Open Tab Wednesday

Lots of great reading material today… In Search of Serendipity

EVERY year, hordes of free spirits gather in the Nevada desert to “breathe art”, feel at one with the cosmos and sample the delights of Bianca’s Smut Shack. The Burning Man festival is radically anti-capitalist, with a strict ban on commerce and an emphasis on “self-reliance”. In short, it is not the sort of place you would associate with corporate schmoozing.

But you would be wrong, argue John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison. Their new book, “The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things In Motion”, celebrates unconventional networkers such as Yossi Vardi, the 68-year-old “grandfather” of Israeli venture capital. Mr Vardi attends or hosts some 40 pow-wows a year, including Burning Man. (It’s about art, sex and drugs, he muses, but “I was only involved in art.”) According to “The Power of Pull”, Mr Vardi is a “super-node”, one of the best-connected people in the high-tech industry. More than that, he is a role model: he excels in “managing serendipity”. His avid conference-going, for example, is not just for fun. By mingling with so many strangers, he finds that he often bumps into people who give him valuable information.

Alexis Madrigal, the Atlantic: Market data firm spots the tracks of bizarre robot traders

Mysterious and possibly nefarious trading algorithms are operating every minute of every day in the nation’s stock exchanges.

What they do doesn’t show up in Google Finance, let alone in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. No one really knows how they operate or why. But over the past few weeks, Nanex, a data services firm has dragged some of the odder algorithm specimens into the light.

The trading bots visualized in the stock charts in this story aren’t doing anything that could be construed to help the market. Unknown entities for unknown reasons are sending thousands of orders a second through the electronic stock exchanges with no intent to actually trade. Often, the buy or sell prices that they are offering are so far from the market price that there’s no way they’d ever be part of a trade. The bots sketch out odd patterns with their orders, leaving patterns in the data that are largely invisible to market participants.

Tom Friedman, NYT: Broadway and the mosque

There are several reasons why I don’t object to a mosque being built near the World Trade Center site, but the key reason is my affection for Broadway show tunes.

Let me explain. A couple weeks ago, President Obama and his wife held “A Broadway Celebration: In Performance at the White House,” a concert in the East Room by some of Broadway’s biggest names, singing some of Broadway’s most famous hits. Because my wife is on the board of the public TV station that organized the evening, WETA, I got to attend, but all I could think of was: I wish the whole country were here.

Techonomy Conference Agenda

Technology + Economy. A new philosophy of progress. Techonomy is a new way to look at the economic power of innovation.

Ambitious agenda, huge names.

An Embarrassment of Riches

In the last week I finished both my MBA program and Infinite Jest. The former took longer than the latter, but seriously not by much!

I’ve been stockpiling a list of reading to explore once I finished. There are a lot of inspiring people out there — can’t wait to dive into this as I get to work.

On my list:

What Matters Now: Seth Godin + a ton of great contributers

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A Brief Guide to World Domination: Chris Guillebeau

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How to Bring a Product to Market: Venture Hacks interview with Sean Ellis

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Reader of a thousand books

Inspired by this recount of famous shed-writers, I am putting forth my own favorite hermetic book-lover story: that of Joseph Campbell spending several years in a cabin, reading for nine hours a day. Something about the unlikely combination of dedication and freedom involved in this endeavor has wedged it firmly in place at the top of my list of fantasy life plans. Here, the man himself explains the setup, from The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work.

So during the years of the Depression I had arranged a schedule for myself. When you don’t have a job or anyone to tell you what to do, you’ve got to fix one for yourself. I divided the day into four four-hour periods, of which I would be reading in three of the four-hour periods, and free one of them.

By getting up at eight o’clock in the morning, by nine I could sit down to read. That meant I used the first hour to prepare my own breakfast and take care of the house and put things together in whatever shack I happened to be living in at the time. Then three hours of that first four-hour period went to reading.

Then came an hour break for lunch and another three-hour unit. And then comes the optional next section. It should normally be three hours of reading and then an hour out for dinner and then three hours free and an hour getting to bed so I’m in bed by twelve.

On the other hand, if I were invited out for cocktails or something like that, then I would put the work hour in the evening and the play hour in the afternoon.

It worked very well. I would get nine hours of sheer reading done a day. And this went on for five years straight.

The full story of how he came to find himself out there and what happened next is really worth reading, and is included after the jump.

Continue reading “Reader of a thousand books”