despise the free lunch – law 40 – #48laws by robert greene

Law 40

What is offered for free is dangerous – it usually involves either a trick or hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit. It is also often wise to pay the full price – there is no cutting corners with excellence. Be lavish with your money and keep it circulating, for generosity is a sign and a magnet for power. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)

July 27, 2014 · antipaucity · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: books, commentary

apps on the network

{This started as a Disqus reply to Eric’s post. Then I realized blog comments shouldn’t be longer than the original post :) }

The app-on-network concept is fascinating: and one I think I’ve thought about previously, too.

Hypothetically, all “social networks” should have the same connections: yet there’s dozens upon dozens (I use at least 4 – probably more, but I don’t realize it). And some folks push the same content to all of them, while others (including, generally, myself) try to target our shares and such to specific locations (perhaps driving some items to multiple places with tools like IFTTT).

Google’s mistake with Google+ was thinking they needed to “beat” Facebook: that’s not going to happen. As Paul Graham notes:

“If you want to take on a problem as big as the ones I’ve discussed, don’t make a direct frontal attack on it. Don’t say, for example, that you’re going to replace email. If you do that you raise too many expectations…Maybe it’s a bad idea to have really big ambitions initially, because the bigger your ambition, the longer it’s going to take, and the further you project into the future, the more likely you’ll get it wrong…the way to use these big ideas is not to try to identify a precise point in the future and then ask yourself how to get from here to there, like the popular image of a visionary.”

That’s where folks who get called things like The Idea Guy™ go awry: instead of asking questions, you try to come up with ideas – like these 999. And if you can’t/don’t, you think you’ve failed.

Social networks should be places where our actual social interactions can be modeled effectively. Yet they turn into popularity contests. And bitch fests. And rant centers. Since they tend towards the asymmetric end of communication, they become fire-and-forget locales, or places where we feel the incessant need to be right. All the time. (Add services like Klout and Kred, and it gets even worse.)

I would love to see a universal, portable, open network like the one Eric describes. All the applications we think run on social networks (like Farmville) don’t. They run on top of another app which runs on “the network”.

Layers on layers leads to the age-old problem of too many standards, and crazy amounts of abstraction. Peeling-back the layers of the apps atop the network could instead give us the chance to have a singular network where types of connections could be tagged (work, fun, school, family, etc, etc – the aspect of G+ that everyone likes most: “circles”). Then the app takes you to the right subset of your network.

Of course – this all leads to a massive problem: security.

If there is only One True Social Network, we all end up entrusting everything we put there to be “safe”. And while some of still follow the old internet mantra, “if you wouldn’t put it on a billboard, don’t put it on a website,” the vast majority of people – seemingly especially those raised coincident to technology’s ubiquitization – think that if they put it somewhere “safe” (like Facebook), that it should be “private”.

After all, the One True Social Network would also be a social engineer’s or identity thief’s Holy Grail - the subversive access to all  of someone’s personal information would be their nirvana.

And that, I think, is the crux of the matter: regardless of what network (or, to use Eric’s terminology, what app-atop-the-network) we use, privacy, safety, and security are all forefront problems.

Solve THAT, and you solve everything.

Or maybe you just decide privacy/security doesn’t matter, and make it all public.

July 14, 2014 · antipaucity · 3 Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: commentary, hmmm, ideas, insights, technical

stir up waters to catch fish – law 39 – #48laws by robert greene

Law 39

Anger and emotion are strategically counterproductive. You must always stay calm and objective. But if you can make your enemies angry while staying calm yourself, you gain a decided advantage. Put your enemies off-balance. Find the chink in their vanity through which you can rattle them and you hold the strings. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)


Proverbs 14:29

He who is slow to anger has great understanding,
But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.

Proverbs 16:32

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.

July 13, 2014 · antipaucity · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: books, commentary

think as you like but behave as others – law 38 – #48laws by robert greene

Law 38

If you make a show of going against the times, flaunting your unconventional ideas and unorthodox ways, people will think that you only want attention and that you look down upon them. They will find a way to punish you for making them feel inferior. It is far safer to blend in and nurture the common touch. Share your originality only with tolerant friends and those who are sure to appreciate your uniqueness. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)

June 27, 2014 · antipaucity · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: books, commentary

who wants an “all-star team” anyway?

A friend sent me this job listing recently, and I see it suffers from a wrong-headed (though well-intentioned) institutional fixation that hiring managers seem to have: that of wanting an “all-star team”.

“we are building an all-star team”

Sigh. This mentality is promoted by smart, successful people like Joel Spolsky:

“You’re going to see three types of people in your interviews. At one end of the scale, there are the unwashed masses, lacking even the most basic skills for this job. They are easy to ferret out and eliminate, often just by asking two or three quick questions. At the other extreme you’ve got your brilliant superstars who write lisp compilers for fun, in a weekend, in Assembler for the Nintendo DS. And in the middle, you have a large number of “maybes” who seem like they might just be able to contribute something. The trick is telling the difference between the superstars and the maybes, because the secret is that you don’t want to hire any of the maybes. Ever.”

What’s wrong with the premise? Easy – just watch any sports all-star game: they all, each and every one, stink. Why? There is rarely ever such a thing as an “all-star team”. Stars, by definition, are individuals.

Sure – you have the anomalies: the 1927 Yankees, for example. That one magical time when all the stars aligned, the wind blew in the right direction, the grass bent just so, and everyone did exactly what they needed to do every time. They had 6 future Hall-of-Famers on the roster – names you know (and some you don’t): Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs, Herb Pencock, Waite Hoyt, Tony Lazzeri. They won 110 games and only lost 44 (it was before the 162 game season).

But even the 1927 Yankees didn’t win every year. Just the next year they still won, but lost a player from tuberculosis. And the next year they only won 88 games.

In 1927, Lou Gehrig batted .375. In 1929 it was only .300.

In 1927 Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs. In 1929 only 46.

What happened? Other teams learned to adapt, the rosters changed, the weather was different, the grass grew differently … in short: the “magic” wasn’t a formula – it was just magic.

In baseball, the All-Star Game is ostensibly a show for the fans (though, given the shortness of each players’ appearance in the game, and how managers might be inclined to less-heavily (or more-heavily) use players from their own teams, you wonder how much of a “show” it really is). A bunch of excellent baseball players who normally play against each other are brought together for a few hours to play with each other… and then go back to being opponents two days later.

I saw this at Opsware: they had a hiring philosophy that you should “never hire someone dumber than yourself” (if you were an interviewer). Theoretically, this should have lead to a corporate environment of smart people. And it did – mostly (I’ll leave-out some of the less-than-stellar hires Opsware made while I was there). But it also lead to having a roomful of smart people – ones who weren’t necessarily really “smart” when it came to talking to other people .. a distinct problem. (Take a look at this Quora entry on things smart people do that are dumb.)

Smart people sitting in a room and solving ideas tend to lead to the architecture astronaut view of the world. (Ironically, the same Joel who only wants to hire the best-of-the-best also realizes that super smart people will tend to get so enamored of their own ideas that they’ll craft little silos where they can sit and happily yammer-on about their pet interest.

I’ve had the privilege of working with some scary-smart people. And I’ve had the horror of working with some scary-smart people.

Sadly, it is far more often the case that the super smart people I’ve known and worked with have been horrors and not privileges.

We all want to work in the best environments we can – we want good benefits, interesting work, quality family time, great coworkers, awesome bosses … We all like to think that the folks we work with are amazingly brilliant – among the best in their fields. But what is the statistical likelihood of that? Pretty small.

If IQ were the only guide for potential success, you’d think that everyone would want to gravitate towards places that have masses of high-IQ folks. Like Mensa. Like we think Google must be. Or like Dave Eggers’ fictional company The Circle.

But IQ isn’t the only determinant of success – we can see that clearly with some of our most famous politicians, business leaders, cultural influences, etc.

Putting a bunch of smart (or athletic or fast or whatever other term/factor you want to use to quantify “all-star”) folks together in one room to become a team isn’t really realistic. What makes a good team is complex – there’s shared vision, good interpersonal skills, knowing whom to contact for what, and more. It’s not merely having a bunch of people who are “the best” at what they do. It’s having people who can be [close to] “the best” together.

June 25, 2014 · antipaucity · 7 Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: commentary, complaint

create compelling spectacles – law 37 – #48laws by robert greene

Law 37

Striking imagery and grand symbolic gestures create the aura of power – everyone responds to them. Stage spectacles for those around you, then, full of arresting visuals and radiant symbols that heighten your presence. Dazzled by appearances, no one will notice what you are really doing. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)

June 13, 2014 · antipaucity · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: books, commentary

a sample cfengine promise bundle – delete “large” files

body common control
{
        bundlesequence => { "file_remover" };
}

bundle agent file_remover
{
        vars:
                "bigfile" int => "1g";
        files:
                "/home"
                delete => tidy,
                file_select => files_too_big,
                depth_search => recurse("inf");
        reports:
                "Deleted files over $(bigfile) in size from /home";
}

body depth_search recurse(d)
{
        depth => "$(d)";
}

body delete tidy
{
        dirlinks => "delete";
        rmdirs => "false";
}

body file_select files_too_big
{
        search_size => irange("$(bigfile)","inf");
        file_result => "size";
}

June 12, 2014 · antipaucity · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: technical

wait, what?

My wife has done a far more excellent write-up* than I could hope to – but the short version is that I’m now a dad :)

We got an out-of-the-blue call a couple weeks ago that there was a ~3 month old baby boy being put for adoption, and did we know anyone who would be able / want to adopt him.

“Anyone”? Why yes, yes we did! Us!

Fast forward to this week – after meetings with lawyers, updating our home study with our adoption agency, and more – we got The Call. The Call came that we could come to NY since birth mom was scheduled to sign all of her paperwork.

We’ve gone on hold for a few months with regards to adopting from Ethiopia while we bond with our new fella – but that’s totally cool with us :)


*please contact me privately for access to our other blog if you don’t remember the login

June 8, 2014 · antipaucity · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: personal, update

my theory of social networking

I know lots of folks who like to have everything they share on one social network (eg Google+) magically appear on all others they use, too (eg Twitter & Facebook).

While I sometimes share identical content out to several networks, I rarely want precisely the same thing going everywhere all the time. In fact, while I love employing Buffer and IFTTT (including using the latter to push content from G+ elsewhere), I rarely like having the same posts (which aren’t links) appear anywhere else.

Why? To ensure I don’t miss some of the conversation or points raised by splitting my attention between, say, Facebook and Google+.

I find that the communities represented on the social networks I use, while overlaps occur, tend to be relatively distinct.

I see this problem occur in communities I belong to, too – such as the BGLUG. There’s a Facebook group, and a Google+ community. When events are scheduled, they get posted both places: which is great for publicity .. but not so much for keeping continuity of community.

Continuity of conversation and interaction is a Big Deal™, in my opinion.

Multiple conversation points are great – but fragmentation of discussion is not so great (eg comments on a blog post + comments on the social network link post of the blog post).

I asked a question about a subset of this problem a few years ago on Stack Overflow - and the best answer for integrating WordPress-to-Facebook commenting was to use a plugin. That’s awesome – but doesn’t begin to solve the problem of discussions across more than one network.

So, for now, I’ll continue to encourage all my socially-network friends, colleagues, family, and readers to keep conversations as separate as possible on the networks they frequent: improve your signal-to-noise ratio, and make the internet a better place.

June 3, 2014 · antipaucity · 2 Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: commentary, personal

disdain things you cannot have: ignoring them is the best revenge – law 36 – #48laws by robert greene

Law 36

By acknowledging a petty problem you give it existence and credibility. The more attention you pay an enemy, the stronger you make him; and a small mistake is often made worse and more visible when you try to fix it. It is sometimes best to leave things alone. If there is something you want but cannot have, show contempt for it. The less interest you reveal, the more superior you seem. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)

May 27, 2014 · antipaucity · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: books, commentary