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Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
by Anthony D. Williams
Edition: Hardcover
312 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting material, dull presentation, November 8, 2007
Thematically, Wikinomics is very close to The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual. Both books implore big business to embrace new collaborative methods of communication before it's too late. But whereas Cluetrain goes rhetorically off the rails, Wikinomics is so laden with jargon and corporate speak it barely gets on track. The authors are fond of expressions such as "permeable corporate boundaries", "egalatarian ecosystems", and "metabolic processes". At times it was difficult to tell whether I was reading a book on the future of business or a science textbook. On the other hand, the authors can be quite pithy when the mood strikes -

"At the same time, the nature of work itself is changing. Work has become more cognitively complex, more team-based and collaborative, more dependent on social skills, more time pressured, more reliant on technological comptetence, more mobile, and less dependent on geography." (p. 246)

The message is a good one. The internet has forever changed the online and offline business environments. Despite the stylistic shortcomings, the authors do indeed present exceptionally relevant case studies of companies that are successfully adapting, including Amazon, Boeing, P&G, Best Buy, BMW, and a little-known and struggling mining company called Goldcorp Inc., that turned the rules of the game upside down by open sharing of their secret data and mushroomed into a multi-billion dollar enterprise.

In addition the book is very balanced in its presentation, acknowledging the potential pitfalls and unresolved problems of collaboration. How are external collaborators to be compensated? How many secrets can a company afford to give away? What is the definition of intellectual property in the context of a collaborative business culture?

Business leaders in any large organization need to have a grasp of Wikinomics. Paradigms are indeed shifting - probably a lot faster than people realize. Also, collaborative operations are not restricted to information-based businesses and software companies. I was surprised to learn how rapidly and how completely Boeing has shifted its entire manufacturing strategy.

The bottom line for me - whether you're selling software or soft drinks, you can't afford not to keep tabs on this rapidly evolving collaborative phenomenon.

Think and Grow Rich!: The Original Version, Restored and Revised
Think and Grow Rich!: The Original Version, Restored and Revised
by Napoleon Hill
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.51
94 used & new from $0.99

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In a self-improvement class by itself, October 10, 2007
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Without doubt this is one of the strangest books I've ever read - a combination of dime store psychology and million dollar insights, scientific mumbo jumbo and indisputable facts of life. Of course, you have to make allowances because Hill first published the book in 1937 (!). Amazingly, it's just as relevant and potentially life transforming now as it no doubt was then. (This edition restores lots of original text that was edited out when Hill re-released "Think" in 1960. Ample footnotes provide context for historical references unfamiliar to modern readers.)

The essence of "Think" can be summed up in Hill's signature phrase, "Whatever, friend, you can conceive and believe, you can achieve!"

Hill puts forth 13 steps for internalizing this conceive-believe-achieve mindset necessary for success. Although upon first reading "Think" seems to equate success with piling up obscene amounts of money, Hill goes much deeper. Several times he implores us to decide for ourselves what success means - remembering his principles apply equally well to any goals we set out to accomplish. Hill himself admits his emphasis on money stems from the social conditions of his time, when America was languishing in poverty during the Great Depression.

What I thought made Hill's techniques so persuasive is the twenty-five years of research he put into developing them, based on close-hand observation of super-achievers including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Andrew Carnegie. If these gentlemen were living examples of Hill's ideas, what more can you ask for?

Even without the research, Hill's advice ring true. But don't expect soothing comfort pills from this self-help book. First, Hill gets in your face. He forces you to face the brutal truth of who you are through a series of self-diagnostic questions designed to take you way out of your comfort zone. Then, Hill puts you to work. His methods force you to think, act, and drill yourself into a whole new way of thinking about life. I'm sure it takes a few readings just to take the first baby steps on Hill's path (I'm on my second reading now).

Anybody who wants more from life, who feels confused, indecisive, frustrated, or oppressed, to any degree whatsoever, in any aspect of his or her life, will benefit from reading this book. It's already making a difference for me.

The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual
The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual
by David Weinberger
Edition: Paperback
164 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A for ideas, D- for persuasion, September 26, 2007
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This influential book lays out the reasons why companies need to replace corporate speak and marketing puff with online conversations. The reasons are compelling, but the way the authors make their case won't win them many converts. They go on the attack with scathing gusto, dismissing "Fort Business" as a bunch of obsolete buffoons and/or swindlers. Strangely, these buffoons and swindlers are the very people Cluetrain hopes to convert to an entirely new way of thinking.

Looking past the rhetoric, Cluetrain really does make some crucial points. Here are a few that stood out to me -

1. The control mentality of management doesn't work in a wired world where people and information are easily and instantly connected.

2. Companies pay too much attention to competitors and not enough to customers.

3. If companies did pay attention to customers, they'd discover that customers want "Authenticity, honesty, and personal voice ..." (p. 51) Companies mistakenly view customers as consumers instead of people. We don't exist to consume (hopefully).

4. "Positioning should help a company become what it is, not something it's not (no matter how cool it would be)." (p. 99)

5. You can't bluff about your company or products online. People will find you out.

6. The Web challenges formal corporate organizational structures. People can connect and collaborate with whomever they need to in order to get the job done. The Web values competence over position.

Of course, all of this was just as true before the Web. However, the Web has magnified their importance. Today, the penalties for ignoring the Cluetrain principles are stiff, and the rewards are huge, and in the years ahead - even more so.

For a gentler and more balanced assessment of conversations in business and the new marketing rules, try Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers and The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly.

Dialogues with the Executive Coach: How Coaching Sounds, How It Works, and Why It Develops Leaders
Dialogues with the Executive Coach: How Coaching Sounds, How It Works, and Why It Develops Leaders
by George Alwon
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.95
37 used & new from $3.91

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Learn by example, September 16, 2007
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This 63-page pamphlet contains five realistic dialogs between subject and coach. I found it quite helpful in understanding how to construct questions that are both challenging and effective in getting to the heart of the matter, in helping people open up. The situations facing the subjects were realistic and typical. Instructive!

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars The wonder case!, September 10, 2007
It's hard to imagine how this case could be made any better.

1. It's lightweight, so you barely notice it clipped to your belt.
2. Easy to get the device in and out, yet the hinged door is secure.
3. Does not interfere with your ability to use the keypad.
4. It has a screw-in swivel clip holder! You can unscrew it if you want to carry the device in a pocket or purse.

I guess you can't call aluminum stylish, but the design is simple and unobtrusive - you have to look twice to see that your Blackberry is even in a case. Functionally, this case is unbeatable.

Reasons to Believe: How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith
Reasons to Believe: How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith
by Scott Hahn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.96
91 used & new from $6.47

27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One part OK, one part fascinating, one part valuable, September 2, 2007
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This book is really three things in one. The first part of the book is a straightforward defense of the faith, where Mr. Hahn briefly answers many of the common misconceptions about Catholicism with rational argument, and then through Biblical analysis. This segment seems to be written mainly for Protestant inquirers and Catholics who want to be better equipped to defend the faith. While very well written, there are many other sources of apologetics that treat these subjects in far more detail (Hahn mentions a number of them himself).

The second part of the book is a high level interpretation of the Catholic Church considering the Bible - Old Testament and New - as an epic story about a kingdom. Hahn starts with the first words of Genesis and wraps up 40 or 50 pages later in Revelation. His view casts the Catholic Church in a new light, and a fuller one than I had ever imagined. Hahn, a Biblical scholar, is able to connect the dots between the ancient meaning of the Biblical texts and what we experience today of Christianity and the Church. In presenting his case, Hahn does much more than defend the faith - he puts the Bible in a clear perspective, transforming it from a collection of seemingly unconnected parts into a unified whole. This has value for readers of every stripe.

The third part of the book is an extremely lengthy list of recommended reading. Actually it is more than a list. Hahn takes the trouble to explain what the books are about and why they are important, and there are enough of them to last a lifetime. I'd say the list alone is worth the price of the book.

Moleskine Pocket Ruled Notebook
Moleskine Pocket Ruled Notebook
Offered by Hyatt's All Things Creative
2 used & new from $7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing comes close to my Moleskine, August 23, 2007
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This review is from: Moleskine Pocket Ruled Notebook
This pocket-size notebook is a joy. The paper is high quality and pleasant to write on. Because the ink doesn't bleed or show through, you can write on both sides (a big advantage over spiral notebooks). There's a ribbon placeholder which comes in handy, and a little pocket in back for business cards and random pieces of paper. And, to tie it all together, an elastic band that slips on and off with ease. At the current price, the Moleskine is a fantastic bargain, too.

Steal These Ideas!: Marketing Secrets That Will Make You a Star (Bloomberg)
Steal These Ideas!: Marketing Secrets That Will Make You a Star (Bloomberg)
by Steve Cone
Edition: Hardcover
107 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wide ranging overview, August 22, 2007
This book offers high level insight on marketing, branding, advertising and PR. For marketing directors and executives at midsize and large companies, it's well worth reading. The author has long experience putting together and executing marketing campaigns for big private companies and political organizations. Cone's writing is easy to understand and his advice applies to most any type of marketing situation. A few excerpts--

"Truly great brands have four qualities in common. They are inspirational, indispensable, dependable, and unique." (p15)

"Small type is the enemy. Sans serif type is the enemy. Reverse type is the enemy." (p43)

"The effect of frequency trumps occasional [ad] placements every time, even if you appear more frequently in fewer publications." (p92)

"The number one job of senior marketing professionals is to recruit the best second in command they can possibly find." (p167)

Cone discusses areas that are not commonly found in books on marketing, including public speaking, corporate sponsorship, and working with your ad agency. This book is reminiscent of and makes a good companion piece to David Ogilvy's Ogilvy on Advertising , which explains the world of advertising from the inside out.

Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth Marketing
by Lois Kelly
Edition: Hardcover
64 used & new from $0.01

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Learn how to talk with customers instead of at them., August 4, 2007
Conversational marketing is really a simple concept and one that's been around since people started conversing. However, marketing, PR and advertising departments, especially in larger businesses, don't think conversationally. That's a problem, because customers want conversation, not the "party line." Lois Kelly offers a spot on solution--

"Marketing has traditionally been more like a manufacturing operation, producing advertisements, Web sites, brochures, campaigns, and press releases. Reframed as a service, however, marketing gains even more value through the processes of listening advising, explaining, and teaching." (p. 155)

Companies need to reshape their entire approach to communication to have any hope of influencing today's customers. That entails changing mindsets, job responsibilities, interdepartmental relationships and customer interaction--tough stuff.

The great value of "Beyond Buzz" is that it explains how large organizations can reorganize and reorient themselves to be conversational. Kelly has a lot of first-hand experience working with firms that successfully made the change, and with some that didn't. Her ideas and transformative techniques are not merely theories, they are tried and true. Worthwhile reading for business owners, leaders, and top level marketing, PR, advertising and sales execs.

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection
The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection
by Bruce McAllister
Edition: Paperback
Price: $23.91
86 used & new from $0.07

68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strongest collection in years!, July 27, 2007
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"I, Row Boat," by Cory Doctorow. In this homage to Asimov, a battle of wits between a sentient coral reef and a sentient rowboat raises mind-bending questions about the nature of intelligence in a digitized future. B

"Julian: A Christmas Story," by Robert Charles Wilson. A gloomy future America reverts to 19th century conditions thanks to the excesses of science and the deficiencies of religion. C

"Tin Marsh," by Michael Swanwick. "The Shining" goes to Venus. Two weary prospectors, one well past the end of his rope, battle the elements, each other, and insanity. B

"The Djinn's Wife," by Ian McDonald. Against the exotic backdrop of Delhi, a disastrous romance flares up and out between a famous dancer and a diplomat who happens to be an ethereal artificial intelligence. B+

"The House Beyond Your Sky," by Benjamin Rosenbaum. A haunting glimpse behind the curtain reveals that being the Creator ain't all it's cracked up to be. B

"Where the Golden Apples Grow," by Kage Baker. The stark, inhospitable terrain of Mars almost comes alive as two stranded young colonists struggle to get home. B+

"Kin," by Bruce McAllister. Elegant vignette about a boy and a roach-like alien assassin explores the mysteries of personal relationships and the nature of good and evil. B

"Signal to Noise," by Alastair Reynolds. Albeit touching and romantic, the plot doesn't quite measure up to the fascinating premise of a man who crosses over into a parallel universe to reconnect with his dead wife. B

"The Big Ice," by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold. A frozen ocean of ice plays host to a scorching battle of wits between two politically powerful sibling rivals. B

"Bow Shock," by Gregory Benford. Frustrated astrophysicist on verge of losing bid for tenure observes an object in space that grows curiouser and curioser. Masterful blend of science, subtlety, sensitivity and suspense. A+

"In the River," by Justin Stanchfield. Unfathomable (no pun intended) squid-like aliens welcome a genetically altered human scientist aboard their six-kilometer long, liquid-filled ship. B

"Incarnation Day," by Walter Jon Williams. Some things never change. In a future society where parents raise virtual children, a rebellious digital teenager plays a high stakes game of chicken with her controlling mother. B

"Far as You Can Go," by Greg Van Eekhout. In a broken down future world, a scavenger and his profoundly human robot companion risk what little they for a place in the sun. Simultaneously tender and terrifying. A

"Good Mountain," by Robert Reed. A richly textured portrait of the distant future, in which worried travelers hope to outrun the fire and earthquakes that are consuming what little is left of their world. A

"I Hold My Father's Paws," by David D. Levine. Several stories herein explore genetic engineering, but this one goes whole hog, as Americans change species for reasons ridiculous and--at least in one case--sublime. B

"Dead Men Walking," by Paul J. McAuley. Rousing adventure pits one genetically engineered assassin against another on a prison in a remote corner of the solar system. B

"Home Movies," by Mary Rosenblum. Memory seller strikes deal with a manipulative client, forcing her to make a supremely difficult choice. B

"Damascus," by Daryl Gregory. Creepy, well-constructed story about a bizarre religious cult gives new meaning to the concept of forced conversion. B+

"Life on the Preservation," by Jack Skillingstead. "Groundhog Day" with scant uplifting tonic and a cataclysmic twist. B+

"Yellow Card Man," by Paolo Bacigalupi. Squalid Bangkok is particularly hellish for its former Chinese masters, and I felt every ounce of pain and humiliation while accompanying a fallen tycoon on his way to rock bottom. A+

"Riding the Crocodile," by Greg Egan. A virtually immortal couple's efforts to contact a mysterious life form span hundreds of thousands of years. Long tunnel, precious little cheese. C

"The Ile of Dogges," by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette. Queen Elizabeth's censor gets a supernaturally rude awakening. C

"The Highway Men," by Ken MacLeod. Frozen Scotland, ravaged by terrorist-inspired war and global climate shift, receives a glimmer of hope from an unlikely hero. Highly effective use of local idiom. A

"The Pacific Mystery," by Stephen Baxter. In 1950, victorious Nazis attempt to circumnavigate the globe in an immense aircraft, and encounter something unexpected in any alternate universe. A

"Okanoggan Falls," by Carolyn Ives Gilman. When alien conquerors occupy a Wisconsin hamlet, the line between friend and foe becomes blurred. Superlative plot and characters, with a perfect ending. A+

"Every Hole Is Outlined," by John Barnes. Mathematicians aboard an interstellar cargo ship encounter ghosts. C

"The Town on Blighted Sea," by A.M. Dellamonica. Sick goings-on between the vanquished and their squid "allies" in a human refugee camp. C

"Nightengale," by Alistair Reynolds. By far, the most amazing character in this page-turner about adventurers invading a deserted hospital ship to retrieve a war criminal is ... the ship itself! A+
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