Two weeks ago Kate and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.  Readers might not know but Kate read and proofed every post on this site and made every one better.

This morning at 7am she had a major brain haemorrhage and is now lying in a coma with serious brain damage.  It is too early to know what recovery will bring.  I am sure that you will understand that my writing is on hiatus.  I would be very pleased if anybody would like to contribute postings.

My kids and I, and our extended family are in shock now.  The support from family and friends, many who read this blog, has been extraordinary.

Please let your loved ones know how you feel today.  Life can change quickly.

With all my love to Kate, Andrew Hunt

andrew.hunt at mail.com



Dumbing Down: Media, Multi-tasking and Misrepresentation

Please wait for my brain to reload

A while back I posted a piece on Unnecessary Context Switches & the Myth of Multitasking looking at some of the research on the topic.  The consistent result: the more things you try to do at once the worse you will perform at each of them.  Despite this, many working environments expect us to constantly switch our attention and, if anything, the expectation to multi-task is increasing and more of us are succumbing.  At the individual level this can be stressful and reduce satisfaction in your work.  At an organizational level (and I suspect at a macro-economic level) this expectation is a drag on productivity.

I kept seeing new and interesting information and so began writing a follow-up post.  Meanwhile, multi-tasking is increasingly appearing in the general lexicon and as a meme of mass advertisers where multi-tasking is a shorthand for the stress of modern life. For example, vitamins are sold as an “antidote” to multi-tasking in ads that cynically play on myths about gender and multi-tasking, and through-out it the message is that multi-tasking is stressful (that seems true), heroic (that seems stupid) and unavoidable (mostly false).

The research for this post lead instead to an exposition on the quality of media coverage of science.  What started as reading about the “dumbing down” effects of multi-tasking revealed the “dumbing down” effects of media on science.  That’s not surprising to most of us, but looking at the mechanics is, I think, interesting.

I should add that my motivating concern is that, in this instance, bad research and bad media coverage of research will lead to skepticism.  The problem here is that solid science reaches much the same conclusion as the bad science.

Dive in …

Google Introspection

Regular readers may have noticed a hiatus in posts.  Last month, having just released the post on (In)Decision Making, I headed to the emergency room with what turned out to be appendicitis.  That was followed by surgery, some complications and a slowish recovery.  All up, not a great month.

As I get back on the proverbial bike we start with a bit of geeky introspection … what does Google have to say about the blog?  The idea started because the gap in writing revealed a shift in site usage which I suspect was the difference between regular readers and ad hoc visitors through search engines.

Dive in…

(In)Decision Making

Are you more likely to book your next vacation through LastMinute.com or through PlanWayAhead.com?  Do you make snap decisions or like to keep your options open?  Are you usually the first to meetings or the last? Do you like to arrive at the airport with seconds to spare or would this send your stress sky high?  Is your desk clean or chaotic?  Are deadlines your friend or foe? Do you like to focus on a task to completion or have many balls in the air?  Do you always finish what you start?  Are you a procrastinator?


Read the Procrastinator's Creed

These behaviors are tied together on psychological scales.  Awareness of your natural behavior has its benefits, not least that it gives you greater opportunity to consciously adjust your behavior according to circumstance.

Recognizing and understanding the decision-making style of colleagues has its benefits too. It can reduce tension and misunderstandings between people with different styles.  It can help like-minded individuals to avoid group-think. It allows diverse teams to play to the strengths of individuals.
Read on…

Competence vs. Confidence

Do you feel confident?  Try this quick 2 minute Test of Confidence before continuing.

One of the first pieces I wrote in this blog, The Flow – Programming in Ecstasy, explored the factors that help us get into The Zone.  Most writing on this topic emphasizes the need for silence and lack of distractions.  While that is important, I learned of other important factors beyond the ability to concentrate: serenity (the absence of worries), direction (a sufficiently defined task and path to progress), confidence (to accomplish the task) and competence (again, to accomplish the task).

The last two factors, Confidence and Competence, weave their way through most articles I have written.  Despite confidence and competence being different in reality they are often confused.  So confidence and competence deserve some focus in their own right.

Read on…

Ethical Lemmas

Warning: this blog includes actual codes of ethics.  Reading codes of ethics may result in drowsiness.  Do not read this blog while driving or operating heavy machinery.

Last week’s psygrammer post, Sharing Benefits Increases Cheating, was a glimpse on how people make (un-)ethical judgements and creating a working environment that fosters ethical behavior.  As I reflected on that post I realized that ethics was rarely an explicit part of my working environment: no employer had a code of ethics (that I knew about) and it was rarely a direct topic of conversation in the workplace.  Sure, I faced many ethical dilemmas and I feel that I have sought to act ethically throughout my career.  But what are the ethical principles that I am supposed to uphold?  Will it make it easier to recognize ethical dilemmas and make ethical choices if I know the individual “ethical lemmas“?

Read on…

Sharing Benefits Increases Cheating

Today’s post is a thought bubble on honesty and cheating in the workplace following two articles I read recently.  The first is an interesting report on how people are more likely to cheat if the benefits of that cheating are shared with another person, even with an anonymous stranger.  The likelihood of behaving dishonestly doubled (21% to 43%) when participants could point to another’s benefit from their own unethical behavior.

The report was based on experiments involving word games and other online activities in which the researchers left opportunities for participants to over-report their performance.  Splitting the benefits of cheating was considered less unethical by participants than taking the benefits all for themselves.

Read on…