Google Searches as AN Untapped Goldmine of Research…My take on “Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are”

Imagine there’s a game where every person in a room has a notebook. In this notebook, you put the thoughts you’re afraid to share with others. And even the desires you’re ever afraid to admit to yourself. Now imagine that we have access to the collective recorded thoughts.

How much info would we know about ourselves? Well, we kind of do. Somewhat. People’s search on google and other browsers. What they won’t tell to strangers, friends, closest relatives and sometimes even themselves. Stephens-Davidowits gives us a peak into what that can tell us about racism, sexuality and other stuff that would make for quite an awkward conversation with people.

Here’s a taste: “Adults with children are 3.6 times more likely to tell Google they regret their decision (of having children) than are adults without children (of not having children).”” (110). He grants that there’s a bias for socially unpopular thoughts on google but that ratio is still something that is mind-boggling.

Google and other browser searches are an untapped goldmine. This is where I’d like to go to find  hidden gems. The insights that we can extract are deeply profound on an intellectual and practical level

What other people are searching

Here’s another example that demonstrates the power of big data from internet searches. It’s not about psychology nor is it  embarrassing but I had to include it because of how profound it is.

Bing search was used to determine the symptoms that predict pancreatic cancer. How? People who made clear-cut searches like “just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer” were coded. It turns out that those who end up diagnosed are likely to have searched the following symptoms: Indigestion + abdominal pain OR back pain followed by back pain alone without yellowing of skin. That is not an obvious observation that you can glean intuitively as  the author notes.

If you knew me really well, you’ll understand why I found this book gripping. When I was in university, I was the student who raised his hand and asked “how do we know any of this is true?” I was quite in love with psychology but had this lingering discomfort that my beloved is not that faithful to accuracy and truth. This tension continued through my professional life. Let’s take the problem of social desirability. Meaning, when you are asked in a survey to answer questions about yourself. There is a pressure to portray yourself in a more positive way than in reality. And self-report surveys are a standard tool in social science research. This is not the case when you type something into google, which makes this source of information a game changer.

That’s why I could have cried when I read this:

“When he (Karl Popper) interacted with the best intellectuals of his day—the best physicists, the best historians, the best psychologists—Popper noted a striking difference. When the physicists talked, Popper believed in what they were doing. Sure, they sometimes made mistakes. Sure, they sometimes were fooled by their subconscious biases. But physicists were engaged in a process that was clearly finding deep truths about the world, culminating in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. When the world’s most famous social scientists talked, in contrast, Popper thought he was listening to a bunch of gobbledygook. Popper is hardly the only person to have made this distinction. Just about everybody agrees that physicists, biologists, and chemists are real scientists. They utilize rigorous experiments to find how the physical world works. In contrast, many people think that economists, sociologists, and psychologists are soft scientists who throw around meaningless jargon so they can get tenure. To the extent this was ever true, the Big Data revolution has changed that. If Karl Popper were alive today and attended a presentation by Raj Chetty, Jesse Shapiro, Esther Duflo, or (humor me) myself, I strongly suspect he would not have the same reaction he had back then. To be honest, he might be more likely to question whether today’s great string theorists are truly scientific or just engaging in self-indulgent mental gymnastics.” (p.272) That’s earth-shattering. Can you feel the tectonic plates trembling beneath you?

Looking for someone who loves organizing {Complementary skill partnership}

Update: I hired a professional organizer to help me with this


My life is messy. I need someone to help me organize it: someone who LOVES organizing. I need a “de-clutterizer”! The initial idea is that we meet for 2 hours a week to organize and plan my week afterwards (mainly the non-office aspects like health and such). In return, I spend 2 hours working with you with whatever you need in your life. (This should probably be based on my strengths: research, writing, analysis, content creation, curation, coaching etc). See the following for my profile[i]

Why I’m seeking such a partnership: I enjoy mutual benefit based on strengths. I hope I can improve your life using the skills I cherish and honed over the years. In terms of my own needs, I need and love structure but I hate building it and find the process of creating it quite difficult. [1]

Desired Skills/Tasks

These are the skills/tasks that cause me problems, and which the partner would ideally have:

  • Time estimation: Estimate how much time I’ll need to finish a task/project.
  • Dependencies and steps: Organizing the tasks and items in a sequential way that reflects the dependencies between them.
  • Prioritization and elimination: I create lots of items and tasks. The challenge is prioritizing them and deciding which ones to remove.
  • Choosing specific tasks for a duration. I come up with many tasks and items but I need help with choosing from the big list which ones will I commit to in the coming period.
  • Limits: I can be quite the perfectionist obsessive deliberative type so I need someone to put limits for me (whether time or quantity limits).
  • Accommodating changes to the environment or the plan
  • Tidiness
  • Monitoring, tracking and evaluating progress.
  • Capturing and storing tasks/items of references.
  • Maintenance, updates, admin tasks

Tangible deliverables desired out of this collaboration

Workflow/plans/Steps/ procedures/ Schedule/ Tracking logs. These are the ones I have problems creating. The deliverables that I can provide are lists, databases, taxonomies, articles, presentations etc

Backgrounds that this partner might come from



Project management



Professional organizer (see


Agile Scum Master


I bring and find pieces of the puzzle. You put them together.

I figure out the ingredients and bring them. You turn them into a recipe.

I gather information about countries and historical sites. You create the trip itinerary.


This is something I grappled with since childhood. Some not so nice effects have been feelings of frustration, guilt, being overwhelmed and having difficulty in being content.

I’ve always attempted to create structure but with minimal success.  The casio organizer comes to mind as a relic from the past to bear witness to my ordeal. I’ve also tried to implement GTD by  David Allen and The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey. Not to mention the countless notebooks, files, scraps of paper, software (toggle, trello, rescue time)  and lists, lists and lists. One very valuable book helped not in trying to get things more organized but in looking at the bright side of disorder. Tim Harford’s “Messy how to be creative and resilient in a tidy-minded world” helped me accept myself more and appreciate my chaotic existence!

One problem is that there are too many systems. I need to have one simple seamless and hopefully MECE (Mutually exclusive collectively exhaustive. That system should be easy to use but at the same time can accommodate the complexities of my life.

I think a big chunk of the problems are a flip side of the strengths that I have (see

The Flip Paradox). Perhaps I’m messy because of the number and variety of ideas that explode in my mind; because of the critical analytical bent of my mind. Maybe this annoys me a lot because of my need for high achievement and discipline. Put in Gallup’s Clifton StrengthsFinder© terms, the high Input, Ideation, Intellection, Analysis, Focus and Discipline can cause weakness in Arranger, Adaptability and Strategic[2]. Generating a lot of ideas and collecting much information makes organization harder. Another cause might be my hyper-focus on the task. I am especially sensitive to the cognitive cost of  “task-switching” that I find taking a detour during the work session to organize or to respond to new stimuli quite difficult. Check my references and notes on an previous projectof mine: exploring the trade-off between being focused and adaptable and aiming to find the optimal point between them.

Whether I’m organized in my logical thinking is a separate issue, that I’m still not sure of.

Relevant software/tools/resources that I haven’t used yet:

Clutter Bug Test [update: I tried the assessment but didn’t find it very useful for me]

MindDecider – Project management & decision making software [update: I dont think they’re operational anymore. I got a rejected email when I sent an email to one of the main members of their team]

DayViewer | Online Calendar, Planner, Organizer, Scheduling Team Collaboration

Logiciel d’agenda personnel Day Organizer, ver. (freeware – gratuit)

Weekly planner for effective people

LifePlanner™ :: erin condren

Planner Pads: Why it Works

Toodledo » Tasks, Notes, Habits, Lists & To-Dos. Get organized


Top Free Picks: Task Lists and To-Do Managers |,2817,2419258,00.asp

Personal organizer software, task & time management software. Getting Things Done® (GTD®): project management software, project & personal information management (PIM). To do list & time management system.

Project Organizer – Windows Apps on Microsoft Store

Life Organizer – Windows Apps on Microsoft Store

The Best Organizer Software of 2016 | Top Ten Reviews

14 Apps That Will Help You To Organize Every Part Of Your Life – Business Insider


[1] But once I have a routine and structure, I tend to stick with it. For example, once I started attending the Amman Writing Club, I was quite diligent and known for my very good track record of attendance. Same with Amman pick-up basketball group: I play regularly on Tue and Fri every week.  I seldom miss it. Though in this case, I had a central role in creating the structure as well but that was out of need and I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it).

[2] Even though I own and have used the Gallup coaching toolkit, I am not certified by Gallup nor is this interpretation necessarily endorsed by Gallup

[i] Hashem ElAssad | LinkedIn

About Hashem (Straightforward) | Paradoxically Paradoxical

So Very Hashem | Paradoxically Paradoxical

List of Posts | Paradoxically Paradoxical

I am the Desert’s Penguin | Paradoxically Paradoxical

Boiling Parts of the Ocean | Paradoxically Paradoxical

Engaging Bull on Steroids (Ahmad Al-Assad’s Flip Paradox Profile) | Paradoxically Paradoxical

The Flip Paradox | Paradoxically Paradoxical

Fruits of the Flow (Work Samples) | Paradoxically Paradoxical

Comparative Personalities | Paradoxically Paradoxical

Hitch’s Itch (My Flow =No Stone Unturned) | Paradoxically Paradoxical

المية تكدّب الغطاس: مناشدة لأسلوب حياة تجريبي من عقلية غير واثقة Water belies the diver (The proof is in the pudding): A Call for an Empirical Lifestyle from an Insecure Mindset

المية تكدب الغطاس

Imagine a basketball player being forced to play in a soccer team for a year. His performance is sub-par and he’s blaming others for being put in an ill-fitting place. Finally, after a year of waiting, he’s given the chance he’d been asking for all along. He should be happy now. Right? Well, yes and no. The prospect of failure now is much scarier than the before. Why? If he failed in something that he said he was bad at, then no big deal. But if he fails in something that should be his strength; something his identity hinges on, then that is scary!

I’m in a similar situation. Performance anxiety is not good for me. So, in order to address the issue, I did what I would typically do. Grab a pen and notebook and psycho-analyze myself.

What is  causing the fear?

*Scary thought #1: The circumstances will betray me. For example, I won’t be given enough time to prove myself. I will be judged unfairly. Some other factor I can’t control.

Re-assuring response:

As long as I’m not responsible for the circumstance, then I’m ok with that happening. What frightens me the most is suffering as a result of my own mistakes. Suffering because of things I can’t control, while still painful, is much more bearable. It is re-assuring to remember that I can’t control everything around me. You put in the effort and the results are not your concern.

What if people label me as a failure without taking into consideration the circumstances? That would be fine: the Hashem they draw in their minds is different from the real me. Sure, it’s quite important to gather external feedback from others on your performance: I don’t want to delude yourself. But invested parties have their own biases and problems as well. I’ll take their feedback into consideration but I shouldn’t lose sleep over it. It’s better to  find feedback on performance from people who are less invested in the situation so they would have less bias (You can search for mentors in your field at   Mentors Search at Authoraid).

Also, this Arabic proverb gives me comfort:  يا بخت مين بات مظلوم ولا بات ظالم. “You’re better off sleeping as someone who has been treated unfairly than someone who treated others unfairly.”

*Scary thought #2 : I will fail at my strength, even though all the other circumstances are fine. I can’t blame it on anything else.

Re-assuring response:

—A- Well, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your[1] strength. You can find strength elsewhere, or tweak it a little bit. Maybe your strength lies somewhere near where you thought but not exactly there. For example, maybe you thought you’d excel in writing short social media posts, but your real strength is in writing long blog posts. Take it as an opportunity to get close to where you shine. “Turn your bad day into good data” as the expression goes. Embrace a Kaizen mentality. “This is just feedback to improve my iterations next time.”[2]

B-   It’s always good, nay glorious, to know the truth, even if it’s not to my liking.  There is pleasure, joy, beauty, success and achievement in embracing the truth, no matter how ugly it is. My core identity is a truth-seeker so as long as I’m honest with myself, then I’m already succeeding and achieving.

For example, I’d rather maintain my identity as a truth seeker, even if it would lead me to lower my perception of how good of a researcher I am.

We have a fundamental need to KNOW. This need can be the need to learn things that we desire: in other words, if you took an exam, you’d want to have done brilliantly in it. This desire to know that you did well is called “specific need for closure”. But we also have another need, which is to KNOW, full-stop : regardless if the outcome is something that we desire or not. That’s called “non-specific need for closure”. There is something in me that wants to know how I fared in the exam, even if I did poorly in it. There are individual differences in how much people have this desire for non-specific need for closure. I think I have it quite high.

And this relationship with the Truth is a stable controllable relationship, because even though I can’t be sure that my thoughts are the truth, I can always give it an honest stab. The real calamity is dishonest manipulation of the truth, whether to myself or others.

Vera is irresistible! Vera is before all! Check out my Vera poem to know what I mean Protected: A Tribute to Lady Vera.(There’s a password for this poem I wrote as I had plans to get it published; many publishers require that the piece is  not made available in public. But you can ask me for the password if you’re interested in reading it).

C- Scary thought: This is the ideal place for me. If I fail here, I’ll lose the best opportunity of my life.

Re-assuring thought: This thinking is flawed. It assumes a “soulmate” construction of person/job fit. There is no golden path (Check out “How to be an Imperfectionist” by Stephen Guise for addressing the perfect golden path mentality). In fact, I don’t even subscribe to the “soulmate” theory of relationships.  We live in a big big big world with many alternative paths.

D- Scary thought: Failing is shameful, especially in public.

Re-assuring thought: Embrace the cringe! Take pride in embracing vulnerability à la Brene Brown style. Take it as a chance to hone your transparency skills.

E (well, F really) -The Final Re-assuring thought: Death is nigh!

Paradoxically, I find this comforting in dealing with the stresses of life. In the grand scheme of things, I’m a speck of dust and all of my challenges wouldn’t matter, it’s the same destination after all. Now, obviously this technique won’t work with everyone. It’s de-motivating but I need some de-motivation as my motivation is already too high. There is a bell-curve relationship between motivation and performance. Too high a motivation is damaging (e.g. performance anxiety). What if I become stressed out about death? Well, I’d rather stress out over death than the relatively petty issues of everyday life.

Steve Jobs said it well: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.”


A Re-conceptualization of Failure

Another important element to this is how we view failure. The web is replete with useful quotes and anecdotes from famous people on this idea: Failure is an inevitable component of greatness.

An inspiring model is Google X and how they embrace failure to encourage innovation “Google X”. AStro Teller of Google X says:

“You must reward people for failing, he says. If not, they won’t take risks and make breakthroughs. If you don’t reward failure, people will hang on to a doomed idea for fear of the consequences. That wastes time and saps an organization’s spirit.” …

“If you shame them when they come back, if you tell them that they’ve failed you because they didn’t find a mountain, no matter how diligently they looked for or how cleverly they looked for it, those scouts will quit your company.”…

 “Google X projects have many inspirations and many starting points. But Mr Teller says not one of them has started from the conventional business question: “How can we make a tonne of money?” That is, he explains, because these ideas are about huge, transformative, disruptive change, not the marginal, incremental change of a conventional business. He says that if, like a conventional business, “you make things a little bit better for a lot of people, you’d better have a world class sales and marketing team and make sure that your solution is purchased, because it’s only a little bit better. “But if it’s a lot better, the money’s going to come and find you in a fair and elegant way.””[3]

A call to an Empirical Lifestyle:

We have to be careful for how the mind plays tricks on us in order to save us psychological angst: for example, self-handicapping is a psychological phenomenon where we intentionally sabotage our chances of success so that when we fail, we can blame it on circumstances that doesn’t affect our self-perception. If someone has a  test, they could intentionally not study because so that when they fail, they can blame it on their lack of preparation rather than their intelligence.

I don’t want to be like that. It’s better to have a lower actualized success than a potential colossal success that’s never achieved.

I can hide behind my expensive University of Toronto degree, fancy vocabulary and the sweet assurances of my mother that I’m the best thing since sliced bread. But if I really desire truth and mastery, I’ll throw myself in the deep end  for there lies Vera (No pun nor paradox intended for “lies”).

 As the Arabic saying goes, “The water belies the diver” المية تكدب الغطاس . This basically means “The Proof is in the pudding”. Water in this context could mean see or ocean. [4]

Oh fire, test my mettle! Oh Vera, I long for thee!


[1] I chose not to be consistent with the pronouns. As I’m trying to do 2 things in this piece: address my own situation and perhaps offer some food for thought, for someone who might be in the same boat as I am.

[2] Similarly, Check out Cal Newport’s advice to create a series of experiments that generates feedback in your career path in chapter 14: “Missions Require Little Bets” in his book “So Good they Can’t ignore you: Why Skills Trump Passion” .

[3] See this Justin Morrow’s article as well.

[4] The text on the mug says “Water belies the diver”. For the image on the mug and what it means to me, see Boiling Parts of the Ocean . Interestingly, my main metaphor for myself in Comparative Personalities is scuba diver.=

The Ultimate Guide To Make Your Anxiety Fun

Some really powerful thoughts here!

Anxiety is Fun

Anxiety is not fun. Ask any anxious person what fun is, and they’ve probably forgotten. Can you blame them? Anxious people are in constant inner battle with their thoughts, they cannot work, eat, sleep, or repeat properly. I always thought that I’d live the rest of my life trapped inside of my head, I hated my life, I hated myself. Everyone’s telling me it is all in my head, there’s nothing wrong with me, I should be more grateful, they didn’t understand how hard is it to wake up in the morning knowing my day will be nothing but fear.

Whenever I was anxious, or having a panic attack, I tried so hard to calm myself down, taking deep breaths, focusing on something else, and relaxing my tense muscles, nothing really worked. Medications helped me, but whenever I hear someone’s terrible story with them, I despise myself for taking them…

View original post 1,849 more words

I am the Desert’s Penguin

“Who am I?” We were grappling with this ultimate question in Wadi Rum Desert. My answer was: I’m the penguin’s desert بطريق الصحراء. This started out as a joke, but upon reflection, I think I’m going to seriously adopt it as my symbol.

How does this symbol fit me?

Fetching fish is research. The desert is a place where a writer can find inspiration and discipline away from the distractions of modern-day life. As a logophile, I can connect with the heritage of the wordsmith Bedouins, for they are masters of the word.

The harshness of the desert stirs me to be steadfast in pursuing the truth. It stands in juxtaposition with the friendly playful nature of the penguin. The odd animal’s pace is heavy and somewhat hesitant.


The whole scene captures my fascination with paradox!

*to address the elephant in the room: I shaved my head as I was asking a friend to do something crazy so the suggestion was shaving my head. It’s a very uncharacteristic style for me.WhatsApp Image 2019-08-03 at 2.46.39 PM(1)

Books that influenced my thought

I already posted a shorter version of this on LinkedIn. This has more authors and names of books as it’s not restricted by space such as LinkedIn posts.

Your books shaped my thought! If you’re mentioned here, I wanted to thank you. Your book (and in some cases, books) left an imprint on my brain and heart. Perhaps I’ll get the chance to elaborate more  on how you influenced me through one-on-one correspondence (or a blog post), but I just wanted to acknowledge  you in this small way.

Top authors who nourished me with their books over the years (This is the more work-related list).

Individual Differences (Talent /multiple intelligences etc/Flip paradox/ neurodiverity/personality)

Marcus Buckingham

StandOut 2.0

Ken Carbone


Philip Hathaway

The psychological elegance of talent

Thomas Armstrong

The Power of Neurodiversity

Edward R. Amend and James Webb

Misdiagnosis and dual diagnosis of gifted children

 Brock Eide and Fernette Eide

The Dyslexic Advantage

Mary-Dean Barringer, Craig Pohlman, Michele Robinson

Schools for All Kinds of Minds: Boosting Student Success by Embracing Learning Variation

 Steven Pfeiffer, Lisa Limburg-Weber, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius

Early Gifts: Recognizing and Nurturing Children’s Talents

Mel M.D. Levine

A Mind at a Time

Albert Bernsetien

Emotional vampires

Career choice and development; Job search

Warr and Clapperton

The Joy of Work?

Benjamin Todd

80,000 Hours: Find a fulfilling career that does good

Calvin Newport

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skill Trumps Passion

Margaret Lobenstine

The Renaissance Soul: How to Make Your Passions Your Life

Barbara Sher

Refuse To Choose! Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams

I could do anything if I only knew what it was

It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now: How To Create Your Second Life At Any Age

Jim Barret

Test Your Own Job Aptitude: Exploring Your Career Potential

Anita Houghton

Finding square holes

Richard Nelson Bolles

What color is your parachute?

Robert Greene


JDM/false perception

Dan Ariely

Predictably irrational, The upside of irrationality, The Honest Truth about Dishonesty

Robert Bartholomew

Outbreak (with Hillary Evans) and Hoaxes, Myths and Mania(with Benjamin Bradford)

Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

Mistakes were made but not by me


Chris Bailey

Productivity Project

David Allen

Getting Things Done

Tim Ferris

The 4-hour week

Internet Addiction

Nicholas Carr

The Shallows

Adam Alter


Gary Wilson

Your Brain on Porn

Health (Fitness and Light)

Michael Terman and Ian McMahan

Reset your inner Clock

Till Roennberg

Internal Time

Elena Rover

Chelsea Piers Solution


 Jon Hershfield

The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD

Jeffrey M. Schwartz

Brain Lock

Fiona, Challacombe, Victoria Bream Oldfield, Paul Salkovskis

Break Free from OCD


Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams,

Craft of Research (3rd ed.)

Allan Pease  Barbaraba Pease

The Definitive Book of Body Language

Gregory Hartley . Maryan Karinsch

The body language handbook

Walter Mischel

The Marshmallow Test


How to be an imperfectionist

Brene Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection

Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point


David and Goliath


Mark Manson

The subtle art of not giving a f*ck

Tim Hafford


Daniel Goleman

Emotional Intelligence. Social Intelligence

 Roger Fisher and William L. Ury

Getting to Yes

Recommended Best Picks

Recommended Best Picks: Tangible items after research/curation/study/collection etc of the best picks in a specific field (Could be a book, assessment, resources, tool, video, pick, etc….)

Topic Examples of Best-Picks


How to be an Imperfectionist By Stephen Guise


Productivity The Productivity Project


Choosing a career

The Joy of Work? (Clapperton & Warr)

Questionnaires of the book can be found under e-resources here



The excel sheet that I created that I include the many other psychometric assessments that those 2 were chosen from can be accessed here.




Research Tools and Resources





JDM (Judgement and Decision-Making)


Internet Addiction


Happiness and Positive Psych