Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

How to Exit Vim released

Sunday, January 15th, 2017 | Books, News

Today is the day: How to Exit Vim is now available to buy.

Vim is a command-line text editor in Linux. It is notoriously difficult to get out of it once you have gone in. So, I have written a book about how to do it. It does not cover anything else: the only stuff in there is about how to quit Vim. It has 19 chapters.

Granted, the chapters are not very long. I have broken down each scenario and the correct command to use for each. That means it has nearly as many chapters as it does pages. But who really wants to trawl through 400 pages? When you are stuck in Vim, you want an answer and you want it fast. This book gives you exactly what you need; no fluff.

This is the blurb:

This book does not cover anything except how to exit Vim. It has 19 chapters.

Have you ever found yourself trapped in the command-line text editor Vim? If so, this book could save you from tearing your hair out. It breaks down each situation you may find yourself in, and the correct exit command to get you to safety.

Without it, you may find yourself losing work, overwriting critical data, getting lost in a sea of tabs, or worst of all, looking stupid in front of the stern-looking system administrator standing behind you.

With it, people will think you are a wizard. Finally, a way to unlock the mysteries of quitting Vim without leaving a trail of destruction behind you.

Sounds awesome, right? But it gets better. Because the best part about it is the value: I’ve priced it really low. It’s £2.99. When people give away books for free, they charge $7 shipping. This is half the price of a free book.

Look, I am not saying that if you know all of these Vim commands, more women will have sex for you. Even though, most of us who work in IT suspect that is true. That may not interest you. You may, for example, be a straight woman. In which case, I am not saying that knowing all these commands will get you a job as a Google engineer. But…

Finally, one last point from me. Take a look at the cover:

That is a cover that says “this book is amazing”. Why? Because the cover is so basic. It is called sated strength. Other books, inferior books, come up with hugely flashy covers because they know that is the only way they are going to sell. A cover like this says “wow, this book is good it does not even need a professionally designed cover”.

It is available now from Amazon and iBooks.

The maze is solvable, by the way. Here is a bonus activity: if you take it into Paint, draw the correct route through it, and send it to me within the next week, I will send you a copy of the book completely free.

Scientific Advertising

Thursday, January 12th, 2017 | Books

Scientific Advertising is an incredible book. Why? Because it is the online marketing bible. Everyone in online marketing is talking about it. This in itself would be a pretty impressive feat for a book. But it gets even more incredible: it was written in 1923.

How is this possible? How does the entire global e-commerce industry run on a book written before computers even existed?

The answer is that technology may change, but human psychology does not. The author, Claude C Hopkins, was writing about how to sell products by direct mail. In the book, he lays down a series of principles that had been proven to work. You could replicate them, and it turns out you can replicate the same strategies in the online age as well.

Here is what David Ogilvy said about it:

“Nobody, at any level, should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

Best of all, it is now available free to download. For anyone looking to sell anything, this is a must-read.

The Power Paradox

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017 | Books

The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence is a 2016 book by Dacher Keltner. In it, Keltner redefines the definition of power. Many of us may consider power to be something that the strong take by force, or using machiavellian methods. Keltner says this view is entirely incorrect: power is something that is given to us by the group because we forward the group’s interests.

This makes sense as a natural selection factor. Groups would want to reward those individuals who put the group’s needs before their own. They do this by bestowing power on that individual in the hope that they will continue to do so, and be able to bring greater gains.

Unfortunately, there is a danger. John Dalberg-Acton was correct when he said…

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely

Gaining power causes us to forget about putting the group first. It causes us to forget about the reason we were given power in the first place. And what is given, can be taken away. Time after time, people come crashing down because they forgot why they were afforded such status in society.

Keltner also discusses the negative effects of not having power. For example, minority communities that face discrimination and are not given an equal standing in society. Even adjusting for all of the disadvantages they may encounter, merely the fact of being powerless reduces their life expectancy by a measurable amount.

The lesson is clear: stay focused on other people. Not only will you improve their lives, but it is in your best interest as well.

The 8 books that changed my world in 2016

Monday, January 9th, 2017 | Books, Thoughts

I read a bunch of brilliant books in 2016. Too many to list here, though you can find them by browsing the Books category of my blog. Really good stuff like The Hard Thing About Hard Things and Zero to One have not made this list. The River Cottage Fish Book reminded me of my love of fish. Amazing fiction like The End of Eternity is missing too. But these books, have changed the way I look at the world.

Predictably Irrational

I kind of knew what this would be about before I opened it. But Dan Ariely provides a series of useful and real-world examples of irrationality in everyday life that you cannot help but see it in your own life. If anything, this book really deserves a second read so I can take it all in, measure my life against it and make improvements.

TED Talks: The Official TEDGuide to Public Speaking

I already consider myself quite a good public speaker and this book covered no new ground for me. However, it did change my opinion on one thing: speed of delivery. At Toastmasters, I am constantly telling people to slow down. When you slow down, your speech is easier to understand, the audience has better comprehension, if forces you to say less and therefore makes the speech more effective. However, Anderson points out that you only need this enhanced comprehension at complicated parts of the speech: the rest of the time people can comprehend words faster than you can say them. So, if you have good enough content, speak a little faster.

The Paradox of Choice

More choice makes people less happy. I see this everywhere in my own life. I need new trainers. Sports Direct’s 4-story mega shop in Leeds city centre has around 1,000 different options. Yet I cannot find the perfect pair. Why? Too much choice! It raises my expectations of finding the perfect pair, which I never do. The same with restaurants: selecting from a huge menu is irritating and tiring. Give people a sensible amount of choice.

Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids

We know from Steven Pinker that parenting only makes up a small part of a child’s nurture-based personality. The rest is external environment. Bryan Caplan points out that this means you do not need to be crazy-obsessive-parent. In fact, if you relax, you will enjoy parenting a lot more and your child will enjoy their childhood at lot more.

The Village Effect

Social connections are the biggest indicator of longevity. Literally, not having a strong social network will kill you. It will take years off your life. Community is worth fighting for because it makes us happier and healthier.

Mindfulness

I completed the entire programme from A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world before moving on to Headspace. I have not stuck with either because I find it really boring. However, it has convinced me that I need to spend more time focusing on enjoying now in whatever form that might be.

The Happiness Hypothesis

Jonathan Haidt’s book is worth reading for the central analogy alone: that we are made up of an elephant and a rider. The intelligent, rational rider can direct the body as much as it wants. But, when the elephant gets spooked, there is very little the rider can do to calm it down.

Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes

Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich list of a bunch of ways that we fall victim to our own biases. Chief among them for me was “mental accounting”. There is no such thing as bonus money: a pound is a pound. Every purchase has to be considered in the rational light of day, even if I have just won some money.

New book alert: Why Restaurants Fail

Saturday, January 7th, 2017 | Books, News

I am currently busy working on some follow up books to Technical Anxiety. However, I took some time off over the holidays to write a different book. This one is called Why Restaurants Fail – And What To Do About It. It’s a fun read. Unless you are a restaurant owner, in which case it probably isn’t.

The premise is simple: people start restaurants thinking their excellent food is enough. It’s not. In fact, the food is not even that important. Time and time again we saw our favourite independent restaurants go under because they thought they were in the restaurant business. They’re not: they’re in the money business. And the only way to win is to put aside your ego and your snobbery and learn from the best (typically fast food joints).

This book is an experiment. At just under 11,000 words, it is only 42 pages long. Super-short for a book, But as Sean D’Souza and Michael Hyatt both pointed out, people like short books. Here are the stats Michael Hyatt provided in a webinar last month:

  • 60% of readers finish a book of 100 pages or less
  • 20% of readers finish a book of 200 pages or so
  • More than 200 pages, 3% readers finish

Will customers feel cheated because the book is only 11,000 words long? Or will they actually enjoy the book more? I am interested to find out.

It is also an experiment in applying MVP (minimal viable product) development to books. When Sean D’Souza first published The Brain Audit it was half the length it is now. Similarly, Why Restaurants Fail may grow much longer over time. But right now, I have said everything I want to say, without diluting the content.

With eBooks, I can even push out these updates for free. This is what we have done for all five editions of the Leeds Restaurant Guide. If you bought the first edition as an eBook, you received all of the updated editions free of charge.

I do not have a fixed release date yet, but I expect it to arrive in the next 30 days.

New book alert: How to Exit Vim

Thursday, January 5th, 2017 | Books, News, Tech

It has been a writing-heavy month over at the Worfolk household. On Saturday, I am going to be announcing my new restaurant book. But, between finalising that and sending it to the printers for proofing, I have finished another, and I am announcing that one today.

The title is How to Exit Vim.

For months I have been joking that what would be really useful is a book on all the different ways there are to exit Vim. For those not in-the-know, Vim is a command-line text editor for Linux. It is notoriously difficult to exit once you enter the program.

The truth is, though, that book would be genuinely useful. So I have written it. It comes out on 15 January. You can pre-order it now from Amazon and iBooks.

Predictably Irrational

Sunday, November 27th, 2016 | Books

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions is a book by academic Dan Ariely. There is so much good stuff in this book. Whether you are looking to understand humans, sell products, design a better society or merely learn some interesting stuff, this book is worth reading.

He begins by telling a story about The Economist. They offer free options: online only, print only, online and print. Print only and online and print are priced the same. Why would they do this? Because people compare things relatively.

If you give people no basis for comparison, they will not know how to judge something. This is why a $1200 bread-maker may not sell at first. People do not know whether they need a bread-maker. But put it next to a $1600 bread-maker and people can see that picking the $1200 over the $1600 is clearly a smart move.

Similarly, you can bias people’s opinions about pricing. People like to buy the thing in the middle. So if you want to sell a certain TV at a certain price, but it between a cheap TV and a really expensive TV. Or, if you are in a restaurant, but one really high priced dish on the menu if you want to sell more of the second highest price dish.

What if you want to break this comparison? Starbucks certainly did when they started charging £10 for a coffee (I do not actually know what Starbucks charge). Why would people pay that when McDonald’s sell coffee for £1.49? Starbucks created an experience. A coffee house with music and chairs and pastries to break the price anchor.

People also love the word free. Amazon were smashing it with their free delivery. Except in France where they were doing terribly. Why? Their discount delivery was one cent. It made almost no difference to the price, but it was not free. People will also queue for free stuff, even though their time is valuable and they could just buy the product instead.

One of the keys here is social norms vs market norms. Professionals will rarely do work for low cost. You cannot get a lawyer to do discount work for the vulnerable. Once you are in the realm of market norms, they want their fee. However, if you ask them to do the work for free, they yes! Why? Because social norms are used instead of market norms.

Trials are a great way to sell stuff. Why? Because once you give someone something, it triggers virtual ownership. Even though they have not bought it yet, their heart tells them they already own it and they go into loss aversion.

Loss aversion may also a reason that we continue to hang on to old friendships, particularly long-distance ones, or ones that have fallen apart, when we should actually be putting that time into building new friendships.

Food glorious, food

How about food? It turns out the same food tastes between when you tell someone what it is in and add exotic ingredients. People’s restaurant behaviour is also interesting. In the West, where individualism is valued, people are less likely to order the dish they want if someone else had ordered it before them.

What that means is that if the waiter is taking your order, and someone orders the dish you wanted, you are more likely to switch your order to a dish you prefer less, because you want to be seen as being individual.

However, when you run the same experiment in East Asia, where fitting in with the group is valued more highly, the opposite is true. People are more likely to switch their order to a dish they prefer less when someone before them orders it.

Dishonesty

Ariely has a long section on dishonesty. Why is it okay to steal a pen from work or a conference for example, but not steal a whole box of pens? There seems to be a sense of what is being a bit cheeky, and what it actually morally wrong.

Cash replacements seem to divorce us from the true value of what we are doing. For example, stealing someone’s Skype credit (this happened to Ariely) seems less wrong than stealing the money directly from him. This is a concern as we increasingly move towards a cashless society.

Summary

I need to read this book at least one more time to get all of the knowledge out of it. It is packed full of stuff that is useful and interesting. Read it. Read it now. Then go buy a bread-maker.

predictably-irrational

A Dance with Dragons (Part Two)

Saturday, November 26th, 2016 | Books

The second half of A Dance with Dragons from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire has been a long time coming. I use Audible for a lot of my function, including this, and to say Audible had some small technical issues would be an understatement.

Originally they published everything in two halves, hence why all my write-ups of A Song of Ice and Fire have also been in two halves. However, midway through listening to A Dance with Dragons they consolidated the two into one single audiobook.

The problem was that anyone who had bought the first half, could not longer buy the second half. Nor could you buy the new consolidated book because the system thought you already had it. Yet every time you tried to download it, it would give you only the first half again.

It took Audible months to sort this out. I was not tracking exactly how many, but my guess was it was in the three to six-month timescale. They had to roll out a software update to their app to fix it.

Of course, this small delay is but a taster of the delay I can expect to encounter while I wait for Martin to release The Winds of Winter and the book that comes after that.

Was it worth the wait? No, because Martin does what he always does and kills off my favourite characters. But, like a beaten puppy, I cannot stay away and keep reading regardless.

A Dance with Dragons

Adulting

Friday, November 25th, 2016 | Books

Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps is a book by journalist, Kelly Williams Brown. It is a point-by-point guide to being an adult. Each one gives you advice such as remember to clean your kitchen, be nice to people and stop after the first bottle of wine.

All very actionable stuff.

Like point 6, “stop enjoying things ironically” and just start enjoying them.

Mostly though, it is just a fun book to read. Brown is an amusing writer and while you might not learn much you did not already know (I read it as a 29-year-old, maybe a 21-year-old would learn a lot) you will have a good time reading it.

adulting

Sane New World

Thursday, November 24th, 2016 | Books

Sane New World: Taming the Mind is a book by Ruby Wax. Wax is a well-known comedian but what you might not know is that she is also a trained therapist with a masters degree in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

This book is all about how to use mindfulness to solve mental health difficulties, narrated through her own struggles with depression. Her own anecdotes really add some sparkle to the book and there is a lot for anyone with depression to identify with in here and think “yes, me too!”. It’s also funny, as you would expect from a big-name comedian.

She also knows her stuff. Her round-up of what parts of the brain do what, and her round-up of the evidence for mindfulness-based therapies have both proved excellent starting points for research.

sane-new-world