An older friend recommended this book to me in 2004. I finally got around to reading it. I'm glad I did. It's a quick, although sometimes quirky, read...moreAn older friend recommended this book to me in 2004. I finally got around to reading it. I'm glad I did. It's a quick, although sometimes quirky, read.
It helps to realize that the book was really a collection of pamphlets distributed in the 1920's by banks and insurance companies. This explains a little bit of its bias, but I think the advice is still sound.
The book is set in ancient Babylon that begins with Bansir, a chariot maker, commiserating with his broke friend (a lyre player). They can't figure out how to get out of their living essentially paycheck to paycheck. The story follows him as he finds a wealthy person who shares his secrets with the him and the rest of the city.
The book has some timeless advice: always save at least 10% of your paycheck, have your savings earn good interest, pay your debts, etc.
Here are some of the other things that I highlighted in addition to what Wikipedia mentioned:
* "Thou makest me to realize the reason why we have never found any measure of wealth. We never sought it."* "A PART OF ALL YOU EARN IS YOURS TO KEEP. It should not be less than a tenth no matter how little you earn. It can be as much more as you can afford. Pay yourself first." * "Advice is one thing that is freely given away, but watch that you take only what is worth having. He who takes advice about his savings from one who is inexperienced in such matters, shall pay with his savings for proving the falsity of their opinions." * "When I set a task for myself, I complete it. Therefore, I am careful not to start difficult and impractical tasks, because I love leisure." * "If a rich man builds him a new palace, is the gold he pays out gone? No, the brick maker has part of it and the laborer has part of it, and the artist has part of it. And everyone who labors upon the house has part of it. Yet when the palace is completed, is it not worth all it cost? And is the ground upon which it stands not worth more because it is there? And is the ground that adjoins it not worth more because it is there? Wealth grows in magic ways. No man can prophesy the limit of it." * "Then learn to make your treasure work for you. Make it your slave. Make its children and its children's children work for you." * "Seek the advice of men whose daily work is handling money." * "A small return and a safe one is far more desirable than risk." * "Enjoy life while you are here. Do not overstrain or try to save too much. If one tenth of all you earn is as much as you can comfortably keep, be content to keep this portion."
* "He must pay his debts with all promptness within his power, not purchasing that for which he is unable to pay." * "He must make a will of record that in case God calls him, proper and honorable division of his property be accomplished." * "He must have compassion upon those who are injured or smitten by misfortune and aid them within reasonable limits. He must do deeds of thoughtfulness to those dear to him."
* "In this tale we see how good luck waits to come to that man who accepts opportunity." (don't be Procrastinator)... "wisdom of making a payment immediately when we are convinced our bargain is wise." "Good luck can be enticed by accepting opportunity. "ACTION will lead thee forward to the successes thou dost desire. "Men of Action are favored by Good Luck." * "To take his first start to building an estate is as good luck as can come to any man. With all men, that first step, which changes them from men who earn from their own labor to men who draw dividends from the earnings of their gold, is important." * "Wealth that comes quickly goeth the same way." * "If thou desire to help thy friend, do so in a way that will not bring thy friend's burdens upon thyself." * "humans in the throws of great emotions are not safe risks for the gold lender." * "Many other merchants of Babylon have my confidence because of their honorable behavior. Their tokens come and go frequently in my token box. Good merchants are an asset to our city and it profits me to aid them to keep trade moving that Babylon be prosperous." * "I will no longer lend any of it where I am not confident that it is safe and will be returned to me. Neither will I lend it where I am not convinced that its earnings will be promptly paid to me." * "Be conservative in what thou expect it to earn that thou mayest keep and enjoy thy treasure. To hire it out with a promise of usurious returns is to invite loss." * "Better a Little Caution than a Great Regret" * "We cannot afford to be without adequate protection." * "Ill fortune! Wouldst blame God for thine own weakness. Ill fortune pursues every man who thinks more of borrowing than of repaying." * "no man can respect himself who does not repay honest debts." * "Where the Determination is, the Way Can Be Found" * "Therefore am I more determined than ever to carry through, being convinced that it is easier to pay one's just debts than to avoid them." * "Great is the PLAN for it leadeth us out of debt and giveth us wealth which is ours to keep." * "Babylon is an outstanding example of man's ability to achieve great objectives, using whatever means are at his disposal. All of the resources supporting this large city were man developed. All of its riches were man made."
All told, a nice book that reminds us of timeless truths.
His basic thesis is that one morning a month, everyone in the company (devs, designers, ceo, etc) observes three people from outside the organization attempt to do a few tasks with your product (as well as some things like try to understand your home page). Each individual session is recorded with something like Camtasia and simulcasted to another room where the company has spectators that are taking notes. Each session shouldn't last for more than 50 mins. The result of all of the testing is a lunch debrief where people discuss some top problems and then there is ruthless focus on just fixing those, often by doing the least thing possible that will improve the situation.
One additional piece of advice is to start early in the process, even if it means showing a big paper napkin with sketches.(less)
As a kid, I read a lot about Bill Gates. To this day, I can still recite a lot of details about his story and the story of Microsoft. I hadn't really...moreAs a kid, I read a lot about Bill Gates. To this day, I can still recite a lot of details about his story and the story of Microsoft. I hadn't really bothered to learn much about the Apple story since I've been a PC user since the early 90's by happenstance and then later by choice.
However, my first programming experience happened to be on an Apple IIe in our town's library. It was that experience as an 8 year old kid that started me down the path of being a professional programmer that I am today.
And yet, I didn't really know the history that led to that machine or what really happened after that time.
This book filled in a lot of those details.
Steve was obviously different than Bill. Bill grew up in a prominent lawyer's upper class family, Steve was adopted into a middle class family of modest means. Both of them were smart, but their styles were quite different. Both had their good points and both had notable flaws.
Throughout the book, you learn that Steve was a guy of the "counterculture" who credited dropping acid as one of the best experiences of his life and thought others (like Bill) would have been much better off had they done the same.
I was struck by the words "petulant" and "mercurial" describing Steve Jobs while reading this book. To be transparent, I didn't know the definitions of these words before this book but now I won't forget them because I think they fit Jobs quite well.
I was continually dismayed by stories of how Jobs treated people. I think there is a line between motivating people with tough love to do their best work and being brash and attacking people personally. I think Jobs crossed that line at times and it was sad to repeatedly hear about these events in the book.
Jobs was also very independent and went out of his way to not play by other people's rules nor care about opinions if he thought he was right. Sometimes this lead to great products like the Apple II and iPhone, but at other times led to him to do things like not have a license plate on his car.
Again, there is a line between being a hero by not playing by silly rules and just having an outright "petulant" disregard for others. I think he crossed this line too at times. For example, he refused to shower regularly or wear deodorant because he thought his strict vegan diet consisting of mostly fruit made him immune from any smells. Everyone interviewed in the book seemed to indicate this was a genuine problem, but Jobs seemed to blatantly refuse to believe it. It was so bad that he had to work the night shift at Atari because others couldn't stand his BO during the day.
Isaacson also painted a picture of Jobs that seemed a bit bipolar when it came to relationships. The book portrayed several relationships when Jobs was mesmerized by people one moment and then angry with them in another. Many of these outbursts seemed overly harsh, even by Jobs' standard.
A big focus of this book was the history of Apple itself. It became quite clear that the core of Apple reflects Jobs' vision.
Jobs very much was product focused and he obsessed over end-to-end experiences. This leads to some great integrations and experiences if you're willing to completely buy into the whole ecosystem (i.e. Mac, iTunes, iPhone, iCloud, etc) but some not pleasant experiences if you're not willing to cede everything to a single company. The book provided the back story of why iTunes on Windows has historically been a difficult product to deal with. It clearly was something Jobs didn't want to do early on but was only a concession to sell more iPods.
Jobs chided companies like Microsoft for not offering end-to-end experiences like Apple. The book detailed his reasons on this, but I also see the reasons why Microsoft, Google, and Amazon have for wanting to be more "open" in allowing outsiders to use their platform even if they can't control all aspects about its use. Before this book, I was a stronger supporter of the Microsoft way, but I'm a bit less intense on that now. However, I still favor the "open" way because it allows more choice and less fears about lock-in to a potentially inferior product.
The book shed a lot of light on other important early Apple events such as development of the Apple II, the failure of the Apple III, the failure of the Lisa, the development of the Macintosh, the infatuation and subsequent falling-out with Sculley that led to Jobs' resignation in the mid-80's.
I think Isaacson gave the clearest explanation I've read about how Jobs' getting let go from Apple changed him and ultimately led to things like Pixar's success. It also led to the resurgence of Apple in the late 90's when Apple bought his NeXT company and its associated NextStep OS which became the basis for OS X and whose fingerprint is still seen in all OS X and iOS APIs that begin with "NS".
The book also covered the background of the more recent Apple products and their motivation. For example, Steve hated tablets that used a stylus. This led to him pushing a team to create a great tablet (the iPad) that didn't need a stylus. He pushed for this first (before the iPhone). However, due to timing of things, he directed the technology to first go into the iPhone even though it was risky at the time (their initial plan was to have a phone using the wheel like the iPod). Isaacson also spotlighted how these products couldn't have come to be without other important people such as Jonathan Ive, Apple's top designer.
There are things that I respect about Jobs: he wasn't really motivated by money but rather sincerely motivated to create great products, he wanted to give his best to things he cared about, and lets not forget that he gave great presentations.
Isaacson's biography of Jobs also described what it took for him to deliver the products that millions of people enjoy: fractured relationships with friends and sometimes being quite distant from family. His intensity seemed at times too high of a cost to pay which left me feeling sad. (less)
Try things out, see what works by adapting. Think about "what's the worst that could happen?" rather than "what's the best that should happen?". Be ag...moreTry things out, see what works by adapting. Think about "what's the worst that could happen?" rather than "what's the best that should happen?". Be agile.
From the book: Experiment, play, immerse, define, reorient, and iterate. (less)
The basic idea of Bayes' Rule is that you treat probability as a degree of belief (i.e. how much are you willing to bet on something) instead of a rel...moreThe basic idea of Bayes' Rule is that you treat probability as a degree of belief (i.e. how much are you willing to bet on something) instead of a relative frequency (i.e. count the number of royal flushes out of all possible poker hands).
Bayes' Rule allows you to "learn" by updating your (prior) degree of belief of something (i.e. probability of finding a sunken ship in a certain part of the ocean) given new information (i.e. a captain's log) in order to obtain knowledge in a "posterior" belief. It's a bit "messier", but it tends to get good results with more data. This approach allows you to calculate probabilities for things you couldn't realistically count frequencies for (because they haven't happened before)
Bayes' Rule was often ridiculed before computational power made its tedious calculations possible. In addition, people didn't like the fact that you had to kickstart Bayes Rule with a "prior" that tended to be subjective (even if it's better than nothing).
The book highlights the story of the discovery of the rule and its ridicule for ~250 years until it came to dominate the world of today in lots of applications (i.e. used in Google's spellchecker, spam filters, etc)
Some interesting quotes/notes:
* "In a new kind of paradigm shift for a pragmatic world, the man who had called Bayes 'the crack cocaine of statistics... seductive, addictive and ultimately destructive' began recruiting Bayesians for Google." * Although Bayes gets most of the credit, Laplace did most of the real work to get the rule in its modern form. * There was a cool explanation of a Bayesian application of determining authorship of the "anonymous" Federalist papers using spam-like Bayes rule. Very interesting. * The book describes the search for a sunken submarine (Scorpion) using Bayes' Rule relying on accounts from Lawrence (Larry) Stone. I originally learned about Bayes Rule when I worked as an intern with Larry, so it was cool to see things come full circle reading about the adventure in this book (wasn't expecting it!) * "In 1996 Bill Gates, cofounder of Microsoft, made Bayes headline news by announcing that Microsoft's competitive advantage lay in its expertise in Bayesian networks." * "According to Google's research director, Peter Norvig, 'There must have been a dozen of times when a project started with naive Bayes, just because it was easy to do and we expected to replace it with something more sophisticated later, but in the end the vast amount of data meant that a more complex technique was not needed."
I liked the book. I would have enjoyed it more with more technical details, but realize this wasn't likely given the wide intended audience.(less)
I picked this book up because I was interested in learning more about IBM's Watson.
Although it lacked deep technical details that I would have enjoyed...moreI picked this book up because I was interested in learning more about IBM's Watson.
Although it lacked deep technical details that I would have enjoyed, it gave a brief overview of the team behind the machine including things like the politics of working with the Jeopardy staff.(less)
By far the best book on Google I've read although it still lacked the technical depth I would have liked.
Some random thoughts that stuck out: * Larry P...moreBy far the best book on Google I've read although it still lacked the technical depth I would have liked.
Some random thoughts that stuck out: * Larry Page is highly annoyed people aren't more ambitious, especially technical people. * Google has become large enough to have a wealth of their own acronyms, some of which clash with traditional ones (i.e. GPS = Google Product Strategy), OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) that are defined regularly to serve as your goals. * Google has an intense program for training APMs (Associate Product Managers) who are fresh-outs with Computer Science degrees that are on the fast-track to becoming PMs. Part of this program includes two product rotations and trips all around the world to various Google offices. About half of the APMs eventually leave the company after a few years to work for other companies or start their own. * SafeSearch was a big part of winning a search contract with AOL. Matt Cutts was on the SafeSearch team and his wife baked cookies for early internal testers of SafeSearch who were able to find "bugs" in the filter. To this day, Googlers remember her for this. * Google is probably the world's largest server manufacturer. * Getting hacked in China was just the last straw of a bunch of things management didn't like about operating in China. * Google crawled services like Baidu to train their Chinese censoring filter on what should be censored. * Google has some interesting internal/code names (i.e. Google Buzz was internally known as "Taco Town" based off the SNL skit where they kept on smothering extra taco goodness layers) * The book seemed to imply that one of the reasons Google couldn't buy Twitter is because Evan didn't want Google to sideline it like he felt they did with Blogger.
My purpose in reading biographies and memoirs isn't to take a side on political issues, but rather to understand a little better how people think. Fro...moreMy purpose in reading biographies and memoirs isn't to take a side on political issues, but rather to understand a little better how people think. From that perspective, I liked the book.
I had a few random takeaways:
* I got the overall impression that Bush thinks his presidency will continue to look better in hindsight and that during his presidency too much politics/slinging took aim at him and strongly tarnished his perception. * 9/11 caught Bush (and most of the nation) by surprise and really forced a dramatic change in his presidency. When he visited NYC in the days that followed, I really think this had a huge impression on him, especially when he promised to avenge the horrible acts. * Bush gave the impression that he wanted act immediately to help Katrina victims but didn't have legal authority to do so (e.g. allow federal troops to patrol the state area) because the governor kept refusing to give that authority. He was eventually able to send in troops without the authority to patrol/engage/fire-a-shot-if-necessary and this helped. Had he known that it would have gone so well without needing the governor's approval he would have done it sooner. * Bush believes that the No Child Left Behind policy is extremely important as a social/ethnic justice issue. * I think President Bush's Christian faith is sincere * I honestly think Bush tried to do what he thought was best for the country without sinister plans. * Bush calls his mom (Barbara) "mother." I thought this was... unique.
On a lighter note, I listened to the audio edition of this book read by Bush himself. It added extra flair to the experience. Bush has a noticeably different/slower reading voice than his normal speaking/non-speech voice. This reading voice causes him to e-nun-ci-ate words more (e.g. "juuu-liiiie" for "July"). This at times made it amusing to listen to, even at very serious points in the book. For example, when Bush talks about how special ops caught Saddam and then the FBI interrogated him, he said this (imagine Bush reading it slowly, but with a "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING SADDAM?!" vocal tone):
"[Saddam] told agents that he was more worried about looking weak to Iran than being removed by the coalition. He never thought the United States would follow through on our promises to disarm him by force. I'm not sure what more I could have done to show Saddam I meant what I said. I named him part of an axis of evil in my State of the Union address. I spoke to a packed chamber of the United Nations and promised to disarm him by force if diplomacy failed. We presented him with a uniamious Security Council resolution. We sought and received strong bipartisan backing from the U.S. Congress. We deployed 150,000 troops to his border. I gave him a final forty-eight-hours' notice that we were about to invade his country. How much clearer could I have been?"
This book is so small that I bought the cheap Kindle version and read it on my computer screen in about an hour. It's definitely a good way to get a d...moreThis book is so small that I bought the cheap Kindle version and read it on my computer screen in about an hour. It's definitely a good way to get a decent overview of the basics.
It has a lot of simple advice that makes sense. A few takeaways:
* If you get help, go for an independent fee-only advisor and not a broker. * Quote:"The right time to invest is when you have the money and the right time to sell is when you need the money." * Your most important decision is balancing risk by determining how you should allocate your money between cash [money market funds], bonds [fixed income], and stocks [equities]. * The most important long-term factors for returns are size (e.g. Large/Mid/Small cap) and valuation (Value/Growth). The more Small/Value you are, the higher the expected long-term returns. * Bonds should reduce volatility, so if you get them, go for short-term high quality ones. * Quote: "Efficient Markets Hypothesis - no investor will consistently beat the market over long periods except by chance." * Opt for passive investing instead of active investing. The funds are usually cheaper (e.g. less than 0.5% avg fee vs 1.3% for active ones). The fees really make a huge difference for returns. As such, actively managed funds always (on the whole) underperform passive ones. * Interesting quote: "Wall street brokers and press would have you believe (1) timing and (2) picking [specific] stocks/bonds (3) finding manager or mutual fund [matter], but this is wrong! Research shows that these factors make a negative contribution to the total return level of a diversified portfolio."
The book has an appendix that includes a chart for hypothetical allocations based on your risk tolerance. I think this chart alone probably made the book worth what I paid for it.
The book was written in 1948 (get it? 48->84) and portrays the life of Winston Smith (Winston because of Churchill and Smith because it is common). Winston is living in 1984 in the midst of "IngSoc" (English Socialism) that abhors everything about the capitalistic government that it overthrew in the 60's. There is a caste system where 2% of the people belong to the "Inner Party", around 13% belong to the "Outer Party" (like Winston) and then 85% are the "proles" which are effectively the unwashed masses in the book (e.g. they read rubbish, obsessed about the lottery even though no one actually wins, etc.)
The Party is on a mission of absolute power. Its head figure is "Big Brother" whose goal is to get in your head to prevent you from ever thinking about overthrowing The Party. They achieve this by dumbing down the culture and removing all traces of human emotion (except hate). They have a serious effort in creating a new language (Newspeak) that removes all unnecessary words (e.g. why gave "better" and "excellent" if you can say "plusgood" and "doubleplusgood"?) and any words that would allow you to think of going against the party (no words for overthrow, martyr, etc.. those are all "thoughtcrime"). If you try to go against The Party, you'll be caught by the Thought Police (who come at night... they always come at night).
The mind control and "double think" can be clearly seen in The Party's ministries:
Ministry of Peace (Minipax in Newspeak) - Concerned with war (there's always been a war.. there will always be one. It keeps people busy doing stuff for the benefit of the Inner Party, even though the Outer Party and proles always have severe rations) Ministry of Truth (Minitrue) - Concerned with falsifying the past Ministry of Love (Miniluv) - Concerned with absolute torture Ministry of Plenty (Miniplenty) - Concerned with lying about actual production
Winston works for Minitrue and spends his working life rewriting the past to agree with what The Party is currently saying. The Party can totally change its position in an instant which keeps Winston and Minitrue busy (e.g. who the country is fighting with.. and thus, making it appear that they've always been fighting with it). Minitrue has entire departments devoted to reprinting old newspapers with "corrected" information. There is no past as we know it.
The book outlines Winston's inner struggle about knowing that the culture is awful compared to his upbringing before IngSoc, but then Winston faces a struggle of what to do about it.
The end is predictable, although a little scary.
I'd recommend the book, especially since several terms from the book (e.g. Big Brother, Doublethink, Thought Police, "Room 101", etc) have entered into popular culture. It's insight into what can happen if you take some ideas of power way, way, way too far.(less)