Normally, a small book like this (193 pages) would be a quick read for me, but this book took me literally months. Not, I hasten to add, because of any problems with the book or the writing style, that was all fine. The problem was that this book uncovered a bunch of things I am personally working through. I found myself reading a few pages, highlighting some lines, then walking away thinking. Repeat a few times a week. Occasionally, I’d go back and re-read entire chapters.
For me, bragging has negative connotations and is something I avoid like the plague. Stereotypes of obnoxious, pretentious people, loudly telling all within range just how great they are. The very last thing I ever want to be. Whether that is cultural, learned from family, something I developed myself growing up, or a mixture, I don’t know. But it is part of who I am. This book is all about encouraging people to find a comfortable place in between these extremes. As Peggy is quick to note, this means different things to different people, so you need to pay attention to what is authentic for you, as that authenticity is important. People have generations of experience spotting fakes, and worst of all, deep down, you’ll know you are faking it too.
Because of the book title, it took several people pushing to get me to even start reading this book. Chapter#1 opened with a line that stopped me dead in my tracks.
“Myth#1: A job well done speaks for itself.”
I’ve always thought that if I did a good job, or handled a tricky situation well, people would notice. If I solved some complex problem, that people would understand the complexity, understand the importance of the achievement and appreciate the work. In those circumstances, having others recognize and complement the achievement was fine, but any attempt on my part to “brag” about my work would in some way “cheapen the victory”. After reading this book, I now think that is *sometimes* true but not always true. While the people working beside me in the same trenches, working side-by-side with me on the problem might understand the scale of the accomplishment, most people simply don’t know the details. Over time, people might eventually notice that a recurring problem hasn’t happened in a while, or they might simply forget about a previously-annoying problem because it hasn’t happened in a while… but they’d never stop and wonder why. Another common trend is for people to not notice one problem is fixed, but instead notice that a different problem has “appeared”. Oh, and meanwhile, people don’t know what you are working on. Over time, this becomes frustrating for everyone. After reading this book, I’ve learned that I need to make sure I inform people of the work I’m doing, and why it’s important to them. I don’t need to go into all the complexities of the project, unless they ask for more details, but it’s important to make sure others are aware of my work, and the impact it has on them and their work.
I found this a tough read, yet super worth the time. And, yes, I strongly recommend it.
After last week, I’ve proudly added this to my bookshelf.
The book is, of course, fun. But the biggest reason I’m was because I received it at LEAD. This 4-session LEAD series ended Friday, and has been more then just an experience; its “an inflection point”. The excellently designed “coursework” and setup/moderation by Athena, Kate, Debbie and Mihca provided the framework. But the intensity, passion and honesty that everyone engaged within LEAD left me stunned, and immensely proud to know each and every one of them. The book is a small talisman.
ps: (possible NSFW?) below is a really fun reading of the book done at Burning Man 2011.
This book is a collection of great chapters, each written by different people from different aspects of the open source world. For armenzg, catlee, lsblakk and myself, this was a great opportunity to write a chapter describing the release automation behind Mozilla’s Firefox.
If you were ever curious about the process (and the code!) that allow us to do things like sim-ship a Firefox release in 93 locales, or lets us ship 8 emergency chemspill releases in 42 hours, then please have a read. Hopefully, this might also help others who are doing release automation at scale for other products. If you find a typo in the book, or something that you think could be improved in our automation, please be kind and let us know.
Our release automation constantly evolves, as new product requirements arise or we find new ways to obsessively streamline things, so it’ll be interesting to see how this chapter holds up over time.
In addition to the print version (buy here), the book will soon also be available for purchase as a PDF, for purchase as ebook from Amazon and as a free html download (links coming). All royalties go to Amnesty International.
Big thanks to Greg Wilson and Amy Brown who did a great job of making all this happen, explaining mysteries of the book publishing world to us, and generally cat herding armenzg, catlee, lsblakk and myself through the publishing process, within deadlines, all while also doing our “day jobs” at Mozilla.
Its only 209 pages, in compact standalone chapters collected from a series of blogposts. This makes it a quick read, and also easy to pick up/put down whenever you have a few minutes. Oh, and it’s written by a former Netscape employee, in a readable, down to earth style.
If thats not enough encouragement, try this quick experiment.
Next time you’re having a coffee, read through the first few pages of this book. If you’re not hooked by the time you finish your coffee, move on… with a clear conscience. I couldn’t put it down, so bought it. After reading it cover to cover, and re-reading some chapters multiple times, I came back to buy a bunch more copies to give to friends.
If you are a manager at work, or are responsible for coordinating or mentoring others, you should read this.
If you have a manager at work, you should read this. It’ll give you a better understanding of who you are dealing with, some of the behind-the-scenes tradeoffs that managers wrestle with every day, and also help you figure out if your boss is just marking time while pushing paperwork around, or really trying to make a difference while being a good mentor. Tall order in 209 pages, I know, but I really liked this book.
After I saw Aza Raskin mention this, I couldn’t get this out of my head – no matter how hard I tried. So I bought the comic, hoping that would scratch the itch and help me forget.
A summary of the plot might help here. Sarah Palin survives an assassination attempt, but wakes up after a coma to discover doctors had to rebuild her as part robot. She teams up with McCain, Obama and a robot army to fight the evil Oil and Nuclear industry that is now polluting Alaska.
In between the work meetings, and office interrupts at the office, it was really great to take time to pause, sit, re-read portions of these oh-so-familiar books, and this time read them out loud to others. The recipe for Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters and also the “S.E.P. at Lord’s Cricket Grounds” are personal favourites, but its all great. Also, for the rest of the entire day, it was fun to see someone walk by with a towel casually slung over their shoulder, and know they were also fans. Mozilla being Mozilla, there were several people who saw my towel and bathrobe who instantly said “oh no, I forgot it was Douglas Adams Towel day”, and only one person who stopped me and asked quizzically – “ummm….are you wearing a bathrobe”!?!
Aki pushed this “young adult” book my way recently, and I liked it because:
The story is set in and around San Francisco. As far as I can tell, all the locations mentioned are accurate. This is true for both famous landmarks, and small local-only landmarks in my neighborhood.
The computer hacking portions of the story were detailed and realistic, without getting in the way of the story.
The topics of privacy, as well as competing state-vs-federal jurisdictions during major emergencies, were all covered in a very informative and readable manner. Not a surprise to find out that the author was Director of European Affairs, for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Oh, and yes, the story was good too! Thumbs up from me.
I recently found this clip of Clifford Stoll at TEDTalk.
I’d never seen him live, so had no idea what it would be like. His continuously exploring curious mind was refreshing to me, and served as a wake up call to me to not get stuck in my ways. Further, the way he brought practical everyday logic to early education was something I found personally moving. His approach of explaining complicated things to kids when they’re curious and eager to learn, and before they start to believe “its supposed to be hard”, really resonated with me. The experiment he put together for his 8th grade class to calculate the speed of sound was straightfoward, understandable and quick. His attitude reminded me of the people, both in and out of school, who had the most influence during my education, and I found myself thanking them yet again for their inspiration. His closing quote from the bell inscription really resonated with me (no pun intended).
Watching this inspired me to dust off my old 2nd edition copy of his book “The Cuckoo’s Egg”, and reread that.
Its now of course an old story from the late ’80s about Clifford, when he was a university undergrad student in Berkeley tracking down a bug in some auditing software. He eventually discovers that the auditing errors are because of unauthorized breaches in the university computers – being used as a conduit to attack classified military research computers. As he untangles the giant ball of interwoven strands of the problem, he just wrote everything down like it was a personal journal, interweaving details of home cooked meals with his new girlfriend, emails and hone calls with sysadmins at the targetted systems, invented hacks to detect when intruders returned to their computer systems, even his own self-questioning of his hippie anti-establishment roots as he cycled across campus to meet with the NSA suits who took interest once evidence of KGB involvement started to emerge.
I found it a fascinating readable story, just like as if a close friend was telling me about some strange thing that happened that day at work… made only slightly more surreal when you keep in mind that its all true.
Most “management” books focus on working in for-profit companies. By contrast, this was the first book I’ve read that specifically addressed non-profit organizations.
There was some of the usual stuff about working with managers and employees. But there were also sections on working with volunteers (as opposed to employees), working in mixed employee+volunteer settings, fund-raising, public relations, outreach, political lobbying and the use of metrics to improve how you work. In an era when so many for-profit companies are focused on short term quarterly profits, and not on longer term health of their organization, or their people, I found it refreshing to see these self-evident truths written down:
“…[it is your] responsibility to ensure that the association is still exists in 10 years time to do the good work”
“…[it is your] responsibility to leave organization in better shape then [you] found it.”
“keep everyone informed”. (Something I struggle with constantly, given the very distributed nature of RelEng here in Mozilla.)
At 99pages, its a quick read compared to all the weighty tomes you usually find in that section of the bookstore. Later, after some thought, I went back and read it again, skipping some sections, and carefully re-reading others slowly. He also referred to several other interesting books that I’d never heard of, making my amazon.com wishlist even longer! I found his writing style terse, informative, down-to-earth, and occasionally a little repetitive. I since discovered the author is a Mensan, former US Marine and former Massachusetts State Senator, which explains a lot!
Overall, it was repetitive in a few places, not relevant to Mozilla in a few places, but I still found it well worth the read, and the re-read!