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Sunday, June 29, 2008

I'm A Happy Little Cog

Natural / Rational
I'm afraid that if I were to force myself to do tedious work, I'd eventually get used to it. And that is just about the scariest thing I can imagine, because then I wouldn't stop doing tedious work. My entire life would become a tragedy, with only hints of the tremendous potential it once had, but none of it fulfilled. When I look at most adults, I see the most boring creatures- creatures who once could have been humans, but have allowed society to make them into machines. I don't want that to happen to me. So I reject any work which I don't naturally want to do.
The Multiplayer Experience
For a while now I've been babysitting a young boy on the block named Eitan [Friedman]. I accepted the job, despite disliking the very idea of jobs, because it's not much of a job at all.
[That job ended a long time ago.]
At 1:00 PM, I walk over to the Friedmans, who live a few doors away. I scratch their dog on the head, then sit down by the laptop. I use both the laptop's screen and an external monitor. I open the database. I open the spreadsheet saying how much time I've worked. I open Adobe Acrobat.

The job is to look at data on one screen. And write it on the other screen. And again. And again, until I've been working for around two hours. Then I stop.

I really shouldn't enjoy it as much as I do. I don't feel like I'm being forced into anything, I don't feel bad about myself, I don't look for excuses to not work, I don't look at my watch impatiently. Which means I was wrong about the whole work thing - there is no misery in repetition.

There are some gamistic lessons to be learned here, I think.

In repeating what I've already done I see the opportunity to do it more efficiently. At first I was using the mouse for a lot, but switching interfaces between mouse and keyboard took time. I got faster by finding ways to use the keyboard for everything. The very fact that those keys were there to be found made me feel that I had opportunities ahead of me, if I just kept working. Apparently that's enough to keep me going. And each time I start a different set of pages, I have new opportunities to learn the shortcuts. If it were not possible to find quicker ways to work, I don't think I'd have much motivation. So it is important with any repetitive tasks to make it clear that the player can get better with time. A role-playing game with shallow battles is not a good game, but deeper battles might be satisfying. A movement game shouldn't hold your hand too much, because it takes away the potential for getting better. An action game might be entertaining if you can find new strategies all the time. And so on.

The files I'm transcribing are research for a Diabetes medicine. This makes no difference to me. The work is the work.

The files come from lots of different doctors, who are given numbers. When I see the number 74, I'm genuinely happy to do the work. It's not just because, y'know, it's 74. It's because that guy has good handwriting. Most of these doctors write in barely legible scribbles, or don't understand the fine art of capitalization, or misspell everything, or all of the above. Each line of text is a new roadblock. I get into a slower pace of writing, because I don't expect to get far. I lose motivation. But when I get to a 74, I know I'm not going to be stopped. I'm going to be allowed to go right through and do my job, and then move on to the next one. So as soon as I see those two digits, I kick into overdrive. My fingers zoom across the number pad, I fill out all the data in a fraction of my normal time, and am eager to move on to the next file. TA clearly presented goal is much more appealing than a less-clear one.

I don't mind being like a computer program. It gives me the perceived opportunity to call attention to my own efficiency. I want people to see my fast progress and comment on it.

The data is all being entered twice, so that any mistakes will be caught. As I work, the Friedmans all work in parallel on another computer. Even though I'm outnumbered, I'm way ahead. I take pride in that. Unfortunately, with no direct competition now I've slowed down considerably. I tend to overlook the usefulness of competition, and I plan to continue doing so in the future. But it does have merit.

I haven't gotten any money yet, and I'm being careful to not want it. (I feel that to work for money would be hypocritical.) So if I weren't paid, it wouldn't make any difference to me. I'd still come back for more, because hey- I actually like this.

(Okay, enough procrastination. Start working on Smilie already.)



Dude I wanted to post a comment ages ago on that game, Des Reves Elastiques etc. Thanks for the link, that was terrific. I wanted to say more elaborate things but to be honest I'm starting to think it deserves a full blogpost of my own. We'll see if I can manage it, I hope I will, it all depends on whether my dissertation devours me first.
All the best,
John Silver.

I've reached a point in the job where I don't see anywhere else to go. And yet, I'm still okay with the job.


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