Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Web Analytics - An Hour A Day

Author: Avinash Kaushik
Published: 2007
Publisher: Wiley India Pvt. Ltd.

After laying a strong foundation to the subject of Web Analytics in first 5 chapters, the book proceeds further to provide a practitioner's perspective of what it takes to be successful at web analytics. Author who is a well known authority on this domain is lays out a day by day action plan on each day to establish an effective Web Analytics program in 8 months. The scope of this book is pretty vast covering topics like Concepts, Data Analysis, Search Analytics, Measuring Email and Multichannel Marketing, Website Experiment and Testing, Competitive Intelligence and Web 2.0 Analytics. The author lays high stress on taking a customer centric approach towards web analysis. He warns us of several pit falls like totally relying on Clickstream data like page views, path anlaysis etc. He strongly recommends developing a Trinity Approach which focuses on fundamental understanding of the customer experience, so that one can influence the optimal customer behavior which leads to win-win outcome for both customer and the service provider.
A fairly comprehensive book on Web Analytics which evolved out of Author's postings on his popular blog Occam's Razor.
The book is accompanied by a very useful CD which has several presentations and podcasts based on the content of the book.
The book is written in a very easy to understand manner. I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to develop a good understanding of web analytics.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lend Me Your Ears : All You Need to Know about Making Speeches and Presentations

Author: Max Atkinson
Published: 2004
Publisher: Oxford University Press

I picked up this very useful book on Public speaking at a bargain price of Rs. 250 (approx. $5 vs the marked price of $18) at the Strand Book festival in Bangalore, last December.
I have been reading it off and on since then, till I finished the book today.

This book is divided into 5 parts.
Part I: The Language of Public Speaking (3 Chapters), explains how public speaking differs from normal conversation and how to keep the audience engaged.
Part II: Visual Aids and Verbal Crutches (2 Chapters) , gives tips on how to make effective use of visual aids
Part III: Winning with Words (2 Chapters), provides lessons in rhetorical techniques and using imagery and anecdotes in speeches.
Part IV: Putting Principles into Practice (3 Chapters), is about structuring and preparing your speech and delivering it on different occasions viz. Political speech, Business presentation, Social speech,
Part V: Body Language and Speech (2 Chapters) , deals with facts and myths regarding body language.

A very well written book - simple language with lots of examples and ample doses of humor (especially the Introduction chapter where the author describes the way most speakers struggle with OHP transparencies and Powerpoint slides); practical and easily implementable techniques; succinct summary of key points at the end of each chapter; exercises after every part.

I think this book will be an excellent tool for preparing my Toastmaster project speeches, especially the chapter on rhetorical techniques. I was never a fan of rhetorical speeches, being of the view that the more naturally you speak more effective you are. However this book has toned down my bias against rhetoric and has convinced me that some use of rhetoric is necessary to hold the attention of your audience.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in improving his public speaking skills.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Namesake

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Published: 2003
Publisher : Harper Collins

Thanks to a mandatory vacation enforced by my office, I could start and finish reading this book within a week. I had seen its film version ,directed by Mira Nair few months ago.
I liked the film better. But nevertheless, The Namesake as a book is a good read. The story of a an emigrant Bengali couple from India and their children who are born in U.S.A. is very vividly narrated. The whole book is written in present tense, so you can feel as if all the events and incidents described in the book are unfolding before your eyes. The protagonist Gogol (Nikhil) dislikes his name given to him by his father who is a great fan of the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. Having born and brought up in U.S.A , Gogol is more comfortable with the American way of life and finds it very difficult to understand his parents views based on their upbringing in India. However this book is not about clash of generations. In fact his parents come to accept his way of life though reluctantly without creating a big fuss. It is more about how Gogol struggles to strike a balance between his social interactions and his interactions with his parents and finally comes to terms with them.
Both the Indian and American characters in this story are very realistically portrayed. They all mean well but so self-centered with in their views and their way of life, that it does not strike them that people from other culture can be different.
Russian writer Gogol and his story "The Overcoat " forms an underlying theme of the book. I should read that story some day to appreciate better it's linkages with The Namesake.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Captain Blood

Author : Rafael Sabatini
Published: 1922
Free Download : Click Here
Amazon Link: Click Here

Nowadays I normally don't buy and read such books. But I got this in form of a free e-book which came bundled along with my PDA. I started reading this just to pass time during my one-and-half hour commute from my office to home in the evenings (I can't read a conventional dead-tree (paper) book in the dark, can I ?).
I was expecting a teenage adventure story about a blood thirsty pirate. But I was in for a pleasant surprise. Story about a pirate it was, but that of a noble and brave pirate who values fairness and justice. The story is set in 1680s when King James II was ruling England . Captain Blood, actually a doctor by profession is wrongly convicted of treason against the king and sold as a slave to serve in sugar plantations of Barbados. He escapes and since he cannot go back to England becomes a pirate under unavoidable circumstances. The rest of the book narrates his adventures as a pirate roaming the seas and fighting Spanish pirates. His tenure as a pirate ends when he is pardoned and made governor of Barbados after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when King James II is overthrown.
A good and entertaining book, especially when you don't have anything else to lay your hands on to read. By the way, I also came across in this book , incidents of mergers & acquisitions among pirates . Very similar to what happens in the present corporate world !
I had neither heard about this book earlier nor about its author Rafael Sabatini. But after reading it I came to know through google search that this book was a bestseller of its times (1920s). Several movies were made based on this book. The 1935 version had the super star of those days Errol Flynn essaying the role of Captain Blood. It was nominated for Academy award for the Best Picture Category. You can view it on the You Tube.
I saw the first 20 minutes and hope to catch up on it again , when I have more leisure and better internet connectivity.
Among the other bestsellers by the same author are - The Sea Hawk (1915) and Scaramouche (1921). Hope to read these too some time !

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Aligning Ferret : How an Organization Meets Extraordinary Challenges

Authors: Swapna Kishore and Rajesh Naik
Published: 2008
Publisher: Postscript Impressions

This book is about how Sunny Chinappa, a senior manager of a small Indian IT firm called Ferret, plays a key role in aligning it to the business goals of its parent organization which has recently acquired it.

The authors who are experienced management consultants have very effectively captured the essence of corporate planning through this "business novel". After reading it one would appreciate the fact that a successful organization requires something much more than effective engineering and project management processes. The non-negotiable need for strategic planning, performance management and competency building has been clearly brought out.

"Aligning Ferret" can be an effective educational material for introducing these areas to the beginners. At the end of each chapter there are consolidation exercises which pose several thought provoking questions related to the incidents narrated in the chapter. The purpose of such exercises is to make the readers pause and think how they would have handled such situations in their workplaces. This can lead to some fresh insights which may prove helpful in dealing with the issues they face in their organization.

The book also provides glimpses of well established business strategy tools like Balanced Score Card, Malcolm Balridge Quality Model and P-CMM and supplements them with a list of very useful references for further study.

The story line is realistic, strong and tight in its narration . It is a real "page turner". If you work for an IT company you can easily relate to many of the characters and incidents in this book.

The best thing about this book is its sense of humor. I found myself breaking into smile, chuckling and even laughing out aloud at least twenty times in my journey through 200 odd pages.

IT professionals, especially those in the middle-management levels will definitely enjoy reading "Aligning Ferret".