Sunday, September 16, 2007

**** Mindset by Carol Dweck

These 4 star books are few and far between, but they pack a punch. I really wish I found this book 20 years ago. In any case, it will change your mindset and possibly your life. Use it carefully and wisely.

Self-delusion, the hallmark of the fixed mindset
We found that people greatly misestimated their performance and their ability. But it was those with the fixed mindset who accounted for almost all of the inaccuracy. The people with the growth mindset were amazingly accurate. When you think about it, it makes sense. If like those with the growth mindset, you believe you can develop yourself, then you're open to accurate information about your current abilities, even if it's unflattering. What's more, if you're oriented learning, you need accurate information about your abilities in order to learn effectively. However, if everything is either good or bad news about your precious traits - as it is with fixed mindset people - distortion almost inevitably enters the picture. Some outcomes are magnified, others are explained away, and before you know it you don't know yourself at all. P11

Learning is about making mistakes - not proving yourself
You've decided to learn a new language by taking a class. A few sessions into the course the instructor calls you to the front and starts throwing questions at you. Put yourself in the fixed mindset. Your ability is on the line. Can you feel everyone's eyes on you? Can you see the instructor evaluating you? Feel the tension, feel your ego bristle and waver… Now put yourself in the growth mindset. You're a novice - that's why you're here - to learn. The teacher is a resource for learning. Feel the tension leave you; feel your mind open up. The message is: You can change your mindset. P14

If it requires a hard effort on your part, then it means...
In the growth mindset, failure is about you not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means you're not fulfilling your potential… Effort is what makes you smarter… In the fixed mindset, failure means you're not smart or talented. Effort is a bad thing, it like failure, means you're not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn't need effort. P16

Who do you want to marry?
People with the fixed mindset said the ideal mate would:
Put them on a pedestal
Make them feel perfect
Worship them
In other words, the perfect mate would enshrine their fixed qualities. People with growth mindset hope for a different kind of partner who would:
See their faults and help them to work on them
Challenge them to be a better person
Encourage them to learn new things
Certainly they didn't want people who would pick on them or undermine their self-esteem, but they did want people would foster their development. They didn't assume they were full evolved, flawless beings who had nothing more to learn. P19

We showed 5th graders a box and told them it had a test inside that measured an important school ability. First we asked them: How much do you think this test measures an important school ability? All of them had taken our word for it. Next we asked them: Do you think this test measures how smart you are? And does it measure how smart you'll be when you grow up? All students had take our word that the test measured an important ability, but the growth mindset students didn't think it would tell them how smart they were. And they certainly didn't think it would tell them how smart they would be when they grew up. In fact, one student said 'No way! Ain't no test can do that.' [Lucky for him because it seems that he has some more learning to do before he grows up.] Fixed mindset students didn't simply believe that the test could measure an important ability, they also believed that it could measure how smart they were. And how smart they'd be when they grew up. They granted one test the power to measure their most basic intelligence now and forever. They gave this test the power to define them. That's why every success is so important [and every failure so devastating]. P27

Sometimes not knowing is better than knowing
George Danzig was grad student at UC Berkeley. One day, as usual, he was late for class and quickly copied the 2 problems on the board. When he later went to do them, he found them very difficult, and it took him several days of hard work to crack them and solve them. When he returned back to class he found out that these problems were not homework problems at all. They were 2 famous math problems that had never been solved. P38 [Ignorance can not only be bliss, but it can help you be unrestrained in your effort.]

How to study in school
Many students study like this: They read the textbook and their notes. If the material is really hard, they read them again. Or they try to memorize everything they can, like a vacuum cleaner. That's how students with the fixed mindset study. If they did poorly on the test they will conclude that Chemistry was not their subject. After all I did everything possible, didn't I? Far from it. They would be shocked to find out what growth mindset students do. Instead of plunging into mindless memorization, they look for themes and underlying principles across lectures, and go over mistakes until they are understood. They study to learn, not just to ace the test. And actually, this was why they get higher grades - not because they are smarter - just that they study smarter. Instead of losing their interest when the course got harder, they motivate themselves to stay interested in the subject. P61

How to mint a new liar
We told students after a series of test problems that "We are going to go to other schools and those kids would like to know about the problems you did here." So we gave them each a page to write out their thoughts and to self report their own scores. Now we had randomly divided the class into 2 groups: one group had been praised on their abilities [a fixed mindset cue], and the other on their efforts [a growth mindset cue]…Would you believe that 40% of the praised ability kids lied about their scores, while hardly hand of the other group did. In the fixed mindset, imperfections are shameful - especially if you're talented - so they lied them away. What's even more alarming is that we took ordinary children and made them into liars by telling them that they were smart. P73

So telling children that they are smart, in the end, made them feel dumber and act dumber, but claim that that they were smarter. I don't think this is what we're aiming for when we put positive labels like 'gifted', 'talented', and 'brilliant' on people. We don't mean to rob them of their zest for challenge. But that's the danger. P74

Vulnerability afflicts many of the most able, high-achieving females. Why should this be? When they're little, these girls are often so perfect, and they delight in everyone's telling them so… Girls learn to trust people's estimates of them 'Gee, everyone's so nice to me; if they criticize me, it must be true.'… Boys are constantly being scolded and punished. In grade school, boys got 8 times more criticism than girls for their conduct. Boys are also constantly calling each other slobs and morons. Such evaluations lose a lot of their power… Taking the fixed mindset, plus stereotyping, plus women's trust in people's assessments: I think we can begin to understand why there's a gender gap in math and science. P79

Want to lower your kids IQ? Just tell him he's wicked smart!
Do you label your kids? This one is the artist and that one is the scientist? Next time remember that you're not helping them - even though you may be praising them. Remember our study where praising kids' ability lowered their IQ scores. Find a growth mindset way to compliment them. P81

The Nyad Diet - eat a full meal every hour and still lose over 1 lb per hour
Diana Nyad wanted to swim 100 miles - in open water without stopping… NASA experts were brought in for nutrition and endurance guidance since she needed 1100 calories/hour. Her new record was 102.5 miles and she lost 29 lbs. p105

Malcolm Gladwell [in Blink] concludes that when people live in an environment that esteems them for their innate talent, they have grave difficulty when their image is threatened: "They will not take the remedial course. They will not stand up to investors and the public and admit they were wrong. They'd sooner lie." Obviously a person or a company that can't self correct can't thrive. P109

Groupthink Avoidance #1
During WW2, Winston Churchill setup a special department whose job was to give him all of the worst news. Churchill could then sleep well at night knowing that he had not been groupthinked into a false sense of security. P135
Groupthink Avoidance #2
Alfred Sloan, former CEO of GM during its heyday was leading a group of high level policy makers who seemed to have reached a consensus. "Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here… Then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding about what the decision is all about." P135
Groupthink Avoidance #3
Herodotus over 2500 years ago, reported that the Persians used a version of Sloan's techniques to prevent groupthink. Whenever a group reached a decision while sober, they later reconsidered it while intoxicated. P135

How to pick and refocus your disappointed kid
Imagine if your 9 year old child is heading off to her first gymnastics competition. She did well, but by the end of the competition she had received no ribbons and was devastated. What would you do?... Let's look at 5 possible reactions from a mindset point of view.
1. Tell her you thought she was the best. This is insincere. She wasn't the best, both she and you know that. This offers her no recipe for how to recover and to improve.
2. Tell her she was robbed of a ribbon that was rightfully hers. This places blame on others when in fact the problem was mostly her performance, not the judges. Do you want her to grow up blaming others for her deficiencies?
3. Tell her that gymnastics is not that important. This teacher her to devalue something she doesn't do well in right away. Is this really the message you want to send?
4. Tell her she has the ability and will win next time. This may be the most dangerous message of all. Does ability automatically take you where you want to go? If she didn’t win this time, why should she win the next?
5. Tell her she didn't deserve to win. This seems hardhearted, and we don't suggest that you say it so succinctly. But that's pretty much what you need to say. Here's an example:
"It's disappointing to perform your best and not win. But you have not really earned it yet. There were many girls who've been in gymnastics longer than you and who've worked a lot harder. If this is something you really want, then its something you will have to work hard for like them." P175

How to react when mistakes (inevitably) happen
Sometimes children will judge and label themselves. Here's an example of a 14 year old boy working with his dad on a project. The son spilled nails all over the floor, and guiltily looked at his dad and said:
Son: Gee, I'm so clumsy
Dad: That's not what we say when we spill something.
Son: What do you say?
Dad: I say, the nails spilled and I'll pick them up!
Son: Just like that?
Dad: Yeah, just like that.
Son: Thanks Dad. P177

Why punishment seldom works
Many parents think that when they judge and punish that they are teaching, as in 'I'll teach you a lesson that you'll never forget.' What are they actually teaching? They are teaching their children that if they go against the parent's rules or values, they'll be judged and punished. They're not teaching them how to think through the issues and come to mature decisions on their own. And they're not teaching that the communication channels are open. P181

False praise and lower standards just leads to dumb kids who crave false praise.
Many educators think that lowering their standards will give students success experiences, boost self esteem, and raise their achievement. It comes from the same philosophy as the overpraising of student's intelligence. Well, it doesn't work. Lowering standards leads to poorly educated students who feel entitled to easy work and lavish praise. P187

Dinner routine
At the dinner table ask each child "What did you learn today? What mistake did you make that taught you something? What did you try hard at today?" Go around the table with each question, excitedly discussing your own and one another's efforts, strategies, setbacks, and learning. You talk about skills you have today that you didn't have yesterday because of the practice you put in. You dramatize mistakes you made that held the key to the solution, telling it like a mystery. You describe with relish the things you are struggling with and making progress on. Soon the children can't wait each night to tell their stories. "Oh my, you certainly did get smarter today." If your child tells stories about doing things better than others, everyone should say 'Yeah, but what did you learn?'. When he tells you about how easy everything in school is for him, you say 'Oh, that's too bad. You're not learning.' When he boasts about being a champ, you say 'Champs are the people who work the hardest. You can become a champ. Tomorrow tell me something you've done to help you become a champ.' P229

Saturday, September 01, 2007

** The Power of Play by David Elkind

This book reinforces the age old wisdom that children should be free to play and use their imaginations. The current lifestyle of ‘play dates’, structured extracurricular activities, toys for one purpose, and scheduled agendas, doesn’t leave much free time for the child’s mind to flourish.

When it comes to toys, less is more… Thanks to the automation [and electronics] of so many toys, it gets harder to choose toys that encourage fantasy and imagination… Only when a child spends time with particular toy can she weave it into a story tapestry of her own invention. P16

Mothers spent 25.05 hours a week w/their children in 1987, but 30.89 hours with them in 1997. For fathers the figures were 18.51 and 22.73, respectively. Guilt then is not the most likely explanation for the profusion of toys given to contemporary children… Advertisers target children directly and encourage them to pester their parents… They create needs for toys and parents give in because they want to ensure that their children don’t feel different or left out. The unintended consequence of using toys to promote social acceptance is conformity. Children see toys not as launching pads for imagination, but as vehicles for social acceptance. P17

Skill toys are a dying breed. Children today learn computer skills without ever understanding how the computer works. In contrast, a boy who decades ago built a crystal radio set knew how it operated as well as how to use it. P32

‘Do you know who make the best engineers?’, the dean of an engineering school recently answered this question by replying ‘Those young men and women who grew up on the farm and had firsthand experience with machinery.’ Those young people gain a practical understanding of how machines work, what they can and can’t do. P33

Children that watched educational TV (eg. Sesame Street) did better on academic skills of reading and vocabulary than did children that routinely watched entertainment programs… Preschoolers who spent the majority of their TV time watching educational programs also had different outcomes at adolescence by earning higher grades, reading more books, valuing achievement, showing greater creativity and less aggression than did those did those preschoolers who preferred non-educational entertainment programs. P41

Children think, but they don’t think about thinking; adolescents can think about thinking. Young teens become secretive precisely because they appreciate that they can have private thoughts to which no one else is privy. With this new ability they make an understandable error, they assume that other people are thinking about what they are thinking about – themselves… They thus create an imaginary audience… This explains why they are so self conscious and susceptible to peer pressure. P65

In 1994, a Federal investigation of more than 12,000 charges of child molestation at day care centers didn’t find a single charge that could be physically substantiated… Programs to help children defend themselves against abuse or ‘No Touch’ policies in child care facilities have any evidence to prove their value. P71

In the past, when we were an agricultural society, parents provided for health, vocational training, and education of their children. Free public school education in the 1830s effectively removed that function from the parental role. Early in the 20th century, schools began screening for vision and hearing, and checking vaccinations. Since the 1940s schools have provided for special need children. Later they expanded to include free lunches (and breakfasts). Now schools also teach sex, drug, and character education, while offering day care facilities, sport, art, and music activities. Teachers and coaches have absorbed almost all parental functions. Parents are only expected to provide some food, clothing and shelter. P73

The common assumption that commitment transfers from one activity to another is wrong… A child who puts her things away neatly at school doesn’t necessarily do the same thing at home. In the same way, a child who spends the night at a friend’s house may behave better than she does at home. P77 Judith Harris does an excellent job of explaining the difference in child behavior between the shared environment (home) and the non-shared environment governed by peer interaction in her book ‘The Nurture Assumption’. I can’t say enough good things about that book. An absolute must read for all parents.

Skilled teachers know that children can only imitate actions that they can already perform. They can’t learn new, complex skills simply by imitating or watching. Imagine trying to learn the piano just by observing a skilled pianist… Because of this, the ‘watch me’ approach to teaching often takes the form of the parent/teacher imposing a different activity onto the one in which the child is actively engaged. In effect the parent is saying ‘never mind what you’re doing, watch me.’ What the child learns is that learning priorities are not valued by those whom he is attached. P92

Once children become more advanced verbally, you’ll see them play many different forms of wordplay to go beyond the usual meaning of the words. One form of this is that they start to understand pose riddles. Here are a few good ones:
What is the difference between a piano and a fish?
You can’t tuna fish!

What did the octopus say to his date?
I want to hold your hand, hand, hand, hand, hand…

What do cows give after earthquakes?

What kind of shoes are made out of banana peel?

Why did the tomato blush?
Because it saw the salad dressing

Why do you call a fly without wings?
A walk

How do you fix a broken tomato?With tomato paste

There is a therapeutic function to the game of PeekABoo played by young children dealing with their first experience of separation anxiety… What is the pleasure of such games? If the disappearance and return of loved ones is such a problem to the child, why should the baby turn all of this into a boisterous game? First by repeating the disappearance and return under conditions that he can control, he is helping himself overcome the anxiety. Secondly, he turns a situation that would, in reality, be painful into a pleasurable experience. P114

Regression is common among young children when a new sibling arrives on the scene. [Don’t] try to prevent these regressions. The child is not just playing at being an infant again, but insists upon acting as one. After a few months [!] of this regressive behavior most children will replace it with mature behavior, and may become extremely caring towards the new baby and to her playthings… Having, in the regressed state, identified with the coming infant, she now – post-regression - identifies with her mother. P114

It is simply a fact that young children think differently than older children and adults. Their mode of thinking is concrete. For example: If I eat spaghetti will I become Italian? Please turn off the sun, I want to go to sleep. In these forms of thought, there are no levels of conceptualization and everything is on the same plane. And it includes the belief that parents (and adults) are all-powerful and all-knowing. P120

Parents and grandparents are often misled by young child’s verbal precocity and assume its an index of intellectual giftedness. It is not. An easy check is to ask the child to draw or copy a diamond. You will be surprised… In order to draw a diamond, the child must understand vectors – the idea that the same line can move in 2 directions at once. The child must make the line go down and out at the same time, and that is a problem for concrete thinking child. P121

Another example of concrete thinking is the fact that one thing can’t be 2 things at the same time. A preschooler will answer “Do you have any brothers?” with a yes, and be able to name them. Then ask, “Do your brothers have any brothers?” No is the usual answer. At this level of thinking you can’t have a brother and be a brother at the same time. P123

Young children have problems with many rules that we try to inculcate, such as putting their toys away, picking up things, not getting up from the table, and so on. If we appreciate that these lapses reflect intellectual immaturity rather than rebellion, we can handle them in a playful way. When we do this the child is more likely to learn the rule than if we criticize him for something he can’t help. Introducing an imaginary mediator is one way of doing this. Mr Rabbit tells me when you get older you won’t leave the table w/o asking. P124

Young children have a natural talent for observation and classification, but not experimentation where they hold some variables constant while varying a few. Introducing experimentation too early can kill the child’s interest and inclination to engage in science activities. P143

Games with rules are the child’s initiation into social institutions… Games provide a set of rules that govern how to behave under certain circumstances. Like all social institutions, games exist only to the extent that there are individuals willing to participate in them. P148

Until 8 or 9, children have a rather superstitious concept of rules. They assume that the rules were created a long time ago by adults and can’t be changed. Also, the youngest children usually don’t fully understand the rules, but they make believe they do in order to win social acceptance by the group. P154

Consider the following tale: a boy is helping to set the table, but breaks 3 plates by accident; a girl was trying to get some cookies that she wasn’t supposed to eat, and breaks 1 plate while doing so by accident. Children under 7 said the boy should be punished more than the girl. Children over 9 said the girl should be punished, but not for breaking the plate, but for breaking the rule. P155

Preschool children can play with members of the opposite sex without being stigmatized. By age 7 or 8, play becomes gender based… The earlier acceptance of cross gender playmates is lost mainly as a result of the negative sanctions of a peer culture. P161

Sharing our passions, even by example, is far different than teaching or giving lessons. It reveals ourselves as people, and we free our children to engage in activities they are not obliged to perform. P185

** 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

A very dry book. Stick to the blog. Important points to implement in any job with more than 2 employees.

Employees begin to disengage and think about leaving when 1 or more of 4 fundemental needs are not being met: p19
Need for trust
Need to have hope
Sense of worth
Feeling competent

Employees are frustrated about pay because they have observed the following inequities:
Superior perf reviews have little effect on pay increases
Experience is discounted when new hires paid as much or more as veterans
Higher education doesn’t translate into higher pay
Increased stress isn’t worth the money
Extra hours and overtime make the pay worth less p26

7 Root Causes for turnover: p29
Job/workplace doesn’t meet expectations
Mismatch between job and person
Too little feedback and coaching
Too few growth and advancement opportunities
Feeling devalued and unrecognized
Stress and work/life imbalance
Loss of trust and confidence in senior leaders

Good interview questions p64
What is your greatest strength/weakness?
Which of your talents was most under utilized in your last job?
Which talent would you most like to use?
How would you like to be challenged in the coming year?
What appeals to you in the job description?

Coaching/feedback should help a person answer these questions: p73
Where is the company going
How is it getting there
How do you expect to contribute
How are good are your contributions

Recognition can’t replace pay; it can only add to it. It is retroactive, while variable pay is forward looking. Recognition is most powerful immediately after it follows the accomplishment. Any employee can recognize another, but only management can affect pay. P125

Ways to make new hires feel welcome p137
Send gift basket to their home to impress their family.
Put candy/pastries in their cube to attract others to stop by
Assign mentors for the first few weeks
Spread out orientation over a period of weeks to be better absorbed

Toxic work culture warning signs p153
Treating workers like they are lucky to have a job
Expecting/demanding workers to give up personal time
Controlling rather than empowering
Hoarding information at top levels
Infighting between departments
Lying or being unethical
Constantly changing corporate direction

Shareholder’s interests are important, but employees know when they are being given short shrift. Companies which perversely don’t put shareholders first, do better for their shareholders than organizations that only put shareholders first… “When you take care of your employees, they take care of your customers. And your shareholders wind up winning anyway” – Dick Kovacevich, CEO WellsFargo… “It takes a week for an employee to start treating customers the same way the employer is treating that employee.” – Sam Walton p186

A major corporation claimed to be committed to work/life values by drawing up an excellent plan. The company gathered its top 80 officers to review the plan – but scheduled the meeting on a weekend… One company displayed its code of conduct in its lobby, proclaiming trust was a driving principle, yet it searched employee’s belongings each time the entered and exited the building. P189

Exit Interview questions p222
If you had 3 months to work over again, what would you do differently
What have you learned that you can take with you to your next job
What are you proud of from your time here
Would you consider returning and under what circumstances

** Dreaming in Code by Scott Rosenberg

A book for all software programmers to read since we've all been there and done that. Also, it is a book for all non-programmers to read who depend on or work in software companies to understand how in the hell software is 'engineered' if you can even call it that. My personal opinion is that software is a still cottage industry and has not entered an industrial revolution. When will that happen? I think when Moore's law finally slams into physical limits of quantum, and devices no longer become twice as fast and twice as small every 18 months, that all of the efforts and research will go into designing and building efficient software. Ultimately, the authors of this generation of software will be our own machines. Just like the machines took over for the laborers in the industrial revolution. Software developers will become line workers in software factories of the future. For the time being enjoy your job security and artistry.

Software programmers’ work is 1% inspiration, the rest sweat-drenched detective work; their products are never finished or perfect, just varying degrees of less broken. P10

Brooks’ Law: Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. P17
Frederick Brooks is the author of the “Mythical Man Month”, and was the manager for the development of the OS for the system360 mainframe in the 1960s.

A 1995 survey of 365 IT managers found that only 16% of their projects were successful (on time and on budget). 31% were impaired or canceled – total failures. 53% were project challenged, a euphemistic way of saying that they were over budget, late, and/or failed to deliver all that was promised. 10 years later, the numbers for success have increased to 29% from 16%, failures have decreased to only 18% from 31%. But challenged is holding steady at 53%. P50

If you want to change the world you need pessimism of the intellect, and optimism of the will. – Antonio Gramsci p54

The memory banks of the earliest computers were build out of wound wire coils known as ferrite cores. Ever since programmers have referred to the computer’s memory as ‘core’. P65

The Python programming language is named in honor, not of the snake, but of the famous Flying Circus of Monty Python. Spam for unwanted mail is from another Flying Circus skit featuring a luncheonette menu featuring nothing but variations of eggs, sausage, spam, spam, spam and spam. P70

Yahoo= Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle p100

There’s an old project manager saying: I can make it for you fast, cheap or good. Pick any 2. p119

With manufacturing, armies and hardware development, the managers can walk through and see what everyone is doing. If someone is doing something wrong or unproductive, the manager can tell just by watching for a few minutes. However, with a team of software developers you can’t tell what they are doing by merely watching. You must ask them or carefully examine what they have produced… Most developers would be glad to tell their managers where they stood on the job. The problem is that with current software practices, the developers don’t know where they stand any more than the managers do. P129

IT staff vs. the general population
77% of IT staff prefer a Thinking decision making profile vs. Feeling. This split is 50/50 in the general population. 41% of IT staff are introverted, which is twice the frequency in the general population… This group is the least likely to engage and connect interpersonally with others, and may avoid creating personal bridges of trust and openness with colleagues. P133

FUBAR= Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition p196 This has become FooBar over time.

Why we all have to plan by Watts Humphrey (he took over the System360 project for Brooks). P245
We all work for organizations
These orgs require plans
Unless you are independently wealthy, you must work to a schedule
If you don’t make your own schedules, somebody else will
Then that person will control your work

Agile Software Development Manifesto p252
Value individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Value working software over comprehensive documentation
Value customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Value responding to change over following a plan

Joel Spolsky’s engineering test. Joel authored Excel at Microsoft. P257
Do you use source control
Can you make a build in 1 step
Do you make daily builds
Do you have a bug DB
Do you fix bugs before writing new code
Do you have an up to date schedule
Do you have a spec
Do programmers have quiet working condition
Do you use the best tools money can buy
Do you have testers
Do new candidates write code during interviews
Do you do hallway usability testing (Rather than using an in-house, trained group of testers, just five to six random people, indicative of a cross-section of end users, are brought in to test the software)

Rosenberg’s Law: Software is easy to make except when you want it do something new. Collary: The only software that’s worth making is software that does something new. P268

If builders built houses the way programmers built programs, the first woodpecker to come along would destroy civilization. – Gerald Weinberg p284

Ultimately we need to stop writing software and learn how to grow it instead. We think our computing systems are unmanageably complex, but to a biologist – who regularly deals with systems that have many orders of magnitude more moving parts – something like a computer could not possibly be regarded as being particularly complex or large or fast. Slow, small, stupid – that’s what computers are. – Alan Kay, creator of SmallTalk. P286

Of all the things you can spend a lot of money on, the only things you expect to fail frequently are software and medicine. That’s not a coincidence, since they are the 2 most complex technologies we try to make as a society. Still the case for software seems less forgivable, because intuitively it seems that as complicated as it’s gotten lately, it still exists at a much lower order of tangledness than biology. Since we make it ourselves, we ought to be able to know how to engineer it so it doesn’t get quite so confusing. P292

With protocols you tend to be drawn into all or nothing high wire acts of perfect adherence in at least some aspects of your design. Pattern recognition in contrast assumes the constant minor presence of errors and doesn’t mind them. P293

The fundamental challenge for humanity is understanding complexity. This is the challenge of biology and medicine. It’s the challenge in society, economics. It’s also the challenge of software…Whatever path you go down, you come again and again into a complexity barrier of one sort or another. P295

Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s law. P331

Ward Cunningham created the wiki because he wanted his collaborators to fix their own documentation mistakes. The young developers who started collaborative project mgmt tool also built a small program to write a web journal and communicate with their users. That little project became Blogger. Ludicorp was an online role playing game that ended pretty quickly, but its creators revamped some of its parts and built Flickr. For that matter, who in 1991 could see that a little effort at a particle physics lab would evolve in the World Wide Web? P340

Why can’t we build software like we build bridges? Well maybe we already do. The project of replacing the 4.5 mile SF Bay Bridge was born in the 1990s after the 1989 earthquake. The original design called for a low slung unadorned causeway, but political rivalries and local pride led to the adoption of a more ambitious design… There was only one problem.: Nothing like it had been built before. And nobody wanted to tackle it. Only 1 contractor submitted a bid… Now the new bridge is scheduled for completion in 2012 – 23 years after the quake. And the cost will be astronomical. P347

** Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus

Autobiography by the founder of the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh. Yunus also won the Nobel Peace prize for his work in helping the poor with microcredit. He was the one brave enough to try when everyone else said it could not and should not be done. And he has proven that all people have potential when given enough credit.

Conventional banks usually demand lump sum payments. Parting with a large amount of cash at the end of a loan period is often psychologically trying for borrowers. They try to delay the repayment as long as they can, and in the process they make the loan grow bigger and bigger. In the end, they decide not to pay back the loan at all… To overcome the psychological barrier of parting with large sums, I decided to institute daily payments. P61

Support groups were crucial to the success of our operations, we required that each applicant join a group of like-minded people living in similar conditions… We refrained from managing them, but we did create incentives that encouraged the borrowers to help one another succeed in their businesses. Group membership not only creates support and protection but also smoothes out the erratic behavior patterns of individual members. Subtle and at times not so subtle peer pressure keeps each member in line. A sense of intragroup and intergroup competition also encourages each member to be an achiever… Once the group of 5 is formed, we extend loans to 2 members. If these 2 repay regularly for 6 weeks, 2 more members may request loans. The chairperson of the group is the last borrower… To become a group, all of the members must undergo 7 days of training and pass an oral exam… The pressure provided by the group and the exam helps ensure that only those who are truly needy and serious will actually become members. Those who are better off usually don’t find it worthwhile. P62

We require all borrowers to deposit 5% of each loan in a group fund…as of 1998, the total amount in all of the group funds was over $100M – more than the net worth of all but a handful of Bangladeshi companies. P65

Loans last 1 year, and payments are made weekly- starting immediately. Interest rate is 20%. Payments are 2% of the loan per week for 50 weeks, and interest payments are 20 bps or .2% per week. P68

There are no legal documents between the borrower and the bank… Our experience with bad debt is less than 1%.... Our loans are paid weekly to a frontline bank manager in each village. P70

In rural Bangladesh, it is an unwritten rule that if one of the family members has to starve during a famine, it will be the mother, often this means that a breast feeding infant will also starve… A husband can throw his wife out any time by merely repeating ‘I divorce thee’ 3 times. P72

Grameen means rural in Bangladeshi. P93

People without previous work experience of any kind are often best suited for the job of working in the field at Grameen. Previous work experience distracts new workers from the ideals and unique procedures of Grameen. P100 All good brainwashers will attest to this.

When a new recruits 6 month training is complete, his task will be to create a branch of his own that will be better in every respect than the one in which he spent his first 6 months. P101

The women who are the most desperate, who have nothing to eat, who have been abandoned by their husbands and are trying to feed their children by begging, join Grameen no matter who threatens them (which is often and harsh in this Muslim country). They have no other choice. They must borrow from us or watch their children die. P109

Bangladesh is the size of Florida, but has a population of 120M. [Imagine] if half of the US population decided to move to Florida, and you would begin to understand the population density we have in Bangladesh. P133

UN studies in 40 developing countries show that the birth rate falls as women gain equality… Education delays marriage and procreation; better educated women use contraception more frequently and are more likely to earn a livelihood [to gain independence]… Female Grameen borrowers have a significantly lower birth rate than the national avg. Borrowers show remarkable determination to have fewer children, to educate the ones that they have, and to participate actively in our democracy. P134

I firmly believe that all human beings have an innate skill. I call it the survival skill. The fact that the poor are alive is clear proof of their ability. They don’t need us to teach them how to survive; they already know how to do this. So rather than waste our time and money teaching them new skills, we try to make the maximum use of their existing skills… Credit allows them to explore their own potential. P140

Govt workers, NGOs, and intl consultants usually start the work of poverty alleviation by launching elaborate training programs. They do this because they begin with the assumption that people are poor because they lack skills [not because they lack opportunity – access to credit being one form of opportunity]. Training also perpetuates their own selfish interests by creating more jobs for themselves without the responsibility of concrete results. P141

Of the $30B in foreign aid ‘given’ to Bangladesh, over 75% of it was not spent in the country. It was spent on equipment, commodities, and consultants from the donor country itself. Most rich nations use their foreign aid mainly to employ their own people and to sell their own goods, with poverty reduction as an afterthought. P145

Most foreign aid goes to building roads, bridges, and so forth, which are supposed to help the poor in the long run. However, these mostly benefit those who are already wealthy. Foreign aid becomes a kind of charity for the powerful while the poor get poorer. P146

Recipients of a monthly gov’t handout feel as afraid to start a business as the women in Bengali villages. Many calculate the amount of welfare and insurance coverage they would lose by becoming self employed and conclude the risk is not worth the effort. P190

Gov’t tries to help the needy by letting businesses earn a profit and then taxing those profits to provide services to the poor. But in practice it never works that way. The taxes only pay for a gov’t bureaucracy that collects the tax and provides little or nothing to the poor. And since most gov’t bureaucracies are not profit motivated, they have little incentive to increase their efficiency. P 203