Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review | Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal

I always find the founding stories of tech companies fascinating. More interesting though is getting a look beyond the creation myths into the often less rosy reality of starting a company.

Nick Bilton of the NYTimes has done a masterful job capturing the arc of Twitter from the early formative days at Odeo to the game of executive musical chairs culminating in founder Evan Williams ouster and Jack Dorsey’s return.

While the book goes to great pains to present all sides, it is impossible not to read Jack Dorsey as the villain. The degree to which Dorsey has been successful in presenting his revisionist history of Twitter is both simultaneously impressive and disturbing. For someone who is often compared to Steve Jobs it would appear that while Dorsey may have mastered the reality distortion field, there is still much to be learned.

It’s a good holiday break read, definitely give Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal a few hours of your time.

(Today Disney announced that Jack Dorsey would be joining their board. I can’t help but wonder if they have any idea what they are getting themselves into.)

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Book Review | Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead

I think it goes without saying that women should read this book, but what I would like to write about is why men should read it, particularly men in IT.

As a man working in IT as a systems engineer, I did not see myself as a potential target audience of this book. I had heard a few minutes of an interview with Sheryl Sandberg on NPR discussing the book, and was impressed by her candor and delivery, but not enough to make my way over to Amazon–this was after all a book for women. I was also resistant because I was afraid this would be the story of a successful woman and mother who had the means to pursue her career and raise her children without having to choose between the two, and that those women (like my mother) who chose to forgo a successful full time career to be a full time parent were in some way being judged.

But the snippet of interview persisted in my mind, and a few days later I dug up a talk Sandberg gave at the Harvard Business School W50 Summit a few months earlier. What I found was not only was I wrong for having feared that her ideas would be a condemnation of women who choose to stay home and raise a family, but that her message while absolutely important and geared toward women, in many ways was equally important for men to hear.

Lean in cover2

After now having watched the talk and read Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, I realize that this book is not just about women leaning in and leading in the workplace, it is about men leaning in and taking on more responsibility in the home. If women are to truly be given a choice, as to pursuit of career, family life or some combination of the two then men have to step up in the household, otherwise the choice is illusory.

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There is a degree to which at times I think some of the distinctions Sandberg makes between how men and women approach life and work might be better framed in terms of introvert versus extrovert rather than women versus men. Ultimately though, I don’t think it detracts from her argument, there is just a universality to some of her observations that I believe extends beyond gender.

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As one who gets over a month of paid vacation a year, and has at times come very close to losing it since it does not roll over I found the following passage particularly instructive:

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And as someone who is fortunate enough to have an employer who allows me to telecommute 50% of the time and values  and measures results over face time in the office, I enjoyed the passage below as well:

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One of the passages that resonated most with me was the following:

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I remember early on in my career I had recommended that a friend fresh out of college apply for an entry level position on the helpdesk at the company I was working for. She protested that her degree was in another field and that the job listed skills and experience that she did not have. I looked over the job posting and asked her to give me four hours of time to teach her what she needed to know. We sat down and went through dismantling a computer and putting it back together, how to image and create boot media, the basics of network troubleshooting with ipconfig and other commands. She took voluminous notes, applied, got the job and has been an asset to the company ever since. When last we spoke she was thinking about getting her masters in computer science.

I don’t have any illusions that those four hours I gave up are what got her the job–that was all her–but it was enough to get her to apply. It saddens me to think how many talented people both women and men hold themselves back out of fear that they don’t know everything going into a new job.

But the reason that I really feel that men, and particularly those who work in IT should read this book is that I think that in reading it I gained a bit of self-awareness into some of the subtle biases that have crept into my thinking over time.  I frequently watch talks with different startup founders and have greatly enjoyed the Google Ventures Foundation series with Kevin Rose which interviews luminaries ranging from Elon Musk of Tesla and Space X to  Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Square.

After reading Lean In, it occurred to me that I had watched almost every talk interviewing a male founder, but hadn’t watched any talks with female founders of startups. At first I wrote this off as simply being the product of my having not heard of their companies (and this may be part of the reason), but in truth there was also a degree to which a part of me believed that the presence of female founders was perhaps a form of tokenism and that I would not find the talks as interesting. The ugly biases inherent in that last statement are not pleasant to face and this was only further reaffirmed when I then watched the interview with  Robyn Sue Fisher who is clearly one of the most driven and brilliant founders that Google Ventures has profiled to date.

We have come a long way. It seems almost inconceivable that when my great grandmother was born women did not yet have the right to vote in this country. Nevertheless, I think all of us, both men and women could benefit from reading this book.

It is a quick read.

Take an evening, I doubt you will regret it.

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Book Review: System Center 2012 Configuration Manager: Mastering the Fundamentals

There are handful of books on SCCM 2012, all of them good in their own right, but what I love about this book is its practicality. The book is not about giving you a history of SCCM, or explaining the inner complexities of features, or in deriving much of its content from blog posts that are curated together in a mildly organized fashion. The book is about giving you an efficient primer of how to install and put SCCM 2012 and many of its most commonly used features into production in your environment.

One of my biggest criticisms of some of the other System Center books is that there is a tendency to gloss over huge pieces of relevant information–like how to install SQL for example. All too often there will be a Step One- find a SQL DBA and have them install SQL properly for you. This is great, but not everyone has a competent SQL DBA. Kent is not afraid to get his hands dirty with SQL, and gives invaluable best practice advice like setting min and max values for memory consumption in SQL Management Studio as well as sharing his entire SQL Configuration.ini file so that you can setup your SQL server exactly as he does for his clients. (Granted the storage/hardware that you run it on will vary and this must be kept in mind, but this type of instruction is sadly lacking from most of the large orange books that while I find useful are often more suited to killing scary insects.)

The key to understanding this book is it teaches, where other books tell. I don’t want you to tell me how awesome SCCM can be, I want to be taught how to put in into production so that I can tinker with it and learn and then I can take a deeper dive at a later date with a thicker book.

I used this as a guide to setup SCCM 2012 SP1 with SQL 2012 SP1 so I had to be a little creative at times on the SQL side, but for the most part it still serves a great introduction to SCCM 2012 and SCCM 2012 SP1.

System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Kent Agerlund

System Center 2012 Configuration Manager: Mastering the Fundamentals

I am also very excited to learn that the SP1 2nd edition to this book is due to be out anytime now.

 

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Review: Mastering System Center 2012 Operations Manager

Generally, when a new version of software comes out I like to spend some time just reading and familiarizing myself with what is new before I dive in and start tinkering. This means both searching through community blog posts as well as occasionally plunking down some cash on Amazon for a book. My first recommendation if you are buying technical books of any flavor is to buy a digital rather than paper copy. I love the user experience of a good old fashioned physical book when reading a novel or some quality nonfiction, but when it comes to technical books I want two things: portable, and searchable.

Mastering System Center 2012 Operations Manager by Bob Cornelissen, Paul Keely, Kevin Greene, Ivan Hadzhisky, Sam Allen, and Telmo Sampaio is highly readable, which is pretty rare.

There are very few technical titles that I have started and been willing to read more or less cover to cover without succumbing to boredom. Admittedly, I skimmed the beginning part on ITIL MOF et cetera–useful but nothing that hasn’t been said before– and the Powershell section at the end is nice as a reference, but feels a bit like it was tacked on last minute.  With that said, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is new to SCOM or who works with SCOM, but doesn’t get to play with it as their full-time job.

I agree with the comments of some of the Amazon reviews that “Mastering” might not be the best title for this series, but titles are the children of publishing companies and marketing folk, not authors.

At least for the moment, this is the best overview of SCOM 2012 in book form out there right now.

The general System Center 2012 Unleashed book which touches on each of the 2012 system center releases has some noteworthy names attached to it, but based on my reading a few months ago it came out way too early to have anything really useful in it.

I will reserve final judgement until after March 7th when the new System Center 2012 Operations Manager Unleashed title comes out, but at 1536 pages I suspect that book will be more reference and less reading.

 

 

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