Tinkering

Another Rands In Repose gem.

Tinkering is a deceptively high-value activity. You don’t usually allocate much time to tinkering because the obvious value of tinkering is low. You don’t start tinkering with a goal in mind; you start with pure curiosity. I’ve heard about this thing, but I’ve never used it. How does this thing work? I’ve always wanted to know about more about X. Downtime is an easy time to tinker. Nothing is pressing, so these acts of mental wandering are acceptable.

This is how things get done. This is my life.

I think Dopamine is related to why I tinker. There is a definite expectation to getting something out of it. And that is all the motivation I need.

The dopamine from the ventral tegmental area… usually sends dopamine into the brain when animals (including people) expect or receive a reward. That reward might be a delicious slice of pizza or a favorite song. This dopamine release tells the brain that whatever it just experienced is worth getting more of. And that helps animals (including people) change their behaviors in ways that will help them attain more of the rewarding item or experience.

My reward is learning something about a gadget. Similar to how reading rewards me with learning about science, history, motivations, or behavior.

 

Nebulous

Vox Hunt: All By MyselfSchrödinger’s Cat is one of my favorite thought experiments. I tend not to think of things and black-and-white or not even in shades of gray but as simultaneously both. Well, I used to call things as having shades of gray until I realized that was wrong. I sometimes still make that error. The better I understand quantum mechanics, the more I feel that it explains everything. Order and chaos are twin underpinnings of reality.

Am I black or white? Really, I am simultaneously both. Maybe struggling with identity plays a role in enjoying the cognitive dissonance of the world around me. People want me to choose when that is a false dichotomy.

Kind of like what makes particle versus wave experiments so cool is how small tweaks change the results. Pretty much all of existence operates this way. The right small tweaks can have giant changes in behavior that are amazing to watch. This is what makes science so much fun. Carefully control your inputs and watch the outputs come out of left field.

How we look at something is often the most important factor in observing the universe around us.

Moral behavior in animals

TEDxPeachtree focuses on ideas worth spreading in myAJC mentions this video. By the way, TEDxPeachtree returns this Friday, November 8th.

This features Frans de Waal showing videos demonstrating animals cooperating on tasks, something we think of as human behavior. One I really liked was chimpanzees give the researcher a prosocial (feed both) or antisocial (feed chooser) token and how often they picked the prosocial was measured. Retaliation by the non-choosing chimpanzee reduced how much the choosing one picked the prosocial option.

Review: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A few days ago I tweeted,

How bad would it be for me to anonymously leave a copy of @DanielPink ‘s book Drive on the desk of every exec[utive] at work?

First, I actually think every person supervising others and even those working in our flat teams should study and implement this. The good news is I already see hints of it in the work place nestled in the cracks. Knowing why these behaviors improve performance and taking it to the next level is the dream. We have superstar teams and this is why. Second, ever since I watched the Pink’s TED Talk and RSA videos, these ideas are things I mention. The book just adds more fuel to the fire.

This is a easy read. The appendix contains a summary of how to apply these ideas as an individual, an organization, or as an educator. And the bibliography gives me the changes to dive even deeper.

View all my reviews

TED Talk: Identity in the 21st Century

Two major recurring political issues in the United States are related, I think, to issues of mixing cultures. There is an instinct to trust those like us more implicitly and consider those who do not look or act like us as bad. Coming to trust people as members of our “tribe” can reverse this instinct. That process means overcoming the instinct. We have to ignore the distaste of the instinct and get to know people.

Easier said than done. But people do.

Immigration as an issue is not unique to today. The same lame objections about the personal qualities of Hispanics were labeled against Italians, Irish, and others. They seem to completely fall in line with this distaste of the foreign tribe. Over time as almost all people started coming to trust the foreigners it disappeared. A different group became the “bad” one.

The objection to LGBTs, I think, falls into the same category. Melanin content, cheek bones, or height make for easier identification for inclusion or exclusion than behavior preference. The social conscience has only tracked this for a few decades. I expect a few more will be required for enough people to include them in the “tribe” and the issue to disappear.

In the mean time, I liked Bryad’s description in the video below of perceiving our instincts, understanding them as wrong, and holding the discipline to get past them to a better place.

If the video below does not work, then try TEDxEducationCity (2012) – Byrad Yyelland – Identity in the 21st Century

TED Talk: The power of introverts

I to really need to pick up Susan Cain’s book Quiet. I watched her talk at Leading@Google a couple weeks ago because I could not find her TED. Now the TED is available.

My family very much was the one where we would hang out together reading. I’ve always been the one to hang back and watch and observe until comfortable. Before I even understood systems, my mind was attempting to reverse engineer them. Only then could I figure out how to use them.

Too bad human behavior is messier than computers.

If the above video does not play, then try Susan Cain: The power of introverts.

Fee or Discount

In this day and age, I find it surprising enormous corporations have not figured the difference in the perception of a fee vs a discount. Adding a fee causes consumer uproar. They feel the faceless no good bully is trying to make money unfairly. Even people who probably will avoid ever paying the fee on grounds feel it takes away an option. In the aftermath of the consumers taking to social media and winning against the big banks, this is not the right time for a corporation.

The way to change consumer behavior is to provide a discount for the option you want them to pick. A $1/month discount ($12/year) for customers who routinely pay through non-automatic payments options for them switching probably is enough to get most to change.  They feel like they gained something by doing so. Fair probably would be to give the same discount to those already using automatic payments, but I could see only offering the discount as encouraging the problem customers.

In the Verizon fee case, they wanted customers to setup automatic payments so they will not miss payments as often. It is good for both sides. Consumers are more likely to avoid late fees or service interruptions. Corporations will get a steadier flow of money from the consumers. A $2 fee to continue making one time payments was exactly the wrong way to encourage the correct behavior.

Quotes That Make You Think: Collected for First Half 2011

More quotes for Quotes to Make You Think collected over the past year. Additional ones can be found under the Quotes tag.


The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. — William Arthur Ward (1921-1994)

Making the simple complicated is commonplace. Making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity. — Charles Mingus

The greatest obstacle to love is fear. It has been the source of all defects in human behavior throughout the ages. — Mahmoud Mohammed Taha

The Seven Blunders of the World…

  1. Wealth without work
  2. Pleasure without conscience
  3. Knowledge without character
  4. Commerce without morality
  5. Science without humanity
  6. Worship without sacrifice
  7. Politics without principle

— Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. — Faber. From Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. — Marcel Proust

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away. — Marcus Aurelius

They say: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you.”
I say: “Laugh and they wonder what you are up to.”
— Unknown

The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem. — Theodore Rubin

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. — Unknown

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
— Lao-Tze

The truth is, we make a mistake when we think that generations can be separated. The truth is you need me so that I have shoulders you can stand on, and we need you because you have shoulders somebody else can stand on. We are one. —Maya Angelou

The meek shall inherit the Earth. The rest of us are going to the stars. — Robert Heinlein

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors and let each new year find you a better man. — Benjamin Franklin

If you are in the grip of the ego, you believe that by doing more and more you will eventually accumulate enough ‘doings’ to make yourself feel complete at some point in the future. It won’t. — Eckhart Tolle

It is unlucky to be superstitious. — Unknown

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. — Unknown

Those who know the least will always know it the loudest. — Unknown

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around — Leo F Buscaglia

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. — Lao Tzu

Happiness is like a kiss… you must share it to enjoy it. — Unknown

Stopping at what we think is the limit of embarrassing behavior, we let others claim the credit, the opportunity, the job, the person we love from afar… What you perceive as prudent social caution is  probably limiting your life to about half its natural capacity. — Martha Beck

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly. — Buddha

Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit / There’s footprints on the moon — Brandt Paul

Thanks to Brian, Dusty, Ekstrom, Janice, Juls, Kyle, Mojan, Sherry, Tonya, and other friends who posted their favorite quotes.

Me Social Media

Dan Schultz doesn’t like Facebook or Twitter because they are too focussed on individual expression rather than the community.

That may be because he is using them wrong. I liked photography as a kid, but I didn’t know any photographers. Flickr happened to come into my life just after I bought my first digital camera. My participation in photography exploded. Not because I had a way to post my photos but because I had a way to find other local photographers for mutual encouragement. Even better was forming local groups to encourage people to meet. The value of Flickr is developing the community.

Worldwide Photowalk Panorama

Similarly, I got into Twitter because my community, peers at other universities running the same software as myself, were seeking help there. Any place with answers to the problems we face, which is where people with the answers are watching, is where we go. Twitter was the place to get the attention of the right people not a forum like phpBB. (There are already lots of email lists.) My other community, people using the software I run are also on Twitter. I’ve resolved issues for many clients by finding their public complaints and offering solutions. When my focus changed away from using Twitter for the community is when I stopped liking Twitter.

Personally, I have yet to find much sense of community in the phpBB, Google Wave, and Ning. So I find it strange these are the exemplars of community applications. They seem fractured so one finds dozens of groups to covering the same interest. Sometimes this is because some moderator upset a portion of the community with draconian behavior causing people to form an alternative community. Bad blood exists for a while. Other times people set up a new community unaware others exist.

Computer Metaphors

An effective way to explain something is to use a metaphor. This can be especially effective by picking an metaphorical object or behavior with which the audience is already familiar.

The one I see most often is comparing computers to a car. This morning I saw this on an email list describing a person’s experience  migrating to Vista 8 from Vista 3.

It is like I have traded in a familiar (though frustrating) car for one that has the lights, wipers, and radio in new locations.

Also this morning, Vista 8 was compared to a malfunctioning pen forced on faculty who would rather use a better pen. Nevermind all pens are not used exactly the same. (Fountain vs rollerball) Some require more maintenance and care than others.

A coworker always says Free Open Source Software like Sakai or Moodle are free as in free puppies not free beer. Nevermind proprietary bought systems like Blackboard are bought as in bought puppies.
🙂

Tinkering

Another Rands In Repose gem.

Tinkering is a deceptively high-value activity. You don’t usually allocate much time to tinkering because the obvious value of tinkering is low. You don’t start tinkering with a goal in mind; you start with pure curiosity. I’ve heard about this thing, but I’ve never used it. How does this thing work? I’ve always wanted to know about more about X. Downtime is an easy time to tinker. Nothing is pressing, so these acts of mental wandering are acceptable.

This is how things get done. This is my life.

I think Dopamine is related to why I tinker. There is a definite expectation to getting something out of it. And that is all the motivation I need.

The dopamine from the ventral tegmental area… usually sends dopamine into the brain when animals (including people) expect or receive a reward. That reward might be a delicious slice of pizza or a favorite song. This dopamine release tells the brain that whatever it just experienced is worth getting more of. And that helps animals (including people) change their behaviors in ways that will help them attain more of the rewarding item or experience.

My reward is learning something about a gadget. Similar to how reading rewards me with learning about science, history, motivations, or behavior.

 

Nebulous

Vox Hunt: All By MyselfSchrödinger’s Cat is one of my favorite thought experiments. I tend not to think of things and black-and-white or not even in shades of gray but as simultaneously both. Well, I used to call things as having shades of gray until I realized that was wrong. I sometimes still make that error. The better I understand quantum mechanics, the more I feel that it explains everything. Order and chaos are twin underpinnings of reality.

Am I black or white? Really, I am simultaneously both. Maybe struggling with identity plays a role in enjoying the cognitive dissonance of the world around me. People want me to choose when that is a false dichotomy.

Kind of like what makes particle versus wave experiments so cool is how small tweaks change the results. Pretty much all of existence operates this way. The right small tweaks can have giant changes in behavior that are amazing to watch. This is what makes science so much fun. Carefully control your inputs and watch the outputs come out of left field.

How we look at something is often the most important factor in observing the universe around us.

Moral behavior in animals

TEDxPeachtree focuses on ideas worth spreading in myAJC mentions this video. By the way, TEDxPeachtree returns this Friday, November 8th.

This features Frans de Waal showing videos demonstrating animals cooperating on tasks, something we think of as human behavior. One I really liked was chimpanzees give the researcher a prosocial (feed both) or antisocial (feed chooser) token and how often they picked the prosocial was measured. Retaliation by the non-choosing chimpanzee reduced how much the choosing one picked the prosocial option.

Review: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A few days ago I tweeted,

How bad would it be for me to anonymously leave a copy of @DanielPink ‘s book Drive on the desk of every exec[utive] at work?

First, I actually think every person supervising others and even those working in our flat teams should study and implement this. The good news is I already see hints of it in the work place nestled in the cracks. Knowing why these behaviors improve performance and taking it to the next level is the dream. We have superstar teams and this is why. Second, ever since I watched the Pink’s TED Talk and RSA videos, these ideas are things I mention. The book just adds more fuel to the fire.

This is a easy read. The appendix contains a summary of how to apply these ideas as an individual, an organization, or as an educator. And the bibliography gives me the changes to dive even deeper.

View all my reviews

TED Talk: Identity in the 21st Century

Two major recurring political issues in the United States are related, I think, to issues of mixing cultures. There is an instinct to trust those like us more implicitly and consider those who do not look or act like us as bad. Coming to trust people as members of our “tribe” can reverse this instinct. That process means overcoming the instinct. We have to ignore the distaste of the instinct and get to know people.

Easier said than done. But people do.

Immigration as an issue is not unique to today. The same lame objections about the personal qualities of Hispanics were labeled against Italians, Irish, and others. They seem to completely fall in line with this distaste of the foreign tribe. Over time as almost all people started coming to trust the foreigners it disappeared. A different group became the “bad” one.

The objection to LGBTs, I think, falls into the same category. Melanin content, cheek bones, or height make for easier identification for inclusion or exclusion than behavior preference. The social conscience has only tracked this for a few decades. I expect a few more will be required for enough people to include them in the “tribe” and the issue to disappear.

In the mean time, I liked Bryad’s description in the video below of perceiving our instincts, understanding them as wrong, and holding the discipline to get past them to a better place.

If the video below does not work, then try TEDxEducationCity (2012) – Byrad Yyelland – Identity in the 21st Century

TED Talk: The power of introverts

I to really need to pick up Susan Cain’s book Quiet. I watched her talk at Leading@Google a couple weeks ago because I could not find her TED. Now the TED is available.

My family very much was the one where we would hang out together reading. I’ve always been the one to hang back and watch and observe until comfortable. Before I even understood systems, my mind was attempting to reverse engineer them. Only then could I figure out how to use them.

Too bad human behavior is messier than computers.

If the above video does not play, then try Susan Cain: The power of introverts.

Fee or Discount

In this day and age, I find it surprising enormous corporations have not figured the difference in the perception of a fee vs a discount. Adding a fee causes consumer uproar. They feel the faceless no good bully is trying to make money unfairly. Even people who probably will avoid ever paying the fee on grounds feel it takes away an option. In the aftermath of the consumers taking to social media and winning against the big banks, this is not the right time for a corporation.

The way to change consumer behavior is to provide a discount for the option you want them to pick. A $1/month discount ($12/year) for customers who routinely pay through non-automatic payments options for them switching probably is enough to get most to change.  They feel like they gained something by doing so. Fair probably would be to give the same discount to those already using automatic payments, but I could see only offering the discount as encouraging the problem customers.

In the Verizon fee case, they wanted customers to setup automatic payments so they will not miss payments as often. It is good for both sides. Consumers are more likely to avoid late fees or service interruptions. Corporations will get a steadier flow of money from the consumers. A $2 fee to continue making one time payments was exactly the wrong way to encourage the correct behavior.

Quotes That Make You Think: Collected for First Half 2011

More quotes for Quotes to Make You Think collected over the past year. Additional ones can be found under the Quotes tag.


The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. — William Arthur Ward (1921-1994)

Making the simple complicated is commonplace. Making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity. — Charles Mingus

The greatest obstacle to love is fear. It has been the source of all defects in human behavior throughout the ages. — Mahmoud Mohammed Taha

The Seven Blunders of the World…

  1. Wealth without work
  2. Pleasure without conscience
  3. Knowledge without character
  4. Commerce without morality
  5. Science without humanity
  6. Worship without sacrifice
  7. Politics without principle

— Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. — Faber. From Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. — Marcel Proust

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away. — Marcus Aurelius

They say: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you.”
I say: “Laugh and they wonder what you are up to.”
— Unknown

The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem. — Theodore Rubin

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. — Unknown

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
— Lao-Tze

The truth is, we make a mistake when we think that generations can be separated. The truth is you need me so that I have shoulders you can stand on, and we need you because you have shoulders somebody else can stand on. We are one. —Maya Angelou

The meek shall inherit the Earth. The rest of us are going to the stars. — Robert Heinlein

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors and let each new year find you a better man. — Benjamin Franklin

If you are in the grip of the ego, you believe that by doing more and more you will eventually accumulate enough ‘doings’ to make yourself feel complete at some point in the future. It won’t. — Eckhart Tolle

It is unlucky to be superstitious. — Unknown

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. — Unknown

Those who know the least will always know it the loudest. — Unknown

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around — Leo F Buscaglia

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. — Lao Tzu

Happiness is like a kiss… you must share it to enjoy it. — Unknown

Stopping at what we think is the limit of embarrassing behavior, we let others claim the credit, the opportunity, the job, the person we love from afar… What you perceive as prudent social caution is  probably limiting your life to about half its natural capacity. — Martha Beck

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly. — Buddha

Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit / There’s footprints on the moon — Brandt Paul

Thanks to Brian, Dusty, Ekstrom, Janice, Juls, Kyle, Mojan, Sherry, Tonya, and other friends who posted their favorite quotes.

Me Social Media

Dan Schultz doesn’t like Facebook or Twitter because they are too focussed on individual expression rather than the community.

That may be because he is using them wrong. I liked photography as a kid, but I didn’t know any photographers. Flickr happened to come into my life just after I bought my first digital camera. My participation in photography exploded. Not because I had a way to post my photos but because I had a way to find other local photographers for mutual encouragement. Even better was forming local groups to encourage people to meet. The value of Flickr is developing the community.

Worldwide Photowalk Panorama

Similarly, I got into Twitter because my community, peers at other universities running the same software as myself, were seeking help there. Any place with answers to the problems we face, which is where people with the answers are watching, is where we go. Twitter was the place to get the attention of the right people not a forum like phpBB. (There are already lots of email lists.) My other community, people using the software I run are also on Twitter. I’ve resolved issues for many clients by finding their public complaints and offering solutions. When my focus changed away from using Twitter for the community is when I stopped liking Twitter.

Personally, I have yet to find much sense of community in the phpBB, Google Wave, and Ning. So I find it strange these are the exemplars of community applications. They seem fractured so one finds dozens of groups to covering the same interest. Sometimes this is because some moderator upset a portion of the community with draconian behavior causing people to form an alternative community. Bad blood exists for a while. Other times people set up a new community unaware others exist.

Computer Metaphors

An effective way to explain something is to use a metaphor. This can be especially effective by picking an metaphorical object or behavior with which the audience is already familiar.

The one I see most often is comparing computers to a car. This morning I saw this on an email list describing a person’s experience  migrating to Vista 8 from Vista 3.

It is like I have traded in a familiar (though frustrating) car for one that has the lights, wipers, and radio in new locations.

Also this morning, Vista 8 was compared to a malfunctioning pen forced on faculty who would rather use a better pen. Nevermind all pens are not used exactly the same. (Fountain vs rollerball) Some require more maintenance and care than others.

A coworker always says Free Open Source Software like Sakai or Moodle are free as in free puppies not free beer. Nevermind proprietary bought systems like Blackboard are bought as in bought puppies.
🙂