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Ilya Grigorik "igrigorik" RSS Feed (San Francisco, CA, USA)

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Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
by Cal Newport
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.80
31 used & new from $12.75

5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, motivational, and full of hands-on tips., January 31, 2016
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The ability to concentrate is an act of deep work. The ability to concentrate is necessary to learn and to push yourself and your career forward. The ability to concentrate is, also, a skill that must be trained -- we mislead ourselves into thinking that it's just a skill we "turn on" when conditions are right; alas, that's not how it works.

Doing deep work requires a lot of preparation, practice, strength, and follow through. For example, are the things you working the right things? Do you prioritize, schedule, and protect your ability to deep work in the face of endless distractions - e.g. meetings, email threads, social media, etc? And how do you manage all this while balancing the need to stay responsive to your colleagues, family, and friends?

This book is full of gems. There are dozens of insights and compelling arguments for why you should prioritize deep work. Similarly, there is a lot of practical advice on how to structure your days to do deep work - e.g. routines, rules, scheduling tips, and other tricks to get you on the way.

Inspiring, motivational, and full of hands-on tips. In short, a must read if you want to get ahead.


Thinking Statistically
Thinking Statistically
by Uri Bram
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.99
33 used & new from $6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun, hands-on, and approachable reminder on how to think statistically., January 31, 2016
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This review is from: Thinking Statistically (Paperback)
Great introduction to statistics; good read for those easily intimidated by equations; fun and practical examples -- all of these, as other reviewers have highlighted are true. That said, personal experience shows (insert selection bias warning here) that all of us, including those who studied statistics, are comfortable with equations, and may even need to apply these techniques in our professions... still manage to forget, stumble, and mess up the basics. And the best recourse is to periodically remind yourself of the basics - e.g. read a book like this one.

Why do the Geico ads make no sense? Is your boss really as ignorant as you think, or is there something else at work? Is your girlfriend cheating on you?

Read this book (it's a quick one) to figure out how to approach these (and other) questions with some statistical rigor. It's a fun read.


The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory
The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory
by John Seabrook
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.83
65 used & new from $12.50

5.0 out of 5 stars How to manufacture a modern hit..., January 31, 2016
A well-researched, engaging, and easy to read look at how modern day "music hits" are manufactured -- and yes, manufactured, as the book explains, is the right word to use. That said, "manufactured" is not necessarily a bad thing; the way the songs are made today is just different, and the process is specifically optimized to create that earworm that you listen to on repeat.

The book provides an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and other "stars" are made: the business bets behind these groups, the marketing machine, the beat-makers, the lyricists, the producers, etc. It's a complicated ecosystem with many interesting personalities, and you'll get to know a few of them in this book.

In short, if you've ever wondered how a modern hit comes to be, then this is the book -- hint: the artist, dare I say it, does very little.


Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking
Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking
by Michael Ruhlman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.66
97 used & new from $6.06

5.0 out of 5 stars This is not a cookbook, it's a manual for making the recipes your own..., January 23, 2016
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This is not a cookbook. It's better, in that it explains the fundamentals and the essential properties and differences of the various doughs, stocks, sauces, and more. For example, what distinguishes a pancake from a crepe or a biscuit? The answer is simple: ratio of flour, liqud, egg, and fat. If you know the ratio, you can make the recipes your own, in any quantities and flavors - that's where the real fun begins. A must read for any home cook that's looking to build their confidence around the kitchen.


Using WebPageTest: Web Performance Testing for Novices and Power Users
Using WebPageTest: Web Performance Testing for Novices and Power Users
by a G. Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: $26.22
48 used & new from $14.37

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quick and rewarding guide to getting the most out of WebPageTest., December 23, 2015
WebPageTest is an indispensable tool in every performance engineer's toolkit. If you're an existing user, this book will fill in and explain important gaps. If you're just getting into the performance field, this book will give you a fast head start on the rest of us, who had to learn it through trial and error.

The book is split into three high-level sections:

Basic Use Cases: offers a walkthrough of the waterfall, connection view, and the metrics that WPT results provide. Think of it as web performance 101: what metrics you should look for and where, how to interpret them, and how to compare tests. In short, a good intro for someone new to the field, and a quick skim for those familiar with the topic.

Intermediate Use Cases: a more accurate description would be "test setup". This is a great section that covers the many decisions you have to make to ensure that you're measuring the right things: picking the browser, location to run the test from, picking the right network profile, scripting multi-visit flows, testing authenticated pages, and more. Too many folks overlook all this, which leads them to focus on optimizing the wrong bottlenecks -- don't make this mistake! This section provides a nice hands-on look for how to use your existing analytics data to set all the parameters.

Advanced Use Cases: a hands-on look at driving WPT through API (e.g. monitoring performance changes over time), integrating it with your build infrastructure (e.g. to detect performance regressions at commit time, before they reach production), and setting up your own private instances (e.g. to test pages that can't or shouldn't be reached by public agents). The instructions are simple and easy to follow; you'll be up and running in no time.

In summary, a quick and rewarding read. A perfect book for someone new to the field, and a helpful resource for the rest of us. I wish I had this book when I started, it would have saved me a lot of time!


The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life — Master Any Skill or Challenge by Learning to Love the Process
The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life — Master Any Skill or Challenge by Learning to Love the Process
by Thomas M. Sterner
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.89
81 used & new from $7.69

5.0 out of 5 stars You only need to master one skill for success., December 23, 2015
Any non-trivial skill, or a goal, requires some amount of work and practice. We all understand that, but let's face it, ideally we'd just skip to the end state - right? The in-between state is full of mistakes, frustration, and "work". Except, maybe we have this all wrong?

As the author points out, our fixation on the goal causes frustration whenever we practice (by definition, we need to learn the skill, we can't be perfect), and the goalpost continues to change and evolve, leading us on a never-ending chase -- another promotion, a bigger audience, a bigger house, and so on. Reaching the goal is important, but fixating on it is a mistake as it can only bring you fleeting moments of happiness.

So, is there a better way? Yes, we can learn how to enjoy and improve the process towards achieving our goal -- i.e. improve how and how well we practice! Once we shift our perspective away from the goal and to the craft of improving how we learn (through deliberate practice, beginners mind, and incremental progress), we get numerous benefits: it's a universal skill that can be applied to any endeavor; we become more mindful and present in the moment, which improves how and how quickly we learn; we find more reasons to be happy; we learn and reach our goal faster.

These ideas and observations are not new. That said, this may be one of the best-articulated books on the subject: on point, great examples, and approachable. In short, an inspiring read.


Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
by Bryan Peterson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.84
97 used & new from $10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars How to think about aperture, exposure, and light.. in plain english, and with great illustrations., December 19, 2015
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You set your camera on "auto", you point and shoot. Most of the time, this yields decent results. However, have you ever wondered why the camera chose the settings that it does? Or, why you can't get "that look" that you see in photos from other photographers - e.g. the blurred background, the freeze-action shot, or a nice silhouette with a sunset?

Turns out, there is probably a dozen ways to take the same "properly exposed" photo, by varying ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. Which is the right one? Well, that's for you to decide, and that's what this book is about.

The author does a great job of explaining all the complex machinery in simple terms. The book covers aperture, shutter speed, how to adjust your shooting in different light situations (backlight, sidelight, front light, etc.), and more. There is minimal technical jargon and lots of examples and illustrations to help you follow along -- this combination is what makes the book work because you can see what effect the author is describing.

In short, a great investment for any photographer. Shooting in manual is like driving a manual car: challenging at first, but once you get a hang of it, it's hard to let go of the control and the satisfaction.

p.s. yes, the book is very much focused on "getting it right in the camera", but even if you always shoot in raw, there are still plenty of great tips here for how to think about light, composition, and the effect that you're after.


The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help
The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help
by Palmer, Amanda
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.90
60 used & new from $7.02

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Build you tribe, make yourself vulnerable, and flourish., December 18, 2015
Everyone will takeaway something different from this book. Part memoir; part education in how to build and engage with your fans (blog, twitter, Kickstarter, etc); part call to action to make yourself vulnerable - ask, let others help you, because they actually want to! You might disagree with Amanda's choices, methods, or lifestyle, but her message still stands and one all of us can benefit from. An inspiring read.


10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story
by Dan Harris
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.18
138 used & new from $4.02

5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and educational.. you'll be at least 10% happier while reading it!, December 18, 2015
Why 10%? Because it feels reasonably plausible, and it doesn't smack of the new-age speak that sets of your radar. And, let's face it, if there is a chance that it is true, then it might be a good time investment? Actually, if nothing else, the book is good comedy: picks apart the "guru's" with a healthy dose of skepticism and humor, and offers some great tips and revelations along the way. Who knows, perhaps it'll even convince you to consider trying this "mindfulness" thing everyone keeps talking about!


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
by Marie Kondō
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $10.19
201 used & new from $6.15

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Remove the clutter, simplify, and feel better., December 18, 2015
Good tactical advice on how to let go of the things that have outlived their purpose: clothes you bought but rarely wear, books and magazines you thought you wanted to read, gadgets you no longer use, and just about everything in between. As the author points out, the goal is to be surrounded with only those things that spark joy. This book is a call to stop reorganizing the clutter (although, there are plenty of good organizational tips), and to step back and let go (donate, or throw out) of the unnecessary things in your life -- yes, a thoroughly modern problem.

The only complaint is that the book itself -- funny enough -- could have been tidied up and more to the point. That said, still a good and fast read.


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