If your kids are smart, don’t tell them

By on

According to a recent article in Scientific American by Carol Dweck, which summarizes research in the area, praising people for talent or intelligence is counterproductive. This is contrary to widespread belief.

Such praise encourages people to adopt a "fixed mind-set" — to believe that success is the result of innate, fixed qualities (talent or intelligence). Under this model, failure is the result of things which cannot be changed, so it is permanent and any further effort is pointless: this mind-set facilitates learned helplessness.

On the other hand, encouraging people to have a "growth mind-set" — to believe that success is the result of qualities which can be developed and improved, leads people to have a different model of failure — that it is temporary and can be converted to success with the application of additional effort. Such encouragement could take the form of praise for successful hard work or teaching how the brain works.

Talent doesn’t lead to success: hard work, perhaps with the assistance of talent, does.

Another use of games to accomplish something unrelated

By on

Social computing researchers have lately been investigating the use of games to produce useful work, i.e., structuring games so that they produce work as a byproduct of play. The most well-known example is the ESP Game, where two people look at the same image and try to guess matching image labels without any communication outside the game — the useful work being the labels produced. (I should note that it’s controversial whether the labels produced by the ESP Game are actually worthwhile, but that detail isn’t important here.)

Here’s an interesting variation: freerice.com. This is a vocabulary quiz game, complete with a numeric assessment of your "vocab level". (This blogger hovers around 41.) But it’s also a way to convert dollars generated by advertising — you’re shown three ads along with each word — into food for the needy.

I wonder if the advertisers on this site are being taken for a ride. What are the click-through rates compared to other websites?

today’s xkcd

By on

Yesterday’s xkcd comic:

I found this highly amusing, particularly in light of (a) knowing that applications I use frequently are full of SQL injection bugs and have been for years despite my complaints, and (b) as a programmer, observing how easy it is to skip input sanitization.