Stores Tracking Me Could Be More Helpful

I know the stores track my purchases. They have tons of data on each of us. Their apps and rewards cards are precisely for knowing who I am and tracking me.

The other day, my girlfriend asked me to buy something using her rewards card to push it over the $1 she was short to get the reward for that month . (It is one of those you have to cross the threshold within the month or you lose the points.) There was a small temptation to mess with that data by buying something she’d never normally get. Instead, I bought something she would normally buy. I also paid in cash to keep my card number from being associated with her.

I just feel these companies with apps could be doing things to enable me to spend more in their stores.

  1. Their profile knows my purchasing frequency. They should be able to predict fairly well when my next purchase ought to happen. For items that happen monthly or less frequent, they could send me an email or app notification reminder. This value-add to the service would earn my loyalty in buying from them for helping me remember.
    • Of course, if they get it routinely wrong and alert me after I’ve already bought it from them, then I will be so offended that I would look for alternatives.
  2. Their profile knows how much I am willing to pay for specific items. They should be able to predict for which items I am willing pay full versus only sale prices. Then notify me when the items I buy for sale prices are available at close to the cost I am willing to pay.
    • Naturally, if they want to keep quiet when the item is significantly lower than what I am willing to pay, then I abstractly understand. That means in the moment of figuring it out, I would be hurt but as long as it is just a concept the decision makes sense.
    • They could also offer to let me set a price threshold for alerts when the item is offered for less than that amount. That would be useful pricing data for them.

 

TED Talk: On being wrong

A while back I pulled a post. It had to do with my wanting to be caught being wrong by my coworkers. I catch myself being wrong all the time, so I very much know my own fallibility. But, people take lack of confidence as lack of ability. Which means to get things done, one has to appear 100% confident even when 51%.

Kathryn Schulz discusses our feelings of rightness while being wrong. After watching this, I realized that I may have odd values. I enjoy discovering my being wrong about something and figuring out why I went astray. The path to knowing leads through not knowing. Finding out where I am wrong opens up new possibilities to learn something I should have already known.

I’m not worried about these concerns Schulz describes as conflicts with others not knowing (Ignorance), not making the same connections (Idiocy), or not making the decision I’d have made (Evil). I worry about people devaluing self-correction as much as I do. We all err and my feeling is I err more than most. I want a world where we strive to be the best we can intellectually be. I try to surround myself with people who seem more intelligent and with deep wells of knowledge outside areas I am competent. I have much to learn.

My favorite reason for having a smartphone is quickly accessing information. I will assert something in a conversation and while this is fresh on my mind have a doubt that I was correct. A concrete example. Last night, a friend told me her grandfather from Mexico was German. I asked if his parents migrated during WWI or WWII. So when I looked a bit later, I learned the German migrations to Mexico started in the mid-19th Century and continued through WWII. Every situation is a learning opportunity.

 (TED)

Most of us will do anything to avoid being wrong. But what if we’re wrong about that? “Wrongologist” Kathryn Schulz makes a compelling case for not just admitting but embracing our fallibility.

 

One of Many

The Learning Management System (LMS) has been a despised technology by some ever since I started working with one, WebCT, in 1999. At the time it was deemed crappy technology that had to improve or die. So today in 2012, about 13 years later, I have to roll my eyes at the pundits writing about how the current technology has not significantly changed in a decade (really more than a decade) because it still offers the same tools and will die unless it adapts.

My first few years, 2006-2010, of working at GeorgiaVIEW, our active user counts doubled every 1.5 years. We plateaued at around 290,000 and grow a few thousand a year. Numbers of actions in the system still doubles every 1.5 year. That is insane growth. Growth unlikely fueled by people despising use of the tool. Right now, we are getting pressure to migrate Summer 2012 content for the Fall 2012 start in Desire2Learn1 because instructors roll over the classes from term-to-term. That speaks of long term consistent loyal use not occasional only as little as have to use. For something on the verge of death, it is hard enough keeping the users happy.

I am a database administrator not a faculty member (or dean or vice president for academic affairs or provost). It seems to me though no one would say, “When you teach a class, the white board in the room is the only tool you can use.” Instead, the push would be to add to the available tools in a neverending pursuit of finding better ones. So we see pressures to integrate the LMS with a variety of similar specialized services. Many are textbook replacements or supplementary services designed specifically for student needs. Others are social media. More and more the LMS is just a portal: a place to organize where students really go to learn.

Also, as an IT guy, I think it is important to have a plan B. Things sometimes fail. As a student I was always annoyed when the instructor had to leave the room for 20% of the class to go track down a piece of chalk because the remaining ones were too small to write. I applauded once in my junior year because the instructor happened to have a piece of chalk in her purse just for that contingency. Similarly, faculty members and even students should think about what to do when the LMS is not there. Heck, what should they do if everything the university IT runs like the web sites, email, portal, and network all disappear. It can happen.

When the university bureaucracy selects and administrates a tool, they will adhere to university policy which adheres to higher education laws. When a faculty member selects and administrates a tool, they should do the same. Unfortunately, that means the faculty member becoming familiar with policy and law. Another challenge is running into different interpretations. An example: a user following @VSUENGL1101 on Twitter could be reasonably expected to be a student at Valdosta State University enrolled in the subject English class 1101. Some say that violates the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. Some disagree, so it is being debated. The law is old and did not likely anticipate social media, so naturally there is movement towards an update.

I doubt the LMS will simply die because there is something better. Instead it will remain one of many tools for years to come. Like the land line, television, JavaScript, still camera, WiFi, non-smartphone, and (God forbid) pagers.

Note 1: Desire2Learn objects to their product being called an LMS. They prefer Learning Environment on the grounds it integrates with so many other tools.

P.S. This totally is from a sustaining technology perspective. Guess I should write this from a disruptive technology perspective.

Dream of a UGA Loss

In part I, I attended a Christmas party where others kept moving to different rooms of the house. They would move and only later would I notice I was alone.

In part II, walking home, there were cars everywhere. Some were even parked on top of houses. There was a crowd noise up ahead. It turned out to be a stadium where the SEC Championship game just ended. The UGA team had already left in defeat. The Volunteers continued to celebrate on the field by stomping on the logo in the center of the field. I thought it ought to be the LSU team and the helmets changed accordingly. Various UGA fans I knew were on the side of a hill (replacing the stands) in tears and would not talk to me.

In part III, my smartphone would not pull up the Market app. The goal was an app who looking at a camera image would place names above the heads of friends at the game. Specifically I wanted to find Shannon because I knew she would want to gloat about how badly UGA played.

RIP Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs passed away yesterday. So naturally the fanatical fans were devastated, the normal fans were sad, and the rest of us understood. Comparisons made to Martin Luther King, Jr, John F. Kennedy, Thomas Edison, and yes even Tony Stark seemed maybe somewhat exaggerated. Though not by much.

He possessed intense curiosity, powerful intuition, great vision and the willfulness to see them happen. Much of the technological world is a knockoff of Apple’s or Pixar’s designs. Some people made liking his designs their identify. Pretty powerful for expensive toys and a great target for those of us who like to be outsiders.

At a time when the country needs young people interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, Jobs was a household name and role model. America needs more celebrities who inspire us to achieve based on their STEM accomplishments and less of those who get us to mindlessly vegetate on our couches. We need more true innovation. Hopefully he was just a big tree obscuring saplings who will become big on their own.

Sad to see him go. When he stepped down from Apple a few weeks ago, my hope was he would do like Bill Gates and get into philanthropy aimed at education. I hoped to hear more inspiring speeches.

Some of his quotes

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

His how to live before your die speech to Standford is a great speech. (Transcript)

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