April 2009

On the future of education

It will be very different in 10 years.  It is very different now.

Pretty soon those backpacks carrying 100 lbs worth of textbooks will be replaced by one, 10.2 oz Amazon Kindle or even your iPod.

From Gizmodo:

iTunes U will be teaming up with universities and other education establishments to offer a free hosting service for educators.

As information continues to become more widespread and readily accessible, the question becomes, what value does a physical university really have?

If I can get the same education for free either on the Internet or through other distributed devices, why do I really need to be in a classroom, or furthermore, why do I even need to be in a University?

Students can take courses online and learn what they need to learn with companies like Phoenix, Kaplan, BigThink, Academic Earth and even YouTube (Dear Ambassadors and Respected Representatives of UW-Madison and Eduction).

The “Degree” is beginning to seem less and less valuable (in many cases, but not all) when you can learn what you want, when you want, where you want , and apply those lessons to real world applications. This to me, is infinitely more valuable than doing homework or taking tests in an insulated environment.

However, being in a physical university does have its advantages. You are surrounded with like-minded individuals and have a very good chance at meeting the right people, and creating some real value for the real world. Then again, can’t we just do that online?

School Spirit Skit 2” – Kanye West (The College Dropout)

You keep it going man, you keep those books rolling,
You pick up those books your going to read
And not remember and you roll man.
You get that a sociate degree, okay,
Then you get your bachelors, then you get your masters
Then you get your master’s masters,
Then you get your doctron,
You go man, then when everybody says quit
You show them those degree man, when
Everybody says hey, your not working,
Your not making in money,
You say look at my degrees and you look at my life,
Yeah i’m 52, so what, hate all you want,
But i’m smart, i’m so smart, and i’m in school,
And these guys are out here making
Money all these ways, and i’m spended mine to be smart.
You know why?
Because when i die, buddy, you know
What going to keep me warm, that right, those degrees

I’m not suggesting students drop out of school.  Just, reconsider HOW and WHERE you get your education and reconsider HOW and WHEN you apply what you’ve learned to the real world.

A fantastic piece was written yesterday in the NYTimes.com by Mark C. Taylor titled, End The University As We Know It. If you are going to read one thing today, please read this piece.

An excerpt from the piece:

GRADUATE education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).

Widespread hiring freezes and layoffs have brought these problems into sharp relief now. But our graduate system has been in crisis for decades, and the seeds of this crisis go as far back as the formation of modern universities. Kant, in his 1798 work “The Conflict of the Faculties,” wrote that universities should “handle the entire content of learning by mass production, so to speak, by a division of labor, so that for every branch of the sciences there would be a public teacher or professor appointed as its trustee.”

Unfortunately this mass-production university model has led to separation where there ought to be collaboration and to ever-increasing specialization. In my own religion department, for example, we have 10 faculty members, working in eight subfields, with little overlap. And as departments fragment, research and publication become more and more about less and less. Each academic becomes the trustee not of a branch of the sciences, but of limited knowledge that all too often is irrelevant for genuinely important problems. A colleague recently boasted to me that his best student was doing his dissertation on how the medieval theologian Duns Scotus used citations.

worth the entire read..more here…

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HOW TO: Use twitter to help your organization

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

People have recently asked me:

“How can I use Twitter to help my organization? I know I need to be on there, but how do I use it? What do I do?”

Answer (3-parts):

  1. Define your organization’s objective
  2. Establish your voice
  3. Build an audience


Before you do anything, you first need to define what it is exactly you are trying to accomplish. Are you selling something? A product or service? Are you recruiting or building a team? Are you entertaining for the sake of amusement? Are you informing and educating on a specific topic? Is it a mix or variation of the previously mentioned?

Once you figure out what your ultimate goal is, you can than establish a voice within twitter (or any social networking or media property for that matter) in order to communicate your goals.


Now that you have figured out what you want to convey, you need to figure out how you will say it. People use twitter in many different ways, but 3 key examples are:

1. The “What I’m Doing” Method (Real and Random Examples):

  • Tonight…I am going to hit the treadmill. YIKES.
  • Taking a fun, random drive on a warm spring evening.
  • Just had the world famous Bongo Burger Aka Persian Burger. Ohhh yeaaah!
  • Eating with @—– at pf changs
  • At meeting, Fed to weigh options to revive economy (AP) http://cli.gs/PVX3HG #Finance

Unless I personally know who you are, I’m probably going to unfollow you if you tell the world Tonight…I am going to hit the treadmill. YIKES.” I mean, I really could care less if you are going to work off that cheeseburger you just ate for dinner. However, if you for example are someone big in the finance community and tell me “At meeting, Fed to weigh options to revive economy (AP) http://cli.gs/PVX3HG #Finance”, than I probably do care a bit about what you are doing.

Point is, when being personal and communicating in the first person, make sure what you are saying coincides with your goal as an organization.

2. The “Check This Out” Method (Real and Random Examples):

Look at the Twitter name. Look at the update. Very purposeful, very informative, and most importantly, the message ties back to the goal of that organization.

3. The “Conversation” Method (Real and Random Examples):

If I’m going to consider your organization legitimate and beneficial, I’d like to see that you are involved with some other people or organizations that are influential in your space. Demonstrate that you are engaged in your own community or niche market. This method, in conjunction with other twittering tactics, is how you are going to build an audience.


Now that you’ve identified what you want to say and how you are going to say it, you need to get together a group of people that will listen to you and hopefully pass along whatever it is you may be saying. You need followers.

If you are starting from ground zero and no followers on twitter:

  1. Head over to Summize.com or http://search.twitter.com/ (same thing).
  2. Type in some keywords that coincide with your organization’s objectives.
  3. Follow the people that are speaking your language and talking about the things you will be talking about. Reach out to them and tell them about your organization.

If you already happen to be on Facebook and want to leverage your existing FB network:

  1. Log in to Facebook and download the Facebook- Twitter application: http://apps.facebook.com/twitter/
  2. Now everyone in your Facebook network will get your Twitter updates.

At the end of the day the best way to learn anything is simply by doing, so if you are looking to create value from Twitter, just head over to to www.twitter.com, create an account, and dive right in.

Some tools that I use to help with Twitter:

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Will I-Banking bonuses ever be the same?

About a month or so ago I had a conversation with a VP from Goldman Sachs. We talked about work hours versus compensation in the investment banking world. We also talked about how he was seriously considering leaving the banking world to pursue an entrepreneurial endeavor. The conversation could pretty much be summed up by this graph:

Until recently, many undergrad and graduate students had one career and one purpose in mind: Work for an investment bank – make a ton of money (most of which came from big bonuses).

Today, those huge bonuses are gone yet some people are sticking around these jobs thinking that one day the tide will turn and the bonuses will be back. Part of me believes this is true, that history repeats itself, and one day big paydays will be back (it’s only a matter of time before someone else exploits a flaw in the open markets).

But the other part of me thinks that this will not happen for a very, very long time.

I recently asked my cousin David Wise, who works as a compensation consultant, what his thoughts were on the big bonus payouts. In short, he made a few really good points:

  • Investment banks are dead. They are now Bank Holding Companies.
  • These banks’ Return on Equity (ROE) have dropped anywhere from 20%-30% to 10%-15%. Less money for shareholders. Less money for employees.
  • The current compensation and incentive structures are broken and need to be fixed.

It’s going to be a very interesting 2009, 2010, 2011….

David’s take on compensation below in a recent CBS news interview:

Watch CBS Videos Online

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“F-U” Style Marketing

Things are getting tough, especially in the marketing world.

Marketers have to go way beyond conventional wisdom to drive results for their clients or personal business.

One, definitely not so new style, is what I like to think of as “F-U” Style Marketing. A style where one marketer or company completely bashes another.

I recently turned on a new NYC FM radio station 92.3 NOW FM, and about every 10 minutes I hear them bashing their competing station Z-100:

  • “If you listen to Z-100, you hate the Easter bunny”
  • “Commercial free because we don’t have to pay for Elvis Duran’s (the radio MC) hair gel”

There were some other somewhat cheesy bash-lines they had and can’t remember, but you get the point.

Are things so tough that people have to resort to dirty, guerrilla style marketing tactics? Is this just a good tactic to use anyway? I mean, we see it all the time in political campaigns, blogs, articles, reviews, books, music, and television.

I recently saw this video and couldn’t help but think that it was fake and done by a competing pizza company:…talk about “dirty” tactics…

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HOW TO: Streaming on demand music in your car

The Pandora app rocks...will the Masses use it...
Image by K. Todd Storch via Flickr

Forget pricey satellite radio, the crappy commercial filled FM radio, massive amounts of CDs, or your stale and unupdated iPod…

Here is how you can get free on demand music in your car:

  1. Take out your phone and download the mobile version of Pandora or Slacker radio (they are both free)
  2. Buy a cassette adapter for CDs or MP3 players
  3. Buy a car charger for your phone
  4. Connect the car charger and the cassette adapter to your phone
  5. Go to your Pandora or Slacker application and press play

Hands-free Bonus Feature:  When people call you just put them on speaker phone. Your friends will sound like radio jockeys.

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Become Rich: Made in China. As Seen on TV.

Mike Strutter in his infomercial for "Str...
Image via Wikipedia

We’ve all had these moments:

“Hey, Wouldn’t it be cool if we made….”

“I’ve got a really great idea. We should make…”

“Dude, This is genius. We are going to make….”

If you’ve recently had one of those light bulb, Velcro, post-it note, window in envelope idea moments, now is the time to make it and sell it.

Here’s how:

  1. MADE IN CHINA – Go create an account at alibaba.com and find a Chinese manufacturer that can make your “whatever it is” idea for cheap.
  2. INFOMERCIALS – Take your product to TV using infomercials.

With the economy still somewhat in free fall, advertisers are cutting back on marketing budgets especially in mediums like print and television. Networks are having hard times filling premium commercial slots with premium commercials, so instead, they turn to infomercials which are mostly direct response advertisements.

From CNN Money:

McAlister and other direct marketers hope to prosper through the downturn. With top-tier marketing firms slashing their ad budgets, competition for airtime has steadily declined, making room for a new class of advertisers. Infomercials were once relegated to the wee hours of the morning, when slots come cheap. Now they’re turning up in prime time, even squeaking onto the Super Bowl telecast: Cash4Gold, a direct advertiser that melts down jewelry, made headlines in January by snapping up an unsold 30-second slot.

Chances are good that a person calling one of those cheesy infomercials, are most likely going to buy the product. Why else would they pick up the phone in the first place?

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3 Pillars for College Admissions

There are three key components admissions officers look at when reviewing students’ college applications:

Today, most large universities are faced with the challenge of reviewing thousands of applications in a way that equally addresses all three pillars of admissions.

But, can they really pay equal attention to all three? Should they?

Consider how subjective or objective each category is.

  • Standardized Test Scores – Very black and white. Every student takes the same test. 100% objective
  • Grades – Not so black and white. Students go to different schools, have different teachers, different text books. 50% objective, 50% subjective.
  • Subjective Qualities – Extra curricular, essays, volunteering, leadership, etc. 100% subjective.

In a world that is losing economic and industrial boundaries (the world really is flat), people with “smarts”, high IQs, and academic mind sets are becoming commoditized. Look no further than India to see how bright minds, engineers and mathematicians,  are literally being cranked out in the hundreds if not thousands or millions.

The most valuable quality of tomorrow’s work force will be those with leadership skills. Motivation. Determination. Communicative abilities. Marketing abilities. A way to stand out to be bold, different. Unique.

Having the “smarts” is absolutely critical, but without an effective way to leverage your “smarts”, you become less valuable to yourself and employers.

Universities need to reevaluate how to consider all 3 pillars on an equal basis, with new methodologies and in a way that scales with the thousands of applications. They need to appreciate the value of the “Subjective Qualities” more so than they do now. This is not an easy task, but I’m confident some folks are up to the challenge.

After speaking with Steve Amundson, the new Director of Admissions at UW, I believe there are those individuals who are certainly capable and willing to meet these challenges. Steve is one of those people and I wish him the best of luck.

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