Product Image: Hackers and Painters
My rating: 3 out of 5

Terry lent me his copy of Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham and I finished reading it a few days ago. As I started reading, some of the topics were quite intriguing. Here are some of Paul’s main points in the first half of his book:

  • Nerds aren’t popular in school because they’d rather be smart – Maybe, but I think the social dynamics and causal relationships in American high schools are a little more complicated than smart kids simply wanting to be smart more than they want to be popular. I wonder if there have been child psychology studies on this particular hypothesis.
  • It’s natural and OK for the disparity between rich and poor gets larger – This may be natural and at first, I’ll admit, I thought his argument was well reasoned. After all, I am part of the population in the middle bracket, striving to get into the upper brackets. But then I talked to Terry, because this idea sounded a little strange to me (it didn’t jive with the ideals they discuss in economics about the Gini Index and etc.). Terry pointed out a few case studies that brought things back into perspective. Without a wealth gradient, we become almost a two-caste system; the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. Worse yet, the poor become the majority and the rich remain a small group that continues to gain more and more power. In history, this social inequity is a catalyst for instability, revolutions, and decreased overall quality of life (yes even for the rich people, look at South Africa).
  • To succeed as a start-up, the most important factor is for you to be different than your competitors – It may be an important factor for success, but I think timing and luck play a bigger role than Paul recognizes. There have been plenty of failed start-ups with great ideas, great execution, solved hard problems, and differentiated themselves from competitors.
  • To solve spam, all you need is a highly tuned Bayesian filter – Terry has the most to say about this particular piece. As Terry pointed out to me, the problem with this approach is that it just increases the amount of spam sent. At the end of the day, spammers will figure out how to create a spam message that passes through your Bayesian filter or you’ll start getting real e-mails filtered as spam, or worse yet, both.

As for the second half of the book, I definitely lost interest when Paul starts talking about what programming languages will look like in 100 years and why Lisp is the bomb. I wouldn’t venture to guess what the software development landscape would look like in 20 years let alone 100 years… 20 years ago, I don’t think people would have predicted the internet, web services, scripting languages like PHP, or programming inside browsers via AJAX. What’s the future of computing going to look like in 100 years? I wouldn’t want to make any bets 🙂

The one thing Paul has convinced me to do is to take a look at Lisp. I’ll add that to my to-do list; any one know a good place to start?

Interesting ideas, but loses my interest at the end
Book
3 out of 5
Hackers and Painters
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect?link_code=ur2&camp=1789&tag=99zeros-20&creative=9325&path=tg/detail/-/0596006624/qid=1127944554/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1?v=glance%26s=books%26n=507846

<a href=”http://www.terrychay.com/blog/”>Terry</a> lent me his copy of <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect?link_code=ur2&ampcamp=1789&amptag=99zeros-20&ampcreative=9325&amppath=tg/detail/-/0596006624/qid=1127944554/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1?v=glance%26s=books%26n=507846″>Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham</a> and I finished reading it a few days ago. As I started reading, some of the topics were quite intriguing. Here are some of Paul’s main points in the first half of his book:

<ul>
<li>Nerds aren’t popular in school because they’d rather be smart – Maybe, but I think the social dynamics and causal relationships in American high schools are a little more complicated than smart kids simply wanting to be smart more than they want to be popular. I wonder if there have been child psychology studies on this particular hypothesis.</li>
<li>It’s natural and OK for the disparity between rich and poor gets larger – This may be natural and at first, I’ll admit, I thought his argument was well reasoned. After all, I am part of the population in the middle bracket, striving to get into the upper brackets. But then I talked to Terry, because this idea sounded a little strange to me (it didn’t jive with the ideals they discuss in economics about the <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gini_coefficient”>Gini Index</a> and etc.). Terry pointed out a few case studies that brought things back into perspective. Without a wealth gradient, we become almost a two-caste system; the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. Worse yet, the poor become the majority and the rich remain a small group that continues to gain more and more power. In history, this social inequity is a catalyst for instability, revolutions, and decreased overall quality of life (yes even for the rich people, look at South Africa).</li>
<li>To succeed as a start-up, the most important factor is for you to be different than your competitors – It may be an important factor for success, but I think timing and luck play a bigger role than Paul recognizes. There have been plenty of failed start-ups with great ideas, great execution, solved hard problems, and differentiated themselves from competitors.</li>
<li>To solve spam, all you need is a highly tuned Bayesian filter – Terry has the most to say about this particular piece. As Terry pointed out to me, the problem with this approach is that it just increases the amount of spam sent. At the end of the day, spammers will figure out how to create a spam message that passes through your Bayesian filter or you’ll start getting real e-mails filtered as spam, or worse yet, both.</li>
</ul>

As for the second half of the book, I definitely lost interest when Paul starts talking about what programming languages will look like in 100 years and why Lisp is the bomb. I wouldn’t venture to guess what the software development landscape would look like in 20 years let alone 100 years… 20 years ago, I don’t think people would have predicted the internet, web services, scripting languages like PHP, or programming inside browsers via AJAX. What’s the future of computing going to look like in 100 years? I wouldn’t want to make any bets 🙂

The one thing Paul has convinced me to do is to take a look at Lisp. I’ll add that to my to-do list; any one know a good place to start?

EVDO through Verizon

September 16, 2005

Mischa, one of my co-workers, recently signed up for Verizon Wireless Internet BroadbandAccess. She’s been trying it out today in downtown San Francisco, and she’s very impressed with the speed and ease of use.

If I wasn’t moving down to the south bay, I’d seriously consider getting one and riding the CalTrain 🙂

My friend Mike who works at Amazon e-mailed me about Amazon Shorts today. It’s a mini-Amazon store where you can buy short stories/writings in digital format for $0.49 each.

It seems like a pretty neat idea but they definitely need more content up there. It’s almost a chicken and egg problem – you need more content to attract customers and you need customers to get writers to publish their content on the site. From what I can tell, they currently have 64 selections (none of which I am particularly interested in reading *sigh* :S)

On a side note, what I’d love to see is an all you can eat model. People love Netflix because they are basically paying $15 / month to get as much content as they can possibly watch. If there was a good service for written content that would be great – an electronically delivered Bookflix?

Looking around the Amazon Shorts store, it reminded me of how lame the uptake of digital paper has been. I thought that surely by now, we’d all be reading our newspapers, textbooks, novels, and magazines in digital format on our tablet PCs. But instead, tablet PC hasn’t seen very much penetration in the market and eBooks are getting barely any sales.

Many people have told me that they just enjoy reading a physical book – holding one, flipping the pages, etc. Growing up in the digital age, I don’t really understand the attachment to books as a delivery mechanism. I’d much rather have a high contrast LCD on a tablet that would allow me to place digital bookmarks, resize text, copy/paste excerpts, hyperlink my way around, and be filled with rich content – embedded audio, video, links to online discussion boards, etc.

I know, I know, instead of complaining about it, I should do something about it – and I almost did. I had a job offer from the Amazon Digital Media Technologies team, the group that’s building electronic delivery infrastructure for books, magazines, video, audio, and more. Unfortunately, my passion for helping people organize their personal information beat out my passion for digital content delivery. Doesn’t stop me from wanting a coherent and ubiquitous eBook experience though 🙂

New Amazon layout?

August 4, 2005

newamazonAnyone else notice the updates to Amazon’s product pages? Surprisingly, I haven’t seen this mentioned in any of my feeds at all (either that or I totally missed it).

I wonder what the reasoning was behind this new look and feel… are they moving to a customizable product page? Each section definitely looks removable. Are they going to add feeds to various things on their site? I’m sure people wouldn’t mind being able to subscribe to customer reviews of books or new releases or a user’s review list.

Personally, I hope it’s all of the above, but we’ll have to wait and see I guess.

btw, I think this is the layout I saw a few months ago and commented on at the end of this entry. Neat stuff! 🙂

My new Etymotic Research ER6i headphones smell really bad. I hope this smell goes away soon… anyone else run into this?

Aside from the smell, I just switched the tri-flanges for the foam eartips and they sound even better! I haven’t even given these headphones an adequate break-in period and they are already impressing. I think these “cans” are a definite winner.

Even though I told buy.com to cancel my order and I had my credit card company refuse the charges. Apparently, they decided to ship them out yesterday (the package was postmarked 7/18) and I got them today – err technically yesterday, 7/19. Bleh, I’ll have to sort this out later I suppose…

I’ll be posting up a thorough review soon, but so far, these headphones have been unbelievable. The only problem is that when I use them at work, people have trouble getting my attention. I need a sign that says “I can’t hear you, IM me please :)”

Citibank rocks!

July 16, 2005

In response to my buy.com snafu, I called up my credit card company. No waiting at all, I was connected immediately to a customer service agent. I explained the situation and she immediately started the dispute resolution process and issued a temporary credit. The agent was extremely efficient and knowledgeable – no hassle at all. Now that’s what customer service should always be like!