Viktor Mayer-Schönberger & Kenneth Cukier – Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think

Why did I choose to read the book?

Big Data, one of the big buzzwords and game changers of our generation. Though I thought I know what it is, what it meant, its applications etc. I still wanted to know more, hence, this book.

What is it about?

Via a high level approach, this book gives laymen the chance to understand the history, current usage and potential future of big data. It tells the story of how mankind used and still uses sampling by hypothesis (and thereby biased) to be able to manage vast amounts of data, as we were not able to analyse all data at once. Now, with big data mining, we can do just that, analyse all data, n = all. Big data companies, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, LinkedIn and the like, use their collected data to build new services and to learn new things about our world, our behaviours and how to identify patterns. Due to the vast amounts of data being collected (especially considering the rise of the Internet of Things – IoT), the quality of data is not as important, as patterns and conclusions can still be derived. What has to be kept in mind, when working with big data, is that big data delivers correlations, not causality. Correlations are derived from recognized patterns, answering what, but missing to answer the question of why.

How did I like the book?

Awesome book. I found it to be the perfect choice to deliver on what I set out to learn about big data. The book keeps the high level approach throughout, without going into too much detail. Perfect read, if you want to learn what the buzz is all about and you want to be able to join the conversation on this topic.

Peter Thiel – Zero to One

Why did I choose to read the book?

Thiel via his serial entrepreneurship, creating Paypal and investing in Facebook early has become a venture capital celebrity of silicon valley, a VC rock star so to speak. With him being an interesting personality as well, I always wondered what he thought like and what his methods and presumptions to business are.

What is it about?

Thiel presents a lot of unconventional wisdom, amassed during his years of activity in entrepreneurship and venture capital investment and in this book describes how, in his opinion, a lot of common beliefs, are false assumptions.

The eponymous Zero to One describes the following

Go from zero to one by doing new things, as in innovate and distinguish by creating new products and technologies. Focus on people and usage, not on competition.

Do not go from one to N by copying things that work already, as in copy something which already exists and streamline or globalise it.

According to Thiel, innovation will always lead to grater success, than sheer coping or streamlining.

How did I like the book?

Let’s start with an analogy which I really liked and believe to be true:

ZERO TO ONE every moment in business happens only once. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them. – Peter Thiel

Thiel proves himself to be quite insightful in a lot of areas. Especially his thoughts on competition and the need to focus on the new, not the path well trodden, to escape said competition and become a monopoly were very interesting. Other insight, e.g. the need for long-term planning, even in start-ups or the need for entrepreneurs to start in small markets before diversifying or scaling to neighbouring markets were great insight as well. Overall, this book represents Thiel’s opinions, experiences and best-practices for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists as well as other interested parties, while not being very academic, the book supports questioning conventional belief (which I wholly support) and provides a lot of high quality food for further thought.

The Manga Guide to Databases

Why did I choose to read the book?

Included in a humble book bundle some time ago, I stumbled upon this book / comic by chance. While I like reading comics and manga, I did’t know of the edumanga genre, until this book.

What is it about?

Half manga and half guide, this book introduces readers to concepts and usages of databases, in particular SQL-databases. The manga portions feature a story of a princess, which has to take over the family business and is plagued with process inefficiencies, due to data redundancies and related data differences. Along comes a magic fairy (yes really, look at the cover, that’s her) and shows the princess and her assistant the magic of centralized databases and their uses. The guide parts show the theory and extended explanations introduced in the preceding story chapter.

How did I like the book?

Loved it. I liked the bonkers story and the way all the concepts are introduced. Towards the end though, SQL functions are introduced and make the guide a little hard to follow, if you have no experience or way of replicating the lessons in a real SQL database. As an introduction, this book is perfect and easily accessible, and even if you do have experiences in SQL database design and programming, this will still be a fun read.

Dona M. Wong – WSJ Guide to Information Graphics

Why did I choose to read the book?

On my job as strategy and sales controller, I created a lot of reports and visualized lots of data, especially when I first created our controlling cockpit. Since its inception, it’s design always bugged me. Concept and information were well thought through, but if I had the chance to redo, I would like to do it differently. But how exactly? How do I make the graphs easier to understand? How do I get the point across, in a better, more self explanatory way? These questions fueled my desire to learn more, hence, the need to read up.

What is it about?

The sub-title pretty much explains it all: “The dos and don’ts of presenting data, facts, and figures”. The book includes examples of how to visualize data, what colours to use, how to stylize text via fonts and what to avoid. It shows common design mistakes and how to avoid them, while also showing haw to visualize different kinds of data properly.

How did I like the book?

Very informative and does what it promises quite well. After just a couple of pages, some pages about the usage of colour to be precise, I already found a lot of what I was looking for. I did not expect colour, especially its sparse use (less is more), to make that much of a difference in reporting and data visualization. Overall this book is great, what I missed though was some kind of narrative or course, which I though the word guide implied. To me, this is not a book to read from start to finish, but a nice book for quick reference, and as a reference book, it’s perfect.

Gene Kim – The Phoenix Project

Why did I choose to read the book?

I really liked the description of this book. It is marketed as a business novel, of which, as far as I can tell, there are but a handful available.

What is it about?

It’s a novel about the newly appointed Head of IT trying and fixing IT processes in his department. By streamlining processes, via treating IT similar to  a manufacturing line and implementing new concepts, saves the company and it’s most important project, the titular Project Phoenix.

How did I like the book?

This is not a classic business book as it does not share the same inner-monologue style, inherent of most business books I have read, but has it’s themes and concepts woven into a story (and makes it a novel I think…), which – to my surprise – is exiting and very fun to read. And I cannot express what a joyous read it was, it may even become my favourite so far. It’s content was easily accessible, incredibly smart and I found the story astoundingly exiting, almost like a good thriller. The concepts and ideas presented were great and even if these were meant to be implemented in IT context, it may just as well be used in other business contexts and departments, if only in part. The only thing I didn’t like, it referenced and in some parts spoiled a similar business novel “The Goal”, which, much to my dismay, I haven’t read yet, but at the same time bumped it up my reading list, so much so, that it will be my next read. Overall, amazing book. Hope the authors will do something similar in the future, as it will be a day one buy for me.

Martin Ford – Rise of the robots

Why did I choose to read the book?

This book has been the winner of the 2015 Financial Times & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award and I wanted to know what the fuss is all about. Also, the books subtitle “Technology and the threat of a jobless future” sounded interesting enough to warrant a read.

What is it about?

Ford shows with this book, how technological advances, specifically those in software and robotics, will render a lot of jobs, currently considered safe (paralegal, nurse, truck driver…) obsolete. He starts with an historical analysis, how automation has changed the world and availability of jobs, then introduces technologies which are partially available today and are expected to upend whole industries.

How did I like the book?

I really like the book. I like the way it has been written and I really like the theme and content. Also, I find this book scary, terrifying even. At the same time, a lot of the content should be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, a lot of jobs are even today subject to automation, but I doubt all of the impending changes described will come to pass as predicted. Still, the realistic descriptions on what jobs will likely be automated, on how politics and the whole economic system is not far off an paradigm shift is simply terrifying and too realistic and close to home. Everyone interested in the possible ramifications on oneself, one’s family and job should certainly take a look.