Saturday, February 28, 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Peter Senge on Systemic Change

Understanding Projects!

Pics from SLATT

Can you guess what the (interestingly drawn) pictures represent? Hint.

Negotiation: Principles & Tactics

View more presentations from Alwyn Lau.
A PDP presentation to students in the Hotel school.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

Why Bother Having a Resume?

Some radical advice from Seth Godin:
This is controversial, but here goes: I think if you're remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular, you probably shouldn't have a resume at all.

Not just for my little internship, but in general. Great people shouldn't have a resume.

Here's why: A resume is an excuse to reject you. Once you send me your resume, I can say, "oh, they're missing this or they're missing that," and boom, you're out.

Having a resume begs for you to go into that big machine that looks for relevant keywords, and begs for you to get a job as a cog in a giant machine. Just more fodder for the corporate behemoth. That might be fine for average folks looking for an average job, but is that what you deserve?

If you don't have a resume, what do you have?

How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects?

Or a sophisticated project they can see or touch?
Or a reputation that precedes you?
Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?

Some say, "well, that's fine, but I don't have those."

Yeah, that's my point. If you don't have those, why do you think you are remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular? It sounds to me like if you don't have those, you've been brainwashed into acting like you're sort of ordinary.

Great jobs, world class jobs, jobs people kill for... those jobs don't get filled by people emailing in resumes. Ever.

What to Wear for an Interview

Virtual Teaming (by Jeroen Van Bree)

View more presentations from jvbree. (tags: virtual teams)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Books White Bread for the Mind?

At least that's what Clark Aldrich is saying:

We are very proud of books. Many have a religious zeal about them, especially those old enough to remember when they were scarce, or with strong connections to people who did. We all have books that transformed our view of the world, and influenced moral and career decisions. There is no better way of transferring someone else’s internal monologue than a good book. They teach us empathy and respect. We can also get facts, allowing us to make more informed decisions.

Books are also a great example of mature technology. They are cheap to produce, easy to store, and require no energy or other supporting infrastructure. The only access barrier is literacy. Libraries are filled with them.

And yet, as we try to take what we have read and apply it to real situations in an attempt to get a desired result, we are starting to have our own Atkins “aha’s.” We become increasingly aware of what they don’t contain, such as a focus on actions, and the impact of rigorous systems including the emergent actions of units, as much as what they do contain. We love the buzz of a good book, like a good vacation, but hate the transition back to our world.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

9 Web Marketing Trends for 2009

Intro to Blogging

View more presentations from Alwyn Lau. (tags: tlc kdu)


What is:

  • a movement of food growers and locavores with a common goal of food independence?

  • a place where you can learn from, connect and exchange with local growers and eaters?

  • a social enterprise which pours all its profits back into local food projects?

Ooooby! (Recommended by Ms Loo Wee Hong)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

TLC in the News

Apologies for the unreadable text. Go here for the top article and here for the second one. All credit and thanks to Jocelyn Loke for getting these out to press in December last year.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Godin's #1 Habit for Success

"The #1 habit successful people share with me is this: They read books to learn. 
They do it often and with joy. 
It's cheap (or free, at the library or online) and portable and specific."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Eiffel Tower Most Disappointing Tourist Spot?

Natalie Paris (fittingly) reports in the UK Telegraph about the top 10 'most disappointing' tourist spots:

1) The Eiffel Tower
2) The Louvre (Mona Lisa)
3) Times Square
4) Las Ramblas, Spain
5) Statue of Liberty
6) Spanish Steps, Rome
7) The White House
8) The Pyramids, Egypt
9) The Brandenburg Gate, Germany
10) The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Eiffel Tower is "frustratingly overcrowded and overpriced" while Stonehenge is "just a load of old rocks" according to a report which has named the top ten most disappointing tourist spots.

The Louvre's Mona Lisa and New York's Times Square also have difficulty enticing tourists to rush back, the survey reveals.

Even Egypt's great pyramids, one of the seven wonders of the world, made the list of underwhelming and overrated attractions, because of the oppressive heat and the persistent hawkers.

But top of the list was Paris's famous tower, which almost a quarter of the 1,000 plus British tourists questioned dubbed a flop. (Read more)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

50 Strategies to Create a Web 2.0 Product

Dion Hinchcliffe's fascinating series continues...below is 10 of 50 strategies:

1. Start with a simple problem. All of the most successful online services start with a simple premise and execute on it well with great focus. This could be Google with it's command-line search engine, Flickr with photo sharing, Digg with user generated news. State your problem simply: "I make it easier to do X". Focus on solving it elegantly and simply, only add features carefully. Over time, complexity will become the enemy of both your product design and your software architecture, so start with as much focus as you can muster.

2. Create prototypes as early as possible. Get your idea into a working piece of software as quickly as possible. The longer you take to go through one entire cycle, the more unknown work you have ahead of you. Not producing software also means that you are not getting better and better at turning the work of your team into the most important measurable output: Functioning software. Throughout the life of your product, turning your ideas into software as quickly and inexpensively as possible will be one of the most important activities to get right.

3. Get people on the network to work with the product prototype rapidly and often. The online world today is fundamentally people-centric. If your product isn't about them and how it makes their lives better, your product really doesn't matter. And if they're not using your Web application as soon as possible, you just don't know if you are building the right product. Constant, direct feedback from real people is the most important input to our product design after your idea. Don't wait months for this to happen; get a beta out to the world, achieve marketplace contact in weeks, or at most a few months, and watch carefully what happens. This approach is sometimes called Web 2.0 Development .

4. Release early and release often. Don't get caught up in the massive release cycle approach, no matter how appealing it may be. Large releases let you push off work tomorrow that should be done today. It also creates too much change at once and often has too many dependencies, further driving an increase in the size of the release. Small releases almost always work better, are easier to manage, but can require a bit more operations overhead. Done right, your online product will iterate smoothly as well as improve faster and more regularly than your competitors. Some online products, notably Flickr, have been on record as saying they make new releases to production up to several times a day. This is a development velocity that many new startups have trouble appreciating or don't know how to enable. Agile software development processes are a good model to start with and and these and even more extreme methods have worked well in the Web 2.0 community for years.

5. Manage your software development and operations to real numbers that matter. One often unappreciated issue with software is its fundamentally intangible nature. Combine that with human nature, which is to manage to what you can see, and you can have a real problem. There is a reason why software development has such a variable nature in terms of time, budget, and resources. Make sure you have as many real numbers as possible to manage to: Who is making how many commits a week to the source repository, how many registered users are there on a daily basis, what does the user analytics look like, which product features are being used most/least this month, what are the top 5 complaints of customers, and so on. All of these are important key performance indicators that far too many startups don't manage and respond to as closely as they should.

6. Gather usage data from your users and input it back into product design as often as possible. Watch what your users do live with your product, what they click on, what do they try to do with it, what they don't use, and so on. You will be surprised; they will do things you never expected, have trouble with features that seem easy to you, and not understand parts of your product that seemed obvious. Gather this data often and feed it back into your usability and information architecture processes. Some Web applications teams do this almost daily, others look at click stream analytics once a quarter, and some don't it at all. Guess who is shaping their product faster and in the right direction?

7. Put off irreversible architecture and product design decisions as long as possible. Get in the habit of asking "How difficult will it be to change our mind about this later?" Choosing a programming language, Web framework, relational database design, or a software interface tend to be one-way decisions that are hard to undo. Picking a visual design, logo, layout, or analytics tool generally is not. Consequently, while certain major decisions must be made up front, be vigilant for seemingly innocuous decisions that will be difficult to reverse. Not all of these will be a big deal, but it's all too often a surprise to many people where the architect should be malleable. Reduce unpleasant surprises by always asking this question.

8. Choose the technologies later and think carefully about what your product will do first. First, make sure your ideas will work on the Web. I've seen too many startups with ideas that will work in software but not on the Web. Second, Web technologies often have surprising limits, Ajax can't do video or audio, Flash is hard to get to work with SEO for example. Choosing a technology too early will constrain what is possible later on. That being said, you have to choose as rapidly as you can within this constraint since you need to build prototypes and the initial product as soon as you are able.

9. When you do select technologies, consider current skill sets and staff availability. New, trendy technologies can have major benefits including higher levels of productivity and compelling new capabilities, but it also means it'll be harder to find people who are competent with them. Having staff learn new technology on the job can be painful, expensive, and risky. Older technologies are in a similar boat; you can find people that know them but they'll most likely not want to work with them. This means the middle of the road is often the best place to be when it comes to selecting technology, though you all-too-often won't have a choice depending on what your staff already knows or because of the pre-requisites of specific technologies that you have to use.

10. Balance programmer productivity with operational costs. Programming time is the most expensive part of product creation up front while operations is after you launch. Productivity-oriented platforms such as Ruby on Rails are very popular in the Web community to drive down the cost of product development but can have significant run-time penalties later when you are supporting millions of users. I've previously discussed the issues and motivations around moving to newer programming languages and platforms designed for the modern Web, and I encourage you to read it. Productivity-oriented platforms tend to require more operational resources during run-time, and unlike traditional software products, the majority of the cost of operations falls upon the startup. Be aware of the cost and scale of the trade-offs since every dollar you save on the development productivity side translates into a run-time cost forever after on the operations side.

Book Review Contest: Lord of the Flies (Reviewed by Kimberley Wong)

The Lord of the Flies discusses the reality of an inborn ‘dark-side’ to human nature, which, by virtue of popular belief, is innate and part of every individual, regardless of age, gender and status. Although the main idea conveyed by the novel would generally seems as one of sheer simplicity, the issue is dealt with in a non-conventional approach, that is, through vast usage of symbolism and conflicts instead of directly as an issue on its own. With this in view, many other issues are raised regarding the sanctity of human beliefs, particularly regarding our inborn conscience which had been identified as the governing feature in the actions of so called civilized human beings. As with the main theme of a darker human nature, other issues are raised throughout the novel in a similarly implied fashion rather than being blatantly stated. The result of Golding’s powerful mixture of various elements applied in addressing such dark issues in impliedly rather than outwardly was an intriguing story about a group of English schoolchildren and their struggle to survive without parental guidance.

One of the key elements addressed in the novel would be regarding the ‘myth’ of innocence, which, as suggested by many human behavioural psychologists would work against age, in line with the belief of Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis where a child is believed to be born a ‘blank-slate’ true to the theory of tabula rasa. Golding sought to challenge this view by creating a scenario in which young children of schooling age, the innocent subjects of wartime, had been left stranded on an island in which survival would become an unguided task. Although the children were used initially as a symbol of innocence and successful socialization of civilized behavior, Golding had suggested that with the passage of time spent in isolation and in sheer need, these children would inevitably revert to a stage which was thought to be unique to the evolution of the human species, effectively unlearning how to function as a civilized society and adopting a more ‘primitive’ lifestyle in its stead. This includes the boys undergoing a ‘shift’ in identities from schoolchildren to hunters and survivors. Golding goes on to illustrate certain aspects of the initial development of the human species such as the ‘discovery’ and utilization of fire and hunting tools. However, in contrast to the long adopted theory of evolution, the characters in the Lord of the Flies seemed to be regressing from a more advanced sate of socialization to a lesser state; effectively from working in cooperative groups to meet their needs of food and shelter to resorting to the barbaric actions of stealing from one another and finally resulting in the death of certain members of their group. Golding had also made a successful comparison between the war which was being waged among the children isolated on the island and that which had been occurring simultaneously in the ‘adult world’ around them in order to raise the issue as to whether the age and influence was a determining factor in violence and aggression as opposed to the idea that they remained mere inborn factors native to human existence.

The Lord of the Flies also makes a successful questioning regarding the position of religion and its significance in the human society. Golding, through the use of vivid imagery and settings, conveys the idea that fear, which has been closely tied to religion through his use of a pig’s head on a spit, his reference to the Devil. This title character, namely, the Lord of the Flies, represents a source of fear among the children which later goes on to terrorize the minds of the children and govern their actions. The Lord of the Flies is a symbolic name of the Devil, Beelzebub. Through the novel, Golding has raised the issue that perhaps the Devil which we fear is not one manifested in flesh and blood but perhaps one that exists in the shadows of their minds instead. The character Simon had been inserted into the novel as one who had the strongest faith in spirituality and who therefore did not fear the ‘Devil’ which the others had feared and had, instead, sought to reveal the truth behind the existence of that devil. Simon later served as a ‘martyr’ character as he later died in the hands of those he needed to convey his discovery to. This representation of martyrdom successfully questions and criticizes society’s understanding of religion and their reactions to matters regarding which they possess little knowledge.

The Lord of the Flies served had also served as a representation of the events encompassed surrounding the Cold War, although on a smaller scale and with less use of politics. Even so, the struggle between two forces of power, Ralph and Jack, had become evident and the others were given the opportunity to select the government which they preferred, that being either one of democracy or totalitarianism, as demonstrated by Ralph’s attempt to establish a government based on equality and free input from the people as opposed to Jack’s method of ruling with an iron fist, even to the extent of intending to kill Ralph, who remained a challenger and inhibitor to his ‘authority’ till the end.

The novel concludes interestingly with the boys being saved from the island by a man stating the war of the outside world had subsided, leading to the cessation of their own battles, but however, with the realization that they had lost their sense of who they were taught and civilized to be by society and had turned into beings little more than savages during their isolation. This reinforces the frailness of human civilization and the little power it has over inborn instincts when faced with absolute physical and mental needs.

Overall, Golding’s novel was one which challenged readers to contemplate the issues which flawed existences had been hidden and denied by the human race for generations, thus bringing about new reflections of the meaning behind being a human being.

Book Review Contest: A Thousand Splendid Suns (Reviewed by Sherene Jawing)

After his first novel, The Kite Runner, was hailed as the international number one bestseller in 2003, Khaled Hosseini released his second novel entitled A Thousand Splendid Suns on May 22 2007. The title of the book refers to a 17th century poem, Kabul, which was written by the Persian poet Saib-e-Tabrizi. It was originally a Farsi poem, but the generally accepted English translation was done by Dr. Josephine Davis.

A Thousand Splendid Suns tells a tale of two brave and remarkable women, Mariam and Laila, living through harsh times in Afghanistan. The novel is divided into four parts. The first part of the book tells the story of Mariam, who was introduced into the story at the age of 5. As the pages are turned, we learn of Mariam as a harami (illegitimate child) of a wealthy business man Jalil who practically abandoned her before she was even born. Mariam spent her bleak childhood with her pessimist mother Nana in the outskirts of Heart. At the age of fifteen, after much hurt and disappointment, Jalil betrayed her by giving her away in marriage to Rasheed, who was more than 30 years older than her, right after Nana committed suicide. Mariam moved to Kabul with her new husband. The initial stages of her marriage started off well, but things started to crumble when she had a miscarriage. That was the beginning of Rasheed’s cold behaviour and verbal and physical abuse towards her.

Laila takes centre stage in Part Two. As a young girl, she was exceptionally bright and was very close friends with Tariq, whom she eventually developed unplatonic feelings for. Laila grew up during the times of war in Afghanistan, which prohibited her from going to school with her other friends. During the war, she lost her friend who was killed by a stray rocket and her two brothers Ahmad and Noor who have become shaheed (martyrs). The lost of her brothers caused her mother to phase into a state of inconsolable mourning, and Laila felt all the more neglected by her mother who was oblivious to the fact that she still had another living child with her. Things worsened when Tariq and his family decides to leave Kabul. He tried to persuade Laila to follow them and even proposed to her, but she refused as she did not want to leave her parents. The second part of the novel ended on a sad note. As they were about to leave, a stray rocket hits her home and killed both her parents, but spared Laila from death.

Part Three sees the lives of both characters intertwine. Laila marries Rasheed after he rescued her from the rubbles and after deceiving her to believe that Tariq was dead. Discontented with her husband’s action, Mariam treated Laila full of hostility despite the girl’s efforts to befriend her. Things between the two women detoriated when Laila announced her pregnancy with Rasheed’s child, which was in fact Tariq’s child she was carrying. Rasheed treated Laila like a queen but changed his mind when she gave birth to a baby girl, Aziza. After some time, Mariam and Laila developed a friendship as both women endured the trails and turmoil of life.

I find the novel to be emotionally draining as from the very first page of the book, you begin to sympathise with the characters and start to get attached to them. As the story progresses, we can see every bit of happiness being pried away from the characters hands caused not only by the war, but mainly by the people that are closest to them. For Mariam’s case, she was plunged into a state of devastation by her own father’s betrayal and just when things started to get along fine with Rasheed, the tables were turned when she had a miscarriage. Laila’s world slowly fell apart one by one starting from the death of her friend. Although both women experienced different types of emotional pain, it was the physical pain and the comfort of their companionship that brought them closer together.

One thing about the novel is that Hosseini cleverly inserts the political calamity within the novel to enhance the intensity of the story. He tells readers about the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, the rise of the Taliban and even the 9/11 incident in America, by which confirms to the readers that he is using a modern time-frame for the story. Even though the political issues surfaced once in a while, it plays its part as it affects and determines the course of the characters’ lives. The major focus of the story however, would be love and self-sacrifice.

Love and self-sacrifice are two things that go hand-in-hand. Out of love towards her parents, Laila gave up the opportunity to escape Kabul with Tariq. Out of love towards Aziza, Laila was willing to get caught and beaten up by the Talibans just to see her daughter. Out of love towards his son, Rasheed took the risk of getting caught by the Talibans by buying a television set for his son, Zalmai. Out of love towards her friend and family, Mariam surrendered herself to the Talibans to be publicly executed after killing Rasheed with a shovel. Hosseini demonstrates that during hard times, people with a sincere heart and clear motives are willing to set aside everything for the ones they love, even if it means giving up every single thing that they have for the other person.

Overall, A Thousand Splendid Suns is an amazing book that dares to cross the boundaries and tells the truth regarding the lives of those living through the war in Afghanistan. This novel is also confronts readers regarding human nature and the principles that is upheld by everyone. If you are looking for a book that will challenge your soul and gratitude towards the things that you have in life, then this book will do just fine.

Book Review Contest: The Hobbit (Reviewed by Chew Phye Ken)

From the laptop of Ken: ‘The Hobbit’, first published in 1937, sprung from the imagination of JRR Tolkien and is the prequel to ‘The Lord of the Rings’, its more celebrated cousin. I did consider giving you, dear reader, little excerpts of the story but thought it better that the protagonist himself should say a word or two instead. Allow me to introduce you to Bilbo Baggins Esq.

From the quill of Bilbo: This splendid story opens with the introduction of a most famous, a most agreeable and a most heroic hobbit (me), who lives in a comfortable, rather large hole in the ground. Life was a picture of serenity until the arrival of the Grey Wizard. From then on, my world turned topsy-turvy with a flurry of several other visits from dwarves with incredible names (Balin, Dwalin, Bifur, Bofur, Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin and oh the list goes on), my being commissioned to partake in a perilous quest and the beginning of countless brushes with death. Allow me to highlight a few of our more remarkable adventures (to whet your appetite). The first was my encounter with the three trolls. How foolish of me to have attempted to steal from them and how humbling to get caught. Our whole company of dwarves ended up as captives as well (and probably would have been the trolls’ next meal were it not for the wiles and wisdom of Gandalf and the timeliness of the morning sun). Then there was the misadventure with the goblin hoard in the depths of their underground lair, the snaking labyrinth that led me to chance upon Gollum (where my life hung in the balance, literally perched upon riddles) and his ring I found along the way. From then on our company found refuge in the warm halls of the mystical Beorn, plunged into woods infested with gigantic spiders, languished in the halls (and prisons) of the wood elves, squeezed ourselves in barrels that floated down river for days and ultimately escaped death in the cavern of a dragon. Oh, there is so much more to tell, but I will give you the pleasure of reading it for yourself.

From the laptop of Ken: The characters crafted by Tolkien are varied and rich, from the endearing tiny hobbits with their large, hairy feet to colossal creatures that inspire nightmares. Leading the cast is Bilbo himself, who is pictured throughout the book as an occasional warrior, constant saviour and ever loyal friend. He starts out as a pushover but by the end is every bit the hero - his transformation gradual but astounding. Guiding him is the venerable and noble Gandalf, a powerful wizard with a conventional long pointed hat, staff and a flowing silvery beard. Although Gandalf is noticeably absent in many crucial parts of the book, his larger than life personality echoes throughout, and you never know when or where he will make his next appearance. The company of dwarves (and their names) provide intermittent comic relief and their valour and love for adventure propels the story to its end. There are villains aplenty, but the two most chilling are undoubtedly the infamous Gollum with his hiss and Smaug the dragon with his red, red scales and wicked fiery breath.

Tolkien’s prose is polished and simple enough for older children to appreciate without it being an affront to an adult’s intelligence. In fact, among the most delightful elements of the book are the rhymes and songs that the characters periodically burst into. This is a stanza of one from the dwarves inviting Bilbo to join them in their quest:

‘Far over the misty mountains cold,
To dungeons deep and caverns old,
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.’

And they carry on deliciously …

Tolkien also has a proverbially charming way with dialogue. When Bilbo first meets Gandalf, a straightforward and sensible ‘Good morning’ escapes his lips, to which Gandalf replies ‘What do you mean? Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?’ Who knew that so much could come out of two words that we take for granted every day? Hilarious! Being an Anglophile, I adore that the book has a very English feel to it as well; from afternoon tea and ginger cakes to Cockney accented trolls. Come to think of it, I would not have been surprised if I had discovered that the inhabitants of Middle Earth enjoyed a good game of football. Another plus point for the book is that as simple as the story line is, it is nonetheless attention grabbing. There were some parts that left me holding my breath, even if it was for just a while (Bilbo’s encounters with Gollum and his riddles and the dragon in his lair come to mind) and some parts that left me breathless, panting with the characters as they raced and fought tooth and nail through certain perils. In a nutshell it was a pleasurable read.

A minor disappointment though was the book’s failure to adequately narrate what had promised to be a battle of epic proportions toward the end. It was over as soon as it started and was thereafter explained in a most convenient fashion. I guess you can rarely have it all, but perhaps that was done on purpose, keeping in mind what the author had for a sequel.

Gandalf ends the book by remarking that although Bilbo is ‘a very fine person’, he is ‘only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all’. I am inclined to disagree. Tolkien’s characters (and his story) have left an indelible impression on this little fellow in his wide world.

Web 3.0

101 Free Learning Tools

View more presentations from zaid. (tags: thinking tools)

Teachers & Quarterbacks

Malcolm Gladwell (author of bestsellers 'Tipping Point', 'Blink' and 'Outliers') writes about the responses to his latest article in the New York Times:
In some of the responses to the piece, I've seen some resistance to the idea that choosing NFL quarterbacks and choosing public school teachers represent the same category of problem. There are only a small number of NFL quarterbacks, and we are selecting candidates from a tiny pool of highly elite athletes. By contrast, we need a vast number of public school teachers and we're recruiting from an enormous non-elite pool to fill that need. So, the response has gone, it's apples and oranges.

Precisely! But of course non-symetrical comparisons are far more interesting and thought-provoking than symetrical comparisons. If I wrote a piece about how finding good point guards in the NBA was a lot like finding good quarterbacks in the NFL, the comparison would be exact. And as a result, it would be relatively useless. What new light does the addition of a second, identical example shed on the first?

What makes an idea thought-provoking, to my mind, is the extent to which we are forced to make an effort to assimilate apparently contradictory or at least antagonistic notions. Roger Martin, the dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, has a wonderful book out on this very idea ("The Opposable Mind"). He argues that what distinguishes successful business leaders is their ability to reconcile apparently irreconcilable options. So, for example, the genius of Izzy Sharpe, the founder of the Four Seasons chain, is that he was the first to understand that a hotelier doesn't have to choose between the advantages of a large hotel (breadth of services) and the advantages of a small hotel (intimacy). For years everyone assumed those were mutually exclusive categories. Sharpe realized that you can, in fact, do both. Martin's book made me think that there is value in pushing the envelope on comparisons.

All of this is a long way of saying that instead of resisting the implausibility of the pairing of NFL quarterbacks and teachers, it is actually more interesting to embrace it. And what happens when you do that? You discover that the psychological situation facing the gatekeeper in both cases is identical: that confronted with a prediction deficit, the human impulse is to tighten standards, when it fact it should be to loosen standards.

Second point:

One weakness of the piece, I think, is that I didn't spell out another of the parallels between good quarterbacks and good teachers. One of the obvious implications of the notion that the college experience does not predict professional quarterback success is that professional quarterbacking is a skill learned only in the pros. That is, what matters more than anything in predicting professional success is the quality of the learning environment that the quarterback is drafted into, not the quality of the experience he was drafted from. (Think Matt Cassell's rather remarkable performance this year: surely that's a consequence of being drafted into one of the league's best learning cultures).

My brother, an elementary school principal, believes very strongly along these same lines: that effective mentoring of a new teacher can make an enormous difference in that person's ability to become a "star" teacher. But the problem, he argues, is that the process of mentorship is much too haphazard. As he says, "It's like training NFL quarterbacks by randomly sending them out to teams - some CFL teams, some Division III teams, some Division I College teams, some community teams, and a few to NFL teams."

It strikes me that one very logical response to the quarterback problem is not just to lower entry standards, and be willing to make after-the-fact judgments of quality, but also to spend a great deal more time and attention on the issue of talent development. If Matt Cassell can thrive in the NFL, after essentially zero college quarterback experience, what exactly is New England doing right? And what can the rest of the league learn from them? Maybe that should be the subject of a follow-up piece.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Psychology of Colour

Tom O'Leary writes:
"What's your favorite color? Obviously, if you ask this question to a group of people, you will get a variety (or spectrum!) of answers. Colors affect people in different ways, and much research has been accomplished to ascertain what emotional response different colors provoke. An effective communicator always takes her audience into consideration when preparing a message. Vocabulary, tone, length of material, and style are all adapted to each particular audience.
But how important is color really in terms of communicating a professional message? Isn't content all that matters? According to, psychologists estimate that the response to color can account for 60% of the acceptance or rejection of a product or service.

Modern communicators who use design elements in their messages must consider what colors are appropriate for their audience. When considering color in the context of your message, you must take into account the cultural, gender, and age difference of your audience." (read on)

Pick-Up Artist's Guide to Effective Online Marketing

A cute article by James Chartrand, worth pondering:

"A beautiful woman sits alone at a bar. She’s had a long day. Clients were difficult, work piled up, and she scrambled frantically to get it all done. Now she’s tired and trying to unwind.

On either side of the woman sits a man. One is wearing a fancy suit, a gold watch, and has a briefcase next to him. The other man wears a baseball cap, a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers.

The man in the fancy suit starts talking to the woman. He tells her about his credentials and diplomas. He mentions his Ivy League education and his top marks. He’s impressive, and he doesn’t mind letting her know.

He talks about last year’s deals, each worth at least a million dollars. He bandies some big names around, and tells the woman how he has personal connections to each one. He mentions his luxurious apartment, his five cars, and his success stories.

Then he hands the woman a sleek business card with bold, gold lettering. He asks for her card in exchange and mentions that if he gets it, he’ll put her on his list of preferred customers (along with other hinted perks).

The woman turns to the other man in the baseball cap. The man strikes up conversation and asks the woman about her day. He listens to her answers. He asks more questions. He lets her lead the conversation, and he expresses empathy, nodding and telling her he understands how she feels.

The conversation revolves around the woman and the problems she faced. The man never talks about himself at all. He offers the woman some suggestions that might help tomorrow be a better day.

Who do you think got the woman’s number?"

Speed Reading Successfully : A Starting Point

Speed reading isn’t just a matter of cranking up the speed at which your eyes cross a page, though: there are multiple methods for increasing your reading speed. It’s also worth considering that different approaches to reading have both benefits and drawbacks. In general, the methods that allow a person to read faster don’t always provide for the same level of comprehension that slower reading allows.

No matter what approach a particular speed reading system takes, most start with eliminating bad reading practices and then accelerating reading speed through a series of exercises. Bad reading habits can include:

  • Sounding out word out loud as one reads — or subvocalizing
  • Re-scanning over passages already read
  • Moving one’s eyes across the page as one reads
  • Using one reading speed for all reading material

Subvocalization is often considered the biggest barrier to speed reading. Because of the way that reading is taught in most schools — students learn to sound out letters rather than recognize whole words — most readers automatically sound out words, especially those that aren’t in their normal reading vocabulary. Subvocalization, no matter its value for initially learning to read, slows down most readers. That’s because saying a word, whether aloud or subvocally, takes more time than recognizing a word.

Learn/Read more!

There are also recommended speed-reading software:

Email Campaign Case Studies

From Seth Godin, the master of Web 2.0 marketing:

"In one week, I heard from two companies in the same industry. The comparison is instructive, I think.

Every month, I get a great email from Paul McGowan, founder of PS Audio. His newsletter is anticipated, personal and relevant. I signed up for it and I look forward to it.

Paul mentions his products, their reviews and their new technology. He also tells stories and acts like a real person. Because I signed up for the newsletter, I open it. Because he never abuses my trust, I trust him. If I hit reply, he writes back.

When it's time to buy the sort of thing he sells, I won't look around much, because I'm already sold.

I also got two identical emails (with different subject lines) from a speaker company called Thiel Audio. I never signed up to hear from this company, and judging from the email addresses they used, they harvested my address either from an attendee list at a conference at which I spoke or from an old business card.

The problem with believing that just because you have access to an address you have the right to mail is that there is no friction with email. It's free. You can email a million people in a heartbeat, costing the recipients time (and thus money) and you not much of either. The recipient knows this, and feels exploited or cheated. It's not fair, and so the lack of friction backfires. The very ease of interruption makes the interruption more annoying.

I get a lot of spam from non-reputable companies, but it was surprising to get this html ad via email from a company that used to have a good reputation.

My email box is where I live all day. They showed up, uninvited, and worked to sell me something even though they had no connection with me as a consumer or a blogger. That's not brand building, it's the opposite. Even worse, it's undependable.

With PS Audio, Paul realizes that over time, the more months I get the newsletter, the greater the chance I'm going to trust and like and buy from him. For Thiel, the opposite is true. The more they send, the more people will get in the habit of deleting or unsubscribing. It's not an asset, it's a risk. It doesn't scale, it shrinks.

No doubt, there are old-school marketers who will talk about their right to email or interrupt because it's not against the law, or perhaps it generates short-term sales. The thing is, consumers now have rights too. The right to ignore, to distrust and to choose someone else when it comes time to spend money.

There are a hundred ways to skulk around, to collect email addresses, to write clever privacy policies or to argue about whether opt-out ("you can always unsubscribe!") is a valid way to build a brand. None of those schemes work. What works is exactly one way: making promises and then keeping them. Every person who unsubscribes or deletes or just stops reading your mail is a person lost, a negative word-of-mouth opportunity waiting to happen.

Run an ad in traditional media or online and promise me a great newsletter, or a prize or news or even a discount if I sign up. That's clear and honest and it works.

A spam campaign feels like a smart idea, but over time, the more you use it, the less your brand is worth. A permission campaign, on the other hand, only grows in value, until it gets big enough that you can build an entire business around it.

Earning permission is a long-term, profitable, scalable strategy that pays for itself. Think about how much better off a brand would be if it took the time to make promises, keep them and be transparent about its communications."

10 Reasons Why Eating Raw is Healthier

Some of us may not agree with Jonathan Mead, but here're his 10 reasons:

Live foods. It’s common sense right? A cooked seed won’t grow, but a raw seed will. Heating food over 118 degrees Fahrenheit destroys much of the nutrients in your food. Cooking food also diminishes the natural life energy. I’d rather put living food in my body.

Enzymes. Cooking food destroys much of the natural enzymes (your body can also create enzymes, but can only do so much) in your food that are needed to break down nutrients. Eating raw eliminates this problem.

Insane energy. You won’t know this unless you try it for yourself, but eating raw gives you an amazing boost in energy. I used to get tired around 2 or 3pm during the day. Now I simply don’t have that problem. When I do get tired, it doesn’t last nearly as long and an orange or apple will recharge me within a few minutes.

Better sleep and less sleep needed. I’ve slept better than ever while eating raw. But most importantly, I don’t wake up feeling tired or groggy anymore. On most days, I wake up feeling full of energy.

Increased mental clarity. Eating raw has helped me focus on the things that are important and made me more emotionally in tune with others. I feel like a wall of fog has been removed in my mind. It’s easier to think clearly and focus for long periods of time.

Eat as much as you want. This isn’t really a health benefit, but it is pretty awesome. I never get that uncomfortable full feeling eating raw. You know where you have to unbutton the top button on your pants and take a nap? I don’t get that. I can eat as much as I want, and while I will feel full, I don’t feel weighed down or tired.

Less cleanup. Simply put, there aren’t many dishes to wash when you eat fruit and vegetables. Although if you do compost (like I do), you’ll probably have to do it more often.

No packaging. Eating raw means less packaging all around (well, I guess you could argue that banana and orange peels are “packaging”). This means less trash in a landfill and more room in your cupboards. Win/win for everyone.

More regularity. You should naturally have around two to three bowel movements a day. If you’re going less than that, it probably means your intestines are unhealthily clogged. A raw diet gives you more than enough fiber to keep you regular.

Connection with the earth. Eating food that’s been freshly picked just feels different. You feel more connected to the earth and more grounded. Eating lots of processed foods — frozen or from a box — makes creates more of a gap and leaves you feeling disconnected from the earth that sustains you.

CPD for Teachers

Here's an abstract of an article by our Assistant Principal, Dr. Tan Hui Leng, entitled Continual Professional Development: A Smart Strategy for Excellence in the Classroom.

"This paper discusses the need for continual professional development of teachers or in-service teacher education with a research focus on how this is best implemented to effect learning outcomes in the classroom.

"An in-service teacher education programme, the Cambridge International Diploma for Teachers and Trainers (CIDTT) is analyzed and the learning outcomes of eight teachers who followed the course and the impact in their classrooms are described. The findings indicate that in-service teacher education should be context, rather than content driven, reflective in teaching and learning processes and directed towards best practices in the classroom.

"These findings point to a need for teachers to be fully engaged experientially and self-directed to benefit in the longer term from in-service teacher education." (read more)