Archive for the ‘Books’ Category:

Pull My Trigger

There were two things that stopped me from seeing the original performance of Ken Campbell’s adaptation of Robert Anton Wilson and Bob Shea’s Illuminatus trilogy:

The first reason I didn’t see the original adaptation was, at the time Illuminatus! was performed, I hadn’t yet come across the books, and didn’t know how much I would fall in love with them, and the worldview that created them.  Indeed, it almost felt like there was a conspiracy both introducing me to Illuminatus, and stopping me getting my hands on a copy.  The story of how I finally managed to get my grubby mits on a copy of Illuminatus is a complicated one, involving roleplaying games, two IRA bombs, a gorilla bookseller, almost dying of heat stroke minutes away from Disneyland, a chance discovery on the wrong bookshelf and counting sheep (and in the process turning them into sweet, sweet, money), but not one I choose to go into right now.  Suffice to say that along with “Godel, Escher, Bach” and “Practical Computer Programming for the BBC Microcomputer and Acorn Atom” it is one of my Desert Island books (I’ve never understood desert island disks – I have lots of music trapped in my head, but I can’t easily reread books without actually having them to hand)

The second reason I didn’t see the original adaptation was that I hadn’t been born.

Yet despite the lack of me being in the audience, Illuminatus was a groundbreaking production, and a key stepping stone in the careers of many people who have gone on to become well known and loved faces in theatre and on screen.  I have often wished I had been there.  But such things are not to be.


Another of my Desert Island Books is Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘Cosmic Trigger’ a combination of autobiography, philosophical discussion and general introduction to the world Robert Anton Wilson inhabited as he wrote Illuminatus.  It is simultaneously mind expanding, laugh out loud funny and poignant.

And, word came to me from the doggiez from sirius (or possibly from a webpage…) that someone has been fool enough to consider putting on a stage adaptation of Cosmic Trigger.  And also that the particular someone is Daisy Eris Campbell, Ken Campbell’s daughter.  You can imagine my ears perking up at this.  Also, Alan Moore is going to be the voice of FUCKUP, which is rather cool in and of itself.

Cosmic trigger is going to be crowdfunded.  I’ve already made a small contribution, but the crowdfunding proper begins tonight (quite why the 23/5 was chosen as the launch date for the crowdfunding campaign is anybody’s guess…)

And so I shall tonight be making my way down to a small and exclusive gathering where similarly discordant people will be meeting, and almost certainly pontificating (literally).  I am told my cosmic trigger will be pulled.  The launch party is a sell out, but should you wish to be not only a patron of the arts but also a genuine official pope, you may want to head over to tonight and give them all of your money.

The thing that killed HMV

I’m not claiming to be normal, but the thing which killed HMV (or more specifically Fopp) for me was Borders closing.

When Borders closed, I was less inclined to go into town for an afternoon of mooching around bookshops, so instead, I got myself an Amazon Prime account, and shopped for books online.  Later a branch of Costa Coffee opened in Bar Hill, so I no longer had to go to town to find a coffee shop to read in.  Then I realized amazon Prime could be used to buy all the other little things I would make one off shopping trips for.  Finally I got a Kindle, and my need for instant gratification book buying was over.

For me HMV and Fopp were mainly ever impulse purchases.  I wasn’t a big music or DVD buyer, so I probably didn’t keep them alive – but its an important note:  The things that drew me to the highstreet are gone.  The high street is an ecosystem – and for me, its a ecosystem that is quickly dying.


I’ve been reading Betterness: Economics for Humans by Umair Haque.

The thesis is a simple idea:  That we have reached a point of stagnation in business (it follows on from Tyler Cowen’s ‘The Great Stagnation’ idea – which unfortunately I’ve still not got around to reading… though as a regular Marginal revolutin reader, I suspect I have a fair grasp on a lot of the concepts behind it) and that something new is needed to make any real improvements.

What Haque suggests is Betterness.

Betterness is to Business (or economics… its unclear – Haque talks about economics, but seems to be talking purely about the parts businesses play in the economic system, and a Betterness is meant to be a replacement for Businesses as usual) what positive psychology is to psychology – the recognition that we have spent so much time figuring out wat goes wrong in businesses (or economic systems?) that we haven’t really looked at what makes business’s (or economic systems?) work realy well.

I wonder how good this is as a starting point – certainly, a vast number of business books seem to be about making businesses really good – the book “Good To Great” springs to mind.  Maybe this is less studies in academia, but then this book isn’t an academic text either.

Betterness then follows the popular psychology approach of saying “We don’t just want to be happy, or surviving, we want to experience Eudaimonia – and businesses shouldn’t just be profitable, they should have the business equivalent of Eudaimonia”.  It is a short (an philosophically conservative) step from here to virtue ethics – or in this case, I guess Virtue Economics.

Betterness doesn’t make it clear what it considers virtues to be for businesses – their certainly seems to be a concept of ‘greater good’ at the heart of it, but specific virtues are not elaborated on.  There is nothing so well developed as the VIA inventory which positive psychology has used.  Nevertheless, this list seems to exist somewhere, as some concept of measuring the virtuousness of companies is talked about later on in the book, albeit frustratingly lacking in detail.

For much of the book, I felt one thing lacking was a description of “How do we make our company better?”  The answer is finally elaborated on near the end – apparently, its by having a mission statement.  Though not just any mission statement – careful picking and choosing of mission statements is used to make a point – good businesses has a mission statement which says how they benefit the customer and the world, rather than how they benefit their shareholders.  Unfortunately, its always easy to find meaningless mission statements when looking at companies – because mission statements don’t actually always impact the company’s core values.  Moreover, they manage to make two mistakes:

As a bad mission statement, they pick Microsoft’s “A computer in every household running Microsoft Windows”.  Except this (or its previous “A computer on every desktop” statement) was, at the time it was created, a powerful statement about they way they expected the future to be – and was exactly the sort of future Microsoft helped bring about.  It would be meaningful to say that this mission statement has passed its prime – and that this might be why Microsoft has seemed to lose its way, but to class it as a bad statement shows a forgetfulness about where the world was only a few years ago.

As a good mission statement they choose Google’s “Be really good at one thing”.  Again, this is a statement which may have worked for the first few years of Google (when they were trying to be really good at search), but these days, it doesn’t describe the Google I know.  Google now is trying to be everything to everyone – sure, looking after the worlds data may be a core value, but in order to do that, google is being a hardware manufacturer, a operating system developer, a search engine, an office suite, oh yes, and an advertising space retailer.  A common criticism of modern Google is that it is spreading itself too thin.

Betterness never goes into the legal changes that would be needed for Betternesses to take off.  How are they funded?  would people put money into companies which cared about the world before shareholders?  what about public company’s legal obligation to do the best for their shareholders?  There is suggestion that companies which are already thinking about the world first are more profitable – but is this a general trend, or do large companies spend more PR money on making themselves look good?  I’m left unconvinced.

Which is a shame.  Because, at heart, it is a good idea.  it would be a better place if our businesses were able to consider money only as something they need in order to flourish, not as a single goal.  If this book as a key value, its about suggesting that there is another way, that we ought to consider another way, rather than going down the same path as countless businesses.  It is a fine aspiration.  Now all we need is a roadmap, and some good data to show that the road actually exists.


The Unquiet Introvert – Quiet: a Question of structure

As I continue to read Susan Cain’s “Quiet”, I’m struck by reasonably complicated feelings.  Quiet is clearly well researched, containing everything I expect to read along with new facts I had not previously encounters.  As popular books on introversion go, then it is reasonably encyclopedic.  As such I can’t hesitate to recommend it to somebody who wants a quick and dirty introduction to this facet of personality.  The writing itself, however, leaves me confused.

The first problem is one of structure.  The book began by using stories – effectively anecdotes - about individual introverts to illustrate points about introversion.  As it progressed the book moves on to using descriptions of scientific research and experiments that prove their points.  As I said, sub-par Malcome Gladwell. Then, as if from nowhere, suddenly Cain steps in, a gonzo journalist mode, going to visit some of the scientists and researchers she describes.  Except that, well, Cain doesn’t really get that much from them.  It could be a good story of her experiences with interesting characters, if only the characters she wrote about were interesting, or had interesting stories to tell.  Instead, we see encounters which don’t do much more than take longer to explain what their experiments have proven.  We don’t get any insight into debate within the introvert research community.  We don’t get any of the outlandish ideas some researchers might have.  Its just a different way of writing.

The other problem is one of staying with the story.  At one point Cain gets into discussing a question of nature vs nurture, especially in relation to highly reactive children.  So far, so good.  But as she gets into the neurophysiology which might underly the reasons for their high reactivity, she moves off into an aside into her own problems with public speaking.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a link – and I can see why she moves from one to the other, but then Cain moves back to talking about the highly reactive children then back to public speaking again.  Back and forth between the two ideas, without any sense that what she is doing is breaking up both narratives.

I wasn’t expecting to find it was the style of writing which left me cold about this book – Cain’s TED speech was masterfully structured, but left a distate in my mouth about Susan Cain’s ideas about introverts needing special treatment.  So far I don’t find any of these distasteful ideas in the book, and yet the storytelling is seriously flawed – flawed in ways I would expect an editor approaching this book to quickly fix.

The Unquiet Introvert : First Impressions

I’ve begun reading (at last) Susan Cain’s “Quiet”.  I’m only a few chapters in – so I have little to say about it right now, other than my first impressions.  I’ll probably come back to discussing both ideas in the book, and related ideas it has raised in my mind as I continue to progress through it.

I can’t help but feel, on reading this book, that Susan Cain feels she is treading som new ground by writing about introverts.  Maybe she is.  Maybe this is the first popular book about introverts which isn’t designed for introverts – I’m not sure.  But in basing the core of her book on explaining that introverts are not like extroverts for a very particular reason – and that this makes things hard for introverts – which is a shame because introverts have a lot to offer – Cain is only really covering ground from books like “The Introvert Advantage” – a number of which clutter my bookshelves.

Indeed my feeling in reading this book is that Susan Cain is trying to be to introverts what Malcolm Gladwell is to connectors, salesmen, mavens, people who have good hunches, experts and (probably I haven’t read it) dogs with eyes.  Unfortunately, Cain isn’t as good a story teller.  She introduces lots of interesting ideas, but they feel to me more of a mishmash of things you might like to know about introversion rather than leading us towards a big reveal – if she is leading us towards something big, there is at least a flaw in the disjointed nature of the things she is writing about.

The book does go deeper into the science than many of the other books in this subject I have read – and I’m particularly interested int he neurophysiology sections that she describes.  I’m less happy with the fact that every so often, Cain stumbles across a hard question (nature or nurture : does brain activity tie us into behaving in a particular way, or does our brain activity reflect the way we have learned to act?  Why do some highly sensitive children not turn out to be introverts?), she doesn’t seem to press harder to find an answer – or to find out why the scientists researching this don’t know the answer.  I’m even left feeling that her descriptions of papers might be lacking some details which are important to understand why the papers lead to the conclusions they do. I’m going to have a reading list of papers (or at least abstracts of papers) to go through before I’m happy I’ve learned the things this book should have been telling me.  Unfortunately, I think all of this is probably symptomatic of someone with an arts education finding themselves stumbling into scientific journalism – almost as bad as someone with a mathematical education trying to write book reviews.

So far, I’m glad I’m reading the book, and it feels far less of an attack on extraverts, and far more about they hows and whys of introversion than her TED talk did. I also have far fewer problems with the “Are you an introvert” test as presented within the book, than as it was presented on the Guardian website – though I would note that my hugely extroverted wife scored only 5 (suggesting that no extravert feels they can agree with all the extraverted statements she offers) while I scored 19 and another friend scored 20 (suggesting that introverts do find themselves easily able to arrive at the bottom end of the scale), suggesting there may be some bias towards getting readers to identify themselves as introverts… or again a lack of statistical understanding on Cain’s part.

Given the huge media splash this book has made, I would be very intrigued to see Susan Cain’s ideas about self promotion and PR for introverts.  There might be a follow up for her int hat area!

Why I Write This Blog

When I was writing the article about Susan Cain, I ventured into the territory of discussing the value, to me, of blogging:  The fact that knowing I have done something with an idea – that I have shared it, even if no one reads what I’ve shared, is cathartic – its relaxing, and lets me get on with other things.

In the previous article about TEDXGranta I opined that it was a shame that ideas, when expressed were not always presented as well as they could be – and that that got in the way of the message.

So clearly this blog is perfect.  And I’m proud of everything I’ve written, right?

Yeah.  Whatever.

You see, I would dearly love this blog to be perfect.  But I’m lazy.  Too lazy to strive for perfection.  Which is, I admit, a flaw.  But even worse, I have great trouble with letting people perceive me as being imperfect.  Which means I don’t want to show them anything I’ve done.  Nothing I do will ever be perfect enough – so to myself, I will always seem to be too lazy.

However, I have ideas, and until I started this blog, they were just buzzing around in my head, waiting for me to do something with them.  Something I would never do, because to actually realize my ideas would show up imperfections – both in the idea, and in my attempt to do something with them.  I’m keeping myself locked up in a gaol of my own creation.  And if so, then this blog is a halfway house back to society.

You see, I didn’t tell anyone about this blog.  I just wrote to it.

And, when I wrote to it, I never cared that much about checking what I wrote.  There was no deep planning, just thinking thinking thinking until I was fit to burst, then writing until the muse left, or I reached a sentence which sounded like a conclusion.  After that the copy editing was negligible and I published without caring what the world thought.  Because, it was only under this set of rules that I could get anything written at all.  Only under these rules that I could do anything with my ideas.

And this is the way I’m going to continue.  At first, when I wrote to this blog, I thought I would write mainly about things I had special knowledge of – I have quite deep knowledge of the Windows driver ecosystem, and have attended enough of Microsoft’s conferences to let me think I have some insight into their corporate mind.  But as its moved on, I’ve used it as a place to dump other ideas.  Mainly technical ideas.  Applications I’ll never write.  Business strategies I’ll never convince the person who has power to take seriously.  But more and more, I want to talk about other things – the things which sit on the top of my mind from hour to hour.  The last two articles were examples of this – I’ve written about Introversion – which is both a major curse and a god given boon to me, and I’ve talked about ideas – which is the landscape I live in – away from the minor irritations of day to day life.

But there are other paths where I still fear to tread.  Spirituality.  My own half assed philosophies.  Stuff which could be described as the trashiest of self help, where the only scientific proof is an n=me sample.  Maybe I’ll find a way of broaching some of that here.  Because even if ideas only work for a few of us, its worth it if the idea is out there.

I’ve heard it said that ideas alone have no value.  When I first heard it, I agreed wholeheartedly.  Because I had ideas, and no one was paying me for them.  But this was just an excuse.  My ideas may have been priceless.  But all the gold in the world doesn’t do anything if you keep it locked away and don’t let anybody know you want to sell it.  No ideas do have value.  I buy books because I want to expose myself to good ideas.  Sure, the clarity of the writing helps.  The references to back up the ideas are nice.  Anything which stops my thoughts getting in the way of me paying attention to the idea is good.  But if there was no idea, no matter how nice the writing, I would consider the book to be almost valueless.

This all means I can put a price on ideas.  The sort of ideas I read about (which often are not that huge or world changing) I might expect to get one or two of in a paperback.  So to me, a good idea is worth, perhaps, a fiver.  The good thing about ideas, is that you can sell them over and over again to different people.  The bad thing about ideas is that, no matter how much you want to, you can’t own them.  And if someone can express that idea better than you – more clearly, more easily to get hold of, in video when you’re still on a cuniform tablet, then they’ll take the money.  And you can’t complain – because the idea isn’t yours.  But you also can’t complain, because the idea is being spread.  And because one idea being taken doesn’t mean you are out of ideas, it means you have more space to create more ideas.  And it means you know your ideas are valuable.

I’ve noticed many authors say they keep getting asked the question “Where do you get your ideas?”.  And I’ve noticed them having glib answers.  Answers which don’t answer the question.  Because the authors don’t know.  They might know what inspired a particular idea.  But they don’t know where the ideas come from (though Elizabeth Gilbert has some good thoughts on this.  See her TED speech.  Also, she doesn’t let her fear of being judged get in the way of writing about the spiritual side of her life.).  he fact is, authors have lots of ideas – they don’t get their ideas from anywhere – in fact their biggest job is to know which ideas not to use (or not to use just yet). I rather suspect authors, on their death beds, are more upset about the infinity of stories they haven’t been able to tell yet then of the few finely crafted stories they got out into the world.  People who say they never have ideas – or don’t know where ideas come from are wrong.

Its a lot like people who say “I never remember my dreams” or “I never dream”.  Everybody dreams.  We have pretty decent scientific proof that everybody dreams.  People who don’t remember their dreams, are people who don’t think paying attention to their dreams is important.  If you want to remember your dreams, all you have to do is the following

1. When you wake up, don’t move.  Moving seems to be the thing that eats dreams

2. Ask yourself:  was I dreaming just then.

3.  If you were, write down everything that you remember.  And perhaps meditate on bits to see if they help you remember other parts of your dream.

4.  Also, if, during the day, you recollect a dream fragment – you realize that a memory you recall couldn’t possibly have happened, write it down.

Do that, and often you’ll be remembering multiple dreams a night.  Don’t do that, and you could go on thinking you don’t ever dream.

Ideas are very similar.  We all have ideas.  We all think, from time to time “This sucks”.  That’s an idea.  When something sucks, there’s an idea telling you that something could be better.  Give it a couple of seconds pondering, and you might have a notion of how something could be improved.  It might be a fanciful thought.  You might immediately realize why it wouldn’t work.  But its an idea.  Seriously we have ideas all the time.  We just don’t recognize them.

For the record – its unlikely that you’ll have original ideas.  Because original ideas are mind bending weirdness, things that take a leap of consciousness to obtain.  Original ideas are for the prophets, philosophers, scientists and artists. (and only the very few of them, the rest are hacks, just like you and me).  What most of our ideas are is about combining things we already know in new ways.  Ideas are usually about 1 + 1.  God ideas are about the result being 3.  Bad ideas are about the result being .5.  Very rarely will we have to invent a whole new numbering system.

When we do recognize ideas, they have a habit of buzzing around and annoying us.  They want to be applied to everything.  Or they want us to apply them instead of washing the dishes and turning up for work.

When I talked about dreams, I talked about thinking about them, and about writing them down.  By honouring dreams, we mark them as something important to us.  Something we should pay attention to.  Ideas are the same… we need to honour them – to recognize them as important.  And we honour ideas by doing something with them, something more than just thinking about them.  When you honour dreams, you don’t keep getting the same dream – you net new dreams. The same is true of ideas.  Ideas don’t dry up.  The more ideas you’ve had, the more you are able to have, so long as you keep recognizing them as important.


This blog is about honouring ideas.  Its a place where I write about them.  A place where I share them.  A place where anyone can take them.  These ideas may not be worth a fiver.  And I certainly don’t expect anyone to pay me for them (though any donations you might like to offer won’t be rejected out of hand).  This blog is about putting them out there in case anybody finds them valuable – or anybody who isn’t a perfectionist might actually want to realize them.  Its a gift to myself, and (in a way) my gift to anyone who cares.

As of yet, I haven’t told anybody about this blog, even though I’ve been writing it for 6 months.  Google knows about it.  My wife knows about it.  Occasionally people stumble across it, and probably wonder where they are.  But the people who know me, don’t know about it.  I’m not sharing the ideas widely enough yet.  This may have to change.


But not quite now.

Because I’m scared they’ll find out I’m imperfect (like they don’t already know)

But ideas want to be free.  They want to be shared.

So someday.  Soon.  I promise.

On Susan Cain and Introverts

Susan Cain seems to be the most recent person to discover that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert.  Her TED speech was impressive, because Susan Cain is a wonderful, energetic, empathic speaker.  And there is a segment of the population – introverts – who are going to react strongly to it, because its a message we all like to hear : “All those things you’ve been told time and time again are wrong with you?  Well there is nothing wrong with you.  You’re a beautiful little flower – in fact you’re probably more beautiful than some of those big brash gaudy flowers.  And the world – well the world better shape up and start making your life easier, or, well, there’s gonna be some indeterminate form of trouble”

For the record, I’m an introvert.  A big, avoid parties, enjoy solitude and reading, and keeping my thoughts to myself, introvert.  I often say (as a joke… although all jokes have an element of truth in them deep down) that I hate people.  And I’m not a self loathing introvert.  I also agree that its an extravert’s world out there. I learned long ago to accept what being an introvert means to me:

Other people are tiring.

I find it hard to think, when I’m also trying to manage all those other, tiring people.

I’m bloody well not going to tell you what I’m thinking about, until I’ve formed the thought in my head, and got it fairly right.

Because inside my head is where things matter.  Its where I live.  The outside of my head is just a place where new things come from – its job is to funnel them into my mind.

I have no evidence (and I can’t read her book, until the end of March, so I may have to write a follow up then) but I suspect Susan Cain agrees with me on these points.

But we disagree – I think – on one major issue.  Susan Cain comes close to suggesting that introverts and extraverts are at war.  Whereas I think between us we have more potential if we work together.  And for introverts – as a niche, its up to us to find our way into the inefficient cracks of extravert society.  If its a war, we are not an opposing army.  We are a resistance, who extraverts might one day wake up and notice are running everything, secretly, behind the scenes.  If we’ve done it right, the extraverts won’t even care.

So – let me get this straight – I do think the world needs to be told that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert.  I do think its right that extraverts should be told there are people whose minds work in a slightly different way from yours (incidentally, if you’re an extravert… imagine you’ve spent all day in meetings.  Then gone out with a crowd of people after work.  Then, on arriving home, you’re in-laws have turned up for dinner.  Just as you are seeing them out the front door, after a lovely meal, a friend calls, and suggests you pop down the pub for last orders.  You say “I think I’m going to have an early night” tired from all the socialising.  Well, that’s how an introvert feels after an hour of meetings.  Or after one long phone call.  Once you can understand that, we can move onto the deeper implications).  I also think its right that introverts need to be told that there is nothing wrong with them, that its just a characteristic they have, like their height, eye colour or sexuality.  But I don’t think we need to get extraverts to compromise as much as Susan Cain seems to think we do

Lets take her discussion of education.  Susan Cain says

1.  Introverts do better at school than extraverts

2. The school system is increasingly biased towards extraverts in how children are taught to learn

3. There are more extraverts than introverts (actually, I think Susan Cain overestimates the number of introverts – everything I’ve read suggest we are 25% of the population)

Now – for right or wrong – our school system is set towards getting everyone to the same level.  It doesn’t do a wonderful job of helping those who are capable of excelling excel, because it spends its time picking up the pieces of those who are falling behind.  Now, looking at the statements above we see that, despite the extravert education system, the introverts are doing well.  On average, they don’t need more help.  Its the extraverts – the majority – who need help.  So doesn’t it make sense to have an education system which teaches extraverts in the way they find the best to learn?  Its at the expense of the introverts doing even better – but hey, its not the extraverts who are going to pop down the library and carry on with self study on their own, is it?

I’m tempted to think that the workplace is the same.  Now, I’m going to make assumptions here – some are probably unjustified, and many are based on talking to my wife, who is the sort of extravert who makes extraverts go “wow – she talks a lot”.  Really, its all a lot of guess work.  But its been through my mind, and feels sufficiently right for me to want to put down on paper – which is better than you’ll get from the average extravert’s blurtings.  A workplace is full of extraverts and introverts.  Probably still in similar ratios.  Introverts, when they see problems, or opportunities to change things, will look them over, come up with a few ideas, and then (if they still like them) will tell someone.  Extraverts are different.  Extraverts don’t really believe in the reality of an idea until they’ve told someone else about it – until the idea has left their head and entered the world.  So extraverts hold meetings.  And they brainstorm.  And generally tire out the introverts (who would much rather just read the minutes, then come back with their own thoughts on the matter).

Without the meetings.  Without the ability to shout over cubical walls, the poor extraverts won’t be able to get anything done.  Productivity drops by 75%.  Now, if you rule out the introverts, productivity will only fall by 25%.  And it won’t even fall by that amount because introverts have a couple of tools in their arsenal which they learn to exploit.

The first is to be friends with an extravert.  Or, you know, marry one (a risky decision, but its working out for me).  You can manage your time with the extravert, and use that time to explain your ideas to him.  All you have to do is win over the extravert, then he’ll do the job of winning over everyone else.  Of course, you’ve got to pick you extravert… you want one of the really popular, really convincing ones.  But if you provide the ideas (and yes, act as his sounding board… it would be better if you didn’t have do, but at least its only one person, and you can control the situation more), then they’ll spread.  You might not get the credit, but that means you won’t have to deal with the other people that taking the credit entails.  Your pet extravert will, however, consider you his secret sauce – and won’t want to leave you behind.

The second is to learn public speaking.  “But introverts can’t speak publicly!” I hear you cry.  Um, we can.  Because when you speak publicly, its a very managed situation – moreover,  you’ve thought of what you’re going to say, and how you’re going to say it beforehand.  Its a learned skill, that anyone with a few evenings to spend at a Toastmasters group can pick up.  Moreover, I’ve noticed public speaking unlocks a slightly different personality – the crown pleasing, crowd controlling, dare I say it, charismatic me.  Now, I can’t keep this version of me turned on for too long, it drains me.  But when I’m in a meeting, and I have to take control, remembering to switch to ‘Presentation Ben’ is a big advantage.  Still think you can’t do it?  Trust me, you do it all the time.  If, like me, you live in your head, then everything you do is a presentation, an act to portray yourself to the world.  Many of our best known comedians and actors are good public speakers.  Hell, so is Susan Cain.  She knows she can do this – I know that almost anyone can.

The final trick is to know your energy.  And to honour your energy.  If you’re feeling tired, you need to recuperate.  Right now, I’m sitting in a hotel room in London, taking a break from the world.  Because work does drain me (moreso since I’ve got myself involved in the world of product management meetings).  And, bless her, my lovely wife can drain me too – and certainly joining her in activities she loves (which involve lots and lots of other people.  Did I mention that I hate people?) drain me.  So I’ve taken a few days to escape.  And be on my own.

So it doesn’t need to be a war.  You just have to accept that the extraverts need to do things there way, and we need to make a life in that world…

Or we did.

Because half my life ago now, the my little, introverted, world changed.  And it was all due to introverts.

Specifically, it was due to the group of introverts who built and brought to me the internet.

As an introvert, the net is wonderful.  Right now, I’m sharing ideas with you – and it isn’t tiring, its the opposite, its a release, because these ideas are finally leaving my skull and going outside where they can bother other people.  I don’t have to talk to you.  I don’t have to race to keep up with both thinking and talking (hmm, that could be a good slogan “Introverts think without talking.  Extraverts talk without thinking”).  Meanwhile, my shopping is delivered to the door (and the sooner they have robot deliverymen the better), my books arrive straight on my kindle.   I still get to meet new people, but I meet them at my rate – at the rate of thinking, not at the rate of talking – or the more common rate of smalltalking.  And, when all the meetings get too much, I can work from home, and actually get stuff done.

In peace and quiet.


And the research suggests that the stuff I get done this way, is going to be better than the stuff extraverts bash out between themselves at meetings.

So who am I to complain?

I never wanted to be president.  To much shaking hands and dealing with people.

No, the vizier behind the throne.  That’s power.  After all, presidents only last for 8 years.

Ideas… they last quite a bit longer.

Lean Publishing and the Future Of Books

I’m very taken by some of the ideas behind lean publishing.  The idea is simple – start writing a book, and when you’ve got something written (it doesn’t have to be much – or indeed good) start selling it via  As time goes by you add to your book – either more information you’ve wanted to add, or in response to comments from readers.  You submit these updates, and all your books purchasers can access them straight away.  You also have complete control over book price, so you can raise the price as your book grows.

Leanpub also provide some technically very neat tools for converting your book to different ebook formats – but thats by the by.  Its more about the idea.

What leanpub lacks is the ability to sell your book for a trivial amount of money (say 1 cent) – this is probably an effect of the costs of payment processing… but its a shame, almost anyone could write a book worth 1 cent – by the time you reach 99 cents, you start needing higher quality.  They also lack the tools to keep engaged with the reader – not just by providing updates, you understand, but by having in depth conversations – I’m thinking the ideal leanpub type site would have a blog, a wiki and a forum system all built in.

I’ve wondered if you could go even further with books than this. In the same sense that the ideal TV program is now an app, perhaps the ideal book is too.

I’m talking about lots of things… if I’m reading my book on a computer, then I want references to webpages to be hyperlinks, and references to other books to take me to the right place on amazon.  But I want more – maybe I should get a discussion forum built in (possibly even a forum which knows how far I’ve got into the book to stop spoilers).  Maybe I should be able to shop for books the author recommends.  Does the author do occasional interviews about this book?  Then his podcast could be included too.

I’ve also long had a soft spot for sites like which give you chunks of books every day, either by email or RSS.  Something about this form of serialisation of books seems ideal to be for young adult reading… perhaps in a long series like Twilight or Happy Potter you would subscribe to a book, getting new stories as time moves on.

Of course, all these ideas could begin with writing via LeanPub – because all leanpub use for writing is markdown formatted text – and, once you had amassed sufficient text, if my ideas are right, there will be people out there who have written the app frameworks for the sort of ideas i’m talking about, and will be willing to let you use them in return for a cut in the profits – just like LeanPub do with their ebook update offering.