50 book challenge

50 book challenge. It seems that the “50 book challenge” has become all the rage on the net this past week. (One version of it here.) The idea is to read 50 books in a year and, in some versions, blog about them.

This is roughly what I did last year with my reading, primarily as a way to keep track of what I read but I slacked off from blogging toward the end of the year, as things got a little too crazy. It looks like I read about 80 books last year but forgot to blog about them for the last few months. (My list of reading for 2003.)

Despite this, I’ll try again and see if I can manage to keep a more complete record of my reading. I’ll review some here, or just add brief comments at least. At times, the complete reviews will appear at Bookslut, the premiere book review magazine on the web. (Some might say I’m a little biased…)

My other blogging is going to be a little spotty as I prepare to move across the country to a new job… more about that later.

[David Harris’ Science & Literature]

This was something I had hoped to do more successfully last year. I read plenty of books, but was less than diligent about recording my reactions and assessments. I’m posting this, in part, as a bit of a forcing function. David also offers some suggested rules for the challenge, although I can only promise that I will abide by Rule 6.

Blogging the market needs work

Blogs As Intra-enterprise Technologies of Cooperation.

George Dafermos at MIT, in Blogging the Market (93 page PDF) , looks at pervasive blogging as potential organizational dynamite, with case histories that include Slashdot, Amazon, Macromedia, Groove Networks, and Gizmodo.

(Thanks, Jim!)

[Smart Mobs]

I had real problems with this report. It’s gotten a fair number of pointers from other blogs and the outline looked intriguing. After about an hour skimming through it though I think there’s probably a really good 20-page report lurking in there somewhere, but in its present form it’s hard to justify the time to dig it out. If I were reviewing this paper as a referee I send it back for major revisions. Too bad, because I think it’s asking the right questions.

Power to the Edge

Power to the Edge:[A 9MB pdf] A new book by Dave Alberts and Richard Hayes – open sourced in its entirety by CCRP.

This book is truly a must-read for anyone interested in decentralization and the social and organizational relevance of shifting power to the edge, whether in a commercial or a defense context. As you read about the technology enablers of the edge, it’ll become clear why products such as Groove – as COTS enablers of the fully-networked collaborative environment – have such immediate relevance to the defense community.

A debt of gratitude goes to John Stenbit and Lin Wells for catalyzing the creation of this tremendously timely, useful and relevant piece of work. [Ray Ozzie’s Weblog]

Once again, it appears that the U.S. military is moving ahead on figuring out new ways to organize and manage work, while commercial organizations create pale imitations of concepts long since discarded as unworkable.

Crichton on Reason

Crichton on Willy.

The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda.

Although only just now in the blogdex, Crichton’s 3-month-old scathing indictment of the pop-environmentalism movement in… [TeledyN]

I finally got around to this item in my aggregator over the Chrismas holiday. In a speech to the Commonwealth Club in September, Crichton makes an interesting argument that today’s environmental movement is best thought of as a secular religion that operates on the basis of faith instead of evidence.

How will we manage to get environmentalism out of the clutches of religion, and back to a scientific discipline? There’s a simple answer: we must institute far more stringent requirements for what constitutes knowledge in the environmental realm. I am thoroughly sick of politicized so-called facts that simply aren’t true. It isn’t that these “facts” are exaggerations of an underlying truth. Nor is it that certain organizations are spinning their case to present it in the strongest way. Not at all—what more and more groups are doing is putting out is lies, pure and simple. Falsehoods that they know to be false.

I think Crichton is making an even broader argument about the role of reason and evidence in coping with today’s world. Let’s hope he gets heard here as widely as he does with his fiction.

One hot design book

One hot design book. Here’s a new book that’s making the rounds: Universal Principles of Design. Mike dropped by my office a couple days ago to show it to me, after having heard about it from Victor (who heard about it from Adam). The buzz may well be justified. Here’s a blurb from Amazon

Universal Principles of Design is the first comprehensive, cross-disciplinary encyclopedia of design. Richly illustrated and easy to navigate, it pairs clear explanations of every design concept with visual examples of the concepts applied in practice. From the “80/20 rule to chunking, from baby-face bias to Occam’s razor, and from self-similarity to storytelling, every major design concept is defined and illustrated for readers to expand their knowledge.


Looks fabulous. Ordered.

10,000 Ebooks

10,000 Ebooks.

Here’s something highly cool – a new site (new enough to still be in beta) called 10,000 eBooks has collected together the Project Gutenberg text files of public domain books and converted them to Palm, HTML, PDF, Rocket eBook, iSilo, Doc, Plucker and zTXT formats. iSilo is my format of choice for everything I buy from Fictionwise, so being able to download PG that way is a big plus for me. Since King Lear is on my list of books to read anyway, I’ll download it from here in iSilo format, rather than suffering through the typical ASCII formatted Gutenberg file. I had been considering an ongoing project to read Edward Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire volumes, and I can get all them formatted nicely and read them comfortably on my Handspring in my favorite format. Very nice.

Link found via TeleRead.

[Evil Genius Chronicles]

For those of you who, like me, are ever fearful of being caught with time on your hands and bereft of reading material.

Hacking the Xbox

A (dangerous) primer on hardware hacking. Andrew “bunnie” Huang, whose presentation on hardware hacking at ETCON last month was nothing shy of brilliant, is selling his book, “Hacking the Xbox” online for $24.95 (pre-order now and get it for $19.99!). This, after his publisher backed out of the deal for fear of the DMCA.

This hands-on guide to hacking was cancelled by the original publisher, Wiley, out of fear of DMCA-related lawsuits. Now, “Hacking the Xbox” is brought to you directly by the author, a hacker named “bunnie”. The book begins with a few step-by-step tutorials on hardware modifications that teaches basic hacking techniques as well as essential reverse engineering skills. The book progresses into a discussion of the Xbox security mechanisms and other advanced hacking topics, with an emphasis on educating the readers on the important subjects of computer security and reverse engineering. Hacking the Xbox includes numerous practical guides, such as where to get hacking gear, soldering techniques, debugging tips and an Xbox hardware reference guide.

“Hacking the Xbox” confronts the social and political issues facing today’s hacker. The book introduces readers to the humans behind the hacks through several interviews with master hackers.

“Hacking the Xbox” looks forward and discusses the impact of today’s legal challenges on legitimate reverse engineering activities. The book includes a chapter written by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) about the rights and responsibilities of hackers, and concludes by discussing the latest trends and vulnerabilities in secure PC platforms.

Link Discuss (Thanks, Chris!) [Boing Boing Blog]

Something to order and put in my to read/to learn pile. Taking things apart is still one of the absolute best ways to learn anything. I’m right there with Ed Felten on the importance to intelligent tinkering as one of the fundamental engines of innovation that has driven our economy over time. Dumb ideas like the DMCA are the predictable but ultimately doomed, IMHO, efforts to preserve the status quo for those who once innovated but now prefer to clip coupons and litgate.

Blogs as an ugly term

There seems to be a consensus that ‘weblog’ and ‘blog’ are ugly terms. Many worry that this ugliness adds an element of additional challenge to realizing the value of weblogs within organizations. Recently there’s been some effort to coin more appealing terms.

One of the central features of knowledge based organizations is that individual knowledge workers are the people in the best position to evaluate and design their work. This is a radical departure from industrial-logic organizations where the coordinated design and definition of tasks and jobs is the norm.

Part of the generally disappointing results from centralized efforts at knowledge management follow from this disconnect between organizational logics. Shoshanna Zuboff and her husband James Maxmin have recently published a new book that may shed light on this. It’s titled The Support Economy: Why Corporations are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism. I say may because I am only about a third of the way through it. What Zuboff and Maxmin argue is that the logic of managerial capitalism has run its course and needs to be replaced. Managerial capitalism represents the organizational and economic logic and norms that worked to create mass markets to match up with the production capacity of mass production.It essentially drove much of the economic growth of the 20th century.

From a variety of perspectives, the logic of the emerging knowledge economy is more distributed and decentralized. The work itself requires local perspective and initiative.

What I find interesting is the emerging alignment between several distinct threads. One is this decentralized logic of knowledge based organizaions. The second is the strength of intellectual capital arguments such as the end-to end argument, Dan Isenberg’s notion of stupid networks, and Doc Searls and Dave Weinberger’s most recent piece on the a world of ends. Finally, in this context, we have the application of weblogs inside organizations as a tool to promote knowledge sharing. Here, this alignment of weblogs with these parallel trends suggests that weblogs are a technology well matched to the problem.

Given the match between weblogs and this broader trend toward decentralized and distributed solutions, the lameness of ‘blog’ as a term might actually be one of its primary strengths. It reflects that weblogs are tools coming into organizations from the grassroots, not something imposed from a central source. That may be more important than usual for organizational innovations when we’re talking about an innovation that is in sync with the demands of knowledge economy organizations.

Getting back to stories

I’m off to California for a couple of days. Fortunately, Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magical Kingdom came in yesterday’s care package from Amazon. Now, I’ll have something to read on the flight.

I’ve also just started Steve Dennings’s The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations. Denning used to be at the World Bank and launched their knowledge management initiatives. He discovered that effective storytelling was a central element in getting from the notion of knowledge management to some actionable organizational change. Not too long ago I got an email from one of my former partners at DiamondCluster reminding me of how I used to used Doc SearlsIt’s the Story Stupid” to anchor my efforts to teach consultants how to find a compelling story buried in their data and analyses. Consultants always want to tell you about all the interesting work they’ve been doing instead of getting to the point. It takes a long time to break them of that habit.