ABAW Challenge #5 – Alibaba – The House That Jack Ma Built

Another week into the A Book A Week Challenge and the book I picked was Alibaba – The House That Jack Ma Built by @duncanclark

This book narrates how Jack Ma built Alibaba, one of the world’s most valuable companies.


As mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to ensure that I read a biography every month as part of my ABAW challenge. A book on Jack Ma and Alibaba was obviously the first choice because I have been hearing a lot and following closely Alibaba for quite some time.

Today, Alibaba is one of the most valuable companies in the world and they are no more just an e-commerce portal (as previously thought). This book helped me to shape a better picture of Jack Ma and Alibaba. The narration of the humble beginning of Alibaba and how Jack Ma reacted to the challenges are very inspiring.

 Alibaba – The House That Jack Ma Built is certainly one of the best books I read this year.

My Plan for Next Week

The following books are in my reading list for next week. I will pick one of the books from the list below.

ABAW Challenge #4 – The Industries of Future

Another week into the ABAW Challenge and the book I picked was The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross. 

This is a very interesting book covering the innovations happening around the world. The author predicts that Genomics, Robotics and Cyber Security are going to be the most prominent industries for the years to come.


industries of future

This book is written by Alec Ross who was Senior Advisor for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. During his tenure as Senior Advisor for Innovation he visited a large number of countries and closely studied the technological advances happening around the world.

This books examines the innovations happening in several industries and highlights the advances in Robotics, Genetics, Big Data and Cyber Security as the promising industries for the future.

I bought the Audible version of the book and that was a good choice. The audible version of the book was narrated by the author himself, so I could hear Alec talking so passionately about the innovations around the industries of the future.

Did you read this book?

If you have read this book, I am eager to hear what you think about this book.

My Plan for Next Week

The following books are in my reading list for next week. I will pick one of the books from the list below.

Any other recommendations?

A Book A Week Challenge #3 – Test Driven Development (TDD)

Just completed the 3rd week in my ABAW challenge and the book I picked was Professional Test Driven Development with C#: Developing Real World Applications with TDD by James Bender and Jeff McWherter.

If you are new to TDD (Test Driven Development), this is a great resource to understand TDD and get started. I highly recommend this book for TDD beginners.

If you already have some experience with TDD, then this may not help you much. This might, however, introduce you to a few new tools and frameworks that you might find helpful / informative.


I used to be a big fan of TDD, back in the old days when I used to do a lot of development. The last time I touched it myself was in 2006. In the past 10 years, a lot changed in and around TDD methodologies, tools and frameworks. This book certainly helped me to fill that gap reasonably well.

Back in my development days, I always had difficulty in clearly defining a unit test to my team members. Often I found integration tests being written as unit tests because the boundary was not very clear. This book does a good job in defining the scope and boundaries of a unit test and differentiates it from other type of tests.

The chapter covering mock frameworks is very informative as well. Mock frameworks are largely ignored by many development teams that I interact with, and this book does a very good job in explaining the value of using a mock framework and how it makes everything work together within the TDD process.

A very good understanding of Object Oriented Programming (OOP) concepts is required to be able to implement TDD successfully within any project. While most other books that I looked at assumed that the readers are already familiar with OOP, the authors of this book have put a lot of efforts into helping readers refresh their OOPs understanding and gradually guide them to practical TDD.

Next Week

My plan for next week is one of the following:

See you next week!

ABAW Challenge #2 – Site Reliability Engineering: How google runs production systems


It is the second week of ABAW Challenge and the book I picked for this week was Site Reliability Engineering: How Google Runs Production Systems.

I would like to encourage people working on DevOps, Server Administration, DBA and System/Software Architecture and similar roles to read this book.

Probably nobody knows how to run a production system better than the google team. I live in a country where most of us type http://www.google.com on the web browser to check whether the internet is working or not. We trust the availability of the google.com website more than the availability of the internet data connection. Even if http://www.google.com is down, we still believe it is an internet problem, because we trust google to be always up and running.

This book is written by engineers (actually dozens of those engineers) who run the google production systems, the team that is responsible for the availability and performance of google products. This team is called SRE (Site Reliability Engineering Team) within Google.

The main attraction for buying this book and spending a week reading, is the fact that this is written by those engineers who are running my favorite google products. This was part of the efforts to listen to them and to understand their vision, approach, thinking and the way of working. I went over the whole book with full attention and focus to see what I can adopt from what those SRE engineers do within Google.

site reliability engineering

I bought a Kindle version of the book and that is what I read this week. I thought this is going to be a good item to read for my DevOps team, and therefore I bought a printed copy of this book as well.

Overall, I liked this book very much. A lot of the tools, systems and environments described in this book exist only within Google and therefore they did not help much directly. However, this book helped me to understand how those engineers work, create and track SLOs, handling outages, processes and methodologies in place etc. Moving forward, I am going to encourage my team to put more focus on the postmortem reports after every outage, organize and manage those reports and use them as a reference point for training as well as future fixes.

I would like to encourage people working on DevOps, Server Administration, DBA and System/Software Architecture and similar roles to read this book. I would also recommend the DevOps/SRE engineers at Amazon read this as well, because their login page is down for the last 15 minutes and I can’t look at my wish list I compiled there!

amazon login

Next Week

Now that I am feeling more confident about being able to continue this challenge, I am trying to pick the book for next week. The following are on the top of my list and I will pick one of them.

If any of you have read one or more of the above books, I would love to hear your feedback and will make my choice based on that 🙂

ABAW Challenge – The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

Last week I started a challenge, which I call ABAW Challenge (A book a Week) to motivate myself to read a book every week. It was a serious challenge for me, because my hectic work schedule left me little time to focus on anything else. Interestingly, it is the difficulty level which inspired me to go ahead and attempt this almost impossible mission.

The book I picked last week was The Second Machine Age written by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.

second machine age

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

“The Second Machine Age” is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post Bestseller!

I decided to buy an Audible version of the book so that I can listen to it. This allowed me to efficiently use my time for this project, when a normal reading was naturally not possible: such as when driving. The audio recording of the book was 8 hours and 50 minutes and I was able to complete it within a week.

The audible version of the book was narrated by Jeff Cummings and I must say that I loved narration.

Even thought the whole exercise looked like a challenge when I started with this, the journey quickly became very enjoyable and exciting. I did not want to write about this until I was sure that I can continue this exercise for quite some time.

I am a great fan of the industrial revolution, which the authors of the book call ‘First Machine Age’. Years ago, I had read several books on industrial revolution and its history, progress and explosion, watched many movies, documentaries and videos; including the famous Charlie Chaplin Movie Modern Times. Some of the remarks in this book about the first machine age reminded me about all those and it indeed multiplied the fun!

This book is a very interesting read, not only for technology professionals, but also for anyone having an interest in science, technology and computers.