The Guilty Conscience of Self Improvement

July 13th, 2006

Todd was nice enough to pay for lunch today but then quickly showed his meaner side by choosing me to write the blog entry, and I don’t think he even felt guilty about it. When asked the reason behind the decision, he explained that he was tired of paying for meals and thought the best chance of getting a free lunch would be to assign the writing to me since I would be the one most likely to forget and have to pick up the next lunch.

Well, sorry to disappoint, but I’ll rise to the challenge of writing an entry, and I don’t think I’ll feel guilty about doing it either. After all, I don’t believe in the conscience. Or maybe that’s just that I don’t believe in being conscious. I forget sometimes.

The walk to lunch continued on from where the conversation from yesterday’s walk back from lunch ended. Who had a guilty conscience about the results of yesterday’s game. Should Daniel have felt guilty about letting the first game run when he hadn’t put in his card? Should Todd have felt guilty for letting Josh pay even though he had lost the first game? Should we all have felt guilty that Josh both paid for lunch and wrote the blog post? Given the lack of follow up to Josh’s challenge in his post to get other guilty parties to write, it is apparent that none of us feel all that guilty.

With the guilt trip out of the way, the conversation then turned to self improvement. Josh had just watched a video podcast of Tony Robbins and thought there was something profound in there. I tried watching the video but quickly had to turn it off—he talks so fast that the words were gone before they had time to sink in.

This led to a discussion of the self-improvement industry, apparently a billions upon billions of dollars a year industry. Erik just got back from his meditation retreat. Todd has planned a month full of activities—so many that I wonder how he will be able to get through them all. Josh considered a few different conferences and retreats.

Are self improvement conferences and seminars helpful? What would you expect to get out of one? Will they provide techniques that will aid in your quest for self improvement, or can you do just as well-and save a lot of money-through more personal exercises in self discovery and experimentation?

Nightcap, Cupcake, Porter and life hacking

July 12th, 2006

One thing we pretty much all love about the Robot Co-op is our office. We are on 12th and Pike on Seattle’s Capitol Hill and it is super awesome. But we might have to move if we can’t find new places to eat or learn ways out of the interminable arguments about where to eat lunch.

Yesterday saw a near collapse in lunch morale as the team fractured over where to go. The “solid core” stuck it out and went to Dick’s – but as it was a pay your own way affair, no one lost at Credit Card Roulette (CCR) and no one got the blog post assignment. That was fixed in the afternoon when we suckered Todd into playing CCR for beers – and duly lost. So here I blog the drinky talk.

We figured out our next two releases over beers: Nightcap & Cupcake (the latest ponies in our stable of releases). Nightcap will see us putting the finishing touches on all the work we’ve been doing on 43 Places. Over the last few months we’ve rolled out a new design to places, added events, check-ins, groups, and lots of new ways to report problems on the site. Now we are doing the last work on the “locals page”, creating new ways to recognize locals, and hopefully, clarifying what we think the site is for: connecting with locals in your city and around the world. We are going to constrain ourselves to 4 more weeks of work on that front.

As for Cupcake, we are just getting started with the ideas, but it will mark a return to 43 Things in a big way. We have lots of ideas for how to take the site to a new level of interactivity, community and self development.

It is fun to start new things – and satisfying to wrap up good work.

Back in the coop

July 10th, 2006

Today was my first day back at the co-op after a long 10-day silent meditation retreat (43things entries here) in Onalaska, WA. Oh sweet enlightenment. Almost as sweet as the chicken yakisoba I feasted on with fellow robots while fielding questions on the highlights and lowlights of going off and being by yourself for extended periods of slow-moving time.

Josh mentioned that he went on a 3-day silent Ignatian Retreat back in the day and had a strong religious experience. During my 10 days I didn’t have any religious experiences, but then again, it wasn’t a religious retreat. Mine was more of a systematic dissection of the body and mind… trying to dissolve the gestalt of body and mind into its separate, temporary, independantly motivated and functioning parts. And I had many weird mental and physical experiences that were stranger than most drug experiences I’ve had.

We discussed the fine line between deep, guided, experiences and brainwashing. The techniques for delving into the subconscious and exploring biases, illusions, and ultimate sense of self are eerie and powerful tools that are difficult to trust in strangers’ hands, even in your own hands.

People are naturally interested in the cult phenomenon as it relates to any experiences this far out of the mainstream. Was this retreat an indoctrinization into a cult? It depends on your definition of cult, of which there are many. It implies some strong desire to control its members, usually to the leader’s benefit and the members’ cost. I could find no strong cost aspect in this particular organization… could giving money to an organization that encourages striving for happiness in all beings really be any worse than giving money to organizations that produce products of any other kind? Are people not just as brainwashed by advertising, cultural pressures, employers, families, and fashion?

I expressed interest in possibly going again. Eric expressed a conclusion that it had then “worked”. Josh then asked, “Will you pay next time?” I said no but really I meant maybe. Next up, the landmark forum. THEN maybe we can have a real conversation about cults.

Web services for 43 Things, 43 Places, and 43 People

January 6th, 2006

Did you know that we have pretty extensive web services for most of our sites? We’ve been slowly adding to them over the last several months, so maybe it’s time to take another look. Learn all about them here:

1) 43 Things web services
2) 43 Places web services
3) 43 People web services

They all use the same architecture so you can use the same API key for all three services. All Consuming’s will be coming up shortly.

We’d love to hear about any new applications you build with these. We’re beginning to use them ourselves to prototype new sites.

Sample uses

By using the authenticate methods you can use the services to log people into your site with their 43 Things username and password.

If you’re not happy with the many javascript includes and RSS feeds that we offer to allow you to display goals, places, people, and products on your website, use the web services to develop your own wild blog integration.

Integrate stuff with iCal, mash them up with other wacky websites, graph your social network, build plugins for various blog systems, or…

Why not do something completely crazy and unexpected?

Bonus tip

Many of our methods that involve getting a person’s information will allow you to pass either a Flickr username instead of a 43 Things username. Check the documentation for more info. This could potentially make it easier to create a Flickr/43 Things mashup. Just sayin’.

Your family

January 4th, 2006

One day we were talking about creating a community genealogy site to help people track family trees, and we came up with this wacky feature on 43 People:

Your family (or rather, my family).

You can add your parents, your children, your pets, significant others, and even exes. Check out Brad Pitt’s family.

If your parents have parents, they’ll show up as grandparents on your page, and if your children have children, they’ll show up as grandchildren.

This feature is a bit hidden at the moment, but give it a try and see if anything funny or surprising happens. We’ll probably continue to fiddle with it, so let us know if you’d like to see anything else family related on any of our sites.

Bonus family feature

If your family members have 43 Things accounts, you can filter All Consuming activity to show only items consumed and being consumed by family members. Just select “by people in my family” in the second dropdown (you’ll have to be logged in to see the dropdown).

Add any RSS feed to your account

January 3rd, 2006

We’re not very good at letting people know about new features are out there, so I’d like to try and remedy that in this new year by highlighting a feature every day or so that might’ve otherwise slipped by unnoticed. To start, here’s one of my favorite, yet obscure, features that some people might find useful if you have several different places around the internet that you write and post stuff.

Add an RSS feed to your account

If you’re not familiar with RSS, here’s a good explanation. We try to keep it as hidden away as possible, but for those that do care, here are some interesting things we’re doing with it.

As you may or may not know, you can add RSS feeds to your account on 43 People (go to your page, click “View your recent entries”, and then “Add a feed to your account”). From here, you can add any RSS feed from anywhere on the internet (your blog, your account, your library, etc). It will automatically have all of your 43 Things/Places/People and All Consuming feeds, as well as your Flickr feed if you have given us your screen name, but since I’m an RSS MANIAC I’ve also added feeds from my library, my Live Journal, my TypePad blog, my Tada Lists, and my NetFlix activity. (Here’s my page if you’re curious to see how this ends up looking.)

Subscribe to me instead of to an RSS feed

The great thing about this (in my opinion) is that people can then subscribe to ME, rather than my feeds. I think people are more interesting than RSS feeds… and when people move around, I don’t have to worry about updating all the feeds. When I get a new account somewhere (hey, look, Yahoo Answers has an RSS feed for all my questions!) I can add it and everyone that’s subscribed to me now gets this new content.

Choose only what you want

Now, some people (like me) probably are a little overzealous about adding content… so there’s a chance that you don’t actually want to see every blurry camera phone picture I post. For cases like this, you can unsubscribe from particular feeds within a person’s set of feeds and still be subscribed to the person as a whole. You do this by clicking on their name in the sidebar and selecting only the content that you want.

Your subscriptions page

If you’re subscribed to me and 100 other people, you can get an up-to-date list of all the entries from your subscriptions page. Or, you can export the content as a new uber feed and read it in your RSS reader of choice.

Add feeds to other people’s pages

You can add feeds to anyone’s page, not just your own. And, if you want to read feeds by people that don’t have a 43 Things account, you can do that too. For example, here’s Miranda July’s feed page. ))<>(( Forever!

Random bonus NetFlix feature

If you have a NetFlix account and add your NetFlix “Most Recent Rental Activity” feed (available from this page), we’ll automatically mark movies that are shipped to you as “I am consuming this” on All Consuming account. When you ship them back, we’ll mark them as “I have consumed this”. We love combining things like this… even if only 5 people are using it at the moment. If you are one of those 5 people, enjoy!

RSS is made out of people! Okay, time for lunch… I hope I don’t lose at credit card roulette as I need money for tonight’s one-year anniversary party. Hope to see you there if you’re in Seattle.

Wanting to consume or currently consuming

November 30th, 2005

Back in the day Erik was first building All Consuming he was thinking of it as a way to let people share the experience of a book while they read it. So for historical reason’s the first link is “I’m consuming this”. In 43 fashion, we matched the link with “I have consumed this”. Now we are thinking about changing the first link to “I want to consume this”.

Is that how you are already using All Consuming? Would you get more value out of keeping a list of what you want to consume or do you use the list to keep track of your current reading/watching/listening.

Let us know how you use All Consuming.

43T domain (not) for sale?

October 28th, 2005

From my inbox yesterday …

From: (name omitted)
Subject: Your domain
Date: October 27, 2005 4:30:55 PM PDT
To: Daniel Spils


I am interested in purchasing your domain name,

Would you be interested in selling? I’m interested in
the domain name itself (not any site content).

If interested let me know. Also, if you can provide an
asking price or a ballpark figure that would be
appreciated but not neccesary.

Thank you,

(name omitted)

Jack White on small teams (and small rooms)

June 21st, 2005

Here’s the current themesong for what we are brewing at the co-op (hint: check out the top goal today over on 43 Things).

Little Room

Well you’re in your little room
and you’re working on something good
but if it’s really good
you’re gonna need a bigger room
and when you’re in the bigger room
you might not know what to do
you might have to think of
how you got started in your little room

- White Stripes, Little Room

Numeric milestones

June 2nd, 2005

This week several numbers reached coincidental roundedness which is as good a reason as any to celebrate: