Postmortem: missed videos to download

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Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum

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May 2, 2019, 12:01:32 AM5/2/19
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# Postmortem: missed videos to download

This is a postmortem on a mistake I made when I tried to download a set of videos. I will try to answer the kinds of questions suggested in Elliot Temple's essay [Errors Merit Post-Mortems](https://curi.us/2190-errors-merit-post-mortems).

## What was the problem you were trying to solve?

I was trying to download all videos by a certain presenter from a website. I wanted to watch all the relevant videos, or at least select the best ones to watch, during a block of time that I had set aside.

## In what way did you fail to solve the problem?

I missed (didn't download) almost 50 videos.

## What was the impact of the failure?

I didn't have the chance to view the missing videos during the time I had allocated.

## What error(s) did you make?

I identified 4 errors. For each, I will explain what the error was, list some other effects in my life the error could cause, and suggest some ideas for improvement.

### Error 1: Not writing down the goal

I didn't clearly define in advance the problem I was trying to solve. I only vaguely understood what I was trying to do. Defining my goal would have helped me think better about how to achieve it.

I didn't download some videos that were found by my filter because they seemed short or uninteresting. However, selecting videos without objective criteria for what to keep or skip is fertile ground for bias in the selection process.

As Elliot Temple wrote in [Goals & Purpose](http://curi.us/2104-goals--purpose):

> have criteria of success and failure. and write them down. put them into words, don't just think them vaguely in your head and assume you know what you mean.

#### Other effects of this error

Some predicted effects of this error in other areas are:

- not getting my actual problem solved

- not doing as good a job on something as I easily could have done

This error could have consequences for my job, my investments, and other important areas of my life.

#### Ideas for improvement

I typically have a hard time understanding my goals clearly enough to write them down. That's a problem in itself. However, in this case, I didn't even check to see whether it would be easy to write down my goal before starting on the project. Looking back, I don't think it would have been too difficult in this case. When starting a project, I could make a quick check to see whether it would easy to write down my goal objectively before starting. Also, I could practice writing down my goals (and publishing the results to get feedback) in order to get better at it.

### Error 2: Trusting unreliable sources

#### Explanation of the error

The website I was downloading from lets you search by presenter. I relied on this feature to find videos to download. However, the website didn't label all the videos by the presenter I was interested in. So I missed some videos.

I knew the website was somewhat buggy, so I should have tried some other methods to check for errors, such as:

- using the website's search feature to find videos having descriptions or titles that included the name of this particular presenter

- using Google to search the website for the presenter's name.

#### Other effects of this error

Another effect of this error would be being too quick, in general, to accept answers from unreliable sources. However, I couldn't think of any examples where I did this in the recent past.

#### Ideas for improvement

I should treat everyone and everything as a buggy program unless they have demonstrated otherwise. It's helpful to do some double checking. Doing so would have been easy in this case.

### Error 3: Ignoring my intuition that something might be wrong

#### Explanation of the error

I intentionally didn't download the one set of videos, even though they were returned by my search by presenter. I had a vague feeling/intuition that skipping these videos might be a bad idea, but I kind of brushed past the feeling.

I didn't download these particular videos because I thought I had already listened to an audio version of them. However:

- I could have been wrong about whether the audio I listened to was in fact the audio for these videos.
- Even if I was correct, I was aware that the audio I listened to was inadequate. (For example, I was aware of apparent skips in the audio. I was also aware that the audio sometimes refers to things, such as diagrams, that are meant to be seen.) So I should have realized that downloading the video for comparison would be helpful.

In any event, I refused to listen when somebody (in this case, me) tried to tell me I was wrong. This is a preventable error. It is an instance of the error that [Paths Forward](https://fallibleideas.com/paths-forward) is meant to correct.

#### Other effects of this error

Ignoring my intuition could cause me to make a bad decision, even though something in me already knew or suspected that the decision was a mistake. For example, I might take the word of someone I shouldn't.

#### Ideas for improvement

When I have a vague doubt about something, I could stop and think to see if there is a cheap or easy fix for what's bothering me. In this case, downloading the videos was fast and easy, so I could have just downloaded them.

### Error 4: Disorganization

#### Explanation of the error

The website assigns a unique number to each video. The video number shows up in the URL bar when you watch the video. However, I didn't put the video number in the downloaded file name. Including the number would have made it easy to:

- check whether a particular video was already downloaded, and

- look up info about the video on the website later if needed.

#### Other effects of this error

Other problems in my life caused by disorganization include:

- not being able to find things in my house

- forgetting things I need or want to do

- not effectively participating in discussions (e.g., not responding to things I should respond to)

#### Ideas for improvement

In general, a little organization doesn't have to take much time. A little organization can add a lot of value. Knowing this might help me to be more organized.

To get better at organization, I could:

- Write about whether my current level of organization is adequate for different activities in which I routinely engage.

- Brainstorm ways to improve my level of organization in areas where it is inadequate.

Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum

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May 19, 2019, 1:43:07 PM5/19/19
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On Thu, May 2, 2019 at 12:01 AM Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum <petrogradp...@gmail.com> wrote:

> # Postmortem: missed videos to download
>
> This is a postmortem on a mistake I made when I tried to download a set of videos. I will try to answer the kinds of questions suggested in Elliot Temple's essay [Errors Merit Post-Mortems](https://curi.us/2190-errors-merit-post-mortems).

In this note, I correct some errors I discovered in the quoted postmortem.

> I missed (didn't download) almost 50 videos.

I missed exactly 50 videos.

> ### Error 2: Trusting unreliable sources
>
> #### Explanation of the error
>
> The website I was downloading from lets you search by presenter. I relied on this feature to find videos to download. However, the website didn't label all the videos by the presenter I was interested in. So I missed some videos.

This is wrong. I thought I had the evidence to claim this, but I didn't. All of the videos that I ever found by the presenter do in fact show up under a search for that presenter.

To try to find out what was going on, I made a spreadsheet of all the videos that come up in a search for that presenter, including their ID numbers. I also added the ID numbers to all the videos that I downloaded. Then I compared the ID numbers in both sets.

Here's a guess as to where I went wrong: I thought I downloaded everything from the presenter list (even though in fact I hadn't). I'm not sure why I thought this. But when I found other videos that I had missed, I incorrectly *assumed* they must not have been on the presenter list. My initial mistake compounded into more mistakes because I misinterpreted what was going on, kind of like the Athens/thieving example from BoI.


> I knew the website was somewhat buggy, so I should have tried some other methods to check for errors, such as:
>
> - using the website's search feature to find videos having descriptions or titles that included the name of this particular presenter
>
> - using Google to search the website for the presenter's name.

These are fine suggestions. But they were not necessary in this case.

> #### Other effects of this error
>
> Another effect of this error would be being too quick, in general, to accept answers from unreliable sources. However, I couldn't think of any examples where I did this in the recent past.

*I* am an unreliable source. For some reason, I simply didn't download some of the videos even though they showed up under a search for the presenter I was interested in. I still don't know why.

> #### Ideas for improvement
>
> I should treat everyone and everything as a buggy program unless they have demonstrated otherwise.

Including myself!

> It's helpful to do some double checking. Doing so would have been easy in this case.

Yes.
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