23 August 2008

Brief reviews: a good story about AI and a pretty bad book about innovation. Plus: cinema technology!

Hi -

Cryptography, bitmaps, cash, and blood
I finished the high-tech fast-paced thriller Daemon, and I loved it as much as I had hoped. Sure, it's a quick summer read that lacks poetry or a deeper meaning, but if you are into computers, information technology, AI, big business, rapid prototyping, or video games, I guarantee you'll tear through this in a few days. (As long, of course, as you can ignore the aforementioned misuse of apostrophes. We'll let that go.)

Oddly, I have more to say about a book I liked less:

Regarding innovation
In my opinion, you can safely skip Scott Berkun's The Myths of Innovation, a thin O'Reilly hardcover that might have been more appropriately packaged as an invited lecture at a business school course. It is a light-hearted, well-intentioned brochure of a book with myth-chapters such as, "Your boss knows more about innovation than you" and "Innovation is always good." It relies on Google for a healthy percentage of its examples, e.g., tales of Japanese businessmen touring Google, wondering disappointedly where the room is in which ideas happen, and relies on the Internet for many of its URL and Wikipedia-laden citations.

It does have an appealing design, though. The typography cuts against the grain, and it worked for me. Also, Berkun had a cute bibliography, in which words-cited were listed in order of his use, not alphabetically. But it should be taken as a warning that the humorous colophon was nearly as valuable as the rest of the text. Okay, enough. Here's what the reviewers at Amazon say where it currently holds an inexplicable 4.5-star rating.

Okay, okay, I admit that this quotation is thought-provoking:

By idolizing those whom we honor
we do a disservice both to them and
to ourselves... we fail to recognize
that we could go and do likewise. (Charles V. Willie)

(Watch, now the blog-karma will get me; I'll meet Scott Berkun one day, and he'll be an awesome dude, and I'll be all, sorry, I was young and stupid, and we'll laugh, but it'll be a fake-out, and he'll sock me in the gut.)

If you are interested in successful methods of innovating, I strongly recommend Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas (James L. Adams), or if you're curious about the uptake of new products into the market, you could try The Innovator's Dilemma or Crossing the Chasm.

Preview: The History of Technology in the Cinema
If a subtitle ever was capable of making you shout, "amen!," New England tech journalist Scott Kirsner has written Inventing the Movies: Hollywood's Epic Battle Between Innovation and the Status Quo, from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs. He recently was interviewed on NPR by Ira Flatow - discussions ranging from stereo cinema to Hollywood's aversion to technological advances.

There are infamous incorrect predictions at Scott's site, such as:

"I wouldn't give a dime for all the possibilities of [motion pictures with sound]. The public will never accept it." -George Eastman

Hey, I grew up in West Orange, NJ, home of Edison's labs and a particularly neat early movie studio called the Black Maria. It was a black room on a circular wooden track so that assistants could rotate it to admit sunlight as the sun moved across the sky...

The summer-night delirium brings me to my next note, which is that there's a They Might Be Giants song about the Edison Museum that mentions the Black Maria, but that's a tale for another time.


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