Among the daily deluge of spam, sometimes there is a real email – and sometimes even an important one. I received such an email at the end of October 2003 from Louay Fatoohi, presenting himself as the Editorial Director of a new publishing company, Packt Publishing.
He was asking if I would be interested in writing a book about phpMyAdmin (which is a web interface for the MySQL database). At this time, our software product was already popular with about 150,000 downloads per month, but the lack of serious and complete user documentation held it back. This translated into many requests from users about how to accomplish some tasks with the software. Moreover, the small team of five active developers (all volunteers) was using all its free time for planning and coding new features so we did not see how to improve the documentation with volunteer work only.
I did not know Mr Fatoohi but his email (and the following ones) looked serious so I committed myself to this project. I noticed that producing a clear book outline was very important. I already had in mind that each chapter should focus on a specific task or group of similar tasks. In the next days, a few iterations of the outline were done to balance the chapter lengths.
Receiving a paper contract from England was new for me – in fact the whole process felt new to me as this was my first book. Writing for others is challenging and dealing with the comments of reviewers and editors can be a humbling experience; I had to defend some ideas I had put in the book but gladly accepted suggestions for improvement or clarification.
It took about three months, working over the weekends (I have a day job) to write the first edition, Mastering phpMyAdmin for Effective MySQL Management, which was published in April 2004. Since this manual covers the complete interface, I was in fact testing the whole software, finding bugs along the way, which forced me to fix them in order to produce correct screenshots! Needless to say, I was very proud of being the first published author for this company.
Meanwhile, an interface redesign was taking place in phpMyAdmin for version 2.6.0; this meant that many screenshots in the book would no longer reflect the upcoming version of the software. The decision was made by Packt to publish a book update. During the summer of 2004, I already knew what the new version would look like so I started preparing this update. The new version of the software was released at the end of September and the book update (bearing the same ISBN as the first edition) somewhere in October!
In June 2005 we organized the first phpMyAdmin team meeting in Germany during the LinuxTag event where we demoed our software. I was happy to meet Mr Fatoohi, Damian Carvill and other representatives from Packt who had a booth there too. I found the whole team very dynamic and very much readers-oriented. I know that publishing is a business but they understand that quality is important; they also respect me as an author (especially about schedules).
Over the years, translations of the book were published, directly by Packt or via other publishers. I wrote the French version, while two phpMyAdmin developers did the German one. Versions in Czech, Italian and Spanish were also born and they are all proudly displayed in my house near the workstation.
Meanwhile, phpMyAdmin’s march was continuing, with an average of 250,000 downloads per month. It should be noted that many users do not need to download it directly because host providers install the software for them, or Linux distributors include it on their DVD, this is why we cannot know exactly the number of users. The development team changed a bit but new features were appearing so I guess Packt Publishing resigned itself about the need to update this title from time to time. This is why I took to my pencil again – rather my keyboard – to produce the October 2006 edition, Mastering phpMyAdmin 2.8 which covered a new setup mechanism.
In March 2008, Mastering phpMyAdmin 2.11 was published, followed by Mastering phpMyAdmin 3.1 in March 2009. My family is now accustomed to my new habit of taking a few weeks per year to produce the new update.
I would like to express my wholeheartedly gratitude to Packt Publishing for their support into this ongoing project.