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This is an old page from Rod Begbie's blog.

It only exists in an attempt to prevent linkrot. No new content will be added to this site, and links and images are liable to be broken. Check out begbie.com to find where I'm posting stuff these days.

Filed under 'books'

April 10, 2012

Getting Clients

Sample chapter from Mike Monteiro’s new book, Design is a Job.

I’m not a designer, but I love working with them, and have a client services past as an engineer. Tons of great insights in the three chapters I’ve read so far.

“Get to know the people on the client team and treat them well. Make them a valuable part of the project and make sure their voices get heard. People change jobs. If the current project goes well, the person who hired you will have her stock rise within the company, and the rest of the staff will eventually spread out far and wide to other companies who will need design services at some point. Your DNA travels with them. (Not literally. I’m hoping I don’t need to add a chapter explaining that.)”

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February 8, 2011


Marketplace for Kindle book lending. List the books you have available to lend and find books you’re interested in. All free to end users, since the site’s owners can make money from Amazon referral links. Very smart.

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November 4, 2009

The Art of Community

Really interesting-looking O’Reilly book on building and managing communities, available for free download as a CC-licensed PDF.

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July 10, 2009

Say Everything | By Scott Rosenberg

New book about the history and future of blogging. Sample chapters are pretty interesting.

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July 10, 2008

Zoomii.com - The "Real" Online Bookstore

Whizzy Amazon-browsing UI, for those who like to judge books by their covers.

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April 21, 2008

The book that is indirectly responsible for me getting my new job

A few months ago, I was in the pub with a couple of geekchums. The topic of job interviews was going round the table, in part because I’d been talking about my goal of getting a job and moving to the Bay Area. Someone mentioned that they’d interviewed at Google, had read Programming Interviews Exposed the night before the interview, and nearly every question they’d been asked was pretty much out of the book.

This caught my attention, because a few months earlier I’d had a phone interview with a division of Google that rhymes with TouYube which had gone pretty well until they pulled out one of those algorithmic questions that Google loves; Something about finding the median value in two sorted lists of integers. I’d come up with a solution, but clearly not a satisfactory solution. (As Keith later described it, every Google interview question has to have an O(log n) solution… and at that time, Big O notation hadn’t been on my radar in freakin’ years). The next day, the recruiter called to say they’d decided to pass on me.

So, the morning after the discussion, once the hangover had subsided, I ordered myself a copy. I read the whole thing in a few days, absorbing details about graph theory, pointers, recursion and, oh yes, Big O notation that I hadn’t thought about since receiving my CompSci degree 10 years ago.

But more important were the example interview questions throughout the book. Generally these would be structured as the question, followed by a naïve solution, a better solution, and then any follow-up questions or limitations the interviewer might introduce. For example, if you get the classic “Reverse the order of words in a string” question, it guides you through the initial solution of “Start at the end of the string, scan backwards, and when you find whitespace, copy the word to a temporary buffer, then replace the original string with the new one”, then explains what to do when the interviewer inevitably asks you to do it without using another buffer (reverse the whole string, then iterate through reversing the characters in each word).

A week or so later, I had a phone interview and was able to answer algorithmic questions speaking authoritatively about binary trees and heaps. That was enough to get me flown out to SF for in-person interviews, which at one point included a question word-for-word out of the book!

All that said… For a variety of reasons, I didn’t take that job. It just helped because I first spoke to Current during the weekend I was in town for the interviews, and got a chance to spend some face-to-face time at Current’s offices that day.

(In fact, the interviews with Current went by without a single algorithmic pointers-and-big-O question. And to me, that was a good sign, because as I say, I haven’t cared about that shit in 10 years—In my line of work, rather than optimizing lines of code, I’m more to get more bang by tweak a SQL query or throwing memcache at a problem.)

Which raises an interesting question: Is reading this book cheating? Is it the equivalent of just reading the answer key before an exam? In my opinion, no. For two reasons:

  1. For the most part, it was just refreshing details I’d already learned during my CompSci course, but had filed away in the trashcan of my neurons, along with “Where’s the best deep-fried pizza in Edinburgh?”, as no-longer relevant to my life. This book probably won’t help too much if you don’t have the first clue about pointers or recursion to begin with.
  2. If your ability to answer algorithmic questions is the only (or most important) thing the employer is rating you on when you interview you, then they’re fucking idiots and will get everything they deserve.

The book is just a handy tool for your belt when preparing for interviews, to get your mind in the right place to push past the algorithmic questions so you can present all the other amazing reasons why they must hire you right now. Similarly, I highly recommend reading Joel Spolsky’s Smart and Gets Things Done and Rands’s guide to how your resumé is being read for an idea on what the person on the other side of the phoneline or table is (or should be) thinking.

But without this book, I might not have passed that phone screen, and thus might not have been in SF when Current called, and might not have met with them, and might not have gotten excited by the opportunity, and might not have the job I have now.

And for that reason, I unreservedly recommend this book to every software engineer who might be on either side of the interviewing process soon.

January 27, 2008


Comparing SAT scores with colleges’ most popular books according to Facebook. Guess where the Bible ends up on that scale…

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October 15, 2007

The Elements of Style Illustrated

Grammatical pedantry combined with a cute picture of a basset hound on the cover? IT’S LIKE THEY’RE INSIDE MY HEAD!

July 18, 2007

Managing Humans - An Introduction

Promotional site for Rands’s book. My copy is already ordered.

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March 12, 2007

BBC NEWS | Harry Potter book 'often unread'

According to a survey, 32% of people who bought the fourth Harry Potter book didn’t finish reading it. Which makes sense, because it was shit. Life’s too short for 200 pages on a Quidditch tournament.

March 5, 2007

Dating Design Patterns

Found while buying the Gang of Four book from Amazon. “Encapsulated Big Fat Opening: Creating a sandbox environment for a female to request the pleasure of your company while still claiming encapsulated intentions.” Bizarre.

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August 10, 2006

Nerds Like It Hot

Nerds Like It Hot

From the cover: "Some like it naughty, some like it nice, but Nerds Like It Hot"

Spotted on sale at Shaw's in Porter Square, Cambridge.

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April 19, 2006

Language Log: Harry Potter and the Madding Gerund: Secrets of the Language Log Code

The always-splendid Language Log is getting dead-tree-ified.

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February 22, 2006

Amazon.com: I Hate Other People's Kids

Adrianne’s book is out, and it’s great. From the back cover: “They say Jesus loved the little children, all the children of the world, but he never had to dine with one. He chose the lepers.”

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October 4, 2005

I try to make everyone’s day a little more surreal.

I try to make everyone’s day a little more surreal.

Just starting to work my way through the fabulous The Complete Calvin & Hobbes, and loving every second of it.

About This Site

This is an archive of groovmother.com, the old blog run by Rod Begbie — A Scottish geek who lives in San Francisco, CA.

I'm the co-founder of Sōsh, your handy-dandy guide for things to do in San Francisco this weekend.