Dan Paluska

show me the money

$2.89 pizza for breakfast


imagine you’re in a room with 20 people. maybe it’s your workplace, maybe it’s your church group, maybe it’s a holiday dinner or a classroom.

picture the group of people in your head, do you know how much each person is worth? now imagine everyone pulling out a balance sheet from their bag and putting it on the wall, side by side with all the rest. you and the rest mull around the walls and discuss?
how do you react to finding out that so-and-so is much richer or poorer than you expected? how does money change your opinion of the people you meet, be they new connections or old friends?

do you know groups of people who do something like this? would this increase collaboration? or minimize the rat race? how often do you comb your hair or check your clothes in the mirror?

i’m thinking a lot about my own practices with money and how i present my financial information to myself. i definitely pay my share of late fees, atm withdrawals, data overages, etc because i don’t have a good feedback loop for my own behavior. once a month is too infrequent and i don’t even do that.

i tried a picture for every purchase but it was the wrong type of publishing to actually effect my behavior and too much camera work. so i didn’t make it that far.

lately i’m thinking about some type of fridge door/wall calendar/corkboard exercise to place the info more in my physical and visual space. maybe some sort of timelapse whiteboard of my financial state… more on that to come. low tech, hi visibility, small batch, and reward based are some goals for whatever this turns out to be.

in the meantime, the year end signals to collect financial information and pay your duties to our governing systems. you know what they say when you get to the border, “where are you papers?”

anyways, here’s a look at the current state of things.

i’ll update this post with spreadsheets, etc as i get around to organizing the accounts and tallying. flickr set will contain the sources…

do i play the lottery?
December 20, 2009, 6:35 pm
Filed under: randomness | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

is my plan for success based in a hit? or based in the increment?

question scalable rewards?

everybody is searching for scalable rewards. you know, the kind of reward that keeps on giving. the big one.
let me tell you something friend, if you invest in this thing here, you will be set for life. this is the deal of a lifetime. if you can find your way into this one situation, then you will be fine. how about that movie where the old timers get together for one last heist? the one that will allow them to never work again? did it go smoothly?

do you look at people who play the lottery or scratch-off tickets as being deficient in mathematical understanding? how about musicians who play gig after gig for next to nothing, hoping to one day get the record contract that will pay them big bucks? or the author who is starving until they get a book deal? or the post-doc trying to get the nature paper? or the artist who wants to get a piece into the collection at the MOMA? how about the guy who takes a lot of timelapse movies and posts them to youtube, what lotto is he hoping to win? or grant applications? what are the lotteries i’m planning to win? how can i replace those plans with something more incremental?

so… back to the question. are scalable rewards inherently unsustainable? they are fractal or chaotic or unpredictable. should we working to design any new system or community to be without scalable rewards? or at least we should minimize them? the less scalable the rewards, the more long term sustainable the system will be? more leverage is more scalable is less sustainable?
this is also related to the everyone-is-a-chef idea.

that said, it’s clear that in the near term, scalable rewards do exist and people will continue to hit is rich with them for a while, but maybe we should be working to highlight the slow paths… so if you think you’re placing too much emphasis on a lottery style payback, what is something small you can do to correct your path?

where are you going?

Animal training and the design of self rewarding systems

sean says “unless you’re the boss, you’re playing by somebody else’s rules.” but we and many people we know have no interest in being the boss ourselves. so how do you, me, him, her, we, them, etc, change the rules?

How do we design flat and self-rewarding ecosystems?

Wikipedia is a self rewarding system. If you come to a page and the page has been vandalized, you can help the system and activate the revert function on the post. When you do this, you are rewarded with the information you came for. Clay Shirky, HCE book has a nice section on wikipedia.

So where to now?

Let’s go back to nytimes article on animal training and husbands. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=husband+animal+training

A great article. A snippet that summarizes pretty well.

I listened, rapt, as professional trainers explained how they taught dolphins to flip and elephants to paint. Eventually it hit me that the same techniques might work on that stubborn but lovable species, the American husband.

The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don’t. After all, you don’t get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging. The same goes for the American husband.

I was using what trainers call “approximations,” rewarding the small steps toward learning a whole new behavior. You can’t expect a baboon to learn to flip on command in one session, just as you can’t expect an American husband to begin regularly picking up his dirty socks by praising him once for picking up a single sock. With the baboon you first reward a hop, then a bigger hop, then an even bigger hop. With Scott the husband, I began to praise every small act every time: if he drove just a mile an hour slower, tossed one pair of shorts into the hamper, or was on time for anything.

Give it a read and try to convince yourself we are above animals. We like to give our civilization a little more credit than it may deserve. How do you give yourself a treat for riding the bicycle?

Greek Riots and Living with each other…
December 20, 2008, 5:16 pm
Filed under: europe | Tags: , ,


“On the night of Saturday, December 6th, two Special Guards of the Greek police clashed with a small group of young men. The exact details of what took place are still unclear, but it is known that one …”

These are incredible photos. But what do you do about them? How do we really learn to live each other? What are the actions that lie in between “post an internet blog telling everybody to get along” and “tear down the system with fire bombs.”

Where are our Ghandi and MLK’s of today? Who are the smaller local figures who work at this every day?

Where are our problem solvers? We know humans tend towards violence. Is there a large society social system that prevents violence without the implementation of a police state? We did send somebody to the moon. You would think we could figure out how to live with each other.

It seems like if we’re not careful this could be coming home to the us as well. See this article about the possibility of military action in the us:

We have no successful large scale implementations of really free and even government systems. The best examples seem to be the Scandanavian countries but they’re much smaller and more homogenous than the United States. Our job is much more difficult. And the answers are definitely not known already.

User testing, Kaizen, and process
December 14, 2008, 8:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,


Great post from Clay Shirky about the user testing setup in use at meetup. All members of a project team use a simple teleconference setup (skype or video chat of your choice will work) to watch a remote user navigate his or her computer screen to use the application.

They get real time visual and audio feedback as to the real problems the user is having with the interface. Incredibly valuable information that they need to have to do their job correctly. And of course, this is not some isolated event. They do it daily.

I am reminded of 2 related things. One, from a product design class I took as an undergrad in mechanical engineering. The rule of thumb they gave was 1:1 for the ratio of time spent with customers versus time spent on your own designing. As is incredibly obvious in so many case, the ratio is usually much lower. (much less time with users)

Second, I think this relates well to the ideas of Kaizen (continuous improvement) from Japanese manufacturers (introduced postwar by us consultants). In their system, all levels of the company, from assembly line worker to senior management are encouraged to think about and suggest changes to the processes that define their work flow. All levels are engaged in the process of improving the process. They create low level and high level feedback systems which seek to improve their everyday processes as well as their products. It’s no small part of why the automotive companies there build much better cars then the automotive companies in the US.

Where else can these ideas be employed? What about our goverment? Is there some sort of better feedback loop our government can employ? How does the web or other technologies enable this? Where else can we be learning more effectively?

It seems these reflective processes are so much more important than any of the end results. All of the end results will eventually be replaced by better things. So how do we change the focus? How do we get people to get excited about the process rather than the product?