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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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Danny O'Brien: Question on geeks and games

Danny & Merlin As you may know, Danny O’Brien and I are rumored to be working on a book for O’Reilly’s Hacks series. As we theoretically toil with this theoretical book, we’ll be lazily turning to you smart people from time to time to save our bacon. This is the first of those occasions.

Thus, Danny asks…

So one of the things that’s cropping up in the research is that geeks hate boredom more than other people: indeed, more than life itself. The whole “rather gnaw your own arm off??? is frightening close to reality here.

Given the choice between a fractionally tedious task that will save hours of effort, and something capitivating and challenging, we’ll bunk off the former.

I don’t know yet whether that’s not something that’s applicable to other people. But I am interested in linking this up with another bit of anecdata, which is that geeks often enjoy thought games and puzzles.

So, here’s my question: when you have a regular, mind-crushingly dull task to do, do you have a little game you play with yourself to make it easier? If so, what is it?

(Merlin reminds me to include the canonical Simpsons reference in this discussion:)

Bart makes a game of it Principal Skinner: Oh, licking envelopes can be fun! All you have to do is make a game of it.

Bart: What kind of game?

Principal Skinner: Well, for example, you could see how many you could lick in an hour, then try to break that record.

Bart: Sounds like a pretty crappy game to me.

Principal Skinner: Yes, well… Get started.

Russell Lankenau's picture

When I was in high...

When I was in high school, I worked for a chemical company, and was in charge of calibrating all of the company's viscosity tubes. This entailed adding a substance to the tube, setting it in a hot oil bath, and then waiting for the meniscus to drop past a mark. My strategy for keeping sane was to try and pick the right tubes and fluids so that I could pull one out just as the next was going in. I also ran 3 tubes at a time with 3 stopwatches. If I was running exceptionally slow tubes, I would run other tests elsewhere in the lab and attempt to estimate how long I had before I had to be back to hit the stopwatch and pull the tube.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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