Sunday Selection 2013-10-20

Around the Web

Inside GitHub’s super-lean management strategy and how it drives innovation

It’s always interesting to see how groups of people organize to do useful work, especially in the age of startups and distributed workforces. This article takes a detailed look at GitHub’s structure and how their “open allocation” strategy affects their work-style and productivity. Interestingly, it also looks at how non-product activities (like internal videos and social meetups) can be planned and executed without a strict hierarchy.

Should we stop believing Malcolm Gladwell

As a graduate student I’ve become increasingly comfortable with reading scientific papers over the last two years. As a side effect of that, I’ve become increasingly skeptical of popular science books. They’re often lacking in proper references and I’m somewhat distrusting of the layer of indirection between me and the (hopefully) rigorous scientific work. This articles focuses on Malcolm Gladwell and his particular brand of scientific storytelling. It’s been a few years since I read any of books, so I can’t comment from personal experience, but if you’re interested in knowing how much science is actually in popular science, this article is worth your time.

Scott Adams on How to be successful

I recommend this piece with a bit of caution. It’s not your typical “how to be successful” piece. There isn’t much on the lines of “find your passion” or “all your dreams will come true”. In fact, this piece is very pragmatic, very down-to-earth and just a little bit mercenary. It’s for just those reasons that I think it’s worth reading — it’s a good antidote to the cult of “follow your dreams” that seems to have become popular. There are other gems in this piece such as “goals are for losers”. If you’re looking for unconventional and refreshingly honest career advice, read this now.

Books

I’ve been cutting down on video watching in favor of more reading. This week’s recommendation is:

Getting Things Done

GTD is a bit of an obsession in the tech community, spawning an endless number of variants, apps and how-to guides. I’ve been using one of those apps for a while (OmniFocus) and I’ve been familiar with the general GTD approach, but I just started reading the book last week. Surprisingly, the book has a pretty different feel from the GTD articles and guides you’ll find around the web. David Allen doesn’t just give you organizational strategies but also takes the time to explain why particular strategies are a good idea and how they may or may not work for you. I’ve often thought that the full-blown GTD system is a bit overkill, but reading this book makes me think that at a certain level of busy-ness, it’s actually worth it. After reading this book you’ll have no doubts that GTD is a carefully thought out, well-founded system and might be worth a try even if you’re not always super-busy.

 

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Sunday Selection 2011-04-09

Around the Internet

How to get a real education in College I’m going to be finishing classes in about a month. On the whole, I’ve had a good college experience and certainly learned a lot. However, there are a lot of things which are clearer in retrospect and I do wish I had more things of an organizational nature. If you’re interested in an unusual college experience to set the tone for a life of entrepreneurship, Scott Adams has some really good pointers.

C is a desert island language I like the C programming language. It’s small, tight language; austere would be a good description. It puts you in close touch with the machine and expects you know what you’re doing. It can be rather liberating if you’re used to programming in Java or some other managed, batteries-included language. This is the introduction of a long series of discussions and commentary surrounding C and its relationship to other languages.

Tron:Legacy Computer Art If you’ve seen the movie you’re familiar with the large numbers of dazzling special effects as well as the scenes of programmers interacting with computers (which are actually believable for once). Here’s a behind-the-scenes guide of how all those beautiful images were created.

From the Library

Outliers: The Story of Success I’ve had this book for about a year and I know read the first half, but I couldn’t remember if I actually finished it. So over the last few days I sat down and just read it cover to cover. Malcolm Gladwell is a really good writer and it’s a pleasure to follow his explanations and trains of thought. He provides some really compelling arguments for why success is a combination of personal character, upbringing, opportunities and cultural context. It is a bit disheartening to find out that there probably isn’t much by the way of what we consider “true genius” but it’s also uplifting to learn that hard work and dedication can have amazing payoffs — “no one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make his family rich”.

Software

Simplenote I’m a fan on hacker-oriented, infinitely customizable tools (like Emacs) but sometimes you just want to reach for the closest tool at hand. Simplenote is a text-based simple note taking service. It’s available as a webapp as well as native apps for various platforms. Furthermore there are a growing number of third-party text editors and lists managers that are using Simplenote as a backend. I personally use the iOS app and the third-party nvALT application on my mac.