On “being kind”

A must read, not just for engineers, but across the board (in my experience), and useful for managers. Tone, passive aggression, and dismissiveness are big ones I see within teams on my end, as well as within the academic community, partly engrained in the culture. Often gendered and often unintentional, these behaviors are  not an acceptable way of operating, especially when it causes discomfort or disengagement across a team.

On “being kind”:

“I thought my job was to be right. I thought that was how I proved my worth to the company. But that was all wrong. My job was to get things done and doing anything meaningful past a certain point requires more than one person. If you are right but nobody wants to work with you, then how valuable are you really? How much can you realistically expect to accomplish on your own? I was “winning” my way out of a job one argument at a time.

I headed home early that day to think about what I had heard. My future wife April was gentle but she offered me little reprieve from the feedback: “If you want people to work with you, you need to be kind.”


Being kind is fundamentally about taking responsibility for your impact on the people around you. It requires you be mindful of their feelings and considerate of the way your presence affects them.”

Assessing open practice in science – an idea

There’s an interesting Twitter chat going on, stemming from Titus Brown’s recent blog post asking how to find a postdoctoral appointment where a student can do open science.

What could a student ask a potential employer (and mentor) to help shed light on the culture of the lab?

The post brought to mind a discussion had in the summer of 2013 at a meeting convened at SESYNC in Annapolis, MD about what to teach biologists about computing. We were discussing how to best assess the skill set of the graduate students applying to join a lab, with a tilt towards looking for the best practices associated with open science (good data and software management skills, proclivity to post their work so as to be shared and communicated, etc).

In the breakout, Titus, myself, Nirav Merchant (University of Arizona), and Marian Petre (Open University), brainstormed an activity-based assessment so we could level set better. Here’s the rough sketch of what we came up with:

0. Here’s a data sample. What would you need to fix in order to make it so you and others could use it?
1. Name and organize 3 data files (i.e., .csv, .dat, .txt)
2. Run this program on one of these files?
3. How would you capture that process for someone else to use?
4a) Suppose you change the program. How do you convey that information?
4b) Suppose someone sends you a changed version of the file/program. how do you interact with it?
5. How would you know that your program is doing what you want it to do?
6. How would you make your files available to others?
7. What additional data would you want to include (re: Ethan White paper)?

Does this suit our needs? How do these tasks map to various disciplines? What are we missing?

Thoughts, comments and suggestions welcome. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

(Also, for more on that meeting – which feels like forever ago – read Titus’ summary post. Lots of good stuff in there.)


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