Roundup: Jan 17 – March 20

Since mid-January, we’ve had 16 new new articles. There were 4 articles relating to books, 4 relating to technology,  4 relating to business and economics, and 4 on thinking and philosophy. Here is a grouped list of each of the 16 new posts. But first, some interesting quick highlights.
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Trollope, Fitzgerald and Holmes for the Generalist’s Soul

I think I must be a generalist by default, because I am not stand-out good at anything in particular. Generalists cannot live forever on left-handed ‘renaissance man’ compliments, so we must become good at collecting pieces of validation about our attitude towards life (and our resistance towards specialization). Three quotes have anchored my views on being a generalist. I thought I’d share them.

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Book Review and Summary: Strategic Intuition

There are certain books that invite a certain mischievous kind of self-referential review. Strategic Intuition is about that key insight which organizes a mass of simmering raw information-input into an elegant decision about a course of action. So the moment I got the book’s theme, the first question that popped into my mind was: does this book contain the strategic intuition about strategic intuition? The answer is no, but this is still a pretty thought-provoking addition to the popular literature on decision-making, and a useful step towards the definitive treatment.

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How to Pick Business and Self-Improvement Books

After a couple of decades of yo-yo-ing between Stuart Smalley-like solemn earnestness and Dilbertish disdain towards all self-improvement literature and business books (two genres with very similar conventions, intellectual cultures and authorial intentions), I think I’ve developed a pretty good system for picking out the winners and weeding out the losers. Here’s my algorithm, with some fun examples of both good and bad.

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2007 Review, 2008 Preview

I launched ribbonfarm on July 4, 2007, which means it’s 6 months old as of the New Year. Here is a comprehensive review, with a full list of articles to-date, as well as selected highlights, including guesstimates of the “most popular” and “least popular” articles, and thoughts on what I am likely to write about in 2008. I hope you take this opportunity to look at some of the pieces you may have missed (especially those who came in late). I have a request — please forward this heavy-duty review post to your colleagues, friends and family, with specific recommendations on the articles you personally enjoyed. I am hoping to snare a lot of new readers with this review.

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Personal Brands, Identity and Perception Management

A friend recently made an abstract remark along the lines of “there is no reality, only perceptions, and life is about managing perceptions.” A common enough sentiment, admitting layers of interpretation depending on whether you are talking about marketing or the nature of reality. “Perception management” as a high concept has helped me, through the years, integrate a rich collection of thoughts on identity and the apparently faddish Web 2.0 idea of personal brands (commonly misunderstood as “You are Your Facebook Profile”). Perception management goes beyond individuals, but let’s stick to the simple case. Here is my current model.

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Strategy, Tactics, Operations and Doctrine: A decision-language tutorial

Note: the ideas in this post have been significantly refined and turned into a book. The treatment here is somewhat obsolete as a result, but the spirit of my revised arguments remain the same.

Suppose a job candidate walks into your office and hands you a resume. It proclaims, “strategic, systems thinker.” You wince, and almost throw her out right there, but since other parts of her resume look promising, you decide to give her a chance and proceed with the interview. Now ask yourself, how would you actually probe if there is any substance behind the candidate’s claim to strategic abilities? Here is a very good answer: ask the candidate to tell a story. Not any old story, but a relevant one, like how she views the history of development of her field. Or how she views her own personal trajectory. If you can’t figure out why this is an excellent question, read on.

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BBC Documentary Featuring Gregory Chaitin

For those of you following my series on digital physics (the first part, on the reality of the real line, and the second part on the relevance on cellular automata  have been posted), you will like this documentary on the nature of infinity by BBC. It features Gregory Chaitin, whose work I covered in the first part.

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Book-Reading Meme

Nandini tagged me to participate in a meme on books. Not exactly how I’d break down my reading tastes, but I suppose I have to be a sociable blogger. So here goes, the books in my life parsed through a dizzying array of angles:

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August-ish 2007 Roundup

Okay, so I am not clockwork regular in posting roundups, but at least it’s here. August and the first week of September saw a good deal of interesting activity on Ribbonfarm. Two minor milestones: first, I crossed 100 comments for a base of 27 articles, so that’s still nearly 4 comments per article, which makes me happy. Second, I got my first ever traffic spike from a social bookmarking site (StumbleUpon) — the piece on cartograms generated the spike (probably thanks to reader Kapsio posting a link to it at a popular data visualization site — thanks Kaps!). Anyway, here is a summary of the posts since the last update:

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