Thursday, December 24, 2015

What do you mean a distant third?

This article showed up in a tweet today. It is really discouraging when a university professor (and a well respected prof from a well respected school). This quote is directly from that post.

"He is not shy about admitting where teaching falls on the list of priorities for most of his peers: a distant third, after publishing articles and landing research grants"

Surely the students are job #1? Apparently not.

Universities don't like to be tagged with the soubriquet "trade school", but for many of the jobs that need to be performed, a trade school is exactly what is needed. I don't need research in statistics to be a better programmer.  I need to learn programming (not computer languages, but actually what programming is about at some level).

Maybe we would have a more productive economy if we didn't bother with this university stuff - or at least as much of it as is required. But then hiring managers would actually have to look at skill, confidence, attitude to determine hiring and not irrelevant proxies like Grade Point Average.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Work vs Effort

There's a lot going on in my world at the moment. I guess that is normal, but a whole lot of thoughts have come to a collision point. All around the notion of getting stuff done (results) vs effort applied (work).

It's easy to work hard. It's easy to convince people that you have worked hard. But typically what we all want are results. That's a bit more difficult.

In Gut Feelings, ( Gerd Gigerenzer describes the heuristics of catching a fly-ball. Simple heuristic - keep the angle between your eye and the ball constant. It will arrive where you are! Annoys coaches though. If you apply the heuristic, you amble to where the ball will land, you don't hustle. Coaches should want results, but they seem to want hustle. But hustle is work, catching the ball is a result.

From my own child hood in boarding school, we had daily chores. To be done after breakfast and before the first teaching period. On one occasion I had the job of cleaning the foyer (fancy word for the main entrance where we all entered and left: dirt, shoes and all).  The goal was a clean floor - what seemed to me like an impossible result. So I tried to convince the inspectorate (some sadistic youth 2 years older than I), that my success should be measured by how much dirt I picked up (~= effort) and not by how clean the floor was. It was easy to show progress. Hard to show results.

Fast forward to modern development. I see so much emphasis on frameworks, automated this and that, cool toys,... that we sometimes forget that we need a piece of software to do something straightforward. Let's make sure we deliver what's really important and not measure our progress by the toys we have created.