Unexpected rewards are better than expected rewards

Since I’ve started talking about Would you do it again for free?, I’ve been very interested in any studies that show how extrinsic rewards change intrinsic rewards. The theory is that external rewards can replace your internal values to the point that you’ll no longer do what you valued without external payment or reward of some type.

This study showed that unexpected rewards are better than expected rewards. They took kids who liked to draw and put them in three groups. One group was:

  1. told they’d get a reward for drawing
  2. not told they’d get a reward but got a surprise reward when they were done
  3. not given anything

Then they watched the Rewardkids over the next few days and discovered that those who had received the expected reward drew the least while those who had received the unexpected reward drew the most. (Even though there were now no rewards promised nor given.)

This would mean that in the open source world, unexpected rewards after the work has been done would be the most motivational. Like the GNOME thank you pants, an annual award for outstanding service to the GNOME community. As opposed to bounties or employment. (Not that people shouldn’t be employed or that bounties should be used, but just that according to this study, those types of payment are unlikely to increase motivation.)

Thanks to Dawn Foster for the link.

Stormy’s update: Week of November 30th

This is my update for work done for the GNOME Foundation, reprinted from the GNOME Foundation blog. For a higher level overview for what I do as the Executive Director, see What do I do as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation? or my earlier updates.

LiMo Foundation. Met with Andrew Savory, Mal Minhas and Gyanee Dewnarain at the LiMo London offices. We talked about LiMo, GNOME Mobile, the work LiMo member companies are doing with GNOME technologies, our foundations and how we can work more closely together. Good conversations and I expect we'll continue to work together and hopefully announce more later.

Canonical design, user experience and usability team. Met with Charline Poirier, Ivanka Majic and Iain Farrell at their London offices. Talked about usability studies on GNOME technologies, a GNOME usability hackfest and studying how to disseminate usability study results into free and open source software community. I'll be introducing more GNOME folks into the conversation and hopefully the conversations will make their way to the GNOME usability list and into some concrete plans to get more GNOME usability info into the hands of folks working on GNOME.

Met with Lucas Rocha for lunch to discuss GNOME stuff and then had a quick peek at a Litl webbook! It's a very elegantly designed device. While the software is of course great (it's designed by great people using some terrific free and open source software technologies 🙂 what really struck me was the hardware. The keyboard is very "clean" and easy to use without lots of random extra keys and when you swing the screen all the way around to set it up like a picture frame, it feels very sturdy. It was fun to see.

OSS Watch. Went out to Oxford to meet the OSS Watch team and participate in the OSS Watch advisory board meeting. (This was the reason for my trip to the UK.) OSS Watch is helping educational institutions in the UK use open source software. Or help them to the next step in their plans, like building community around the projects they've developed. Lots of interesting discussions. (And some great but brief sightseeing.)

Invited GNOME event planners to GNOME Advisory Board meeting next Tuesday which will be about events and copyright assignments.

One on one meeting with Brian Cameron to talk about status. Brian will be sharing my past year's goals and achievements as the board of directors determined them. I'll be sharing my next year's goals as part of the process of figuring out what they should be.

Did an interview about Women in Linux with Anton Borisov who is writing for Linux+DVD magazine

The US event box is going to be maintained by Larry Cafiero. (Thanks to Zonker for nominating Larry.) We've been looking for a west coast home for the event box and so I'm excited Larry will be helping us out.

Emailed press, journalist and blogger contacts about our GUADEC 2010 announcement on Monday.

Spent approximately 40 hours travelling. Not counting all the trains in London.

Focus on doing good things, not just having good ideas

I love Seth Godin's analogy for how to protect your ideas in the digital age:

Focus on being the best tailor with the sharpest scissors, not the
litigant who sues any tailor who deigns to use a pair of scissors.

Or make the best scissors for sale. Or have the best scissor company customer service. But don't block good ideas from changing the world. Don't prevent people from using scissors because you thought of them first. (Others thought of them too!)

I think more emphasis should be put on implementation and not ideas. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Actually implementing the idea is where the work is.

Book Review: Survival of the Sickest

I really enjoyed reading Survival of the Sickest: A Medical Maverick Discovers Why We Need Disease. Dr. Maolem explains how the diseases we suffer from have helped us survive in the past. For example, people with hemochromatosis were more likely to survive the plague. (Bacteria needs iron to survive and while people with hemochromatosis have lots of iron in their blood, they don't have any in their macrophages.) They died early due to their disease but after their child bearing years so the disease, and its advantages and disadvantages, were passed along.

He theorizes that diabetes might have helped people survive a mini ice age – sugar lowered the freezing temperature of blood.

Like good teachers, Dr. Maolem and his co-author Jonathan Prince use a lot of interesting anecdotes and facts to make the material easy to relate to and memorable. (Did you know Inuit hunters can raise the temperature of the skin on their hands from freezing to fifty degrees in minutes? And do so periodically when they are outside?)

You may or may not end up agreeing with all of Dr. Maolem's theories, but if you like understanding why and how the human body and evolution work, you'll probably enjoy Survival of the Sickest.

Kilograms, stones and miles

I had a few minutes today between an interview and dinner so I decided to sneak in a quick run. Being in Oxford, I assumed the treadmill was calibrated in kilometers like many countries in Europe. I did a quick mental calculation and bumped up the speed to 12 km/hour. Or so I thought. Turns out 12 miles/hour is very, very fast! For the record, the weights were all in kilograms and the scale was in stones.

JimLinwood I recovered from my 12mph sprint with the OSS Watch folks and Richard Melville from UKUUG with a glass of mulled wine at the Turf Tavern. I found it fascinating that it's been a tavern since the 17th century. Ross Gardler and Gabriel Hanganu took me on a short walk this afternoon and I have to say the whole city of Oxford is fascinating. (I also learned this is where my alma matter Rice University got the college system. And where the dining hall scenes in the Harry Potter movies were filmed.)

Photo by Jim Linwood.

What to do with that old computer?

First off, if it's really, really old, you might need to recycle it.

if it has at least 256MB or 512MB of RAM (or could have, if you bought
more memory), there are a number of things you could do with it.

  1. Use it in front of the TV or in your kitchen. Install Linux on it.
    It will cost you nothing to try. You burn a Linux image onto a USB
    drive or a CD, put it in your old computer and install. You then have a
    working system. While it may not be fast, I bet it would still be good
    to look up recipes in the kitchen or movie actors in front of the tv.
    We have an old laptop that regularly overheats and has to be plugged in
    sitting on the coffee table in front of the TV just to answer random
    questions. (Or take a quick peak at email or Facebook.)
  2. Donate it. There are lots of places that will take a computer with enough working memory. Kids on Computers is one. Your local school system might be another. Your local user linux group may know of others.
  3. Give it to a kid. My 9 year old has a hand me down computer. As
    long as it runs some kind of flash player and can surf to lego.com,
    he's happy.

What else would you do with an old computer?