for Robert Scoble

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 

A Chat with Mr. Bryan Styble

Many years ago, I decided to put my phone number on my website. I got the idea from Robert Scoble, who lists his number on his site.

Scoble has great reason to put his phone number up: he’s a connector. People have an idea and they want to pitch it to him, or perhaps they see something interesting in the news that they think Robert may not know about, but should. It’s easy, it’s fast, and I bet it has a pretty good signal-to-noise ratio.

I really have to reason to post my phone number except that people may need to contact me and I almost always have my phone on me. Such is the case of Bryan Styble. For those unfamilar with Styble, he’s a radio host on KIRO 710 in Seattle. He used to be on quite a bit the last few years, but KIRO went through a really nasty shakeup in their lineup and only recently has it settled down. Bryan is now back on for the weekend; not as great as before, but better than nothing and certainly better than the Midnight Trucking Radio show that ran for a handful of weeks in late 2006.

I digress.

Bryan Styble called me up, to thank my for mentioning him in my blog. (I enjoy listening to him, so it really wasn’t that big of a deal.) We chatted for a good while about various things and I have to say that Bryan is even cooler to talk to on the phone than he is listening to on the radio. I guess I’ll have to call him up more often now. We talked about previous Seattle radio station call letters, the state of live and local late night talk radio, some interesting trivia about syndicated radio (I won’t spoil Bryan’s rather interesting trivia, you’ll have to ask him yourself. I will say that I didn’t get it right.), past KIRO talk show hosts, the history of the underline, and more. We talked for almost 45 minutes, I easily could have talked for another 45 minutes…probably more.

Styble also picked my brain a little bit on blogging. So I gave him some suggestions. Asking questions really got me thinking about some of the techniques and tricks that I use when I blog. I hope to write about that sometime in the future.

It was very cool and I had a great time.

In the meantime, be sure to listen the Bryan Styble Show on KIRO 710 AM. Saturday and Sunday nights from 10pm – 1am. If your like me and don’t live in Seattle, you can listen live over the Internet, mms://


Drama in Statics

There was an interesting announcement in Statics today:
All homework assignments have changed.

Why? People are cheating. I know that last semester, there was a Facebook group that posted links to JPEG images of the homework assignments.Students could download the images , print them on to E2 paper, write their name and section on the top and then turn it in. There are also sites, Such as Cramster. com that provide solutions. I will admit that I have used such sites, but only as a tool to help me understand the material.

On the plus side, all the assignments are now posted online. This will make it easier to complete my work on my Tablet!

Update: Jens’ teacher said that there was some sort of CD going around with the answers on it.

[tags]cheating, facebook, statics, tablet pc, tablet, homework[/tags]


30Boxes + MSN Direct + Outlook 2003 + Remote Calendars = Awesomeness

I’ve been using 30Boxes for almost a week now and love it. I love being able to have my calendar online so I can modify it and love having such an easy interface. I’ve also had MSN Direct for just over a year now. MSN Direct is the front end to SPOT: Smart Personal Object Technology. In short, my watch is like a pager: I can get MSN Messages, the weather, news, quote of the day, this day in, sports scores, stock prices and the real reason I pay $60/year…synchronized calendar. My Outlook calendar syncs to my watch, ensuring that I don’t miss anything critical…which I tend to sometimes do.

But I had two problems: First the Outlook 12 Technical Beta doesn’t work the MSN Direct plugin. Second, Outlook doesn’t natively support the iCal format.

There is a work around though! I still have my old server that I don’t really use for anything even though I should. So I decided to put it to good use. I installed Outlook 2003 and, thanks to a heads up from the 30Boxes Blog, I installed Remote Calendars, a “COM-.NET Add-in for Outlook 2003…[that allows a user] to subscribe, reload and delete a generic remote iCalendar (RFC 2445) from Outlook 2003.” Bingo.

I can go to 30Boxes and do my calendar thing. RemoteCalenders automatically checks my iCal feed every once in a while to see if anything has been added. If it has, it loads it into Outlook 2003 and the MSN Direct plugging sends it to my watch. Am I wired (or wireless) or what?

[tags]30boxes, outlook 2003, msn direct, spot, remotecalendars[/tags]


Computer Down: V – Horrible “Customer Relations”

Micro Computer Systems was open today and I was able to drop off my computer, but not before I made phone calls to Toshiba were I had one of the worst experiences ever.

My issue was this: While I have backups of all my important stuff, there are a variety of things that I would like to try and recover. However, MCS is required (my Toshiba) to return the defective hard drive. I called Toshiba and after being on hold for about 10 minutes, was finally able to talk with someone. With an accent so prevalent in today’s call centers, she informed me that should could not doing anything and offered to “escalate” my call to the next level. The level 2 tech, Marua (or something foreign like that) was very adamant that nothing could be done. When I asked to have my case elevated to the next level, she said I would have to write a letter (um, yea right). So I asked to speak with her supervisor. Apparently she was the CEO of Toshiba because she said that was no one else I could talk with. Her voice began elevate and I immediately asked for her name and some number that I could reference. She did not have an employee number, but did give me the case number, being very careful to give it to me quickly and not repeat it without having me to ask. I began to relate how the customer service representative I talked with earlier had escalated my call to the next level and I was simply asking to have it escalated again. First thing out of her mouth is “customer relations.”

I’m sitting here in the car with my mouth on the floor thinking to myself, did you just fucking correct me?!? You have got to be shitting me!

I then ask her if I am speaking with a customer service rep or a technical service rep. Again she corrects me.

You have got to be fucking kidding me! Let me explain something to you woman, I am the customer, you are the service person. You provide service to the customer and are therefore a customer service rep, no matter what your PR director tells you. Furthermore, under no circumstances, should you EVER correct a customer for calling you something that means the SAME FUCKING THING! (Side note: while at Nordstrom, they mentioned to us, the interns, that while the store is called Nordstrom, some people call it Nordstrom‘s and we were instructed to never correct them)

I start over again, asking her if I am speaking with a customer service relations rep or a technical service rep and she hangs up.

Son of a Bitch.

I paused in disbelief. Rule number one: Never, under any circumstances, hang up on a customer. Rule number two: Never, under any circumstances, hang up on a customer. Rule number three: If you hang up on Andrew Ferguson, you will have hell to pay.

I called Nick Lew, the technician at SAAS, to see if he had any ideas. While he had no ideas, he provided me with some valuable information about the process as he worked at MCS prior to SAAS.

So, I called Toshiba back and promptly explained that the last person had just hung up on me and that I would like to speak with an American. The closest they could get was someone from Toronto, that was fine. I explained my situation as before, although this time I added that I had classified information on the hard drive that needed to be removed before I could release the drive. Someone was finally able to explain that I was going about it the wrong way.

“No” is a fine answer as long as you can explain why you are saying no, this person did.

Less then a minute after I hung up with Toshiba, Ed from American Data Recovery called. I explained my situation to him and said that it probably was not worth trying to recover the data.

I had no choice but to concede. Ed was right and after an hour and a half on the phone I was sure there was nothing I had overlooked.

I turned off the car and walked back into MCS turned my Tablet over.

It might be ready as soon as tomorrow, hopefully.

[tags]Toshiba, m200, tablet pc, repair, customer relations, customer service, horrible, bad experience[/tags]


Computer Down: Part II

I’ve been on the phone with Toshiba for the last 15 minutes or so (I’ve never had a more scripted conversation). My computer is still under warranty (until Oct. 2007, baby) and I can either send it in to the depot or take it to my local Toshiba rep. Based on Tracy’s experience, I’m opting to take it to the local Toshiba center, Micro Computer Systems, Inc.

I’m calling them now.

[tags]Toshiba, m200, tablet pc, repair[/tags]


Computer Down! Computer Down! Oh Shit!

I think my computer’s hard drive just got shot. It made this weird noise, then the computer beeped twice, and then the hard drive just locked up.

I think the arm of the hard drive locked against one or more of the platters.

I have most of my data backed up or online, so it’s not the biggest deal in the world, but it’s still going to be a hastle to get fixed and I would like to be able to recover all of my data.


thisBoard Hits SourceForge

thisBoard is a project I started at the beginning of the school year as way to better keep track of finances between all the roommates in our house. I always intended to release the code about three weeks ago I decided that I needed to rewrite the original version. So I did and I released 0.1-Alpha just now on SourceForge! It’s barely complete (if you don’t count the lack of a SQL creation file) and has zero documentation. But it’s there and I’m happy about that. I hope to release 0.1.1 in the next few days and have Release Candidate ready within two weeks (I kind of need it for next semesters finances). I also hope to have a demo up and running shortly. thisBoard is programmed in PHP and JS. It also used AJAX and a MySQL DB. thisBoard is released under the GNU GPL.

Download thisBoard!

[tags]thisBoard, php, javascript, ajax, mysql, finances, roommate, sourceforge, college, gpl[/tags]


BugMeNot has a new version of their site out. The new site includes a brand new color scheme and incorporates some AJAX.

The site has been, and is still, very sparse, so I’m not exactly sure when the change happened. I didn’t see anything on Slashdot or anywhere else. Did I miss it?

In any event, BugMeNot does what it does very well and I can’t complain about that.


I’m at the Apple Store and Blogging

Heh. Just like Scoble (mini, not regular), I’m at the Apple Store in Littleton, waiting for Goodwin to get his iBook. I guess there is some sort of Credit Card issue.

Of things to note:

  • The mighty mouse is pretty frickin’ awesome. I wonder if they have a Bluetooth version?
  • The WordPress tools don’t show up in Safari.
  • I’m wearing pants

Goodwin just came over and reports that the credit card issue has been fixed. So long story short, Cass (who I just met tonight) drove Goodwin and myself down to the Apple store. She, for some reason, is also buying the laptop. Go figure. Anyway, she has a $1000/day spending limit on her card and she bought groceries this morning. That put the laptop over the $1000/day limit. So she had to use her debit card and credit card to purchase the iBook, even though they are linked to the same account.

[tags]Apple Store, iBook, WordPress, Safari, Patrick Scoble, Goodwin[/tags]