January 18, 2014

Jared Spool: Delightful Content Means Business

On Thursday I attended a talk by Jared Spool, who is a leader in the study of usability. Below are a few notes from his talk that I thought might be good to share. Since I've paraphrased and condensed what he mentioned I've possibly misrepresented some nuance but hope I captured the essence.

Content is what users want right now. A key example was a commerce site where searching for "return policy" returned no results. The owners didn't think of the return policy as content but from a user's perspective that was what they wanted and it led to a lost sale.

Continue reading "Jared Spool: Delightful Content Means Business" »

Tags: usability

September 30, 2012

Current Quotes

At home above my monitor on the wall is a cork board. Sprinkled between gift certificates, pins, and other random memorabilia are quotes that I've been trying to internalize and follow. They are in no particular order:

A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.
- Anthony Trollope
There are no limits. There are plateaus, and you must not stay there; you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you.
- Bruce Lee
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
- Henry David Thoreau
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
- Dr. Seuss
Don't ignore your dreams; don't work too much; say what you think; cultivate friendships; be happy.
- Paul Graham

Tags: life quotes

April 17, 2011


A brief introduction to Simon Sinek's "Golden Circle" is available at:

The full talk is available at:

The general idea is working from the outside-in, answer the questions:
What we do?
How we do it?
Why we do it?

"What" being part of the neocortex while "How" and "Why" are in the limbic system. With "Why we do it" being the most important. Not a focus on "to make money" but more about purpose, cause, belief. Profit is a side effect of focusing on the why. Around 15:45 into the TED talk he gives the great example of Martin Luther King. "He didn't go around telling people what needed to change in America. He went around and told people what he believed." He closes with "those who lead inspire us."

February 5, 2010

One Thing At A Time

Anonymous asked: How do you maintain focus (on work, dreams, goals, life)?

You do one thing at a time.

-- Frank Chimero

I've been casting my net wide these past fews months and so far haven't found that one thing yet, but I know when I do it will ring true like is has in the past.

Tags: life quotes

October 24, 2009

Tell Your Story, Ask a Sincere Question, Interpret Generously

Below is an excerpt talking about devolving online discourse from Diana Larsen, chair of the Agile Alliance board of directors, which was included in the Agile Alliance October Newsletter. Sound advice for any discussion, not just technical ones:

Continue reading "Tell Your Story, Ask a Sincere Question, Interpret Generously" »

Tags: discussions online quote

June 23, 2009


I have a random note on my desk that I think came from a discussion at the Museum of Science Book Club for the Curious. I unfortunately didn't write down who said it but still find the thought intriguing enough to capture it here.

Is our ability to create complexity increasing faster than our ability to understand complexity?

Tags: quote

November 1, 2008

Randy Pausch Quotes

Many months ago I watched Randy Pausch's last lecture. Below are some of the quotes from the talk that I took away and just found under a pile of other stuff on my desk. Some of these he credits to other people, see the transcript for details.

Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals.
When you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up.
Have something to bring to the table, right, because that will make you more welcome.
Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
Brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.
I think that that’s one of the best things you can give somebody – the chance to show them what it feels like to make other people get excited and happy.
Get a feedback loop and listen to it.

Tags: life quotes

December 9, 2007

The Paradox of Choice

This afternoon I watched a Google TechTalks entitled The Paradox of Choice - Why More Is Less given by Barry Schwartz on April 27, 2006. The talk does a wonderful job of summarizing the current state of choice and why in most cases it is making us feel worse. Some of the themes echoed what I read in The High Price of Materialism. Below are notes I took to summarize the key points.

Continue reading "The Paradox of Choice" »

Tags: choice time

November 30, 2007


From a recent article in the NYTimes about the new Facebook Beacon program:

“Isn’t this community getting a little hypocritical?” said Chad Stoller, director of emerging platforms at Organic, a digital advertising agency. “Now, all of a sudden, they don’t want to share something?”

This guy is completely missing the point. There is a big difference between explicitly sharing information, which is what Facebook user's have been doing up to this point, versus the implicit sharing that the Beacon system is doing. I'm not a Facebook member so I can't comment on the opt-in or opt-out features the system which would make it more explicit and only slightly less disturbing. is running a petition that I encourage you to sign.

Tags: facebook moveon

June 4, 2007

Marriage in America

The May 26, 2007 edition of "The Economist" had an article about Marriage in America. It is a great read if you care to see the rest of it. A couple of statistics that caught my eye:

  • 29% of college-educated women got divorced within 10 years when married between 1975-1979, but only 16.5% when married between 1990-1994.
  • 38% of high-school dropouts got divorced within 10 years when married between 1975-1979, but 46% when married between 1990-1994.
  • 92% of children whose families make $75,000 or more live with both parents, while only 20% of children whose families make less than $15,000 do.
  • Two-thirds of children born to co-habiting parents who later marry will see their parents split-up by the time they are ten.

Combine this with a negative savings rate, possible housing bubble, and things start to not look too good.

Tags: marriage

February 24, 2007


The March issue of Details had a couple of tidbits I thought were worth mentioning:

4 percent of the world's population carry the gene for red hair. 2100 is the year natural redheads may become extinct, according to the Oxford Hair Foundation.

I knew redheads weren't that common but I didn't know is was that uncommon. While the extinction piece is an odd prediction, the fact that a group of people is tracking and speculating on it is the more intriguing part to me.

Tags: life

May 29, 2006

The Ceaseless Society

Today I listened to a webcast of a program that was held at MIT awhile ago called The Ceaseless Society. The primary speaker was Jon Kabat Zinn who spoke on a wide range of topics around the state of society today. Some of the points that stuck in my mind included:

  • Being in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction
  • Continually living for the future causes us to miss our current life
  • Digital revolution changed the relationship to work
  • Connected with the world has led to being disconnected with ourselves
  • Not stepping back and asking why are we doing this
  • Buddhism is not about duality
  • What is meditation? It's about mindfulness: paying attention, in the moment, non judgmentally

He has a book out called Coming to Our Senses which explores these and many more topics in detail. I'm going to add it to my to read list as I found his way of approaching the topic spot on.

Tags: books ceaselesssociety mit tac

April 27, 2006


This morning I attended the next lecture in the ongoing NU Innovations Series. The talk was entitled "Trimming the Fat: Legal Strategies and Public Health Policies for Fighting the Obesity Epidemic" given by Richard A. Daynard. One of the most striking statistics from the presentation was that a recent CDC study showed that out of children born in the US in 2000, over 1/3 will develop diabetes. 33% of all children developing diabetes to me is a staggering amount, especially if you consider that 30 years ago only about 5% of the population had diabetes.

The New York Times ran a recent series of articles about diabetes and having it just causes so many problems, I'm really beginning to think that it will be the next major heal epidemic that hits the US. Part of the problem is that the effects can be lat onset and it isn't nearly as obvious or linked as high to health issues as smoking is. The fact that we have genetics (store food, fat is good, sweet is awesome), cultural, and environmental factors among others all influencing obesity doesn't help.

One of the ideas proposed is to place a tax on high calorie low nutrient dense food as a way of subsidizing the downstream medical costs of eating such food. In the current environment with the lobbyists and the general capitalistic attitude in America, that sounds like a pipe dream. Unfortunately, like most situations it is going to take a crisis before things really do change. Hopefully we haven't reached a point of no return when that realization finally hits.

Tags: lecture nu obesity

April 4, 2006

Grand Mufti of Bosnia

Tonight I attended a lecture by the Grand Mufti of Bosnia one Dr. Mustafa Ef. Ceric. His talk was on "European Muslim Identity in the New Millennium". The focus was a doctrine he has laid out to help unite Muslims and Europe. While I can't find a link to the core of his talk, it is one he has laid out before and I would not do it justice trying to summarize it here. Instead I'm inclined to mention some of the other nuggets of wisdom he imparted. These are all paraphrases of what he mentioned:

David Irving is an example of a new president where denial of a crime maybe a crime in itself.

Religion is about community and organization. Morality is about good and evil. Faith is a personal matter.

One of many jokes he interjected: Politicians can't tell the truth. Preachers can't tell a lie. Journalists can't tell the difference.

Islam has many faces: political, cultural, spiritual/religious, economic, and a new one terrorist. The problem well known faces are not attached to each.

Need to find a balance of dialog that needs to take place to help integration. Focus on politics is too powerful, focus on theology is too precious, and a focus on war is to costly.

Tolerance is a sign of strength, intolerance is a sign of weakness.

Tags: lecture religion tac

April 2, 2006

Simple Idea

The March 25th Economist reports about a recent study in which "text-messaging reminders reduces the number of missed appointments with family doctors by 26-39%, for example, and the number of missed hospital appointments by 33-50%." [85] While the article doesn't go into the costs associated with implementing and maintaining such a system, it does estimate the projected savings at 256m-364m pounds. Such a simple idea that has tangible benefits.

Tags: economist quote

March 29, 2006

How to Really Scare Microsoft

Back in November of 2005 I attended a talk by Marcus Ranum entitled "How to Really Scare Microsoft". The slides from his talk are available online. He talked about a variety of topics which is why my notes from the talk are all over the place. And these notes reflect a fairly unfocused note taker too.

It isn't so much about how to really scare Microsoft, but it should be how to kill system administration?
Startups are all about vision.
Is tenable network security something that can be achieved? Right now we have firewalls, VPNs, and IDS, but there are still problems.
Microsoft is no longer a good custodian of the industry. It is still a young industry, but with many failures: Cray, Digital, Data General, and Wang.
Someone should start a dead pool on Microsoft and Sun.
The reality is that business aren't switching from expensive and mediocre to free and good.
Linux is "trying" to match Windows. Ranum likes regedit more than termcap.
"Avoid strength, attack weakness" -- Art of war
Linux should be attacking integration, new features, software distribution, 3rd party software is bane of system administrators.
IBM backend server market.

Continue reading "How to Really Scare Microsoft" »

March 27, 2006

ACLU Emergency Town Meeting

Tonight's ACLU emergency town meeting was focused on restoring the rule of law. It addressed the current issues of domestic spying, torture, rendition, and secret prisons. The speakers included Congressman Michael Capuano, Prof. Mary Culnan, John Roberts, and Nancy Murray. The presentation started off with a bunch of technical difficulties as they couldn't get the speaker's microphones properly amplified. As a result there was a video which they were not able to show.

After some opening remarks by Nancy Murray they discussed 6 mythes the Bush administration is using the justify the illegal actions going on today. The full answers can be found at myths.pdf, below are notes about responses given during the meeting:

Continue reading "ACLU Emergency Town Meeting" »

March 25, 2006


Just under a year ago on April 21, 2005 I attended a talk by R. Scott Appleby about "The Rise of Fundamentalism in the 20th Century". I recently ran across my notes from that talk and figured it was about time that I wrote them up. Since the talk isn't fresh in my head, my notes don't flow as well as I would like, but I think I've still managed to capture many of the core points.

Looking at the history, Martin Marty was one of the first to examine fundamentalism in religion. 1962-63 some see as the breakdown of America due to Roe vs. Wade.1987 was the introduction of creationism into text books. 1986-8 there was a general animus against religion. This spawned a reasoning about religion. Middle management and engineers are the primary people found in fundamentalism. Why: fact, oriented (not theory), rules/laws, literal agent of change, and repository of means to enhance.

Continue reading "Fundamentalism" »

March 24, 2006

The Bottom Line

I ran across this old clipping from July 2002 that talked about The 10 Most Expensive U.S. Cities to Live in:

1. New York
2. Boston
3. Juneau, Alaska
4. Anchorage, Alaska
5. San Diego
6. Philadelphia
7. Los Angeles
8. Fairbanks, Alaska
9. Ann Arbor, Michigan
10. Seattle

This was based on data from the American Chamber of Commerce Researchers Association.

March 23, 2006

Calendar Quotes

I ran across a bunch of old page-a-day calendar entries I saved. I'm not sure what year they are from, I suppose I could figure that out based on the day of the week, but that's not as interesting as the quotes :)

Jan 23: Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha; What the letters "YKK", found on the pull tabs of many zippers, stand for. It is Japanese for "Yoshida Industries Limited", the world's largest manufacturer of zippers.

Mar 6: Ida Fuller (1874-1975); Retired legal secretary from Vermont who received the first Social Security check in 1940. She had invested about $22 in the program, and received over $20,000 in benefits over the following 35 years.

Mar 7: X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System; Original name of the computer mouse.

Apr 26: Michigan J. Frog; Cartoon mascot of the WB Network. He first appeared (unnamed) in the 1955 Warner Bros. cartoon "One Froggy Evening."

May 9: Snoopy's brothers and sisters; As seen in the comic strip Peanuts. Brothers: Andy, Marbles, Rover, Olaf, Spike. Sisters: Belle, Molly.

March 22, 2006


Last Thursday I attended a panel discussion at MIT entitled "LISTENING TO DEPRESSION: An Interdisciplinary Look at a Mental Health Crisis". The panel was followed by hour long one-on-one conversations with one of the speakers. Each had their own room so you could pick which speaker you wanted to hear more from. I unfortunately booked myself for another event that night, so I only heard the panel presentations.

I forgot the notepad I usually take to such events and instead ended up scribbling notes into my Palm T2. I still don't like that format as much for capturing thoughts (I skipped trying to use graffiti and just scribbled in notepad). It doesn't have as much room and despite my best attempts the handwriting always comes out worse. As a result I don't have that many notes (along with the fact that I had deleted entries from my Palm after typing them up last night, which I managed to lose):

Continue reading "Depression" »

March 12, 2006


While this quote comes from the recent Economist survey of wealth and philanthropy from the February 25th, 2006 issue, its applicability to software measurement can't be stressed enough:

"The risk with any metric is that people will come to see it as a description of reality, rather than a tool for a conversation about reality, says Rowena Young of the Skoll Foundation. "One metric or another can function well only when managers know why they are measuring and for whom... In the world of social value-creation, context is king." [11]

Too often software quality metrics seem to be put in place just for the sake of having metrics instead of using them in a beneficial way. As a result people game the system and work towards the metric instead of focusing on quality. If as noted people instead used metrics as a stepping stone to talk about the state of a project and only used metrics that had a clear benefit in such discussions, I think a lot of wasted effort could be eliminated.

February 27, 2006

Modern Marriage

Some facts from the January/February 2006 issue of Details p120:

  • Married men earn between 10 and 40 percent more than single men with similar education and job histories.
  • 73 percent of married men say that their sex life is better since getting married.
  • Between 13 and 20 percent of married women outearn their husbands.
  • 1 in 3 men take off their wedding rings when they go out without their wives.
  • According to a 1990 report in the "Journal of Marriage and the Family", unmarried men are five times more likely to die in any given year than married men at any age.
  • 80 percent of cheating men get caught.
  • A study done at Queen Mary's College of The University of London found that cohabiting is best for men's mental health, but marriage is best for women's.
  • According to a french study, being freshly divorced or newly separated boots the risk of a road accident by 400 percent.
  • Only 26 percent of american households consist of what most people think of as a traditional family - a married couple and their children.

Wow, I knew single men weren't as lucky, but that's a little scary (5 times)!

January 29, 2006

Look Now, Pay Later

I recently ranted about television, with the argument that it's not the medium but the message. Today I saw Good Night, and Good Luck, which reminded me of that rant. The film is bookended with a speech Edward R. Murrow made to the Radio-Television News Directors Association in 1958. I highly recommend reading the entire speech. He was a great orator. A lost art in today's world of sound bites.

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.

October 21, 2005

WKRP in Cincinnati

Guess I'll stop waiting to watch those old episodes:

From a IANAL comment on music licensing.

Music licensing is a big part of why WKRP in Cincinnati isn't being released on video tape or DVD. Many other shows have much music replaced with different music than used in the broadcast version but WKRP just has too much music. Crazy world but that's the way it works.

February 18, 2005


"But, as I've said before, a lot of your life is shaped by the opportunities you turn down as much as those you take up." Bill Clinton "My Life" p211.

January 4, 2005


Upon rising:

As soon as you awake, in order lay
the actions to be done the coming day.

Before bed:

Allow not sleep to close your eyes
Before three times reflecting on
Your actions of the day. What deeds
Done well, what not, what left undone?