Summary of “Managing Humans,” 2nd edition

The second edition of “Managing Humans” came out this summer. In it, Michael Lopp (aka Rands) collects the engineering management wisdom from his blog in convenient dead-tree form. Again.

The second edition adds 18 chapters to the first edition, by my quick count, totaling 292 pages. The first edition was 209 pages. (I’m kind of disappointed the new edition didn’t say “Now with 40% more verbiage!” on the cover.) All sarcasm aside, I think that’s a good amount of new content, almost enough to justify buying the new edition. But I checked out the new edition at the library.

I loved the first edition, and I’m excited to dive into the second edition.

Here’s the money quote for me, from the first chapter:

“Every single person with whom you work has a vastly different set of needs. Fulfilling these needs is one way to make them content and productive. It is your full-time job to listen to these people and mentally document how they are built. This is your most important job. I know the senior VP of engineering is telling you that hitting the date for the project is job number one, but you are not going to write the code, test the product, or document the features. The team is going to do these things, and your job is to manage the team.”

That pretty much sums up Rands’s writing.

On to chapter two.

Note: that quote is originally from this Rands in Repose post: Don’t Be A Prick. It was edited before getting into the book.

Also, the book has a nifty web page with an old-school click-through intro:

Quotes from “The Bug” by Ellen Ullman

Two quotes caught my eye while reading “The Bug” by Ellen Ullman:

“To a machine, all here’s are equal.”

“To discover that between the blinks of the machine’s shuttered eye – going on without pause or cease; simulated, imagined, but still not caught – was life.” (the last sentence of the book)

“Shaping Things” by Bruce Sterling

I just finished “Shaping Things,” by Bruce Sterling.  It’s a very broad look at the way technology, people, and society have changed – and changed each other – over time.  And since it’s by Bruce Sterling, it’s mostly focused on the possibilities of tomorrow.

My favorite quote:

“Tomorrow composts today.”

Very cool – both the quote, and the book.

Sterling looks at five classes of technosocial relationships:

  • Artifacts / Hunters and Farmers
  • Machines / Customers
  • Products / Consumers
  • Gizmos / End-Users
  • Spimes / Wranglers

Definitely worth a read.

I got it from the library, and I’m going to hang on to it for a little while longer and read it again.  It’s short, but conceptually dense.

Definitely worth a re-read.

Book Review: “Hardware/Firmware Interface Design”

I just finished Hardware/Firmware Interface Design: Best Practices for Improving Embedded Systems Development, by Gary Stringham.  Gary sent me a review copy of the book, btw, but I get no money for reading or reviewing it.  Though if you buy the book via my Amazon link, I get a bit of cash.

Anyway – the book is very good.  Gary says, “This book is written by a firmware engineer but is directed primarily to hardware engineers.”  I’ve been a hardware engineer and a firmware engineer, and I think both groups should read this book.

Gary has been in the trenches of firmware/hardware co-design for 20+ years and this book shows it.  The book gives 300+ “Best Practices” which are actually usable and practical – a departure from many software or hardware design books.  Gary talks about low-level concepts like interrupts, register definitions, and debugging, as well as higher level concepts like planning, documentation, and block partitioning across multiple product generations.

Summary: You should read this book if you’re a hardware or firmware engineer.

This is one of the books that I’ll probably revisit a couple of times a year to refresh myself on A Right Way to do hardware/firmware co-design.

‘Nuff said.

Book Review: Accelerando

I just finished reading Accelerando by Charles Stross for the second time.

It’s a scifi novel which starts in the near-future with the first hints of computers augmenting man’s intelligence.  The Singularity draws near as man becomes more integrated with machine  – posthumans are born.  Well, not born, more like evolved.  Humans and intelligence change more rapidly than many can cope with.

The most fascinating idea from the book is that of cognitive forking (my phrase, not Stross’s): people can “fork” threads of their own consciousness to carry out tasks in parallel to their primary consciousness.  When a forked thread of consciousness is done with its task it rejoins your primary consciousness and you instantly know whatever it learned.   Want to research several things at once?  Fork a thread for each task, wait a little while, and voilà!  You’re smarter in 1/Nth the time than if you’d just had your primary consciousness.

The book also discusses what happens to people who are unwilling or unable to keep up with the ever-faster changes in technology and humanity:

“The faux-young boomers feel betrayed, forced back into the labor pool, but unable to cope with the implant-accelerated culture of the new millennium, their hard-earned experience rendered obsolete by deflationary time.”

“Capitalism doesn’t have a lot to say about workers whose skills are obsolete, other than that they should invest wisely while they’re earning and maybe retrain: but just knowing how to invest in Economics 2.0 is beyond an unaugmented human. You can’t retrain as a seagull, can you, and it’s quite as hard to retool for Economics 2.0.”

It is a GREAT book – one of the most original books I have ever read – highly recommended.

You can read the whole book online at Stross’s site.

I also recommend another book by Stross, Halting State.

Book Review: Blog Blazers

I just finished the book “Blog Blazers” by Stephane Grenier. My three word review: “Not too shabby.”

I have to admit this book wasn’t exactly on top of my “to-read” pile. I’m not usually a big fan of blogs/books about blogging, podcasts about podcasting, etc. – it’s all too meta for me. But Ian Landsman was offering a free review copy on his blog, and I’m a sucker for free books, so I gave it a shot.

“Blog Blazers” consists of 40 interviews with popular and successful bloggers, including Andy Brice, Bob Walsh, Dharmesh Shah, Eric Sink and Jeff Atwood. Stephane asked each person the same questions, including:

  • What defines a successful blog?
  • Do you have any tips or advice on writing?
  • How do you market your blog?
  • What is your best monetization method?

Because each interview followed the same form it became a little monotonous to read in one sitting. I could only take about ten at a time. Many of the answers were repeated by several of the interviewees, which was a bit boring, but the repetition confirmed that their advice is probably good. Or they’re all suffering from groupthink, but I’ll go with the first reason.

As I read the interviews I asked myself, “So what? Will this change anything I do?” I came away with these thoughts:

  • Original content vs. commentary: try to write as much original content as possible, as opposed to just commenting on others’ content. For instance, don’t write book reviews. 🙂
  • Use your own domain, instead of or That’s next on my to-do list.
  • A lot of bloggers get found through StumbleUpon – I haven’t used that in a long time, maybe it’s time to check it out again.

Nothing earth shattering, but it’s a lot of good blogging advice. The book also included a number of blog(er)s that were new to me, some of which are now in my RSS reader.

My favorite quote was from Eric Sink. When asked “How long does it take to become a successful blogger?” Eric answered, “The time varies so much that any answer would be incorrect. I’ll just say this: Some things are not under your control. Persistence is.” (emphasis mine)

Becoming internet-famous overnight probably ain’t gonna happen – the best way to develop a good blog is to be persistent about writing good content.

So there you go – it was a decent read, well worth a trip to the library, and maybe even purchasing if you want advice on building your blog.