For the week of 2010-06-27 in Tweets

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What Science Knows and What Businesses Do

This post was originally just going to be a link to a video. Then I started doing some more research and some more digging and this post is what I’ve come up with. I think this is a testament to the magnitude of the idea I’m going to be passing on. Thus, whatever you are doing, stop now and pay attention.

“There’s a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.” – Dan Pink

Dan Pink will describe in 10 short minutes (along with an awesome animation) the truth about what actually motivates us. Surprisingly (or not), money is not what motivates us (generally speaking). Instead, the three factors that lead to better performance & personal satisfaction are:

  • autonomy
  • mastery
  • purpose

Not only that, but we have the research1 and data2 to back this up.

The following animation is adapted from Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA3:

Note: you may need to click through if you can’t see the video above.

Dan has a book that recently came out, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, that I believe goes into more depth. I already had Drive on my book list, but after watching that video I’ve moved it to the top. One of the research papers Dan talks about was completed by behavior economist Dan Ariely, who also wrote Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions and the follow up The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home4.

This all leads to a point.

As much as like doing what I do, I also feel like I’m being stifled, especially as a result of old-fashioned nine-to-five, carrot-and-stick incentives. Thus, when I think about wanting to work at a small company, it’s not because I don’t like people or want to work with fewer people, it’s because there is more freedom to do what I want, more freedom to explore, to freedom to innovate, and that’s what I want.

To be clear, this isn’t about working less, it’s about working best. If I can get done in six hours what you think should take eight hours, why can’t I go home early? Am I being paid to be available to solve problems or to actually solve problems? Work that requires even marginal amount of thinking should5 be Results-Only Work Environments, not Presenteeism Work Environments.

All the money in the world can’t buy happiness and I’d rather being making $10k (or whatever) less and truly enjoy what I do; and this is the problem.


Currency for motivation is becoming more intangible. … [A] fun/surprising reward can be more motivating than a functional cash incentive or discount. A competitive, peer interaction and temporal element drives motivation. Case in point look at how 4Square drives engagement.

I think the current generation of engineers6 gets this idea. We aren’t as tied to money as we are tied to autonomy, mastery, and purpose. I like purpose, it makes me feel like I’ve actually done something useful. And I like mastery, because I’m sort of anal like that. And I like autonomy, because I’ve found ways of doing things that work really, really well for me and get the job done. And money can’t buy any of that.

I see this at play in my own life in literally everything outside of work (i.e. my seven-to-three job): writing plugins for WordPress, running a triathlon, leading a Bible study, taking photographs. These are the things that make me happy. Engineering makes me happy too, but not as much as I think it could; which I believe has to do with the current method that I practice it.

See also:


Why Intelligent People Fail
Content from Sternberg, R. (1994). In search of the human mind. New York: Harcourt Brace.

  1. Lack of motivation. A talent is irrelevant if a person is not motivated to use it. Motivation may be external (for example, social approval) or internal (satisfaction from a job well-done, for instance). External sources tend to be transient, while internal sources tend to produce more consistent performance.

via Kottke

  1. Large Stakes and Big Mistakes 

  2. “A long history of research has demonstrated that rewards can decrease motivation and attitudes (Festinger & Carlsmith, 1959), alter self-perception (Bem, 1965), increase overjustification (Lepper et al., 1973), and turn feelings of competence into feelings of being controlled (Deci & Ryan, 1985).” Source: Effort for Payment: A Tale of Two Markets 

  3. The original talk is about 40 minutes long and is pretty much an expanded version of the talk Dan Pink gave at TED on motivation 

  4. these two books are also on my reading list 

  5. generally; there are, of course, exceptions to the rule 

  6. et alii 

For the week of 2010-06-20 in Tweets

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“[C]reated in honor of the match between USA and England at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.”

Note: you may need to click through if you can’t see the video above.

via Alexa Skilling

Also, Happy Flag Day.

For the week of 2010-06-13 in Tweets

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New Shoes (for running)

I decided the other day that if I was really serious about this running business, I better get some dedicated running shoes. Previously, I had been using my trusty New Balance 993, a great cross training, high-mileage shoe that I actually have been and continue to use as my everyday shoe for the last several years.

It works great as my day-to-day shoe, but I find it lacking during my running1

After crowd sourcing some ideas, I decided to check out Road Runner Sports.

Road Runner has some cool technology toys that show how pressure is distributed along your feet and how you walk. If you’ve never been in to Road Runner before, the first thing they’ll have you do is measure your feet (my right foot is a 1/2 size larger than my left); then they’ll have you stand on the pressure pad to see your weight distribution and pressure points; finally, they’ll have you run on the treadmill. This allows them to figure out what shoe will fit you best.

I have flat, over-pronated feet, with a slight preference to my right side.

I tried on a couple different types of shoes, but eventually settled on the New Balance 1225 with RRS Road Runner Sport Control insoles and I love them!

They salesperson also showed me a new way to tie my shoes so my heel wouldn’t move up and down as much when I stepped:

Lace as normal until one eyelet remains on each side. Draw the lace straight up on the outside of the shoe and bring it through the last eyelet. This will create a loop. Repeat on the other side. Cross each lace over the tongue, thread it through the opposite loop, and tie. The loops help to cinch in the material around your ankle to prevent your heel from slipping without making the rest of your shoe any tighter.

(click the link and scroll down to see a video)

My feet don’t hurt as much and my knees and hips are doing much better.

  1. this is probably due to the fact that it’s my everyday shoe and generally wear the crap out of them, not some fatal design flaw in the shoe. I wore this shoe for 62 straight days while literally walking all around Europe last year and it was fantastic. 

The New iPhone

Apple has, yet again, released a new iPhone. To no ones surprise, it looks strikingly similar to one that Gizmodo managed to acquire under dubious circumstances, at best, a few months ago. I’m currently oogling how small it is:

Photo by Dean Putney. Released under Creative Commons:

My droid comes in a 14mm thick versus the iPhone 4G 9.4mm1, almost a 33% reduction in thickness…that’s notable. Even compared to the iPhone 3G, which measures 12.3mm thick, it’s about a 24% reduction.

The Apple A4 also makes an appearance in the updated iPhone, which I think is interesting given Apple’s history with Motorola and now Intel. Could they be looking to dump Intel and produce there own CPUs?

Photo by Dean Putney. Released under Creative Commons:

Apparently, I’ve also been going about dating wrong:

Photo by Dean Putney. Released under Creative Commons:

  1. if you are to believe the Gizmodo measurements 

One Year Ago: Photo Time Capsule

Twice a month I get an email from Photojojo with the most interesting pictures I took from that time span the previous year last year; it’s the Photojojo’s Photo Time Capsule and it’s a great way to spend some time reflecting. For instance, May 30th of last year I was sailing in Puget Sound:

Sailboats against the Mountain
180.0 mm || 1/1600 || f/5.6 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Bainbridge Island, Washington, United States

A few days later, I was walking around Moscow, Russia:

70.0 mm || 1/125 || f/4.5 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

18.0 mm || 1/200 || f/8.0 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

29.0 mm || 1/320 || f/6.3 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia

This is going to be a bitter sweet summer because for the next 8 weeks I’m going to be getting emails about how awesome my summer was last year….I better get working on making this summer amazing.

For the week of 2010-06-06 in Tweets

  • Waiting at the border…start the countdown: 70 minutes and counting #fb #
  • Smell that? That's Freedom. (Back in the USA) #fb #
  • Vagaries of engineering speech: “Must” shall not be used to express a mandatory provision. Use the term “shall.” – MIL-STD-961E 4.6.6(k) #fb #
  • @AmandaWalton Yea, at least you're not wet. I went to another building and had to run back in the pouring rain. in reply to AmandaWalton #
  • @AmandaWalton Personally? No. in reply to AmandaWalton #
  • I suppose I could sleep while I let this render #fb #
  • ran 3.03 mi on 6/5/2010 at 3:11 PM with a pace of 9'55"/mi #

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