Prom Signalling

“Prom season spending is spiraling out of control as teens continuously try to one-up each other,” said Jason Alderman, senior director of global financial education for Visa. “It’s important to remember that the prom is a high school dance, not a wedding, and parents need to set limits in order to demonstrate financial responsibility.”

From Average prom cost tops $1,000 per teen.

Actually, just like a wedding, it is an opportunity for parents through their kids to exploit signaling theory to communicate they are doing fine financially to members of the community. Some economists complain of similar signalling such as cars that cost more than a house, expensive clothes, and elaborate parties. I seriously doubt children, even teenagers, force their parents to buy things the parents are not willing to buy. Otherwise there would be lots more boys dying in 100+mph car wrecks because they got a muscle car. (Boy do I love to use strawmen.)

Plus, prom is a status war. This year’s people have to out spend last year’s. You want to show you are doing better than the previous year’s people. This is because prom is a replication of debutante balls. But again, I think it is the parents outspending each other not the kids.

This may be the one time it is good for me not to have children.

TED Talk: Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation

I was attracted to this video because a while ago I read Daniel’s book: A Whole New Mind. Take the concept that simple, clearly defined jobs will move to overseas. So to succeed in the United States, children need to be learning conceptual skills and become the people inventing the work doled out to overseas workers. Let’s ignore that overseas workers are more than capable of conceptual work like our kids.

The pervasiveness of functional fixedness perhaps explains why I have a job. (That and I’m not a gestault pscychologist.) The web comic xkcd recently posted a flowchart on how to become a computer expert where the pick one at random is overcoming functional fixedness. Much of what I do is figuring out non-intuitive issues and document a way to make it work aka a workaround.

I like his list of what economists say are good motivators to replace monetary incentives. The opportunity to get incentives like these drew me to this project. Of course, we don’t have the levels of autonomy Pink describes. Baby steps! Can you see your employer allowing the employees to spend one day a year working on whatever the employees wish to deliver a new product? Some autonomy in a group I work with here resulted in Yaketystats.

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

My favorite quote:

Traditional notions of management work great when you want compliance. If you want engagement, self-direction works better.

So this video is why this week I’ve been talking about how compliance sucks.  🙂

Monopoly Fears

Something brought up my abandoned Friendster blog, which had a link to fiftymillimeter which used to be my favorite photography site by people in Athens prior to me even moving here. Why “used to be”? Well over a year ago, they stopped posting to the site. Sad, I know. Still, I was curious, Where are they now? I ran across Twitter-Free Fridays looking for Toby Joe Boudroux.

What I found interesting about this post was his approach to whether or not Twitter is or is not a monopoly. I agree with the first part. The last sentence surprised me.

Being at the top of an emerging market segment does not constitute a monopoly. Unfair practices, abuses of that dominance to limit fair access to resources and outlets – those are monopolistic. If Twitter struck a deal with Mozilla that blacklisted other microblogging services, we’d have something to talk about. Opening APIs freely and allowing supplemental markets to emerge hardly seems consistent with railroad barons.

Supplemental markets would be the equivalent of a railroad baron allowing new train stations or business to sell to the customers using the trains. Open APIs allow other corporations to find a niche. However, they are not a direct competitor. For example, with Twitter, the API is not used by Pownce or Jaiku. Friendfeed who fits in both the lifestream market and the micro-blog markets does use the API. More commonly, the Twitter API is used by companies like Summize or Twitpic in searching or posting content.

If economists or lawyers determining whether a company with a large market share is monopolistic are influenced by open APIs creating supplemental markets, then this could be a strategy to avoiding DOJ further scrutiny? At Bbworld / DevCon, a frequent point of pride from the Blackboard folks was the anticipation of Bb9 to have a more open, accessible, and useful API. This API will be able to do everything the current one in the Classic line can currently do. The anticipated additions to this API could benefit many supplemental markets. (Let’s just forget at the same time, they are saying API for the CE/Vista products is a dead-end development path.)

Scoring points with the DOJ (and more importantly the court of public opinion) could never hurt while trying to sue a much smaller competitor like Desire2Learn. Some characterize Bb as not likely to stop until D2L no longer exists. Who knows? I doubt even Chasen knows. Still, it would far fetched to characterize just this as making Blackboard a monopoly.

There are pleny of alternative LMS products to the Blackboard Learning System: Moodle, Sakai, ANGEL, eCollege, and many, many more. Heck, the rumor mill would indicate more and more higher education institutions are considering and even changing to the alternatives. Blackboard acknowleges institutions likely run multiple products. With Bb 9, they encourage people to use the Learning Environment Connector to single sign-on to into the other products. With the Bb9 frame remaining so they know who got them there, of course.  Don’t forget about a Personal Learning Environment,

Certainly I dislike that Blackboard hears my objections and continues to act in ways contrary to them. However, that happens within my own team. Neither group are criminal for ignoring me.