Amazon's Mechanical Turk is a crowd surfing tool to help maximize the liquidity in the work force. If task X will take 1000 hours to complete, using the power of the crowd, you could break this task up and get 100 people working on it, thus completing the task in 10hrs. (Aside: Amazon's service is affectionately named after Wolfgang von Kempelen's 1770 chess-playing machine pictured above)
Unfortunately, most enterprises have become even more guarded about intellectual property leakage that Amazon's service mostly inaccessible to large organizations. Yet, it is in large enterprises that could most benefit from a local Mechanical Turk service:
- To varying degrees all employees have spare cycles that go unused
- In large organizations, department boundaries prevent collaboration and utilizing
- Route tasks are often solved with spending money on consultants or third party services
- New ideas are often stifled because of lack of time/energy to initiate and build momentum
The larger an organization becomes, the more in-efficient it becomes. This is a function of increased bureaucracy, department silos and political relationships. A private Mechanical Turk service would help break down these barriers and leverage the spare brain power and time in the organization without having to worry about intellectual property leakage. A private Mechanical Turk service would befit the enterprise by:
- increasing net productivity
- decrease departmental silos
- foster innovation and skunk-works projects
- increase collaboration and idea sharing
What other ways could the enterprise benefit from having a private mechanical turk?
Read from Aug 16 to 26, 2011
A novel exploration of relationships and economics. While not a deep scholarly paper, it was an amusing read. If I were to teach an economics 101 class I would use this book because it introduces economic theories in ways that are very accessible using relationships as the example.
The ideas presented are not going to make or break your relationship. It will, however, help you understand how you act better by framing the context in terms of economic theories such as sunk cost, game theory and aversion of loss. In many ways it helps illustrate the illogical way that we behave and offers a better response in order to maximize our results.
Sometimes the editorial comments on economic policy were presented as straw men arguments. One example was with the negative commentary on the use of government spending to stimulate an economy. Thus downplaying GDP economic theory (GDP = C+G+i+(X-M)). That aside, these straw men appeared to be more soap boxes but were rare enough to not get you riled up and frothing at the mouth because, well, you can't argue with the conclusions - just have more sex.
Read from August 01 to 16, 2011
Wow. I'm super excited about the future! Michio Kaku connects work being accomplished the labs with the applications in the future. This isn't about imagining some mythical utopia, but looking at the discoveries and inventions that exist today and how they can be combined and utilized in the future once the economies of scale and mass production are flushed out.
For example: We already can remotely control micro robots and we have the ability to analyze cells on a single micro chip. In the future we should be able to inject micro controlled robots into the blood stream that then can perform biopsies and analyze the results instantaneously.
The only odd thing about the book is that Kaku seemed to reference 'Pentium' chips numerous times in the first half. It was almost as if the first part of the book was written a decade ago when people still knew what Pentium chips were.
On a personal note, I am not filled with dread of a future when moores law has hit a physical ceiling where chips can't get any faster. What will we do?!
Read from August 01 to 09, 2011
Read from July 11 to 12, 2011
I forgot I had read this book once before. This is not a good omen for any book. Worse yet, it took me a full chapter before I recognized that the parable was familiar.
Lencioni does present 5 valid dysfunctions of the team. I'm not sure I would go as far as concluding with a definite article that these are THE 5 dysfunctions. In short they are:
1. Abesent of trust
2. Fear of conflict
3. Lack of commitment
4. Avoidance of accountability
5. Inattention to result
The story is a bit of a straw man that once you get past the functional dialogue you can ponder the basic principles. For example, I would add personality conflicts as a critical one to the list. If you build your own team from scratch you are likely to build it with people who are compatible with yourself. If you are dropped into a pre-existing team you also need to get beyond any personality conflicts/clashes before you can be a functional team.
Five Dysfunctions is an easy sunday afternoon read where the amount of 'meat' in the book is directly proportional to the length of the book.
Read from July 01, 2010 to July 11, 2011
Irreverent, sacrilegious and ridiculously funny! Who said all that religious education was a waste? Just make sure you you aren't in a quiet place when you're reading this because you'll be breaking out into laughter every few minutes!
The biggest disappointment with the book was that there wasn't any Monty Python allusions. That would have been awesome. The first half is certainly more funny than the back section
A few choice quotes:
Joshua and I played at being rabbis, and he insisted that we stick to the authentic Hebrew for our ceremonies. It was more fun that it sounds, or at least, until my mother caught us trying to circumcise my little brother Shem with a sharp rock. What a fit she threw. And my argument that Shem needed to renew his covenant with the Lord didn't seem to convince her. She beat me to stripes with an olive switch and forbade me to play with Joshua for a month. Did I mention she was besought with demons?
Overall I think it was good for little Shem. He was the only kid I ever knew who could pee around corners. You can make a pretty good living as a beggar with that kind of talent. And he never ever thanked me.
Nobody's perfect. Well, there was this one guy, but we killed him....
The medium obscured the message.
Josh: "What is this thing?"
Gasper: "It's a Yeti. An abominable snowman."
Biff: "This is what happens when you fuck a sheep?"
Josh: "Not an abomination, abominable."
Joshua's ministry was three years of preaching, sometimes three times a day, and although there were some high and low points, I could never remember the sermons word for word, but here's the gist of almost every sermon I ever heard Joshua give.
You should be nice to people, even creeps.
And if you:
a) believed that Joshua was the Son of God (and)
b) he had come to save you from sin (and)
c) acknowledged the Holy Spirit within you (became as a little child, he would say) (and)
d) didn't blaspheme the Holy Ghost (see c)
then you would:
e) live forever
f) someplace nice
g) probably heaven
However, if you:
h) sinned (and/or)
i) were a hypocrite (and/or)
j) valued things over people (and)
k) didn't do a, b, c, and d,
then you were:
This story is not and never was meant to challenge anyone's faith; however, if one's faith can be shaken by stories in a humorous novel, one may have a bit more praying to do.
Blessed are the meek, for to them we shall say "attaboy"
Blessed are the dumbfucks.
Biff: "Actually , I thought I'd stay Josh. Your mother needs someone to look after her, and she's still a relatively attractive woman. I mean a guy could do worse"
Josh: "I've got to think that that was unethical,"
Biff: "Josh, faking demonic possession is like a mustard seed."
Josh: "How is it like a mustard seed?"
Biff: "You don't know, do you? Doesn't seem at all like a mustard seed, does it? Now you see how we all feel when you liken things unto a mustard seed? Huh?"
Read from July 01 to 03, 2011
Great bootstrapping advice for any business startup - especially software development shops. Fried would even argue that remaining a small business is, in the long run, a more effective desirable state than growing to be a large soulless organization. Agree or not with that premis, the message here is motivational and there are clear take aways for anyone managing a team, department, small business or large business. Having worked in businesses of all sizes - from very small, to medium to very large, I found many of his small business mantras resonated well with me - even though I work in the antithesis of a 37signals shop.
Read from June 09 to 21, 2011
A fascinating history of vaccines and the generations of opposition to vaccines because of religious conviction and ignorance. People such as Andrew Wakefield, Jenny Mccarthy and Opra are the recent villains in this story using greed, mis-information, bad science and emotive plees to convince well educated and well meaning parents to not vaccinate their children. As a result society's herd immunity has been compromised for viruses that were eliminated decades ago. The deaths of hundreds of children caused by the of recent outbreaks in whooping cough, measles and other forgotten child hood illnesses is the blood on Wakefield's, McCarthy's and Opra's hands.
One very interesting point he raises is the role of the internet to allow silos of mis-information to perpetuate. Where once these silos were forced to reconcile their thoughts with the challenges from the majority, now the fringe groups can find more like-minded across the globe and more easily ignore the challenges to their ideas. The anti-vaccination crowd continues to grow in spite of the building evidence that contradicts each assertion they put forward. MMR and mercury don't cause autism yet the anti-vaccination community still fervently believes that big pharma is somehow to blaim and not genetics.
Read from June 02 to 08, 2011
Like it or not, America is an Empire. Potentially an Empire in decline. The next decade, Friedman argues, will need to be navigated adeptly by the president. Overall, the book is like an applied version of Chompsky. Most of the book is focuses on foreign policy and what will be necessary to accomplish in order to ensure that America survives. The premise is intriguing and his reasoning is pragmatic and he avoids being an ideologue.
Read from May 04 to June 02, 2011
This is the story of Cancer over the last 100 years. It is an emotional roller coaster and harrowing story of accidents, dirty politics, fanciful thinking and perseverance. Mukherjee weaves the tale of scientific accomplishment with rich scientific research. Mukherjee does a fantastic job blending these hard sciences with the story of being human. At times heavy reading but overal a great read.
By the end of the book you realise that Oncology really is in the dark ages; we are only just starting to understand how cancer works. It wasn't until the 1980s that oncologists abandoned radical mastectomy's which cut out ribs, muscle, collar bones and anything in between leaving debilitated patients which had a no better survival rate than more conventional treatments. It is only in the last decade that gene targeted cancer therapy has emerged which is the first real cure for cancer. 24 others are in the works. Since the human genome project we are only just starting to understand that complexities of how cancer mutates and is activated by our own genetics. In the end, the future looks hopeful, but there is a long road yet to go.
Read from March 19 to May 15, 2011
Nothing really new but a good packaging of motivational ideas.
Read from April 22 to 29, 2011
Your brain sucks. You think you're smarter than you really are, your memory is flawed, you think that you notice more than you do and your confidence is fraudulent. In short, our brains are really stupid at at observing reality and are easily fooled. At least everyone is equally flawed. Memories can't be trusted, but at least everyone's memory can't be trusted. We think we are smarter than we are, but at least everyone thinks they're smarter than they are. We think we observe more than we do, but at least everyone is just as oblivious to the world around us.
Put succinctly: our brains are a design failure. They are evolved to maximize a very different world than the one we live in now.
Overall, an interesting book with lots of great research. Makes me a little depressed though. My only criticism is that Chabris seems to have a hate on for Malcolm Gladwell. I think every single fo Gladwell's books were bashed throughout the book (though sometimes warranted).
Read from April 18 to 21, 2011
Interesting story but a bit preachy at times. Valley of Horses, unlike the prequel, feels like it's trying too hard to fast forward human history and show how all the pivotal discoveries in human society could be brought about (by a single person!). And unlike the prequel, doesn't seem to try as hard to focus on plausibility.
Read from April 06 to 12, 2011
Review: The Emotional Calendar: Understanding Seasonal Influences and Milestones to Become Happier, More Fulfilled, and in Control of Your Life
Read from March 31 to April 04, 2011
Sharp's thesis is that our mood and behavior are substantially affected by our own personal emotional calendar. Our emotional calendar is culmination of events, biology, nature (sun, season, time), festivals, and other experiences with friends and family. Understanding our own personal patterns will help us better deal with those influences on our emotional health, mood and behavior.
Sharp builds his argument using numerous case studies and examples. While interesting, the content quickly becomes dry and redundant. That said, periodically he introduced a few interesting tidbits and thought provoking implications.
About 2/3rds of the way through he starts to work through the implications and complications of these case studies. This is where he finally catches his stride. Unfortunately, he only quickly addresses the 'so what can I do about it' subject with a few ambiguous responses ('it depends! it's different for each person!) and then ends the book quickly.
Overall: an interesting idea. However, the book reads more like a journal article. There are some good nuggets buried inside, but it can take some slogging to get there.
Read from March 23 to 30, 2011
This is the kind of book that makes you feel better about your own family experience. All families might be screwed up, but at least yours isn't as screwed up as the Berglunds. In many ways, the over-the-top family drama is reminiscent of HBO's six-feet-under, L-word, or Big-Love.
The intensity of the story line aside, the character development and quality of writing are superb. I really enjoyed the changes in authors voice as the story is told from different perspectives.
As the novel concludes, you can't help but wonder if the intention of Franzen is to be self referential: Is "Freedom" intended to be marketing material for Walter's Free Space initiative?
Read from March 13 to 19, 2011
Not Bryson's best work. A humorous, yet cynical drive across america. Unlike his other world traveling type books, this one makes you want to avoid driving through or visiting most american states. Kinda sad really.
Read from March 01 to 09, 2011
I was both gripped and bored by 'Last Call'. The pure volume of names, dates and events made the book dry and read like a school history book. Fortunately the book was not completely dry and wove a very interesting story connecting all parts of the content during the temperance years.
The book did give me a much better understanding of the lead up to the 18th amendment, the cause of the gangster years and the background to the more 'odd' artifacts such as max % alcohol in beer and drinking age limits. If prohibition had never been attempted, the USA likely would not have ever introduced income taxes!
Even more shocking is that I'm likely related (albeit distantly) to Mary Hunt who started the WCTU that spawned the prohibition movement!
Read in March, 2011
An Ok collection of anecdotes on what it takes to make an outstanding organization. Similar to Good to Great but without the research and data.
Review: The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work
My rating: My rating:
Read from February 18 to 24, 2011
This is a good companion book with Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. The Happiness Advantage takes a fascinating look at the psychology and scientific research into all of the old advice of motivational speakers and sages.
Success in life doesn't lead to happiness. Rather, happiness leads to success. Hapiness is important for our physical, and emotional health. Relationships help increase our hapiness quotient and lack of human contact is directly correlated to our perception of hapiness and our blood pressure.
A great read.
Read from February 11 to 16, 2011
Read from February 01 to 06, 2011
The bottom line is that our brains are really hyper active pattern matchers. We see patterns where they don't really exist and we have an over tendancy to see causation where it isn't (aka "hind-sight" / "survivor" bias). Put another way, our brains are ill equipped to handle probability and decision making in uncertainty. We tend to believe stupid things and make poor decisions because of these deficiencies. It takes a lot of extra work to overcome our own propensities toward silliness.
Read from January 20 to 22, 2011
Like History of Nearly Everything, this one is chalk full of useless facts and historical information about the origins of things in our home. It is an interesting read, but not nearly has humourous or witty as his other works.
Read January 17, 2011
I can easily see why this book has become so popular recently. Many of the themes echo in today's troubled economy. The irony is that the allegory that I think best fits is one where the 'looters' are not the liberal democrat of today, but the conservative republican who looted the financial system and caused the economy to collapse. I wonder what Rand would say about that.
Atlas Shrugged was a marathon of a read. I enjoyed the story line, the insight into what business was like 60 years ago and a story line that blended business, finance, science fiction, and mystery. I found the book motivational and even inspiring in many ways. It makes me want to get up and get to work and produce!
However, in other ways I found the preaching to be too over the top and too contrasting. The antagonists are set up as straw men in order to easily defeat their dissenting opinion of Ayn Rand's philosophy. In many ways I agree and many more that I disagree. I have to concede that I would not have been able to get the education I received or build my career as I have, were it not for the benevolence of society and the social safety net that the government creates for families to recover from poor financial decisions. I think this is where Ayn Rand misses the mark. Balance is needed.
Read in December, 2010
Gaiman's alternate worlds are always disorienting and intriguing never the less. In the world of 'american gods' the gods from myths of old live as men and women in america who are fading and dying because of unbelief by the massses. A war brews between the old gods of oden and thor and the new gods of internet and tv. A bizarre and engaging read (although a few times it felt alice-in-wonderland acid trip like).