Should I use book summarizing services?

I was recently recommended a book-summarizing subscription service called Blinkist. They advertise to have summarized versions of over 6,500 non-fiction books, each available to listen to or to read. They say the service is “Perfect for curious people who love to learn, busy people who don’t have time to read, and even people who aren’t into reading.”.

Honestly, I was feeling a bit skeptical. Pausing for a bit and thinking about my school years, I remember that I’ve never used book summarizing for school reading. I loved reading books and was reading a book once every one or two weeks. At that time, I was mainly reading fiction books, varying from fantasy and science-fiction to horror and thrillers. Another part was school reading books required as a part of classes. The latter was often considered boring, especially for teenagers, and some book-summarizing options were available. Still, I decided not to cheat and just read the books.

Now, I consider myself a “curious people who love to learn” and a little less a “busy person who doesn’t have time to read.”, so why not try? Lucky working for Automattic, I recently got access to a corporate subscription to Blinkist Business for the remainder of this year. This reduced the entry barrier and opened an opportunity to try the service.

I chose “Turn the Ship Around” by David Marquet as the first summarized book to try. I picked this one as I was planning to read this book after all. A few months ago, I watched the amazing video “What is leadership?” by the book’s author. It resonated with me, so the book has been on my list since then.

The summarized book, or a “blink,” which is the term used by Blinkist, gives a rough idea of what the book is about. However, I have a feeling that it only gives a superficial understanding. Relying on Blink, I would miss nuances, examples, or exciting anecdotes shared by the author in the book. I don’t like the voice of the narrator reading the book too much, too, as it feels a bit like Ivona. On top of that, my FoMo ghost makes me feel a bit uncomfortable if I read a summarized book and move on.

I think I won’t use Blinkist to “read books” as I still prefer reading the full version of the book. I may only try that to power the decision on which book to pick up next. Which one should I read after I’m done with The Great Mental Models: Turn the Ship Around!, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, or The Making of a Manager? I will see if Blinkist helps me make this decision.

Bonus: What is leadership? video made by the book’s author, David Marquet, is 10x better than the Blink of that book. This looks like a way to go: before relying on Blink, check a TED-like book overview made by the author.

Top 10 Wolfram Alpha queries for a developer

Wolfram Alpha is a computational engine that can provide expert-level knowledge-based answers to questions. I use it to help with everyday work, mainly to perform simple calculations or conversions and for some analysis.

I compiled a list of my top 10 queries in random order:

Timestamp calculations
timestamp for June 1st, 2023, 13:34 UTC
I can quickly get a timestamp for a date in any format or perform other date conversions.

Average of a few numbers
average of {254ms, 419ms, 286ms, 295ms, 289ms} in seconds
It calculates an average of listed numbers and converts milliseconds to seconds. It’s usually quicker than opening a spreadsheet, adding numbers, and writing a formula.

Currency conversions
1700 USD to PLN
I can convert any currency using live rate data.

Basic IP details
check ip
I can see basic information for a given IP address.

Date difference calculations
weekdays until June 27th
Calculate how many work days are left before the given date (e.g., deadline).

Details about addresses
state for zipcode 60104
Get a state for a given zip code.

Weight conversions
convert 10lb to kg
I used it a lot when working on e-commerce.

Logical expressions
P && (Q || R)
I can analyze logical expressions and check if they can be simplified.

Colors conversions
rgb 79, 148, 212
It allows converting colors from RGB to hex and many different formats.

Calculate string length
string length “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.”
I can check string length.

Do you use Wolfram Alpha too? Do you know any other helpful queries?