Tact Filters

October 12th, 2016

I saw this post while getting my Masters at NYU’s ITP where I had to collaborate with Engineers and Business people. I was trying to find a way to describe why the interactions between the three types of people were so awkward and why people got upset so quick. I researched the web and found this post from Jeff Bigler, an MIT student, with a theory that I found very helpful. I reposted this below for reference:


All people have a “tact filter”, which applies tact in one direction to everything that passes through it. Most “normal people” have the tact filter positioned to apply tact in the outgoing direction. Thus whatever normal people say gets the appropriate amount of tact applied to it before they say it. This is because when they were growing up, their parents continually drilled into their heads statements like, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!”

“Nerds,” on the other hand, have their tact filter positioned to apply tact in the incoming direction. Thus, whatever anyone says to them gets the appropriate amount of tact added when they hear it. This is because when nerds were growing up, they continually got picked on, and their parents continually drilled into their heads statements like, “They’re just saying those mean things because they’re jealous. They don’t really mean it.”

When normal people talk to each other, both people usually apply the appropriate amount of tact to everything they say, and no one’s feelings get hurt. When nerds talk to each other, both people usually apply the appropriate amount of tact to everything they hear, and no one’s feelings get hurt. However, when normal people talk to nerds, the nerds often get frustrated because the normal people seem to be dodging the real issues and not saying what they really mean. Worse yet, when nerds talk to normal people, the normal people’s feelings often get hurt because the nerds don’t apply tact, assuming the normal person will take their blunt statements and apply whatever tact is necessary.

So, nerds need to understand that normal people have to apply tact to everything they say; they become really uncomfortable if they can’t do this. Normal people need to understand that despite the fact that nerds are usually tactless, things they say are almost never meant personally and shouldn’t be taken that way. Both types of people need to be extra patient when dealing with someone whose tact filter is backwards relative to their own.


The article then has a link to a story about linguistics by ozarque copied below for reference:
Linguistics; Ozark English; “About Cows, and Ozark English Discourse”

About Cows, and Ozark English Discourse

Let’s just suppose that when someone is about to speak they have four broad goals for the language sequence they use: that it be understood; that it be believed; that it give pleasure (or at minimum that it not provoke hostility); and that it be remembered. The way in which these goals are ranked in importance for the speaker is a matter of personal choice, with the most typical order probably being understanding, then believing, then either pleasure or remembrance — depending. A crochety and elitist professor might rank a classroom utterance as RUBP; that is: “I want you to remember this. I hope you understand it. I’d prefer you to believe it, but if you don’t, so be it. And I’m not particularly interested in whether it gives you any pleasure or not.” The politician making a routine political speech might choose BPRU. The Ozark speaker who makes choices that strike the purist as excessively nonstandard usually does so deliberately, based on the ranking given to those four communication goals. Which brings us to those cows. Consider this:

1. “Come get your cows.”

This utterance puts understanding first; it’s in English, it’s an unambiguous command, and it has no extra words in it to interfere with comprehension. It puts belief next; nobody would say such a thing if the cows weren’t really there needing to be retrieved. Remembering follows; any Ozark English speaker knows this utterance is so rude that it’s unforgettable. As for giving pleasure, the speaker is either almost indifferent to this goal or is deliberately working against it. [It wouldn't be true to say that the speaker hasn't considered giving pleasure at all. There are worse things that could have been said, such as "Come get your damfool cows" or "Come get your cows, or else."]

Here are some of the many alternative ways to start letting somebody know that their cows are on your property and should be removed by said somebody — with the stipulation that they’re all said neutrally, not sarcastically or condescendingly or with hostile intonation. Examples 2-9 are Ozark English; example 10 is not.

2. “Guess what I just saw in my front yard?”
3. “You might want to take a look at what’s in my front yard.”
3. “You’ll never believe what I just saw in my front yard.”
4. “Might could be you’d want to take a look out your east window toward my front yard.”
5. “You know, I do believe your cows are out.”
6. “I’m wondering … do you know where your cows have got to?”
7. “Hey, guess where your cows are? [Or "are now?" Or "are this time?"]
8. “I do hate to say it, but I’m about at the end of my tether with your cows.”
9. “I’m truly sorry to have to tell you this, but your cows are in my yard again.”
10. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your cows are in my yard again. I’m afraid you will have to come get them.”

Each of these utterances demonstrates a speaker’s strategy based upon a particular ranking of the four communication goals. Because come the day your neighbor’s cows are in your yard and you want that neighbor to come get them, you can’t say just any old thing. Cows are a nuisance in a way that’s almost awesome. And if you don’t choose your words with care, you’ll find yourself with one of two outcomes: (a) your neighbor says, “Be damned if I’ll come get ‘em!” and hangs up on you; or (b) your neighbor says, “I’ll get to that, first chance I have.” Either of those responses means you’re in for a bad day, and there is no County Cow Catcher you can call for assistance. The list of good excuses that can be offered for not yet having come to get those cows is as infinite as any formal construct you might care to devise.

Do not think that if you decide you’ll just get rid of the cows yourself it will be easy. It is easier to move a department chairman than it is to move even one cow. Fire a .45 over the head of a department chairman or drive straight at one with a pickup truck, he (or she) will move; a cow will not. I have tried both of those tactics any number of times, and no cow has ever so much as budged. It’s not just a matter of saying, “Shoo, cows!” Trust me.

If I were actually to say to you, “Come get your cows,” one of the two things I want you to understand is that I don’t give a hoot how you feel about that utterance or how you feel about me personally. “I’m afraid you will have to come get them” is almost as bad. I know someone who would say that, because that someone would rather suffer the consequences of cows than stoop to the use of Ozark English. That someone will forever suffer the consequences of cows-in-the-yard, and many other unpleasantries — but it is her conscious and deliberate choice. It is a militant refusal to speak OzE. Publicly, she will blame Providence for the perpetual presence of other people’s cows on her property, but she knows better.

It happens that the best choice on that list, the one least likely to end you up with a chronic cow problem, is the entirely nonstandard #4 with its double modal. That example has as its metamessage: “Now, there’s a problem over here, and I’m not pleased, and we need to talk about it, and you need to fix it. But I want you to know that I am on your side and that I admire the way you look after your cows.” And its ranking is UPRB.

Pre-existing Memory

May 11th, 2016

What would it be like to be born with our parent’s memory already engraved in our brain, so that we could be able to remember situations and experiences that our parents engraved in their brains. And what if the new memories acquired in our lifetime, combined with out parent’s memories, were passed on to our children at the time of conception. What would the experience of living would be like?

I believe that some time in the near future, we will be able to download all our memories into a hard drive and store them, so we don’t forget them. With the same mechanism, we will be able to upload information to our brain and “remember” the things that were uploaded. This will lead the way for real-time thought communication. People will be able to plug their brains to each other and read each others thoughts and experiences. Pretty weird…

This article “Your Brain Has A ‘Delete’ Button—Here’s How To Use It” talks about the deleting of memories in the brain:

Is this thing still working?

September 22nd, 2015

Does anyone read blogs any more?

The Art of Product Management.

December 18th, 2014

I have been researching the trade of Product Management in today’s tech driven world.

There are a lot of interesting takes on what this person should do and the role of this person in an organization. And the best description of this “unicorn” comes from Ben Harowitz found at the Stamford’s Leadership of Technology Ventures program.

I re-posted the text here:

Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager
Courtesy of Ben Horowitz

“”Good product managers know the market, the product, the product line and the competition extremely well and operate from a strong basis of knowledge and confidence. A good product manager is the CEO of the product. A good product manager takes full responsibility and measures themselves in terms of the success of the product. The[y] are responsible for right product/right time and all that entails. A good product manager knows the context going in (the company, our revenue funding, competition, etc.), and they take responsibility for devising and executing a winning plan (no excuses).

Bad product managers have lots of excuses. Not enough funding, the engineering manager is an idiot, Microsoft has 10 times as many engineers working on it, I’m overworked, I don’t get enough direction. Barksdale doesn’t make these kinds of excuses and neither should the CEO of a product.

Good product managers don’t get all of their time sucked up by the various organizations that must work together to deliver right product right time. They don’t take all the product team minutes, they don’t project manage the various functions, they are not gophers for engineering. They are not part of the product team; they manage the product team. Engineering teams don’t consider Good Product Managers a “marketing resource.” Good product managers are the marketing counterpart of the engineering manager. Good product managers crisply define the target, the “what” (as opposed to the how) and manage the delivery of the “what.” Bad product managers feel best about themselves when they figure out “how”. Good product managers communicate crisply to engineering in writing as well as verbally. Good product managers don’t give direction informally. Good product managers gather information informally.

Good product managers create leveragable collateral, FAQs, presentations, white papers. Bad product managers complain that they spend all day answering questions for the sales force and are swamped. Good product managers anticipate the serious product flaws and build real solutions. Bad product managers put out fires all day. Good product managers take written positions on important issues (competitive silver bullets, tough architectural choices, tough product decisions, markets to attack or yield). Bad product managers voice their opinion verbally and lament that the “powers that be” won’t let it happen. Once bad product managers fail, they point out that they predicted they would fail.

Good product managers focus the team on revenue and customers. Bad product managers focus team on how many features Microsoft is building. Good product managers define good products that can be executed with a strong effort. Bad product managers define good products that can’t be executed or let engineering build whatever they want (i.e. solve the hardest problem).

Good product managers think in terms of delivering superior value to the market place during inbound planning and achieving market share and revenue goals during outbound. Bad product managers get very confused about the differences amongst delivering value, matching competitive features, pricing, and ubiquity. Good product managers decompose problems. Bad product managers combine all problems into one.

Good product managers think about the story they want written by the press. Bad product managers think about covering every feature and being really technically accurate with the press. Good product managers ask the press questions. Bad product managers answer any press question. Good product managers assume press and analyst people are really smart. Bad product managers assume that press and analysts are dumb because they don’t understand the difference between “push” and “simulated push.”

Good product managers err on the side of clarity vs. explaining the obvious. Bad product managers never explain the obvious. Good product managers define their job and their success. Bad product managers constantly want to be told what to do.

Good product managers send their status reports in on time every week, because they are disciplined. Bad product managers forget to send in their status reports on time, because they don’t value discipline.”

Art / Design

June 14th, 2014

A friend recently asked, what is the difference between art and design?

It’s been a long time since I had to articulate what art is and what design is. The two are essentially the same thing and the simple difference between them is that design is communication based. Art in the other hand is everything that has expression, emotion, esthetics, composition, and a relative or absolute message. The definition is can be very vague.

In terms of purpose, good art does not need to have a good idea or a goal, it can just be made for the sake of making something. Look at Dadaism for example, it was art that meant nothing, for the purpose of nothing. Not as defined but just as complex is expressionism and abstraction.

A good example of this was the first exhibit at the New Museum called “Unmonumental”. People can give meaning to the work or categorize it if they want, but the work was not meant to have a meaning.

My favorite artist, Baquiat, did not have an idea of what he wanted to paint. His art was story based, crude stories that he edited as he painted along. Another good example of art, that is in question, is net-art like Jodi bit.ly/1gEfthI

In terms of design; Graphic Design in specific. The purpose for the design is to communicate an idea. If the design does not convey the idea properly, then it is consider bad design. Design is a specific art that aims to solve problems, communicate ideas, represent ideologies, trigger emotions, categorize and organize things. It is the more practical side of art, but it’s still art.

Things start to get tricky when you involve machines and artificial intelligence or processes. The biggest question I have, that I am trying to answer for my self, is weather or not a machine can create art and if it should be called art. My initial answer was YES it is art, specially after I saw the work of my little artbot jackoon:

But after thinking about this subject in depth, I am a bit troubled by the concept of machines creating art. I’m not going to go into depth on this here, but it is something that I think about often.

Additionally, Art can be very scientific and precise, it can even include organic matter like Damien Hirst’s work http://blubee.com/theblog/?p=511 And so can design, like in the case of contemporary typography http://blubee.com/theblog/?p=794

Art and design are essentially the same thing, both are art. The only difference is that design narrows down the possibilities of art for the purposes of communication efficiency. Great design communicates with everyone very precisely and very efficiently.

Great design does not need to be beautiful to be meaningful or effective. This is a poster from WW2 is an example of a design with many levels of symbolism.

Most of the design from the late 1800 and early 1900 are prized possessions for art collectors. People hang great designs on their walls because after all, design is art. Art in the other hand, art has a hard time communicating meaning sometimes, some art is almost impossible to call design.

Why I get up in the morning.

February 13th, 2014

There is a lot of work to be done!

“It’s like a man riding a lion. People think, ‘This guy’s brave.’ And he’s thinking, ‘How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?”

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship


How The Arctic Vortex Influences Me

January 7th, 2014

The arctic vortex landed in nyc today, it’s fun to think about post apocalyptic survival strategies, although I bet they would not be fun at all.

It is days like today that the environment really wakes up my subconscious’ primal instincts. I feel prepared for the hunt. Ready to go out and slay a beast for food. The natural sense to team up with my pack becomes stronger; my level one wolf pack takes center stage. But who is that wolf pack?

It’s times like today when my subconscious thinks about things like supplies. And when I step outside, the deep cold wakes up survival instincts that forgot were there. Everything all of the sudden becomes real and felt. Oddly, this is a bit painful because reality is a tough place. Immediately my brain tries to cope by hiding from reality and hold off until the comforts of my fantasy world come back. Survival at this point is only a few minutes long, just a walk from my apt to the subway and then is back to the happy and safe territory of modern life.

Today I fought the urge to protect my self from reality and stood outside for a little letting nature hit me in the face and remind me that the world is real. I took a deep breath as I gazed at the subway entrance, looking around at everyone racing to his or her destination. I sat there and pondered.

Days like today trigger the mammal social behavior in us. It’s very likely that people are obsessively checking their social networks through Facebook or linkedin, as well as, telephone, email or face to face. The bottom line is that the needs of the human mammal comes out and requires its needs fulfilled. I fulfill them by working together with my colleagues and collaborating to get stuff done efficiently and as swiftly as possible. And after that, get together with friends to have a well-deserved drink in the warmth of this society we have built for our selves. Yet, in the back of my mind, the primal being inside me is still on the look out for danger and opportunities. Looking into the horizon occasionally to make sure that my wolf pack will make it through another day.

Calling all innovators: Don’t miss the #LATISM Hackathon!

September 13th, 2013

With the excitement of our conference this year, and all the great things that we’ve prepared for all of you, we couldn’t be happier to announce our first ever Hackathon (¡¿un jaka-qué?! you are probably asking). A Hackathon is an event that engages computer programmers, designers and entrepreneurs to collaborate and create projects that positively impact the Latino community.

It is also a vehicle to introduce products and ideas that benefit from the Latino market. Hackathons are known for allowing people to problem solve together as teams. “El Hackathon” will be hosted on Friday, September 20th, during our 5th Annual National Conference, LATISM’13, at the amazing Waldorf Astoria in New York City. For a 24-hour period, hackers will be scrambling to execute and produce their concepts into demonstrable functional hacks.

Hackathons allow people to isolate problems and create forward thinking solutions in a creative, yet fast-paced manner, due to the limited time available to perform. This helps people focus on core systems and their “MVP” or Minimum Viable Product.

The goal for the event is to get as many people involved in the innovation process. Teams are then asked to “Demo” their hacks, which exercises a vital part of the innovation process on how to explain an idea. The biggest benefit of hackathons, are the increase awareness around emerging technology and products.

This year’s prizes for the winners of “El Hackathon” include a grand prize of $5,000 for the best hack, chosen by our panel of judges. With sponsors in the ranks of Google, AT&T, McDonalds, Johnson & Johnson and Toyota, this is sure to be a pretty fancy hackathon!

All are welcome to participate. For tickets and more information for this event visit: http://elhackathon.eventbrite.com 

What Red Wanted by Corey Menscher

August 27th, 2013

This post is Re-posted from Corey’s Blog. Corey and I took the same Class taught by Red called “Applications of Interactive Technologies.” Red’s first class is the beginning to an eye opening experience called the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU. You can begin to gage the intensity of this program through this simple list. I am really, really, grateful to have met & interacted with Red Burns and to have gotten to know such a talented group of people, the “… misfit toys” as Clay Shirky would call us. NYU’s ITP is the seed that Red Burns planted. Only time will see ITP’s flowers bloom and time’s offspring to feed from it’s fruits. ~Oscar

——————— Re-Blog Start ————————-

“not a blog by Corey Menscher”

What Red Wanted

Since Red Burns’s recent passing, I went back over my notes from the first day of her Applications class at ITP. I didn’t expect to find much, but it turns out I had transcribed what she had up on the projector during her intro to the course. It was the true kickoff to our ITP experience. Here it is…

“What I want you to know…”

  • That there is a difference between the mundane and the inspired
  • The biggest danger is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge
  • That any human organization must inevitably juggle internal contradictions – the imperatives of efficiency and the countervailing human trade-offs
  • That the inherent preferences in orgs are efficiency, clarity, certainty, and perfection. (Which humans are not.)
  • Human beings are ambiguous, uncertain, and imperfect
  • How you balance and integrate these contradictory characteristics is difficult
  • That imagination, not calculation, is the “difference” that makes the difference
  • That you are a new kind of professional – comfortable with analytical and creative modes of learning
  • That there is knowledge shift from static kownledge toa dynamic search paradigm
  • That creativity is not the game preserve of artists, but an intrinsic feature of all human activity
  • That in any creative endeavor you will be discomfited and that is part of learning
  • That there is a difference b/w long term success and short term flash
  • That there is a complex connection between social and technological trends. It is virtually impossible to unravel except by hindsight.
  • You ask yourself what you want and then you work backwards
  • In order to problem solve and observe you ought to know how to: analyze, probe, question, hypothesize, synthesize, select, measure, communicate…

“What I hope for you…”

  • That you combine that edgy mixture of self-confidence and doubt.
  • Enough self-confidence to try new things
  • Enough self doubt to question
  • That you think of technology as a verb – not a noun (It is a subtle but
  • important difference)
  • That you remember the issues are usually not technical
  • That you create opportunities to improvise
  • That you communicate emotion
  • That you observe, imagine, and create
  • That you look for the question not the solution
  • That you don’t see the world as a market…a place to live in and are designing for people
  • That you have a stake in magic and mystery
  • That poetry drives you, not hardware (art has a place in all of this)
  • That you develop a practice founded in critical reflection
  • That you are willing to risk, make mistakes, and learn from failure
  • That you build a bridge between theory and practice
  • That you embrace the unexpected
  • That you value serendipity

Then she left us with a poem.

Come to the edge

It’s too high

Come to the edge

We might fall

Come to the edge

And he pushed them and they flew

(by Guillaume Apollinaire)

Red’s way of getting us to be our best was to throw us off the cliff. That’s so her. Thanks for the push, Red.

Haters Gonna Hate

August 20th, 2013