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Barry "Barry J O'Gorman" (Dublin, Ireland)

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A Foreign Country (Thomas Kell Spy Thriller, Book 1)
A Foreign Country (Thomas Kell Spy Thriller, Book 1)
by Charles Cumming
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 30 Nov. 2014
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Enjoyable thriller - MI6 - across France, North Africa and England.

Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power
Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power
by Steve Coll
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ExxonMobil - power and influence, 13 Oct. 2014
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The book provides an excellent insight into one of the world’s leading multinationals (perhaps the leading multinational, depending on how and when measured). Steve Coll’s 624 pages is well put together and well researched - backed up by detailed notes.

Having worked in an advisory capacity with a number of smaller multinationals it is very interesting to see how this big player, ExxonMobil, has gone about its business - across lots of locations. These have included US, Russia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia and Venezuela.

The period covered sees the company led by Lawrence G. Rawl, Lee R. Raymond and Rex Tillerson. The book works forward from th Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989. Raymond assumes control from 1993 and Tillerson from 2006. The bulk of the book is focused on Raymond’s reign.

The company is required to operate across a range of challenging environments - wherever there are oil or gas reserves of any significant volume. And there is significant risk for the company and the company’s personnel in operating in a number of these locations. However what is striking is the company’s approach to resourcing its teams in these locations - and backing them up at senior political level (be that in the country itself or at US Government and/or World Bank levels). Indeed the power and influence of the corporation is very clear, as evidenced by its reasonably easy access to Cheney, Bush, Putin etc - not to mention leaders in countries such as Chad, EG, etc.

We also see Raymond’s ascendancy and strong and dominating leadership. Eventually some of this probably backfires in dealing with global warming, Greenpeace and Wall Street. But there plenty of strengths in driving the company forward and managing ongoing difficult situations in multiple global locations.

All in all. a worthwhile read for anyone working in a multinational environment or looking for some insight into the oil and gas industry.

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future
by Daniel H. Pink
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading - good reference material included; work on the right brain!, 10 Oct. 2014
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Enjoyed Daniel Pink’s guide to right brainers and their inevitable ascendancy.

In some ways the book is more of a reference book than a traditional book. Each chapter closes with a ‘portfolio’ - a list of additional reading, web sites, clubs etc relevant to the material in each chapter. And I found myself being drawn into following up on a number of the suggested references from the portfolios.

The recommendation ‘my favourite business book’ from Thomas Friedman (author of the world is flat’) is not surprising. and, for the record, I enjpoyed Friedman’s book also. The theme is that left brain activity is being automated and/or displaced and that therefore in order to ‘prosper’ one needs to develop one’s right brain.

Six right brain activities are discussed:
Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning.

and lots of the observations/ ideas rang true with me:

Design: John Haskett: ‘human nature to shape and make our environment, in ways without precedent in nature, to serve our needs and give meaning to our lives’

Story: The general availability of facts reduces their importance

Symphony: Great entrepreneurs are systems thinkers, have a passion for the whole, recignise patterns, demonstrate intuitive, contextual reasoning

Empathy - with increasing automation IQ becoming less importance and EQ more important

Play - SW Airlines: ‘people rarely succeed unless they are having fun doing it’

Meaning - the difference between labyrinths and mazes

The book is thought provoking. Interesting to look at how various corporations have adopted and leveraged some of the ideas. And it will certainly be interesting to see whether the poets win out over the MBAs in years to come.

You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto
You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto
Price: £5.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Not even close to being a gadget, 10 April 2014
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‘You are not a gadget - a manifesto’, by Jaron Lanier

Have carried this book around with me for a couple of years. Just finished it today. Great read and lots to think about. Would not claim to understand all of the points made but food for thought for anyone like myself who spends much time contributing to social networks.

Lanier deals with a long list of concerns he has with recent developments. In fact one of these relates to information being taken out of context e.g. fragments being reused in various social networks. While reviewing the book - and therefore selecting some of the ideas - I suggest that if you think the subject matter is of interest you should read the full book.

The author addresses the subject of ‘authorship’ - referencing a discussion between Kevin Kelly (who postulates that eventually there will be only one book) and John Updike on the subject. His opionion is that authorship is not a priority for the new ideology promoted by the singularity, the anti humanist computer scientists, promoters of ‘digital maoisim’ or the ‘noosphere’.

Lanier is highly critical of web 2.0 designs which actively demand that people define themselves downwards. Nor is he a fan of Wikipedia - which he sees as (1) a system which removes individual ‘points of view’ and (2) lendds itself to ‘lazy’ search engines serving up its context as its first answer each time.

Lanier also has less expectations of crowd wisdom than James Surowiecki. The author stresses the need for a combination of collective and individual intelligence. In fact he would avoid having crowds frame their own questions. He has concerns for a society that risks mob rule as a follow on from crowd wisdom, in its extreme form.

Interestingly the author claims to be optimistic and to see benefits in technology. But the technology should exist to server people and to improve the human condition. He seems to be unconvinced about the benefits of much of the web 2.0 culture and associated ideology. He sees it lending itself to a winner take all - the lords of the cloud and search - while the creators of cultural experiences will work for very little (if anything at all).

He spends a reasonable amount of time looking at modern music and suggesting that we have lost much of the creativity of previous generations - that in fact much so what we hear is rehash of previously created music. Later in the book he also references phenotropics (his own programming/ development environment).

Lanier is encouraging everyone to value their own individualism - in this context we are all encouraged to be expressive in our website content, to be reflective and to take more time in preparing blog postings. His concern is that we are devaluing the individual and are at risk of ‘spirituality committing suicide’ as consciousness wills itself out of existence.

He is a long way from accepting the Ray Kurzweil view (‘singularity’) - that the computing cloud will scoop up the contents of our brains so we can live in virtual reality’. While not necessarily signing up to all of his commentary and analysis (e.g. re music) I certainly find myself more aligned to the humanist than the ‘noosphere’ group.

Transform: How Leading Companies are Winning with Disruptive Social Technology: How Leading Companies are Winning with Disruptive Social Technology DIGITAL AUDIO
Transform: How Leading Companies are Winning with Disruptive Social Technology: How Leading Companies are Winning with Disruptive Social Technology DIGITAL AUDIO
Price: £15.38

4.0 out of 5 stars Great insight into use of social platforms within corporates, 16 Mar. 2014
Just read Christopher Morace’s book. Obviously as the Chief Strategy Officer fro Jive Software, he has a vested interest in much greater adoption of social platforms within enterprises. Notwithstanding this I found the book a good read, with lots of practical examples.

He leads in with a good discussion of Disruption and the increasing speed of change in business. His observation that many entities have major investments in traditional ERP systems which are not capable of navigating the changing environment will I am sure be debated by some of those ERP vendors. However it is fair to say that in green field site you would expect businesses to go about planning their information systems requirements in a very different way.

Cloud. mobile and big data are identified as the key drivers of change - and we see this every day, His definition of the social graph as relationships between people, their ideas, usage patterns and communications makes sense to me.

Morace is keen to explain that things change as you adopt social platforms in the enterprise: greater transparency and buyin will not go unchallenged by those who are threatened by the change away from a command and control structure. The observations included re shortcomings of email as a platform to support communications and, in particular, decision making, ring true.

The book is full of examples - of companies who have been impacted by the pace of change and of companies who have availed of the opportunities to accelerate creativity and innovation. He uses these examples to demonstrate practical exploitation of the capabilies of social e.g. locating expertise, idea sourcing and decision making. He quotes liberally examples of specific cost savings, efficiency gains. The source of these measures is noot always clear to me.

Ironically much of the advice about how to succeed in social projects within the enterprise draws on everything we know from trying to implement previous technologies: pick a real business problem with real potential benefits, do not have the project run by IT, do not overcomplicate the project though excessive integrations.

Not surprisingly Morace has some reservations about use of fremium products, use of B2C type solutions within enterprises, use of SharePoint (am sure the Microsoft folk would have a different perspective).

And he closes out referencing a number of the open challenges e.g. lack of standards, potential concerns re multitenancy, compliance. etc.

I would recommend the book to any CEO looking to get an idea of what people are driving at when telling him/ her that they need to push forward with a social platform within their enterprise. This is an excellent introduction and the examples work.

Death of the PC: The authoritative guide to the decline of the PC and the rise of post-PC devices
Death of the PC: The authoritative guide to the decline of the PC and the rise of post-PC devices
Price: £1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Death of the PC (well at least PC domination), 3 Feb. 2014
Death of the PC - Matt Baxter-Reynolds

Finally gave in last year and bought an Android Tablet. Thought I really had to - seems everyone has a tablet these days (and I am supposed to be a technofile). Continued to use my PC most of the time (in fact recently replaced and upgraded). So, for what have I used the Tablet? Surfing, reading newspaper online, watching netflix movies, checking twitter and Facebook. Brought it with me to a few conferences. (Actually have attended a couple of conferences and captured my notes on Evernote on my Galaxy S4 - just did not seem worth the effort to bring a Tablet as well). In truth - have not uses the Tablet for very much, nor very often. It is more often used by one of the kids in the evening time - for socialnetworking or watching Youtube or Netflix.

So Matt Baxter-Reynolds’ book is right in my softspot. Is the PC dead or dying? What is the purpose/ benefit of the post PC devices - tablets, smartphones, etc?

He has an interesting take on all of this. He references a ‘tipping point’ - where we reach some level of equality between our enterprise/ business life and the digital life. And he purposes the Post PCdevices as being there to drive efficiency in the user’s social network. Would certainly accept his point that the pervasiveness of digital in the non enterprise world (ie outside the office) has raced ahead

He identifies a number of ‘attributes’ for Post PC devices: always connected, always on, relationship centric, low cognitive loading (ie easy to learn how to use), end to end security, one task at a time and primarily touch based. This seemed to me to tie in with my Android Tablet experience. And he would say they lag the PC significantly when you have to do a complex piece of work. And he’s 100% right. Interesting that he very much identifies keyboards with work - and therefore the touch based design is important in easing people’s potential worries about using these devices at home.

I am currently working with some clients looking to develop and roll out BYOD (‘Bring Your Own Device’) policies or frameworks. The game has moved on - employees expect flexibility - to be able to use the tool that best fits - getting the job done with the least inconvenience. And the author’s discussions around BYOD and COPE (Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled’) are interesting and well thought out.

In particular I was taken by the author’s arguments for not trying to turn the PC into a Tablet nor the Tablet into a PC. The PC cannot be as elegant and easy to use as a Tablet. The Tablet cannot support the complexity addressed by the PC. And why should this be a problem?

The book includes a chapter looking at the deployment of Post PC devices in the workplace - trying to understand where they bring value. He offers a number of examples - in particular in dealing with people from outside the company. He also provides an introduction to the important subject of Mobile Device Management (he describes MDM as ‘bridging between the enterprise and mobile devices’).

Matt Baxter-Reynolds is a self confessed science fiction fan. In looking forward he references the time ‘when our digital and real-life realms become experientially interchangeable’. And he begins to explore the importance of Human Computer Relationships or Human Device Relationships (Computer computer relationships may be a stretch for some). In this context both SIRI and Google Now are referenced and compared.

All in all found the book an interesting analysis of th ‘Post PC’ world - though more accurately, the Post PC dominated world, I think. Not sure whether I will now find myself taking the Android Tablet back from the kids - am actually thinking of buying a Chromebook (also referenced in the book).

Of Mice and Men (Penguin Red Classics)
Of Mice and Men (Penguin Red Classics)
by John Steinbeck
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Of Mice and Men, 11 Jun. 2013
Finally got to this book - listened to it,via www.audible.co.uk, over the last few days as I resumed my walking schedule.

This story took me back to my boyhood memories of all those westerns - with ranch hands living in bunkhouses. In this case George and Lenny arrive at the ranch looking for work. Lenny is in the care of George. Lennie is a giant of a man but would be classified as special needs.

The book deals with a number of subjects: the ranch owner's son (Curley), who has notions about himself, and his new wife who is `giving the eye' to anyone looking. There is one African American - he is not allowed to sleep in the same bunkhouse. And we have various other characters - Candy (the ranch hand at the end of his career) and Slim, the strong silent type who seems to command everyone's respect.

George has spent several years looking out for Lennie. Lennie is apt to fall into traps set for him - which tend to result in his getting into trouble because of his sheer size and strength. The story centres on George's attempt to safeguard Lennie in this environment.

I did not think this was one of Steinbeck's better efforts. I thought the plot was too predicable and lacked for any real sense of tension. I thought the character developed was quite limited.

The Burgess Boys
The Burgess Boys
Price: £0.99

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The burgess boys, 31 May 2013
This review is from: The Burgess Boys (Kindle Edition)
Just finished listening to `The Burgess Boys'. Excellent story of two brother and their sister - I guess calling the book `the Burgess brothers and their sister' was too much hard work.

The book is set in New York and Maine and concerns two brothers living in New York and their sister living in Maine. The brothers are both lawyers - Jim (the elder) a successful corporate lawyer, Bob, the other operating at the other end of the scale. And their sister, Susan (Bob's twin) lives with her son Zach in a small town, Shirley Falls, in Maine, where they all grew up.

Zach gets in trouble and his uncles `ride into town' to sort out the problems. Well, first Bob arrives and then Jim, as the reinforcement. In fact Jim seeks to control the process and directs the actions to be taken by both Bob and Susan.

From early on it is apparent that we are going to learn about the siblings background, their early childhoods, their family upbringing, their rivalries and something that happened when they were quite young. We also see their adult lives, their failed or challenged marriages and how they have managed or struggled to stay in touch as their careers, relocation and their new family lives have separated them.

We have some excellent insights into Jim's life - married to Helen (who is independently wealthy), a very successful lawyer with many of the trappings of success, but struggling with some of the compromise and required socialising with other partners in the law firm. The golf trip is nicely juxtapositioned with the breaking crisis for Zach and his mother. We also see how Jim struggles to readjust when reimmersed in Shirley Falls,.

On the face of it Jim and Helen have an excellent relationship - but there are elements of `Gatsby' about some parts of their lives. There appears to be a level of boredom, lack of direction or meaning. Some of this comes across clearly in descriptions of Helen's activities - one of the `ladies who do lunch' in New York.

We also see how Bob struggles and we meet his ex-wife and some other friends. We learn more about Bob in seeing how he inter relates with Jim and Helen, his neighbours, his sister and various other characters. During the course of the Zach issue Bob meets up with some old friends in Shirley Falls and generally rebuilds his relationship with his sister. His relationship with Jim - as the younger, less successful brother, develops as Jim's world unfolds.

Susan is the mother who is struggling to bring up Zach on her own - and experiences real self-doubt/ guilt when Zach gets in trouble. She is less worldly-wise - at least on first meeting her - than her brothers and is inclined to imagine the worst and be panicked into action.

The interaction between the two brothers and their sister is intriguing and well-developed throughout the novel by Strout.. And there are a number of surprises for the reader which will hold your attention. I found the book fascinating as an examination of relationships between siblings - Zach's issues just provide an opportunity and a reason for more focused interaction between the three of them in later adult life. In some respects it reminds of situations we all find ourselves in when travelling to a funeral and spending longer together than planned.

As someone with a number of siblings I found the book interesting in that it stimulated some thinking/ reflection re sibling relationships - and how they may develop or be constrained in adult life, as additional people e.g. spouses, become involved in our lives, as people relocate, as careers develop differently, as children arrive. But Elizabeth Strout, the author, reminds us clearly of the importance of those initial relationships based on childhood and how these can survive many of the challenges over the years. The underlying message is blood relationships are critical and should last the test of time.

I would have little hesitation in recommending the book to friends. Good character development and interaction and plenty of material on which to reflect.

The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business
The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business
Price: £3.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thinking about The New Digital Age, 29 May 2013
Just read `The New Digital Age' by Eric Schmidt (Executive Chairman Google) and Jared Cohen (Director, Google Ideas). Received a copy, gratis, when attended Google Atmosphere in London last week. I think some of the comments included on the cover praising the book may be over hyped - though interesting that Schmidt and Cohen attract high praise from such luminaries as Tony Blair, Richard Branson, Bill Clinton and Henry Kissinger, amongst others.

And I should include that I currently use google apps on a daily basis - and would be lost on a regular basis without google maps. And I am using google document to prepare this blog posting.

The title of the book very closely aligns with discussion I find myself having with many people - how is society (and business) being impacted by technologies including mobile, social networking, big data? Recently I reviewed Keen's excellent book, `Digital Vertigo'.

Schmidt and Cohen are, not surprisingly, positive about the contribution of technology and I do not disagree with them. They see the emergence of a `virtual civilisation' in coexistence with `physical civilisation' - with both civilisations influencing and impacting each other. As part of this they place great emphasis on virtual IDs and virtual institutions e.g. virtual government.

Per the authors your virtual ID or IDs have now assumed great importance - in that they have the ability to influence significantly your physical life. Hence the emergence of third parties looking to work with individuals to help them manage their on-line reputation. Schmidt has generated plenty of controversy previously by suggesting the possible requirement for individuals to be able to start again with a new identity. I have always been grateful that there were no mobile phones (with powerful cameras) when I was growing up and engaged in various juvenile pursuits. Interestingly in this book the authors point out one possible issue in post war/ conflict reconstruction being the difficulty of achieving `collective memory loss' because of digital records.

Much of Keen's book `Digital Vertigo' focused on loss of privacy - as people provide information to social networks, as people are photographed, as people's location is recorded, as companies and governments accumulate this data. Google is in the business of accumulating this data and using it (google+, search engine, locations, etc). In the chapters ` Identity, Citizen and Reporting' and `Future of Sates' Schmidt and Cohen acknowledge concerns or challenges re loss of privacy e.g. importance of parents speaking with children at an early stage about privacy and security, high levels of surveillance (`big brother') and activities of police states. But they also emphasise the `costs of anonymity' - the costs of opting out and potentially not being relevant. In identifying a range of coping strategies' they include, under `legal options' the possibility of introducing the idea of `sealing juvenile records' - although the impracticalities of such a step are acknowledged.

I thought the chapter `Future of reconstruction' was interesting - and Schmidt was doubtless informed and influenced by his own visit to Iraq. But the discussion re Iraq, Haiti and Egypt all pointed to opportunities to get back up and running more quickly is you can re-establish communications - in particular by taking advantage of mobile communications. And our own Irish king of telecommunications, Denis O'Brien, has been very much to the fore in Haiti. The ideas around use of rfids to track weapons and manage handing/ handing over of weapons post conflict was interesting.

Schmidt and Cohen draw attention to some negatives associated with the Digital Word in the context of terrorism and war. Of course the virtual worlds offer both potential for more strife and, in parallel, the opportunity to head off some conflict. The use of drones is very much a hot topic in the world press at the moment - with President Obama under pressure to justify their use - given a number of innocent bystander casualties. In dealing with terrorism and crime there are now several challenges in terms of cyber-crime, use of mobile communications by prisoners - but we are reminded that terrorists only have to make one mistake to give away their location - and this happens quite often.

So what do Schmidt and Cohen see driving more digital? Dropping broadband costs (Somalia is quoted as a great example), better encryption (to address people's security concerns), open source development and the availability of telecommunications equipment at the right price (note the importance of the four major vendors: Ericssons, Alcatel/ Lucent, Huawei, Cisco).

Overall the book was a good read and included a few interesting ideas. It included the odd acknowledgement of the existence of a company called Microsoft. I think it completely underplayed the influence and power of companies such as Google. It highlighted a range of risks/ threats for society but concluded firmly that most of this is good for us and society (and the individual!) will be the winner.

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars CIOs making postive difference to business, 11 May 2013
Recently reread The real business of IT - how CIOs Create and Communicate value.

First came across the book when recommended by Martin Curley, Vice President & Director, Intel Labs Europe, Intel Corp - I was attending a conference of the Innovation Value Institute.

I think the book speaks to so much of what I see as not working in the business/IT overlap in so many companies - and points out what, from a CIO perspective, needs to change (and implicitly from a business perspective, also).

Bottom line is IT should be all about improving business performance - and that has to be the mindset. And if the CIO and the business leaders have this shared perspective then there are only business projects, there are no `IT projects'.

I liked the authors (Richard Hunter and George Westerman) analysis of the value traps which CIOs and IT managers need to avoid: in particular needing to put themselves in the same shoes as the rest of the business - the customers are the ultimate customers of the business. IT investment needs to enable business to serve customers (and possibly new customers) more effectively and more efficiently. Too often, in a well-intentioned effort to be `customer centric', IT leaders limit themselves to describing their customer base as the IT end users in the company.

The book gives great examples of the type of questioning CIOs can use to understand business strategy, business objectives and work with the business to prioritise business projects requiring IT investment.

I have shared the book with a number of CIOs with whom I have worked - all of whom are looking to make more impact on business performance, rather than being seen as IT people, supporting and administering hardware or software systems. Interestingly, in some cases, I have encountered resistance at business leadership level (particularly below CEO level) to CIOs looking to make the agenda more business centric - and operate in the CIO+ role suggested. Perhaps the CIO+ is seen as part threat - challenging long-established processes - in a crowded management space?

Finally I would draw attention to the sections dealing with measuring the value delivered - and this requires upfront planning, attention throughout business/IT projects and effective follow through post implementation. And the commitment is required of everyone - be they internal/ external, IT or business.

The current trend towards increased outsourcing of basic IT facilities and systems provides the opportunity (and the requirement) for CIOs to step up a level. Alternatively, if they don't, CEOs will have to do it themselves or find someone else to help them.

I would encourage managers, in CIO or general management roles, to read the book - and take up the challenges and opportunities highlighted by Hunter and Westerman.

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