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  • Doug Belshaw 9:59 pm on January 30, 2020 Permalink | Reply

    When hit by boredom, let yourself be crushed by it; submerge, hit bottom. In general, with things unpleasant, the rule is: The sooner you hit bottom, the faster you surface. The idea here is to exact a full look at the worst. The reason boredom deserves such scrutiny is that it represents pure, undiluted time in all its repetitive, redundant, monotonous splendor.

    Joseph Brodsky (via Notabilia)
  • Doug Belshaw 9:06 pm on January 30, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: fallacy, Lucretius   

    I have called this mental defect the Lucretius problem, after the Latin poetic philosopher who wrote that the fool believes that the tallest mountain in the world will be equal to the tallest one he has observed. We consider the biggest object of any kind that we have seen in our lives or hear about as the largest item that can possibly exist. And we have been doing this for millennia. In Pharaonic Egypt, which happens to be the first complete top-down nation-state managed by bureaucrats, scribes tracked the high-water mark of the Nile and used it as an estimate for a future worst-case scenario.

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile
  • Doug Belshaw 5:16 pm on January 27, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: luck,   

    [L]uck over time is a symptom of productive contributions. It rarely happens when you need it most, it almost never happens in equal proportion to what feels fair (to you or to others), but it happens.

    Seth Godin
  • Doug Belshaw 7:01 am on January 27, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: complexity, , simplicity   

    A complex system, contrary to what people believe, does not require complicated systems and regulations and intricate policies. The simpler, the better. Complications lead to multiplicative chains of unanticipated effects. Because of opacity, an intervention leads to unforeseen consequences, followed by apologies about the “unforeseen” aspect of the consequences, then to another intervention to correct the secondary effects, leading to an explosive series of branching “unforeseen” responses, each one worse than the preceding one.

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile
  • Doug Belshaw 6:50 am on January 27, 2020 Permalink
    Tags: Don Knuth, , , Umberto Eco   

    The joys of email 

    In Tim Ferriss‘ most recent post he quotes Don Knuth who, in 1990, stated:

    “Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things. What I do takes long hours of studying and uninterruptible concentration. I try to learn certain areas of computer science exhaustively; then I try to digest that knowledge into a form that is accessible to people who don’t have time for such study.”

    Don Knuth

    Knuth quotes Umberto Eco, who told the New Yorker (presumably before 1990):

    “I don’t even have an e-mail address. I have reached an age where my main purpose is not to receive messages.”

    Umberto Eco

    There are many reasons you wouldn’t be able to get away without an email address in this day and age. But what’s the equivalent of something that it’s current possible to opt-out of, that is a time-suck? Social media? Instant messaging apps?

  • Doug Belshaw 6:45 am on January 27, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    We have the illusion that the world functions thanks to programmed design, university research, and bureaucratic funding, but there is compelling—very compelling—evidence to show that this is an illusion, the illusion I call lecturing birds how to fly. Technology is the result of antifragility, exploited by risk-takers in the form of tinkering and trial and error, with nerd-driven design confined to the backstage. Engineers and tinkerers develop things while history books are written by academics; we will have to refine historical interpretations of growth, innovation, and many such things.

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile
  • Doug Belshaw 7:09 pm on January 26, 2020 Permalink | Reply  

    Note that people invoke an expression, “Balkanization,” about the mess created by fragmented states, as if fragmentation was a bad thing, and as if there was an alternative in the Balkans—but nobody uses “Helvetization” to describe its successes.

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile
  • Doug Belshaw 12:06 pm on January 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , performance, team   

    Drexler-Sibbert Team Performance Model 

    Every now and then I pick a book off the shelves in my home office and have a quick flick through it. My brain was subconsciously looking for something and I just need to feed it random inputs until it’s satisfied. Serendipity is a powerful thing.

    Today, it was The Decision Book, and the Drexler-Sibbert Team Performance Model jumped out at me.

    Drexler-Sibbert Team Performance Model

    It’s conceptualised as a bouncing ball, with the downward motion being about development and creating the team, and the upward bounce being about performance and sustaining the team.

    I need to dig into this a bit more, but I found the descriptions about what each stage looks like from both a positive and negative point of view really useful. That is to say, if a team member is having issues, then the type of issues neatly map on to them being at a particular stage.

    This diagnostic approach applies to the whole team, as well as individual members. Especially with new members to the team. It’s easy to forget they lack the context and previous input that the other members have experience/enjoyed.

  • Doug Belshaw 1:06 pm on January 21, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , software, starting   

    All of this is to say: if your focus is solely upon shipping and finishing, I think you’re missing at least half the picture. Your research will generate insights. You and your team will need to come up with hypotheses, whether you realize you’re doing that explicitly or doing it implicitly “because this is how you build software”. But there’s a creative, generative process involved, and that creative process isn’t easy and it isn’t worthless without shipping.

    For me, this has meant a very slow and gradual calibration and quite vigirously latching on to an analogy made by my partner after one after-dinner unloading of my frustrations. You can think of the generative part of work, or a generative person as flint. You can think of building on that spark as kindling and that together these are complementary skills and people. Not enough flint? Your kindling won’t get anywhere. Not enough kindling? Your flint is going to just keep generating sparks that don’t get anywhere (and, in my experience, will just get bored and go elsewhere).


    So, personal appeal: if you think of yourself as a starter and not a finisher, and you think this is a terrible thing, please consider the opposite.

    And the professional, work version? Perhaps think about how these different skills are recognized in ways that they might not currently be, and how they fit together at different times.

    Dan Hon
  • Doug Belshaw 7:21 pm on January 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: moral grandstanding,   

    Moral grandstanding 

    I’m glad we now have a term other than (the inaccurate) ‘social justice warrior’ to deal with people who find pleasure in seeking out people and situations just so they can take the moral high ground.

    This quotation from an article by Antonia Case in the most recent issue of New Philosopher magazine explains things better than I could:

    “Hungry for social status within their own group, humans typically resort to prestige (knowledge, skills, success, or wealth) or dominance (intimidation, coercion, or sheer brute force) to get others to admire them. And grandstanders… seek prestige for their own moral qualities while, at the same time, employing moral talk to shame and silence others.”

    Antonia Case, ‘Grandstander in the family’, New Philosopher (Spring 2020)

    There may be the black and white of good vs evil when you’re a child, but when you get older and more mature there are so many shades of grey. You can’t say that everything depends on intentions. Or outcomes. And context is so very important.

    As the philosopher Bertrand Russell put it:

    “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

    Bertrand Russell

    That’s not to say that all moral grandstanders are stupid. Rather that they the sureness with which they express their opinions is an edifice built on sand.

    Of course,, social networks such as Twitter, now commonly referred to as ‘rage machines’ are the perfect place for instant gratification after drive-by moral grandstanding.

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