Stories to read over the weekend

It’s been a while (1 year, 3 months, 23 days to be exact) since I last blogged. I apologize to the only reader of this blog, myself, for this insincerity on my part. I blame the micro-blogging platform that I have been using to express myself within 140 characters (and I am not very regular at that as well) for this laziness.

Blogging regularly is hard. It takes quite a lot of creative discipline, not to mention you have to find something that you would like to write about. Matthew Inman made a really funny comic about the same problem on his website, The Oatmeal. I can’t seem to find it (and I just spent half an hour reading other funny posts there. Creative discipline my a**).

Anyways, I have decided to blog at least once a week from now on. And the easiest way to do that is sharing what I have read over the week. One of the few good things about Twitter is that you get to read what other people write and share. So every week I am going to summarize and share some interesting posts I have read, same way superstar tech blogger Om Malik does on his blog Gigaom.

I have no such illusion that I have a following as massive as Om’s. But I am going to do it anyway, because, it is going to keep me to my promise of one post per week. And more importantly, summarizing and sharing works of others is a great creative exercise. So without further ado, here’s the list of interesting stories I’ve read this week:

1. What is graphene? Here’s what you need to know about a material that could be the next silicon (Science) – Graphene, the wonder material of the 21st century is believed to replace silicon in electronic devices in the upcoming decade. This article explains what makes graphene so special and what challenges do we currently face in producing/exploiting it.

2. Why Microsoft’s reorganization is a bad idea (Tech/Business) – The software giant went through a structural reorganization. The author makes an argument why divisional organization (structuring the company around products) is better for a large corporation than functional organization (arranging the company around specific roles), and why it is a bad bet by Steve Ballmar choosing the later for Microsoft.

3. Entropy Crushers (Startups/Business) – When your startup of handful of people grows larger into a company employing hundreds, what do you do to ensure that communication is clear and things get done with the least bureaucratic overhead? This article made me change my view of project management and what a project manager is supposed to do.

4. Rise of a Bangladeshi Entrepreneur at US (Entrepreneurship) – A feel good story of a Bangladeshi making in big in the US. An engineer by training, Mahfuz founded his startup DISYS while working at his day job at Mobil. 19 years since its start, the company is very profitable and looking into going public by 2017.

5. Sunshine on His Shoulders (Biography) – A biographical article on Professor Dwijen Sharma, the leading botanist and philosopher of the country. Professor Sharma was in the faculty of Notre Dame College in Dhaka. He had long left when I enrolled in. But walking around the beautiful campus of Notre Dame, you had to appreciate the genius of his landscape designing. Fascinating read about the life of a man, whom I feel, has not been highlighted enough in the media.

Masters of Doom: A book you should read if you’re a programmer

Masters of Doom Book Cover

You’re probably surprised I haven’t mention “Code Complete” or “Pragmatic Programmer” or any of those books you’ve read reviews of in numerous programming blogs. Those are great books by the way, and should take the time to read at least some of them.

Masters of Doom will not teach you how to be a better programmer, it won’t preach the best practices of software development. Because it’s not a book about programming at all! It’s a biographic tale of two great programmers, John Carmack and John Romero, how their passion for playing and creating games drove them to achieve superb mastery at programming and produce legendary games, like Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein 3D and so on.

Neither Carmack, nor Romero had what you would call a healthy upbringing. They were from broken families, at odds with their surroundings. Playing games was one of the few things they would enjoy, and eventually they started learning how to create them. They had dreams of making it big in the gaming industry, creating and publishing under their own names.

These two brilliant minds met each other at their youth as coworkers. Each admired the unique qualities in the other one. Carmack was more adept in technical details of game development, while Romero had a knack for the creative direction. Together, along with some like minded programmers and designers, they founded id Software, and set out to produce hugely popular franchises. Not only were these games commercially successful, they achieved technological breakthrough in PC gaming. Commander Keen was the first side-scrolling game in PC. Wolfenstein 3D had immersive 3D graphics never before seen in games, And Doom set the bar even higher. These were the games that drove innovation in graphics programming, and established gaming as a part of pop culture.

So what do you, a programmer, are likely to gain from reading this book? The simple message that this book conveys, is that if want to succeed in the field of programming(or any other field) you must have passion for what you do. No amount of training would make you a better programmer if you lack this key ingredient. If you are a start-up founder(or work in a start-up) and have started your journey in the scary world of entrepreneurship, this book will prove to be inspirational to you.

So if you are a programmer who is looking for something to get him inspired, I strongly urge you to read it. Or read it anyway, it’s fun.