Art of BI: Avoid Subjective Statements and Hyperbole Or Lose Everyone – Lessons from Writing a Technical Book

By | In Art of BI | August 03rd, 2012

As we were reaching the final editing process of the Oracle BI 11g book, I took a few minutes to reflect on the writing process that seems to have taken much longer than anticipated. This is often how it goes, right? Something taking longer than we originally perceive it might. “We’ll have this cranked out in three to four months!” I believe I said early on in the process. Don’t get me started on my theory of “Intellectual Vanity” – I’ll save that for another rant. I can manage IT projects all day long with near spot-on accuracy but that’s only because I’ve had years of experience doing it. This was my first go at writing a book but I’m sure I’ll get better at that as time goes on and a few books are in the suitcase.

While it is fresh in my mind I wanted to jot down and share some of the lessons learned from writing the Oracle BI 11g book. This was my first book and it probably won’t be the last due to the theory of Intellectual Vanity in addition to the belief that I couldn’t possible encounter any of the stumbling blocks encountered on this first book when attempting a second or third.  I wonder how many authors fall into that trap.  I will disclaim that Shakespeare or Walter Isaacson I am not.  These are merely the noted observations of a participant and sometimes bystander of a book written on a single technical subject that we are passionate about.

  • Write a book with others; co-author at least in some capacity as motivation and many hands is a great thing
  • Get to the point quickly when writing
  • Avoid subjective statements (Just the facts maam – Just the facts!)
  • Write with passion
  • Know the material or learn it fast (We are pros but writing makes you learn the subject even better)
  • Write the technical parts for a fifth grader (clarity and consistency is everything)
  • Inject humor only if you’ve made a solid point.
  • Give other people and groups props where due.
    • No one person does every thing alone or in a vacuum.  At some point in time you read something enlightening, someone gave you a job, a URL to some tip, or a kick in the ass.  Mention that person, place, or thing.  Its just good karma. Plus the reader knows that you don’t know everything so just get over it.
  • Just avoid blatant hyperbole
  • For God’s sake, step through the exercise after writing them
  • Use technology to make your life easier (ex: GitHub, SnagIt, etc.)
  • Backup everything – twice (DropBox was our saving grace on this book)
  • Get good technical/book reviewers (Kevin, Daan, Ramke, What’s up?)
  • Make sure the editor plans on marketing the book

Officially filed under levity this post is!

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Christian Screen
Christian is an innovator in analytics and data warehousing design, best practices, and delivery. With more than fifteenyears of decision support and data warehousing with key experiences at Office Depot HQ, Sierra-Cedar, and Capgemini, he oversees the Oracle Analytics Practice which includes the technical development and delivery of Oracle BI collaboration software, data warehouse solutions, Oracle BI/EPM projects, and packaged analytics solutions at Datavail.

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