Finished Learn Python the Hard Way

If you’re interested in receiving Learn Python the Hard Way, let me know on twitter: @MariahNoelle. I don’t mind paying the shipping if it means that another person learns Python. If you don’t know what Python is, read up on it. The book is written by none other than Zed A. Shaw. It was extremely helpful in my learning process and I definitely recommend it to supplement your own learning of the programming language, Python.

I still wouldn’t consider myself well-versed in Python, but the book helped me understand the basics. I feel much more prepared to take on other books on Python now. Perhaps, I’ll even start with some of the code for the desktop environment, Sugar, on the OLPC XO laptops.

Book review: Rework by 37signals

When I was in Chicago, the cofounder of The Starter League recommended reading Rework by 37signals. I’m all about taking book recommendations, so I was happy to download it to my Nook as soon as I could. It’s a pretty quick read for two reasons. First being that the authors made it that way by cutting down on length to get to the heart of the content. Second being that it is simply hard to put down, seriously.

Here are a few testimonials of the book as given on the 37Signals website:

“The wisdom in these pages is edgy yet simple, straightforward, and proven. Read this book multiple times to help give you the courage you need to get out there and make something great.”

-Tony Hsieh, CEO, of Zappos.com

“If given a choice between investing in someone who has read REWORK or has an MBA, I’m investing in REWORK every time. A must read for every entrepreneur.”

Mark Cuban, co-founder HDNet, owner of the Dallas Mavericks

“Inspirational. REWORK is a minimalist manifesto that’s profoundly practical. In a world where we all keep getting asked to do more with less, the authors show us how to do less and create more.”

-Scott Rosenberg, co-Founder of Salon.com and author of DREAMING IN CODE

Now, I’m not at all a fan of Mark Cuban (go Spurs!), but after reading this book, I can definitely see why he considers it a must read. Also, I love the attribution by Scott Rosenburg saying that this book is “a minimalist manifesto” because I have been working on being of a minimalist mindset (I recommend reading Leo Babuta’s work). I included the quote by Zappo’s CEO just to show that there is value in rereading a book like this, which is something I plan to do.

As for my personal review. There are a few topics which I clearly identify with. Five essays that I immediately valued are Workaholism, Go to sleep, Meetings are toxic, Long lists don’t get done and Send people home at 5:00. These essays each cover something that I’ve actually talked about with people before reading this book; it was nice to read that others think in the same terms. I have always been a firm believer in the notion that Long lists don’t get done. They’re always overwhelming and then people end up “prioritizing” some items and never finishing the smaller ones. I actually hate writing out lists of things to do. I tried doing it via several mediums and found that I would never finish it. Go to sleep is another huge one for me. Nobody functions at an optimal level if they’re not getting enough sleep. It’s really that simple. It took me a while to figure this out on my own, but I now make sure I get a solid 7.5 hours of sleep of night. If something school or work related isn’t done by the time I need to sleep, I’ll work on it in the morning. Usually though, that isn’t even an issue, because I have enough energy throughout normal waking hours to complete tasks. When I start a business, surely I will follow these pieces of advice.

A couple of essays which were harder for me to digest initially were Decisions are temporary, Underdo your competition, and Marketing is not a department. Rework is known for making counterintuitive statements about starting and running a business. These are definitely the essays that took a rereading or just more time for me to feel comfortable with the notions that 37Signals proposes. I must say though, they do make sense, especially Marketing is not a department. In this essay, 37signals does a great job of explaining how each person working for the business is in charge of marketing. This actually reminds me of Rackspace’s customer service. Rackspace is known for their customer service. It’s part of the mission, brand and inevitably marketing. It’s not at a top-down level though. Their brand is driven by each and every Racker (because they’re not just employees). So, it didn’t really take me too long to see how valuable it is to approach marketing in this sense.

This is my sweet and simple review of Rework. If you’ve read it you should let me know what you thought about it in the comments section below. If you haven’t read it, you should. If we’re in the same area and you want to borrow it, I’ll be more than happy to lend it out. Just let me know!

My curve ball, StrengthsFinders 2.0 Results

StrengthsFinders 2.0 is a book and online assessment aimed to help people figure out what their strengths are, as opposed to their weakness. The idea is to focus on building your strengths instead of fixing your weakness. For my E-Scholars class, we had to read through the book and take the assessment.

The whole nature of this book reminds me of talking to a businessman this summer at UNCFSP. He told me and my peers at a roundtable discussion how the best story and piece of advice was about a baseball player who continually tried to improve his weakest pitch. There was only a slim improvement recorded on his pitch and finally his coach asked him what his best pitch was. This baseball player, whose name escapes me at the moment, was known for his curve ball. The coach told him to only focus on his curveball. Sure enough, the baseball player only focused on his curve ball and is now known as one of the best pitchers of all time.

This book helps you identify your curveball.

My top five themes in order:

1. Activator

2. Learner

3. Belief

4. Developer

5. Individualization

I took this a couple of months ago and have found the results to be pretty accurate, especially my top two. I recommend people to read through this book and find out what their results are through the online assessment.

What’s your curve ball? Have you taken this assessment?

Thoughts on the OLPC Community Summit

Well! It has been a few weeks since I went to the OLPC Community Summit. I feel like I’ve been running around without any time to spare since I left the conference, trying to make sure my university obligations were fulfulfilled. Also, my netbook with all of my notes unfortunately is not functioning right now. Anyway, I realize how long overdue I am for this post so here we go!

First and foremost, I would like to say how much I appreciate everyone that I met at this conference. They are the reason why I am so wanting to be involved in information and communication technology within the realm of education. The volunteers I met are some of the most driven, passionate people I have ever encountered. Not only that, they are the most helpful too! By nature, I went with my pocket full of questions. I didn’t meet a single person there who wasn’t willing to help me find the answers, no matter how prominent in the community. And it truly is exactly that: a community. 

To start the conference was a reception, of course. I have to admit, I was incredibly nervous to go inside but finally worked up the nerve. I have no idea why I was nervous, especially because only half a second of awkwardness went by. Almost immediately, I was able to start up conversations with people who actually knew what I was talking about. (Being in San Antonio and talking about OLPC has been the bain of my existence up until very recently.) Not only that, everyone who was there is obviously passionate about OLPC and subsequent projects. I’ve never felt so at-home when attending a conference, honestly. Other people who attended I’m sure would attest to that.

Throughout the weekend, I went to several sessions. Most of the sessions I attended were about financing small to large scale projects. Initially, I thought about going to the sessions about education, but I figure I read so much about that on my own. So instead, I wanted to learn about more other topics to have a whollistic view. Also, there was one large group session where we had a Google Hangout to discuss the tablet project in Ethiopia which is widely and hotly debated.

Only after a couple of sessions, it was apparent that the OLPC Volunteer Community severely lacks a mechanism for funding their projects. I find this to be quite a shame, honestly. I realize that there are a million different avenues to find funders or to become a part of a larger whole. However, I think eventually it will be absolutely necessary for smaller deployments to band together in order to create and sustain projects. Even when I was working at a nonprofit this summer, I saw how stressful it was for an established nonprofit to secure funding. It is difficult to imagine sustainable projects when there is no organization specifically designed to secure funding whether through grants, crowdsourcing or donors.

Other than talking about finances, like I said, I met amazing people. One person that I met is a woman who is working on her PhD on field research that she has conducted in Peru. Tanja is quite an inspiration to me as this is the type of research that I plan to pursue in Uruguay as predoctoral research. We were able to relate to each other since we both did not come from a programming or even education background as we realized how passionate we were about OLPC.

Another woman I met was Nancie. She is an absolute pleasure to know. She sat down with me for quite some time as we discussed her project and how she came to OLPC as well as what I was looking to do in regards to OLPC. With thanks to her, Adam Holt, and the Contributors Program, I was actually able to get my hands on my very own XO, the version given out during the Give 1 Get 1 Campaign that OLPC had a few years ago. I was ecstatic! I’m actually writing this post on my XO.

After the Community Summit, there was an extra week for SugarCamp, mostly for developers. Luckily though, there were a few projects that were for nonprogrammers and I had the opportunity to make a light sensor that plugs into the microphone input on the XOs. It was interesting to figure out how to put together the light sensor as well as figure out how such a tool could be used by children for different projects on activities like Scratch.

I could say a thousand things about how my trip to San Fransisco was an experience that I really will never forget and I million more about the people I met. Hopefully, I can make my way over to the next one.

About the CEO Conference in Chicago

For starters, here’s a little backdrop to the conference. CEO is the Collegiate Entrepreneur Organization. The conference is held annually, typically in Chicago, and attracts over 1,000 college students and young professionals to learn about entrepreneurship and jump start their ideas. On top of this, there is an elevator pitch competition in which students have 90 seconds to pitch their business idea to judges (and possibly potential investors depending on the crowd).

Personally, I was not accepted to the elevator pitch competition. I’m actually not disheartened by this at all. I knew my business idea/model was a little shaky. I would practice my pitch in front of my peers and it just would not click. Sometimes when you’re passionate about something, you know maybe a little too much about it. It makes it hard to relay the value sometimes when you get caught up in jargon. Besides, not participating in the competition was more like the perfect storm. On top of all of this, I was a little disappointed about the conference in general. There were too many people and I found myself going to sessions that weren’t really helpful. Perhaps, I like a more intimate setting. Also, I think a little “unconferencing” would have been nice. So here’s how it went with much mention of the fluffy stuff that I didn’t find very useful:

Day 1: We (me, 15 students from my university and our advisors) arrived pretty early so we could sit through a fundraiser competition. Some students from our university competed and did a solid job. We didn’t end up winning an award, but it was interesting to see what everyone else did at their respective institutions. Their ideas weren’t useful for what I want to do per say….well, other than the fact that being able to “leverage” your resources is a must in any endeavour. Anyway….

Day 2: This is where the magic starts to happen. Now, for reference, I’m probably the only person in my student group who is crazy about technology education. That being said, I had to go to most of the conference sessions alone, not to my despair really. I love everyone in my group, but I also love being alone in these types of situations. It’s easier to make conversation when you’re not in a huge group of people. Okay so now for the fun stuff! The first session I went to was a talk given by none other than Neal Sales of The Starter League (previously known as Code Academy). As soon as I saw him on the speaker’s list, I knew I would have to meet him and somehow get over to 1871. Actually, ever since I found out I was going to Chicago, I knew I’d somehow make my way to 1871. Of course, I had no particular plan of action. I just knew it’d happen. Long story short (because I’m also writing a whole blog just on The Starter League), I spoke with Neal Sales.

Day 3: There was a bit of a lull in the day. Somehow, some way I wanted to go to 1871. Mind you, this is literally all that I talked about to anyone who was willing to listen to me. Ask my peers in the E-Scholars program. I’m sure they had heard enough of it. Well, good thing I did. One of the guys on my program came up to me around lunch time and said he had met some guys from @UrbanBuddyChi who were doing a tour of 1871. Cha-ching! Later that night, we went to the event and I must say it was hard to contain myself. 1871 is where it’s at!

Day 4: We got on our party bus (seriosuly) to the Midway Airport and left.

Conferences and competitions are great and all…but if I hadn’t made it clear what my intentions were when I was in Chicago, I wouldn’t have been able to meet Neal Sales or tour 1871. Both things high on my priority list.

One last note, there was not one session dedicated to non-profits. That just rubbed me the wrong way.