Alan Sugar was brought up in a busy council estate in Clapton, Hackney in 1947. He saw his father struggle to support his family, not quite knowing from each week if he would still have a job…
How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters
By Scott Rosenberg
In late January of 2001, in the depths of the dot-com crash, a San Francisco startup called Pyra Labs ran out of money. Its staff departed. The co-founder of the company, a young Nebraskan named Evan Williams, decided to make a go of it alone. He scraped together $40,000 in new funding and moved Pyra’s servers into his apartment. This permitted the company’s 100,000 registered customers (and counting) to keep using Pyra’s service, Blogger, to publish their online journals, or blogs.
A year later, Blogger had 700,000 subscribers. Whether sharing cookie recipes or commenting on weapons reports from Iraq, those writers were constructing a significant new form of grassroots media. Blogging turned traditional publishing on its head, allowing anyone with a computer and modem (or even a smartphone) to gain a global voice for free. By 2003, Williams was able to sell his business to Google for a lucrative pile of pre-IPO stock. Three years later he and his partners launched yet another tool for global publishing, the micro-blogging phenomenon, Twitter.
Williams’ story is just one thread in the narrative of Say Everything, Scott Rosenberg’s account of the blogging revolution. Rosenberg, co-founder of the online magazine Salon.com, describes a remarkable chapter in the history of communication. At this point it’s hard for some to remember that even in the late ’90s most people regarded Web pages as things to read, not places to post and publish. It’s an important story, one that leads not only to YouTube, Facebook, and Wikipedia but also to the transformation of corporate and government communications. Rosenberg writes gracefully and appears to have researched thoroughly. His book may be a bit heavy in detail, historical and technical, for a general interest audience. But many bloggers are sure to relish the history of the drama they’ve stepped into. I certainly learned a lot.
Rosenberg introduces readers to pioneers such as Justin Hall. A Swarthmore College dropout who was itching to share, Hall in 1993 began publishing details of his life and linking to things he was finding online, including bootleg music and porn. He established a cult readership. It quickly became apparent that if Justin Hall could publish his stuff, everyone else could, too.
Could blogging be a business? Entrepreneurs such as Nick Denton, a former Financial Times journalist, would lead the way. Denton hired journalists to post on sites such as Gawker, for gossip aficionados, and tech gadget blog Gizmodo. He established an early model: lots of attitude, frequent posting, strong focus—and entry-level pay. Then came rival Jason Calacanis, who launched the blog network Weblogs (TWX), luring away some of Denton’s stars with equity stakes. Enter Arianna Huffington in 2005 with another model: persuading bloggers to labor for free—while boosting their brands—as contributors to her popular Huffington Post.
The blog wars make for fun reading. The impact for society comes from the stream of eyewitness reports and opinions flowing onto Web pages. As customers and employees blog, corporations lose any hope of controlling news as they used to and push instead to influence it. And as we see in the streets of Iran, angry voices carry around the world and construct their own compelling narrative, even when dictators censor the press.
It’s easy to focus on stupid or trivial blogs and dismiss the lot of them. But as more people add their voices every day, Rosenberg writes, “saying that ‘ninety percent of blogs are crap’ begins to feel misanthropically close to saying ‘ninety percent of people are crap.’ ”
He quotes an American Army major, Andrew Olmsted, who left an entry to be posted after his death, which came near Sadiya, Iraq, in January 2008. “The ability to put my thoughts on (virtual) paper and put them where people can read and respond to them has been marvelous,” Olmsted wrote, “even if most people haven’t agreed with them.” Thanks to the technology and media Rosenberg describes, all of us have that same marvelous power to reach out to the rest of the world. It’s astonishing how quickly the change has come.
If you are interested in using the Internet to grow your business virally, then “Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today’s Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves” is a must-read.
Why Read It?
•The first full biography of Warren Buffett, the most famous investor of all time, written with his full cooperation and collaboration.
•Gives a lucid account of his life and career, from his first financial forays to becoming a revered investment guru.
•Analyses his business deals and strategies, as well as mistakes, by looking at the development of his investing style, his many investment partnerships, and how he built up his fortune.
•Snowball is a thorough and inclusive biography of the world’s greatest investor, examining his family history, his youthful adventures, and how he developed his investment acumen.
•It shows how Buffett came from a line of small business owners, and how his parents toiled through the Great Depression, and how his somewhat unbalanced mother shaped his outlook on life.
•Reveals that his investment career took off with the purchase of textile firm Berkshire Hathaway, and explains how he grew it into the 12th largest corporation in the United States.
•It combines biographical detail with an examination of his business deals, focusing on the development of his expertise, strategy, and investment philosophy.
•Lays bare the real Buffett—his moral viewpoint, honesty, and integrity, as well as his many contradictions, such as his frugality, eccentric eating habits, and choice of clothing.
•Details how he built up his business expertise, and the success of his many investment partnerships.
•Gives a detailed account of his investments over the years, how he selected companies in which to invest, his definition of risk, and how he decided how much to actually invest in each company.
•Shows his successful preference for long-term investing in sound businesses that he can understand, as well as belief in stewardship and integrity towards these companies.
•Examines how he has evolved into the figurehead of value investing after his guru Benjamin Graham, rather than as someone who follows market bubbles, such as the tech boom of the late 1990s.
•Looks at his dependence on friends and a network of business associates, and how his collaboration with other investment managers proved essential to his success.
•Provides insight into Buffett’s focus on customer loyalty, the quality of management, choosing allies carefully, and avoiding unnecessary diversity.
•Shows how he was one of the first to point out the inherent danger in derivative products, and how they could affect the financial system.
“Warren may have said he wanted to become a millionaire, but he never said that he would stop there.”
“Berkshire’s best opportunities always came at times of uncertainty, when others lacked the insight, resources, and fortitude to make the right judgments and commit.”
“Cash combined with courage in a crisis is priceless.
You may ask, why a book written by a politician who has no business background is included in my business book reviews? My answer is that there are lessons to be learned from an extraordinary performer in any field, and it is apparent that Barrack Obama is an extraordinary performer by any standard. Because this book was written before Barrack entered politics it is perhaps more honest than it is possible for him to be now. This honesty allows the reader to gain a great insight in to Barrack’s personal character and makes it possible to identify some reasons why he has been such a success.
1. Successful People are People Too!
Generally when he hear stories of very successful people, we hear about their amazing work ethic and drive, they are presented as people with almost superhuman focus. So what was refreshing for me as a 23 year old was to find out that at one time Barry (as he was called at the time) was just another college student, unsure of who he was or what he wanted to do with his life, who enjoyed parties and girls just as much as the next guy!
2. It is Never Too Late
Barrack Obama did not graduate from Law School until he was 31. The general consensus is that you got to college, pay off your loans, and work until its time to retire, probably changing companies and roles a few times along the way. But it is evident from Obama that it does not have to be done this way. Obama did what he wanted to do after college. Then after a few years he decided that he would go to Grad school and increase his knowledge and skills and begin a new departure in his life. I think it is fair to say that Obama’s journey to the presidency did not begin until Law School. He did this at an age where most people have accepted that the way their life is now is how it will continue to be. But he has shown in the time since he graduated that it is never too late to try and change and improve.
3. Passionate Perseverance
You only get once chance at life, therefore it makes sense that we should all do what makes us happy. While this is easier said than done, there is a generally held belief that we should all work at something we have an interest in and we are passionate about. But in our busy world filled with bills, invoices and doctors fees, it often doesn’t seem practical to pursue your passions or something gets in the way of our dreams. Most people prefer to take the safe job that they might hate, rather than take a chance on something they love but may not seem practical or provide enough financial support. Barrack Obama though, did what very few people do. After college he chose his career based on his passions not his paycheck. He became a community organiser in the south side of Chicago. He wasn’t making much money, but he was truly doing what he loved. The result of this (although he is modest in the book) is that he was fantastic at his job and had a profound impact on those he worked with in the community and their lives. Obama then went to Harvard Law School and on completion of his degree, he again turned down the option of pursuing a career with great financial rewards, and began work as a lawyer helping the poor in Chicago. From that point on we all know that he rose quickly in politics and eventually became Senator and eventually President. I think this shows the power of passionate perseverance. Obama was passionate about helping people and trying to improve government and this passion has lead him all the way to the White House.
The two main lessons I took from this book can be universally applied. If you are passionate about something, whether its playing a sport, volunteering in your community or writing a blog, the extra time, effort and energy required always seems worth it. And secondly if you are passionate about something but haven’t done it yet, joined a team, cooked for a bake sale or started writing, then why not just start now, because it’s never too late…
Thanks Fiscal Student…another great review.
Did you ever see someone at work or in school achieve something really great, and think to yourself, you know what, I knew that guy/girl a while back and she didn’t seem that much better than me. Well the good news is your right, the bad news is that they succeeded where you failed through tremendous hard work. Geoff Colvin’s book is quite comprehensive in its study of excellent human performance across multiple fields from chess to golf to business and music. In all cases the greatest performers had been practicing extremely hard for at least 10 years before any exceptional performance was achieved.
You often hear commentators say of Tiger Woods, he makes it look so easy, the truth is that the shot he is playing probably is easier than he’s used to. A good example of this is a technique used frequently by Tiger to practice bunker shots. He drops a couple of balls in the sand trap, and then stands on them, burying them into the sand, before practicing this shot for hours. So if he is faced with what most people would consider a difficult bunker shot in a major tournament, it is much easier than what he has been preparing for. Extraordinary achievers practice consistently over long periods of time and continually make that practice more challenging as their skills improve.
This book comes to the conclusion that while a certain amount of performance is unaccounted for by hard work, the success which is attributed to innate gifts is overrated. If anything is the difference between great performers and the rest of us it is the motivation to do the required work.
This is a well researched and well written book. I also found it very inspiring because what your parents tell you when your younger is true, anything is possible if you work hard enough. Or as the old saying goes, “You know how to get to Carnegie Hall?” practice, practice, practice….
Thank You FiscalStudent….looking forward to reading this one!
This book rocks!, hilariously funny and full of great advice. If you looking for a practical how-to, what’s-it-like guide to becoming a rich entrepreneur, written by an expert and eccentric, Felix Dennis’s How To Get Rich is probably for you.
I really like his writing style — direct, bold, and funny in a self-effacing way– truth be told, with a title like “How To Get Rich”, I lowered my expectations a bit in case it turned out to be the usual drivel you usually find in the Business Profiles section of a bookstore. You know, the 18-point font, double-spaced, full-of-motivating-platitudes stuff that you get when flipping through Trump and Kiyosaki or worse. Those books have their use, but in general, once you’ve read one, the next one isn’t going to be much different. (Actually, Dennis has some pretty harsh words for all the authors out there who write how-to-get-rich books without actually having done so, except by selling copies of their how-to books!)
Enter Felix Dennis, a British publishing mogul who loves writing poems, outstanding wines, and telling it like it is. If you’ve never heard of him, he started Dennis Publishing in 1974, hit it big by publishing magazines related to the PC revolution back when no one else thought it would last, and nowadays publishes some of the most successful men’s lifestyle magzines in the US, like Maxim, Stuff, and Blender. By his own estimation, he’s worth about $400-$900M before tax.
Dennis emphasizes in his book that it’s a definitive how-to guide to being rich, and he regularly repeats, more than half-seriously, that if you’re not using his book to get rich, then you’re wasting your time and might as well give it to someone who will use it properly. Though I have no foot to stand on, I disagree wholeheartedly. You’re going to get good advice from this book regardless of whether you’re aiming to become rich, want to run your own simple business, or even if you work for someone else.
Sure, for those who are looking to get filthy rich, Dennis’s advice is probably spot-on. In a nutshell: choose a good industry (he gives some guidelines on what to avoid), mix in some luck (he gives advice on how to improve your chances of catching Lady Luck), and, finally, the most important part, retain 100% ownership of it through thick and thin (much easier said than done). Dennis truly believes that getting rich really isn’t hard, and anyone can do it, as long as they’re willing to make the sacrifices that are required to get there. On this point, I like that Dennis handles being rich even handedly (something you won’t find with Trump or Kiyosaki). He says outright that being rich won’t make anyone happier and is in fact more likely to lead to distress and loneliness, because getting there and maintaining wealth always requires personal sacrifices that most people aren’t willing to make, and for good reason.
So what is it I like so much about this book?
I suppose the reason I enjoy this book so much and will read it over and over again is that you seldom have the opportunity to hear someone’s philosophy and conclusions about living life, let alone someone who has probably done things you’ll never get to do (but might like to). I like that Dennis gives examples of his thought processes, and I don’t mean only on his successful ventures. More often than not, he gives examples of how he missed opportunities and made errors. He talks about what he’d do differently if he had the chance to start over. He gives some advice on managing talent (what he considers the important asset in a business) even though he also says that entrepreneurs shouldn’t be focusing on managing people.
This book will give you perspectives that you’ll seldom hear from other people in your life.