Friday, 27 November 2009

Checking the time-line

Just moved from Twitter to blog – checking that the link is OK and happened to see my archive figures for 2009. You can really see the “down” times when life seemed like too much of a hassle to bother with.
Maybe I shouldn't be saying something like that in a business environment but as I’ve got older I’ve come to realise that the brick walls we as a society and I as an individual erect around our mental health are not a good idea. There is, however, a very fine line between honesty and wallowing and I’m not entirely sure which side I’m on this morning!
Of course, now I’ve said that I will definitely start feeling better.
It is now nearly four months since I started working at home and the balance between time in the office (half the dining room partitioned off) and the rest of the house is still not right. For example, I have to walk through the other half of the dining room, up the stairs to get to the bathroom and will inevitably end up carrying something up or bringing something down that is not in the right place and then notice a cobweb (or ten) and then ...
Advice on self-discipline, and someone to nag me into adopting it, could be useful!

Further Education: ...

policy hysteria, competitiveness and performativity

an article by James Avis (School of Education and Professional Development, University of Huddersfield) published in British Journal of Sociology of Education Volume 30 Number 5 (September 2009)

I picked this to read from the e-content alert for this journal since it has no online abstract and found myself immersed in a stunningly useful critique of government policy in relation to the further education agenda, primarily but not exclusively as evidenced in England.

It is not my intention to contravene copyright law by reproducing the whole of this essay nor to reduce my fingers to stumps copy typing; and regular readers of this blog will know that producing any kind of meaningful summary of an article is not one of my strengths.

The other option is to provide you with parts of the introductory paragraph as a flavour of the whole.

This essay addresses a number of issues that bear upon further education (FE) in England. It examines the socio-economic context in which the sector is located, considers its policy framework, touching upon the lived experience of those working and studying in the sector. Whilst the substantive focus is FE, the issues debated have a wider currency. ... One common feature of this turbulent environment is the manner in which policy is frames by an emphasis upon the skills agenda and the allied development of competitiveness. ... The aim is that learners of whatever age are readied for waged labour with practitioners prioritising this aspect of their work. ...
So there you have it – as if you didn’t already know. Further education is not about education it’s about turning out workers for the waged labour market.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The dictator and the Web design

You just have to love a man who can write like this:

You come ready for a fight. A switchblade in a boot. A length of chain casually deposited in a briefcase. A pry bar hidden under a raincoat. After all, few settings are more deadly, more provocative, more ready to explode into a riot than a committee called for the purpose of redesigning a website.

One of the reasons that I really enjoy reading Computer is the regular column from David Alan Grier of the George Washington University. The above came from Volume 42 Number 6 (May 2009) and continues to describe the in-fighting that ensues when "finance" finds that "human resources" has more pages and/or a direct link to the home page.

David is the author of two books., When Computers Were Human and Too Soon to Tell, neither of which I've read but am intending to find the time to do so.

Find? Time? No way. And you can’t make it either you just have to use the 86,400 seconds you are given each day to the best of your ability.

The best of my ability at the moment says "go and find a cup of coffee" before tackling any more reading.


You and I know, do we not, that completely discharging a recargable battery and then charging it completely before starting to re-use it is the best way to prolong its life?

Maybe you do it with your phone, your MP3 player or your camera. Do you do it with your laptop? Not on your life you don't unless you are a) very disciplined or b) control your laptop’s battery with BatteryCare

Don't thank me – thank Tips & Advice Internet which in issue 19 of year 13 tells us that the integrated battery meter in Windows is not very helpful (you can say that again). The recommendation also covers Battcursor but since that doesn't work with XP it was of no interest to me Luddit that I am.

MPs expenses

I make no apology for bringing up this subject yet again as it highlights an issue that some people working in or, more importantly, on behalf of a public authority may have not been aware or may have failed to remember.

The article “Freedom of Information update” by Ibrahim Hasan in Bulletin: Records Management Society (Number 150 (July 2009)) looks at the decisions reached by the Information Commissioner and the Information Tribunal during March and April this year.

Obviously top of the list is the fallout from the disclosure of MPs’ expenses by the Daily Telegraph. It’s worth remembering that we have Freedom of Information to thank for the knowledge that, while the rest of us were getting to grips with the credit crunch, MPs were using our money to buy such essentials as hanging baskets, bath plugs, designer rugs and mock-Tudor beams.
On 11 May The Times wrote that “a Labour plot to suppress the future release of MPs’ expenses has been uncovered ....” Senior Labour figures were reported as saying that the future privatisation of the House of Commons Fees Office, which processes expense claims, would mean that the information would no longer be held by the Commons and so not subject to the FoI rĂ©gime.
Readers of this blog and of ADSET’s Members’ Update publication are, of course, aware that this is a load of twaddle (to put it politely). The Act covers public bodies and those working on their behalf e.g. delivering a careers service.

Take care my friends, please.

The rest of the article is of a more technical nature and aimed at managers of information who will, hopefully, be members of the Records Management Society and will get their own copy of Bulletin and won’t have to wait for to get catalogued and into the British Library lending scheme.

Don’t get me wrong – I am grateful, very grateful, that the British Library collects all these journals and makes them available to readers like me. I’m even more grateful that not only can I sit in the Reading Room with laptop plugged in so I don’t have to hand write and then transpose when I get home but that I can type straight into a blog post and send it “up the wire” and all for free.

Should we be concerned that the eldery don’t text?

an article by Rich Ling (Telenor R&D, Oslo and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) published in The Information Society Volume 24 Number 5 (November-December 2008)


The elderly are generally “out of the loop” when it comes to texting and other new technologies. On the one hand, the elderly do not often send text messages and thus signal their ability and willingness to use the medium. On the other hand, stereotyping by the younger users perhaps inhibits them from sending texts to the elderly. Is the non-use of texting by the elderly because of self-exclusion or lack of exposure or both? Should this be of concern to us?

Hazel’s comment:
I’ve been meaning to read this article for some time but more work-related items kept getting in the way. I finally realised that it would be more than a year old if I didn’t get around to it soon! The article presents some interesting sociological ideas about exclusion – by design, by choice, imposed by others and so on. What’s your first thought when wishing to communicate with someone who is aged 80+? It’s unlikely to be “send a text”. Why is that? Your Auntie Amy doesn’t have a mobile phone? Why should she when so many of the modern devices called phones are games machines, email readers, cameras and have lots of buttons which don’t aid the making of simple phone calls or the sending of messages? And given the size of the buttons she’ll need to get out a magnifying glass to use the thing even if she can get her poor arthritic fingers into the right place! (With sincere apologies to my late Auntie Amy who would have been one of the first to embrace new technology if she was physically able so to do.) Perhaps the technology is excluding the elderly rather than the other way round.
Apropos this there was an advert in the newspaper this morning for a phone which will be an ideal Christmas present for my father-in-law (aged 84) which not only has larger buttons and a larger screen to display text messages but comes in at a reasonable price of 49.99 GBP from Orange. (This type of gadget was available a couple of years ago priced well over 100 GBP.)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Today's score

at the British Library

journals requested: 7
journals received: 4

issues requested within the 4 journals received: 10
issues received: 13 but got 4 I didn’t ask for

I’ll update you on tomorrow’s score tomorrow! Let’s hope it’s better than today.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

R is not at the end of the alphabet ...

but the RSA Journal was at the bottom of a large pile of journals that I have been ploughing through today in the British Library.

If you are familiar with this publication you may appreciate my dismay at reaching the final item in the pile just half-an-hour before closing time.
If you're not familiar with it then you may not understand why I gave up and have marked it for re-requesting on my next visit in two weeks.

It’s a “good read” – but not necessarily an easy one. A quick glance tells me that there are at least two articles that I'd want to blog about – but a) not in half-an-hour and b) not at the end of a long day. (The BL opens at 09:30 and closes at 20:00. I got here soon after opening time and won’t be leaving until time is called at 19:45.)

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Location is still important when it comes to career development

via The Management Blog by Adrian Gaskell

Location is increasingly important when it comes to people attending university, according to new research.The Location, Location, Location study carried out by the University and College Union shows that the education and career development gap between rich and poor people has continued to widen under the Labour government. According to the study, in the 20 poorest areas of the UK the number of adults with a degree has fallen over the past three years.
The announcement comes after a £2 billion government initiative to widen access to university education and management qualifications.
General secretary of the University and College Union Sally Hunt said: "The current government has rightly prioritised investment in education but this report shows that the problem is even more deep-seated than previously thought."

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

European statistics from A to Z

via Eurostat News releases

  • How much have infant mortality rates in the EU fallen since 1965?
  • In which fields are there the most PhD students and what is the split between men and women?
  • Which sectors have increased their importance in the EU economy in recent years?
  • What proportion of those employed in the EU have a second job?
The answers to these questions and to many more can be found in the 13th edition of the Eurostat yearbook, published by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities.

More ...

Hazel’s comment:
Serious data or, to be more precise, data on serious subjects, but also some which are the food for pub quizzes.

Culture, identity and information privacy in the age of digital government

an article by Rowena Cullen published in Online Information Review Volume 33 Issue 3 (2009)


The emergence of digital government and the requirement for citizens to exchange information with government online have raised a number of issues related to personal information held by government. These include questions about the confidence of citizens concerning the security and privacy of information they provide to government, on- or offline, and whether different cultural attitudes to issues such as personal identity might impact on citizens’ attitudes towards privacy. This paper aims to investigate these issues.
This paper reports and comments on the experiences and concerns of citizens in both New Zealand and Japan, based on focus groups and interviews. The New Zealand research included indigenous Maori, immigrant Pacific Islands groups and other ethnic communities.
Although all groups had concerns about information privacy, the nature of these concerns varied among the different groups interviewed and among individuals. Explanations of the attitudes and perceptions made in each group reflect cultural values and concepts of personal identity, and illustrate the importance of being aware of the differences between individualist and collectivist cultures.
Research limitations/implications
The research was based on a number of small studies, with limited numbers of participants. The findings would be strengthened by expanding the research to include larger numbers of participants.
The findings are significant to the development of policies for securing the confidentiality of citizens in the way government handles personal information in the online environment and in the ways in which these policies are communicated to citizens.

Hazel’s comment:
Before reading about this study I thought that everyone would be wary of central government organisations holding personal information and this is, to an extent, true but the level of wariness (not sure about that as a phrase but I’m sure you understand) varies quite considerably across different cultures.