The Curse of the Delta

Let’s say you are a fresh college graduate who wants to get into managing Active Directory or Exchange or something like that.  Or maybe you’re a seasoned veteran in one technology but you want to expand your knowledgebase into another area. 

Question:  Where do you start?

Many of you, no doubt, already see where I’m going with this.  It’s been hard to learn that other/new technology because buying the latest book on that technology assumes you have read all the previous editions of that book so it only discusses the changes and new features – the Delta – of the product or technologyThe latest book on the latest version of a technology rarely covers the beginning stuff at all.  So if you want to learn, for example, Active Directory then you may find yourself reading stuff from the Windows 2000 days to find a beginning.  But today the latest version of Windows is Windows Server 2008 R2 and that’s what your employer uses.  So now you are reading Windows 2000 documentation and trying to apply that knowledge to Windows Server 2008 R2 and, of course, by now all the tools you would use according to the Windows 2000 documentation have changed or over gone entire overhauls or may have been deprecated and replaced with new stuff in the latest version since 2000.  So, unless you were one of those guys that were with that technology from the beginning and stuck with it all the way through, you’re going to get lost.

Many books are like that.  They assume you used the 200x version before you bought the 201x version.  A good example is Mark Minasi’s audio CD sets on Windows.  If you buy the Windows Server 2008 R2 audio CD set, found here, on the very first CD Mark makes it very clear that you must listen to the Windows Server 2008 audio CD set (found here) if you have no experience with that previous operating system because the Windows Server 2008 R2 stuff builds on what you already know of the Windows Server 2008 stuff.  If you want to learn how to debug blue screens in Windows, you have to go back further and get his Windows XP CD set (found here).  For those of us who started off on Windows 2000, this is no big deal since we are just following along all the way.  But for those jumping on the technology for the first time because we are either fresh out of college or from another field, well, you see the problem.  You have to wade through 12 years of different documentations and so forth and so on and mend it all together at once.

Now, let me be clear about something.  I’m not criticizing Mark Minasi.  Mark has been, is currently, and forever will be a great guy in my book and a good friend.  I swear by Mark and I highly recommend his books and audio courses to all IT professionals.  Mark is not a perpetrator of the Curse of the Delta, he is a victim of it like you and I just on the other side of the fence.  Let me explain. 

Let’s say you are Mark Minasi and you are about to record the audio CD set for Windows Server 2008 R2.  What’s the first thing you are going to do:  You are going to ask yourself who your target audience is.  And now we have hit our problem.  How do you draw the line between the newbies and those who have been loyal followers for the past DECADE?  See, the loyal followers who have been there all along don’t want to spend money on a CD set that’s going to explain the fundamentals of DHCP or DNS to them.  They’ve known that for years.  They want to know what’s new about DHCP and DNS which, by the way, doesn’t help you.  You, who by definition of being a newbie, doesn’t even know how to install DHCP or DNS much less how to administer it, much even more less how to use its latest features in the latest version of Windows. 

And that, as you can see, is the Curse of the Delta.  There is so much new stuff to cover in the latest versions of new technologies that there simply is no room for the newbie stuff.  Authors can’t take the chance on upsetting their loyal fan base that has provided the living they’ve enjoyed for years by covering all kinds of material that same loyal fan base already knows. 

For the time being, I see no solution to this hard problem.  I know for a fact that if Mark released a book or audio CD set on “DNS Fundamentals” that I wouldn’t by it since I already know that beginner stuff.  So, do you stick with the loyal following that has served you well or do you take the chance that there might be enough newbies out there to make a good sale?  This is a good question and I just don’t see an answer.


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