Wednesday, June 1, 2016

More on the Productivity of Software Developers

It was my former boss, Steve Marshall, who introduced me to the principles of Performance Management and he gave me a job to do which enforced learning.

“Get out there, learn about Performance Management and implement a system here at Payserv that will get our people to work harder and smarter. Incentivise people and they will be motivated to improved productivity.”

So I did. I learned from asking people questions and I learned from the Internet. I learned about ‘The Balanced Scorecard’ and I learned as much as I could find about Key Result Areas (KRAs), Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and ‘Agreed Targets’ – measurable performance targets agreed between managers and employees.

And in time we introduced it to Payserv. And my word, did it work. In our payroll bureau our monthly error rate on payrolls was reduced from a monthly average of 5 to 0.5. It worked so well that our administrative staff – the tea maker, the cleaner, the drivers and the gardeners – asked why they could not be brought onto the scheme. So we did. The tea maker who had previously complained that management did not advise him when tea and biscuits were needed in the boardroom stopped complaining. Instead he asked daily if and when tea and biscuits would be required and he monitored the use of the boardroom so that he would be aware of when we had guests, then he automatically brought in the tea, coffee and biscuits.

My most valuable piece of learning was that to be meaningful and valuable to the organisation, targets to be measured should be OUTCOMES, not OUTPUTS and I learned that an outcome was the consequence of doing a good job, while an output was nothing more than doing a job. For example, the outcome of running a payroll was a satisfied customer, while an output was simply running an error free payroll.

So we started measuring outcomes and not outputs. Wonderful. Customers were happy, management was happy, the business grew.

Most staff knew that they could earn a monthly bonus by doing more. And they did.

But we found the problem of the Software Developers and our inability to set meaningful ‘Agreed Targets’ that measured outcomes, not outputs.

And then I watched and listened to Daniel Pink on TED

Daniel Pink is a great speaker on TED.

Has he finally solved my problem of Performance Management for Software Developers? Perhaps he has, but again perhaps not. Pink argues vociferously that providing incentives for people to work only works for some people and not others, depending on what they do and how they do it.

What then does Pink tell us?

Incentives work for one-dimensional jobs but they do not work for multi-dimensional jobs. In fact, in multi-dimensional jobs, financial incentives can be damaging. And he demonstrated the realty of this through the ‘candle problem’. You want to know about the ‘candle problem?  Here’s the link to Joachim Ramm’s Master’s Thesis:

People in Multi-Dimensional work are motivated, not by money or other financial rewards, they are motivated by Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose

  1. Autonomy: The freedom to choose when and how to do the work.  Independence, self-rule. The urge to direct our own lives.
  2. Mastery: To be the best at whatever it is you do.
  3. Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

Now the question is: Is software development a single dimensional or a multi-dimensional discipline? Pink argues that in some cases software development or simply put, ‘programming’ is single dimensional but it other cases it is not.

What is it in or case? Our developers are being asked to be creative. They are being asked to be innovative. They are being asked to solve customer needs that are frequently unique and require creative, innovative thought. They are being asked to think ‘outside the box’, using their diffuse thinking mode. There is no doubt that they are in a multi-dimensional job.

But they are also in desperate need of money in this desperate economy with its desperate limitations to be able to send their children to school. Schools are expensive in Zimbabwe. Proper schools that is. And every parent wants his or her children to have the advantages in life that a good school can create for them. 

So here’s my solution to the Product Developers motivation: Pay the developers what they would receive if and when they achieved their performance objectives bonus level. Then give them the freedom to work where and when they want but they can only work on business needs of the business. (There could be special cases for doing something different sometimes). Give them opportunity and encouragement to learn new languages, new techniques, new procedures and once a quarter, take them out into the businesses of those who use the systems they develop. Let them see how their systems are being used, let them talk to the users and find out how they think and feel about the systems they have helped to develop. Let them see for themselves the results of their work.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Managing the Performance of Software Developers

In my previous blog I wrote about why software developers can't write bug-free code. But I am still faced with the problem of developing performance targets for Software Developers. Against all global advice of course.That has been said already.

On the subject I have been meaning to ask Angie Culverwell, Product Development Manager, how she knows who is a good product developer in her team and who is not. 

So today I asked.

"I know that A is a good developer because he ‘cares’ about his work. I know when he finds a development problem, he will find a way round it, because he cares. I know also he produces code with bugs but that is inevitable. When I give A a job to do it will be done, usually on time. 

But the problem of creating timelines is that they are either based on thumb-suck or based on the need as defined by the Customer Service Manager and/or the User. So measuring a Product Developer on the basis of meeting timelines is not always a good idea. In fact it is never a good idea."

So Angie measures the performance of her developers on the basis of attitude. But how do you put numbers to attitude? Can we say A has a ‘3’ attitude this month and perhaps only a ‘2 attitude next month? And B has a ‘1’ attitude this month and a ‘2’attitude next month? Attitude tends to be a fixed attribute. We can talk about it at the Annual Review but not as a monthly performance target.

Do we then perhaps measure performance on the developer’s hours worked? No because hours worked does not measure ‘productivity’. Sometimes it is measure of lack of productivity when it takes, say A 50 hours to develop a piece of software and 100 hours for B to do the same. Neither is it an ‘outcome’. It is only a measure of output. Hours worked therefore cannot be a measure of ‘performance’.

So we are back to ‘square one’. Is it possible to develop realistic performance measures for product developers? 

Anything is possible. Miracles we perform immediately, the impossible takes a little bit longer. 

Watch this space.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Learning to Chunk and Why Software Developers cannot write bug free code

I have been in the firing line recently for failing to develop acceptable performance management targets for software developers. I consult for a business that believes, strongly, in performance management – setting Key Result Areas, Key Performance Indicators and performance targets for all staff. We measure performance monthly. When staff members over-achieve they are rewarded with a bonus. When they under-achieve we investigate to determine why. Sometimes it is because they had inadequate resources, sometimes it is because they didn’t have the skill and sometimes it is because they didn’t have the will.

Top management expects software developers to write bug-free code. Nevertheless we employ a tester to check. Testing is what is done in the software development field – it is essential to product quality.

So the question I am being asked by management is why? Why can’t developers be like everybody else in the organisation, excel at their work and develop bug-free code?

So I did some research. On the Internet, where else?

Developers worldwide develop code with bugs. It’s unavoidable. According to one site, if business managers think they can set performance targets for developers like they do for everyone else in the business, they are mistaken. And if there is an HR Manager out there who can develop suitable targets for developers that enable the effective management of their performance, he or she will be the next speaker on And moreover, will be sought after by Bill Gates, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg and everyone else who matters in the software development field.

I haven’t given up – not yet.

But I had some thoughts recently:

I am attending a course on the Internet called “Learning How to Learn” with Barbara Oakley and her team from the University of California, San Diego. I thought I knew nearly everything about learning – after all I wrote a book on the subject in 1999 – but I enrolled because I thought there might just be something new. And of course there was. I learned very early in the course about the focused mind and the diffuse mind. The focused mind is what we all use to do our jobs – even developers use the focused mind. The diffuse mind is for something else. We use it for creativity and innovation, for ‘understanding the whole’ and not just the parts that make it up. We should, according to Barbara, use both but at different times.

So I did some diffuse thinking.

I thought back to my book on learning and how it evolved. I remember writing for nights on end. But I remember more that I sent it to a colleague for editing. My colleague, Howard Dean, held on to the hard copy pages of my book for three months and then sent it back in a large envelope which I opened and first I read his covering note.


He wrote: “You have a natural story-telling ability, but……” And he then went on to say there were a few corrections needed.

I looked at Page 1 and there were three or four red marks in ball-point pen. I looked at Page 2 and saw the same. There were, I was to find, red marks and writing on EVERY page. I was shocked. How could I have written such drivel? But because of the comment on the cover note, I didn’t throw the whole lot in the waste-paper basket. I took up the challenge and repaired all the ‘bugs’.

The book was eventually published and I won the Zimbabwean Personnel Practitioner of the Year in 2000.

On the question of developers and bugs, my diffuse thinking continued working. And I did some 'chunking'

Successful authors all have editors who find the ‘bugs’ in their work. I know this because nearly every successful editor acknowledges the help he or she received. Only after the ‘bugs’ have been found and repaired do the books reach the market. Authors and Software Developers must have something in common, methinks. The difference probably being that developing software is a far more intricate and exacting task than writing a book, (or a blog like this).

How does one manage the performance of an author? Quite simply by the number of books he or she sells. And perhaps that is how we should manage the performance of a Software Developer? Well, not exactly the same way, but on the successful or unsuccessful deployment of the software.
But like the author who ‘develops’ books with ‘bugs’, we should expect the bugs in the original software and managers should not penalize software developers for creating them. They should instead employ Software Testers who excel at using their diffuse minds to make every attempt to break the software before it reaches its market.

So software developers, like authors of books, rely on a colleague, a partner – in the case of an author, the editor and in the case of the software developer, the tester.

My problem is not over though: how do we manage the performance of a software developer on a month by month basis? There has to be a way.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Final Comments: Open Knowledge - Changing the Global Course of Learning


This is primarily aimed at the people I coach and mentor

I am now at the end of this course.  What am I taking away from it?

Before I commit to that, it is pertinent to repeat that I am not in the business of ‘scholarly research and publishing’.  I am a coach and mentor working with people who live and work in Zimbabwe.  My work is to help people to learn how to do their jobs better and how to build their personal capacities. 
So some of what I learned is relevant, but certainly not all.  What is relevant is “open access” and the growing body of people and organisations committed to providing that access.

What is also very obvious – and very relevant – is that scholarly people and scholarly institutions in Zimbabwe are way behind the curve on these developments.  While there may be some limited understanding of the principles, there is no evidence at all that it is being applied.

Should I care about this?   Yes.   Should I try to do something about changing it?  Perhaps.  But as I am outside this field of academic learning, I can do little of substance and if I try to do so, I will deflect myself from my purpose.   So let me stay with my purpose.


One of the early learning notes I have is that the concept of ‘openness’ does not mean simply freedom from payment.  It has a larger meaning – free to collaborate, discuss, explore, create.  It is this ‘freedom’ that is being made available by scholarly institutions and the Internet.

Another significant piece of learning is that the ‘digital divide’ is not a division of data ownership; it is a division of who can put the digital data to work.


Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today

Open Access

From David Wiley I learned that Open Access is about the ‘4 R’s’ – the openness to Re-use, Revise, Remix and Redistribute

Digital Ethics

Latterly I have learned that the growing privacy concern – identity theft, fraud, genetic testing, cellphone tracking, credit and card fraud and internet privacy and security.  These concerns have the capacity to destroy the internet.

Coincidently I learned from outside this course about Digital Ethics which has a direct relationship to the privacy concern.  Gerd Leonhard who describes himself amongst other things as a ‘futurist’ taught me something about the future of humans in a connected world.  Technology does not have (or not have) ethics.  It is people who behave ethically or not.  Ethics are moral principles which govern a person or a group’s behaviour.  Value systems, dictates of conscience, virtues, moral code.  The future of the Internet depends on ethics.  And as I followed Leonhard’s views, it dawned on me that the Internet – and the country in which I live – is filled with immoral behaviour.  I reflected on how to change this behaviour.  Clearly Leonhard is trying to do so.  What can I do to help?  The future of the good that the Internet provides depends on it.

Some interesting statistics: -

1.       We don’t have a choice on social media – the choice is how well we do it
2.       Worlds Populations – 1. China, 2. India, 3. Facebook, 4. Tencent 5. WhatsApp.  6. USA, 7.Google
3.       More people own a mobile device than a toothbrush
4.       1 in 5 couples meet online
5.       The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is grandparents
6.       Two new people register on Linked-In every second

Amazing Learning

Alec Couros was an introduction – for me – into how some people are using the internet for the most amazing learning projects. 

Personal Knowledge Mastery

Suggests that we learn more if we ‘learn out loud’.  Share your learning and you will increase the depth of mental processing.

Paradoxes (Inconsistencies, Ironies, Contradictions)

Andrew Feenberg gave a boring presentation that many people did not like.  But he is an intellectual who needs to learn how to present himself.  Perhaps there are many intellectuals who need to develop this skill.  He taught me about some paradoxes –
a.      The paradox of the obvious says that what is most obvious is most hidden. 
b.      The paradox of Origin tells us that behind everything rational there lies a forgotten history. 
c.       The paradox of the frame says that efficiency does not explain success.  Success explains efficiency. 
d.      The paradox of the means – the means are the end.  I am what I drive. 
e.      The paradox of complexity – simplification complicates. 
f.        The paradox of Value and Fact – Values are the Facts of the future. 
g.       Finally the paradox of Conquest – the Victor belongs to the Spoils.  (Something we know in Zimbabwe where the victors enjoy enormous ill-gotten wealth at the expense of the ordinary people).

Anyone can Make a Difference

Chandra Clarke told us that anyone and everyone can get involved in bringing about a difference.

With Empowerment comes Responsibility

Brian Conly’s parents taught him that he could do anything but with it (whatever he does) comes responsibility.  We need more of that understanding in Zimbabwe.  ‘Empowerment’ does not mean the freedom to do anything.  With empowerment comes responsibility to do ‘the right thing’ (ethics)

The Internet will bring Freedom

Evgeny Morozov thinks that the Internet will bring democracy and through it, we will never have another Rwandan genocide.  Nice thoughts.  I don’t agree. There are far too many places in this world that are still ruled by fear and it is likely to continue.  (I keep asking myself how we can change the behaviour of unethical people and governments within the boundaries of ethical behaviour change.  The Christian Church has been trying to do it, without success, for 2000 years)

The “Prosumer”

Vincent Manzerole was somewhat oblique but I understood the overall message – consumers are being led by the nose by the ‘capitalists’ who market and sell their products and services. Consumers want what everyone else is perceived to already have, so the smartphone has been developed to create an audience for advertising and marketing products.  We can see this in the release of the iPhone 6. Once one person buys one, everybody on the globe must have one too. Do we really need one? Probably not, but the perception that we must have one is generated through social media. So the rich become richer and the rest of us go back to work to earn more money to buy the next version of whatever it is we already have.  We are now described as ‘prosumers’ – people who produce and consume all at the same time.  Are we on this free MOOC at Stanford prosumers? I guess we are. We are consuming knowledge and at the same time producing it in some small way, as well providing Stanford with a multiplicity of data analytics, which is why are getting a ‘free lunch’ perhaps?

Citizen Journalism

Henry Jenkins told us that the Internet brings hidden challenges to ethics.  “If it’s on the Internet it must be true”.  Citizen journalists are at risk of telling untruths to get attention.  (In my experience it is also ‘professional’ journalists.  A look at what The Herald publishes almost daily will tell you that. We need to help young people learn ethics (hear, hear!) and to have enquiring, research oriented minds.  We need to teach children to play, to simulate, to perform, to appropriate, to multitask, to distribute cognition, to work at collective intelligence.  We also need to teach them judgement to network and to negotiate across diverse communities.

Copyright and Fair Use

We learned about copyright and fair use.  How the Internet is changing the face of scholarly publishing.

Social production is a real fact, not a fad. It is the critical long-term shift caused by the Internet. Social relations and exchange become significantly more important than they ever were as an economic phenomenon. In some contexts, it's even more efficient because of the quality of the information, the ability to find the best person, the lower transaction costs. It's sustainable and growing fast. But it is threatened by the incumbent industrial systems in the same way that everything new is threatened by the status quo.

Intellectual Property Rights and the History of Publishing

Richard Stallman told us that ‘intellectual property rights’ are nothing more than monopolistic policy rights introduced by the rich against the poor.  Hmm!  I wonder if that idea will take hold.

John Willinsky gave us insight into the history of publishing.  The most interesting learning for me was that in the 17th Century, John Locke created the concept of ‘common property rights’ – and the first time in history property did not belong to the King, but to everyone for his labour.  What a pity that John Locke’s principles do not apply in Zimbabwe where property still belong to “The King” and he has the right to distribute it to whomsoever he sees fit.

The Polymath Problem

From Michael Nielsen we learned of the ‘polymath’ problem – a successful collective solution was enabled through collaboration online.  This project gives rise to the idea that collective learning  and ‘crowd science’ will solve more and more problems in less and less time than hitherto and we are on the threshold of a massive spike in global knowledge.

The Khan Academy

Khan is changing the rules of education.  Others – opponents to the status quo – are calling the Khan Academy ‘hacked education’.  What matters is does it help people to find and/or create opportunities.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

In October we were asked to engage in an activity – to access an OER (Open Educational Resource) and evaluate it.  I looked at an OER on Emotional Intelligence.  I rated it highly, albeit that I found some parts of it that I did not like at all.

Later I found myself in conversation with two of my colleagues.  This was a huge step forward in my educational progress on this course – the opportunity to collaborate!  Professor Peter Johnston suggested that in the past and present people have been and are judged on pieces of paper but in the very near future people will be judged by continuous assessment – on what they can do – rather than on whether their parents were rich enough to send them to a particular college.  Thus the people who are willing to adopt a policy of ‘lifelong learning’ will rise to the top.

The three rules to spark learning: -

1.       Inspire curiosity
2.       Sort out the mess (by trial and error)
3.       Encourage reflection

Open Journal Publishing

The last month of the course was devoted largely to the progress being made in Open Journal Publishing as it relates to scholarly publications.  While this had its points of interest, it is largely outside my personal frame of reference.

But some gems: -

Predatory publishers

Predatory Publishers are, just like e-mail spammers, corrupting Open Access.  These predators exist mainly in Nigeria, India and Pakistan.  Scholars must be wary of them for they seek to seduce research scientists to publish in exchange for tenure at a university.


Publishers do much more than publish.  If you want to know anything and everything about publishing look no further than

Information Overload

In Week 10 we learned of ‘Information Overload’ and its cause – ‘Filter Failure’.  Clay Shirky tells us we need to learn how to filter.  Easier said than done but a worthwhile lesson.  Howard Rheingold told us how to detect ‘crap’ information through ‘critical consumption’.  Simply put:  Don’t believe everything you read/hear.  Be critical in your consumption of knowledge.

During my research on Information Overload I came across an article from one of my student colleagues.  One Dave Pollard told us that he believes we are in the early stages of collapse: -

1.    Corporations have given up the pretence of being ethical
2.    Politicians have given up the pretence of being representative
3.    Lying has becoming rampant, overt and even socially acceptable.
4.    Widespread use and acceptance of “ends justify the means” 
5.    Human activity (litigation, security, financial “products” etc.) is focused on defending the status quo rather than producing anything of value. 
6.    The illusion of growth has become totally dependent on increases in oil and in debt
7.    Acceptance of obscene inequality
8.    Denial of reality, across the political spectrum
9.    Widespread cynicism and acceptance of conspiracy theories
10.  Search for and willingness to believe in charismatic people and magical solutions
11.  Ubiquitous spying and corporatist surveillance
12.  Self-colonization and the emergence of “apologism” and mandatory optimism
13.  Widespread anomie and the trivialization and co-opting of dissent by professional activists

I had to look up the term ‘anomie’.  It means a disconnection between one’s personal values and one’s community’s values. 

In winding up Pollard tells us: -

“Today, after several centuries of adversarial strife, we are left with several classes of professionals who practice politics for profit, and who are bent upon revenge. They seem to measure their success exclusively by the failure of their opponents, and their only interest is in gaining some kind of advantage, regardless of its effect on the country as a whole. They do not fear the voter because history has taught them that the U.S. voter has a very short attention span and can easily be misled, bamboozled and confused.”

This is not pleasant reading.  It enters the realms of ‘state of fear’.  Pollard is talking about America, not Zimbabwe!  Apply the 13 reasons to our own system of governance.  What do you come up with?  What can we do – all of us – to change this?   Do we have to change the system?  Perhaps we do.

Adults are like Children (and vice-versa)

I sent Pollard’s URL to my son in the UK.  He didn’t like its pessimism but he sent me another URL titled ‘The Printing Press, Literacy and the Rise and Fall of the Secret Society of Adults’.  A fascinating look at how the Internet and television have made children more like adults and adults more like children  If you have the time and the inclination: -

Information Literacy

Through the Internet we also learned how ‘critical information literacy’ enables students to believe that they have the ability to change the world.   The Information Literacy Users Guide: -
1.       Identify:                               Understanding Your Information Need
2.       Scope:                                 Knowing What Is Available
3.       Plan:                                      Developing Research Strategies
4.       Gather:                                Finding What You Need
5.       Evaluate:                             Assessing Your Research Process and Findings
6.       Manage:                              Organizing Information Effectively and Ethically
7.       Present:                               Sharing What You’ve Learned
8.       Visual Literacy:                  Applying Information Literacy to Visual Materials
9.       Science Literacy:               Information Literacy in the Sciences

The Intentional Learner

And then – “The Intentional Learner”.  INTENTIONAL LEARNERS can adapt to new environments, integrate knowledge from different sources, and continue learning throughout their lives

Are YOU an Intentional Learner?  Learner Centred Education places the STUDENT at the centre of learning, and the teacher (trainer/mentor/coach) takes second place.

Information Literacy

Michael B. Eisenberg told us that “Information Literacy” is the set of skills and knowledge that allows us to find, evaluate and use the information we need, as well as to filter out the information that we do not need.  And Jagtar Singh told us that people may have different viewpoints of Information Literacy but it is a hard fact that only the info-literate’s can stay ahead in this era of discontinuous change and fierce competition.

The Social Progress Index (SPI)

From Michael Green we learned of the “Social Progress Index” (SPI) which he suggests is a more relevant index for judging the state of a nation’s progress than the GDP.  I Googled the SPI and found hundreds of countries with a measure.  But Zimbabwe is not one of them.  We are not on the list!


Dr Maria Martin from South America writes an open article suggesting that the MOOC would soon become the norm for Higher and Vocational education.   Maria Konnikova disagreed.

Closing Remarks

If I am to practice what I preach I must now ‘Learn Out Loud’ and share what I have learned by passing this on to you so that you can learn. 

There are some learning gems here.  On what we should be doing as learners.  On Intentional Learning, on learning so that we can take care of the future (which is more important than what we know today), on being critically competent.    On putting the learner at the centre of learning and letting the ‘teacher’ take second place.  This means taking our own responsibility for learning and not asking or waiting for others to do it for us.

If you want to change the world or perhaps just change yourself and help your business to grow – you know now what you have to do.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Week 11 : Academic Research in Zimbabwe


I made a blunder!    I completed Week 13 before I had completed Weeks 11 and 12.  So here I am back at Week 11 where we have been covering academic research in developing countries and more specifically, Africa.

In our videos and readings there was nothing at all about Zimbabwe

What is Happening in Zimbabwe?

So I did some rudimentary research on Zimbabwe’s preparedness for Open Access and the current state of affairs relating to the dispensation of scholarly knowledge.   I started by contacting an old friend, Howard Dean.  Howard was at one time the Director of the Institute of People Management of Zimbabwe (IPMZ) and had, and still has, a deep interest in scholarly research.  He started a journal under the umbrella of IPMZ which I recall reading in years past.  It was titled "The HR Journal of Academic Research in Zimbabwe" and Howard published HR related academic research through the journal.   However, in the midst of the Zimbabwe hyper-inflationary spiral of 2000-2008 he was unable to continue to finance the journal and it is now very much extinct.

Howard had his own take on the current state of affairs which was depressing.   The Zimbabwe economy is once again in disarray and he was of the opinion that little is being done in academia to promote and publish academic research.  But he put me on to Roger Stringer, a former Director of the University of Zimbabwe Publishing Department.

I spoke with Roger at some length on the telephone and he had similar views to current activity as Howard.  But he was aware of the work being done in Zimbabwe by INASP, AuthorAID and AJOL.  He told me of a journal titled Zambesia which published research done in the humanities and the Zimbabwe Journal of Agricultural Research both of which have, he believes, disappeared from the landscape.

Roger is still publishing under the name of ‘Textpertise’ but his work is largely in support of Aid Agencies. 

Google Searches

I then Googled a few sites and came across: -

The Zimbabwe Country site: from which I discovered that a few ‘research’ articles have been published of late but unfortunately they lack empirical research of any kind and are more anecdotes than scholarly research articles.  Nonetheless they were of interest and I read ‘Reflections of a Trainer’ who trained the Zimbabwe Parliamentary staff in on-line research practices and  the abstract of “Building a Digital Library at the University of Zimbabwe”, a Book by Buhle Mbambo-Thata, published on June 3, 2007

Once again this book is purely anecdotal.

I Googled 'Zambesia' and found several links to bird life.  There was also reference to a main belt asteroid named Zambesia and discovered in 1932 by C Jackson in Johannesburg. 

Nothing related to academic research of any kind

I then Googled the University of Zimbabwe and ZULC – the Zimbabwe Universities Libraries Consortium.    I learned from the ZULC website that in June 2012 they were calling for papers to present at The Zimbabwe International Conference on Open Access, June 15, 2012.  Unfortunately it was not clear whether or not the conference was ever actually run as there was no follow up information of any kind.

Where to now?

So what is happening in Zimbabwe vis-à-vis Open Knowledge, Open Access and scholarly publishing?    The questions are yet to be answered.   I have e-mailed the author of ‘Reflections of a Trainer’ and hopefully this will result in future contact.  I shall also make it my business to visit the UZ Library in the near future when time permits.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Open Learning: Week 13


This week has been a little easier to handle than previous weeks –perhaps less to digest.

The Opportunity of Abundance

From “The Opportunity of Abundance” with Brian O’Leary I learned that the publishing business in the USA and probably worldwide – is in turmoil with the advances being made by digitalization.   Here in Zimbabwe publishing is not big business and is largely confined to newspapers.  The Zimbabwe Independent (newspaper) is having its problems.  Probably more because of the depressed Zimbabwean economy than the technical revolution.  But they have to publish online to be visible, yet they obviously don’t make much money publishing online.  Advertising is limited.  So they delay the digital copy by a few days in an effort to get readers to buy the hard copy.  The hard copy has a lot more information than the digital.  The Zim Independent is caught between a rock and a hard place – in order to survive they have to make money to pay the staff and the other overheads.  Yet in order to survive they also have to be online.

Openness: Decoupling the Future to Radically Improve Access to Education With David Wiley

I have ‘met’ David Wiley before on a previous MOOC so much of this presentation was not new to me.  But it did reinforce his views.  One question which Wiley raised but never answered is that college fees in the US have risen way above national inflation levels.  Why are college fees rising so steeply against standard inflation?

It was worth visiting Wiley’s website.  I sent him an e-mail asking him to answer this question.  So far no response!

Perhaps the most valid comment from this video: “The future is already here – it just isn’t evenly distributed yet”

Knowledge Unlatched

We were introduced to ‘Knowledge Unlatched’ through two short videos that were easy to follow. The principle behind the movement is Libraries pay a Title Fee to an author.  The Title Fee is fixed.  The more libraries that join Knowledge Unlatched, the more shared the costs and the lower the overall cost.


The readings focused on changes happening but not yet solidified in the publishing of scholarly articles and then a short discussion on MOOCs – the past and the possible future.  The most interesting discussion was brought to me by a fellow-student -  LauraF888.  In the discussion she referred us to which is a recent (7 November 2014) critique of the MOOC phenomenon.  It brought to mind my first e-learning experience which was on a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) with ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management).  Before we started the organisers told us what was needed to successfully learn online.  So for the benefit of my two readers here’s the requirements as so succinctly stated by ILM: -

Successful distance learning, particularly online, requires the learner to have certain characteristics, in order to fully engage in the learning process. These are:
1. academic and emotional maturity
2. specific goals
3. the ability to work alone
4. the capacity for self-starting
5. self-understanding and self-motivation
6. persistence
7. patience
8. self-confidence
9. reading and writing ability;
10. Contacts who can help with content problems; and an academic support system (at home and at work).

I have found these characteristics to be largely correct and I recall discussing them with a fellow-student in China on my first MOOC – E-Learning and the Digital Space.  She suggested that ALL learners in whatever environment needed all these characteristics.  I argued that a lot of students (in classrooms) do not have these characteristics and the work of the teacher very often, is to instill them.  This led to another discussion which is not important here.

But what is important is that those who enroll on MOOCs need these characteristics to succeed and when they don’t have them, they are likely to drop out.  Perhaps what is needed to keep them on track is a mentor.

Will the MOOC die a natural death because it is not fulfilling the perceived objectives of the organisers?   Remembering that the perceived objectives of the organisers is to bring education to the ‘developing world’ and to those who ‘need it most’

That remains to be seen.  For the moment there are still thousands of people enrolling on MOOCs from all over the world and when the success rate (completion rate) is only 10%, when 100,000 people enroll and 10% succeed, 10% translates into 10,000 – a large number of better educated people.

Final Thought

As a final thought:  I am not sure who put this in my head but it has great significance

“The quality of education depends on the depth of mental processing”

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Open Knowledge: Week 10

Information Overload and More

This has been a useful week of learning on Information Overload, Filter Failure and Information Literacy.   The problem with overload is not all that new.   There is so much to learn.  This course has also been a case of ‘information overload’ and I have seen a few comments from people who have become lost in the myriad of information that has been presented to us.   Without my Learning Log I would be in deep trouble.  I passed on the idea of the Learning Log to one troubled learner from Asia and he has thanked me for it.

Clay Shirky tells us that it's not Information Overload - it's 'Filter Failure'  

I find there is a disconnect between what we were told by Dr. Levy in his short presentation in the street where we saw dozens of people walking across the street while texting/talking on their mobile phones or sitting on street corners working on their laptops and what we are told by Shirky and his ‘filter failure’.  I am suffering from information overload right now, not because of filter failure but because I want to learn while I am also working.  I have been on MOOCs before and had to do a lot of extra work to learn, but I have not been bombarded with as much information previously.  On this course I have personally filtered OUT the ‘Additional Resources’ simply because I have to filter out something to remain sane.

In consequence I have learned of additional values to the use of learning logs as a result of this last week.   I now realise the LL has enabled me to move from being a nondescript learner to what the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) terms an INTENTIONAL Learner.   An Intentional Learner, according to ACRL is one who ‘can adapt to new environments, integrate knowledge from different sources, and continue learning throughout their lives’ and it has also enabled me to (partially) deal with the massive information overload that many of my colleagues on this course must be experiencing.

A Learning Log

I commend the Learning Log to all my blog readers (well, both of you).  In a nutshell (to avoid even more information overload): -
1.  Write up your learning experience
2.  Record the source of learning and in this day and age, include a URL link
3.  Write up your thoughts about what you have learned – do you agree with the source?  Does the information have value?  If yes, what kind of value?  Do you need to explore more from other sources?
4.  How and where will you use what you have learned?

Another very useful piece of learning was to identify the traits/skills/habits of ‘Information Literacy’.  IL is the set of skills and knowledge that allows us to find, evaluate, and use the information we need, as well as to filter out the information we don’t need. 

So filtering is a key IL skill.

Crap Detection

Howard Rheingold introduced us to 'Crap Detection' and the need for curiosity.  It's not only on the Internet that one needs to beware of 'crap'.  We get enough of it from news agencies the world over.  It struck me that because of 'crap' all of us need a mentor, whether young or old, rich or poor, we need to discuss what we are learning with someone else. 

Jagtar Singh 

Jagtar tells us that IL should include learning to know, to do, learning to work together, and learning to be better than the best.

I can’t put it better (or shorter) myself

Doherty, J.J. and Ketchner, K. 

in a 2005 paper titled ‘Empowering the Intentional Learner: A Critical Theory for Information Literacy Instruction’ tell us more about the IL person:

“in order to thrive in the 21st Century, the intentional learner should be: -
1.  empowered through a mastery of intellectual and practical skills;
2.  informed by knowledge about the natural and social worlds and about forms of inquiry basic to those studies;
3.  and, responsible “for their personal actions and civic values.”

I like the reference to responsibility for all too often in Africa I hear about ‘empowerment’ but so rarely about ‘responsibility’ 


To conclude this has been very useful to me this week because I was approached by a former friend who has a son who has been given management responsibility at his place of work and he needs to learn the basics of management.  I have been able to apply some of the principles of Intentional Learning to help this young man achieve a better future.