Wednesday, May 25, 2011

And now for something completely different...

The time has come to say goodbye to this blog (after three years) and to Reed Learning (after seven years).

As the blog belongs to Reed Learning and I no longer do, it would be inappropriate for me to continue at this address.

Fortunately, I have another address which I set up when I began blogging. It goes under the title, "What doesn't kills you..." and you can find it here. I initially set that one up for reflections about cancer but it never really got going, so I have copied my posts across to that address and I will carry on from there.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Reed Learning. I think we achieved some pretty amazing things and I certainly learned a thing or two.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Curiosity killed the cat...

...were a band in the 1980s that are among the many crimes of Simon Cowell. In fact, just checking this and looking him up on Wikepedia I notice that his crimes against music are legion as well as a few other interesting points about how he first became successful (go look it up)

...equally the proverb dates back to the time of Ben Jonson although is generally attributed to Eugene O'Neil.

I haven't blogged for a while having been doing jury service. And one thing that a random cross section of society (for that is what a jury is supposed to be) gives you is a chance to reflect on the differences between people. I have also been gently percolating on some models of personality together with a few business books I've read recently (Drive, The Laws of Simplicity, Naked, Different) which seek to identify the quintessence of success.

With a brief nod to one of the best books I read last year, "The Black Swan" acknowledging the the very nature of this reflection may just be an urge on my part to make sense of randomness, the thing that makes people stand out in my eyes is curiosity.

People who are interested become interesting.

It almost doesn't matter what you are interested in, in fact the more diverse the better in my eyes. Curious people are more often on the front foot looking for things. They may make more mistakes because they stick their noses into things that they don't understand. But on the whole they are more fun, more challenging, more diverting, just "more" really.

So, be curious. I doubt it will kill you and you might learn something on the way

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Public service announcement: who's the sucker?

Well it was nearly me. And I always thought I was safely skeptical. Earlier today I got an email from an old friend with the subject line,


What followed was a fairly plausible tale of being on holiday in the West Midlands (should have been my first clue as my friend lives in Kansas city... with apologies to the Black Country why would she holiday there?) and having been mugged. She had a flight to catch having fortunately left the passports at the hotel but the hotel wouldn't let her leave without paying the bill. There were a number of grammatical errors in the email but my friend is not a native English speaker and I made allowances for stress.

I replied immediately asking for a phone number. She said the muggers had taken the mobile phones and could I wire transfer $2,150 to a Western Union Branch. I asked for the number of the hotel.

Finally my suspicious nature woke up to the fact she was asking for dollars whilst being on holiday in the UK and the fact that the number given for the hotel demanding the money was a mobile. But not before I had checked the balance on my current account.

So I sent another email in which I said, "Forgive my cynicism but this looks like a scam. Can you tell me where and how you and I first met? Then I will ring the hotel."

True to classic con form the scammer raised the ante with this reply,

"Omg, What a million questions!!! why you asking me this as at moment ?? Is
this just because i asked you of help.. why have you decided to treat me
like this, i want you to know that we're meant to help each other. I knew
this is unusual but are the only person i could reach at this point and
i'm doing everything i can so we can work our way out of here peacefully
but there is nothing really working out, most important is that my flight
leaves in hours from now and I really need your help to sort out the hotel
bills. Kindly let me know if you're willing to help us out of this mess ok
tired of your cunning...

I'll be hanging on here to read from you soon."

Well they'll be hanging on for some time. Unfortunately the Met Police doesn't seem to have a cyber crime division any more and as I didn't actually become a victim of crime, according to the nice chap on the police switchboard, there wasn't much point pursuing it.

I thought I'd share..

Monday, January 24, 2011

Convincing but unfounded conclusion seeks hypothesis with GSOH

First up, I never said I wasn't a hypocrite. But Google Ngrams have shown me how much of a hypocrite I can be at times.

I found Ngrams from Dan Pink's marvellous blog. In short, they are a lovely and distracting tool which enable you to search a significant proportion of all the publications in English and some other languages since 1800 and produce scientific looking charts. You type in a word or a couple of words you wish to compare and NGram delivers you a graph mapping their incidence as a percentage of all the words published over time.

One of my first experiments was to compare the incidence of the words 'Training vs Learning' since1800. Looking at this graph it is almost impossible not to to speculate on the non existence of the word 'training' before the industrial revolution, its steady rise with the advent of Taylorian workflow management at the beginning of the 20th century and then its comparative decline with the advent of the knowledge economy approaching the turn of the 21st century.

But there is next to no real science supporting these sweeping assertions. The trouble is I start off with an idea I think will throw something up and then match my story to what I think I see in the data.

Let's try another one, the incidence of "faith, hope and charity" (or the three theological virtues) could be argued to clearly show the constant decline of religiosity in the English speaking world over the last two centuries barring a slight rally after each world war. Again this sounds plausible and might be readily accepted.

But I have done no real work to interrogate this claim or to test anything substantive. The ease with which anyone can now create superficially compelling data groupings to support their claims can only be a bad thing for self directed learners. It is now even easier to create passable nonsense. And it is not as if we weren't gullible enough already...

But I still really like them...

So Google Ngrams, a marvellous but dangerous toy.

Monday, January 17, 2011


January is properly underway now. Sometime in the next couple of days if it hasn't happened already there will be a rash of discussions about the most depressing day of the year. This will be today, tomorrow or the day after depending on which PR driven piece of non-research is driving it. I'm not going to bother to look for it or link to it because it is the same story every year.

As are resolutions. Every year we promise ourselves to be thinner, happier, richer, less single, healthier. Then a year goes by and we do it again.

But I am not mocking new year's resolutions. Although many of them fail to survive until February, it is not the failures that matter. It is the starts. The beginnings. Whether purposeful or accidental.

You must at least do something...

Don't wait for another big milestone, new year or another birthday to begin something. Find small milestones.

So today, which is the day after my daughter's birthday (she is six now if you're interested) I am going to start a few more things:
1. I shall be more positive - 2011 has been pretty good thus far
2. I am going to look into Sharepoint (I am hearing more and more about it and I am completely ignorant of it's capability)
3. I shall unplug myself a little more often and read a few more books (you know the things with pages)
4. I shall finish the decorating in my house by the February half term
5. I shall start Lent early (not in the religious sense but in the eating and drinking slightly less sense)

That's enough for one day. I think.

Monday, December 20, 2010

That's all well and good but who's picking up the tab...

We hosted the Internet Time Alliance in London on Thursday last at an event which focused on the practicalities of using informal learning/social learning/smarter working in the workplace.

There was quite a lot of back and forth in the day. I would say that everyone in the room was enthusiastic about the idea that rather than pay people to train your employees it is a good thing that there are internet tools and internet enabled networks that will enable employees to develop themselves for free (or significantly less).

However, for many employers this does not lead irrefutably to switching off the controls of the company firewall and letting all staff use Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube etc etc. For more on this see Jane Hart's post on Top 10 reasons not to ban social media in your workplace)

As with many things, when we got into the detail it was a little more complicated than expected. There is definitely an element on the part of employers that the elephant can't see it's just a twig (learned helplessness). Equally, it's all very well for Jay Cross to criticise the European Commission for not seeing any value in Twitter but then a day later this happens...

On Friday, I heard that Yahoo is puling the plug on Delicious. (Michele Martin writes a very good obituary here). Now Delicious is possibly my favourite web 2.0 tool. I think it is brilliant. Over the last two years that I have been singing its praises, I have often soothed the doubters who question all things free and web 2.0 by explaining that Delicious was a different proposition to all the other start ups as it was backed by Yahoo and so wouldn't fold just as you were getting used to it. (Oops!)

At our event with the ITA last Thursday I had a brief chat with Clark Quinn explaining that I had been an e-learning sceptic in the first generation bubble that burst so spectacularly in 2001. I had persistently resisted jumping on the bandwagon of e-learning as I saw it as a more expensive way of doing something worse (as the poorly animated PowerPoints of early e-learning seemed to me). Eventually the lower price point and less than infinite target audience would catch up with the hugely inflated development costs. Hmmm, parallels?

Now the point for me about social learning is that you are not paying inflated costs for development indeed often the user is generating their own content. And yet Delicious, however useful, did not have a revenue stream and has been consigned to the dustbin.

This leads me back to my underlying issue in social learning. Where is the value added, to whom, how much and how can you charge for it? If you cannot answer these questions, you do not have a business. You might have a movement but is it sustainable in the longer term?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Same infrastructure different application...

I know that anyone who really knows what they are talking about in the internet arena will tut in a slightly annoyed manner with me and say, 'do try and keep up Greenway...' But I can only go as fast as my ageing brain allows, which is increasingly not very fast.

Two fascinating conversations I had recently are fermenting slowly in my head.

The first was with Chris Locke the MD of the GSMA Development Fund (and a lovely man to boot) who was telling me about how mobile phones are being used as a leapfrogging technology in parts of the world that lack a traditional infrastructure. The concept of delivering lessons to paying users for less than the price of a cup of tea is a destructive innovation that anyone in workplace learning should be worrying about now.

The actual learning is often deliberately low tech (it can be as simple as an SMS telling you to turn your TV to a particular channel) because of the pressures on cost. But the point is employing a network for a different use rather than coming up with expensive bells and whistles. Fortunately for those of us in the lazy and complacent developed world, they are focusing their attention on the parts of the world living on less than $2 a day. But it wont take long before they look at other targets.

The other conversation was with an old Serbian friend (and also a lovely man) who was telling me about a mayors' environmental conference he had attended recently where a chap (I forget the name) had come up with a solution for the infrastructure problems facing electric cars (to whit it takes hours to charge the battery and there are not many places where you can do it). The solution is genius. Owners buy the car but rent the battery. So when you go to a petrol station or other outlet, you don't have to plug your car in and leave it for five hours, you swap your flat battery for a fully charged one. One in classic Blue Peter form which 'has been prepared earlier' which allows the electricity grid to balance the demands of battery charging (which is the other problem with electric cars being charged overnight at home - everyone plugs them in at the same time whereas petrol stations can charge batteries at a steady rate throughout the day).

Again this employs an existing network for a different use.

I need to think about networks some more...