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.