Hard Work

The CEO of Basecamp wrote about his definition of “hard work” being the work others do not want to do like construction, farming, cleaning, etc. Manual labor is hard.

Six years ago, Georgia made a law making it easier for law enforcement to catch undocumented residents. People left the state. They experimented with…

… Out of work probationers/parolees, from the state’s prisons and court system, volunteered to pick cucumbers under a program that the Georgia governor dreamed up. But the first day didn’t go too well as 19 probationers started the day and eight quit by noon.

“This is the hardest work I’ve ever done,” Maurice Evans is quoted as telling the TV reporter.

The next year, the state helped out the farmers by using prisoners to provide farm labor.

Where it gets interesting, though, is that people who work hard evangelize this as the ideal. Hard work teaches better ethics, morals, and values. At times it feels like the message is: “All the world’s ills would be cured if everyone had to do hard work.”

We may get to see if that is true soon enough. Artificial Intelligence is coming for my knowledge worker job. It may not exist in 20 years because it is much, much cheaper and accurate to have the computers do it instead. Manufacturing and farming are becoming more and more automated. The question is in 50-100 years what jobs will remain.

Re-Imagining Work

Guess Drive made me think about happiness at work more.

How can we get people more engaged, more productive, and happier at work? Is technology part of the problem — and could it also be part of the solution?

Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, imagines what might be possible if more organisations embraced the full, empowering potential of technology and encouraged a truly open, collaborative and flexible working culture.

If the embedded video below does not work, then try RSA Animate – Re-Imagining Work.

TED Talk: Is Play More Than Fun?

In the Q&A, Stuart Brown, co-author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, rejects the idea play is a rehersal for adulthood. Stopping an animal from playing doesn’t prevent the animal from being a successful predator. REM sleep provides the rehearsal needed for learning. Play is the next evolutionary step. The video is a little too heavy on repeating the same generic idea over an over with different examples. However, they are amusing examples.

The types of play Brown references usually involves multiple individuals in a social interaction. This play teaches survival skills like socialization, adaptation, flexibility (our selfish genes at work).

The origin of this play research was in identifying the next Charles Whitmore, the University of Texas Tower sniper. In studying mass murderers, he found Charles and others like him consistently grew up in environments where play was not allowed. By not playing these children developed into dysfunctional adults.

I found a particular claim quite interesting. “The opposite of play is not work… It is depression.” That is almost word for word out of his book on page 126, which Google Books has a copy. Later he better explains the part about play and work are not in opposition:

The quality that work and play have in common is creativity. In both we are building our world, creating new relationships, neural connections, objects…. At their best, play and work, when integrated, make sense of our workd and ourselves. (Play, p.127)

This agrees with Adam and Jamie from the Mythbusters to Moira Gunn for the Commonwealth Cluf of California about their work. Just look at Adam’s face before triggering a test on any episode. The complete and total joy is a testament to the power of dopamine.

I think the opposition to depression involves movement which is exercise. Exercise produces serotonin which is crucial to fighting off depression. So my work, sitting in a cube all day long problem solving is good for dopamine but not a producer of serotonin. However, a good game of tag would produce both dopamine in anticipating tagging a playmate and serotonin from the movement. (Why can’t work be more like tag?)

If Dr. Brown is right, then suppressing the rough and tumble playing children enjoy is the best way to place in society malfunctioning adults who are more likely to be violent. Things like recess (just half an hour) during the day will keep our prisons less full 20 years later. <sarcasm>Maybe the No Child Left Behind meant all the children will end up in prison?</sarcasm> More likely children will fit their play in less supervised situations and get their fill.

We’ve Got Rats?

Rat Snake This little snake was found in the hallway at work. I thought the commotion was a continuation over the geyser in a sink until GH asked if I brought my pet to work. Went over the see and snagged this before maintenance took it away. Hope he enjoys life on the other side of the road.

I wish I had brought my dSLR. It really would have broought out the details. This okay I guess for automatic fash.

Here is this one large.

Dumbfounded By The Numbers

Chancellor Eroll B. Davis Jr told the Georgia Board of Regents, “We grew essentially by a large university.” The USG gained 10,077 students (my alma mater has ~11,000) in a year. They calculate these fall term to fall term.

In the same fall term to fall term time period, in the same same university system, GeorgiaVIEW gained about 59,000 students (assumes 1/10th of 65,000 active user growth are instructors/designers). Its only 9x the system growth rate. It actually reflects a slowing in the growth rate for GeorgiaVIEW. Partly this is because we are fast approaching the number of potential users. Market penetration becomes more difficult when people are using it.

Fortunately, users will become more intelligent in their use over time. So, even though the number of users may plateau, because each user will use the system more, the amount of use will continue to increase.

Unfortunately, another DBA and I consider the number of users a more or less uninformative statistic. It looks good in news papers as its something the general public probably understands. Other numbers mean more for us:

  1. Hits – The count of items downloaded from the web servers. We often use hits as a measure of user activity. Unfortunately, we are only collecting this at the daily or monthly values.
  2. Who Is Online (Total / Active) – SQL pulls from the WIO table a count of all the rows (Total) and those whose time in the table is recent (Active). Both have issues… For example, users failing to logout and inflate the total. Active has weird spikes which suggests to me these tables are reaped every 1/2 hour or so.
  3. Storage – Amount of information stored by the users. For example, our storage growth is 2.23 times the previous year (slowing down from 2.25). The number of new users has largely slowed, but the amount of storage staying fairly consistent means to me the users are doing more with the system.

Amy’s presentation at BbWorld 2007 on capacity planning is a much more authoritative approach than this blog post.

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Independent Verification of the Truth

Some of my latest work has been in chasing cheaters or “Vista ate my homework” claims. Some background: I work for a project that hosts online classes for 32 of the 35 universities in our system. We have about 125,000 users who have performed at least 100 actions this term. We have had about 50 million hits this semester (over in a couple weeks).

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