July 4, 2009
An incredible anniversary is upon us and we celebrate here in the desert with plans and ideas of incredible creative and motive forces. Whether those forces are for good or evil depends on us. We will choose the ends to which these means bring us. Toorcamp is a very Mad Max post apocalyptic scene. Hackers (cyberpunks) fight to survive in the desert of Eastern Washington. This society where money is not nearly as valuable as what you have and what people need is sometimes backwards but almost always logical when thought of as a semi-stable chaos. But the words that I chose above are far different from the actuality of the camp. The mood is festive. People are happy, generous, interested in one another, caring, and very responsible. But wait! How could a hacker con not be complete mayhem? Put 300 poorly adjusted hackers into a barb-wire fenced area with strict rules against freedom, deny them their bare essentials and watch them destroy everything in the world. But wait, we have electricity, internet for 80% of the conference, audio, visual, shelter for 99% of the participants, and the freedom to permanently remove yourself from the enclosed area. These things turn this enraged mob into a passive, meditative, contemplative, beautiful group of people.
But wait, where are the women at? Alas the gender ratio is fairly bleak. The first girl I met at Toorcamp was a reporter who didn't understand the differences between the various shades of hackers to even ask something complex. Oh, she's good and smart, but what I'm saying is that reporters cannot change the gender balance. Perhaps smallish hacker conferences can only ever attract a small subset of everyone which further dissuades women to participate? Anyway, I am in the barn right now at a table with 5 guys. In the room there are 3-4 women (some people I can't tell due to angle) and 18 guys. All women are currently meditating in the meditation workshop. If gender doesn't matter to hackers, why does gender disparity matter to hackers? A group of guys that cannot talk to women about the subject of their passion will find all kinds of incredibly difficult conversations. I know this from experience. I can say UDP to girls in the hacker scene but when I say that to anyone outside the technology loop, I might as well be talking Greek. Should I care whether people understand wtf I'm talking about? Every group that cannot communicate is doomed to fail at passing their memes to the general populous.Read more »
June 29, 2009
My neighbor inspired this blog. This morning and evening he has been looking for his cat who has been missing. The cat has been very distant since the beginning of the summer and I suspect that this change in behavior has to do with someone alienating his affection. Last fall I alienated the cat's affection by offering him food and shelter from the cold. You see, cats have a very specific loyalty to their feeders, but will quickly betray that loyalty for a second person who is willing to feed them more or better. This is especially true if the cat finds a place that they like better. Humans can learn a lot from cats but this behavior in humans is often seen as disloyalty, conniving, selfishness, or infidelity. Sadly a person who simply wants more friends who treat them well is somehow less valuable to their friends. This is becoming more common as people branch out using digital technology such as cell phones, social websites, and of course dating websites.
Good relationships are based on mutual self-interest and yet the word love is used to encompass a far greater range of emotions, actions, and philosophies. The topic of love is so complicated that I dare not even show my ignorance of other people's issues. My father for example finds himself in a situation that he has no control over, one that comes as a complete shock to him. To a seasoned cynic in the business of love this comes as no surprise. Power in love does not work like power in business, family, society, computing, or anything else. That is only one of a huge list of issues that people commonly have.Read more »
June 11, 2009
Human Resources is a tricky business. There are two goals involved:
1) Expansion of business capabilities (two coders produce more code than one)
2) Cheaper completion of goals (a cheaper coder who does the same work saves money)
Finding a person who fits these requires time and effort. If a person doesn't work out, the effort is lost. The effort is usually an initial training period. Because of the specialization of tasks, a person with very deep knowledge about a few things is actually less useful than a person with broad knowledge and a keen sense for problem solving. Problem solving is usually thought of as a game skill, however in business, problem solving is essential to both businessperson and engineer. The businessperson needs problemsolving to ensure that business goals are met using all the non-technical methods available to him/her. The engineer on the other hand needs problemsolving to solve individual tasks as efficiently as possible. An engineer that wastes time when s/he is unable to finish a specific task is worse than an engineer that wastes other people's time asking questions to solve a difficult problem. Thus, social skills are also necessary for all but the best engineer. An engineer who has perfect problemsolving skills doesn't need any social skills, but engineering tasks are often so difficult that it practically requires more than one person to solve. However, an engineer that continually asks questions and wastes others time is not an engineer at all. You see in the equation below, the HR benefit of an engineer who has someone do all his/her work is below zero.Read more »
May 13, 2009
Why is Twitter useful? Twitter is a service that encourages people to post messages to those people who value their contributions. Who values your contributions? Your family and friends. If you are celebrity, you have a number of fans that you don't know who value your contribution. Each person on Twitter has an incentive to post useful information in a usable way. If they do not post useful information, people will stop valuing their contributions. So we get a system of people providing useful information free of charge to anyone who follows them. Bam, instantly millions of people are talking publicly.
This is quite similar to MySpace or Facebook (except that facebook is completely private and myspace is partially private and a few other things). The issues with Facebook and MySpace is that it's design is different. Status messages on these services are practically useless and are not properly broadcast to people who care. Facebook has put a lot of work into changing that but instead they made it complex enough and the UI is poor enough to dissuade people from posting stuff like what they are doing after work. You don't want to discuss stuff with facebook's UI. Twitter is capable of merging the UI of an instant message client into a website that acts like a thousand chatrooms. But the awesome difference is that instead of ignoring all the idiots in a chatroom, you get to pick and choose who you actually want to listen to at your prerogative.Read more »