Friday, January 27, 2012

Burgled in Philly

Hanging the machine guns on the wall was a bad idea, but the burglary wouldn’t have happened if we’d just covered up the little decorative window over the front door. If you stood on your toes in the hallway and looked in through the little window, the guns were in plain sight. Almost everything was in plain sight because most of our third-story apartment was a single large room — a shoddy retrofit of a massive early twentieth-century industrial building on Philadelphia’s north side, in Fishtown, where those kind of buildings are common.

The building owner, a tattoo artist we’ll call Daryl, also lived somewhere on the third floor and ran a printing business on the first floor that employed a half-dozen people, most of whom were heavily tattooed tenants. There was plenty of activity around the building during the day and everyone made sure the main doors were always locked, so we had good reason to believe a burglar wouldn’t be able to break into the building in broad daylight, climb the stairs to the third floor, peek into our apartment, force his way in and carry off our machine guns without being caught. That was na├»ve. We should have covered up the little window.

The burglary happened on a weird day. I had agreed on very short notice to fill in on lead vocals for a friend’s band that night, a string group that played mostly old covers like “Nancy Jane” and “Wreck of the Old ‘97”. My roommate, Matt, had just started playing percussion with them a few weeks earlier and they were opening for Slim Cessna’s Auto Club at Johnny Brenda’s, a popular venue near our place. I was driving back from my soul-crushing job in the suburbs and trying to prepare mentally for the show when Matt called and asked if, by any chance, did I take the machine guns down off the wall before I left for work that morning. My stomach rolled over.
A word about the machine guns: one of them is mine, the other one is Matt’s, and they were for decoration. They were functional and we had ammunition, but they weren’t really for home defense or hunting. We thought they looked badass hanging on the wall — and they did.

My machine gun isn’t technically even a machine gun; it’s a 1944 Russian M44 infantry rifle, bolt-action, with a spike bayonet and a canvas shoulder strap. I bought it for $95 at a gun show outside Philly from a retired Air Force guy who buys them wholesale from a guy in Russia. They made about 11 million M4s for the war, and there’s a small industry of people who refurbish and ship them in wooden crates to sellers in the U.S. At the gun show, my rifle was sitting in a wooden crate with a bunch of others exactly like it, oiled and fully restored. I asked the Air Force guy if the rifles worked and he said he hadn’t fired any from that particular crate but that he’d fired a couple of other M4s he’d gotten from the same contact in Russia and they worked just fine. He also explained that the rifles are sighted in with the bayonet fixed out, in it the “battle ready” position, meaning that if you fired with the bayonet folded in your shot would stray to the left. I asked him if there was any way to get ammo for it and he pointed to a nearby table.

All I know about Matt’s rifle is that it’s a fully-automatic Czech-made AK-47 with a folding stock and two banana clips. It belonged to his father and Matt has no idea where his father got it, or why. I don’t think he’s ever fired it but it looks like it works just fine.

I told Matt I didn’t move the rifles and then he asked me if I took my laptop — a MacBook Pro I’d just bought the week before — to work with me that morning. I said no and he said, “Ah, shit.”
When I got to the warehouse the cops were already talking to Matt out on the stoop. The metal doorknob on the building’s front door was dented on either side, like it had been pinched, and the cops said certain kinds of doorknobs and locks can be broken just by grabbing them with channel locks and twisting. Apparently we had that kind of doorknob. The same thing had been done to our apartment door. On the way up, I noticed that the second floor apartment didn’t have a little decorative window.
The cops told us not to touch anything but to tell them everything that had been taken. One cop wrote stuff down in a little notebook and the other one got out the fingerprinting kit. As we looked around it became obvious that the burglar must have been interrupted mid-burglary — either that or he was insane because something wasn’t right. A digital video camera on the desk where my laptop had been was unmoved, as were the TV and stereo. But a small jar of change that had been sitting on an end table next to the couch was missing. My cheap cotton H&M blazer that had been hanging in the bathroom was gone, as was my black cowboy hat from the bedroom and, incredibly, a bag of dirty clothes. Matt’s thimbles, which he wears on his fingertips when he plays the washboard (Matt plays the washboard), were gone. His laptop, however, was sitting in plain sight on his desk in the corner.

While the cops were dusting for fingerprints, the “building manager,” an ex-con who we’ll call Billy, slipped into the apartment through the back door and quietly told me he needed to speak to me in the hallway. Billy is a wiry white guy from the Midwest who spent five years in federal prison for selling large amounts of cocaine and when he got out he came to Philly to start over, renovating apartments by day and eventually selling weed and other things by night. He wore a red bandana on his head and had a large a tattoo on his back of hand flipping the bird with the words “fuck you” written over it. He said whenever the prison guards told him to shut up he would take his shirt off and turn his back to them.

Billy was connected to the neighborhood but he wasn’t really part of it. He lived in a small apartment in the back of the building and spent a lot of time hanging out on the stoop and playing pool in the tavern across the street. He knew everybody. The way Billy saw it, someone breaking into the building was an attack on all of us and it could not go unpunished. Something had to be done. The neighborhood had to understand that the building — his building, where he once told me he had $20,000 cash hidden away somewhere in case he ever needed to leave town for good — was off limits. Billy explained all this to me out in the hallway. He said he had a pretty good idea who robbed us but he had to go talk to some people.

Back in the apartment we deduced that the burglary must have happened in broad daylight. I had left that morning just after ten and Matt came home around four in the afternoon. A few of the print shop employees said they saw a guy hanging around outside the building around eleven. The cops told us we would have to come down to the station and talk to some detectives because firearms had been taken from our apartment. They were angry with us for even owning firearms and appeared to have very little sympathy for our plight, despite our explanation that the rifles were legal and only for decoration, which they thought was stupid.

A minute later Billy poked his head through the back door of the apartment where the cops couldn’t see him and motioned for me to follow him into the rear hallway. Once outside, he leaned close and whispered: “A guy is on his way here with all your stuff but you gotta get those cops out of here right now. Like, right now. He’ll be here in five minutes but if he sees cop cars out front he ain’t comin’ in. That’s the deal. Cops stay out of it, you get your stuff back, and that’s it. You cool with that?” I was cool with that.

The timing was perfect because the cops were just closing up their fingerprinting kit, which had yielded no fingerprints, and repeating that we had to follow them to the station and that we might somehow be in trouble for being robbed of our machine guns, although they couldn’t say why. I said okay, fine, let’s go now, right now, we’ll follow you there, let’s go, and I ushered everyone out.
On the way to the station I explained the plan to Matt, how we were getting everything back but we had to keep the cops out of it. The important thing about talking to the detectives, I said, would be to keep our stories straight and not volunteer unnecessary information. It wasn’t the same as lying.

They called us in separately, Matt first, and while I was waiting Daryl the building owner called me and asked if Billy had told me what was going on. I said yes, and Daryl said that Billy knew who did it and that Billy and “his boys” had “sent a pretty strong message” to the neighborhood, to which I rolled my eyes and said just make sure you get the doors fixed. It was pretty clear that Daryl had no idea what was going on.

When it was my turn with the detective (Philadelphia detectives, by the way, are walking stereotypes of detectives — lean, early 50s, close-cropped hair, weathered face, shabby suit and tie, trench coat, revolver, 1930s-era typing skills) I gave him the whole story except the ending. He mainly wanted to know about the rifles, and I felt bad because I wanted to tell him it was okay, they won’t be out on the streets because we’re getting them back right now, you don’t even have to work on this. But I kept my mouth shut. He thought I was an idiot.

By the time we left the station we were late for our sound check at Johnny Brenda’s and drove straight there. The rest of the band was already set up on stage waiting for us and it was then that Matt realized the burglar had for some reason taken his thimbles, without which he couldn’t play the washboard. He raced back to the apartment hoping everything had been returned while I explained everything to the band. This was about ten minutes before we were supposed to go on.
When Matt got to the apartment, Billy and one of Daryl’s employees were hauling black garbage bags of our stuff in through the back door — rifles, laptop, cowboy hat, everything except the jar of change. Matt found his thimbles somewhere in there and got back to the venue with just enough time to slam a celebratory shot of whiskey before we took the stage. It was one of the best shows we’ve ever played.

Later, Billy told me how it had gone down. After he left my apartment he went to the tavern across the street where this guy Big Mike always hung out. Big Mike was the fattest crack dealer/user I’ve ever seen. Being a crack dealer and also a big guy, he was an influential member of Fishtown’s shitty criminal underworld. Billy told him that someone had hit Daryl’s building and took a bunch of stuff and Big Mike got real quiet and said oh yeah? — like he didn’t know, and Billy said yeah but it’s okay because Daryl’s got the entire building all wired up with cameras (which was a lie) and the cops are over there right now going over the tapes so it’ll just be an hour or so before they know who did it. Big Mike just stared at Billy and Billy leaned in and said, “but I bet I know who did it — I saw him, this morning,” and right away Big Mike said hold on and got up to make a phone call.

I guess Big Mike knew the guy who robbed us, a neighborhood meth-head just out of prison, but didn’t realize it was Daryl’s building, which was considered off-limits because of Billy’s standing in the neighborhood. Big Mike was pissed and called the guy and said he was coming over to get all the stuff and bring it back right now and if anyone there argued or if the stuff wasn’t all still there he was going to “crack some skulls.” (Big Mike’s threats of violence were credible; a few weeks after all this he got into a fight outside the tavern and punched a guy so hard the guy died right there on the sidewalk and Big Mike went into hiding somewhere in the depths of North Philly.)

When we got home after the show all our stuff was sitting in a pile of black garbage bags in the middle of the floor. The first thing we did was take some old newspapers and cover the little decorative window over the door. Then we hid the machine guns.

[Via Bygone Bureau]

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Even Legitimate Researchers Cut Corners

The discovery that the Dutch researcher Diederik A. Stapel made up the data for dozens of research papers has shaken up the field of social psychology, fueling a discussion not just about outright fraud, but also about subtler ways of misusing research data. Such misuse can happen even unintentionally, as researchers try to make a splash with their peers—and a splash, maybe, with the news media, too.

Mr. Stapel's conduct certainly makes him an outlier, but there's no doubt he was a talented mainstream player of one part of the academic-psychology game: The now-suspended professor at Tilburg University, in the Netherlands, served up a diet of snappy, contrarian results that reporters lapped up.

[Via The Chronicle]

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why Feds Smashed Megaupload

The US government dropped a nuclear bomb on "cyberlocker" site Megaupload today, seizing its domain names, grabbing $50 million in assets, and getting New Zealand police to arrest four of the site's key employees, including enigmatic founder Kim Dotcom. In a 72-page indictment unsealed in a Virginia federal court, prosecutors charged that the site earned more than $175 million since its founding in 2005, most of it based on copyright infringement.

As for the site's employees, they were paid lavishly and they spent lavishly. Even the graphic designer, 35-year-old Slovakian resident Julius Bencko, made more than $1 million in 2010 alone.

The indictment goes after six individuals, who between them owned 14 Mercedes-Benz automobiles with license plates such as "POLICE," "MAFIA," "V," "STONED," "CEO," "HACKER," GOOD," "EVIL," and—perhaps presciently—"GUILTY." The group also had a 2010 Maserati, a 2008 Rolls-Royce, and a 1989 Lamborghini. They had not one but three Samsung 83" TVs, and two Sharp 108" TVs. Someone owned a "Predator statue." Motor bikes, jet skis, artwork, and even 60 Dell servers could all be forfeit to the government if it can prove its case against the members of the "Mega Conspiracy."

The case is a major one, involving international cooperation between the US, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Canada, and the Philippines. In addition to the arrests, 20 search warrants were executed today in multiple countries.

No safe harbor for you

Going after Megaupload, one of the most popular sites in the world and one that uses a surprising amount of corporate bandwidth, might seem a strange choice. (As an example of its scale, Megaupload controlled 525 servers in Virginia alone and had another 630 in the Netherlands—and many more around the world.) For years, the site has claimed to take down unauthorized content when notified by rightsholders. It has registered a DMCA agent with the US government. It has created an “abuse tool” and given rightsholders access. It has negotiated with companies like Universal Music Group about licensing content. And CEO Kim Dotcom sent this curious e-mail to PayPal in late 2011:

Our legal team in the US is currently preparing to sue some of our competitors and expose their criminal activity. We like to give you a heads up and advice [sic] you not to work with sites that are known to pay up loaders for pirated content. They are damaging the image and the existence of the file hosting industry (see what's happening with the Protect IP Act). Look at Fileserve.com, Videobb.com, Filesonic.com, Wupload.com, Uploadstation.com. These sites pay everyone (no matter if the files are pirated or not) and have NO repeat infringer policy. And they are using PayPal to pay infringers.

But the government asserts that Megaupload merely wanted the veneer of legitimacy, while its employees knew full well that the site's main use was to distribute infringing content. Indeed, the government points to numerous internal e-mails and chat logs from employees showing that they were aware of copyrighted material on the site and even shared it with each other. Because of this, the government says that the site does not qualify for a “safe harbor” of the kind that protected YouTube from Viacom's $1 billion lawsuit.

For instance, the “abuse tool” allegedly does not remove the actual file being complained about by a rightsholder. Instead, it only removes a specific Web address linked to that file—but there might be hundreds of such addresses for popular content.

In addition, the government contends that everything about the site has been doctored to make it look more legitimate than it is. The “Top 100” download list does not “actually portray the most popular downloads,” say prosecutors, and they claim that Megaupload purposely offers no site-wide search engine as a way of concealing what people are storing and sharing through the site.

Megaupload employees apparently knew how the site was being used. When making payments through its “uploader rewards” program, employees sometimes looked through the material in those accounts first. "10+ Full popular DVD rips (split files), a few small porn movies, some software with keygenerators (warez)," said one of these notes. (The DMCA does not provide a "safe harbor" to sites who have actual knowledge of infringing material and do nothing about it.)

In a 2008 chat, one employee noted that "we have a funny business... modern days [sic] pirates :)," to which the reply was, "we're not pirates, we're just providing shipping servies [sic] to pirates :)."

Employees send each other e-mails saying things like, “can u pls get me some links to the series called ‘Seinfeld’ from MU [Megaupload]," since some employees did have access to a private internal search engine.

Employees even allegedly uploaded content themselves, such as a BBC Earth episode uploaded in 2008.

Other messages appear to indicate that employees knew how important copyrighted content was to their business. Content owners had a specific number of takedown requests they could make each day; in 2009, for instance, Time Warner was allowed to use the abuse tool to remove 2,500 links per day. When the company requested an increase, one employee suggested that "we can afford to be cooperative at current growth levels"— implying that if growth had not been so robust, takedowns should be limited. Kim Dotcom approved an increase to 5,000 takedowns a day.

Employees also had access to analytics. One report showed that a specific linking site had “produce[d] 164,214 visits to Megaupload for a download of the copyrighted CD/DVD burning software package Nero Suite 10. The software package had the suggested retail price of $99.” The government's conclusion: Megaupload knew what was happening and did little to stop it.

The need for care

Yet the indictment seems odd in some ways. When Viacom made many of the same charges against YouTube, it didn't go to the government and try to get Eric Schmidt or Chad Hurley arrested.

It's also full of strange non-sequiturs, such as the charge that "on or about November 10, 2011, a member of the Mega Conspiracy made a transfer of $185,000 to further an advertising campaign for Megaupload.com involved a musical recording and a video." So?

The money probably paid for a video that infuriated the RIAA by including major artists who support Megaupload. Megaupload later filed claims in US courts, trying to save the video, which it says was entirely legal, from takedown requests. (The RIAA has long said the site operators "thumb their noses at international laws, all while pocketing significant advertising revenues from trafficking in free, unlicensed copyrighted materials.")

Given that the site was already using US courts to file actions; given that the government had Megaupload e-mails talking about using US lawyers to file cases against other "pirate" sites; given that the site did at least take down content and built an abuse tool; and given that big-name artists support the site, the severity of the government's reaction is surprising.

There's no doubt that the indictment makes Megaupload look bad, though, and we're quite curious to see what comes of the case—especially once the site has a chance to respond.

Law professor James Grimmelmann of New York Law School tells Ars, "If proven at trial, there's easily enough in the indictment to prove criminal copyright infringement many times over. But much of what the indictment details are legitimate business strategies many websites use to increase their traffic and revenues: offering premium subscriptions, running ads, rewarding active users.

"I hope that if this case goes to trial and results in convictions, that the court will be careful in sorting out just what Megaupload did that crossed the line of criminality."

The MPAA doesn't have any doubts, though. "By all estimates, Megaupload.com is the largest and most active criminally operated website targeting creative content in the world," it said in a statement. "This criminal case, more than two years in development, shows that law enforcement can take strong action to protect American intellectual property stolen through sites housed in the United States."

[Via Ars Technica]

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rise of New Groupthink

Solitude is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place. Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in.

But there’s a problem with this view. Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. And the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted, according to studies by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist. They’re extroverted enough to exchange and advance ideas, but see themselves as independent and individualistic. They’re not joiners by nature.

One explanation for these findings is that introverts are comfortable working alone — and solitude is a catalyst to innovation. As the influential psychologist Hans Eysenck observed, introversion fosters creativity by “concentrating the mind on the tasks in hand, and preventing the dissipation of energy on social and sexual matters unrelated to work.” In other words, a person sitting quietly under a tree in the backyard, while everyone else is clinking glasses on the patio, is more likely to have an apple land on his head. (Newton was one of the world’s great introverts: William Wordsworth described him as “A mind for ever/ Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.”)

Solitude has long been associated with creativity and transcendence. “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible,” Picasso said. A central narrative of many religions is the seeker — Moses, Jesus, Buddha — who goes off by himself and brings profound insights back to the community.

Culturally, we’re often so dazzled by charisma that we overlook the quiet part of the creative process. Consider Apple. In the wake of Steve Jobs’s death, we’ve seen a profusion of myths about the company’s success. Most focus on Mr. Jobs’s supernatural magnetism and tend to ignore the other crucial figure in Apple’s creation: a kindly, introverted engineering wizard, Steve Wozniak, who toiled alone on a beloved invention, the personal computer.

Rewind to March 1975: Mr. Wozniak believes the world would be a better place if everyone had a user-friendly computer. This seems a distant dream — most computers are still the size of minivans, and many times as pricey. But Mr. Wozniak meets a simpatico band of engineers that call themselves the Homebrew Computer Club. The Homebrewers are excited about a primitive new machine called the Altair 8800. Mr. Wozniak is inspired, and immediately begins work on his own magical version of a computer. Three months later, he unveils his amazing creation for his friend, Steve Jobs. Mr. Wozniak wants to give his invention away free, but Mr. Jobs persuades him to co-found Apple Computer.

The story of Apple’s origin speaks to the power of collaboration. Mr. Wozniak wouldn’t have been catalyzed by the Altair but for the kindred spirits of Homebrew. And he’d never have started Apple without Mr. Jobs.

But it’s also a story of solo spirit. If you look at how Mr. Wozniak got the work done — the sheer hard work of creating something from nothing — he did it alone. Late at night, all by himself.

Intentionally so. In his memoir, Mr. Wozniak offers this guidance to aspiring inventors:

“Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me ... they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone .... I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone... Not on a committee. Not on a team.”

And yet. The New Groupthink has overtaken our workplaces, our schools and our religious institutions. Anyone who has ever needed noise-canceling headphones in her own office or marked an online calendar with a fake meeting in order to escape yet another real one knows what I’m talking about. Virtually all American workers now spend time on teams and some 70 percent inhabit open-plan offices, in which no one has “a room of one’s own.” During the last decades, the average amount of space allotted to each employee shrank 300 square feet, from 500 square feet in the 1970s to 200 square feet in 2010.

Our schools have also been transformed by the New Groupthink. Today, elementary school classrooms are commonly arranged in pods of desks, the better to foster group learning. Even subjects like math and creative writing are often taught as committee projects. In one fourth-grade classroom I visited in New York City, students engaged in group work were forbidden to ask a question unless every member of the group had the very same question.

The New Groupthink also shapes some of our most influential religious institutions. Many mega-churches feature extracurricular groups organized around every conceivable activity, from parenting to skateboarding to real estate, and expect worshipers to join in. They also emphasize a theatrical style of worship — loving Jesus out loud, for all the congregation to see. “Often the role of a pastor seems closer to that of church cruise director than to the traditional roles of spiritual friend and counselor,” said Adam McHugh, an evangelical pastor and author of “Introverts in the Church.”

Some teamwork is fine and offers a fun, stimulating, useful way to exchange ideas, manage information and build trust.

But it’s one thing to associate with a group in which each member works autonomously on his piece of the puzzle; it’s another to be corralled into endless meetings or conference calls conducted in offices that afford no respite from the noise and gaze of co-workers. Studies show that open-plan offices make workers hostile, insecure and distracted. They’re also more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, stress, the flu and exhaustion. And people whose work is interrupted make 50 percent more mistakes and take twice as long to finish it.

Many introverts seem to know this instinctively, and resist being herded together. Backbone Entertainment, a video game development company in Emeryville, Calif., initially used an open-plan office, but found that its game developers, many of whom were introverts, were unhappy. “It was one big warehouse space, with just tables, no walls, and everyone could see each other,” recalled Mike Mika, the former creative director. “We switched over to cubicles and were worried about it — you’d think in a creative environment that people would hate that. But it turns out they prefer having nooks and crannies they can hide away in and just be away from everybody.”

Privacy also makes us productive. In a fascinating study known as the Coding War Games, consultants Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister compared the work of more than 600 computer programmers at 92 companies. They found that people from the same companies performed at roughly the same level — but that there was an enormous performance gap between organizations. What distinguished programmers at the top-performing companies wasn’t greater experience or better pay. It was how much privacy, personal workspace and freedom from interruption they enjoyed. Sixty-two percent of the best performers said their workspace was sufficiently private compared with only 19 percent of the worst performers. Seventy-six percent of the worst programmers but only 38 percent of the best said that they were often interrupted needlessly.

Solitude can even help us learn. According to research on expert performance by the psychologist Anders Ericsson, the best way to master a field is to work on the task that’s most demanding for you personally. And often the best way to do this is alone. Only then, Mr. Ericsson told me, can you “go directly to the part that’s challenging to you. If you want to improve, you have to be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class — you’re the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time.”

Conversely, brainstorming sessions are one of the worst possible ways to stimulate creativity. The brainchild of a charismatic advertising executive named Alex Osborn who believed that groups produced better ideas than individuals, workplace brainstorming sessions came into vogue in the 1950s. “The quantitative results of group brainstorming are beyond question,” Mr. Osborn wrote. “One group produced 45 suggestions for a home-appliance promotion, 56 ideas for a money-raising campaign, 124 ideas on how to sell more blankets.”

But decades of research show that individuals almost always perform better than groups in both quality and quantity, and group performance gets worse as group size increases. The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” wrote the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”

The reasons brainstorming fails are instructive for other forms of group work, too. People in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work; they instinctively mimic others’ opinions and lose sight of their own; and, often succumb to peer pressure. The Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that when we take a stance different from the group’s, we activate the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the fear of rejection. Professor Berns calls this “the pain of independence.”

The one important exception to this dismal record is electronic brainstorming, where large groups outperform individuals; and the larger the group the better. The protection of the screen mitigates many problems of group work. This is why the Internet has yielded such wondrous collective creations. Marcel Proust called reading a “miracle of communication in the midst of solitude,” and that’s what the Internet is, too. It’s a place where we can be alone together — and this is precisely what gives it power.

MY point is not that man is an island. Life is meaningless without love, trust and friendship.

And I’m not suggesting that we abolish teamwork. Indeed, recent studies suggest that influential academic work is increasingly conducted by teams rather than by individuals. (Although teams whose members collaborate remotely, from separate universities, appear to be the most influential of all.) The problems we face in science, economics and many other fields are more complex than ever before, and we’ll need to stand on one another’s shoulders if we can possibly hope to solve them.

But even if the problems are different, human nature remains the same. And most humans have two contradictory impulses: we love and need one another, yet we crave privacy and autonomy.

To harness the energy that fuels both these drives, we need to move beyond the New Groupthink and embrace a more nuanced approach to creativity and learning. Our offices should encourage casual, cafe-style interactions, but allow people to disappear into personalized, private spaces when they want to be alone. Our schools should teach children to work with others, but also to work on their own for sustained periods of time. And we must recognize that introverts like Steve Wozniak need extra quiet and privacy to do their best work.

Before Mr. Wozniak started Apple, he designed calculators at Hewlett-Packard, a job he loved partly because HP made it easy to chat with his colleagues. Every day at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., management wheeled in doughnuts and coffee, and people could socialize and swap ideas. What distinguished these interactions was how low-key they were. For Mr. Wozniak, collaboration meant the ability to share a doughnut and a brainwave with his laid-back, poorly dressed colleagues — who minded not a whit when he disappeared into his cubicle to get the real work done.

[Via NY Times ]

Saturday, January 7, 2012

10 Things You Do to Save Money That End Up Costing You More

1. Avoiding regular check-ups with the doctor, dentist or optician.

2. Taking store credit card offers for discounts, but paying the minimum.

3. Doing your own taxes.

4. Building an emergency fund, but not contributing to a retirement plan.

5. Buying the cheapest products to save money.

6. Putting no money in the parking meter because “I’ll be back quick!”.

7. Getting suckered into BOGO deals and other sales.

8. Driving miles and miles for cheaper gas or other bargains.

9. Avoiding routine car maintenance.

10. Buying food in bulk and then throwing half of it away.

[Via Wise Bread]