I was directed to Patrick Ross' blog via Nick Carr today and Patrick describes his 11-year-old daughter's methodology in producing a school paper on Jesse Owens, the African-American track-and-field star who won Olympic gold medals in the 1936 Games in front of Adolph Hitler.
A few months ago my 11-year-old daughter was researching a paper on
Jesse Owens for social studies. She didn't go to the library, pull down
reference books and fill up 3x5 index cards. She went onto Google. She
found plenty of materials. But when I asked to read her completed
paper, it was nothing but a cut-and-paste job from various web sites on
Owens; she even included, quite randomly, part of a press release about
some recent celebration in his honor.
My daughter's work ethic may not always be what I'd like it to be,
but she's bright and can write more than sufficiently for a 5th grade
social studies class. Yet she seemed flat-out baffled when I explained
to her that the paper wasn't acceptable. "Is the information wrong?"
she asked. "Did I leave something out?" No to both. But she hadn't
written her own paper, and more importantly, she hadn't learned
anything, as was clear when I began to quiz her about the content in
her own "paper." Hard to transfer knowledge in the two seconds it takes
to select and move.
His story reminded me of my own childhood in the 1960s, and in particular a paper I wrote about Native Americans in the 2nd or 3rd grade. I spent a great amount of time scouring books and writing passages from them longhand onto lined tablet paper. As I recall, it took me a long time not just for the research, but to craft a 'paper' longhand to turn in for my assignment. And yes, most of my prose was lifted directly from the texts I had researched, and I was quite proud of my supposed diligent and scholarly research and insights on the subject.
I recall being surprised and miffed at the same time when our teacher returned our graded papers to us and I received a 'C' for my work. After class, my teacher very patiently and kindly explained to me that I had to present my findings in my own voice and insights, and not to directly lift (plagiarize is/was a bit much for a 3rd grader to understand, at least back then) most of the work from the texts of others. She also stated that she could have given me a failing mark, but she appreciated the time and diligence I spent researching the topic. I never wrote any paper like that again, either in school, university, or afterwords in my professional career.
What's the difference between what Patrick's daughter did and what I did back in the Sixties? There is only one that I can think of: in order to copy the material longhand, I had to read and comprehend the texts before I wrote the paper. In essence, I still learned something even though I'd plagiarized most of the content. And I learned a much more valuable lesson from my teacher, Mrs. Johnson, in the process. Perhaps that's why I got a 'C' on the assignment rather than an 'F.'
Patrick doesn't tell us how his daughter's assignment eventually turned out, but had I been him, I would have let her turn in that assignment and hope (and perhaps pray) that her teacher would have bounced it back at her with an average or failing mark for precisely the reasons he cites in his post. If he made her do it over after quizzing her, that's fine too, but there is no greater motivation than having the teacher or judge say the things to our children in these cases that we would say. My folks could have intercepted my work and made me do it over, but I learned far more from Mrs. Johnson's 'C" on that paper than I'll wager she even realized at the time.
Of course, this assumes that our educational establishment comes down as hard on work presented in this fashion as it did back then, but somehow, I'm not that optimistic about it, and even less so when Google-ized cut-and-paste children, teenagers, and young adults ascend to positions of responsibility in society.
I spent quite a bit of time wondering about the blogosphere today reading people's posts. I hadn't visited Nick Malik's blog in awhile and was sad to learn that he recently lost his father. In addition to Robert Scoble's recent posts about his mother's passing, I got to thinking that I should make a phone call 'back east' and have an extended chat with my best friend: my dad. And that I did.
My father turned 74 last month and is in excellent health. In fact, he looks about 10 years younger than he really is. He owned small retail stores in my hometown over most of his career (this was in the pre-Wal-Mart days when that was more possible than it is now) and stayed retired for about a week because it drove him crazy to sit around the house. Now, he delivers flowers for a local florist 2 days per week to have something to do in addition to irritating my stepmother or walking their dog...:)
Nick and Robert's situations (particularly Robert's sharing of what was happening with his mom and how he felt about it) really reasonated with me. We think that our parents will be around forever, and while we know deep down that isn't true, we at times don't take advantage of our opportunities to tell them how much we love and continue to learn from them.
Father's Day is next Sunday in the US. I'm headed back to Wisconsin next weekend to share the day with my dad and my two daughters. I can't think of any better way to spend the day.
Sandy Kemsley ranted about the results of a CIO Insight survey last month that had a significantly large number of polled CIOs and senior IT execs claiming that various bread-and-butter Web 2.0 technologies and collaboration apps such as AJAX, Wikis, Social Networking (tagging, etc.), RSS, etc. were of 'no interest" or "not on the radar screen." She briefly highlights a few on her post, and if one looks at the whole thing in aggregate, the no interest/not on the radar numbers are appalling and should give the Web 2.0 pundits some pause about the speed in which organizations are 'racing' to Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 or whatever we want to call it this week. SOA and SaaS fare a bit better percentage-wise...like a third of the polled don't have it in sight. And before anyone wants to take potshots at CIO Insight, this is one industry magazine that does a really nice job presenting reality in IT and their surveys are well done, so I am swayed by their numbers even though, like Sandy, I'm not real happy about the results.
Now, let's contrast these findings with what Ross Mayfield reports and comments on with respect to Business Week's Guide to Enterprise 2.0 that recently published. The guide and Ross' commentary would lead one to believe that the concepts are beginning to be enthusiastically embraced and we're potentially on the throes of a business revolution on the scale of outsourcing and globablization. Other Web/Enterprise 2.0 proponents have been routinely pounding the adoption-today drums as well.
My take? As Sandy argues, there continues to be a lot of scared, control-freak, "dinosaur" CIOs out there given the CIO Insight results. I really have to wonder how 'enlightened' their CEOs are to all of this potential sea change - and emphasis on 'potential' because from where I'm sitting, the 2.0 changes and shifts will definitely happen and reshape the enterprise, but not as fast as some folks would have you believe. It's really odd to me that CEOs get enlightenment on this (or are portrayed to be by VCs, journalists, and interviewers), while their CIOs appear to be on a one-way train to Luddite-ville.
Anybody ready for CIO 2.0? Because it looks like a few heads need to roll or go to retirement-land before Web/Enterprise 2.0 makes huge splashes in the enterprise anytime in the near future - not isolated incidents, but the huge paradigm shifts that occured with outsourcing and other concepts over the years.
Damn, that chasm is looking mighty wide tonight...
The saga of the sale of the BlogExplosion blog directory/aggregation site continues. I posted last spring about the sale of the site for a six-figure sum, which I found more than a bit surprising since the site only grossed $72K in the 1.5 years it was active (at the time the founders/owners disclosed figures to support the sales effort).
Well, looks like the bloom's off the rose because, according to the founders e-mail I received, the buyer couldn't get funded (really? wonder why?) and forfeited his deposit. The site is back for sale and it appears that the founders will be screening their sale candidates a little more thoroughly this time around. I would also expect that if the original buyer couldn't get funded at the purchase price valuation they had at that time, the sale price only has one way to go from here: down.
Bubble? Bubble bursting? I don't know, but I do get the feeling that from an investment/loan standpoint, funders are either taking a break or getting a bit more choosy about what they decide to fund. Risk aversion appears to be increasing a bit.
More breaking news on this continuing saga as it develops...
Update: The revenue numbers I listed previously should be $74K USD, not $72K.
Update #2: Looks like the owners put it up for auction on SitePoint, and it has been 'sold' again. Let's see how this one works out...
My colleague and friend Jim Hodel has published a great piece on data abstraction layers and data quality in the June 2006 issue of DM Review. Jim and I met at a common client and have collaborated on elements of what he describes in his article for that client's data architecture and administration initiatives.
I've long maintained that "apps are crap without good/valid data," and Jim outlines a great layered straw-man approach to get organizations started on organizing data properly and improving data quality in the process. Well worth a look for those with simmering data administration/abstraction issues.