Just before the Christmas break, I got to record an excellent podcast with Anatolii of UNmiss. It was a great conversation about Cloud Integration, APIs, and approaches to Cloud-based integration. While I am not in a consulting role in the conventional sense, a lot of an Evangelist’s task is still to listen, understand, and, when necessary, challenge assumptions and help people understand how technologies can help address problems. This might include sketching out a journey of evolution and improvement. During the podcast, we discussed some of these ideas.
In addition to some of the practices, we’ve used. The conversation touched upon books. My books are on the sidebar, including links to Manning, who, as a publisher, I’d recommend. I’ve previously blogged some reading recommendations and previously written some book reviews which may be of interest to anyone following up.
Today I was fortunate enough to present at one of the Cloud Lunch and learn events (you can register for any of the events here and see previous sessions here). One of the questions asked at the end of the session was recommended reading on APIs. So I’ve gathered up some links to books I’d suggest worthwhile reading I’d suggest:
Enterprise API Management: Design and deliver valuable business APIs by Luis Weir (Amazon.co.uk)
I should also mention an API book I’ve co-authored. While it focuses on an Oracle product, there is a lot of content that is relevant to any API development using an API Gateway (Amazon.co.uk). I’ve not looked at all the books at API-University, but from I have seen the content is worth examining.
The slides for my presentation can be found on slideshare, and here:
Christian Posta and Rinor Maloku’s book with Manning, Istio In Action has just been published. I’ve previously said it’s a good book, and that’s not surprising given Christian’s role at solo.io. When the final chapters became available I started to go through it in more detail and built a mind map (As with the recent review of Kubernetes best practices). The map can be seen below.
As you can see the map is very substantial reflecting on the depth and value of the book. For those who look at the maps, may notice there are a couple of chapters not fully mapped. I will update the map to fill those gaps in, but given they focus on monitoring and observability, I was less concerned about those areas given my own writing. The book’s exercises are very much built around using Docker Desktop making it very easy to spin up the examples and exercises. If you want to know about Istio Service Mesh on K8s then I’d recommend it.
Reading through the book, I’ve learned details that I was not entirely aware of, for example the integration of non K8s workloads into the mesh. The tuning of Istio to keep it highly performant with a lot of workloads.
We’ve also scored another success, this time we’ve been invited to speak at WorldFestival in August, this is an online conference organized by the same team behind DeveloperWeek. This is the first time outside of an Oracle linked event where I’ve been amongst the first few named speakers, so proud of that. The conference looks really interesting as it looks beyond just core developer themes with conference tracks on Space & Transportation, Smart Cities, Robotics, Digital Health to name a few of the 12 streams. Worth checking out.
I wrote a blog after completing my first book with Robert van Mölken about what was involved. That post can be seen here. It focussed on the processes with Packt and how Robert and I worked to try to ensure the book felt consistent despite the two of us writing.
Writing Logging In Action was a solo project for a different publisher. It seems like an opportunity to share some fresh insights.
Time and Effort
Surprisingly the time between signing the contract and the manuscript being completed ready to go through the final production process didn’t vary hugely roughly 15-18 months. The final steps of preparing to go to print did take longer, in part down to the number of extra steps taken by Manning to ensure the book was polished. Upon reflection, I think that is at least partly down to the fact you need the chapters to need to flow, particularly when one chapter leads directly to the next. So you do get periods of respite until your co-author has got sufficiently far enough with their writing to enable you to start the next part. Writing solo, as soon as one chapter is completed you’re into the next, so no periods of respite.
When it comes to the amount of actual time involved. That is different, I didn’t keep track exactly. But knowing what I typically did each week and roughly how many quiet periods I had I think it works out to be 300 hours give or take 50 hours. That sounds a lot, but then if you look at it as 1 hour per page it doesn’t seem too significant.
Using Time and Self Discipline
The way time is used has been a little different, when co-authoring you have to allow time for coordinating and supporting each other, peer-reviewing writing pushing each other along in terms of keeping to plan. The Manning development team are pretty good at keeping you moving without it feeling like you’re being chased, and will provide constructive and supportive feedback. But your co-authors will know the subject matter very well and know what your best work is like, so are able to challenge you when peer-reviewing the work. When we wrote the API book, I remember one of my colleagues reviewing a chapter and coming back saying it was a solid chapter, but I know you have explained these ideas more clearly. When I went back over the chapter, I could see what they meant. As a result a better book.
The bottom line is it can be difficult to bring a critical eye to your own work, particularly soon after have written it. But you do need that self-discipline when working on your own. This is where the Manning editorial team really stood out.
The book is published, that’s the end?
It is easy to think that’s the end of things, and certainly in terms of solid writing it is. But after all the invested effort in writing it. You might as well help promote the book and take advantage of the reputation of being a published author. This means presenting on the subject of your book. The book will provide a level of credentials & credibility to the subject you’ve written about. Despite being an introvert (which is why I take pleasure in the writing process) getting through the pre-presentation nerves, feelings of imposter syndrome once on stage and talking about your subject can be a rush, particularly as you finish. The personal payoff from presenting can come after the event, when someone who has seen your presentation says to you afterwards, that really helped me, or they really enjoyed or found the presentation thought-provoking.
If presenting is too much then these days there are other paths available, such as writing articles for journals, participating in podcasts. Having participated in several podcasts if you have a good host, this can be good fun.
What do I get out of writing?
The benefit of royalties certainly won’t replace a typical developer’s salary, unless you’re really lucky. Even with mainstream publications, only a small proportion of authors are successful enough for it to become their day job. But, there are indirect benefits. If you want something to put your CV above many others – then a book will really help. This is often why a lot of freelancers write books – it helps provide credibility over others. There is no doubt that my writing has made a difference to a change in job. I suspect that joining Capgemini and my next move has been a lot easier because of it. Not to mention, I’ve known clients like the idea that within the team they’ve engaged are people with credibility beyond just the supplier. Depending upon your employer, the marketing value for them to employ you (or me) as an author (and by implication an SME) add differentiation as well.
Writing solo again?
I’ve heard technical book authors say, never again once they’ve been published. A few I know have written multiple books. Given the experience, I think co-authoring is easier. But the gratification of completing a solo effort is so much greater.
The technical book landscape is shifting, technology cycles seem to be accelerating (or is it that I’ve reached an age where time seems to go by so much quicker) which is impacting a book’s shelf life. The ability to provide, receive and expect more interactive engagement is evolving – LiveBooks, Katacoda etc. The need to consume smaller pieces across multiple sources is growing as we need to build new skills, but don’t want to start from scratch (as I described here for example).
There is no doubt I’ll get involved in another book project. But a solo writing project will probably be smaller so we can shorten that development cycle.
The book has had a title change as Manning found that links the book was clashing with other solutions using the term ‘Unified Logging’. With the name change it helps bring the book inline with the Manning naming with their In action series. This means the book website is now https://www.manning.com/books/logging-in-action.
With the name change we’ve agreed that there should an additional chapter added. As I’d written the book with a view that everything we cover applies to both modern solutions such as Microservices coming from the CNCF camp but equally relevant to more traditional IT landscapes. Within the book we have explianed how things are positioned and can be used in Kubernetes, but it was agreed with our editorial team that not tackling the configuration of Fluentd with Kubernetes and Docker was to an extent ignoring a key community that will be using Fluentd. So the new chapter will be introduced to address this aspect.
In terms of progress we’re into the 1’s – 1 Chapter to start (the new one), 1 Chapter back from the Technical Editor (Logging Best Practises) – some edits to be done, 1 Chapter now with the editor (How To Create Custom Plugins), 1 Chapter being finished (Logging Frameworks) and finally 1 peer review cycle to go.
Given the lovely review comments that have been quoted on the book’s page. I can only recommend if you have an interest in logging and monitoring then check it out through Manning Early Access Programme (MEAP).
I was fortunate enough to record a podcast with the team at Adventures In Dev Ops just before Christmas. The recording has been fine tuned and now available on their web site here. From my perspective, the discussion was really interesting and explored a wide range of areas around the challenges of monitoring.
As the podcast is linked to the book we’re writing for Manning (Unified Logging With Fluentd), there is a discount code currently running – poddevopsadv20.
Thanks to Charles Wood and Jeffrey Groman for having me on as a guest.
Other news …
I will be presenting at the online conference Blueprint LDN, check out the subjects being covered, looks very interesting.
My blogging is way down compared with only a post about OKit – OCI Design (on Windows). It largely comes down to lots of work on our Fluentd book. Chapter 6 is now available in the MEAP. As the promo info says …
Earlier chapters have been tweaked, with some additional improvements which will make the live reading experience better.
Another chapter and an appendix should be finding their way to MEAP very soon as it was handed over by our project editor. That will make it seven chapters available, and all the appendices.
Whilst the peer review is taking place the chapter covering plugin development is progressing. The development work has got the basics of the output plugin with log events being stored in Redis and the input being worked on as well. If you want a peak, keep an eye on my GitHub repository (here).
We recorded a podcast with the excellent guys over at Adventures In DevOps. We don’t have the exact date for the podcast to be released, but I imagine it will sometime during Jan 2021. I’d recommend checking out the podcasts. I’ve been dipping into their back catalogue of recordings and the team ask some really thought provoking questions.
If that wasn’t enough, we’ve been fortunate enough to have some time to talk with leading members of the Fluentd and Fluent Bit projects which was a real pleasure. Hopefully, as we leave this horrendous year behind we’ll get to talk and possibly collaborate some more.
Manning have made section of my book freely available. The excerpt from the first draft of my book Unified Logging with Fluentd illustrates the Fluentd take on Hello World – the extract can be found at http://mng.bz/nzm8. This is from the 1st chapter to help set the scene of how Fluentd can be configured. The following quote comes from one of the peer reviewers:
The extract includes the use of the log simulator tool – https://github.com/mp3monster/LogGenerator which takes some configuration and can either play synthetic data or replay real logs as current log events in what ever format you want to simulate – for example standard Log4J through to Apache Server logs with the relevant time separation between events.
Book Discount …
If this isnt enough temptations, then perhaps saying that on September 22: Deal of the Day book is my book Unified Logging with Fluentd. Use code dotd092220au at https://bit.ly/3mBRLK2
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