A Good Book Has No Ending

08 June 2011

“A good book has no ending” - R.D. Cumming

Last week I was immensely lucky to be at SQL Cruise Alaska, and to attend Buck Woody’s (b / t) session on career development. A mere two hours later, I came away with about 5 pages of notes, a stunned expression, and the realization that I have not been sufficiently proactive in my own career. I’ll have a more complete write up in a few days, but one of the things Buck did was lay down a challenge for everyone there.

The challenge is for each of us to read 12 books that will help us advance our careers, and then do book reviews on our respective blogs. Here are my book choices, in no particular order:

  1. Hadoop, the Definitive Guide, by Tom White. For a developer who does business intelligence work, Hadoop/MapReduce is now a requisite skill. This is double true with companies that have large amounts of data (web logs, etc). I’ll be using what I learn to analyze the stock market data I have been downloading from online APIs.
  2. Basic Business Statistics, by Berenson, Levine, Krehbiel, Stephan. Working with large data sets is important. Equally important is the ability to know what kinds of analysis are best for a given problem. That means statistical analysis. My knowledge in this area is insufficient, hence this book choice.
  3. The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson. The reason to read this book is because of a question: how does the Internet affect businesses? Therefore, how does the Internet affect business needs? Therefore, how does the Internet change who is needed in future businesses?
  4. Pro SQL Azure, by Scott Klein and Herve Roggero. I expect most medium-sized businesses, and all start-ups, to eventually use cloud computing for their IT needs. The cost benefits are too great to ignore. For me, that means learning a lot more about the best practices when doing database work ‘in the cloud’.
  5. On  Writing Well, by William Zinsser. As someone without a lot of writing experience, gaining writing skill is critical. My style as a blogger is not that accessible, and I believe my readers would benefit if I expressed ideas in a more intuitive fashion.
  6. 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know, by Kevlin Henney. As a working developer, I occasionally get ‘stuck’ in a problem and forget about tips and tricks that can help. Memorizing said tricks would make me more effective when I write code.
  7. Applied Architecture Patterns on the Microsoft Platform, by Seroter, Fairweather, Thomas, Sexton, and Ramani. This book was recommended to me by Brent Ozar (b / t), and I had the luxury of skimming through it one day at a library. In 10 minutes I had a half-dozen options to solve design problems I had been struggling with. I would recommend this book to senior developers and budding architects.
  8. Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure, by Tim Harford. I read Tim Harford’s The Undercover Economist two months ago, and am highly impressed by how well he can convey complex ideas using intuitive examples. Rapid prototyping and innovation is the best way for any company to produce new products and services. That means building lots of projects, many of which will fail, in order to find a few runaway successes.
  9. The Mythical Man-Month, by Frederick Brooks. This is one of the classic books in software engineering because it spells out a lot of common wisdom, and then explains why it’s all wrong. I’m very curious about which aphorisms and assumptions I am using that are incorrect.
  10. The Data Warehouse Lifecycle Toolkit, by Kimball, Reeves, Ross, and Thornthwaite. I read this book four years ago, when I was starting as a junior developer. I didn’t understand a lot of it, but the basics I picked up were enough for me to rapidly understand what my mentors were trying to teach me. I hope to pick up a lot more nuance this time around.
  11. Design Is How It Works, by Jay Greene. A lot of the truly iconic products and services out there are successful because of amazing design. As a developer who does a lot of back-end work, user-facing design is not one of my strengths. This would help remedy that.
  12. The Innovator’s Way, by Peter Denning and Robert Dunham. I don’t believe a developer can be successful unless they are creative and innovative. Working in a large company makes that tricky sometimes. Having some best practices and the proper mental attitude would be very, very helpful.

The second part of the book challenge is to check on at least one other person at SQL Cruise to make sure they’re reading as well. I’m tagging a few other people. Enjoy!


Links of the Week

29 May 2011

Here are the links for the week of 5/29 - 6/4:

  • Salon has an article on how hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) can contaminate food supplies.
  • Harvard Business Review has a great article on the ways businesses try to maintain an advantage, by creating barriers to competition.
  • The Boston Review has an intriguing article on what systemic economic, business, and governmental factors are hurting the middle class.
  • Lender Processing Services, a company that services (read: manages) the loans of over **half **the mortgages in this country, apparently has a fantastically high error rate. Yves Smith explains why. Rortybomb has another great breakdown of why their business is tailor-made for fraud due to bad incentives.
  • Here’s a very interesting narrative on what is happening in Europe. The bottom line? The core raison d’etre of government is becoming ‘of the banks, for the banks, by the banks’ instead of ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’. Also, Too Rich to Pay is becoming the new Too Big To Fail.
  • In honor of Prince Phillip’s birthday, here are 90 gaffes from his 90 years in the Royal Family. I particularly like 53, 65, and 82.
  • Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism looks at an idea for bankers to have incentives to take only appropriate levels of risk. Right now they have incentives to take dangerous risks and then leave governments (read: taxpayers) holding the bag.
  • Chris Martenson over at ZeroHedge has a somewhat-terrifying post about why he thinks we are past peak oil, why incentives to develop alternate energy sources are insufficient, and what the implications are.
  • ProPublica has a great, easy-to-read piece on what potentially criminal activities were done by financial institutions during the housing boom. This has some interesting implications for society, since we haven’t successfully prosecuted any financial institution for what could easily be massive amounts of fraud.
  • Google Advisor looks interesting. At first blush, it seems to be an intuitive way to find and compare different financial products (like CDs or checking accounts).