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Best of Ruby Quiz

James Edward Gray II
Published by Pragmatic Bookshelf
176 pages
£ 20.99
Published: 28 Mar 2006
reviewed by Lindsay Marshall
   in the September 2006 issue (pdf), (html)

I have to straight off that I am extremely dubious about people turning mailing lists or websites that collect contributions from people into books. They have to add a lot of value to the content (IMHO) if their making a profit or a reputation from it is to be acceptable. I'm am not familiar with the Ruby Quiz that runs on the Ruby Talk mailing list (life is too short to join another mailing list...) so I cannot really judge how much the author has added - the blurb claims that the material has been expanded greatly and that will have to do for now.

Anyhow the book is slightly odd. The first 65 pages set 25 problems to be solved in Ruby and then the rest of the book (200 pages or so) looks at solutions. The problems are all relatively simple - a Secret Santa script for example - and the answers usually look at a couple of different solutions. If you don't know Ruby then most of this will be a waste of time since you simply won't understand much of what is going on, and, in fact, I think you have to know Ruby and its libraries pretty well to really get to grips with some of the solutions that are presented.

This is another of the Pragmatic Programmers series and yet again the layout of the book is awkward - there are some ugly typeface choices and the pages seem to have to much whitespace yet still look cramped. I am really not sure who the audience for this book is. Perhaps the people who contributes the problems and solutions to the mailing list? Novice Ruby programmers will not get enough out of it as there may be too much going on that they don't yet know, and advanced programmers will perhaps see a new idiom or two whith which they are not familiar, but that's about it. The set of people that exists between these two extremes, particular for Ruby, doesn't seem that large. Not a bad book, just one that seems a bit pointless and lost.

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