharePoint 2010 cloud-based solution, called SharePoint Online.”

Microsoft hopes, of course, that you will move up from “free” to “paying customer” once you begin to understand SharePoint’s many possibilities beyond Foundation.

The 760-page book is well-written, adequately illustrated, and follows a progression where “the early chapters concentrate on what you can achieve by using the browser; later chapters detail features from the perspective of the power-end user, administrator, and developer.”

The 16 chapters are:

  1. Introduction to Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010
  2. Administration for Business Users
  3. End-User Features and Experience
  4. Creating Sites and Workspaces by Using the Browser
  5. Designing Lists and Libraries
  6. Creating and Formatting Webpages
  7. Adding, Editing, Connecting, and Managing Web Parts on the Page
  8. Managing Site Content
  9. Working with External Content
  10. Using and Creating Workflows
  11. Integrating SharePoint with Microsoft Office 2010
  12. Taking Lists and Libraries Offline
  13. Managing Site Settings
  14. Creating, Managing, and Designing Sites by Using SharePoint Designer 2010
  15. Customizing the User Interface
  16. Developing SharePoint Solutions by Using Visual Studio 2010

The “Web Parts” in the Chapter 7 title refer to “a key component of any SharePoint installation.” A Web Part either receives input or displays content or sometimes does both. One example given is a module that displays weather information. A user can change the weather display’s city or ZIP code without affecting any other users visiting the site.

If you buy the paperback, you are also given a link where you can download a “fully searchable companion ebook” in PDF format, and the ebook periodically is updated.

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Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Deploying Cloud-Based Solutions
By Phillip Wicklund
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $34.99)

“Of all the great benefits of SharePoint in the cloud…business agility may be the most compelling cloud driver yet,” writes Phillip Wicklund in his new book.

“Consider time-to-market. With SharePoint in the cloud, you can literally have a cloud-based collaboration site spun up and ready for use within an hour of reading this sentence.”

This book should be on your reading list if you are helping a company decide whether – and how – to migrate to the public cloud, or a private cloud, or a hybrid cloud, using SharePoint 2010.

In some business settings, Wicklund notes, “SharePoint can be tough to deploy and maintain, primarily because significant expertise and experience is required to do so successfully. Many companies can’t afford or (for other reasons) are unable to recruit the necessary talent. Because of this, taking SharePoint to the cloud is especially appealing to them. When in the cloud, they can essentially outsource that costly, time-consuming administrative overhead.”

Part of Wicklund’s book is devoted to introducing – and, no surprise, touting — Office 365.

A Microsoft website describes that company’s new Office 365 service as “familiar Microsoft Office collaboration and productivity tools delivered through the cloud. Everyone can work together easily with anywhere access to email, web conferencing, documents, and calendars. It includes business-class security and is backed by Microsoft.”

SharePoint Online, of course, is one of the services available through Office 365.

But, while costs go down when you migrate to the cloud, so do your levels of control and flexibility.

Yet, as this book notes, there are at least two types of cloud: public and private (where you can hold onto more control). And it is possible, using SharePoint 2010, to work in both clouds.

“By creating your own private cloud,” the author says, “you benefit from all the automation, scalability, reliability, and self-healing that any great cloud ought to provide.”

Wicklund’s book is divided into three major parts and 11 chapters.

Part 1 is “Introducing SharePoint in the Cloud.” The chapters are:

  • Chapter 1: Introducing Microsoft SharePoint Online
  • Chapter 2: Office 365 Feature Overview
  • Chapter 3: Planning for SharePoint Online

Part 2 is “Deploying SharePoint in the Public Cloud.” Its chapters are:

  • Chapter 4: Administering SharePoint Online
  • Chapter 5: Identity Management and Authentication
  • Chapter 6: Migrating to SharePoint Online
  • Chapter 7: Introduction to Customizing and Developing in SharePoint Online

Part 3 is “Deploying SharePoint in the Private Cloud.” The chapters are:

  • Chapter 8: Introduction to Creating a Private Cloud
  • Chapter 9: Introducing Multitenancy in SharePoint 2010
  • Chapter 10: Configuring Tenant-Aware Service Applications
  • Chapter 11: Configuring Tenant-Aware Site Collections

The term “multitenancy” in Chapter 9 is definined first in terms of an apartment complex where individuals live in private spaces but share the complex’s resources. In SharePoint, the term relates to “data isolation, delegated aministration, and delegated configuration.” You can “‘host’ multiple department or customer sites, for example, within the same infrastructure and farm, whereby you can guarantee autonomy and isolation among those ‘tenants’ of your SharePoint farm,” Wicklund writes.

“Each department has its own set of site collections that they can centrally manage and administrate.”

The 448-page book has one appendix titled “Server, Online SharePoint, and Online Dedicated Compared.” It has a well-detailed index. And the code samples can be downloaded from a Microsoft site.

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SharePoint is not a product that fits conveniently into one big how-to manual. If you are thinking of adding SharePoint to your business, or expanding how you use it, be prepared to consider getting several books, these two included.

Si Dunn

QuickBooks 2012: The Missing Manual – Solid Focus on Pro Edition – #bookreview

QuickBooks 2012: The Missing Manual
By Bonnie Biafore
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $34.99; Kindle, list price, $27.99)

 In late September, Intuit released the 2012 versions of its popular QuickBooks financial software. Just a month later, O’Reilly Media was hot on Intuit’s heels with QuickBooks 2012: The Missing Manual, a new entry in O’Reilly’s popular “The book that should have been in the box®” series.

Written by veteran author and project management consultant Bonnie Biafore, this new guidebook provides clear, well-illustrated, step-by-step instructions on how to use the Windows edition of QuickBooks 2012 Pro, the most popular version of Intuit’s product, particularly in small businesses.

The 734-page book also gives some basic how-to information and advice on accounting – enough to get you past some confusing stumbling blocks as you set up a business and its accounts, but not enough to substitute for real training in accounting and keeping books.

“QuickBooks isn’t hard to learn,” the author says. “Many of the features that you’re familiar with from other programs work just the same way in QuickBooks—windows, dialog boxes, drop-down lists, and keyboard shortcuts, to name a few. And with each new version, Intuit has added enhancements and new features to make your workflow smoother and faster. The challenge is knowing what to do according to accounting rules, and how to do it in QuickBooks.”

Two words of caution: This book does not cover non-USA versions of QuickBooks 2012 Pro. And, the author points out, “QuickBooks for Mac differs significantly from the Windows version, and unfortunately you won’t find help with the Mac version of the program in this book.”

QuickBooks 2012: The Missing Manual is divided into five parts containing a total of 26 chapters and two appendices.

Part One covers “Getting Started.” It starts with “Creating a Company File” and “Getting Around in QuickBooks” and advances to setting up accounts, customers, jobs, vendors, items, lists, and managing QuickBooks files.

Part Two’s focus is “Bookkeeping,” and its chapters covers everything from tracking mileage to paying for expenses, invoicing, managing accounts receivable, generating financial statements and performing end-of-year tasks.

“Managing Your Business” is the focus of Part Three. The chapters cover managing inventory, budgeting and planning, and working with reports.

“QuickBooks Power” is the title of Part Four. It covers using QuickBooks with online banking services, configuring preferences in QuickBooks to fit your company, integrating QuickBooks with other programs (Excel integration has been improved in QB 2012), customizing QuickBooks, and keeping QuickBooks data secure.

Part Five contains two appendices: “Installing QuickBooks” and “Help, Support, and Other Resources.”

The book does not contain a CD, but it provides a link where “every single Web address, practice file, and piece of downloadable software mentioned In this book is available….”

QuickBooks 2012 Pro, according to the author, “is the workhorse edition” of a software package that is available “in a gamut of editions, offering options for organizations at both ends of the small-business spectrum.”

Her book is good enough that it can help you get a small business set up and off the ground while you are learning the QuickBooks 2012 Pro. But if you don’t have some solid background in bookkeeping and accounting, do not try to rely on the software alone to save you. Get the training any way you can, as soon as you can. And then, once you can afford it, hire good people to help you with the bookkeeping and accounting, while you focus on the bigger picture, using QuickBooks 2012’s budgeting, planning, forecast, report, contact synchronization, lead tracking, and to-do list features.

One other caution: QuickBooks has a specialized edition specifically for nonprofit organizations. It is more expensive than the Pro package. So some people try to save money and use the Pro package to manage a small nonprofit. But there can be confusions involving some of the terminology, transactions and reports. In this book, Bonnie Biafore provides “notes and tips about tracking nonprofit finances with QuickBooks Pro (or plain QuickBooks Premier)” and modifying the program’s standard reports to meet government requirements.

By the way, QuickBooks 2012: The Missing Manual can be used to learn features in earlier versions of QuickBooks. Of course, doing so and seeing what’s missing may convince you to upgrade.

Si Dunn

Microsoft OneNote 2010 Plain & Simple – #bookreview #training

Microsoft OneNote® 2010 Plain & Simple
By Peter Weverka
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $24.99 ;  Kindle  $9.99)

Employee training is one of the first things cut during an economic downturn. And in today’s long-depressed employment market, you are expected to learn many different software packages on your own, at your own expense, before you apply for a job.

The Microsoft Plain & Simple book series represents a good and affordable way to learn how to use Windows 7, Microsoft Office and several individual Office products, including PowerPoint, Word and Excel.

This new addition to the series, Microsoft OneNote® 2010 Plain & Simple, helps you jump right into using OneNote 2010 with little explanation and virtually no “computerese.”

Unfortunately, if you’ve never seen or used OneNote, you aren’t given a clear, concise statement of exactly what the program does, until page 16: “The purpose of OneNote is to make it easier for you to record, store, organize, and find notes.”

A feature called “the ribbon” also is mentioned several times before it finally is specifically defined on page 6: “The ribbon is the assortment of tabs, buttons, and commands that appear along the top of the OneNote screen.”

These minor flaws aside, Microsoft OneNote® 2010 Plain & Simple does a fine job of showing new users how to dive right into using the program and mastering its features. The book is richly illustrated with screens, clearly numbered steps, and tips boxes, plus “Try This!” exercises, “Caution!” statements and “See Also” suggestions.

Peter Weverka’s writing generally is clear and concise, and the book is divided into 20 chapters featuring small chunks of specific how-to information. The 241-page book also has a nicely detailed 15-page index.

OneNote 2010 has some screen changes and several new features that users of older versions may wish to learn, and this book can help.

“Unlike its predecessors, OneNote 2010 offer a Styles gallery for quickly formatting text and gives you the ability to create links between [OneNote] notebooks, sections, and pages so you can jump from place to place quickly,” the author notes.

“You can also dock OneNote to the side of the screen, which makes it easier to take notes from a Word document or web page.”

A new Page Versions command lets you summon older versions of a OneNote page. And the “Mini Translator” feature can translate a foreign word or phrase into English, and vice versa.

The Translation Options box displays all of the available To and From language pairs. If the language you need is not listed, a “Try This!” tip guides you to OneNote’s Research Task Pane, where you can find and add other languages.

“OneNote,” the author adds, works hand in glove with two other Microsoft Office 2010 applications: Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft Outlook 2010.”

For example, you can use Word 2010 to open a OneNote 2010 page, and “[a]ll formats except styles transfer to the Word page.” The OneNote page also can be saved as a Word document.

Meanwhile, you can create Outlook 2010 tasks in OneNote without having to open Outlook. “And you can get information about a meeting directly from Outlook as well,” Weverka points out.

“Outlook offers the OneNote button for copying data from Outlook to OneNote. After you select an email message, meeting, contact, or task in Outlook, you can click the OneNote button to copy the item to OneNote.” In the process, you also get “a link that you can click to return to Outlook when you need to.”

Small starting glitches aside, this new addition to the “Plain & Simple” series solidly lives up to its billing as an “easy, colorful, SEE-HOW guide to OneNote,” a software tool you may need to learn for your next job or your present job or for boosting your productivity in your self-employment.

Si Dunn