L’Arabe du Futur par Riad Sattouf

L'Arabe du futur : Une jeunesse au Moyen-Orient (1978–1984)L’Arabe du futur : Une jeunesse au Moyen-Orient by Riad Sattouf

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Je crois à l’existence d’une forme de contrat moral entre un écrivain et son lecteur : L’auteur se doit de dire la vérité à son lecteur. Avec L’Arabe du Futur, Riad Sattouf est dans le vrai.
Chacune des scènes du récit semble être un souvenir qui a été gravé dans la mémoire du jeune Riad par la force des émotions ressenties ou la nouveauté des sensations (Le goût et l’odeur arrivent à se faire une grande place dans cette bande dessinée).
On retrouve dans ces vignettes les émotions qui peuplent les souvenirs de notre prime jeunesse: la honte, la peur, la fierté ou le plaisir de la découverte.
On sent que l’auteur ne s’est pas échappé et nous a offert une description fidèle de ses souvenirs d’enfance.

Je recommande.

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Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlin

Hammer Head: The Making of a CarpenterHammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter by Nina MacLaughlin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hammer Head will not change the way you look at life or provide “aha” moments, but it provides some simple truth about work and life.

I enjoyed how Nina MacLaughlin shares with us her fears in changing career path, the strength of the social pressure that feeds her anxiety, or event the financial difficulties of taking a pay cut.

There is no destination to this story, but the travel is the important part. It’s a book about learning and taking risk, and it’s a book about the importance of the work well done.

If you love crafting objects, you will enjoy this book. If you are frustrated with your current job, it may you motivate to change something in your career and give you a sense of the difficulties ahead.

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WordPress and Slack integration using a Raspberry Pi

Purpose of the project

zapier is a awesome tool that allows you to create a form of collaboration between the services that you are using on the web.

It gives you an easy way to build workflows where actions on a given website will trigger events on another of your preferred websites. One of the recipes (zap) that you can find on zapier catalog creates a notification in a Slack discussion channel when a comment is posted on your WordPress website.

screenshotzapier
Zap description

The idea of this project is to use a bunch of Python tools (the Flask framework and the requests library mostly) to build the same functionality in a small web server running on a Raspberry Pi.

Pourquoi faire simple quand on peut faire compliqué.

Les Shadoks

Description of the workflow

When a new comment is posted on an article, WordPress sends a POST requests containing all the characteristics of the comment to a predefined URI.

Running on the Raspberry Pi, a Flask webserver receives the POST request that is sent by WordPress and automatically translates it in the format that is expected by the Slack incoming webhook API.

The webserver will use the requests Python library to send a POST request to the Slack incoming web hook API containing the message to be published in the discussion channel.

Final state of the tool

As you can see in the screencast below when a comment is added to the blog, a message containing all the characteristics of the comment is added in the target Slack channel. A notification is fired by Slack (Upper right side of the screen) and the message appears on the left part of the screen in the Slack conversation.

wptoslackfinalstate
Demo of the tool

And of course, the message can be viewed in all the different Slack clients.

slackscreenshotonandroid
Same conversation on an Android phone

What did I learn?

This project was my first project with my Raspberry Pi. I learned a lot on how to set up a web server on this small machine and how to forward ports from the router to the Pi.

It was also my first project with Flask. I learned some basic knowledge of how a REST API can be built using this framework.

I also learned that you can be really happy with a functioning application that is made of only 20 lines of code!

Resources

I started with the official Slack and WordPress API documentation websites.

Most of the resources on Python Flask have been found on Miguel Grinberg’s Blog.
In particular, I used his post on how to build a REST API.

For the installation of Flask on the Raspberry Pi, I started with Matt Richardson’s blog and I then used the Raspberry Pi official website

To teach myself how to use the requests python library, I used their official website.

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On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the CraftOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book gives a selection of valuable pieces of advice for young fiction writers. But, what I took from this book was a renewed love for the craft, for the act of focused and solitary work. It sparks love for the well crafted object.
I think that the subtitle “A memoir of the craft” tells a lot about what Stephen King’s intention with this book. Maybe, it wasn’t in the first draft, but it was in the finished version of the book that I read.

This short volume deserves to be read by anyone, and not only wannabe writers. I really enjoyed it.

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L’Opinion, ça se travaille… par Serge Halimi, Dominique Vidal, Henri Maler et Mathias Reymond

“L’opinion, ça se travaille … “: les médias & les “guerres justes” : Kosovo, Afghanistan, Irak by Serge Halimi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Collaboration entre des collaborateurs du Monde Diplo et d’Acrimed, ce livre donne une description détaillée des mécanismes en exercice dans les médias pendant les périodes de guerre.
En particulier, les auteurs illustrent l’alignement des médias occidentaux avec les positions de leurs gouvernements et montrent par l’exemple comment les grands organes de presses ont délaissé un journalisme d’information pour adopter un journalisme de commentaire, faisant la part belle à la communication des gouvernements bellicistes.
Ce petit volume vaut vraiment la peine d’être lu en ce qu’il pousse à une lecture critique des médias, ce qui en ces périodes de troubles politiques est plus que jamais nécessaire.

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Le mirage numérique : Pour une politique du Big Data par Evgeny Morozov

Le mirage numérique : Pour une politique du Big DataLe mirage numérique : Pour une politique du Big Data by Evgeny Morozov

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

L’auteur propose de nombreuses idées très intéressantes sur la place des compagnies de Big data dans la société et sur l’abandon de ce sujet par les pouvoirs publics aux acteurs privés. En décortiquant les éléments de langages des théoriciens favorables à donner une plus grande place au Big Data, l’auteur définit les termes du débat actuel et cherche à proposer d’autres hypothèses de réflexion.
En particulier, il souligne que les problèmes que les entreprises du web peuvent résoudre ne peuvent qu’être liés à un manque d’information et que chaque problème est ainsi redéfini sous cet angle. L’obésité disparaîtra si chaque individu reçoit des informations en temps réel pour prendre de meilleures décisions. Mais, ces solutions ignorent complètement la complexité du problème, ne s’intéressant pas au pouvoir des compagnies agro-alimentaires, au goût de la nourriture de qualité ou à l’impossibilité de trouver du temps pour faire de l’exercice.
Il approche ainsi différentes facettes de la réflexion sur le Big Data et cherche à sortir du discours technophile et solutionniste pour redonner une dimension politique au débat.

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Dataclysm by Christian Rudder

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking)Dataclysm: Who We Are by Christian Rudder

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With this book, Christian Rudder gives a very nice introduction to data science as a way to feed our understanding of our society by tools that were only dreamed of by sociologist a few years ago. This book provides clever analyses presented in a simple and intelligible way and is not shy of explaining where the data is not sufficient to provide understanding or can be misleading. After reading this book, I feel that I know more and I really want to tinker with data.

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Agile Selling by Jill Konrath

Agile Selling: Get Up to Speed Quickly in Today's Ever-Changing Sales WorldAgile Selling: Get Up to Speed Quickly in Today’s Ever-Changing Sales World by Jill Konrath

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In “Agile Selling”, Jill Konrath focuses on giving sales inducing advice to individual sales representatives that are new to their position. While she gives a lot of inputs on the importance of focusing your efforts on the value that the product brings to the customer, the author also incorporates advice on personal working habits that one may expect more in a self improvement book than in a sales techniques book.

The book takes the form of short chapters that focuses each on one skill to acquire for the agile seller to be successful. Because of this, the book sometimes gives the feeling to be a collection of insights more so than being a single entity. However, it is interesting to study the form that the author gives to each of the chapters:
– The title: Factual and pointing towards what the reader will get out of this chapter.
– The body of the chapter: Starting with a real life story and building upon it to extract the meaningful advice that the reader can use to improve his sales skills.
– A one sentence conclusion: A sharp summary of the valuable information to be remembered from the chapter.
I found it interesting to find a “Tell-Show-Tell” structure being used in a book, as it is a useful communication method when you want to convince during a sales process.

— Spoiler Alert —
During the following paragraphs, the review will take the form of a summary.

In the first part of the book, the author presents her approach and explains why she believes that the success of a seller is directly linked to his or her learning agility. By presenting the current state of the sales environment and the recent changes in the relationship between a buyer and the sales person, she highlights how important is the capacity to learn new skills quickly and to be able to understand new market conditions rapidly to adapt the value proposition to the new challenges that your customers are facing, in order to be a valuable discussion partner to your prospect. Basing her analysis on several studies by different consulting firms, she presents the sales person as the main differentiator in the buyer choice decision. The buyer expects the sales person to be able to bring value in the discussion and will not be satisfied with a boiler-plate sales pitch that has no link to his particular challenges and pains. Considering the necessity for the seller to be able to provide valuable insights to the buyer, she then goes into the best approach for the seller to gather enough knowledge to become this valuable business partner that the buyer is expecting to meet during the sales process.

After introducing the importance of value based selling in the first part of her book, the author uses the rest of the book to advise sales representatives on how to harness the full power of value selling in their sales opportunities. As she explains that the seller should be a quick learner and focus his energy on self development to be able to conduct a valuable discussion with a prospect, she points out the information that he should master first. This information is exactly what will allow the seller to have industry credibility and be able to have insightful discussion with the prospect. She gives some generic self-improvement tricks on how to learn faster and be able to retain more information on the long term (Such as mapping a battle plan to decide what pieces of information to learn first, creating chunks of information that are meaningful, ditching multi-tasking for mono-tasking, etc.) As she presents the “needs-to-knows-now” information that a new joiner should assimilate in the first month in his new sales position, we can see the importance that she places in value-based selling. As an example, when it comes to the knowledge of your prospects, she highlights the importance to fully understand the status-quo, as it is actually your main competitor (According to her, 60% of the sales are lost to no-decision). She invites the seller to retro engineer the marketing material to fully understand the value that his products are bringing to his clients. She even encourages seller to interview recent acquired clients to understand fully the value that the product just brought to them. It’s her belief that a sales person that does not fully grasp the value his products are bringing to clients is not in a position to be successful.

After focusing on the necessary knowledge that the sales person has to acquire to build a successful relationship with his prospects, the author explains how to interact with prospects. In this section again, she mixes generic methods that are extremely useful to the sales person (Rehearsing over and over again, choosing role models, asking for help, giving yourself objectives so that you can measure your progress…) with advice that is specific to value based selling. In particular, she warns the seller against going into pitch mode too early in the discussion and instead to keep asking questions until the reason for change is fully understood. She also highlights how new technology and in particular CRM tools can help the seller understand better the prospect and his needs.

In conclusion, if “Agile Selling” does not provide new ideas in the Value Based Selling area, it really puts the responsibility to leverage the power of value based selling in the hands of the individuals and does not focus on changes at the organization level. I found this aspect of the book to be really useful to me.

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