TITLE: Blogging When the Gifts Are Good AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: January 10, 2007 6:55 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Maybe if I had big companies bribing me to blog I would make more time in these busy days? The one sort of freebie that faculty tend to receive are examination copies of textbooks. Some publishers, especially the smaller ones and the highest-scale one, tend not to send unsolicited copies and expect you to return requested exam copies if you don't adopt the text. But some of the major CS-oriented publishers are quite generous. Sometimes you have to ask, either on-line, through a rep, or at a conference, but sometimes unsolicited copies flow freely. The most recent impetus was the advent of the Java intro and data structures texts. I long ago lost count of how many such texts I've examined, both requested and unsolicited. As Spolsky points out there is an ethical question at play. I think I've maintained a pretty healthy relationship with the textbook reps I've known, and I know some pretty well. A couple of my local reps have been serving my university for a long time, and some of the reps that work conferences such as OOPSLA and SIGCSE have been on that circuit for nearly as long as I. As long as I approach texts as potential adoptions, I can accept a copy for examination. As the text moves away from my core teaching areas, I begin to feel guilty about taking a book. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty even when a book lies right in my area of teaching -- if I really want the book. Somehow, getting something I really want for free seems wrong, even if there is a legitimate professional reason. Must have something to do with how I was raised. Of course, working at a relatively small school, I don't have much to offer publishers even if I adopt a textbook as a result of some gift or other freebie. If I taught 500-person sections at Mega State, then maybe... but my 35-person sections, even as an annuity over several years, don't amount to much revenue for anyone. Nor have I blogged many book reviews (or book crushes), and the size of my readership hardly makes me a target of Massive Consolidated Publishing. The one way that I could enrich myself in a meager way from all the unsolicited books is to sell them to one of the many book re-sellers than now troll our halls and inundate us with e-mail. I would never do that, because I want neither to gain financially from the books nor to encourage the book reseller business. If I do anything other than keep the book, I give it to a needy undergrad or grad student looking to do some extracurricular work. Someone can gain from the book that way. Perhaps I should return the book to the publisher, but I don't feel much of an incentive to spend my time undoing something that the publisher did on its own. My time is scarce enough as it is. I do have one book review that I plan to do sometime soon, on Chris Pine's Learn To Program. This is intended as an intro book -- the first? -- using Ruby. When I hesitantly sent Andy Hunt of the Pragmatic Bookshelf an e-mail asking for an exam copy, he sent me one immediately. We haven't had a chance to offer a Ruby-based intro programming course yet, so I couldn't adopt the book at the time. But it's interesting enough to talk about in public. If I do blog on it, I will be fair and as objective as possible. I owe you -- and myself -- that much. And I think Andy and Chris would want that to. In closing, I will recommend a piece of software, and the recommendation will expose me as an OS X guy. This probably eliminates whatever small chance I ever had of receiving, like Joel Spolsky, an offer to blog about a complementary "loaded Ferrari 1000 courtesy of Windows Vista and AMD". That is a risk I am willing to take. I send a lot of e-mail. I send a lot of e-mail with attachments. I cannot count all the times I have sent a message that said "Attached is ..." or the "See the attachment." and yet forgot to attach the file. Until a couple of months ago, this was an increasingly frequent and frustrating behavior of mine. The I discovered James Eagan's free Attachment Scanner Plugin for Mail.app. Problem solved. It recognizes every variation of "*attach*" that I've ever used, and every time it reminds me to attach the file if I haven't already. Paradise. The plug-in solved a major problem for me. It is free. And to top that, Eagan wrote a fine tutorial on how he decoded Mail.app's private plug-in and wrote his plug-in. That's more than I could have asked for! Mr. Eagan did not pay me to say that. -----