Wednesday, December 24, 2008

LOST twits

I started some Twits for the LOST characters. If you want to contribute, there are emails for you to submit your own twit.

Here are some characters:

John Locke
Miles Straume
The Island (Yes, it twits.)
Vincent

I'll be adding more characters and try to get this thing going. Hopefully it'll be fun.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Criticism Part I

Recently I noticed a flaw in one of my teacher's tests. While it was pretty obvious to me, I started questioning whether or not I should point it out. Did I not see everything? Was I missing some information? He knows better than me, right?

These questionings stemmed from me being unsure of myself. I wasn't questioning the validity of the flaw, but the status that he and I held. I was the student and he was the knowing teacher.

Once I realized this, I sent it as respectfully as I could and I got this back:

"Dear [Rabbit B.]

Thank you for this thoughtful criticism. I've considered what you say and believe you may be right. My not entirely groundless skepticism has perhaps led me to underestimate my students and even my own teaching. Your message alone is evidence of that.

Anyway, I'm going to incorporate changes into my exams next term that will follow your suggestion, probably by way of introducing a large essay question into the final and making it count for a substantial portion of the exam grade. I may make other changes as well.

Again, many thanks for this. You've done a good thing by writing."

If you see a flaw, point it out. As long as you're sure the person isn't prideful or vain, what could go wrong? If you're right, it'll help them. If you're wrong, it'll help you understand. Don't be afraid of statuses or whether you're experienced enough to offer criticism. Helping someone is much greater than the small risk of being wrong.

You'll be doing a good thing.


Note: If the person is vain/prideful, make sure they're not in a position to hurt you. "Never outshine the master."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Destruction and Creation

Recently my computer crashed. I have no idea how, but it's not a big deal. Most of my important things are hosted online. One important thing that did get erased, however, was the template to the website I'm creating.

It wasn't much. I strive for simple. Very little graphics. Very few links. Minimalism in coding. I wasn't upset, but now am really happy it happened. By having it deleted, I've been able to concentrate what goes on behind the scenes of the website, dealing with PHP and the databases. I've reorganized the table system and am learning the language. I've made leaps and bounds in progress in something I thought I'd have to pay an expert to help me with.

Destruction of what I have was simply a new reason to move forward and create.

What can you destroy that would make you do more? Why don't you do it?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Westboro Baptist Church and Organization

The Westboro Baptist Church sucks. They exude pure hatred and ignorance. Sadly, most of them are brain washed and it's terrible to see their children learning from their examples. However, no matter how much I hate them, I still can't help but see opportunities for them to take advantage of technology and organize better.

Recently they tried to cross the Canadian border and protest at Tim McLean's funeral, but they were stopped.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of church's founder, Fred Phelps, had this to say:
"They won't let us in, but we have a group that will cross in another spot," she said. "They'll have to strip search everyone who crosses that border or they won't know who we are. They'll have to see the WBC (Westboro Baptist Church) tattoo on our butts."

This is a step in the right direction
if they want to organize and avoid being stopped. If you're going up against a large opponent, it is better to be small and break up and try to squeeze through. It's impossible to stop everybody.

Also at the funeral, if they fear retaliation, they shouldn't go into it clustered. Organizing and mobilizing with cellphones/twitter/any mass communication device could keep detection to the minimum. They could go to the funeral, avoid detection and find the best possible spot. At the right time, thanks to the communications device, they can converge and protest effectively.

In unrelated news, I need to stop examining things.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Rules for Radicals and PR

Rules for Radicals was good. Except for the last chapter he delivered an objective, brilliant guide for tactics. There was a lot of great information in here, but I think this quote would be perfect for PR people to keep in mind when contacting people:

"Communication for persuasion, as in negotiation, is more than entering the area of another person's experience. It is getting a fix on his main value or goal and holding your course on that target. You don't communicate with anyone purely on the rational facts or ethics of an issue."


Alphabetized Quotes

A

"The possibility of destruction is always implicit in the act of creation. Thus the greatest enemy of individual freedom is the individual himself."
-Saul D. Alinsky, Rules for Radicals. Pg. xxiv

"We must first see the world as it is and not as we would like it to be...It is painful to accept fully the simple fact that one begins from where one is, that one must break free of the web of illusions one spins about life."
-Saul D. Alinsky, Rules for Radicals. Pg. 12

"A major revolution to be won in the immediate future is the dissipation of man's illusion that his own welfare can be separate from that of all others. As long as man is shackled to this myth, so long will the human spirit languish. Concern for our private, material well-being with disregard for the well-being of others is immoral according to the precepts of our Judaeo-Christian civilization, but worse, it is stupidity worthy of lower animals."
-Saul D. Alinsky, Rules for Radicals. Pg. 23

"The most unethical of all means is the non-use of any means."
-
Saul D. Alinsky, Rules for Radicals. Pg. 26

"Communication for persuasion, as in negotiation, is more than entering the area of another person's experience. It is getting a fix on his main value or goal and holding your course on that target. You don't communicate with anyone purely on the rational facts or ethics of an issue."
Saul D. Alinsky, Rules For Radicals. Pg. 89

"Learn to search out the rationalizations, treat them as rationalizations, and break through. Do not make the mistake of locking yourself up in a conflict with them as though they were the issues or problems with which you are trying to engage the local people"
Saul D. Alinsky, Rules for Radicals. Pg. 112

"All change means disorganization of the old and organization of the new."
Saul D. Alinsky, Rules for Radicals. Pg. 116

"What we [The Boomer Generation/Earlier] thought was the rising tide of common culture actually turned out to be less about the triumph of Hollywood talent and more to do with the sheepherding effect of broadcast distribution."
-Chris Anderson, The Long Tail. Pg. 5 [Economics | Internet Specific]

"Far too long we've been suffering the tyranny of lowest-common-denominator fare, subjected to brain-dead summer blockbusters and manufactured pop. Why? Economics. Many of assumptions about popular taste are actually artifacts of poor supply-and-demand matching---a market response to inefficient distribution."
-Chris Anderson, The Long Tail. Pg. 16 [Economics | Internet Specific]

"The theory of the Long Tail can be boiled down to this: Our culture and economy are increasingly shifting away from a focus on relatively small number of hits (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve, and moving toward a huge number of niches in the tail. In an era without constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare."
-Chris Anderson, The Long Tail. Pg. 52 [Economics | Internet Specific]

"In today's Long Tail markets, the main effect of filters is to help move from the world they know ("hits") to the world they don't ("niches") via a route that is both comfortable and tailored to their tastes. In a sense, good filters have the effect of driving demand down the tail by revealing goods and services that appeal more than the lowest-common-denominator fare that crowds the narrow channels of traditional mass-market distribution."
-Chris Anderson, The Long Tail. Pg. 109 [Economics | Internet Specific]

"When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surely. They are like this because they can't tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own—not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me." -Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations

"Not to be constantly correcting people, and in particular not to jump on them whenever they make an error of usage or a grammatical mistake or mispronounce something, but just answer their question or add another example, or debate the issue itself (not their phrasing), or make some other contribution to the discussion-- and insert the right expression, unobtrusively."
-Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations

"Optimism in adversity...
A personality in balance: dignity and grace together.
Doing your job without whining."
-Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations

"It would wrong for anything to stand between you and attaining goodness--as a rational being and a citizen. Anything at all: the applause of the crowd, high office, wealth, or self-indulgence. All of them might seem to compatible with it---for a while. But suddenly they control us and sweep us away.
So make your choice straightforwardly, once and for all, and stick to it. Chose what's best.
---Best is what benefits me."
-Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations

"Be your own savior while you can."
-Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations

"Choose not to be harmed --- and you won't feel harmed.
Don't feel harmed--- and you haven't been."
-Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations

"The best revenge is not to be like that."
-Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations

"Is an emerald suddenly flawed if no one admires it?"
Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations

D

"It seems like lately I've been debating a lot of people over whether intelligence dooms you to a life of misery. It seems most people agree on this, citing 'ignorance is bliss' and arguing that you have a greater capacity to appreciate how miserable life is if you're really smart. I find this to be insanity. If an intelligent person has a greater capacity for sorrow, then it stands to reason that they also have a greater capacity for joy."
Donika, http://messageboard.tuckermax.com/showthread.php?t=15333&page=4

F

"What is essential is that the cost of advocating unpopular causes be tolerable and not prohibitive."
Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman. Pg. 18 [NOT CATEGORIZED YET]

"One man's freedom must be limited to preserve another's...'My freedom to move my fist must be limited by the proximity of your chin.'"
Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman. Pg. 26 [NOT CATEGORIZED YET]

G

"But below 150, Dunbar argues, it is possible to achieve these same goals informally: "At this isze, orders can be implemented and unruly behavior controlled on the basis of personal loyalties and direct man-to-man contacts. With larger groups, this becomes impossible."
Malcom Gladwell, The Tipping Point pg. 181 (Buisiness | Management)

"transactive memory"
"Wegner argues that when people know each other well, they create an implicit joint memory system -- a transactive memory system -- which is based on an understand about who is best suited remember what kind of things."
Malcom Gladwell, The Tipping Point Pg. 188 (Memory)

"When we became bigger, that's when we should have paid more attention to the details and kept good buzz going, so when people said you guys are sellouts, you guys went mainstream, you suck, we could have said, you know what, we don't. We had this little jewel of a brand, and little by little we sold that off to the mainstream..."
Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point Pg. 215 [Marketing | Business | Niche]

"The Stickiness Factor says that there are specific ways of making a contagious message memorable; there are realitvely simple changes in the presentation and structuring of information that can make a big difference in how much of an impact it makes."
Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point Pg. 25 (Stickiness | Modify)

"The key to getting people the change their behavior...sometimes lies with the smallest details of their immediate situation. The Power of Context says that human beings are a lot more sensitive to their environment than they may seem."
Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point Pg. 29 (Context | Modify)


H

"Chiefly among these inappropriate value judgments: the designation as 'good' or 'evil' of things that in fact are neither good nor evil...in other words, not the objects and events but the interpretations we place on them that are the problem. Our duty therefore is to exercise stringent control over the faculty of perception, with the aim of protecting our mind from them."
The Meditations' Intro, Gregory Hays. Pg. xxvii
[Life, economics and strategy]

R

"So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me... I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive...And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life."
-J.K. Rowling, Harvard Graduation http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2008/06.05/99-rowlingspeech.html

S

"...issues of complexity still loom large, as we will see---but the new tools enable alternate strategies for keeping that complexity out of control."
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations

"...group undertaking...activities that are enabled or improved by social tools. The rungs on the ladder, in order of diffculty, are sharing, cooperation, and collective action."
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
Pg. 49
[Sharing: Posting your material. Cooperation: organizing with people. Collective Action: The rules which the group must abide by]

"When enough people are eating, everyone feels comfortable undefunding the group's tip, even if only unconsciously"
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations Pg. 53 [Group Think]

"In particular, when a profession has been created as a result of some scarcity, as with librarians or television programmers, the professionals are often the last ones to see it when scarcity goes away. It is easier to understand that you face competition than obsolescence."
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations Pg. 59

"Most user-generated content isn't 'content' at all, in the sense of being created for general consumption, any more than a phone call between you and a relative is 'family-generated content.'
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations Pg. 86

"...[people have] a preference for fairness that is more emotional than rational. This in turn suggests that relying on nonfinancial motivations may actually make systems more tolerant of various participation."
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations Pg. 134

"The problem the Times suffered from was simple: no once cared enough about the contents of the Wikitorial to defend it, much less improve it."
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations Pg.137

"When the site was small, she [founder of Flickr] and the other staffers would not just post their own photos, but also comment on other users' photos."
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations Pg.264
[Engage people who are important.]

"lump of labor" fallacy. This fallacy is the assumption that there is a certain amount of work in society, a lump of labor, and that any labor-saving device must therefore make society worse off, because people will be thrown out of work. In fact, changes like the printing press destroy some kings of jobs but create others, and they benefit a much larger swath of society."
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations Pg. 297

T

"The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightening and the lightening bug."
-Mark Twain


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Gas Boycotts


They are failures. Complete and utter failures. The most recent one I've seen is a boycott specifically targeted at Exxon Mobil. I just want to point out the obvious reasons this is a failure.

For boycotts to work, they have to have a strong base of people who are connected to each other. They need to have punishments for breaking boycott in forms of public scorning/shaming. They need to have reasonable time line. This gas boycott has none of these things.

Lets say, in some retarded happenstance of sorts, that a gas boycott actually gets started. Of course not everyone will follow, but lets say that a chunk goes. All of the other gas companies get an influx of costumers. Following the rule of demand, as they get more costumers they will raise their prices. As the price rises the incentive to switch to the now "cheaper" gas prices at Exxon Mobil rises. Since the boycott is nationwide and very loose, the punishment in a form of social shaming is very low. Costumers falter.

Since Exxon Mobile is a huge corporations their long term incentives for keeping prices the same is greater than the short incentives of gaining more costumers back. Their time scale is much more flexible than the boycotts because there is no way to keep the majority of participants interested/willing a long time.

So...failure.



Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Books vs. Experience? Part II

This is a small continuation from Part I.

I found a really nice example on how books and experience don't conflict, but complement from Rules for Radicals:

"...I walked down the road from Argentieres to Chamonix after a snowfall, and suddenly from the abyss of unconscious memory a line of Virgil rose into my mind and I found myself repeating

Sed iacet aggeribus niveis informis et alto
Terra gelu

I had read the words at school and no doubt translated them glibly 'the earth lies formless under snow-drifts and deep frost'; but suddenly, with the snow scene before my eyes, I perceived for the first time what Virgil meant by the epithet informis, 'without form,' and how perfectly it describes the work of the snow..."

He couldn't visualize or understand the book completely, but with experience he was able to see the Virgil's description. Without the book he might of just seen snow, but with it he was able to appreciate it deeply.

That's what I'm talking about.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Imaginations and Beginnings

I can think ahead very well when it comes to some things. For some reason I'm absolutely terrible at Chess, but in Go I can see entire games play out within a couple of moves. Unfortunately while thinking so far ahead, I often forget where I am and make simple mistakes.

I already mentioned that I have a pretty cool idea for a website. I've set up some things and have begun learning HTML all over again (wooohoo...). Instead of grasping the basics though, I keep thinking ahead about logistics of the site in micro format.

What if this happens?

What if that happens?

What should I do to respond?

Should I just bail out now?

In some ways this is good. I can see a lot of overall strategy being planned out. However, while doing this I begin to get stressed out when I see the enormity of it. Webs of thoughts grow upon each other and tangent off to even more complicated webs.

It's a bit overwhelming.

I remembered some advice about being a Dad to help me. When someone becomes a Dad and realizes the enormity of it, they being to think about the responsibility they now hold. They have to pay for the kid's school, food, lunch, shelter, college, cars, etc. They have to love the child unconditionally. They have to cut off certain parts of their life that couldn't fit into the family they now have to foster. A life, a child is in their hands and the pressure bears down on them.

Once they're at their breaking point, someone eventually tells them some old sage's advice:

"One day at a time. It's a lot of stuff but you’ll break it down into small steps and it’ll come together. Just take it one day at a time."

It helped me.


If you're curious, yes I did just compare a child's life to a website. I'm a terrible person.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Small Praise

I recently finished Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. It was a brilliantly in depth book. I wrote more notations in it than I've done with any other book and it will guide me in how I conduct things. It's irreplaceable.

That being said, Clay Shirky isn't too much of a writer. It took me a long time to get through it. I'd read it then find myself just staring at a point in book, not absorbing anything. It's not so terrible I wanted to burn it, it's just not that good. The only reason I bring this up is not to insult Shirky (I would be honored to even meet him), but to praise Saul D. Alinsky and his Rules for Radicals.

Alinsky can fucking write. I'm only a couple pages in, but the guy had the ability to make words simply flow. Perhaps I've been reading too many non-fiction books, but this is a really nice change.

I'm sure there will be more to come.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Clarifications, Part II

Continuation from Part I.

I'm not going to talk trash about American Apparel. They do some amazing stuff. They treat their employees fairly, provide good wages and support a great work environment. I could not bring myself to be vicious against them especially since they don't bullshit. What I do want to talk about is their wage system and clarify how it works.

For employees they have a base pay and production goals they can reach for bonuses. The group decides how much it wants to make. This is cool because it creates an incentive for the employees. This wage system, however, should not be confused with thinking that employees have much choice or are empowered. They don't and they're not.

The group's decision is one made with limited options and variance.

If the group had more options in the choices they could make, it wouldn't exist. If they could decide on what to work on such as Green shirts or Red shirts, there would too many conflicting opinions. It would take a much longer time to decide on whether the merits of making of the Green shirts is better than the Red shirts or vice-versa. Work wouldn't get done and production would be bogged down.

If there was a greater variance on how much they want to make, it wouldn't exist. The average voter is the only one with the "choice". The majority decides and decides quickly because they are in small groups. Whether or not they choose to reach the production goals, there will be some people that didn't want that option. It isn't and never will be a perfect "work however much you want" type of system.

The idea that the workers are empowered is nice, but a bit inflated. Only the mode vote has a "choice".

What's also important to remember is that American Apparel is a huge company. If they have excess production it's not a big deal because it is mass produced. Variance on output is a minute factor on cost. This sort of "open" management could not work in a small, non-mass producing company. Where supply can be determined by the employees in American Apparel, supply MUST be determined by public demand in other companies.

If a small, non-mass producing company decided to give controls to the employees, they would lose huge amounts a profit through surplus or shortage. They have to take control of the output in order to function. American Apparel has the option while many companies don't.

American Apparel is a great company because it takes advantage of its options to create a friendlier work environment, but it's still necessary to look at things objectively.

Irony

By the time I was in 8th grade I had consumed two HTML books, one XHTML, one Java and one more of PHP. I was a guru among the young nerds, mocking their "Hello World" type web pages. I loved creating and programming. Hell, I even liked the reclusive nature of it. It came natural.

As I entered high school however, all I saw was a cubicle. Office Space was an eye opening experience on what I thought the computer science world was like. I started fearing a life of being told what to program and what to do. I could see my future of deteriorating into loneliness, self-hatred and tons of hentai porn, so I decided to get out. When my CS teacher tried to get me to join in competitions I said no.

What did I want to do? I had no idea, but it had to be creative!

Lately I've been thinking of a big open source platform (when it's up and running I'll talk about it). It involves a ton of creative effort and I can see it being one of the most fun things I've ever done. I love it because it's my idea. I was never told what to do.

To get it started however, I have to program the website.

I suck.


Part II of Clarifications will be up tomorrow, Apparel email or not.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Forest

I needed to escape.

Typical young teenager. Angry at everything, fueled by testosterone and a desire to find myself. Some parts of my life were fucked up, some parts I just imagined were. At times I'd get so furious, when I clenched my fists my nails would cut into my palms. When I had to work at not raising my arms to hit that's when I knew I had to visited my forest.

I walked past the developed houses. Walked past the ideal "perfect homes". Walked passed anything that reminded me where I was at. There was a small patch of trees past it all that was going be torn down soon for more perfect homes, but I could enjoy it for a while longer.

At the center of it there was a chalk white, circular stone for me to sit on. Fallen twigs mixed in with the orange and red leaves surrounding the rock. A moat of sort. The dark brown trees were thick enough to block anyone from seeing me, like giant protective sentries.

Burying my head in my hands, I'd stop pulling my hair. A calmness would come over me. I'd listen to movements of the few remaining creatures. Feel an ant crawl up my leg and not even care.

After a bit of peace I could come back home, good as new.

_____________________

"I'm going to open up a business with some awesome product. I'm going to start in some Podunk town and then once it's profitable I'm going to expand..."
----
"Your grades aren't good enough to get into a top law school so you probably won't get into a great firm. What are you going to do after attending the lesser law school?"

He barely even considers what I've said before replying, "Well, I'll probably just open my own firm. Then I can just expand and get tons of money. I need the money because I want a really big family..."

These are my friends. Verbatim. With semi-rich parents they have aspirations of great wealth and power because that's what they think they're supposed to do. Since it's not a self realized desire they have no heart in it. They have no enthusiasm in what they do. They don't think their interests can be compatible with their careers. They think happiness is college -> business/law school -> accomplished life.

The reasons why they are like this have already been expanded upon. Whether it's fear of failing, not following through with their passions or being scared of success, my friends encapsulate what my generation is going through.

I've tried to help. I've given them as much material as I possibly could, but nothing has gotten to them. They blow me off like I'm naive or idealistic saying they've "got it figured out." Perhaps I'm failing in selling the idea correctly or maybe no one could yell loud enough for them to hear.

Maybe it's not my place to try to change their course, but it's terrible to watch. They're not smart enough to simply coast through college with A's and accomplish their "goals". They don't really care about what they want so they're not willing to put forth the effort. One has already failed a semester and is trying to raise his GPA to stay in school. Inevitable they will eventually crash into their built up illusions of the "right" life. I can only hope they can discover themselves and pick up the wreckage.


The sad truth is that my friends and this environment are my forest now.

Trees never moved me. Roots, branches and leaves never made me change. My forest was a place of stagnation that perhaps only Thoreau could make anything out of it. It was a place where I could heal before heading out to what mattered. I went there to escape the pressure of an overbearing life. Now I feel trapped in it. My forest was once my fortress and now it's my prison.

I'm trying to escape.

Again.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Clarifications, Part I

I love Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point. I love how American Apparel has created a great work environment instead of abusing their employees. I think they're revolutionary and I wish them all the success in the world.

That being said, the ideas they say are the entire reason for their success are flimsy. They explain it with a pretty idea and try to fit it snugly into place. By doing that they create a Garden of Eden sort of imagery where everything is perfect. And when it's not, it causes inflation. Which causes bullshit. Which brings me to one of my points:

The Rule of 150 in a work environment is bullshit.


Here is the definition for Dunbar's number (what the Rule of 150 is based on):
"Dunbar's number is the supposed cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable social relationships: the kind of relationships that go with knowing who each person is and how each person relates socially to every other person."
In The Tipping Point Gladwell paints the Gore Association's business as a glorious, free environment where everyone knows each other well. No overall strategies are planned and salaries are decided as a group [1]. They are all called "Associates" on their name tags, with no bosses but "sponsors" or "mentors". They attribute this great work environment to the Rule of 150.

It's bullshit. If the Rule of 150 applies perfectly to this situation then it stands to reason that these workers know no one outside their workplace. If they did, it would be surpassing the 150 stable relationships they could maintain. If an employee did have friends he would lose "contact" with several of their co-workers and according the the Rule of 150 (in a workplace), it would wreak havoc and nothing would get done. Management would have to be implemented and freedom would be stifled.

This hasn't happened though.

So how does Gore Associations function then?

It functions because 150 is an arbitrary, small number for the work place. The size is the most important factor here. Not everyone at Gore Associations knows each other, but because the size is kept down, people can address small groups of people easier than addressing a giant workforce. It's small enough that the pressure situation still exists. It's not a situation where everyone there knows each other well enough to "sit down with them at a bar without there being anything uncomfortable," [2] but a situation where communication costs are low enough to get things done effectively.

There could be 170 workers or 130 workers. Perhaps Gore Associations just found 150 to work perfectly. If they did though, they can't entirely attribute it Dunbar's number. It simply isn't a perfect Utopian workplace Gladwell makes it out to be. Some workers are bound not to know everyone and that's okay. What's important is that they are kept small.

Half of this company's success is based on low communication cost. Half of it is about group pressure. The group pressure could have been used by Gladwell for a point about context, but he decided to try to cram it all into the Rule of 150.

Which made it bullshit.


------------------------------------------

[1] Gladwell never goes in depth on how the process works. I would LOVE to hear more about it.
[2] I remember reading this, but for the life of me I can't find it to point out a page number.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Books vs. Experience?

A comment from crake on Ryan Holiday's blog:
"Lately I have been thinking that you can't learn anything from a book that you don't already know.

The only thing that has ever changed me is experience. I think getting your heart broken once teaches a person more than reading about it a dozen times. Or when you really are down and out, that experience I would not trade for even my favourite most definitive book."

At first this seems like a decent argument. Experience can shake your core, it's personal and it happens immediately. Books are not written specifically for every individual and it might not be relevant right now. Taking a stance one way or the other, experience might win out. The problem with this argument is that books were never meant to compete. They were made to complement.

Take for example my problem with Meditations. While some of the book has had a big impact on me (See the header quote), about half of it doesn't resonate with me. I haven't experienced some of the evils and trials Marcus Aurelius talks about, therefore I can't connect with it as much as I can the rest of the book.

Does that mean I would be the same if I haven't read it? That I haven't learned anything?

Absolutely not. It's simply prepared me for what's ahead.

Books help explain your experiences. They crystallize the ideas and themes. They take your raw emotions and confusion about why things are going wrong and explain them. They give you a guide to how to live your life to the fullest. You might not have experienced the lessons yet, but if the book is any good you will and you'll be more prepared and objective than if you just went into it clueless.

The idea that you can't learn anything from a book that you don't already know is ridiculous. Books about life add perspective that is near impossible to get from only experience.

Reading and experiencing combined is the only way you'll truly know who you are.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Oscillations

From Donika:
"It seems like lately I've been debating a lot of people over whether intelligence dooms you to a life of misery. It seems most people agree on this, citing 'ignorance is bliss' and arguing that you have a greater capacity to appreciate how miserable life is if you're really smart. I find this to be insanity. If an intelligent person has a greater capacity for sorrow, then it stands to reason that they also have a greater capacity for joy."

Perhaps I've been smoking too much lately because when I saw this very nice post from Donika, I couldn't help but think of it in this format:
















Weird, huh?

When I first started studying economics I thought it was insane that in a competitive marketplace over the long run there is 0 economic profit. Makes complete since of course: when a market is profitable, new firms enter and drive down the profit till it reaches an equilibrium. When a market isn't profitable, firms exit and the profit stabilizes to the equilibrium. Up down up down up down. Simple, but the idea was still jarring to me.

I've seen the idea replicate itself everywhere ever since. Empires, sports teams and now Joy and Sorrow. For whether you experience only mild sorrow or extreme joy, you'll always keep touching back to the equilibrium where you are just you. Soon enough the oscillations shorten, flat line and then it's over. No real impact. Just a small firm in a never ending market.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Something to Say

I rarely post or interject especially when it's a unfamiliar topic. I consider this a good quality in some respects. It has made me listen and learn more than if I just rambled like a jack ass. But as I've spent more and more time listening a question keeps bugging me: "When will I know enough to speak?"

I don't think there will ever be a time. For me to get anywhere I have to move, even if I don't have all the requirements. I will spout ignorance. I will say nothing (see first post). That being said, out of the rubble of crap, maybe I'll say something good. Hopefully it'll be worth it.

This might not be the best time to start. I might not have the perfectly required experience. But it's time for me to face the fact that I might never reach that point. It's time to start stumbling, willing to break my teeth on the ground to get moving forward.

Rethinking Messages

From Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point:
"The Stickiness Factor says that there are specific ways of making a contagious message memorable; there are relatively simple changes in the presentation and structuring of information that can make a big difference in how much of an impact it makes."

George Mankiw's The Pigou Club Manifesto. The abolishment of minimum wage. Getting rid of apartment price ceilings. Why these obvious solutions aren't in effect are because of two reasons: they sound counter-intuitive and they aren't marketed well.

It's hard to get people to listen to numbers. It's hard to get people to take the time to comprehend even relatively simple concepts. It's hard to make people give a fuck.

In Made to Stick there is a point about trying to get people's attention about unhealthy popcorn. Trying to attract consumer's attention about something as seemingly negligible as popcorn health was difficult to say the least. It's not a pressing subject. They couldn't get people to care about the numbers and facts. So they changed their message. They presented it in a more visual and startling format. They forced their idea through unconventional means.

That's what has to be done with all of these unpopular ideas. They need to be presented in different, more startling ways. They need to convert their facts into a pulling message.

EDIT: [See also this for a list of things that could be marketed differently]