July 10, 2008

To dream the impersonal dream

July 10, 2008 - Categories: entrepreneurship, passion

I’ve been trying to find words to explain what it’s like wanting to make things happen, how it’s not about me but rather about the possibilities I see. One of the books I just picked up from a library has a good quote about it:

Entrepreneurship is nothing about the one who creates a thing and everything about the one who consumes the thing. Entrepreneurs don’t care about the thing they create, in and of itself (as much as they may love what they produce or do). They care about creating it because of the impact it can have on someone else. It’s about that thing as an answer to a question others have long ago stopped asking, or long before they even consider the possibility of it changing for them. (p.50)

And another snippet:

Unless your idea for a business exceeds anything you have ever imagined doing before, is bigger than anything you have believed yourself capable of before this moment, has the potential of transforming a large enough number of people’s lives in the world to make a huge difference in how the world works, and challenges you sufficiently to risk everything you have to make it a reality, don’t do it.

Just don’t do it, dear reader, because it will likely disappoint you in too many ways to mention.  Don’t do it unless you’re ready to rumble.  Don’t do it unless you can put all your fears behind you. Don’t do it unless the pain of not doing it will exceed the probable pain of doing it by a factor of ten.  Don’t to it, because it’s not a game one plays casually.  Don’t do it, because it will confound you, confuse you, threaten to overwhelm you, every single dangerous step of the way. (p.104)

Awakening the Entrepreneur Within: How Ordinary People Can Create Extraordinary Companies
by Michael E. Gerber

Read more about this book…

Here’s what I care about at work:

So I guess I’m a bit of an intrapreneur after all. Technology evangelism around Web 2.0 and emerging technologies is officially part of my job, but all of these things are things I do because I have to do them, because I can’t imagine not doing them. =) I’m going to need a lot of help, but there are a lot of people who are glad to help out because these are their visions too. (I like to think that I’m the one helping them!)

Let’s find out how wonderful it can be. =)

What’s your dream?

Ruby code to quickly convert titles to ISBNs

July 10, 2008 - Categories: book, library, reading, ruby

I love the Toronto Public Library system. I can’t say that enough. I particularly love how I can go on a reading spree, place holds on a gazillion books, and have them delivered to the library branch that’s about three blocks away from the house.

Ideally, of course, these books would arrive suitably spaced apart so that a new batch arrives just as I’ve finished another. This happens when I request popular books. Most of the time, though, the books that I want to read fall in the Long Tail–obscure titles, books that have fallen off the New York Times bestseller lists, and the occasional random find.

All of these books tend to descend on the unsuspecting library branch at the same time.

There were 27 books waiting for me earlier. The librarian thanked me for clearing the shelf. J- greatly enjoyed piling them into the shopping cart we had the foresight to bring. Yes, I’ve got presentations to prepare and things to do–but reading is fun, and I’m somehow going to find time to read all those books before my three-week loan period is up. I’ll probably be able to renew them, but hey, might as well try.

So I decided I might as well try tracking them on LibraryThing. Instead of typing in all the details manually, I grabbed the list of titles from my account on LibraryElf (good reminder system for books), used ISBNdb to convert the titles into ISBNs (best guess), and imported the list of ISBNs into LibraryThing. Now my profile lists 163 books–a small fraction of the books that have passed through my hands, but it’s better than nothing. Someday I might even get myself a barcode scanner so that I can just pick up the ISBNs from the book jackets.

Anyway, I promised the Ruby code I’d quickly written to convert the titles to ISBNs:

require 'net/http'
require 'CGI'
require 'open-uri'
require 'rexml/document' 

access_key = 'YOURACCESSKEYHERE'
while (s = gets)
  s.chomp!
  url = "http://isbndb.com/api/books.xml?access_key=" + access_key + "&index1=title&value1=" + CGI::escape(s)
  xml = REXML::Document.new(open(url).read)
  if (xml.elements["ISBNdb/BookList/BookData"])
    puts xml.elements["ISBNdb/BookList/BookData"].attributes["isbn"]
  end
end

Takes titles as standard input, prints out ISBNs. Enjoy!