The Rough Guide to Cloud Computing: review

The Rough Guide to Cloud Computing is probably the most introductory book available on cloud computing. The author, Peter Buckley, is to be congratulated on producing a text that is genuinely accessible for non-techies.

So introductory is it that it assumes not only no knowledge of the idea of cloud computing, but also minimal familiarity with computers in general. Though this ensures that the book is entirely accessible, it makes it an odd sort of book. What sort of computing novice, one wonders, would want to learn about cloud computing as a discrete phenomenon?

My asking of that question is prompted by two comments in particular from the literature of cloud computing. The first comes from a recent blog post about misconceptions concerning the cloud. I regret can no longer locate the post and so can’t credit it (if anyone can help me out here, please do!). The gist of the post was that when people talk about the cloud, they tend to reify it (‘reify’ wasn’t the word the blog used: the original phrasing was along the lines of ‘talking about the cloud as if it was a thing‘): the point is that it would be better to thing of the cloud computing as a (set of) services. And the less thing-like it is, the less suitable it seems for a ‘Rough Guide’ type treatment.

The second comes the excellent  A brief guide to cloud computing by Christopher Barnatt (a book that will be reviewed here in a subsequent post). Barnatt writes: “Cloud computing will allow us to simply get on with those many activities that involve a computer. Nobody today settles down to use a pencil. In contrast, lots of people do still consciously sit down to use a computer. Cloud developments may, however, start to catalyze a mentality shift from tool-in-hand to task-at-hand computer application”.

It is precisely that shift that makes the Rough Guide treatment look so odd.

The sub-title of Rough guide to cloud computing is ‘100 websites that will change your life’. The advantage of the 100-website structures is that it helps to produce a book that is both wide-ranging and reader-friendly. The disadvantage is that inevitably the book will date quickly (as it already has, since its publication in 2010) – websites rise and fall rapidly.

All in all, limpidly written, oddly conceived.





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