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Neil Davidson (Cambridge, UK)

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Billion BiPAC 7800N Dual WAN ADSL2+/Broadband Wireless-N Gigabit Firewall Modem Router
Billion BiPAC 7800N Dual WAN ADSL2+/Broadband Wireless-N Gigabit Firewall Modem Router
Price: 94.98

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wireless didn't work, 21 Sep 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The wireless light didn't come on straight out of the box. No wireless options on the browser interface. I restored to factory settings. Oddly, the light came on and wireless options appeared in the browser but I was unable to connect.I spent 90 minutes messing around with it then just sent it back.

Don't buy.


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written,wonderful journey of a book, 1 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Duty (Kindle Edition)
A beautifully written, wonderful journey of a book, with a real sense of place and with characters I got to know, understand and care about. A deeply satisfying read - highly recommended.

Anything You Want
Anything You Want
by Derek Sivers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.84

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational, practical and easily digestible, 29 Jun 2011
This review is from: Anything You Want (Hardcover)
his is a short, well-written, thought-provoking, deep, entertaining and useful book. Ostensibly a set of stories about Derek Sivers's journey building and selling CD Baby, it's actually a philosophy (but not a dogma) and an illustration of how being an entrepreneur is entirely compatible with leading a life well lived. A brilliant book, well worth reading.

Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd
Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd
by Youngme Moon
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, unexpected and delightful book, 24 Sep 2010
I picked 'Different' up expecting a book like all other business books. It would have, I thought, a single idea that would have made a good essay. That idea would be padded out to 200 pages, because that's the length business books have to be. It would include examples from WL Gore, Whole Foods, Best Buy and South West airlines. It would have a coherent set of principles and a checklist I could follow to help improve my business. It would probably do those things exceptionally well.

It didn't.

It totally under-delivered.

But it doesn't matter.

Why doesn't that matter? Because it surprised me in so many other ways. It's not a traditional business book - it's a mashup between a business book and a reflective essay. It meanders between marketing and philosophy, spending as much time discussing what it means to live in the modern world as how to build brands. As you'd expect, Youngme talks about Google and Apple (how could a book that talks about brands that insult their customers, polarise consumers and revolutionise product categories fail to mention Apple?). Less expectedly - but still within the category of 'business book' she's careful to keep one foot in - she writes beautifully and conversationally about Mini, Marmite, Red Bull and BAPE. But she also talks about Richard Feynman, the Onion and the Fonz. She even uses the word 'motherf*cker' once. How many business books do that?

Youngme's thesis is that the way businesses are taught to compete is flawed. We're encouraged to talk to our customers and add the new features they demand. We examine our competitors, figure out where they're better than us and then we copy them. We find out what our weaknesses are, and fix them. We repeat, repeat, repeat, stuck on a treadmill of incremental innovation as we try to become better, faster, cleaner, cheaper, tastier - whatever it is that our customers tell us they want. The end result is entire product categories (bottled water, shampoo, detergent, cars, beer, operating systems, accounting software) stuffed with thousands of near-identical, micro-differentiated products that nobody can tell apart.

Youngme thinks there's a better way. She believes that the way to compete isn't by being better. It's by being different. The products and brands that people love are those that fail to give us what we expect, but which then surprise us in some other way. They refuse to be judged on the same axes as their competitors. They change our perception of what a product ought to do. Sometimes, they insult us. They cultivate their enemies as much as they nurture their friends. They're flawed, and they shout about their flaws to whoever will listen. They polarise. They refuse to be bland.

Youngme doesn't pretend this book is complete. Some of its ideas are tentative, and it has flaws. But rather than pretend those imperfections don't exist, she embraces them. Youngme describes Different as a 'leaky, leaky boat'. It takes what could be a weakness - its lack of absoluteness - and turns it into a tremendous strength. Sure, the book is ambiguous, its arguments aren't perfect and it offers few conclusions. But that's what the real world is like.

Buy this book, and be surprised.

Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs (New Rules Social Media Series)
Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs (New Rules Social Media Series)
by David Meerman Scott
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.89

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great mainstream book about new marketing, 9 Nov 2009
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This excellent book is aimed at the 99% of the business world who are faintly befuddled by the strange world of youtube and delicious that they find themselves living in. It's aimed at plumbers, hairdressers, lawyers and oil company executives; at people in large corporations and small businesses alike who are dimly aware that their working lives are about to change - indeed, have already started to change in disconcerting ways - and who don't know what to do.

The premise of the book is that the old marketing is dead or dying. Gone are the days where simply throwing money at print or radio advertising guaranteed succees. Instead, you need to engage your customers. Give them reasons to come to visit your web site, and once they are there give them reasons to come back again and again. Turn your web site into a hub, stuffed with remarkable blog posts, videos and interviews. As the authors put it (they have a pleasing way with words) "ten years ago, your marketing effectiveness was a function of the width of your wallet. Today, your marketing effectiveness is a function of the width of your brain."

"Inbound marketing" is clearly - and explicitly - inspired by authors such as Seth Godin and David Meerman Scott. But where this book differs is in its emphasis on hands-on advice. Not only is it inspirational, but it's also brimming with practical wisdom. Sure, it talks about the power of Twitter. But then it gives you advice on how to choose a twitter handle. Sure, it talks about the rise of the superstar blogger and the death of the press release. But then it talks about how to decide whether you need a PR agency and, if you do, then how you should hire one. Sure, it stresses that your employees will need to learn new skills if they are to survive in this new world. But then it talks about what those skills are, what steps your employees need to take to get them and how you can track how they're doing. Each chapter contains a checklist of things you should do, right now, to start improving your inbound marketing.

This is no dry textbook. It's full of anecdotes, some from the usual suspects (Whole Foods, Zappos and Barack Obama) but from others too: accounting software, a shutter manufacturer and a PR firm among others. It's well written, and there are cartoons too.

Inbound marketing - get found using Google, social media and blogs is an excellent, mainstream introduction to new marketing. If you want to dip your toes into the cold water of social media then buy a copy. If you know all about social media then you almost certainly know people who need this book. Buy them a copy from Amazon. They'll love you for it.

The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action
The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action
by Jeffrey Pfeffer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 20.83

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book on why organisations don't do what they know they should, 28 Aug 2009
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"I know kung fu."

In the Matrix, when Neo wants to learn kung-fu all he has to do is upload a fighting module. A few seconds later and he's sparring with Morpheus in a virtual dojo. Living in a computer simulation and being bred as an energy source for a machine master-race has its disadvantages, but at least you get to learn stuff fast. Here in the real world, much knowledge is gained the hard way - by doing. You can't just upload it. Or store it, index it or e-mail it around.

This is one of the factors behind what Jeff Pfeffer and Bob Sutton call 'the knowing-doing gap'. In this book, Pfeffer and Sutton examine why companies don't do what they know they should. The first problem is language. 'Knowledge' is a noun, so we treat knowledge as a concrete object we can manipulate, like steel or books. In reality, it's a process; the process of riding a bike, speaking French or running a company. Hence companies don't truly know what they claim they do. They might have their mission statements written down on small, laminated cards; and they might say - and even believe - that people are their most valuable assets, but this isn't true knowledge, and won't become so until they act.

Pfeffer and Sutton give plenty more reasons too. Here are just a handful:

An emphasis on talk, rather than action. It's easier to judge people on what they say than what they actually do, and that's often how we hire, reward and promote. The guy with the quick put-downs, rapid-fire banter and sarcastic comments is perceived as smarter than the quiet one in the corner who bothers nobody, knuckles down and gets stuff done.

If action is harder than talking, then mindless action is harder than thoughtful action. When organisations hit a problem, rather than think it through afresh they tend to follow the path laid down before, often by people long-gone and in circumstances lost in history. Processes fossilize and are never challenged. Sacred cows get fat when they should be slaughtered, just because "that's how we do things round here".

Internal competition, whether it's bonuses determined by forced-ranking or having an employee of the month, is often a zero sum game that benefits some individuals but that harms entire organisations. In such competitions, there are two ways to succeed. The hard way is to out-perform your coworkers. The easy way is to sabotage them, or belittle their achievements. It's no surprise that many people settle for the easy option.

This is a fantastic book. Like most of Pfeffer and Sutton's work, and as you'd expect from two Stanford professors, it's based on solid research. Case studies are used to illustrate theories and bring them to life, rather than to 'prove' them as many business books do. As well as explaining why the knowing-doing gap exists, the book gives ideas on how to fix them. Is your organisation paralysed by internal fighting? Then find an external enemy to focus on - that's what Apple did with IBM when they launched the first Macintosh in 1984. Is your company trapped by its history? Examine, make explicit and challenge the assumptions that lie behind its sclerotic procedures. Are your people afraid to make mistakes? Make it explicit - with your deeds and not just your words - that there is a soft landing available for those who try and fail.

The beauty of this book - like other works of Pfeffer and Sutton - is that much of it seems like common sense once you've read it. Pfeffer and Sutton have a knack of articulating ideas that you feel you already half know, but that are just - but only just - out of your grasp. As you read, you can sense them coming into focus, crystallizing out of the fog of your mind. Of course concentrating purely on short-term financial success can kill a company's culture. Of course you should commit to metrics that reflect, and don't contradict, your underlying philosophies. Of course pitting colleagues against each other is going to backfire, and of course the absurd idea that this could ever work is based on sloppy sporting analogies. But it's only once Pfeffer and Sutton have made these points - and many others - lucid that they become obvious.

Although excellent, the book - as Pfeffer and Sutton acknowledge explicitly throughout - contains one flaw. A text whose thesis is that knowledge can only be earned through action, and then hopes to teach it through words, is bound to have only partial success. Read this book - and if you're running, or working in, any organisation larger than a handful of people then you should - and you will only have taken the first step to learning about the knowing-doing gap and how to fix it. The next step?


The Web Startup Success Guide (Books for Professionals by Professionals)
The Web Startup Success Guide (Books for Professionals by Professionals)
by Joel Spolsky
Edition: Paperback
Price: 18.65

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Must-have primer for any geek wanting to set up a product-based software business, 11 Aug 2009
Bob Walsh's "The Web Startup Success Guide", wisely and following its own advice, is targeted very specifically. If you're a software developer, are thinking about setting up (or have just set up) a product-based start-up, and are prepared to work - damn hard - at something you love doing then this book is for you. Equally importantly, if you're more than a few months into your start-up, or if this is your second start-up, or if you aren't a geek, or if you want to set up a consulting business, or if you want to get rich quick, then this book isn't for you.

On the whole, this book is outstanding. There is a lot of information here, but its fast-paced, colloquial writing style make it digestible. What's more, the book is well thought-out, balanced, well structured and accurate. It's an excellent combination of fact, anecdote, theory, analysis and practical advice. The interviews alone (Joel Spolsky, Dharmesh Shah, Eric Sink, David Allen and Guy Kawasaki are among the fifty in-depth, thought-provoking interviews in the book) make it worth reading.

If there's one thing extra I wish this book had, it's more information on sales and marketing. Finding people who like your product and persuading them to actually buy it is the single biggest issue that startups, bogged down in the technology, forget about.

Overall, this is an excellent, must-have primer for any geek wanting to set up a product-based business. Buy it.

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