Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds

mindfireBook review: Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds – Scott Berkun.

This eclectic series of short essays discusses ideas, questions and concepts that make you think. Sometimes he challenges conventional thinking (why being a follower can be good), and other times he just questions our actions (should you pray for your team to win), there is some advice. And the rest of the time it is just plain interesting.

If you are looking for new ideas, or to find a different take on old idea, you will enjoy this book. As a Toastmasters, there are some great ideas for your next speech.

Some of the ideas discussed are:

  • The cult of busy
  • Why you must lead or follow
  • The size of ideas
  • How to keep your mouth shut

Many of the essay’s are on Scott’s website, so you can check them out before you buy the book.
http://www.scottberkun.com/essays/

This book is kind of a “Chicken Soup for the Philosophical Soul”, and gives you interesting ideas to consider, without being too complex or deep (most of the stories are only a page or two, but the could be expanded into longer essays or books). If I had to criticise, I would like to see some more depth to some of the articles, I feel that sometimes he is just touching the tip of some very complex idea.

But then to contradict myself, it is refreshing to read a chapter that gets my brain engaged, but is only a few hundred words long.

The entire book is just short of 200 pages, but I don’t think that I would read it cover to cover. For me it is a book that you jump into from time to time, find an interesting chapter and read it. They are the kind of chapters that you can re-read a few times.
You can buy the print or Kindle version from Amazon.com for just under $11.

Hackers: book review

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution – 25th Anniversary Edition Steven Levy

The book provides an interesting view of the history and growth of computers, seeing through the eyes of the hackers; the somewhat elusive group of people that have never cared much for contention, have pushed the limits of both computing hardware and software, and have at the same time engage in headed and headstrong arguments about computers, hardware and software.

The book discusses three main groups of hackers, representing the early era’s of modern computing. The first were the group of mainframe hackers bases at MIT in the 50’s an 60’s, using computing time on the hulking mainframes, trying to get the monolithic batch-processing machines to bend to their will.

The second group were the so-called hardware hackers; a group of hardware junkies at Berkeley, figuring out how to assemble pieces hardware to create their own working computers in the 70’s. This was the days of Alteir, the beginning of Intel and Steve Wozniak (who created the original Apple and Apple II).

The final group focuses largely on computer games; an industry which sprung up in the 80’s with the proliferation of arcade games, and the mass movement of computers into people’s homes.

While the book is not specifically written for computer junkies, it is far more interesting for the hackers (or at least want-to-be hackers) out there. Somebody without a passionate interest in computers or programming would probably get a little board with the level of detail.

However, for those like me who work the field, it is a fascinating story of some eccentric people that literally shaped the computing world as we know it today. While there is a strong focus on the development of Apple, and the gaming world for the Apple (at least in the second half), there is very little mention of the IBM/Microsoft route, and the development of applications and games for the so-called PC world. This almost reflects the modern Apple/PC divide.

While at times I find the book little verbose, it is nonetheless a fascinating story. The edition I read was a 25’th anniversary edition of the book, which was originally published in 1985, a testimony to the longevity of the book. Well worth reading.

Thanks to the folks at O’Reilly for the review copy.

Create great docs from PowerPoint – review of George! for PowerPoint

PowerPoint is a great tool for creating presentations, but it has never been particularly good at creating documentation or handouts. However, it is a huge amount of work to maintain two completely separate sets of documents.

Enter George! for PowerPoint by Leaders Guide Pro. They kindly gave me a free license to play with the product.

This simple little addin fills the gap very nicely by providing a simple yet powerful documentation creating capability for PowerPoint.

Some of the features are:

  • Create table of contents for your handouts
  • A variety of elegant document templates, with titles, page numbers, headers and footers
  • Can create speaker notes or delegate handouts
  • Custom logos can be added to your documents
  • It is very easy to use

Here is what a typical PowerPoint handout looks like. Nothing wrong with it, but kind of boring.

boring version

But put it through George!…

handouts

Notice the header at the top, and copyright details at the bottom.

 

table of contents

You can finally add a table of contents to your handouts.

 

set-up docs

A variety of templates to choose from.

Tagging

George! uses a simple process called “tagging” to create the table of contents.

Would I buy it – yes! Would I recommend it? Yes if you find yourself creating handouts on a regular basis from your presentations. If you are just using it for Speaker Notes, then the default printing capability of PowerPoint will probably be ok.

George! uses Microsoft Word to create the actual documents (I suspect the Office scripting engine), and as a result the actual document generation process is a little slow (especially for large documents). So, best to create your documents and grab a coffee or something while you wait. However the results are worth it.

You can buy George! for about $40 from Leaders Guide Pro.

A final comment: I had a few problems getting my free license to work. Nancy from Leaders Guide Pro was absolutely superb with assisting me, providing support and follow-up. Full marks for their customer support.

Do you need a Competitive Edge in Your Job Interviews?

Then listen to these free mp3’s, in which Patricia Fripp, CSP interviews Al Hops, creator of The Interview Edge.

Al Hops is an award-winning sales professional who has consistently developed innovative ideas leading to success in job interviewing and closing sales.  As part of his consulting practice with President Clinton, Bob Costas and Jim Carrey, Al helped open the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville.

The two 20 minute long MP3’s can be downloaded for free of the World Champions Edge website. Thanks to World Champions Edge for making them available.

Featured on Speaking Pro Central

A new public speaking website has just been launched – Speaking Pro Central. They describe themselves as “a community that collects and organizes the best information on the web around the business of speaking.”

Anyway, I was having a look on their site today, and I discovered that I am featured on their website. Just visit the site, and have a look at the featured links on the right.

Go and check the site out – there are some great resources and some fantastic public speaking websites to explore.

Finding How-to’s for PowerPoint

When I present my PowerPoint training, I am often asked where people can find additional tips and help for creating their PowerPoint presentations. Here is a website to add to your resource list.

Dave Paradi has created a great list of PowerPoint resources, including videos, FAQ’s, technical help experts and support.

Enjoy!

In the Company of Leaders – free ebooks

On the the keynote sessions at the recent Toastmasters Convention was presented by Bob Hooey -  "The Ideas Man". His speech was entitied "The Power of One – you can do and will make a difference" – a very relevent topic to leaders in Toastmasters.

He gave us all a copy of one of his books – "The Power of One". He has also made several books and articles available for free on his website. This includes several full length books on leadership, management and self-development.

I highly recommend some of the downloads – so visit http://www.inthecompanyofleaders.com/TM.htm to grab some of the articles.