Book Review: What’s Mine Is Y(our)s: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption

Haiku synopsis:

Tech helps us to share
Old impulses, New ideas
What is mine is yours

Co-authors Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers present a highly readable overview of the collaborative present and future of consumption as new technologies empower and amplify our basic human urge to share.  I was really excited to finally get my review copy of this book, since my masters thesis, SokoSquare, dealt with many of these issues of reclaiming and redefining community (and finding abundance) through collaboration and sharing. In particular, chapter 8, “Collaborative Design” was a particularly inspiring call to action for me as a designer to move beyond creating beautiful artifacts to creating systems and experiences that generate some sort of communal value.  The ethos of collaborative consumption doesn’t see technology and the internet as an end in itself, but instead a coordinating mechanism for enhancing robust communities.

I have also been thinking about these issues in my recent work with HelloElectric.org, a newly-launched social movement for the promotion of electric vehicles.  Widespread adoption of electric vehicles is only one part of the solving the climate and peak oil crises.  We must also change the way we own and use vehicles.  Botsman & Rogers quote Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford:

The future of transportation will be a blend of things like Zipcar, public transportation, and private car ownership.  Not only do I not feat that, but I think it’s a great opportunity for us to participate in the changing nature of car ownership.

Amen to that.

What’s Mine Is Yours is part cultural critique, part aspirational document, and part survey of the current collaborative consumption scene.  Besides Zipcar, the book also explores the success of sites like eBay, craigslist, and CouchSurfing and offers an introduction to some interesting newcomers in the space.

If you like Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age or Douglas Rushkoff’s Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back, this is the book to read next.

Delivering Happiness

Can a company really deliver happiness?  That is a question that Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh tries to answer in his new book, Delivering Happiness (out today!). He certainly delivered happiness to me as a blogger when I received a free review copy of the book a couple months ago.  With that disclosure taken care of, let me go into what I hope will be a fair review.

Delivering Happiness was a quick and easy read.  Hsieh writes in a casual conversational style and claims in the introduction that he did not employ a ghostwriter.  I finished the book the night I got in the mail.  Despite his own self-deprecation about his writing ability, I appreciate the conversational tone and the authenticity of his personal voice.  As far as books written by CEOs of successful companies go, Delivering Happiness is definitely not douchey.  I have to admit, I don’t usually read business management books, nor have I ever shopped at Zappos, but I was intrigued by the offer of a free book.

Hsieh delivers sage business advice in a simple and earnest way while interweaving it with his own personal narrative. As a brief aside, in the spirit of Hsieh’s personal narrative style, I’ll interweave some of my own personal narrative into this review.  Hsieh and I have a lot in common.  We are both the sons of Taiwanese immigrants who grew up in suburbia.  Both of our last names start with H.  And speaking of the letter “H”, to drop the H-bomb, we both went to Harvard. We were both forced (um, I mean, strongly encouraged) by our parents to learn piano and some sort of string instrument growing up (in Hsieh’s case the violin, in mine, the cello).  I have to admit, as someone who didn’t grow up with many Asian-American role models outside of my own family, these kinds of commonalities made me really identify with Hsieh’s story and personal journey.

Hsieh emphasizes the importance of building a strong and distinctive corporate culture as the path to business success.  He has done this at Zappos by maintaining transparency and a personal touch in management, and hiring and training employees in a way that infuses Zappos with its distinctive culture.  For example, Hsieh talks about how prospective employees are asked questions like “how weird are you?” and how Zappos offers new employees $2000 to quit after their training period just to make sure they are getting people who are really committed.

Just so I don’t come across as a total fanboy, the last paragraph will be critical. There were a few awkward bits in the book.  One is just a slightly typography technicality, but my designer side can’t help it.  There are several fonts used in the book, but the one used for quoting the Zappos Core Values Document (page 159), was a bit hard to read for such a long excerpt (maybe they have changed that for the final publication version though).  In terms of content, the part about Hsieh’s first experience with rave culture could have been shorter, and might have been a bit self-indulgent, but once again, I appreciate the personal, almost naive candor and honesty, and very much jive with Hsieh’s persona as a “hip, iconoclastic CEO” (I got that one from the book cover).  At the same time, the side note about how much Hsieh loves Red Bull was just plain weird (tacky product plug, or just an over-enthusiastic fanboy?).  Then again, if I ever get the chance to write a book about myself, I would welcome gladly the sponsorship of any of my uppers of choice (any matcha or yerba mate producers out there reading this?).

Don’t take my word for it though.  Delivering Happiness is a breezy entertaining read for anyone interested in building different kind of corporate culture, that optimizes both financial success and, well, happiness.  I’m happy I read the book and happy that you made it all the way through my review.  Have a nice day!

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Classic Japanese Inns & Country Getaways

Here is a book review I wrote for JapanVisitor.com:

country-inns.jpg

Classic Japanese Inns & Country Getaways

by Margaret Price

Oxford University Press USA

ISBN: 4770018738
288 pages

For Margaret Price, author of Classic Japanese Inns & Country Getaways, traditional Japanese inns (ryokan), are not just a place to stay while traveling the country, but a destination in their own right. The Japanese have a proud inn keeping tradition that dates back to the Edo period. Staying at a traditional Japanese inn is like immersing oneself into a facet of traditional Japanese culture that foreign travelers seldom see. Entering a classic Japanese inn is like stepping into a an oasis of tranquility, soothed by the soft light seeping through paper shoji screens and the elegant minimalism of tatami-floored rooms. The ryokan experience is worlds away from the staying in sterile, concrete block hotels with flickering fluorescent lighting that mar the landscape of modern Japan.

Almost all ryokan include dinner and breakfast along with the price of lodging, and many of the inns featured in the book are notable for the quality of their cuisine as well as their charming atmosphere and refined service. They are the perfect getaway destination for intrepid travelers searching for something off the beaten path, residents in Japan looking for a retreat from the hustle and bustle of urban life, and for adventurous epicureans in quest of local delicacies in lush surroundings.

Classic Japanese Inns & Country Getaways contains a brief history of Japanese inns, a short introduction to inn architecture and gardens, and a good guide to inn etiquette and protocol. The book profiles inns across Japan in both urban and rural settings, and indicates whether or not English is spoken at a given inn. A handy list of Japanese phrases is included, but it might be easier to solicit the help of a Japanese-speaking friend when making reservations. All in all, Classic Japanese Inns & Country Getaways is a solid primer to the enchanting world of traditional Japanese inns.

Buy this book from Amazon USA  UK  Japan

 

Guide to E-Advocacy

PolicyLink.org's guide to e-Advocacy, Click Here for Change: Your Guide to the E-Advocacy Revolution is an excellent primer to e-Advocacy for newcomers to the field, as well as helpful reference guide to more experienced campaigners. The guide gives a brief overview of the history of online organizing, outlines the technological tools and strategies for campaigning both online and offline, and provides case studies as a point of reference.  

The guide is written from a US perspective for organizing in a US political context, but the strategies and case studies contained within can be applied to e-Advocacy in an international context too.  Avaaz.org is trying to do this very thing, by taking the successful strategies of groups like MoveOn.org in the US domestic political arena and applying it in an international context.

Click here to download the PDF version of the PolicyLink guide to E-Advocacy