Saturday, November 18, 2017

It can't all be carrots

In a world where there should be carrots and sticks. Praise for performance and consequences for making dumb mistakes. I was interested to find that some students pulled together a group complaint about me and sent it up the chain of command. They may get their wish and I'll be taken off teaching this course.

That would be unfortunate.

In related news, I just checked (on a second submission) how many of the students just made the same mistake. Out of 15 - only one. A reduction in skwewup rate from 30% down to 7%. The employers and supervisors of the future can thank me later. So can the students, but chances are that I'll be gone.

It can't all be carrots, but sometimes we can make the sticks a cheap lesson.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

When is a mango not a mango?

I'm here in Cairns where mangoes grow on trees. Yet they still sell for about $3 each in the supermarket, and growers out on the Tablelands are letting the rot on the ground. So when is a mango not a mango? When it's a part of "the total product".

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Wrong paradigm: Nobody expects to be evaluated on their results

I recently set a (tiny, 2%) task for some students whereby they got measured on results rather than the effort.
I asked them to trim up a data file and then share it with me through - pretty much - any cloud method they wanted.

I made it very clear that the only thing I wanted to do was click on the link and open it up. I had told them that I could be anywhere and using any account. I might be in Botswana, I might be using a Gmail account or Hotmail or whatever.

A significant number failed. They mistakenly introduced authorities that meant I couldn't read it; they shared rather than providing a shareable link - there were a fair few ways to screw this up.
And only one way to get it right.

When they got right I would just click a hyperlink and download the file.
Imagine the outcry when I failed them purely because they could not get me the file.
  • "But I work so hard on this"
  • "But I need to be able to pass this"
  • "But all you needed to do was contact me so that I could fix it up"
  • "You know what I meant"
  • "I don't understand computers"
  • "Maybe there is a language problem"

It has been interesting to see what happens when you force people to be assessed on results rather than the effort they put in. And the idea that a whole heap of effort might come to absolutely nothing because of one simple mistake - unthinkable!

"Welcome to the party, pal!" Welcome to life.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Score one for the doctrine of separation of powers.

I love the way that the citizenship 7 were sweating on the finding of the High Court.

I like it even more that it was the deputy prime minister that was sweating. That is the beauty of our government and judicial system.

Two completely separate arms of management that makes the laws and interpret the laws. Somebody was very clever some time ago to decide that you could not make a law in advance that would accommodate every possible situation.

And so we have the doctrine of separation of powers.

In a world of imperfect humans perhaps this is a way of muddling through the mess?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Housework and Damned Statistics

Self serving, I suppose, but:

The old saw of Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics comes up to me all the time. Reporting numbers give them a credibility that they often do not deserve.

The recent Australian census indicated that women were doing the largest share of the housework. That sounds like a misapplication of the word "share".

Who decides how much housework there is to do in a house? If one person is happy with a dirty floor, a filthy toilet and mess everywhere then their idea of total housework hours per week is probably only 5. A person who wishes to live in a monument might have an underlying thought that 20 hours a week is the total required amount of housework.

That sounds to me like a question that needs to be determined between the couple, but just because one person thinks the hours should be higher doesn't make it the right thing.

So if there are a total of 20 hours per week of housework done in a house then the damn statistic is that one person is doing three times the amount of the other. Context: By their own choice.

Or as a person might rudely say:

"Everybody needs a hobby - if yours happens to be polishing silverware then who am I to stop you?"

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Junk Science rules

In a world where people have access to all sorts of information but lack the intelligence to separate bullshit from solid argument, junk science is king.

Glyphosate is an excellent and safe chemical and the recent talk of it being harmful to health:

The entire case against glyphosate is one “monograph” from an obscure World Health Organisation body called the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which concluded that glyphosate might cause cancer at very high doses. It admitted that by the same criteria, sausages and sawdust should also be classified as carcinogens.

came out of a "pay to publish" journal and should be thrown into the same basket of junk science as vaccines cause autism:

Scientists and organizations across the world spent a great deal of time and money refuting the results of a minor paper in the Lancet and exposing the scientific fraud that formed the basis of the paper. Appallingly, parents across the world did not vaccinate their children out of fear of the risk of autism, thereby exposing their children to the risks of disease and the well-documented complications related thereto.

Conspiracy theorists are sometimes the greatest enemy of reason.