The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

Written on July 20, 2014. Written by .

Overview of the basic concepts of marketing. The laws are simple, but they aren’t always obvious. The emphasizes that successful marketing is more about appealing to the customer’s psychology than their rational decision making process.

★★★★

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Crossing the Chasm

Written on June 30, 2014. Written by .

This book provides a great mental model for how high-tech marketing works. It presents a technology adoption bell curve divided into customer groups based on how early they will adopt a new technology. The groups correspond to innovators who try new technologies for fun, early adopters (or visionaries) who are the first to find a real practical use for the product, the early majority (or pragmatists) who will adopt once a new technology has been proven by some of their peers, the late majority who wait to adopt until it everyone else already has, and the laggards who resist adoption for as long as possible. The Chasm refers to the gap between the early adopters and the early majority, which is a difficult transition. One of the key points is that most customers are looking to other customers for purchasing recommendations, which creates a chicken and egg problem that is best solved by appealing the the innovators. However, innovators don’t usually like to pay for technology, so you may have to wait until you get to the early adopters before the money starts coming in. This mental model applies to technologies that the author refers to as “discontinuous innovation”, which means a technology that requires a significant change of behavior for the customer.

★★★★★

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The Black Swan

Written on June 18, 2014. Written by .

This book is about the idea that people over-rely on the gaussian distribution and that big events happen much more often than a gaussian distribution would predict. It’s an important concept, but there wasn’t much useful information in the book.

★★★★★

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Manna: Two Visions of Humanity’s Future

Written on June 18, 2014. Written by .

I really like how this book addressed the issue of technological unemployment. It depicts a future in which an artificial intelligence called “Manna” is used to direct low-paid employees through headsets to optimize their performance. It would give step-by-step instructions to employees for how to cook a hamburger, take out the trash, or restock the shelves. This eventually leads to a fairly dystopian society where most people are on welfare. On the other hand, Australia ends up being a robot-managed co-op that is depicted as a utopia. I think it might be difficult to setup such a large co-op system, but if it could be setup it might be a better alternative. Even if a co-op were established, it would likely rapidly fall behind the pure capitalist economies because capitalism is more economically efficient, despite the fact that a large portion of the population could be left behind. So there were some aspects that were a bit implausible, but the technological unemployment example was very interesting.

★★★★

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The Communist Manifesto

Written on February 11, 2014. Written by .

The very beginning was alright. I mostly agree with some of the complaints about society that they have, e.g. that workers are exploited by capitalists and that jobs have become more dehumanizing and/or less natural for humans to do. However, I was appalled at the leap that they took from these complaints to just prognosticating a revolution of extreme evil. The way it was written was particularly disturbing. The wording wasn’t that of promulgation, but as if it were already inevitable that the proletariat would unite and rebel against the bourgeoisie. They showed no shame in advocating violence to achieve their ends. And there was very little rational argumentation or philosophical justification. It came off as more of a call to arms than a manifesto.

★★★★

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The Lean Startup

Written on January 10, 2014. Written by .

This book talks about how to apply the scientific method and the principle of evolution to business development. The most valuable thing I got from the book was the ability to look at business development from this perspective. It also helped me to appreciate the risk of taking too long to release your product. A key concept in the book is that many businesses fail by making things that people don’t want, so it is very important to test your idea as early as possible, sometimes before even making the product. The specific recommended strategies for doing this were a little weak, but that is to be expected because it is the type of thing that is probably very dependent on the particular business.

★★★★

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The Sea-Wolf

Written on October 1, 2013. Written by .

Although this book was a little slower and didn’t grab my attention as much as other great books typically do, it was definitely a really interesting book. The story follows a bookish man whose ferry sinks in San Francisco bay. He gets rescued by a sailing ship that is on its way across the Pacific to hunt for seals. The captain of the ship is a very enigmatic character who will not let the protagonist off the ship, and makes him work as a sailor. The protagonist becomes more brave and self-reliant during the voyage. He also has discussions with the captain about philosophical topics. The captain has an extremely materialist, logical, and pragmatic philosophy, to the extent that he is quite evil. The book was unique in that it blended a traditional adventure story with philosophy.

★★★★

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Bigger Leaner Stronger

Written on September 27, 2013. Written by .

This book is a really good summary of the latest science on bodybuilding. It doesn’t discuss the scientific studies at all; it just gives the conclusions. I would have liked to hear more about the science, but at least all of the conclusions in the book seem to be consistent with the scientific studies that I’ve heard about. I think this book is really useful for getting a quick summary of what you should be doing to build muscle.

★★★★

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Freedom

Written on September 9, 2013. Written by .

This book had some really interesting themes, but overall it just wasn’t that entertaining. It had a great theme of self-sufficient community building and the corruption of government and power elites. But the bulk of the story was about a network of individuals who all wore augmented reality glasses that plugged them into a real-world MMORPG. It just wasn’t that interesting because it just reminded me of World of Warcraft too much. The opening scene was amazing though.

★★★★★

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The Willpower Instinct

Written on September 9, 2013. Written by .

This book discusses a variety of findings in psychology relevant to willpower. One of the main points was that mindfulness is very helpful. For example, instead of trying to suppress your urges, you should “surf your emotions”, feeling them without necessarily giving in to them. It also discusses a lot of pitfalls like how being too hard on yourself can backfire. However, I didn’t feel like I came away with anything new except that I should try harder to be consistent with meditation and mindfulness.

★★★★★

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