Blink, Kites, Technology and RSS Feeds
I would like to talk about two books Blink and the Kite Runner as well a brief bit on technology of today and a cab ride and finish up the discussion on the RSS feed. From now on, I am going to make the title and the first sentence or two mean something in my blogs as that is what blogspot seems to put out, that will help you judge if you are interested enough to read the entire thing.
A couple of weeks ago, someone suggested the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell when I was talking about the excellent book Crimes against Logic. Well, this Sunday I found myself in the airport having forgot to pack the book I meant to read – so I picked it up. It is a very fast read (you can finish it over a round trip flight from Washington Dulles to New Orleans). I found it to be a pretty interesting book.
The premise is “thin slicing” as the author calls it to make snap decisions. How do you in the first minute of meeting someone figure out if you are going to like them or not. How do we make these snap decisions – and can we explain it. I read it from the perspective of the skeptic, but didn’t really need to. The thoughts in this book back up further the “there is a reason why”, that we can explain the cause and effects we see. The hunches we have can be explained in mostly clinical terms. There are reasons for things.
But it goes onto say there are times to stop and have discussions, analyze the information and there are times to make snap decisions. The snap decisions come into play in life and death situations. When you step off of the curb and the number five bus is bearing down on you, that is not the time to think about “well, if I continue forward – I might make it, if I jump back – I probably make it out alive, if I do nothing and freeze, there is still a small chance that I’ll survive”. You just jump, you act. Most of the snap decisions in the book are those life and death situations.
I found it interesting that people are not very good at explaining how they make these snap decisions, after the fact – they have no idea how it actually happened, it just does.
One of my favorite examples in the book involved Jam. The premise being tested was “if setting up a stand with 6 types of Jam is good, doing it with 24 types of Jam will be even better since people like choice”. What they discovered was 30% of the people bought something at the stand with 6 Jams, 3% at the stand with 24 Jams (all other things held constant). Their conclusion – sure people profess to like lots of choice, but when faced with lots of choice we cannot decide. How true is that. Not long ago I was going to buy a new TV. There were so many choices, High Def this, Something that, Flat screen, Square Tube, This technology and so on. I ended up basically buying the cheapest one I could find. I couldn’t commit to any of the more expensive ones, just too many things to choose from and I didn’t know what to pick.
I think you’ll like what he has to say about “Experts” and how their expertise clouds their vision; especially as things change. The examples in the book are really clear – and I could relate to almost all of them. I liked the Aeron chair example, how it flew in the face of conventional wisdom (I have one of those at home, they are excellent).
All in all I would recommend this book to get a different perspective on things.
This was recommended to me by Rachel Carmichael (frequent commenter on this blog). I ordered it and read it on the flight to Las Vegas last week (another fairly quick read). If you are looking for a recreational read, this is pretty good. It was strange, usually you want to like the main character, but this main character is sort of pathetic. You end up liking the book, but not liking the main character at all. Only once in the entire book did he make the read, good decision without being forced to. Too many good things happen to him, even though he doesn’t deserve it. It was strange to enjoy the story, but really not like the guy the story was about.
I just got out of a cab from Boston's Logan Airport to the Oracle Burlington office. When you get into a cab, you expect the cab driver will know how to get you there – this guy didn’t and I didn’t have a clue either. I didn’t have the number of anyone here either.
30 years ago, 1975, what would you have done. No cell phones, no nothing. I don’t know what we would have done.
2005 however, I just pulled out my laptop and as we are driving in the general direction of Burlington MA, I fired up the aircard, got on the internet, went to Yahoo and got the exact directions.
Technology, have to love it. Just building on the Sunday thoughts about how much has changed in the last 30 years. In 1975, try telling someone “you’ll be in a car, going down the highway at 65 miles an hour, using a computer (computer? what is that) on the internet (what – a world wide network? What is a network?) to get directions”.
It’ll be even nicer when cabs come equipped with navigation systems to help them out.
Philip Douglass had what I thought was an insightful comment on the RSS feeds. The thrust was “hey, if you are going to just tease us – do it good, make the tease worth the bytes of bandwidth it consumes”.
That I can agree with 100%, so therefore….
From now on, I am going to make the title and the first sentence mean something in my blogs as that is what blogspot seems to put out, that will help you judge if you are interested enough to read the entire thing.