Exchange 2010 Inside Out: the inside story

Update (12 Dec 2010): The book is now available from Amazon in both paper and Kindle editions.

As regular readers of this blog may know, I have been working on a number of Exchange related projects over the last few months. Two of them involve the world-famous and internationally known Tony Redmond, late of Hewlett-Packard, noted raconteur, and all-around Exchange expert.

First, and coming soonest, is our upcoming two-city Exchange Maestro roadshow. Tony and I are sharing teaching duties in these three day classes. Brian Desmond, a fellow Exchange MVP and expert, is acting as our lab master. I have lately been quite busy creating the content for my portion of the presentation. My topics include unified messaging (of course!), role-based access control, remote PowerShell, and the ins and outs of the client access server role. Our first event is practically right around the corner, coming as it does in about three weeks. For more details, see the event website– it’s not too late to register.

I have also been busy performing the technical edit on Tony’s forthcoming book, Exchange 2010 Inside Out. When Microsoft press first approached me about doing the technical edit, I was hesitant. Tony’s books are legendary for the quality of their content, their information density, and their sheer page count. The thought of being responsible for the technical quality of such a large work was daunting. However, it was also a wonderful opportunity to work with someone whose knowledge and abilities I very much respect, as well as to get a toe back into the book publishing world. It has been quite an adventure so far.

The workflow we follow is fairly simple. First, Tony writes a chapter. Then it goes through a copyedit. The copy editor is responsible for making sure that the manuscript follows the Microsoft style guide for punctuation, capitalization, and avoidance of various other pitfalls, traps, and general badness. For example, the Microsoft press folks have insisted that Tony remove any reference to his favorite imaginary spam website, “sexybabes.com”. Apparently, Microsoft has run afoul of officials in various countries throughout the world for using similar names. Anyway, after the copy editor has worked magic on the manuscript, it comes to me for the first technical edit pass.

My job is to read through Tony’s work, checking it for accuracy, completeness, and consistency. For example if in one chapter, Tony says that an Exchange feature works in a particular way, and he speaks about it differently in a later chapter, I’m supposed to catch that. I am also in charge of catching mismatches between PowerShell commands and their descriptions, making sure that PoSh commands work properly as printed, and in general ensuring that there are as few technical mistakes as possible in the book.

The fun part of this job is that I also get to suggest to Tony areas where the coverage in the book might be improved or clarified. He has been quite generous in listening to my suggestions instead of telling me to shut my pie hole. (In fact, I am not sure that Tony knows the expression “shut your pie hole”. I fear that I may have accidentally educated him by this blog post.)

When I’m done, I post the chapter back to the SharePoint site that we use, then Tony gets another crack at it. He has to resolve each of the embedded comments or questions generated by the copy editor, me, or the project editor. Once he has done all these things, he resubmits an updated draft of the chapter, and I get it again for a second technical review pass.

Because Tony’s book covers Exchange 2010 service pack 1, there have been a number of cases where changes in the service pack code during its lifecycle have resulted in the need to add or remove or change material during the second tech edit pass luckily, Microsoft shipped SP1 early so we have had access to the final version for some time, making it possible to ensure that we cover the service pack as it actually ships and not as it was projected to ship in earlier days.

After Tony’s done with his second pass, the copy editor may get another crack at the chapter, depending on what state it’s in. After that, the production staff takes over and turns the original Microsoft Word document into a print ready set up page proofs, which Tony then gets to review and check for last-minute changes. By the time the chapter “goes to pages” it is expensive and difficult to make changes. Imagine, if you will, making a change on page 172 of an 800-page book and having that change ripple through the rest of the book. It’s not impossible, but the production staff strongly prefers that we make any necessary changes before getting to pages, which is why we have multiple editing passes earlier in the process.

I expect that the book will be done before Thanksgiving. The last time I wrote an actual print book, it took 10 to 12 weeks between the time I had finished everything I had to do and the appearance of the finished book on bookstore shelves. Much of this is because there are only a small number of places in the world they can print actual books in that size and with that page count. That means that, as with many other processes that require a long lead time, there is a great deal of pressure to stick to the schedule. Even if you finish the book early, that’s no guarantee that you can still get press time. Then there is all sorts of other tiresome processing that has to go on: the cover must be printed, the pages and cover must be bound together, the finished book must be boxed and shipped to distributors, who then ship it to buyers’ warehouses, who then eventually ship it to local outlets.

One of the key advantages of this book is that it covers service pack 1. Microsoft made a great number of changes to Exchange with SP1. Some are functional improvements, some are new features, and some are restoration of features or capabilities that were in Exchange 2007 but were cut in Exchange 2010. For that reason-currency-I would have to recommend this book, but I will freely admit that it is not for everyone. Tony is assumed a fair amount of Exchange knowledge on the part of the reader. This is not really an appropriate book for beginners. That is not to say that a motivated beginner couldn’t learn from it, merely that an introductory book like McBee’s Mastering, is a better choice for someone who’s just starting out. I think there’s room in the marketplace for more than one good Exchange book, and I am delighted to have had a hand in this one’s production.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Exchange 2010 Inside Out: the inside story

  1. Ed Banti

    Tony pointed out some product issues as he was writing the book, which caused some of those changes we made in SP1.
    The changes go both ways!