Dan Pink on What Motivates Us

Here’s a great movie which takes the audio from a presentation by Dan Pink based on the research for his latest book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and augments it with video of a whiteboard cartoonist illustrating what Pink is talking about. I have no idea how long it took to film the illustration sequences, but I love the end result – I think it makes for better internet viewing of a presentation than simply watching a video of the presenter on the podium, even when accompanied by slides.

The movie covers the part of Pink’s presentation that talks about an experiment to determine whether higher pay led to better performance. The results:

  • For turnkey, mechanical, just-follow-the-instructions tasks, larger rewards do lead to better performance.
  • For tasks that call for cognitive skills, conceptual and creative thinking — even at a rudimentary level — larger rewards did the opposite: they led to poorer performance.

The sort of work we do calls for cognitive crunching certainly falls into the latter category – as Andy “Pragmatic Programmer” Hunt says, making software is one of the hardest thing humans do.

Money is a motivator, but when it comes to people who do the sort of work we do, it requires more than just money to motivation. Pink’s recommendation is to pay people enough so that they’re not thinking about money, but thinking about their work instead. Once you’ve done that, there are three factors that lead to better satisfaction and performance:

  1. Autonomy: The desire to be self-directed, to direct our own lives
  2. Mastery: The urge to get better at stuff
  3. Purpose: The reason we do something

In the end, what Pink suggests is that if we treat people not like “smaller, better-smelling horses” with carrot-and-stick incentives but like people and set up the appropriate motivations, we’ll make our work and the world a little bit better.

If you enjoyed this portion of Pink’s presentation and want to see the whole 40-ish minutes, I present it below. Enjoy!

If Pink’s name rings a bell, it’s probably because you’ve heard of his other books, A Whole New Mind and the manga career guide Johnny Bunko.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


b5media’s Changes to Blogger Pay: Right, Fair and Still a Sweet Deal

b5media logoOver at TechCrunch, Mike Arrington posted an article titled Big Blogger Pay Cuts At b5Media. As a recent ex-b5er (I’m the former Technical Project Manager), I thought I’d provide a former insider’s perspective:

  • b5media paid bloggers based on pageview statistics drawn from AWStats, which produces its results by analyzing the the server log files.
  • In b5’s experience, AWStats reported pageview counts that were significantly inflated — I’m talking numbers that were sometimes two-thirds higher than reality — and this was confirmed when AWStats’ results were compared with those reported by SiteMeter, a package we believe is far more accurate.
  • b5 recently made the switch to Omniture’s web analytics package, which delivers more accurate pageview statistics and can do the kinds of detailed analysis that the company needs.
  • As a trusted third party, Omniture provides results that can be trusted by:
    • The bloggers. Unlike AWStats, which is run by b5 and based on data on b5’s servers, Omniture’s data is collected and processes by a neutral third party with a solid industry reputation.
    • Advertisers. Just as TV ad buyers look at ratings and newspaper and magazine ad buyers look at circulation, blog advertisers look at pageview stats, and they need to be able to trust the numbers we provide them.
    • b5’s investors. They use the size of the readership as a metric for the company’s performance, and like advertisers, they need to be able to trust the stats.

Simply put, up till now, b5 has been paying bloggers based on inaccurate, inflated pageview counts. If you’re a b5 blogger and your pay drops as a result of the switch to Omniture, you’re not getting ripped off; it just means that the system no longer makes errors in your favour. It was a nice ride, but it had to end sometime.

Even under the new pay structure, blogging under the b5 umbrella is a pretty sweet deal. A guaranteed minimum CPM of $4? That’s awesome compared to the alternatives out there. Consider my personal blog, The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century, which has been averaging about 200,000 pageviews a month (outperforming most of b5’s blogs) and has had over 2 million pageviews this year according to StatCounter. I do a big happy dance when my CPM makes that rare climb over $1.10. $4? Sign me up!

To summarize, I believe that b5media’s new pay system for bloggers is both the right thing for the company and fair to its bloggers. I stand behind CEO Jeremy Wright and the rest of the b5 team in their decision.

Recommended Reading

For more details, I recommend you read Jeremy Wright’s blog post in response to the TechCrunch story.


RailsConf 2008 Registration is Open

Just got the email: early bird registration for RailsConf 2008 (which is $100 cheaper) is now open. When I was working a nice big company like Tucows, they’d foot the bill, making the decision a no-brainer. Now that I’m at TSOT, which is a start-up, we don’t have those budgets and now I have to think about the bang-per-buck ratio. Are you going, and what factors are you taking into account?


Programming Book Profits (or Lack Thereof)

John Resig writes about how much money he made writing his book Pro JavaScript Techniques (which, as of this writing, boasts a five-star rating on after collecting a $7500 advance, which applied against future profits, it took him a year’s worth of sales for him to make an additional $246.30 in profit.

He also writes about other things he learned in the process. I’m reminded of what Jeff “Coding Horror” Atwood wrote in a Twitter message — that for all but the hottest of tech topics (in which you are an undisputed master), rather than write a programming book, your money-out-to-work-in ratio might be better if you write about your topic in an ad-supported blog.


17 Thousand Reasons I AM a Ruby on Rails Developer

The blogger at willcode4beer says in 17 Thousand Reasons I’m not a Ruby on Rails Developer that the median salary of Rails developers is on average $17K less than that for J2EE developers. I’m not worried — the pay at TSOT for RoR development is on par with the J2EE rates cited.

The article also suggests that “to bring salaries up, they need to drop the ‘easy’ part. Development is hard, and no language or platform is going to change that. We solve complex problems. Complex problems are hard to solve. period. They should focus on the productivity gains in the areas where Rails shines, and try to avoid the areas where it doesn’t.”