Skip to main content

Incentives, Open Science and Personal Development

There is a problem, that I on-and-off think about since around the New Year. I am supposed to be mentoring a friend in public speaking. But I don't think, that I am doing a good job. The main problem is, that I can see that she takes my suggestions and tries to incorporate it, but that does not really improves the speeches.

Which means, the problem is most likely with me and not with her.

So I am going through the book Opening Science: The Evolving Guide on How the Internet is Changing Research, Collaboration and Scholarly Publishing right now. In the third chapter, there is a conversation about how in incentives have created a situation, which lowered the quality and meaningfulness of science. They say, that this is based on the need, to judge the work of scientists, without being a scientist themselves.

Which, if you had ever tried to judge the work in something, you had no idea about? It is almost impossible. Just because somebody write the most lines of code, does not make them a good programmer. Just because a book is a best-seller, that does not mean that the book is good. And just because the scientific article was published in the high-rank journal, this does not mean, that this is the truth (or in some cases, that this is well made science).

Even more, when it comes to improving ourselves. Just because I notice a mistake in somebody else's speech, this does not mean, that this is something that this person should be working on. I mean, I could get that, when people were constantly noting on my "misuse" of speech at Toastmasters, but nobody told me, that they had troubles with following my speeches, until I already improved that. I don't know, but the later seems sort of more important to me than the former?

I have sort of started to notice this with my personal stuff. If I would count the books by checking the number all the time, then I would start reading shorter and easier books. Which is now, what I was supposed to be doing. So instead, the only way to get the number, is to run a script (and I put the files and script in completely different folders, so that there is another step is between), and I only do this once per year. On the long run, I am sure reading some a bit harder or longer book would be more satisfying.

In some senses, these metrics can do some good to create a habit. If a person is not used to reading books all the time, then keeping track of the number of books read can be motivational. If the goal is to get rid of fear, then metric like that could also be helpful. Afraid of public speaking? Then count the number of times you stand on the stage in a month. Afraid of socialization. It helps to keep track of how many social gathering one attended in a month without known company (they are way too much of a crouch, and then there is no motivation, to help meet other people).

But once passed this, it need to be well though out, what metrics to use. Because the improvement will go in the direction of these metrics and nowhere else. Just like the scientific articles are a lot more marginal now, since the number of publications is one of the metric being tracked. So people don't wait, to develop a theory before publishing, but they publish a lot of times before that. I am sure, that today the Jung's Personality Types or Darwin's On the Origin of Species, would be instead published as dozens of unconnected articles.

We Choose Our Situations

There is an interesting idea in the personal psychology. And this is, that we choose our own situations. So there are the differences in personality profiles on different social media, or in different professions or in different study programs or in different groups.

This is why, they find personality differences between groups. For example high openness for left-leaning and high conscientiousness for right-leaning. More empathic for students of psychology than student of economics. More aggressiveness and narcissism for people volunteering for the prison experiment, than for general psychological experiment.

And I am sure, one can think of an example from their own life. There is a saying is Slovenian: "Iste ptice skupi letijo" (English translation: the same birds are flying together), because it is normally so.

There are some interesting (albeit heartbreaking) studies, that show that people high in neuroticism put themselves in the situation, that lead to more bad things happening to them.

I am right now doing a presentation for the next Python Meetup. I was judging among many ideas. I promised one of the two. But I am going to present something in the same area as one of them. And that is the replication of the racism in housing. Where the model shows, that even when the only preference is, to not be surrounded with majority of people, from one group, that are different, this leads to serious racial segregation. I am just not going to be using race in the example.

And so I wanted to share this idea on the blog as well.

Women, Programming, Writing and Fear of Being Imperfect

I have recently came across a TED talk Teach girls bravery, not perfection. There is a book coming out from this speaker in the same or similar topic. Or at least that is what one blog, that I had read said.

Anyway, it seems like it was an interesting topic, so I watched it. In that talk, they explain about the story of how women would delete their code, before asking for help. This reminded me of one of my tutoring experience. When she wanted to to teach her programming, but on the beginning, she was expecting me to impair knowledge on her.

Well, I have no idea, how to do this, so what I did was make her try her ideas. Because that gave me the insight into what she did not understand. But it was even more interesting, when in the later session, she was trying her ideas from the start.

Even though, I learned programming (something, she suggested was a solution to perfectionism), I think I am still a perfections. I mean, I have already spend hours creating a 20 minutes speech for Python Meetup, worrying if the speech is going to be interesting to the people. And I talk that as somebody who had over 50 speeches at Toastmasters and you can usually put me on the stage and I can talk for way more than 20 minutes. So I don't think that programming is the answer.

What I think is the answer is publishing. I mean this is the most wide sense. A person stops being such a perfectionist, when they release their work in the world and nothing bad happens.

I remember in 2012 and 2013, when I started to put my writings on the internet. At that time, I did not had a blog, though since then I have transferred my writing to this blog (the ones that I could find/recover). I was nervous and I spend way too much time in stress, what the people will think about it. Now, I can write a text like that, and I will not feel any pressure to put it out there in the world.

The same was with Toastmasters speeches. The first couple of times, I had spend a lot of time, thinking about how to approach it. On the last speeches, I don't think I prepared much for any of them. It was just normal.

The social skills are the same way. Doing something for the first time, be it asking for a favor or contacting somebody for the meeting, or anything else, it can be nerve wrecking (a lot worse than public speaking). But eventually, it becomes easier.

So I don't think there is just one thing, that would stop the fear of imperfections. No matter how programming might be seen as a magic pill. But it is doing the things that can stop that imperfection. And while I am not on that level yet, maybe eventually the meta skill will develop, and there is going to be a general lowering of this fear.