The Progress on My Book

Many, many people (at least two) have asked me about the progress on the book I'm writing. So I thought it would be interesting to give you an update. Most of you probably couldn't care less about any of the details in this post. But I'm sure that it will help some of you to keep asking me about my progress in the future. And I need that attention, because it keeps me going.

The idea behind my book is as follows: I like to write about managing software development. There are still lots of things I don't know, or don't understand, about managing creative people. So I try to learn from (and write about) complexity theory, social networking, and personal development, to become better at what I do. My book will be the result of what I learned, and it will be targeted at managers, and people taking other leading positions. To further increase its usefulness I will attempt to make the book big enough to be used as a monitor stand or door stopper. In fact, I hope it will be too heavy to pick up and throw away.

Here is the (rough) chapter outline of the book:

  1. Introduction
  2. Complexity Theory
  3. Motivate People
  4. Empower Teams
  5. Align Results
  6. Optimize Communication
  7. Enforce Discipline
  8. Restrain Growth
  9. Reduce Risk
  10. Measure Performance
  11. Evaluate Feedback
  12. Acquire Knowledge
  13. Manage Uncertainty
  14. Evolve Practices
  15. Multi-Project Environments

I will not claim to be contributing anything that wasn't already described by someone else. However, I do think that my book is going to be original in the number of topics selected, the way they are described, and the style that the book will be written in. In short: my book will be bigger, better, and funnier than others. And everything will be peer-reviewed by George, my invisible hamster. Even Mike Cohn doesn't have one. So there.

This is how I write:

I read lots and lots of books, blogs and (some) magazines. I make notes of quotes and ideas that make me think, or that might be useful for my book, and I carefully document those notes and references. The chapters of my book are (more or less) fixed, but the sub headings follow the emergent design principle. At some point I get tired of restructuring my notes, which means I'm done.

Example of some notes:

stronger connectivity means better spread of memes [New Scientist 27-12-2008 p.52-55]
behavior is strongly influenced by others [New Scientist 3-1-2009 p.24-27]
weak vs. strong connections [kelly 1994 p.95 p.99]
different connectivities per agent [gladwell 2000 p.36]
connectors [gladwell 2000 p.38]
mavens: different levels of information processing [gladwell 2000 p.63]
George Cowan = Connector [waldrop 1992 p.54]
connectivity [stacey 2000 p.114]

I do all of my writing in the form of blog posts:

  1. select a topic from my notes that I want to write about;
  2. re-read the pages and articles that I referred to in my notes;
  3. do some additional research on the web, when I feel like it;
  4. start writing a blog post, usually not knowing how it will end;
  5. make things up on the spot while trying to make sense of the world;
  6. add some metaphors, jokes, and pretty pictures;
  7. publish the blog post, and regularly check my mail to see if I haven't made a fool of myself;
  8. copy-paste the blog post into my book outline, replacing my notes;

And that's what I've been doing for about a year now. I keep track of my progress in a chart:


The sum of my blog posts is now 289 pages of raw text. For the first draft of my book I decided that I want to have between 30 and 40 pages of text per chapter, which means I need to write around 500 pages. My current velocity says I will reach that point in one year (April 30, 2010). The alpha version of my book will then be ready.

Because I'm sure you guys are not going to read a book that's got more than 400 pages, I will then start cutting, slicing and rewriting all text. Less is more. The beta version of the book should have between 300 and 400 pages. The rewrite will also enable me to incorporate ideas from your comments on my blog posts. Right now, all of you are my alpha-version reviewers. So think twice before you comment on my blog posts. I will make fun of you in my book.

After rewriting the chapters one by one, I will put them on-line for a beta review. I have not the slightest idea how long that rewrite is going to take. I'm guessing three or four months. So that means the final manuscript would be ready around August 2010.

Yes, that's a long time.

I don't mind.

Do you?

(picture by MShades)

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