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I had lunch the other day with a couple of friends of mine and, them both being players of World of Warcraft, the conversation drifted over to that. One of the discussions was about making money within the game. Will mentioned that he had purchased a Traveller’s Tundra Mount, a very high cost item. When mention was made of the expense of the Mount, Will said “I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t have 80,000 gold.” As a comparison, I’ve got around 1,000 gold. Will is definitely a “have” if we’re keeping score by “haves” and “have-nots”. But Will’s day job is working for his father who is a Wall Street analyst and trader. Will looks at real world financial numbers and trends all day and analyzes them to determine whether to buy, sell, hold or any other number of more complex actions. In comparison to his day job, WoW’s economy is pretty simplistic. He sees commodity costs for individual materials and realizes they can be combined to make something that will sell at a reasonable profit. Me, I think I’m smart when I realize I can by Netherweave Cloth for under 3g a stack, turn it into Netherweave Bandages and sell those for 3g to a vendor. I’m hustling on the street. He’s doing big moves from the corner office. And it’s not that I’m saying he’s smarter than me, but his real life perspective informs his in game decisions. He brings a certain expertise to the game that I do not. I, on the other hand, tend to look at things from the perspective of a computer geek and empiricist. Gather as many facts as you can; turn big puzzles into smaller puzzles to reduce variable complexity; see what similarities there are between different challenges to see if you can apply a previously derived solution to a new puzzle with a little massaging. Because of this, I tend to find technical challenges relatively straightforward to determine solutions for (even if the solution sometimes is “There’s not a solution for this at the moment” which sometimes is the case). The thing I find hard to deal with is individual people. You can aggregate the behavior of large numbers of people and determine what their reaction will be in certain circumstances (Madison Avenue’s made a pretty good living at doing this for several decades). But unlike technical issues where things get simpler if you break them down to their core components, people issues tend to get more complex when you focus on fewer and fewer people. Solutions that are applicable for one person aren’t necessarily applicable for another. There’s very little code re-use. You have to derive a mostly custom solution for each puzzle or challenge. Whereas in the programming world I could likely re-use 80% of the work I did on a previous project on a new project, in the real world I can likely re-use 20% of the knowledge gained by previous interactions. Perhaps if I were in a position that required random social interactions every day, I’d be better at socializing. Perhaps if I were in a position that involved analyzing and profiting from financial systems, I’d be better at profiting from the in-game economy of WoW. As it is, I’m a geek who deals with analyzing systems based on the inputs and outputs to determine what makes them tick for the purposes of making them tick better. . . which, I suppose, is why I tend to the sort of analysis seen here in an attempt to better understand why and how people tick in a rationalist and empirical fashion. Now, I have to get better at determining appropriate experiments to validate my hypotheses. . . . or, I could just presume I’m right and go have some fun with the family . . . especially since I’ve done the relationship analyses for them and am pretty confident in my solutions :-)