Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thoughts on Books - using an example:Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup

Single thesis non-fiction books should just die. Now, Please.

Thankfully, "Do More Faster" is not one of these books and ironically it was a critical book review that inspired me to purchase it.

The book is filled with short anecdotes - just a page or two and a corollary comment from the authors Cohen (@davidcohen, http://www.davidgcohen.com) and/or Feld (@bfeld, www.feld.com)

The criticism levelled at the book that the anecdotes are too short - I disagree. Much of the ethos that goes into the book is about "lean", about getting to the core of what matters. As fellow aussie Mick @liubinskas says: "Focus on the core - the rest is mostly crap".

Whats frustrating about non-fiction business books is the self-indulgence on behalf of the author and the lack of respect for the reader's time that is pervasive. Books like Freakonomics, Blink, Free, Made to Stick are targeted at audiences who have the least time - these readers treat the books as knowledge acquisition missions rather than a leisurely pursuit. But what does the author do? They deliver in 249 pages something that can be concisely delivered in less than 50.

You can argue that nuances are lost but I posit that the anecdotes/stories (yes they are the true way humans learn) can be culled if the author respects the reader's time - get over it, these business books are just snapshot punditry of a moment in time. Just like we shouldn't patent Business ideas, these books arn't a permanent and lasting discovery - just a maven's dispatch from the field.

Example: This beautiful RSA Animate sketch achieves in 10 minutes 48 seconds pretty close to what Pink achieved in 256 pages. I'm not diminishing Pink's tome, just that the longform* should DIE! I'd be happy to pay the same for the "brodie's notes" version:
- in non-fiction, its not the size that counts
- in 2010 (now) I am throwing out my last bookcase, so its not the cover-art that counts.

With eBook readers, tablets there is absolutely no reason to consume non-fiction in linear text only formats - you don't need to fill a book with 21 anecdotes that repeats the same thesis - we get it, in fact we got it before we bought the book. Instead, I see that tablets will drive richer educational formats unlocking the multimedia experience that has been evolving for 15 years.

If you bleat about graphic creation costs then you really need understand the outsourcing marketplaces. Things will also shift to curation of collected works just like Cohen and Feld do here.

So...ANYWAY...I quite like "Do More Faster", it suits my attention-deficit personality type. The rapid fire anecdotes are efficient, address a specific learning point and you can consume one chapter in a few minutes - thats a digestible format that doesn't bloat - its much like a sequence of blog posts and does lack some writing craft - but thats not the point**.

* I love longform fiction, books that take weeks or months: get under your skin, reside in your daily thoughts remain one of the most unique human experiences - I've not seen a movie or TV series that achieves that.

** Ironically curation of collected works will become the new form of editing. Anything anyone says has been said before, so I'd be happy to pay the curator and the authors for the efficiency of collating the best practices (de-surfing knowledge acquisition)

Credit: Competitor.com for the image.

Your feedback is helping us build Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company - Amazon

The post's title was the footer from an Amazon Customer Service reply to me. I'm usually afflicted with a jaded view of such statements but this time I actually believe this company can and will achieve their goal.


First: its a bold statement but also humble. Most of the time you get: "The worlds leading...", "The best..." etc etc. But Amazon are saying they a "building" - they are not there but are working on it. They also say I am "helping" them - allowing me to engage with them and giving me recognition.

So all this is very nice and Cluetrain and all that - but only works if the product is good....

Second: I've been using the Kindle Reader on NexusOne for a while to read snippets of books (e.g "do more faster" by Techstars crew - more on that in a later post) when commuting or grabbing a coffee, it did the job and didn't try to do too much. (fit for purpose). However, Kindle drove my emotional justifications for getting the Samsung Tab the day it came available -> my first installed application was the Kindle.

I start Kindle on the Samsung Tab, open "do more faster" and boom, it opens at the page I last read on the Nexus One. Thats a very nice customer experience. The only problem is now I have to compete for the Tab at home (Angry Birds was second installed app thus sealing the Tab's fate as must-have mission-critical domestic tool).

To remedy this injustice: last week whilst in China I purchased a yum-cha Android "iRobot" tablet for $100. I didn't expect much but installed Kindle and boom, it opens at the page I last read on the Tab. I now can pick up reading on the formfactor that suits me.

Moral of the story is that even with a 600MHz 1st/2nd generation Shanzai tablet you can enjoy a great customer experience because Amazon focussed on the few features that really mattered. Second moral is that you can do that without purchasing an Apple*.

Third: No product is ever done - Kindle also syncs comments and highlights. But what I want to do is post or share a highlighted quote to a blog, Buzz, Twitter or an email. More importantly, I think this would help Amazon sell even more books (naturally my post would link to the Amazon page for that book). I used the feedback section of the Kindle and told them so. Unsurprisingly (but often neglected by other companies) they've built in a closed loop mechanism to easily allow me to "help".

That is where the Amazon Customer Service reply came from.

* BTW I saw Android 1.6 tablets a while back in China before the iPad appeared.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

dialling back the security stuff (Change of blog title)

Internet security is still the wild-west - and will be for a long time. Mobile internet security will likely make the O.K. Corral look like an episode of Neighbours:
  • all that geo-location stuff
  • real-time elements is a new window of opportunity
  • The belief that Sandboxing (of phone apps) and app review solves personal security is a delusion - it just shifts the goalposts - moves the problem up the stack.
Its good to see some solutions emerging to "out" applications that may (err) leak personal data from phones but at the same time social networks and search giants are squeezing everything but your banking password out of you (unless its your dogs name or your first car). Consumers are the meat in a data theft sandwich.

In summary, lets just say "security is a feature". As people building solutions for the web and mobile, security patterns and practices need to be builtin - not as a premature optimisation but as a trust element for the communities of users and their data.

From a consumer perspective - we still need the "internet drivers licence" but I'll do that next week :)

That said, I want to use this blog for more topics than security - to "dial back" the security tone. There are plenty of great sources - both corporate and independent - not so many for web fraud and community trust/reputation, I will still likely post some here but probably do more via work channels or just social streams.

So I've renamed this blog - simple and a little ironic.

Just for my own record, this is what the old blog intro text said:

"Trust me, I'm a dog" is homage to the apocryphal and naive 1993 cartoon. Identity, trust, reputation are the cornerstone of basic human relationships, but on the web its broken.
Also writing about my experiences as start-up Founder, CEO, CTO in Palo Alto and Sydney.

Menu option to see the lists I follow

Once you follow an external public list, you can't find it again until a notification comes. The whole purpose of following a list is to refer to the existing entries as well.

Otherwise I'd need to create a list of "public lists I follow". Thats not efficient.

in reference to: Follow a list : Managing lists and labels - Bookmarks Help (view on Google Sidewiki)