a glob of nerdishness

March 1, 2008

Everything is Miscellaneous

written by natevw @ 11:50 am

This review of David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous is categorized under both “Books” and “Reviews”. I think he would be okay with that — he’s not against sorting, just opposed to “the idea that there’s a best way of organizing the world”. That thesis, found on page ten, echoes throughout the book with various applications. When James Tauber mentioned the book, the title alone drew me in. Indeed, the book was an affirmation of many ideas I’d had.

I can’t say I enjoyed the book as much as I’d hoped, though. When it arrived in its bubbly blue cover, I became a bit suspicious. Indeed, this book is written in a fluffy, overly colorful style. Furthermore, the author categorizes certain ideas as “those which it is safe to condescend”, sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly. Right and wrong themselves are a bit too provincial for Weinberger, and I got the impression he’s still bitter towards any religion on account of one of his forbear’s being waterboarded by a Republican during the Spanish Inquisition. Perhaps that was the case, which would be unfortunate, but that recurring tone distracted this book from its more useful points.

I read the book last fall, and took the notes for this review at that time. This morning I finally got around to listening to Clay Shirky’s Ontology is Overrated presentation, which was delivered more than two years before this book came out. It’s much less sensationalist, more elegant than vitriolic when presenting its worldview, and still manages to cover almost everything that Dr. Weinberger did. If you’d like a general introduction to the benefits of non-hierarchical, decentralized, fuzzy means of classification, I’d recommend Shirky’s presentation before Weinberger’s book.

However, Everything is Miscellaneous did strike me as reasonably well researched and presented some interesting ideas that expanded in some areas beyond what “Ontology is Overrated” covered. As James Tauber said in his post, the book didn’t really change my mind either, but I don’t regret reading it. I’d still like to add it to one of my shelves. But I’m waiting until after it’s available in paperback this April, as that is a more appropriate medium for the writing style.

July 9, 2007

Skim “Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality”

written by natevw @ 5:23 pm

I just finished skimming Micro-ISV by Bob Walsh. I wish it had merited a closer reading.

I’m hoping to bootstrap an indie software company, and Walsh has some great advice in that vein. Unfortunately, the good parts are surrounded by fluff: screenshots of ugly webpages in every other spread, glowing reviews of the author’s favorite Windows applications sprinkled liberally throughout, and wandering interview transcripts atrociously typeset(1). Perhaps a co-author would help a second edition. In the author’s own voice, “My editor, Jonathan Hassell, rightfully pointed out the first time I submitted this chapter that I had neglected to come to a conclusion in this book.”

Those warnings aside, I found Walsh’s market segmenting questions in Chapter Five most useful, with practical questions like “How do people in this market segment define success?”. Chapter Four’s comparison of company types from sole proprietorships to C corporations was also helpful, as it contained commentary specific to independent developers. The same chapter provides a section on Getting Things Done, which he backs with a crash course on the strategy. Several of the interviews contained worthwhile nuggets, like Google’s Emily White on AdWords and Joel on Software’s Joel on…software. Most everything else seemed to be either a) irrelevant or b) only relevant to Windows developers, circa 2005.

I would love to see the best fraction of this book extracted and rewritten, providing room for advice less bound by time and platform. As it is, it reads like a first draft, leaving the reader to cull the worthwhile paragraphs from raw material. Micro-ISV is a book I’m thankful I borrowed, but can willingly return.

  1. I understand the ink is calling the press black when it comes to typography. I’d love to dump this template, but whim and window have not yet had their rendezvous.