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The Myths of Innovation 103

Posted by samzenpus
from the 90%-perspiration dept.
cgjherr writes "Ah, the technology history book, normally I'm not a fan. The writing is aloof and dry. The topics are vague, the history misinterpreted, and the lessons presented too vague to be applicable. And don't get me started on the illustrations, which are all too often pyramids with the authors perched at the top looking down on the lowly reader at the base. Thankfully, this book, "the myths of innovation" breaks all of these rules. It's an engaging, fun and quick read. The history is interesting, and the lessons presented are practical. I particularly like the author's tone. It's witty and light. Which makes this a very fast read, one that leaves you wanting even more by the end." Read below for the rest of Jack's review.
The Myths of Innovation
author Scott Berkun
pages 176
publisher O'Reilly
rating Excellent
reviewer Jack Herrington
ISBN 0596527055
summary The history of innovation with lessons learned
The myths of innovation is about how innovation happens in the real world in companies, universities and garages around the company. The first two chapters really draw the reader in by showing the twin fallacies of the epiphany moment and the historically clean line of innovation. Learning that innovation doesn't just come as a flash, and that lots of successes have come out of copious failure encourages us to try to innovate, and to keep trying even when we believe we have failed.

This short book (147 pages of content) is presented in ten short chapters. The first two show you how anyone can be an innovator. You can think of those as the debunking chapters. The third chapter is where the author starts helping you to build some techniques to innovate. He presents how there are some reasonable methods to spur innovation and shows examples from Apple, Google, Edison, Craiglist and more.

In chapter four he shows how to overcome peoples fears of innovation and overcome the common problems with the adoption of new technologies. Chapter five, "the lone innovator", debunks the legend of, well, the lone innovator. It sounds good, and plays into our noble story of the hero, but it's not common in reality. Chapter six talks about ideas and surveys where innovators have found the ideas that they start out with. Of course, where you start is often not where you end but that's ok, since innovation is a lot more about failure than it is about success.

Chapter seven covers something I think most of us can relate to, which is that managers aren't often the innovators. Chapter eight talks about how we believe that the "best ideas always win" but that's least often the case. This sounds pessimistic, but it's actually an interesting study in how the biggest product with the most feature isn't always the best for the customer. Chapter nine, "problems and solutions", talks about framing problems to constrain the creativity and innovation. The final chapter, "innovation is always good", is at the same time the most amusing and disturbing. It covers innovations from the automobile to DDT and presents that innovation, no matter what, is always good. Agree or disagree the points are well presented.

As I say I really enjoyed this book. It's an easy read that is hard to put down. What's more it's really motivating. After reading this book you will want to dig right back into those crazy ideas lurking around in the back of your mind and give them another shot. With this book, you will have a few more tools at your disposal to turn your ideas into reality.


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The Myths of Innovation

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  • Sounds like a cool book, but at over $18 too expensive - did we really need a hardcover?

    I'll wait and hope it comes around to Safari (it's an O'Reilly book).
    • by skotte (262100) *
      really? 18 is too much? Sounds about right to me. The review seems like it might skip a lot of potentially interesting points, but thats probably ok. Unless, I suppose, the review is short because the book is thin on quality, then you are right and 18 is way too much.
      • by jkauzlar (596349)
        Yeah, but the hard cover. Why pay for the hard cover? There's an interesting book out I'd like to buy called The Wealth of Networks. Hardcover price: $40. Probable paper price: $25. Probable paper price on Amazon: $17.
        • by eggstasy (458692)
          Because paperbacks fall apart after... one read? ;)
          And if you're a hardcore book reader, or at least a hardcore fan of a specific book series, you will re-read them many times and flip through them occasionally for your favorite bits, or for reference in a book discussion... so you need something that lasts.
          • by jkauzlar (596349)
            That's ridiculous. Exactly how wild are your bedtime reading sessions? :) Showing the proper care for a paperback will make it last a very long time. And it's lightweight and easy to carry with you. I have probably a hundred books, many that I've owned for a decade or more. Unless the binding is bad from the start and you fail to show it some common decency, it should be in fair condition for as long as any hard cover book. I suppose if the book is *really* special to you (I bought Mostly Harmless in hardba
            • aaaah, Slashdot... where else would the top post diverge into a discussion of the cost/benefit of hardcover vs. paperback, instead of what's actually contained between said covers.

              • by kisanth88 (593283)

                aaaah, Slashdot... where else would the top post diverge into a discussion of the cost/benefit of hardcover vs. paperback, instead of what's actually contained between said covers.
                How could you discount the aforementioned

                bedtime reading sessions
                It almost sounds sexual.... :)
      • The review even mentioned the book did not have that many pages, so I am reluctant to buy it without looking it over in person.

        Then again the Mythical Man Month is almost twice as much, so I guess perhaps the price is not out of line as I thought (though the hardcover part is still odd).
      • by Lockejaw (955650)

        really? 18 is too much? Sounds about right to me.
        Seriously, when was the last time you saw a hardcover for only $18? These days, regular old paperbacks get pretty close to $18, and the big ones can break $30.
        • by ncc74656 (45571) *

          Seriously, when was the last time you saw a hardcover for only $18?

          Recent releases (both fiction and nonfiction) turn up in the warehouse stores for less than that.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @02:20PM (#19242909)

    After reading this book you will want to dig right back into those crazy ideas lurking around in the back of your mind and give them another shot.

    No, I won't. Remember...

    Chapter five, "the lone innovator", debunks the legend of, well, the lone innovator. It sounds good, and plays into our noble story of the hero, but it's not common in reality.
    ...and...

    Chapter eight talks about how we believe that the "best ideas always win" but that's least often the case.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The execution of an invention might be done in the group, but the innovation is ALWAYS A SINGLE IDEA IN A SINGLE PERSON. For all the big inventions in big companies, they're is always a single person with the idea, and a bunch of managers claiming credit for it.

      • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @02:46PM (#19243307) Homepage Journal

        The execution of an invention might be done in the group, but the innovation is ALWAYS A SINGLE IDEA IN A SINGLE PERSON

        Yes and no. Innovative ideas tend to happen inside environments that are conductive to them. i.e. I may come up with a brilliant idea, but that's only after having bounced 50 related ideas off my coworkers. For some types of innovation, you may even need access to equipment and tools before you can develop the idea in the first place.

        As for execution, is an idea really innovative if you can't execute it? The best someone can do in that situation is write a paper and hope someone else spends the resources. To effectively execute an idea, you pretty much always need infrastructure to support its development. The "lone innovator" tends to lack that infrastructure, and is thus usually unsuccessful in his attempts to execute.
        • by pipingguy (566974) *
          "but that's only after having bounced 50 related ideas off my coworkers. For some types of innovation, you may even need access to equipment and tools before you can develop the idea in the first place."

          http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/may2 0 07/id20070518_332210_page_2.htm [businessweek.com]

          Buxton takes pains to distinguish sketches from prototypes, which are more detailed, more expensive, and more focused on testing or proving a single idea. If sketching is about asking questions, prototyping is abou
          • "The greatest breakthroughs will always begin with one good idea in one person's head," to quote Eric Raymond... "and the greatest products will always reach perfection through the concerted efforts of a highly skilled team"
    • The easy solution is to make one great idea and one good idea.
  • Isn't the whole point of innovation to come up with some new idea. Reading a book about how to innovate may give assistance in helping to broaden your ability to "Think outside the box". The title leads me to believe that I will become an innovator just by mimicking someone else.

    I truly believe inventors or true innovators are not made but born. Anyone can learn to do something but only people with a knack or talent will do it well.

     
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jcgf (688310)

      I truly believe inventors or true innovators are not made but born. Anyone can learn to do something but only people with a knack or talent will do it well.

      Beliefs like that lead one down the road of mediocrity.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Gulthek (12570)

        I truly believe inventors or true innovators are not made but born. Anyone can learn to do something but only people with a knack or talent will do it well.

        Beliefs like that lead one down the road of mediocrity.

        Sometimes, that's exactly where one should go!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by scribblej (195445)
        Beliefs like that lead one down the road of mediocrity.

        Seconded. I'm not a brilliant programmer because I was born coding. I'm not a brilliant programmer because I have a "knack" or "innate talent." I'm a brilliant programmer because I spend all of my time studying and doing it; I work very hard to draw distinctions other people miss, and I seek out feedback and seek to always improve.

        The GP's suggestion that some people are just "naturally" good at some things shows a startling lack of understanding abo
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Your example is interesting, but not really decisive. A counter-argument could be thus: Programming is a 'craft' like woodwork or building a house, now I could read books and spend years learning how to build a house and maybe I could put it into practice. I could learn from building that house and perhaps build a better house. But what I couldn't necessarily do is innovate a whole new and better way of living. Now it could be argued that people are born with is an innate creativity to approach the problem
          • A lot of people think that talent is something innate that you are born with and if you don't have it, then you can never develop it to the same level as those 'naturals.' I'm not really sure where this idea comes from, I think it might be because people look at those talented ones, and don't see how they can acheive the same level of excellence, so they come up with explanations why it is impossible.

            In any case, to the contrary, there is a Scientific American article [scientificamerican.com] that addresses the topic, and even
        • by drakaan (688386)

          (Going off-topic a bit further)

          I'm having trouble beleiving that you are a brilliant programmer but have no innate talent.

          In practice, you either find programmers with innate talent, but no *exposure* to programming who work hard and eventually demonstrate their relative brilliance, or you find programmers with no innate talent, but a desire for compensation or recognition who believe they are brilliant, but are churning out craptastic code.

          There are many levels between the two, but as a general rule, yo

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by drinkypoo (153816)
            There is another kind of Genius, the Genius of hard work. I mean this in the sense of the person, not the property of a person. Some people just seem to be inclined to work harder than others. Some people seem to be inclined to work even harder than them. If you're fairly intelligent, and you're motivated, and you're dedicated, you can accomplish a great deal more than most people ever will.
            • by lgw (121541)
              A poor programmer who works harder just means more work for me to clean up after him. If you contribute negatively, work less!
          • by FirstOne (193462)

            "I think most really good programmers are humble in describing their ability to absorb and integrate the concepts necessary to be able to come up with programming solutions. Some don't realize that the same traits that make them respond that way end up leading them to discover things that others might miss.

            Time and effort, of course, is a part of becomming a brilliant programmer, but without some inate ability, all the time and effort in the world won't help. So, I would say:

            Those people who you

        • by bheer (633842)
          I agree with you. Even most musical 'geniuses' get to that point by monomaniacally focussing on polishing their craft in their toddler/childhood years, at a time when other kids are doing other things.

          That said, innate talent does exist. Google for the video of the guy who learned Icelandic in a week (he got to be that smart after an epileptic attack, apparently). However, innate talent is rare and unpredictable and although it rises to the top on occasion (military geniuses throughout history, both good an
        • Those people who you hear about who are "naturally talented" fall into one of two categories: 1) They are talented and spent a lot of time and effort getting that way, you just fail to see the time and effort -- you are just seeing the "end product."...

          Oh, please. You're honestly telling me that you don't think people are naturally talented at things? You must be out of your mind. Let's put it this way: during high school, I was considered to be excellent at math. I competed in bunches of math competitions and won, I always scored high on every test, and so on, and so forth. Now, I must admit, that during those 4 years, I never (literally, never) opened a math textbook outside of class. I never studied, I hardly paid attention. I'm just being h

          • by Xiaran (836924)
            It interesting that you bring up Feynman because it brings up something about talent and/or genius that I think is being neglected in this conversation. And that is enjoyment of what you do. The wonderful thing I got out of Feynmans books and lectures was the wonderful sense that he truly loved and enjoyed what he did. He loved finding out about how stuff works, weather that be safe cracking or physics.

            I think of myself as a good programmer. But I find it difficult to think of myself as naturally brillia
            • I completely agree -- interest can help drive a lot of it. But talent matters a lot, too. Even if you loved programming, if you had an IQ of 70, I can guarantee you wouldn't be able to do it well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dpaton.net (199423)
      Innovation can be taught too. Ask anyone who has gone through the TRIZ process: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRIZ [wikipedia.org]

      It's not rocket science, it's a new way of thinking about problems and their solutions.

      Some people are born with it, others are taught it. The results are essentially the same for all but the most esoteric and rare cases.
      • Jesus Christ, that article is one of the most buzzword-laden pieces of crap it's ever been my misfortune to read -- and after eight years in the military, eight years in corporate IT, and ten years in academia, you'd better believe I've read my share of buzzword-laden pieces of crap. It may indeed be true that "innovation can be taught," but any system that describes itself the way TRIZ does (the Wikipedia article was clearly written by a shill) is pretty much guarenteed to be good for nothing but separati
        • by yada21 (1042762)

          separating gullible PHB's from their money.
          Whose money?
        • I agree, the Wikipedia article is pretty crappy, but the actual TRIZ process is pretty f'n cool.

          BUzzwords aside, the core idea, innovation is not a unique quality, is still something I've yet to see scientifically refuted. I've seen the dumbest and most me-too PHBs come up with GOOD patentable stuff with TRIZ. If that's not an endorsement, I don't know what is.
    • "Isn't the whole point of innovation to come up with some new idea."

      Lots of people come up with new ideas. Can you take your new idea and create a profitable business with a marketable product? Being a smart and creative person doesn't mean that you can build a business. You probably can't learn to be smart and creative, but you can learn the techniques of starting a business.

    • by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @03:33PM (#19244087) Homepage Journal
      That's what it comes down to. Do ideas evolve and become something new, over time, or are they something that spontaneously appear?

      It's not about mimicking someone, but about preferring to stand on the shoulders of giants -- even if said giants are just other people standing on other shoulders. Innovation does involve something new being added. It is also not merely adding something for the sake of adding something - it can't be "Embrace and Extend". What was there before has to have a definite, identifiable, significant limitation or flaw and the new solution has to have a definite, identifiable, significant remedy that is genuinely unique and quite possibly inspired.

      There is almost nothing in the world that didn't have a predecessor. Modern writing evolved from early phonetic syllaberies which evolved from symbols representing words/ideas which evolved from pictures representing entire scenes/concepts. Each stage came from something older, but each stage required a truly amazing intellectual leap.

      Now, I personally draw a distinction between innovation and invention. To me, "invention" can only really refer to the first step in any such chain. All other steps are innovative, but they are not inventive. To me, an invention can have no true precursor. There may be something that an inventor uses as a source of inspiration, some personal Muse, but the source cannot be a true predecessor. The most it can be is inspiration.

      Inventions, by my definition, are extremely rare, and are almost certainly invented by individuals. Innovations, by definition, are the work of not only the innovator(s) but all predecessors as well. As such, they are by definition not the work of individuals.

      Also by my definition, inventors are very much a breed apart. The way most people think precludes them from ever inventing anything - they simply cannot imagine something from scratch, they can only imagine in derivative terms. Nothing wrong with that, and for most of life it is infinitely preferable. To think totally outside the box, totally in non-derivative terms, requires a brain that has some combination of higher-functioning autism, schizo-effective disorder and borderline personality disorder, and is yet functional enough in the real world to do anything meaningful.

      Inventors are almost never successful, rarely have more than one true invention in their entire life, and historically have either descended further into madness, died young as a result of that illness, and/or died in abject poverty as a result of that illness. These days, you will most likely find true inventors living homeless on the streets, suffering from alcoholism and terrible ill-health. They will not be living in the condos of Silicon Valley, sipping champagne for breakfast. The reason there are more artistic inventors than technological inventors is that the homeless can usually scrounge chalk or paints far more easily than they can chip fabrication plants.

      Countries that tend to provide better services for those who can barely function in life are frequently cited for having an extraordinary number of true inventors. This isn't because they really have more, it's because their inventors are more likely to live long enough and have the means to circulate their ideas. Countries known to provide only limited or non-existent help are known for their innovators (who are often world-class) but almost never for true invention. Generally, no country can afford to fund both inventors and innovators, and almost nobody tries.

      • by wall0159 (881759)
        That is one of the most insightful posts I've read on Slashdot, ever. I wish I had some mod points!
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Vincman (584156)
        Very well written, indeed!
        Just to add to this, Schumpeter, the grandfather of innovation, distincts between innovation and invention as well. From the Capitalist Process (1939):

        "The making of the invention and the carrying out of innovation are, economically and sociologically, two entirely different things. They may, and often have been, performed by the same person; but this is merely a chance coincidence which does not affect the validity of the distinction. Personal attitudes--primarily intellectual

    • by metlin (258108) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @03:38PM (#19244199) Journal

      Isn't the whole point of innovation to come up with some new idea.
      Reminds me of a story. Someone once approached Frank Herbert and said that they had an idea, and if he would write a book, they'd share the profits with him.

      He laughed at the person, because it is not the ideas that he was lacking in - it was the time and effort of executing those ideas that was hard.

      Similarly, ideas are dime a dozen. Even *good* ideas are easy to find. Don't believe me? Just work on an area for a few months and you'll find yourself coming up with unique solutions and new ideas to solve existing problems that you (or people known to you) face.

      On that note, cultures and environments that encourage innovation by letting folks come up with and work on new ideas will always succeed. I do not know about geniuses, but I have seen that even the most mediocre, average person can come up with fantastic ideas under the right circumstances and under the right environment (and the right tutelage).

      There is nothing wrong in mimicking something else - if you can do something better than someone else can, then by all means go ahead. It is the end result that matters, not the uniqueness of the idea.

      Ideas are worthless if you can't do something with them.
      • Similarly, ideas are dime a dozen. Even *good* ideas are easy to find. Don't believe me? Just work on an area for a few months and you'll find yourself coming up with unique solutions and new ideas to solve existing problems that you (or people known to you) face.

        It's interesting that you start by talking about good ideas - but later specify unique ideas. "Good" and "unique" are not synonyms.
        • by metlin (258108)
          Actually, I was making the exact opposite point - i.e. uniqueness does not particularly matter because ideas are plenty.

          So by unique solutions, I did not mean that they were necessarily universally unique, but rather unique to your skills and abilities (i.e. something *you* would not have thought of before) and new ideas to the problems they are facing (once again, not necessarily universally new but rather new to you and to the people you work with). These would be things you'd not have thought of before,
    • by pacalis (970205)

      true innovators are not made but born
      First, we are all made. - i.e. nice language you were born with

      Isn't the whole point of innovation to come up with some new idea.
      No, specifically an 'innovation' requires making money in new ways. An 'idea' by itself isn't even an 'invention' unless it is novel and reduced to practice.
  • by w.p.richardson (218394) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @02:27PM (#19243023) Homepage
    the best ideas come from senior managers. You just have to make them think they came up with it.
    • by dajak (662256)
      This is sort of insightful and funny at the same time. This mechanism is largely responsible for the lone innovator myth. Businessmen, managers, and professors get the credit for the "idea", while their employees solve solve the many subproblems in actually realizing it.

      According to Edison, who was himself a businessman owning a research lab, "genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration." But even this is a misrepresentation in my opinion. There are obvious ideas, like the electric
      • by Xiaran (836924)
        An example of this penicillin and Flemming and Florey(which is my favorite because I grew up near a suburb in Canberra that was named after Florey). If you ask a bunch of people who discovered penicillin youll get a bunch of people saying Flemming. Which is a bit true. But it took a great deal of slog work from Florey and a team of Oxford researchers to make penicillin a usable reality in the 40s. Note that I am not in anyway detracting from Flemming with this.
  • by Churla (936633) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @02:28PM (#19243041)
    I read this back in 86, a year after it was published in 85. Recently it was republished with a new afterword by the author. So now it's "retro history" but still great if you want to learn about the people behind a bunch of the technology :

    http://www.amazon.com/Tools-Thought-History-Mind-E xpanding-Technology/dp/0262681153/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2/ 002-1089548-0663244?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1179948333 &sr=8-2 [amazon.com]
    • by jusDfaqs (997794)
      WOW!
      A historical review on the "History of Innovation",was that "Internet" thing even listed in the original printing?

      I hear it's going to be HUGE!
      • by Churla (936633)
        IIRC ARpa-net and milnet get mentioned, and something about the web but not much. For me the book was not great due to it's predictions, but due to learning a lot about the motivation and lives behind the people who made things like the first computers, the first programming language, the a-bomb, the whole chapter on Alan Turing is just great..
  • Sound's fab (Score:3, Funny)

    by nagora (177841) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @02:32PM (#19243087)
    It's witty and light. Which makes this a very fast read, one that leaves you wanting even more by the end

    So basically it's like something someone told you quickly at the pub and you'll want to buy a decent book to find out anything substantial? Might give that a miss.

    TWW

  • No comment, I am too busy patenting this post.
  • by popo (107611) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @02:45PM (#19243283) Homepage

    Ah, the Slashdot review. Normally it is well written. The first sentence isn't misleading. The reviewer gets straight to the point. There is no confusing turnabout within the first paragraph. But this is not that review.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You're point is valid. Also, there are to many errors in grammar two be acceptable on Slashdot. The reviewer should study there English harder.
  • Not enough monkeys (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sane? (179855) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @03:11PM (#19243733)

    "Chapter five, "the lone innovator", debunks the legend of, well, the lone innovator. It sounds good, and plays into our noble story of the hero, but it's not common in reality."

    In my experience each and every innovation can trace its roots back to one key insight in the mind of one person. The group can help, support, enhance and develop that insight, but without it and that key individual - there is nothing.

    It doesn't matter how many monkeys you have, you're still not producing Shakespeare.

    • If you actually talk to people who innovate (and I do), you'll learn that they can trace almost every great idea to a conversation they had.

      There really is a growing field of innovation studies, and a related discipline of distributed cognition. I recommend Ed Hutchin's "Cognition in the Wild" as an introduction to the latter.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by radtea (464814)
      In my experience each and every innovation can trace its roots back to one key insight in the mind of one person.

      This is either trivially true, inasmuch as every thought occurs first in an individual mind, and for a sufficiently small quantum of innovation it will be just one person who first has that insight and acts on it; or it is trivially false, because most of what is thought of as "innovation" is a collection of such individual insights.

      In my experience as an innovator and inventor there are quite di
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      Hmm, apparently you're not familiar with the writing climate when Shakespeare was around, where it basically guarantees that, first off, Shakespeare's plays were helped along by multiple other people and that they were probably rewritten many times by people other than Shakespeare by the time we got them.

      The same thing occurs with good innovations. The best innovations I've seen were when someone walked up to a whiteboard and five of us critiqued his idea, trimmed and added to it until it was a truly gre
    • by pipingguy (566974) *
      Ah, but what if they are flying monkeys?
    • It often(almost always) occurs that the lone innovator doesn't have the means,money or skills to implement/develop his invention/idea.
  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater&gmail,com> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @03:24PM (#19243949) Homepage
    The reviewer starts off talking about books on the history of technology - but the impression I took away from the review is that "Myths of Innovation" isn't a history book, but a self help/motivation book that uses historical anecdotes and case studies to support it's conclusions. A bit of apples and oranges really.
  • Already skeptical... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by WileyC (188236)
    If he lists DDT as a 'bad innovation', I have my doubts about the credibility of the book. DDT has been demonized as some sort of supertoxin, which it most definitely is not. Properly used, it is a very effective and safe pesticide, especially when non-bug species are involved. Most of the studies that lambasted DDT turned out to have terribly flawed protocols and, at the same time, there are countless documented examples of the good it has done. Mind you, as a pesticide, you wouldn't want to spray it reckl
    • True. I read in WWII history books that US authorities very liberally doused DDT on civilians in Europe, notably in Italy, to make sure that they would stay vermin-free. See, when your house lies in rubles, showers can become a problems, especially during Winter. And since fleas are a vector for many epidemic diseases...

      As far as I know, Italy didn't see an increase in cancer mortality in cities that were sprayed. Now, the stuff might have side effects on animals, but let me tell you: after visiting Africa
    • I wish more people thought like we do. Millions die in Africa because we "enlightened" countries decided, based on a flawed book debunked years ago, that any country using DDT was to be stigmatized.
  • It's a pretty well-worn complaint that the better technologies often lose out, but innovators often seem to be at a loss about how to win in situations where they're up against an entrenched competitor with an inferior product but the existing relationship. I read on a blog somewhere the story of how Sun got it's early business away from the big guys of the day like Apollo ... here's one such link: http://fridayreflections.typepad.com/friday_reflec tions/2007/05/persistence_pay.html [typepad.com]

    The consensus there see
  • "Ah, the technology history book, normally I'm not a fan. The writing is aloof and dry. The topics are vague, the history misinterpreted, and the lessons presented to vague to be applicable."

    Ah, the poor mis-used "to" - always getting stuck in for the Johnny-come-never "too" ... learn to communicate, please.

    "...presented TOO vague to be applicable."
    • Also, it should be "vaguely"... as an adverb modifying the verb "presented."

      He should've said this:
      "The topics are vague, the history vague, and the lessons presented too vaguely to be applicable."

      That way he could have gone for three and been even more engaging! Uh, and this guy is reviewing books? This is middle school stuff, if not grade school... like mixing up "then" & "than" as we often see here.
  • And wasn't very impressed. A few interesting historical tidbits, but nothing terribly useful.
  • For a good, readable, non-boring history of technology, read Andy Kessler's "How We Got Here." It's available as a free PDF download at http://akessler.blogs.com/andy_kessler/2005/04/hwg h.html [blogs.com].

    Kessler is a former electrical engineer who now heads a hedge fund. Along the way he has written several books on technology and Wall Street. This book starts with Blaise Pascal and ends up in the modern electronic stock market, with stops along the way at the steam engine, cannon building, railroads, the tra
  • The biggest myth in innovation is patents. Patents are not needed to overcome high R&D costs, because they are the cause of high R&D costs. And those stores about the lone inventor, well, that myth flourishes because patents discourage and punish collaberation. The worst myth of all is one that says patents financially benefit creators more than they harm them. But to a real innovator, the loss of one patent monopoly at the benefit of gaining access to 10 million other patent monopolies that wer
  • A very readable "debunking technology history" book is Future Hype by Bob Seidensticker. It is full of wonderful examples of "internet time" innovation back before the internet, or even electric service, was invented. Puts the awe of our fast-paced world in some badly-needed perspective.

Sentient plasmoids are a gas.

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