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Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age Hardcover – May 28 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (May 28 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596006624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596006624
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 481 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #226,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

About the Author

Paul Graham , designer of the new Arc language, was the creator of Yahoo Store, the first web-based application. His technique for spam filtering inspired most current filters. He has a PhD in Computer Science from Harvard and studied painting at RISD and the Accademia in Florence.


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Format: Hardcover
This is an astonishingly good collection of essays. In lesser hands, any of the 15 essays here could have been a book by itself --- each packs more content than you can find in a typical one idea business book, or a typical one technology book for geeks. Yet his book is not dense or difficult: Graham's graceful style is a pleasure to read.
But what is it? Is it a business book, or a technical book? A bit of both actually, with a pinch of social criticism thrown in. There are essays on business --- particularly startups --- and essays on programming languages and how to combat spam, and one delightful one on the difficulty being a nerd in American public schools.
My favorite essay of the 15 --- and picking a favorite is itself a challenge --- is called "What you can't say". It is about heresy, not historical Middle Ages burned-at-the-stake heresy, but heresy today in 2004. And if you believe nothing is heretical today, that no idea today is so beyond the pale that it would provoke a purely emotional reaction to its very utterance, then read some of the other reviews. Graham's idea is not that all heresies are worth challenging publicly, or even that all heresies are wrong, but merely that there is value is being aware of what is heretical, so one can notice where the blind spots are.
Astonishingly good.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been reading Paul Graham's articles ever since he popped up on Slashdot a couple of years back. I was so excited to hear about the book, that I pre-ordered without waiting for the local edition that is 3-4x cheaper. I don't believe in objective reviews and ,strongly recommend this book to any above average nerd-types who have been suffering in silence in corporate software development environments. If you are deeply puzzled/frustrated with middle management, kool-aid languages/technology,etc., this book will provide you with deep insights into why things are the way they are.
The book is chockful of ideas and hints for getting out the nightmare, that a lot of dev groups are/have turned into. Start your own company , he says ! Why ? Because only in startups do measurability and leverage both ensure that you get what you are worth. In the typical corporate dev environment judging a person's worth or something more tangible like, contributions to specific projects is next to impossible for the typical IT manager. It doesn't matter how hard you work, since the average middle manager cannot measure your contribution. Forget leverage in large groups - you can do very little to alter the course of events in your dept. A few quotes from "How to make wealth" :
*'To get rich you need to get yourself in a situation with two things, measurement and leverage.You need to be in a position where your performance can be measured, or there is no way to get paid more by doing more. And you have to have leverage, in the sense that decisions you make have a big effect'
*'Smallness = Measurement'
* 'Technology = Leverage'
* 'Economically you can think of a startup as a way to compress your whole working life into a few years.
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Format: Hardcover
Paul Graham is an interesting character. He is both an outstanding hacker -- he created the software that became the foundation for Yahoo's shopping site and was an early advocate for Bayesian spam-filtering -- and an artistic painter. Mr. Graham sees no contradiction in all of this -- in fact he considers hacking and art to be nearly synonymous; hence, the title for this book (and an essay contained in the book).
*Hackers and Painters* is an anthology of some of Paul Graham's more provocative essays and lectures. The essays range from exploring the anthropology/sociology of hacking -- nerds (who as an earlier reviewer pointed out are unpopular) and the select of group of computer enthusiasts known as 'hackers.' The book also has his essays advocating the use of Lisp and Bayesian spam-filtering. The book also contains essays that can be considered social commentary (about academics, etc.).
I do NOT agree with all of what Paul Graham has to say. I do not think that Lisp is as useful a language as Paul Graham claims it to be. I don't appreciate his disparaging of concepts (and people) contrary to his own (e.g., bashing Perl, uncharitable remarks about computer scientists and mathematicians, etc.) Some of his social commentary seem ill informed or naive.
BUT -- in spite of all of that -- Paul Graham's essays are well worth reading. Where I do AGREE with him, I really appreciate his insights. I'm a big fan of his essay "Why nerds are unpopular" (contained in this book). With some reservations, I also admire his essays "Hackers and Painters" and essays on Bayesian spam-filtering.
Paul Graham is a great writer. If he wasn't so successful with programming in Lisp, he could have become just as successful with writing in the English language.
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Format: Hardcover
This book with its series of essays reminds one of similar O'Reilly books like The Cathedral and the Bazaar, which contained essays about Open Source and Peer-to-Peer : Harnessing the Power of Disruptive Technologies, a book containing essays about peer to peer networking. This time around, the subject of the essays is programming. The first essay about Nerds is dead on and reminds me of my junior high school days as one of the "uncool ones." The next one, "Hackers and Painters" comapres the two and shows how each are artists in their own right, a perspective I hadn't thought about before but one that makes sense, and one that other essays throughout the book refers to.
There are also essays about "ways to create your own wealth," and not from a standpoint of hot to get rich necessarily, but if that happens along the way, all the better. And related to that are Graham's thoughts on creating a succesful startup company, a "foolproof way" of getting rid of spam, what programming languages will be like in 100 years (and it makes one wonder if there will even be programming languages around then as we know them today), even a couple essays on how web based software could be the next "killer ap" and how Microsoft may get eclisped as the dominant company of today, just as they eclipsed IBM way back when.
Graham clearly offers some interesting ideas and comments in his essays, ones that you might not always agree with, but ones you have to at least consider and respect.
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