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Book Reviews Work

Robot Building for Beginners by David Cook, a Book Review

Robot Building for Beginners by David Cook

Robot Building for Beginners by David Cook serves, as to be expected, as a beginner’s guide to building a small working robot. In this case, the robot’s body is mainly constructed from a sandwich container, so the robot is named Sandwich. Its intended usage is to follow a line. I purchased and read this book in an effort to understand more about my colleagues and work at my employer, Neuron Robotics. It did not disappoint.

Do It!

Robot Building
Neuron Robotics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In order to construct Sandwich, Cook walks the reader through various aspects of not only robot building and design, but also basic electrical engineering concepts. While the book is certainly no substitute for even one semester of Electrical Engineering, it does help to bring some understanding to a layman like me. In the interests of full disclosure, I majored in Philosophy in college. However, my father and father-in-law are both engineers, and my husband works as an engineering draftsman. I have heard some of these terms before. Cook explains terms like multimeter, capacitance and resistance fairly well. This is in a lively and engaging style that never talks down to the reader.

Entertaining

Cook’s good humor extends to a section showcasing equipment that he’s fried by making various mistakes. He makes it clear. Be safety-conscious and budget-conscious (he provides specifics and current pricing for most of the items used and referred to). However recognize that, sometimes, stuff is just going to happen. You’ll break or burn things, or just not get them right the first time. Shrug it off and move on – it’s all a part of the learning experience.

The book is large and difficult to digest except in small bites. It is intended as a step by step guide to Sandwich’s construction, but I think a better usage – in particular for laymen reading the book but not actually building the ‘bot – comes as a reference and resource guide.

It almost makes me want to try soldering again – but I’ll have to fight my coworkers to get to the soldering station.

Rating

Review:3/5 stars.

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Book Reviews Content Strategy Facebook LinkedIn SEO Social Media Twitter

Book Review: Read This First: The Executive’s Guide to New Media-from Blogs to Social Networks

Executive’s Guide to New Media-from Blogs to Social Networks

Executive Alert! I recently finished reading Read This First: The Executive’s Guide to New Media-from Blogs to Social Networks by Ron Ploof.

Executive

Like most books on Social Media, it’s a bit behind the times, but that is to be expected, as the time from concept to print is often longer than the shelf life of many Social Media initiatives and news items.

Now, I would like to be fair.

 

Since I have read a number of Social Media books, I already know a lot of this. The main thrust of this book is to get to corporate executive types. That is, this is for people who have no time, and little desire to actually learn much about Social Media, but they still want to be up on things. Okay, so far, so good. However, I think that the medium of a book is, perhaps, misplaced. After all, if busy execs are too caught up in other things to really get into Social Media, then how are they gonna find the time to read a book? And this is a short one — it’s only about 150 or so pages, but still!

Seriously, when I was doing rate analyses at a larger insurer, I was told to make them so short that any executive reading them wouldn’t even have to use their vertical scroll wheel (you’d be surprised what you can do with small print and graphics). And that was back in 1999. In the over ten years since then, every executive has only gotten busier.

Positives

Be that as it may, it’s a fairly breezy read. Like I said, I know a lot of this stuff already, so to me it’s mainly skimmable, but it could be of use to a person with limited familiarity with them new fangled things like Facebook. I mean, it explains that Twitter is a microblogging service, etc. Certainly this is true, but I do hope that the intended audience for this book has read a few articles in the NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, The ABA Journal, Fox News, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, CNN.com or the like and so has probably already learned that nugget of information from one if not all of them.

Takeaways

For me, the most vital bit of information came at the end of the book (why is that always the case? For a book intended to be a cut to the chase for executives, putting this at the end is rather self-defeating). Essentially, it came in the form of an overall strategy, referred to as a New Media Plan, but really, this is decent advice for any sort of a corporate undertaking:

  • Set goals with timelines – well, yes. It makes sense to not just go blindly into things, plus budgets and patience are not infinite. However, I would say, there often needs to be more patience with this type of marketing than one might think. Yes, it’s fast and easy to get things out there — but it’s often not so fast and easy to reap what you have sown.
  • Develop a measurement plan – how else would you know whether anything was working? Ploof is careful to note that this might not just be raw numbers, and the items you’re measuring need to be germane. As in, if post a funny LOLcats Youtube on your site, you might get lots of hits but, unless you’re selling LOLcats tee shirts or the like, is anyone going to stick around and actually purchase your product? Plus, what if your market is B2C and only consists of five companies? Having three readers, and have them as major influencers in three of those companies is a home run, a rousing success, a touchdown, a hole in one, you get the idea and I’m tired of the sports metaphors. Having a million readers and none of them from the five all-important companies is one of those things that looks lovely on paper but means diddly.

More Takeaways

  • Create a Content Creation Engine – this is vital and it really needs more play, not just here, but anywhere. Creating a blog (like mine, even) means a commitment to the readership. It means, you intend to be there for the long haul. And so that means finding ways to get good content, make it, polish it, etc. For someone like me, I look for books like this, and news articles and other things that I think my readers might like and that fit in with my vision of Social Media marketing. For a large corporation like Coca-Cola, content could be generated in lots of ways – say, recipes, or commercial archives or news stories just to name three off the top of my head.
  • Align with traditional marketing programs – absolutely. There should be a symbiotic relationship between the two.
  • Participate within the community – this means, figure out (use Google Analytics for this) which keywords your customers and readers are using to get to you. Also, use those same keywords to go out into the ‘net and see what else it is they are seeing. Which blogs and communities are they getting to? Or which Flickr photo streams? Which Youtube videos are up? Add comments, like on Facebook, etc. And do damage control if you have to — as this is a way to find the bad with the good, too.

Additional Takeaways

  • Learn how to help community leaders – which bloggers really get your company? Maybe you’re a role-playing game site and there are fan fiction writers – so, who’s really good? Who are your fans? The ‘net has a lot of positives with the negatives. It’s not all about putting out fires. It’s also about promoting the good stuff.
  • Build your own online community – this can be through forums, it can be a Facebook page, it can be getting Twitter followers, etc. and,
  • Analyze and Adjust – but of course! If you’re about to hit an iceberg, you might wanna change course.

All in all, it was a decent read,. However, the strategy piece at the end, for me, mattered the most. Otherwise, I would suggest reading Avinash Kaushik or Shama Hyder Kabani.

Rating

2/5

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Book Reviews SEO Site Development

Guerilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson, a Book Review

Guerilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson

Guerilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson is the concept of succeeding in a small business by essentially paying attention to details and doing many things yourself. Simple ideas, perhaps, but they often seem to be missed.

Some of this may be self-evident.

Adventures in Career Changing | Guerilla Marketing
Guerilla Marketing

After all, a small business, almost by definition, does not have a lot of capital just lying around. Often everything needs to be done by an impressively small cadre of workers. Yet we also live in a society where it seems more people than ever before just want to pay someone to take care of whatever needs to be done. Yet that is wrong-headed.

The Details

Levinson’s mantra is that it’s not necessary to invest a lot of money. That is, if you’re willing to instead invest time, energy, imagination and information. And, I might add, patience and attention. For a small business owner, this means having a passion about what you do. All too often, it seems, entrepreneurs get into a particular field because they cannot find a more traditional means of employment. After all, the economy has been rather sour for the past few years. Or they chucked a traditional job but without a vision or a plan. Neither method will work for long because the entrepreneur’s heart is not in it.

What the entrepreneur needs – beyond the details of how to work a crowd or give a talk – is enthusiasm and passion about what he or she is doing or selling. Going through the motions is simply not going to cut it. Since the entrepreneur is one of the only faces of the company (and, perhaps, its only face), the entrepreneur must be jazzed. This is for everything – presenting, talking, handing out business cards, performing demonstrations, writing copy, etc.

Upshot

If the entrepreneur is excited, the prospects can be as well. All in all, an interesting read, and good for the detailed tips, but a more current version would have been a better choice.

Rating

Review: 1/5 stars.

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Book Reviews Quinnipiac

Writing, Ethics, and Quinnipiac

Writing, Ethics, and Quinnipiac

For the Spring Semester of 2015, I decided to double my course load and try to graduate a bit more rapidly. This entailed taking two classes. Little was I to know, when I signed up for these courses, that I would also get a job and my book, Untrustworthy, would be published. Hence my workload began to feel a bit out of control.

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Book Reviews

Lynn Beighley’s Drupal for Dummies, a Book Review

Lynn Beighley’s Drupal for Dummies

Lynn Beighley’s Drupal for Dummies is a beginners’ reference for learning the basics of Drupal. Frankly, after getting through the installation, it all seemed rather simple, which I suppose is a testament to Ms. Beighley’s skills as a writer and an educator. I don’t mind reviewing a book with the word “Dummies” in the title.

Drupal logo
Drupal logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The book is written in the standard Dummies modular format, whereby you can skip around if you wish and not lose too much by not taking everything in order. A good thing, as the chapter on setting a strategy inexplicably comes after the one on installation. To my mind, that is placing the cart before the horse. Don’t we want a strategy before we go to the trouble of purchasing a domain and starting to put content out there? After all, a poorly conceived site could financially harm a company.

The book is also a little confusing when it comes to differentiating pages and stories. Stories seem to be aggregations of pages, or they might be more frequently updated than pages, but that’s tough to tell at first read.

The book discusses forums a bit but does not go far into community management as a whole. There doesn’t seem to be anything in here about, for example, restricting user access or even out and out denying a user access to any given site. While banning users is not the only function of a Community Manager, it’s still an important one, and it can be one that needs to be performed rather quickly. It’s outside of scope to talk about community management theory, strategy or values, but a quick how-to when it comes to banning users would be a fine (and small!) addition to this book. However, using a Captcha to eliminate auto-joining bots, and Mollom to detect spam, are covered.

 

The main features of Drupal come out when Ms. Beighley talks about themes and basic site modules, such as blogs, image galleries and storefronts. The reader begins to see why Drupal might be a good choice for creating a website. There’s little to no coverage of the Open Source culture that created Drupal, but that’s probably beside the point.

The main purpose of the book is to get an Administrator started with setting up and using Drupal, but there’s very little on modification, shy of basic changes such as swapping out themes. One never gets into the guts of the application and the hood is never lifted. There are links pointing to websites where a user can learn more about the application, but they seem to be tacked onto the end of the book. Even a pointer to a more advanced Dummies book on Drupal (even if there’s an attempt to bundle two books in order to increase the profit to the enormous Dummies empire) would be of some help.

It just feels like, when you get to the end of the book: now what?

Rating

2/5