May 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What does it mean to have character?

Today I came across a wikipedia page about the Seven Blunders of the World which was a list created by Gandhi. As I went through them one particularly stuck with me. That was “Knowledge without Character” particularly because knowledge is something I strive for. The problem was although I had a sense in my gut about what character was, I wasn’t sure specifically. Furthermore I wasn’t sure if I have character. #

Of course that question led me to the page on Moral Character which describe character as: #

Moral character or character is an evaluation of a particular individual’s durable moral qualities. #

It is a test of proper behavior and determining what is right and wrong. #

So now the questions is what does it mean to be moral? I’ve always considered myself a consequentialist which has led some people with differing beliefs to think of me as having questionable morals. The interesting thing is that through my research I came up with two other approaches to morality. #

Deontological Ethics are rule based morality. Something is right or wrong. Growing up Catholic I have a lot of experience with this one. This one doesn’t jive with me because it leaves open the question of “who writes the rules?” Of course religious people would have an answer to that question, but that leaves me something to be desired. #

Virtue Ethics gets a little more tricky because that article leads with the definition: #

Virtue ethics describes the character of a moral agent as a driving force for ethical behaviour, rather than rules (deontology) or consequentialism, which derives rightness or wrongness from the outcome of the act itself rather than character. #

Which leads to the meta answer of “Having character means being moral and being moral means having character” although a later example seems to slightly clarify: #

As such, lying would be made in a case-by-case basis that would be based on factors such as personal benefit, group benefit, and intentions (as to whether they are benevolent or malevolent). #

So now I’m not really sure where to go from here. What are your thoughts on character and morality? #

Monday, May 9, 2011

Developers and the Growth Mindset

Recently I’ve been reading the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck and it’s really making me think. #

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong. #

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities. #

Carol Dweck #

Of course when I read those descriptions I think “Well I’m clearly operating with a growth mindset” since I know that any skill can be developed and if you work hard at something you can do amazing things. However as I go through the book and she goes over examples of people in similar situations where one is operating with a fixed mindset and the other with a growth mindset I’m starting to wonder if I may be subconsciously operating within the fixed mindset. #

One part that really resonated with me when when they mentioned that someone with the fixed mindset “depended too much on his talent instead of hard work” and I realized that’s like me. I haven’t had to challenge myself for a long time and when faced with something difficult, I frequently procrastinate, preferring to work on projects that come easily to me. Heck, even when I play video games I don’t last very long before I go looking for the walk-through. #

Thankfully I don’t show all the negative traits of the fixed-minded people in the book. Many of them are very defensive and arrogant, where I’m typically self-deprecating. But even my self-deprecating attitude can be linked to the fixed mindset. If I’m self deprecating and people don’t expect much from me then when I do something well they are impressed. #

So one of my goals moving forward will be to see what I can do to transition to a more growth oriented mindset. I should not shy away from things that are challenging and I shouldn’t be afraid to put myself out there. It was a good thing for me when I shipped my TwitOPML app, everybody seemed really happy with it. Now I should try to one-up myself and ship something more challenging. #

The first step in solving a problem is to identify the problem. I’ve done that, now I have to do something about it. #

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Following Outside of Twitter

I’ve been working as part of the blork community lately. What is a blork? It’s basically a decentralized Twitter like app that runs on RSS. You post status updates that get posted to your RSS Feed, then you follow other RSS feeds. The problem? RSS is not particularly user friendly. You have to find the RSS feed, copy the URL and paste it into your RSS aggregator. Some sites make it easier, like with Dave’s blork software you just copy a little bookmarklet into your toolbar and when you find a site you want to follow you just click the bookmarklet and it takes you to your blork with the url filled in. #

One reason Twitter and Facebook have become so popular is that it’s so easy to follow people. You just click the follow button and you’re done. How could we make it that easy for blorks while still keeping it decentralized? This is where OPML comes in. #

OPML is in it’s generic sense a format for outlines, however it’s also used for RSS subscription lists. Unfortunately there aren’t too many RSS aggrigators that let you subscribe to a live OPML list. Instead you typically import a list which defeats much of the power of this technology. Fortunately Dave’s blork software supports subscribing to a live OPML list. #

What if we had a service that worked like this: #

  1. You sign up and get an OPML subscription list and instructions on how to put this URL into your blork. #
  2. Websites could put a “follow” button on their site that works as easily as a Like or Tweet This button. #
  3. When you click that button you’re communicating with the site you signed up with and it adds the feed to your OPML subscription list. #
  4. Since your blork is subscribed to your OPML list, you’re not automatically subscribed to the site you’re following. #

There is no reason why we couldn’t have more then one of these services. Maybe there could even be a way they could play nice with each other. They would also have to have a bookmarklet like on Dave’s blork so you could somewhat easily follow blogs that don’t have the follow button. There could also be browser plugins that make this even easier for people. #

I still think this process will be too complicated for the average user but this is an interesting place to start thinking of a solution. #

Published by Andrew Shell on and last updated .