Reading to Learn

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I just finished chapter 1 of Alastair Aitchison’snew book on SQL Server spatial data, “Beginning Spatial with SQL Server 2008.” If this is the beginners book… oh boy. The advanced book must be insane. Seriously though, Mr. Aitchison seems to have written a fantastic book. I’m going to tear through it as fast as I can because I’ve got two projects that are looking to start using spatial data and quite frankly, I’m a bit lost.

There’s a great discussiongoing on over at SSC as to the worth of technical books for DBA’s. It’s based on this editorialby Tony Davis. I’m surprised by the number of people who say they don’t use books. It seems that a lot more people use blogs and articles and discussion groups to learn. Maybe I’m showing my age a bit, but I don’t think a blog post or an article is going to get the depth and knowledge that Mr. Aitchison is displaying in this book. I know I’m regularly opening Kalen Delaney’s Inside SQL Server 2005 (and the new one for 2008┬ájust came out) to look up bits & pieces of information that just isn’t as readily available on the web. Also, it’s worth pointing out, except for the editing that comes from people who read this blog, no technical review is done of this information. I might be right about the things I post, but I could be VERY wrong. Same with any other blog you read, including blogs by the big names. Despite the errors that creep into books (and trust me, they do), books are very carefully scrutinized by multiple sets of eyes to try to catch those errors prior to publication. They miss some, but they try not to miss any. Few blogs are like that. Not that many technical publications are terribly strict about technical accuracy either. I generally find more good information in the right books than anywhere else.

End of rant. I need to get back to reading this excellent book.


  • In a rare situation for me, I didn’t comment on that editorial at SSC, but I’ll comment here. I find that, if I’m not sitting at a PC working through the bool, I just don’t get as much from a book as I think I should. I do use books for trying to get in-depth understanding, but I use blogs/on-line resources to get the solution for immediate, specific problems. OF course part of that is because the book is usually in the opposite place I am (home if I’m at work, and at work if I’m home.).

  • scarydba

    I agree with the problems with books. It makes me nuts when I start to reach up for a book only to remember that it’s at work. It is hard to learn from them without also having the computer there. Still, I’ll read them and make notes and then try stuff out on the machine when I can get to it.

  • I’m not sure how people can learn effectively using only articles and forums. Maybe it’s just me, but I tried to teach myself WPF with just online resources. After a couple weeks, I gave in and bought a book.

    The problem with articles and blogs is that they’re bitty. There’s no complete coverage from A-Z. Anyone learning using just those is going to end up with large holes in their knowledge, holes they’re not even aware of.

    The main value I get out of books (good, comprehensive books) is not to teach me the deep technical details, but to give me a broad view of the area. Once I know a little bit about the entire area, I can search for additional material (articles, blogs, newgroups, etc) to get the deep technical details, however I cannot search for technical details in an area I don’t know exists.

    That’s probably one reason we see so many really weird question on the forums from time to time. People have taught themselves from articles and blogs and are missing entire chunks of theory, worse they don’t even realise that they are missing those chunks

  • scarydba

    I agree. I was trying to learn the spatial operations on 2008 from articles & blog posts and it just wasn’t possible. There were assumptions of knowledge in all the articles I had found or the articles were so simplistic as to be useless. The book I’ve been reading is taking the time to lay a foundation from which I can grow and do more. That would have taken a lot longer just reading little blog posts and tiny technical articles.

OK, fine, but what do you think?