Friday, December 24, 2010

holiday tunes

an innovative approach to gingerbread house construction. Thanks Sara.

just like the kids over at fbi radio, i'm doing my darndest to avoid the regular carols re-released by every washed up 80s star and his dog. the tunes (via some rad blogs) i'm cross-posting are filling my ears and making me smile and there isn't a poorly mixed synth or mis-pronounciation of Israel to be heard (is it just me or does everyone cringe when singers choose either iz-rai-YEL or iz-RAY-yell?)

First up, local boy Tommy has posted some beautiful hot-day tunes to fall asleep in the heat to. Hopefully summer realises it's being incredibly tardy and arrives before Santa.

Like them or lump them, the hipster categorisers at Two Thousand have blessed us with a beautiful mix, again for the chill times after lunch and just before the food coma hits.

Sunsets crew Stolen Records on aforementioned fbi radio are also mixing some rather unexpected, energy filled ditties. Probably listen to this only if you won't be feeling delicate or are easily offended or will be hanging with family members from the war-time era.

I'm a big fan of fuel/friends, and Deer Tick, AND the Black Dirt Sessions, so this post was obviously a winnah.

The boys in Cleveland could have run things a bit better this year, but they have been posting some lovely collaborations nonetheless. This one's for a certain friend who keeps trying to convert me to the joys of LCD Soundsystem discipleship. And someone else who despite extolling the wonders of Jay-Z doesn't own any albums. Yet.

things that have caught my eye lately. just in case you're interested, clockwise from top left (just like in the mags): Banky's work for christmas, vegan gingerbread decoration fail, seitan is my motor chocolate spritz biscuits, latest work from David Walker, crazy post-catwalk hair, Martha's stylists shaming the rest of us for our deocation skillz

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My paper for AVETRA 2011

So now that I don't have to worry about that potentially disastrous December 3 deadline for The Thesis, I've had time to try to get my research out there in the wider research community. Either I'm a glutton for punishment or am still in denial about enjoying the researcher aspect of my life.

Loosely linked to the scholarship that NCVER awarded me at the beginning of the year, AVETRA have accepted my abstract to present in the peer-reviewed section of their annual conference in 2011! I'm excited about being able to present (albeit in a very compact format) the findings of my research to practitioners and researchers in the field in Australia. Also, the idea of being published is super exciting!

On top of that, NCVER will publish an occasional paper on my research later next year as part of the aforementioned scholarship. It's right about here that I start freaking out a little about the fact that I have to write and produce a document that reads like all those articles I referenced in my thesis this year. eep!

To give you an idea of what I'll be producing over the summer, I've pasted a condensed version of my thesis abstract below. Would love to hear your comments, questions, constructive criticisms etc. and I'll keep you posted on the progress.

An examination of the e-learning experiences of young professionals

This research centres around two main questions. The first examines the current experience of Generation Y with e-learning at work. The second asks what are key elements of e-learning as identified by this group that contribute to successful e-learning experiences. Current literature examines e-learning from learning and technology design, as well as the way e-learning fits within different organizations or industry contexts, but little research has been conducted in Australia on how e-learning can be better used for the emerging generation in the workforce, Gen Y. The project was conducted using a basic interpretive qualitative methodology. Methods used were a web-based survey, semi-structured face-to-face interviews and artefact analysis.

Key findings from the research include three overarching themes that are key in ensuring a positive experience with e-learning for Gen Y employees. These are flexible options, a positive attitude toward learning with technology and applicability of the content to the employees’ immediate context. Other findings included the high number of e-learning courses completed soon after starting work with a new employer and that the majority of participants had completed more than one e-learning course. Overall, most participants in the research identified e-learning as a valuable element in their overall professional development and had a positive attitude toward it.

Implications from the findings include a need for clear communication via policy or internal organizational campaign so that employees understand the reasons for e-learning in their context. E-learning needs to remain dynamic and designers should seek to increase the level of interactivity, customization and control given to learners, particularly young professionals. Moreover, content previously not considered appropriate to be delivered via e-learning should be reassessed in order to avoid a stereotype of e-learning courses developing that only includes compliance based programs.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I know the avid readership of this space will be stoked to know that I'm now follow-able on Twitter. You can hear me rant and RT stuff I love @sophiebcarter.

Who knows if I'll be able to keep up the pace of micro-blogging, it may very possibly be a total fad, but that's up to old Mr Time, is it not? In the meantime, it's a pretty fun experiment.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


My thesis has been holding me hostage for the past little while. I'm not alone. A quick search on facebook tells me there's a group titled 'my thesis is killing me and my social life'.

But in less than 100 hours, in less than a week, in just a few days that will all be behind me and I will be free to go places that don't have powerpoints, resume other projects and work on my domination of the world of preserves. oh, and re-write my thesis for publication.

Even though there's still leg work to be done, I've realised that the whole process was that much more painful because I had never experienced anything like it. I've never taken on such an ambitious project by myself with a clear end goal and the very real risk that I might not reach that goal. The whinging and the stress and confusion have all come from a general feeling of uncertainty about what the appropriate way to deal with an Honours year is. I'm fairly sure everyone who has had to put up with my extreme levels of stress recently would probably laugh if I told them this to their faces.

Ironically, the thesis topic touches on the perception of Gen Y as team players and a group of people who thrive in collaborative settings where they constantly receive feedback. When I began this year, I foolishly laughed at the stereotype, prancing around like I was so far above any of those characteristics simply because I was researching them. I think this is possibly the biggest rookie qualitative researcher error I could have made.

For all the pain, now that the finish line is in sight, I think I can already see the benefit of spending 12 months working on what is essentially an independent project with a sponsor expecting a measurable result in the end. Definitely I know there are things I would have approached differently if I could do it over (like not working full time, not having to change supervisors half-way through). I also know that I'm so glad I actually made it to the end. Finally.

Friday, October 8, 2010

the Murray Darling thing

The Murray Darling Basin Plan draft will be released later today. News reports this morning are focusing on the possible negative effect this will have on agriculture in the largest water catchment system in Australia. This is in contrast to reports a few months ago which focused on the possibility of water buy-backs and the devastating effect not acting would have on the river system and the communities that live along it.

But will this apparently more cohesive plan actually have an effect on the way water is managed across all the eastern states and into South Australia? Allocation reductions will definitely have a drastic impact on the way business and agriculture is run in western NSW. There is potential for the plan to look like a Robin Hood operation, reducing the amount of water stations in south west of NSW and Cubbie Station on the QLD border can extract from the rivers.

the murray darling junction

To place another stress factor on already struggling rural communities seems unfair in the extreme, but if the environmental reports are to be believed, this is part of a last-ditch effort to save the entire system from extinction and keeping some of the largest grossing agricultural regions alive for future generations.
Where is the middle-ground where the two needs can meet in a compromise? Does a middle-ground even exist for this issue still, or have we already passed that point, and acting with drastic measures is the only way to go now?

The other thing that will be interesting to watch is the amount of airtime and inches paid to the report in the media, given the Murray Darling is a region largely removed from the average new consumer (and voter). Here’s hoping it’s recognised by all stakeholders as a report worth discussing and one that has the potential to change the direction of agriculture in Australia, an industry that historically has been and still remains one of the largest contributors to the GDP and exports for our economy.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I love social media

image via

There, I said it.

I might be super dorky admitting this, but I actually really dig social media. For everyone hating on facebook, twitter, geo-location apps, cloud computing etc, there’s some good reasons to love social media. I understand why some people think it may be an invasion of privacy, an infringement on their civil liberties or just one big conspiracy theory for ‘the system’ to track the minutae of your existence (well I don’t really understand that one, but hey, if we’re caught on film more than once a day it’s only a matter of time before we all have tracking devices touted as accessories...)

Social media has been great in bringing people together who previous hadn’t made valuable connections. It’s been a tool to build communities around interest and commonalities and helped foster creativity.

Definitely social media needs to be used in the right way, otherwise you’re likely to break yourself.

So I’ve pulled together a list of reasons why I dig social media and why it’s reputation should be more positive than it currently is:

1. Social media (re)connects

2. Social media allows for better user-generated content creation

3. Social media encourages transparent communication (and this has been proven to be good for business, brands and issues)

4. Social media is flexible enough for the conversation to take direction on its own, and not be dictated by the tool’s limitations

5. Social media is a shell-like tool – it’s worth is in the content it can contain and the meta-data (echoes?) that come out of it

6. Social media is the fruition of ideas

I think George Siemens put it best when he said social media (or Web2.0 generally) was about communication and connection. He goes on to talk about Web3.0 and Web X, but that’s an entirely different post.

So sure, I'm on a bandwagon, but it that really something to be concerned about? Is there a real basis for the panicked concerns of all the social media haters? Discuss (or not, as you wish).

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pretty things and diversions

image via

So all the fashion weeks have just happened and there has been a BUNCH of stuff come out that is truly inspirational. Below are links to some of the posts I've read about some of my favourite shows and collections from the S/S '11 season...

(yes, I realise re-posting Sartorialist is a cop-out, but just enjoy the pretty pictures. That's the point, right?)


Jonathan Saunders via the Sartorialist

Atelje via Style Bubble (this woman, her blog and her life deserve all the attention that she gets - and more. If you're not already a subscriber - get amongst it!)

New York:

Victoria Beckahm via Garance


Dolce and Gabbana via the Sartorialist

Needless to say I'm looking forward to the SS11 season (and Paris hasn't even finished yet!)

Are managers mentors?

A few months ago I had lunch with someone writing their Masters on the merits of business managers taking on mentoring roles. After we met they sent me an article (naturally now that I want it, I can't find it anywhere) reporting on the benefits managers receive from being a mentor for others. It made for interesting reading, especially because I'd never considered that the mentor would actually gain anything from the process.

The research basically said that senior managers often felt less stressed and more able to face complicated decisions after having a meeting with the person they were mentoring as a result of having spent time investing in someone else's life and development.

It also made me start thinking about what criteria make up a successful mentor. Definitely the criteria will change at least a bit across purposes, people and contexts, but surely there are some commonalities too. There is a bunch of academic research and pop-literature on the topic of mentors especially in relation to professional development, but I have some ideas of my own too.

  • A mentor should be able to act like an editor - constructively question and criticise elements of the mentee's development, behaviour and attitudes.
  • A mentor should be able to cast vision and act as a 'thought-planter'.
  • A mentor should be able to set pace, but also adapt their agenda and style to meet the feedback from the mentee.

So even though a mentor-mentee relationship is usually one on one, now that I've written that list out, remind me again how mentors are different from leaders?


Call me behind the times, but I'm looking forward to losing myself over the summer in the following titles. I've been meaning to read Elie Wiesel and Paul Auster for about three years and am kind of ashamed that I haven't yet. I read Timbuktu two years ago and raved about it to anyone who would listen. I think the sign of a really good read is losing your copies because you've given them away to people who haven't read them yet. Timbuktu was that good.

(kudos if you noticed that half these titles are past reads of Oprah's book club)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Metaphysics, anthropology, evolutionary psychology

Came across an interesting article on NPR recently, basically saying that religion is good for the evolution of society.

Bering asserts that it is belief in God that has ensured everyone cooperates, promotes social good and stamps out cheating. With the experiment in the article in mind, sure, it makes sense. The journo then goes on to extend the example by explaining cooperation and just how complicated a concept it is. This is all true, but what I’m worried about is that it is a little too simplistic. Surely if things like cooperation, belief in unseen beings and social acceptance are going to be discussed a mention of free will should be made?

Mainly I enjoyed reading this article because it’s provided me with another perspective on God as an academic topic –something that Marilynne Robinson has been helping me to explore recently as well.

Savage Minds is an anthropology blog that I love reading about. It’s a no fuss discussion of issues current in the area, in other words, great for n00bs like me. They did a really good review of the guts of the article recently. I think I agree with them when they say: Behavioral ecology is one thing, but I’m simply not convinced that “belief” can be reduced to “behavior”.

Food for thought, I guess. Would love to hear yours if you have the time. (All two of you that is)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Highlight (literally, I highlighted it) from chapter 1 of Absence of Mind:

"I propose that the core assumption that remains unchallenged and unquestioned through all the variation within the diverse traditions of "modern" thought is that the experience and testimony of the individual mind is to be explained away, excluded from consideration when any rational account is to be made of the nature of human being and of being altogether."

It's got me thinking, for sure, she makes a good point. This book isn't what I was expecting, it's a workout and I need to take a rest about every ten pages, but it also feels great to be thinking about being and the mind in ways I've never really done before. I can't wait till I can chat about what I thought with anyone else who's read it, which so far I think will just be one person. Shame, coz I have a suspicion that there will be a bunch more gems like the above in the rest of the chapters.

If you have 20-odd spare clams, go order a copy of and get some decent pre-summer-trash-reading in.

sleeping. or something.

oops - almost forgot this thing existed!

So I think I might start writing about some chilled out tunes over at When You Awake. Feel free to go trawl the backlog of posts by a whole bunch of cool people from places like Nashville, LA, Norway and London.

Apparently I'm the southern hemisphere correspondent for all things twang-related.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

'Absence of mind' by Marilynne Robinson

So back in June I was enjoying a weekend in Blackheath when I read this article on Marilynne Robinson’s new publication, ’Absence of mind’. I was blown away by the extract and was motivated enough to get a few people in my world to agree to read the whole book with me.

We’re starting on August 15 and I’m guessing we’ll take around 3-4 weeks to finish it. The plan is we’ll all meet up to talk about what we thought at the end. Just like a real book club! Except I refuse to use that term because of the nanna-ish images it conjures up.

Basically, the book is a printed version of the lecture series Robinson did at Yale last year as part of the Terry lectures. Before this, I hadn’t even heard of the Terry lectures, which are interesting in themselves. I’m looking forward to getting down to discuss the ideas in the book with people whos intelligent opinions I value very much. So far I've convinced a physicist, a law student and a nurse to read with me.

Even though I’m not yet the greatest debater, I do think a few people reading the book with me will have some interesting responses to the arguments Robinson puts forward. It’s also a side project of mine to push myself to start engaging in debates more, so that I can start to rely on my ability to argue a point coherently. Hopefully I’ll survive the discussion and post a review in September.

P.S. there are some more reviews of the book here, here, here, and here.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Job markets and contracts

from skins, via

Monthly job ad numbers have been steadily increasing for months now in Australia. Has the market turned back to being one geared to the job seeker? We may not ever see the kind of craziness going on around jobs and inflated salaries that we did a few years ago, but short of that, the jobs market does seem to be expanding again and this can only be a good thing for job seekers.

With a little more buoyancy in the market, is there an argument for 'early career' professionals and graduates to start looking less for security and more for experience? Contract roles are always a great way to guarantee experience and outcomes in a specific area. Because of that, they’re a great way for people looking to gain experience and who already have skill set to offer. Obviously the down-side to this is that contracts are usually short to mid-term and this is often seen as a risk because of the end-date on the income stream. However, with graduates often being the least encumbered employees when it comes to financial commitments (i.e. fewer grads have mortgages, credit card debt, children etc), contract work could be an ideal opportunity if the risk is recognised and accepted.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

inspiration: july

even though I already did an inspiration thing for July, I think I can get away with another one because I didn't do one in June. Heck, this is my space, just go with it. These are the top ten things that I'm enjoying on the web at the moment.

  1. Write an article for - this is great. I already admire this guy, but he's also open to giving others a leg-up and listening to them. Bonus.
  1. Menomena - like the reviewer, I don't know anything about the back catalog, but after listening to the tracks attached to this review, I'm a fan. (also a fan of the writer - funny stuff)
  2. Solar powered party box - I can see these things popping up on campuses everywhere. Uni promotions teams going crazy for how many boxes (pun intended) that this ticks: mobile, green, recycled, engaging, open, different, 'young!' 'modern!'. But I also think it's pretty cool.
  3. Population policy - with the election looming and some of the bizarre antics surrounding even more bizarrely designed campaign policies, this article took me by surprise.

  1. Garance Dore on getting started with entrepreneurship - she's beautiful, takes great photos and travels the world for work, but she also writes (via a translator) some pretty good stuff to keep you thinking while gawking at her images

  1. Marnie Stern 'for ash' - this song is on high rotation in my life this week. The review refers to the sound of strangling, and I have to admit they're not far off the mark.
  2. History lesson - a friend I consider to be quite intelligent once told me that most of what they learnt for year 12 history they got from Eddy Izzard's live show. This comic reminds me of that.

  1. Deer tick 'twenty miles' - I love this song. The reviewer isn't  big fan, but I disagree, for all the reasons they don't like it, I do.
  2. Roast pumpkin soup from foodlove - this stuff is to die for
  3. Connectivism - the main learning theory I'm studying this year, I'm a big fan of George Siemens. 
What are you digging at the moment?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

live to work or work to live: polarised extremes

Do you live to work or work to live? The real question behind this question should not be about choosing one over the other. But if you didn’t think about the question long enough, if you only considered what this question has morphed over time to mean, you would probably miss the point.

Often nowadays if people are asked this question the underlying assumption is that the questioner is looking for the answerer to agree that work isn’t as big a part of their lives as time indicates. That really, even though they spend forty plus hours each week in an office working for someone else, their real life, what they value, lies outside of the work environment.

I believe the value of this question lies beneath what it is actually asking. Essentially, two polarised extremes are presented as the options for anyone being asked this question. Do you choose the first option, that boxes your work and lets you find meaning elsewhere, or do you pursue work as your way of life, looking for meaning and value there? But what about the third option that isn’t even mentioned, the option that rejects the premise of the question altogether?

What about replacing the ‘living’ and the ‘working’ closer together, making the common feature whatever it is that gives you meaning and value in your day-to-day? In other words, reject the assumption that meaning can only be found in either work or life. If you know what it is that gives a reason to get out of bed in the morning, why not put a part of that into every aspect of your life, and therefore give every aspect of your life even more meaning? If it’s something that you previously only got out of hours, look at finding a way to bring it to your ‘life’ as well and see where it leads. If you show people that you’ve made your values your life, then there is far more chance that people will take you seriously about that thing. Why do work and life have to be at opposite ends of the scale, completely removed from each other? Why not bring them closer together, widening the pool of inspiration and influence?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

live to work or work to live: taking stock

image via weheartit

Live to work or work to live. What does that phrase even mean? It started out as a way of implying that there is more to life than just what happens from 9-5 weekdays. When the ideas of ‘quality of life’ and ‘work/life balance’ were still new and fresh and exciting, this phrase was so overused it’s kind of lost its original meaning. It no longer has the same impact it did when it was first coined.

A great indicator of what is being valued in your life at any one time is looking at how much time is being spent on that activity. Sure, most full time jobs require you to spend 40 hours a week on whatever it is you’re employed to do. But how much time on top of that are you spending on work? While the time spent is usually valuable in terms of getting things done, it’s also a clear indicator of two things:

1. How much you value your work
2. How much you value your discretionary time

Think of time as a commodity, something that has value similar to cash. (insert lame pun like joke about 'time is money') What I’m getting at, is that those two points essentially have equal value until you choose to prioritise one over the other. That’s the value part.

The point? Time spent often indicates where your values lie.

Once identified where your values are in terms of time spent, do they match what you thought your values were?

Pew published some research suggesting that Gen Y are driven by values in different ways than previous generations. It makes for some interesting reading. Can openness to change be considered a value?

I'd love to hear what you think, leave me a comment.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Live to work or work to live: the gap year post

image via clevercupcakes

I met someone a couple of weeks ago who made a decision to not do any career-related work for the whole of 2009, straight after graduating. To all the graduates who stress and sweat it out until they’ve secured their first position, this could seem totally insane. Don’t mis-read this, they were still getting paid for doing work, but it wasn’t doing stuff that related to their degree or what they anticipated being their ‘real career’. It struck me as a kind of gap-year, post-university. This person recognised the value that work held in their life, and that at the point directly after graduating, for them, it wasn’t as valuable as pursuing other things.

There are a bunch of programs that cater to those students who want to take a year off between high school and further study. It’s actually a booming market, and some have suggested that there is more purpose to the gap year than just doing a Europe or south-east Asia trip with mates. Valuable stuff happens when people purposefully make space to reflect on their own position in the world and learn from what others are doing.

But what about post-graduation? Whether it be to take another trip overseas before starting life as a grown-up, or to get some valuable volunteering experience, or even to donate their recently minted skills to a worthy cause, taking a post-uni gap year seems to be a growing trend.

Basically, taking a gap year after graduating, to stock-take what is valuable to you, could be a really good idea. My friend? They’ve started doing some paid work as a result of volunteering last year. In an area entirely unrelated to what they studied. The reward of the year off for them has been realising what they are (and aren’t) passionate about. Turns out, their degree didn’t relate to their passion, but it didn’t matter, because the gap year provided opportunities of its own. Opportunities that weren’t already formulated from a cookie-cutter program, but from deliberate, personal examination. Taking a year off was a risk, but it paid off.

Food for thought.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What I'm reading: 'A whole new mind' by Dan Pink

I finished reading this book about three weeks ago. I said I'd do a review, so here goes...

The idea Pink proposes is that there is a requirement on employees to move beyond transaction-based, reactionary work in a knowledge economy and start thinking conceptually, taking advantage of opportunities to exercise creativity in all workplace contexts. The proposal is great, however this book doesn't reach much above the standard tone and formulaic approach that most business self-help books use. Perhaps that's because Pink is trying to target those people still thinking in linear, fomulaic ways about work? If so, he does a great job of getting to them in a way that they're already used to, but I'm not so sure how successful it is at bringing those types to a place where they're comfortable dropping those tools and picking up conceptual, creative thinking instead.

I'm sounding negative, but this book was good overall as a conversation starter with people at work, and people thinking in the same space as me. Just be sure to think for yourself about how the concepts Pink proposes apply to your situation.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fun stuff to do in Perth

london court - horrendously touristy, just accept it for what it is.

go walking down bon marche arcade to pigeonhole - worth the hunt.

escape the CBD to tigertiger and secret garden, where you can order vegan food off the menu!

knit-bombing on Mill Point Rd, South Perth? brilliant!

breakfast at greenhouse perth. gotta love a place that has a rooftop bar and live music amongst their veggie patch. (you should also watch/read how this place came to be here)

sunset on Cottesloe beach. highlight of the trip.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Diversity and equity

image via weheartit

I’ve been reading about including provisions for diverse needs all over the place. Yesterday on fbi radio there was a segment on an event called Sencity. It’s was born out of a project in Holland that tried to make the impossible possible in music. The result is a club night that tours the world designed to stimulate all the senses and bring the deaf and hearing community together. There’s food, music, vibrating dancefloors, aromas and and visual displays all coordinated so that everyone present can experience the same thing.

Last week at NCVER 2010 No Frills, a key note address was given by Trevor Gale on student equity in vocational education. He suggested that although vocational education is one of the most accessible forms of training, it lags behind tertiary education in terms of delivering student equity. One quote (that I have to paraphrase because I don’t have access to his presentation) was that in adopting an attitude to treat all students the same, educators automatically validate and help to perpetuate the cycle of disadvantage that people with diverse needs experience. Interesting stuff.

Then, I read about a way for bloggers to better accommodate visually impaired readers. Apparently alternative text for links and images goes a long way to help visually impaired readers to get through a blog post easily. I’ve tried to include the suggestions in this post and hope to do so in the future.

But what about private education? Purely from personal observation, I don’t know that there are a lot of efforts made by private enterprises to include alternatives for people with diverse needs. With Trevor Gale’s quote in mind, is the onus to identify and accommodate these differences on the individual or the company?

Instructors can’t anticipate all the needs of course participants, and if they’re not made aware of them early enough, maybe aspects of a course won’t be as effective. How are learning and development professionals in private enterprise expected to use different learning strategies for different participants if they’re not informed of the difference beforehand? And while we’re at it, how can they expect to be informed beforehand if the company isn’t collecting the information (because there are no data standards for private training companies)?

It all seems a little too big to handle, but definitely something that is worth the little attention it gets.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Inspiration (online edition)

image via the daily what

I think I read a lot online. Loads of inspriational stuff can be found online. These are some of the things that have been inspiring me so far in July.

1. Seth Godin talking about approaching development for an employee – this guy is pretty switched on.

2. Wise words for grads, tweeted by everyone else – Monster is a jobsearch site. The blog is usually pretty good career advice, if you’re into reading that type of thing.

3. New space for faith and theology discourse – who knows whether this will succeed as a place for open, constructive and challenging discussion, but I hope it does. Also, my friend is going to be writing an article.

4. Cascadeer – I’ve only heard this one track, but it’s awesome.

5. Block colours and structured garments – I don’t know how some people pull it off, but they do. Lucky ducks.

6. Gilliano being inspired by others – not only does this girl astonish me with her personal insights, she does it with puns!

7. Ancient languages futuristically translated – I have a hobby-level interest in linguistics. Go ahead and say it, I already know I’m a nerd.

8. Helping my grandma get a handle new technology – helping anyone become less intimidated by technology is great. Just because grandma’s didn’t grow up with video chat doesn’t mean they wouldn’t love it!

9. Pepperstitches – I’ve been following this entrepreneur for over a year and am inspired by the way she’s brave enough to quit her boring ninetofive and start up her craft-oriented business. Plus, she makes great stuff.

10. Hanny – regular people making history in science!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Perspective and scale in skills target agendas

One of the keynote speakers at the NCVER conference was Dilip Chenoy, CEO of India’s National Skill Development Corporation. The mandate given to this semi-public, semi-private organisation is to strategically drive and oversee the skills development of the nation. The prime target? 150 million Indians up-skilled and given a formal qualification by 2022. That breaks down to graduating 45,000 people every single day from now until then.

The presentation had an emphasis on leveraging the organisations and networks that currently exist. Another point Dilip made was that he wants to see the services currently being delivered by charities and NGOs be replaced by organisations with a for-profit business approach in order to at least have a shot at reaching the target.

The Australian education and skills targets have been set and are obviously nowhere near the same scale as the Indian ones. It’s made me realise that the resourcing issues we have here are nothing near the problems experienced in other countries. But after this keynote address I’ve been left thinking where is the point that quality suffers in order to reach a target?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

NCVER research presentation review

Perth bell tower - apprently a 'must-see' over here

Yesterday I gave the presentation I've been stressing about for four months. A progress report on my honours research, covering an appreciative inquiry into the e-learning experiences of young professionals. It was part of the NCVER No Frills 2010 Conference, the largest one held yet apprently. I worried a little (but not too much) about the whole exercise being a complete failure. I've never presented at a research conference, or any conference actually. The last 'big-deal' presentation I did was probably in school, over 6 years ago.

Around 20 people showed up to the session, which I guess is ok considering the abstracts for the presentations weren't distributed until about 2 hours beforehand.

More than one experienced researcher has told me that as sign of a good, engaging, topical, presentation is lots of questions at the end. I definitely had more than a couple of people who wanted to know more about the specifics of my research - the moderator had to cut them off in the end, but I did exchange a few business cards and follow-up with some attendees after the session. It was also a really reassuring experience to be able to confidently answer questions about the details of what I've done and explain where the limitations of my research are as well.

I know I’m getting better at presenting because I wasn’t sweating like it was 40 degrees outside and I could control the pace of my voice to suit the questions and sections of the presentation. The only ‘tell’ that I was nervous at all was that once I leaned on whatever it was at the front of the room, I became instantly and permanently attached to it, and didn’t move for the rest of the session. I think the lack of movement could have detracted from the presentation.

Nevermind, the use of prezi worked well, I had more than one person come up to me during the conference to talk about it – including people who weren’t in the session! There were also some great conversations and connections made with other researchers on similar topics, who knows what that will turn up…

p.s. fun things to do in Perth and a review of the conference to come...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Online+Social Networking issues (part two)

This is the second half of an extended post on professional networking online. The first post is here.

Option 2 – ‘publish’ your network and tell the world who you know

Which brings me to another option: making your network viewable online. This involves a little bit of bravery on the individual user's part, because all the relationships that have been built up over a career suddenly become exposed to a bunch of people that didn't previously have access to this snapshot particular snapshot of your work history. Sure, there are ways to manage who can see your network; choices to make between letting just those in your network see the list, or the wider network tool members or anyone online at all. The bonus with this option is that once those connections are made viewable by others, eventually someone will look at your network list and see some familiar faces and think 'hey! what a great person who knows all these people I know, I wonder if we can have a conversation'. Or at least that's the hope.

Option 3 – connect with people you would otherwise not meet

The third option isn't actually an option, it's more a decision and attitude that needs to be adopted. At some point the use of using an online tool to manage an offline professional network will reach its end. This is where the decision needs to be made about whether to try extending your network through connections made online. All sorts of social cues apply in this situation, so it needs to be well thought out.

This is super-maximised when people combine their social network with their professional network, by linking their Facebook and LinkedIn pages, for example (Penelope Trunk, creator of Brazen Careerist promotes this and does it really well). This requires even more bravery, but with that risk comes the potential for an even bigger pay-off. It brings multiple sections of your life into one melting-pot, making your world a little bit smaller, but also potentially larger at the same time.
Other ideas

The only other thing I would say is that by choosing to add to your network through online connections, make sure those connections are genuine. Executing a massive 'add to your network' drive similar to the myspace friending of ages past, is not a genuine action, and will get ignored as a result. That's where the harsh truth of socialising online is so clear in comparison to socialising in person: because a computer has been placed between the two people interacting, the need to pussy-foot around a blatantly rude act is removed. People are a lot less worried about ignoring you online than they are in person, especially if you’re not valuing them in the first place.

Once you’re on board with the genuine connection thing, make those genuine connections ones that build on the purpose of networking. It’s very easy to use connections online to post ‘great idea!’ and click the like or thumbs up button just to let people know you’re there and you like what they’re doing. It’s harder, but potentially more rewarding for both of you to actually question or build upon the connection with more ideas, proposals and suggestions. After all, the point of networking is to extend your field of connections in the hope of bringing in more work and building a name for yourself. It’s hard to do this with just a list of 1000 people you don’t really know and have never exchanged ideas with. Put yourself out there and you’ll probably (hopefully) find others are not only doing the same, but they appreciate that you are too.

Friday, July 2, 2010

NCVER 'No Frills' 2010 Conference

Next week I’ll be in Perth to present at a professional conference. My first one ever. I’m a little nervous. I was selected to present as part of a scholarship from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER). I never really expected to get the scholarship, but mostly just applied for the experience of going through the process. One of the obligations for awardees is to present at the NCVER ‘No Frills’ annual conference.

My topic is an appreciative inquiry into the e-learning experiences of young professionals. I’ve been interested in the applications of e-learning across different contexts for a few years. Combining that with my interest in the generational differences and needs of Gen-Y as compared to generations already at work seemed like a good thing at the time. I’ll be speaking on my research motivations, methodology and first impressions of results.

I have no idea what this is going to be like as I’ve never even attended an academic conference, only work ones which I imagine have a different flavour. All I know is that I have to come up with something to say for 40 minutes on my honours research topic.

Other people on the program seem to be mostly academics in teaching/researching positions at universities across Australia and New Zealand. Plus a couple of government representatives and international speakers.

NCVER is on twitter, so keep an eye out for updates from them over the next week if you’re interested in how the conference is going. I haven’t heard of any hash-tags for the conference yet.

Hopefully I'll have something exciting and positive to post when I get back.


I’ve just started using a new presentation application to replace powerpoint. It’s called Prezi and you can get it for free here. Someone at uni recommended it to me and when it came to the progress report day where all the education honours students presented the progress on their projects, those who used Prezi to supplement their talks made a real impact. I loved creating a non-linear, more visual and dynamic presentation. I was able to mind-map my thought process through the creation, and got to use everything I put down, without having to rework it too much. You can check out my work here.

This is because the premise that Prezi works on is that presentations should be engaging, dynamic and able to change each time they’re delivered in front of a new audience. Users can create navigation paths, but can easily ignore them if an interesting discussion is started during the session. Basically, I love it. And it’s free and encourages open source content which is fantastic!

Head over to the site to check out what other people are producing using Prezi. The potential to include it in learning is also there, it just requires a little creative thinking (that you could probably map on a Prezi anyway)!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Social+Online Networking issues

Online networking is one of those things that can be a bit hit-and-miss. I'm someone who doesn't like to make too much of my world mix together, but the idea of increasing my network both socially and professionally, and at the same time increasing my efficiency and ability to access a pool of resources is so tempting. So is online networking the lazy person's way of maintaining a professional network, or is it another tool that productive go-getters use to maximise opportunities and make their network work for them?
The traditional view of professional networking brings to mind a whole bunch of images of people in suits at some swish location, taking advantage of free alcohol and trying to off-load as many business cards as possible. Some would say that if you moved that idea to an online setting, the result would be a not as fun, but more comfortable way of doing the same thing, and without the booze. Kind of like the old myspace friend add with a lashing of semi-serious online comments. Also, the social interaction that comes with a bunch of people physically meeting at the same time as opposed to asynchronous interaction is undeniably a loss for online networking.

A great thing about online networks is that users can become centred around content – something that the traditional version of networking hasn’t always been great at achieving. Individuals can publish their ideas on online networking sites via discussion boards or on their own profiles and this data is then connected with people who react to it by replying or posting similar stuff themselves. Learning and development types call this becoming part of a community of practice, but whatever title you put on it, it’s simply bringing likeminded people together around common ideas, issues or products.
So how do you deal with extending professional networking to an online format? There are several attitudes that can be taken to this, depending on individual need and willingness to interact and build an online presence.

Option 1 – keep your network yours.

The first, least interactive option, is to use an online tool to manage the details of your current professional network privately. This is kind of like keeping your contacts list in the cloud. The positive of this is that your network stays exactly that way, yours. No need to share what you've worked hard at building, right? The con of this approach is that you may in fact be missing join-the-dot opportunities that making your network online public might present. For instance, two people in your network may both know another colleague who specialises in your field and is currently doing something really cool that you want to know about (freelancing, touring a book, getting published on their research, whatever), but you don't even realise that you want to know about this stuff, because you don't realise that two people in your network actually know that third, awesome person. Again with the community of practice.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Julia Gillard - our new leader

Before I start, this post is not what I plan on posting regularly, but because I'm still so new at this, that can only be proven over time. So just trust me on this, it's pretty tangential.

I’m a little late in posting this, as the hysteria has mostly died down around the Gillard appointment of last week. Today is the end of the first week of Julia Gillard serving as Prime Minister of Australia. So many people have written about this already, some with humour, some slightly more seriously, but I still feel like I need to put my two bob in. Please don’t take this post as a stance on my personal political views, I don’t think I even know what they are yet, it’s more a reflection on the process that has brought us to where we are now in national leadership.

Firstly, I’m stoked that Australia has a female leader for the first time. A woman leading the country has been a long time coming, and when it happened it couldn’t go uncelebrated as an important point in our political history. The part of this event that I keep coming back to is the fact that she was not elected to this position. Is this not a pretty big fact that we’re ignoring, or am I blowing things out of proportion? Some would say that because there has been a rumbling of public support for the decision after it was made, it doesn’t matter if she was originally elected to the role or not and sure, the argument has strength.

But where was this decision made? Wherever it was, it sure wasn’t at the polling booths .This means that even if the public did think that she’d make a great leader of the country, they didn’t get the chance to say so until the decision had already been made for them. So what? Well, isn’t the point of elections in Australia to give the public a say in who leads them? Sure, two-and-a-bit years ago we chose a leader and party, and we still have the party, but not the leader. Should we kick back and say ‘well, we’ve got most of what we chose, that’s good enough’? Or, given that there has been a clear fall in support for the leader that we originally chose, who has now been removed by the party that originally put him forward, shouldn’t we seek to have a choice over who replaces him? I know that the system of government we have in Australia centres elections on parties and not individual leader, but the landscape of voters across the country still take individual leaders into their decision  on election day. So the decision to remove Kevin Rudd as PM couldn’t have been put to the people immediately, and that is why processes like votes of no confidence exist, however, once it is clear that the people’s choice isn’t working for the people, shouldn’t the next steps be an interim solution until another decision by the people can be made? Isn’t that how we as a nation show continued dedication to the values of popular vote, election by majority and giving everyone a choice? No one knows for sure when the federal election will be held yet, but the sooner the better. At least that way, the decision on who fills the seat is given to the people and the processes created to ensure our values are upheld are followed. When leadership start to ignore, delay or influence these processes for their own gain, their motivation for wanting the position comes into question and the integrity of their government is devalued.

In short, who cares if our current leader is woman or not, give the choice to the people who should have it, and make it snappy.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

food, my way.

It might be a little indulgent, but I love telling people about the great food I eat. I hope that it encourages them to try it too, or at least start thinking creatively about food in general. See, I eat vegan food. Does that make me a vegan? It depends. I still wear a lot of animal products (wool, leather) and there are loads of animal derived products in my life, but as far as my diet goes, it's all vegan. (that means no animal products)

I made an adaptation of this risotto recipe that I got from the Vegan YumYum app on my phone the other weekend in preparation for cooking with a bunch of non-vegans. Putting vegan food in front of non-vegan types is often a bit of a challenge. Even if the food tastes, looks and smells great, the judgement that it's so far out of what is perceived to be 'normal' food affects the whole meal. I could go on and on and try to battle the judgement and attitude with arguments and reason, or I could just cook food I love to eat and make it available for other people to eat too.

Normally when people think of risotto they think of parmesan cheese. It's actually really easy to make a baked or stove-top risotto without cheese. Substitute stock, wine or cooking sherry and you're right as rain! The adaptations I made to the above recipe were: I was too lazy to go get an eggplant, so I steamed some green asparagus instead. I liked the green on the plate anyway, and it gave a fresh crunch to the meal. I didn't bother with the red onion, just went with a brown one, it worked fine. As far as I was concerned, there was going to be enough red in the meal and the flavour is pretty much the same. I added an extra clove of garlic too, coz that's just how I roll.

N.B. do be careful with the oil. I thought I overdid it a little because I didn't do any measuring, so the photo makes the plate look like a grease-bowl. Less than a day later sealed in the fridge though, the rice had really dried out and could have done with a bit of a freshen up with stock on the stove.

This was so good I'm making it again tonight.

say what?!

So I put up in that description bar a little something that I thought might cover most of what I'm planning on posting about. I all sounded like a good plan, until I got to this point and realised I probably needed to post something fairly quickly to show that I actually had something to say about those things. Ah, the pressure!

My boss recently passed on a couple of professional development titles to me, which I'm trying to work through. That is, in between writing a thesis, trying to come up with fresh ideas at work and feigning a social life. I am currently enjoying the conversation (both internal and with other real life people) being generated by Dan Pink's 'A Whole New Mind'. The grab-line of the book is something like 'moving from the information age to the conceptual age' and discusses how businesses and professionals will be forced to think and behave more creatively at work in the future. I'm not even halfway through, but I'm enjoying it so far. I'll let you know what I think if I ever get to the end.

In a bit of a bizarre twist, a former colleague and friend forwarded me this video (covering content in Dan Pink's new book Drive), which I happened to watch just a couple of days before on Tony Morgan's blog. Really, I wish I knew already how to embed videos on my blog to make viewing the clip easier, it's such a great presentation of ideas that I've been trying to bring together in my head for a couple of months.

It's encouraging to know that the thing's that inspire me, also inspire the people around me. It gives me hope that I might find something to say on this blog about any of the stuff up in the title bar that inspires someone besides me. Till then, I'm happy to keep writing about stuff that I love.

I'm new here

So. I've finally taken the step many others have made before me and created my personal blog.

Depending on where you are in terms of your own online presence and blogging perspective, this is a good thing, or just another blob of text on a page somewhere in the cloud. I hope it turns out to be a good thing.

If you're into reading, feel free to read this stuff as regularly as I post. If you think what I'm writing is great or crazy, we could probably have a conversation - leave a comment at least!

wish me luck, here I go...