Around the Web: The science of “practice makes perfect”, Are Asians the new Jews at Ivies? and more

While this blog is where most of my content goes, from time to time, I’ve written articles for other websites and it’s nice to be able to share those with you. Here are five articles ranging from neuroscience, higher education, digitization, fitness, and personal development for you to enjoy!

~ Jason

Buffer – Why practice actually makes perfect: How to rewire your brain for better performance

rewireOne of my favorite blogs out there is run by the social sharing app Buffer. As many of you know, I’m very passionate about behavior change, new skill acquisition, and research on improvement. So a few months ago I did some research on how practice actually changes the way our brains work and how a fatty tissue called myelin super-charges our neural connections. My post was published on the Buffer blog and then picked up by Lifehacker, which is always a neat thing.

A quote from the post:

One compelling piece of evidence comes from brain scans of expert musicians. There’s been a lot of research done on how musician brains differ from the brains of ordinary people – and one specific study used a particular brain scan called Diffusion MRI, which gives us information about tissues and fibers inside the scan region in an non-invasive way.

The study suggested that the estimated amount of practice an expert piano player did in childhood and adolescence, was correlated with the white matter density in regions of the brain related to finger motor skills, visual and auditory processing centers, and others — compared to regular people. And most significantly was that there was a directly correlation between how many hours they practiced and how dense their white/myelin matter was. [4]

Read more on the science of practice here. Continue reading…

Design, Community and Hiring at Ridejoy

I don’t often have an opportunity to share what we’re doing/thinking at Ridejoy but once in a while an opportunity comes up. This time it’s actually three – an article about Ridejoy’s website design, a blog post about how we build community within our team, and a story that mentions how we hired a designer.

Talking about Ridejoy’s Design in the New York Times

Ridejoy in the New York Times

We were connected with David Freedman who wrote a story in his small business column in the New York Times about how we’ve thought about the form and function of the Ridejoy website. Thanks to our cofounder Randy Pang, the site has a very clean look. But design is not just about how things look, but how they feel and how they work.

As David puts it:

Ridejoy is hiding a lot of high-powered complexity behind the intended simplicity of the home page. Consider, for example, that an offered or desired ride can start anywhere, end up anywhere, and happen on any date or time. That means the chances that everyone or even most people who come to the site will find an exact match are not high. So the site’s computers churn through all the possibilities to find the closest matches — perhaps a ride that leaves from a nearby city, or that leaves a day later. If nothing clicks, a notification service lets you know if a new listing comes along that might meet your needs.

Read the whole article at: Would You Trust Ridejoy’s Web Site? (NYTimes.com)

 

Building the Ridejoy Team’s Culture and Community Through FoodFood Matters - Building a Startup Office Culture One Meal at a Time

We strive to build a culture at Ridejoy that’s supportive and based on mutual respect, trust and hopefully, friendship. One of the ways we try to create that kind of a community is through shared meals. We recently wrote a blog post that attracted some attention about our Happiness Manager Camille.

Inspired by Thumbtack’s Food Rules post, we decided to experiment with home-cooked meals based on my experience as a cook and kitchen manager in 100+ member housing cooperatives. It’s worked out great and the Office Hero evolved into the Ridejoy Happiness Manager.

Read the whole post by Camille at Food Matters – Building a Startup Office Culture One Meal at a Time (Ridejoy Blog)

The International Search For Our Lead Designer

In Silicon Valley, designers emerge as rock stars

As discussed earlier, design and culture are really important to us. So when it came to finding our lead designer, we scoured the planet to find the right fit. This article published in Reuters describes the challenges that companies face when hiring for designers and my cofounder Kalvin Wang shares his thoughts on the topic:

“You do really have to look outside Silicon Valley,” Wang said. “For Bay Area designers, they have literally hundreds of options and they’re going to work at a place where they know people, or a big name like Google.”

Read the whole article at In Silicon Valley, designers emerge as rock stars (Reuters)

Running the Numbers on a Business [link roundup]

Wohoo! This is the last day of my four-week experiment to blog 5 days a week. I’ll have a recap up sometime next week on how it went. Feels good to be done!

When I was a senior in college, I thought I might try my hand at management consulting – you get to travel around the world and work with smart people to help businesses solve tough challenges, (at least that’s what the brochure said), sounds like a great gig right?

Top tier consulting firms have a particular way of interviewing called The Case Interview which asked you to make estimations and solve hypothetical business problems by talking outloud and running some numbers. Unfortunately I picked a bad time as the Great Recession hit that fall and very few firms were hiring.

So alas, it never came to be. But I always stayed interested in studying businesses by their numbers. So I decided to have this week’s link roundup focus on economic breakdowns various startups and entrepreneurial endeavors.

The Economics of Dropbox:This article does a detailed cost/revenue estimate of Dropbox, a very successful file-syncing/backup service. I think the numbers are a lowball because Paul Graham, who provided seed funding to Dropbox via ycombinator, has said the company is worth way more than $200 million.


Another company that operates on a freemium model is Evernote and their CEO has been surprisingly open with their numbers. They are able to provide the service for free to millions of users with less than 50k paid users (as of Jan 2010). Also see the discussion on Hacker News.


This is a two-part series by the awesome Jonathan Wegener on the economics of working for yourself. Starting your own thing can be pretty scary, so Jonathan recommends you think about doing things that can earn you $100-200 a day (which works out to $36.5k-73k a year working 7 days a week).


A TC Teardown: What Makes Groupon Tick?. As just about everyone knows, Groupon is the fastest growing company in the world. But how much money is it really making? If you’ve ever wondered what goes behind the scenes of *the* daily deals site, check out this comprehensively detailed post on TechCrunch.


The Business of Street Art: This is a post I did a while back that did a back of the envelope calculation on how much money street artists (the ones that use spray cans to make crazy 3-D paintings) could make doing their thing.


Deliberate Practice & the 10,000 Hour Rule [link roundup]

I’m very interested in excellence and mastery. Part of this is personal – I don’t think I’m the master of anything – and part of it is intellectual – I just find it interesting to understand how the people can learn to perform amazingly difficult tasks with ease. I even wrote a post all about what gymnastics taught me about skill acquisition and mastery.

So this week’s Link Roundup isn’t focused on a piece of breaking news or industry trend – it’s focused more on the best places to learn about deliberate practice – which is the term for the special kind of training that leads to mastery – and the 10,000 hour rule – which is a rough rule of thumb noted by psychology researchers as the point in which expert level performance is typically (if ever) achieved.

We start with the mother of the all – the 44 page paper published in Psychological Review in 1993 that features the phrase “deliberate practice” and cites the decade mark as point where “many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 years”. Article: “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance” [PDF].


Geoff Colvin published an article called “Talent is Overrated” in Fortune Magazine which became the basis of a book by the same name. In the article, he really digs deep into the elements that make deliberate practice special, and effective.


If you want to get some perspective on how deliberate practice and excellence can be applied to the working world, check out Tony Schwartz’s post on the “Six Keys to Becoming Excellent in Anything” in the Harvard Business Review blog section.


My favorite book on this subject is actually called the Talent Code by Daniel Coyle as his features more on musicians (I played violin back in the day) and athletes (I was a gymnast for 16 years). His pre-book article is called “How to Grow a Super-Athlete” and while long, I really like this article for it’s emphasis on coaching. Deliberate practice is nearly impossible to implement alone.


If you want to see deliberate practice in action, then you’ll want to watch Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, as he guides a 15 year old boy through an inspired cello lesson in front a crowd of people at the PopTech conference in 2008.


Lastly, we can look at how the 10,000 hour rule applies to research from the insights out of Cal Newport’s blog Study Hacks in his post: Beyond The 10,000 Hour Rule – Richard Hamming and the Messy Art of Becoming Great where he looks at the advice the late great digital communications innovator had for researchers looking to be more prolific and impactful.

How Larry Page Returning to CEO Changes the Game for Google (link roundup)

Google is a company whose products pervade many aspects of my life. I’m running Google Chrome as my browser, I use Google search all the time, I check personal email from Gmail, I navigate with Google Maps. About the only thing I don’t do is use Android, Google’s smartphone OS, because I have an iPhone, but according to comScore 33% of all smartphone users do.

Larry Page has taken the CEO reins from Eric Schmidt of this giant company that seems to be everywhere and running businesses that do just about everything. I thought I’d use this week’s LINK ROUNDUP to take an overarching look at the situation and see what Page returning as CEO means for Google and the world.

We start with the official announcement on Google’s blog back in January. Relatively dry but a good starting point. The New York Times also ran a story that shed a bit more light on to the situation.

One of the big questions that people asked (and are still asking) is why make the change now? Google is doing well and there’s no obvious reason for Eric to move on. The New Yorker’s Ken Autella shares some insight onto the internal struggles (the China decision, among others) that may have triggered the move.

Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land has been watching Google since the 90′s (so long ago, OMG) and takes a Larry Page (and Search Engine Land readers) on a tour of Google’s progress/new changes from 2001 (when Eric Schmidt started as CEO) to now across the various categories and offers some advice.

Steve Lacy, an engineer at Google from 2005-10 advocates returning Google to its startup roots and offers some more technical/internal changes that need to happen at Google (eg “Get rid of the proprietary cluster management system.”). This post also did well on Hacker News so it’s worth checking out the discussion there.

Of course, there’s lots of intelligent discussion going on at the social Q&A site Quora and this particular question: “What should Larry focus on how that he is CEO of Google?” garnered highly upvoted answers from Yishan Wong, a senior engineer at Facebook and Robert Scoble, the well-known blogger / voice in the Valley.

Finally, we look at some of the things that are already happening within the Googleplex. According to Venture Beat, Page started “cracking the whip” with senior management a few weeks before his start date and All Thing Digital reports that “major reorganization” has already begun as resignations are tendered and Page positions himself to be the center of all things.

BREAKING (4/8/11) This just in, via TechCrunch, Page has completed a reorganization of senior management, drawing direct lines of report from 6 areas including Search, Ads, Mobile, Youtube/Video and, most interestingly, Social. This area is so important that according to SAI, he’s actually tying 25% of the bonuses of everyone at Google to the performance in Social.

What are your thoughts in regards to the future of Google now that Larry Page is CEO? Is there any major news that I missed? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.