Author Topic: Books for Dummies  (Read 599 times)

Walter Mitty

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Books for Dummies
« on: June 13, 2011, 08:53:03 pm »
The topic on computer illiteracy reminds me of one of my hot buttons:  books in the "for Dummies" series.  I won't buy a book "for dummies".  I may be ignorant, but I'm no dummy.  And I won't humiliate myself by buying such a thing.

But I've somtimes amused myself by looking over the "for dummies"  section in the bookstore.  It started out with things like "MS-DOS for Dummies".   Then they branched out into titles like  "Beer Brewing for Dummies".  Now they have books like  "Aristotle for Dummies".  It's just ludicrous. 

Joe Celko, an author in the database field,  wrote a book called "SQL for Smarties".  The owners of the "for Dummies"  trademark tried to haul him into court for infringement.  It sounds, from the way the case went, as though their legal team had shown up with "Tort law for Dummies" somewhere in their briefcases.

My two favorites:  "Sex for Dummies".  Now there's a book that didn't need to be written.  The other is "Bridge for Dummies".  If you've ever played contract bridge, you'll know how much inuntentional humor there is in that title.

Carrie Cobol

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Re: Books for Dummies
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2011, 03:14:45 am »
There is a competitor series also titled "Idiot's Guide to xxx".  I agree with you that the Dummies (and Idiot's) titles are insulting and very poor.  They actually degrade the contents of the books which really are good layman's explanations of the topics.  For example (you HAD to know this was coming...) "Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies" is well-written, full of accurate and useful information, and very readable.  It's on our adoption group's suggested reading list for new adopters.  There is misinformation all over the place about greyhounds, even Petsmart's online breed guide describes them completely wrong.  But the Dummies book is dead on accurate.

Walter Mitty

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Re: Books for Dummies
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2011, 03:36:08 am »
I would be very surprised to learn the "Idiot's Guide" has been trademarked the way "for Dummies" has been.  There were guide books appearing with "for the compleat idiot"  (note spelling) way back in the 1960s, and I figure none of them laid claim on the word "idiot".  Such "prior art" would probably block an attempt to trademark.  IANAL.

It's absurd that calling someone "ignorant" is fighting words, while calling someone an idiot or a dummy is outright endearing.  I finally had to learn to drop the word "ignorant" out of my vocabulary completely when discussing things with my dear wife.  She was unwilling to unhook the word from the freight it carries.

Carrie Cobol

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Re: Books for Dummies
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2011, 08:06:48 am »
That is interesting isn't it?  Ignorant means you just don't know something but could learn it.  Idiot or stupid or dummy means you're too clueless to even learn, which sounds to me like the bigger insult.

John Masterson

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Re: Books for Dummies
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2011, 08:13:45 am »
The "For Dummies" series usually gives a good overview of the subject, though.  Who cares what the clerk in the bookstore thinks when you buy one?  They don't pay any attention. They could not care less. They don't know you.

codger

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Re: Books for Dummies
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2011, 08:58:52 am »
I just looked in my library, and lo and behold, I have a copy of "Active Server Pages - For Dummies" I used to have a "For Dummies" book about OOP.

It seems that at some level of complexity, the "For Dummies" label would no longer apply. Most of the dummies I know wouldn't have a clue, or an interest in some of these technologies.

The "For Dummies" and "For Idiots" titles are off-putting to people of journeyman and higher skill levels.


6/14/2011 16:24 -  I must add that I found serious material errors in both books. They tend to be poorly edited. At least the few I've used were.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2011, 12:25:43 pm by codger »

Origisaurus

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Re: Books for Dummies
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2011, 09:38:41 am »
For a topic you want to learn "just enough to be dangerous", the books serve their purpose.  It's like a study guide or Cliff Notes.  If you need more, you know a few more questions to ask than before.

As a cautionary note, I have posted here (or maybe predecessor forums) that after you've read the "Dummies" book, you're still a dummy.

Nerdliness aside, you don't need to be an expert in everything you touch.  And as Dirty Harry says, "A man has to know his limitations."   ;)

John Masterson

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Re: Books for Dummies
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2011, 10:26:56 am »
I agree with Origisaurus. They are more like a Cliff's notes summary. And often that is the best way to tackle a new technical subject: get the 5,000-foot view and then dive into only the details that you need for your purposes.

The "Dummies" books all follow the same template, and at the back they have links and references to where you can learn more.

I like them.

TRexx

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Re: Books for Dummies
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2011, 10:57:34 am »
That is interesting isn't it?  Ignorant means you just don't know something but could learn it.  Idiot or stupid or dummy means you're too clueless to even learn, which sounds to me like the bigger insult.

When I worked in Tech Support, our motto was:

"Ignorance can be cured. Stupid is forever"

Origisaurus

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Re: Books for Dummies
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2011, 12:19:47 pm »
Further ruminations.

Even though I placed into advanced calculus in Uni (brag, brag), I was just not up (at the time) to the upper-classman stuff like Transfinite Induction, or even Theory of Numbers, or Theory of Equations.  If those blow your minds they should, because they are most abstruse.  Math majors only, and not all of them.  (I recently looked up my old Math prof, and his website has some stuff that is so dense to me that it is unbelievable.  The same guy who made all that advanced stuff crystal-clear to me has got way out in front!)

So I needed to work through some introductory and intermediate works to prepare for the more advanced stuff.

Hence the value of "For Dummies" books.  It's a place to start.

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Re: Books for Dummies
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2011, 12:31:36 pm »
To me, "dummies" or "idiots" applied to books has always been a marketing term.

I guess to some folks the tongue in cheek aspect was never that evident and it sounds patronizing.

The broader effect of these terms is that they disarm the buyer's defensiveness about not grokking a subject. That is probably a more powerful effect in the sales process than turning off the few who are mildly insulted by the term.
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Origisaurus

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Re: Books for Dummies
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2011, 03:35:44 pm »
Zen.

To know that one needs to learn, one must first acknowledge ignorance.  So "dummy" or "idiot" in a book's title should draw you right in. 

Welcome, grasshopper.   :blank: