Succinctly Series E-book Author Q&A with James Beresford

This interview with PowerPivot Succinctly and HDInsight Succinctly author James Beresford is part of a series of Q&A blog posts with our Succinctly series authors.

Why write a book for Syncfusion?

One of the great strengths of working with Microsoft technologies is the community that surrounds them. From newbie problems to the most obscure error message, not only has someone encountered it, they’ve usually written about it. Throughout my career my bacon has been saved more than a few times by a geek who decided to share their knowledge to help build that community. Writing a book for Syncfusion was a good way for me to make a small contribution back to the community that has helped me unknowingly so many times.

Are these books your first technical manuals?

They aren’t my first book—that privilege goes to a cyberpunk novel I wrote many years ago—but they are my first technical manuals. I have been writing on my blog for a long time though, so it wasn’t a daunting idea to write one. They have taught me an appreciation for a couple of things. First, good manuals are hard work. Lots of effort goes in to making sure the examples are correct, double checking that I really do know what I’m talking about—and every now and then finding that I don’t! Secondly, that technology moves very fast. When I was doing the final draft of HDInsight Succinctly, I had to make a large number of changes because the platform had changed so much in just a couple of months.

What is your favorite outdated technology?

This is easy: the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Released in the early 80s, it was our household’s first computer and it boasted a whopping 16k of RAM and used audiocassette tapes to store data. My dad bought it with the honest intention of using it himself, but I soon took ownership and in between the incessant playing of games (sorry mum!) I did start getting curious about how to make it do things I wanted. In front of the family TV, using a tape deck to manage my code, the seeds of my technology career were planted.


A Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Source:

What have you learned since writing e-books about PowerPivot and HDInsight?

Since I wrote PowerPivot Succinctly, I have been working on bigger and more complicated PowerPivot models than I think Microsoft ever envisioned. I’ve watched the cloud story for data and BI change dramatically from a bunch of theories to tangible platforms, which I can plug into right now. All IT is moving so fast at the moment that there is an ongoing investment you have to make to keep up.

Do you have another reference that you would recommend to people interested in PowerPivot or HDInsight?

For those interested in PowerPivot, and really pushing to the max, the guys from SQLBI have launched a DAX Patterns website, which lays down a whole set of approaches for common formula problems. Wee worth a review if you are getting deep into the product.

james beresford

Succinctly Series author James Beresford

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