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Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats. -- Howard Aiken, as quoted in Portraits in Silicon by Robert Slater, 1987, p. 88.
Machines will do what we ask them to do and not what what we ought to ask them to do. -- Norbert Wiener, 1949, published in John Markoff, NYTimes May 21, 2013
The shortcut that's sure to work, every time: Take the long way. Do the hard work, consistently and with generosity and transparency. And then you won't waste time doing it over. -- Seth Godin, Seth's Blog, May 13, 2013.
Most people doubt online meetings can work but they somehow overlook that most in-person meetings don't work either. - Scott Berkun, The Year Without Pants, p. 42, September 2013.
It's total chaos. But out of that chaos will come some really amazing things. And right now there are amazing opportunities for young people coming into the industry to say, ‘Hey, I think I'm going to do this and there's nobody to stop me.' It's because all the gatekeepers have been killed! -- George Lucas, The Verge, June 13, 2013.
If the NSA released their heaps of prying spycode as open-source code, Silicon Valley would be all over that, instantly. They’d put a kid-friendly graphic front-end on it. They’d port it right into the cloud. -- Bruce Sterling, The Ecuadorian Library, August 3, 2013.
I believe that the purpose of death is the release of love. -- Laurie Anderson, Farewell to Lou Reed, Rolling Stone, November 21, 2013
The question [in Hollywood] used to be: How do we top ourselves? The new one seems to be: How do we stop ourselves? -- Damon Lindelof, The New Rules of Blockbuster Screenwriting, Vulture, August 14, 2013
If you take someone to lunch you just get each other's stories, but if you set up folding chairs together, you find out what people are really like. -- Anne Herbert, The Whole Earth Jamboree Wasn't Worth It Once, CoEvolution Quarterly, Winter 1978.
People are bad at looking at seeds and guessing what size tree will grow out of them. The way you'll get big ideas in, say, health care is by starting out with small ideas. If you try to do some big thing, you don't just need it to be big; you need it to be good. And it's really hard to do big and good simultaneously. So, what that means is you can either do something small and good and then gradually make it bigger, or do something big and bad and gradually make it better. And you know what? Empirically, starting big just does not work. That's the way the government does things. They do something really big that's really bad, and they think, Well, we'll make it better, and then it never gets better. -- Paul Graham, Building Fast Companies for Growth, Inc. September 2013
Simple answers from xkcd
Like the Whole Earth Catalogs of yore, my new Cool Tools book is self-published. I'll tell you how the economics of my book work and the 3 reasons why I went the route of avoiding a mainline publisher.
First benefit was speed. I finished writing and assembling the book in September and in October I had the book listed on Pre-Order status on Amazon. It will be available to customers (in bookstores, too!) the first week of December. If this book was being published by a New York publisher I'd still be in negotiations to maybe have it available next summer.
Second, control. The book is unorthodox. It doesn't fit the mold for a serious book. It is kinda of a catalog. Even the size was off-putting for pros. A big floppy book doesn't travel well, doesn't fit well into bookstore shelves. The publishers want to know can I perhaps change that? Then there's the commercial aspect. The book is a shopping guide that tells you where to buy things. It points readers to Amazon a lot. Publishers and bookstores hate that. They perceive Amazon as the enemy and one chain even refused to carry it because of this. My solution was to bypass them.
Thirdly, in my recent experience with established publishers I wound up doing most of the work myself anyway. For my last book with Viking/Penguin, I hired the editor to edit my book; I hired the illustrator to make the illustrations; I turned in cover design concepts, some of which they used; I did the most effective marketing and publicity (via social media). The only things I did not do -- which were significant! -- was the financing and distribution. On this book, I decided to tackle these as well, since I would still be doing all the rest.
[Me working on the Cool Tools book at my stand/sit station; outside the chicken coop.]
Self-publishing means I have full control, but also full responsibility. Since I was paying for the paper and ink myself, I didn't waste any pages. There are no blank pages or white spaces in this book. Even the inside covers are printed --with the table of contents! Every inch is doing some work. The book is incredibly dense.
Self publishing an ebook is one thing. Self publishing a gigantic book that weighs 4.5 pounds is another. I knew I was in trouble when the overseas printer called to ask me if I had a loading dock at my warehouse. Warehouse? I hardly have a garage. "Ummm, how much room do I need?" I asked. She said, "Well, you should expect a shipping container and a half." That's a big pile. So I signed up with a book distributor, Publishers Group West, that caters to small publishers and most of the books will be shipped to their warehouse in Tennessee.
The books were printed in Hong Kong. I tried to get bids in the US, but because of the oversize of the book, no US printer would even bid on it. One large printer recommended by the distributor told me, "I hate to say this but you need to go to China to get this printed." So I did. They did a fantastic job, quickly and at a good price. The Hong Kong printing plant is high automation. Think robots not coolie labor. The books are now on a container ship going across the Panama Canal and up the Mississippi River to Tennessee. I am awaiting three pallets of books that were diverted to the West Coast, and that will arrive at my home. I am praying they will fit into my garage.
Economics of self-publishing will decide this book's fate. There will be about a total of 8,500 copies for sale on Amazon and in bookstores. The unit cost to print the book is $6. Shipping is about $1 per book. The cover price is $39.99. Amazon immediately discounts it to $25 (I set the book price anticipating Amazon's discount) and Amazon take something like 40%. The book distributor takes their cut. I'll take about $10 per book, and then of course, I have to deduct the cost I incurred in creating the book -- the editors, designers and proofers I hired to create those 472 pages. (I am not counting the years I've put into it). Plus I am mailing a lot of copies out to reviewers and contributors. I was stunned to learn that the absolute cheapest way to ship this book to England or Canada (no matter how slow) was $60 and $38 respectively! No other choice!
I have much more respect for commercial publishers in making this precarious publishing machine work. It is not easy to make money publishing paper books. It is very much like making art. In fact I think of this large beautiful book as an art work. Cool Tools really is remarkable art.
If you want your own piece of art, pre order here.
My blog is now a book!
I took the best of my Cool Tools blog and printed it as a huge oversized book.
Yes, I know. Paper is old. You can’t search it, you can’t easily share favorites, you can’t instantly click to get items, you can’t haul it in your virtual library device. The web and Kindle are so much better that way.
But I remember the power that the old Whole Earth Catalogs had on me as I came of age. The paper books were magical. There is something very powerful at work on large pages of a book. Your brain begins to make naturally associations between tools in a way that it doesn’t on small screens. The juxtapositions of diverse items on the page prods the reader to weave relationships between them, connecting ideas that once seemed far apart. The large real estate of the page opens up the mind, making you more receptive to patterns found in related tools. There’s room to see the depth of a book in a glance. You can scan a whole field of one type of tool faster than you can on the web. In that respect, a large paper book rewards both fast browsing and deep study better than the web or a small tablet. Long live paper!
So that’s what I did. I printed Cool Tools as a paper book. I sifted through the thousands of tools reviewed in the past 10 years, and with the help of other Cool Tool teammates, selected more than 1,000 evergreen tools that have stood the test of time. I modeled the design and style on the old Whole Earth Catalogs; the book is printed on identical oversized paper pages, bound into the same thickness of almost 500 pages. The result is a hefty book that will seem to some people of a certain age to be a modern incarnation of the old Catalogs. (To new readers of a younger age, it will look like no other book they have seen.)
This Cool Tools book is the ultimate guide to do-it-yourself. The book covers how to self-publish a book, rent a bulldozer, print 3D objects, run for local office and win, design a logo, grow edible mushrooms, read all the classics, get an online degree, cut your cable TV, build a log cabin, and so much more! Really, I tried to cover all the ground this blog covers.
The result is a one-volume alternative education in making things happen. I assembled this collection so that my three children would see a thousand other possibilities in life that are opened when you pick up a tool. It works the same with adults who've seen it. I really think you'll be amazed by it.
Despite the date currently listed on Amazon, the book will be available during the first week of December. You can pre-order it now.
Remember kids, the only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down. -- Adam Savage, Mythbusters [episode unknown].
Along comes Bitcoin, a currency in which every transaction is stored by the entire network and every coin has its own story. There’s nothing to trust but math. Suddenly an idea that sounded terrible -— a totally decentralized currency without a central authority, where semi-anonymous parties exchange meaningless tokens —- becomes almost comforting, a source of power and authority. -- Paul Ford, Bloomberg Businessweek, March 28, 2013
The Google policy on a lot of things is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it. -- Eric Schmidt, Hillicon Valley, The Hill, October 1, 2010.
The federal government, as seen through the budget, is a massive insurance conglomerate with a large standing army. -- Ezra Klein, Wonkblog, Washington Post, April 15, 2013. (An earlier use of this phrase is from Peter Fisher, undersecretary of the Treasury, in 2002, but I don't have a citation.)
By far the best way to prevent a tug-of-war is to not pick up your end
of the rope. -- Don Lancaster, Incredible Secret Money Making Machine, p. 5
Remember that people who get paid to catch the bad guys get paid whether they catch them or not. But the cheats don't get paid unless they figure it out. So they're [more] motivated. -- Ted Whiting in "Not in my house," by Jesse Hicks, Verge, January 14, 2013
The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us. -- Ted Sarandos, Subscribers Help to Propel Netflix Gain, New York Times, April 23, 2013.
Under capitalism, wealth is less a stock of goods than a flow of ideas, the defining characteristic of which is surprise….Entrepreneurship is the launching of surprises. -- George Gilder, Unleash the Mind, National Review, August 13, 2012
The web offers an opportunity to fall into the open arms of fans, in ways that weren’t available before. Here’s the catch: The web also makes it near-impossible to fall into the arms of just one’s fans. Each time you dive into the crowd, some portion of the audience before you consists of observers with no interest in catching you. -- Nitshu Abebe, The Amanda Palmer Problem, Vulture, April 27, 2013
If there’s a word that means the opposite of perfectionist, I’m that. -- Matt Harding, Pogue's Post, New York Times, July 12, 2012.
We realise that something which makes sense in a local frame may make less sense in a broader frame: dumping your waste in the river is fine as long as you don’t think too much about the people downriver. When you do, you might decide to stop dumping. Government ought to be the process by which such overlapping ‘bigger picture’ considerations are negotiated: good government should make empathy practical. -- Brian Eno, Longplayer, April 30, 2013
Eventually we'll lose the pixel, as it fades beyond our bulky vision. And that will be a tremendous shame. -- Cennydd Bowles, Twitter, February 1, 2012.
In the beginning was the word:
and by mutations came the gene. -- Michael A. Arbib, in Towards a Theoretical Biology (1969), Vol 2, p. 323.
The question is not Will you succeed? but rather, Will you matter? - Seth Godin, Creative Mornings, May 10, 2013.
For years I've heard apocryphal stories of knowledge workers in Silicon Valley who outsourced their job themselves. They had permission to work at home, but in fact outsourced their work to cheap Chinese or Indian labor. The Valley worker would work only a few hours per day overseeing his help, and goof off the rest. The Asian workers under him were delighted with a real job that paid well for them -- but only a fraction of what the CA guy got. And the CA guy's boss was delighted with the great work he was getting. It was an ingenious racket! Win, win, win for 3 sides; everybody happy. But all this shadow outsourcing was only rumors as far as I could tell.
Now comes some hard evidence from a Verizon security team that at least one person was really pulling off this sweet scam. From this article from Verizon:
"As it turns out, Bob had simply outsourced his own job to a Chinese consulting firm. Bob spent less that one fifth of his six-figure salary for a Chinese firm to do his job for him. Authentication was no problem, he physically FedExed his RSA token to China so that the third-party contractor could log-in under his credentials during the workday. It would appear that he was working an average 9 to 5 work day. Investigators checked his web browsing history, and that told the whole story.
A typical ‘work day’ for Bob looked like this:
9:00 a.m. – Arrive and surf Reddit for a couple of hours. Watch cat videos
11:30 a.m. – Take lunch
1:00 p.m. – Ebay time.
2:00 – ish p.m Facebook updates – LinkedIn
4:30 p.m. – End of day update e-mail to management.
5:00 p.m. – Go home
Evidence even suggested he had the same scam going across multiple companies in the area. All told, it looked like he earned several hundred thousand dollars a year, and only had to pay the Chinese consulting firm about fifty grand annually. The best part? Investigators had the opportunity to read through his performance reviews while working alongside HR. For the last several years in a row he received excellent remarks. His code was clean, well written, and submitted in a timely fashion. Quarter after quarter, his performance review noted him as the best developer in the building."
Scott Adams was head by a whole decade. From Dilbert, August 3, 2003