Working at O’Reilly you can’t help but get drawn into lots of discussions about new and emerging technology that may or may not go big time. R, Junos, Tokyo Cabinet, Big Data–our internal email lists are a litany of chatter and debate,
As the director of the O’Reilly School of Technology, I’m responsible for identifying the curriculum we develop for our students, and it’s nothing like the process that goes into deciding what books we publish. O’Reilly book editors are constantly scanning the horizon, looking for new trends and developments in technology, languages, and systems, and placing bets based on what they see. This is because publishers want to be the first out with great content on a hot new topic or software release.
At the O’Reilly School of Technology we move much more deliberately. Building a good course or series of online courses is a long and expensive process. In addition to creating the curriculum, we have to build technology infrastructures to support learning Sandboxes that allow our students to interact with the technology they are learning. Second, and more importantly, we have to create University Certificate Programs that will help our students land — and excel in – real-world jobs. The end result is that courses based on older and more established technologies, such as Perl and Linux, have more demand than newer ones.
At the School we are much more likely to pick the topics at the top of this chart and ignore those at the bottom. Of course, O’Reilly has tons of books on these topics as well as you can see from the large number of books sold. Many of those books are the standard in their topic area. Also, when new versions of those technologies come out, our editors are on top of those developments and usually have books out by time the new version ships.
Where we diverge in thinking is more toward the bottom of this list. Some of the technologies at the bottom of this list are the fast growing topics in the industry. For instance take a look at the graph of the popularity of Objective-C, the language of iPhone development:
As you can see, Objective-C book sales are growing rapidly, but there still isn’t much of a job market. This is a hot topic right now and O’Reilly has many titles out on iPhone development and Objective-C. However, at the School we will most likely hold off developing new titles for this topic for quite some time until the job market reacts and takes hold.
Now take a look at the popularity of Perl:
Most of the decline in this graph reflects a decreased demand for books. However, the demand for Perl programmers in the job market has remained relatively stable We already have some courses which cover Perl, but we are currently building a four-course Perl Programming Certificate Series, the first of which will be available later this month.
As we scan the technology horizon and place bets on additional course offerings, we are currently building a Python Series, a .NET series, an advanced Java series, and a C++ Series. I recently went on a 14-company sales trip in the New England Area and every company I visited was begging us to create an RPG programming series. (RPG is a 30 year old language for AS/400 and I-series IBM machines.) The companies want a learning solution that uses our Learning Sandbox approach. This would allow their employees to learn and gain experience on systems that aren’t being used in the production cycle. Given the age of RPG, and the demand I’m hearing about, clearly, it’s not always about what’s new in the computer education world.
O’Reilly School of Technology