Author: Gavin Bell
Publisher: O'Reilly, 2009
Aimed at: Web developers, designers and entrepreneurs
Pros: Lots of psychology
Cons: No programming or web construction
Reviewed by: Mike James
First notice that the title is "Building social web applications". Admittedly the word "Building" is in italics and off to the top left but it's still in there. What would you expect of a book on "Building social web applications"? Well you might expect it, at the very least to tell you how to do the job - i.e. how to build something. You might think that it would have some programming in it or at least something technical.
As you can probably guess from the tone of the review this isn't the case. There isn't a line of code in the entire book and as to building a social web application - this must be some strange new use of the word "building" that doesn't actually imply the construction of anything much.
What the book does waffle on about for far too many pages is the psychology and design of social web sites. We are treated to anecdotes and case studies as if the past was going to be of much use in the invention of something truly new and ground breaking. While it is indeed true that we should strive to avoid the errors that others made there isn't too much goodness to be had from chewing over what they did - simply because it has been done. There can only be one Facebook and one Twitter and now you have to think up your own really good idea.
If you need a book to make you think about how to build a psychologically acceptable social website then you might get something out of reading this. On the other hand you could just go and try out a few social websites and discover what it is that annoys you about them and what they do well. One thing is for sure - this book isn't going to tell you anything about building a social website.