links for 2009-12-25

  • "I wrote awhile ago about why project managers get no respect, and that’s because people who make a big deal out of the project-manageryness of their work, as opposed to the domain of the things they make (homes, software, films, cookies) come off as a kind of weenie, a pm-weenie if you will. They appear to be people who are more interested in schedules, budgets and methods than the results those tools help achieve, which is kind of weird. It’s like the director of a bad movie who talks only about his fancy zoom lenses, or that the film came in under-budget. They miss the point."
  • I like Hugh MacLeod's cartoons. Some of them just make me laugh.
  • Interesting read from Philip Greenspun on why Gladwell is wrong in his latest book, "Outliers: The Story of Success." It makes me think that it's probably not worth reading the book with this level of talking out of his ass.

    "No 'Malcolm Gladwell' is listed in the online FAA Airmen Certification registry, from which I infer that he has no flight training or pilot experience. His biography says that he majored in history, from which I infer that he has no technical education. Yet apparently he and his publisher, Little, Brown, decided to publish a chapter on how to fly airliners without asking a few pilots to review it."

3 thoughts on “links for 2009-12-25”

  1. I enjoyed Outliers, though it wasn’t my favorite that he wrote. If you’re only going to read one, make sure it’s The Tipping Point.

    His books are similar to Freakonomics. Strange patterns are identified, and the author presents what they believe the explanation (or an explanation) to be. I think they’re enjoyable to read, and Gladwell does a good job at communicating, even if he may not get the technicalities right on, say, an airliner’s course versus an airliner’s heading.

  2. I can deal with technicalities, like heading vs. course. When it’s a refuting of a whole section of a book, though, I start wondering about the accuracy of the whole book. I don’t believe everything I read, but I also tend not to read things that I know to be BS from the beginning.

    I’ll wait for it to come out in paperback.

  3. I agree that The Tipping Point is the best by far. The premise of Outliers is basically “Some people are exceptional and some people have worked hard to become so, and there are many different factors that come into play in many different situations.” What a groundbreaking conclusion! Blink is pretty similar, an opinion I confirmed when I saw him live a few years ago.

    Gladwell’s kind of like Wikipedia. You find all sorts of interesting information, particularly of the sort that connects each topic to many others, but you’d get laughed at if you used it as an actual source. Still, the legitimate sources are usually right there, and if his poorly-sourced opinions get you to seek out something that makes more sense, the article is a success. Even assuming that everything he said is 100% accurate, why would you look to him for flight specs in the first place? His expertise is in laying out information so members of the lay public can find it more palatable — a sort of intellectual crack salt, if you will.

    Disclaimer: I’ve been starting the last few mornings with a chapter or two of What the Dog Saw, Gladwell’s new collection of previously published essays, which I got as a Christmas present. I’ve read most of them before, but they’re still thought-provoking (even if one of those thoughts is, “Hindsight is 20/20, eh, Malc?”).

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