Friday Reading #21

I assume many people who work for massive corporations have dreamed of working somewhere smaller in the hope that they can see the impact of their work and not feel like a useless tiny cog in a gigantic mega machine. Not me of course, I would not want to work in some cool purpose driven startup. Not at all. Especially not after reading the excellent piece by Alex Payne, One of the key developers of Twitter’s API and one time CTO of Bank Simple, on startup life and all its pros and cons. Read the rest of his blog as he is one hell of a writer (and coder).  Other nice collections of words that made me think include things about Television, formalised dress codes, company transparency, hacked newspapers, innovation classics, typing, two examples of idiot gatekeepers and a story about Sheffield, music drugs and gangsters as a cheery little dessert. And as a little amuse-bouche here is a lovely cartoon that made me smile a bit too knowingly.

Nest of ideas

by the very amusing Mr Wowser


Letter To A Young Programmer Considering A Startup

I recently interviewed a young man. I asked him where he wants to be in four years. “Running my own company,” he said without hesitation. I asked why. “Because entrepreneurship is in my blood,” he replied. There was no mention of what his hypothetical company would do, what problem it would solve for people. His goal was business for the sake of business. That’s what he had gone to school for, after all.


After the Like and After the Spike

In fact, the last 50-60 years have been a blip – a time in which the relationship between storytellers and audiences was effectively broken. We’re coming to the end of that blip now, and we’re seeing a transition as interesting and profound as the beginning of the 20th century, when storytelling moved from the live performance circuits of music hall and variety to the new mass mediums of cinema and broadcasting.


A question of clarity and certainty

The company agreed that a small group of senior directors, with an independent fashion adviser, would hear complaints from employees who felt their ties had been unreasonably rejected. Some of these directors were heard to mutter that this was not what they were paid large salaries for. But since no-one knew what they were paid large salaries for, the criticism did not go much further.


Buffer’s extreme transparency: inspiring or dystopian?

What would happen if everybody in your company knew everything about your business – your revenue, everyone’s salaries, how the company pitches itself to investors, even how much you slept last night? This might sound like the premise of a sci-fi novel, but it’s what’s happening right now at social media tools startup Buffer, a company with a small, distributed team that takes transparency to extremes.


A sobering day

About 10 days ago, the hacker or hackers calling themselves the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) carried out a very targeted cyberattack against the FT. We’re not the first to be targeted and in fact as I write this we’re not even the most recent. But the experience taught me an important lesson. Targeted attacks against a single large corporation are not like the random, almost embarrassingly fake emails you get telling you to reset your PayPal account. They’re painfully, soberingly realistic. Those that were sent to the FT compromised scores of our corporate Google accounts. And one of those was mine.


Innovation: Good Reads On Courage, Diversity, Ecosystems And Principles

Innovation leaders generally operate in a world of “what if”  and must constantly project the consequences and outcomes of complex systems.  And the systems, because they are made up of human beings, tend to be messy, unpredictable, and highly variable. Thomas More shows us the power of narrativizing ideas and principles and the power of “the story” to make real that which is not real.  More important, though, Utopia is a wonderful example of what it means to think about the ecosystem as a whole when thinking about innovation.



But I immediately blurted out something like, “Innovation is two things. First, you obviously have to spot something that people aren’t doing yet. But second, most importantly, you need to have the courage to do something different than what you’ve grown comfortable doing.”


I type, therefore I am

Onscreen, today’s torrents of pixels exceed anything Auden could have imagined. Yet the hyper-verbal loneliness he evoked feels peculiarly contemporary. Increasingly, we interweave our actions and our rolling digital accounts of ourselves: curators and narrators of our life stories, with a matching move from internal to external monologue. It’s a realm of elaborate shows in which status is hugely significant — and one in which articulacy itself risks turning into a game, with attention and impact (retweets, likes) held up as the supreme virtues of self-expression.


The Story Behind the WWW Hypertext 91 Demo Page and UNC and me

Not long after, Jim got email from Tim saying that he was submitting a paper on what was now called more briefly WWW at the upcoming Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) conference Hypertext 91 in San Antonio in December. Tim made plans to stop by UNC and visit with us before going on to Texas. He was confident given the immediate acceptance of WWW on newsgroups and as seen in his logs that he would get a good speaking slot at the conference. A few weeks later, we learned differently.


I’m afraid I thought this one as dire as its title

From: Comedy Script Editor, Light Entertainment, Television
Room No. & Building: 4009 TC
Tel. Ext.: 2900
date: 29.5.1974.


To: H.C.L.E.

I’m afraid I thought this one as dire as its title. 

It’s a kind of “Prince of Denmark” of the hotel world. A collection of cliches and stock characters which I can’t see being anything but a disaster.


Gangsters, Drugs and Bassline – Sheffield’s war on Music

Niche’s notorious owner Steve Baxendale talks frankly about the rise and fall of Niche. Of how the Sheffield underground rave scene flourished around 1992, the time he set up Niche as an all-night House club. Bought, as one of Sheffield’s many abandoned cutler warehouse, quite different from the luxury brand it became. “Everyone was sick of the commercial clubs and the military regime that they incorporated. They wanted throbbing underground music and to chill out in peace.”

Have a lovely weekend.

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