Just Shelley

I test therefore I am

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Returning home from my walk yesterday I ended up coughing so hard my head started to pound, and I could literally see stars. I awoke this morning feeling as if a steel band is wound, tight, around my chest.

Between that and anxiousness about the new babies to be (who now have their own weblog — post ultrasound pictures, Dads!) I am falling behind in the schedule to complete the RDF book, which must be finished next week or no bills will be paid this month.

(If I post, yell at me, okay? Must focus. Focus!)

To compound my difficulty in focusing, Loren is writing about a new poem that is proving to be quite interesting, though his site is going down so frequently that one has to read in snatches. Jonathon compounds the problem by writing a post on personality types, tests, and his own listing of traits he feels best describes himself (he being a weird Sensitive Idealist). In particular, the areas he grays out on the listing of traits is just as telling as the areas he leaves in.

Sigh. How is a woman to work?

Returning to the personality tests and Jonathon’s post, what a door opener to discussion in how our perception of Jonathon compliments or contradicts his own. This leads to a discussion of our own test results and discussion of same; thereby allowing each of us to learn more about each other.

That’s the purpose and the power behind personality/psych tests, a favorite subject of mine, as it happens.

One of the requirements for my Psychology degree was a class focusing on psychological tests: how they are made, interpreted, weighted, and scored. This might sound dry but it was one of the most fascinating classes I had. These tests are much more complex then one might guess at first glance.

For instance, well designed psych tests always include ‘lie detector’ questions. These are questions that can help the evaluators determine whether you’re skewing the results of the test by not answering truthfully and consistently. This isn’t a matter of a person lying on the test (though some employment tests have questions focused on that); it’s that we don’t necessarily see ourselves with crystalline clarity at times.

In one popular employment personality test (and I disagree with personality tests being used for employment), a set of questions were focused on finding people who were deliberately lying. The questions were along the lines of “Have you ever lied?”, “Have you ever taken home pens or paper from work?”, “Have you ever…”. In other words, unless a person is a saint, they would answer Yes to at least one of these “lie detector” questions. Not doing so was actually a strong indicator not to hire the person.

Tricky? Devious? Sneaky? You bet, which is what a good personality test should be.

Other questions are focused on clarifying an important characteristic by repeating the same question, but using different language or different words. Or they might use the the opposite of the question, such as “I always want…” and “I never want…”. In the PType test that Jonathon pointed to, the following two questions seemed to me to be an example of this technique:

19. I would most like to be seen as *



27. I most want others to see me as *


In many tests, individual questions are weighted, with some questions considered more ‘key’ to a specific trait then others. In the Myer-Briggs test, I felt one of the best examples of this type of question was the one asking which the test taker valued more: justice or mercy. This question, to me, seemed a particularly strong one for determining whether a person is Judging or Perceiving.

Liz thinks the question is a better indicator for intuition/sensing or perhaps thinking/feeling. A little search found this which indicates that the question is a determiner between thinking and feeling. Dead on, Liz. Guess my perceived view of the question was all wrong. Teach me to judge questions based on my own trigger words.
End Update

Regardless of the mechanics of the tests, what’s important about them is that they open a dialogue, with others and with ourselves. They’re not necessarily meant to be definitive, nor are they meant to be punitive or critical or complimentary. They are for awareness, only.

Personal example: In the Myers-Briggs, I’m an INTJ (Introverted Intuitive Thinking Judging).

The Introverted rather than Extraverted result isn’t surprising — I think all webloggers are inherently introverted. The Judging over Perceiving result also shouldn’t be surprising to anyone because I’ve written of honor and justice extensively in the past. (A post or two on feminism, sexism, exclusion, and stereotypes comes to mind.) Judging people tend to impose their will on behavior, rather than adapt a more “live and let live” attitude.

My score between iNtuitive and Sensing is the weakest differentiator because I am somewhat experiential, being a sensualist. In fact my score in this regard probably echoes many in the computer fields.

If any score could be considered surprising to those who read my weblog on a fairly regular basis, it would be the score of Thinking over Feeling; especially considering the somewhat volatile nature of my weblog. After all, I am nothing if not passionate. However, this score shouldn’t be a surprise if you understand what the results mean.

I am most comfortable and in most control in a situation that relies more on thinking than feeling. This is one reason I’ve focused most of my writing on technology. In the realm of the feeling, of emotions, I am less sure of myself, in less control and less comfortable. This tends to be demonstrated by my quick temper, followed just as quickly by contrition.

Bottom line: I am not comfortable with writing or talking about emotions, something I’m aware of through self-assessment as well as tests such as the M-B. I really dislike anything related to “I’m Okay, you’re okay”. I can’t stand New Age philosophy. I recoil at love poems. I want to tell people how I feel, but am afraid of boring them with recounting of same. I’ll tell you honestly, and then I’ll tell you to forget it (sound familiar?).

The only way for me to overcome this inhibition about feelings is to deliberately write outside of my comfort threshold; to break down the barriers between thinking and feeling within myself. Sometimes I’m successful, and I burn with a clean, cool flame. Other times I’m not, and I most closely resemble a blowtorch. A really big, out of control blowtorch.

This understanding of self and each other shows the effectiveness of personality tests — they open doors.

In particular, the Myers-Briggs is quite popular in companies as a way of opening doors of communication within a group that is having difficulties among the members. Usually the technique is to have the employees go offsite for a day, as a way of putting all participants in neutral territory. The group would be broken up by name or some other random factor rather than let each person pick their own grouping and seating. This would break down cliques.

The sessions would start with each person taking the M-B test, or an equivalent, and posting their results for all to see. For the rest of day the participants would then discuss what these results mean from a work perspective, both within the groups and globally. This discussion begins the communication process among the members without focusing on any one person’s unique traits or personality.

The process deliberately externalizes the difficulties so that no person feels threatened or challenged. If conducted correctly, the technique is quite effective.

Of course, there was a time when companies got a bit carried away with these tests. When I worked at Boeing, it seemed as if we were at these offsite meetings once a month. And the meetings were conducted by Boeing employees who had been ‘trained’ with some silly weeklong course. As you can imagine, I wasn’t impressed.

In one such meeting, we were split into four groups and then each group was put into a competitive situation with each other. We were to design a set of questions to ask our ‘competitor’ group, and that group would do the same for us. The group that answered the most questions correctly ‘won’.

The focus of the test was to demonstrate some aspect of competitive behavior, who knows what.

After we were given our assignment, I suggested to our group that rather than write difficult questions, let’s write incredibly easy ones. With this, though we wouldn’t be able to control the outcome enough to be the winner, we could control the outcome enough to determine who the winner would be — our ‘competitive’ group.

When the questions started for the first round, the other groups asked the most difficult and bizarre questions you’ve ever heard. Almost impossible to answer. It was then especially laughable when we got to our questions: what color is grass? Do planes walk or fly? What is the round object that circles the earth called?

During the second and subsequent rounds of questions, our ‘competitive’ group got into the spirit of the thing and they started asking incredibly easy questions. Soon the other two groups joined in.

By the time we were finished, our competitive group was first, we were second, the whole room was cracking up, and the team leader was pissed as hell because we had moved outside the boundaries of her training.

My, that was a lot of fun.

(And in case you’re wondering, my PType is Idealist. You guess what Type I am.)


Emerging Technology Conference

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Clay Shirky was kind enough to stop by, and drop a comment in the post “We are Out There”. Among other things, he references a conference O’Reilly is putting on: the Emerging Technologies conference, being held in April in Santa Clara.

The conference will have a social software track, for those interested in attending. I, unfortunately, do not have the funds to attend. And before anyone points a finger, yes I would like to attend, and yes I am envious. Very. I am eating sour grapes by the handful if one is curious. However, paying bills and rent takes precedence over technical conferences (a point I was trying to make in my “We are out there” posting).

Catch 22: To get jobs for money to attend conferences you have to have a network of contacts in the biz; but to get the network you have to attend conferences. Excuse me while I go dump my head in a bucket of ice water to complete the job of the cough.

(Now, if this had been held in Chicago or St. Louis instead of the inevitable West or East coast location…)

Update And now Dave is talking about a Weblogger Conference. Sigh.

You know what conferences are? Lodestones for the elite.


Humano-Tech Weblogger Conference

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I decided to pull this into a separate post.

Once I had time to think on Dave’s idea, I found myself really liking it. As I wrote in my comments, just think of all the people involved in weblogging, all those different interests. In my blogroll are accessibility and/or markup folks, photographers, artists, philosophers, hard and soft core techies, writers, politicos, teachers, communication folks, and even marketing. Just the people in my blogroll alone (and who should be on my blogroll once I do another update) have enough energy to change the world if we got together in one room.

Just think of putting all that power into a single venue with a single focus — the mergence of humanities and technology. Oooh, it hurts to get this excited when I don’t feel good.

Dammit, I wish I had thought of this one. Dave, way to go. That was an excellent idea. I’m in.


One thing I would suggest a change to is allowing the people to pick who they have dinner with. Make it totally random. Let’s force people outside of cliques. Let’s see if we can’t get liberals to sit with Glenn Reynolds, and so on. The way to run this conference would be to break the rules, and let’s start by not letting people stay within their comfort zones. We don’t in weblogging, let’s not do so in a weblogging conference.


Update I’m going to be pulling out of the conference planning and re-direct you all to the person who originated it. I emailed Dave and suggested he set up a weblog to focus ideas. Lots of good ideas too, so Dave has something to work from.

If I go to a conference next year, it will most likely be something such as the O’Reilly Emerging Tech conference or something of that line. Right now the economy is very tight in the country and I, as do many, have to focus more on what helps my employment situation. Chances are I’ll only be able to go to one conference next year, and I need one that will help me keep my skills up, discover what’s new in the tech world, and where I can sell myself as a viable tech entity, in that order. And, no, this isn’t trying to sell O’Reilly. I think I proved last week that I don’t push O’Reilly just because the company’s my publisher.

I would love to meet other webloggers, and will, but more along the lines of sitting down and sharing a cup of coffee or a beer at the local pub.

I think the weblogger conference is a good idea, and will help if I can. But, after a bit of reflection (and an internal reality check), I don’t see it happening for me next year. I hope, though, that it happens for those who want it.


Just Shelley

Double take

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

In my weblogging neighborhood, and out in the real world, I tend to go by Shell (or Bb) rather than Shelley. So anytime I read either Shell or Bb, I tend to think it’s about me, since both are somewhat unusual nicknames.

So I did a real double-take when I visited Ruzz’s weblog and read:

I should point out Shell is horny as hell …

After going “What?!”, I read the rest of the sentence:

…and his constant meowing and chasing Annabelle down is beginning to be annoying.

Whew! For a minute I was really regretting putting my Myers-Briggs results into a weblog posting.


Elitist only need apply?

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

One interesting side note related to the Weblogger conference. In my comments attached to the first conference posting, an anonymous poster wrote:

A meet-up would never work because it just wouldn’t have the elitist pseudo-professional look to it that these people want to portray.

Since the comments were coming fast and furious, this one was buried a bit, until AKMA commented on it in my second conference posting. He wrote:

Anonymous suggested that there’s an elitist streak to these meetings; s/he is right, in both the obvious negative sense and in a positive sense, where “leading” personae get the chance to sit around and talk to one another, allowing their imaginations to strike sparks and develop notions that wouldn’t have arisen or grown as readily in solitude as they do in company. I don’t have a problem with that, though I’m mostly just a wannabe in tech circles. If I get cool innovations and insights from the elite, what’s my stake in saying, “but no one’s paying attention to me?” If Shelley and Mark Pilgrim and Dave and Sam want to put their collective brilliance together for an evening’s technical tete-a-tete, I oughtn’t to complain that they’re being elitists.

In circles in which I’m marginally closer to being part of an elite, I try to help people join the scintillating conversations—but I also get weary when someone with whom I hadn’t expected to be talking damps the exciting exchange of ideas with discursive Blank Space.

It’s a tough balance, but in that balance “elitism” isn’t only a bad thing.

My first reaction to any form of elitism is that it’s a bad thing. However, AKMA has a good point; people with advanced knowledge on topics need time to talk, to exchange ideas, to feed off of each other in a productive sense. To discourage this would be as counter-productive as not encouraging discussion from the people who don’t have this advanced knowledge.

Both AKMA and Dave Winer referenced a post by Aaron Swartz about how to have a good conference. Aaron has some interesting points, particularly about the inappropriate use of speech. However, he also writes:


3. Get smart people and encourage them to talk. Now this one is a bit difficult. Most conferences seem to use a large mass of “normal” people (the “audience”) to subsidize the “special” people (the “speakers”). Since I tend to be in the latter group and don’t have much money, I sort of like this. But the annoying side-effects are that “special” people don’t get to discuss things with each other and “normal” people waste everybody’s time by asking stupid questions. I’m not sure how to solve this. Maybe only let “special” people ask questions? I suspect this would seriously hurt the feel of the event.

So what happens when you do this? The closest thing I’ve heard of is the Hackers Conference. Reading the description made me drool. Everyone’s a presenter, interrupting is encouraged, everyone gets a booth to demo, there’s lots of talking-to-each-other time, the conference runs 24 hours, they invite only the best. They also do a lot of other clever things to make it work, especially in the physical location.

Sadly, I’ve never attended. Mostly because I’ve never been invited (you have to be invited to come, and you have to be cool to be invited) but also because it’s incredibly expensive (I suspect this is because of the physical location thing, but also because there are no “normal” people to subsidize the rest of us). Maybe someday, all conferences will be as cool as this. Or at least the ones I’m interested in. I sure hope so.

No matter how I look at this, no matter how much I want to not get into position of yet again picking on someone whom everyone adores, I cannot agree with this sentiment. No, I cannot agree with this in any form.

I understand what AKMA is saying, that people with extreme knowledge need time to communicate directly with each other in order to generate new ideas. I think this view agrees with Aaron to some extent.

Perhaps my odd euphoric energy from earlier today is running down, but the whole conversation about ‘normals’ and ‘specials’, and ‘normals’ and ‘stupid questions’, and ‘normals’ funding the conference so the ‘specials’ can talk is sobering. And disquieting.