"You can't learn to plough by reading books."
Were you jealous of the kids who got to go on Reading Rainbow? Ditto. Inspired by taylor.town's efforts, I write short reviews of what I read.
Here's how these readings are graded:
★★★★★-I will definitely talk to you about it. Might re-read
★★★★☆-I will probably make reference to it.
★★★☆☆-If it comes up in conversation. Some nuggets worth considering.
★★☆☆☆-I might warn you about it.
★☆☆☆☆-Will definitely warn you about it.
☆☆☆☆☆-Hasn't happened yet. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
How To Win Friends & Influence People
"Open their mouth, grab a handful and throw. Whatever sticks, that's the correct dosage"
Dr Cox's advice to JD on a Tylenol prescription. Also works for a book of 30 principles on how to be a better person.
Hard not to like this book. It should be a requirement that all non-fiction has a "how to use this" preface and this didn't disappoint. Here, he suggests the reader write in the margins and become an active auditor / re-auditor of the ideas he suggests.
The format is simple: 30 chapters grouped in four sections. Each chapter focuses on motivating one principle related to the theme of the section. He could have called the book "30 principles to win friends and influence people" but it doesn't ring the same.
Even though his anecdotes on history are fixed on success stories of the early 20th century--well, and Abraham Lincoln--the principles are timeless.
For most professionals, these principles will seem...almost too simple. "Don't critize, condemn or complain", "Smile", "Appeal to nobler motives". His opening reminder to occassionally return to the book or build systems to regularly evaluate if you're following the principles, remind us to avoid hypocrisy. Practice what you preach.
To that end, some nugget that stood out were these practices:
- Keep a DFT list -- "Darn Foolish Things (I've done)"-list, noting failures in my past and how I now know I could've done better.
- Keep a DGT list -- "Darn Good Things (I've done)". My retort--and I think Zig Ziglar's--to the DFT list. Regularly remind myself of some of my best moments in life.
- Create a "pinch, you owe me a quarter"-system for certain negative habits I want to retrain.
This is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until you Learn to See
Why did I choose this one? I said I hoped it was more of a Shoedog / underdog-type narrative but I was wrong.
It reads like a grab bag of marketing suggestions and for the first third I was pretty upset with myself that I chose to read it. I've liked Godin's youtube talks in the past and think he's a skilled speaker, but after this read I'm not eager ot read anything new he puts out. Maybe "Purple Cow" or his earlier, more focused works. This felt like reading a "best of " album, designed by the publisher to ensure some holiday sales. I sound like a curgudgeon. I would recommend this to anyone who is stuck in the "I can create something and silently keep it to myself and hope it'll grow"-phase of creation. Possibly only the "smallest viable market" or "a better business plan" questionaires actually.
- Think of the smallest viable market. Initially, don't build for everyone on the planet.
- Consider the NRA. Only 1 Million members and they are comfortable not growing. Member churn is probably very low.
- 24HourHomepage is a tool for brand marketing. Those obsessed with metric based advertising may not want to participate. That's okay.
- As tech gets easier ask: "do we have the guts?"
Template #1: The marketing promise
- My product is for people who believe _______
- I will focus on people who want _______
- I promise that engaging with what I make will help you get _______
Template #2: A Simple Marketing Worksheet
- Who is it for?
- What is it for?
- What is the worldview of the audience you'r seeking to reach?
- What are they afraid of?
- What story will you tell? Is it true?
- What change are you seeking to make?
- How will it change their status?
- How will you reach the early adopters and neophiliacs?
- Why will they tell their friends?
- What will they tell their friends?
- Where's the network effect that will propel this forward?
- What asset are you building?
- Are you proud of it?
- Fill out the two templates above for Soundcloud and for my DTC prototype
The Communication Book: 44 Ideas for Better Conversations Every Day
A fun primer on communication methods and styles. It's a popcorn and candy book designed to be flipped through in a quiet afternoon. Helpful for building a swipe file maybe or when creatively brainstorming how to get two or more people to communicate better.
Some nuggets include:
- Ask people to standup during standup. Keeps meetings short
- Leaders are cheerleaders, captains of the energy/enthusiasm of the team
- When communication breaks down, get all parties to agree to the "Cooperative Principle": Assume one person wants to be understood and another wants to understand
- “It is easier to build strong children then broken men” — Frederick Douglass
- Every presentation is a story. All stories should focus on one idea.
- Trade saying "no worries" for something that acknowledges that we are a team
- Are you where you want to be? Think about your thinking. Less "stinky thinky" as Zig Ziglar would say.
- When brainstorming in sensitive domains, use the subjunctive. "What feelings/objections COULD people have to this idea?" and not "What do you think of this idea?"
- Peak-End theory: people remember those two elements about narrative structures (people, events, etc). Example: If you're reading this, you're awesome and I appreciate you reading my notes! ✌️
Don't Make Me Think, Revisited
This was the first of several books I requested from my company as part of our "Learning & Development" annual stipend. I've worked with companies that have offered similar in the past but can't remember a time I used the benefit. Not this time!
Anyway, I requested this book because I work on a user-facing web team for a product that's about as old as this first version of this book.
Much of these lessons in this book I gleaned under the tutelage of Joan Swenson on my high school newspaper. Some of the key "nuggets" in this book are to remember:
- Users skim
- ...and will "muddle through" most design decisions
- Cleverness doesn't pay
- Do more user testing. Follow Krug's script.
- Delete unnecessary words
- Page titles should reflect the links that brought them
If you know anyone thinking about "getting into" web development, this is a good primer but if you're already in the field, it reads like re-reading. The web moves fast and this seems pretty dated. Not much on the "hybrid" web/mobile development world we've built, app deep links, i18n (apart from a11y) or notifications.
Actionable items for me and my team:
- Are we doing user testing? If not, follow the basic guideline in the book (once per month, 3 recorded sessions and a team debrief)
- Bake our lighthouse number into CI
- Do a "print and squint" test for each of implemented designs
Buckminster Fuller: Poet Of Geometry
I got this book as a house warming gift several years (and apartments) ago from my friend Sam Cloud. I skimmed it back then but picked it up again recently because I vibed with it. Apparently he catalogued so much of his life (from 1917-1983) that his notes/scrapbook would stack 270ft. Stored at Stanford now.
Another notch on my notch board to revive selfless after reading him.
Chuckled imagining Bucky throughout his life walking into a discussion where shapes were even remotely discussed and him saying..."I've got just the thing".
Nice rainy day book.
There was a period as a teen when I was obsessed with lucid dreaming. I loved (still love) Richard Linklater's Waking Life which talks about it briefly. This book was enjoyable as a dream-journaling jump start mechanism. I enjoyed reflecting on awareness. Unlike my teenage years, I'd like to use the practice for reflection...but still fly around.
At times I'd drift off while reading another one of the author's dream logs. Impressive how detailed he kept them and how many lucid dreams he's had in his life. The more you do, the less you do.
I enjoyed the first half. I got the book years before starting 24HourHomepage thinking I'd enjoy the anthropology nuggets. I did. Like how the culturally accepted bereavement periods for widows has exponentially decayed in industrial nations.
I'd love to take a Joe Pera at the Grocery Store approach to my next media:
- Should I read this?
- Will I read this?
- Can I afford this?
As an exercise in that spirit, here I write down why I think I should / will read this. For now, affording is easy: I rent from the library or ask my work to buy it.
The Creative Act: A Way of Being - Rick RubinI help build a tool for artists and musicians to connect with music. I like some of Rick's productions. The meme was good. He's mentioned daoist stuff before so I suspect it'll be a lot like that. Morsels
How to Live: 27 conflicting answers and one weird conclusion - Derek SiversI like analysis books that have atypical structure (as I've heard this has). Reminded of Daniel H Pink's Drive where each chapter has tiered summaries in advance. Also, I enjoyed "Anything You Want", appreciate the /now movement and Derek in general.
The ONE Thing -- Keller & PapasanI enjoy goal setting and focus. If there are any nuggets to share with my team about goal setting, I'd love to extract it from reading. Seems helpful as I move onto new side-project after several conversations with Mariana.
Benjamin Franklin's autobiographyI like anecdotes of his daily routine. Maybe his autobiography is overkill though.