Archive for November, 2008
Wednesday, November 26th, 2008
Ok, so you’ve taken the Hero test and we’ve assigned you a class based on your results. You’ve taken a deep breath, then followed the email link to Enroll in The School for Heroes. Well, if that’s all there was to it, we could have stopped at the test. But the test is only the beginning.
After enrolling and signing in to the school, you will see your personal page. It isn’t very personal yet; we have a lot of features that we will be adding over the next weeks and months. But there are already some very important links on the right side sidebar. These are:
||Takes you to your instructor’s classroom.
||Shows you assignments you have completed and instructor comments.
||Lets you take on missions appropriate to your class and level
||Shows you assignments that are waiting for an instructor response
Start your heroic journey by clicking on Available Assignments to see your first mission.
Your Mission. . .
When you first select the Available Assignments at The School for Heroes, you will see just one Available Assignment. It is a way for you to introduce yourself to your instructor and fellow students. The First Mission is also a task that gives you some of the flavor of your particular class. Once you have completed the initial mission, and your class instructor has responded to it, you will advance to Level 1 in your class. This is a very important accomplishment, as you will now appear in your class roster and new assignments will open for you.
We recommend that you read the assignment carefully, then work on it off-line. Compose and proofread your answer, then copy it and paste it into the Available Assigment form. This way you will have an assignment about which you can be proud, have time to change your mind if you decide to submit a different answer instead, and have the chance to polish your answer and make your instructor and other students happy. Incidentally, you can use some limited HTML tags to improve the appearance of your assignment. If you don’t know how to do this, it isn’t a problem – Plain text is always fine and we will add minimum formatting to make your submission look good.
In Raseir, Everything Not Mandatory is Forbidden
Fortunately, Silmaria is very different from Raseir. Assignments come in three flavors – Required, Optional, and Examinations. To improve your rank in The School for Heroes, you must do all of the Required assignments at your current level, enough Optional assignments to give you the experience points required for the next level, and pass the final examination. You can even re-do assignments for extra credit. Once you pass the final exam, you will then receive a new rank title and will become eligible for the next level’s assignments. (There might be a few days delay before you find new assignments; we’re still entering them into the new system.)
Should You Decide to Accept It. . .
When you have finished filling in your answer to the assignment, you will notice a check box labeled “Keep My Answer Private” and a button labeled “Submit”. We recommend that you don’t check the “Private” box unless your answer contains significant private information or reveals secrets that you do not want other students to see. It’s much more fun when people can share their experiences with others at the school. When you click the “Submit” button, your answer will be added to our database and email will be sent to your class instructor. You are then automatically redirected to the “Submitted Assignments” page.
Within a few days – at most – the instructor will read your submission and determine the number of “experience points” you have earned. The assignment will be moved to the Completed Assignments page and the points will be credited to your account.
This School Will Not Self-Destruct
There’s more. . . much more. Just as we post a new blog entry every week, we are also constantly adding features to the school pages and assignments. New assignments may appear at any time. If you come back every week – or even more often – you will see a slightly different school each time. And the process will accelerate. When we add the forums, you will want to visit daily to share your experiences with other students and the instructors. We want The School for Heroes to be a living, breathing space where we all can grow, surrounded by friends. Your continuing mission is to be a part of our tribe and help make the school great for everyone. Are you up to the challenge?
Any Questions or Comments? Be sure to ask them here where everyone can learn from them.
Wednesday, November 19th, 2008
Back in the mid-to-late 80′s, when Corey worked on the Atari ST, we looked forward to reading articles by David Small. David invented the Magic Sac, a device that allowed Atari ST owners to run Macintosh software on their ST systems. One of David’s articles talked about the Myers-Briggs personality classification system and a wonderful book called Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types, by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates. Please Understand Me explains the system and includes a test to find your own classification.
Reading that article gave us a fascination for classifying people and fictional characters by the Myers-Briggs system. Lori even keeps notes on the personality type of each of her D&D characters. So it’s not a coincidence that there is a close correspondence between the character classes in The School for Heroes and some of the M-B types.
Here’s a quick explanation of the system. There are four scales that, combined, measure personality. People can fall anywhere on each scale, but for simplicity are classified according to the endpoints. (This bothers Corey, who prefers “fuzzy” measurement systems, but that might just be because he’s a strong “P” on the Myers-Briggs scale.) Um, right, distraction. Let’s try this again. Here are the scales:
- Introvert < ————————————> Extravert
- iNtuitive <————————————> Sensing
- Thinking <————————————> Feeling
- Judging <————————————> Perceiving
Introvert vs. Extravert
The Myers-Briggs system defines an Introvert as someone for whom social interaction (such as at a party) drains energy, and an Extravert as someone whose energy level goes up when they’re surrounded by strangers.
Intuitive vs Sensory
An Intuitive person is one who is interested in meaning and ideas, while a Sensory person prefers more concrete things they can sense.
Thinking vs Feeling
Thinking people value logic and a scientific approach to knowledge, while Feeling people care more about emotions and art.
Judging vs Perceivers
Judging people like order, structure, and system, while Perceiving people prize flexibility and spontaneity. Judgers are happiest once a decision has been made or a task completed, while Perceivers are happier when the task is in progress and the decisions are still open.
Personality types are abbreviated by the first letter of the word (or “N” for “iNtuitive”, since “Introvert” stole the “I”). A person with an ESTJ personality tends to be good at getting things done, but may lack flexibility. They like to work and be with other people, deal with concrete things, solve problems by logic, and finish tasks. That person’s opposite, an INFP, tends to be a dreamer, perhaps an artist or writer. They are uncomfortable around strangers (but very loyal once they get to know someone). They think a lot about ideas hidden meanings, feelings, and emotions. They prefer to philosophize about an issue and take their time thinking about it than jumping to a conclusion that might be wrong.
Interesting, the personality types are not created equal. With 16 archetypes to choose from, some are much more “popular” than others. In the U.S., 52% of the population are ES types (ESTJ, ESTP, ESFJ, or ESFP – each about 13%), 24% are IS, and 20% EN, leaving only 4% for the IN categories. (Last time we looked, Corey was INTP and Lori was INFJ. Guess which of us is better at finishing projects? ) People do seem to shift categories over time; Corey used to be more Extraverted, but has definitely moved to the Introverted side of the equation over the last 15-20 years. The most critical differences are between the four base pairs – SJ, SP, NF, and NT. The E/I scale seems to be a little less important. If you’re Intuitive, the biggest difference is between Thinkers and Feelers, whereas among Sensing personalities, whether they are Judging or Perceiving is the most important difference.
There’s a lot more to the system, particularly about where conflicts are likely to occur between people of conflicting personality types. An ESFJ manager of an INTP programmer will probably think the programmer is indecisive and doesn’t finish tasks on time. That programmer might think her manager is illogical and often makes hasty, bad decisions. By understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your family and co-workers, you can better understand their thought processes and why they act the way they do.
What about our school class archetypes? We tried to create a balanced system that reflects that not all heroes have the same personality. We want people to be able to discover who they really are
Warriors > Sensory Judgers
Warriors tend to fit the SJ personality type. They like direct action and straightforward decisions. They get things done and make good leaders. Warriors are underrepresented in The School for Heroes compared to the outside world, because many of them are outside playing sports or working with their hands; fewer find their way to the Web or our site. Those who do find us make great additions to the school because they act as catalysts to get everyone moving.
Wizards > Intuitive Thinkers
Wizards tend to fall into the NT category. They like to research, consider all the possibilities, and make well-reasoned judgments before they make a decision. Programmers make likely Wizards. Since those are also people who are likely to browse the Web, we have a much higher representation of Wizards in The School for Heroes than you will find in the general population.
Paladins > Intuitive Feelers
We also have a higher-than-usual complement of Paladins. A lot of that is self-selection because – to many people – Paladins are Heroes and vice versa. Our site says “The School for Heroes” and that idea is attractive to Paladins. Most Paladins are NF personalities. They like philosophies, ideals, and the big picture. They care about people and want to help them. Paladins are the most likely to volunteer for a charity event or the Peace Corps. But the path of the Paladin is by no means the only way to be a Hero.
Rogues > Sensory Perceivers
Rogues can be troublemakers, but they can also be a valuable resource for shaking up a sleepy enterprise and coming up with unique flashes of insight. They tend to be SP personalities – They like excitement, risk, and action with unknown results and consequences. Oh, I think we mentioned that there are no Rogues in The School for Heroes; how could someone who likes to stir up trouble or tweak others want to be a hero? Despite this incongruity, there are still some people who take the Hero Test that seem to come out as Rogues. (We try to integrate them into the new Bard class.)
Bards – the Versatile Class
Bards are usually a hybrid of SP and NFP personalities (not too many Bards have Judging personalities). They are usually Extraverts, although some composers and writers can be Introverted, yet still successful as Bards. They are the communicators, the entertainers, and sometimes the shakers-up of staid traditions (especially those Bards who started out as Rogues). Bards like excitement, but they deal with it in indirect ways rather than by taking direct action as a Warrior might.
Whatever your archetype, there is a place for you in The School for Heroes. We hope that the Hero Test will help you to understand your own personality type a little better. Knowing what drives your decisions may also help you to get along with others of conflicting personality types… or in the case of Warriors, other Warriors when they both want to lead.
Keirsey also has a more recent book, Please Understand Me II, on the subject. We can also recommend Do What You Are, by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger.
Incidentally, for another fun take on the archetypes as related to gaming character types, check out this Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot article. The second page of the article has a fun table suggesting all sorts of correspondences with the “big 4″ personality types (SJ, SP, NT, and NF).
Wednesday, November 12th, 2008
The School for Heroes has been open a little less than two weeks. With no publicity other than the site and word of mouth, over 150 people have taken the Hero Test and most of you have returned to the school to register. That’s a pretty good start!
Once you “enroll” in the School, you can get to your personal page, a “lore” page that describes your character class, and the teacher’s page for each class. Within the next week, we’re adding a Roster Page so you can learn about your fellow students and an Assignments page that you can use to learn about and grow as a Hero. The personal page will also become richer – So far you can enter a “personal statement”; much more will be customizable in the not-so-distant future. You can also copy a piece of HTML code from your personal page to let your friends know what kind of Hero you are.
While you’re waiting for the Assignments page to appear, feel free to undertake the Mission on your class lore page and tell your instructor about your results. Their email accounts are simply the instructor’s first name (at) theschoolforheroes.com. You can also use the class name if you prefer. Accomplishing the Mission – which is different for each class – and reporting on it are your first steps towards advancement within the School… and in your Heroic quest.
Testing the Waters
You can think of The School for Heroes as a sort of iceberg… um, in a good way, of course! At first, all you can see of it are the blog entries and the Hero Test. Once you dive into the water by taking the test and enrolling in the school, you can see more of what’s available. Over the ensuing months, much more of the School will surface as we implement and reveal features. By continuing to follow your personal Heroic path, you will also discover new content accessible only to advanced students.
We’d like to talk a little about the test. As your first introduction to the School, it’s pretty important. We created the hero test for several reasons. One is that people on the Web love online quizzes. We hope we’ve managed to make our test an entertaining experience. Another reason is that your test responses help us to understand your approach to Heroism. Each class has a different learning approach that should appeal to students who score high in a particular test category. Finally, the test and signup process act as a gateway. To join The School for Heroes, you need to make a conscious decision to take the test and follow through on it. We want to focus our energy on working with people who want to work with us.
Incidentally, if you don’t like your test result, you may retake the test as often as you like until you enroll in the school. Enrollment occurs when you follow the link in the email message we send you about your test results and then sign in with your user account for the first time. Feel free to “game” the test if you really want to “play” and study as a particular class. However, answering the test questions honestly gives you the best chance at finding a school experience that fits your style.
As Classy as We Can Make It
Once you complete the test and follow the enrollment instructions, you will have full access to your personal page and other school pages. Only you can customize your page. Also, you may notice on the Lore pages that you will only see the Mission for your own class. That’s to keep you focused and maybe add a little mystery to the other classes. Once we bring the Forums online, you’ll have full access to your own class forum and the public areas of the other class forums.
The Forums will be the heart of The School for Heroes. We are creating a Tribe here, and a Tribe is only as rich as the connections between its members. You will help make the School strong. Our goal is to set up an environment where Heroes-in-training can learn and share their experiences. We will also be inviting many of you to take a more active role in the school as Teaching Assistants, Forum moderators, and in many other roles. After all, our goal is to make the School so active that we won’t be able to handle all the communication by ourselves.
We will be walking a fine line between giving students in each class an exciting, dynamic, and unique learning experience and ensuring that students in all the classes can interact. We don’t want to create barriers between classes that you can’t find a way to cross. To make this work, we’ll need help from all of you in the form of suggestions, feature requests, and open communication in all of the school forums.
Thursday, November 6th, 2008
This is a momentous time. The United States has just elected Barack Obama as our next President. The obvious “change” there is that we elected a black man, but that’s a side note. More important to me is that we have chosen a highly intelligent, very well educated thinking person as President; but that’s secondary too. The real change is a commitment to change, the realization that we can’t just keep on doing things the way we’ve done them for centuries. And it’s a statement that we need to be open to change within ourselves to prosper and succeed.
Here’s a quote from Mr. Obama’s nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention last August:
“I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don’t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven’t spent my career in the halls of Washington. But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the naysayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me; it’s about you.”
It’s about us. For the last eight years, American politics has been about “them”. It’s been about reacting to the terrorist attacks on 9/11. It’s been about reacting to the fear of possible “weapons of mass destruction” and a despotic regime in Iraq. It’s about counting on our government to protect us from the outside world and keep us safe. But it hasn’t been about protecting our quality of life, or about individuals taking responsibility to improve their own lives or to make the world a better place.
Well, now it’s about us. It is a time for change, but the change must come from within each of us. It is a time to take individual action, a time for hard work, and a time for Heroes.
A Book for Heroes
John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Barack Obama said something similar Tuesday night, “I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.” It may be uncomfortable in a nation of luxury and entitlement, but we all have to help to make change happen. The nice thing is, as we work to help the world, we grow stronger as individuals.
What do we mean by that? We recently read a book that is changing our lives – and it might change yours – in very positive ways. The book is “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” by Carol S. Dweck, PhD. Ms. Dweck is a Professor of psychology at Stanford University and a researcher “in the fields of personality, social psychology, and developmental psychology.”
At its heart, Mindset is a very straightforward, single-topic book about the advantages of having a “growth mindset.” The author defines a “fixed mindset” as a belief that what you are is what you will be. You’re athletic or not. You’re smart or dumb. You’re good at art or have no talent. A “growth mindset” is the belief that you can learn and improve any area of your life – If you suck at calculus or basketball or playing the piano, that just means you need to work harder at learning and getting better at it. People who have a “growth mindset” – and apply it to how they live their lives – are much more successful and effective in every area of life than those who have a “fixed mindset.” It’s a simple idea, and I had heard it before, but an incredibly powerful one.
If Mindset is a one-idea book, why do we think you should all read it? It has to do with… mindset. The fixed mindset is all about taking the easy way out. The previous paragraph gave you the “easy way” version of mindset. You didn’t have to work for it; it got handed to you. One of the things we learned from Mindset is that learning doesn’t work that way. We grow by making a commitment to growth, accepting that we can do very difficult and challenging things, then working towards them step by step. When we’ve been exposed too much to the fixed mindset, it’s easy to see work as a negative thing. If we were truly smart, we wouldn’t have to work to learn something new or to accomplish something important. That mindset can work great when we’re being successful, but it has no coping strategy for challenges or failures.
Mindset contains dozens of examples of people with fixed and growth mindsets, and of studies that demonstrate how much more effective people who apply the growth mindset are. Some of those examples are absolutely astonishing! How about the teacher in Chicago who gets all the “failed” troublemaking kids and refuses to treat them as losers? By the end of the year, every student is reading well. By the time they’re in 5th or 6th grade, they’re reading Chekhov, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Socrates – and loving it. They get there step by step and by not having the option to quit when things get tough.
How about the idea of encouraging children by avoiding criticism and telling them how smart they are? That’s great, right? According to multiple research studies cited by Dweck, it’s a disaster! Children – and adults – learn by our mistakes and by being challenged. Children who did well on a test and were told they were really smart saw no reason to study. When they later did poorly on a harder test, they were devasted – “If doing well means I’m smart, then failing means I’m stupid.” They had no coping method and no tools for growth.
Children who were given the same series of tests, but were told, “You must have worked really hard to do so well on that test,” had a totally different experience. They too had trouble on the harder test, but they interpreted their failure differently – “I did poorly on that test, so I’ll have to work harder so I can do better next time.” With that simple change in mindset, these children continued to learn and did much better on the retest.
We Hope You’ll Change Your Mind
Now, you might not think that applies to you. Readers of this blog are probably really intelligent, well-educated people. There’s a good chance you read challenging works of literature, philosophy, or science. Well, if that’s the case, you could be in even greater danger! Thinking you’re smart by genetics or education makes it easy to think, “I’m brilliant because I succeeded at something. The moment I fail, I’ll stop being brilliant. It’s safer not to try at all.” You need to reinterpret yourself and take the attitude that, “I did great work on that project!” instead. That way you will reinforce the growth mindset and continue to work, learn, take risks, and grow. That’s why we think you should read Mindset, really thinking about the ideas and examples in it, and work to apply them in your own life.
I (Corey) remember a conversation, early in my career as a programmer. Someone asked me why I was willing to work long, crazy hours. I said, “Work is all about learning. I learn something new every day. If I ever stop learning new things at a job, it’s time to move on.” I used to get really embarrassed when someone said to me, “You must be really smart” or “You’re a genius!” because I felt I was just having fun learning new things. Unfortunately, somewhere in there I think I started believing the compliments and maybe forgot a little about how much real work it takes to create great software.
What do you do when you’ve been on the top of the world, a success, a star? Especially what do you do when you then have a couple of projects that are canceled, or that simply fail? What happens next depends on your mindset. If you believe that “success = brilliance,” then clearly “failure = stupidity.” Guess what, you’re now a has-been. You don’t dare start any new projects or take any big risks because they might not succeed and gasp! you might discover that you were a one-hit wonder. There, safe, whew!
What I learned from Ms. Dweck’s book is that being “safe” is the real failure. Every great accomplishment comes from incredibly hard work and the flexibility to keep learning and growing while you’re working at it. If you lose the growth mindset, you lose everything. Mindset came to me as a badly-needed kick in the ass.
That doesn’t mean I won’t screw up. It’s very easy to slide back into laziness. Even when you do everything exactly right, failure is always a possibility. But with the growth mindset, failure is just the start of a new opportunity. It’s a lesson and a chance to grow. Learning isn’t comfortable… but it’s fun. Hard work can be stressful… but it’s a lot less stressful than knowing you aren’t accomplishing anything. “Meaning” can be hard to come by, but it’s really rewarding when you find it and work for it.
A School for Change
By the way, The School for Heroes isn’t a “fixed” place either. It’s a living, growing site that will constantly be changing and adding new features. Within the next few weeks we’ll let you edit your personal page (you can already add a personal statement), view a roster of the students in each class, get to your Heroic assignments, let your friends know about your hero class and how to take the test, and much more. Soon we’ll have a forum where you can talk to other heroes-in-progress and discuss your work, plans, and ideas.
Of course, Lori and I have a lot of work to get all that done. We’re eagerly taking on the challenge and watching our hard work slowly turn into a real school for – and of – heroes. We hope you’ll all stay with us and take the missing features as challenges and growth opportunities. From a fixed mindset, every missing feature is a failure – The school obviously needs all those things. From the growth mindset, each one is an exciting opportunity for growth and change. The School for Heroes will never be a static site and you are all essential to helping it grow and become what it promises to be.
Read Mindset, please. Its message is both powerful and important. We live in a momentous time, a time for change, a time for heroes. Can we really make a difference – in ourselves and in the world around us? To quote our new President-Elect, “Yes, we can!”
Sunday, November 2nd, 2008
It’s Halloween – A night of ghosts and shadows, of goblins, witches, and demons, of things that go bump in the night. The wind howls through the trees as the nights begin to turn cold, and the trees shed their Autumn leaves. Little children brave the darkness and scary monsters to go door to door in masks and costumes. In trembling voices, they call out, “Trick or Treat!” and hope they won’t be tricked.
One of our favorite stories comes from a Halloween special episode of The Real Ghostbusters cartoon show. The main villain of the show is a rich old man who has always hated Halloween and comes up with a scheme to end it forever. To do this, he needs a piece of the Ghostbusters’ equipment to power his device. They refuse to give it to him because they believe in Halloween. As the villain ponders this setback, he thinks, “I need that part. I could steal it, but stealing is wrong. But I need it… Oh well, so much for that moral dilemma!” Seconds later, the part is in his hand.
A Time for Heroes
Is it a coincidence that we opened The School for Heroes at midnight on Halloween, October 31? Perhaps it was. It is also probably a coincidence that the United States is holding a critical Presidential election just a few days after Halloween. Or are they both a sign of the times we live in?
Why is this such an important time? The last ten years have shown us some results of non-heroic, “somebody else’s business” attitudes. Within a single decade, we’ve seen the Enron scandal, a stock market collapse, and a real estate market collapse. We’ve seen terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and torture and other atrocities in the name of “national security.” The common thread between these events is that people acted out of irrational fear and short-term greed. They ignored the terrible consequences of their actions. They lost sight of the Greater Good. These people are villains. “Oh well, so much for those moral dilemmas!”
Heroes are very important in dark times and when ghosts and ghouls threaten to rule the land. Someone needs to stand in front of the gates of Hell, silver cross and holy water in hand, to face whatever might come forth. We have a lot of real monsters in our world – war, famine, poverty, pollution and the people who profit from them. We need to stand up and confront the monsters and their minions. We need to be Heroes.
The Call to Action
It is never easy to be a Hero, but the world needs us. It needs us now. Will you step up to that challenge? One way is to take the What Kind of Hero Are You? test and join our hero’s quest. No matter what path you choose, it is time to make a difference. Vote in your next election. Speak out against tyranny, terror, and war. Help clean up your neighborhood. Stand up against the darkness and the scary monsters. Hey, if little children can do it, so can we!