Weekly Reading

I’m back, hot off the heels of a week spent in Morocco. It was my second time there (following a trip last year) and I’m already thinking about when I can get there again next year, I need more rugs!

Being away for so long gave me lots of time to catch up on reading, two weeks ago I was finishing Scott Galloway’s The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google which was a fascinating read. If you’ve been keeping up with the recent WeWork madness you’ve probably heard of Scott Galloway, his analysis of Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon in this book is insightful and thoroughly entertaining. While he focuses on the eponymous big four, he also provides some critical analysis of smaller (relative to the big four) companies like Uber which is well worth sinking your teeth into.

Four thousand Uber employees and their investors will split $80 billion (or more) as the 1,600,000 drivers working for Uber will see their wages crash to a level that makes them the working poor. We used to admire firms that created hundreds of thousands of middle- and upper-class jobs; now our heroes are firms that produce a dozen lords and hundreds of thousands of serfs.

Hopefully surprising no one (I’m a massive dork), I’ve also been keeping up with the 12 years in the making Horus Heresy series from Games Workshop. The Solar War is the first part of the Siege of Terra subseries and book number 55 in the overall series (not including all the novellas and Primarch books). I don’t know how, but 55+ books in and I’m still a huge fan of the fictional world Games Workshop have managed to create. There’s a case study yet to be written about their use of the White Dwarf magazine as an acquisition and content marketing powerhouse.

Having read an article from Marty Cagan a couple weeks ago, I just had to read INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love, a book about effective product management in modern tech companies. In short, it thoroughly lived up to it’s title.

I’ve been not-so-secretly working away at a product idea for a number of months now, and this book gave me the kick up the arse I needed to step back into gear with it and provided some real actionable insights to build it more effectively. This is absolutely a must-read for anyone working in a tech company or for anyone thinking of building their own product.

Mark Lawrence is one of my favourite fantasy authors and his first foray into sci-fi with One Word Kill didn’t disappoint. A fun time-travelling jaunt set in the 80’s. It’s not as adult as his fantasy trilogies but was a nice quick and entertaining read, particularly after the last three books.

Finally, I read John Doerr’s Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with Okrs. We’ve started a very slight roll-out of OKRs at work and I wanted to know what it was all about. I highly recommend reading it alongside Marty Cagan’s INSPIRED - Cagan talks frequently about OKRs but never goes into much detail so this is a great companion and a great resource for your professional life.

Fascinatingly, Doerr does a deep dive on YouTube’s obsession with increasing their daily watch time to 1 billion hours per day and yet somehow, despite mentioning ethics in the book more than once, he manages to completely ignore the deeply disturbing algorithm changes that got them there. When a company focuses for so long on a single objective, and this was a 4 year objective for YouTube, it’s easy to see how ethical constraints can easily be disregarded as staff become increasingly desperate to hit their numbers.

On the subject of unethical companies, I’m ~50% through Bethany McLean’s The Smartest Guys in the Room, an engrossing postmortem of Enron. Hopefully I’ll be able to talk about it next week!

While I’ve been away from a proper screen for a solid week, here are the better articles I came across while I was sitting pool-side: