Friday Flip-through: Cult of the Amateur

Jan 11, 2008

I haven’t posted a Friday Flip-through for quite a while, mainly because I haven’t really read anything new, until now. But this book is as good a book as any to come back with.

The Cult of the Amateur” is a book that has gotten a lot of press coverage, and started a lot of conversations in the social media realm. So I’m glad to have finally gotten a copy of it.

My take on it? It’s an intriguing book, that’s for sure. He presents an interesting theory. I can’t say I agree with it, but it’s definitely something to think about.

Being quite involved in the social media realm, though I can’t say I agree with what he writes. I won’t go into the factual fallacies as much as Larry Lessig did (there’s plenty of that on the web already), but I do want to talk about the general point.

The thing about Web 2.0 – wikis, blogs, etc – is not that it takes away trust from the experts. It’s that it gives everyone the chance to contribute. It levels the playing field, such that everyone can be an expert, by interacting with and learning from experts. I myself am testimony to this. I won’t consider myself an expert in any of this yet, but I am learning. Without Web 2.0, there’s no way a 17 year old from Singapore could connect with the likes of Seth Godin, Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan, Connie Reece, etc; the list is endless. That’s the true value of Web 2.0 – it opens the playing field.

Yes, I do agree that in some things (scientific areas, for example), we need experts to help. But the thing about Web 2.0 is that the experts do have a part in it. On Wikipedia (an example that Keen pointed out a lot), experts can – and do – participate. It’s just not exclusive, and that’s certainly not a bad thing. Even experts are fallible, as shown by how Wikipedia found errors in Encyclopedia Britannica.

The other thing I want to point out is how Keen argues that Web 2.0 is taking away jobs. Well, that might be true. But that’s true for any revolution, isn’t it? For progress to be made, risks have to be taken, things have to change. You can’t have progress if you want to protect the status quo. The industrial revolution took away the jobs of many farmers as well, didn’t it? Society needs to adapt to the progress, and move forward as well, not try to go against it.

Yes, there are problems and questions that need to be sort out. For example, anonymity is still a big problem, one that Seth Godin pointed out 3 years ago. But the extent of Keen’s criticism is overly extreme, if you ask me.

What do you think? What are the strengths/shortcomings of Web 2.0?

Friday Flip-Through: The Butterfly Hunter

Dec 14, 2007

A common theme (at least an intended common theme) in this blog has always been about pursuing your dreams, and your own passions. To not just settle for what others do, or what society expects, but to chase after what you believe in, and to find your own meaning in life.

And that’s why I love The Butterfly Hunter by Chris Ballard, the subject of today’s Friday Flip-Through. In his book, Chris talks to 10 people who have found their life’s calling, doing really unusual jobs. These are people who have beaten the odds, pursuing a career that few even consider. But it’s a career that they love. They love what they do. More than just “what they do”, their jobs are who they are. It’s a part of them.

10 people. Among them a lady lumberjack, a train geek, a building climber, a NFL kicking coach. 10 very different professions. But one thing in common. They are doing what they do best. They are living their dreams. And most importantly – to me, at least – they are fulfilling their passions.

These 10 people show us the value of doing what you love. It’s the passion for what they do that drive them and keep them going. And that passion is something we would all do well to have.

This book won’t give you a formulaic guide on how to achieve your dream job. What it will do is inspire you in the value of pursuing it. There are people out there living their passions, doing what they love. You can be one of them too.

Yes, it’s a risk. But as these 10 people show, it’s worth the risk. After all, as Chris says, that “is the one thing that can give… life meaning.”

If you like this book, check out my other recommendations at my aStore.

Friday Flip-Through: Rules of the Red Rubber Ball

Dec 7, 2007

I mentioned Kevin Carroll a few months ago, and he was nice enough to send me an autographed copy of his book (completely unexpectedly). He’s an awesome guy, doing amazing things, and spreading a great message in his blog.

But back to his book, Rules of the Red Rubber Ball. It’s a short, simple book. And small, so you can carry it everywhere (and it’s probably a good idea to, so you can share it with others). But it carries an important message. The Red Rubber Ball symbolizes “play”. To quote the book, “It’s any activity, topic or purpose that makes you excited about the day.”

His book is all about finding that purpose. He shares his personal story, which is an inspiring and amazing one. With his story, he inspires us to discover our own passion, and pursue it. And he gives us 7 simple rules of doing so.

I highly recommend it for everyone. It’s a really simple book. But with a really powerful and inspiring message, that I think we all need to hear.

You can buy it from here, for only just over $10. Definitely worth the money.

If you like this book, check out my other recommendations at my aStore.

Friday Flip-Through: iWoz and Bringing Down the House

Nov 30, 2007

Every Friday from now on, I will post a “Friday Flip-Through”. Basically, it’s where I review/write about books that I’ve read and find interesting. I’ve been thinking of reviewing and sharing books with you guys for quite a while, but never got around to it. So this will serve two purposes. First, it will spur me on to read more books. Which is always good. Secondly, and more importantly, I hope that you’ll find value in this. It’ll basically allow me to share what I read with you, and I hope that it’ll maybe help you discover more books, that you might not have read already. Or if you’ve heard of the books I mention, maybe it’ll encourage you to go get the books. Or just to go read more in general.

So, for my first ever Friday Flip-Through, these are two books that I read about a month ago, while I was in Boston. Bringing Down the House and iWoz.

Bringing Down the House is not exactly a new book, and was a New York Times Bestseller. So you probably have heard of it, especially if you’re in America.

It’s a really cool book. A non-fiction narrative thriller, that reads as well as fiction. It’s a true story about how six M.I.T students used card counting methods, and won millions in Vegas.

Other than being quite well written(in my opinion), I really like the premise of the story. And the fact that it’s a true story just makes it all the more intriguing. It’s a really good narrative showcase of the possibilities available around us. Yes, it might be on the verge of morality, but nonetheless, the creativity shown by the M.I.T students is awesome. It really shows the possibilities out there. And while I don’t encourage you to go and try to win millions by using these methods in a casino today, it’s a good reminder that our lives don’t have to just be the boring, standard 9-5 lives that society expects. It’s a good reminder of the excitement out there, that is available if we think creatively and use our abilities well.

As you read it, it will definitely get your mind going as you start imagining what’s possible. And who knows, maybe it will spur you on to something amazing as well.

iWoz the memoir of Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple. He was one of the driving forces behind the Macintosh, and though he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves (Steve Jobs gets more of it), his story is still a great one.

There are so many lessons we can learn from his story. Throughout the book, the first thing which comes across very clearly is his passion for technology. And it’s clear to see how that was a driving force in his life. That’s a very valuable lesson for all of us. Yes, he’s (arguably) a really successful person, being one of the people behind the first Macintosh, but he didn’t get there by wanting to get rich. He got there because he enjoyed doing what he did. The passion for technology and electronics was what made the Macintosh possible.

A second lesson that comes across really well is how he was educated from young. He writes about the impact his father had on his life, and how his passion was nurtured from the time he was a child. And if not for that, he probably might not have been able to do what he did.

There are more lessons that can be learned, so I encourage you to pick up his book. It’s always good for us to learn from people who have impacted the world, and Steve Wozniak is definitely one of those people. Read his story, learn from his life, and apply the lessons in your life. You can change the world too.

If you like these books, check out my other recommendations at my aStore.