If you have been in the digital forensics world for more than a day, then you know about peer reviews of analysis reports. If you have ‘only’ been doing IR work where forensics isn't the main point (as in taking evidence collection all the way to court), then you may not be reading reports of opposing experts. Anyway, the opposing expert peer review is one of the scariest reviews of all since the reader, which is again, the opposing expert, tries to find holes in your work. The peer review is so effective to push toward doing a good job that I think it prevents errors by the examiner more than it does help opposing experts find errors of the examiner. Peer reviews take different shapes depending on where it is being done (review of a book draft, review of a report, etc...) but in general, a peer review is checking the accuracy of the written words.
Academia has always been under the constant worry of peer reviews. One professor's journal may be peer reviewed by dozens of other professors in the same field, with the end result being seen by the public, whether good or bad. Peer reviews are scary, not for the sake that you made a mistake, but that maybe you could have missed something important that someone else points out to you.
If you read a tech book and write a review of it (formally in an essay/journal, or informally on social media), consider yourself a peer reviewer of tech writings. That which you say, based on what you read, is a peer review of that material. Think about that for a second. If you are in the field of the book you are reviewing, you practically are tech reviewing that book for accuracy (so make sure you are correct!). That is a good thing for you as it boosts your experience in the field. Always be the expert on the stand who can say, “I’ve read x number of forensic books and have given x number peer reviews on social media, Amazon, essays, etc….”. If for nothing else, this shows more than that you just read books. You read for accuracy and give public review of your findings. Nice.
There is some stress in writing a peer review because you have to be correct in your claims. Sure, maybe some things in the book could have been done a different way, but was it the wrong way? The manner in which you come across in a peer review is important too. Crass and rude really doesn't make you look great on the stand if you slam a book or paper. You can get the point across just as well by being professional.
Writing books takes no back seat to peer review stress, especially when it comes to technical books. Not only does the grammar get combed by reviewers, but the actual technical details get sliced and diced. Was the information correct? Was it current and up-to-date? Is there any other information that negates what was written in the book?
So, to get any positive reviews makes for a good day. Not for the sake of ego, but for the sake of having done it right so others can benefit from the information. Writing is certainly not about making money as much as it is putting yourself out there to share what you have learned at the risk of having your work examined under a microscope by an unhappy camper.
Which brings me to my latest reviews for Hiding Behind the Keyboard. This is my third tech book (more to come in both nonfiction and fiction) and with each book, I have always cautiously looked at Amazon book reviews each time. Not that I have written anything inaccurate, inappropriate, or misleading, but that I just want to have written something useful in a topic that I wish existed when I started out in the digital forensics field. My best analogy of what it is like to write a book is to walk outside to your mailbox nude and then check Facebook to see what people say about you…then do it again. At least I don't have a Facebook account...
So far, the reviews for my latest book show that I did a good job (my gratitude to the reviewers).
And that brings me to another point of this post.
One of the social media reviewers is actually in a case study in the book. Higinio Ochoa read and reviewed my book in a Tweet (as seen below).
You will have to check the Internet to get Hig’s story, or read it my book… Suffice to say he was a hacker who was caught, and then ended up as one of the case studies in my book. Positive reviews from forensic experts are great, but so are reviews from former hackers that can double-validate the work. Like I said, it takes a lot of guts to write a book and almost as much guts to peer review it in public. That’s what we are doing when we write a review of a tech book. We are all peer reviewers.