2016 The year in Review

Wow, what a year 2016 has been! While politics and work have had their major ups and downs, I did get a ton of good reading in this year. I figured a great way to wrap up the year would be to go back thru the books and just think about them here. Enjoy.

January 5th – I finished reading “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation” by Bill Nye. While Bill Nye is at times a pompous ass, this book was very thoughtful and entertaining. His ability to take complex issues and explain them for the average person is a trait he inherited from Carl Sagan. I had started this book in 2015, but finished it in 2016 so I am counting it this year. If you have a scientific mind – read this book.

January 26th – I finished reading “The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution” by Jonathan Hennessey. This is my first full book of 2016. Like a good Pilsner, this book is a light, tasteful read. Like a IPA, it can leave a great buzz in your brain – the buzz of knowledge. And like a nice Stout, you finish the book satisfied. If you’ve not gotten into reading “historical” comics, perhaps this is the one for you. Read it with your favorite beverage in your other hand.

February 4th – My friend Ian Hughes (AKA- ePredator) published his second book in the story of Rosin. “Cont3xt” by ePredator is that book. It is a worthy sequel to his first book – Reconfigure. The story of Rosin continues and immediately expands the universe in a logical manner. What I really like about ePredator’s books is it uses a lot of relevant and current references without naming names, this should allow future readers to enjoy this book too.

February 7th – One of many free ebooks I started reading this year from many lists – “The Wolves of Paris” by Michael Wallace. Cashing in on the werwolf phenom of late, this book is well written, but not really my style. If you like werwolf love stories… this one is for you.

February 15th – I finished Felicia Day’s “You’re Never Weird on the Internet“. I had the great pleasure of meeting Felicia Day at a conference for work many years ago. Her story reminds me of many parts of my own life, except for the home schooling, and the successful internet celebrity. What blew me away was all the trouble that was going on in her life when I met her, that didn’t show in her attitude and public appearances. Reminds me that we are all human. Go read this book!

February 24th – Time for some technical work reading – “The Practice of Network Security Monitoring: Understanding Incident Detection and Response” by Richard Bejtlich. I worked on this book for about a year, as I didn’t really have a need to read it, but had picked it up while I was at RSA in 2015. More of a manual with background than a book to read, but it certainly opened up my eyes on how a SOC must work.

February 27th – While work is hard, having a nice glass of wine is the reward. I read “Reading Between the Wines: With a New Preface” by Terry Theise while traveling overseas. I did a bit more traveling in 2016 than I wanted to, but at least it gave me some time to read. I tend to like red wines, this book got me thinking I should go back and try a few more German white wines.

April 16th – The second of my “free” ebooks for 2016. “Breakers” by Edward W. Robertson. A science fiction novel that took a while to get going, but really enjoyed it in the end. Once the story got past all the exposition, it seemed to kick into a higher gear. May have to check out the rest of the series, which is the reason for giving it away as a free ebook.

May 13th – Another book about wine! So far I’ve had beer and wine this year, and the second book on wine is also a winner. “A Hedonist in the Cellar” Adventures in Wine” by Jay McInerney is a series of essays by the author. While the book was 10 years old, it gave me ideas for new wines to try. Hope I can find a few of them.

May 13th – My second technical book of the year. I was trying to figure out why my OS X Server was not working as I expected, imaging my delight when I found “Take Control of OS X Server” by Charles Edge, JR. The take control series of books are great for getting thru some of the features of a Mac/iOS environment. Highly recommended.

May 30th – Science, I love science! The book “Cosmic Legacy: Space, Time and the Human Mind” by Greg F. Reinking, was a very tough read. I got this book a few years back and kept dipping in and out of it. This year, I promised myself I would read the whole thing thru. I did, and it was well worth it. While I have the hardback version, the link above takes you to it online, where it is now available for free.

June 8th – Back to some mindless fun reading. Another ebook I got this year, was the book “The Kennedy Secret” by Steve Richer. This thriller takes you into a fun conspiracy based on the Kennedy family. And no, it is not real, it’s a fiction.

June 28th – My first re-read of the year. During my travels this year I got to rewatch the movie based on the book “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” by Michael Lewis. I had read this book when it first came out. Michael does a great job of explaining the complexity behind the financial meltdown of 2007-2008. If you watched the movie, go read this book!

August 1st – Those who know me, know I love Dragons. Another free ebook was “Rise of Dragons (Kings and Sorcerers, #1)” by Morgan Rice. I got this book and whole slew of other books from Morgan Rice by signing up for her new letter. I have no real memory of actually reading this book. But it is in my GoodReeds tracking. Maybe I will re-read it in 2017 and see if it was any good.

September 1st – I know many people who are huge fans of Neil Gaiman. To be honest, I should be, but I had not remember actually reading any of his prior work before I got this book from my wife as a gift. “The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction” by Neil Gaiman is a series of essays and speeches that Neil Gaiman has given in his life as a writer. Amazing! I now have a list of great books that he has written and that he recommends in these pages. I even picked up a copy of the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe on my iPad to go thru after this.

October 1st – Hmmmm. June to October where crazy busy at work and in life. I didn’t get much time to actually read so It seems that I was able to read another book. This technology / business book by Don Tapscott was “Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin is Changing Money, Business, and the World“. Nope it’s not a pretensive title, I do believe that blockchain has the potential to change a ton of things. My biggest worry about Blockchain is that it will be hijacked by large financial institutions and many of the potential positives that Don and his son talk about in this book will fail to be realized.

October 16th – “Post-Human Series Books 1-4” by David Simpson. This book took me almost a full year to read. No, it wasn’t a bad book, it was a compendium of 4 books, and I really enjoyed it. It is not high art, but for a good pulp about AI and Science Fiction it was enjoyable.

November 12th – “Wild-born (Psionic Pentalogy, #1)” by Adrian Howell. This young adult fiction was a good palette cleanser. The book tells the story about a child who discovers he has telekinetic powers. This discover opened up a whole new world where some people have the power, some people don’t and every one wants to control Adrian.

December 4th – We are getting down to the end of the year and I am getting into some interesting stores. “Evensong (Merits Trilogy #1)” by Krista Walsh is one of those stories. The premise of this book is a typical sword and sorcery story, until the author get’s pulled into the world of their own creation. We now have to deal with the world that being manipulated by the author realizing who he is, and how his powers can be used to fit a few festering problems.

December 16th – I read this book as another free ebook, but it was out of sequence. I have since added all the rest of the series to my reading list. “The Last Firewall (Singularity Series Book 3)” by William Hertling was awesome. William works at HP during the day, and has spent time writing, what I consider, a great book on how Artificial intelligence (or as we call it now – Cognitive technologies) could end up changing humans. As ePredator helped kick off the year of fiction with AR/VR, William helps ended it on Cognitive technologies. Highly recommended.

December 26th – The last book I finished this year is “Black Panther #1” by Ta-Nehisi Coastes. This graphic novel helped me get re-aquinted with Marvel’s Black Panther comic. Incredible art work, and the with Ta-Nehisi writing the storyline, it is much more engaging than many comics lately. Seeing a positive technological perspective of Africa, even if it is a comic, I hope get’s people past their backwards views of other cultures.

As I said when I started this post, it’s been an interesting year. I hope that 2017 is a relaxing / boring year.

Monday morning

Recently the cartoon Dilbert posted the following.  This strip has consistently done a good job of pointing out the challenges and realities of the modern corporate world.  What I liked about this strip was the tension that we see between engineering and marketing.  This same tension can be seen between development and sales, management and employees, and any other group that has a codependency on each other.  When your success is dependent on someone else’s work, incentives must be put in place to ensure that the dynamics are not one sided.

Many developers don’t understand sales and marketing teams.  I’ve been in many meetings where the thought is marketing makes charts (they get customers to want things that they don’t need) and sales is only coin operated (they will sell only those things that give them the most commission).  This is a very cynical view of sales and marketing.  As a developer, sales and marketing are two key groups to make you successful.  Marketing should be listening to customers and understanding what they want.  The should not be making up “markets”, but understanding what the market needs and wants.  Sales should be listening to customers and helping them to find the right product within your portfolio which will meet those needs.  

As a developer you should be expressing to sales and marketing, what you are doing.  How it may address the needs of the customers.  And you must be willing to change to address shifts in the market.  Part of receiving an MBA, is understanding how to build an appropriate business case.  A business case is like a project plan, where you are balancing costs and potential revenue, to build a story that helps drive the right decision.  One point that many people struggle with is that in this decision, you should not consider sunk costs.  Sunk costs, are those expenses that you have already spent.  

You can’t change the past, but you have to leverage the work product from these sunk costs to do the right thing.  This same challenge comes into play as a developer when you look at the features and code you’ve already written.  Customers change their mind, markets shift and change, and technology changes.  Figuring out how to leverage the work that you’ve already done to address these changes sometimes means throwing it away.  Take what you learned developing those features and make your next features better.  

I believe that the quickest way to help drive this balance is to listen to each other, and understand that for development to be successful, customers need to use your code.  Sales and Marketing are successful when customers are open and honest, knowing that the solutions that will be made available to them will meet their needs. Ultimately, listening to each other and focusing on what truly benefits customers, should drive the right behavior.   You must understand your capabilities and your market.  If your marketing has grown beyond your capabilities, you may need to refocus back on your core abilities.