Why you think you’re right — even if you’re wrong

Motivated Reasoning aka soldier mindset:

This phenomenon in which our unconscious motivations (our desires and fears) shape the way we interpret information. So some information and ideas feel like our allies and we want them to win. We want to defend them. And other information and ideas are the enemy. We want to shoot them down.

Scout mindset shows curious, open to ideas, grounded. Willing to change one’s mind based on new information. We need to proud of having changed our mind when new data shows us to have been wrong.

If the above video does not work, then try Julia Galef: Why you think you’re right — even if you’re wrong.

TED Talk: For argument’s sake

Daniel H. Cohen makes an interesting case that:

  1. We equate arguing to war; such that there are winners and losers.
  2. The loser is the one who makes a cognitive improvement, so losing gains the most.

So, we should strive to lose. “It takes practice to be a become a good arguer from the perspective of benefitting from losing.”

My personal observation is whether or not I win or lose an argument, explaining my position requires:

  1. Arriving at how someone else understands the world requires developing one’s Theory of Mind.
  2. Tailoring the argument such that the other(s) understand the position.

These explanations help expose both strengths and weaknesses in the position. In order to “win”, I have to shore up the weakness. That is a cognitive gain. Is it more than the loser who changed? Maybe.

If the above video does not work, then try Daniel H. Cohen: For argument’s sake.

I love logic.

Black Box Magic

black boxes ttv

With a black box system a person working with it sees what goes in and what comes out. The machine’s decision making process is obfuscated. Theories are made based on incomplete evidence on the behavior. More data points on more situations confirming the behavior is my way of being more comfortable the theory is correct. Sometimes we lack the time or conscientiousness or even access to ensure the theory is correct. This leads to magical thinking like labeling the software in human-like terms, especially insane or stupid or seeking revenge.

With a white box system, a person working with it can see the machine’s logic used to make decisions. Theories can be made based on more complete evidence due to investigating the code to see what it is intended to do. The evidence is far more direct than testing more.

Systems today are so complex they tend to have many parts interacting with each other. Some will be of each type.

Then there are Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) which expose vendor supported methods to interact with a black box by disclosing how they works.

Proprietary systems tend towards a black box model from the perspective of clients. This black box philosophy depends on the experts, employees of the company, design the system so it works well and resolve the issues with it. So there is no need for clients to know what it is doing. Where the idea breaks down is clients who run the systems need to understand how it works to solve problems themselves. Sure the company helps. However, the client will want to achieve expertise to manage minor and moderate issues as much as possible. They want to involve the vendor as little as reasonably possible. Communities arise because peers have solved the client issues and getting an answer out of the vendor is either formulaic, inaccurate company line, or suspect. Peers become the best way to get answers.

Open source systems tend toward a white box model from the perspective of clients. This white box philosophy depends on clients to take initiative figuring out issues and solutions to resolve them. Clients become the experts who design the system so it works well. Where the idea breaks down is some clients just want something that works and not to have to solve the problems themselves. Sure the open source community helps. Companies have arisen to take the role of the vendor for proprietary systems to give CIOs “someone to yell at about the product”. Someone else is better to blame than myself.

Cases of both the black and the white box will be present in either model. That is actually okay. Anyone can manage both. Really it is about personal preference.

I prefer open source. But that is only because I love to research how things work, engage experts, and the feel of dopamine when I get close to solving an issue. My personality is geared towards it. My career is based around running web services in higher education. Running something is going to be my preference. (Bosses should take note that when I say not to run something, this means it is so bad I would risk being obsolete than run it.)

This post came about by discussing how to help our analysts better understand how to work with our systems. It is hard to figure out how to fix something when you cannot look at the problem, the data about the problem, or do anything to fix it. So a thought was to give our analysts more access to test systems so they get these experiences solving problems.

Photo credit: black boxes ttv from Adam Graham at Flickr.

Useful User Agents

Rather than depend on end users to accurately report the browser used, I look for the user-agent in the web server logs. (Yes, I know it can be spoofed. Power users would be trying different things to resolve their own issues not coming to us.)

Followers of this blog may recall I changed the Weblogic config.xml to record user agents to the webserver.log.

One trick I use is the double quotes in awk to identify just the user agent. This information is then sorting by name to count (uniq -c) how many of each is present. Finally, I sort again by number with the largest at the top to see which are the most common.

grep <term> webserver.log | awk -F\” ‘{print $2}’ | sort | uniq -c | sort -n -r

This is what I will use looking for a specific user. If I am looking at a wider range, such as the user age for hits on a page, then I probably will use the head command to look at the top 20.

A “feature” of this is getting the build (Firefox 3.011) rather than just the version (Firefox 3). For getting the version, I tend to use something more like this to count the found version out of the log.

grep <term> webserver.log | awk -F\” ‘{print $2}’ | grep -c ‘<version>’

I have yet to see many CE/Vista URIs with the names of web browsers. So these are the most common versions one would likely find (what to grep – name – notes):

  1. MSIE # – Microsoft Internet Explorer – I’ve seen 5 through 8 in the last few months.
  2. Firefox # – Mozilla Firefox – I’ve seen 2 through 3.5. There is enough difference between 3 and 3.5 (also 2 and 2.5) I would count them separately.
  3. Safari – Apple/WebKit – In searching for this one, I would add to the search a ‘grep -v Chrome’ or to eliminate Google Chrome user agents.
  4. Chrome # – Google Chrome – Only versions 1 and 2.

Naturally there many, many others. It surprised me to see iPhone and Android on the list.

Name Collisions

Blackboard has a conference they call BbWorld. I noticed there are some odd tweets with the same #bbworld hashtag lately. These appear to be about a Blackberry conference to be held next month.

Collisions on names are common enough. For example, here are a couple names our clients use to brand their sites which other places also use.

My own project, GeorgiaVIEW is not immune. Some time ago I noticed the GeorgiaView Consortium (geological remote sensing) at the University of West Georgia.

I guess it is a good thing one Bbworld is in July and the other is in September.

For now I’ll just drop my RSS feed for the hashtag.

Weblogic Diagnostics

I noticed one the nodes in a development cluster was down. So I started it again. The second start failed, so I ended up looking at logs to figure out why. The error in the WebCTServer.000000000.log said:

weblogic.diagnostics.lifecycle.DiagnosticComponentLifecycleException: weblogic.store.PersistentStoreException: java.io.IOException: [Store:280036]Missing the file store file “WLS_DIAGNOSTICS000001.DAT” in the directory “$VISTAHOME/./servers/$NODENAME/data/store/diagnostics”

So I looked to see if the file was there. It wasn’t.

I tried touching a file at the right location and starting it. Another failed start with a new error:

There was an error while reading from the log file.

So I tried copying to WLS_DIAGNOSTICS000002.DAT to WLS_DIAGNOSTICS000001.DAT and starting again. This got me a successful startup. Examination of the WLS files revealed the the 0 and 1 files have updated time stamps while the 2 file hasn’t changed since the first occurance of the error.

That suggests to me Weblogic is unaware of the 2 file and only aware of the 0 and 1 files. Weird.

At least I tricked the software into running again.

Some interesting discussion about these files.

  1. Apparently I could have just renamed the files. CONFIRMED
  2. The files capture JDBC diagnostic data. Maybe I need to look at the JDBC pool settings. DONE (See comment below)
  3. Apparently these files grow and add a new file when it reaches 2GB. Sounds to me like we should purge these files like we do logs. CONFIRMED
  4. There was a bug in a similar version causing these to be on by default.

Guess that gives me some work for tomorrow.
🙁

The Ares Imperative

The Ares ImperativeA friend of mine, Steve Ekstrom, is the writer of this comic which I enjoyed for the this first 8 pages. I’m looking forward to the next installments. Check out The Ares Imperative! (And vote for it if you like it. The winner gets published by DC Comics.)
Interview:

Synopsis:

It’s the early 21st Century and corporations continue to manipulate world governments as emerging quasi-religious science cults and techno-centric international terrorists are beginning to develop their own biological weapons mapped out in human genomes. Special Agent Adam Geist operates covertly within the framework of the ultra-classified PROJECT ARES division of the C.I.A. under the supervision of Deputy Director Ted Gerard and his assistant Maxwell Clearwater.

Geist does not fully comprehend the processes, which he has undergone as a part of PROJECT ARES but numerous studies have revealed that alien mitochondria have asserted control of his DNA—altering his higher intelligence functions and his nervous system receptor processing speed. He has become sensitive to electromagnetic fields and has developed heightened senses, which include something akin to Wi-Fi reception. His skin is capable of rapid, localized cellular density adaptation—making him virtually bulletproof.

Due to the secret nature of his existence and the fear that a “super-man” would create in light of the unstable relations between the U.S. and other world powers, Geist is under strict orders: he must eliminate anyone—friend or foe—who learns of his uncanny abilities. Sadly, as he grows in power, his own humanity diminishes from the actualization of his computer-like brain—and now, evidence is beginning to surface that his own strange biology may, in fact, be malevolent in nature…

Cosmological Constants

Guess I am pretty dense. As many books and TV shows as I have read or seen about Einstein, physics, and cosmology, I just understood something for the first time since it was extremely plainly laid out for me. An ever expanding universe requires one or more forces to push matter further apart: cosmological constant. Forces attract or repel. Gravity attracts matter. Yet there is something, still unknown, repelling matter.

Relative Truth

Found an interesting comment on an article the state of Georgia observing the Confederate Memorial Day….

The truth of history means very little to those who are dead set against learning anything from it. No matter what the history books used in our public school system say, most will never believe anything other than their own opinion about the Civil War. History revisionist are the celebs of the day. As long as people like Rev. Wright, and David Duke exist, history’s truth will be filtered through lies and distortions. Few observe Confederate Memorial Day: UGA to display original constitution; state offices closed

Truth may very well be completely relative. Back during the US Presidential election, I ran across an interesting article in the Washington Post discussing research John Bullock did about the effects of misinformation and idealogical bias ties. I used to think it had to do with a handful of people stuck in their green, second ammendment, pro-life, pro-choice, capitalist, regulation views. My favorite pasttime in college was assuming positions contrary to others even when I agree with the others.

I doubt the effect solely affects conservatives as was proposed in the article. More likely everyone has some blindspots in determing truth from myth or fiction kind of like optical illusions. (Yes, even myself.) We have to choose which information to believe any time we interact with information. Much of the rules in philosophy and science are built around combatting the biases we have.

Rather than force ideas on others, I think we should be teaching children from an early age to recognize when others and most especially themselves are operating under a bias. Its the only way to find detachment.

Flickr Uploadr Ordering Broke?

Dwarf Cornflower When sending more than five pictures to Flickr, many photographers want the last one or five sent to be their best one. The Contacts page can be set to show the last one or last five photos for each contact. Meaning, the last one should be the best one.

I thought I was crazy at first.

An explicit feature added in Flickr Uploader 3.0 was the ability to upload the pictures in any order. This helps ensure which photo is in that last spot. Despite putting my cornflower picture last, the photos were uploaded in reverse chronological order anyway. Did some testing. Sure enough, Flickr Uploadr 3.1.4, the most recent version was doing it wrong. So I uninstalled 3.1.4 and installed 3.0.5 and did some more testing. That version ordeded the upload correctly. Finally, I upgraded to 3.1.4 and testing showed 3.1.4 worked again.

Probably it was just my install was botched at some point…

Glad I don’t have to be crazy any longer.