Personal Logs

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Knowledge potfolio

I have been reading "The Pragmatic Programmer" recently. It's really an inspiring book that presents the authors' own practical experience and wisdom.
I've just finished chapter 1 and found an analogy the author uses very interesting. It compares knowledge assets with financial investment.
Good investors invest regularly and as a habit. They also diversify the investments and balance the risky-high reward and conservative ones.
It is a very useful analogy. It is beneficial to treat own knowledge and experience in the same way no matter what we do. To add my 1/2 cent, I have found four deviations to this analogy:
First, our knowledge assets expires! It is particularly true in the fast growing IT industry. Many of the things we learn today may be irrelevant in 5 years time.
Second, we may choose to trade time and effort directly into knowledge assets. Financial investors do earn income through variours ways but those income generally are at much lower scale than their investment assets.
Third, we can share but not sell the investment. A investor can cut the loss by selling out a bad investment. But we can't sell the knowledge we gained and get the time spent on it back. Therefore we have to be much more careful about what we invest our time in.
Fourth, the knowledge investments generates different things in return. We generally get financial reward from them. Financial investments grows (get more of themselves in return) overtime in return. Of course, both can degenerate which is part of the investment risk.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bill Gates' "Think week" (2004)

Bill Gates has a habit of "Think Week". It is taking a week off every year and spend it reading the latest research papers that he wouldn't have time to read normally. This is not that a unique concept nowadays because a lot executives do "corporate retreat", which is a very similar thing.
The link here points to a "eWeek" interview with Gates about his think week in 2004. I know we are approaching the end of 2005 but I am still excited to read about it.
He has talked about his routine in the think week. Basically it's just Reading + daily necessities (sleep, eat, etc). He makes commentary about each piece he has read. I think this is a brilliant idea! Everybody knows the benefit of writing comments on what we read. But we don't do it often at all because there are just more stuff than we could ever read! However, I think it is wise to trade a bit of reading time into writing time because the benefits is just so huge that we wouldn't consiously give away. We need to write something to really digest the information and recall it easily when we need later.
Blogging is a perfect place to write the commentaries. Especially a blog without many audiences, I wouldn't worry about boring my audiences to death :)

OK, here is this article's summary:

Gates is paying attention to microporcessing.
Gates has started reading about wireless tech in depth. He has pointed out Ultra-wideband and WiMax (802.16)
Gates is closely watching security. He has written a memo about IPSEC (IP security protocol)
Machine Translation (a research funded by Microsoft) is making good progress that English help docs can be translated to Spanish automatically and users don't tell significant difference from the human translated stuff.
Gates considers XML to be the next single big thing in IT. Every web services on the planet can be used as a subroutine of your system. This is a really powerful statement. MSFT and IBM has organized a few interop fest to crystalise the standard. Smart move !
Security is the highest pirority in MSFT. Longhorn is pushed back for this reason.
The big products coming before Longhorn are mainly infrastructural. Normal customers wouldn't even notice when they are deployed.
Visual Studio 2005 (codename) Whitehorse will allow visual designing of web services and visual customisation of relationship between application and deployment. Visual modeling is a hot topic. IBM's Rational group is doing some interesting things on this as well and they have Eclipse. Gates said UML is not the full answer to modeling. He think Modeling should be so powerful that businesses can directly use it to customise their enterpise solutions visually.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Working hard and Reward

I'd like to share an interesting and important point that is brought up in a conversation with my manager.

Today we talked about my recent progress. I told him how much I enjoyed my last project sincerely. But I have also expressed my concern about the next few months scheduled for the team to concentrate on defect fixings. I said I enjoy working on new projects because they are more fun and make me grow faster. I like working hard and take on extra responsibilities. But I can't really work hard in defect fixing because there are only a small number of interesting defects and a large number of boring ones. I would end up with all the crap defects if I work hard and clear up all the interesting ones faster than they come in. He is quite shocked by this and agreed this is an obvious omission in his planning. He used the analogy that if you work hard on peeling potatoes and only get rewarded with more potatoes, you would be pissed eventually. But if you work hard at eating cakes and get rewarded with more cakes, you will work even harder. I'm sure he's been thinking about this a lot after the talk.

This problem exist only in a small number of domains where the workers actually do their job because they enjoy it. Of course not all the programmers enjoy writing code. But the ones do definitely have a big plus over the ones who don't. A culture of rewarding good programmers with good works can be much more effective and healthy than monetary reward.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Design for the future

I've been reading "Joel on Software". He emphasized a lot about design before coding. There are a number of benefits like reducing risks and better quality etc. I am inspired and has come up with another benefit: Design for the future or Design the (currently) impossible.

Computer is such a powerful tool that you can turn your abstract ideas into virtual realities with a couple of programmers and a garage. However, the computer always has its limitations. Our imagination is bounced back from time to time due to its impracticality. A flurry of imagination is unleashed every time a part of its limitation is extended, a paradigm shift happens in the industry. E.g. high level programming language, internet, broadband, VoIP, etc. The heros in the industry recent years are the ones who were among the earliest explorers of the possiblities created by this paradigm shift.

It takes time to realize such a paradigm shift has happened. And it takes more time to come up with a brilliant idea to do something with the changes. By which time, a horde of new start ups are already doing or have already done everything you could imagine with the new changes. Don't even think of trying to be a better "me2" at this stage, because all those dinosaur-class companies are approaching with their enormous cash reserve and greed trying to do the same thing.

Design allows one to be proactive. We can design absolutely anything, the only bound is imagination and knowledge. People has been designing VoIP long before broadband is in wide spread. P2P is the paradigm shift that has made skype's dream to come true. The complexity of video games increases as fast as the hardware's evolution. It's not because game developers adapt to new techs quickly. It's because the design has long been there and only come into implementation when the hardware is available. So let's make some predictions of the future and design something that would be useful in that future.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Great quotes of Warren Buffett


Despite any misques Buffett is still by far one of the most honest CEO's in the business - and one of a very rare few who doesn't mind sharing the secrets of his investment success:

"It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price."

"Wide diversification is only required when investors do not understand what they are doing."

"We enjoy the process far more than the proceeds."

"We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful."

"Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken."

"Great investment opportunities come around when excellent companies are surrounded by unusual circumstances that cause the stock to be misappraised."

"I always knew I was going to be rich. I don't think I ever doubted it for a minute."

"I am quite serious when I say that I do not believe there are, on the whole earth besides, so many intensified bores as in these United States. No man can form an adequate idea of the real meaning of the word, without coming here."

"I buy expensive suits. They just look cheap on me."

"I don't look to jump over 7-foot bars: I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over."

"I never attempt to make money on the stock market. I buy on the assumption that they could close the market the next day and not reopen it for five years."

"If a business does well, the stock eventually follows."

"If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians."

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."

"Look at market fluctuations as your friend rather than your enemy; profit from folly rather than participate in it."

"Of the billionaires I have known, money just brings out the basic traits in them. If they were jerks before they had money, they are simply jerks with a billion dollars."

"Only buy something that you'd be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for 10 years."

"Our favorite holding period is forever."

"Price is what you pay. Value is what you get."

"Risk comes from not knowing what you're doing."

"Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No.2: Never forget rule No.1."

"The business schools reward difficult complex behavior more than simple behavior, but simple behavior is more effective."

"The first rule is not to lose. The second rule is not to forget the first rule."

"The investor of today does not profit from yesterday's growth."

"The only time to buy these is on a day with no "y" in it."

"The smarter the journalists are, the better off society is. For to a degree, people read the press to inform themselves-and the better the teacher, the better the student body."

"There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult."

"When a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact."

"Why not invest your assets in the companies you really like? As Mae West said, 'Too much of a good thing can be wonderful'".

"You do things when the opportunities come along. I've had periods in my life when I've had a bundle of ideas come along, and I've had long dry spells. If I get an idea next week, I'll do something. If not, I won't do a damn thing."

"You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don't do too many things wrong."

"Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it's not going to get the business."

"A public-opinion poll is no substitute for thought."

--My favrioute ones are bolded. I've been reading about WB recently. He is really an admirable person with great thoughts. There is another interesting article about him (like an interview notes):

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Quote from 7 habits

Unless we are willing to achieve real independence, it's foolish to develop human relations skills. We might try. We might even have some degree of success when the sun is shining. But when the difficult times come-- and they will--we won't have the foundation to keep things together.

How true!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Quote of the day

We must not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time. --T. S. Eliot