Archive for April, 2013

Rate our service a 10!

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

I’m using a moving company to move me from California back to Wisconsin. A dude came out to my house and gives me an quote and lines up the details about the move. At the end of that, he made clear I should “give him a 10” (or whatever the highest rating was) on the customer survey I’d get after the move. He sort of framed it like, “do me a favor man, I need this.” But the vibe of it was closer to “make sure you do this, otherwise who knows what will happen.” Not those words exactly but like that. I didn’t think they’d do anything malicious (the move would be over by then anyway). It was more like he learned that if he phrased it just right, he could get this survey answer of out of people regardless of how things actually go.

Now I’m sitting here at a Shereton. When I checked in they gave me this sheet of paper with information about the hotel. When things open and close and such. Right at the top it says:

Please share your wonderful experience with us and rate our service at 10 on our guest survey!

Emphasis theirs.

How about I answer honestly on your guest survey? Isn’t that what you want? Isn’t that the feedback you need to make your business better? If anything, shouldn’t you specifically ask for things I didn’t like about my stay so you can improve it?

What a weird broken system. I feel manipulated. The people who look at and use the results are getting bad data. The people who have to write sentences like the one I wrote above feel like they have to to game the system so they look better to their bosses. Pretty lose-lose-lose.

Not the world’s biggest deal, just something to think about.

“Conquer Introversion”

Friday, April 12th, 2013

There is a story in the lastest The Magazine which is introduced by the editor this way:

“…Scott McNulty’s story about D&D helping him conquer his introversion…”

Scott’s story is pretty sweet. It’s about how playing D&D on Friday nights was the source of some social confidence.

D&D made that friendship possible, and it also equipped me with the tools to handle just about any social situation without an overwhelming sense of impending doom, or at least slight social anxiety.

I could probably tell a similar tale about bartending or being in bands. They both helped me be break out of my shell so to speak and gain better social skills.

Scott said:

Applying the lessons I’ve learned from D&D to my life has made me a little less introverted.

Perhaps it did. But more likely it just helped with shyness, social anxiety, making friends, and that kind of stuff. Introversion is related certainly but more about energy.

I love the story and Scott and I are probably very similar, I’m just being protective of the term and it’s meaning. I don’t like the idea of “conquering” introversion as if it’s something bad we have to beat out of ourselves for a better life.


Thursday, April 11th, 2013

There is some music festival coming up here in California soon. Coachella. I’ve never heard of it until now but apparently it’s been going for like 12 years. There was a time, not so long ago, I was hugely into music. I would have considered it my #1 interest. I would have looked at a festival lineup like this and I feel like I would have known at least half the bands. If it was a festival I’ve heard of that was folky/jammy specific, it would have been closer to all the bands.

I went through the Coachella lineup and I was lost. I marked the ones I’d even heard of.


Out of 143 bands, I’d heard of 19 (13%). I could name a song from 9 of them. Pretty damn sorry. I gotta my musical shit together. I suspect that the fact that I’m writing a blog post about the percentage of bands I know is a big part of the problem.

“People felt good about being alone more often than they felt bad about it”

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Leon Neyfakh has a great article “The Power of Lonely” on

The sad truth of social perception:

Spending time alone, by contrast, can look a little suspect. In a world gone wild for wikis and interdisciplinary collaboration, those who prefer solitude and private noodling are seen as eccentric at best and defective at worst, and are often presumed to be suffering from social anxiety, boredom, and alienation.

The article goes on to mention a ton of research on how time alone has a zillion benefits and is super good for you. It doesn’t mention introversion, but the connection I would make is that alone time is super easy and necessary for introverts and extroverts will need to make a more deliberate special effort to gain the benefits of alone time. That is, if they would benefit in the same way (I’m not sure they would).

A 2003 survey of 320 UMass undergraduates led Long and his coauthors to conclude that people felt good about being alone more often than they felt bad about it

High five, UMass students.


Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

None of the books I’ve read on introversion seem to use this word. I suspect it is because the study of personality and temperament is complicated. Of course all of this is on a sliding scale. I might be slightly more introverted than you, who are more introverted than you sister. But your sister might be more shy and you might be more outwardly emotional.

The term “ambivert” seems like a cop-out term for “somewhere in the middle” which everybody is. It might be harmful in that people will learn it and think “I’m that!” trying to pinpoint themselves rather than understand the spectrum.


Monday, April 8th, 2013

I recently wrote on The Pastry Box Project about introversion. I’m going to re-post here because I like having owned copies of stuff I write.

Everyone knows the words “introvert” and “extrovert”. But I’m surprised at how widespread the misunderstanding of terms is. Many people I talk to, when this subject comes up, still essentially have this understanding:

introvert = shy nerd = bad
extrovert = cool jock = good

This is untrue and a bit harmful if you ask me. I’m highly introverted. But I’m not particularly shy, or a shut-in, or whatever other negative stereotypes we could lump on.

The truth about the difference between introverts and extroverts lies in how personal energy is used and gained. Introverts need a lot of recharging time to gain energy. Being out-and-about, especially in social situations, is draining. Alone time is the only way to get that energy back. For me, it’s a lot of alone time. Not sitting in a dark cave staring at the wall, but somewhere comfortable where I can do other activities I enjoy. Laying on a hotel bed catching up on the internet totally counts. At home cooking dinner totally counts. Even reading a book at a coffee shop counts.

Extroverts are the opposite in that they gain energy from social interactions. They thrive on the excitement of meeting people and doing new things. Being cooped up alone would be more like torture than quality downtime. Maybe. It’s harder for me to write about what extroverts are like because I’ve only read about them.

25% introverts is the number typically quoted for the public at large. That number feels about correct to me for the general public, especially in the United States where I live and grew up, where extroversion is the “ideal” and my little formula up top holds especially true. I suspect a much higher percentage for the web worker crowd.

The reason I’m writing about this is because knowing the true nature of introverts was incredibly liberating for me. Most of my life I thought there was something a little bit broken about me. That I wasn’t quite right. That if I could just snuff out this part of myself everything would be a lot better. It certainly didn’t ruin my life but it didn’t make it very comfortable either. Just understanding what being an introvert means and that it’s highly common is a relief. I can read up on it now. Find out how other people handle it. Talk about it with friends. Explain it to people who don’t get it yet.

I grew up in a house with my stepdad, who is about as full-tilt of an extrovert as there ever was. He’s a great guy and we get along well. But he never understood why my face was always buried in a computer. Why I’d go straight for my room after coming home. Why small talk was difficult for me. He probably still doesn’t, but hey, at least I do. I feel like us introverts should make business cards we could leave behind at parties when we duck out the back door without saying goodbye that just say “Google ‘Introvert’” on them.

At the risk of a #humblebrag—a question I get fairly often is: “how do you do it all?” Referring to blogging fairly often, having a podcast, building a startup, etc. I usually referred them to my favorite quote, but a big part of the truth of that is that I gain energy from the quiet time when I’m doing those things, which makes “just sit and do it” easy and enjoyable.

If you had these same type of feelings as me, require quite a bit of recharging time, or otherwise suspect yourself an introvert, I’d suggest some reading:

Good luck!

The article seemed to really resonate with people, which is fantastic.

D. Keith Robinson is has similar-but-slightly-different introverted traits as my own. He writes:

For years I would have considered myself sort of shy, but never introverted. I mean, I like people. I like being around people. If you were to meet me with my batteries all charged up, you’d probably never consider me to be introverted. But I am. I really enjoy, and require, alone time. I’m classically introverted: interaction with people drains me. Even talking intently to one person drains me. I need to prepare for being social; even the comfortable social time I enjoy with good friends and co-workers. I actually enjoy big parties with lots of people, because it’s easier to limit my social interactions. I can kind of blend in and it’s easier to duck out. Irish goodbye FTW!

Jesse Gortarez echos the common thought that most people don’t realize introverts are introverts:

People that know me through Facebook or most real-life social situations probably wouldn’t think of me as an introvert, but the behaviors he described are definitely me. I like going out every now and then, I like social activities (though sometimes I feel much more awkward than I might come across), but I definitely prefer and need to spend time reading or doing things I find intellectually stimulating.

Kai Branch also felt the relief I felt:

Just like Chris I felt relief when I discovered that there is nothing wrong with enjoying the company of fewer people, or getting joy out of being alone.

The number of replies I got from people who now understand themselves better and felt the relief is fantastic.

No wonder there is confusion about the topic. Even the dictionary has a harmful definition:


I got some interesting personal replies as well.

Steven Bennett asks:

I’m wondering though, are you married/in a relationship? Do you believe that introverts need extra recharging away from their partner, especially if they’re extroverted? What do you think?

I can’t speak to this particularly well since I’m not married or in a relationship. I do feel like my introversion is related to that fact, but that’s another topic. I suspect that introverted folks in relationships do still need normal recharging time, especially if the partner is an opposite.

In Susan Cain’s book, there is a good bit of it about relationships and how mis-matches can actually be a great thing (a sense of “they complete me”) but that compromises have to happen often. I’ve also heard from a number of people on Twitter that children can be particularly difficult for introverts.

Graham Macphee asks:

If you could maybe just explain how being introverted has affected your life (or how it hasn’t), I think I’d be able to take a lot away from it.

It’s hard to know, because I’ve only ever been the one thing. I know that there is often times I wish I could just turn on the switch and be Captain Social and it bums me out when I can’t. Usually I turn to booze to help out with that, which is a bit of a bummer. I don’t have any problem with alcohol, but I can see that hurting other people’s lives.

I do want to make clear that my life is super super awesome. I’m pretty sure that being introverted has largely helped me, not hindered me.

Speaking of the connection between introversion and alcoholism, I’d love to know more about the correlation between those things, if there are any. Are there a lot of people who try and drink their way out of introversion? Do introverts shy away from things that numb their sense of personal and social awareness? Are there correlations between introversion and obesity? Introversion and relationships/dating/sexuality? Introversion and music and art? I’d love to read more about that stuff.

I was also stoked to learn so many of my own heros share this temperament.

And thanks a bunch to my friend Jesse Lynch who first told me about Susan Cain’s book. Jesse is more of an extrovert I think, but he lived with me for long enough to know that I was introverted and saw it before I even knew what it really meant.

Huge thanks to Susan Cain who is really leading the charge on spreading the word about all this which is certainly making the world a better place.

Authentic Startup Gibberish

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

I’m pretty excited to see Upstream Color. I hope it plays around where I live soon. It’s from Shane Carruth, the creator of Primer, which is amazing. I recently watched Primer again and I noticed something interesting: authentic startup gibberish. I’ll try and explain.

At Wufoo, we had a meeting once a week on Friday. We didn’t have an office, so we rotated houses. The meetings lasted a few hours. Tons of stuff would be talked about. Very technical discussions about every layer of Wufoo. It took many months to have a strong grasp on what the heck was even being talked about. At the time, a lot of the discussions were way over my head. They involved technologies I knew very little about if I had heard of them at all. The conversations were littered with not only technical terms, but little pet names for things that they developed over the years.

“The digital doctor is having problems again.”

What the heck is that, I would wonder. Probably some web process that runs on our servers monitoring for problems? No, in that case, it was just the name of a particular guy who wrote into support a lot. That’s not a great example, but it was stuff like that that made understanding the conversations difficult at first.

It’s like a tiny culture with a million tiny colloquialisms.

Sometimes other people would be present at the meetings (other people who just lived at the houses who had nothing to do with Wufoo). They might not be in tech at all and had no particular motivation to understand our conversations. I remember thinking how we must have sounded like we were speaking a completely different language. Like we were speaking gibberish, making no sense at all.

That’s what struck me about Primer when I watched again. The guys in Primer building those machines were a startup. I felt like an outsider listening to a Wufoo meeting. Shane Carruth didn’t try to make the conversations in Primer accessible. He made them sound authentic.

Being Wet is the Worst

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

This article about paying to be kidnapped reminded me about one of my biggest movie pet peeves.

First, about the kidnapping:

Romeo slapped me hard across the face, much harder than I had been slapped all night. Then he shocked me with a stun gun. Then Cody doused me with cold water, which was the worst part by far. When you get hit with a stun gun, it lasts a second. When someone throws cold water on you, it makes you miserable for hours. I hadn’t thought about cold water before this. I had thought about guns and billy clubs and knives. It never occurred to me how desperately I would want to stay dry. Now I would have gladly taken another jolt from the stun gun in exchange for a fresh T-shirt.

Yes, totally! Because being wet is the worst. It’s miserable. It’s bad for your health as well in that it can drop your body temperature, causing bad chafing, and wet skin gets that soft prune-y thing going on which makes it itchy, sore, and prone to terrible blisters.

It’s miserable for modern day humans even when we know we can just go home and change socks and put our shoes on the radiator. Imagine if you’re some cowboy crossing the lone plains – you don’t have any friggin shoes to change.

Constantly people are traipsing into rivers in movies. Seriously watch for it, it happens all the time. Particularly fantasies and westerns. They’ll just plow right in and not even consider it. Half a scene later they are dry. They are wearing like a thick wool overcoat and they are totally dry. THAT WOULD BE WET FOR LIKE A WEEK. IT MIGHT KILL YOU. You’d be better off risking getting hit by an orc arrow than stepping into that river. Of course the paper map is always dry too.

That one moment where you stepped into that lake would add at least a couple of days to a medieval journey. You can’t just keep walking with your weird cloth-wrapped boot things soaking wet. You’ll blister up and not be able to walk at all. You have to stop, make a roaring fire so you can get practically naked and dry out all your stuff completely before you can keep going.

Just once I’d like to see in a movie where a character comes up to the shore of a shallow river where they could walk right across it, but they say “We’ll have to find a bridge, we can’t risk being wet.”


WTF you guys.