The Gambler’s Fallacy

September 29, 2006

I can’t remember what we talked about at lunch today. That’s either because we didn’t sustain a single subject long enough for it to matter, or because I daydreamed about regaining my financial footing after this string of Credit Card Roulette losses. The problem with a serious losing streak is giving up the gambler’s fallacy and accepting that randomness has no memory. There is no mathematical fairness to CCR unless we play the game an infinite number of times. Randomness does not “owe me” a string of winning, free lunches to make everything even. Instead, we start from statistical scratch every time we play the game.

This problem, the vanishing past, is a sticking point for some, and a liberating opportunity for others. Some say that what we think of as The Past is just an assemblage of memories, evidence, and the stories we tell, and that those things are just aspects of the present – malleable ones at that. The past ceases to exist but leaves behind a plastic residue. I have a sense that Josh, our resident historian, rails against this notion. As for me, I like that we are always starting from scratch. I’m heeding the bumper sticker that states “forgiveness is giving up hope for a better past.” Lady Luck didn’t owe me anything due to our past, but she still let me win CCR today. Now, how does that past victory continue to exist? I have a memory of Josh’s card being picked, I have evidence in my wallet that I got lunch for free, and I have completed my assignment to add a story to our blog.

Crazy Train

September 29, 2006

Todd is on a crazy losing streak. He lost again at Ballet yesterday. He even lost out on the opportunity to make Daniel pay for failing to pick someone to write the blog post after Daniel bought us all delicious Pizza. Thanks for lunch Daniel and Todd!

What else is going on at the Robot Co-op this week? We had a great conversation about habits and habit forming. Todd & I have both been experimenting with taking the bus and walking to work. Daniel has been rehearsing with his new band. Eric swam in a volcano. Buster got sick. Ivan told us a crazy story about a cherry tree. And Geoffrey Grosenbach is hanging out at the Co-op to help us with some graphs.

Not the best bet I’ve ever made

September 22, 2006

coin flip

There’s this article that talks about the role of emotions in risk taking. As an example, they have this experiment where they ask people whether or not they’d like to risk losing $100 for an opportunity to win $150 on a coin flip. Personally, I don’t think I’d ever turn that down unless I didn’t have $100 in the bank. Any takers? However, when I asked my coworkers about it they said no more often than yes. In the article, most people also said no.

The explanation for this is that most people are more sensitive to failure than success. Losing hurts more than winning feels good. It sort of makes sense. We posted about it a bit on our other blog.

Today, we went to this new restaurant in Cascade called Feierabend and Josh and I ended up drinking a German liter of beer each. The topics had already covered the difference between alcoholics and drunks, the whiskey diet, celebrity sightings, what exactly makes a goal acheivable, and Russian spas, so it was time to start making bets. Josh challenged me to the bet where we’d flip a coin and if it was heads I would give him $150 and if it was tails he would give me $100. Because whatever mechanism that keeps most people from making even safe bets was left out of my brain, I accepted, Daniel flipped, the coin rolled off the table onto the bench, and came up heads.

Now I owe Josh 50-75 coffees. That’s randomness for you.

Holding hands

September 22, 2006

Yesterday Ivan called me on my way to work and told me to meet him at Cafe Vita. He gave me a couple movie gift cards, hugged me and wished me a belated happy birthday. We talked about Ivan’s home in Slovakia. This felt great.

At lunch I lost at credit card roulette at Piroshky on Broadway and that felt great, too, as I haven’t lost in a while. So Todd, Erik, Ivan and I all ate the lunch special. The Russian lady that took our order told me that Ivan’s Russian was excellent and even better than her own English (which was very good in my opinion). The special was reliably delicious.

Late last night I cranked the electric guitar in the basement. This truly felt great. I remember when I was 14 my parents took a trip to Los Angeles, California (we’re from Anchorage). They asked me if I wanted anything. California was an exotic place to me as a kid—so I asked for an electric guitar not knowing much about them. Sure enough my Dad returned from LA with a used 1976 sunburst Fender Lead II. Somehow I got my hands on a torn up Fender Bassman amp head and speaker cab from a friend. I painted it brown with leftover paint from the house and thus began my habit of playing loud, shabby instruments.

At lunch we talked about the food—specifically about the delicious potatoes. A while back when trying to describe his passion for potatoes, Ivan caught us all off guard by ending his description of potatoes as his favorite food with, “I LOVE potatoes! Me and potato holding hands … walking down the street together”.

If I could hold hands with a couple things it may be that California guitar on my left and the brown painted amp on my right. Me and guitar and amp holding hands … walking down the street together.

The return of lunch posts

September 20, 2006

Todd pulled a turkey yesterday. That is when you lose credit card roulette 3 days in row. He’s trying to assuage his losses today by picking a self service place where the credit card game can’t be played.

We’ve been busy blogging on Mutual Improvement, trying to distill some wisdom about how to live worthy lives. We’ve also started some earnest work on Cupcake, the latest release we are working on. For now, plans are still very formative and rough—but we’ll start sharing some details soon.


New York on Top

September 3, 2006

In the past week New York City passed up Seattle for the city with the most 43 Things users.

Haven’t set your home town? Get to it!

The Robot Co-op Turns 2!

September 1, 2006

2 year anniversary

Two years ago today was the first day that we gathered together in our new offices in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood and considered ourselves to be “working”. Today, we can all finally check off the goal, “Start a company that lasts longer than two years.”

Since then, we’ve tried hard to blur the lines between work and play. All of us had recently come from various levels of the totem pole at big successful companies, and we all knew too well the hidden cost of a successful company: lots of employees, policies to ensure efficiency and trust, meetings and paper trails to ensure information distribution, and lots of cracks to fall through and get lost in if you weren’t careful. We had an opportunity to seek success on a much smaller scale, with a different set of goals, and a different set of tools. Fast and loose! Here are a few of our favorite tricks for the company:

  • Bring your own computer.
  • Sit around one big table. Make communication easy.
  • No discussions over mailing lists.
  • Meetings take place at the pub, or as a standing meeting.
  • Use paper and notecards instead of documents.
  • Share the stereo.
  • Walk or bike to work if you can.
  • Eat lunch together. Play credit card roulette.

And here are a couple of our favorite tricks for our products:

  • Make it more fun than useful.
  • Embrace constraints.
  • Build something you’d use. Use what you build.
  • Don’t overmonetize.
  • Rely on the software in your head rather than try to replicate culture in features.
  • Design as you build. Keep the cost of change low.
  • Be in it to win it.

The culture here at the co-op has definitely evolved over these last two years into an almost cult-like belief system. Cults are more interesting than companies anyway. In the meantime we’ve launched five websites, and have also had enough time in our spare time to teach political theory courses at the local college, release albums and go on tour, sky dive, lose 100 pounds, go on meditation retreats, travel around Europe and Brazil, learn Jujitsu, raise chickens, and generally iterate fast and loose on the goal of learning how to amplify life.

Announcing: A new blog to celebrate the future!

In that spirit, we’re launching a new blog today on the topic of mutual-improvement… our take on combining the worlds of life hacking, self-help, productivity, happiness, and goal-achievement. Here it is:

Mutual Improvement Blog

Read about the inspiration for the new blog, grab the RSS feed, and stay tuned for something new, ambitious, and wild in the spirit of everything else we do here.

Of course, all the thanks goes to the people who use the sites, and who have inspired us along the way. Thank you for the first two years! We’re just getting started…