The Pain Fallacy

If you’ve ever read a synopsis of anything successful, you have certainly heard about sacrifice. “No pain, no gain” has become the motto of people trying to change their life for the better, even justifying physical pain in exchange for ______________ (insert desired physical outcome here).

I tend to refuse that outlook on life. Pain is not good. We invented chemicals to overcome it, damn it! There’s a collective mindset that “effort is better than success” (“A for effort!”), which relegates anyone who manages to achieve success with less (perceived) effort as some kind of cheater to be frowned upon. “They were just recording themselves playing some stupid video games and now make millions of dollars off it? Why would anyone with a brain watch that loser?”. Here’s another one: “She’s vice-president? I bet she slept her way there…”

We live in a society that insists in praising “effort” above “success”. Want a real job? You better have as much college debt as the rest of us. Want a raise? You better be sleep deprived and never see your family like the rest of us! The odd thing is most of our jobs no longer consist of physical labor/effort. It’s like we’ve found new ways to inflict that highly sought for “physical pain”: sleep deprivation, malnutrition, back pain, depression, loneliness… Gotta make that body pay, right?

It never occurred to me what the true connection between sacrifice and success might actually be until now. To be clear, I don’t mean to deny the need for sacrifice in order to achieve success. That’s a well-documented exchange. But I’m starting to realize that the sacrifice required on the road to success is less about damaging tendons, nerves, neurons or otherwise inflicting some degree of physical pain or punishment, but about *choices*. It’s about saying no to things you enjoy. It’s about spending less time with the people you have a good time with. It’s about getting paid less. It’s about saying “No” more often. It’s less about doing what you don’t like and more about looking ahead, defining what “success” looks like for you and working back from there. It’s about removing the distractions and obstacles that keep you from getting there. It’s about going to bed earlier instead of binge-watching the latest season of House of Cards because you know your brain works best in the morning after a good night of sleep. It’s about not drinking that extra shot because you’re not willing to sacrifice your productivity the next day. It’s about not playing your favorite video game today, because it’ll take away the time you should be spending with your wife today so you can work on your side project tomorrow.

On the road to success, sacrifice is less about pain and more about choices.

A Multilingual Twitter

As a bilingual Twitter user, I’ve long awaited for better multilingual support on Twitter.

For some time now, I’ve had this simple idea that I believe could benefit millions of Twitter users. What if there was a meta/hidden field (API-accessible) that contained the ISO tag of the language of the tweet? Like Google Translate, the client software would be able to dynamically predict the language being typed but the user would be able to override it. This field would be completely invisible from the normal Twitter experience outside of the compose box. We would then be able to select the languages we would like to view in our Timeline. For instance, I would subscribe to English and Portuguese. That means that my Timeline would automagically “hide” any languages I don’t understand. This would make me feel a lot better about tweeting in Portuguese without feeling like I’m just adding unwanted noise to any of my follower’s timeline who doesn’t understand the language.

I know Twitter has been focused on “inclusive timelines” (more vs less), but, especially now, with the addition of third-party favorites and ads on my Timeline, it seems like a good time to think about multi-language support.

If you have any thoughts or comments, please feel free to contact me on Twitter.

Writing Conundrum

I’ve been feeling terribly lazy about writing. Nothing new there: I’m anything but regular with any sort of good habit (see: eating, exercising, sleeping, etc…). But I’ve always been opinionated and loved communicating via writing. On a closer look, I’ve been discouraged from writing, from sharing my thoughts and opinions.

I look at what I input in a I/O (input/output) system: what I input has value at a cognitive level, but is ultimately valued based on the resulting output that it informed. That affects what I read, watch, listen to, etc. Being a human in my 30s, I understand and value entertainment, the choice of doing things from a purely recreational standpoint. This is especially valuable in the case of a knowledge worker, helping relax and refocus.

Jeff Bezos once said “people who were right a lot of the time were people who often changed their minds”. Being someone who values “being right” (not saying that I am), I can relate to that concept. When I write my opinion on a matter, I’m not assuming I’m the ultimate meter of truth. I believe I am right (or I wouldn’t say it) but I’m subject to new facts and knowledge that can influence a change in opinion. I don’t see that as some sort of life changing or humbling experience, I see that as a natural process of evolution at an intellectual level.

When thinking about these concepts, it occurred to me that a lot of people are not interested in reading opinions. When reading someone’s opinions, they are looking for arguments for or against their own opinions. That’s why an opinion piece available on the Internet is like a hive of trolls! Opinions are polarized on the Internet, under a curtain of anonymity and lack of human touch, because everybody wants to be right. To experience this all you have to do is bring up social issues like gay marriage, gun control, or abortion. Neither camp is interested in or willing to change their opinions! Any sort of campaign for either side is more about rallying everyone who agree with your side, not show anyone why what you believe is factually closer to the truth than the alternative. It’s not a matter of liberals vs conservatives, religious vs non-religious: it’s a matter of my opinion vs yours, the fact that I could be wrong and you may very well be right!

To bring this full circle, that’s the irony of my writing conundrum: whereas writing feels to me like a process of growth and education, I’m faced with a culture of absolutes that is not willing to accept the fact that I am able to handle being wrong, learn from it, and move on. People who consider themselves liberals are hard-set on their non-standards; people who consider themselves conservatives are hard-set on their standards. Neither is interested in understanding the standards themselves, the original reasoning and understanding. It becomes a war of interpretations, a fight for the top, with little desire to grow and educate.

I should start writing again. I will not stop having opinions and believing that I have reasonably and logically reached them. I will continue to welcome healthy debate as long as its based on the common ground of reaching conclusions based on facts, scientific or not, that are rooted on the most basic of human conditions: “I could be wrong”.

Please Contact Sales

When I don’t see any pricing for a product or service on its website, this is what I assume it the sales process will ensue:

Contact our sales agent so someone can list all the features we have that you don’t care for but we think justify our ridiculous price tag.

Also, we only have plans bundled in ways that ruin your experience, by adding features you don’t care or removing the ones you care, so we can upsell you on our more expensive plans that include most of what you want, with plenty of what you don’t want, and you only have to compromise on 2-3 features you’d like.

For more information on our products and services, please call only when you’re able to spend a lot of money. Otherwise, please leave our website so we can save some bandwidth for our paying customers to struggle through our overly complicated site structure, while we blame their internet service provider for the slowness.

After 12 days, 3 faxes and endless phone calls…

Thank you so much for compromising and giving us your money. We’ll contact you every week to make sure you are happy with our product, and let your support and/or feature requests accidentaly be deleted by our over-zealous automated ticket cleanser. To avoid bothering our support agents, who already hate their jobs, please make sure to keep any comparisons with our competition to yourself: we are aware and, honestly, don’t care because you are either already giving us your money.

Please keep in mind that we may remove and/or add features you care to your plan. HA! Got you there: we will only remove features you care. We may add features you don’t care, though, for your raging pleasure. You are so welcome. No: we are welcome.

Note: our company accepts no liability for the content of this message, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided, unless that information is subsequently confirmed in writing. If you are not the intended recipient you are notified that disclosing, copying, distributing or taking any action in reliance on the contents of this information is strictly prohibited.

Aside from the (hopefuly) humorous text above, I seriously encourage you to keep a few things in mind, if you care for your existing and, especially, potential customers (which I’m sure you do):

Questions or comments? Hit me up on Twitter or App.net.

Open Knowledge - A Concept

How many times have you benefited from open source software? And I mean that as a developer: how many times have you benefited, either personally or professionally, from open source code? Now, how many times have you benefited from open and free knowledge? And I also mean that both personally and professionally…

I remember when we first got Internet: 1998, 33.6kbps modem, single phone line at home. My Internet time was limited to a sliver, right between the time my mom would either call or get a call from her mom, shortly after dinner, and the time my dad would need to make some international calls (because timezones). From the day one of being online at home, I remember being drawn to the immense readily available knowledge. Most people were excited about email, chat and getting their news online (instant communication), but I clearly remember devouring tutorials and forums. Shortly after being online, I found about and started using Linux. I also discovered a passion in hardware and overclocking, with the safety net of countless expert peers. It was armed with countless tutorials and guides that I first ventured into web programming (XHTML/DHTML yo!). Heck: I used to print hundreds of pages of freely available tutorials and books just for the (false sense of) security that the physical representation of that virtual knowledge provided me even when offline. Don’t get me wrong: libraries and resource centers had been around for centuries, but this felt very different and a lot more convenient.

As I look back at the past ~16 years that I have been online, I can’t help but feel slightly guilty. Guilty because, even though I have participated in countless IRC chats and forum threads, I have never taken the initiative to compile information I have discovered myself. Linking to content sources is fine and easy (both when programming or when learning) but contributing with new concepts or refining existing knowledge has never been something I took seriously… and that is sad.

Like me, I’m sure a lot of you have never contributed back to the community in any structured way and that, in many cases, defined you. Personally, and because I’m a perfectionist tinkerer, I feel like my “experiments” are never ready to be published. If you ask any programmer considering contributing to an open source project or open sourcing their own code, the feelings are identical.

I want to challenge myself to start writing, screencasting, recording or podcasting my findings, new or development of existing ones. My areas of interest are extremely varied, and that shouldn’t frighten me: computer hardware and overclocking, programming, system architecture, cars and racing, etc… I need to convince my lizard brain that the extra time it takes to do so is my humble contribution back to the world. The reality is, I know I’ll benefit from it in a lot of ways (consolidated and solidified knowledge–that’s a fact–and a personal knowledge database/reference) but that shouldn’t be my main motivation. I look at it sort of like code documentation: it will slow me down in the short term, but tremendously benefit me and others in the long run.

Have you ever thought of your life’s legacy, that something that will survive you, either directly or as part of something greater? I believe sharing your knowledge is great way to build legacy, with the added benefit of helping countless people (and you!) instantly (yay Internet!). I’m sure most of you reading this understand the value of open source software, many of you probably have open sourced some of your code or contributed to an open source project, but… are you just sharing some of your fish or helping others learn how to fish?


As I think of this concept, would creating a place for compiling and categorizing knowledge be something we should consider building? It would be sort of a hybrid between Wikipedia and Stack Overflow, focused on technical knowledge (not just answers to questions)… Most Linux distributions seem to have something like that, but there seems to be a shortage of places like that for general technical knowledge, like programming, design, etc, and I’m not sure a wiki is the best solution for that…

Am I missing something? Thoughts? Hit me up on Twitter. :)

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