Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc
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I have not one but two disclosures to start with. The first, for the FTC: Pearson Education sent me a review copy of this book, and a second copy to give away at the East Bay WordPress Meetup with the request that the winner also review it on Amazon. The second, for the reader: I’ve known Chuck Tomasi since the 2006 Podcast and Portable Media Expo, when we both gave presentations on similar topics, so I was predisposed to like Teach Yourself WordPress in 10 Minutes. That doesn’t mean I’ll pull any punches, though.
First, about the name. Naturally, you can’t learn all of WordPress in 10 minutes. The idea behind the series (and don’t ask me why it’s “Sams” and not “Sam’s”) is that each lesson will take you ten minutes to complete. This is a bit of an exaggeration, since it will take you about that long to read it, and probably that long again to go back and do it. And I would recommend that you read each lesson through before applying it, unless you already have some familiarity with WordPress. And even then, you know, it really can be better to RTFM.
Chuck’s LinkedIn profile states that he wrote this book (or his part of it, anyway) in 60 days. With software that changes as rapidly as WordPress, book publishers are at a huge disadvantage, because their books can become obsolete during the normal 18-month turnaround time traditional publishers have for nonfiction. Sams Teach Yourself WordPress in 10 Minutes shows remarkably few signs of haste. I only found three errors that appeared to be the result of hasty editing or last-minute changes.
The book’s compact size is both a drawback and an advantage. It’s easy to carry around and won’t break your wrists, but the screenshots would be hard to read when inserted into portrait layout pages even if the image reproduction weren’t so bad. (And the image reproduction is terrible, both faint and grainy; you notice it immediately with the authors’ photos and it doesn’t improve from there.)
The book covers all the basics without confusing detail. You won’t find answers to obscure questions or a breakdown of the code that makes WordPress work here. You will learn how to set up an account (and a blog) at WordPress.com and how to install and work with a self-hosted WordPress blog. There’s a whole lesson devoted to “Blogging on the Go” with remote tools like the WordPress iPhone app, Flickr, Posterous, and Scribefire (though no mention of my personal favorite, Windows Live Writer, or its Mac equivalent, Ecto).
I have one small quibble and one comment that applies equally to this book and to WordPress in Depth.
The quibble is with the statement on p. 136 that WordPress is “platform-agnostic” and you can get any kind of hosting you want. Yes, it’s possible to install WordPress on either a Mac or a PC for development and testing by using XAMPP or MAMP. But installing WordPress on a Windows shared hosting environment is another animal entirely. Windows server experts have given up on making it work the way it’s supposed to. Unless you’re a masochist, get Linux hosting for your WordPress site.
The comment has to do with security. As I write this, there’s a nasty Google cloaking exploit making the rounds. The problem is not a flaw in WordPress itself, but rather in file permissions on the server, generally in shared hosting environments, frequently as the result of one-click installation scripts. There are a number of articles out there about keeping WordPress secure, and a few plugins to help you with it, but the books I’ve read have mostly focused on using strong passwords and updating regularly. That’s good as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough.
I know Chuck and Kreg had to take material out of this book to keep it down to size. I hope they’ll cover security in their companion podcast. So far there’s just one episode, a teaser intro, but the first real episode is in the can and scheduled for delivery within a day or two.
If you’re already an experienced user, you won’t get much new from this book, but if you want a quick, effective introduction to WordPress, Sams Teach Yourself WordPress in 10 Minutes is a good choice.