Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Using ontology to generate test cases for GUI testing

an article by Han Li, He Guo, Feng Chen, Hongji Yang and Yuansheng Yang published in International Journal of Computer Applications in Technology Volume 42 Number 2/3 (2011)


Graphical User Interface (GUI) testing is a knowledge-intensive process.
In this paper, ontology is introduced to generate user-centric GUI test cases.
First, GUI and non-GUI components are captured by reverse engineering techniques.
Next, relations among GUI components are analysed and a GUI ontology is constructed by representing all analysed results.
Then, test case generation rules are defined and used to simplify test cases.
After that, a case study is demonstrated on a general communication application, which shows that the proposed approach is technically feasible and ontology can facilitate GUI testing by utilising knowledge of GUI systems and experience of testers.

An analysis of the interdependence of demographic factors, labour effort and economic growth in Ireland

an article by Justin Doran (University College Cork) published in International Journal of Social Economics Volume 39 Issue 3 (2012)


The purpose of this paper is to analyse the effects of a declining birth rate and an increasing old age-population ratio on Ireland’s economic output.
This paper utilises data on the birth rate, old-age population ratio, economic output and labour effort of the Irish economy to estimate a vector-autoregressive model. The results of this model are then analysed to test for the presence of Granger causality among these variables. In doing so it is possible to assess whether there are statistically significant causal relationships existing among these factors. Subsequently, impulse response functions are derived from this model in order to assess the magnitude of the causal relationships.
The results suggest that declining fertility rates and increases in the old-age dependency ratio have a significant impact on labour effort and economic output. Labour effort is also found to explain variation in the fertility rate and economic output. Economic output is found to effect labour effort and the fertility rate.
Social implications
The results derived in this paper raise interesting policy implications. It is evident that Ireland’s declining birth rate and increasing old-age population ratio are creating a demographic situation which will have implications for future economic growth. Policies need to be put in place to mitigate the negative effects these factors will have on Irish growth.
This paper adopts modern econometric techniques to assess the causal relationships which exist between the demographic and economic factors considered. These have not previously been applied to the Irish situation. In doing this, this paper provides an important insight into the changing dynamics of the Irish economy.

Paul Ticher's Data Protection Update - February 2012

Computanews’s data protection correspondent Paul Ticher updates us on European Union proposals for significant changes to data protection law.

Main points

The current EU Data Protection Directive was agreed in 1995, when the web was in its infancy. There is general agreement that there have to be changes to cope with the technological developments since then and experience of Data Protection in practice.

This is a proposed Regulation. It has to be approved by the Council of Ministers who might make changes or they could even throw it out altogether, but that’s unlikely.

watch this space [no need for that, I’ll watch it for you]. Or read all 119 pages of the General Data Protection Regulation (PDF)

Sensemaking, storytelling and the legitimization of elite business careers

an article by Mairi Maclean (University of Exeter Business School), Charles Harvey (Newcastle University) and Robert Chia (Strathclyde Business School) published in Human Relations Volume 66 Number 1 (January 2012)


This article examines elite business careers through the dual lens of sensemaking and storytelling as recounted in life-history interviews with business leaders. It explores how they make sense of, narrativise and legitimate their experiences of building their careers within and beyond large organizations. The research contribution is twofold.

First, we explicate the sensemaking processes embedded within the multifarious stories recorded in life-history interviews, identified as locating, meaning-making and becoming.

Second, we contribute to the literature on legitimacy by examining how business leaders use their storytelling as a vehicle for self-legitimization, (re)framing their accounts of their own success and justifying their position to themselves and others.

In a world where reputations are hard won but easily lost, business leaders must nurture a life-history narrative which is socially desirable if their careers are to remain on track. This may serve them well through the creative evolution of their organisational journeys.

The cost of youth unemployment

Paul Gregg and Lindsey Macmillan via CMPO Viewpoint

In hard times, young people face two hurdles to finding work.

First, firms tend to hold onto their existing experienced staff but stop recruitment to reduce their workforce. This collapse in new vacancies hits young people hardest.

Second, with more unemployment comes more choice of potential employees for firms who are hiring. Firms favour previous experience placing young people in a catch 22 situation of not being able to get the experience they need to get work because they can't get the work in the first place. For the least educated or those who are unlucky enough to experience long periods out of work now, it is increasingly hard to get that break that opens the door to the labour market.

Read more

Demystifying the data interview: …

Developing a foundation for reference librarians to talk with researchers about their data

 an article by Jake Carlson (Purdue University, Indiana) published in Reference Services Review Volume 40 Issue 1 (2012)


As libraries become more involved in curating research data, reference librarians will need to be trained in conducting data interviews with researchers to better understand their data and associated needs. This article seeks to identify and provide definitions for the basic terms and concepts of data curation for librarians to properly frame and carry out a data interview using the Data Curation Profiles (DCP) Toolkit.
The DCP Toolkit is a semi-structured interview designed to assist librarians in identifying the data curation needs of researchers. The components of the DCP Toolkit were analysed to determine the base level of knowledge needed for librarians to conduct effective data interviews. Specific concepts, definitions, and examples were sought through a review of articles, case studies, practitioner resources and from the experiences of the Purdue University Libraries.
Data curation concepts and terminology are not yet well-defined and often vary across, or even within, fields of study. This research informed the development of a workshop to train librarians in using the DCP Toolkit. The definitions and concepts addressed in the workshop include: data, data set, data lifecycle, data curation, data sharing, and roles for reference librarians.
Practical implications
Conducting a data interview can be a daunting task given the complexity of data curation and the lack of shared definitions. Practical tools and training are needed to help librarians develop capacity in data curation.
This article provides practical information for public service librarians to help them conceptualise and conduct a data interview with researchers.

Hazel’s comment:
1. A very rare occurrence with an Emerald abstract, needed to correct a grammar error (missing comma).
2. No keywords means that I have to read the abstract to determine what the article is about rather than relying on the author(s)/editor(s) as I normally do!
Ouch! I had to work on this one rather than simply cutting and pasting with a bit of reformatting having decided that it was of interest.
Oops! Having gone back to the original to check I’ve found the keywords!!

Virtual references services: defining the criteria and indicators to evaluate them

an article by María Pinto (University of Granada, Spain) and Ramón A. Manso (Central University “Marta Abreu” of Las Villas, Cuba and University of Granada, Spain) published in The Electronic Library Volume 30 Issue 1 (2012)


This paper aims to analyse the common features of the virtual reference services provided by European and American libraries in order to evaluate the service from the user’s perspective, taking into account the potential of Web 2.0 applications.
This research adopts a quantitative approach, to contribute to better understanding of the problems currently facing virtual reference services and offers solutions to them. The study also combines qualitative methodologies.
The study reports that virtual reference services in university communities have not changed significantly since they first appeared, and highlights the need to incorporate new technologies.
The paper draws attention to certain features of virtual reference services that are undervalued or have not attracted research interest, and calls for a technological shift in the services provided to users from the academic communities involved in this study.

Social discovery tools: extending the principle of user convenience

an article by Louise F. Spiteri, (Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada) published in Journal of Documentation Volume 68 Issue 2 (2012)


New social discovery systems have social-type Web 2.0 features that allow users to enhance the content of bibliographic records by adding their own tags, ratings, and reviews. One of the primary underlying principles of cataloguing is that catalogue records be designed with the user in mind, i.e. user convenience. The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between the principle of user convenience and social discovery systems.
A review of the literature and codes of ethics of associations of information professions was undertaken to examine: the ethical dimensions of creating catalogue records to reflect user convenience, the relationship between culture and user convenience, and how social discovery tools can facilitate the creation of interactive and flexible catalogue records that reflect the culture(s) and needs of the library communities in which they exist.
Social discovery systems can address the primary barriers to creating catalogue records that meet user convenience: determining and reflecting the needs and cultural warrant of the users, and maintaining the quality and integrity of the catalogue records.
Practical implications
Social discovery systems can serve as a bridge between cataloguers' desire to create accurate catalogue records that conform to accepted cataloguing standards, and their ethical imperative to ensure that these records meet the needs of the clients.
The findings of this study pave the way for further research into how user-contributed metadata allow clients to express their needs and cultural warrant and to interact with one another and library staff.

An analysis of the information behaviors, goals, and intentions of frequent Internet users: Findings from online activity diaries

an article by Beth St. Jean (University of Maryland), Soo Young Rieh and Ji Yeon Yang (University of Michigan) and Yong-Mi Kim (Duke University) published in First Monday Volume 17 Number 2 (February 2012)


Using a method that combines the Experience Sampling Method (Kubey, et al., 1996) and the diary survey method, we surveyed frequent internet users about their online activities, along with their interest, confidence, and satisfaction in regard to these activities. A link to an online survey was sent to respondents five times a day for three consecutive days. The results reported here are based on 2,656 diary forms submitted by 417 respondents. Through inductive analysis of respondents’ open-ended accounts of their activities, we identified four information activity dimensions – information object, information behaviour, goal, and intention.

The results reveal that younger respondents were more likely than older respondents to mention that they engage in online activities with the intention of sharing or evaluating information, while older respondents more frequently mentioned the intentions of gathering data and keeping up to date.

Respondents reported spending more time on traditional types of online activities (such as reading) and were more confident in their ability to conduct these types of activities. However, they also reported spending considerable amounts of time on more participatory types of activities, such as creating content and commenting on content. Furthermore, they often rated their interest and satisfaction levels higher when their goals and intentions for their activities were more social in nature and thus more characteristic of Web 2.0 activities, such as connecting with people, self-expression, and sharing.

Respondents’ goals and intentions for their activities, as well as their interest, confidence, and satisfaction with various types of online activities, along with the relative amount of time they spent on various types of online activities and the locations from which they conducted these activities, all proved to be important factors to consider when attempting to reach a better understanding of people’s online activities. The contribution of this study lies in the unique data collection and analysis methods that we used in order to reach a better understanding of their online activities across multiple information activity dimensions.

Full text (HTML)

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

New ILO standards on decent work for domestic workers: A summary of the issues and discussions

an article by Manuela Tomei and Patrick Belser (Conditions of Work and Employment Programme, ILO) published in International Labour Review Volume 150 Issue 3-4 (December 2011)


The world’s millions of domestic workers are mostly excluded from national labour laws because they work in private homes, in employment relationships with special characteristics. They are highly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse – often overworked, underpaid and subjected to violence. Adopted in June 2011, the ILO’s Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189), and its accompanying Recommendation (No. 201) embody the resolve of governments and workers’ and employers’ organizations worldwide to remedy this situation. The authors of this paper, who were closely associated with the preparations and tripartite negotiations that led to the adoption of these instruments, review their contents and highlights of the underlying debates.

Homelessness and access to the informational mainstream

an article by Thomas H. Muggleton and Ian Ruthven (University of Strathclyde) published in Journal of Documentation Volume 68 Issue 2 (2012)


This paper aims to explore how homelessness affects access to information serving higher-level needs such as identity formation and social interaction.
A multi-disciplinary literature review informed the design of 18 semi-structured interviews as well as their subsequent analysis. The interview data were intended to be qualitative and exploratory since they addressed a perceived gap in the information and library science literature.
Findings present the ways in which interviewees managed to access information and the way such information helps socialisation and well-being.
Research limitations/implications
The study focused on individuals who were potentially more confident and resourceful. The study is also limited to Glasgow which has relatively good provision for the homeless. Further research in a different locale and among less confident individuals would be necessary to corroborate findings in this regard.
Practical implications
The findings confirmed a fundamental research assumption that homeless individuals would pursue higher-level needs alongside more basic physiological needs. This has practical implications for public libraries’ service provision to homeless populations, and also suggests there is greater room for collaboration between libraries and homeless service agencies.
The paper addresses a gap in the literature concerning homelessness and higher-level needs. This has implications for the provision of information and services within both public libraries and organisations serving the homeless. Findings also challenge widespread assumptions regarding the “otherness” or distinctiveness of people who are homeless.

Key Data on Education in Europe 2012

The Eurydice Network has published a new edition of one of its major series – Key Data on Education in Europe. The report uses both statistical data and qualitative information to describe the organisation, management and functioning of 37 European education systems, from pre-primary to higher education. The report is informed by data from the last ten years.

Many of the priority areas for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020) are covered, as well as the broader European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth over the coming decade (EU 2020). The 95 indicators included in the report address the following areas: demographic context; educational structures; participation; resources; teachers and head teachers; educational processes and qualification levels; and transition to employment.

Full report (PDF 212pp) or Summary (PDF 8pp)

Bankers in the dock: Moral storytelling in action

an article by Andrea Whittle (Cardiff Business School) and Frank Mueller (University of St Andrews) published in Human Relations Volume 66 Number 1 (January 2012)


This article draws on insights from a variety of fields, including discursive psychology, ethnomethodology, dramatism, rhetoric, ante-narrative analysis and conversation analysis, to examine the discursive devices employed in the storytelling surrounding the recent financial crisis. Discursive devices refer to the linguistic styles, phrases, tropes and figures of speech that, we propose, are central to the development of a compelling story.

We focus our analysis on the moral stories constructed during a public hearing involving senior banking executives in the UK.

The analysis suggests that two competing storylines were used by the bankers and their questioners to emplot the events preceding the financial crisis. We propose that a discursive devices approach contributes to the understanding of storytelling by highlighting the power of micro-linguistic tools in laying out the moral landscape of the story. We argue that the stories surrounding the financial crisis are important because they shaped how the crisis was made sense of and acted upon.

Monday, 27 February 2012

The influences of information literacy, internet addiction and parenting styles on internet risks

an article by Louis Leung and Paul S.N. Lee (Chinese University of Hong Kong) published in New Media & Society Volume 14 Number 1 (February 2012)


The purpose of this study is to examine how demographics, addiction symptoms, information literacy, parenting styles and internet activities can predict ‘internet risks’.

Data were gathered from a probability sample of 718 adolescents and teenagers, aged 9–19 in Hong Kong, using face-to-face interviews. Results show that adolescents who are often targets of harassment tend to be older boys with a high family income. They are targets probably because they spend a lot of time on social networking sites (SNSs) and prefer the online setting. Adolescents who encounter a lot of unwelcome solicitation of personal or private information online tend to be older girls.

In information literacy, they are generally very competent with publishing tools but are not structurally literate, especially in understanding how information is socially situated and produced. Implications and recommendations for future research are discussed.

Can Russia be modernized? Problems, causes, opportunities

via Eurozine articles by Vladislav Inozemtsev

Plans to modernise Russia’s economy are resisted by bureaucracies benefiting from the country’s role as natural resource appendage of the developed world. That dependency on energy exports hinders political and economic progress is certain is certain. But is high-tech the solution?
Read in full (HTML)

Basic figures

Just five pages long, the latest of the quarterly series Basic figures on the EU from Eurostat, dated Spring 2012, brings together data on a small number of key indicators in the economic and social fields.
Publication page

Do SMEs create more and better jobs?

European Commission Directorate General Enterprise and Industry via BizResearch by Tracey Ellis

The European Commission (has) published a study analysing the important role small- and medium-sized enterprises play in creating more and better jobs. According to the analysis, 85% of net new jobs in the EU between 2002 and 2010 were created by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This figure is considerably higher than the 67%-share of SMEs in total employment. During this period, net employment in the EU’s business economy rose substantially, by an average of 1.1 million new jobs each year.

With 1% annually, the employment growth for SMEs was higher than for large enterprises with 0.5%. A clear exception is the trade sector, in which employment in SMEs increased by 0.7% annually, compared to 2.2% in large enterprises. This is due to the strong increase of large trade enterprises, in particular in sales, maintenance and repair of motor vehicles.

Within the SME size-class, micro firms (less than 10 employees) are responsible with 58% for the highest proportion of total net employment growth in the business economy.

Secondly, the study has shown that new firms (younger than five years) are responsible for an overwhelming majority of the new jobs. New enterprises operating in business services create more than a quarter (27%) of the new jobs, while the new firms in transport and communication contribute least (6%).

Click here to read the full report (PDF 163pp)

Active at 60: local evaluation research

Research published by the Department for Work and Pensions shows that encouraging older people to apply for smart cards and passes online can save money and improve services. The findings are based on a pilot of smart card technology in two local authorities.
The report also looks at how older people can become more active and engaged in their communities by using smart cards to extend the range of services and concessions they are entitled to.

Some key findings are:
  • Active at 60 Local pilots raised a number of important questions about the role and future of the smart card.
  • The urban pilot project demonstrated the feasibility and value of introducing an online portal for registration. Local authorities could benefit from more efficient processing of applications, and service users were able to navigate both the application and online identity checking processes.
  • Benefits to local authorities of using online technology included a more efficient application system, estimated at saving over £30,000 if 10,000 card holders renew online rather than visiting council offices in the urban pilot project area.
  • They can also benefit from the opportunity to provide more targeted communications.
  • Awareness levels about the ‘smart’ nature of the cards were low. In the urban pilot area, older people saw the smart card primarily as a bus pass.
  • The pilot highlighted the challenges of using a smart card to increase levels of community engagement and physical activity without significant incentives.
Active at 60: Local evaluation research: Final report (RR 786) by Alice Mowlam, Sally Bridges, Valdeep Gill, Andy MacGregor, Jude Ranasinghe and Elizabeth Tideswell

Full report (PDF 106pp) published January 2012
ISBN 9-781-90852-345-7

RR 786 Business case (PDF 2pp)

Sunday, 26 February 2012

10 stories and links I think are educative, informative, entertaining, or weird

Using Data, Can We Predict Everything? via Big Think by Big Think Editors
Science, government and private enterprise are asking if they can predict future events by creatively crunching massive amounts of data made available by you, the individual.
Read More

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The ethical eater. The best way to save animals and protect the environment is to not eat meat, right? Wrong... more

Men & Women Are Different Species, Psychologically Speaking via Big Think by Big Think Editors
Men and women have fundamentally different personalities, says new research from the University of Manchester, in the UK. Based on a personality test of 10,000 Americans aged 15 to 92, the lead researcher Paul Irwing said: “Psychologically, men and women are almost a different species.”
Read More

The world, as mapped by frequency of cholera cases via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker

This really fascinating image comes from a Scientific American guest blog post about the appendix. What does the appendix have to do with cholera? Turns out, the more we study the appendix, the more it appears that this organ – once thought to be useless – is actually a storage system that allows your gut to repopulate itself with beneficial bacteria following a bout with a dramatic, gut-wrenching such as cholera.
Read more

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
If you want to know something, Google it. Knowledge and ideas have become too easy to come by, says Mark Pagel. Why innovate when it's easier to copy?... more

Deep-Brain Stimulation Found to Fix Depression Long-Term via 3quarksdaily by Azra Raza
From Scientific American:
Deep depression that fails to respond to any other form of therapy can be moderated or reversed by stimulation of areas deep inside the brain. Now the first placebo-controlled study of this procedure shows that these responses can be maintained in the long term. Neurologist Helen Mayberg at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, followed ten patients with major depressive disorder and seven with bipolar disorder, or manic depression, after an electrode device was implanted in the subcallosal cingulate white matter of their brains and the area continuously stimulated. All but one of twelve patients who reached the two-year point in the study had completely shed their epression or had only mild symptoms. For psychiatrists accustomed to seeing severely depressed patients fail to respond – or fail to maintain a response – to antidepressant or cognitive therapy, these results seem near miraculous.
More here.

Words Not as Helpful to Children in Categorizing the World via Big Think by Big Think Editors
Children rely on language less than adults do when it comes to ordering the world, says new psychological research. In an experiment, two dolls with different physical features were given different labels, “flurp” and “jalet”. After some of the physical characteristics were changed to confuse participants as to which doll was which, researchers asked that the dolls be placed in either the “flurp' or jalet” category. Adults relied more on the label already given to the dolls while children categorised them more according to physical characteristics.
Conventional wisdom says that children use language just like adults in categorising objects but scientists must now reconsider at what stage language becomes a dominant organizational tool. “It is only over the course of development that children begin to understand that words can reliably be used to label items,” said Vladimir Sloutsky, co-author of the new study. Sloutsky believes the new research may eventually aid parents in communicating more effectively with their children and developing new teaching methods.
Full story at Science Daily

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
“If a mad scientist were to design a machine that would make white liberals uncomfortable, that machine would be Thomas Sowell”... more

Pet dog from 30,000 years ago via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
 1201 Features Images Czech

This is the skull of someone’s pet dog from more than 30,000 years ago. It was buried with a mastodon bone clenched in its chompers. Found in Czech Republic by archaeologist Mietje Germonpré of Belgium’s Museum of Natural History and colleagues, it’s one of three canid crania they discovered from the era. The skulls support other recent research suggesting that dogs were domesticated 15,000 years earlier than previously thought. This news is one of Archaeology magazine’s “Top 10 Discoveries of 2011”.

Letter from Mick Jagger to Andy Warhol, 1969 via Retronaut by Chris

Thank you to Letters of Note
This capsule was curated by Cody Pope

Saturday, 25 February 2012

10 stories and links I think are educative, informative, entertaining, or weird

Film Fun Covers, 1925 via Retronaut by Chris

All images curated and restored by Mark Forer
Thank you to Magazine Art and Mark Forer
View the rest of the images here

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
About the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel says, "Any survivor has more to say than all the historians combined." Nonsense, perhaps, but also irrefutable... more

‘What a cake of soap will do’, 1890s via Retronaut by Chris
Stunning engravings from which I have chosen this as a sample:

“For years I've lived around the house,”
Said Mrs Rat to Mrs Mouse;
“I still remember well the day
We entered here, the first of May;
While coming up the water-spout
We met a party moving out.
Said they: ‘Whate’er you chance to steal,
In searching round to find a meal,
Of this you may be always sure –
The IVORY SOAP is good and pure.’
 … …

Thank you to the Harvard University Library

“Same Bed, Different Dreams” via Big Think by Pamela Haag
A man and woman have been married for over a decade. The wife seems happy, and she feels happy, or happy enough, in her marriage. The husband seems happy. He seems that way to outsiders and to his wife, and there hasn’t been conversation or behaviour to make her suspect otherwise.
Read More

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Freud, James, Kahneman: great explorers of the human psyche. Freud and James plumbed our emotions, Kahneman our cognitive processes... more

I Love Street Art via Stephen's Lighthouse
Best of street art 2011

My favourite, simply because I adore yarn bombing, although all of the images are stupendous.

Is Necrophilia Wrong? via Big Think by Tauriq Moosa
Cemeteries are not for the dead, but for the living. The dead will not thank us for the coffins made to their specifications, nor compliment us on the choice of flowers or gravestones. They cannot do so, since they are, by definition, dead: they feel nothing, they cannot communicate, they are no longer living.
Before you automatically answer the above question with “Yes” I suggest you Read More and then answer with “Yes”!!!

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
When his time came, Mozart had no doubt: "I have the taste of death on my tongue." As for Beethoven, he quipped: "The comedy is over"... more

Strange metal sphere that fell from the sky via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz

 Cnn Dam Assets 111223024332-Space-Ball-Story-Top

This 13-pound, 3.6 foot metal ball fell from the sky in the Republic of Namibia in southern Africa last month [November 2011]. Nobody has claimed ownership. From CNN:
Paul Ludik, director of the country’s National Forensic Science Institute, told The Namibian the sphere… is made of a “sophisticated” metal alloy that is known to man, but he said it has no markings that would identify it…
Ludik told The Namibian that the object poses no cause for alarm, and that such reports of metallic spheres falling from space are common in the Southern Hemisphere.
Mysterious metal ball from space falls in Namibia

Oxymorons via Stephen’s Lighthouse
I like to see lists of oxymorons. I don’t know why. I guess it’s just a ove of words which makes sense for a librarian married to an English teacher. There are some fun ones here The Biggest Little List of Oxymorons Online
There are hundreds here!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Engaging adults in youth volunteering

a DFE Research Report (DFE-RR189) by Mehul Kotecha, Gareth Morrell and Lucy Lee (Natcen Social Research)


In the last decade, volunteering has increasingly been seen as a central act of citizenship and a central pillar of strategies related to civic renewal. This development reflects an acknowledgement of the perceived benefits for volunteers and society more generally of engaging in pro-social activities.

The rising political profile of volunteering has seen a range of policy initiatives aiming to create opportunities for, in particular, young people to become involved in volunteering and other activities with a positive social or community focus. Evaluations of the Millennium Volunteers’ programme and, more recently, v – the National Young Volunteers’ Service – have demonstrated positive links between involvement and improved confidence and civic mindedness for the young people involved.

This report focuses on three key stages along the route to becoming a volunteer at which points various factors could influence whether or not people volunteer. These were the motivators and de-motivators affecting the initial decision to consider volunteering with young people; the barriers and facilitators to entering volunteering once the motivation is there; and the factors affecting whether individuals continue to be volunteers.

  • Summary
  • Introduction
  • Considering volunteering
  • Becoming a volunteer
  • Conclusion – changing behaviour
  • References
Full report (PDF 38pp)

Sunday, 19 February 2012

10 stories and links I think are educative, informative, entertaining, or weird

Play Cut The Rope for Free in Your HTML5 Browser via How-To Geek by Jason Fitzpatrick

Cut The Rope, a cute and addictive physics game based on the feeding of hungry “omnom” candy monsters, is now available for free in-browser play. Fire up your HTML5-capable browser and read on to play.
Although the Cut The Rope site indicates you need Internet Explorer, we had no trouble using an alternate HTML5-capable browser. You can play the first 25 levels for free and, if you pin the game to your Windows 7 task bar while playing in Internet Explorer it will change the icon and unlock 7 additional brand-new Cut The Rope levels.
If you find yourself addicted to the game, hit up the App Store or Android Market – Cut The Rope is available for $0.99 on both the iOS and Android platforms.
Cut The Rope Online [via Quick Online Tips]

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
China might be ascendant, but it remains terrible at soccer. Players are too incompetent not only to win matches, but even to rig them... more

Fish mimics mimic octopus via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
This is a great find by Not Exactly Rocket Science’s Ed Yong. A tourist and a couple of researchers from the California Academy of Sciences have documented an instance of Pacific-dwelling jawfish hiding from predators by blending into the stripes of well-known camouflage guru, the mimic octopus.
This relationship is probably a rare occurrence. The black-marble jawfish is found throughout the Pacific from Japan to Australia, while the mimic octopus only hangs around Indonesia and Malaysia. For most of its range, the jawfish has no octopuses to hide against. Instead, Ross and Rocha think that this particular fish is engaging in “opportunistic mimicry”, taking advantage of a rare chance to share in an octopus’s protection.
Video Link
Thanks, Atvaark!

Kingdom Rush via How-To Geek by Asian Angel
In this game you engage in an exciting campaign to defend the kingdom against brigands, goblins, orcs, and more in battle. Can you lead your troops to victory or will you fall before the oncoming hordes?
Follow Asian Angel’s walkthrough here or take your chances by going straight to the game here.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The New Yorker deals with experience by prescribing the attitude to be adopted toward it. This allows readers to feel intelligent without thinking"... more

Searching for Africa’s living dinosaur via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
 Storage Picture-2-Baby
For hundreds of years, Westerners have heard tales from pygmies living in the Congo river basin of a living dinosaur called the Mokèlé-mbèmbé, the “one who stops the flow of rivers”. The BBC World Service talks to several explorers on the search for this beast that apparently may resemble a sauropod, elephant, rhinoceros, or perhaps something more akin to a “spirit” than a real animal. From BBC News (image from, er, Baby):
Paul Ohlin, a community development worker who spent more than 10 years living with the Bayaka in Congo and the Central African Republic, just to the north, says the people who live in the area are in no doubt about the creature’s existence.
“When people are sitting around the campfire talking, they talk about the Mokèlé-mbèmbé – it’s something that’s a reality in everyday life,” he says.
At the same time he emphasises their “spiritual connection” and “mystical relationship” with it.
“The way they see the world is a little different to the way you and I see it,” says Paul.
But their eyewitness reports still need to be taken seriously, in his view.
The hunt for Mokèlé-mbèmbé: Congo’s Loch Ness Monster” (via The Anomalist)

‘To Lighten the Labor of Your Home’, 1919 via Retronaut by Amanda
Which of the images in the original blog post to use was a very difficult choice.
Lighten the labor with electricity and buy a Western Electric:
  • portable sewing machine
  • washer and wringer
  • vacuum cleaner
  • heat regulator
  • Number 1 iron
  • toaster [note that it is plugged into the light socket]
  • portable lamp
  • heating pad
Thank you to Harvard University Library
The rest of the images are here

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Who killed Homer? The ancient world can help us understand our own, says Mary Beard, but the classics are in crisis. Why? It's always been that way... more

How the effects of climate change can create more climate change via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
One of the interesting things about the global carbon dioxide and climate systems is the concept of feedback loops.
You already know that as atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide go up (and with them, the global average temperature) you get lots of different kinds of changes all over the place. For instance, mountain pine forests start experiencing warmer winters and smaller snowpacks. But, as those changes happen, they can actually trigger secondary effects that contribute to, and increase the rate of, climate change.
In this video [see link below], you’ll learn about how warmer temperatures and lower snowpacks are contributing to the spread of massive pine beetle infestations across the western United States. This is more than just inconvenient. The pine beetles can quickly kill huge amounts of trees, raising the risk of property-destroying forest fires and razing whole ecosystems. And, as the trees die en masse, forests that were once carbon sinks (absorbing more carbon dioxide than they released) become emitters – adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
Thanks to Barfman for Submitterating!
Video Link

Why Atheists Should Fight Anti-Muslim Bigotry via Big Think by Adam Lee
Last month, the TLC television channel premiered All-American Muslim, a reality show which follows several, from what I can see, fairly normal American families who happen to be Muslims. On any other planet this shouldn’t have been in any way controversial – but the Florida Family Association, a Christian-right hate group, has been pressuring advertisers to drop their support on the astounding basis that the stars of the show are too normal.
Read More

Saturday, 18 February 2012

10 stories and links I think are educative, informative, entertaining, or weird

Burning Man meets Dr Seuss: “Oh the Places You'll Go at Burning Man!” via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
Papabear2010 sez, “Based on Dr. Seuss’s final book before his death, this is a story about life’s ups and downs, told by the people of Burning Man 2011. Combining the stunning visuals of Burning Man and its population with the haunting, silly, thought-provoking words of Dr. Seuss.”
Dawww, this is just lovely.
Video link: Oh, the Places You'll Go at Burning Man!
Text of the book (unfortunately cyan on rather bright pink)

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Boyd Lee Dunlop used to play nightclubs. Now he works the cleanser-scented halls of a Buffalo nursing home. But man, can he rattle a piano... more

Sea Robots Farm Algae for Fuel via Big Think by Big Think Editors
A Pennsylvania-based energy start-up envisions fleets of tiny robots harvesting the sea for algae which could then be converted into biodiesel. The company, BEAR Oceanics, is currently crowd-funding to create self-sustaining robot farms which must be engineered to avoid boats or ships as they harvest.
Read More

2012: The Alan Turing Year via Big Think by Daniel Honan
He helped win World War II by cracking the German ENIGMA code but was persecuted by Great Britain for being gay. Today, his name is synonymous with the test he invented in 1950 for determining a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour. Read More

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
“Loosen your tie, but keep your clothes on.” Airline safety cards are not so much instructional guides as works of fantastically imaginative literature... more

Pigeons are Good at Math, Alas via Big Think by Daniel Honan
It has been known for a while that birds can count. What researchers have just discovered is pigeons can learn abstract numerical rules, according to a study published in the journal Science. What is astonishing is that pigeons, who learned to peck numbers on a screen in order, performed just as well in tests as rhesus monkeys at numerical competence.
Read More

Did Neanderthals speak with a high-pitched voice? via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Neanderthals had different bodies than we do. In general, they were stockier and shorter, for instance. And there were other physical differences, as well. It’s hard to say what these differences meant in practice but it’s fun to speculate. You could build up a pretty good about how those short, study bodies might have helped Neanderthals be better adapted to cold. Or, you could look at the shape of a male Neanderthal’s voice box, and think about how that shape might affect the sounds that came out.
So that’s what this video is about. I have no idea how widely accepted “high pitched voice theory” is. I couldn’t find a lot of references to it outside of the BBC special this clip comes from. Here’s what the BBC says:
Professor Bob Franciscus, from Iowa University, is part of a multi-national group attempting to do just that. By making scans of modern humans, he saw how the soft tissue of the vocal tracts depends on the position of the hyoid bone and the anchoring sites on the skull. Computer predictions were then be made to determine the shape of the modern human vocal tract from bone data alone. The same equations were then used with data from a Neanderthal skull to predict the shape of a Neanderthal vocal tract.
The Neanderthal vocal tract seems to have been shorter and wider than a modern male human’s, closer to that found today in modern human females. It’s possible, then, that Neanderthal males had higher pitched voices than we might have expected. Together with a big chest, mouth, and huge nasal cavity, a big, harsh, high, sound might have resulted. But, crucially, the anatomy of the vocal tract is close enough to that of modern humans to indicate that anatomically there was no reason why Neanderthal could not have produced the complex range of sounds needed for speech.
As long as you understand that context, that this isn’t necessarily a given that Neanderthals spoke in high-pitched voices, I think you should see this video. Because the results of this theory are damned hilarious.
Via misspepper on Submitterator!

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Philosophy and faith. Baghdad was the intellectual center of the early medieval world. Then free inquiry faded in Muslim countries. Why?... more

A Van Gogh for Our Times via Big Think by Bob Duggan
As the times go, so goes Van Gogh. Toiling in relative obscurity during his life, known by fellow painters but not by the public at large, Vincent Van Gogh’s greatest career move was dying in 1890. First Theo, his brother, then Jo, Theo’s widow, spread the gospel of Vincent and transformed strange man who made strange pictures into the embodiment of the tortured artist cruelly snubbed by a public unprepared to recognize his genius.
Read More

Octopus walks on land via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Perhaps you’ve heard the tale of the octopus that broke out of its tank at the aquarium and walked across the room to break into another tank where it proceeded to eat other forms of sea life.
That story is kind of an urban legend. It’s supposedly happened at every aquarium in the world, but can’t be confirmed. And experts have told me that the hard floors in an aquarium would likely seriously damage the suction pads of any octopus that tried it.
But the basic idea – that an octopus could pop out of the water and move across dry ground – is a very real thing.
Here [see link below], an octopus at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in California hauls itself out of the water, and scoots awkwardly around on land for a little bit (while some apparently Minnesotan tourists gawk), before sliding back into the water. It’s not the most graceful sort of travel. But it can be very handy. Octopuses do this in nature to escape predators, and also to find food of their own in tidal pools.
As an added bonus: Scientific American just started an all-octopuses, all-the-time blog called The Octopus Chronicles. Check it out!
Video Link

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Barriers and facilitators to pro-social behaviour among young people: a review of existing evidence

a Research Report (DFE-RR188) by Lucy Lee and Gareth Morrell (NatCen) and Annalisa Marini and Sarah Smith (University of Bristol)

This report presents findings of a study into the motivations, barriers and facilitators of pro-social activity amongst young people. The research was intended to establish the existing evidence base in this area and comprised a review of the literature and analysis of available national survey data.

The research was conducted by members of the Centre for Understanding Behaviour Change (CUBeC). The Centre exists to deliver evidence and insight into the drivers of behaviour change to inform and improve policy-making. It combines expertise across a wide range of academic disciplines: economics, psychology, neuroscience, sociology, education, and social research. The centre has members at the University of Bristol, IFS, NatCen, Institute of Education, UCL, LSE, Oxford, and Imperial College, and is funded by the Department.

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Pro-social activities amongst young people
  • Demographic profile
  • Motivations, facilitators and barriers
  • Impacts of pro-social behaviour
  • Discussion
  • Bibliography
Full text (PDF 54pp)

Monday, 13 February 2012

Life expectancy at birth and at age 65 by local areas in the United Kingdom, 2004–06 to 2008–10

an article in Population Trends Volume 146 (2012)


This bulletin presents male and female period life expectancy at birth and at age 65 for the UK, constituent countries, regions, counties and local areas. New figures are presented for 2008–10, with previously released figures for 2004–06 to 2007–09 for comparison purposes. The tables included show life expectancies for UK countries and regions in England, local areas with the highest and lowest life expectancies, and life expectancies for all local areas in rank order. Information is also given about the context, calculation and interpretation of life expectancy figures.

Full text in an ONS Statistical Bulletin (PDF 22pp)

Cognitive skills matter. The employment disadvantage of the low-educated in international comparison

Working Papers on the Reconciliation of Work and Welfare in Europe REC-WP 04/2011 by Aurélien Abrassart (Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration (IDHEAP) in Lausanne)


It is now a widely acknowledged fact that the low-skilled are facing important risks of labour market exclusion in modern economies. However, possessing low levels of educational qualifications leads to very different situations from one country to another, as the cross-national variation in the unemployment rates of the lowskilled attest. While conventional wisdom usually blames welfare states and the resulting rigidity of labour markets for the low employment opportunities of lowskilled workers, empirical evidence tends to contradict this predominant view.

Using microdata from the International Adult Literacy Survey that was conducted between 1994 and 1998, we examine the sources of the cross-national variation in the employment disadvantage of low-skilled workers in 14 industrialized nations. In particular, we test the validity of the conventional theories concerning the supposedly harmful effect of labour market regulation against a new and promising hypothesis on the importance of cognitive skills for the employment opportunities of the low-educated. Our findings support the latter and suggest that the employment disadvantage the low-educated experience relatively to medium-educated workers is mainly due to their deficit in the skills that have become so important for labour market success in the recent past, namely cognitive skills.

Full text (PDF 28pp)

Parental Leave and Mothers’ Careers: The Relative Importance of Job Protection and Cash Benefits

a University of Zurich Working Paper (no 42) by Rafael Lalive (University of Lausanne and CEPR), Analía Schlosser (Tel Aviv University), Andreas Steinhauer (University of Zurich) and Josef Zweimüller (University of Zurich and CEPR) published October 2011


Parental leave regulations in most OECD countries have two key policy instruments: job protection and cash benefits. This paper studies how mothers’ return to work behavior and labour market outcomes are affected by alternative mixes of these key policy parameters. Exploiting a series of major parental leave policy changes in Austria, we find that longer cash benefits lead to a significant delay in return to work and that the magnitude of this effect depends on the relative length of job protection and cash benefits. However, despite their impact on time on leave, we do not find a significant effect on mothers’ labor market outcomes in the medium run, neither of benefit duration nor of job-protection duration. To understand the relative importance (and interaction) of the two policy instruments in shaping mothers’ return to work behaviour, we set up a non-stationary job search model in which cash benefits and job protection determine decisions of when to return to work and whether or not to return to the pre-birth employer. Despite its lean structure, the model does surprisingly well in matching empirically observed return to work profiles. The simulation of alternative counterfactual regimes shows that a policy that combines both job protection and benefits payments succeeds to induce mothers to spend some time with the child after birth without jeopardizing their medium run labor market attachment.
Full text (PDF 51pp)

Hazel’s comment:
That link direct in to the PDF took some finding!!

Is Graduate Under-employment Persistent? Evidence from the United Kingdom

a discussion paper (No 6177) by Irene Mosca (TILDA, Trinity College Dublin) and Robert E. Wright (University of Strathclyde and IZA) published in November 2011 by Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit (Institute for the Study of Labor)


This paper examines the persistence of under-employment amongst UK higher education graduates. For the cohort of individuals who graduated in 2002/3, micro-data collected by the Higher Education Statistical Agency, are used to calculate the rates of “non-graduate job” employment 6 months and 42 months after graduation. A logit regression analysis suggests the underemployment is not a short-term phenomenon and is systematically related to a set of observable characteristics. It is also found that under-employment 6 months after graduation is positively related to under-employment 42 months after graduation, which is consistent with the view that the nature of the first job after graduation is important in terms of occupational attainment later in the life-cycle.

Full text (PDF 14pp)

Labor Productivity and Vocational Training: Evidence from Europe

a discussion paper (No 6171) by Hector Sala (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and IZA) and José I. Silva (Universitat de Girona) published in November 2011 by Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit (Institute for the Study of Labor)


In this paper we show that vocational training is an important determinant of productivity growth. We construct a multi-country, multi-sectoral dataset, and quantify empirically to what extent vocational training has contributed to increase the growth rate of labor productivity in Europe between 1999 and 2005. We find that one extra hour of training per employee accelerates the rate of productivity growth by around 0.55 percentage points.

Full text (PDF 23pp)

Sunday, 12 February 2012

10 stories and links I think are educative, informative, entertaining, or weird

Every writing system, ever, pretty much via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

Omniglot is an intimidatingly complete site devoted to cataloging every writing system that ever existed. As JoshP says, “If you ever need to transliterate Punic… this is the place.”
Omniglot – the guide to languages, alphabets and other writing systems

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Queen Anne knew heartache, enduring 16 failed pregnancies in 17 years. Deserving of pity, of course, but remember: She was a loathsome, unscrupulous lady... more

Hybrid sharks in the south Pacific via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
The Australian blacktip shark lives in tropical waters. The common blacktip shark prefers its water subtropical and temperate. Because of the difference in habitat, these two animals have become separate subspecies with distinct physical differences.
However, there are some places where their habitats overlap. And here, along the eastern coast of Australia, there is interspecies nookie. And hybrid baby sharks.
Read more and discover that the hybrids have distinctive genetic differences from either of the neighbouring species.
Via Mo Costandi

Wednesday-Weird-Bible-Verse: 200 foreskins as a wedding price for a bride via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

(Image of 1 Samuel 18:27 used with the kind permission of Brendan Powell Smith, from his book The Brick Bible, available on
Dan Kimball is one of my oldest friends. We went to college together, moved to London, and played in a band in the 1980s. He's an excellent cartoonist, an amazing drummer, and one of the funniest people I've ever met. He runs the Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz and has written a number of books on Christianity.
Last week, Dan launched Wednesday-Weird-Bible-Verse on his blog, in which he discusses one of the “hundreds of very strange sounding, weird, sex descriptive, bizarre and even violent verses in the Bible”.
The first weird Bible verse he tackles is 1 Samuel 18:27: “David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.”
In reading this story straight from the Bible, it even states how after David brought the forsekins back to Saul that they counted them to show how many there were. What an incredibly weird image of David standing there counting out 200 foreskins. I have beeen fascinated with the life of David lately having studied through his story in the Hebrew Bible/First Testament (I try not to say "Old Testament" as that can subtly indicate it isn’t valid or important. So I use the term “First Testament” or ”Hebrew Bible” instead).
Read the rest on Dan's blog.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The mystery of mirth. Comedy is the brain's way of correcting our mistaken assumptions. But does that explain the pleasure of a punch line?... more

Mad, bad and dangerous to know via Prospero by The Economist online
Starry Night by Van Gogh
A new biography of Vincent van Gogh casts light on a lonely, bad-tempered alcoholic, who bit the hands that fed him.
Its authors discuss their controversial findings. See the video here

IBM tracks pork chops from pig to plate via PC Advisor News by Patrick Thibodeau
IBM is deploying technology that allows meat suppliers to track a single pig all the way from farm animal to pork chop.
Full story here

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
We will get over the notion of free will, says the neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga. Moral agency comes from living in social groups... more

Behind the scenes at Planet of the Apes, 1967 via How to be a Retronaut by Chris

Thank you to Voices of East Anglia and Vintage Everyday
More pictures here

Lucky iron fish persuades Cambodian women to cook with iron, stave off anemia via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

Image: Christopher Charles
Canadian’s lucky iron fish saves lives in Cambodia (Thanks, Marilyn!)
Marilyn sez, "University of Guelph student Christopher Charles worked on a project with scientists in Cambodia three summers ago. They were trying to persuade women in poor villages to put chunks of iron in their cooking pots in order to lower the risk of anemia, but the women weren't interested. Then Charles hit upon the idea of fashioning the iron into the shape of a local fish the villagers considered lucky."
It was an enticing challenge in a country where iron deficiency is so rampant, 60 per cent of women face premature labour, hemorrhaging during childbirth and poor brain development among their babies...
The people they worked with – “the poorest of the poor” – can't afford red meat or pricey iron pills, and the women won’t switch to iron cooking pots because they find them heavy and costly. Yet a small chunk of iron could release life-saving iron into the water and food. But what shape would the women be willing to place in their cooking pots?
“We knew some random piece of ugly metal wouldn't work … so we had to come up with an attractive idea,” he said. “It became a challenge in social marketing.”

Saturday, 11 February 2012

10 stories and links I think are educative, informative, entertaining, or weird

How Much Does Earth’s Atmosphere Weigh? via Britannica Blog by Britannica Editors

Earth’s atmosphere provides gases that are critical for living things. Credit: W. Perry Conway/Corbis
A lot of people wonder how much our planet itself weighs. But what about its atmosphere?
The total mass of Earth’s atmosphere is about 5.5 quadrillion tons, or roughly one millionth of Earth’s mass. Air is heavier at sea level, since the air molecules sit close together, compressed by the weight of air from above. As elevation increases, however, air molecules grow farther apart, and the air becomes lighter.
And those links above could have you spending several minutes (or even hours) testing all the hyperlinks in Britannica!

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The genre-busting magazine essay - think John Jeremiah Sullivan or Geoff Dyer - has emerged as a worthy alternative to the creaky conventions of fiction... more

Three inventions to keep livestock off railroad tracks via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
Why do cows and horses like standing on railroad tracks? Here are three inventions to encourage them to loiter elsewhere. One involves a jet of hot water, another adds a whistle to the water jet, and a third involves a humanoid automaton that waves its hands and strikes a gong. I agree with Greg of Futility Closet when he says, “I desperately wish this had caught on.”
See the unlikely inventions at Coming Through.

Elvis Playing Football, December 27th, 1956 via Retronaut by Chris

All images by Barney Sellers
Thank you to Elvis Australia
More pictures here

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Does the impact of literary scholarship really justify the money and effort that go into it? Not even close, says Mark Bauerlein... more

How Exercise Boosts the Brain via Big Think by Big Think Editors
At least once in your life, you have probably had that familiar feeling of fatigue mixed with alertness after exercising. The fatigue is your tired muscles, the alertness is your brain, somehow awakened by physical activity. A recent study carried out in Ireland confirms that exercise improves cognitive performance: After half an hour on a bicycle, individuals did much better on memory tests which associated names with unknown faces. Blood samples were taken in order to look for a biological corollary.
Scientists believe a greater quantity of a special protein known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, is released in greater quantities during and after strenuous physical exercise. Individuals who have an especially low output of BDNF have often found it difficult to remember past learned behaviour—piloting a jet, in the case of one experiment. “The evidence is very, very strong that physical activity will increase BDNF levels and improve cognitive health,” says Dr. Ahmad Salehi, a behavioural scientist at Stanford.
Read it at The New York Times

Nice Guys Earn Less Money via Big Think by Big Think Editors
A new study shows that “agreeableness” correlates negatively with how much money men earn. According to Notre Dame researchers, “agreeableness” is a combination of trust, straightforwardness, compliance, altruism, modesty and tender-mindedness. Men who were found less greeable were not sociopaths or maniacs but they were willing to aggressively advocate for their position during conflicts. The difference in pay was stunning: agreeable men earned an average of $7,000 less than their bristly peers.
Why do we allow nice guys to finish last? What is it about aggressive personalities that we find worthy of financial reward? “Although agreeable people are less likely to get fired, and are just as likely to supervise others, they appear far less effective at negotiating pay increases, thus suggesting that the main financial benefit of disagreeableness is a willingness to stubbornly fight for what’s wanted, even if it makes others uncomfortable.” When it comes to romance, however, studies show kindness is the most important trait.
Read it at Frontal Cortex

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Alienation and misanthropy. Stephen Sondheim’s muse is misery – about success, relationships, aging, and mankind itself... more

Honeybees can smell TB via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

Image: Honeybee on Snakeroot, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from dendroica's photostream
New Zealand biologists believe that honeybees can sense the faint floral odour on the breath of people infected with tuberculosis, and are trying to find a way to train bees to help them diagnose TB:
“When we tested them with the tuberculosis odours we found the bees can still smell it down to parts per billion,” says Max Suckling.
Christchurch zoologists are training bees to associate the smell of the disease with a sweet treat and to stick out their tongues when it’s present.
Worldwide new TB infections occur at a rate of one per second. Right now it’s diagnosed medically by expensive tests and with the disease being most common in poverty stricken areas, using bees instead could make a real difference.
Bees help in the battle against tuberculosis (Thanks, Gnat!)

agatha via 3quarksdaily by Morgan Meis

Agatha Christie was not cosy. She earned the title the Queen of Crime the old-fashioned way – by killing off a lot of people. Although never graphic or gratuitous, she was breathtakingly ruthless. Children, old folks, newlyweds, starlets, ballerinas – no one is safe in a Christie tale. In Hallowe’en Party, she drowns a young girl in a tub set up for bobbing apples and, many chapters later, sends Poirot in at the very last minute to prevent a grisly infanticide. In The ABC Murders, she sets up one of the first detective-taunting serial killers. The signature country home aside, Christies literary world was far from homogenous. Her plots, like her life, were international, threading through urban and pastoral, gentry and working class, dipping occasionally into the truly psychotic or even supernatural. Christie murders were committed for all the Big Reasons – love, money, ambition, fear, revenge – and they were committed by men, women, children and in one case, the narrator. Some of her books are truly great – Death on the NileAnd Then There Were NoneThe Secret AdversaryMurder on the Orient ExpressCurtain to name a few – and some are not. But even the worst of them (The Blue TrainThe Big Four) bear the hallmarks of a master craftsman. Perhaps not on her best day, but the failures make us appreciate the successes, and the woman behind them, that much more.
more from Mary McNamara at the LA Times here.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

After “Watson”

an article by Tom Abeles (Editor) published in On the Horizon Volume 20 Issue 1 (2012)


This essay aims to explore the changes that will occur in both the natural and social sciences in general and education in particular with the advent of the cloud, fast computers and sophisticated data analysis software coupled with artificial intelligence.
The paper looks at literature, particularly science fiction, and recent developments in technology.
With massive data and analytical capabilities existing, ubiquitously in the “cloud” coupled with low cost access via smart phones, tablets and similar technologies, the cost of knowledge acquisition will asymptotically approach zero and the movement of knowledge across geo-political boundaries will profoundly affect all across the planet.
The paper reveals that the potential of the levelling of knowledge will change the relationships between the developed and developing countries.

The neglected dimension of well-being: Analyzing the development of “conversion efficiency” in Great Britain

an article by Martin Binder (Max Planck Institute of Economics, Germany) and Tom Broekel (Leibniz University of Hanover, Germany) published in Journal of Socio-Economics Volume 41 Issue 1 (January 2012)


In Amartya Sen’s capability approach, policy makers can focus on different levels to influence the well-being of a society. A dimension that is usually neglected is improving individuals’ “conversion efficiency”, i.e. the efficiency with which individual resources are converted into well-being. To examine effects of policies on (the development of) this measure we suggest an intertemporal index of conversion efficiency estimated via a nonparametric order-m approach.

The approach is exemplified using data from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) from 1991 to 2006. We find that over this time horizon between 24% and 29% of individuals were efficient in their conversion of resources into well-being. Moreover, age and self-employment increase an individual’s conversion efficiency, while living in London, being disabled and being separated, divorced or widowed all decrease conversion efficiency.

Being married also decreases the conversion efficiency and we find few [sic] evidence of gender disparities in conversion efficiency.

Viable or vital? Evaluation of IM services from patrons’ perspectives

an article by Jung-Jung Chang and Chyan Yang (National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan) published in The Electronic Library Volume 30 Issue 1 (2012)


The goal of this study is to gather information from library patrons to answer the questions of whether real-time reference services (instant messaging, IM) are beneficial to patrons and how valuable they are to fulfilling their task needs. The study was designed to elicit information about how patrons were dealing with the rapidly changing technological environment, and how helpful they felt IM reference services were to them.
The investigation uses the technology acceptance model (TAM) as the basic framework and extends it by the variable of perceived relevance (PR) which intends to extend understanding of the adoption of IM services. The sample consisted of three university libraries’ patrons on the basis of convenience, and 323 usable responses were obtained.
This research found general support for TAM. Specifically, the findings show that perceived ease of use of IM services is the key factor for the patrons’ attitudes about the IM service. Overall, the model explained 58 percent of the variance in behaviour intention. Thus, the results show that the proposed model does satisfactorily explain the adoption of the IM service.
The findings of this research provide some useful insights into a patron’s behavioural intention toward adoption of an IM service which will stimulate thought about real-time reference services that could be offered by other libraries. And it will be valuable for better understanding of factors affecting the determinants of IM acceptance, which allows libraries to devise more effective approaches to improving the patrons’ perceptions of a target system and thereby boost subsequent acceptance of the system.

Communication, equity and the voluntary provision of a public good by heterogeneous groups

an article by Kenneth S. Chan (City University of Hong Kong and McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada), Stuart Mestelman and R. Andrew Muller (McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada) and Robert Moir (University of New Brunswick, Saint John, Canada) published in Journal of Socio-Economics Volume 41 Issue 1 (January 2012)


Twenty-four laboratory sessions were conducted to evaluate the roles of communication and group heterogeneity when voluntary contributions determine the level of public good provision by small groups of individuals. Simple heterogeneity has one individual in a group having either greater endowment of resources or a greater preference for the public good than the others. Complex heterogeneity has one individual in a group having both higher endowment and greater preference for the public good. Without communication, members of heterogeneous groups tend to coordinate more on equal contribution shares than predicted by the conventional public goods model but consistent with a model incorporating a preference for equity. The distribution of relative contributions and total payoffs within groups exhibit strong interactions between communication and heterogeneity, leading to less equitable distributions of payoffs as heterogeneity becomes more complex. A model of equity theory helps to organize the results. Results suggest that communication may refocus the objective of group members.

China’s Internet lexicon: Symbolic meaning and commoditization of Grass Mud Horse in the harmonious society

an article by Shaojung Sharon Wang (Institute of Communications Management, National Sun Yat–sen University, Taiwan) published in First Monday Volume 17 Number 1 (January 2012)


There is a long history of the Chinese concept of internet regulation, which emphasizes stability and unity for a harmonious society and strong technical control. “Grass Mud Horse” (草泥马), a vulgar expression similar to an obscene curse word, has, since early 2009, been used by the country’s internet users as a political parody in response to their government’s campaign of building a harmonious socialist society. “Grass Mud Horse” has later been fashioned into the name of a storybook character, and has spawned music videos and faux documentaries. Its themed merchandise, such as plush toys, is being sold over the internet.

This study sets out to examine the transformation of  “Grass Mud Horse”  into the mass production of cultural goods created and disseminated through the internet. It argues that the exchange values of “Grass Mud Horse” represent the equivalent relation between commodities, symbols, and popular culture. While “Grass Mud Horse” has been commoditised by the increasing usage of popular culture; this is also the system of mass production and the homogenising régime of capital, which produces mass desires, tastes, and behaviour rather than valid social movements.

Full text (HTML)

The Purposes and Validity of Vocational Qualifications

a SKOPE Research Paper (No. 105 November 2011) by Cathy Stasz (RAND Corporation)


UK policy makers continue to focus on increasing skills as a means to economic and social prosperity and social mobility.

Qualifications – the certificates and diplomas awarded following education, training or learning – stand as a proxy for skill and many policies aim to raise levels of qualifications held. Policy makers have focused much attention on vocational qualifications and history is replete with efforts to reform the vocational education and training (VET) system. Many studies have identified both strengths and weaknesses in the current system, most recently the Wolf Review (2011).

This paper does not attempt to cover old ground, but to look at more basic questions:
  • What are the purposes of vocational qualifications?
  • Are they fit for those purposes?
While the first question has been addressed in policy and scholarly circles, less attention has been paid to the second question. This paper draws on literature related to the validity of assessment, because an award of a vocational qualification rests on a candidate’s successful performance on particular types of assessment tasks. It examines conceptions of validity and their implications for the interpretation of assessment results. The review shows that judging the validity of vocational qualifications is much more complicated than the architects of National Vocational Qualifications envisioned. The purposes of vocational qualifications have expanded and also vary for different stakeholders. The paper argues that the extent to which vocational qualifications support valid inferences for different purposes remains largely unexplored.

Full text (PDF 30pp)

How Local Are Labour Markets?: Evidence from a Spatial Job Search Model

a CEP Discussion Paper No 1101 by Alan Manning and Barbara Petrongolo published December 2011


This paper uses data on very small UK geographies to investigate the effective size of local labour markets. Our approach treats geographic space as continuous, as opposed to a collection of nonoverlapping administrative units, thus avoiding problems of mismeasurement of local labour markets encountered in previous work. We develop a theory of job search across space that allows us to estimate a matching process with a very large number of areas. Estimates of this model show that the cost of distance is relatively high – the utility of being offered a job decays at exponential rate around 0.3 with distance (in km) to the job – so that labour markets are indeed quite ‘local’. Also, workers are discouraged from applying to jobs in areas where they expect relatively strong competition from other jobseekers. The estimated model replicates fairly accurately actual commuting patterns across neighbourhoods, although it tends to underpredict the proportion of individuals who live and work in the same ward. Finally, we find that, despite the fact that labour markets are relatively ‘local’, local development policies are fairly ineffective in raising the local unemployment outflow, because labour markets overlap, and the associated ripple effects in applications largely dilute the impact of local stimulus across space.

Full text (48pp)

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The role of school websites in career development practice

an article by Val O’Reilly published in International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance Volume 11 Number 3 (2011)


The use of technology is well-established in teaching curricula and as a tool for educators in secondary schools in New Zealand. Within their career practice in schools, practitioners are regularly using web-based technologies. However, most career practitioners are unlikely to participate in the process of establishing and maintaining school websites, and in particular the career-related content. The perceived relevance of school websites can therefore vary for practitioners, especially where various practice settings are considered.

Hazel’s comment:
I wonder how many schools in the UK include a statement about their impartial careers guidance service” on their websites even if they do provide such a service? I suspect not many state schools.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Explaining career decision-making self-efficacy: Personality, cognitions, and cultural mistrust

and article by by Emily Bullock-yowell, Lindsay Andrews and Mary E Buzzetta published in The Career Development Quarterly Volume 59 Issue 5 (2011)


The authors explore the hypothesis that career decision-making self-efficacy could be affected by negative career thoughts, Big Five personality factors, and cultural mistrust in a sample of African American and Caucasian college students.

Findings demonstrated that negative career thinking, openness, and conscientiousness explained a significant amount of variance in career decision-making self-efficacy in a general sample of college students, but no unique variance was explained by cultural mistrust in a sample of African American college students.

Hazel’s comment:
Yet another article which tells me that if I think I’m rubbish then I will be. Not good.

Adolescent Occupational Aspirations: Test of Gottfredson’s Theory of Circumscription and Compromise

an article by Daria B. Cochran, Eugene W. Wang, Sarah J. Stevenson, Leah E. Johnson and Charles Crews published in Career Development Quarterly Volume 59 Number 5 (September 2011)


The authors investigated the relationship between adolescent occupational aspirations and midlife career success. The model for adolescent occupational aspirations was derived from Gottfredson's (1981) theory of circumscription and compromise.

The authors hypothesised that parental socioeconomic status (SES), ability, and gender predict adolescent occupational aspirations and influence career achievement in later life. Gottfredson's model was a good fit for the data. SES and ability influenced the formation of occupational aspirations, and ability and gender predicted career achievement in later life.

Additionally, occupational aspirations predicted career achievement in later life. Adolescent girls achieved less career success in midlife than did adolescent boys.

Hazel’s comment:
Interesting. Particularly as it comes fairly close, for me, from reading about abused children having a more difficult time in higher education.
Seems to me that we are what our childhoods make us although we can buck this with determination and understanding.

City Strategy: Final Evaluation

A research report (RR 783) by Anne E. Green and Duncan Adam (Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick) published by the DWP in December 2011.


The City Strategy initiative was designed at a time of national economic growth to combat enduring pockets of entrenched worklessness and poverty in urban areas by empowering local institutions to come together in partnerships to develop locally sensitive solutions. It was premised on the idea that developing a better understanding of the local welfare to work arena would allow partnerships to align and pool funding and resources to reduce duplication of services and fill gaps in provision.

City Strategy partnerships played an important role in orchestrating a multiplicity of agencies at a variety of spatial scales, with responsibilities in fields relevant to tackling worklessness. In general, they were successful in identifying gaps in existing service provision. They also had some successes in aligning funding sources so as to reduce duplication and achieve a more coherent services offer.

There is a great deal of positive evidence for process changes made by the partnerships which have been positive for supporting workless individuals. There are numerous micro level individual and project success stories and outcomes including:
  • working together across policy domains, often with new providers and stakeholders;
  • more joined up approaches to tackling worklessness;
  • greater ability to respond to new opportunities because of the foundations set by City Strategy partnership working;
  • the sharing of information between local partners and between local partnerships; and
  • nurturing new ways of working.
The partnerships provided a focal point for activities to address worklessness, so helping to concentrate efforts in a streamlined way.

Full report (PDF 83pp)
ISBN: 9-781-90852-341-9

The effect of experience of childhood abuse among university students on self-perception and submissive behavior

an article by Çiğdem Berber Çelik and Hatice Odacı (Karadeniz Technical University, Trabzon, Turkey) published in Children and Youth Services Review Volume 34 Issue 1 (January 2012)


The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of experience of childhood abuse among university students on self-perception and submissive behavior.
The study group consisted of 646 students attending various departments of the Karadeniz Technical University Faculty of Education in Trabzon, Turkey. Participants were administered the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, the Social Comparison Scale and the Submissive Acts Scale in a classroom setting.
Analysis revealed a significant negative correlation between self-perception and all forms of abuse (physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse and neglect), and a positive correlation between submissive behaviour and all forms of abuse. The students’ emotional abuse and neglect scores varied significantly according to gender, with males having higher emotional abuse and neglect scores than those of girls. Additionally, males had higher physical abuse scores than girls.
Childhood abuse emerged as a significant predictor of negative self-perception and submissive behaviour. In addition, with the exception of sexual abuse, other forms of abuse vary according to gender. The experiences of childhood abuse may have a long-term impact on various features of character and behaviour.

Hazel’s comment:
There are times when a study which shows up what you’ve known for years is useful – if only to highlight an issue for people who have not experienced something at first- or second-hand.
The times when careers/employment advice moves into counselling need an empathy that we have not always understood. “Just snap out of it” is, unfortunately, not always, maybe not ever, possible for most people.