Archive for category: Socializing

Seth Godin’s take on the academic market

November 4th, 2007 by jose

Seth Godin is one of the luminaries of marketing. He posted something thought-provoking recently on his blog:

What if I told you about an industry which:

  1. Indebts most of its customers, sometimes for twenty or more years a person
  2. Not only consumes most of four years of its customer’s time, but impacts its prospects for years before even interacting with them
  3. Enjoys extremely strong brand preferences between competitors and has virtually no successful generic substitutes
  4. Dramatically alters relations within a family, often for generations
  5. Doesn’t do it on purpose


…according to most of the studies I’ve seen, there’s very little or no difference in the efficacy of one competitor vs. another.

The industry is, unsurprisingly, US undergraduate college. Seth is a high-profile person, both on and off-line. So is Paul Graham.

Another industry that seems to commit the same sins is of course, the MBA. And this, too, has its critics: Josh Kaufman reasoned that paying around $150000 for the credential to manage a business wasn’t as compelling as it might seem when you can collect most of the books on the area and read them yourself.

But how am I going to get my skills certified, even if I acquire them by myself? How am I going to convince the human resources department of my employer to hire me? Well, easy: by doing admirable things. Instead of presenting a piece of paper, present your crowning achievement. Then going to college changes meaning completely. People may go into a classroom not to get a grade (a piece of the paper that is a ticket for a job), but to learn things that enable them to build better solutions to problems. Under this view, as Graham says, a job is “so-twentieth century”.

It seems that in recent times many people are independently proclaiming that “the emperor has no clothes”.

CiteULike upgraded: new team-oriented features

September 24th, 2007 by dario

Kevin from CiteULike wrote in to let us know that they introduced a number of new features. CiteULike logoBeside some new user-oriented features (e.g. an editable profile and the possibility to create a blog), the most interesting additions are those that extend group functionality.

Using an online reference manager to share a reference pool among members of a team or project is a brilliant idea, but the previous implementation of groups in CiteULike was pretty poor. The recent upgrade addresses some issues of the previous version and introduces interesting new functionality that should make team-based use of a reference pool snappier and more usable.


The definitive hack for your music collection and how to use it to help you reach productivity nirvana: MusicIP review

September 2nd, 2007 by jose

How can a music playing program be a time saver? What does this have to do with productivity? Well, background music prevents me from getting bored and drift into distractions. Music may shield you from noises and attention-grabbing events logo-glass-blue-home around you. I think music helps me reaching flow when writing/programming.

I will assume that at some point you have taken the time to rip your music collection into your HD, and that you have decent tags. Changing CDs or vinyl is just too distracting. If your tags are a mess, there are lots of tutorials on the web to get them under control. It’ll be worth the effort. At the end of this post, I’ll show you what could be the fastest method with the least human intervention.

(Note: I have talked about how managing music and academic paper collections are similar here; See also ‘noise for academics‘ by Shane).

The problem is that having background music has a cost.


Academics salaries lower than automobile industry worker salary?

July 14th, 2007 by jose

From Mark J. Perry’s blog, I just learned that the average UAW worker with a high school degree earns 57.6% more compensation than the average university professor with a Ph.D. Considering that there are plenty of academic positions that do not enjoy the average salary mentioned in the blog post, this is something to worry about. Average Postdoc salaries according to the NSF are nowhere closer to this figure, and you have to add the uncertainty of these positions (they are always short-term) and mobility demands (expect to move to a different university sooner or later). And of course, academic work longer hours and suffer a lot more psychological stress than car factory workers.

Where did things go this wrong? Do our markets demand cars, and not knowledge? Is education so unimportant in our current economy? These statistics are borderline insulting, no matter how you try to justify them.


Spouses and academic productivity

June 12th, 2007 by jose

The Chronicle has an interesting piece: “Is Your Spouse Hurting Your Career?”:

in some “mixed marriages,” with no malice or sabotage intended, the nonacademic partner’s behavior or ideas can undermine or even cripple the scholar’s career — because of mutual ignorance and mistaken assumptions. And in those cases where the relationship is failing, the academic’s work can be but one collateral casualty of a wider war.


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