All posts by EdwardM

MIT Study finds that online learning works

Some have been saying online courses do not work but an MIT study finds otherwise:

Massive open online courses are not only effective, researchers have discovered, they are as effective as what’s being traditionally taught in the classroom — regardless of how prepared or in the know students are.

via MIT Study: How Do Online Courses Compare to Traditional Learning? | BostInno.

Fascinating TED talk on our “addiction to experts”

The thesis is that we are “addicted to experts” and when listening to experts, some research shows we basically stop thinking. Instead, we should continue to think for ourselves and must be willing to dissent from and to confront experts (who can be wrong more often than many may admit).

Prof. Noreena Hertz taught and conducted research at University College London at the time this talk was presented in 2010. She has expounded on this thesis in a later book (which I have not yet read)

Unfortunately, I have been burned by “experts” on numerous occasions so I rarely accept an expert’s statement without doing critical analysis of my own. Sorry to say.

“Study: Social media users shy away from opinions”

Study: Social media users shy away from opinions | Technology | KATU.com – Portland News, Sports, Traffic Weather and Breaking News – Portland, Oregon.

Study suggests people post what they expect their followers to agree with – in other words, Facebook becomes an echo chamber that stifles discussion and debate. Few people will challenge their “friends” when there are different interpretations or even when the facts are completely wrong.

A side effect is that people become dumber over time as they learn things that are not actually true but which go unquestioned. Propagandists know the first message delivered often sticks, in spite of later contradictory information. As a consequence, social media has become a frictionless conduit for the unimpeded flow of propaganda messaging.

A related issue is that as elections approach (and for some people this seems to be a 12 month long event, held annually), much political propaganda is posted online. And much political propagandizing falls into the category of online bullying: anyone who does not agree is obviously wrong or stupid.

Why on-the-job training has mostly vanished

Is On-the-Job Training Still Worth It for Companies? – Businessweek.

The relationship between employers and employees is such that jobs are rarely long lasting anymore. As a result, employers do not wish to invest in worker training for fear they will not see a return on investment. Another fear, not mentioned in the article, is that training workers with new skills often implies they should earn more money – which employers prefer not to pay. And when the employer does not pay for those additional skills, the employee leaves for elsewhere.

An issue in my field is employers seeking applicants with a long list of degrees and certifications, paid for by the employee. But employers are not paying much more for the employee’s own investment – the result is employers are expecting more but paying less for that value. Which is another way of saying that pay is going down, even if the $ value looks greater.

Another Android – Nexus 5 battery drain problem and how to fix it

This link describes the problem: Chrome: sandboxed processes are killing my b… | Nexus 5 | XDA Forum.

 

Periodically, Chrome launches something that shows up in Settings | Battery as “com.android.chrome:sand…“. This task consumes significant amounts of power, all by itself, even when the phone is not in use. In fact, the phone is quite warm to the touch.

 

Some think this is related to having multiple tabbed windows open in Chrome and/or one or more of the web pages using Flash content that seems to never be shut off. Who knows?

 

The solution is to stop using Chrome on Android and install one of the many free browsers

Dolphin Browser
Dolphin Browser (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

available in the Google Play market. I installed the Dolphin browser, restarted my phone and charged up the battery – and the result is good battery life and the phone is no longer running hot.

 

There have been many battery power consumption problems with recent releases of Android, depending on your phone model and perhaps other features such as which apps are running.

 

 

US GAO’s full report on HealthCare.gov management failures

Here is the full report: Ineffective Planning and Oversight Practices Underscore the Need for Improved Contract Management (PDF)

I do not have time to read it just now but look forward to going over it later as a lesson in software engineering practices.

“Why I quit Facebook”, by Chris Chan

Why I quit Facebook and we are sharing much more than you think | LinkedIn.

As of today, the above post has been shared over half a million times.

I am now restricting my FB logins to once or twice per week. At some point, I may delete the account too.  Chris’s reasons are relevant, but for me, the bigger issue is the non-stop sharing without thinking – literally the excessive sharing of items using obvious methods of propaganda to persuade others.

Facebook is what I call a frictionless conduit for the dissemination of propaganda through the unquestioned sharing of stories that rely on logical fallacy, appeals to emotion or factual inaccuracies and other methods of propaganda used to persuade others. Few people will challenge their friends; the result is a perfect platform for propaganda. And that means a waste of our time.
Separately, Facebook’s tracking and collection of data is far larger than most realize.

McDonald’s installs 7,000 self-order entry systems in Europe

As the cost of labor increases, investing in fixed cost capital improvements like robotics and self order systems becomes an easy decision for those hiring low skilled work forces:

McDonald’s hires 7,000 touch-screen cashiers – CNET.

Grocery stores, bank ATMS, even Home Depot, have replaced cashiers and clerks with self checkout systems. The McDonald’s systems use debit and credit cards only – making it all the more easy for your activities to be monitored.

Cover Oregon software failed due to “ideological blindness” to the organization and management failures

Cover Oregon ran Oregon’s failed online health insurance market; it never enrolled a private individual and is being abandoned in a shift to the Federal HealthCare.gov web service.

The system never worked but insiders refused to believe what they were seeing because a “true believer mentality won out”.

This mind set is common in too many software projects with thoughts like “its just a few problems and will work fine once we get through this”, “we will make up the lost time later”, “the defects are not that serious-they are fixable”, “we can just drop a few features”.

Though the beta site was limited to insurance agents and certified consumer assisters, exchange managers — not unexpectedly — encountered bugs. “On Day 1, agents couldn’t even log in,” Jovick said.

It was the reaction from certain other people in the room that was disturbing.

Troubleshooters for Oracle, the project’s lead vendor, “were flabbergasted” and completely stumped by how the system was malfunctioning, Jovick recalled. Rather than knowing who to call to get problems fixed, Oracle’s reaction was “Huh? How did that happen?'”At that point, no one realized Oregon and Oracle had built “this absolute disaster that just didn’t do anything,” Jovick said.

via Cover Oregon insider Tom Jovick speaks: Health exchange problems stumped Oracle, blindsided staff video | OregonLive.com.

The management team ignored the warnings of many consultants who found “lousy code”, poor testing, lack of test environments, and more.  They were true believers in the ideals of the project and were blinded to what was in front of them.

Oregon ended up enrolling people by hand using paper applications. They lost 20,000 applications and enrolled 4,500 “non documented” immigrants (formerly known as illegal aliens) who did not qualify.

There is a potential that the  Cover Oregon organization be shut down and the staff laid off  (Update: Cover Oregon was shut down after spending about $450 million and never enabling a single consumer to enroll online). From a traditional business perspective, it seems they made need an entirely new organization that is not carrying “emotional baggage”, which is unfortunate for the staff. From a marketing perspective the “Cover Oregon” brand is irreparably damaged and should be replaced.

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