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Topic: Which organised geeks shall I talk to?
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Ni hao ai  41
11-10-2004 03:55 AM ET (US)
Why not free ? http://www.itv.com.vn Sources of Movies
jade  40
12-08-2003 01:37 PM ET (US)
Edited by author 12-09-2003 06:26 AM
I live in the caribbean and I need someone who can hack into our network and get a file off my bosses computer. Very low security and willing to pay $1000.00 but deadline is dec 13 contact at glimermann2002@yahoo.com

J
Medievalist  39
11-18-2003 11:37 AM ET (US)
I don't blog and I don't use IRC or any form of instant messaging. I can count the number of people who know my cell number on one hand. I have no beeper, my phone does not allow incoming calls with caller-id blocking on, and I have an answering machine. I don't read newspapers (except the sunday comics). I don't listen to anything recorded that's not music, I don't watch any TV other than the Simpsons and Futurama, and I do not upgrade any hardware or software that works unless it has security flaws.

Consequently, I get lots and lots done. Eliminating nearly all one-way communication flows and external interupts allows me to have more two-way, self-paced flows (like email, for example), while still leaving time to raise children, ramble about in the wilderness, and write oodles of code. It's just a matter of ruthlessly eliminating all useless noise and busy-work from one's life.

Weirdly enough, people frequently tell me I'm remarkably well informed. I think how much you know about what's going on in the world might be inversely proportional to the amount of time you spend perusing commercial news sources.
Udhay Shankar N  38
11-01-2003 10:00 PM ET (US)
Also try contacting Eugen Leitl <www.leitl.org> - the guy gets more email than even people like you and I. And he READS it, and he's doing some insane number of things at the same time.

--
((Udhay Shankar N)) ((udhay @ pobox.com)) ((www.digeratus.com))
Morbus Iff  37
10-29-2003 02:44 PM ET (US)
Speaking of lists of lists (I'm one of the folks on Danny's original posting), I've automated creation of two, taken from automated exports of normal programs (iTunes and Extensis Portfolio). See 'em here, as well as links to the scripts that do 'em: http://disobey.com/d/lists/
Denise CzajaPerson was signed in when posted  36
10-29-2003 12:41 PM ET (US)
two women i know that seem to get a lot done are heather champ and molly wright steenson. hchamp.com and girlwonder.com respectively.

personally, as a project manager, one key to staying focused and getting things done is to keep a bare desktop and a clean desk. sure, most messy people say they know where everything is, but that's not the point. when you don't have visual distractions and temptations, it's easier to focus on the task at hand.

personality has a LOT to do with it. some people are just born organized. they get off on crossing things off lists. they have lists of lists. can someone learn to be more organized? yes, to some degree, but the real secret is just being born that way.
Danny O'Brien  35
10-28-2003 09:38 PM ET (US)
> I was surprised to see Jon Singer on your list -- I certainly
> consider him brilliant, a true polymath (he's mostly working on
> high-tech ceramics and gamelan music these days) but I never
> thought of him as organized!

Well, it's not just about being organised in a traditional sense. Just being on top of dozens of projects and somehow managing not to have them *all* collapse into chaos is good enough for me to be curious.

Whatever Jon is, he's both an extreme and a very high-functioning example of it.
joyce scrivner  34
10-28-2003 06:51 PM ET (US)
I agree with Anita - I'm not sure I'd call Singer organized. Prioritized and linked (both mind and manner), but not necessarily organized.

I would add Bruce Schneier of Counterpane (www.counterpane.com), and Fredric Brooks (of Mythical Man Month.)
Anita Rowland  33
10-27-2003 05:46 PM ET (US)
I was surprised to see Jon Singer on your list -- I certainly consider him brilliant, a true polymath (he's mostly working on high-tech ceramics and gamelan music these days) but I never thought of him as organized!
Zooko  32
10-27-2003 07:22 AM ET (US)
Neal Stephenson talked a bit about his daily routine, and getting into the "flow state", when he was in Toronto for a book-promotion tour last week. I'll bet he would have some good ideas.
Udhay Shankar N  31
10-27-2003 03:55 AM ET (US)
I recommend talking to Chris Kelty <www.kelty.org>, an anthropology prof at Rice who spends a LOT of time working with such geeks.

Another suggestion is to poll the hivemind on alt.hackers, or simply lurk there - many of the hacks posted are about real life, not just code.
jetifi  30
10-25-2003 10:48 AM ET (US)
I have no suggestions, but if you find anything usefull, PLEASE put it up on the web where we can learn from it. Already I have projects for the next 20-30 years, but not enough time.
Zooko  29
10-25-2003 07:36 AM ET (US)
Hey you 5 e-mail subscribers -- I just re-edited my last note extensively and tripled its size, and then noticed this note that said the original version had already been e-mail to 5 subscribers. So if you want to see the same version the web-readers are seeing, you'll have to go look on the web.
Zooko  28
10-25-2003 07:23 AM ET (US)
Edited by author 10-25-2003 07:34 AM
A similar train of thought is that telling yourself that you aren't organized or that you can't remember things, etc., makes it true. Our culture should adopt the belief that they hold in Taiwan -- that describing a bad thing is like a curse and tempts fate, even if you say it in a hypothetical, counterfactual, consequent, or joking way.

Actually I think it goes double for joking. "Ha ha, only serious.". For example, suppose someone named their web site "oblomovka" and made a hilarious comedy essay about how they are disorganized and ineffectual. That would be very amusing! But it would make them more disorganized and ineffectual. That's bad.

So in order to make your self-image and your psychological stance more compatible with an organized and effectual life, I propose two simple rules: 1. Don't say bad things about yourself. 2. Practice. Can't remember something? Don't ask your wife for help -- sit still for a minute and try. Controlled experiments have conclusively demonstrated that this improves memory in humans.

Likewise with all the other things you would like to improve about yourself. Difficulty with spelling? Leave the spell-checker alone for about 3 seconds and do your best, then use the checker to check your work. Find yourself using a word badly when speaking? Repeat the sentence, out loud, with better wording. etc.

P.S. Probably a lot of geeks resist these sorts of fuzzy ideas of mind/body/behavior influence because they've swallowed this Platonic notion that for the mind to be independent of the body and of the physical environment is the most virtuous state. In Gibson's Sprawl trilogy, one of the hackers contemptuously refers to his body as "meat". However, geeks also respect science, and modern science shows conclusively that Plato was full of bullshit. What you eat, when you sleep, what words you say to yourself, what posture you hold, how you move your facial muscles when thinking -- all of these things have measurable and reproduceable effects on how your mind works. Learn to live with it.

P.P.S. I know Plato said "a sound mind in a sound body", but nonetheless his mind/body dichotomy and his praise of untainted mind as virtuous is strongly echoed in the modern hacker culture e.g. "Hackers: Heroes".
Zooko  27
10-25-2003 07:05 AM ET (US)
So clearly there are some common neurological and psychological patterns that many geeks shares -- attention management/novelty-seeking, etc. Those traits probably lead many geeks to have similar problems in organization and effectiveness.

However, I'm wondering if some of our cherished culture isn't also part of the problem! This culture was written down by Steven Levy in "Hackers: Heroes", and many a young geek (me, I mean) read that book and decided to be the kind of noble hacker who stays up all night hacking, eats randomly and badly, and lives a disorganized life with no administrative practices at all.

A good deal of my self-improvement over the last few years has involved becoming consciously aware of these behaviors and deciding to stop doing them.
Mark HurstPerson was signed in when posted  26
10-24-2003 12:00 PM ET (US)
Good Easy is my invention. I developed it in the mid-90s and have trained dozens of people on it since.

Part of the system is described in my (free) report on managing incoming e-mail:

Here's the report - PDF file download

Past that, Good Easy encompasses the todo list, calendar, filing system, file formats, photo management, and keyboard shortcuts. I know of no other integrated system like it.

Happy to discuss - (I haven't gotten around to writing down the entire system - but could do a phone call)

-Mark Hurst
mark at goodexperience dot com
Andrew White  25
10-24-2003 10:49 AM ET (US)
Who was the fellow that came up with the "Good, Easy" systems? Seems like they'd be good to check in with.
Kees O.  24
10-23-2003 08:10 PM ET (US)
Alfons:: he's one of the leads for Sylph-claws.
Oren SreebnyPerson was signed in when posted  23
10-23-2003 04:58 PM ET (US)
How 'bout Tim Bray?

Seems like you're getting a list of the usual well-known suspects so far.

For some less well known folks from my particular sphere (higher ed central computing organizations) I'd suggest Paul Hill from MIT.
Steve Lawson  22
10-23-2003 04:03 PM ET (US)
Let me second the recommendation for "Getting Things Done" by David Allen. I don't always follow his entire system, but when things start to break down for me, I can usually quickly recover by going back to his "next actions" and "projects" lists. I'm not an uber-geek, but using Allen's methods, I believe I can work through a lot of tasks quickly without wasting a lot of time. The techniques work great for my work life, but I'm not disciplined/anal enough to apply it to my personal life.
Lorin Rivers  21
10-23-2003 03:22 PM ET (US)
I highly recommend the book Getting Things Done. It's about, well, getting things done. They key idea is moving from "to do's" to "next steps". I wish I had time to implement the whole program. We have a saying in Texas: Too busy chopping down trees to sharpen my axe...
Craig Hughes  20
10-23-2003 03:10 PM ET (US)
One of the most useful things to keep geeks organized is to not skimp on administrative staff to organize them. You wouldn't have a flock of sheep without a sheepdog, so why wouldn't you pay for one $30,000/yr admin for every 2 or 3 $100,000 geeks?
At my last-but-one company, my productivity probably came close to doubling when I decided to hire an admin to take calls for me, track my calendar, and remind me of things I'd forgotten.
aaronpropst  19
10-23-2003 01:38 PM ET (US)
velcro,

I coated the back of my laptop screen with velcro. (the nice smooth 'industrial strength' stuff)

it's great for organization, because you can keep all the little incidental stuff you need attached to the computer.
http://www.aaronpropst.com/blog/images/laptopdriveconfig.jpg

This way, you can just pick up your laptop and take it to a meeting, or wherever, without needing to drag a bag of stuff along. I keep my power supply, external hard drive, wifi card back there. and it's all modular so you can rig it for.. ahem.. specific activities:
http://www.aaronpropst.com/features/war-rig1.jpg

The other cool thing, is i made some small sheetmetal or plexiglas plates with velcro on them so they stick to the screen and stick out to one side.. I clip my cellphone to that.. and my cellphone is mounted right next to my screen.. quite handy for the telecommute from wifi pockets around a city.
Danny O'BrienPerson was signed in when posted  18
10-23-2003 01:29 PM ET (US)
Hey, I had Paul Ford!

Actualy, I'm beginning to think the best policy might be to compose a questionnaire for anyone who wants it, and then pursue those who want to be pursued. There are more prolific geeks out there than I can track, and everybody seems to have at least one tip in them.

(Mine, for what it's worth, is this: "The Ten Minute Hate". If you're untidy, every day, spend just ten minutes cleaning up. Time it exactly. Play loud annoying music. Model it after the 10 minute hate in "1984". Revel in the hate. If you share an apartment, synchronise your hate with your housemates. Ten minutes is almost no time at all, but it will do most of the work of keeping an environmentally stable, if not cleaner. Also, it's nice to have part of your day reserved for despising everything and everyone.
roadknight  17
10-23-2003 12:57 PM ET (US)
Find a like-minded geek and use them/their brain as storage. This works particularily well with scattered, ADD-like geeks. Your important stuff becomes their trivia and will be guaranteed a much higher degree of persistence than you could ever manage over it because we all know
how geeks are with trivia.
This actually does work, at least among my friends and I it does.
"What was that thing I was supposed to do Wednesday down south?"

'You were going to be speaking at the SIG/LUG and take your book with you as a door prize. It starts at 1900'

"Oh, right....I guess I better write up the slides then"
'No problem. Where did I leave my 802.11 card?'
"You gave it to Mark to graft a new pigtail onto..."
Ron Davis  16
10-23-2003 12:53 PM ET (US)
My favorite organizing tip.

When you file something ask yourself "Where would I look for this if I was trying to find it?" This really helps you put it in a place you can find it later. Works with physical filing and computer files too.

I once had a manager - an actually good one - tell my my biggest contribution to the team was asking "So what do we need to do next?" I hate leaving a meeting without knowing what we are suppose to be doing next. Often in a meeting you brain storm and discuss stuff and feel you've accomplished something. Then you go back to your desk and think, "What am I suppose to be doing?"
laurie  15
10-23-2003 10:11 AM ET (US)
Maybe try to track down some more women, cos I reckon we have a very different set of getting-things-done tools. Maybe. Or at least, it would be interesting to know.

Something I have always found makes a huge difference to overall productivity is the amount of sleep a person needs. Student friends who were perfectly bright and awake on 4 hours a night invariably managed far more homework/parties/hobbies/societies/friendships than those of us for whom 8-9 hours is barely enough. What proportion of hugely prolific geeks sleep very little? And do they all have housemates/OHs/parents etc with whom to "share" day to day chores (which eat time like nobody's business), or do they exist on internet-ordered ramen in a single darkened room?

It's not all organisation...
Giles Turnbull  14
10-23-2003 09:53 AM ET (US)
How about Paul Ford?
shawk  13
10-23-2003 09:03 AM ET (US)
The easiest way to become efficient is to do something worthwhile under time pressure.

I developed the first effective lung cleaning system for pneumonia, COPD and CF. Concentrating my thoughts was the fact that 20,000 people died of these diseases every day.
biella  12
10-23-2003 08:18 AM ET (US)
oh and danny, here is a small anthropological suggestion:
look for embodies technologies too!!! http://healthhacker.org/satoroams/archives/000361.html#000361
Janne  11
10-23-2003 08:10 AM ET (US)
No names, but one tactic I've seen that works is: Delete. You had over 150 things on the todo-list? Delete any item older than a month. If you haven't done it in a month, it wasn't important enough to do anyway. And if it becomes important again (due to panicky reminders from other people, for example), then add it again.

Same goes for mail. Older then a month - dump it. Actually, set up an automated filter to delete anything too old. Only way not to have it deleted is to do something with the item. If you don't, it wasn't important. If it turned out to be important anyway, you will be reminded.

Thing is, once your inbox is a dozen pieces and your to-do list number in the single digits, thos things still there are important and/or new, and quite a lot more motivating to actually accomplish. You no longer have the feeling of cleaning out Aeigan stables whenever you drag yourself to actually do something on the list.
biella  10
10-23-2003 08:02 AM ET (US)
Hey Danny,

So I agree with Rachel that Seth is amazingly prolific. But I suspect he leads life much like you do, somewhat (though not totally) disorganized. I think if he were really really organized, he might be leader of the free world. But he enjoys life way too much for that, meandering and wandering where life takes him

So, I have interviewed many geeks and the one that was quite impressive and really fun to interview is bdale garbee. Ex project leader of Debian, he was launching amateur satellites, writing code, working full time, and raising a family. And he just seemed to put together!

Good luck...
Paul Robinson  9
10-23-2003 06:49 AM ET (US)
You've got confused between organisation and motivation. The things you claim are difficult to get completed (your todo list, writing the Linux kernel, reading 1,000 e-mails a day) have little to do with being able to organise your life, but instead have everything to do with being motivated to do them in the first place. They aren't hard, they don't need your desk to be "just perfect" before you begin, you just DO them.

Try this for an exercise - you have two choices of what to do with your evening; you may read mails from a dozen mailing lists, write a few hundred lines of code, submit patches for something cool to go into a project you love before reading a chapter of War and Peace OR you can sit in front of the telly eating pizza and cuddling your other half. Which one is it?

See. The Universe likes everything at it's lowest state of energy. Anybody who has studied semiconductors know that this rule is so important, without it, computers wouldn't work. You are no different. You could do all those things "geniuses" do, but the truth is you have something else you would rather do.

Organisation comes after you've decided to do something. Trying to organise your life before you have the motivation is just the "Rimmer Study Timetable" problem.
Matt Jones  8
10-23-2003 05:30 AM ET (US)
Have you read "FSTR" by James Glieck?
Rachel Chalmers  7
10-23-2003 01:43 AM ET (US)
Edited by author 10-23-2003 01:44 AM
Three parageeks whose prolifickness brings me out in hives of envy:

Seth David Schoen
J Brad Delong
Eben Moglen

(oops, you had Brad already)
Danny O'BrienPerson was signed in when posted  6
10-22-2003 11:21 PM ET (US)
Oh yes Rands yes yes.

Aaron - that really is just a list of the first people I thought of. I think thought of you because of your Activity Log.
brainsik  5
10-22-2003 10:32 PM ET (US)
Forrest L Norvell,
This man has the most extensive array of obsessions I've seen. And he seems to carry through most of them farther than one might expect.
Aaron SwartzPerson was signed in when posted  4
10-22-2003 10:21 PM ET (US)
Whoa, didn't expect to see my name.
otoro  3
10-22-2003 09:38 PM ET (US)
otoro  2
10-22-2003 09:36 PM ET (US)
You gotta have Rands on board.

http://rands.jerkcity.com/
Danny O'BrienPerson was signed in when posted  1
10-22-2003 08:30 PM ET (US)
Edited by author 10-22-2003 08:36 PM
I'm talking to people about the habits, hacks and desktop arrangements they've developed to cope with the demands of leading an organised, technology-strewn life. What high-achieving geeks do you think I should interview?

I'll talk to anyone. My only, very rough rules at this stage are:

Got to be geeks.
There are plenty of books and guides for people who are managers or generally interested in organising their lives. I think geeks have their own problems and solutions. I leave "geek" deliberately undefined. You know what I mean.</li>

Don't got to be famous.
If you know someone who you think is the best-organised geek you've ever seen, put their name down (or mail me, if you'd like to preserve their privacy. Famous people get picked for this list because it's the start of my list. There are plenty of my friends I'll be hobnobbing for this And if your friends fit, I'd like to chat to them too.

Don't worry about the ubercoder thing.
I'm well aware that some well-known geeks get most of their work done just be being naturally very good at programming. Doesn't matter. I'm still curious to see how they work. And why shouldn't people who are fantastic at coding get some hints on how to organise their lives from their peers, too? Just because you can code a decompiler in your sleep doesn't mean you pay your phone bill on time.

Here's the start of my list. It's warped in favour of people I know, which I'd like to shake off as quickly as possible. I'd love to speak to more Windows people, less Web usual suspects, more people I haven't met yet!

Don Knuth
Ward Cunningham
Nat Friedman, Miguel de Icaza
Bram Moolenaar
Morbus Iff
Simon Cozens
Cory Doctorow
Sophie Wilson
Bob Frankston
Joel Spolsky
Eric Raymond
RMS
Phil Agre
Tim Berners-Lee
Kevin Kelly
Brian Behlendorf
Paul Vixie
Anne Mitchell
Guido Van Rossum
Brad deLong
Linda Stone
Aaron Swartz
Joshua Schachter
Paul Ford
Joi Ito
Jon Singer
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