Thoughts on building a library

I’ve always loved to read as a child but what I read depended mostly on the books I got as birthday presents. As an adult I occasionally bought some books at book stores at train stations. But I never had a strategy how to build a library.

Why do I need a library?

Knowledge is power! Books are the easiest way to gain profit from other people’s experience. You can see books as mentors which tell you valuable life lessons. For example the Game book “I will teach you to be rich” got me started with thinking about personal finance. Continue reading “Thoughts on building a library”

Review Code Reading

If you learn a music instrument you have to learn riffs, licks and songs. No teacher will ever say “Here are all the chords and scales. Go into the world and make people happy” Does not work.

But in software development sometimes it seems to look like that universities show you algorithms and data structure and the syntax of a specific language and say you are done – save the world with your code.

In the last couple of years more and more people look at software development as a craft and call it the software craftmanship movement. Continue reading “Review Code Reading”

Ruby Day 1 – Seven Languages in Seven Weeks

My friend Timo recommended the book “Seven Languages in Seven Weeks” to me a couple of months ago. During my parental leave I’ve finally found time to read -and more important-  code the exercises.

The first language is Ruby. Ruby is object-oriented, dynamically and strongly typed. It supports duck typing and is a good fit for developing DSLs. Continue reading “Ruby Day 1 – Seven Languages in Seven Weeks”

Review “Managing Oneself” by Peter Drucker


To call this book a book is a bit exaggerated. It contains only 60 pages which I assume you can read in under one hour. Nevertheless if you haven’t encountered the work of Peter Drucker yet this is the place to start.

The Author

Peter Drucker is best known for his concept of “Management by Objectives”. He also coined the term “knowledge worker” and “core competency”.

Main Takeaways

Drucker elaborates on three major questions:

  • What are my strengths?
  • How do I perform?
  • What are my values?

These are the basic questions to ask yourself to answer the bigger questions:

  • Where do I belong?
  • What can I contribute?

The rest of the book ponders on developing relationships and a second career for later in life.

The bottom line

I will stop writing so my review won’t be longer than the book itself. Managing yourself is a big factor in personal success. If you don’t manage yourself how can you manage others? As I already mentioned this one is a good entry into the works of Peter Drucker. It’s also perfect as a gift, so buy a bunch of them.

My reading habits over the years

As a child and teenager I read a lot, mostly fictional books. I often went to the library and got lots of books as a birthday or Christmas present.

  • Astrid Lindgren
  • Tonke Dragt
  • Wolfgang Hohlbein

On of my favorite authors at that time was Ken Follet. I read through the 1000+ pages of the Pillars of the Earth on just two or three days. The more we had to read for German classes in school the less I’d liked to read at home. Occasionally I read a Preston / Child thriller.

After I finished school I worked as a sound technician at the Landestheater Detmold. Due to masses of spare time and to the lack of nowadays always on communication devices I got into reading again.

I re-read all the classics which I should have already read in school.  Because I didn’t had to, it was actually a lot of fun. I read a lot of the books from Thomas Mann,  from Heinrich, Klaus and Golo Mann as well.

During my studies I started reading non-fictional books and often bought different books about the same topic because I enjoyed reading things from a different perspective to better understand them.

So what happened to the habit over the years? Why did I almost stopped reading entirely?

Distractions by other hobbies

  • Working 40+ hours per week plus commuting
  • Surfing Facebook and 9gag
  • Binge watching
  • Children 🙂

What got me into reading again

  • Martin Suter
  • Paulo Coelho
  • Manfred Spitzer

My new most favorite author became Dan Simmons after I accidentally bought the book “Terror”
After I watched the TED talk Why I read a book a day (and why you should too): The Law of 33% I started to read again like crazy and started to build up a personal library

Review “The Passionate Programmer”

About the Author

Chad Fowler is best know for being CTO of 6Wunderkinder after its exit to Microsoft. Before he was Senior Vice President of Technology at LivingSocial.

The Book

Fun fact: the first edition of this book was titled “My Job Went to India: 52 Ways To Save Your Job” but Fowler found this title misleading: instead of improving from mediocrity to keep your job we wants You to focus on becoming exceptional and staying ahead of the pack. Continue reading “Review “The Passionate Programmer””

The Peter Principle by Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull

I think I first came across the Peter Principle in the context of The Dilbert Principle.

Where Scott Adams states in a satirical fashion that “leadership is nature’s way of removing morons from the productive flow”, Peter and Hull just say that everybody in a big enough hierarchy always gets promoted to a position where he no longer can succeed and so reaches his personal level of incompetence.

Pretty  shocking, huh? Continue reading “The Peter Principle by Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull”

Review “Lessons learned in Software Testing”

I became aware of James Bach through the Google Techtalk “Becoming a Software Testing Expert”. Then I quickly got his book “Lessons Learned in Software Testing”.

In this book Bach presents with his colleagues Cem Kaner and Bret Pettichord 293 tips and tricks (“lessons”) from the test practice.

Divided into 10 chapters, this book covers almost every aspect that can be encountered in daily SW test work.

Similar to Rework, the strength of this book lies in the small, self-contained chapters. You can individually rate and apply each tip individually or not. The authors are advocates of the context-based test strategy; So there is no all-encompassing concept / strategy that works for every kind of SW product.

Therefore, the recommendations are sometimes deliberately contradictory, e.g. whether SW tests according to IEEE 829 should be documented or not. Just as a doctor only makes a diagnosis after a detailed medical history and then treats the patient, “lessons” are tools that are only to be used after a detailed analysis of the situation (industry, company, team, project, product).

At the beginning of this analysis, the tester must scrutinize himself and his mission in the development process. Insights such as that you can never find all the mistakes and therefore never completely test, sound obvious, but should always be kept in mind to get your own motivation.

The tester does not verify that the product is working, but shows that the product has a defect at a certain point. Word!

The fact that the tester primarily supports or relieves the developers is an idea that is far too rarely taken into account in practice. Test departments are often perceived as opponents rather than as partners.

The following chapters cover the handling of test techniques, bug reports, automated tests, test documentation, the exchange with the developers, as well as the management of the own test team.

The conclusion of the book are the two topics career in SW-test and creation of a test strategy.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a strict roadmap that simply has to be implemented one-to-one to ensure software quality, you will not find it here. On the other hand, if you are looking for suggestions and critical questions to continuously improve yourself and your work, you will find enough material in this book to deal with it for several weeks to months.

Review “Rework” by Jason Fried und David Heinemeier

Today I introduce you to one of my favorite books, “Rework – Business Smart and Simple” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. The two authors are the founders of 37signals and have developed the framework Ruby on Rails, on which most of their products are based. After devouring their first work Getting Real in the online edition (http://gettingreal.37signals.com/), it’s time to spend the money on a hardcover. I like books that pragmatically approach the topic of business start-ups / company founding, so get straight to the point:

On a total of 281 pages, Fried and Hansson reiterate their experiences from the founding of their company and the projects they have implemented.

The chapters are very clear. Normally between one and two pages. So you can read this book well in small doses – keyword: bathroom reading. Fine!

A small selection of exciting theses:

Why grow?

One of the core themes in the book is the principle of simplicity. Applied to the company, this means: why does the company have to grow?
Especially in the field of IT, there is a reflex of the sort “more projects – more people” to watch, although “better tools, more cooperation and clever (time) management” may be more the answer.

Start a business, not a startup

As I wrote in my article “15 Steps to Successful Bootstrapping – Part 4”, startups are not exactly realistic. Cash burn rate and exit strategy, but often not a solid business model with profit, that complain Fried and Hansson.

Get to bed / Send your employees home at five / Workaholics

These chapters clear up the prejudice that only total expenditure leads to remarkable benefits. The opposite is often the case: Permanent overtime, lack of sleep and a “What are you going to do now?” – culture in the long run only to exhaustion and at worst burnout. Stop it.

Meetings are poison

Meetings should be as short as possible, or completely eliminated, as they often bring astonishingly little insight, but at a high cost. A one-hour meeting with 10 people is actually a ten-hour meeting.

Bottom Line

Relaxing to read, translation into German also fits. Entertaining, humorous and often provocative. This is how management literature works today.

P.S .: Incidentally, the German new edition means Meetings are poison: plea for a new business culture, so do not be surprised.

Review “Losing my Virginity” by Richard Branson

 

Who is the author?


Richard Branson: There is almost nothing this man hasn’t achieved.

A private island in the Caribbean, the knighthood, crossing the Atlantic and the Pacific in a hot air balloon. And then there’s a little company called Virgin with a whopping 40+ affiliates. Did I mention that Virgin Galactic also flies into space?

What does the man still want to do?

The book


What drives him, we learn in a paperback with 570 pages net. Interrupted by about 60 pages. All this for the manageable price of € 13, -.

The structure


Since it is an autobiography, the structure is chronological. Richard Branson tells in a jovial style from the very beginning how he grew up, started his first student newspaper (despite dyslexia!) And came into conflict with the law with his first record business.

Then he produced his Tubular Bells with Mike Oldfield and thus landed a huge success. After that nothing could stop him, no matter what he touched became gold: the airline Virgin Airlines, rail travel with Virgin Trains, telephony from Virgin Mobile; hardly an industry he has not snooped into in order to bring about significant improvements in services. This activity then made him a billionaire over the years.

However, he never tires of investing in groundbreaking projects such as the Green Earth Challenge on greenhouse gas reduction and HIV prevention.
What are the most important wisdom?

Screw it, let’s do it! – this is probably the most important motto of the balloonist Branson. One would almost think that the more reckless an undertaking seems, the more interesting it becomes for him. This, e.g. his balloon rides cost almost his life, it does not stop him from taking new risks.

Entrepreneurship pushed to the extreme. The reason is his passion to conquer new business fields his lifeblood.

 

Conclusion

 

Who reads this book, can quickly get inferiority complex. What this man tears everything in his life alone is bordering on insanity. And who thinks that so much success can be accomplished only by asshole behaviors, is taught here a better. Down to earth, unpretentious, almost a bit shy, Branson describes his adventures. A guy with whom one would like to hiss away in the pub a few beers.