Category Professional Development

Protecting Your Content – Copyright, Licensing, and You

Why Should I Worry About Licensing?

You probably just have a blog, or maybe you haven’t even started blogging yet. Maybe you’re just sharing your thoughts on Facebook Notes or Google Pages. However you look at it you’re probably certain that you don’t need to worry about your writing on the web. It is, after all, your content.

Think again.

In all fairness, Facebook’s terms of use are some of the more consumer friendly terms of service out there. Facebook does not claim copyright over your content, but using Facebook immediately grants Facebook “a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (‘IP License’)”. Basically, Facebook can use any picture or thought you’ve posted at any time with no notice to you. Their ability to use your content continues as long as you have an account and you have not shared your content with anyone.

Google’s terms of service are not as friendly as Facebook’s. To start with, Google’s terms use legal language while Facebook’s terms are in something reasonably close to plain English. Google’s terms get worse from there. Instead of allowing you to remove your content by permanently deleting it (and all copies), Google’s terms state that you’re giving them the right to use your thoughts until the end of time, or until you stop using all of Google’s services (see sections 11 and 13.2). Both companies’ terms of service contain my favorite legal provision: the terms are subject to change at any time. In short, if you aren’t hosting your own content, you don’t own it. Not completely. You can claim you’re copyrighting it, but someone else can use it because you’ve implicitly given them permission, and that permission may change.

Back to my earlier question: why should you worry about licensing? You should worry about licensing because you want to be able to control your own content. There’s nothing that stops a third party from changing the terms of service to require their permission if you republish something. If you wanted to republish a blog post on another site, syndicate your content, or print something you wrote in a book you could suddenly find yourself in a legal mess. What if you don’t want pictures of yourself, your friends, or your children to appear in ads?

Licensing comes down to control over your content and maintaining that control into the future. If you want to keep control, you need to examine the license that you have chosen for your content. This doesn’t just apply to the written word, it applies to your presentations, your photographs, and your code samples.

Written Licensing

What’s the best way to protect content you’ve written? That all depends on how you want people to be able to use and re-use your content.

The Well Worn Path: Copyrighting Your Work

The strictest way to protect your content is to copyright it. Stanford University have compiled a great list of copyright resources and it’s important to understand the rights around your work. A copyrighted work doesn’t need to be marked as such, but it will make it much easier to enforce your copyright. Very few people actively want to steal your work, by including a copyright notice with contact information you are making it easier for other authors to track you down and get your permission to use part of your work. The best part is that because of international treaties, there is very little difference in copyright laws between different countries.

Keep in mind that copyrighting your work does not prevent others from reusing portions of your work under fair use principles. Fair use is a tricky thing and is subject to some vague criteria. If you aren’t competing with the author, copying wholesale, building a new work, and are not motivated by a desire for commercial gain, you’re on the way to falling under fair use rules. When in doubt, ask the original author for permission. If you can’t find the original author, find an attorney.

While there are some nuances to copyright law, it is fairly straightforward. You mark your work as copyrighted and that’s it. Others can make use of portions of your work under fair use guidelines and they should ask for permission, but it isn’t strictly necessary.

Flexible Designs for the Future: Creative Commons

A Creative Commons license is, on the surface, not so different from traditional copyright. It’s a more flexible copyright. Rather than have a single, restrictive agreement between the copyright holder and the rest of the world, the Creative Commons license makes it easy for copyright holders to expressly allow certain behaviors.

It all boils down to a few questions:

  • Do you want to allow commercial use of your work?
  • Do you want to allow adaptations of your work?
  • Do you want the terms of the license to continue?

Saying “no” to any of these questions doesn’t prevent anyone from using your work in those ways, they just need to obtain your express permission. A Creative Commons license page clearly explains the terms of a particular license making it very easy for readers and other authors to learn how they can or cannot use your work.

One of the most important aspects of the Creative Commons license is the ability to require future authors to share alike. Adding the share alike provision to your Creative Commons license requires future collaborators to distribute their derivative work under the same license; your work and all work that builds on it will always be available under the same terms you envisioned when you created the content.

Learn more.

The Public Domain

I’ll admit it freely: when I started writing this, I didn’t know a whole lot about how the public domain worked and what it meant. I knew that everything in the public domain was free and couldn’t be taken under someone else’s control, but I didn’t know much more than that.

A work enters the public domain when the intellectual property rights on the work expire or when those rights are forfeited. Basically, I can take anything I’ve previously written and decree that my work is now in the public domain. It belongs to everyone at that point. Work that has entered the public domain is free for anyone else to build upon. In many ways, the public domain is crucial for the advancement of science and the arts. It makes it possible to build on earlier works, to examine and expand upon the work of Isaac Newton or to re-arrange a symphony to be performed by kazoos and barking dogs. Works in the public domain carry no restrictions on their use.

Unfortunately, the definition of public domain varies from country to country so there’s no reliable guarantee or best guess that you can make about how something can be used or re-used, even if the author states their work is in the public domain. When in doubt, consult an attorney (or Google).

The biggest thing to remember about putting your own work in the public domain is that it’s out there for anyone to use and re-use. A less scrupulous person could collect your blog posts and arrange them into a coherent narrative and the publish it as a book. They could also make as many changes as they wanted and there would be nothing you could do to correct the situation.

Software Licensing

Why should we even be talking about software licensing? Software licensing is important if you want to release software for people to use, or even if you want to put sample code on your blog for others to re-use. Of course, you could state in your blog’s copyright that all of your source code is covered under the same restrictive copyright as the rest of your blog, but where’s the fun in that?

Proprietary Software

This is software that is exclusively licensed by the copyright holder. The copyright holder says “here, you can use this because you gave me money, but you have to abide by these rules.” After which they drop a license document the size of a phone book on your desk with an invoice stapled to the top.

So it’s not really like that. How does it work?

With proprietary software, the copyright holder grants you the right to use their software within certain conditions – you can’t modify it or sell it along to your buddies or reverse engineer it to make your own version. License terms vary from vendor to vendor. Some are incredibly permissive and others are very strict. It’s important to look at your software license if you’re ever in doubt of what you can or can’t do with your software.

Likewise, if you’re going to be creating software, you need to be aware of what the terms of your license mean. Commercial software is best licensed under a proprietary license. After all, if I can download and compile your source code free of charge, why should I pay you for your software?

Open Source Software

There are some people who will take issue and say that I should call this section Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) or Free, Libre, and Open Source Software (FLOSS). To these people I say, “get your own blog!”

Open Source Software (OSS) is a contentious area of software. In practice, OSS is software that is released under a specific license and the source code is distributed with the software. In fact, OSS software usually comes as nothing but source code with a license attached. Helpful people often provide compiled versions of the software for various hardware and software platforms.

One of the greatest strengths of open source software is that future users of the software and given specific rights that are normally reserved for copyright holders. This is a lot like Creative Commons licensing in some ways. There are far too many open source licenses to examine them in any detail, so be sure to do your homework if you ever need to choose one.

Now, why should you choose an open source license? I choose to release my demo code under an open source license because I want people to be able to use it, re-use it, and feel free to contribute back. Demo code should stand on its own, but it’s important to remember that your demo code is part of your reputation – keep it safe.

Some good options for open source licenses are the Apache License, the MIT License, or the LGPL. Make sure you read the licenses and understand them before using them. Some licenses have more provisions than others, some restrict future commericial use, and some have almost no provisions at all (the MIT and BSD licenses are like this).

Public Domain

Public domain isn’t specific to the written word, art, and music – software can be covered under the public domain as well. The same legal ramifications apply to software released under the public domain. One of the more famous pieces of public domain software is SQLite.

Why Should I Be Worried About This?

Anyone worried about maintaining control of their own work should be worried about copyright and software licensing. Maintaining control of your work and how it can be distributed is an important part of producing content. If you want to be permissive about ho`w your work is used, you can grant rights to people in advance through the Creative Commons or through open source licensing. If you want people to request permission, you can use stricter copyright requirements and proprietary software licensing. There are many choices available.

Turtles All The Way Down

This has nothing to do with turtles. Just in case you didn’t figure it out, I wanted to make that clear. However, I am really excited to announce that I’m joining Quest Software as a Database Expert. My official job title is still up in the air, but let’s talk a little bit about what I’m going to be doing.

I’m going to stay involved in the community. That’s a big one right there. I’m still going to be on the Board of Directors for PASS. I’m still going to run my local user group (until we have elections and I’m voted off the island). I’m still going to speak at SQL Saturdays and the like. I’m still going to blog about all the crazy messed up things that I do with data. (Have I mentioned that I really like data?)

I’m going to keep solving problems. One of the things that I enjoyed the most about the last two years at Cass Information Systems is that I wasn’t just a DBA. I worked with a great team of developers to solve a variety of problems. Some days I sat in on meetings with them to just give advice based on prior experience. Some days I would be tuning T-SQL. Some days I would be working to help design the optimal solution to a problem using a combination of C# and T-SQL. Solving problems is something that I love. I never want to stop doing it. In fact, I made things change because of the problems that I would be able to solve; these are problems that have been running through my head for a long time.

I love code. I really mean it – I love writing code. There’s nothing like opening up an editor and whipping up some code to solve a problem. I wanted to download a bunch of PDFs, I figured out how. This new position means that I’ll have the opportunity to combine the things that I love – community, problem solving, code, and data – to do some really cool things.

I should stop bolding the first sentence of every paragraph, shouldn’t I?

Let’s make this a bit freaky for you: I’m not going to be working exclusively with SQL Server. In fact, I’m not even going to be working exclusively with RDBMSes.

Did you guess it yet? That’s right: I’m going to be working with cloud databases and NoSQL.

Since you’re reading this right now, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been writing a lot about MongoDB, other NoSQL databases, as well as PostgreSQL lately. I’m exploring the world around me and writing about what I’m finding out. This is an amazing time to be looking at different ways to store data. I’m incredibly excited by all of this new technology. People notice that.

You too can have fabulous prizes. A lot of people have said it before. Hell, I’m going to be saying it this Saturday in Nashville: show your passion. People notice it. Even if that passion leads you away from the fold, follow it. When you write and speak with passion, people will take notice. When you share what you’ve learned with passion, people will take notice.

I didn’t respond to an ad on craigslist. I’d like to think that this opportunity came about because of the time I spend with you, the community, the time I spend blogging, and the time I spend presenting. These are all things that I love doing and now I’m going to be paid to do them. I’m not sure it gets any better than this….

Presenting for the PASS Professional Development Virtual Chapter

Wednesday, June 16th, I will be presenting for the PASS Professional Development Virtual Chapter.

The Live Meeting starts at 1PM EST and will last for around an hour. You can click on this glorious link to attend.

Title: Taking Control of Your Career

Abstract: Raises, promotions, and job offers don’t happen by accident; you need a plan. Through careful planning you can create and reach impressive goals. But what’s the point of reaching your goals if nobody notices? “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t apply when you’re building your career.

In this session I will show you:

  • How to set achievable goals
  • The importance of planning your career
  • Methods for recording and communicating your accomplishments

Knowing and not Knowing

In the IT field, people have the expectation that we’ll always have an answer or a solution. The problem is that we usually don’t have the answer. A lot of the time, we don’t even have the beginnings of a clue. Your reaction when you don’t have an answer speaks volumes. I’m going to use a story to illustrate this point.

The Story

Adam and Bill work together at Amalgamated Spats. During a design meeting Adam mentions a product that could solve some of the problems the developers at Amalgamated Spats are facing. Although Adam is a specialist, he has a great deal of work on his plate and Bill is designated to develop the features. Bill isn’t a specialist, he’s a generalist. Bill is a great developer, but he’s unfamiliar with this specific product.

Over the course of development, Bill makes great strides. Unfortunately, there are some features that he isn’t able to solve programmatically even though they are included in the product. These features are features that were sold as part of reason to use the product. When Adam and Bill’s manager talks to Bill about his progress, Bill tells the manager that he wasn’t able to get the features done because it isn’t possible using the product. The problem is that the features do exist in the product, they just weren’t available the way Bill was using it.

Adam and Bill’s manager is upset that they’ve put so much faith in this product. While the manager trusts Adam, Bill has been working with the product day in and day out, trying to implement these features – why wouldn’t Bill tell the truth? As a result, Adam loses credibility. He can get that credibility back, and certainly will, but for a while it’s gone.

The Problem

There are a couple of problems with this situation:

  1. Bill has effectively thrown Adam under the bus (we call this bussing). Adam has lost credibility with the manager because he gave “wrong” advice.
  2. Bill said “No” when he should have said “I don’t know.”

Of these, the second is far worse. Ultimately, the first problem will go away and Adam will gain that respect back and everyone will be happy again. But the second problem speaks volumes.

It’s Not Okay to Say “I don’t know”

But I just said that Bill should have said “I don’t know,” right? Wrong. Saying “I don’t know” and ending it at that is not acceptable. In this crazy software development world, it’s our job to find the solutions to problems. Did you read that correctly? I didn’t say that it’s our job to code the solutions to problems, it’s our job to find the solutions to problems. Sometimes the solution is to use an existing solution or feature which you can only find through research. Do you see what I’m getting at yet? “I don’t know” isn’t acceptable but saying “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” is perfectly acceptable.

What’s the difference?

When you say “I don’t know” and you stop there you’re effectively throwing your hands in the air and giving up. You’re not only admitting that you don’t know, but that your lack of knowing is the end of it. It ends the conversation

If you say “I don’t know, but let’s find out,” you’re telling the other person that you don’t know the answer and it bothers you. It bothers you so much that you’re going to find out the answer. You’re advertising your inquisitive mindset and the way you solve problems.

What Should I Do?

The next time someone asks you a question where you don’t know the answer, tell them you don’t know. Be completely upfront about it. Follow that up with “but I’ll find out.” Then, actually find out the answer. Research the problem, research the product, and consult with experts – even if you think you are one.

Goals for 2010

Thomas LaRock thought it would be fun to tag me in yet another round of blogging bingo, this time to answer the question “What are you Goals and Theme Word for 2010?”. To tell the truth, I have not made any kind of New Year’s Resolution for a number of years. I usually review my goals on a regular basis, but let’s put them out here for everyone to see.

Theme word? I don’t have one, “f*%#ing rad” is two words, thank you very much.


Become a Better Writer

A long time ago, I went to college for four years, took out a bunch of loans, and got a degree in English, Non-Fiction Writing. I did exceptionally well in my English classes and did even better in the writing classes. I love writing and, frankly, the quality of my writing has not been up to par recently. I want to change my focus as a writer this year. I want to switch from writing short, highly technical, blog posts and change to creating longer article and essay length pieces. There’s nothing wrong with shorter, technical, posts but that is not where my interests lie. I want to focus on improving my writing so I can effectively teach more advanced concepts through writing as well as through public speaking. I was a good writer before and I’ll be a good writer again.

Become a Better Presenter

I have no doubts about my abilities as a presenter – I have a lot of room for improvement. Over the course of the year I’m going to team up with a number of people to improve my presentations. I want to get better at better content and delivery as well as meticulously practicing my presentations until I can deliver them in my sleep. I know that a lot of improvement comes from repetition and I would like to speak at least six times this year. With my current upcoming speaking schedule, that shouldn’t be difficult at all, but we’ll see.


I don’t intend to be self-employed by the end of 2010, but I plan on being well on my way. How am I going to get there?


I’m writing stronger blog content. That’s not going to be enough. I want to get my name in a more places – magazines, guest blog posts, paid content, white papers, and a book. I’ve been shopping an idea around to various publishers and I’m hoping to have a book written and finished by the end of 2010. None of these things pay big bucks, but they all add to the bottom line.


I haven’t done much consulting in the past, of course it was difficult when my day job was being a consultant – there’s an expectation that you will bring the business back to the company. Things have changed, I’m a full time employee now. My employer and I have had the talk – I’m allowed to do consulting work as long as I don’t help out our competitors.

This year I will take on several clients that require a small amount of time (10 – 20 hours each) every month. This isn’t to replace my existing job, this is to supplement it and provide additional income. Before I go completely solo, I want to have a substantial savings buffer built up and doing work on the side makes this a lot easier. I don’t plan on going at it alone – I’ve discussed this several co-conspirators and we have plans to get started this year.

Personal Ventures

I have an idea for a business that will make me tens, maybe even hundreds, of dollars. I plan on fully pursuing this over the course of 2010. Honestly, I have incredibly high hopes for this business and we have already thought of multiple ways to monetize our business. That’s not to say that it’s sure to happen, I have a lot of hard work ahead me, but I’m looking forward to it.


As many of you know, I was elected to the PASS Board of Directors and subsequently put in charge of the Summit program portfolio. This is the heart and soul of what I want to do over the next 12 months. I am going to make sure that the 2010 Summit program committee has my full support and that we’re can make the summit the best event possible.

Inky Mess

This is a personal one: I want to finish both full arm tattoo sleeves this year and, hopefully, start on my legs.

Once again, I think I’m supposed to pick victims. I’m going to pick Matt Nowack, Rick Kierner, Jeff Blankenburg, and Jorge Segarra

I also want a chainsaw on my hand like Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness. That would be f*%#ing rad.

What is Your Biggest Weakness?

David Stein started a fun little game of blog tag and zapped Brent Ozar who, in turn, zapped me. The challenge here is to answer the interview question “What is your biggest weakness?” David’s answer was that he loves to jump straight into code. Brent’s answer is that he only wants to do things that he can do better than everyone else and only if he can do it quickly (Brent is what I call a Type A Slacker).

What’s my biggest weakness apart from a fondness for car keys and the gas pedal?

Well, there are two glaring flaws that come to mind. One is Brent’s raging flaw – if I don’t see myself as having any chance of being better than just about everyone, I don’t have a lot of interest in doing something.

As for my second flaw: if I’m going to do something and do it well, I’m also going to study that subject as if it were an academic subject. If I’m going to do it and I’m going to do it well, I’m going to understand why I’m doing it, how it works under the hood, and why it works that way. I will pursue the academic theory behind a subject thoroughly, sometimes far more than is necessary.

I love music. Over the course of my life, I have taken lessons in piano, guitar, and the french horn. I have taught myself the fundamentals of multiple percussion instruments, clarinet, and the fife. I’ve studied music theory formally in music classes and lessons and informally on my own. I’ve experimented with a variety of techniques to produce the sounds I want and have even taken apart and reassembled various musical instruments to gain a better understanding of their inner workings. Sounds like someone who likes music, right? Well, here’s the catch: I approached all of these instruments methodically, even though I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time. Ultimately, music became a passionate hobby: I knew that I would never be a great musician or composer. I didn’t have the drive or talent.

When I went to college I got a degree in English. I’ve always loved the written word. Rather than focus on analyzing literature, I studied the craft of writing. I read every book we were assigned on writing multiple times. I analyzed my favorite authors’ writing styles. I pared down my writing and built it up in other styles. I challenged myself to write about subjects I had never written about. I studied writing the way that many people study math or science.

I’m very lucky that I’m in a career where I can go beyond my immediate tasks, look inside, and find the theory that makes it all tick. It sometimes takes a good tug to pull me back from the theory to focus on the practical. Thankfully, so much of database development is based on a thorough understanding of theory that it’s okay to go off on a tangent.

Who is next in this game of tag? Matt Nowack, and Joe Webb.

Shameless Self Promotion

or How to get Yourself Adopted from the Animal Shelter

A Trip to the Humane Society

Way back in 2001, I took a trip to the local humane society. Ostensibly, I was going there with my girlfriend at the time to look at kittens. We were resolved about not getting a cat that day. This story wouldn’t be interesting if we didn’t get a cat, so I’ll spoil the ending for you and let you know that we did take a cat home that day.

I don’t know if you’ve ever taken the time to visit your local humane society, but I will let you know that it is a series of cages filled with the cutest animals you have ever seen. The kittens are particularly cute balls of fuzz that either nap in a ball of kittens, meow in a pile of kittens, or frolic in some kind of tumbleweed of kittens. On that magical day, my normally cold heart was warmed by frolicking kittens and I took one of them out of a cage and brought her to one of the little rooms where you can acclimatize to an animal and make sure it isn’t going to try to claw your face off.

Sure enough, this kitten did not want to claw my face off. Instead she wanted to run in circles, meow, rub up against my leg and beg for attention. The very reason I pulled her out of her cage was because she was perched at the very front of the cage, waving one tiny paw through the bars, crying for attention. In short, she was a vocal kitten.

The Pay Off – For Someone

Eight years later, I still have that kitten, although she has grown to be the largest cat I have ever seen. If you are reading this after 5 PM Eastern time, there is a very good change that this cat is perched behind my head on the back of my desk chair. She still gets a lot of attention because she still calls out for attention – she shows me the toys she has “killed”, the socks she has shredded, and makes me aware of the random other things that cats do when people aren’t watching.

The point is that she knows how to get the attention and praise that she wants. Over the years she has learned the most effective ways to annoy the heck out of me and still get a positive response. Because my cat demands my attention, she gets it.

What Does This Have to do With Anything?

The point is – if my cat can figure out how to get attention and praise, you can get attention and praise (or free tuna). More appropriately: you can make your accomplishments known and profit from them.

Your Accomplishments

First off, it’s important that you start keeping track of your accomplishments. A few months ago, I mentioned making a personal development plan. One of the things in your PDP should be a list of your accomplishments. It’s going to be silly for you to make a list of your accomplishments once a year. Instead, I keep a list of my accomplishments in a text file. You could just as easily use a spreadsheet, One Note, Outlook, or any other record system. The point is that you’re recording your accomplishments.

Record and Review

Any time I do something that I’m particularly proud of, I add it to this list. If I’m not at home, I’ll send my self a reminder email from my phone to add whatever I’m pleased about to my list. The key about my approach is to record everything that you do and review it later. Don’t think, just record it. Did you fix a server and resolve a production outage in 30 minutes when it could have taken 24 hours? Record it. Re-write a stored procedure to use 95% fewer reads? Record it. Save the company $10,000,000 by shipping flanging skrill production to Denmark? Record it.

The point is, you’re recording it. You can filter it later.

I like to review this list of accomplishments weekly, at the very least. This keeps my recent accomplishments fresh in my mind and it helps me focus on my goals. A lot of the time, I’ll open up a copy of my PDP and have it in front of my while I review my goals. This not only helps me determine if I’m on the right track to meeting my goals, it also helps me keep track of whether or not my long-term goals and my current situation are aligned. This also gives me the chance to revise my PDP as the year goes on, rather than marching forward foolishly thinking that my goals from three months ago are still one hundred percent valid.

At the end of the day, you won’t get anywhere without making people aware of you, what you’ve done, and what you expect in return.

Links for the Week of 2009.10.23

I came across a lot of great links in the last week. So many that I had to cut about 40% of them to make this list.

As always, you can check out the firehose at my delicious bookmarks page.

SQL Server


Stuff & Things

Links for the Week of 2009.10.16

SQL Server

Less Than Dot – Blog – How to Monitor Database Mirroring – Monitoring database mirroring is more than just running scripts to email you ever X minutes. Paul Theriault shows how to monitor mirroring (and other aspects of performance) using alerts.
How to get the whole group of duplicate rows – CTEs are great for more than just replacing views. Mladen Prajdic shows how they can be used to find duplicate data quickly and efficiently.
Bad habits to kick: making assumptions about IDENTITY – A great discussion from Aaron Bertrand about how IDENTITY actually works as well as solutions to make it work the way people want it to work.
Introduction to SQL Server 2008 Extended Events

Stuff & Things

A Softer World: 490 – I don’t know what it is, but I like it.
SCOUTING NY – » New York, You’ve Changed: Taxi Driver – Part III – It's interesting to note how the world changes over time and how tiny pockets of it still stay the same. This is a look at the NYC of Taxi Driver then and now.
2001: A Space Odyssey Program – During the original theatrical premier of 2001: A Space Odyssey a program was handed out. This is a beautiful example of design that conveys the mood of the film and serves to prepare the audience as well as amplify their experience.
Flickr Photo Download: 50 Years of Space Exploration
In pictures: Graffiti artists transform Scottish ghost town Polphaill – The Scotsman – Transforming the rural crapscape into a work of art.
The Pomodoro Technique – an interesting approach to solving problems and managing your time effectively.
The Gentlemen’s Guide to Dressing – Some people are born with an innate sense of style. The rest of us all need to a little bit of help.
@font-face and performance – There are some new techniques coming out for better font rendering on the web. Steve Souders goes over some of the pitfalls of these techniques to users can be aware of the downside while they’re making their choice.

Pragmatic Thinking & Learning Reviewed

From the moment I started reading this book, I had a hard time putting it down. I read it far into the night. I read it waiting for oil changes, tattoos, and computer reboots. I re-read parts of it while I was still reading it. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I took a lot away from it.


First of all, what is this book all about? After all, we all should know how to think and learn by now, right? Well, that’s the big kicker, as it turns out. A lot of the things we were taught about learning might have worked growing up. And a lot of that was wrong, too.

There are a lot of websites, blogs, books, magazines, articles, and wags out there who claim to have the secret to make you a more effective person if only you follow these ten guidelines. Pragmatic Thinking & Learning isn’t one of those books. It’s not a how to book. It’s not a tutorial or instruction manual. It’s a reference manual.

How Does it Work?

This book is endorsed by cheesy DBAs everywhere.

This book is endorsed by cheesy DBAs everywhere.

Pragmatic Thinking & Learning is based on copious amounts of research on learning backed up by real world results. This is more than one lone programmer’s ideas on how we should learn. It’s based on research across a number of fields – from nursing to the cognitive sciences – and references are provided to all of the source material. If you were so inclined, this would be a great introduction to a variety of theories.

One of the most important things that Pragmatic Thinking & Learning stresses is that, just like programming, we need to constantly be refactoring our thought processes. Instead of focusing on something that works, Andy Hunt stresses the importance of looking at how something works, why it works, and what could be going better. As much of the process of effective learning comes from unlearning bad habits while learning good ones. While many authors leave it at that and let the reader decide how to unlearn, Andy provides strategies, backed by research, to make change possible. He stresses the importance of engaging the whole brain and provides ways to do so. This book is chock full of exercises that are designed to get the reader geared up and refactoring their thought processes in no time.


Pragmatic Thinking & Learning is a great book. It’s going on my shelf next to Getting Things Done and I plan on re-reading both books in six months to see what I’m doing wrong, what I’m doing right, and what I can be doing better. This book will be a distinct asset to re-working my process. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to rethink how they’re doing things and thinks that there is a better way.

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