Managing Geeks

Dec 23 2009

There’s a socially frightening act inside of optimization that normal humans don’t get and it’s the calming inanity of intense repetition.

via Rands In Repose: Gaming the System.

This is only one of many nice zingers/insights in this post on how “normal humans” can manage geeks more successfully if they understand what geeks want, which is to master a game:

  • Discovery
  • Optimization, Repetition, and Win
  • Achievement

As someone who once spent four lovely hours Photoshopping the dust specks off a scanned image of some peaches one by one, without benefit of drugs, I can relate to the micro-joy of a task done over and over and over, whether it’s killing aliens, zapping bugs, optimizing code, or scrubbing data.  There are days I yearn to alphabetize.

But in working with my own team of geeks, I realize that I often break one of their cardinal rules: “Ambiguity, contradiction and omission are the death of any good game.”

This is my training as a poet coming out.  In a way, poems are a lot like code, all about internal order, precision, economy, and elegance.  But to spell everything out or put everything in is the death of a poem.  I have to remember that my geeks are not my readers: for them, ambiguity and contradiction is not where meaning gets created, it’s where it gets lost.

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On Tigers

Dec 07 2009

Pamela Slim says that everyone has an ‘inner tiger,’  a ‘strong, creative spirit that wants to jump, dance, learn, and grow.’  Your life as directed by Ang Lee.

But tigers are smelly, ill-mannered, and generally inappropriate, so we put up the bars and pull the choke-chains, and pretty soon we end up like those poor white tigers of Chongqing Wild Animal Park, afraid of the chickens we are supposed to eat.

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On Work

Nov 28 2009

We are all forces of nature: coyote, whitetail, white ash, hunter, farmer. Different traditions, different niches, different powers and weaknesses, all in tentative shifting balance on one small spot on a planet where most everywhere else humans have the upper hand.

It won’t be the coyotes, deer or trees that will destroy our houses, though, if we don’t look after them. It will be the snow and wind and rain.

That’s the real force of nature around here that we all must contend with. I don’t say do battle, because I don’t like the analogy much. I don’t fight it. It’s not a war.

I just get up in the morning and scratch my head and go out to my shop and get some tools and do some carpentry, some painting, some firewood cutting.

It’s just a job of work. Ho hum. Eight hours and then a nap, and admire what you did the next day. I am glad that I have a vocation that has a beginning, a middle and an end, and for which there is something to see when you are done.

And nothing to spin. Either done well or not. Or not done at all.

—Mick Wormersley, A Great Farm Diary: Womerlippi Homestead Annals

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All I Want To Be

Oct 02 2009

Great ambition:


think-make-think by Clifton Burt based on a haiku by John Maeda.  Via 20×200.

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Zen and the Art of Wii

Oct 02 2009

It must have been about a year after we started developing Wii. After speaking with Nintendo’s development partners, I became keenly aware of the fact that there is no end to the desire of those who just want more. Give them one, they ask for two. Give them two, and next time they will ask for five instead of three. Then they want ten, thirty, a hundred, their desire growing exponentially. Giving in to this will lead us nowhere in the end. I started to feel unsure about following that path about a year into development.

Part 1 at Nintendo :: Wii :: What Is Wii? :: Iwata Asks :: Volume 1.

From an interview Nintendo President Satoru Iwata conducted with Wii product team leads. Genyo Takeda, General Manager Integrated Research and Development Division, speaks of the decision to deviate from the existing Roadmaps of “faster and flashier” in lieu of using new technology in unprecendented ways.

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Paul Newman on Aging

Oct 02 2009

“I’m not mellower, I’m not less angry, I’m not less self-critical, I’m not less tenacious,” he said. “Maybe the best part is that your liver cant handle those beers at noon anymore,” he said.

Paul Newman Dies at 83 – Obituary Obit –

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On Working Hard

Sep 26 2009

Sage advice from Caterina Fake, who, as a co-founder of both Flickr and Hunch, is no slouch in the work department:

Much more important than working hard is knowing how to find the right thing to work on. Paying attention to what is going on in the world. Seeing patterns. Seeing things as they are rather than how you want them to be. Being able to read what people want. Putting yourself in the right place where information is flowing freely and interesting new juxtapositions can be seen.

—Caterina Fake

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this life

Sep 19 2009

As my mother once told me, “Life is short, but it’s wide.”


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‘to be refilled’

Sep 19 2009

sometimes we need to be refilled

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Sep 19 2009


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