Do not save writing for later, more will come: ‘The Writing Life’ by Annie Dillard

The Writing Life,‘ a 1989 collection of essays from novelist Annie Dillard, is one of the foundational contributions to the canon of teaching modern fiction writing.

A few months ago, I finally tore through the tidy, celebrated, delightful little book, commonly known as the friendly, fiction alternative to the 1920 grammarian guide from Strunk and White. (Interestingly a New York Times book review took a dim view of her collection, but it’s cherished today.)

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Every entrepreneur should be building a monopoly: Peter Thiel

Paypal cofounder, public intellectual and global tech entrepreneurship leader Peter Thiel is thoughtful in his perspective on economic growth. An interview with him was on our last Technical.ly podcast and an even longer conversation he had on a different podcast was even more enlightening.

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Manage Your Day-To-Day: lessons from this 99U book on productivity

There is an entire industry of creative productivity self-help resources. My friend Sean Blanda gave me ‘Manage Your Day-to-Day,’ one in a portfolio of books from 99U, an effort from Behance, the Adobe division where he works.

It was a quick and energizing read. Buy it for $8.  As I like to do, I wanted to share a few of the directives I most acted on.

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Wilmington, Del. needs to develop its innovation corridor [Op-Ed]

The fate of small, urban satellite cities and the role technology and entrepreneurship communities will have in their future is of interest to me. I recently wrote something about it for the Delaware state newspaper.

After this op-ed in the Wilmington News Journal about the innovation economy, Delaware entrepreneur leader Jon Brilliant encouraged me to write something in response. I did so here for Technical.ly Delaware and contributed a shorter version that was published in the News Journal here.

Today, any U.S. community preparing for the future is fostering a technology and entrepreneurship ecosystem. Delaware is too.

A recent News Journal op-ed on the matter didn’t take into account much of an organic, nascent community that is building toward a bigger impact. There are efforts in Newark, Lewes, Rehoboth and elsewhere, Wilmington, despite its challenges, already has the foundation of an innovation corridor. MORE

Read the rest here

Download an image of the paper version [PDF].

I put people first, then technology: Biz Stone

To promote his new book ‘Things a Little Bird Told Me,’ Twitter cofounder Biz Stone was at the Free Library of Philadelphia for a ticketed, breakfast event for which I interviewed him on stage for a half-hour before audience questions finished the morning.

My line of questions can be seen here. I tried to to steer the conversation away from what has already been said by Stone, a well-covered tech entrepreneur who is in the midst of a popular book tour, but we still hit upon some of what has already been covered: the designer by trade has focused on bringing the human touch to software.

That helps explain how decidedly simple Twitter is and how Stone’s new startup Jelly, a network-driven answer app, has stayed focused on getting social responses.

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The Path Between the Seas: how the Panama Canal was constructed

mccullough-panama

The classic, National Book Award-winning 1977 historical narrative by David McCullough on the Panama Canal’s construction called the Path Between the Seas was perfect reading material leading into, during and after my 10-day trip to the Central American country.

In large scale projects, preparing to do the work is often more important than doing the work. That was likely the biggest lesson I drew from the book, which chronicled a failed attempt by a consortium of French government and business leaders to build a sea-level canal and then a painful but ultimately successful American attempt that used locks and came at the heels of advancements in understanding how to deal with yellow fever.

I also drastically underestimated the magnitude the Panama Canal represented as an engineering and public health campaign. My previous ignorance to this period of human history is embarrassing.

As I often do when I read a book of relevance to leadership and history, I share my notes here.

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Puritan Boston, Quaker Philadelphia: notes on 1979 research from E. Digby Baltzell

Sociologist E. Digby Baltzell. Photo from Penn Collection. Circa 1970.

Boston was built by Puritans, who celebrated civic power and class authority. Philadelphia was built by Quakers, who championed equality and deference.

Two hundred fifty years later, though considerably fewer people in those cities consider themselves a member of either group, their impact is still chiefly responsible for Boston outperforming and Philadelphia underperforming in their contributions to the greater world.

That’s the chief argument of the dense, heavily-researched, 500-page, 1979 academic classic Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia, written by University of Pennsylvania sociologist E. Digby Baltzell (19151996). The core of the book is said to be based on some 300 interviews with Proper Philadelphians and Brahmin Bostonians, and part of a decades-long research focus that Baltzell had on his Protestant brethren — he has been sometimes credited with popularizing the “WASP” term.

This is a book that is a fabulous read for understanding Philadelphia and Boston, but it is also a treasure for those who love new perspectives on American culture, U.S. history and the development of cities.

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“The Sun Also Rises:” my favorite passages from the 1926 Ernest Hemingway classic

While taking train rides between the northeast section of Spain en route to meeting up with old friends at the San Fermin Festival, there is nothing else to be read other than the 1926 classic novel ‘The Sun Also Rises‘ from Ernest Hemingway, which follows a similar route.

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Niche news site membership model perspective brought back to life from 2009

The internet doesn’t forget. So I often stockpile perspective (links) for the future.

In 2009, we at Technically Philly were digging our heels into looking at how diversify revenue for a local community news site. In the end, the largest driver turned out to be events, specifically the annual Philly Tech Week we organize. Before then and after some advertising, jobs board and light underwriting revenue, we toyed with donations, gettingsome prominent support and the requisite pushback.

In all the experimentation back then, I saved some great insight, much of which has been relevant lately. As we move back to a new form of that older conversation, I wanted to share a few takeaways from my reading back in 2009.

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Focus and causality: two lingering lessons from Steve Jobs biography

Two themes run across the dense and well-timed Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson that came out last fall.

The unfaltering focus and dependable insensitivity of Jobs, so, having just finished it myself, I’ve been left trying to find causality: did those two qualities make him a better CEO and Apple a better company?

For focus, I believe it’s unquestionable: make fewer products and make them better. It’s the complete opposite of the market share angle of, say, spaghetti sauces. The second has me more uncertain, particularly when the success of Jobs is seen as motivation to drive employees to the edge.

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