Consuming too much information can make you fat, clueless & dead – The Information Diet – #bookreview

The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption
By Clay A. Johnson
(O’Reilly, hardback, list price $22.99; Kindle edition, list price $19.99)

In this controversial new book from O’Reilly Media, veteran software developer, open source guru and political advocate Clay A. Johnson makes the forceful argument that our current mania for consuming information is killing us, mentally and physically.

First, we are sitting too much and too long while consuming data from the Web, from TV, from smart phones, from books, and while driving around in our cars listening to blather on the radio.

And, much of what we are consuming is crap – the digital equivalent of high-fat junk food and raw sugar. Some of us now are driving ourselves to destructive distraction through gluttonous obsessions with tweets, status updates, downloads, videos,  instant messages, text messages, emails and restless Web surfing.

For instance, suppose a tweet just went by mentioning some kind of rumored problem with pig populations in Zambia, and you idly read it, processed it in your head, wasted a few more seconds of your life, and took another sip of your latte and took another bite of bagel while continuing to sit on your butt much longer than you intended.

Then you checked your Facebook account on your iPhone or iPad, took another sip of your latte, took another bite of bagel, and went back to Twitter and followed a link to what seemed to be a review of a movie you’ve already seen to see but turned out to be just a lame blog post about how Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich resemble certain characters in Avatar. Then you took another bite of bagel, another sip of latte and checked your email and followed a link to something about Lady Gaga.

More wasted time. More attention to generally useless information. More sedentary life gone by.

We now spend nearly 11 hours a day consuming – frequently gorging on – information, Johnson’s book points out. And it’s driving us to distraction – and killing us.

First, the physical dangers. Johnson notes: “In 2004, one physician coined the term Sedentary Death Syndrome to classify all the diseases that come from the sedentary state. The effects: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and yes, obesity. Some researchers are calling it the second largest threat to public health in America. What are we doing when we’re sedentary? Few of us are meditating. We’re consuming information.”

He continues: “New research points to sitting, especially amongst men, as a leading cause of death. Even if you exercise regularly, it turns out that sitting for long periods of time can be deadly.”

It’s also easy to lose track of time and lose control of time management while distracted by the free flow of information. Something unexpected or surprising or outrageous on the Web grabs your attention, and your carefully crafted to-do list for the day is shot to hell. And, relationships can be affected: “Just a quick check of email when we get home can often end up in evenings entirely lost to LCD screens…” instead of talking and paying attention to each other.

Then there’s the problem of “attention fatigue.” Writes Johnson: “About two years ago, I started to wonder: what the heck happened to my short-term memory? And where did my attention span go? I’ve written a little pithy 140-character tweet, sent it into the universe, and in no more than five minutes, I’ve received a reply. The only problem is, I’ve already forgotten what I wrote in the first place. I’ve had to go back, and look at what I said just five minutes ago to understand what the person replying to me is referencing.”

This book offers more dire warnings about consuming too much information. But the author also offers ideas and recommendations for achieving “Attention Fitness.” You can still have your information and consume it, too, in deliberate, conscious doses that are healthier for your mind, body and your participation in American democracy.

If you pay attention to this book long enough to actually think about what it points out and proposes, you may figure out how to get healthier again, how to regain your focus – and how to better understand the ways you are being duped by some of the misinformation constantly sucked into your head by your addiction.

You can become a more conscious and proactive consumer of information and not just another wasted – and life-wasting — data junkie.

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle. He is a screenwriter, a freelance book reviewer, and a former technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist.

The New Rules of Marketing & PR – More how-to from David Meerman Scott – #bookreview

The New Rules of Marketing & PR (3rd Edition)
How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases & Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly
By David Meerman Scott
(John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,
paperback, list price $19.95; Kindle edition, list price $19.95)

More than a quarter million copies of this book have been purchased since it first appeared in 2007, and it has been translated into more than 25 languages. David Meerman Scott clearly has some fans and has jarred some thinking in the marketing and public relations world.

So the updated advice, examples and how-to tips in his book’s third edition may be just what you need if you are in the process of starting up a business or trying to revamp and modernize your existing marketing approaches.

The updates include new examples and ideas drawn from the author’s many sessions with audiences around the world, as well as responses to posts in his well-known marketing and leadership blog, WebInkNow.

Two timely and important new chapters also have been added.

  • “Mobile Marketing: Reaching Buyers Wherever They Are” focuses on using “location-based mobile marketing” to reach buyers via “GPS-enabled mobile applications for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, and other devices….”
  • And, “Marketing and PR in Real Time” makes the key point that “[i]f you pay attention to what’s happening in your marketplace and react instantly, you can insert yourself into stories as they unfold, generating market attention not possible if you want even a day to react.” Scott shows you how to do this.

The third edition is stronger than the previous two editions on answering “How do I get started?” For example, the book includes a new “Marketing & PR Strategy Planning Template” that is designed “to help people implement strategies for reaching buyers directly.”

Writes Scott: “I believe it’s essential to shift out of the marketer’s comfort zone of preaching about products and services….The marketing and PR strategy template is built on the same principle I use throughout this book: that understanding buyers and publishing information on the web especially for them drives action.”

The goal, he says, is to publish “valuable information” so “your content surfaces when buyers are looking for help solving their problems!”

This book likely will not be the only one you will need to help launch or modernize your marketing and public relations strategy. But David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing & PR definitely should be at the top of your list and the one you read first.

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle. He is a screenwriter, a freelance book reviewer and a former technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist.

The Twitter Book (2nd Edition) – What newcomers & veteran tweeters need to know #sm #bookreview #TwitterBook

 

The Twitter Book (2nd Edition)
By Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein
(O’Reilly,
paperback, list price $19.99; Kindle edition, list price $15.99)

It’s easy to spot a business that’s starting to use Twitter for the first time. They think “tweets” are a great and inexpensive way to push out information and reach potential customers worldwide. So, over and over, they tweet how great their new product or service is, and they include a link where you can get more information, place an order and add cash to their bank account.

But a funny thing happens on their way to easy fortune and fame: Most Twitter users shun them; many actually block them; and some get snarky and snarl about their lame tweets.

Twitter, the authors point out in their newly updated book, is mostly about sharing information, being helpful to others, and generally being interesting and entertaining.

Yes, there are ways to sell stuff using Twitter. But one of the quickest ways to failure on this widely popular social media outlet is to just barge in and try to be an electronic door-to-door sales person.

The recently published second edition of The Twitter Book is fun reading and nicely illustrated. And it is a good guide for learning how to use Twitter without the “common gaffs and pitfalls” that many newcomers commit.

Many experienced Twitter users likely will find helpful tips and techniques in this book, as well.

If you are thinking about trying to put Twitter to work in your business, the two authors offer some sage advice: Listen first. For a long time.

“People already on Twitter will expect your corporate account[s] to engage with them,” they write, “so before you start tweeting away, spend a few weeks or so understanding the ways people talk about you. Get a sense for the rhythms of conversation on Twitter, and think about how you’ll hold conversations.”

That listen-first and “rhythms of conversation” advice applies to all other new users of Twitter, as well.

And it wouldn’t hurt if some long-time Twitter-istas paid more attention to what others are saying and less attention to tweeting their every thought (or half-thought).

One more benefit of The Twitter Book:  It can introduce you to some of the third-party services and tools now available, such as TweetGrid, Monitter, Seesmic, and TweetDeck., which provide more “features and flexibility” than the standard Twitter web interface offers.

Si Dunn

 

 

Treasure Hunter by W.C. Jameson – A memoir that’s a treasure itself – #nonfiction #bookreview

Treasure Hunter
By W.C. Jameson
(Seven Oaks Publishing, paperback, list price $14.95; Kindle, $2.99)

We’ve all had the great fantasy. We turn over a spade of dirt while doing some yard work and suddenly uncover Spanish doubloons or a rich cache of 19th-century silver dollars or some long-lost loot buried by a famous outlaw.

W.C. Jameson’s name is now virtually synonymous with “buried treasure.” Of his 70-plus published books, more than 20 of them are focused on treasure hunting, lost treasures and lost mines in the United States and North America.

Jameson’s huge and diverse literary output includes books of poetry, plus books on outlaws, cooking and even writing itself. Yet many of his fans think of him as a master treasure hunter first.

His newest book, Treasure Hunter, is a treasure in itself: an adventure-packed memoir that recounts and reflects upon his five-plus decades of expeditions – sometimes successful, sometimes disastrous – to find and recover long-lost gold and silver artifacts.

In treasure hunting, Jameson points out, if the rattlesnakes, rock slides and cave-ins don’t get you, state and federal laws and private landowners likely will, especially if you don’t keep stay completely quiet about what you are doing and what you have found.

Indeed, he stresses, “Anonymity is a great ally for a professional treasure hunter.”

So, before you quit your office job, cash in your 401(K), dress up like Indiana Jones, and head off for the mountains or desert, Jameson urges you to plant some harsh realities very firmly in mind:

“It is important to understand that almost everything treasure recovery professionals do is illegal,” he warns. “Thus, the bizarre and unreasonable laws related to treasure recovery have turned honest, dedicated, and hard-working fortune hunters into outlaws. Announcing a discovery often leads to negative and unwanted developments, primarily the loss of any treasure that may have been found. As mentors explained to me years ago, the fewer people involved, the better. Silence is the byword.” 

Throughout most of his fortune hunting career, Jameson has worked only with a small group of partners, none of them identified in this book, except with names such as “Poet” and “Slade” and “Stanley.”

At one point in Treasure Hunter, after a complicated expedition ends in disaster and near-death experiences, “Poet” sums up the “glamour” of their many quests:

“This little trip reminds me of most of our expeditions. Lots of action, nothing goes as planned, we get shot at, and we come back empty-handed.”

But Jameson has had some successes in his long and often arduous career: “From a few of these excursions, my partners and I acquired enough wealth to pay off houses and purchase new vehicles. With some of the money, I paid college tuition for myself as well as for my children.”

And, despite his long career and advancing age, he remains “on the hunt” for more treasures, he says.

Not surprisingly, Jameson identifies library research as one of the toughest and most essential parts of treasure hunting. And the lands around certain “lost” treasures may be accessible only after paying bribes, dealing with unsavory characters, surviving potentially fatal double-crosses, dodging deadly snakes and being willing to risk cross-border smuggling.

If that sounds like exciting “adventure” to you, pay close attention to Jameson’s additional cautions:   

“The truth is,” he writes, “adventure was never an objective, merely a byproduct. Anyone who has ever been on a quest will tell you that adventure happens when plans go awry. The great explorer Roald Amundson once said, ‘An adventure is merely  an interruption of an explorer’s serious work and indicates bad planning.’ Our plans often turned out badly, which may give you some idea of our collective ability to arrange and organize a perfect expedition, to prepare for any and all contingencies.”

For some readers, the many quests described in Jameson’s book likely will fuel or refuel a passion to go out anyway and search and dig for riches. But, for many others of us, some of the armchair adventurers of the world, his book will provide entertaining hours of safe reading, absorbing escapism and comfortable daydreaming.

And that will be treasure enough.

Si Dunn

The Cult of LEGO – #bookreview #lego #afol

The Cult of LEGO®
By John Baichtal and Joe Meno
(No Starch Press, list price $39.95, hardback)

Looking for an inspiring and informative Christmas gift for the adult or teenage LEGO® fan in your life? Stack up some consideration for this colorful new coffee table book from No Starch Press.

The Cult of LEGO® is a well-illustrated, smoothly written and often eye-opening look at the Danish toy sets that have swept the world since their inception as a stackable plastic block in 1947.

Today, LEGO® products are in the hands and toy boxes of countless millions of children. And there are many thousands of adults using the interlocking little plastic “bricks” to build everything from life-size dinosaur statues to massive models of battleships, fanciful spacecraft, Yankee Stadium and Easter Island’s mysterious stone sculptures.

Many men and women, in fact, call themselves AFOL – Adult Fans of LEGO®.—and they sometimes speak of “the Dark Age,” the time in their lives when they stopped playing with LEGO sets, because puberty, high school, college, careers, marriage and other milestones and pressures of life got in the way.

Now that they have emerged from the Dark Age, they are once again able to design and build fanciful creations using the little blocks, plus the various product additions and enhancements introduced by the LEGO Group during the 1960s, 1970s, 1990s and early 21st century.

Numerous businesses also offer specialized LEGO-compatible products, such as tiny plastic weapons, “minifigures” of famous characters (Indiana Jones, Albert Einstein, etc.) and specialized “bricks” that light up. Meanwhile, the LEGO Group has added  hundreds of LEGO enhancement parts such as gears, wheels, microcontrollers and other devices to its product offerings.

Two important aspects of the basic LEGO building “bricks” are their quality and durability. One former LEGO Group employee notes in the book that “[t]he fact that 15- to 20-year-old parts are still compatible with current sets from the store is pretty amazing—and the old pieces just need a ride in the washing machine!”

The Cult of LEGO®’s authors definitely are not strangers to the world of LEGO. Joe Meno is founder of BrickJournal, a print and online LEGO® fan magazine. He also has helped design LEGO sets, acted as an advisor on LEGO projects, and organized and run LEGO fan events. John Baichtal is a contributor to MAKE magazine and Wired’s GeekDad blog. He also has written for tabletop gaming magazines.

A note in The Cult of LEGO® points out: “This unofficial book is not endorsed or authorized by the LEGO Group.”

Nonetheless, the book’s lively and intriguing contents likely will inspire many adults and serious young builders to launch new LEGO® projects or complete old ones. There are many lively photographs and illustrations, as well as interviews, anecdotes and descriptions of resources for the serious AFOL and younger enthusiast alike.

Si Dunn