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234 free eBooks from O’Reilly

oreillyGrouped in eight collections, with topics ranging from managerial prowess to technical skills, 234 eBooks by O’Reilly editors, authors, and thought leaders are available for free.

Subjects include Leadership, Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data architecture, User Experience design, the Internet of Things and the New Hardware Movement, Software Engineering, Software Architecture, Open Source, Security, Operations and DevOps.

The complete list is on this page, an email address is required in order to be taken to the download page.

The easiest role in a project?

What is the easiest thing that a person with no musical education could do in an orchestra? According to a research I read some time ago (actually, it looks like it’s a lot of time ago as I can’t find any reference online), most people think that the easiest job – one that they could probably do without anybody noticing the difference – is the conductor’s.

700px-eduardo_marturet_dirigiendoPhoto credits: By MariaVictoriaSO (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This curious idea, carried by a common analogy between the Conductor and the Project Manager roles, keeps coming to my mind every time I head somebody claiming to be a “project manager”, without neither the theoretical knowledge nor, what’s worse, the experience – and this is exactly the reason why I believe that this is good news: the US President Barack Obama has signed the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act into law, enhancing accountability and best practices in project and program management throughout the federal government. The legislation was strongly endorsed by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and was approved by both chambers of Congress with bi-partisan support.

 

Unconventional competitors

carIt is a commonplace topic in innovation: what if (name of a Company that is widely regarded as innovative) starts selling a product or service that is generally regarded as traditional, with well-established brands as market leaders?

Let’s play with a template:

What happens to (your Company) if

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Virgin
  • Apple
  • Tesla
  • Uber

announces its own

  • Bank
  • TV channel
  • car
  • airline
  • phone
  • Insurance company

?

We’ve seen some of those combinations become real in the recent years, and it is always a good, thought-provoking question, a great starting point for brainstorming, a reliable source of ideas for innovation-oriented analyses… a template for attention-catching titles.

However, nothing prevents traditional companies from becoming an unconventional competitor in some other industry. I recently ran into a brilliant example: UBS launched their digital safe service. All digital communications to customers will be saved there by the Bank, but customers will be also able to use the personal storage space to save their own important files: certificates, documents, receipts, invoices, all tax and bureaucracy-related stuff, in a safe (Swiss standards!) storage space. It definitely sounds like a high-quality solution, and it might well take away one reason to pay a fee for other online backup solutions. At least, in my case it did… so, who is the unconventional competitor in this case?

It ain’t literature

The correct argument against Bob Dylan winning the Nobel prize in literature is not about songs not belonging to literature, it’s about Dylan himself.
 theguardian

There are many others who would represent the literary virtue of song lyrics more rightfully than Bob Dylan. But I am not going to make a list of my own, as it would only reflect my taste (however, this doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t enjoy reading your lists in the comments).

One half of the point is well explained by Germaine Greer, as she explains why he believes that lyrics are not literature: I do not agree with this point, but the argument is nevertheless valid for most lyrics – and definitely is for Dylan’s. Here she goes with a beautiful description of the alchemy between words and music, working together to create an artistic effect:
When Morrissey sings a Morrissey song, he knows exactly what colour every part of every word is meant to be, and whether it crosses the rhythm to build up tension, or cannons into it to gain emphasis. If Morrissey repeats a line, he may vary it in a new context, or he may keep it exactly the same, as he does with “Every day is like Sunday”, because part of the point of the song is the anguish of monotony as perceived by hapless youth – but the music catapults the repetition towards us like a javelin. The music does what the words alone cannot do. To present the words without the music is to emasculate them.

The other half of my point is that I believe that there is at least one author whose songs operate the magic in the other direction: Leonard Cohen. It’s not because I like him better than Dylan (by the way, there are others whom I like much better than both), but Leonard Cohen truly belongs to literature, as he does exactly the opposite: his words enlighten his unremarkable music.

Just listen to the first 15 seconds:
Not exactly a great piece of sophisticated music, is it? Now just read the following aloud, with a plain voice:
Here is your crown
And your seal and rings;
And here is your love
For all things.
Here is your cart,

And your cardboard and piss;
And here is your love
For all of this.

and you are tangled in the symmetry between these two extremes, the king and the homeless. When you add the music, it will sound tragic and sublime and Cohen’s voice will speak to you as if a fallen angel were disclosing you the secret of life and death.

Here is it.

5 simple steps to make football interesting

Soccer

It might be surprising to think of football as something that could be interesting itself, and not as a societal phenomenon. Yet, I am sure that with a few changes it could really become something worth watching.

  1. Once the ball has been taken to the other half of the playing field, it can’t be taken back. If you do, your opponents will benefit from a throw-in. Come on, all these passings are simply pointless.
  2. Forget offside. The rule is as outdated as the second amendment. And, by the way, it is absurd to make the few interesting passings (see 1.) irregular!
  3. Actual playing time. 2 halves, 25 minutes each. 50′ of real play would be enough – and, anyway, much better than 80′ of backwards passings.
  4. Unlimited substitutions. Why bother?
  5. When a draw is not allowed, as in World Cup finals, just go on playing until somebody scores. They will be motivated to make some action happen.

Well, I know. Just joking, I know I’ll just have to keep following other stuff.

 

Reading tips

Time to honor Umberto Eco: for this sad task, I have an unlikely piece of advice for whoever has read Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci code”.

For those who enjoyed the thriller, but were left a bit unsatisfied by the shallow narrative.

For those who were entagled by the underlying conspirational theory, but found it a little bit flimsy.

For those who struggled through the book but were left with the feeling that art and history deserve a more competent treatment.

For those who dropped it because it’s so unsophisticated and did not waste their time reading similar stuff.

And finally, for those who didn’t even begin it, but read something about it because, at least in principle, it might have turned out to be interesting.

If you’re still with me, well, here’s my tip: go grab a copy of Eco’s “Foucault’s pendulum”.

Enjoy.

[Image credits: Pendule de Foucault au Musée des arts et metiers (Paris); des pions sont placés autour et sont renversés au fur-et-à-mesure que le pendule tourne. Auteur/author : Hervé Marchebois]

The One-Note Song

Innovation in music is usually about distribution: new channels to listen to, new ways to monetize, new networks to leverage in order to build popularity and reputation…

But what about music itself? Every new piece of music that is written has its own uniqueness, and is therefore intrinsically new. Old songs can be executed with different instruments and styles, providing countless opportunities for experimentation.

Sometimes, innovation comes at the expense of appreciation by the general public: experimental music can be tough to enjoy, and sometimes harder to understand than conceptual art. One would expect a song with a tune made of one single note to be a bore, and would hardly bet a dime on its success in a popular contest such as the Sanremo Music Festival. Yet, these guys managed to get the 2nd place (and, it goes without saying, all the prizes awarded by expert panels). Brilliant!

Note: the intro does not count for single-noteness, as it says

Pursuing the dream of a complex tune,
crowded with the most uncommon convolutions…
…and then you realize
that all you needed was that single note,
the most beautiful one.

What a fool, I should have thought about the single-note song
[…]