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 Post subject: TSOYA: Demetri Martin
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 1:51 am 
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Demetri Martin discusses his life & times and his new book This Is A Book on The Sound of Young America

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2011 12:17 am 
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Nice interview! It's always great to hear someone who really knows what they're doing (though that's apparent in his comedy) - it even comes through in him thanking you for letting him promote his book, recognizing and embracing the reality of the situation - he would probably have been a good scientist.

P.S. "National Pooblic Radio" was pretty funny


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2011 5:40 am 
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I definitely appreciate lines of inquiry that are about the art of problem solving and how the guest approaches and attacks various problems (e.g. Martin's comedy, school, his serial enthusiasm for things). More of that, please.

Demetri's in my second tier of favorite comics just below the holy trinity of Thompkins, Bamford, and Galifianakis. Despite having read and heard numerous interviews by him over the years, i gained additional insight from this TSoYA. Well done, sir.

I was incredulous when i heard Jesse and Demetri claiming to have read the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. I now realize that i had conflated it with the 39 volume The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. I think i read about a volume-and-a-half's worth of that, which is a ton. Much of it is fascinating, but i'd much rather read H.W. Brands's or Walter Isaacson's very good biographies.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2011 4:44 am 
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Great interview. I admire the way he talks about his stand-up like it's a craft - constantly being honed and perfected.

The topic of points reminds me of when I was supervisor of a warehouse and implemented an experience points system. I turned work into an RPG, I'm proud to say.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2011 4:56 am 
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Wow, CaptiveMan. That is epic.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2011 6:31 am 
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TheCaptiveMan wrote:
Great interview. I admire the way he talks about his stand-up like it's a craft - constantly being honed and perfected.

The topic of points reminds me of when I was supervisor of a warehouse and implemented an experience points system. I turned work into an RPG, I'm proud to say.


I'd love the details on how you organized this. I teach English as a second language, and could probably get some mileage out of something like that for my classes.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2011 4:56 pm 
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I'd love the details on how you organized this. I teach English as a second language, and could probably get some mileage out of something like that for my classes.


Here was the inspiration: http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal ... world.html

It's all about providing positive, consistent feedback on a systemic level. The warehouse I worked at had various metrics that we already used. Most of them were simply measurements of speed. How fast can you stuff this many envelopes? How fast can you run these things through this machine? Things of that nature.

I took the existing metrics and used those as my foundation. Think of Call of Duty. You get 100 points for killing a foe, but you 150 points for killing him with a headshot. So basically you always get a reward but you get a BIGGER reward for doing something skillfully.

I applied that same philosophy to the tasks at work. If you meet the base level requirements, you get 100 points. But if you perform your task especially fast then you get 150 points. (Those aren't the values I used but you get the idea.) I also set high values for tasks that people normally hated. I had one guy (a fellow nerd) decide that he was only going to do a certain unfun/high value task because he "loves grinding." The person with the highest number of points at the end of the month was rewarded with the title of Employee of the Month and a small monetary prize.

In the TED speech, the speaker talks about a professor who used an EXP system for his class. You can probably get some more tips there.

Overall, I love this concept but prepare for a bumpy road if you pursue it. First of all, I hope you're good with Excel or else you're in for a world of hurt. Secondly, I realized after several months that some people just stopped trying. Yes, it motivated the top performers to perform even better but the people below them felt that there was no way they could compete for the prize so they didn't push themselves anymore than they used to. In a classroom setting, where people aren't competing for the top spot and a prize, this will probably not be an issue.

It's certainly a challenge but I believe if implemented correctly it can really motivate people. I think my mistake was making it a competition with an actual prize. I hope this was helpful. Good luck!

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:18 pm 
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Jesse wrote:
Wow, CaptiveMan. That is epic.


Thanks, Jesse. I'm glad somebody agrees. It tends to be a hit-or-miss bragging point at job interviews.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:57 pm 
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TheCaptiveMan wrote:
Overall, I love this concept but prepare for a bumpy road if you pursue it. First of all, I hope you're good with Excel or else you're in for a world of hurt. Secondly, I realized after several months that some people just stopped trying. Yes, it motivated the top performers to perform even better but the people below them felt that there was no way they could compete for the prize so they didn't push themselves anymore than they used to. In a classroom setting, where people aren't competing for the top spot and a prize, this will probably not be an issue.

It's certainly a challenge but I believe if implemented correctly it can really motivate people. I think my mistake was making it a competition with an actual prize. I hope this was helpful. Good luck!


McGonigal writes about this kind of problem in her book. External rewards don't motivate well enough, and often they backfire (see recent books like Drive). Feedback is important, but it has to be tied to things that are intrinsically rewarding. That's the other half of the RPG equation. You get no prize for playing an RPG. You get other satisfactions (story, increasing richness, visible displays of progress), which are themselves feedback.

Jehu, consider implementing something that reveals interesting things when progress is achieved. Something as simple as an attractive, a well designed graph might work.Students could tend to the line of their progress like they tend to a garden. Or a merit badge/AA chip type system.

Maybe a weekly print-out with a graph, and achievements/trophies (ala Xbox360 or PS3). Maybe something with a complex point system -- strength (for effort), cunning (for things learned), or some such type of thing.

(McGonigal also mentions a RPG inspired charter school in ny that has a quest and leveling up based system rather than a test and grading system. it sounds pretty awesome. you can fail as much as it takes, as long as you finish enough of the right quests by the end of the year)

The difference between work and a game is that everything in a game is encouragement. You quickly see the fruits of your effort, you are made to feel you are valuable. When you work with others you are made to feel part of a team, and when you work alone you are made to feel like a special agent. When you succeed you can see your success, and your failures only irritate you into working harder. Gameification gets a bad rap, because often it sounds cynical and fakey, or cheesy. But these things that games are good at work should be good at, and it shouldn't just be a trick. It shouldn't be cynical. It should be utterly sincere.

My brother and I were discussing this recently, and the team thing came up. As in "Target Team Member" and "Team Bulding", but phrases that used to make me cringe. But rethinking work in terms of teams is a valuable idea. The team notion doesn't just make things "like a game." It gives hope that maybe the shitty managment system of authority present in work today could be changed into something that allows for more dignity.

I'm thinking that it would be very nice to reorganize work to maximize dignity and satisfaction.


Anyway, Captive Man, I tip my hat to you, for actually implementing something as unusual and ambitious as what you did in real life. Ad Astra.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2011 7:47 pm 
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NealAppeal wrote:
Maybe a weekly print-out with a graph, and achievements/trophies (ala Xbox360 or PS3). Maybe something with a complex point system -- strength (for effort), cunning (for things learned), or some such type of thing.

It shouldn't be cynical. It should be utterly sincere.

I'm thinking that it would be very nice to reorganize work to maximize dignity and satisfaction..


Yes, I can vouch for the effectiveness of a visual representation of people's progress. I created an Excel document for every employee (a pretty one, at that) that showed their daily point accumulation broken down by task, along with a running tally of their total accrued points. The ones that were really into this "metagame" looked at that thing every day, examined their weaknesses and strengths, and improved overall as a result.

Seeing your progress is a very powerful motivational tool.

And, yes, if you do anything as unusual as this you have to be sincere about it. When I presented this idea to my manager, I didn't do it jokingly or off-hand. I came in with an embarrassingly long document explaining exactly why I thought it would work. He was open-minded enough to let me try it. (Of course, once the big bosses caught wind of it it was quickly laughed off the stage. Damn the Man!)

The whole motivation for doing this was to try to get away from the negative reinforcement that is so much a part of our working lives. This isn't a measurable fact but I felt like morale was way up when we were doing our EXP thing. People seemed genuinely excited about working, at least for a little while. It was all about, as you said, "maximizing dignity and satisfaction." Gameification can sound ridiculous but I assure you it is a potent motivational tool.

Oh, and I didn't realize McGonigal had a book. Thanks for the heads up.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 11, 2011 4:50 am 
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I have to say that the interview was really exciting right from the start to the finish. I have always wanted to know more about Demetri Martin and his philosophies regarding his life and all and I must say this interview answered them all for me. I am really looking forward for his new book “This is a book on the Sound of New America”. And yes, the way he talked about the standup craft was really out of this world!

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