Over the last year I’ve bought a handful of books that help with Facebook application development. Although I’ve yet to release an application into the wild, I’ve had fun putting some applications together for my own use.
When I came across Essential Facebook Development by John Maver and Cappy Pop, I figured I’d give it a try because it’s the newest book in this field.
The book is well written and leads the reader through a clear path toward not only building an application, but understanding how an application is built. It uses quite a bit of object oriented PHP, so for someone new to programming, it might not be the best resource, but overall it’s a great book.
The bulk of this post is about two other issues, though. First up is the speed of changes in Facebook’s application development API. The second point is the responsiveness of authors and the value it adds to readers in niche markets.
The ever-changing nature of Facebook’s API must be a thorn in the flesh of authors. Case in point: Essential Facebook Development has a sample application in the book. (Like other good programming books, the code is made available at a site dedicated to the book.) Rather than hand-code the examples, I put them into an application I set up on FB and I got an error. In searching for the solution, the book uses a method to post messages to a FB user’s news feed that Facebook no longer supports. In the last few weeks, Facebook solidified a new way for applications to post messages and communications to users’ news feeds, walls, and other areas of interest.
I reached out to the authors on their site (essentialfacebook.com) and I had a response within 10 minutes from John. His response:
Yes, the stream API was in beta for a long time, so we didn’t focus on it in the book, but of course it was released shortly after the book was finalized. We will be doing a set of blog posts on using the stream API to make sure our readers are kept up to date.
This speaks to a problem we’ve seen in other areas, namely that traditional books are obsolete out-of-date the day they hit the shelves. As this happens more and more with developing technology guides, authors will need to be more and more responsive to their readers.