My Ideas Suck, Yeh, Let's fix it, Give up your Space

I am having a blast reading Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull.  The point I read today is how Ideas for Movies suck at the beginning.

early on, all of our movies suck. That’s a blunt assessment, I know, but I make a point of repeating it often, and I choose that phrasing because saying it in a softer way fails to convey how bad the first versions of our films really are. I’m not trying to be modest or self-effacing by saying this. Pixar films are not good at first, and our job is to make them so— to go, as I say, “from suck to not-suck.” This idea— that all the movies we now think of as brilliant were, at one time, terrible— is a hard concept for many to grasp.

Catmull, Ed; Wallace, Amy (2014-04-08). Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (Kindle Locations 1425-1429). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Today I finally pulled together a short description of a service today and sent it around.  Normally I would be looking for approval.  But, today I said this is my first draft.  It sucks.  I need to fix it.  One of my friends sent great comments.  Sent another response with other ideas.  Those suck too.  OK. Let’s keep moving.  Let’s see if I can come up with another idea that sucks.

This technique reminds me of something I figured out training in Aikido.  Everything gets so much easier if you “Give up your Space.”  So many times you stand firmly in your spot and try to do your technique with your feet planted, trying to make others move around you.  If you “give up your space” let others have your space, then techniques happen with much less effort.  

If you accept your ideas suck, then you can listen to feedback with less effort.  It is hard to listen to feedback if you are firmly planted with your ideas.

Can you see the Impact of Spelling Errors in your Systems? Boston Bomber's Misspelling of Name Allowed him to Slip Past Security

So many of our systems are dependent on data entry.  And thanks to spell checker’s it seems like there are more spelling errors rather than less.  At least you notice them more as the computer makes a mistake.  People make spelling errors all the time.  Big deal.  Well it is a big deal when it allows the Boston Bomber to be free.

Spelling mistake let Boston bomber slip by U.S. intelligence

Misspelling of "Tsarnaev" in a cable reminds us that human error haunts even the fiercest national security state



Spelling mistake let Boston bomber slip by U.S. intelligenceTamerlan Tsarnaev(Credit: AP)

A new congressional report addresses how the Tsarnaev brothers — responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings — were able to evade FBI capture, despite warnings from Russia about the brothers as potentially dangerous.

The truth — somewhat chilling in our age of advanced technocapital and surveillance — is that the bombers were missed because of sheer human error. A spelling mistake let Tamerlan Tsarnaev slip through the intelligence net. As Reuters reports:

In September 2011, the FSB sent a cable to the CIA, restating the warnings of the first memo [about the Chechen's militant links]. NBC News quoted sources close to the congressional investigation as saying a second note about Tsarnaev was entered into the TECS system the next month, but spelled his name “Tsarnayev.”

Bet you so many big data systems are hampered by spelling errors that gets data rejected.  Seems kind of simple to focus on data entry errors, but it is not sexy.

Are you designing around The Fiction of Memory? your memory is fragile

I spend way too much time thinking about how to think.  It as actually something that has a word for it called metacognition.

Metacognition refers to one’s knowledge concerning one's own cognitive processes and products or anything related to them, e.g., the learning-relevant properties of information or data. For example, I am engaging in metacognition if I notice that I am having more trouble learning A than B; [or] if it strikes me that I should double check C before accepting it as fact.

—J. H. Flavell (1976, p. 232).

My wife says it much easier, “there you go thinking about thinking."

Here is something to get you thinking.  Our memory is fragile.


The above is from this Ted Talk by Elizabeth Loftus on The Fiction of Memory.

Why go through all this? Because if you can design systems that account for people’s tendency to not be able to know when they are telling the fiction of their memory, you can see things others can’t.


Steam Controller Video Demo, gets 1 mil views in 24 hrs, Users are ready to decrease use of keyboards

If you are in the business of selling keyboard switches, life is not good.  I used to be program manager for Apple Keyboards so got into all the details of making keyboards, PCB, key switches, printing.  I also worked on mice and trackballs, so data input devices was in my blood long, long ago.

Those who hang on to must have features like a physical keyboard have a lot in common with the loyal Blackberry users who are disappearing fast.

In Gaming there is a debate between the keyboard and mouse users vs. controllers.

Probably the single most-argued argument in all of gaming is the silly, ill-formed rivalry between the console gamepad and the PC mouse and keyboard.

Here is video by Valve Software on the Steam Controller.  This video has over a million views in 24 hours.

Think about some of those things in your data center that may be the old way doing things like typing on a keyboard.

Insight into The Soul of a Machine, read Tracy Kidder's Book on writing Non-fiction

I think most of you have read The Soul of a Machine by Tracy Kidder.  

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award, The Soul of a New Machine was a bestseller on its first publication in 1981. With the touch of an expert thriller writer, Tracy Kidder recounts the feverish efforts of a team of Data General researchers to create a new 32-bit superminicomputer. A compelling account of individual sacrifice and human ingenuity, The Soul of a New Machine endures as the classic chronicle of the computer age and the masterminds behind its technological advances.
"A superb book," said Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. "All the incredible complexity and chaos and exploitation and loneliness and strange, half-mad beauty of this field are honestly and correctly drawn." The Washington Post Book World said, "Kidder has created compelling entertainment. He offers a fast, painless, enjoyable means to an initial understanding of computers, allowing us to understand the complexity of machines we could only marvel at before, and to appreciate the skills of the people who create them."

The Soul of a New Machine won the 1982 non-fiction Pulitzer prize and made Tracy Kidder a star along with many of the people he wrote about.

Tracy Kidder and his editor Richard Todd wrote a book on writing non-fiction, Good Prose.

Good Prose is an inspiring book about writing—about the creation of good prose—and the record of a warm and productive literary friendship. The story begins in 1973, in the offices of The Atlantic Monthly, in Boston, where a young freelance writer named Tracy Kidder came looking for an assignment. Richard Todd was the editor who encouraged him. From that article grew a lifelong association. Before long, Kidder’s The Soul of a New Machine, the first book the two worked on together, had won the Pulitzer Prize. It was a heady moment, but for Kidder and Todd it was only the beginning of an education in the art of nonfiction.

In Chapter 7 of Good Prose, the authors discuss the development of The Soul of a A Machine.

I was a fried of math and science, and consequently I disdained the class of people who were competent with them. The prospect of looking into computers seemed daunting and drab, as drab as the word "engineering." I wish I could claim that I was the sort of daring young reporter who would press forward and let himself be proven wrong. In fact I took Todd's suggestion because just then I couldn't think of anything else to look into.

Three years later I had a book, The Soul of a New Machine.

The word of the book spread through reviews like this.

Then the editors of The New York Times Book Review chose an engineer to review it -- Samual Florman, who had himself written a book called "The Existential Pleasures of Engineering," and was clearly delighted to read something that ran counter to what he felt was an anti engineering bias among the literati, delighted by a book that seemed to make a branch of his profession exciting. And the editors of the Book Review, put Mr. Florman's review on the magazine's cover.

I know many of you will not take the time to read Good Prose, but I did, and it now gives me a new perspective as I read The Soul of a New Machine again. 

Knowing the background of the author will let you see things not evident to others.  Knowing someone's background is different than an obsessed fan who suffers from hero-worship.  I have learned that some of the writers I admire are quite different in person than their writing.  Where I learn some insights to how an author works is when I am in a media briefing and I see what questions other writers ask and how they react to the answers.

BTW, this technique of studying someone's background is what most of you should be doing when you hire anyone to work on your data center. 

I have read Terry Brooks book about writing.


Stephen King's book.


Tracy Kidder's book.


I have left Ernest Hemingways' book.