What to read, creating, strategy, account security — things I’ve been thinking about this week

What to read

As Charlie Kindel points out, you can’t trust Amazon reviews anymore (if you ever could).  The entire system has been gamed and broken, in every product category.  I am constantly on the prowl for better ways to find accurate product ratings.

How does one find good books to read?  First and foremost, I rely on friends and family — and am thankful for those that use Goodreads so I get a notice of their recent reading activity.  I also sift thru the book reviews in the NYTimesLA Times, the EconomistNPR.  I sift thru various lists on Goodreads and FiveBooks.  I look at book lists that smart people publish.  New Books Network was just recommended to me as source of book reviews and recommendations.   

I look for consistently good ratings, and I also look for widely divergent views on a book, as that is often an indicator that the book has something interesting to say. 

I am not satisfied tho, I need to do some more thinking on the topic of “how to find great books to read”.  I am a product of what I feed my brain, and being structured and intentional about what material I spend time with is important. 

Writing and creating

Writing is hard, and I would like to get better at it.  I need all the tips I can get, and I need to write more frequently.

Noah Smith offers his best tips.  A couple of these really resonate with me:

“I write because I need to organize my own thoughts.”

“Reading responses to what you write — both positive and negative — will help you understand the issue better”

Also some great guidance on how Apple writes copy.  Pretty good guidance on how to write anything really — you have to really bear down and focus on your message in a fine grained way..  

I want to be creating more — more writing, more software, more craft. It has become so hard to write software — I remember fondly the days of using Notepad to write a web app.  Now you need package managers and bundlers and components and frameworks and templating and all kinds of crap to write web apps.   And writing cloud apps has become crazy confusing with Amazon, Azure, Google spitting out new services weekly, in addition to all the lesser vendors.  

Suppose you want to develop some AI software, look at this amazing AI landscape chart.  What is an aspiring developer supposed to do?  This is daunting.  It is a career to just understand all these pieces.

For web apps, hugo is interesting, a framework to get back to simple authoring of websites.  Recommended by Rich.  Embraces markdown which seems nice.   

Strategy

Some good thoughts here from the ceo of Twilio on building businesses and strategy.  I like his views on strategy — 

“…strategy is a dirty word because it is this idea that the people at the top of the company have developed a strategy and everyone in the company is supposed to blindly follow this strategy, whether or not your customers want you to follow that strategy.”

“There is only one true strategy, build products and services for which your customers will pay you.”

Strategy is too often viewed as a top-down thing.  The best strategies are deeply bottoms-up, rooted in what customers are doing and what you can actually build.

Security

I am cranking up security yet again on financial accounts.  About every 6 months I relook at my practices, talk to smart people, and amp up our protection.  We have been victims of SSN theft tho thankfully it has never become more than a supreme annoyance.

I have moved away from easily guessable account IDs, phone numbers, and email addresses.  I’ve seen attacks on our accounts based on guessing some of these (or harvesting phone numbers and email addresses from the web).  This is unlikely to happen on our accounts now.  I’ve also added in hardware security keys.  Some of our financial institutions don’t support keys yet, and we may have to look at shifting away from some of them in the next wave of changes.  

I’m also starting to invest in processes for transitioning account ownership as I age.  This is uncomfortable to think about, and all this security makes it harder.

I welcome any other great ideas!

History

final goodbye to Internet Explorer.  Gosh did some great people work on the early versions of IE.  Sending great thoughts out to everyone.