Archive for November, 2010

View Source Alliance

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Most of what I learned on the web in my early years was from “View Source”. Then came the books and the conferences.

It makes me sad to see lots of sites minifying code for performance and not releasing the full version of the code so other developers could learn from it. It’s the openness that I really like about the web.

I think there should be a “View Source Alliance” that would set rules on how to release your code in a way that visitors can benefit from the speed of minified code, while web developers can still find your full files and learn from them.

I’ll set a few simple rules here, hoping somebody with more reach picks them up:

  1. If you minify the files for them, use a simple convention name.min.ext (say jquery.min.js)
  2. When you deploy minified files, also deploy their full version at name.ext (say jquery.js)
  3. If you for some reason can’t release the full files next to the minified ones, add this to the top of the minified file: /*viewsource**/ (say /*viewsource*http://*/)

This way you will not only help others, but sometimes even stop breaking the law. Because you might be using some open source code with a licence that says you must release your code with a same/similar licence.

Motivation and hiring

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

I don’t think I ever wrote about motivation much here even though it’s one of my favorite subjects and was also the main topic of my thesis. Recently I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot again and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s very important to use it to hire the right person.

Back to the beginning. There are loads of theories on motivation and most of them just cover different aspects and mostly they can all live together. One of the aspects of motivation is where it comes from. That gives us intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Obviously it’s not a boolean thing as any individual sits on a line between the extremes. And there’s also the matter of having a different source of motivation for different things. Let’s not get into that.

Intrinsic motivation

Let me quote Wikipedia on this:

Intrinsic motivation refers to motivation that is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on any external pressure.

We are motivated by the fact that we’re getting something done and by the feeling we get ourselves when we’re done. We’re not in it so someone can tell us we did a good job. We don’t really care. A friend of mine once said: “It’s for me. If somebody else likes it – great.” We like to think that the more we get into the subject, the better we’ll be at it and the better the result. In other words no relying on luck, no shortcuts, no marketing/selling, no subpar stuff. Because of all this we don’t like when others interfere with stuff we’re responsible for.

Extrinsic motivation

Another quote from Wikipedia:

Common extrinsic motivations are rewards like money and grades, coercion and threat of punishment. Competition is in general extrinsic because it encourages the performer to win and beat others, not to enjoy the intrinsic rewards of the activity.

These people often need to be “managed” to give them the sense of direction and success and are in that way more demanding. They also need more information about what is going on and might see the successes of their co-workers as their own and be empowered by them.

Who to hire?

You might want to hire intrinsically motivated people when you don’t have the management layers to keep them motivated or you just don’t have time to do that. On the other hand it’s very hard to keep them motivated when all the fun work is gone and thus tend to either switch tasks/assignments or try to over-explore/discover. These two reasons are also why some people want to hire intrinsically motivated employees only to later regret it as they can’t motivate them anymore or don’t know how.

Hiring extrinsically motivated people might be better for cases where you can manage them properly as they might feel lost without guidance. They are somewhat easier to motivate as you have a lot more ways to do it – sometimes even just a public pat on the back suffices. They are surely a better choice for a company in an established market as they thrive on beating the competition. If you have an “employee of the month” you should hire extrinsically motivated people.

I think it’s very important to hire a homogenous team motivation-wise. An extrinsically motivated manager might have a problem motivating an intrinsically employee and the employee won’t get why his extrinsically motivated colleague is bummed that he wasn’t complimented on the great work last week.

The intrinsic problem

We intrinsically motivated have a problem. Even though that extrinsically motivated people can internalize motivation when it matches their values and beliefs it is much more common for somewhat extrinsically motivated people to become more and more extrinsic with time due to the Overjustification effect. As that means that their number will go up with time, most of us are used to just getting in to solve the problems and then get out. Somewhat ironic that it sounds like a mercenary.