1. Read ASAP! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · History · Technology

BR 209: The Master Switch by Tim Wu

Category: 1 – Read ASAP! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: I debated about whether this should be category 1 or 2. On the one hand, this book is very focused on the history of information empires in the United States. But, on the other, information empires are THE dominant corporations in today’s world. So, this book become a must read. :)

Top 3 Learnings:

  1. Every information industry (phone, radio, film, tv, internet) has seen a struggle between open versus closed / decentralized versus centralized. Every one of these started out with hackers and hobbyists and then became the home of large monopolies.
  2. What we think is a by product of what we read and who listen to. Free speech and a marketplace of ideas are not as dependent on the values of a place as much as the structure of the information infrastructure.
  3. This isn’t as much a learning as much as a note that I remember so many stories from the book. The story of the creation of hollywood, the rise, fall and rise of AT&T, CBS, etc., still give me goosebumps. A hat tip to Tim Wu for a wonderfully written book.

Book notes here

3. SHELF it · Bio/Autobiographies · Entrepreneurship · Technology

BR 207: Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

Category: 3 – SHELF it (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: Elon Musk’s book has a compelling narrative, a great inherent story and is very well written. It is not for everyone. However, if you are interested/intrigued by Elon Musk and/or have an interest in entrepreneurship, space or clean energy, this is a fascinating read.

Top 3 Learnings:
1. I found it fascinating to see how Musk kept buying himself career credit to do the next thing. His first tech company was a internet 1.0 version of Yelp meets Google Maps that exited for >$300M. This, then, gave him capital and credibility to work on X.com, which became PayPal. That, in turn, led to SpaceX.. And he chanced on Tesla because he was known to care a lot about clean energy.

2. Elon is a suitably weird/crazy, gifted person whose drive matches his considerable intellect. That said, he’s had to make some really big sacrifices to get to where he’s gotten to. He sees his mission as one that will save human kind (we care a lot about legacy as human beings) and his skills and experiences have positioned him beautifully for it. It isn’t for everyone. But, it is nevertheless inspiring to see him work toward what matters to him – even if his style occasionally is occasionally cold and un-empathetic.

3. I love Elon’s focus on first principles. His desire to understand the key drivers is phenomenal. The way he disaggregated the cost of a rocket’s components to get to understanding how over priced rockets are was, again, awe-inspiring.

No book notes. I treated this as a light read. :)

2. BUY it! · Creativity · Skills · Technology

BR 206: Don’t Make me Think by Steve Krug

Category: 2 – BUY it!* (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)
*A category 1 – Read ASAP book if you ever attempt to design a website. I still put it in category 2 because we’re all web design consumers (and, hopefully, creators?) now. :)

Comments: Awesome design book.

Top 3 Learnings:
1. Where possible, stick to design conventions. We are creatures of habit and design conventions go a long way in helping us understand what we should do next.

2. Always prioritize user testing. Simple, continuous, lightweight user testing beats heavy research done every once a while.

3. The question to ask isn’t – what does the average user like? There isn’t an average user.
The question to ask is – Does this feature with these items and this wording in this context on this page create a good experience for most people who are likely to use this site?

Book notes here.

1. Read ASAP! · History · Novel Concepts · Technology

BR 204: How we got to now by Steven Johnson

Category: 1 – Read ASAP! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: This is a book that takes 6 parts of modern life and shows you how they were fundamental in making modern life what it is. It changed how I saw the world.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Most innovations occur in the adjacent possible. Few make seemingly impossible leaps. The popular theory is the genius theory of innovation. But, there are plenty of high IQ individuals. If there is a common thread, it is that they worked at the intersection of multiple fields. Ada Lovelace could see the future of computers as she lived at the edge of science and art. Staying within the boundaries of your discipline can enable incremental improvements – which are critical to progress. But, to make leaps, we have to travel across borders – sometimes geographical to be in a different environment and sometimes conceptual. These time travelers often have hobbies and interests in varied fields. This is one of the reason “garages” have such a symbolic role in innovation as these are peripheral spaces.

2. The power of accurate measurement of time is that measuring time is key to measuring space. Every time we glance down at our phone to find our location, we’re triangulating between at least 3 of 24 atomic clocks that tell us our location based on the measurement. And, these clocks have been made possible by scientific advances that led us from astronomy (sundials) to dynamics (pendulums) to electromagnetics (quartz) to atomic physics (atomic clocks)

3. Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb. Instead, he invented something more powerful – a process of innovation. He brought together diverse teams, built the first global supply chain, mastered the art of public relations and product launches, embraced experimentation and incentivized his teams with stock options. This is a model that continues today.

Book notes here.

3. SHELF it · Creativity · Skills · Technology

BR 202: How to Design Cool Stuff by John McWade

Category: 3 – SHELF it (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: This is a beautifully designed book – as it should be. :) It has lots of interesting examples that demonstrate what is good design and what is bad design. I took away a fair number of tips – but I did miss principles.

Top 3 Learnings:
1. Colors such as yellow, orange and red are warm colors while colors such as blue and purple are cool colors. Cool colors point to professional settings.

2. Breaking images into multiple pieces can be very powerful. Scale: magnifying small pieces can greatly improve perception of importance. Similarly, Cropping images is a powerful tool. A small part of the image can tell a much more powerful story than the rest of the image.

3. Add a photo to the graph. If sales of strawberries, put a strawberry photo behind

Book notes here.

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Skills · Technology

BR 200: Inspired by Marty Cagan

Category: 3 – SHELF it* (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

*This is a really nice read if you are interested in Technology Product Management. I’d move this to “BUY It” in that case.

Comments: A really well written and well organized book that beautifully lays out the art and science of product management.

1. The job of the product manager is to discover a product that is valuable, usable, and feasible.

3 Steps to Building Products –

1. Is there a real opportunity?
2. Figure out what to build (build the right product) – is there enough evidence that it is valuable, useful and feasible?
3. Build it (building the product right).

2. Replace PRDs or Product Specs with a prototype. The majority of the product spec should be the high-fidelity prototype, representing the functional requirements, the information architecture, the interaction design, and the visual design of the user experience.

3. Fear, greed and lust. People buy and use products largely for emotional reasons. In the enterprise space, the dominant emotion is generally fear or greed. In the consumer space, the dominant emotions get more personal. If I buy this product or use this Web site, I will make friends (loneliness), find a date (love or lust), win money (greed), or show off my pictures or my taste in music (pride).

Book notes here.

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Technology

BR 192: The Seventh Sense by Joshua Cooper Ramo

the seventh sense, joshua cooper ramo

Category: 3 – SHELF it (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: This is an interesting book. On paper, it is one that should have many fascinating takeaways. But, somehow, it fell short of the mark. I didn’t really have all that many interesting takeaways. And, I really expected to. Maybe it was a case of expectations versus reality.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. A series of nodes connected to each other is a network. And, a connection of objects can change the nature of the object itself.

2. Power was asymmetric in the age of aristocrats. Since then, power has been going through a gradual decentralization. However, networks have been making power asymmetric via power law distributions.

3. Gate keeping is very valuable in the age of networks. Threatening to leave countries out of networks like the internet could be an effective way to enforce nuclear pacts.

(The author believes that we are in great danger of being wiped out by artificial intelligence.)

Book notes here.