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This is Ian Ozsvald's blog, I'm an entrepreneurial geek, a Data Science/ML/NLP/AI consultant, founder of the Annotate.io social media mining API, author of O'Reilly's High Performance Python book, co-organiser of PyDataLondon, co-founder of the SocialTies App, author of the A.I.Cookbook, author of The Screencasting Handbook, a Pythonista, co-founder of ShowMeDo and FivePoundApps and also a Londoner. Here's a little more about me.

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9 November 2005 - 15:48Review: Beginning Python: From Novice to Professional

Beginning Python

I highly recommend Beginning Python: From Novice to Professional to anyone looking to learn or improve their Python programming ability. I recommended this to a colleague who had a lot of programming knowledge (in old Microsoft QuickBasic, would you believe) but no experience of Java, C++, Python.

Within a few days he was comfortably doing difficult math calculations (he’s a physics researcher), plotting data, using all the intrinsic functions and editing using IDEs (so, my evangelical mission of conversion was accomplished). This book is only a few months old and is written for the latest major Python version – 2.4.

A few days later I noticed an odd thing – I found myself using the same book for reference. I’ve been using Python for 3 years, I’m a very strong programmer in various modern languages and I use Python in a Nutshell (aimed at Python 2.2) and the Cookbook (I think Python 2.2 as well, though there’s a 2005 edition now), and here I am using a ‘beginners’ manual.

And there’s the crunch – this is a powerful book – it addresses all the basic needs and then runs on through to complicated problems with worked examples, from web scraping, drawing, games, databases and more. In short, this book is brilliant and I probably ought to buy myself a copy. If you want to code in Python then I strongly recommend that you get this book.

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17 August 2005 - 23:33Review: Hackers and Painters (Paul Graham)


Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age


Paul Graham has been writing online since before 2000, today he has 45 articles published for free online. New articles now make Slashdot‘s frontpage, quite a big event in geek circles. He published this book last year and it contains 15 chapters, 10 of which are online and 5 of which are new (and probably won’t go online I guess). The 5 new chapters are:

  • Good Bad Attitude
  • How to Make Wealth
  • Mind the Gap
  • Programming Languages Explained
  • The Dream Language
  • Update Jan 2005: How to Make Wealth is now online.

    Good Bad Attitudes discusses the nerds instinct to step outside of the rules. Hurrah for us thinking outside of the box. How to Make Wealth explains that start-ups are a great way to make new wealth, and as a part of that start-up you can share in that wealth (so get on with it!). Mind the Gap discusses unequal income distributions, Graham think it is less of a problem than is popularly perceived and I tend to agree with his arguments. The last two new essays discuss aspects of programming language design.

    Having read all of the online essays over the years, it felt sensible just to buy this book and give Graham a little cash back. I’d definitely rate this book to new readers who are interested in what makes a geek a geek and the world of high-tech entrepreneurship.

    If you’ve read the online essays, you’ll still get 5 new chapters and How to Make Wealth alone is probably worth the entire price of the book, I quote:

    “At Viaweb one of our rules of thumb was ‘run upstairs’. Suppose you are a big, fat, bully. You open a door and find yourself in a staircase. Do you go up or down? I say up. The bully can probably run downstairs as fast as you can. Going upstairs his will be more of a disadvantage. Running upstairs is hard for you but even harder for him.”

    The online essays appear to be word-for-word reproduced in the book, but illustrations have been added. If you’ve never read Paul Graham, I’d suggest starting with his online essay Hackers and Painters (which is also one of the chapters in the book, and obviously the book’s title too). Overall: thumbs up.

    4 Comments | Tags: Books

    26 July 2005 - 18:24Review: The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell)


    The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

    The Tipping Point is damned excellent. It’s a real easy read with lots of insights on how little things can make a big difference. In one case (p. 96) two pieces of medical literature were delivered to students educating them about the benefits of a tetanus shot. In the first case the final take-up rate was 3% of the students, in the second case the rate shot up to 28%.

    The difference? The addition of a map and details of the opening times of the medical centre – no change at all to the medical content or wording of the literature.

    He also talks about the ‘strength of weak ties’ (p. 54), something that has become increasingly important to me over the last 18 months as I have developed Mor Consulting.

    The results are a little old (a 1974 study titled “Getting a Job”) but nonetheless relevant: 56% of people interviewed found their jobs through a personal connection, with another 18.8% using formal means and the remainder applying directly. Of those that used a personal connection, 16.7% saw that contact “often”, the remainder saw the contact “occasionally” or “rarely”. Most of these people found their jobs through friends-of-friends or casual acquaintances. It’s all about the networking…

    The book is an easy read, certainly suitable for the commute and packed with interesting stories and studies. A definite Thumbs Up.

    1 Comment | Tags: Books

    14 June 2005 - 21:13Review ‘KNOCK KNOCK’

    Seth Godin recently released a new eBook (pdf), KNOCK KNOCK, Seth Godin’s Incomplete Guide to Building a Web Site That Works.

    The book costs $9 and can be bought via PayPal. I’m glad that the pdf didn’t have any silly Digital Rights Management foolishness, unlike some eBooks that Amazon sell. The process was painless, the 42 pages were designed more like a presentation (few words, plenty of space) and were easily printed.

    Thankfully, unlike most presentations the content was very well thought-out and packed a lot of punch – I read it over a slow breakfast on Sunday morning and picked up a number of ideas. If you’re looking for ways to improve your site’s marketing, take a look. If you wait until September then Seth will be releasing it for free on his blog under a Creative Commons license, but £5 or so really isn’t much and the text is definitely worthwhile. Thumbs up.

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    14 June 2005 - 19:20Review ‘Free Prize Inside: The Next Big Marketing Idea’

    I feel a little guilty here, hence this plug. I read most of this book over coffee in Borders and didn’t think I’d need to read it again so I didn’t buy it. Free Prize Inside: The Next Big Marketing Idea is a good book, it just wasn’t aimed at me.

    Seth Godin maintains his high quality writing – if you’re interested in how to introduce innovative ideas at work but you’re not sure what constitutes a ‘good idea’ or how you’d champion and market it then this book is for you. The book is an easy read, the text is easy going and there are plenty of diagrams to back-up the points. Thumbs up.

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    1 June 2005 - 22:56How To Have A Number One The Easy Way: The Manual

    Written by the KLF, subtitled
    THE JUSTIFIED ANCIENTS OF MU MU REVEAL THEIR ZENARCHISTIC METHOD USED IN MAKING THE UNTHINKABLE HAPPEN
    which details the KLF’s no-nonsense mechanistic guide to making a number one hit single (involves almost no money, just follow The Rules). Bit of an odd document, well worth a read.

    No Comments | Tags: Books