Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works

A.G. Lafley


This is a book that can be used as a guide to strategy formation at any level, from corporations down to individuals. It lays out a framework within which to think about choices and how they affect future behaviour, and discusses how to make these choices in the face of future uncertainty.

Perhaps the only thing not to like is the use of anecdotes from Proctor and Gamble, one of the world's biggest domestic-goods manufacturers and the source of most of the ideas being presented. It's of course good to have validation of the ideas, but in doing so one has to somewhat suspend disbelief and get used to people seriously discussing the technological advantages of different washing powders, tooth flosses and dusters. At one level, I can appreciate the skill that goes into these goods; at another, I find it hard to believe that consumers really, really get all that excited by the minor changes being described. Or maybe one really sholud believe that people really do pay this much attention, which in itself would be a result worth reporting and strategising about.

Finished on Sat, 20 Apr 2013 00:00:00 -0700.   Rating 4/5.

On the Edge: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore

Brian Bagnall


A rip-roaring history of a company that changed the works of personal computing, full of drama and personal insight. It makes me hungry for similar books about Sinclair, Acorn, and the other contemporary companies who shaped Mt early computing experiences.

Finished on Fri, 19 Apr 2013 15:42:15 -0700.   Rating 5/5.

Studentship available in Newcastle upon Tyne

My colleagues in Newcastle (where I did my first degree) have an MRes/PhD position available in computational behaviour analysis.

Together with colleagues from Agriculture, the School of Computing Science in Newcastle have recently been active in the field of computational behaviour analysis in livestock animals. They have a small grant on which we are currently doing some  pilot work related to food safety and animal wellbeing, which has now given rise to funding for an integrated MRes / PhD studentship to work in this field.

The group wants to work on a system for automatic tracking of farm pigs (indoor) and on modelling their behaviour (as individuals and in the group) with the goal of early detection of changes therein that might be linked to  certain diseases. The project involves some very strong partners from and connections to agriculture and access to farms and industry.  The topic is extremely relevant for the UK industry and has wider societal impact (food safety, animal welfare). They are looking for strong CS candidates with a background in machine learning, signal processing, or computer vision, and an interest in working in an multi-disciplinary team on a challenging and very interesting topic with substantial societal and economic relevance.

The funding covers four years of fees and maintenance. UK home  students (and EU citizens who have been residents for at least three years) are eligible for the full funding, EU students essentially for 50%. Throughout the first year the student will be enrolled into an MRes program with courses and time to get familiar with the topic, which is a fantastic opportunity for students to obtain an interdisciplinary skill-set.

More details can be found here. Application deadline is the 5th April 2013.

A History of the World

Andrew Marr


Books with titles like these, as the author himself admits, are almost doomed to be a disappointment. This book is an exception. It clearly doesn't cover the history of the world in depth, but the areas it does choose to cover have a reasonable claim to being the formative moments of world history and to have influenced coming events in dramatic (often catastrophic, it has to be said) ways. The author has a journalist's eye for interesting characters and factoids, which makes the presentation gripping and well-paced where it could easily have dropped into a dull recitation of facts. I doubt many people will be at all expert in all the periods discussed, and so everyone will learn something new and interesting (as well as possibly having their existing understanding of events changed).

Finished on Sun, 03 Mar 2013 00:00:00 -0800.   Rating 4/5.