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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.

Ashby's picture

I think it can be...

I think it can be the same if you're competing against others as well, not just yourself. I don't mean a Seinfeld-esque sales call scoreboard, but knowing how well you're doing compared to everyone else is motivation, if nothing else. Makes finding more efficient or effective ways of doing the mundane task the new challenge.

I wonder how this is reflected in overall career path for geeks. How long is the average stay at a job, and what are the reasons for leaving? Is it time to move on when there is no more challenge?




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