I actually read some books in 2018.
Key: Unlinked means I do not recommend it. Linked and bolded means it's one of my top recommendations for the year. Linked but not bolded is somewhere in between.
Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff
A Higher Loyalty by James Comey
Fear by Bob Woodward
Fire and Fury, A Higher Loyalty, and Fear all fall into a similar camp for me. They are all entertaining reads that are about current events--all with frightening anecdotes. Of the three, I think that Fear is the most well written, but it's hard to tell whether or not Fire and Fury or Fear are completely accurate. My understanding of Woodward's interview style is that it might lead to his sources saying somewhat misleading things about other sources. That being said, if even a fraction of what is written is true, it is terrifying (and I believe more than just a fraction is true).
A Higher Loyalty seems more accurate than the other two (by virtue of it being written in the first person), and generally, I buy Comey's arguments about why he did the things that he did during the run up to the election. Further, while I disagree with his view on encryption (that there should be a government backdoor), reading this book made me understand why people in the government hold such a view. If there's anything that the past few years have taught me it is that there is a stark difference between truly evil people and people whose misguided value sets lead them to make evil (or poor) decisions.
Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
Never Split the Difference is a book written by a former FBI hostage negotiator discussing how to use the skills required for hostage negotiation in everyday negotiation (with a focus on business negotiation). Like most books in this genre (business self-help), while the content is generally good and helpful, the author feels the need to validate themselves with the reader. This is expressed in overdramatic anecdotes (about actual hostage negotiation) and regular insults towards the business and business school community. I felt like the content of the book itself was strong enough, but I'm sure that those things have helped sell the book to a wider audience.
Live Work Work Work Die by Corey Pein
Live Work Work Work Die is a book about a journalist's journey to San Francisco in an attempt to become immersed in "the culture of Silicon Valley." My father gave it to me somewhat as a joke after he finished reading it and asked, "this is what everything is like, right?" Similar to the HBO show, Silicon Valley, I would not say the book is inaccurate, rather, I felt like the author actively pursued the worst parts of Bay Area culture in an attempt to fill his narrative. Don't get me wrong, I think there are a bunch of bad things about San Francisco and startup culture--and I think that Pein hits the nail on the head of a few of them--I just wish that he would have also hit on some of the positive things (and also not try to live in the worst apartments he could find).
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
This book is amazing. Anthony Bourdain walks through his life as a chef and the challenges and delights of being in the restaurant industry. Bourdain's writing is pithy and entertaining and he really makes you feel like you're right there with him. One of the interesting things I noticed while reading this book, is that it was written around the time that fine dining really changed in America (2000), and perfectly crystallizes that change--the change from being fancy french food or expensive ingredients prepared well to an art form that needs to be elevated (with the hope that the chef gets a David Gelb documentary about them).
Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson
I've started cooking and baking more and have been consistently making loaves of sourdough bread weekly since August of 2018. Baking sourdough (and cooking in general) is a very rewarding endeavor--it feels good to work really hard on something, be able to control the outcome, share it with people you love, and close the feedback loop by making small adjustments.
While I got started baking sourdough by taking a class at Josey Baker's, The Mill, a friend of mine lent me a copy of the "bible" of homemade hearth loaves, Tartine Bread. It is so clear to me that, if he wanted, Chad Robertson could be succesful in anything he tried. This book reads less like a cookbook and more like a memoir. The base sourdough recipe is over 60 pages and Robertson explains the recipe in engaging prose. Even if you have no interest in making a loaf yourself, I would suggest reading this book (especially the introduction and the basic loaf recipe). While I am certainly no sourdough expert, if you try to make a loaf yourself and have any questions, feel free to contact me.
Bread Science by Emily Buehler
Bread Science is another book I read in my quest to understand what I was doing when I made sourdough. While this book is more scientific and dense in nature, it does a really good job explaining what the hell is going on when you make bread. I would suggest this if you are really into bread baking, but it isn't of much interest if you are not.
Moral Mazes by Robert Jackall (reread)
When I Read this book back in 2013 I wrote: "This book is life changing." Rereading it in 2018 reminded me how true that was. It was so crystal clear to me that the sorts of things that were discussed in the book were occurring regularly while I was at Google. In some ways, leaving Google and joining Twitch was incredibly refreshing because it was glaringly obvious that Twitch didn't suffer as badly from those things as Google did.
I wish that I had re-read this book every year since then. It is no surprise that as companies grow (if left unchecked) their morality goes down. Twitch is still a far cry from Google, or any of the companies discussed in Moral Mazes, but re-reading the book was a reminder that, despite the best of intentions, immoral decisions can get made anywhere.
The last thing I would say about this book is that it is a little dense. Please do not let that hinder you from reading it.
Aaron, 5 years later
I remember with astonishing clarity the moment I received the phone call.
I was in the back left seat of a minivan driving from New York City to Atlantic City. We were a little ways down the NJ turnpike. I was playing Zoo Keeper Battle on my newly gifted tablet. My stomach was filled with a pastrami sandwich.
My phone started buzzing in my pocket. I pulled it out and looked at it. The call was coming from my parents' home line. Immediately, I was confused. It was Friday night--the Sabbath--my parents never made phone calls on the Sabbath.
As I unlocked my phone to pick up the call I honestly didn't know what to expect. My dad spoke. My brain lifted out of my body as the words came out of his mouth. I didn't believe them. I didn't want to believe them.
I hung up. I was shocked. I doubted that I heard what I heard. My friends in the car asked me what was up.
"My brother is dead. I need to go back to New York City."
It's been 5 years since Aaron killed himself.
A lot has changed in those 5 years. The world has changed; technology has changed; I have changed. At first, I fell into a deep dark depression. I didn't respond to messages from my friends. I didn't want to go back to work. I tried to find the few things in my life that actually brought me joy. I wasn't sure if there was a way out.
As time went on, things started to get better. I was incredibly scared when that started happening. I had this outrageous fear that if things were getting better it meant I was forgetting about Aaron. I fought against things getting better for so long for precisely this reason. I felt that I needed to feel bad in order to honor him. I felt that I needed to cry every night in order to prove to the universe that I missed my brother.
That sounds and is crazy. But even now, as I type these words into my computer, crying, I think that the times I've been carefree and happy over the past year have been my fault.
I know this isn't sane. I know that this isn't fair to myself. I just keep thinking to myself that I've wasted the last 5 years of my life. I haven't done anything that would've made Aaron be proud of me.
This too I know isn't true. The last time I ever saw Aaron face to face was Thanksgiving 2012. He wasn't upset that I was working at Google, he was upset that I wasn't using my power as a Google employee to effect change. As we talked over the phone after Thanksgiving it was clear that he was proud of me.
Shortly after he died, I attempted to do everything that might have made him proud. I convinced Google to allow me to give their USENET archives to the Internet Archive. I made sure to give money to Givewell.
Nothing ever seemed like enough.
Every year, on the anniversary of his death, I spend the day reflecting on Aaron. I reread old blog posts, watch old videos, and read articles. One video I always watch is his Freedom To Connect Speech "How we stopped SOPA". One especially powerful quote from it is:
It wasn't a dream or a nightmare, it was all very real. And it will happen again. Sure, it will have yet another name and maybe a different excuse and probably do its damage in a different way. But make no mistake the enemies of the freedom to connect have not disappeared...If we let them persuade us we didn't actually make a difference. If we start seeing it as someone else's responsibility to do this work and it's our job just to go home and pop some popcorn and curl up on the couch to watch Transformers, well then next time, they might just win.
In 2017, I had the privilege to respond to this quote exactly. I worked to make sure that Twitch had a response for the Net Neutrality Day of Action.
Working on the project was exhilarating yet exhausting. I felt amazing writing code that I knew would make the world a better place. I felt good when I finally convinced people that we needed to do this. But every time I ran into bureaucratic problems, I felt crushed. Every time I ran into a bug, I felt hopeless. I felt the weight of the entire internet on my shoulders--I felt that if I failed, I would be flattened.
I can only start to imagine how Aaron felt every day fighting for the things he fought for. Hopefully, by giving back even a tiny amount, I've made a difference that he would have been proud of.
While I actually read books this year, I really did not do as much reading as I would've hoped in 2016.
Drift Volume 2: Tokyo by Adam Goldberg et al.
While not actually a book--Drift is a magazine--I really enjoyed reading this. To me, this issue was a bit of a follow up to Merry White's Coffee Life In Japan. Back when Merry wrote that book, third wave coffee was just starting to come to Japan. With places like Bear Pond Espresso leading the charge, the landscape has changed quite a bit since 2012. Drift illustrates some of these changes through articles about smaller coffee shops along with longer discussions including a nice interview with the CEO of Blue Bottle. It doesn't hurt that the magazine is rounded out with beautiful photographs.
Guide to Shenzhen by bunnie
A couple years back I visited Shenzhen with my family. bunnie is a friend of my father's and he gave us a few suggestions but apologized because he wouldn't be available to show us around the electronics market himself. Instead he suggested we meet up with Cyril Ebersweiler, who was able to give us an amazing tour of the electronics markets in Shenzhen. This book is gives you a near equivalent tour of the markets. Even if you have no current plans to go to Shenzhen or you have no current plans of manufacturing something yourself, this book is a really nice read.
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg
I was super hesitant to read this book--I'm normally against these sorts of pop-science books. While some of stories and things in it are a little nutty, overall the message is quite good. Rosenberg is really good at getting the reader to think about interactions with people in a different light. While he definitely starts to repeat himself in the second half of the book, overall, I think this is a good read.
The Will to Keep Winning by Daigo Umehara
Daigo Umehara is well known in the Fighting Game Community (Street Fighter, etc) for one of the best players. Known as "The Beast," Daigo walks the reader through his path to become a professional fighting game player. Along the way he gives nuggets of wisdom about what it takes to be a top player. For me, the interesting part was that many of these nuggets apply to not just video games; if you want to be a top professional in any field, Daigo's wisdom applies. It's a very short read and the translation could be a little better, but I'm glad that I picked this book up.
Unlike previous years, this year I didn't read any books.
At the end of 2014, after a trip I took to Korea, I began playing an online video game called League of Legends. League of Legends is one of the most popular video games in the world--the basic concept is two teams of five players each controlling a singleton unit (champion) playing in a real time strategy map. The goal is to destroy the enemy team's base.
After playing a little bit at the end of 2014, I thought to myself at the beginning of 2015 that I would use the time I would've used for reading to play League. I vowed to myself that at a certain point in 2015 I would stop playing and use the time to again start reading. Unfortunately, I didn't keep my promise to myself and played through the end of the year.
When I first started playing League, a common question that my friends had of me was: "do you enjoy playing that game?" When I started my response was always, "I'm not sure yet." As time went on and the number of hours that I put into playing the game grew, my friends grew increasingly skeptical of my response. In my mind it was the truth, however.
What I realized after playing for 3-6 months was that the game, while fun and well made, was a surprisingly good vehicle for feeling increasing mastery of something. When I told my friends, "I'm not sure yet," what I really meant was, "I'm not sure if the underlying game is fun, but I find it entertaining to slowly become better at something (at the rate that League enables)."
Thinking back, the last video game that I played so intensely was Guitar Hero and Rock Band. With those games the feedback loop was incredibly short--play a couple minute song, compare the score against world (or local) rankings, replay the song--I felt really good when I played a song well and got a new high score; when I messed up, I knew exactly what I needed to practice. Because of this feedback loop, it was very easy for me to spend a lot of time playing--and therefore mastering the plastic guitar.
League is similar in some ways. I think the greatest strength that League has is their matchmaking system. Due to the number of players that play, the overwhelming majority of the time the skill level of the two teams is near even. Thus, every game is won or lost based on which people outperform their previous average skill level. If you play just a little bit better than you played your last five games, you will most likely win. When you play a game and you make mistakes, it's very easy to look back on those mistakes and attempt to improve upon them. When you make adjustments to your game and improve upon your mistakes you have a high likelihood of winning your next games.
This is incredibly satisfying--being able to make improvement and see the results immediately was the same reason why Guitar Hero hooked me in so hard (that and competition against my friends and later the world). This satisfaction would not be possible if matchmaking weren't done correctly or if there weren't a large amount of people playing. In fact, the most crushing games of League I've played were when the enemy team's skill level was far greater than mine. In those games it felt like, while there were a million things I could have done to improve, implementing a couple of those million things would not have allowed me to win that game again.
Overall, I think League is a very fun game. While it has a large number of shortcomings and it is not super kind to newcomers, I thoroughly enjoy my time playing it. I also really enjoy getting better at something; it really helps that League facilitates this. For 2016, I don't think I'll play quite as much League as I did in 2015. I really hope I get around to reading more books like I did in 2013 and 2014.
Depending on one's definition of books, I suppose I did read one book in 2015: Starcraft 2 Visual Novel. Starcraft 2 Visual Novel (SC2VN) is a video game that plays and reads like a "choose your own adventure" book. It follows the story of a North American Starcraft player who moves to Korea in an attempt to become pro. While not in printed book form, SC2VN was a pretty good read. The thing I enjoyed most about SC2VN was the parallels I felt between the protagonist playing professional Starcraft and my time spent in the professional Magic: the Gathering scene. My brother wrote a good review of the game--there's one passage that really resonated well with both of us:
"There's two reactions when someone learns that you play video games full time: Either they roll your eyes, or they tell you how lucky you are. I've tried to explain to the latter that playing Starcraft really isn't fun in the traditional sense. Winning can be satisfying, but the game is too stressful to actually be called fun. At least, for me."
One of the things that I realized in 2015 is that I like playing competitive games not necessarily for the game itself, but for the feeling of winning a game. In the past, I've leaned towards games where it is easy for me to win (Magic, Poker), which makes it all the harder to go back to those games. Playing League and reading SC2VN helped me come to this conclusion.
Either way, I strongly recommend SC2VN to anyone--not just people who are interested in video games. The hardest part for me about reading it was convincing those close to me that I was not playing a dating sim.
I didn't read as many books as I would've liked to this year. Hopefully 2015 will be better.
Key: Unlinked means I do not recommend it. Linked and bolded means it's one of my top recommendations for the year. Linked but not bolded is somewhere in between.
The Power Broker by Robert Caro
This is the best book I have ever read. "Yes, I know it's long, but trust me, you'll wish it was longer." Reading this book ruined the next few books I read a little bit.
Hard Landing by Thomas Petzinger Jr.
Serviceable book about the history of the airline industry. A good read if you are interested in airlines.
Release It by Michael T. Nygard
I read this book for work. A number of things it talks about are still important now--some things are a little old. Definitely a good read if you want to think about how to run large web services
Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
I really enjoyed this book. It went through design methodologies for simple and complex objects. It got me to think a little more consciously about the things that anger me in everyday life.
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace
This collection of essays was awesome. I wish there were more. As you can see, I tried to fill the void that ASFTINDA left me by reading some Chuck Klosterman later in the year. While Chuck's writing is very good and similar in style, I don't think DFW can be beat. Reading this made me almost want to break my no-fiction rule and read Infinite Jest. I guess we'll see about that 2015.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
While this was just a bunch of collected blog posts from Ben Horowitz, I still found this to be a good quick read. His writing and story telling is good; he makes a bunch of really good points about running a business.
Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs and Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman
I had been suggested these books a while ago and only read them this year. Klosterman's writing is humorous and entertaining; I enjoyed nearly every essay even when the topic was something I didn't care about (sports, old TV shows, etc).
Flash Boys by Michael Lewis
Do not read this book. Scott Locklin has a pretty good explanation about why this book sucks. The thing that baffled me about the book was that Michael Lewis kept making the argument that "no-one knew what was going on [in algorithmic trading." I found this especially funny because during the time he was writing about I was in college and even as a college student I was able to figure out what was going on.
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
This was another book that angered me. Maybe I should swear off social science books with white covers. The general impression that I got is that Kahneman knows what he's talking about and does good science, but it seems disingenuous to me to in one chapter claim that most social scientists' experiments are not properly run and then in another chapter expect the reader to believe that Kahneman's experiments were run correctly sans an explanation of experimental procedure. Similar to other social science books with off-white or white covers, Kahneman dumbs down the material to the point of condescension
Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty
Long, dry, but good. I'll be honest, I didn't quite finish it, but the parts that I read I would recommend.
Team Ben by Wife
A well written explanation of the history of competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee community told through Wife. This was a pretty good read--even though a lot of the material was covered in the documentary. It definitely got me to want to play more Smash--something that tournament reports should strive to do.
Growing Rails Applications in Practice by Henning Koch and Thomas Eisenbarth
A serviceable but forgettable book about how to deal with Rails codebases as they grow in size.
The Inmates Are Running the Asylum by Alan Cooper
A lot of things in this book were interesting. I wish there was less engineer bashing. I don't know what kind of world Cooper lived in such that he had to type cast engineers in the most stereotypical nerdy way. In my mind, regardless of how many PMs or Designers are attached to the project, there are always going to be UX concerns that are up to the individual engineer. If you don't believe an engineer has a good product sense (for that product), then they shouldn't be working on that project.
No Place To Hide by Glen Greenwald
I know that this shouldn't have happened, but after all the Snowden leaks came out last year, I somewhat lumped them together into a "the government is evil" sentiment. This book did a good job to walk through each of the leaks, explain them in-depth, and explain why each one was important. The story telling about how Greenwald met Snowden is a riveting story--I think that Greenwald does a better job at telling that story than Poitras does in Citizenfour.
Dataclysm by Christian Rudder
Rudder explains through beautiful graphs and explanations things he has seen in the internet age. I think that it's unfortunate that the general public's reaction to this book (and the Facebook report) was to think that A/B testing on users was evil. I think Rudder does a good job explaining why that's not the case. This is one thing that I wish I could go to every person and calmly explain to them why it is not evil. Unfortunately, I don't think there is enough time to do that.
Zero To One by Peter Thiel
He rehashes a lot of the things that were in his original class (I read the class notes when they came out in 2012). I disagree with him on some things, but this is a relatively short read.
Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind by Biz Stone
While it is clear that for Stone, writing is not his strongest suit, the stories in this book are entertaining. It gives a less gruesome view of what happened in the earlier days of Twitter than compared to those written by Nick Bilton.
IV by Chuck Klosterman
An anthology of Klosterman's writing with newly written notes/prefaces. These stories are kind of hit or miss. I think one needs to be really craving Klosterman writing in order to make his or her way through this one.
Hacking the Xbox by bunnie
This book was awesome. It's too bad I only read this book this year--I wish I read this when I was much much younger. I actually prided myself on hacking every device I ever received. Unfortunately, I never dug too deep into the hardware aspects of it; I mainly read and followed guides on the internet. I appreciate that bunnie released this for free. He also helped my family out on our trip to Shenzhen this year by introducing us to Cyril Ebersweiler
When I was young, I hated reading. I not only didn't read, I actively tried not to read. When a book was assigned to me for school, I would, first, procrastinate the assignment until the last possible moment, second, attempt to read it very quickly by any means necessary, and third, either give up or trick myself into believing that I had read it (tricking myself was just a matter of reading the words quickly enough without comprehending anything). Instead of reading, I would come up with tricks to get out of the assignment: I would ask my mom to read the book to me, I would ask friends at school the next day what happened in the assigned reading, occasionally, I would peruse various websites with chapter summaries.
Occasionally, there were books that I really enjoyed; in those cases, I would read the book very quickly. The trouble was not that I hated reading, I hated being tasked with reading books that I didn't like.
This year I attempted to read a lot of books. Somehow, I read 31 books--I'm pretty sure that matches the number of books that I've actually read in the combined eight years of college and high school. There were many periods this year where I went without picking up a book at all; I read most of them in the last four months when I pressured myself to at least finish 26. If I cotinue at the rate that I've been reading recently, I see it to be no problem to finish more than 52 in 12 months
Key: Unlinked means I do not reccomend it. Linked and bolded means it's one of my top reccomendations for the year. Linked but not bolded is somewhere in between.
The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver
A great book. It is written in a way that does not make you feel like you are being talked down to (something that Gladwell is guilty of) while presenting information that is informative for both a newcomer and a somewhat seasoned expert. Each chapter is written in such a way that reinvigorates your interest in reading the book--something that many books that I read are unable to accomplish.
It's like a blog; the chapters are short snippets, which made it really easy to read. There is some good information in it. I'm glad, however, that it was only near the end that it discussed that the proper way to launch one's app is through the "Hollywood Launch." And I thought that the comments about DHH in this video may have been a little unwarranted...
I'm Feeling Lucky by Douglas Edwards
There are two views of what goes on inside Google: many believe that it's Disneyland--all fun all the time, others think that it's the collection of the world's greatest minds bashing their heads against their computers for 100 hours per week.
Neither is true.
The latter is the Google of the early days; Edwards perfectly explains the growing pains that Google experienced and how the added bureaucracy came to be.
This is the book that I wish that they had made me read at Noogler orientation. Many of the questions that I asked myself about the organization during my first few months are answered in this book.
Excellent storytelling for both Googlers and non-Googlers.
No One Makes You Shop At Walmart by Tom Slee
Well explained and easy to understand economic theory bundled up into real-world examples. Quite good.
Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug
My dad has been trying to get me to read this book for years. I finally picked it up and read it this year. Some of the concepts are dated, but most of what he is saying is spot on. I hope that everyone who wants to create a website reads this.
The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man by David Maurer
The Responsible Company by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley
The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder
Awesome. The kind of book that makes you want to jump out of your chair and join a big project.
The Launch Pad by Randall Stross
A serviceable, well written, long-form narrative about YC.
The Mythical Man Month by Frederick Brooks, Jr.
While dated, this book has many important concepts. I think that the best audience for something like this is someone who is non-technical and is lacking in technical project experience.
Masters of Doom by David Kushner
I put off reading this book for a very long time based on the author's track record. When I finally got around to reading it, I was pleasantly surprised; it was well researched, well written, and entertaining.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Even though it is littered with business speak, this is a fantastic book. Through anecdotes, Ries explains some very powerful concepts about how software should be made.
Moral Mazes by Robert Jackall
This book is life changing.
I am consistently surprised at the quality and importance of sociology books. Prior to reading Moral Mazes, the book that had the biggest impact on my life was For Harmony And Strength by Thomas Rohlen, another sociology book. While many non-fiction narratives give me intuition as to what I should do in the future when I'm presented with a problem, sociology books like Moral Mazes and For Harmony And Strength forced me to make important decisions about my life the moment after I finished reading.
I seriously think that had I read this book before graduating college, I would have never worked for a company.
Toyota Production System by Taiichi Ono
Though a little dry, no place else can you get a better explanation of lean production than from the source. I wish the translation were a little better, but I have purchased the original Japanese and I plan on making my way through it in the future.
Without Their Permission by Alexis Ohanian
I guess I'm a "condescending misanthrope" since I feel that certain parts are missing from what is ultimately a self-congratulatory book.
Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
This book was wonderful. I was captivated by it from the beginning and found it hard to put down. While Hsieh is not the best writer, he was able to captivate me and leave me with a sense of excitement that very few authors are able to do.
The Everything Store by Brad Stone
Much has been said about the access (or lack thereof) that Stone was allowed for this book. That being said, some narratives in this book are quite interesting. It does make Bezos out to be a lucky indecisive risk taker, which is likely not the case, but made for an interesting read nonetheless.
Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Great children's book!
Diary of a Very Bad Year by n+1
Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton
Bilton did a great job on this book. While, like every non-fiction company narrative, I'm sure the events are not portrayed 100% accurately, there were few books this year that I basically read in a single sitting; this was one of them.
The Agile Samurai by Jonathon Rasumusson
The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig
I always love it when someone uses solid logic to disprove an entire genre of books.
Discover Meteor by Tom Coleman and Sacha Greif
I've played around with Meteor a little bit, but there really isn't a nice starter tutorial out there for people who want to get their feet wet. I was actually able to, on a plane without internet, make a quick reddit clone in Meteor, but once I was done, I had no real idea of how the application structure should actually work. Discover Meteor not only showed best practices, but explained things about Meteor that aren't even particularly well explained on the internet.
Meteor might turn out to be the next big thing and Discover Meteor might well be the Hartl tutorial for it.
Kingpin by Kevin Poulsen
Poulsen is an excellent writer; this is an excellent book.
Why's (Poignant) Guide to Ruby by why the lucky stiff
I really wish that I could have read this book when I was 11 or 12 years old. This book is so wonderful on so many different levels. For a child, I feel that it would spark this curiousity inside them to start coding. For me, it taught me the "magic" of Ruby syntax right before I needed to use Ruby. Even if you are already a Ruby master, you should still read this book.
The Watchman by Jonathan Littman
A really wonderful book, although I definitely thought that it was pure fiction a couple of times.
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Envisioning Information, and Visual Explanations by Edward Tufte
Bubble City by Aaron
Blurring the lines between fiction and non-fiction, I feel the reason I enjoyed this is that it helped explain events that he never explained to me.
Bonnouji Vol. 1 by Aki Eda
The Box by Marc Levinson
While a few chapters of this book are dry and boring, overall it's an interesting read. It makes me interested to read more about McLean.
"How did you get invited?"
I understood what he was asking--"what noteworthy thing have you done to be able to grace your presence at Foo Camp"--but I couldn't help but notice how derogatory his question was. As if since I hadn't created the Pebble watch, came up with the term Data Science, or been another prominent figure in the tech community that I somehow snuck my way into the conference.
Honestly I wasn't sure what to say. The truth was that I was invited because my brother killed himself, something that would further prove that I didn't truly belong; nothing would have satisfied him.
Foo Camp, or Friends of O'Reilly Camp, is an annual invite-only conference that O'Reilly holds. "It's all about the connections," Tim O'Reilly proclaimed as he introduced the conference over dinner on Friday night. He went on to explain the structure, or lack thereof, of the conference. There would be sessions every hour created ad hoc by the participants. The sessions were meant to be more discussions around a central theme rather than lectures.
He then subjected us all to a Foo Camp ritual: everyone had to introduce themselves by saying three words or phrases. By the end of it, I had gotten to the point where if one more person had uttered a tech cliche--mobile, big data, social, etc--I was sure I was going to run out screaming.
The first night proceeded like a standard cocktail party; liquored up introverts attempting to act as if they weren't. It was pleasant to a degree though; while the conversations were not particularly deep, it certainly beat talking to strangers at bars.
After talking deep into the night and only getting a few hours of sleep in a tent, I found myself awake far too early, conversing with other Foo Campers in the kitchen.
After drinking my 3rd cup of coffee and eating what seemed like my 5th granola bar, I found myself engaged in conversation with another Foo Camper:
"How did you get invited?"
Maybe it was the drowsiness of being unable to sleep well the previous night, but the question hit me like a moving train.
I mumbled something about some work I had done at Google and quickly deflected the spotlight onto my inquisitor. It wasn't too long until the first sessions of the day began.
I headed to my first session, and, while I can't say that I had high hopes for what the discussions would accomplish, I couldn't imagine that the hive mind created by bringing together 200 tech geniuses could have created the level of drivel that I experienced in the first hour and a half.
To be fair, there were some good discussions around the future of programing and some killer discussions by some of the data scientists at Kickstarter, but between those the hive mind's love for circular discussion knew no limit.
By the middle of the day, my sleep deprivation had caught up with me and I took a short nap. I was not looking forward to the remaining sessions of the day.
After bouncing around again, I went to what I overheard as one of the best sessions every year: the war story session. For a little over an hour people went back and forth going over ways they fucked up and attempting to pin down the root cause.
Dinner began, and I remembered how awesome it was to just converse with people like I had done the night before. I had a great conversation with some people at Amazon about the troubles with tech hiring and what could be done to fix it (this was in stark contrast to an earlier session where certain people were convinced that asking Fermi questions were the answer--despite evidence to the opposite).
After dinner Ignite talks were held. These were amazing. It reminded me that even under the limit of five minutes, intelligent people can give interesting presentations.
Later that night, deep into what was certainly like my fourth pint of beer, I came to the realization that as cliche as it sounded, Tim was right: It was all about the connections. Intelligent people, for the most part, are really interesting to talk to.
While I certainly didn't deserve to be invited to this Foo Camp, I can only hope that I will be in the future.
It feels good to write. It feels even better to say aloud.
After putting in my two weeks notice, I relayed to my friend that it was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I was in control.
Empowerment is an interesting thing. It didn't come naturally.
There's this idea that if you follow the straight and narrow, the rest will fall into place. Go to high school, go to a good university, get a job at a great company and the rest is all taken care of. Get on the escalator and all that you desire will be at the top.
But once you are on the escalator it's not easy to get off. Those that do are ridiculed; those that stay on quickly forget they can get off.
It's easy to rationalize. "The perks are good." "They drive me to work everyday." "The food is great."
They're right. Shutting your mouth and collecting a paycheck is a pretty sweet gig. Many people would kill to be in that position.
But why do you need to shut your mouth?
"If you don't like it, leave"
I didn't just leave Google.