Friday, 8 October 2010

Friday, 26 February 2010

Socialisation and cognitive dissonance as a way of getting things done.

If you want to get something done then tell people you are going to do it. If you tell enough people a few things will happen:
1) you will become convinced that you are going to do it and will start tyalking about when.
2) People will offer help and advice that move you forward.
3) People will offer objections. This is a big and very useful one. In talking through the objections you will form the plan that you need to execute to go ahead. It will be a mroe robust plan because it has takne the objections into account.
4) you will feel obliged to take the leap because you have told everyone you are going to.

With the weight of obligation on you and a robust plan it is much easier to actually go ahead. Many years ago I was in my first real job and I wanted to go traveling. I told people it was going to happen.

They told me great stories of their travels that helped to enthuse me. They offered advice abtou what to take and what to do whilst traveling. I learned a lot.

They also raised objections. They objected that I couldn't go as I had a mortgage. They opbjected because I had a house that I rented to my friends and so was tied down. They objectedd because I had a job that I would lose. They also objected because I was in debt and had a low income. Talking around all these things and explaining why it was possible I learned a lot more.

Finally they objected because people always say they are going to do stuff but it was bound to always be "one day" so I set a date. The date was months (nearly a year) in the future. As the date got closer they were surprised that it didn't change. I had signed up to that date and I was not about to back down.

When I went I was the best equiped traveller you could meet. I didn't have much money but I had all the things I needed and the benefit of everyone's experience. My single ticket to Venezuela and $300 lasted me nine months.


Monday, 23 June 2008

Mind like water

As I go through life I find strange parallels. I am not in anyway a mystic and view such things with a healthy (in my view) scepticism. It was thus with a little surprise that I found myself using a metaphor I recognised, from old oriental teachings, when I was trying to define how to get things done. I had in my mind a colleague who had a negative outlook and who could find the objections to anything. I was trying to classify the differences between this attitude and my own as I thrive on problems people claim are impossible.

I started by thinking about the fact that I am happy to throw out ideas even if they are a shade ridiculous. Occasionally one of these ideas, when examined closely, will be practical despite being ridiculous. It will approach things from a different angle. Once you have seen how it might work you explore all around it and you either end up with a new approach, or more likely a set of objections. You then look for ways of getting around all of the objections. Sometimes this will kill the idea off and you go back to throwing out ideas, but sometimes you will manage all of the objections, and in the process develop a new view and a new approach that makes the whole thing look obvious.

The analogy I saw was of a vessel to contain water. Let's imagine one of those stone ponds the Japanese supposedly have in their gardens. The pond has great workmanship to make it water tight. The water does not think "this is a watertight pond, let's give up" it just seeps into anywhere it can. Most of the cracks and crevices will not go anywhere, but it fills them anyway. If there is a route through it will try to fill that too, and end up leaking very slowly out through it. The leaking will slowly wear away at the sides and, ever so slowly, widen the path. In the end you will have a hole so large you cannot see how it could ever have been thought of as water tight. This is the process for doing the seemingly impossible.

I thought about this for a while and was struck by the tie up with many philosophies. Then today I was looking at an article about getting things done and noticed it had the phrase "mind like water". On first glance it seemed to be using it quite differently, but looking closer I am not sure that it really is.

He is talking about 'the ready state of the martial artist, poised and stress-free" and goes on to suggest that “Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax,”. If you think about it the water simply relaxes into the shape available and everything else follows. A less relaxed substance like earth would never make it out.

This could all be just coincidence, but I like to think that I am just seeing the same things as others because I am looking at the same sorts of people doing the same things. Human nature is probably much the same regardless of geography and chronology.

Rufus Evison

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Children: a corollary on automation

First time you do something for your child you just do it.
Second time you show them how to do it for themselves.
third time you ask them to do it for you.

Monday, 16 June 2008

When to automate...

The first time you have to do something just do it.
The second time you have to do something think about how to do it with less effort or automatically.
The third time don't do it, automate it and get it done for you.

RufusM Evison

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Privacy Online

I was just working on something completely unrelated when it was forced home upon me how little online privacy there is. I came across a snippet of information in my web analytics that told me that someone who works for Threshers is researching a certain view of someone who works for Marks and Spencers. I will not go into any more detail about this view, just that while I do not know either of the people involved I could possibly have relations with either in a work context. It seems almost frightening that in the course of my work, which is actually potentially related to both of these companies I could see things that neither party thinks has been made public.

I already knew that when you do anything online you leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind you. These allow people to follow you around if they want to do so. So why does it surprise me that these facts come to light? It surprised me because it is a concrete example where before I only had hypothetical examples.

Hypothetically you might be looking for a way to get back at a neighbour and so you might search for "bad things neighbour's-name" and then find a site which talks about your neighbour in a good way. You then leave, but your neighbour’s friend who runs the site sees the search engine term and goes to your neighbour and tells him that this referral occurred. Worse than that you searched from work and your company name was on the request. Your neighbour knows where you work. Now your neighbour can probably guess it was you. Small world online isn't it?

Things can get worse however. The site owner is a curious type and does a Google for the same terms and cannot see his site. He wonders how you came to be there and perseveres a bit. He discovers that for these terms he ranks 153 in the rankings and realises that to get there would involve paging though 16 pages of search results (standard config, it could be less pages if there are more results per page). That shows a certain amount of determination and implies strong feelings on behalf of the searcher. He can also see the snippet Google shows and realise that by this time you were clutching at straws. So now your neighbour knows you hate him with a vengeance (or were just drunk and stupid?). A little innocent web analytics has revealed something quite personal to someone you did not really want to know.

It all sounds pretty unlikely, far fetched and a bit of a stretch. Far fetched though it is, this is the equivalent of what has just happened. Given the snippet I have seen I am not going to take any action based on what I saw, but I could. I am an amiable sort, not given to giving people black looks, but if I were to give someone a look of hatred you can rest assured i would be looking over my shoulder first.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Posts to Post

Given that I seem to be fairly under pressure for time to write this blog and equally that I am beginning to get requests for particular articles I thought it might be appropriate to publish some possibilities. These are a few topics/articles I will be considering writing in the future. If you want anything added or have any feelings on anything on the list let me know. In the unlikely event you cannot figure out how to get in touch with me otherwise then just post a comment. I do enjoy researching real problems so do not feel shy.

DNA Data Base Articles
I will probably write a few more articles about how DNA matching works, how DNA evidence works, how DNA evidence can and should be used why the DNA database can't work. Any queries on particular questions just let me know and I will address them.

Privacy and Data
As I spend most of my life gathering data in the latest ways I feel it is at least partly my responsibility to lead the way around ethics and data management. I am bound to write a few articles on what would and would not seem reasonable with combining and using personal and aggregate data. I may also write something on how such data can and should be obtained and a few ways that data should not be gathered.

Online Branding
Given my experiments in this area and the fact that I seem to have an aptitude for SEO, web analytics and related matters I will probably write a few articles on any of these as and when they seem interesting. For example would anyone be interested in something on SEO for mobile or in how online branding interacts with search online and how this is not the same on mobile.

Media Integration
This is the whole cross platform, cross channel integration issue. Online and Mobile are just digital channels and as such should be treated like any other channels. The problem with this argument is that currently most channels live in silos and are not integrated. They should be tied together so that they can help each other. I have done a fair amount of work in this area, one way and another, so if I can think what people might like to know I shall write about that. If not I shall just rant about why it works and is the way things should be done.

Breast feeding
This one was by request. I have very little in the way of solid results so far. Claims seem to include health intelligence, immunity and almost anything else you can imagine. People often refer to research abut are rarely willing to allow it to be subject to scrutiny. There will be more on this as I get hold of the original research.

Terrorism and Risk
There is so much poor understanding of this that we are willing to take terrible risks to avoid smaller risks. You are five times more likely to be struck by lightening than to be killed by terrorism in the UK. Despite this I receive phone calls from market researchers asking me whether I am worried about travelling because of terrorism. No one asks whether I am worried about travelling because of Lightning. In fact the statistic above is massively inflated. To get it down to only five times as likely I had to select enough years to include the bus bombings. I then had to make sure my sample time did not go any further back or terrorism became to remote a possibility to compare with lightning strike. At some point I will write this and a few similar things down and then wonder whether to laugh or cry.

Gender Stereotyping
Another one I have been asked to look at. I have found a few amusing examples and really ought to write something about this soon.

A subject close to my heart. Whether I will write about problems that exist or ways we might help remains to be seen. I feel too strongly about education to write much on this as I would hate to risk biased reporting.