Trust Building

It’s official, I’ve been fired from my first client. Learn from failure! What went wrong?

Oh, lots of things.

But my working unified theory of The Problem is that I couldn’t build trust with them. I couldn’t form a relationship that proved to them they should trust me, and so every action I took was regarded with suspicion. Every mistake was proof of bad intention, and every success was reframed as a mistake. It was a very bad scene.

They had a big problem with trusting each other. Meetings were ambushes. The developers were blamed for not working fast enough. The tech lead was blamed for problems with the codebase he inherited. No one told the truth and toxicity reigned. It was a very very bad scene.

What should I have done? Was there a way to save it? Ask me next week, once the sting of it has dulled a little. In the meantime, I’ll share a little game theory that uses the (flawed) prisoner’s dilemma to show the best strategy for developing trust, and why modern society is getting worse at it.

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I can’t freaking wait for driverless cars

They’re safer. They’ll kill fewer cyclists. They’re more energy efficient. They reduce the need for parking space. I, for one, cannot wait for our self-driving overlords. And it turns out they’ll be pretty good for the trucking business too–

Driverless trucks are coming. In the near future, they will still need drivers, and they may dramatically improve their job:

Besides being able to nap and relax in the cab while Otto does the driving, says Berdinis, drivers could use the time away from the wheel to catch up on trucking’s heavy paperwork, locate a “backhaul” load that would pay for the return trip, chat with family and friends, learn a second trade, or run a business. “And while they’re doing it, the drivers are still getting paid for driving,” he says.

This is not all good news, though. Once the country gets comfortable with the idea, there will probably be a swift and traumatizing death of the trucking profession. And so my excitement for the safer world we’ll live in day to day on the road must be tempered. Every massive leap in technology means a lot of personal anguish as yet another class of job disappears. So I can’t freaking wait, but many people very much can.


Pesky Human Optimism

Today I’m going to be talking about Agile Story Estimates. Please don’t go.


However, this post assumes you know a little about how agile software development is done, with user stories and story estimates. As long as you know the definition of those words, you’ll be good.


So here’s the brief thought. In Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, he describes two characters that play a role in everyone’s mind, System One and System Two. He spends many chapters distinguishing their roles, strengths, and failures. System One is the super active under-conscious that inhales tons of data and organises it based on highly optimized heuristic methods. You don’t even notice it working. It makes judgements and assumptions so quickly you don’t feel it, and it’s easy to ignore its influence on your analysis of the world.

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I Decide What’s Funny

I’ve been called a humor snob. Mostly because I’m very judgemental, and am not very nice.

Let’s start again. I always like the killjoy art of analyzing humor. I take improv classes, where the teacher often spends a lot of time describing their humor principles. Then you usually spend the rest of the class period watching your classmates ineptly interpret those principles, until you get the chance to head up on stage and do an even worse job. That gives you a lot of time to think about what you’re getting wrong.

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Our Passwords, Ourselves

Here’s a beautiful article about how passwords are ‘crypto haikus,’ or little poetic keepsakes that we keep to ourselves. Though making our passwords memorable and personal makes us the weak link in digital security, it is also a human thing to do. Comfort yourself–make your password what you want to be reminded of many times a day.

The world is incredible: Honey Bees Edition

Watch this video:

SPOILER ALERT the bees kill the wasps. Not only that, but they all signal to each other with a thorax waggle (what??) to swarm around the spy wasp (they’re bees?? How do they know to do this???) and vibrate so furiously that the swarm cooks the wasp but not the bees. It’s an evolutionary edge that is laughably slim. They can survive temperatures three degrees hotter than the wasp. The wasp dies, the bees live, and the hive survives.

This does not jibe with my understanding of evolution. Evolution does not work though detective work, where a species analyzes its strengths agains its foe, then strategizes how to take advantage of it. I have NO IDEA how a hive of bees could figure out that this is how they can kill wasps, that they have a secret edge, and don’t get me started how some bees could teach their sisters that a thorax waggle means ‘swarm and cook that big thing over there.’

I was so flummoxed I told everyone I knew about this issue. Hang out with me if you want to learn about bugs. And Sam Hotop (QA wunderkind) shed some light. “Maybe all bugs cook at the same temperature?”

Ah! What if, many many years ago,these Japanese bees somehow learned to cook wasps, vibrating their little hearts out, and also cooked themselves? Bees are more related to each other than we are to our siblings (citation: The Selfish Gene) and are that much more willing to die to protect each other. Wasp dies, some bees die, and the hive survives. Then, after millennia, hives that have bees that survive at a little higher temperature have a little better survival edge. The success of the cooking method selects for bees that have a higher boiling point.

Still doesn’t make any sense how they figured out the cooking in the first place, but I’m satisfied. Bee wearing contest. China.

The Things I Know

I am a fact motivated person. Maybe fact isn’t the right word–I naturally connect trivia to other trivia. I compulsively share them. I’m trying to connect with people like someone might talk about sports, or new diets, or astrology.

If I am having a conversation, there’s often a flare up of something I’m reminded of. It could be a metaphor or a scientific principle, or a story I heard on a podcast. I call it ‘bus stopping.’ My thoughts are a bus on a big, dark metropolitan bus network, that when I’m talking, will suddenly light up and the bus will stop at 30 bus stops at once. I can’t help myself from talking about the bus stops as they come up.

I’ve come to accept bus stopping in myself, and understand it’s not for everyone. Those people who don’t like it should run from a conversation with me because I can’t stop it. My loving family has a cruel impression of me, pointer finger up, droning about the beauty of mathematics. You know you’re something if there’s a caricature of you.

But I like these bus stops, and like describing them. I also have recently learned about meta-knowledge from “On Being Certain” by Robert A Burton (bus stop!), or how we know that we know something, what is that feeling like. These facts and trivia are lying dormant in my mind, until someone triggers the bus network, and I remember all that I know.

I’ve started to list some of these bus stops in my notes. and will start to write little blurbs about them. Map out the bus network.

The Worst Portfolio Ever

Is here. Embarrassing how much my portfolio looks like that–a lot of people pointing at sticky notes. How does a business analyst come off as unpretentious, and less ‘theoretically valuable’? I think that old portfolio needs a redo.



Collaborative Art Project: the Butterfly Effect

The name is sort of low-hanging fruit, no?

I was asked to run an art project for my company’s corporate retreat (read: debauched psycho reunion, very fun). The idea was that it could be collaboratively done by a steady stream of distractible people, some who would like to contribute but not be tied down in case the bar opened.

I searched around for such a project and found a good one for “older primary children.” That roughly equals drunk adults. It’s worth it to mentioning the beautiful art it’s based on, Will and Caro.

But we needed a test first. So my roommate and I did some planning and dragged our idea to the park.

Alice struggles

Above, Alice struggled with the supplies, and we set up the instructions for passersby. We were testing how hands off we could be.


The children help out

Mostly parents with children came by, as they were glad for the distraction. Everyone else thought we wanted money so avoided us at all cost. It became clear very quickly that people needed a lot of origami help, and then could place the butterflies on their own.

There wasn’t enough time to finish the test, but it was everything I needed to know. I was ready to do my favorite thing–painting huge canvases in a hotel room.


It worked! Everyone who participated felt like they had done something significant, even if they only made one butterfly. And now it’s hanging up in Atlanta, looking fresh.

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