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G. D. Stewart (UK)

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Thunder and Lightning
Thunder and Lightning
by Natalie Naimark-Goldberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.91

5.0 out of 5 stars Her Best Book On The Writing Life, 4 May 2015
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This review is from: Thunder and Lightning (Paperback)
Typically wonderful stuff from Natalie Goldberg. Luscious prose and sharp ideas that convey the life of a writer as both scary and exhilarating. This is the perfect culmination to a trilogy that began with 'Bones' and 'Wild Mind'. I started reading it from the start again as soon as I had finished it.

Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do: A Manager's Guide to the Social Web
Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do: A Manager's Guide to the Social Web
by Euan Semple
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for managers, and not just about tweeting., 18 Sept. 2012
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For a start, the book looks good. It also feels good and, by god, it smells really good. You can't overestimate the importance of a good smell when it comes to a new book. Crack open Euan's book and inhale deeply. Talk about trust: that's an aroma that tells you from the first that what you are about to read in those pages will more than adequately reward the time you invest.

So it is hardly surprising that it also reads so well. Not only is it stylistically excellent - making for a smooth ride through complex arguments - but each carefully crafted chapter is a perfect nugget of focused wisdom.

At its core this is a guide to improving the way your business works. What might appear to be a manual for getting to grips with the social web and how it can be used within a business soon assumes the mantle of a manifesto for productive change. Euan is describing a revolution and businesses who don't participate may very well be the first to go to the wall.

Euan takes you immediately to the heart of the matter when he asserts that the technological changes we're seeing around the social web are not the cause of any current revolution but are simply the lubricant that is making the social revolution happen faster and more effectively.

The wide array of ideas and themes covered in the book are not dealt with in isolation or from the point of view of someone looking in from the outside. This is not an academic textbook: Euan has experienced the things he describes, firstly in his time introducing tools for the social web into the BBC and, subsequently, working with many large organizations (who, obviously, don't tweet).

The book is divided into 45 short chapters. That doesn't mean, however, that it deals with only 45 topics. Each chapter is actually a mini essay in which an idea is described, tested, expanded, and shown to connect with a host of other themes and ideas. Where there is repetition of sorts - because themes and ideas overlap and spark new themes and ideas - it always feels less like duplicate material than reinforcing a message or approaching a valuable point from a different angle.

Just take a look at some of the chapter titles for a taste of the thematic goodness on offer:
We All Need To Grow Up
Evolution On Steroids
Volume Control On Mob Rule
Conversations Can Only Take Place Between Equals
The Price Of Pomposity
The Revolution Is Within

And each chapter is suffixed by a box of bullets - ammunition for thinking - that covers the key points to remember from the chapter. You may think that this is overkill when the chapters are, for the most part, only three or four pages long. But as I've tried to convey by calling the chapters `essays', the content is not frothy and it is never a mere skim across the surface of an idea. These bullets are welcome - and to be used in anger.

This is a book that makes you want to engage with its ideas on every page. I wanted to leave comments at the end of each chapter as if it were a blog post. Most of all, this is not a book to read once, nod, and replace on your shelf. If you work in or with businesses of almost any size, this book could very well be the difference between transforming your business or seeing it left behind.

Content Strategy for the Web (Voices That Matter)
Content Strategy for the Web (Voices That Matter)
by Kristina Halvorson
Edition: Paperback

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delivers what it promises, 20 Aug. 2010
A number of negative reviews seem to be intent on punishing Kristina Halvorson for not writing the book they wanted to read rather than the book she has actually written. This is not a book about writing copy for the web or for improving your writing technique to make more sales or land more leads. It is a book about content strategy and that is what the author successfully delivers.

Anyone involved in creating business websites knows the struggle associated with specifying, creating, collecting, and updating content. This book sets out a straightforward and practical process for managing that struggle. More than that, it gives you the tools to help convince those involved in the website who are focused primarily on sales or design or databases or usability of the fundamental importance of getting the content right. Not from the point of view of wonderful copy but right in terms of fitting the business objectives.

This book is deceptively simple and the author's style and tone make it a quick and easy read. I suspect that it will reward subsequent readings by triggering greater insights. The chapters on Audit and Workflow are alone probably worth the price of the book.

Sneering at the idea of 'content strategist' as a specialist function is easy. But whatever you call it, there needs to be a role for someone to oversee the content on a site and on the distributed outposts in which it may also appear. Consistency of message and tone, accuracy of data, regularity of output: none of these happen in an organisation by default. This book is a great template for making sure that someone is on top of the work.

Networks of Innovation: Change and Meaning in the Age of the Internet
Networks of Innovation: Change and Meaning in the Age of the Internet
by Ilkka Tuomi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £42.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not keeping up to date with meaning in the age of the internet, 29 Oct. 2007
The hardback version of this book appeared in 2002 and the paperback now appears from Oxford unchanged. There is not even a new foreword that seeks to justify the lack of updates. The assumption must be, therefore, that the book's contents have aged at a slower rate than the "dog years" at which Tuomi tells us life is lived on the Net. To be fair to Tuomi, however, many of his main arguments have been proved correct in the intervening years.

It's worth stating immediately that this is not a book for the general reader. Although Tuomi presents a coherent and telling history of the development of many of the Internet's major components, there are more lay-accessible books covering the same ground. ("Where Wizards Stay up Late" by Katie Hafner, for instance.) The book contains ideas and information that would appeal to readers interested in the Internet's history and future, but this information tends to be buried within what is first and foremost an academic thesis on the socio-economic forces at work in technological innovation.

What, then, are the major claims contained in Tuomi's text? Firstly, Tuomi believes that, "the traditional models of innovation are often misleading, and that they will become increasingly misleading in the future." He is keen to avoid looking at innovation in abstract terms and wishes to place innovative events within a clear social and economic context. This leads to his second main argument, which is that "innovation occurs when social practice changes." By this, Tuomi means specifically events which offer new opportunities for collaboration. Mobility - both technological and of people and resources - is key here. The book's final thesis is that, despite a seeming contradiction that sees innovation stemming from communities duplicating existing social practice, "there are two distinctive ways that new communities and new technological practices can emerge. One is based on increasing specialization, and the other on combination of existing resources." The bulk of the book concerns itself with examining many of the collaborative successes of the Internet and especially those applications, such as email and the World Wide Web, where collaboration produced results very different from the original intentions encapsulated in the initial creative work. Tuomi concentrates on the development of Linux, which is predictable, given the year of the book's first publication. Linux is an important example of open source collaboration, of course, but the Internet continues to throw up a slew of mash-ups and disruptively innovative applications in ways which underscore the accuracy of Tuomi's thinking. Again, some sort of updated analysis would have served both author and reader well. The book contains many tables and diagrams, for instance, with data presented for periods ending in the late 90s. However relevant this data is to his argument, it would be more helpful to have data brought up-to-date.

Ilkka Tuomi trained as a theoretical physicist but is best known for his work on knowledge management and technological innovation. He has written many essays and articles on technology, the most famous of which is probably "The Lives and Deaths of Moore's Law", in which he argued that Moore's Law was a sloppily applied example of technological determinism. Tuomi is currently the CEO of an independent research institute in his native Finland. He lists one of his hobbies as phenomenological epistemology. You may be surprised to learn that the book contains very few jokes.

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