Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Game Developer Magazine Business Columns

I just realized that a few of my columns for GD Mag's business columns are available online, so I thought I'd put together a list of them here:

[update - added link for December]

December 2012: A retrospective on the year's business trends and on future directions

October 2012: On Crowdfunding and "Emotional Equity"

June 2012: On the Kickstarter Goldrush

April 2012: On the PC vs Console cycle of life, and whether that cycle is broken

March 2012 (requires subscription) - On Copyright

January 2012  (requires subscription) - Some pertinent business books from 2011

November 2011 (requires subscription) - On digital distribution, efficiency, and who should benefit from that efficiency.

June 2011 - (requires subscription) wherefore art thou wikileaks

Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: The Mongoliad - Book 2

A while back I reviewed the first book of The Mongoliad and quite enjoyed it. I'm a huge Neal Stephenson fan, and another friend of mine, Cooper Moo, was involved in this project, so I was really glad to read it.

The Mongoliad: Book Two is not nearly as good as the first. As others have noted, it jumps between a myriad of plot lines with little of the tight interweaving that Stephenson is known for. In a series like this, without an end in sight, this can feel like drudge work to get through as we don't know if things will come together in the next book, or in ten more. My personal pet peeve is that it's not as tightly edited, so different parts by different authors are clearly varied in their pacing and quality, several of them suffering from the excessive use of adverbs and adjectives that feels like high school composition trying to up the drama but coming off as hammy.

That said, it has it's moments, and like the first, there are some great bits of sword-clanging and battleground strategy. These redeem it some, but only partly. I'll hold off on the third book and see in a few months if I'm still itching to get back into the series.

The Mongoliad: Book Two (The Foreworld Saga)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Book Review: The Naked Presenter

Recently, I was exchanging email with a colleague on the subject of presentations when he brought up Nancy Duarte's books, which I'd read some time ago, and given a positive review to at least one of them. One of the books that came up was Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen, which I'd also liked. It turned out he had a more recent book out, The Naked Presenter, and so I decided to give it a read.

It's okay, but I can't recommend it as highly as his previous book or Duarte's. The book focuses more on the "Zen" aspects of approaching presentation preparation and delivery, and less on the actual mechanics of those things themselves.

This would be well enough, but I found many of the techniques to be high level and vapid compared to other works, and the metaphors to all things Japanese felt forced.

Like many of the more recent "pretty books" (Duarte's and Reynolds' both fall in this camp), the content is so blown out in favor of whitespace, quotes, and pretty pictures, that it's pretty devoid of content. What's there is not beyond what's already covered in the original book. It does try to get into the whole zen-mental-state thing, on approaching prep, on delivery, on handling a hostile audience, etc, but only superficially. I'd have liked to see some approaches to drills or to methods of rehearsal and the like.

In summary, the book is alright, but I'd recommend Duarte's Resonate or Reynolds' Presentation Zen over this book. If you like Reynolds' other book a lot, then you may enjoy this one.

The Naked Presenter: Delivering Powerful Presentations With or Without Slides (Voices That Matter)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Book Review: Screw Business As Usual

I'm a big Richard Branson fan-boy, and really liked his first book, Losing My Virginity (which I highly recommend). Since then, I've given a few of his other books a try. I gave Screw Business as Usual a try this week. It was very quick to get through so I thought I'd post a short review.

The book is about the idea that capitalism can, in addition to pursuing the goal of making money, attempt to do good.

On the plus side, it covers a number of interesting cases, some of which are Virgin enterprises, others just ones Branson has come across. It's a wide enough variety to give some creative food for thought, but little is provided in the way of detail if someone wanted to do some analysis of real cost/benefit, or map to their business to see how it differs, etc. Still, they are inspirational stories.

Another negative is that a number of his examples consist of things akin to 'I saw a problem. I called up Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Bill Gates and we got together and decided to start a foundation'. Some have complained that this is name-dropping. I don't think that's the case, so much as it's just the circles he travels in. However, the few examples that are along these lines aren't really helpful for anyone looking to do good with their business.

In any case, it's a good read with some unique perspectives that some will get value from. Start with Losing My Virginity though, as I think it's a better read.

Screw Business as Usual

Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Review: The Future of the Internet, And How to Stop It

After having it on my to-read list for some time, I got around to reading The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It and am kicking myself for not getting to it earlier. It's great. It's well thought out and it's an *important* book.

I plan on writing something lengthier on my thoughts after reading it - It has spawned dozens of ideas for me - but here are some quick points.

In short, the book is about the trade off between Open and Closed systems - something I've written a fair amount about. He makes the point that Open and Closed lie on opposite ends of a spectrum. Open provides Affordance (the ability for systems to be used for purposes beyond their design) and Generativity (that they encourage or breed the innovation of these new uses). Closed systems provide Security, Ease of Use, and sometimes affordability (e.g. think razors/blades).

In many places in current day, the closed systems are winning because vendors and users don't take the long term view as to the cost to innovation.

The author goes on to show how this view of systems holds true for the internet at large as well as the endpoint devices. It then broadens into a larger discussion of everything from reputation systems to legislative solutions vs 'honor code' types of systems.

Is the book perfect? No. Many of the solutions, or at least solution directions, proposed are flawed (e.g. allowing programmability with security through VMs is not a solution so long as the owner of the VM platform or the platform under it are still closed). It doesn't matter though. If the book gets people even thinking and talking about this subject matter, then it's a worthwhile contribution.

Go read it. It's an important book. (also, a free PDF version is available here)

The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It