Posts Tagged ‘meta’

August 17 2009

Introduce yourselves

by Hang

One of the hardest things about writing this blog is the feeling of talking into a void. I know there are people out there reading it because I can see the analytics data but it still feels lonely writing. So I’m going to experiment with a semi-regular feature where you, the readers respond.

Post a comment with how you found out about this blog, why you read it and also if there’s any particular area you’d like me to cover more.

As an added incentive , I’ll be donating 25 cents to charity for every person that responds. If you feel particularly strongly about any one charity, put that also in the comments.

March 29 2009

Conquering fear

by Hang

I’m about 30 pages into William Zinsser’s excellent book On Writing Well when I’m struck by my realization.Over the past nine months, I’ve been writing about abstract ideas, day to day happenings and insights into the world around me, everything except my work. The short and simple reason for this is because I’m afraid.

When I started Bumblebee Labs, I made myself promise that I would be open about the work I was doing. But as soon as I started writing, it was always easier to write about anything but that. Writing about my own work felt embarrassing. The ideas and concepts that I had were so unclear in my own head that I never felt I could do them justice. And whenever I felt guilty about not writing, there were always other things to write about.

Well, from today, that’s going to stop. The pieces about ideas are still going to come but they’re going to be mixed with much more personal and relevant content. I’m going to conquer my fears of being a fool and start writing more of what made me start this blog.

November 14 2008

The 30 day recap and the next 30 days

by Hang

Well, the 30 days are over and it’s been quite an interesting experiment. I’m quite proud that I managed to get a blog post done every single day. One of those posts was inexplicably eaten by the server, one was kind of bullshit and one was done several hours after the deadline. All in all, by my calculations, I think that counts as one $20 donation and one beer that I owe to Jeff.

By an act of total serendipity, I happened upon an ACLU canvasser in my neighbourhood for today so I’m all paid up on that angle:

Doing this 30 day thing was definately interesting to me. I had been battling motivation problems with my blog for a while and it was amazing how such a simple thing managed to get me over the hurdle. As a result, I’m going to be trying another simple experiment.

Over the next 30 days, I’m going to try and develop 10 substantive features for the sites that I’m working on. The parameters of the challenge are the same, $20 to the ACLU for every challenge that I miss. It’ll be a good way to force me to work on some stuff that’s been sitting on the back burner for a while. I’ve yet to figure out how to emulate the social proof aspect although I might end up utilizing my sketches blog for that purpose.

At the same time, the blog is most definately not dead. I’ve got almost a dozen ideas still sitting around that need to be written about so subscribe to the RSS feed to keep yourself updated. The ironic thing seems to be that I’ve posted more content today than any other day now that I’m out of the one post per day format I set myself.

October 27 2008

Oct 27th (day 15): The halfway mark

by Hang

Today marks the halfway point in my little experiment to 30 days of blogging and I thought I would share a bit about my experiences. Making an external commitment to do something has definitely spurred my motivation and it’s been a positive influence on me. It’s been a great feeling that every day, no matter what, I managed to accomplish *something* with my day and it’s also spurred me to be more disciplined and be more aware of the shape of the day. It also means I’ve been much more aware of ideas, constantly on the lookout for new things to blog about. Paradoxically, on some days, it’s meant that I’ve been blogging less as I might have 2 or 3 ideas I deem worthy of blogging about but I want to save the extra ideas in case of a rainy day.

That being said, blogging continuously in this sort of fashion sucks too. Given that I have to fit blogging around the rest of my schedule, I always end up cramming it into this corner or that. All of these blog posts have pretty much been a straight shot, stream of conciousness from start to end and the quality, IMO reflects that. If you study great writers, what sounds like a breezy, casual reflection is actually the result of massive amounts of rewriting, organization and editing to get it into it’s final form. Amateur writers who make the mistake of trying to emulate the greats try and emulate the result rather than the process and, as a result, end up coming up with something clunky.

While the one blog post a day experiment has given me plenty of practise in dumping my raw thoughts on paper, the pace simply hasn’t allowed me to do that reshaping work to produce a piece of work that I am proud of. I know plenty of my blog posts suck (at least in my eyes) and I’m looking forward to having a more measured pace and drawing out a story rather than merely a concept.

Thinking more on how so much of skill is hidden under the surface got me to thinking about skills you didn’t know you needed and how so much of what makes someone skilled is completely underestimated by the outside observer. One of the skills I believe that I excel in is coming up with ideas, concepts and new ways of thinking about the world. Thinking up ideas seems like one of those mysterious things which some people are just naturally good at and people very rarely try and systematically become better at it. It’s often hard to see just how much work is required to become a good thinker.

One of the things which is never seen from the outside is the private vocabulary that I use to scaffold and structure ideas in my head. Words are shortcuts for concepts and the richer your vocabulary is, the more efficiently you can represent and develop a concept. So, as an experiment, I will dedicate this next 15 days to explaining one piece of personal vocabulary a day to give insight into the mental scaffolding that I use.

One of the reasons I started the Figuring Shit Out blog was precisely so I could talk more about this sort of stuff but I stumbled upon a major problem: describing an internal vocabulary is hard. The internal vocabulary is not made up of just english words, it’s got associations, images and visualizations. It’s linked to a bunch of other concepts and whats more, it’s constantly morphing as well. Whenever I tried to pin a concept down on paper, I found that the concept itself was being reconceptualised faster than I could write about it.

Given this, I think this will be a good forcing tool in making me grapple seriously with how I explain things to others but at the same time, I know that I’m going to be immensely disappointed with these next 15 posts. So here’s the deal: all of these next 15 posts will become password protected and hidden once the experiment is over. If you want to read them, you need to be reading them now because you won’t be seeing them again until I’m ready to talk about them again. If you have an RSS reader, now is the time to subscribe to the feed if you don’t want to miss out on anything.

As a rough dump, here are some of the terms I will be talking about:

  • The ego dilemma
  • p+1
  • Acting sober
  • Advanced wisdom
  • The easy problem
  • Life is drama
  • The unavoidably essential nature of reality
  • Zero knowledge proofs
  • The unbearable weirdness of meta
  • Grinding
  • Movieverse
  • The best of all possible universes
  • Sheepdogs and Wolves
  • Obviously wrong truths
  • Everything you think is either unoriginal, wrong or both
  • the no evil geniuses paradox
  • bumblebees

More as I remember them…

October 13 2008

The 30 day commitment

by Hang

I have been sorely neglecting this blog as of late and I’ve been in somewhat of a rut so I’ve decided to give myself a challenge. Every day, for the next 30 days, I will post at least 1 substantive blog post. I want to write well, I feel my ideas are important and they should be spread more widely. But writing well doesn’t come from just wishing to write well, it requires me first to expunge the torrent of crap writing that any writer has to go through.

Seeing as I’m a big fan of designing social mechanisms, I’m also designing one to keep me motivated: For every day I miss posting, I will donate $20 to the ACLU. As an added bonus, if you’re the first one to spot that I’ve missed a day and post that fact in the comments, I will buy you a beer the next time I see you (people living more than 100 miles away, we’ll work out some alternative type of arrangement).

I’m hoping the combination of guilt and fear of social ridicule will keep me writing. Lets se how this works…

July 12 2008

New Logo

by Hang

Michael completed the first version of the Bumblebee Labs logo tonight and I gotta say, I’m very impressed with it:

Bumblebee Labs Logo

We printed out the inaugural version of the logo on some very nice hand made fabriano paper I had lying around and the effect was striking. Whenever I’ve embarked on some grand new adventure like moving away from home or writing my first non-trivial piece of software, there’s always a point where I can’t manage to convince myself on a gut level that this was all there was to it and it’s all so simple. Surely starting a company must involve more than just two guys, sitting around and figuring out problems that need solving? I know intellectually this is how many a company starts but my gut is run by narrativium, not common sense.

Holding that piece of paper in my hand and feeling the weight of it suddenly made all of this seem more real, more substantial. It may be a minor thing in the scheme of things but it was a sign, to me, of forward motion…

July 6 2008

Me, briefly

by Michael

I was an infant at the infancy of personal computing. At first, we’d clumsily bang on each other, crawling around our small living spaces, and not doing anything that could be strictly defined as “working” or “playing.” We fought a great deal, growing up. I would corrupt kernels, break hard drives… in retaliation, my documents would be corrupted, and my deadlines broken. It was a barely functional relationship, but we’d manage when we really needed to.

It wasn’t until my father asked me to build him a website that we started working well together. I was reluctant at first, but for $50, his website became my summer lemonade stand. The resulting product was crude, bitter in places and overly sweetened in others, but for an adolescent foray, it was just as cool.

Now adults, we’ve learned to work together in ways that were previously inconceivable, and excited as hell to be carving a path into this brave new world of computing as a social medium. This is the wild west of the information age, and I’m itching to lay down some tracks.

July 3 2008

Introducing myself…

by Hang

I’m Hang and I’m the founder of Bumblebee Labs. I grew up in a family of computer science academics and somehow, I absorbed the idea that that was what I was going to become. I entered into college with a burning love for computers and a macho desire to solve hard problems, the more technical the better. Over the years, that desire to solve hard problems has stayed with me, but without even noticing it, I started to drift towards the softer side of the spectrum: studying people rather than machines. Psychology, Economics, Politics, History & Linguistics were all fascinating to me, and I became interested in how technology could be used to impact people’s lives.

My path through graduate school was marked by puzzlement, more than anything else. I wanted to understand how to build “social” software and what theories and guidelines could be used to design the social interactions and nuances of this ever increasingly important communications channel. What does it mean to “friend” someone on facebook, and how did the design decisions that went into that impact that meaning? Should we support the everyday white lies that people use to smooth over their social interaction? If so, how? What new forms of social awkwardness are these tools creating and is there a smarter way to design them to avoid it? All of these seemed like obvious questions to me, and I was content to contribute to the surely mountainous stacks of existing literature on these very fundamental questions… until I went searching for that mountainous stack.

In one corner was a big group of communication scholars who were doing a masterful job documenting the impact that technology is having on society, and in the other was a big group of Human Computer Interaction scholars talking about how to design computer interfaces to be efficient and usable – but there was virtually no one at all talking about the design of the social aspects of our tools! Quite frankly, nobody really knows at this point what the hell we’re really doing when we unleash these massively transformative tools into the world. We’re making a series of blind stabs in the dark and hoping that whatever current bits of ad-hoc theory we have is enough to ensure success.

This has been the motivation for starting Bumblebee Labs. It got to the point where the only way for me to really understand how to build social software is to roll up my sleeves and build social software: to use everything I’ve been thinking about and figuring out in the pursuit of better tools and better interaction through deliberate design. Lets see how this will work out…

July 3 2008

What is Bumblebee Labs?

by Bumblebee Labs

Bumblebee Labs is a new software company dedicated to understanding how people tick, and using that to build smarter and more graceful social software. We’re in the experimental phase right now, so we’re still trying to pin down exactly what it is we’ll be working on and how we’re going to be presented to the world. We’ve got a full slate of interesting ideas and concepts and not enough time in the world to execute them so it’s going to be an interesting experience.

At Bumblebee Labs, we strongly believe in the open design process. As designers and engineers, we learn from the examples of those who have gone before us. To progress as a field, we believe in a community which is open and willing to share every stage of design, warts and all. The Bumblebee Lab blog is an experiment in living under the self imposed withering flashlight of scrutiny, and hopefully, learning from it.

We’re going to opinionated, slightly irreverent and above all, human. It’s going to be a fun ride…

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