Friday, July 16, 2010

Update on my reading plans

Just to make a post on the progress of my reading plans: it's been one of the best decisions I have done in many years. I think most people that know me are blue in the face from hearing my comments on all the books I've been reading.

I started posting my summaries and opinions of the books on this blog, but that in itself has turned into an additional project. That's part of the blessing and the curse of reading these business books: in that some may affect your process of methodical reading (think of "10 Days To Faster Reading"). In this case, reading "The Power of Less" by Leo Babauta mentioned the novel idea of ideally focusing on one project at a time, and to pay attention to new commitments.

I still am taking notes of each book, but not publishing them in blog form, and in the future I will be featuring my own highlights of the books that make the most impact.

Thought about protection of intellectual property

There is a great video training series from, and as I'm watching it, my thinking starts going on a tangent about concepts I have heard in some of business books I've been reading, regarding intellectual property. I assume that some people in this world would simply want to copy (word for word, or through a mindless process) an existing product, put another label on it and market it. But I think I have discovered a not-so-popular feature that can be exploited to help protect intellectual data.

When creating video materials or other intellectual property, I think a good measure to prevent systematic stealing of your ideas is to introduce offbeat events every so often. If your instructional video has little errors or offbeat language, an person or process that is copying your speech without any thought will also copy the error or offbeat comment. This will show in the final product they copy, making it easier to spot it among copies of your product going around the market. The videos I'm watching have that feature, where they are more like an unedited dialog, like a friend trying to show you how a program works.

Also something that might help out protecting your intellectual property is choosing an extremely narrow market (I read about this in the book "The Four Hour Workweek"). If you speak the language of a social group, for example let's say: "bilingual owners of dislexic chihuahuas", when your content is copied, it might be irrelevant for other markets.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Technology Trends: March 2010

It's that time again: a completely un-scientific, nationwide snapshot of demand for technologies at this time, through

Dojo: 102
Silverlight: 384
Azure: 25
iPhone: 324
LAMP: 568
SSIS: 554
Actionscript: 404
PHP: 2092
.NET 4304
Oracle: 5000+
SQL: 5000+

I only sampled a few items that came to mind just to get a feel. I'm surprised that .NET scores less than Oracle. That goes to challenge my assumptions, although let's consider that none of these counts are "apples to apples". I'm also surprised that there's only 25 for Azure. Maybe it's just not mainstream yet.

In the book "The Passionate Programmer", the author, Chad Fowler, explains that a good long term strategy for a career as a programmer is to capitalize in two areas: new technologies that are trending upwards in adoption, and then mature technologies that are on the decline. The combination of skill in both sides gives you a marketable edge.

What I find still hard is to discern is which platform is promising. In the book they gave an example of when OS2 used to be hot, but eventually fell out of use relatively fast. I guess the other piece of advice from the book is valuable: don't get "married" to a platform.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Book Review: The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig

I listened to the book "The Halo Effect" by Phil Rosenzweig. My short review is that it's a bitter pill. It feels as if you're having a conversation with college professor that has all the data to prove what is wrong with all the business books you have read. This book carefully dispels all the myths that are present in many business books.

In view of the 94 business books that I am planning to read, this does not bode well. The information on this book is like a rain on my parade.

But since I already read the book, I will consider it its advice but try to remain unfazed. I learned important concepts such as "correlation doesn't mean causality". Another point mentioned in the book is that CEO's decisions are not entirely responsible for the performance of a company. Actually they may be 4% responsible, according to some research. As the author said, if you have that fact in mind, it should make it a challenge to read a book such as "From Good To Great", in which the main idea is to show how good executive decisions made a company successful. The author challenges this philosophy by stating that a company's decisions are a complete gamble. You're just trying your luck.

So, forget everything about "Judgment" or "The Art of the Start"?

I just think every business book is a world in itself, and it has useful information, but after reading The Halo Effect, I think I'm cured from giving my complete trust in any particular business book.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Book Review: The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes.

Chet Holmes truly is a master of his craft, which is "making you want to read what he writes", and it's a direct result of all his philosophy, which is shared in detail in this book. I actually enjoyed listening to it in audio format, and was very intrigued by the ideas in there. When you read the title you might think that it's a book about how to make yourself into an Ultimate Sales Machine, but instead it goes bigger that that; it means "how to turn your company into an Ultimate Sales Machine". It's not a manual on sales per se, but more a manual on practical business strategy, although a bit unorthodox. It all orbits around an educational approach to running a business: first by educating your workforce until they know your company and product in and out (to the point where the business "can run itself"), then going into educating your clients with hard facts about why they should be worried, and then communicating how your product will ease their pains. This book has great insights on interviewing people and testing their personality by interacting with them, although some of this advice is bordering on the politically incorrect: in short, it advises to hassle the prospective employee and see if they put up a fight, which would be a good sign.

The Ultimate Sales Machine is exciting to read, and I'm glad I chose it as one of the first ones on my list of 100.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Using a Tasks list.

After making countless types of lists to track all the things I need to do at work and at home, I have narrowed down one useful habit, perhaps influenced by listening to the Audiobook "The Art of the Start" by Guy Kawasaki, in the topic of time management. I find that for my own tasks at work, the "Tasks" component of Microsoft Outlook works pretty well. I can quickly add any task that needs to be finished. If I need to route it to a project, say in Basecamp, I can do that later, but one of the ways I catch it is by adding it to "Tasks". But then I weed out the non-task items. What I believe is that any item in the Tasks module should be for "immediate finishable tasks". Not wishes, nor strategic plans or reminders. Those can be kept in separate lists. Tasks should be considered things that can be finished reasonably in about an hour.
OK, that may sound farfetched, since there are tasks that obviously take longer. What works for me is breaking it up. If something will take longer than an hour and you want it in Tasks, break it into one hour tasks. That way it's easy to calculate time. Otherwise it belongs to another type of list of your choosing, not the Tasks list. The point of a task is to finish it and not let it linger and bug you over and over.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Book Review: The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

This is another book I heard in Audio format during commuting. It started out well but I think it sort of fizzled towards the end. Maybe it's a cruel irony because of its title. Primarily it feels as if you were spending a long happy hour with Guy Kawasaki, getting advice from him, which is legitimate since he seems to know the best way to run a startup in a realistic way. I think the problem is that there's a dissonance between the expectations of the book and the actual content. Before you read it, it suggests that you could use that advice for any area of life where you need to "start" something. But then you find out that it's a book strictly about startup companies, dealing with specific issues such as mantras, presentations, hiring, looking for financiers, etc. Also I think the voice is undermined by some inconsistent advice, such as "don't use war analogies" like "attack", but way into the book he uses a war analogy and declares it will be the last one, and later still he uses the expression "establish a beachhead". I'll settle for this conclusion: it's OK to use war analogies but in moderation.
Some concepts I liked were about using a mantra instead of a mission statement, since a mantra has more passion and fun. Also I liked the advice that one shouldn't be putting effort on selling services that anyone can do, but instead into "doing your magic".
I enjoyed hearing about Powerpoint presentations and things one should and shouldn't do. Definitely if you're interested in running a start-up, there's a lot of good advice in this book.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book Review: Judgment, by Noel Tichy & Warren Bennis

I heard this book in audio format, and it was probably not the best to way to go through this book, because it has a lot of tabulated information that doesn't carry well as a narration. The premise is pretty simple: that performance of a company is affected by the judgment calls made by the leaders. It outlines a framework for judgment that is carried through several real-world examples, mentioning stories about big businesses such as GE, HP, Best Buy, Microsoft, etc., and how their leaders dealt with challenges. I found it very informative and educational. I liked how they defined the concept of strategy: The choices we make for the allocation of resources. Another question that intrigued me was in regards to G.E. Can a company grow through innovation? Apparently it can. Another section talked about how to recognize some of the abilities of a leader by posing some questions: can they solve problems? Have they taken innovative ideas and turn them into solutions for customers? Can they take these solutions and and turn them into a viable business?.

The book is a little dry, and tries to sound academic and authoritative, but it has very good perspective on the human aspect of organizations.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Gentle Leadership

If you ever watch the TV show Dog Whisperer, you should know I take it with a grain of salt, but I find it pretty fascinating sometimes. I was impressed in this episode when I saw Cesar Millan coaching a woman who owned a feisty little chihuahua, to assert herself by letting "her gentle side come out".

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Review: How to Make Millions with Your Ideas by Dan Kennedy

This book I actually bought from Amazon and read it in several nights. It's a pretty good book, assuming you already have your ideas in place but are looking for a primer on how to make them go to market, and assuming that you've already tried but need more ideas. It feels a bit like a catalog of all the possible avenues for marketing a product, with plenty of real, well known examples. It has a lot of revelations, but mainly that there are many ways of getting your product out, and you should basically try as many as you can. This I would have probably read later in the program since it's more beneficial if you know about marketing. Some topics are a bit dated (such as the virtual absence of e-mail marketing), but in general it's timeless advice.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Review: Tribes by Seth Godin

I can't complain because I got this book for free thanks to an offer from Beggars can't be choosers. At the end of the book, Seth Godin challenges the reader to take potshots at him for the shorfalls of the book, so I will humor him. He said so himself, the book is "disorganized". I would say it's written with the voice of the stream of consciousness, loosely associating ideas around the concept of a social construct defined as a "tribe" which actually is not the same as a group of natives but it's fairly close. The book is not really about tribes, but it's a call to all readers to become leaders, and to make a mental shift that can shoo away preconceptions and the fear that might come with it. I did like hearing Seth Godin's own voice narrating the book. I would say that it's definitely a book to keep around and possibly going through another time. It can energize your mind and make you think in different ways.