Archive for category: Book reviews

Pavlina’s book review: Personal Development for Smart People

October 24th, 2008 by

Summary: I didn’t like the book, and won’t go into detail here; instead I marvel at how many people read, believe and act on things that are completely unsubstantiated by any evidence. But that only shows my naivety: it seems that most of the world outside science -and some inside- works that way.

Who is Steve?

Steve Pavlina is a top-100 blogger and a personal development guru. He has done several impressive things like majoring in Math and CS in three semesters, trying polyphasic sleep for 6 months, and testing several extremely demanding changes on his habits like eating raw food only. 

In my view, the field of personal development feels scam-ridden. It preys on people who may not have the strongest will. So the title "Personal development for smart people" feels tonge-in-cheek (Oxymoron?). I’m sure many readers, with an empirical bias, may be bothered by all the new-agey chat out there that passes for advice (with no solid evidence backing it up). Now, is Steve different? Is this book better? The answers are no, and ‘maybe, I don’t know what else is out there’.

Problems with his method: Who in the academia should be doing Steve’s job?

One thing that bothers me is that Steve’s book uses no references whatsoever. He claims to have read most self-help books, but does not acknowledge any specific ideas from them. If all the ideas in the book are new and his, then I’m very impressed -I wouldn’t know-, but that seems unlikely. Again, I’m sure self-help books are all like that; making reference to other people’s ideas in a way you can track them down, as sensible as it sounds, remains a signature of the academia.


A lucid view into 21st-century publishing: who are you writing for?

June 4th, 2008 by

Sara Lloyd has published a manifesto on the way knowledge is distributed today.

In an ‘always on’ world in which everything is increasingly digital, where content is increasingly fragmented and ‘bite-sized’, where ‘prosumers’ merge the traditionally disparate roles of producer and consumer, where search replaces the library and where multimedia mash-ups -not text- holds the attraction for the digital natives who are growing up fast into the mass market of tomorrow, what role do publishers still have to play and how will they have to evolve to hold on to a continuing role in the writing and reading culture of the future?

This is important since the publishing industry somehow determines how academics allocate their time. If you can communicate your ideas in a way that fits the current standards, you may get them to spread farther.

Another interesting point is how the development of the text itself and the writing and editing process is now often ‘open’: there are ‘beta’ books on the net, and readers, ‘debug’ chapters as soon as the author releases them. This is a fantastic model that could leave professional editors out of the equation and speed up publishing in general. But then, do you really need the paper version of the book when all is said and done? Do you need to make a trip to the library to get it?

Oh, and by the way, Adobe acrobat 9 is out and now you can embed flash (i.e., video) in it. This makes possible to create a book that contains talks; or 3D rotations of a complex data visualization. Yet another reason to pay attention to fully digital book distribution.

Time management ebook from Mark McGuinness

December 12th, 2007 by

Mark McGuinness has collected a bunch of his best post into one free ebook. It works well as an overview of what is ‘common practices’ in time management nowadays.

He also posted some more resources here.

» Time Management #8: Resources BoDo: Business of Design online » Blog Archive

Book Review: The Myths Of Innovation by Scott Berkun

October 7th, 2007 by


NOTE: this post and the following are part of an experiement I’m conducting with dictation and delegation. You may find that my writing style is different (more conversational?). I want to know if that bothers you, if you perceive it as a quality dropping. Let me know in the comments!


This is my review of by Scott Berkun. If you have been following  for any amount of time, you know that we really like Scott Berkun’s books. We have reviewed his former book called, ‘’  (TAPM). I think this book is important for anyone who is aiming for a good output in academic productivity because the book tries to

answer a very important question, which is ‘how can I be more innovative?’ Since innovation is an important part of science, I think this is an important book to read.


Book Review: How to write a lot (Paul Silvia)

August 22nd, 2007 by

This is a that one can read on a flight (I did), but it packs a lot of good advice. Silvia is sick of ‘self-help-like’ books on writers block, etc., and it shows. He writes from the point of view of a seasoned author, and shows quite a lot of ‘being there, done that’ advice in both publishing papers and books. If you are planning a book, the last chapters are the best advice I could find on book planning; he even discusses how to negotiate with your publisher.

So what are the basic recommendations?

- Writing is hard, so there isn’t much of a point trying to find a method to ‘make writing easy’.

- Write on schedule, and in a very consistent manner. Try to create a habit.

- Track your productivity (He uses a SPSS file where he inputs number of words typed per day, and whether he achieved the goal for the day). Tracking is a favorite of mine: it’s surprising how worrying little you get done on a day that feels like you have worked a lot. Tracking will tell you this. It’ll help you planning better: how many words can you write a day, on average? Well, if you have stats, you can say.

- don’t let yourself fall into what he calls ‘specious barriers’. For example: “I’m waiting until I feel inspired” or “I need to do some more analysis first.”

- Use social pressure: create an agraphia group with friends/peers, and get together so you can feel ashamed if you didn’t write what you said you would.

The book clearly lives out to its ambitious title. It demystifies productivity (which is always a good thing), and it’ll probably make you laugh outloud… which is more than what I can say about most books that try to do that for you.

Of course, there are chapters that deal with style. Don’t skip those; they are probably the funniest.

This is probably the best book on the topic I have found. Highly recommended.

PS: Paul cites a whole lot of books that look really interesting.