Book Review

The Scout Mindset – Book Review

The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't, by Julia Galef, is an interesting book.

For whatever reason, I see Amazon categorizes it as Business & Money > Management & Leadership.

I wouldn't say this is wrong, per se, but feels a little weird.

While I imagine the book would be quite helpful for people in leadership, it is also useful for everyone.

The book talks about the scout mindset vs the soldier mindset.

The soldier mindset uses a combative view of their ideas and concepts versus the world. Whenever something they think is challenged, they react against it, either ignoring or coming with reasons why it is not true.

The scout mindset tries to learn about “the terrain”, instead – when an idea/concept you have is challenged, they try to pay attention and see if it has actual merit.

People use both mindsets, and even the same person can behave with one mindset in some situations and some in others.

I found the discussion of the evolutionary point quite interesting – on ancient situations, you had very little choice about a lot of things – including the people you spent time with, profession, place you live, etc. In this situation, it is quite useful for the brain to fool itself that everything is ok, just like the dog in the burning room on the “This is fine” popular meme.

However, fooling yourself can be quite dangerous, as you are navigating with an incorrect map, and thus making mistakes and poor decisions you could avoid if you had a clear picture.

The book goes on about the many ways cognitive biases can warp your view of reality, and how to avoid them.

I felt it was quite useful, and entertaining as well.

Overall, strongly recommended.

Also, first post (of the year). I actually read a bunch of books (this was number 8) and 8 different courses, but none seemed like a great fit for this blog…

Book Review

How Finance Works: The HBR Guide to Thinking Smart About the Numbers – Book Review

I just finished How Finance Works: The HBR Guide to Thinking Smart About the Numbers, by Mihir Desai.

This is based on finance course taught by a Harvard Business School professor (that does sound funny – just repeating the blurb here).

This covers a general view of capital markets, how companies allocate their capital, how to value is created, and how to fund companies.

I have actually had a lot of this in more complete courses in the MBA I am doing online (Saint Paul/LIT), but I have to say that the coverage here was quite excellent, with a nice amount of quizzes and examples.

And all of that in a relatively short book.

I read this one on O'Reilly Learning, which I usually like a lot. It had to be on the PC browser, as the android app decided to not load some of the images (unfortunately this happens sometimes)…

Overall, strongly recommended.

Book Review

The Pragmatic Programmer, 20th Anniversary Edition – Book Review

The Pragmatic Programmer, 20th Anniversary Edition, by David Thomas and Andrew Hunt, is obviously a new version of a twenty year old book. I read the original back in 2005, and I thought it was pretty nice.

This one is a significant refresh on the original, which many new programming practices, as well as new examples (the 1999 examples were sometimes very dated). Some of the old recommendations still apply, and so they remain.

Overall, pretty good, and much improved.

Book Review

The Programmer’s Brain – Book Review

The Programmer's Brain, by Felienne Hermans is an uncommon off-shoot of a common book topic – improving your programming and how you learn programming.

The uncommon part is that it looks at the problem in a different way – what happens to the brain, say, when you are learning a new programming language? And how can you optimize that?

The book talks a bit about the different parts of memory – short term memory, working memory, and long term memory, and then looks – based on actual research – on the best way to do a number of tasks, including learning a language, adding a feature, problem solving, onboarding a new team member, and others.

It also has exercises to support it.

The one practice I have used for a while, and it is easy to do, is using a spaced repetition system (or regular flashcards, although to me that seems harder to keep up with) to learn syntax or important details on a language or framework. Personally I like Anki.

I will certainly look into several of the other suggested practices.

Overall, strongly recommended for programmers.

Book Review

The Most Important Thing Illuminated: Book Review

The Most Important Thing Illuminated, by Howard Marks, covers a few principles for what he calls the superior investor – as if you are not going to be superior, you might as well just invest in index funds and not waste any time.

When I heard about the book, it was the regular version, but I believed the extra blocks of explanations – by famous investors as well as the author of the book – would be worth the extra time, and they were (I really which the font on the comments wasn't so small, though).

Most of the insights seem a little silly in summary form, but the details on how to handle them felt very useful to me – and I am very far from being a pro in the area.

Overall, strongly recommended.

Book Review

Testing Business Ideas – Book Review

Testing Business Ideas, by David J. Bland and Alexander Osterwalder, is a business book. I read The Lean Startup earlier this year, which talks a lot about the need to validate your ideas (you know, before you bet your whole company on your assumptions).

I knew a few ways myself, but this book goes deep into the various ways, how useful the evidence from them is, the best ways to do them and how they connect, including examples in some cases. Usually several pages worth per method, including some very useful ideas on the best way to implement them.

There are classics, such as customer interview, expert stakeholder interviews, e-mail campaigns, online ads, link tracking, customer support analysis, and many many more.

Overall, excellent.

Book Review

The 1-Page Marketing Plan – Book Review

The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money and Stand Out from the Crowd – by Allan Dib, is (obviously enough) a book about marketing.

I just took a MBA course about marketing and had to write a marketing plan as the final paper, so I looked up resources on it. This one came up.

I didn't expect it to be so good. Frankly, in many ways it is as good as a couple of MBA courses on the subject. AND more enjoyable to read, too.

This is chock-full with great advice I've seen elsewhere (or used myself with good results), and a lot more that I had never seen before.

If you have a company, product, service, you really should read this book. It is well worth the time and money.

Book Review

Implementing Lean Software Development – Book Review

Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash, by Mary Poppendieck and Tom Poppendieck is a bit old by now, but after taking a few courses on Lean practices, it is easy to see the references to this book.

And even better, some of these courses were rather generic (for use of Lean as a general practice), and this one is more specific to software.

While I did use the equivalent of some of the lean practices (specially the quick releases to get feedback), I mostly didn't test assumptions before releases, as it doesn't always make sense (sometimes it is worth developing something for the exercise or because you want to use it yourself). There are, of course, many other parts to lean practices, but this stuck with me because it is a big part of The Lean Startup, which I also read recently.

I learned a lot from this, and although a lot don't apply to me (mostly the team/large enterprise stuff), a lot does, and I will keep it in mind.

Overall, strongly recommend for developers and all interested in applying lean practices. I read the Safari version.

Book Review

The Lean Startup – Book Review

I have just finished reading The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries. I had it since 2014, and for whatever reason had not got around to reading it.

I really, really liked it. There are a lot of insights on how to run a company without guesswork – actually testing assumptions about your customers and products. Also, about the power of having quick cycles instead of multi year release dates.

There is actually a lot I've read elsewhere or had in courses, but given how the book was popular I guess that is not surprising. Some of the examples were the same, even.

Overall, excellent.

Book Review

Architects of Intelligence – Book Review

Architects of Intelligence: The truth about AI from the people building it, by Martin Ford, is a series of interviews with people who are in the forefront of AI development.

There are many names that will pop to anyone interested in the field, such as Andrew Ng (actually took an online course with him, very interesting – tan early version of, Ray Kurzweil, Rodney Books, Nick Bostrom and many more.

Interviews usually talk about how they got into the field, where they see it going, when they think AGI (artificial general intelligence, sometimes also called Strong AI) will be created and how, and what will happen to jobs as AI/automation get more and more capable.

Overall, very interesting and well worth the time.