- Eric Davis ( )
- Charles Max Wood ( )
01:36 – (Eric)
04:51 – (Chuck)
06:30 – (Eric)
08:47 – (Chuck)
12:26 – (Eric)
15:08 – (Eric)
17:09 – (Chuck)
20:10 – (Eric)
24:11 – (Chuck)
26:29 – (Eric)
28:50 – (Chuck)
32:18 – Dead Tree Books vs eBooks
- Tactile feel
39:20 – Managing to-dos
Phone apps & email
40:35 – Skipping/Skimming parts of books
- Book samples
42:57 – Finishing books
- Reading multiple books at once
- Reading more than one genre at once
45:09 – Books as mediums for learning
46:52 – Reviewing books
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CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 35 of the Ruby Freelancer show. This week on our panel, we have Eric Davis.
CHUCK: And I’m Charles Max Wood from devchat.tv and this week, we are going to be talking about… we were looking at like the top five books that we recommend, and I think we are just going to kind of add and just recommend our top books. It’s hard for me to make a list of top five and it sounded like Eric had like, four that he’d recommend outright and then it was a tie between another four or five. We’ll just kinda see how it goes. Eric, what is your top book? I’m kind of curious to hear about that.
ERIC: And by “top” you mean top of the pile of books that’s sitting on my desk?
CHUCK: Yeah, the one that you would recommend the most, I guess.
ERIC: OK. So I think the one that’s had the best impact was I think “Duct Tape Marketing” by John Jantsch. It’s very much a marketing oriented book, but it has a lot of good like how to run your business and it’s just not just marketing but sales and customers and who you are working for and kind of like what services you are providing. And it’s kind of an older book. I have used it for many, many years and it’s kind of one I keep pulling off my shelf and it’s pretty dog-eared right now.
CHUCK: Cool. So I have heard of it. I haven’t heard a lot about it. Is there a major theme or lesson you got from it that was really valuable?
ERIC: Yeah, I mean it’s kind of hard because I follow his blog and his couple of books, so I might be mishmashing concepts but, it’s basically… first off, you wanna know who your audience is. Like, you know, if you are marketing to someone who is not your audience and they are not actually going to be a potential client, that’s a waste of your time. But the big point of it is, he has kind of this idea of instead of like a sales or a marketing funnel, (which is what all people talk a lot of) its more of an hourglass. And the point is, is you kind of want to build people up. So someone might come to you and they’ll learn a little bit about you and then overtime, you kind of deliver more and more value to them. And then eventually, they get to the middle of the hourglass where, they become an actual client and start paying you.
And then the idea, especially with freelancing that is usually where the relationship will stop. Like, you do the project, you are done; you can move on. He is a big proponent of going back to those customers and maybe getting a second project from them or you know, giving them other services or benefits. And so that’s kind of the bottom part of the hour glass. And that’s basically where you wanna be. It’s where you are kind of working with existing and past clients a lot and giving them more services, giving them value from you. And that’s what actually while generate a lot for referrals and stuff. And so, that’s a big concept he has.
This book I know specifically talks a lot about, kind of building different marketing materials, and not like letter heads and business cards but like, “Here’s a white paper on how to do whatever.” I guess writing a review on Rails and why it’s important and all these and that. And you kind of do that as something to give away to potential clients and kind of work then through that hour glass. So that’s the short summary I can remember. There’s a lot of good like tactical level advice in there and it’s one of those books like, you can read it and how to do like fifty things that you wanna run out and do. And every time you read it, you get more items for that.
CHUCK: Right. That makes sense. It sounds like something I probably have to look into, so that when I kind of have those low times that I can get a handle on that and really figure out how to approach the past people.
ERIC: Yeah and it’s really big on systems too (if I remember it right). Not just one off stuff but like building a processor system, so you can turn it on and turn it off and you don’t have to scale it up as much, you know, from scratch.
CHUCK: Yeah that makes sense too. I really like the idea of setting up systems. You know, this is how I do it and this is how I maintain it and I really like that. So, I’m going to go ahead and throw a book on the pile and that is “Getting Things Done”. It’s not necessarily a book about freelancing or marketing, but it really helped me just think about how to organize all of the stuff I have to get done, and how to manage it through a process and make it all work. And so, I think a lot of people are familiar with the concept and familiar with some of the things that he talks about in that book. But, you know, just finding the tools and figuring out the best ways to handle that is really something that was valuable to me.
ERIC: Yeah and I have actually done or I did Getting Things Done for several years, and my current system I’ve kind of hybridized it, so the good concepts that I like can work good for me from that, and I kind of borrowed things from other parts. But it’s a great book for kind of really tactical, in the weeds level of like, “OK, you have all these things you need to do or all these problems that’s in your head and you wanna get stuff done and how to organize that and how to actually make it easy for you to actually do the work versus just thinking about the work.”
CHUCK: Yeah, the other thing is that, for me, I made it easier to take a load off and just know about the stuff that I had to get done. And I really, really liked that part of it where he really did break down what I was trying to do and how it was trying to approach it. But it wound up saving me a whole bunch of time and in getting me to that place where, I wasn’t as worried about what I was always forgetting and what I was always missing. And I could just manage things from there. What’s your next book?
ERIC: So, this actually kind of ties in with Getting Things Done; it’s “Time Management for System Administrators”. I got it when I was a system administrator and doing kind of developer stuff kind of on the side for the company. Even though it says it’s For System Administrators, you can actually think about it for anyone who does technical stuff. I’m trying to find the date of it. This book is kind of around the same vein of Getting Things Done. It’s almost the same process, but it uses more technology stuff and it kind of brings in the idea of, “Are you working on project work or are you interruptions?”
So, you know, system administrators are people in a call center or people who are on call type thing. Like, you might have to drop everything and jump on stuff. And when you are freelancing, that can kind of come up, you know, you might have a client say, “Server is down. I need you to jump on this.” And a lot of the book kind of talks about working with a team, so if you are still a freelancer, that might not apply but there is a lot of technical stuff in here that you can kind of pull out and put into getting things done or any other productivity system. And I’m kind of glancing though it right now. There’s actually quite a bit in here that I’m using in my current system that, you know, doesn’t come from Getting Things Done and so I’m guessing this is where I borrowed it form.
CHUCK: Right. That makes sense. It sounds like it’s kind of an interesting thing too because they address interruptions in getting things done, but I don’t remember it being super explicit about that. And I may just need to re-read the book. But anyway, that is something that does happen and I do need to figure out how to better manage those kinds of things.
CHUCK: Right. So, I guess I’ll go ahead with another book. I know we are kind of getting through this kind of fast, but maybe we can… If we get through all of our books pretty fast, I think there is some other than veins that we can go with on this topic.
ERIC: Well, I through all of them on my desk. I have a bookshelf I can walk over and get a couple armfuls.
CHUCK: [laughs] Yeah the other thing is, there are some books that I want to read that I haven’t read, and so maybe I can talk about those and what I want to get out of them or something. We can also talk about maybe some topics that are good for books and other topics that may be better for other media. Anyway, the next book that I wanna recommend is “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. I don’t know if you have read that book. It’s been around for quite a long time.
ERIC: Yeah, I have read it. I think once. I don’t remember very much from it because I read it so long ago.
CHUCK: Right. So I don’t remember what all the 7 habits are. And it’s more conceptual. I didn’t really feel like there were like super practical you know, process that you could follow. But it does give suggestions for how to organize some things though.
ERIC: Well, it’s a strategic level. And I think someone compared it, had read about it. 7 Habits is very top down like, this are your big things distil that down to small little things whereas, Getting Things Done is bottom up. You have all these little things you have to do. As you start doing it, eventually they build up into projects and then like your life goals and stuff. So, it’s actually like 2 approaches to the problem of getting your own personal work done.
CHUCK: Yeah. I can definitely see that. One of the things that I really liked was that, he doesn’t just go into, “Here are the kind of things that you have to do in order to be effective or be successful.” But he really kind of breaks it down and kind of gets into the concepts of, “OK. Well, if you are doing things because it’s part of a value system versus, you know, being too dependent on one thing and another.” And I find that I really do tend to feel like I’m more successful in the instances where I am doing something based out of a set of values, as opposed to being based out of some you know, maybe off center focus. Even if it’s a focus on something that’s good, it messes that up a little bit when it’s too much one thing and not enough of just the values that kind of center your life. That’s kind of the take away for me.
ERIC: One thing I still remember from that and I actually use almost every day, I’m pretty sure it’s from that book, but it’s quadrant of important or not important, and then urgent or not urgent. And one is on the Y axis and one is on the X axis. And the idea is you might have something that is urgent, but is not important or something that’s important but not urgent. And I think he goes in to quite a bit of detail about the differences and kind of how interruptions are almost always not important, but not urgent. And how you really wanna minimize that but you want to maximize your important and either your urgent and not urgent. And I still use that to this day, even when I’m talking to client about features, I say, “Is this an important feature?” They might say, “Yes.” Client says, “Yes, it’s important.” But you can ask them if it’s urgent, “Do you need this for the release this week or can we have it pushed back?” And so, that still frames my thinking to this day.
CHUCK: Yeah, I agree. He talks about how people live in quadrant one, which is important and urgent. But what you wanna do is get to the point where you are working primarily in quadrant two, which is important but not urgent. So then you are being effective and you are not nose to nose with your time deadline.
ERIC: And be more proactive.
CHUCK: Yeah exactly. And so then what happens is you are able to do things to the right level, get it done on time or ahead of time, and not feel like you are rushed or pressured as far as delivery goes. And he basically explained that that’s where most effective people channel their time and energy. So what book would you choose next?
ERIC: I’m trying to think here. So, I’m going to make an easy one. We talk about it many times before, but “Get Clients Now!” If you haven’t heard the other episodes, it’s kind of… it’s once again it’s very tactical level marketing advice, but its structured around a four-week calendar. And so you pick from a buffet of different things you are going to do different tasks and you kind of put them on the calendar. And so, it’s every week you have to do these things. And you kind of get a scoring sheet to score yourself. So, it’s a really good way especially if you don’t enjoy marketing or just don’t think you can ever find the time to do it and this kind of put some metrics behind it and it kind of, at least for me, it helped motivate me to get my numbers up and actually put more checkmarks on my little tracking sheet. So once again, Get Your Clients Now, we’ve talked about it a bunch but I think it’s still one of the most important books for freelancers.
CHUCK: Yeah, I agree. That was going to be my next pick too.
ERIC: Haha stolen!
CHUCK: [laughs] Yup. But anyway, it really does… the thing that I really liked about it was you know, yeah, it’s a four week program, but just being able to hyper focus on some area of your marketing funnel, and just making it happen. There is just some real power in being focused on something important. So if you are struggling in sales or marketing, then by all means pick up this book because it helps you focus, it helps you figure out where you need to focus, but it also just gives some killer advice on whatever area you are trying to work in on how to make it better. And so, you can kind of get it all there. It’s really good.
ERIC: The thing I really like about it is, it’s not even like a beginner or intermediate or advanced book, it’s a book you can come back to and redo the program whatever stage you are at. And like you said, you can analyze what part of your business but also kind of what do your own skill level is and it’s a very good action-oriented book.
CHUCK: Yeah, exactly. It’s a come back and do the process again. Because most likely, once you get one area in line, then you can find weaknesses in other area and do the program over again for those areas of your sales funnel or sales cycle.
ERIC: Yeah, I mean it’s like code and you know, you optimize what is the worst problem and then you optimize the second worst problem and you kind of work your way through it. And eventually, you get to a solution where you are like, “Everything is good enough. I can move on.”
CHUCK: Yup, absolutely. So I only really had the three books. I have a bunch that I wanna read, but I haven’t read them yet. So, I guess I could pick another book, but since you stole my third pick, I’m going to make your put another book out there.
ERIC: Another good one is by Michael Port, it’s “Book Yourself Solid”. I’ve mentioned it before. It has a pretty good marketing focus, but it’s a lot more general business. It’s actually a lot like Duct Tape Marketing in that it talks a lot about finding your audience, figuring out how you can serve them, figuring out what levels of service they need, if they need just little bit of help or actually like holding your hand or actually doing it for them. And it actually goes through different strategies, so you can have like a strategy for the web in which, if you are Ruby on Rails freelancer, you probably already have a pretty strong web strategy, but it also goes in stuff like strategy for if you are going and networking with people or strategy if you are trying to get some PR and stuff like that. So it’s a really good kind of general marketing book. It has some strategic stuff in it, and then some tactical stuff. So, it’s a pretty good mix. I used it a long with Get Clients Now when I got started. And I think it was like 2 or 3 months, like I was already up to full time work. So it works; there’s some stuff in there if you follow it and its pretty good book for that.
CHUCK: So I have to ask, what’s the primary difference between Book Yourself Solid and Get Clients Now?
ERIC: So, Get Clients Now, it’s kind of like you already have your business, but it’s not at where you want it to be. And so here is some tactics, here is some techniques to do to improve it. Book Yourself Solid I think is more of, you might already have a business, but it might not be doing what you want. Like for example, say you are freelancer but you’re doing mostly PHP projects. So, Book Yourself Solid is going to help you to find what you wanna do. Like if you wanna get into Ruby and Rails, define that. Define where you are going to find these people and build up around that. So, I think Book Yourself Solid it kind of has, it goes a little bit further, but it doesn’t go in depth of the day to day activities like Get Clients Now is.
CHUCK: OK. That makes sense. So if I had to pick another book that I have actually read, because I’m running out of books like this that I’ve actually read. And the reason is because I went freelance, then I got real busy and I hadn’t really read a ton of them before that. It will probably be “48 Days to the Work You Love” by Dan miller. The focus of the book is actually on finding a job that you will love. And if you are a freelancer, you are probably not so much into finding a job. You’d be probably more interested in finding clients. However, the thing is that he talks a lot about enjoyable work, finding that job that you will enjoy. And it helps you kind of think about some of the things that you like or don’t like about the job that you are probably in right now.
And so I recommend it mainly to freelancers, if they aren’t completely happy with the freelancing job, with the freelancing gig. They can figure out, “OK. Do I need to pivot? Do I need to look in to different area? Do I need to get more education?” And you can kind of skip some of the job search focused stuff that’s in it. But he also have another book called “No More Mondays”, which is also much more focused on going your own way and building your own business, but I haven’t read that one. However, I do highly recommend to everybody to read 48 Days to the Work You Love. You can go check that out.
He also have a podcast; indecently I think the guy that did Getting Things Done also has a podcast but you know, Dan does it every week. And he has people call in at every state. So it’s, you know, “I wanna quit my job and go out of my own doing this.” And he has other people that are saying, “Hey, I’m out on my own and I’m struggling with this, that or the other.” And then he’ll, give them advice, “Well, you know, you need to be doing this and you probably ought to be doing that. And you know, clearly you want to be able to feed your family, but if you are miserable in your job then look at these other alternatives because you might be able to find another option there.” And in lot of cases, he’s telling you find solutions so its basically you know, “I like the money I’m making but I’m not happy where I’m at.” And so he’s saying, “OK, find somewhere where you can be happy and make that money.” And then he’ll make a few suggestions on the show.
It’s a terrific show. And you can find it in iTunes. I’ll put a link to 48 Days podcast in there. You can also find it at 48days.com I think. Anyway, so 48 Days to the Work You Love is also a terrific book that I recommend to pretty much everybody. So, if you are not a freelancer and you are not happy in your job, go read it too. I don’t know how many people. So anyway, go ahead.
ERIC: So, it’s kind of good if you are looking at doing kind of a transition in your life or career then.
CHUCK: Yeah, that’s kind of where it’s focused more than anything else. And a lot of the tactics are more focused on finding full time employment, but it’s still a pretty good book.
ERIC: OK. So, the next book,(I’m saying “books” because I can’t remember the differences between the two) these are like the software engineering classics, but “The Mythical Man-Month” and then “People ware”. If you haven’t read them, you need to read them. Mythical Man-Month is where the idea of where No Silver Bullet came from. Basically, it’s kind of… Peopleware I’m trying to remember the exact contents, but it basically talks a lot about how you built software, and not like the details but more of the soft part of it. Like how teams work, how the software helps the business, all that stuff. It’s great because if you are working as a freelancer, you have one foot in development and you have one foot in business.
And so, I think reading these two books will really help you kind of understand a lot of the business side and then it will actually help you communicate really good with your clients. And you might go to point out like, they might make a suggestions at that, “Oh, we’ll just add another twenty programmers to the project.” Well, Mythical Man-Month has the details why that is a bad idea. And so, they might give you some help and kind of back you up on some things. But they are great books, I can’t remember any… I have the 20th anniversary edition of the Mythical Man-Month and I’ve had this for a while. So it’s very, very classic stuff. But if you haven’t read them, go read them. They are great little books.
CHUCK: Yeah, Peopleware was recommended by David Brady on Ruby Rogues. And then the Mythical Man-Month was required reading for one of my college classes. I haven’t read Peopleware, I have read The Mythical Man-Month. And I remember reading and then I remember finding it later after I have been a career programmer for a few years and reading it again and wanting to take it. And basically just upload the whole thing to the brain of whoever my boss was at the time. Because it was just like, “Look, this explains to you what I’m trying to tell you.” You know, “No matter how hard you push, it’s not going to make it happen any faster.” And you know, pouring more sand into the bucket doesn’t necessarily mean that we are going to get more sand up the hill. So, anyway it’s really interesting.
ERIC: I mean I’m glancing on the chapters now and its bringing back memories. I mean, it’s a great book and even if you don’t have problems with your current clients or whatever, it’s a good one to read because it kind of outlines how the industry… and like I said, this is classic, so this is how the industry go started. And to me, like some of it almost reads like fiction and so it’s exciting, I’m might actually start reading this again while we are on the call.
CHUCK: Yeah, the other thing with The Mythical Man-Month is again, even if you are like a solo coder freelancer that only does certain types of work and you know, so you are not really managing a team, I think it will help you really frame how you want to approach some of these project with your clients. And you can then explain to them intelligently why your approach or their approach may or may not work, because they may try to make some of the mistakes that he outlined in the book. And you know, you can then say, “Look, here’s why it doesn’t work.” And heck you can even give them the book if you really have to. But, It lends both to management and toward the product management in the case of your client.
ERIC: It’s actually not just about teams, but it’s about communication between people. So, you are working as a freelancer, you have a client; that’s a group of people. If you are freelancer and you are just talking to potential clients or you know, maybe leads or whatever, that’s still communication. So, I still you can take a lot of concepts from it and apply almost anywhere in your life.
CHUCK: Yeah. Alright well my next book that I’m going to recommend is “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”. I have to say that half the stuff that’s in the book I didn’t necessarily agree with, but at the same time, a lot of the concepts as far as how to think about money, how to think about assets and things like that, I thought was very valuable. So, you know, take what you are reading with a grain of salt, I guess. But at the same time I mean, it’s a terrific book. And he kind of tells them in a story form and so, you really kind of get your head around some of his concepts because he basically illustrates them with, “We did this and this is the lesson we learned.” And so you know, I like the book. It’s not one of my favorite books of all time, but related to life and finances and things like that, I thought that was pretty good.
ERIC: I’ve read that a while ago. I think I’ve read most of his early books. It’s good and yeah, there’s going to be parts you might not agree with it might not just feel right, but kind of the general concepts are good. And I think the writing is kind of iffy in parts, but it’s still not easy enough that you are able to read it and pick up what he is trying to get at. And I mean I remember he had a quote of like, he might not be able a best writing author, but he is a bestselling author. So it’s kind of the idea of, this is good enough content to get out to help people. And I know some people that were extremely helped by the concepts and that are actually millionaires to this day now.
CHUCK: Yeah. I’ve heard a lot of the same things and I don’t know anyone personally who became a millionaire due to any concepts they read from the book. But I also know people who are well off that agree with a lot of the principles in the book. And the other thing is that, it’s not just the way he writes and things, in some cases, it almost feels like he is trying to upsell you in the book. And that was a little hard to stomach sometimes. Those are the really the only critiques I have of the book. And the concepts in some cases, are so good that you can kind of just get past it and you know, enjoy the book for what it is so. Let’s get another book recommendation from you Eric or was that five?
ERIC: I don’t know. It looks like 5 or 6. OK so my last one (this one I’m saving for last), its great, but it’s so hard to do and to take all the advice in it, that I hadn’t even done it. And the title is a little off putting I guess if you know, take it what it is, but if you actually think about what’s in it, it’s really nice. It’s a book by Alan Weiss called “Million Dollar Consulting”. It’s basically how to run a consulting company and its very, very like top tier level consulting. So some stuff might not work for freelancers, even though I believe he is a single person company. But I remember (it’s either this book or another one), he talks about the idea if you can’t look at a client and tell them that this project will cost (what is it..) $50,000 with a straight face, you need to practice on that.
And that’s kind of what it means like Million Dollar Consulting, it’s very, very high dollar. Very you know, cream of the crop or whatever. But the book is great. There is a bunch of ideas in it. He goes into marketing; he goes into audience stuff like most of the other books I’ve recommended. And this is actually what I turn to all the time. There’s another one that has like templates and toolkits based on this book, so I actually take some of those for my own forms and stuff if I send to clients.
CHUCK: Wow, that is interesting. It sounds like something I need to read.
ERIC: Yeah, I mean it’s… He has another one like if you are getting started, but this is kind of like you had are on an intermediate level and you kind of feel stuck and you kind of wanna move up like, maybe wanna hire some people or maybe you just wanna have brand name clients or whatever. I kind of think like the concepts in this book are almost like a requirement.
CHUCK: It’s funny when you said “brand name clients”, my mind immediately went to like having you know, the nice shoes or whatever [laughs] but it is that kind of that idea, right? Where you have on your client list the Coca cola or maybe some of the big tech companies out there.
ERIC: Yeah, I mean people who have significant budgets have significant problems, and need significant help for. I mean that’s basically what I mean when you talk to your clients.
CHUCK: Yeah. Absolutely. I really going to have to pick that one up. I might pick that one up today. One book that I forgot and it would have probably been like number 2 or 3, is “The Passionate Programmer” by Chad Fowler. It’s definitely one to those books that I think everybody should read, whether you are an employee or a freelancer. It’s really interesting. It’s like jam packed with all these career advice. And I’ve read it once as an employee and once as a freelancer and found it very valuable in both cases. So, it really makes you think about, “OK, these are the kinds of things that I’m doing. Here’s where I wanna go with my career”.
And you know, in some cases it kind of highlights some of the things you may be doing wrong. I don’t remember if he was deliberate about that or if I was just being hard on myself but, in any case, it really is just a super book for just getting you on the right track with some of the things that you can do with your career. So, again it’s another book where if you are in transition, you’re not sure where you are going to go, then definitely read it, and if you are on the track I think you wanna be on and haven’t thought about like, “OK, where I’m I in my career?” and thing like that, go pick it up.
ERIC: Yeah, I’m trying to remember if I’ve read that or not. I’m pretty sure that he actually had one before it that was retitled so that is kind of the second edition.
CHUCK: Yeah, — that one.
ERIC: So, I read the original one. It’s a long one. It’s my “My Job Went to India: And All I Got Was This Lousy Book”. I read that when I was an employee. And it’s not even just like career advice, but it was just like a bunch of stuff to improve yourself and improve like how you do your work. And I think I still have stuff from my todo list from like action that I took from that I still haven’t been able to get to. But haven’t deleted them because I really want to do them.
CHUCK: Yeah. It’s a really good book. I remember reading it.. when did I read it? Anyway, I don’t remember how long ago I read it last, but I’ve read it within the last few years and definitely have some good things that I have picked up from it. So I definitely recommend it. If you are a programmer and you are trying to figure out anything regarding your career, go read the book. And if you think you are secure in where you are going with your career, go read the book and just see what it has to offer, because I guarantee you that there are things in there that are going to change the way you think about it.
ERIC: Yeah I’m actually here, because I got it the PDF version. I got it like summer of 2005 and that’s probably around when I get. I still remember monkey traps and a lot of that stuff and figuring out the trajectory of you career. Yeah, it’s a good book. Good concepts in it.
CHUCK: Yeah, absolutely. So, we’ve been talking for about 35 minutes; I usually try and cut it off at about 15 minutes. So do you have more book s or do you wanna talk about some of the books that you think you want to read next? Where do you wanna go from here?
ERIC: Actually, what I would like to do (because I actually have a pretty hard line on this), is I have printed Dead Tree Books, but I also happen to buy a load of eBooks, whether PDF or actually on my Kindle. And so, I think talking about you know, when you would actually wanna buy a dead tree book versus and eBook, and also when a book might not be actually the best thing for you to use if you’re trying to learn something. I mean, you mentioned that at the beginning of the show. That’s actually a pretty good thing to think about.
CHUCK: Yeah that makes sense. Let’s talk about dead tree books versus eBooks. I have to say, where I come down on this, usually it depends whether or not I’m flying. Because they don’t make you turn off the dead tree books. You know, I don’t know, there is something about reading a dead tree book that is nice as opposed to reading it on my Kindle or on my iPad. But it’s hard for me to really quantify what that is. I don’t know if you have other thoughts on that.
ERIC: Yeah. I mean, I’ve slight tangent, I have actually used… I have typed almost everything, put everything on the computer but I have actually started using real paper and ink to write stuff down. And I think that is kind of the similar thing, having the tactile feedback of actually holding a book and flipping through it, there is a lot that you can do. A lot of that helps you then you can’t give up an eBook. Like I can look at this book on my desk and it’s half an inch thick. I know it’s going to be a small book, and I know really easily based on how I’m holding it how far I am in it, versus an eBook you might have to look at what page you are on and so some calculations.
And you know, technically, all of your eBooks feel the same way to your hand, but different books might feel different. Like this on has kind of the you know, kind of a soft cover and this one is slick, this one is hard bound so it has a sleeve. So I think just the act of like physically reading, I think it’s actually majorly different between the two. But, I don’t know, for me, I don’t… that doesn’t matter as much to me anymore as the actual information in it. And I’ve actually kind of come down hard on dead tree books and that I will almost always buy the Kindle or electronic version first and if it’s a good enough book, I would get an actual printed copy of it.
CHUCK: Yeah, I can see that. I mean, I definitely agree regarding whether it’s you know, the tactile feel of the pages or you know, I think sometimes it’s just easier to read or to assimilate the data from if it’s an actual physical book. But it’s so convenient to have on your iPad or your Kindle. And I have a Kindle Touch. I don’t know what device you have, but its there’s this… it’s nice because I can just carry little thing around and it has all the information that I wanna consume. You know, I think there is a trade-off and it just depends on whether or not I want the experience of holding paper or whether I care enough and whether it’s just OK to read the information off of an electronic copy.
ERIC: Yeah. So, I mean this is why; because I have a different reading process than I think a lot of people. I know a lot of people will write in books and make notes and dog-ear stuff. I don’t like that. For some reasons, I have to keep my books pristine. I actually have things called “books darts”, which are little piece of metal that you insert and actually point out like certain lines, but they don’t actually damage the book. So for me, whenever I would read a physical book, I would be reading it and then on the other on the hand on the table, I have pad and paper and I would be writing my notes.
And so, to me, that worked but when after I wrote them all down, actually read my hand writing, which I’d already mentioned is kind of hard. But to have to type it up in a computer to kind of have the long term storage of it and also be able to go through it. And so, the active reading the book for me was actually bit of work and it got to a point where I had about 30 books worth of notes or not 30 books of notes. And I had to type them all up and I got backlogged and I couldn’t do it. And so the information I have thought was valuable in the book is stuck on that paper and I actually didn’t preview it and did even get the benefit of it.
But with my Kindle, I’ve written a script and figure out how to do it but basically, I highlight stuff and you can do that on the Kindle devices. When I’m done with a book, I use the script download all those highlights and throw it to a computer file. And so now the second I’m done with the book, all my notes are right in front of me. And so, if I need to see like, “OK, what’s in Get Clines Now?” I can read that one file, get the summary of what I thought was important. Make To-do items, change things, do whatever I need to do. And that fast feedback lets me get through the book, get the value out of it and then put that value even to myself or my business. And so that is actually why, I just looked up, I have 393 Kindle books in my account right now. I have actually cleaned out a lot of my books. I only have like half a bookcase of books now.
CHUCK: Oh wow. Yeah, so as far as books go, for me, I have well, I have a cubicle actually. That is my desk in my office, it’s actually a cubicle.
ERIC: Chuck went freelance so he can have his own cubicle at home.
CHUCK: [laughs] Yeah. My wife found it on one of those kind of like Craigslist except it’s like the localized version that is attached to the local TV station or whatever. Anyway she found it on there and asked me if it was OK and I said, “Yeah it looks like it’s like plenty of desk space.” But anyway, I have an overhead bin and that’s where all my tech textbooks are. I have an overhead bin’s worth of tech books, technology or business books. And then the rest of my book shelf is like, you know, just like literature or I have a few books from my different classes in college. But those are all like Italian literature books and stuff, which again I have few of those. So I don’t have a lot of paper books and generally I ask people to send me electronic copies just because it’s so convenient to have in electronic form.
So, yeah, as far as writing in books, I’m kind of the same as you. I tend not to do it just because for one, I don’t think I’m ever going to go back and thumb through it and try and find the note again. And if I do, I’d rather have an electronic index of it anyway. So that’s kind of where I’m at that. When you read books then, do you actually go through and highlight and make notes? Because sometimes I do that sometimes I don’t. The thing is I don’t wanna do it just because I feel like I ought to, I wanna do it because something actually meant to me.
ERIC: In paper books, I don’t; I’ll take notes. But in eBooks, yeah. I mean I’m reading “Working Effectively with Legacy Code” right now. And I may be halfway through it and note is all over the place. It’s just ideas that I can apply right now and like, “Oh he’s actually distilled something that I have done and practiced for years but never had a name for and here, he just named it for me”. And I mean, there are some books like I’ve taken so many notes in some books that Amazons DRM says, “We are sorry, your cannot highlight anymore noted in this book because you’d be basically copying the book at this point.”
CHUCK: Oh wow. So you said you have a process for managing your To-dos and things, how do you translate thing that you read in the book that you want to translate into a to-do? Do you highlight it and then when you go back through, take care of it or do you break and go find your to-do software?
ERIC: OK. So, if it’s like a to-do, it’s like, “Wow I could do this right now”, it’s like an important thing that I can apply right away. Like reading the working whatever with legacy code, there’s been a few of those. I have actually an app on my phone that basically gives you like big text fields, you type in it and hit a button and it sends you an email. And its tied directly to my email account. Those kind of things I just email myself, but if it’s kind of like, “Oh, this is a good idea.” This can be a to-do or maybe a project later, I highlight it.
And when I’m done with the book, I take the notes, put it on the computer. And then I put a to-do item in my to-do list to say, “Go through the notes for Book XYZ.” And at that point, when I’m reviewing the note, I say OK, this is a good thing. I’m going to make this a to-do item. This is another good to-do item and I might say, “Oh, this is a good quote”. I might put that on a quotes folder or Tweet about it or whatever. And so I have a separate process of reviewing the book, reviewing the book notes after I read it.
CHUCK: OK, that makes sense. The other question I have is sometimes (and you kind of brought this up of whether book is kind of the right media for you to pursue for learning whatever it is that you are learning) and that is one thing I kind of go back and forth on. Because sometimes, I’m reading a book like for Ruby Rogues, we have the Book Club stuff that we do and some of the books that I have read, you know, you read the first half of the book and it’s all stuff that you already knew anyway.
And, so do you usually just wind up skipping those parts or do you just kind of skim them to see if there is anything in there that you don’t already know? I haven’t really found a good process for that. Because I do wanna read the book and I do wanna get the knowledge that I don’t already have out of it, but I don’t really want to meddle through the first half of the book with stuff that I already know and comfortable with and you know, I don’t really feel like I’m getting a ton of value out of. Or do you go find a video or something that is more on your level?
ERIC: For me, reading is the best way for me to pick up stuff other than actually doing it. Because I enjoy reading, I love it. It’s you know, if that’s my one hobby that I’ll be happy. If I’m reading a book and saying stuff that I already know, I tend to start skimming and not reading as detailed, not taking as many notes. And if I end up skimming for a couple of chapters, I might jump to the table of contents and see if there is a chapter that might be interesting to me. But it’s hard because if I start a book and it has some value for me, I almost always try and finish it. But there is some books like you get ten percent in and you are like, “This is not interesting.” And I just drop it and just say, “I’m not going to read this”.
And that’s why I read on my Kindle so much, because I actually grab a sample for every book before I read it, just to see do I like the author’s tone, does it sound like they are actually going to help me. And if they don’t, I delete the sample. No cost to me. And if it’s something I like, it goes on my list of like, “This is something to read later”. Very, very few books that I have gotten partially through, like especially physical books and said, “I don’t like this. I don’t wanna read it.” Because there’s always going to be this little gems that the whole book could be crap, but you might find that one little idea that really pays for itself and pays for all the time. So I am always trying to be open for that and the fact I can take notes and take that idea and put it on my own process is kind of a good way so when I have to go back to the book later.
CHUCK: So the other thing is that I find myself sometimes like I’ll pick up a book and I’ll get a quarter of the way through it. And it is interesting but I still find myself not able to finish it. I just never come back to it. Do you ever run into that? And is it the indicative of it just not being that compelling enough or is it because I’m busy and it just happens or what do you think?
ERIC: Can we skip this question? Because my Kindle, I have a folder of what I’m currently reading and it says I’m currently reading 31 books at once and I’m not. [laughs]
CHUCK: I think mine says I have like 24 books that I’m currently reading.
ERIC: I mean this is kind of a problem that I ran into I guess when my daughter was born and I was still picking up books, but I didn’t have as much time. And so, my I guess purchasing and acquisition speed remain constant but my actual consuming speed slowed down a lot. Before that, what I tried to do is try to read one business book, one technical book and one fiction book at a time. And the intention is sometimes I feel like technical, sometimes I feel like business, and sometimes I need to read the go to sleep. And so that is basically, I have those three.
And if a book is so boring or just not interesting to me long enough, and it’s in that half read state, I’ll drop it for later and then grab a different book. Because sometimes a book is just not right for you at this moment, but maybe later on it is. And so, I have kind of slowly started adding books to that folder because my organization kind of slacked and I think now I’m reading like 4 or 5 books actively and its hard. I really don’t recommend it at all. Like if you can get by of reading one book at a time, it’s probably the best thing to do, but I’ve just found my attention drains if I’m just focusing on one type of topic at once.
CHUCK: Yeah that makes sense. My problem is like I usually am doing like a fiction book and then another business or tech book. And it’s hard for me to just stay you know, focused and on top of it for that long. Anyway, so that’s really, you know, anything that I can think of other than just… Are there instances where u feel like a book isn’t the best medium for whatever you are trying to learn?
ERIC: Oh, yeah that is actually a good point. I would buy books for everything but I now have I think 6 different editions, not editions, revisions Agile Web Development with Rails, the first edition. I bought every single edition of that book since it came out. I think I sold all of them because I got tired of them on the shelf. I’ve seen similar problems with other technology. And the problem is the technology moves so fast, that by the time stuff has written about it gone through the printing process, and even with the Pragmatics were very fast with their printing process, it’s going to be out of date or its going to be out of date soon.
CHUCK: Yeah. Absolutely. And that makes sense to me too. I kind of inherit books sometimes, rather than buy them. And so, that’s why I have a lot of the books that I have but, all of the eBooks I have actually gone and bought them or had the publisher come to me and say, “Hey we like you to review this book.” And anyway, that’s another thing that is hard is you know, you feel like they have given you the book and so you ought to read it and review it. And it comes down to this whole time thing. You know, do I have time to get through this book and then time to write a thoughtful review about it. And so, I’ve actually been telling some of them, “No.” Like if you want send it to me, that’s fine, but my turn around on these has not been great. And you know, then they can kind of make the call from there. But yeah, I like that you have a reference on the reference thing that you pointed out.
ERIC: And that is kind of like a core competency thing. Like right now, on the business side, my course stuff I focus on is marketing. It’s specifically copyrighting of marketing. I’m trying to get better at that actively. So those books I prioritize over other general marketing or just general business books. And I had the same thing for technical stuff, you know, working on some legacy code, I’m working a lot in kind of code clean up and refactoring stuff, so that content whether it’s a book or a blog post or whatever, I’m prioritizing over you know, maybe like what we were talking about the last episode Greenfield development stuff or maybe new technology. And you know, I call it my just in time education system. I try to learn stuff and just in time before I actually need that education.
CHUCK: That makes sense. All right well then let’s go ahead and get to the picks. I’ll let you go first. What picks do you have?
ERIC: OK so I got two. One is a blog post; the title for it is kind of, I don’t know if I agree with the title for the content, so just skip over the title and read the content. But it’s called “Developer Depression: Isolation is the biggest problem”. It basically talks about, the developer but it actually talks about people who work alone or are you know, you were kind of focused during the flow it’s not like you are like looking for team all the time. And it kind of talks about how that can cause depression or depression-like symptoms. It actually talk about having a social aspect whether it’s at work or after work actually really helps. There’s a lot in there. I’m even able to paraphrase it a little bit but, it’s a really good read especially if you are like me working at home, doing development, the only company you see is your dog throughout the work day. It’s a really good book. It’s a really good article to kind of go through.
And then my second pick is by Avdi. It’s “RubyTapas Episode 4: Bearwords”. Ruby Tapas is a paid screencast subscription product that Avdi have. But he is putting like I think it’s on Mondays he putting out one of the three for free. And so this is one of the free ones. I really enjoyed this. I’m a subscriber but this one basically paid for itself because he was able to describe some concepts that I have been doing ever since I got started in Ruby and couldn’t actually describe it. It’s a great. It’s about naming and variables and it gets into about Ruby scope stuff. And so like I said, this is a free one and you can watch it on his blog and if you like this kind stuff, his subscription service has a lot of stuff in there. I mean, I spent a night and watched all of them and got caught up and have a bunch of notes and stuff I need to start applying you know, today type thing.
CHUCK: Yeah I’ve heard a lot of good things about it and Avdi is on the Ruby Rogues podcast so.
ERIC: Yeah. Really, really smart guy.
CHUCK: Yeah. So is that all your picks?
ERIC: Yeah, just two this week.
CHUCK: All right. Just wanted to make sure.
ERIC: Besides the fourth books we’ve recommended. [laughs]
CHUCK: I know, really right? My picks this week, I wanna talk about a couple of them; the first one is I ripped some DVDs and I guess that’s illegal, but I’m only just putting them up where I can watch them on my Blu-ray player from my network attached storage. And it turns that “HandBrake” rip them and I can also put them in a format that my Blu-ray player can read. So I really, really, like it. You can get it at handbreak.fr.
And then my other pick is “BitTorrent” and I’m not going to talk about everything that I have ever gotten off of BitTorrent, mainly because I don’t wanna incriminate myself over the air. But basically, it’s a great way of transferring files. I think some of the distribution networks out there for things like Linux distributions and stuff for getting ISOs for installing Linux and stuff like that use BitTorrent. So, it’s really terrific way of pulling data for multiple sources. And you know, kind of having it build into coherent place of file. And so, I really like that.
So if you are in the Mac, you can use the program called “Transmission” to do it. I’m sure that there are bit torrent clients for Linux as well. And I know there are in Windows and I just haven’t used any of them recently. So, I’m going to pick Transmission as well. And those are my picks. We’ll wrap this up. Do you have any announcements or anything you wanna talk about that’s going on with your business before we wrap this up?
ERIC: No, not really. Just normal day to day business stuff this week.
CHUCK: We’ll catch you all next week!
ERIC: Take care!