(I’ve given up on calling these weekly reading posts because they’re clearly not weekly)
- Floating Utopias. Somehow these libertarian community projects never quite pan out.
- My condolences, you’re now the maintainer of a popular open source project
. I relate to this a lot.
- The Really Big One. Your regular reminder that the planet earth has almost infinite means to destroy us at its disposal. Yet another reason not to relocate to San Francisco.
- The Other Side Is Not Dumb – good piece on the importance of understanding your political opponents
- Creativity: A Crime of Passion – “Be creative, but not TOO creative”. On the societal disincentives for creativity
- 3 reasons the American Revolution was a mistake. Yeah, um, I don’t agree with this piece at all. I mean I don’t think much of the USA, but I also don’t think much of the UK right now.
- How I Cracked a Keylogger and Ended Up in Someone’s Inbox
– short piece on reverse engineering a key logger.
- The Principia Misanthropica – Ribbonfarm’s… rather idiosyncratic brief history of everything. Amusing read, tells you more about Ribbonfarm’s philosophical biases than actual history but that’s OK.
- The BBC problem – on the problems that the BBC’s “impartiality” requirement creates, and the resulting false balance. Specifically in the light of brexit but true more generally
- Alberta, Canada is the proud owner of the largest man-made pyramid on the planet – file this one under weird artifacts of industrial civilization
- AAVE is not SE with mistakes – a discussion of the grammatical features of AAVE (African American Vernacular English) and the fact that it’s a distinct dialect in its own right and not just speaking badly.
- Putin’s Puppet – on Putin’s funding of the campaigns of various western politicians, and Trump’s relationship with Russia
- Mental Models I Find Repeatedly Useful – a bunch of useful concepts. I’m not sure I would have labelled most of them mental models. I was familiar with most of them, but there were a few useful ones I hadn’t encountered (e.g. Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement
Just one this time: Taming the stream roller: How to communicate compassionately with non native English speakers. I could have really used this advice before spending a week in Mexico then speaking at a Russian conference. I’ll try to remember it at Europython.
No new wish list items recently.
I’ve been rereading What the best college teachers do as part of an attempt to improve my training courses more.
A relatively small week due to being in Mexico for almost all of it:
I read Danah Boyd’s “It’s Complicated” on the trip back from Mexico. It’s about teenage experiences of social media (and life more generally). Can recommend. it’s not very long and is quite enlightening. It also reinforces pretty heavily that the way teenagers get treated in the USA kinda sucks (being a teenager elsewhere does too, though differently).
There was very little to report last week so I ended up skipping posting this for a week.
- Explaining and Harnessing Adversarial Examples – a neat paper about the fragility of neural network models when given things that are just slightly off the typical distribution.
- E-Prime language – a linguistic style in which one avoids statements of the form “X is Y” in preference for “X does Z”. This was sent to me in response to my pointing out that arguments about the former tend to be very frustrating and largely go away if you focus on the latter.
- How to Grow a Weetabix – an interesting breakdown of the effect of a possible exit from the EU on the British farming industry and landscape, along with a lot of interesting related information about British farming subsidies and their ecological focus.
I’ve been reading Thinking, Fast and Slow this week. It’s come very highly recommended, but to be honest I’m not very convinced by it. Part of the problem is that I distrust a lot of the underlying research.
Elements of Information Theory arrived as a gift from Zack M. Davis. Thanks, Zack!
This is the weekly reading post.
These are links to things that I was reading when I answered a tagtime ping with nonfiction.
I’ve not done a huge amount of actual book reading this week but spent a little bit of time on Combinatorial Optimization, How To Read A Book and Switch: How to change when change is hard this week. See last week for opinions on the first two.
Switch is interesting. There’s a lot I’m unconvinced by / disagree with in it, but I’m definitely thinking about the material on organisational change in the context of Making Work Better, and it will probably influence my suggested approach for the better. More on it when I’ve devoted a bit more time to it.
No wishlist arrivals this week.
- I’m going to separate out books from links to articles. Books will no longer appear on the random reading list on the grounds that any book I’m actually reading I’ll read long enough for a ping.
- I’ll be writing a little bit about each link/book in order to provide more context for whether it’s worth following.
- There’s now a Weekly Reading Post category if you want to see all of these.
These are links to things that I was reading when I answered a tagtime ping with nonfiction. There are a few omissions if I wasn’t able to conveniently note something down when I was reading it, but no deliberate omissions other than books.
These are links that I think are worth highlighting but did not get subjected to a tagtime ping (or did get subjected to one but I feel are especially worth noting).
Apparently the main selected links this week are all about conversational styles.
Miller’s Law in the Archipelago of Weird is about a variety of things, but I particularly like the point about conversational styles (in this case around performing small talk) differing strongly between autistic and allistic people and this creating a situation of competing needs.
It also leads into the next batch of selected links, which are about a different aspect of conversational styles, and the role interruption plays in conversation:
I was looking for the first one and got linked to the second two by other people (Ceren and Jeremy), but they’re all good reads.
The major take away point is that in some cultures interruption is the height of rudeness because you’re signalling that you think you are more important than the current speaker, while in others not interrupting is the height of rudeness because you’re signalling that you don’t care about the conversation. Interruption can be combative, or it can be collaborative, and clash over this without understanding that that’s what’s going on can lead to some horrible conversations.
Other things I liked that doen’t fit the theme:
Books read this week
These are any books I spent a substantial amount of time with this week.
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You – I was somewhat skeptical about this book going in but decided to give it a go off the back of a good essay by the author (I forget which one), but my skepticism was wholly unwarranted. This is actually a really good book with really good career advice. In particular it’s a nice antidote to “follow your passion, be brave” style advice. Would recommend to just about anyone in a knowledge work style field. Status: Finished.
- Soul of a New Machine – this is a book about Data General’s development of an earlyish 32-bit machine. It was interesting, but I felt like I was not the target audience of this book. It felt a bit too real for me – the culture of this team read like some of the terrible startups I’ve seen dialled up to 11. Would recommend to people who want to understand what that’s like, wouldn’t necessarily recommend to people who already know what it’s like. Status: Finished
- How To Read A Book – this is a book about active reading – reading by not just passively absorbing material but by full on engaging with the material in order to understand it. It’s already changed a lot about how I read, and I can recommend it for that, but it feels like a lot of book for what it actually covers so I’ve been following their advice and reading it highly non-linearly. Status: Ongoing
- Combinatorial Optimization – this was gifted to me a while back and I’ve been feeling bad about the fact that my reading of it has stalled quite a lot. As mentioned in my last post I’m trying a new technique to properly engage in the material (loosely based off the “How to read a book” material), so I’ve resumed reading on it. It’s a good book, but it’s both huge and dense, so I would recommend it if you’re willing to invest the time to properly get to grips with the material and not if you want a light summary of the subject matter. Status: Ongoing
Books Gifted This Week
One book arrived from my wishlist this week: Switch: How to change when change is hard. This was bought for me by Zack M. Davis.