Book Reviews

Hackers and Painters book review


Major points of this book are:

  • Web-based software will crush desktop software
  • Good design is harder than you can imagine
  • Java sucks for programming (Ruby rocks)
  • You get paid by doing or making something people want

I was pulled into Paul Graham’s essays after reading an article about his start-up incubator, Y Combinator.  The most surprising part of this book is the chapter “Why Nerds are Unpopular”.  It is a scathing indictment of school in general and High School in particular.  High School seems to have more in common with prison than college.  Prison and High School both have laudable goals: rehab criminals and educate young minds.  Unfortunately both systems degenerate into basic human warehousing.  Criminals and teenagers are both warehoused to keep them off the streets.  Both systems create their own twisted societies and cultural norms.

I did not like with his assertion that you need to live off Ramen noodles to begin a startup.  The idea that to start a company you need to run extreme financial risks makes the start-up club very exclusionary.  His argument that only young people are able to bear those kinds of risks is disheartening to a 45-year-old like me.  Fortunately that is not necessary.  I was watching a YouTube video from David Heinemeier Hanson from 37signals and he basically thinks that is bunk.  You can and should take far less financial risk when starting a company.  A majority self-made millionaires think the same thing 

Paul’s advice to young college graduates to either join a start-up or create one is timely indeed.  The era of big business providing you a career for 30 years is over.  You need to create something yourself that other people need.  Simple as that.

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