Technology and Analysis

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.

from http://energio.tumblr.com/post/7492428427

Pesky Human Optimism

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

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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.

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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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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 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.

 

 

You’re Being Irrational: Becoming a Better Designer (Part 1)

At my company’s annual retreat, I presented a talk about rationality in design. There’s nothing I like more than being allowed to natter endlessly about rationality, and people seemed to even like it! I’m posting the transcript in parts, as it was long.

I spoke with my talented colleague and all around best bud Doug Stuart who had to skype in as he’s in freaking Glasgow. The slides are his.

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Here’s what we’re trying to do as designers and BAs:

  • Find the best solution
  • Solve problems
  • Maintain relationships (with each other and with client)
  • Make an excellent product by doing science
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But sometimes we really screw it up

  • we alienate the client
  • we over design and solve problems that don’t need solving
  • we think our designs are wonderful and are miffed when someone doesn’t like them
  • we fight with each other

Why do we do that? We use research, we’re smart, why do we sometimes fail?

I think it’s because we don’t really do science and we don’t get to our conclusions rationally.

WHAT?” the straw man says.  “I’m super rational!”

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No you’re not, buddy. In fact, claiming you’re a super rational person is a leading indicator (no citation, just observed by me) of someone who is not rational, just smart. And that can be very dangerous for you!

We are all familiar with biases in other people but have a difficult time observing biases in ourselves. But of course we all have them. So we live with these biases and aren’t always aware of them.

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Being intelligent but not carefully rational can make your biases worse! You’ve probably heard of confirmation bias, or favoring information that supports your side. You could also fall prey to the following effects:

  • Prior attitude effect. Subjects who feel strongly about an issue—even when encouraged to be objective—will evaluate supportive arguments more favorably than contrary arguments.
  • Attitude polarization. Exposing subjects to an apparently balanced set of pro and con arguments will exaggerate their initial polarization.
  • Attitude strength effect. Subjects voicing stronger attitudes will be more prone to confirmation and disconfirmation biases.
  • And the bias that’s probably most dangerous to ThoughtWorkers: Sophistication effect. Knowledgeable subjects, because they possess greater ammunition with which to counter-argue incongruent facts and arguments, will be more prone to the above biases.

If you’re intelligent, but biased at the start, having more knowledge can hurt you! You’ll only gain more ammunition with which to argue a biased point. Your irrationality will deepen, and you will be more and more sure that you are right.

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Even scientists are prone to this. The group of people among us that are the most driven by truth can be blinded by their biases. For example, there is the famous story of the researchers who discovered ulcers. The common knowledge in medicine at the time was that stress caused ulcers. Scientists and doctors alike believed this to be true, and were attached to that belief.

Researchers Barry Marshall and Robin Warren found that it was actually a bacteria that caused ulcers, and not stress. They were laughed out of conferences, rejected from journals, and generally ridiculed for their experimental discovery. For a decade, they couldn’t convince anyone. Finally, in the 80s, they both swallowed the bacteria themselves and showed that ulcers developed in their own guts. Finally, the scientific community believed them, and they were awarded the Nobel Prize. People are attached to their beliefs in ways they can’t always detect. http://discovermagazine.com/2010/mar/07-dr-drank-broth-gave-ulcer-solved-medical-mystery

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What is rationality anyway?

  • Rationality is the method of reasoning that is based off a strict principle of scientific experimentation.
  • We acknowledge that Truth exists and that we can learn about it by studying the world and surpressing our emotional attachment to how we want the world to work.
  • If you are interested in rationality, you must be always examining and refining your lens that you use to understand the world.
  • We call that lens the Model–we want our Model of the truth to match reality. We use our Model to evaluate new information as true or not. It is therefore very important for your model to be correct.
  • If your Model and someone’s report of reality don’t match, either your model is wrong or they are lying.
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In this specific talk, we’ll be talking about the mistakes of thinking and decision making you can make if you’re not careful, and how to avoid those mistakes to make better decisions.