Persuasion and Influence

Another excellent article from the PsyBlog, a site which you should really bookmark and read, read, read (you can receive emails as well – makes it far too easy to keep up to date with the latest of interest). This time the article is about the mechanisms of persuasion or influence – particularly relevant in organisational settings, and those where one may not be wielding the ultimate power within the organisation (which is pretty much always with respect to ICT). Find the article here, but, with kind regards, it is reproduced below.

3 Universal Goals to Influence People

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Central to the art and science of persuasion is understanding three goals for which everyone is aiming.

The art and science of persuasion is often discussed as though changing people’s minds is about using the right arguments, the right tone of voice or the right negotiation tactic. But effective influence and persuasion isn’t just about patter, body language or other techniques, it’s also about understanding people’s motivations.

In the scrabble to explain technique, it’s easy to forget that there are certain universal goals of which, at least some of the time, we are barely aware. Influence and persuasion attempts must tap into these to really gain traction.

Techniques of persuasion

To illustrate these universal goals, let’s have a look at six common techniques of influence that you’ll have come across either explicitly or implicitly (from Cialdini, 2001):

  1. Liking: It’s much easier to influence someone who likes you. Successful influencers try to flatter and uncover similarities in order to build attraction.
  2. Social proof. People like to follow one another, so influencers imply the herd is moving the same way.
  3. Consistency. Most people prefer to keep their word. If people make a commitment, particularly if it’s out loud or in writing, they are much more likely to keep it. Influencers should try to gain verbal or written commitments.
  4. Scarcity. Even when companies have warehouses full of a product, they still advertise using time-limited offers that emphasise scarcity. People want what they can’t have, or at least what might be running short.
  5. Authority. People are strongly influenced by experts. Successful influencers flaunt their knowledge to establish their expertise.
  6. Reciprocity. Give something to get something. When people feel indebted to you they are more likely to agree to what you want. This feeling could arise from something as simple as a compliment.

There are many more, but these six are often quoted, especially in business circles. The reason these work is that they tap into three basic human goals, and it’s these goals that are the key to understanding how to influence and persuade people (from Cialdini and Goldstein, 2004).

1. Goal of affiliation

In the most part humans are social so they want to be liked. Rejection is no fun and we’ll do almost anything to avoid it.

We reciprocate because it sends a message about our sociability. We try to elicit liking from other people by behaving in ways we guess will be attractive, like agreeing with them or complimenting them.

Not only do we want approval from specific people, we also want it from society at large (see this article on conformity). We want the things we do, think and believe to be broadly in line with what others do, think and believe. It’s not impossible to be different, but it is difficult.

The techniques of liking and reciprocity mentioned above both clearly play on our desire for affiliation, as do many other techniques of persuasion and influence. Most people are joiners and followers so influencers like to give us something to join and someone to follow.

2. Goal of accuracy

People who don’t care about doing things correctly never get anywhere in life. To achieve our goals in what is a complicated world, we have to be continually trying to work out the best course of action.

It could be accuracy in social situations, such as how to deal with the boss or how to make friends, or it could be accuracy in financial matters like how to get a good deal, or it could be accuracy in existential matters. Whatever the arena, people are always striving for the ‘right’ answer.

Influencers understand our need to be right and so they try to offer things that appeal to our need for accuracy. For example, experts or authority figures influence people heavily because they offer us a ‘correct’ view or way of doing things, especially one that we don’t have to think too carefully about.

The techniques of social proof and scarcity both nag at our desire to be accurate because we assume other people are likely to be right and we don’t want to miss out on a bargain.

3. Goal of maintaining positive self-concept

People want to protect their view of themselves because it takes a long time to build up a semi-coherent view of oneself and one’s place in the world.

We work hard to keep our world-views intact: we want to maintain our self-esteem, to continue believing in the things we believe in and to honour whatever commitments we have espoused in the past. In an inconsistent world we at least should be self-consistent.

Persuaders and influencers can leverage this goal by invoking our sense of self-consistency. A trivial but instructive example is the foot-in-the-door technique. This is where an influencer asks you to agree to a small request before asking for a bigger one. Because people feel somehow that it would be inconsistent to agree to one request and then refuse the next one, they want to say yes again.

People will go to surprising lengths to maintain their positive view of themselves.

Unconscious motivators

Everybody wants to be accurate, to affiliate with others and to maintain their concept of themselves, however little awareness we might have of these goals. Effective persuasion and influence attempts can target one or more of these goals.

With these goals in mind it is possible to tailor persuasion attempts to the particular characteristics of an audience, rather than relying on transparent generic techniques. Whether it’s at work, dealing with your boss, or at home negotiating with a neighbour, we can all benefit from thinking about other people’s unconscious motivators. Then we can work out how to align our message with their goals.

Image credit: ATIS547

How to Be Creative

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The Future of Computing (Then) – The Internet of Things

Computing is no longer about a massive server sitting in a special purpose room, with PCs connected to it via a local network.  Nowadays, computing is everywhere and in everything.  Ordinary items (white good consumer items, motor vehicles, etc etc) all have computing power within them.  Increasingly, this computing power also incorporates network connectivity (typically, of a wireless kind).

The future of living is about things in our environment all talking to each other and to our applications.  Think solar power and electricity generation and consumption – all monitored and controlled using computer enabled “things”.

As an example, consider GreenGoose.  From their website (and other sources):

“Sensors measure actions you take to reach goals that you select. They’re wireless, battery-powered, and all a little different.  The exercise sensor is the size of a credit card and slips into your wallet, purse or backback. The others are stickers that you just stick on to things like a water-bottle, toothbrush or floss.  You stick these sensors on your bike, thermostat, showerhead “and even your keychain”.  Each one measures a different thing you do, but they all communicate with the same egg-sized base-station.  They communicate with a gateway you plug into your broadband router. Installation takes less than five minutes and you can do it yourself.  GreenGoose lets you set simple lifestyle goals. Track your own progress automatically with sensors.  Earn lifestyle points the more often you do things. Bonus points for consistency.  Share or exchange points with other applications, or partners offering rewards – or even an allowance for kids.  Eventually this type of connection, between sensors and mainstream services like banking, will be commonplace and probably won’t need to rely on gimmicks such as green eggs. But for now, Green Goose seems like a cute, interesting Internet of Things service for green conscious early adopters to try out.”

Basically, GreenGoose is all about connecting various things (typically exercise type things) together into the (computing) network, such that activity is automatically measured and recorded – and then used for other purposes (in this instance, rewarding oneself for the completion of exercise activity).

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Email Tone

Re-posted (with some additional comments) from, with kind regards.

[According to Daniel] Goleman, author of Social Intelligence and godfather of the field of Emotional Intelligence, … there’s a negativity bias to email – at the neural level. In other words, if an email’s content is neutral, we assume the tone is negative.  In face-to-face conversation, the subject matter and its emotional content is enhanced by tone of voice, facial expressions, and nonverbal cues.  Not so with digital communication.  Technology creates a vacuum that we humans fill with negative emotions by default, and digital emotions can escalate quickly (see: flame wars).  The barrage of email can certainly fan the flames.  In an effort to be productive and succinct, our communication may be perceived as clipped, sarcastic, or rude.  Imagine the repercussions for creative collaboration.

Tools are already emerging to address this phenomenon.  See ToneCheck, a “tone spellcheck” app that scans emails for negativity and then helpfully suggests tweaks to make your communication more positive (featured in The New York Times Magazine’s annual Year in Ideas issue).

[The following are some] simple ways to encourage positive digital communication … :

1. Heed the negativity bias. In this case, awareness and attention goes a long way. Consider how your communication may be perceived. Can you be more explanatory? Is your language positive as opposed to neutral?

2. Pay attention to your grammar. [When writing emails in haste (and sometimes not)], meaning is often obscured by simple grammatical confusion. “That’s not what I meant” is emblematic of digital miscommunication, and can escalate a problem quickly. Re-read your emails before sending, and make sure your intended message is being conveyed clearly.

3. Consider emoticons. Until keyboards can actually perceive the emotional content of our digital messages (not so far off!), emoticons may be the simplest method of clarifying tone. … let go of [the] … perception that emoticons are silly. They may currently be our best tool for elevating the emotional clarity of digital messages.

4. Use phrasing that suggests optionality. Email is not a great medium for delivering criticism, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. If you want your message to be well-received, try using phrasing that empowers the receiver. Questions in particular tend to be better received than declaratives (which can seem accusatory). If you’ve noticed a team member overlooked a task, you might email them: “Are you planning to take care of that issue?” Rather than making them feel put upon, you give them agency. [Mind you, a severe questioning tone can be even more detrimental than a direct statement of fact (as long as that statement is phrased “nicely”).  The message here is to think very carefully as to the appropriate phrasing for the situation at hand.]

5. Start things off on the right foot. When the news is mixed, consider leading off your message with an expression of appreciation. Then follow with the meat of your response. It could be something as simple as, “We’re off to a great start, I just have a few small tweaks I want to suggest.” Such gestures may seem like fluff, but they set the tone. Effectively saying “I appreciate the work you’ve already done…” prior to bringing the feedback that means “back to the drawing board!” [And then follow up the “meat” of the email with another statement of praise or appreciation.  If possible, different from the one which started the email.  Make the praise and appreciation sincere – not a “cardboard facsimile” of emotion (that will just inflame the situation).].

6. Jettison email… maybe. Ask yourself, “Is email the best carrier of this message?” Often a more social communication tool such as an internal project management space or messaging tool (Yammer, Action Method, or Mavenlink) can be more appropriate and serve as an emotional buffer. Reactive communication tends to be more measured in a public digital space. Plus an added bonus: knowledge sharing. [Except, be very very careful about posting any direct one-on-one and personal feedback and communication on social sites.  Social sites, and especially short message sites, suffer from the same problems as email, sometimes even more so – because they will typically be read by many more people, and probably read by people who do not have the same context surrounding the situation as maybe the two individuals involved in the email.  There are many situations where what appeared to be a simple communication on a shared social site was badly misinterpreted and caused “all-out warfare” on a project.  Finally, don’t forget that digital communication is the only means of communicating.  The telephone still works.  And so do face-to-face meetings (although,m it is admitted, that with today’s global business, face-to-face meetings may be rather too expensive or not even possible).  Make sure you keep the NLP Presupposition always in mind: “We are always communicating, in all channels”.  Think of the means of communication that would be best for the purposes, before attempting the communication.].

Because of the lack of emotional tone in emails, we often have to go the extra mile to convey a solicitous attitude  – whether it’s rewriting a sentence, adding an emoticon, or offsetting bad news with a positive remark.  Even if it seems a chore, it’s time well spent.

In the immortal words of a recent 99% commenter: Don’t treat others like a “DO IT” button, treat them like human beings.

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IBM Watson and Jeopardy

IBM’s Thomas J Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY has recently completed a new grand challenge – to program a computer to play the quiz game “Jeopardy”.

I have been following this (as have many many other people) – and it has been absolutely fascinating.
This link ( to a youtube of the final session should also give you links to the previous sessions over the 3 days. The link to details of Watson ( will no doubt also give you the relevant video links, and much more.  More information can also be read at Mashable in an article on Watson and interview with Stephen Baker.

Basically, IBM have developed a natural language processing and deep analytic question and answer system, using massively parallel processing and huge amounts of memory (as stated here: 2880 processor cores in 90 Power 750 computers and 15 terabytes of RAM) to implement a system which can answer any sort of general knowledge question (which have been asked in a variety of ways, including through association, analogy, puns, etc), and to get so many correct that Watson totally beat the best human players.

The results were fascinating.

At the end of the first day, Ken Jennings was on $4,800, Brad Rutter was on $10,400 but Watson was a massive $35,734 (I also answered the questions as they appeared on the screen and achieved $22,400 – although one can not completely equate the results, since the physical presence of having to press the button first when the light comes on and then answer was not the same for me watching it on a computer screen).

At the end of the second and final day, Brad scored $5,600 before final jeopardy, wagered the lot to obtain $11,200 which totaled him $21,600 over the 2 days.

Ken did much better on the second day, managing a pre-final jeopardy score of $18,200 but only wagered $1,000 to finish with $19,200, to total $24,000 for the 2 days.

But Watson. Well, he (since we can really be anthropomorphic here) scored $23,440 before final jeopardy, wagered $17,973 to make his daily score $41,413 and a massive total of $77,147 for the 2 days.

(By the way, I managed $14,000 for the second day, wagered the lot and got the final jeopardy answer correct (it was Bram Stoker) to finish with $28,000 on the day and $50,400 over the 2 days).

The prize money of $1,000,000 awarded to Watson was donated by IBM to World Vision and to the World Community Grid, whereas half the second prize of $300,000 (to Ken) and $200,000 (to Brad) was donated to other charities.

Two important take-aways from this brilliant piece of research.

Firstly, this technology from IBM has so so many uses – not just in the medical field (as the first offerings appear to be) but also in the energy and resources fields, the urban planning fields, and certainly in the legal and justice fields. The ability to ingest natural language materials (such as legislation, case law, briefs, submissions, depositions, statements, judgments and miscellaneous other materials) and then to answer complicated questions concerning that material (and link to associated material not previously related to the matter) will be extremely important in the future.

Secondly, IBM Watson was truly amazing. Certainly a breakthrough in technology. But the human beings standing there, that did pretty well against the massive machine, were still, themselves, rather incredible. Humans, in essence, are still mighty powerful. The Jeopardy show had to be filmed on a special set built in the IBM Research Facility, because the computer system comprising Watson took up a whole room and was too massive to move. Whereas Ken and Brad simply walked into where ever they were needed and did their thing. Mind you, computer systems in the 1960’s and 1970’s took whole rooms – and their capability would now be eclipsed by an iPad or small notebook computer. Twenty years from now, Watson will definitely be in the palm of one’s hand (in one form or another).

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Achieving Long Term Goals

There is a lot written in Pop-Psy (pop psychology) sites, journals, magazines, books and elsewhere about how to go about achieving one’s goals, especially longer term goals (for instance, life goals etc).  Unfortunately, many of the suggestions do not work, and sometimes, are positively detrimental.  The PsyBlog has an excellent article (see reference at the foot of this post) outlining actual research on what and what does not.  In summary:

What Works! What Doesn’t!
Make a step-by-step plan. Motivate yourself by focusing on someone who has achieved a similar goal.
Tell other people about your goal. Think about bad things that will happen if you do not achieve your goal.
Think about the good things that will happen if you achieve your goal. Try to suppress unhelpful or negative thoughts about your goal and how to achieve it.
Reward yourself for making progress in your goal. Rely on willpower.
Record your progress. Fantasize or visualize how great your life will be when you achieve your goal.

To recapitulate, the techniques to use in order to achieve (longer term) goals are as follows:

  • Make a step-by-step plan: break your goal down into concrete, measurable and time-based sub-goals;
  • Tell other people about your goal: making a public declaration increases motivation;
  • Think about the good things that will happen if you achieve your goal (but avoid fantasizing);
  • Reward yourself for making progress in your goal: small rewards help push us on to major successes;
  • Record your progress: keep a journal, graph or drawing that plots your progress.

Further references and sources of selected materials:


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With kind regards to PsyBlog (see … (PS – you should subscribe – it is an excellent resource) …

The Zeigarnik Effect

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What can waiters, the TV series ‘Lost’ and the novelist Charles Dickens teach us about avoiding procrastination?

One of the simplest methods for beating procrastination in almost any task was inspired by busy waiters.

It’s called the Zeigarnik effect after a Russian psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik (above left), who noticed an odd thing while sitting in a restaurant in Vienna. The waiters seemed only to remember orders which were in the process of being served. When completed, the orders evaporated from their memory.

Zeigarnik went back to the lab to test out a theory about what was going on. She asked participants to do twenty or so simple little tasks in the lab, like solving puzzles and stringing beads (Zeigarnik, 1927). Except some of the time they were interrupted half way through the task. Afterwards she asked them which activities they remembered doing. People were about twice as likely to remember the tasks during which they’d been interrupted than those they completed.

What does this have to do with procrastination? I’ll give you another clue…

Almost sixty years later Kenneth McGraw and colleagues carried out another test of the Zeigarnik effect (McGraw et al., 1982). In it participants had to do a really tricky puzzle; except they were interrupted before any of them could solve it and told the study was over. Despite this nearly 90% carried on working on the puzzle anyway.

Got it yet?


Here’s another clue: one of the oldest tricks in the TV business for keeping viewers tuned in to a serial week after week is the cliffhanger. The hero seems to have fallen off a mountain but the shot cuts away before you can be sure. And then those fateful words: “TO BE CONTINUED…” Literally a cliffhanger.

You tune in next week for the resolution because the mystery is ticking away in the back of your mind.

The great English novelist Charles Dickens used exactly the same technique. Many of his works, like Oliver Twist, although later published as complete novels, were originally serialised.

His cliffhangers created such anticipation in people’s minds that his American readership would wait at New York docks for the latest instalment to arrive by ship from Britain. They were that desperate to find out what happened next.

I’ve started so I’ll finish

What all these examples have in common is that when people manage to start something they’re more inclined to finish it. Procrastination bites worst when we’re faced with a large task that we’re trying to avoid starting. It might be because we don’t know how to start or even where to start.

What the Zeigarnik effect teaches is that one weapon for beating procrastination is starting somewhere…anywhere.

Don’t start with the hardest bit, try something easy first. If you can just get under way with any part of a project, then the rest will tend to follow. Once you’ve made a start, however trivial, there’s something drawing you on to the end. It will niggle away in the back of your mind like a Lost cliffhanger.

Although the technique is simple, we often forget it because we get so wrapped up in thinking about the most difficult parts of our projects. The sense of foreboding can be a big contributor to procrastination.

The Zeigarnik effect has an important exception. It doesn’t work so well when we’re not particularly motivated to achieve our goal or don’t expect to do well. This is true of goals in general: when they’re unattractive or impossible we don’t bother with them.

But if we value the goal and think it’s possible, just taking a first step could be the difference between failure and success.

Image credit: Gestalt Theory

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Python under Windows Correct Registry Entries

Even if one installs Python using the .MSI installers, it appears that the correct Windows Registry keys are not set.  See, for instance,–Failed-installation.-setuptools-0.6c11.win32-py2.6.exe-td26716013.html for further information.   Joakim Löw wrote a Python program to update the Windows Registry with the correct values, as needed, except that it used the old key, now corrected as per the “old nabble” page above.

The attached Python program is a slightly updated version of the original to set the registry keys correctly.


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Moving a WordPress site from one URL to another

If you want to move a WordPress site to a completely new URL, refer to (there are also instructions here: but the former site appears to be better) and perform the following:

  1. First, in the OLD site, do the following:
    1. Login to your site as wp-admin
    2. Go to the Administration > Settings > General panel.
    3. In the box for WordPress address (URI): change the address to the new location of your main WordPress core files (ie enter the NEW address in here)
    4. In the box for Blog address (URI): change the address to the new location, which should match the WordPress address (URI) (ie enter the NEW address in here)
    5. Click Save Settings.
  2. Now, copy the old site to the new site, using something like:
    1. cp -a <old-site> <new-site>
      1. PS, obviously have to have a shell into the server directory where the sites are located, or do it via FTP as appropriate
  3. Now, you should be able to use <new-site>
    1. Can optionally delete <old-site> or keep it as a backup

The other method outlined at the top of does work as well, but it sets the Admin screen in WordPress such that one can not change the URLs internally (one must edit the wp-config.php file).
Edit the wp-config.php file which is in the root directory of the WordPress installation, by adding the following two lines (anywhere, but suggest towards the top of the file):


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Problem with the Creole Plugin in the Dokuwiki 20101107 “Anteater” release

When the upgrade occurred, a bunch of errors, such as:

Warning: call_user_func_array() []: First argument is expected to be a valid callback, 'Doku_Renderer_metadata::section_edit' was given in /home/bilye3/public_html/dokuwikiStandard/inc/parserutils.php on line 419

Warning: call_user_func_array() []: First argument is expected to be a valid callback, 'Doku_Renderer_xhtml::section_edit' was given in /home/bilye3/public_html/dokuwikiStandard/inc/parserutils.php on line 555

would appear at the top of each page (sometimes multiple times).

After quite a bit of searching, the answer appears to be:

Comment out lines lines 67 – 72 of lib/plugins/creole/syntax/header.php (within the given dokuwiki installation), as follows:

if ($level <= $conf['maxseclevel']) { // $handler->_addCall('section_edit', array(
// $handler->status['section_edit_start'],
// $pos-1,
// $handler->status['section_edit_level'],
// $handler->status['section_edit_title']
// ), $pos);
$handler->status['section_edit_start'] = $pos;
$handler->status['section_edit_level'] = $level;
$handler->status['section_edit_title'] = $title;

Make sure you then

touch /conf/local.php

(within the given dokuwiki installation)
and the problem should be resolved.

This fix was provided here:
(see the bottom of the page)
and the cache touch issue was referenced here:
(once again, at the bottom of the page).

Here is a copy of the modified header.php for reference purposes:


// must be run within Dokuwiki
if(!defined('DOKU_INC')) die();

if(!defined('DOKU_PLUGIN')) define('DOKU_PLUGIN',DOKU_INC.'lib/plugins/');

* All DokuWiki plugins to extend the parser/rendering mechanism
* need to inherit from this class
class syntax_plugin_creole_header extends DokuWiki_Syntax_Plugin {

function getInfo(){
return array(
'author' => 'Esther Brunner',
'email' => '',
'date' => '2007-02-09',
'name' => 'Creole Plugin, header component',
'desc' => 'Creole style headers',
'url' => '',

function getType(){ return 'container'; }
function getPType(){ return 'block'; }
function getSort(){ return 49; }

function getAllowedTypes(){
return array('formatting', 'substition', 'disabled', 'protected');

function preConnect(){
'(?m)^[ \t]*=+[^\n]+=*[ \t]*$',

function handle($match, $state, $pos, &$handler){
global $conf;

// get level and title
$title = trim($match);
if (($this->getConf('precedence') == 'dokuwiki')
&& ($title{strlen($title) - 1} == '=')){ // DokuWiki
$level = 7 - strspn($title, '=');
} else { // Creole
$level = strspn($title, '=');
if ($level < 1) $level = 1; elseif ($level > 5) $level = 5;
$title = trim($title, '=');
$title = trim($title);

if ($handler->status['section']) $handler->_addCall('section_close', array(), $pos);

if ($level <= $conf['maxseclevel']){ // $handler->_addCall('section_edit', array(
// $handler->status['section_edit_start'],
// $pos-1,
// $handler->status['section_edit_level'],
// $handler->status['section_edit_title']
// ), $pos);
$handler->status['section_edit_start'] = $pos;
$handler->status['section_edit_level'] = $level;
$handler->status['section_edit_title'] = $title;

$handler->_addCall('header', array($title, $level, $pos), $pos);

$handler->_addCall('section_open', array($level), $pos);
$handler->status['section'] = true;
return true;

function render($mode, &$renderer, $data){
return true;

//Setup VIM: ex: et ts=4 enc=utf-8 :

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VirtualBox Setting Screen Resolution

VBoxManage setextradata “CustomVideoMode1” “
where screen-resolution = 1440x900x32 or 1280x1024x16 for example

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