Originality is not as simple as it sounds.  The idea of creating something that has never been created before is easier said than done.  We are all influenced by so many things in our lives, that whether we know it or not, those things we’ve observed and picked up along the way go into our projects and creations.  Some people may look at it and see the most spectacular thing they’ve ever seen and be blown away, while others will see similarities with what they’ve encountered in the past.

I wrote about Austin Kleon’s “How to Steal Like an Artist,” which talks about how artists are influenced by their observations throughout their lives.  Another recent post by Seth Godin talks about “Originality,” and how some of his readers call him a “hack” because nothing he says is original, while others praise him for his originality.

It’s a funny thing about originality.  As much as many of us want to achieve something that has never been done before, someone may see it as a reincarnation of something they’ve already seen.  So don’t worry about what people say.  Create and push forward with your own original ideas.  Be inspired and create.  They are original to you and express who you are!

P.S.  The titles of my posts about Austin Kleon and Seth Godin (this post) have both lacked originality, but why come up with our own when the originals are perfectly fitting.


How to Steal Like an Artist

This is a fantastic post by Austin Kleon with many insights and observations about the creative process and learning about yourself.  It can be a huge challenge to figure out what it is you want to do with your life, who you are, and what you were meant to be.  There are so many things that influence our decisions we make, too often taking us off the right path.

The overall message of Austin’s post is about originality and not letting your quest for your own original ideas get in the way of creating.  He expresses this perfectly:

You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influences. The German writer Goethe said, “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”

An artist is a collector. Not a hoarder, mind you, there’s a difference: hoarders collect indiscriminately, the artist collects selectively. They only collect things that they really love.

Your job is to collect ideas. The best way to collect ideas is to read. Read, read, read, read, read. Read the newspaper. Read the weather. Read the signs on the road. Read the faces of strangers. The more you read, the more you can choose to be influenced by.

Steal things and save them for later. Carry around a sketchpad. Write in your books. Tear things out of magazines and collage them in your scrapbook.

Steal like an artist.

The lessons that Austin has learned are inspiring and ring very true.  Some are challenging, while others are refreshing in their perspective.  No matter who you are or where you are in your life, “How to Steal Like an Artist (and 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me)” is worth it!


Education Needs to Create Passion, Not Conformity

Sir Ken Robinson is an intelligent, humorous, and inspiring thought leader in the area of education reform.  He has done a lot of research into how kids think and how the education system shapes and molds their abilities, intelligence, and behavior as they grow older and enter society.

Robinson strives to create a way to preserve our children’s passion, to create a way to facilitate growth that will make them the best versions of themselves, to replace the “system” that acts like a factory that we call education.

Enjoy this illustrated animation of one of Sir Ken Robinson’s talks.


Using WolframAlpha to Hack Text CAPTCHA

I’ve been playing around with the Text CAPTCHA demo page and wondered how well WolframAlpha is at logic questions.  As it turns out, Wolfram is pretty smart!  Although, since a CAPTCHA requires an exact answer, some of the results from WolframAlpha are logically correct, but are not exactly correct.  If someone wanted to use WolframAlpha to crack the text CAPTCHA technology, they could build in filters and such to narrow down answers to what the CAPTCHA is likely looking for.

Out of 10 demo questions, 3 failed and 7 were correct (although, 4 had the correct answer but would fail a CAPTCHA if the exact answer was not parsed out).  Here are the results:

Text CAPTCHA: What is seven hundred and forty four as a number?
WolframAlpha: NumberQ[744]
Result: ALMOST

Text CAPTCHA: The 7th letter in the word “central” is?
WolframAlpha: the word
Result: FAILED

Text CAPTCHA: Which word in this sentence is all IN capitals?
WolframAlpha: capitals IN
Result: ALMOST

Text CAPTCHA: Which word contains “z” from the list: zoologist, midwifery, spiderweb, crimps?
WolframAlpha: zoologist
Result: SUCCESS!

Text CAPTCHA: The 2nd colour in purple, yellow, arm, white and blue is?
WolframAlpha: yellow
Result: SUCCESS!

Text CAPTCHA: Of the numbers seventy six, 2, 50 or forty, which is the lowest?
WolframAlpha: or
Result: FAILED

Text CAPTCHA: What is the 7th digit in 9686561?
WolframAlpha: 1
Result: SUCCESS!

Text CAPTCHA: Which of these is a colour: monkey, bank or purple?
WolframAlpha: colour purple
Result: ALMOST

Text CAPTCHA: The day of the week in chips, house, bank, mouse, trousers or Friday is?
WolframAlpha: mouse
Result: FAILED

Text CAPTCHA: If a person is called Mary, what is their name?
WolframAlpha: called Mary
Result: ALMOST

Wolfram, you’re close… keep up the good work!  Text CAPTCHA, the demo page was easy.  Are the other questions harder?

Update: There’s a discussion going on over at Hacker News, if you want to check it out!

Update 2: WolframAlpha can generate a CAPTCHA image of each of these text questions, as to make it harder for a bot to decode AND answer the question!  Check it out:

Update 3: There is more discussion going on over at Reddit for you guys looking for more insights…. 🙂

Update 4: Looks like someone put together a script that knows the format of the Text CAPTCHA questions.  It was posted on Hacker News.


I Know Everything About You(r Garbage)

Working as a security consultant, I’ve come to be much more paranoid about my privacy over the years.  One thing that I do is shred anything that has my name on it.  I don’t need anyone rummaging through my garbage to write my biography or cash in on my identity!

I could go on, but why?  Read about someone else’s trash….


Change the Way You Sleep, the Way You Work, and the Way You Type

I definitely need more discipline in my life, and part of that is getting out of my home office into some real, collaborative office space.  Then I might start working on a routine that takes me more than a couple feet from my bed.

But check this out…. This guy talks about 3 different improvements he’s made to his daily routine…. I imagine attempting these might be a good exercise, but I don’t think I’m there yet.  But I am impressed.  And I should probably try it one of these days.

Technology Web

Google Introduces Instant Preview Search Results

I think I’m a fan of Google’s Instant Search.  Rather than having to hit “enter” or click the “search” button, the search results automatically refresh as I type.  It’s quirky sometimes, because I’ll see some search results that look accurate as I’v only typed in a couple letters, and if I’m typing too fast, it passes me by and it’s not always easy to back up to to those previous results.  So, for the most part, I like it.

Google just introduced Instant Preview, which displays a screenshot of each search result, while highlighting the relevant part of the page that qualified it as a search result.  Convenient for skimming, and could lead to some interesting hacks that websites implement to generate some catchy screenshots that may or may not look the same when you actually click the link.

Business Technology

Microsoft’s Kinect Already Hacked!

Is it silly that Microsoft spends so much time and money chasing the goal of preventing their hardware (and/or software) from being hacked?  If you build it, someone will hack it.  It’s pretty much a fact this day and age.  I think it’s time to embrace it.  As a matter of fact, wouldn’t this HELP push the product?  More people will buy it because you can do much more with it than with the limited functionality that is shipped with the product!

Via Network World.


Innovating to Fight Voting Fraud

With all the controversy over voting fraud, it’s great to see that people are consistently trying hard to come up with way to help voting systems become more reliable and trustworthy.  David Bismark gave great (short) talk about a new kind of ballot that seems very logical and useful.  You can walk away with a “receipt” that lets you verify your vote was counted.


Business Studies

Focusing on Your Idea, and the Benefits of Distraction

Paul Graham wrote about the ideas that preoccupy our minds.  He has observed that we will typically focus on an idea that we always think about.  For entrepreneurs, it will be your product or business, and how to continually improve it, market it, and sell it.  The problem that arises is when we are distracted from this one main idea we have on our minds.  His example is raising money for your business.  Businesses that start to raise money tend to slow down progress in developing their products.  This is because raising money becomes the main idea.

I completely agree with this.  I will obsess over my latest idea and get irritated when I’m distracted by other things I have to dedicate a lot of time to.  The point that Paul makes about being distracted is a good one though.  Being distracted from your main idea gives your mind a moment to breathe.  Solutions to problems or road blocks you may have run into tend to come out of thin air when you are NOT consciously thinking about your main idea.

Read Paul Graham’s post: The Top Idea In Your Mind