kerspoon

kerspoon's Comments

Exercises in Comprehensive Information Gathering

I'm also a big fan of this, I have got huge mileage out of creating a single page timeline of 1600 - 1800. I've got a few books lined up to create 1800-2000 and 1400-1800 but they are unfortunately low on my priority list at the moment. I would highly recommend it - what was happening in the world when the first academics journals were published. And 16-1800 is such a fascinating time, the scientific and industrial revolution, the age of enlightenment, the colonial empires and world trade.

The other one I have found a lot of value in is reading through cochrane/cambell reviews (high quality meta studies with readable summaries). There is a summary list of some useful ones here (I can't remember who I got it from though, but thanks whoever you are!) https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/19D8JUgf95t-f-oUAHqh8Nn2G90KO3gUiua9yAjBSSqI/edit?usp=sharing

"How quickly can you get this done?" (estimating workload)

Yes we tracked time, but only in an aggregate way. Our list of work-tasks had a very rough estimate (XS, S, M, L, XL - each being about twice the size of the previous, and XL being just more than we could complete in a 2 week period). When we came to plan our 2 weeks of work we estimated hours using 'planning poker' (which is a bit like the delphi method - blind estimates by each member of the team, followed by a brief discussion of the reasons for the differences, followed by one more round of blind estimates, then I [as team lead] had the final decision). At the end of the 2 weeks we would talk about each item, this sometimes involved a discussion of the amount of work relative to the estimate (either the initial e.g 'S' or the hours e.g. 4). In our discussions for the tasks people would regularly refer back to previous tasks as reference. We would always talk about our productivity (i.e. the size of the tasks we completed, where XS=1, S=2, M=4 ...) but this was a balancing act, it would be easy to mess up incentives here.

We spent 4h every 2 weeks planning tasks, but that might involve a small discussion/argument over what should be part of each task, not just the estimation. We would also spend 2h and the end of the 2 weeks reflecting on 1) what we had made and how it impacts the development roadmap 2) things to increase MPH (motivation, productivity, happiness - I was far too pleased with myself for coming up with that acronym :P ).

Individually, I thought a lot about how to increase development speed and accuracy in estimates. But that was at least a third of my role in the latter stages, the rest being split with planning the development roadmap and doing actual development.

For a 3h task, most of the time we would spend ~2min listing to one person describe what it is. Then <1min for everyone to show their card with their estimate of the number of hours. Often that was in enough agreement that we wouldn't do anything extra. We did have a few where one person guessed 3h and another guessed 20h, that often resulted in a 10min discussion, as there was clearly a disagreement on how to do that task 'properly').

"How quickly can you get this done?" (estimating workload)

Thanks, I'll try to write up that post in the next couple of weeks.

In my old software dev team we got very good at estimating the time it would take to complete a single work-package (item on the backlog) but those were at most a couple of days long. What we were not very good at is the estimation of longer term progress, in that case we were in a start up and I think that was unknowable due to the speed at which we would change plans based upon feedback.

Reality-Revealing and Reality-Masking Puzzles

I read 'unhealthy puzzle' as a situation in which (without trying to redesign it) you are likely to fall into a pattern that hides the most useful information about your true progress. Situation where you seek confirmatory evidence of your success, but the measures are only proxy measures can often have this feature (relating to Goodhart's law).

  • example: If I want to be a better communicator I might accidentally spend more time with those I can already communicate well. Thus I feel like I'm making progress "the percentage of time that I'm well understood has increased" but not actually have made any change to my communication skills.
  • example: If I want to teach well it would be easier to seem like I'm making progress if I do things that make it harder for the student to explicitly show their confusion - e.g. I might answer my own questions before the student has time to think about them, I might give lots of prompts to students on areas they should be able to answer, I might talk too much and not listen enough.
  • example: If I'm trying to research something I might focus on the areas the theory is already known to succeed.

All of this could be done without realising that you are accidentally optimising for fake-progress.

Meetup : London Social Meetup (and AskMeAnything about the CFAR workshop)

Thanks Phil.

I've really confused it (or myself) with timezones now - I created this from California and tried to edit it here. Let's hope that last changed fixed it. Let me know if it still says the wrong thing.

Meetup : London Social Meetup (and AskMeAnything about the CFAR workshop)

I've fixed it, the arrow is almost right now. Thanks for checking.

An Introduction To Rationality

Thanks.

I don't really cover limitations of senses. It's an important thing but maybe for another article.

An Introduction To Rationality

Thanks for the encouragement. I have written another article but I will wait a week to post it. It again is written in a very "telegraphic" style.

An Introduction To Rationality

Thanks for the feedback.

I wrote this to help me better understand the material when I first came across it. It was sitting doing nothing on my computer for a year and so I decided to just post it. I hope it will be useful as an article for a few beginners.

I agree I should try and make the work more engaging and I have recently read Made to Stick, On Writing Well and Elements of Style to give me ideas on how to improve my writing. I still find it very difficult and time consuming.

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