Review: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

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Ben Horowitz

5.0 out of 5 stars ABSORBING – Requires Open Mind, March 16, 2014

I generally read all the reviews before writing my own, in part to see if anyone has already covered the ground the way I like to, with a summary evaluative review. There are only two reviews before mine that I consider world-class, please do read them if you have the time. I refer to the reviews by Mercenary Trader and Scott S. Bell, I salute both of them for providing substance useful to all.

This is not a comprehensive book in that it is a very personal perspective, brings together many specific snapshots, but never addresses “root” in relation to how the team went from great idea to source code to buzz to market share. As I read the book I thought often about a book I read in the 1980′s, still a classic, Tracey Kidder’s The Soul of A New Machine.

I would say this book is an absolutly priceless gem for the “hard knocks” at the CEO level perspective, and should be combined with any of several alternatives on start-ups such as Matt Blumberg’s Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business, + Website, and, forthcoming, Peter Thiel of PayPal’s Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.

I’ve built two companies, both failures in that I never made the leap from one man with an obession to a movement (OSS.Net, Inc. and Earth Intelligence Network, a 501c3) and what I did not see in this book, or any other book I have found, is the roadmap for getting from a big idea to big marketshare. That book remains to be written, and it could be that it should be written by Marc Andressen and a team. Jim Clark’s Netscape Time: The Making of the Billion-Dollar Start-Up That Took on Microsoft is a fine but dated (1999) start but we need something now tailored to the Internet of Things (what everyone else is thinking about) and free individual access to and ability to leverage all information in all languages all the time (what I have been thinking about since 1986 — visit Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog to learn more). I am also reminded of Michael Lewis’s The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story.

All this by way of saying that you have no business reading or buying this book if you are expecting a holistic 360 degree soup to nuts outline of how to zero to Mach 2. The greatest value of this book for me was in learning that it is possible to keep flying when you lose power and both wings fall off at the same time.

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Mar 16

BUCKY 2.0: Buckminster Fuller at Amazon

Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller

These are listed in order of their most recent publication rather than their original publication dates as Amazon has never understood the value of including first edition dates. Dave Buck merits huge appreciation for having instigated a movement to place many of Buckminster Fuller’s works back into a visible platform such as Amazon provides….and reasonably priced as well — each of these is a public treasure. We have added, below the line, books related to Buckminster Fuller, by others. We strongly recommend use of the reviews before making any purchase. 

2010 DVD The World of Buckminster Fuller (Microcinema)

2009 Education Automation: Comprehensive Learning for Emergent Humanity (Lars Muller Publishers)

2008 Grunch of Giants (Design Science Press)

2008 Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (Lars Muller Publishers)

2008 Utopia or Oblivion: The Prospects for Humanity (Lars Muller Publishers)

2005 DVD Buckminster Fuller: The Lost Interviews (UFO TV)

2004 Guinea Pig B: The 56 Year Experiment (Critical Pathpub)

 

2004 AUDIO Only Integrity Is Going To Count (Critical Pathpub)

2002 Critical Path 2nd Revised Edition (Saint Martin’s Griffin)

1992 MAP Fuller Projection Dymaxion Air-ocean World (Buckminster Fuller Institute)

1992 Cosmography: A Posthumous Scenario for the Future of Humanity (Macmillan)

1990 DVD Basic Bucky: R. Buckminster Fuller (Masters & Masterworks)

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Feb 19

Worth a Look: The Blue Economy by Gunter Pauli

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The Blue Economy

by GUNTER PAULI author of the Report to the Club of Rome

Blue Economy is  ZERI’s philosophy in action.

Blue Economy is where the best for health and the environment is cheapest and the necessities for life are free thanks to a local system of production and consumption that works with what you have.

“Innovative business models are capable of bringing competitive products and services to the market responding to basic needs while building social capital and enhance mindful living in harmony with nature’s evolutionary path.

“Competitiveness”is harnessing and optimizing the innate virtues and values connecting untapped local potential – like a natural system, where the seeds lie fallow only to sprout with amazing vigor at the first rain unleashing joy and happiness as the conditions for mind full-living are met in balance and in harmony.

BLUE ECONOMY PRINCIPLES

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Feb 8

Worth a Look: SINGAPORE Central to Great Convergence

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The twenty-first century has seen a rise in the global middle class that brings an unprecedented convergence of interests and perceptions, cultures and values. Kishore Mahbubani is optimistic. We are creating a new global civilization. Eighty-eight percent of the world’s population outside the West is rising to Western living standards, and sharing Western aspirations. Yet Mahbubani, one of the most perceptive global commentators, also warns that a new global order needs new policies and attitudes.

Policymakers all over the world must change their preconceptions and accept that we live in one world. National interests must be balanced with global interests. Power must be shared. The U.S. and Europe must cede some power. China and India, Africa and the Islamic world must be integrated. Mahbubani urges that only through these actions can we create a world that converges benignly. This timely book explains how to move forward and confront many pressing global challenges.

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Political genius is never without controversy, or without mystery. This is what makes it so interesting and so rare. Is Lee Kuan Yew the feral, authoritarian figure that Western critics claim? Or a stoic pioneer in new approaches to developing a nation—uncorrupt, modern, almost scientific?American journalist Tom Plate first interviewed the founder of modern Singapore in 1996 in a continuing back-and-forth with LKY that led to the summer of 2009, when the former prime minister agreed to sit down for two days of unprecedentedly informal but intense conversations that led to this special book. This new edition includes fascinating excerpts from prior interviews, as well as the author’s assessment of the man who goes down in history as the world’s longest-serving prime minister—and as one of the most unforgettable political figures of modern times.

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Feb 5

Review: Say It With Presentations

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Gene Zelazny

4.0 out of 5 stars Fundamentals Most Ignore A Bit Too Generic, October 6, 2013

I was lent this book by a colleague. Here is some context for my appreciation of the book:

01 The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (C/JCS) once BANNED all powerpoint presentations, for two reasons. First, because they had become “death by powerpoint” monstrocities in which intellectually limited people tried to substitute technology for thinking and color for precision of thought; and second, because more often than not, something would go wrong with the computer and the briefing officer would be found to be empty-headed. Too often (and I include myself) powerpoint presentations have been an aid for the BRIEFER, rather than a visual map for the DECISION-MAKER.

02 Presentations as most understand them are didactic tools (I talk you listen) instead of socractic tools (I spark, you engage, we create new understanding). Yes, one good visual can equal 10,000 words, but every visual past one radically loses value in a downward spiral. Less is more.

Presentations are not charts — they are different, a point the author addresses by publishing a separate book, The Say It With Charts Complete Toolkit, Cd-Rom.

Presentations are also not visualizations, an area where Edward Tufts is a leading light, a mind whose two books below I highly recommend:

Envisioning Information
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

Presentations are a tool for thinking and a tool for inspiring human engagement, on this point I have been guided by Howard Rheingold and his books and web blogging, see for instance, Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology from the 1980′s and the more recent Mind Amplifier: Can Our Digital Tools Make Us Smarter? (Kindle Single).

Put as simply as I can, a presentation is a tool for thinking — one third of the value is in the thinking and doodling and exploration of alternative paths leading to the presentation; one third of the value is in the final product that can inspire others on its own and as a tool, and the last third of the value, almost never achieved, is in the reaction, engagement, inspiration, and collective intelligence that the presentation might elicit.

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Oct 6

Review: Lethal Incompetence

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Jeff Bordin

5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic, Credible, Legitimate, and Damning of All Who Betray the Public Trust, August 24, 2013

I have this book in front of me, and will be doing a detailed review over the next week or so. I have already gone through it quickly, and concluded that it offers the single best compilation or literature review of all of the psychological and social reasons why military “leaders” end up being treasonous gerbils, combined with the deepest direct field research I know of to buttress the author’s speculative hypotheses and proven conclusions.

I swung by here to check what others have said, and am quite disappointed by the shallow ignorance of the only review present. Here are a couple of quotes that capture my philosophy and hence my valuation of this book:

When things are not going well, until you get the truth out on the table, no matter how ugly, you are not in a position to deal with it. Bob Seelert, Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide (New York)

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. George Orwell

This book is a tad hyper-critical (of Dick Cheney for example — certainly a traitor but by no means stupid) and too close in format to the original thesis, or it would be a six star book. If I were Czar, every person responsible for the public interest would receive the wisdom and ethical instruction in this book, in one form or another, to include comic book form if necessary.

My detailed review will be posted within the week. I could not let the first review stand uncontested.

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Aug 24

Review: Le management de l’intelligence collective – Managing Collective Intelligence – Toward a New Corporate Governance

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Olivier Zara

5.0 out of 5 stars Sensational — Free Online in English Translation — For Sale Online in French, May 28, 2013

I just read this book in the free online English translation and have very high praise for the original content, the translation, and the graphics. It is a short book, 88 pages in English, with a self-testing appendix that will reveal that most organizations are leveraging, at best, 20% of their collective intelligence potential.

As the European Union, NATO, and the USA all re-examine their fundamental premises in the aftermath of failed elective wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and all too many adventures, including a predatory attack on Libya to steal its gold, water, and oil, this book is the single best book I have found that could help the new generation of leaders in the EU, NATO, and the USA. The Cold War generals have failed for 50 years — we are long overdue for a new generation of leaders that understands the true cost of war and the fractional cost of waging peace to create a propserous world at peace.

In my own experience with Cold War flag officers, I find they understand three colors — red, yellow, and green. The new generation seems to be much more nuanced, much better read, and much more open to the reality that in war everyone loses except the bankers, and that Sun Tzu had it right centuries ago — the acme of skill is to defeat the enemy without fighting — better yet, utilize collective intelligence to achieve Non-Zero, a prosperous world at peace, a world that works for everyone.

Buy the book in French at AxioPole.com. Read the book free online in English.

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May 28

Review: Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan

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Francesca Gino

4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Book That Could Be Made Better, April 7, 2013

I received this book as a gift and was glad to get it. As a professional intelligence officer I have been fascinated for decades by the mystery of why smart people make stupid decisions — completely apart from outight corruption. This book is most helpful in addressing nine specific contexts within which good decisions gets sidetracked into bad decisions, and I certainly recommend it as a gift for any thinking person, perhaps for a long airplane ride. It does not address my larger focus on “information pathologies”

The book is structured to address three forces impacting on the how of our decisions:

01 Forces from within
02 Forces from our relationships
03 Forces from the outside

The author concludes with a summary of the “nine step program” for not getting sidetracked:

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Apr 7

NATO BOOK: Internet-Based Intelligence in Public Health Emergencies

Online Order Page

Online Order Page

Internet‐Based Intelligence in Public Health Emergencies

Early Detection and Response in Disease Outbreak Crises

Editors Mordini, E., Green, M.  Pub. date March 2013  Pages 160  Binding softcover
Volume 105 of NATO Science for Peace and Security Series – E: Human and Societal Dynamics
ISBN 978-1-61499-174-8
Subject Computer & Communication Sciences, Security & Terrorism, Social Sciences

Momentous social events result from the sum of micro-level changes in daily individual life, and by observing and fusing publicly available data, such as web searches and other internet traffic, it is possible to anticipate events such as disease outbreaks. However, this ability is not without risks, and public concern about the possible consequences of improper use of this technology cannot be ignored. Opportunities for open discussion and democratic scrutiny are required

This book has its origins in the workshop Internet-Based Intelligence for Public Health Emergencies and Disease Outbreak: Technical, Medical, and Regulatory Issues, held in Haifa, Israel, in March 2011. The workshop was attended by 28 invited delegates from nine countries, representing various disciplines such as public health, ethics, sociology, informatics, policy-making, intelligence and security, and was supported by the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme. Its starting point was the 2009 outbreak of swine flu in Mexico. The book includes both scientific contributions presented during the meeting and some additional articles that were submitted later.

Interactions between public health and information and communication technologies are destined to be of great importance in the future. This book is a contribution to the ongoing dialogue between scholars and practitioners, which will be essential to public acceptance and safety as we rely more and more on the internet for predicting trends, decision-making and communication with the public.

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Mar 6

Review: Open Source Intelligence Techniques: Resources for Searching and Analyzing Online Information

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Michael Bazzell

4.0 out of 5 stars A Useful Contribution–See the Table of Contents, January 30, 2013

This review is from: Open Source Intelligence Techniques: Resources for Searching and Analyzing Online Information (Paperback)

I started the modern Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) movement in 1988, picking up where earlier pioneers such as Jan Herring, former NIO for S&T, left off. We are still fighting this battle. The CIA Open Source Center (OSC) is retarded — it does less than 10% of what could be done by a proper Open Source Agency (see tiny url forward slash OSA2011), and compounds their ignorance by classifying what they produce.

I *like* this book. If you have any doubts at all, use the superb Inside the Book feature that is one of Amazon’s signal innovations. If you believe — as the OSC believes — that OSINT is all about online surfing in English, this is a great book. It is a good complement to Ran Hock’s stuff, or Arno Reuser’s stuff, and Ben Benavides stuff, and I certainly also recommend the Super-Searcher series and anything by Mary Ellen Bates.

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Jan 30