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19 Pings Ideas that are on my radar. 1 These are things I’ve been thinking about. 19 disconnected, partial thoughts. Conversation starters, really. I’d love it if any of these ideas spark some further discussion over beers.

Maxwell's Laws

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This is an Ignite talk I did for the very first Ignite Seattle back in 2006. The video of this talk is here: http://blip.tv/ignite-seattle/ignite-seattle-2006-12-07-2-7-stuart-maxwell-119484

Text of Maxwell's Laws

Page 1: Maxwell's Laws

19 PingsIdeas that are on my radar.

1These are things I’ve been thinking about. 19 disconnected, partial thoughts. Conversation starters, really. I’d love it if any of these ideas spark some further discussion over beers.

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Every expression contains at

least one percent truth.

2The value of understanding that whatever anyone says to you contains at least one percent truth is that you learn to really listen to people. Whenever you think someone is full of shit, they’re really only 99% full of shit.

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The world is not binary.

3Be careful of your certitude. Be careful of anyone’s certitude. Nothing is only on or off, true or false. There is always at least a third way to think about something. There are often thousands of other perspectives.

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Don’t fall in love with potential.

4There’s a lot of energy in this rock, just waiting to be released. It could happen while we watch, or it could sit there for a thousand years. The question is: how much of your life are you willing to spend waiting for it?

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Nobody who contacts you out of the blue will

offer you a deal that benefits you more

than it benefits them.

5Nobody who contacts you out of the blue will offer you a deal that benefits you more than it benefits them. No spammer, no door-to-door salesman, no telephone solicitor. That doesn’t mean you may not get some value out of the deal, but you will be at the disadvantage.

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Normal incompetence can look like conspiracy

6We’re often drawn to the idea of conspiracy because it’s so hard to believe that tragedy is simply a part of life. Sadly, what looks like a conspiracy can as easily be explained as the emergent properties of normal human incompetence.

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Trend lines never extend indefinitely.

7This is Maxwell’s Law of Countervailing Forces. No matter how tempting it may be to bet your fortune on a rising (or falling) trend line, at some point that trend is going to reverse. The pendulum always swings the other way.

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Maxwell’s Law of Personal Finance

Expenses always rise to meet income8

I wish someone had told me this when I was younger. The windfall of savings you think you might get when you move into a job that pays more will nearly always disappear in a cloud of new and seemingly vital expenses.

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Woody Allen is my hero

9Woody Allen has made 37 movies since 1970’s Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You. That’s a movie a year. And whether he makes a tour de force like Match Point or a crime against celluloid like Celebrity, he makes another movie the next year. He keeps working on his craft.

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Humor is like the rattlesnake’s rattle.

10Humor can be like the rattlesnake’s rattle. Humor is truth, and someone who can really tell the truth to you is not someone you want to fuck with; rather, you want them to be on your side. At the least, you want them to slither on by and not bite you.

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3 things we need for Web 3.0• Identity

• Inventory

• Permanent Personal Data Vault

11I’ve heard lots of talk about identity, but these other ideas need more discussion. Tracking your personal data is needs to be automated. And being able to apply multiple services to a central storehouse of personal data would be a boon for web-based businesses.

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What do I want?

12Make sure you can answer this question. Ask it often and answer it honestly. Seems simple enough, but in our early lives what we want is often determined by others. When you can truly know what you want for yourself, you will find that getting it is a hell of a lot easier.

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Other people experience the world differently

than you do.

13Other people experience the world differently than you do. We each have our own filters, and they are somewhat predetermined by our genetic makeup and then further shaped by our life experience. Really understanding this is hard.

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Conservation of Energy of Large Institutions

14Any large group that shares similar skills, mindset, and a cohesive bond cannot be blinked out of existence. Such groups can be disbanded, but the individuals will retain their skills and seek to apply them in new ways. Therefore, creating new, large institutions (e.g. homeland security) must be done with extraordinary consideration, because these institutions will take a long time to die.

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Institutions are also subject to the laws of


15Similarly, institutions, social or political movements, and militaries have mass and weight and are subject to laws that are analogous to the laws of physics: they have momentum, inertia, gravity, etc.

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(Scott) Maxwell’s Rule of Thumb for Estimating How

Long a Project Will Take

• State how long you think a project will take, double it, and increment the time unit to the next higher one.

• Two hours → four days

• Three days → six weeks.


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Genius is no guarantee of


Stupidity is no guarantee

of failure.

17The difference between success and failure in almost every case is how much hard work and sacrifice you're prepared to put in to achieve your goals. You will not be successful by being clever. There's no clever way to win a marathon. You simply have to be willing to endure more.

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Prohibition never works


Human behavioral impulses cannot be legislated away or otherwise controlled by external forces. The only way to modify behavior is by identifying a better reward system than the one that’s in place. c.f. DRM

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Maxwell’s Law of Corporate Character

19You can only predict the kinds of decisions any company will make by watching the people at the very top. I originally thought of this because of the blogging of Robert Scoble. I’ve met Robert, and I think he is genuine and intelligent. This comment isn’t really about him.

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The Bullfighter’s Cape

20It’s about how other people interpreted his blogging as sign of a new openness at Microsoft. But the truth is that Robert Scoble was like the Bullfighter’s Cape. We need to understand that it’s not the cape we should be paying attention to. It’s the guy with the sword.

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