The downside to goals

When I saw this article staring up at me from the kitchen table this evening, something inside “clicked”, and I thought, “Of course! It makes sense that goals can have a downside.”

A downside to goals? While important, goals can be dangerous if used improperly — by Michael De Groote, Deseret News:

Goals are pervasive in American culture. And the dark side of goals is just as pervasive. From the mortgage crisis to bank bailouts, government leaders struggle to solve problems caused by goals that went astray. And the solutions to these problems are goals also.

The point of the article is that goals, by nature, narrow our focus, and sometimes it is at the expense of important priorities like ethical behavior, cooperation and seeing the big picture.

The article concludes by listing ten ways to evaluate goals so as to avoid “dark side effects”.

Persuasion and Manipulation

As I was reading about techniques of scamming and of social engineering, I realized that urgency is a tool that is both nefariously and legitimately used — having a sense of urgency motivates us to stop procrastinating and to act. Salesmen get people to buy products by instilling a sense of urgency. Religious and political leaders get people to act using urgency. Urgency is a persuasive tool.

Persuasion is the act of inducing action or belief in others.

I asked myself the question, “what’s the difference between honest and dishonest persuasion?”. Someone who honestly persuades builds trust, and is trustworthy. They love others, have integrity, and seek to empower others — to build them up, to strengthen them. It is selfless, although it doesn’t preclude deriving joy from helping others.

Someone who dishonestly persuades (manipulates) destroys trust through deception and intimidation. They may withhold information, utilize evasion, character attacks, and impersonation. They attempt to impede critical thinking. Manipulation is selfish. The object of manipulation is power or possessions.

[Laws of persuasion]( include

* Reciprocation
* Commitment & Consistency
* Social Proof (aka conformity)
* Likability (trust, friends, I’m like you, image)
* Authority
* Scarcity (urgency)

I’d add:

* Diffusion of responsibility

That last one can help an individual stand up to pressure from peers. At one point during my [LDS mission](, I had a companion that was a challenge to work with. My mission president told me that if I felt pressured to do something I knew was wrong, to call him and ask permission. His answer would be “no”, and I could put the responsibility of the decision on his shoulders. Normally, I like to take the responsibility of decisions, but in one case, I felt more pressure from my companion than I wanted to stand up to myself. Making that phone call diffused the responsibility somewhat. I appreciated being able to lean on a trusted authority.

Web Browser Security: Cracked in minutes

There was a hacking contest at the [CanSecWest 2009 security conference]( this past week, and it proved that web browsers still aren’t secure. Here’s [the report](

> Charlie Miller, in a repeat performance of last year, used a prepared exploit to crack the Safari web browser on a MacBook running the latest version of Mac OS X in a matter of seconds.

> Following Miller, a 25 year old computer science student at the University of Oldenburg in Germany, who went by the name of ‘Nils’, used an exploit on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 circumventing the latest Data Execution Prevention (DEP) and Address Space Layout Randomisation (ASLR)… he then demonstrated an exploit for Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox.

What does this mean for me and you? That if a well organized group or well funded organization wants to, they can and will hack your machine.

I think there’s an extremely high likelihood that these hackers exploited a hole in JavaScript or Flash, not in the web browser’s rendering of HTML itself. Running untrusted code from random sites never has been, and never will be, without security risk. That’s why I use the [NoScript]( Firefox extension. Unfortunately, it makes many sites confusing by reducing the “richness” of the web browsing experience, and can even break online shopping.

Is there a moral of the story here? Life is risky. Surfing the web is risky. By avoiding all risk, there is no opportunity, no life.

Interesting Article: Nuclear power? Yes please!

Ars Technica has an interesting article “[Nuclear power? Yes please!](” that reports, “Nuclear power will have to form part of a comprehensive post-carbon energy infrastructure, and its downsides are greatly overstated, according to a group of experts.”

Safer Way to Produce Stem Cell Alternative

> Scientists have developed what appears to be a safer way to create a promising alternative to embryonic stem cells, boosting hopes that such cells could sidestep the moral and political quagmire that has hindered the development of a new generation of cures.

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Fedora 10 lacks “wow” appeal; OpenSolaris 11

I upgraded one of my machines to Fedora 10 last month, and for me, this release lacks the “wow” appeal that other releases have had. A minor annoyance is that the keyboard repeat delay [is broken]( for me and so far, there is no fix other than disabling keyboard repeat. On the plus side, Fedora 10 includes 3 and other [new]( [features]( Be sure to check out the [Common Issues]( people have experienced with Fedora 10.

The other day, a co-worker handed me an OpenSolaris 11 Live CD. I booted it, expecting to be underwhelmed like I was with the Solaris 10 JavaDesktop. I was pleasantly surprised, however. Sun’s “Nimbus” GNOME theme knocks the socks off of the boring Fedora window manager themes. The experience felt like I was running Linux. It was responsive, supported my newer hardware, and the system was built with GNU utilities on the command line so I get my favourite options to ‘ls’, ‘grep’, etc. It supported my NVidia card out-of-the box, and had Compiz eye-candy as an option. The only thing I missed (in my superficial test) was the familiar ‘yum’ and ‘rpm’ for package management. I suspect that if I used it from day to day, I’d find other things I miss. Does OpenSolaris support encrypted file systems? Does it have as much optional software as I can get with Fedora Extras?

I’ll keep my eye on [OpenSolaris]( a little more closely in the future.

Core dump

The American Fork City sewage and composting plant is not far from the office where I work, and when the wind blows in this direction, we can smell the human output of an entire city.

It’s not usually a problem, and when it is, we don’t smell it from inside the office. Today is a overpowering exception, and it makes my stomach churn. It’s never been this bad before.

Blog Infrastructure: Control versus Capitulation

I like to be in control of my destiny where my public website (and by blog) is concerned. That way, my content isn’t at the mercy of a third-party that may start charging to host my content, remove content, or stop hosting my content. I can call this control *self reliance*.

Being in control of my blog has its costs. I am the person responsible to make sure the blog software (wordpress) stays up-to-date, which takes time — valuable time that I’d rather spend doing something else (and usually do).

Most people I know that blog have already out-sourced the their blogging platform, whether they realize it or not. Should I capitulate (i.e. surrender control) and do the same thing?

In some sense, my ability to function in this high tech world requires that I rely on others. I rely on a third party to provide the blogging software (wordpress), host my web server (, another to provide bandwidth, another to provide a domain name ( On and on the list goes. I am not an island unto myself. My ability to succeed depends on being a part of civilized society.

I’d capitulate control of my blog, except that I still want a canonical location for my blog to live — one that is a little bit less subject to the whims of a single corporate entity. The best place is at If I need to switch to a new hosting provider or switch to a different domain name registrar, the canonical URL doesn’t have to change.

I’m not ready to capitulate yet. I like my canonical blog URL.

Myths of Innovation

Guy Kowasaki published [Ten Questions]( [and answers] with Scott Berkun, Author of “The Myths of Innovation”.