Book Read: The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company

Just finished “The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company” in record time (.. for me). Awesome book. I’ve been a fan of Pixar since I first saw Toy Story at a special presentation (.. it had the original voice actors, not the dubbed, Norwegian version) here in Norway in 1996. I still consider Toy Story 2 as one of the best movies ever made.

The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company gives an unique view of the history of Pixar. As I started following Pixar more closely after that winter day of 1996, I had a simple overview of the situation up until now. What really impressed me was everything that happened up until the release of Toy Story, and as usual, all the random events that formed the great company known as Pixar today. If you have an interest in animated movies, business issues, great histories and great people, I’d really recommend reading this book. It’s awesome.

The mere fact that I read through it in just a few days when I usually spend a couple of weeks on a book is a good testament to that. I’m an even bigger fan of John Lassetter now.

New book: Why We Buy: The Science Of Shopping

Book Read: The Bullfighter’s Guide

Just finished the book Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide today, after reading it off and on for the last week and a half. The book read very easily and while I probably need to read it again after a year or so, I’ve already tried to adopt to several of the good habits proposed in the book. While I feel that I usually get down to earth and try to communicate clearly in my E-mails, I’ve become much more aware of my weasel words and my use of jargon where none is needed. The short read means that the book communicates effectively, and I’d advice anyone who’s going to hold a presentation or write a business related memo or article to at least read it once.

Add it to your wishlist now! (I prefer linking to the original, american Amazon store instead of the UK one, as the US store usually is cheaper. The delivery takes a bit more time, but if you’re in Norway you order loads of books at the same time anyways because of shipping..)

New book: The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company

Two Books Down, One Up

I finished Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions a week or two ago, and after a bit of a reading hiatus for a week, I finally got started on Defensive Design for the Web from some of the guys at 37signals. Both books read very well and provided good insights into their subjects, and both has loads of examples that illustrates the points they’re trying to get across. For Defensive Design for the Web, this includes at least a hundred screenshots of different sites with comments and comparisons with successful sites in the same genre. Being a very practical book, I read the entire edition in a couple of hours, and while I’m not completely sure what I’ve taken away from it, I suggest reading it again from time to time to refresh your thoughts around the subject.

Anyways, after finishing these two books, I’ve now picked up Information Retrieval: Algorithms and Heuristics (2nd Edition) as my new reading material. This is much more algorithmic and theoretical than my previous books, so hopefully I’ll not get bored after a few chapters.

Good Advice for Buying Technical Books

Brian K. Jones has a neat list of things to look for when buying a new book. To sum it up in a few points:

  • Give Any New Version 6 Months Before Buying a Book About It.
  • Take reviews with several grains of salt
  • Look for “Timeless Tomes”
  • Look at the Copyright Date
  • Be Wary of Growth in Second Editions

These are all good points, but I’d like to add a few rules of my own that help decide which books that end up in my reading queue:

  • If you’re happy with the book you’re currently reading, use Amazon’s suggestion system to find more about the same subject. This has worked surprisingly well (and I’m sure Amazon is happy about that..) for me, but limit yourself to one additonal book this way.
  • While reading a good book, if the author mentions another book that he found interesting or that provided insight into the content you’re now reading, add it to your wishlist. Good authors usually suggest good and insightful books.
  • To further extend the point of “Look at the copyright date”; use this date to find potential “Timeless Tomes”. If a book were first published in the 1970s or 1980s and is in it’s 21st print now, I’ll personally guarantee that the book is worth reading. It might not be about a subject that you’re interested in, but it might give you new insights or a better background in something you never would have read otherwise.
  • Use your wishlist on Amazon to keep track of interesting books that you stumble across. This is particularily useful for those of us who live in non-native Amazon locations, so that we’re able to combine shipping for items. I’ll never order a single book, so if I forget to add it to my wishlist, I will probably never remember it when I actually order books. Use it.
  • Check out the blog of the author if you’re able to (and the author actually have a blog). Also, if a blog that you follow on a daily basis suggests a book, it’s probably worth getting.
  • If you’re out travelling, buy a cheap, simple paperback book about a subject that you’re unfamiliar with. Try to get something a bit populistic (not too academic), as it will make the introduction to the subject easier and is more suitable for reading under noisy conditions. Keep it cheap, so that if you’re unhappy with the book, you can just donate it to another traveller or a local book donation program.

New Book: Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions

I finished up A Culture of Corruption a couple of days ago. Good book, although a bit academic, but as I’ve not read anything within the field of Anthropology since .. the beginning of time, it was still very enjoyable. Suggested read if you can live with all the references and academic language. Also contained a collection of good stories which really illustrates the daily life in Nigeria, and makes you look on both the 419-scammers and the general consensus of corruption in Nigeria in a new light.

As I finished that book, I’ve now started the next book reading project: Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions. The book has been very enjoyable through the first five chapters, and provides a unique insight into how people make decisions when time is the most limiting factor. I feel very familiar in regards to my own experiences from situations where time has been the primary constraint in finding a good solution to a problem. The situations from the research that gave rise to book is very serious in nature, such as firefighters, nurses, rescue personell etc, but I’ve experienced the exact same thought patterns in less serious issues. A downed important webserver, a web application that does not work as it should for some reason or the other, an internet connection malfunctioning and making your entire business unavailable from the internet are not life-threatening in any way, but still important in just that moment.

Anyways, I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of the book as it’s been both easy to read and have very good insights into an unfamiliar field of research for me.

123-meming with Christer

Christer (thanks a lot, fscker) included me as his 123-meme nemesis. Crap.

But hey, I’m all for propagating stupid internet memes, so I’m in. To quote from Christer’s page:

1. Pick up the book closest to you
2. Open page 123
3. Find the 5th sentence…
4. …and publish the next three sentences
5. Link to 5 other bloggers and tell who linked you

Well, the closest book as I were reading quietly along on my RSS-reader was “Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions” by Gary Klein. We’re heading over to page 123 right now! Searching for the fifth sentence (hey, the chapter is called “Nonlinear Aspects of Problem Solving! I like where this is going!):

Constructing a course of action is the component most people think of as the output of problem solving: generating a plan for achieving a goal. Regardless of how the option is generated, it will need to be evaluated, often using mental stimulation. The evaluation process can lead to adoption of the option, result in selecting between options, or identify new barriers and opportunities, thereby triggering additional problem solving.

So there you have it (in fact, it was a complete paragraph. Yey for that!).

I’ll hand the meme over to Kristian, Ole, Jan-Petter and Thomas (see Christer, I even have more people to hand it over too. I pwnz0rz.).

Adding a Book List

I’ve just added a list of the books I’m currently – or have just finished – reading. Kristian suggested that I added a list earlier today, so there it is. I’ll try to keep it updated as new books arrive and I make my way through them. If anything in particular stands out, I’ll make a regular post about it as earlier anyways.

The list is available in the right column on all the pages.

The Design of Everyday Things

One of the books in my last order-a-lot-of-interesting-books-from-Amazon-craze, was The Design of Everyday Things. I’ve just started reading it, after reading through Robert Hoekman Jr.‘s Designing the Moment on my regular train trip between Fredrikstad and Oslo (good book by the way). The Design of Everyday Things is one of those books that gets mentioned all the time and that I’ve never really gotten around to reading, and I’ll have to say that it’s been an enlighting experience. Since I’ve been reading quite a few user interaction books lately, much of this is stuff I’ve already been introduced to other places, but it’s very nice to be able to put it into a broader context.

I’d recommend the book for anyone who’s going to design a user interface at any time, so get to it and order it today if you haven’t already done it.