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gnat (29)

gnat
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Journal of gnat (29)

Friday October 05, 2001
09:07 PM

ORA

[ #890 ]
What an odd ramble from HappyFunBall. Here's some context.

O'Reilly just went through a round of layoffs, facing returns from distributors and a sagging market Tim made the hard decision to reduce the company to a size that the income can support. It was a miserable week or two at ORA, as you can imagine.

For that, we made Fucked Company. The "discussion" of the layoff seems to consist of a bunch of former employees calling Tim an incompetent evil egomaniac with no business sense. If you only read Fucked Company, you'd come away with a pretty distorted view of O'Reilly.

Those of you who know me well know that I do not stand for shit. I do not like dishonesty and misrepresentation. In my work with the conferences, I've kept marketing pitches out and technical quality up. Did anyone attend this year's ApacheCon and enjoy the "keynotes" that the big sponsors put on? That's what happens when people sell out, and I hate it and do not respect people who are a part of it. I would not remain at a company that felt that was okay.

I have not seen any of the horrible things that you might read on Fucked Company. I've seen a company founded by a bunch of hippies trying to do right by employees and customers through good times and bad. Tim didn't take ORA public during the Gold Rush. Sponsors don't get special keynote treatment at our conferences. We don't do books that plug one company's product.

It's quite frustrating to read the spit and foam on Fucked Company. It's so completely different from the company and people I know, I have trouble making the connection. It's easy to say "ah yes, naive Nat, but you don't know, maybe you're different". But FC is describing something so base and pathological that it should be obvious that something's wrong. But I honestly don't see that.

So much for FC. I had to get that off my chest. It pisses me off to see the masturbatory shakings of diseased dicks go unchallenged. I like O'Reilly, I'm proud to work here, and I wouldn't work here if I wasn't. End of story.

Now for the complaint about quality. I agree that O'Reilly has published a few stinkers. I've heard editors admit it. You'll be glad to know that the stinker factor should be on the decline. We're getting more aggressive about cancelling troubled books, instead of pushing ahead to try and make them work. 9 times out of 10 the troubles are systemic, not localized, and if they reach print then they're going to be a stinker. We used to try very hard to help an author and coax the book through to production, but we've realized that that's often counter-productive behavior. So, I confidently predict fewer stinkers.

Now on to the titles she mocks. I get the feeling from HappyFunBall's comments that she really just wishes O'Reilly existed to produce books for her. We certainly try to make books that system administrators will enjoy. We also try to make books that programmers will enjoy, that software users enjoy, and even in some cases books that the general public can enjoy (give your parents a copy of Database Nation, which has become all the more relevant since the terrorist attacks).

I have more perspective on this since I became an editor :-). I think that because a book doesn't appeal to HFB, she thinks it's bad. I think that's mistake. For example, Malicious Mobile Code (which she scorns) has a higher Amazon ranking than all of the books by Adrian Cockroft (which she praises). She thinks Ruby in a Nutshell would sell well? None of the existing Ruby books sell well. Picking a winning book isn't easy, and it certainly isn't as easy as "whatever HFB likes".

By the way, if any of you do know of a winning book idea, drop me a line at gnat@oreilly.com :-)

But enough about that. If anyone out there in the Boston area needs a Solaris admin, definitely get in touch with HFB. The work she's done for perl.org has been uncompromisingly good. She has very high standards, really knows her stuff, and is someone I'd want running my servers (heck, she is someone running my servers, and I'm damn happy about it!). She's smart, efficient, and very reliable. <shake grip=lapel>Hire her!</shake>

--Nat