Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Exposing fake and real degrees

Three years ago the US Secret Service in concert with Homeland Security busted a forgery ring. DVDs, Rolexes, designer handbags? No. University Degrees. It was called a diploma mill.

A fake university based out of Liberia (yes it's a real country) that provided you with a degree in a subject of your choosing for a small fee. Many people feel rightly outraged at how people have cheated the system. One law school student has had her education and job offer disappear when her fake undergrad degree was exposed. Another consultant's (with a fake PhD) website listed the RCMP and many major police forces as repeat clients.

Yes, what these people have done is dishonest. It is unfair to those who put in all the time to earn those credentials.

Let's talk about those people that took their fake degrees and got jobs. They were hired for their qualifications. People are hired for their skills, experience and knowledge. A degree represents skills & knowledge. If people were hired and successful at their jobs, what does this say about the degree itself? If one scams to get in the door, but doesn't get exposed by their lack of knowledge, is the degree meaningless?

The degree can be used to filter applicants. But does the degree give graduates a performance advantage? If a degree doesn't translate to noticeable real-world performance then employers should evaluate it's weighting in hiring decisions. Perhaps a degree is less about the material but an extended test of intelligence and perseverance. Is a degree just creating an aristocracy into the working world, where as our capitalist market should work on a meritocracy.


Related Links:
Phony Diploma Investigation (The Star)
College vs University

Monday, December 15, 2008

TSN 2 Disaster!

I'm a die-hard Toronto Raptors fan living in the GTA. I have the misfortune of being a Rogers subscriber. Due to what appears to be a fight over money Raptor games are not being broadcasted for a large percentage of the GTA. Despite the Raptors attempts at making themselves a national team it is still a very urban team. TSN is trying to force new subscribers to TSN2 by pushing content they agreed to put on TSN.

David Purdy of Rogers
:
We're big fans. We're working on an agreement that makes sense for our shareholders and customers, and we're confident we will see the Raptors' games on Rogers.
read: we think it costs too much and it takes away from our Sportsnet channels.

I am strongly considering the hassle of changing providers. Either way i'm going to get nickel & dimed by whatever provider but if Rogers wants to play like this, then they pay the price. Despite all the raptor games on TSN2 I may not subscribe to it this season. I'll go to a bar, listen on the radio. This sort of behaviour shouldn't be rewarded.

Another blow for the death of customer-service centred organization. I wonder what percentage of the GTA are (or were) Rogers customers? We could create a groundswell against TSN 2.

Next stop: Twitter.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Are you fueling the recession?

If you pick up a paper or watch the news you might think it's economic armageddon. Each day talk of losses in the market, bailouts and handouts all over. The word recession is thrown around like candy.

60-70% of GDP is consumer spending. There are some hurting sectors with people out of work. However, there are many, Many people with stable jobs who are hoarding cash waiting for the pending apocalypse. This is only going to fuel the recession

Let's keep it in perspective. The Bank Rate is now at 50 year lows meaning anyone on a variable rate mortgage has a lot of extra money in their account, or is paying down extra principle. Gas prices have also had a massive decline, filling up that big SUV isn't so painful anymore. Yes everyone's investments are down but with great fear brings great opportunity.

The market and to an extension the economy is built on consumer sentiment. Confidence in the market and the confidence to spend money is crucial. So give it some thought, if your in a fairly secure sector, if you feel safe in your job then Do Your Part. Spend some money!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Economic Crisis / Coup d'etat / or Learning Opportunity??

I'm proposing something different to deal with the major issues at hand. We should all turn to our children and find out if we're smarter than a 5th grader. Not the show, but the headlines highlight a huge learning opportunity. It might be good for us to revisit what we've learned and forgotten, and to address deficiencies in our education system.

The economic crisis is the major story as the effects of predatory lending and sub-prime mortgages are being felt throughout the economy. So what's the lesson? As computer science grad I understand the necessity for sciences. It's critical to our individual and collective success. However, I think financial literacy is an even bigger prerequisite and hole in our public education. How many people leave highschool without knowing how to balance their own chequebooks (who uses chequebooks anyhow?) or make up a budget. There's a misconception that if the bank will give us the money then it's okay. Then people end up house-poor and living paycheque to paycheque.

Second, Canadians are now in a political maelstrom regarding the state of the federal government. People are outraged at this apparent coup that the liberals/NDP & Bloc. The Tories are milking the connection with the bloc. Yes they're separatists but they still represent a part of Canadian voters. The idea that the Canadian voters elected Stephen Harper to lead the country is just plain Wrong. The Gov General selects the PM based on the makeup of the house post-election. We don't directly elect our president similar to the US. The coalition represents a larger amount of voters, is that less democratic or more?

There are problems, and I think it's a training problem.

Related Links:
http://www.parl.gc.ca/Information/library/inside/institutions-e.htm
http://smartpei.typepad.com/robert_patersons_weblog/2008/12/canada-coalition-government-speak-for-canada.html
http://www.jarche.com/2008/12/an-educated-and-informed-citizenry/

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rogers website is brutal

I prefer a more poetic title, but in this case the title is too accurate.

Periodically I will take a look at my bills in detail to compare services to see what's available. As a Rogers Internet & TV customer I went online to see what packages Rogers has available to see if there is something better suited to our needs.

I was shocked to see that Rogers Lite internet service is listed as 19.95 whereas I'm paying 32.95.
I then went to check on the price of my Extended Basic package which costs me 53.98/mth. The comparable VIP package is listed at 42.99 !!!

But wait of course there's a catch. It's a promo price for new customers. Of course, it was too good to be true. Bait and switch or "good marketing"? So I looked to find out what the Real prices were. And I looked some more. Couldn't find it. I could not find the prices. Even if the prices are there, being that buried is just ridiculous.

I had to call in and talk to a rep which was equally painful as it seemed their system terminology was different than the website.

I understand that you want to be as appealing as possible to new customers, but this disregard for your current customers is hard to swallow.

So i'll be shopping around. I'll be a new customer to Bell right?

Stock market parable

I normally frown on email forwards, but this one won't bring you bad luck if you don't follow it. Although it might explain some of our current misfortunes. From a learning perspective stories can do wonders in bringing meaning to abstract concepts and helping people learn.
Once upon a time, in a village, a man appeared and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each.The villagers, seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them. The man bought thousands at $10 and, as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He further announced that he would now buy at $20 for a monkey. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys
again. Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer increased to $25 each, and the supply of monkeys became so small that it
was an effort to even find a monkey, let alone catch it! The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now buy on behalf of him. In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers. "Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at $35, and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for $50 each." The villagers bounded up all their savings and bought all the monkeys.

They never saw the man nor his assistant again, only monkeys everywhere!

Friday, October 3, 2008

blame main street?

There's been a tonne of talk about the idea of letting a big chunk of the investment institutions fail. These are the firms that were making money in almost a fictitious sense with the repackaging of bad debt. The main problem being that since they were selling it off they didn't care about the viability of the debts. It's all their fault anyhow they got fat and greedy.

Wall Street is primarily to blame but the rest of us on Main Street do have some blood on our hands as well. Many people agreed to ridiculous mortgages. I'm sure there was some encouragement by banks and such, but in the end we're responsible for our own financial well-being. Did you sell your house in the last few years? Did you help inflate the market? Did you get excited on the idea of the extra long amortization? Did you get the biggest house you could possibly afford without regard to the idea of interest rates rising? A lack of financial literacy and common sense is a big part of the problem.

Links:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/03/opinion/03mclean.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1845209,00.html

Monday, September 29, 2008

is it Palin's fault?

David's got a good post about the predicament of Sarah Palin. I don't really think it can be placed squarely on her shoulders. Yes she seems grossly overqualified
Palin reminds of the poor unfortunates in a sports draft. Someone thinks that a kid's got potential, or fills a void in the roster and drafts them much earlier than their talent would dictate.
As their career pans out they're booed and tormented by fans because they're just not that good.

I think Palin is very similar. She appeared to be perfectly complimentary to McCain, young & female. Except there was one other compliment : incompetence (perhaps not so complimentary depending on your party lines). Now it appears to be a knee-jerk decision to steal the clinton camp.

Just like the athletes, it's not their fault they were selected. Most overrated athletes didn't ask to have a team built around them, it wasn't their choice. They were selected in the draft and given a big fat contract and opportunity. If the Republican party approached you tomorrow and said "we've changed our mind we'd now like you to be the next vice-president of the united states" - would you say no? I don't think I would. It really is the opportunity of a lifetime. Perhaps you're not ready or qualified, but by the time you are; they may not want you.

Opportunity knocks, but didn't call ahead.

Monday, September 15, 2008

step away from the bleeding edge

Friends returning from a trip to asia always comment on the archaic nature of the technology here. When one person goes, friends are putting in orders for new phones /cameras etc. Why is it we won't see this technology in N. america for another few years? Those with access to the asian market get to be all superior for "pfft that's soo two years ago". A post on the wikinomics blog argues that it's our fault.

We are satisfied with 3 yr cellphone contracts and 5 yr workstation lifecycles. Many offices run XP desktops connecting to windows 2000 servers. Since we do not demand cutting edge tech we don't get it. We are satisifed with our phones and music players. It's our fault.

I strongly disagree. It's not our fault. I do'nt think it's a fault at all. I would argue that the hyperactive technical obsolescence of asia is not a virtue. Technology for the sake of technology is not something I aspire for. Tossing out a perfectly good piece of technology just because something newer is available seems wasteful.

During a time of increased attention to the idea of sustainability, I think the bleeding edge is something we Should keep at a safe distance.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Still not a gamer - and a new career?

I've got a Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit & Rockband. Yet I can say with confidence that i'm still not a gamer. I bought Top Spin 3 hoping for an even better experience than the basic wii tennis. However, what I got was a video game. The Wiimote is still the focal point, but there's a lot more going. It's more involved in every facet of the game. One could argue it's a normal learning curve ... for a video game. I now realize that i'm not in that same demographic. The reviews on the game were decent but that came from a gamer. I want an experience that I can pick up the game and play with a minimal learning curve. The joy of the current wii games is how I can get others to play and enjoy themselves quickly.

Perhaps I could become a game tester for non-gamers. It would have to be a short test as a lengthy would run the risk of making me a gamer.

Related Posts:
video games and failure

Monday, September 8, 2008

Selecting a Personal Trainer

Continuing on from my previous post about the questions around personal trainers. Here are some tips on picking a personal trainer. Not all trainers are created equal. Sadly some of the base certifications are a bit of a joke.
  1. Does the trainer have experience getting the results you're looking for? e.g. Losing fat; bulking up; increasing endurance; sport-specific training. In something like personal training different goals require different approaches.
  2. Does your trainer offer nutritional coaching? Study after study will show that while weight-training is very important; a huge factor in your results are based on your diet. Calories in, calories out, it's simple And true. A trainer that promises great results and doesn't provide solid guidance on nutrition is failing you. Spending a tonne of money over a short-period of time on training without nutritional-advice is a recipe for disappointment. A trainer that tells you to simply "eat sensibly" is doing a disservice. Honestly if you were eating sensibly you wouldn't be in this predicament in the first place.
  3. Does the trainer work hours that work for you? Maybe you're a morning person and love to get into the gym at 6am but your trainer loves the night-life and drags himself in consistently @ 6:05 and trains you half-asleep. Or do you hate working out in the morning like me?
  4. Will you be receiving your own programme? Working out with a trainer will help you break plateaus and extend your body's limits. However you need to be accountable for your own results. To see these results you'll need to workout on your own at times. At first you will work out with them often, but a good program will let you do it yourself and your trainer can monitor your progress in your workout log and keep you on track.
A few simple ideas on how to get the most out of an investment in a personal trainer.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Rock Band 2.0

I'm not a rocker by any stretch of the imagination. But i do love me some Rock Band. Perhaps since i'm a failed wannabe drummer and just a bit of coordination in this game will take you a long way.
I have Rock Band for the Wii, and while I do love it, I am a bit envious of PS3 & Xbox folks that can download tracks and add to their catalog.

One aspect that is the natural evolution of this game is bringing song creation to the masses. Looking at MySpace and what it's done to create a groundswell for music artists, Rockband could be the next big thing. Myspace allowed artists to connect with fans in a much more intimate way. Fans had access to songs pre-release, or web-only songs, artists blogs. Communities were created which inspired loyalty, the artists built their brand on this.

Now picture how fans will feel if they go to their favourite indy artist's site and can download their songs to play along. I think that's something they'd pay for. By putting it on RockBand or Guitar Hero, you're getting what every artist wants : fans to sing and play along over and over again.

That's connecting with your audience on another level.

Do you want a personal trainer?

You've had enough. It's time for a change. You don't like the way you look/feel. But you're not sure how to get the job done. You feel uncomfortable and intimidated at the gym. The next idea is to get a personal trainer. Let them show you the ropes put you on a program.

I've worked out for awhile, I'm not the poster boy for results by any means but I'm in decent shape. Last year, as I approached a milestone I decided I wanted to get serious about training. I've often been very skeptical of the ideas of personal training. I've had guys try and sell me on their services in the gym. I've seen what they've done with clients (borderline negligent at times). I interviewed a bunch of trainers at different gyms to understand their value proposition, background etc. I've spoken to others about their experience and a few things were recurring.
First step is that you should ask yourself a few questions.
  1. What's your goal? Do you want to bulk up, lose fat, increase your endurance. You need to be clear about what you want. Create measurable goals and work on them with your trainer. Ensure that they feel they're reasonable and you will be satisfied by meeting them.
  2. When do you want to workout ? Maybe you're a morning person and love to get into the gym at 6am but your trainer loves the night-life and drags himself in consistently @ 6:05 and trains you half-asleep.
  3. How bad do you want this? Are you just starting or completing a big project at work? Are you going to be on the road a lot? This question is two-fold. If you're going to plunk down some serious coin to get a trainer you better be prepared to commit to making changes (e.g. getting to gym 3x /week and changing your eating habits). Are you able to make this kind of commitment right now? Second, if you have a lot going on in your life and this is just a passing fad that you want to "get into shape" (whatever that means, see question 1) then let it pass. Try and work out with a friend see how committed you are to this goal. No sense in wasting good money on something you really don't care about. A trainer can motivate you for the session, for it to pay off you need to be accountable to yourself 24/7. Training is hard work to begin with. A trainer will push you to excel every session, but if you're not willing to give it your all then just save yourself some cash.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

changes in software maintenance

There appears to be a growing revolt against the boilerplate approach to software maintenance pricing(see zdnet). As a vendor, I appreciate how much revenue this draws in. At the same time from a customer standpoint it can be a challenge in today's cost-cutting environment.

The idea of declining fees or a customer-specific agreement are an interesting and at the same time troubling idea.

Successful software companies are often judged on their maintenance revenue. A company relying on just implementation dollars could be considered a consulting company. This will change the way software companies are valued, and force them to create new

Is the customer actively applying updates?
Is the customer constantly calling for support or new enhancements?
Perhaps the fee would be based on some level of activity metric. Do you have new users entering the system? Rolling out a new phase?

Maybe some sort of rolling average factoring support calls, implementations and active users.

This seems to ring true as a better way to provide value to clients. At the same time this adds much more complexity to software maintenance. It would almost sound like an annual negotiation process between vendor and client debating on the merits of their app usage. A reasonable process could keep clients who can't justify the baseline maintenance fee given their usage.

Is this a necessary evolution vendor nightmare?

Related Links:
http://blogs.zdnet.com/Howlett/?p=459

are police the answer to the homeless question?

There's a report today about how the Chinatown Business Improvement Area has hired private security to get rid of panhandlers. The toronto council is being called out for not meeting the needs of the city.

"City council should be putting more cops on the streets to address this!"

I don't know if that's the answer. Maybe I'm too far down the left-wing but using cops / security to remove panhandlers is a response to a symptom without any regard for the cause. Adding cops is just a nimby attitude.

One response was to highlight how McDs & Timmy's are actively recruiting (TV & Radio spots) for employees thus people must be Choosing to panhandle. When you're of no fixed address I suppose it's difficult to receive a call for an interview. I also wonder how open managers are to the idea of hiring people down on their luck, since homeless are normally treated as criminals. To me the idea that panhandlers make more money than a legitimate job seems laughable. It reeks of rationalization by a society too eager to step over anyone rather than lend a hand. I'm sure like everything to do with money there are those that can exploit a set of circumstances to their advantage. I would say these con-men are the outliers not the norm.

I wonder if there've been anyone like Sudhir Venkatesh to do an in-depth study on the homeless to better understand the issues.

Related Links:
http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/reprint/167/5/477.pdf
http://tinyurl.com/5cjnj8

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

where's my data

It's an increasing trend for myself (and others) to move data online. My bookmarks? Del.icio.us. My Documents? Google Docs. Other lists are now a part of my NetVibes page.

Last night I wanted to a look up a book I had heard about the other day. No sweat I'll just check my notes page on my homepage with a special note on books but - Netvibes was down....this is bull$hit i'm paying how much a month for this flaky service??

oh Yeah. i'm paying nothing. So why am I putting so much faith and giving up so much control?
It's all about the convenience I suppose. Bookmarks available whenever notes available wherever.

Am I putting way too much trust in the cloud?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

missing in rapid e-learning

Rapid eLearning tools are becoming a standard. The ability to quickly create content develop interactions without web developer skills is a necessity. The reduction in the cost of instruction is amazing. The great thing with these tools are that anyone can create learning content. The problem is - anyone can create content. The argument being made is that unqualified people are creating bad content (powerpoint, word documents, Email...).

Providing tools to improve the quality of the content can't hurt. I think a larger benefit can be had by automating how we build content. Can we create a tool to help the author analyze the information? Is it declarative knowledge (perhaps more user-friendly questions)? If so then these are the ways you should present the information. Is it procedural knowledge, then try this. Maybe in some sort of wizard format. You create the learning objectives and determine the knowledge type. From there you could drill down and get more detailed. Perhaps some time of decision tree where a user categorizes the information and the desired performance change, then a tool could suggest options. Perhaps we'll call it rapid instructional design. It doesn't provide a very holistic approach to learning but that would be more about correctly aggregating objectives together.

More to come.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cigarettes & LMS'

Your LMS will not cause cardiovascular disease. Each time you use your LMS is will not shorten your life by 11 minutes. Still, I believe a traditional LMS is similar to cigarette. A Learning Management System is supposed to be about tracking a user’s learning. What progress have they made, what courses have they taken what are their scores? In reality I think this is not quite true. An LMS is about pushing information. Let me elaborate.

Cigarettes are a means of delivering nicotine. Big Tobacco has fought this, but that’s the truth of it. There’s a certain image perpetuated, but that’s just the sales pitch. Cigarettes deliver nicotine and all of its “benefits” to your body. It’s a somewhat acceptable means to get a fix (versus chewing tobacco).

Learning Management Systems deliver content to users. What about all the other new functionality? Those are how vendors stay relevant and sell new versions. It’s similar to how Microsoft has to keep “improving” the word processor (read: extra features that I have to learn just to complete basic tasks). I’ve been in discussions about our online learning strategy. I think our strategy is two-fold, Content & LMS software. I believe the emphasis has been incorrectly weighted towards software. Our LMS’ primary purpose is to support the training and rollout of our main solution. The best way to do this is to provide a large catalog of high-quality content. The goal of a learning solution is to bring about change. Content is what delivers a change in performance the LMS is more about the project management.

So what went wrong? When working on online learning content, and software development, where should the resources go? One might think that software is more important. Functionality is King! Making software is cool, we’re providing more capabilities to customers! In reality The primary value to clients is content. That’s the value proposal, that should be the primary focus.

The tide is turning as large corporations are consolidating technology. It’s much less likely to have LMS for a single department within a company. Instead they will subscribe to an online course, or purchase content to use within their existing corporate system. You can’t really argue with it, having a central learning repository is important. LMS functionality is becoming commoditized. It’s becoming a value-add on an HRMS, CMS etc.

So when given the choice for development remember that clients will always need a content fix. Whether it’s through your LMS or not.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Must Focus!!

There is a significant amount of noise these days. Much of Knowledge Management is about helping people cope with the massive amounts of information available to them. George Siemens had a nice little post that got me thinking. Knowledge workers are bombarded with email, IM, twitter etc. New media is becoming more centred on commercial-size chunks. YouTube videos and micro-blogs are a perfect example. Finding the time to listen to a 20 minute podcast feels daunting at times. I really feel my ability to focus has been compromised by too much time multi-tasking. In the moments where I have important tasks to complete I find difficulty focusing on it to just "git'er done". I'm far too used to just clicking a link and going down the rabbit hole.


Related Posts

Shut UP already

Multi-tasking?



Tuesday, June 24, 2008

easy validation

When searching on obscure topics I'm bound to get results from questionable sources. When I see a more modern layout, it lends creedence to the source. The article in question could be out of date or a complete fallacy but the layout validates it. I noticed today a newer form of validation.

When a site has social media buttons ( submit to Digg, Reddit, Del.icio.us) Since that site is "more hip" I'm more inclined to dig deeper.

What other cues do you find when you encounter new sites?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

twitter loyalty?

With developers apparently jumping off the bandwagon it's natural to assume users will follow. As less development occurs other tools will become more integrated and easier to use.

As a user do you care? if i move to friendfeed, getting reconnected would be a pain, but i'm not really leaving much behind. Links are bookmarked in del.icio.us. Personally I don't really favourite many tweets. If I like a link I tag it. The real-time nature of twitter doesn't translate that well for long-term value.

Related Links:
http://staynalive.com/articles/2008/06/19/developers-bailing-on-twitter/

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

video games and failure

Let's say you're 10 years old again. You drop the game-ending flyball and your friends won't let you live it down for a week. Bomb on your math test, your Dad won't let you go on that trip.
In your latest PS3 shoot-em up game you run around trying to kill the bad guys. If you get shot and die? That's terrible right? what will you ever do???

How about select continue and try again. No big deal. You get booed off the stage in Guitar Hero - fine. Load it up let's have another go.

No wonder kids love video games. In the real world failure Sucks. People remind you of failure even hold it over your head ("well remember that time..."). In gaming, there's no punishment there for failing. You don't let anyone down. You just play.

With new revolution to gaming from the Nintendo Wii, the door has opened even wider to let video games become a teaching tool. The Wii has allowed us to take gaming from the controller-elite to anyone.

How can we take a lesson from video games and create painless failure in learning environments?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gap? more like gorge...

Work Literacy asks: is there a gap in work literacy?. The idea behind work literacy are methods and processes that could make people more proficient in their jobs.

A group of engineers gather. The client is not happy. The technical problem is tougher than expected. Everyone's in the war room to figure it out. You start to explain that you've figured it out... but no one gets it. They look for a second and stare. Then someone else pipes on and everyone is onto another idea... but you had it... why won't they listen, why don't they get it?

There is a big gap inbetween intelligence and effectiveness, that gap is communication. I would call it a massive gap or gorge. Your effectiveness is directly related to your ability communicate ideas.

I meet and work with many bright minds on a regular basis. Their intuition and insight continuously amazes me. The sticking point is that I see a lot of wasted time when people can't successfully exchange ideas. Their brilliance is hindered by their language. Many people are unable to structure, and present their ideas in a coherent fashion. It's something I catch myself struggling with. I understand it in my head but the practice of making it easy for someone else to grasp is a different matter.

Regular practice is the key to successfully communicating. Presenting, and writing on a regular basis will only help improve your writing. You can also learn from other examples of good communication, but practice will yield the most benefit.

The ability to structure and communicate ideas concisely and effectively is hugely under-valued.
No matter how smart you are, unless you work completely on your own, if you can't convey your ideas - you're useless.

Related Links:
http://www.workliteracy.com/work-literacy-gap
Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson
Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Voices That Matter) by Garr Reynolds

Friday, May 30, 2008


Social Media in Plain English from leelefever on Vimeo.

Another outstanding contribution from the crew at Common Craft. They always craft their messages using a great metaphor and bring complicated concepts down to the bare essentials. I find them an inspiration for learning professionals. In an age where people tend to cram as much material as possible into a training session the ability to distill information down to core concepts is key. Their story technique works wonders for retention.

A great example of information design.

Monday, May 12, 2008

ugh...

heading to user conference in Montreal. My head has been in a fog all weekend with no remedy in site. Presenting on Tuesday & Wednesday... this ought to be hilarious. If anything the aches and pains should make for some good tweets.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Social Knowledge Management (Pt 2 of...)

We're doing a talk on how our customers can better understand and use social software to further their knowledge management initiatives. I took this question to my social network. LinkedIn Answers is a great tool for tapping the wisdom of the crowds.

I posed the following question

How can we use the enthusiasm and technology of web 2.0 within knowledge management initiatives?

I got some great responses, which also spawned a few followup discussions. People are optimistic about "Enterprise 2.0" and its adoption. Sharepoint is a traditional collaboration tool which Microsoft is attempting to "socialize". Other more familiar 2.0 tools mentioned were the suite from 37signals

It would appear that the tools are there and maturing. However, with any Knowledge Management initiative the tools are not enough. The people using the tools are the ones that build the knowledge base (Bad tools never help the cause either). So I go back to the question of the enthusiasm and passion people have for using social software. No one pays me to tag, digg, tweet or blog, yet it I do it all the time. What do people get from doing it?

Reputation.

In cyberspace (why does no one use that term anymore?) reputation rules. Reputation gets you subscribers, twitter followers, referrals etc. What's the simplest way to implement reputation in an application? Rating systems where content authors are scored by the community? What about editors? How about those that attempt to game the system when incentives are placed on ratings.

"Who will rate the raters?"

Related Posts:
Social Media & Knowledge Management

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cellphones, Driving & Learning Cognition

There's a growing debate amongst the effect of cellphones while driving. While it would seem to be logical that cellphones would increase the rate of accidents. However a recent study proved otherwise. A study of regions that have banned cellphones while driving reported no decrease in the rate of accidents. There is some difficulty in producing hard data as to whether accidents are reduced. How many people will admit to being on the phone? Within the learning field there is a similar discussion about the effect of distracting the user through different forms of media.

So if accidents aren't decreasing, this seems to elude to two options.

1) Cellphones aren't a distraction
2) Drivers are still using their cellphones

People for banning cellphones would argue that the number of accidents involving phones are going down. Those opposed to the ban point to stats and state that it doesn't make a difference. So it follows that other types of accidents are going up. So a third option appears:

3) Drivers are finding other distractions

Okay. So what's this got to do with learning. As of late there's more weight being given to cognitive science. Cognitive science tells us how our mind processes stimuli. When taking learning it's distracting to have both audio narration and redundant text narration. What's being read fights with what's being heard for the mind to process. In a car it's the same thing, passengers talking, tunes playing, GPS systems directing, DVD movies playing. Everything takes its toll on the mind.

No matter what the study says distractions - Bad. Whether people are distracted by cellphones, coffee, the newspaper, makeup, or passengers if they're not focussed on the road - it's a problem. Despite the clear evidence, can eliminating a distraction hurt? Any data to show that talking on a cellphone improves a person's driving? I suppose without hard evidence we shouldn't restrict liberties (unless it helps the terrorists - I digress).


See Also:
Calgary Herald

Friday, April 18, 2008

shut up already

I like twitter, really i do. But it's not a good signal to noise ratio. I'm trying to be very selective on who I follow. I'm extra careful with my notifications. but it's increasingly difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I understand the value in getting closer in touch with people through these life streams. Part of why i follow people is to find insight and perspective. The aimless blabber with some twitter streams is tough to justify.

Why must it be justified? - Because twitter is eating into my day more and more. following Guy Kawasaki & Jeremiah Owyang along could be a part-time job.

I follow a selected few, and don't read everything, how on earth do people with hundreds or thousands manage? Are they ignored for the most part except for the occasional trip to twitterland? With the lack of good search tools (hash tags are a good step) what's the point in all those followers are people really keeping up or are they just basing it on chance?

Tech Crunch: Web 3.0 Will Be About Reducing the Noise—And Twhirl Isn’t Helping
Seth Godin: Signal to Noise

How do you cope?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Learning ROI

In the ASTD big question - what would I like to do better is communicate ROI on training investments across the organization.

*Bam* the very next day this comes out from Chief Learning Officer. The rest of the organization speaks in dollars and cents, revenues and expenses, if you don't speak in their language you're done. Getting the right metrics is key. In software training, what type of metrics can we use?

The whole point of training initiative is to meet a performance objective. For me this often means supporting a new rollout. Perhaps we need to tie specific modules to tasks in the project. Then post go-live managers can monitor and match training completion to "real-world tasks". After completing the report writing topic, have the user create a report. How well did they complete the task? If they did well - great. If they didn't, how does the real task compare to what they accomplished in class? Are the tasks comparable?

There is a great deal of discussion that ROI is not an appropriate metric for learning, I don't know if that's an acceptable answer for anyone in a corporate environment. Everything comes down to the bottom line. I recently came across "Developing and Measuring Training the Six Sigma Way: A Business Approach to Training and Development" by Kaliym A. Islam. I haven't gotten my hands on it yet but I'm looking forward to evaluating learning programs without the classic Kirkpatrick's 4 Levels.

What other tangible methods of learning are available?

Related Posts
Better ROI

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Learning Town

When I first heard about this, I had the same reaction as most. Of course, that's what we need- another social network.

But actually we do. I haven't been too active yet, but I'm getting into it now.

It's definitely still in its infancy, similar to FastCompany many users are unsure of the structure - how & where to post. The sheer volume of people registering and posting in such a short period of time would appear to bode well. There are some great posts and starting points on Rapid eLearning, instructional design models and even Learning ROI. From a social networking standpoint I haven't friended anyone - yet. Since the conversations are open to all so I'm not seeing the value in that, but the connections will come in time.

I'm still working my Social Media & KM project so I will start seeding questions on Learning Town and see how it goes as well.

In the meantime, I'd invite you to join the conversation and look me up.

Toronto Gun Ban - misguided?

In the last few days Mayor David Miller has launched an online campaign to put pressure on the feds to ban handguns. The immediate reaction is why, do criminals attempt to legally acquire handguns before performing illegal activities? To me the logic doesn't work.

The mayor has created a video plea & a petition. There's a letter to the PM and a factsheet. The letter called for the feds to completely ban handguns. Before passing judgement, I decided to give it a better look. There isn't any real mention of the guns being illegally imported and what to do about that.

An interesting quote from the factsheet:
Approximately 60% to 66% (two-thirds) of guns seized by the Toronto Police
Service enter Canada illegally across the Canada-U.S. border, and about one-third (up to 40%) are from domestic sources.
None of these stats are more recent than 2006 but I wouldn't think there's been a big change. If anything there's probably been an increase in gun violence. That's over 1/3 of gun seizures are registered handguns. To me that was startling. This stat doesn't reveal whether those weapons were involved in crimes or turned in voluntarily. Removing 1/3 of the guns off the street sounds like a pretty good idea. Perhaps then we'd have less excuses and could go after the other 2/3 of illegal weapons.

It does seem that we're going after law-abiding citizens. Should we get rid of all the cars so drunk drivers will have nothing to drive with? What percentage of legally registered guns are used criminally? I'm pretty sure about 100% of illegals guns are used for criminal purposes. Perhaps tougher registration laws are in order, increase the level of responsibility on gun owners to ensure that they are serious about their collecting, sport or whatever.

While I think the Mayor should be targeting the illegal guns which are all about illegal activity. Removing 1/3 of the guns used illegally can't be that bad an idea.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Will you be missed?

Seth Godin has a good post about standing out. If a certain brand up and vanished, would you miss it? I know apple inspires this sort of rabid loyalty.

Seth extends this to people. What mark have you made? Will you be missed? Will anyone notice? In today's organizational culture people are meant to be plug and play. With development and succession planning everyone is replaceable. The backup has a backup.

From an organizational view I understand it. Personally I would like to stand out. When I leave here I would like to be missed. It means I made a difference. Not just another 9-5er. I made an impact. I think this comes from going above and beyond. Making the effort to connect with clients. Helping them understand their needs not just the extent of their budget. Connecting with co-workers, helping them grow as well.

I want to be missed.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Better ROI

The Learning Circuits Blog: Do Better

The ASTD's Big Question of April 2008 is:

What would you like to do better as a learning professional?
A very broad question that could go in so many different directions. To me it's a simple question. I need to be able to sell the ROI on learning better. Large userbase, wide geography, cost of travel, logistics are the standard selling points. This comes all down to cost. So long as it's cheaper than a classroom program it's better.

The value of e-learning is much more than a cost-savings issue. Interactive, engaging content available just-in-time is a very valuable resource. How can we as professionals impress that across our organizations? Often I work with new rollouts. Being a new initiative there isn't concrete evidence that support calls are up, people are having difficulty. I can't come back one year later and show how calls have gone down, thus performance is up.

I suppose I should be grateful that users aren't being left to fend for themselves from the outset. Users are provided with tools. However, since we've always had the tools it's difficult to understand life without them. The value becomes an unknown quantity.User surveys don't bring insight as users don't know what they don't know (yet). In the end I'm left with this question:

How can I better impress the value of eLearning across the organization?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Social Media & Knowledge Management

As part of our user conference we're having a discussion of what we can learn from the world of social media when implementing a knowledge management initiative. I think there's a huge opportunity to learn from Social Media, not just with regards to knowledge management.

Usability, collaboration, flattening hierarchies, wisdom of the crowds, openness. Some of the basic ideas of social media.

So what better way to explore the idea than to use social media? Sort of social media On Social Media. Not a unique concept - just go on del.icio.us and see how many people tag pages with "del.icio.us." So we'll start with this post. This will probably turn into a series of posts to help clarify some ideas. I'll post some questions in some other areas and see what comes up.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

instructional design- reality check

Most of what's discussed on instructional design is toward the ideal scenario. What Should we be producing. In the ideal world we're talking about an immersive unique experiential environment. This becomes half-systematic and half-creative exercise.

I'm looking for ways to work this into our current design methodology, creativity comes at a very tangible price. The implementation becomes considerably longer when we don't use a cookie cutter approach software rollouts don't always allow for such timelines. Clients are generally pleased with the end result. True ROI on learning, and testing of retention is not done as often as we'd like - why? again, because it's not in the budget.

It's refreshing to hear Cammy represent this same train of thought http://learningvisions.blogspot.com/2008/03/e-learning-project-reality-guerrilla.html

Clean water for all

You can do a good thing but just ordering a glass of water.

Cara foods
is involved in a great project with Unicef. The Tapproject.ca is about having customers donate 1$ for each glass of tap water in order to help unicef provide access to safe drinking water and sanitation for over 90 countries.

From the website:
It's our single most bountiful resource. Yet, water is a daily privilege millions take for granted. The little known truth is that lack of clean and accessible drinking water is the second largest worldwide killer of children under five.
Cara restaurants are Swiss Chalet, Harvey's, Milestones, Montana's & Caseys. So do some good, go have a drink!

A great way to promote awareness raise some money. Besides drinking bottled water is for chumps.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

potential versus profits

Last week, Gerald Green of the Houston Rockets was cut from the team. Amidst their amazing win streak they needed to get bigger in Yao's absence. In his place they got Mike Harris, the antithesis of Green. Hardworking, hustler, takes nothing for granted.

Some were quick to point to Green's Prep to Pros path as the cause. "If he only went to college" perhaps he could've refined his game, upped his basketball IQ and become something really special. He never fulfilled all the hype. He made a massive slide in the draft itself, because of questions surrounding his work-ethic.

So do you fault him and his agent, family etc for not going to college first? What about the millions he made on his rookie contract. He might have gone to college, and been revealed, and Never drafted. Should he have turned it down and gone to college?

Why shouldn't he cash in when given the chance? If the NBA continues to devalue skill over potential then that's their fault.

If it were me, given the opportunity- even if I knew I had big gaping holes in my game, i take that shot. I go to the league, I take that massive cheque. Wouldn't you? Nothing's stopping him from going to college now, getting an education using that rookie money. He could also play overseas which could renew his love and drive to play the game.

For his sake I really hope he gets it together to realize some of that incredible potential.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

i should not OBAY!

Back in January and February there was a great little campaign that most people in the GTA noticed. It was a parody on a new drug that would make child conform to their parent's will. Odd, no one was quite sure what it was about. In the end it was Ontario Colleges, an advocacy group encouraging... college.

The idea that many students are being herded into college so their parents can live through them is one many people have experienced. Looking back, I don't recall entertaining the idea of going to college. All through highschool it was all about going to university. Calling college a distant second doesn't do it justice. I don't think it was even an option. Realizing the opportunities my parents never had wasn't too big of an agenda, or so I think.

I see in my family now that my younger cousins are being strongly encouraged. I think it's a very valid debate. Colleges have gotten a bad rap. Universities have received a false title. College is for kids that couldn't get into university; university will get you a good job.

From a person with Computer Science degree I can still say that university is (and should be) about thinking - Not getting a job. University is about becoming a more well-rounded person, being able to critically think for yourself. The lines have been clouded by the idea that you can't get a job without university. Schools have created more and more specialization to make students more attractive to employers. Where have all the free-thinkers gone? I guess that's bound just to Liberal Arts now.

I've heard about the coming shortage of skilled trades with the bulk of baby boomers nearing retirement. However I haven't heard of rates for tradespeople going through the roof yet. Perhaps I should consider a new career now, by the time I get through school and an apprenticeship all the boomers will be retired, and I could rake it in at a Y2k consultant-type pace.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Knowledge Management Defined?

It's neither concise or well-defined, very similar to Knowledge Management itself. Ray Sims provides a great starting point for defining KM. Forty-three different definitions from various sources. Personally, I could only whittle down my favorite to a half-dozen. I think one of the main distinctions I'd like to see is Information Management versus Knowledge Management. I honestly don't think that is too clear either.

Ray is going to further elaborate through a cloud map and classifications. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Irresponsible

As it does almost every month, this month's ASTD question is something I'm currently grappling with:

What is the Scope of our Responsibility as Learning Professionals?

Let's start by clarifying the question, by asking more questions.


Do instructors need to adapt to Long Tail Learning?
What's an instructor's traditional scope of learning?
Is an instructor's ultimate role to help students or teach certain content?

I think Long Tail learning is a fact of life that cannot be ignored. We could choose to not acknowledge it but that would only serve to marginalize ourselves. The long tail is the way things work, and we must embrace it. A learners attention is split in so many different ways. Our tools now embrace this through RSS, and other cross-linking capabilities. Now our methods and approach must also embrace it. When classroom discussions go off on a tangent it might be impractical to enable it. There is material to cover in a fixed amount of time. A skilled instructor might be able to direct the discussion back on point but it’s a tight-wire act.

In an online format time is less of an issue. The same requirements on curriculum do apply but without the constraint of time we can go out on a tangent. The curriculum will still remain, the onus falls on the user to come back and finish what they’ve started. The learner remains responsible. These tangents can bring a deeper understanding of the material.

Traditionally an instructor has a given curriculum which guides lesson plans which defines materials and the discussion. That is very deep inside the box. I’ve had some great instructors that were able to take you on a journey to look at the subject from a very different angle. What appeared to be off-topic was really spinning ideas to foster learning. These are the teachers that you know have spent a great deal of time & effort crafting their message looking at things from different viewpoints to give students the best learning opportunity. When other topics appear, they let it blossom, hopeful that it will raise interest to new heights. These are the teachers that inspired you to do more, read more, maybe even pursue a career.

Ultimately I think the real role of an instructor is to provide this best opportunity for learning. We cannot force learning. We can only provide the information in the most engaging format possible to help students learn. This learning should not be just about the curriculum. It should inspire a hunger for more depth and breadth on the topic at hand. Great instructors should help students learn, and make you to want to learn.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

sometimes it's better to just shut up

In any technical environment it's very common that the most technically sound individuals are given leadership roles. There should be two career paths. One for leaders of people and one for leaders of technology. Technically brilliant individuals should be recognized for their efforts and hardwork. However, recognizing the one talent at the expense of the team and its goals is not worthwhile. This is what can happen when technical individuals become managers.

http://discussionleader.hbsp.com/goldsmith/2008/01/tips_for_managing_smart_people.html

The need to display one's technical supremacy comes at a cost. When the cost is de-motivating the members of the team - that cost is too high. I've often looked at ideas and thought about adding my own spin on it. I did add some value, but then the person with the original idea doesn't feel the same ownership. Might they have worked harder and come to the same conclusion on their own? Seems like a solid growth opportunity. The leader must sublimate himself or herself for the greater good.
Achievement is about me. Leadership is about them.-unknown

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

watt is in the bag?

I was at my local library yesterday picking up some reading material. I went to the check-out desk and found a a small stand from the power company. There were about two dozen packages. Within each package was $$$

http://tinyurl.com/2tg6x6

What a fantastic idea on multiple fronts. The campaign to conserve energy is all well and good but you need to enable people to understand their drain on the system their footprint etc. I've seen many sites on calculating offsets but that was estimation and felt more like guesswork. This watt reader allows you to plug any device into the wattreader which plugs directly into the wall. From there the reader will let you know exactly how much current is being drawn.

This will allow you to understand the phantom load of many common devices. A great application to help people better understand their footprint, and how much it costs them on a daily basis.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

book review: Don't Make me Think by Steve Krug

This book is an absolute must-read for all developers. Especially pertinent to web developers but incorporating the principles of usability into your development process of a client or server app would be invaluable. Krug is a usability expert and that's how makes his living. However if you're not prepared to shell out the big bucks fortunately for you he provides tonnes of examples and even tells you how conduct usability testing yourself.

Another aspect to this book is that it's a complete joy to read. This is not the case for most technical books. There is a light-heartedness to it that helps keep you engaged. Of course, the layout is straight-forward and easy on the eyes. Krug recognizes the hypocrisy of many books that preach about being engaging and interesting in a dull prose.

This was a book I had heard a lot about, but never got around to reading it. I wish I had read this sooner. There are about a dozen projects I can think of off-hand where this information would have been a huge help.

Go get it, read it now. If you've already read it, pick it up again, keep it close at hand. Looking at the majority of what I see at work and online, this should be required reading before people can develop anything.

Friday, February 1, 2008

twittering?

Much is made of the power of the people in blogging. Now there's microblogging like twitter. Twitter enables you to post brief (< 140 chars) messages to the twitter universe. The social aspect is that users can follow whoever they please. Following a person means you want to receive any updates they post. Thanks to it's API you can use twitter through a web page, mobile and even IM. In a nutshell, your IM or Facebook status is now an entire application in itself.

Similar to blogging, one wonders, what's the point? Is the fact that I finally built those shelves in the garage of concern to anyone? I'm stuck in traffic - who cares? In this ultra-connected time where we have so much information at our fingertips -how can we prioritize and validate sources of information? How can we filter information better? We have friends we trust and value their opinions. Using social networks we validate information for each other. All sorts of recommendations on links, websites and applications. Blogging enables people to share insights and ideas. If I'm looking for a particular service I could throw a question out and get a response within minutes.

Going back to my shelves, let's say a friend is planning on putting up shelves in their own garage. They contact me directly to gain advice on insight on how they should proceed. Stuck in traffic on the DVP? good to know, I'll go down Bayview instead. Twitter enables instant messaging in an open forum. There's that open word again. Instead of messaging a friend, you message the world. You're real-time broadcasting from any computer or net-connected device. Are all updates that worthwhile? Probably not, but it allows us to stay connected over the large net expanse. That's the whole point of this whole social media revolution.

Twitter is definitely still in it's infancy, but there appears to be a groundswell. It might still be too early to tell if micro-blogging will catch on. I think it will, but the tools will need to mature. Searching & filtering must and will improve. From a little poking around, I get the impression that many people have visited and left. I don't think this is too far ahead of it's time, but it is ahead of the curve.

Be sure to hit me up : twitter/ebala

Monday, January 14, 2008

mulligan

Those crafty Atlanta Hawks didn't get away with it. Back in Nov 06 the Raps got beaten by the crooked scorers table deducting a point for a basket and other shenanigans (check a recap here).

The main thing is that the Hawks got busted this time. The Atlanta Hawks and Miami heat will replay the final minute of their Dec 19th OT. On Dec 19th the Shaq was incorrectly awarded an extra foul. As a result Shaq fouled out with 51.9 seconds remaining in overtime. Horford hit two free throws and from there is when the game will resume on March 8, 2008.