Welcome to queirozf.com
extracted from a conversation I was having on an Internet forum
If I didn't agree to [capitalism] in principle, I'd agree to it because of its practical effects: the easiest way to rise up in a free market society is to be productive and produce value for others, who will pay you very well if you can create value for them.
In addition, if you can come up with novel ways to do so more effectively than everyone else, you will make even more money, because other people will be paying less to have access to the particular good/service you provide. Therefore, a system is in place where what's individually best for each one (if one's interested in living a life with access to more services and goods) is to be useful for others, and everyone profits.
This is just beautiful if you ask me, and this is what's been responsible for the whole world today (even the poorest) having better living standards than a noble Englishman in the 17th century. Now that guy was a 1% if there ever was one! He would have better living standards if he were on the lowest 1% in England today!
The whole world got richer and nobody got poorer. Wealth was created. It didn't get redistributed. It got created. Thanks to the 1% geniuses and very productive people who do the breakthroughs in science and manufacturing.
The idea that there's a fixed amount of wealth in the world is the most easy-to-fall-for idea in the history of mankind.
We, the 99%'ers (yes, I'm nowhere near the top 1%, or even the top 10% actually, in the country where I live), think we are at a loss but, were it not for the 1%ers of the world, the very richest among us would still be dying in their 30es due to diseases nobody has found the cure for or paying a days' worth of work for a plateful of food, because nobody had figured out very efficient ways to produce food that make it so cheap.
Mind you, that engineer only worked so hard to discover new ways to produce food in order to make a larger profit for himself. He would be among those who are filthy rich today and get insulted for being a 1%er.
Thank god (for lack of a better term) for selfishness and individuality because it has enabled people to hack their minds at the deepest possible levels to discover stuff that has made life easier for me, a mere 99%er (what's worse, a 99%er in a third-world country!).
Someone else's selfishness is the reason you and I have a computer in front of us right now and we can afford to write stuff in an internet forum in their leisure time and still be able to afford food, clothes, cars and whatnot.
Now why would you want to do that?
See, design is mostly about using many elements to inform users and try to convey information with it. Normally, there's a tradeoff between content and form: since I deal mostly with web applications, I tend to tip that balance towards content, but try and do that in an elegant way so as not to render the overall ugly or too confusing, and so on.
One method I think could be a good way to convey more information in (web application/website) design is by informing the users what they can't do right now. It is a way to bring real-world constraints into your design and give more hints about what can be accomplished with that interface.
For example, suppose you have an application with a side bar that serves as a menu. In most (if not all) cases you'll need to run some code before rendering the menu so as to provide points of flexibility for different user types, different actions being available at a time.
For instance, you may have a use case where users can perform action A and action B, but they must do action A before action B, in other words they can't perform action B if they haven't performed action A first.
So you want to make a menu for an app that enables users to carry out action A and action B, and you will want to bring that constraint (no B before A) into your design. So you might have code like this:
if user has performed action A
show menu item for action B only
show menu item for action A only
This would work, and would give you a menu like this when the user hasn't yet carried out action A:
And one like this after a user has performed action A:
Now there's nothing wrong with that. Wouldn't probably deserve the best design of the year award but it does the job. I, however, think that you could put some more information on it. Now compare that with this:
You've effectively informed your user that both actions are available for him, but action B is momentarily unavailable. And, since the unavailable option is sort of grayed out, it doesn't make so much 'noise' on the screen. This is an effective technique to user for a variety of reasons:
introducing new functionality;
enforcing real-life constraints in your design (thereby reducing the need for a 'help' section(which nobody reads anyway));
conducting the user gently through a step by step process, in case you need one;
giving some background information about the system and what it can accomplish (if users just saw 'action A' like in the first example, they could think that your app doesn't support 'action B' at all, and could maybe leave it right then and there.)
P.S.: You could even add some tooltips to the controls, explaining further why they're not available at the time.
Well, I'm about to prove that you do it too. Behave unfairly and selfishly, that is. And there's nothing wrong with it.
Look at your feet. Have you got shoes on? If not, then look at your drawer or wherever you keep your shoes.
Did you buy them because you thought they had a good benefit-cost ratio, because you liked the way they look, because it's what's trendy these days, because they were comfortable (i.e. selfish reasons) or because you thought it was the fairest thing to do?
Well, if you think people should act fairly and not put their own interests first, then you should probably have bought the ugliest, less durable, less comfortable and priciest shoes in the whole shop.
That's because those shoes might have been made by poor people who just aren't good at making shoes. Poor them. Maybe they hail from a poor, faraway country and the cost to ship it here has made the price twice what the others are. It would be fair to buy those shoes because then people who really need the money would get it, no? Now that would probably be what's worst for you, for that would make you spend more money and have a sore foot and whatnot. But then you would really be behaving very fairly and altruistically.
Better yet, if you really wanted to help people in need, you would probably want to go 100% barefoot and donate all the money away to an NGO of sorts. Now that would be altruistic. Be willing to deny your needs like that just for the benefit of others.
But of course you won't do it. You will just do whatever it is that's best for you in your private sphere and when nobody's looking but, when you are in public and/or with your leftist friends you'll say that it's so unfair to dismiss people because they aren't making profit for a company; or that it's unfair there exists a big income inequality in most countries. Or that it's not fair that some people live comfortably while others live in a slum.
When you catch yourself saying that, remember this and think whether you're really willing to do what it takes to be altruistic (not just to talk the talk but also walk the walk) and, when you conclude that it's not humanly possible to do it other than turning into a non-person and living your life for the others entirely, you might live better with your selfishness, and maybe even come to value it.
Guess what: it's not wrong to be like that. It's not wrong to be selfish. It's the natural thing to do. It's what all other species in nature do. It's just how we, humans, are. Why can't we be honest about it? Nature has made us like that. The universe has made us like that. Why fight it rather than accept and cherish it?
To enhance your productivity, you need to look into yourself and study yourself and see what sometimes keeps you from doing productive work.
In my particular case, I noticed that there are times my mind produces a lot of ideas but I couldn't really do anything useful with my mind in this state (apart from having ideas obviously).
I also noted that many ideas I have at these times are easily forgotten after this. I started writing the ideas down so I would not forget them.
What really happened is that (apart from the obvious benefit of storing ideas and not losing them) there were other times when I was calmer and with less creative energy on me and didn't want to do a lot of thinking, a lot of creating. By having the ideas I had had previously lying around me (in the form of little pieces of paper I use to take note of the ideas I have), one day I just took one of them and started acting on it. Now that can be starting to write code, buy a domain, start a project or whatever.
This has helped me understand that my mind has both creative and executive modes, but that they never (as far as I can remember) are at work at the same time. The kind of music I listen to, the time of the day, what I'm having to drink, the experiences I've had during the day - all of that affect the mode I get myself into.
Now while that's very relevant as far as kicking off a project is concerned, it is also useful for just working too. (Paul Graham had a word for it: it was yiddish-sounding - something like schmoozling or schmezzle - something like that). This is the mode you will work on the ideas. That can be coding or thinking out a design strategy or a solution to a problem - just something you know you have to do and without which your project won't move forward. Those things that you keep postponing all the time.
Again drawing form the ideas example, what has worked for me is: when you are in a creative mode, write down on pieces of paper what you need to do (small pieces of paper and thick pens are good because they keep you from writing too much). Also think about how you will do it. Take advantage of your creative mode. Just write down little actions you need to get done. Nothing too complex - and think out how you will do it too. Just leave the actual doing for later.
Then, when you find yourself on an executive mode, just get the pieces of paper, put them in front of you, settle yourself into your present moment, and start doing it. Don't think - you've already done that earlier. Just do what you've set out to. Only think about the present moment, tune into a nice radio channel and feel a small victory every time you throw away a piece of paper when you've done what was written on it - it's so much easier when you've set your mind to just doing as ordered (as you've ordered yourself) and not having thinking about it - it just works.
So, much current workflow is: once you've found out something that needs to be done, write it down - don't start doing it right away. Write it all down, on separate pieces of paper, so you won't forget about it. They should be objective and quantifiable (binary(success/no success)). These could be:
- correct a small UI bug on a website;
- add XYZ to page foo/bar/quux.php;
- read about new XYZ.js framework;
- update the structure on a project to a new standard.
Then, once you find yourself on an executive mode, you'll have lots of little things that need to be done and, had you not written them down, would probably never get done as other things come up on your mind and replace the previous ones.
It's best if you keep the pieces of paper representing undone tasks on a clearly visible area, like on top of your desk. So they keep "looking at you" and nudging you very smoothly towards transitioning into executive mode. Don't force yourself though. Let it happen.
Based upon Google's "10 things we know to be true"
Not in any specific order.
the frame of mind that enables new ideas and breakthroughs is different from the one needed to sit down on a chair and work for 10 hours straight to put those ideas into practice.
Now I think it's perfectly possible for one person to have both attitudes, but not at the same time. Perhaps you need to study yourself and/or meditate in order to be able to know what "mode" you're on at a specific moment and act accordingly to be as productive as you possibly can. I think it's worthwhile to give this some thought because I think both attitudes are equally important when you work in a creative field like software development. It's maybe akin to how a field marshal looks at a battle strategically (top view) as opposed to a foot soldier which acts locally and views the battle operationally (personal, hands-on view). Both are needed if you want to win the battle.
sometimes what you know for sure to be true just ain't.
No matter what idea or theory you may come up with and/or believe in, there's a chance you might be wrong. Even when your ideas just feels right, it just makes no difference whatsoever. The complete opposite of your idea or concept may just feel right for somebody else, who is just as much a human as you are.
Take any religion, for instance: there's all sorts of subdivisions and different interpretations within it and most contradict each other to some extent. Now, if there are contradictions, it means one side must, necessarily, be just plain old wrong. But what's funny is that all parties have absolutely no doubt (some radicals are prepared to kill the other side) that their specific set of ideas is the correct one. Keep this is mind when you try to convince someone of an idea you hold dearly: you being sure it is right has no bearing whatsoever on it actually being correct. (Except when it's a mathematical idea. And even then there are limits to what you can prove)
the world's wealth (global economy) is not a zero-sum system.
A zero-sum game is a game where there is a limited amount of resources available so, for one to win, another player must, necessarily, lose.
It's easy to assume that the world's wealth is like that. You look at Africa and at Europe and you might think that one is poor because the other is rich (in general terms). (There was indeed a fair amount of looting in the past perpetrated by Europeans against the territories they've found like the Americas, Asia and Africa as well). However, if this were true, the world becoming more wealthy (wealth as measured by quality and length of life) as a whole just couldn't be explained. Probably 99% of the world today (early 2013) have better living conditions (and higher life expectancy) than the average European in the 18th or 19th century had. Even Africa.
When an engineer or scientist discovers an easier or more efficient way to produce anything (e.g., buildings, food, medicines, any value-creating process whatsoever), that particular good or service suddenly becomes cheaper and people have to pay less for it. The world got wealthier. Nobody got any poorer.
your brain is a great machine, but it will play tricks on you
It's not an easy thing to second guess our brain. For starters, what would we use to reason about it, if not the brain itself? Each one of us just cannot step aside their own brain and look at it from the outside, precisely because the brain itself is the tool we use to look at and analyse things in the first place. It's a funny feeling, isn't it?
There is, however, a pretty interesting list I have bookmarked and always refer to so I can learn more about my brain and perhaps, one day, come to learn how to offset these shortcomings and analyse stuff in a more objective manner. This List of Cognitive Bias examples from Wikipedia is so damn hilarious to look at.
It completely shatters (it did for me at least) the pretense that human beings are rational beings. You will definitely see yourself in many of these categories and perhaps that will throw a smile onto your lips as you come to see how beautifully and perfectly imperfect human beings actually are.
most behaviour by living things (humans included) can be explained by evolution theory
Once you've read about natural selection and how it has made everything that lives the way it is today, it may take a while to sink in. But once it does, it's possible you'll start seeing it in action everywhere you look. It's quite enlightening once you see that all animals and plants (humans included) are the way they are today simply because it enabled their ancestors to have a larger offspring. It answers all sorts of questions you probably even hadn't thought about. Now, it's quite easy to look at the world and say "oh, I know where that's coming from".
However, it starts getting a little creepy when you start turning this perspective onto yourself. Why are you reading my blog? or Why am I writing it? It may be possible to explain that via natural selection. Maybe deep down we think it'll help us find a sexual partner or better survive in our environment. And the real question is: can we somehow turn it off, once we understand the origin of such feelings? For instance: if you live in a place where there's war going on, the sound of a plane might send chills down your spine (it may be coming to bomb the place where you live). Now suppose you've moved to a place where war is unheard of. You hear a plane flying low but you don't feel afraid: once you've understood that it's not a threat to you, you don't get afraid anymore; understanding it has rendered it powerless.
the fact that something is written down on a book or was said by someone important doesn't add extra authority to it
Well, I don't wish to pretend that there aren't some people who are more intelligent and wise than others, of course there are. However, the simple fact that someone wrote a book about XYZ or that John Doe, Ph.D., Professor of XYZ at XPTO University say that XYZ is good doesn't mean that it actually is. You should never let your (intellectual) guard down and take something as fact because of that. You say there was a study by University A that proves that B is true. Good. I can show you lots of research papers by other Universities saying how B is bad and it has caused massive suffering through history. It just doesn't mean anything. Even a mathematical proof or statement. It might contain errors; you may be able to see something the original author didn't. Who knows. Trust nothing you read. Even what you read here, obviously.
it takes a lot of effort to make something simple
You'd think this one would be a no-brainer, but it's funny how we can actually forget about the things we rely the most on and probably couldn't live without. Picture some tool or object or service that was designed to accomplish something and just just works. Perfectly and effortlessly. Like it wasn't even there. It just gets out of the way, does what it was built to do and you just get on with your life. You probably make use of some things like that but perhaps we can't even remember them. We just notice them when we, for some reason, find ourselves without it.
Few people know how much study and research and money and time and frustration and failed attempts to make something like that. Perhaps it's one of those things that you can't understand until you've been there. Only then can you see the beauty it radiates. I only hope the stuff I make and create can at least be barely useful so that I can pay a tiny portion of the debt I hold to these great men (and women obviously) mankind has produced and whose creations I use.
P.S.: This is a work in progress.