The Rook’s Guide to C++

The Rook’s Guide to C++

Norwich University computer science and computer security students have completed a first draft of The Rook’s Guide to C++, a book that aspires to become a textbook for entry-level programming students.

The project began in the spring of 2013 as a response to students’ feedback about the choice of textbooks that teach the programming language called C++. Students said that available books seemed to assume a base level of programming knowledge that some students just entering into the field do not have. Professor Jeremy Hansen recruited about two dozen students to participate in a marathon writing session with the goal of completing the book in 36 hours.

Hansen established a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to support the event, and the effort exceeded its $500 goal by more than $4,000, attracting backers from the United Kingdom, Portugal, Russia and Australia. Supporters of the project said they shared the students’ desire for a C++ primer, citing a dearth of choices on the topic, and also generally supported the model for producing a text book.

“As a Computer Science student I believe a good book plays a major role on the introduction of a programming language, especially in the case of an essential language like C++,” said one supporter from Greece. “I hope this book will help many newcomers.”

Over the course of 36 hours on April 6, students completed a first draft that articulates programming concepts in simpler terms with better explanations.

“Putting programming in simple terms is difficult, but as a team we managed to make it work,” said sophomore Michele Kellerman. “This book is so different because it is written by students for students.”

Alongside a handful of volunteers, Hansen invested an additional 100 hours of copyediting and typesetting before he made the open-source Creative Commons-licensed book available online as a PDF on Nov. 26. Within the first week the book was downloaded more than 7,000 times, according to Hansen.

“This is not the final product and I don’t know if there will ever be such a thing,” Hansen said. “We are seeking feedback, and we encourage people to download it, make improvements and pass along their updates, which we will continue to make available under a Creative Commons license.”

About 170 copies of the book have been printed, some of which were signed by Hansen and given to each of the students who contributed to the project. Printed copies were also shipped to Kickstarter campaign backers.