Tuesday, June 21, 2005

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.

Just got back from ODTUG in New Orleans, first time on this most famous of streets
bourbon street sign I
I was impressed with the way that picture turned out, check it out.


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.

Kite Runner

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. 

RSS Feeds

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.



Anonymous Tony said....

Malcom's other book, Tipping Point, is pretty good too. It deals more with marketing and why we buy things. Why was Paul Revere so successful as spreading his message while others were not...read the book.

Ever wonder what causes an epidemic? Why did the iPod take off? The answers are all here...

Tue Jun 21, 03:54:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Peter Tran said....

I sent my wife the link you had for the Aeron Miller chair. The conversation went like this:

Peter: http://www.hermanmiller.com/CDA/SSA/Product/0,,a10-c440-p8,00.html - dreamy huh?
Mani: it sure look ugly for 900
Peter: Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

Tue Jun 21, 04:07:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Dan Loomis said....

"Their conclusion – sure people profess to like lots of choice, but when faced with lots of choice we cannot decide."

For me, that doesn't apply more than at a restaurant. I absolutely *hate* too much choice, as I simply cannot make a decision when there are 57 entrees, all neatly categorized in 6 different sections. Please, make the choice for me by offering a limited menu...

Tue Jun 21, 04:58:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

About the Jam example - I read that only trained Jet Fighter pilots are able to assimilate the informations coming from 4 instruments - most people are limited to three or less (eg while driving). Ok, choosing a Jam Jar (jam.jar ?) is a bit less critical, but perhaps, going down to 3 jars (4 for Norfolk's shops perhaps) could have raised the customer response to much more than 30%.

Probably that has been applied to GUI interfaces too.

Tue Jun 21, 05:03:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

And about the Alcoholic Street photo - have you noticed that digital cameras have a tendency to overemphasize the white component ?

That's apparent even in the photo of the junior Maradona you're growing - especially the skin of the referee looks much whiter ["a whiter shade of pale" ;)]than normal, and the grass too (to a lesser degree).

Tue Jun 21, 05:19:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Jeff said....

Hi Tom,
I wasn't sure if you saw the comment I posted yesterday about the number of hits your blog receives daily.
I know, you won't answer if you don't want to. But, just curious, how many hits do you get daily on an average?

Thank you

Tue Jun 21, 05:25:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Robert said....

that Aeron chair, IMO, is the best office furniture a company can "indulge" its employees.
I liked it so much I bought one for home. I once went to work with a bad backache. After sitting in that chair for a few hours - backache gone :D

Tue Jun 21, 05:57:00 PM EDT  

Blogger David Aldridge said....

When I read "It was strange to enjoy the story, but really not like the guy the story was about" I immediately thought of Perfume by Patrick Suskind.

"In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His story will be told here. ..."

The first four pages are available through Amazon, and ought to be enough to get anyone hooked. For a book of 272 pages to have the word "smell" on 60 of them is quite an achievement.

Tue Jun 21, 06:08:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

30 years ago, the driver would have called over the Motorola FM repeater to ask someone to look at the big wall map http://www.motorola.com/mot/image/6/6966_MotImage.jpg . On the west coast, he might have pulled out a mapbook instead http://www.randmcnally.com/rmc/company/cmpProducts.jsp?oid=-1073754268

Tue Jun 21, 06:25:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Jeff said...

Hi Tom,
I wasn't sure if you saw the comment I posted yesterday about the number of hits your blog receives daily.

You can see it here

I uploaded the chart...

Joel Garry said...

30 years ago, the driver would have called over the Motorola FM

Maps, of course, I forgot all about them :)

Tue Jun 21, 08:48:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Perhaps you are overlooking the point Joel raises: two-way radios (transceivers) have been the backbone of commercial point to point communication since WWII.

Tue Jun 21, 09:15:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Pete_S said....

Thomas Kyte said....
Jeff said...
Hi Tom,
I wasn't sure if you saw the comment I posted yesterday about the number of hits your blog receives daily.
You can see it here

I uploaded the chart...

just like my chart... wait... you have a trailing zero on that axis ;

Wed Jun 22, 05:25:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Tony Andrews said....

I was confused by Alberto's comment about cars and jam jars. Where I come from (London) "jam jar" and "car" both mean the same thing! As in "have you seen my new jam jar mate? It does 0 to 60 in 7 seconds!"

Wed Jun 22, 07:29:00 AM EDT  

Blogger David Aldridge said....


Hah, it's true. I spent 45 minutes at the Hertz rental desk at Heathrow airport a couple of weeks ago listening to "Biggie" tell his mates how he was "ton-up in the jam jar" and such like (instead of actually renting me a car).

Wed Jun 22, 08:20:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

Possibly my "unconscious" part of the mind comes from UK - trust me, I barely know English, not no to mention car-related jargon - for me a Jam Jar is a "container, usually transparent, with a sweet fruit-derived eatable material inside" :)

Wed Jun 22, 08:36:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Is it just me or does it look like the valleys of Tom's hit chart are steadily going backwards on the chart. The first day's lull looks like it is at 1/2 am, the next day's lull is 11/12 pm, the next day is 8/9 pm, etc etc

Wed Jun 22, 09:14:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Scot said....

Just curious, but do you (Tom, or anyone really) prefer yahoo maps to google maps? The first time I saw maps.google.com I knew I could never go back. Scrolling the map with your keyboard arrow keys is so much nicer than clicking and reloading and "hoping". The other features are cool too.

Wed Jun 22, 10:21:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Dan Kefford said....

You can see it here

I uploaded the chart...

Hmmm... interesting, Tom. Do you forecast linear or exponential growth?

Wed Jun 22, 01:51:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I too love google maps, so convenient. Check out the Satellite option too, which I think is pretty neat...

Wed Jun 22, 02:21:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

I uploaded the chart...

So is this based on IP or does login modify it? If I come in from 3 different ISP's am I 3 uniques? How about dynamic IP?

Maps Yahoo maps has wireless hotspots... But yes, that google satellite is way cooler than that MS thing, though I've been frustrated by the granularity of the movement buttons.

Choice Best is to let user determine layout and information density. Have you seen some people's desktops? Yeeesh. (not referring to Tom's, but some cow-orkers I've seen - extremely small fonts with a large number of icons) I go into a restaurant with a limited menu and I'm fine, but my more-picky wife will have issues. Opposite on computer screens, though I may miss things with crowding (not to mention java outputs that don't account for different screen settings).

Wed Jun 22, 04:54:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

Protocol question to Tom - do you monitor older blogs, or only the last one ? Thanks :)

Wed Jun 22, 06:10:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Philip Douglass said....

I'm glad you could actually figure out the main point I was trying to make, because upon re-reading my comment, it seems more like a rambling rant! Also, I'm glad you agree -- the changes seem to work pretty well.

Wed Jun 22, 08:49:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Arun Mathur said....

Hi Tom,

I too read Blink on a flight, and concur with your comments. Actually, after I read it, I was very curious if you've read it before. Interestingly enough, I just experienced a little dosage of "thin slicing". I was rolling my garbage can into the garage when I saw a ... snake. With a second, I concluded that I needed to find something nearby to force it to leave, and also that I need to make sure it leaves my house. I completely forgot the whole rhyme reference that helps decide whether a snake is poisonous or not, but at least my limited time-slicing skills made me pick up a broomstick and slip on the closest pair of sandals I could find (my running shoes were in the house, and I couldn't afford the time to go in and get them on). So, within a second, I'm sweeping the snake away wearing my wife's sandals. Thank God no one took pictures :)

Wed Jun 22, 11:39:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Wally said....

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Thu Jun 23, 09:05:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Wally said....

Hi Tom,

I have to say yours is the first blog i have read from the beginning all the way to today. I heard about your blog just last week and spent the last few days catching up.

Have a stupid question about the neat Bourbon pic.

Was the picture taken when you were standing at street level on the bottom left of it, or did you take the picture from a higher elevation from the top right if it ?

if you think about it, they would look exactly the same from both directions.


Thu Jun 23, 09:10:00 AM EDT  


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