Archive for category: Socializing

Is solitude necessary for great work?

August 2nd, 2008 by jose

I found a (badly scanned) paper on how to concentrate. It’s a so-so article, but there is at least one gem in it:

remember that solitude has always been, in all the history of mental achievement, a requisite for great work. (…) The great poems written in lonely garrets—the masterpiece paintings conceived by the artist amid the fields—the divine harmonies first heard by the musician communing with the stars—the sublime oration which first stirred the soul of the orator as he tramped in the forest—all attest that the best comes to man when he is alone.

This is interesting. I always found that some people complained I spent too much time in front of the computer… maybe that is what it means to be lonely. The funny thing is that nowadays it is a lot harder to be alone. Maybe alone is just a romantic surrogate for ‘uninterrupted’ :) I don’t think the mood implications of lonely help in any way, unless you are producing poetry, music or plastic arts… but certainly not papers.

So, do you feel lonely? Do you seek time apart from ‘the world’? It’s true that most academics’ social lives suck (not mine :P ). But what is the right causal path here? Do we kill our social lives so we can get ‘in the state’ more often and be productive? Or is it the other way around: we are ‘in the state’ so often that social relationships just die off?

One thing is true: having an internet connection provides constant, second-class (in the sense that it’s not as rich as real-life interaction) social stimulation; being in front of the computer is not a certain way to achieve ‘the state’ (lonely or not). But maybe a good solution is to concentrate a lot (no surrogate activities, like me writing this blog post while I should finishing up my paper), and then get a lot of first-class, ‘live person’ social action.

Resistance to boredom as a scientific moral value?

June 23rd, 2008 by jose

Is there a simple explanation for why some people pick up demanding activities (such a career in science) while some others are happy watching television most of their spare time?

Maybe it’s as simple as this: boredom is aversive to everyone, but people differ on when they get so bored they need to do something about it or their head will explode. Let’s call this the boredom threshold. So let’s play with the naive theory that people with a low boredom threshold do science (or art, or some other complex, demanding activities). And let’s assume that mainstream jobs (i. e. those that apply existing knowledge instead of living at the bleeding edge) can get away doing the same things over and over again. This is a caricature, but bear with me.  

Some job descriptions value resistance to boredom. Of course, that’s not in the contract, but it’s implicit. And the humility it takes to take such a job is not only accepted, but encouraged in Western society. It’s almost getting to a point where the trait could suffer natural selection (if our standards lasted a few million years :) ). There are more boring jobs than interesting jobs (i.e., interesting jobs are in the ‘long tail’ of a power-law distribution). People willing to accept a boring job have thus more chances of being employed. More so, most jobs have some boring part, so a caricature of a person that would only take non-boring jobs and would quit as soon as something boring comes up would be kicked out of the gene pool.


Six productivity tips to use social media

March 2nd, 2008 by jose

How can you take advantage of the current craze about social media? 1814873464_02b8d3f59e_m

The fact is that many people use social media to  build a powerful reputation In any Industry. This article will focus on professional social sites (i.e., , biznik) and not on the more leisure-based social sites (mySpace, facebook). Having said that, do not discard the more traditional forums and blogs; making posts in these can get you the same benefits than professional social sites, and they are often more targeted.

1 – Benefits are not immediate

Social networks will look like a supreme waste of time in the short term; the benefits are cumulative and slow. Andy Erickson (linkedIn) says:

For me, it’s sort of like having done all the preparation work for an emergency (fire drills in school, CPR certification) and then being grateful that you did when you finally need it.

This is also true for other forms of name-branding and visibility such as blogging. Having the attention of some people is a great currency that you never know when you are going to need.


We are now a^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H productivity blog

February 21st, 2008 by jose

I always wondered how people see the academic world from outside. How do we gauge the interest of the general public on what academics have to say (on average)? One easy way to look at this question is to see the how often people will read an article that has the word ‘academic’ on it.

A proxy on what people read nowadays is And the tool to see how often people digg academic posts is now available in Dan Zarella’s blog. Given a keyword, the tool will return data on the average number of links accumulated by stories popular on Digg that mentioned that keyword. This is done with 2007 data.

Well, behold what happens when you enter “academic”:

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And compare it to what you get when you type “productivity”:image

Why is this important? Well, on average, a single digg increases traffic by 0.10%. So a story that gets 3,000 diggs results in an increase in total traffic to the referring site by 300%.

So, from now on we are a^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H productivity blog :)

Academic Productivity 2.0

January 22nd, 2008 by jose

We are proud to announce the birth of Academic Productivity 2.0. Over the last months we have been brainstorming on how to improve the blog and we are happy to announce a number of important news.

New look

We have redesigned the blog and created a new logo: a delicate metaphor on how the academia transforms raw ideas into… more clipboard1_22_2008 _ 20_34_42mundane, consumable things.

It took quite a lot of work to get the current look working (and we ended up making very conservative decisions!). Load times should have improved as we have removed some plugins that were slowing things down.

Open contributions

We thought it’s ok to write our own ramblings, but we’d like to read yours too.

Academic Productivity 2.0 introduces an open registration system (default role: “Contributor”). This will allow to open up the blog for contributions from our readers. Other blogs have done this, and since we have been receiving a lot of valuable suggestions from our readers, we think it’s time to create a community of contributors. If you have ideas/hacks you want to share, sign up as a contributor or log in < ?php wp_loginout(); ?>(see link on the right side).