Tagged: Reviews

Mini Review Of ‘In The Plex’

I highly recommend this book, it’s long, but there is a lot to cover as the history and scope of Google is fascinating.  Even for such a long book, it’s often short on the details though, so follow up research is probably something to look forward to.  The history of...

Thoughts On The Noah Movie

Debbie and I went to Cleveleys today, had brunch at Cafe Cove and sat down with some trepidation to watch Noah.  Overall I found it worth the investment and it sparked some good discussions and little research by me by way of follow up.  I can sum up my thoughts...

Software Engineering – IT Conversations

Listen here.  I really enjoyed this wide ranging interview with Philip Greenspun, Philip has had the same MIT email address since the age of 13, and he’s had a profound yet subtle impact on many software developers. His 1999 book, Philip and Alex’s Guide to Web Publishing, was an inspiration to many programmers writing server-side code on Unix/Linux platforms. It was one of the first to be published both as a free download and as a traditional book. (Filled with color photos, printed on high-quality coated stock, and weighing in at 3.5 pounds it was also the first computer coffee-table book.)

In this interview with IT Conversations’ host Doug Kaye, Philip describes the evolution of his attitudes towards software engineering as manifested in Philip and Alex’s Guide and his latest book, Software Engineering for Internet Applications, for a course at MIT where “the goal of the course is that the student finishes knowing how to build Amazon.com by him or herself.” (That must be one heck of a semester!)

There were two topics I particularly remember;  first Philip describes how he was convinced that his company needed venture capital investment, even though it was growing rapidly and highly profitable.  The …

IT Conversations – Evaluating Horizons

BrinListen here.  In this talk David Brin, Ph.D. who has a triple career as scientist, public speaker, and author discusses Horizon Evaluation; a process for exploring what threats and opportunities may await us beyond the near term. It can suggest plausible scenarios for science fiction stories. It can also suggest ways to minimize threats and maximize opportunities. It may be particularly relevant for determining where to make investments. 

The talk rambles a bit, but don’t let that put you off.  To mitigate the rambling or disjointed nature I suggest that you listen when you are able to give it your full concentration, otherwise your mind will drift, and you will miss some great insights.

You can find a great write up on the talk on the Future Salon Blog.

David also has a infrequently updated blog and a more comprehensive web site.

IT Conversations – New Solutions

NewsolutionsListen here.  This was a truly inspirational interview, David Bornstein talks about a project to bring electricity to poor people in Brazil: single wires going to houses, grounded in the soil, low voltages. The project is also bringing solar panels to rural areas, renting them for what people generally pay for candles, kerosene, etc. He also talks about “child line” in India, now in 55 cities. It’s a number you can call if you see a child in distress. It started with one woman who spent 3 years trying to get the equivalent of an 800 number for it. It’s deeply affected India’s child protection policies.

There is one very touching story about a business man who rings the Child Line to report a naked two year old at the airport suffering from burns and left alone.  The Child Line organisation has enlisted the street children as its “runners” and by the time they arrive the child has been effectively kidnapped by a beggar aiming to use her to improve his trade!  The boys eventually prevail and the child is taken into care and eventually adopted.

I am amazed at the idea of using the street children to be …

IT Conversations – Corporate Disney

DisneyListen here.  In this interview Dr. Moira Gunn interviews James Stewart, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of “Den of Thieves.” His latest endeavours have been a look inside the wonderful world of “Corporate Disney.” 

I found this interview interesting, largely because of Moira’s insightful comments and questions, but the subject matter is not hugely important to me.  A few snippets of the interview stood out. 

  • the fact that most executives at Disney have to go through the experience of dressing up and acting out the part of a Disney character
  • the fact that James Stewart tried it,  after considerable preparation, and found it to be a very moving experience
  • Walt himself was never a senior officer of the company, preferring instead to concentrate on the creative side of the business
  • it was interesting to see that the company lost its way the more powerful its CEO became, in another IT conversations interview on leadership the sweet spot for a leader to be in place is considered to be about 7 years.


IT Conversations – Big Cotton

CottonListen here.  I am trying to broaden the subjects I listen to on IT conversations, so “big Cotton” seemed to fit the bill.  In this interview Dr. Moira Gunn speaks with journalist Stephen Yafa about a crop that has been with us for over 5,000 years: cotton. It’s also a crop which continues to significantly impact the environment. Moira also speaks with Stephen about his new book “Big Cotton — How a Humble Fiber Created Fortunes, Wrecked Civilizations, and Put America on the Map.” 

As always the interview was excellent and Stephen Yafa was a great speaker.  I was fascinated to hear about how the expansion of cotton growing in the South of the US was the tripping point for the Civil War and horrified by the level of environmental pollution and soil erosion caused by Cotton growing.  Even worse was the way that America provides massive subsidies to the cotton growers, effectively allowing them to dump cotton on the global market, crippling the cotton growers on the developing world.  If you want to know more you can check out Stephens Book – Big Cotton and also these web sites:

Sustainable Cotton, which is about The Sustainable Cotton …

IT Conversations – Games in education

GameThis is my first mini review of a talk from IT conversations, it is an interview by Moira Gunn with Dr. Henry Jenkins and explains how he thinks video games will revolutionise education. Dr. Jenkins is the director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the co-editor of Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition (Media in Transition).   The talk is truly fascinating, and pretty scary when you think about the dramatic affects it will have on the capability and outlook that the kids of the future.  Surprisingly this talk and others point out that the gamer generation will have different attitudes to work and will need to be managed differently, this talk by John Beck, a Senior Research Fellow at USC’s Annenberg Center of the Digital Future, is on that topic.

I particularly liked the description of the teacher, as more of a coach and leader, and the emphasis on experience as a tool for learning.  In the games that bring history to life it is interesting how it will be possible to provide a real insight into what life was actually like for those experiencing key events from different …

IT Conversations

ITconversationsMy best discovery by far in the last few months has been the IT Conversations web site.  I listen to quite a lot but have found that I quickly forget the talks, when I really want to research them more, and certainly want to share the gems with others.  So I have decided to write mini reviews of the talks and provide some directions for further study.  I have also found that the Treo makes a great device for listening to these recorded talks btw.