Dilbert on Agile Programming

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PMBA: Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion

Here’s the first in what I hope will be a long series of mini-book-reviews I’m reading from the Personal MBA list.

Influence: The Psychology of PersuasionMany “persuasion” books teach manipulation – here’s how to make people do what you want them to do. Cialdini takes the opposite approach. As a self-described gullible consumer (in spite of being a psych professor), Cialdini explores how “compliance practioners” use the “weapons of influence” against people like him. After identifying each major tool, he teaches defensive techniques. Cialdini doesn’t pontificate. He’s one of us and falls for the same things we do.

This book was a quick and entertaining read. Here are a few of the topics covered:

  • Reciprocation – why fundraisers give gifts, like address labels with your name on them, because accepting them will predispose you to return the favor with a gift
  • Commitment and Consistency – why fraternities haze, why we’ll do anything to reinforce a decision we’ve already made
  • Social Proof – why so much of what we do is influenced by those around us. The suicide trends data reminds me of a similar chapter in Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point
  • Liking – how we’re more likely to be influenced by people we like
  • Authority – why we do things authorities tell us to do
  • Scarcity – how your gym gets you to sign up today by making great offers that expire if you don’t sign on the spot

I’d recommend this book to just about anyone, not just people interested in the PMBA program. It will definitely remind you of times that you’ve fallen for the tricks of master persuaders. I bought my first suit this year (not bad, I made it to 32 before buying a suit). Now I know why it was so easy for the salesman to sell me shoes, a shirt, a tie, a belt, etc after I’d already committed to buy the suit. By contrast, the accessories seemed like little purchases next to the high-priced suit.

If you like this topic, here are a few related books on my shelf that I’d also recommend:

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Gmail Spam Blocker is 13337

Gmail Spam Blocking is 13337
Gmail’s 1337 spam blocker has been working overtime for me.

In case my mom reads this (from Urban Dictionary):

Pronounced “Leet”, short for “Elite”. The original phrase was 31337, or “Elite”, referring to the best hackers. It is still used today by some of the good hackers, but the word has been picked up and overused by so many losers and posers that its meaning has been corrupted.

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Starting My Personal MBA

I’m an entrepreneur with no formal business training. Over the years I’ve dabbled with the idea of getting an MBA, but I can’t justify the time and cost at this stage in my life. I’ve made up for my lack of training with lots of reading, so I was intrigued when Seth Godin started recommending actual experience combined with a dedicated reading of 30 or 40 books instead of an MBA.

Out of Seth’s post sprang the PersonalMBA program. PMBA is a list of 42 books and periodicals designed to help readers “master business without spending a fortune.”

So, I’ve decided to work my way through the list. I haven’t set a time limit (though I’m estimating about 18 months) because I want the flexibility to spend as much time as I need to on any given book. I also plan to get as many resources as possible through my local library system and I’m sure I’ll buy any books worth keeping.

I’ve already read a number of books on the list so I’ll come back to those later. For now, I’ll be starting with the books from the writing, accounting, finance and economics sections as they should be the most relevant to my current business and non-profit endeavors.

Related Links:

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Dribble-Proof Your Starbucks Cup

Has this ever happened to you? You grab a coffee from Starbucks on your way to a client meeting, take sip, and coffee dribbles down the front of your shirt? Doh!

Paper coffee cups from Starbucks have a fundamental design flaw that causes unnecessary drippage. When the vertical cup seam is lined up near the sipping hole in the lid, coffee collects under the lid at the seam and invariably drips on your shirt. To avoid sloppy-coffee-shirt syndrome, make sure the lid hole is on the opposite side from the cup’s seam.

Related: Mean Time Between Failures of a Starbucks Cup

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Ordered My Aardvark Video

This summer, the interns at FogCreek Software built and shipped Project Aardvark, now known as CoPilot, a service that makes it easy for one person to control anothers computer. A documentary about the process will soon be available – they’re taking pre-orders now. Buying this video is a no-brainer for anyone with any interest in the software business – its only $19.95 with free shipping. Anyone else amazed that this DVD is only $20?