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Interviews: Ask Tim O'Reilly About a Life Steeped In Technology

timothy posted about a month ago | from the spawning-ideas dept.

Books 39

Today's interview guest is literally a household name: If you look at the shelves in nearly any programmer's house, developer shop or hackerspace, you'll probably see a stretch of books from O'Reilly Media (or O'Reilly & Associates, depending on how old the books are). Tim O'Reilly started out publishing a few technical manuals in the late '70s, branching from there into well-received technical reference and instructional books, notably ones covering open source languages and operating systems (how many people learned to install and run a new OS from Matt Walsh's Running Linux?), but neither Tim O'Reilly nor the company has gotten stuck in one place for long. As a publisher, he was early to make electronic editions available, in step with the increasing capabilities of electronic readers. Make Magazine (later spun off as part of Maker Media, which also produces Maker Faires around the world) started as an O'Reilly project; the company's conferences like OSCON, Fluent, and this year's Solid are just as much a manifestation of O'Reilly's proclivity for spreading knowledge as the books are, and those are only part of the picture, being joined with seminars, video presentations, and more. Tim O'Reilly is often hailed as a futurist and an activist (he was an early proponent of 3-D printing and hardware hacking, and a loud voice for patent reform) and he's got his eye on trends from global (how the Internet functions) to more personal -- like ways that physical goods can be produced, customized, and networked. So please go ahead and ask O'Reilly about what it's been like to be a publisher of paper books in an ever-more electronic world, as well as a visionary in the world of DIY and fabrication, or anything else on your mind. As usual, ask as many questions as you'd like, but please, one per post.

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Your everyday interaction with technology? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47608591)

Mr. O'Reilly: Do you live a particularly technology-centric life? I don't see you wearing Google Glass in public, or bragging about driving a Tesla everywhere, or (so far as I know) living in a 3-D printed house, and you're still publishing "dead tree" books in quantity, but you clearly have a handle on what kind of cool tech is available. So I wonder how "high tech" your day-to-day existence is, and what that says about the maturity of some of the technology that looks good from a distance. Do you find use for personal gadgets beyond the ones that seem to be bare-minimum these days in 21st C. America, like a computer and a cell-phone? Do you ever print useful objects on a MakerBot? As someone who sees a lot of emerging ideas (I bet people pitch you a lot on their kickstarter or other business ideas), are there interesting bits of technology that you've come to especially enjoy or rely on that you'd suggest are worthwhile for others, or that strike you as notably overrated?

Re:Your everyday interaction with technology? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47608683)

Mr. O'Reilly:

Do you live a particularly technology-centric life? I don't see you wearing Google Glass in public, or bragging about driving a Tesla everywhere, or (so far as I know) living in a 3-D printed house, and you're still publishing "dead tree" books in quantity, but you clearly have a handle on what kind of cool tech is available. So I wonder how "high tech" your day-to-day existence is, and what that says about the maturity of some of the technology that looks good from a distance. Do you find use for personal gadgets beyond the ones that seem to be bare-minimum these days in 21st C. America, like a computer and a cell-phone? Do you ever print useful objects on a MakerBot? As someone who sees a lot of emerging ideas (I bet people pitch you a lot on their kickstarter or other business ideas), are there interesting bits of technology that you've come to especially enjoy or rely on that you'd suggest are worthwhile for others, or that strike you as notably overrated?

One question per post.

Preferred operating systems for mobile and desktop (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47608665)

Mr. O'Reilly,

Being the classic technological guru that I expect you are, what operating systems do you prefer to run on your personal hardware (mobile, desktop, slate)?

Re:Preferred operating systems for mobile and desk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47610229)

[...] what operating systems do you prefer to run on your personal hardware (mobile, desktop, slate)?

You forgot all the interesting domains: automotive, wearable, and autonomous hardware operation systems.

e-books? (2)

plcurechax (247883) | about a month ago | (#47608723)

What do you see or expect for the future of electronic-centric publishing?

Are e-books going to be dominated by the established publishing companies tendency to try and extend their control over the works of their authors, and their customers, as demonstrated with the limiting of adopting due to DRM, and fear of digital piracy?

Will there be a role for publishers, perhaps as curators and editors (in both senses of the word) of fiction and non-fictional works, separate from that of the retailers?

Will authors be able to find an economically sustainable means of financing their writing (including any necessary research) that can withstand the perils of near-free proliferation of illicit unlicensed digital copies of their works? Or will authors have to have either patrons (sponsors) (e.g. literary awards' prize money) or employers (e.g. academics) who pay them to write, perhaps limiting most content to be "safe" or "salable" topics for the most part.

cover illustrations? (2)

mrego (912393) | about a month ago | (#47608757)

Still no plans to sell cover illustrations as posters, etc. ?

Next books on X Window System? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47608781)

When will we see the next edition of documentation for the X Window System [oreilly.com] ?

Re:Next books on X Window System? (2)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about a month ago | (#47609735)

It's still at Version 11, correct? My O'Reilly X11 manual set, from before O'Reilly was mentioning the World Wide Web on their book covers, is for X11. Volumes 3 and 8 are the important stuff, for configuring the Tab Window Manager, using Fonts and setting Resources, etc.

It's all still completely useful, actually. A NetBSD base install and the O'Reilly X11 manuals are all the docs you need.

How to improve coding instruction (3, Insightful)

globaljustin (574257) | about a month ago | (#47608783)

Mr. O'Reilly it's really cool that you're taking the time to answer our questions. Thanks much!

My question: How can we make categorically better coding instruction books? What's the next step? I mean coding or programming in the general sense. Here on slashdot, the consensus is that the best coding language "depends on the job." In that environment, most coding tasks involve using an IDE and then editing specific parts of a codebase by hand. The language is a conduit to transfer information/instructions. Is there a way to instruct someone in the skills to find the right command quickly for most situations, regardless of coding language?

So much of a coder's time is spent searching through stacks of code books **just to find "how to do..." one thing** they know they language can do, in my experience.

Thanks again.

Re:How to improve coding instruction (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a month ago | (#47608999)

Google.
Google is the new coding books(everything books, really.). If you are just looking for examples or cut and paste of something someone has done before, you don't need coding books.

Re:How to improve coding instruction (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about a month ago | (#47611859)

My friend from grad school who has a research job at Cisco always said the same thing.

Do Internet Years Really Exist (1)

jabberw0k (62554) | about a month ago | (#47608933)

We hear so much about "Internet Years" and how the pace of innovation has increased so dramatically. Yet from the first TRS-80 to the end of the CP/M era was barely five years, and in that time a vast numbers of magazines and books were written and printed. Today, meanwhile, major software components like Moose, Perl's object-oriented makeover, have been around for over six years and still no O'Reilly book is yet on the horizon. In your estimation, is the major problem to new publications really the speed of innovation, or the increaing dilution of the market from it becoming vastly broader?

all lives (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a month ago | (#47608975)

have been steep in technology since agriculture.
mayhaps you want to be specific?

Pick a book (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47609001)

Out of all the books you have published, which one you keep in a prominent place on your bookshelf and why

Beyond E-Books (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47609075)

Mr. O'Reilly,
  While some e-books, such as PDF format, allow for quick cross-referencing to specific pages or sections of books, it is still pretty limiting when needing to combine several ideas at once. Conversely, having multiple tabs or windows open in a web browser allows for the breadth of information to be displayed to a user. What do you see are the benefits of paperback vs. ebook vs. WWW? Do you see any ways to bridge the gaps between formats for users to quickly find the information they are looking for?

Slashdot Beta Annoyances (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47609325)

Will this be available in print, or only as an e-book?

Free Software (1)

qpqp (1969898) | about a month ago | (#47609417)

Mr. O'Reilly, why didn't you join the Free Software movement back in the day and subverted the community with your Open Source initiative? SCNR

question (2)

Twelfth Harmonic (3464759) | about a month ago | (#47609447)

You've watched at least 4 decades of technology go past. You were watching it from one of the best vantage points.
Does that upwards trend make you feel good about the future? As you know, the world can only fathom a dystopian future, lately.

Re:question (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about a month ago | (#47609765)

O'Reilly has published some fairly dystopian books on technology, books written by some of his associates. For example, The Future Does Not Compute [oreilly.com] by Steve Talbott is excellent, though now a little old (published in 1995).

Paper quality (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47610625)

Why do the last two O'Reilly books I bought have pages that look purple near the binding? Is it because your POD printing subcontractors use paper that has excessive amounts of optical brightening agents?

How much of your books do you get to read? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47611129)

Obviously you can't read them all cover to cover, but I'm curious how much time you spend reading individual titles.

Fair use of O'Reilly content (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47611215)

The preface of every O'Reilly book states "This book is intended to help you get your work done", and permission is then granted for using snippets of source code without permission, although attribution would be appreciated. That's followed by a clarifying statement that reselling, or wholesale use of large quantities of the contents of the book *does* require permission. Other than simple cases of piracy, posting PDFs online and so forth, have there been any cases where O'Reilly has found someone has gone over the line in terms of what could be regarded as fair use?

DRM (1)

fldsofglry (2754803) | about a month ago | (#47611601)

I've always been grateful that O'Reilly often (always?) offers DRM free books. The music industry has made it clear that they believe piracy is hurting the bottom line. Do you feel the same way about your ebook titles?

MOOCs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47612291)

With the advent of Massive open online courses (MOOC) how do you see the O'Reilly School of Technology differentiating itself from the likes of Coursera and edX?

Open Books (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47612341)

I think it's great O'Reilly has published a number of open books. http://oreilly.com/openbook/

Have you considered using the project, through judicious inclusion of books, to foster certain communities or the uptake of technologies you believed in? For instance promoting programming in the classroom or promoting FLOSS.

What can we do to ensure the internet remains open (1)

jonjohns65 (2928985) | about a month ago | (#47613735)

Can you share three things that any of us can do that will help keep the internet relatively open? There is a lot of chatter, and it feels like a lot of tilting at windmills. Can the legislature pass laws that will give too much power to corporations, thus limiting the freedom of the open internet? Or is this unrealistic fear-mongering? Is Voting enough? Is writing to your representative effective?

The maker movement vs. black-box gadgetry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47621985)

You've been instrumental in popularizing the maker movement -- empowering people to create their own stuff, or to modfy existing things, repurposing or fixing technology that might otherwise be considered obsolete or not worth repairing. A lot of technology, though, arrives with epoxied components, or bits that only an expert can desolder or otherwise alter, or electronic countermeasures to prevent end-user alterations. (Trivial example, but one we all know: hard to refill inkjet cartridges, and that shouldn't need more creativity than filling a car's gas tank.) Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of grassroots DIY tech in the face of electronic goods that often come with legal and physical barriers to access?

Movement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47622163)

Mr. O'Reilly,

You brought the pioneers of free software together at the Open Source Convention and were instrumental in crafting a vision for the Open Source movement. You helped people realize that the web should become a richer and more interactive platform with the Web 2.0 movement. You've made people realize that whatever you are creating, building or crafting, you are part of the Maker movement.

What's the next big movement that you are throwing your weight behind?

O'Reilly Questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47622491)

With the recent acquisition of the entirety of Safari (Pearson's share) where do you see this platform headed in the future? Are developers changing the way they learn and absorb new technologies and tools? Is the book market lagging in this regard?

Safari (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47622529)

I was wondering with regards to the acquisition of Pearson's share of Safari, the future plans for this platform?

Learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47622577)

With more and more ways to learn how to code and develop and make, has the way we digest information changed and is the book publishing area lagging in this regard?

Biggest rival? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47622853)

Hi Tim,

From all the tech publishers out there, who would you consider your biggest rival and why?

Thanks!

Networking the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47626221)

Starting a few years ago, you've talked about the Internet as a single system and (overlapping with this) "the global brain." What are the most important implications of looking at the internet (and the world) this way, and how can we prevent the worst, most dystopian scenarios from manifesting? How concerned are you with privacy in a world chock full of sensors, or do you agree with Scott McNeally's famous claim "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it."?

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