Tag Archives: study

Create the change you want to see in the world, one environment at a time

Today I came across this article from Peter Bregman on the HarvardBusiness.org site, titled: The Easiest Way to Change People’s Behavior. It’s an excellent read and highly recommended.

What Peter discusses in this article is that one of the most important motivational factors in our lives is environment. If you put the right things in front of you, you’ll tend to use them more. Move them away, and they’ll get used less.

This goes for good things as well as bad things. On the positive side, consider proximity of the things that are beneficial: The gym is only a block away, so you go regularly. If the gym is far, you don’t go. Some examples based on the article:

  • Use a bigger spoon or plate, and you eat more. Use smaller ones and you eat less.
  • Live near a liquor store or a Burger King and people tend to drink more and eat more junk food. Place yourselves farther away from those and you tend not to indulge in such sins.
  • For musicians, keep your instrument and music in an area where you’ll most likely use it. Designate a practice area and have your instrument either out of it’s case or put the case in an easily accessible area. Music on the stand. Metronome on the desk. Ready to go. (I personally have found having a tuner (iStrobeSoft) and metronome (Dr Betotte TC) on my iPhone to be one of the biggest music practice productivity boosts yet. No searching for gadgets…)
  • Want kids to do their homework? Give them a clean, organized place to do it and make sure the homework is there and not floating around the house in some random place. (I know this from experience…)

In a Web 2.0 context, this equates to the usability of your software. Make it easy for your users to get things done, and they’ll do it without a hitch. Throw up roadblocks, and they’ll get stuck. It doesn’t matter how small the roadblock is or whether or not the construct was well intentioned or not – if it impedes usability, then it will impede usability. πŸ˜‰

In a greater sense, there’s a lesson for the nation or the world: If you want people to change the way they are doing things, make them want to do it. Make it easy for them. Remove any and all barriers to getting things done. You want people to vote? Put voting booths in more neighborhoods or promote the option to vote by mail. Need people to get immunized? Set up neighborhood clinics. Want your employees to be more productive? Find out what is it about your office environment that is getting in the way or not helping promote the results you want to see. For kids, for employees, for citizens, provide the right environment and make it a place they want to be.

Back to School

This week I took the first steps towards enrolling myself for another masters degree, in computer information systems. My first class starts at the end of this month. I’ve been eyeing school programs now for years, so this has definitley been a long time coming.

Considering my masters is in music performance, I have come quite far in a technology-based career. I’m proud of the fact that I was able to gravitate towards a career in web development instead of schlepping the double bass all over creation, and to take the time, night after night, to train myself in web technologies. And now I see my position as the lead web developer for a major national scientific organization somewhat of a great achievement, considering my background.

Obviously when I tell people I majored in classical music, they do a double take. The inevitable question is: “How did you go from being a musician to being a web geek?” But if you think about it, music is very closely related to science, mathematics, and espeically computer programming. The conventions of western harmony and music notation are as much an abstract programming language as Java or PHP. Music theory contains instructions on how to represent objects such as pitch, melody, harmony, rhythm, orchestration, and so on. Heck, a simple repeat is like a loop in any programming language. Come to think of it, there’s no reason why one couldn’t compose a symphony in C++ instead of music notation. It would be hard, but I think one could use that or most any other programming language to give instructions on which pitches to sound over a given period of time. And of course, if you wanted a human to play it, you’d still have to be able to export in music notation. And as a matter of fact, there is an XML application for notating music called MusicXML. Ha – so there you go.

Science and music have been closely tied together since Pythagoras wrote about the Music of the Spheres driving the heavens. At it’s core, music is a matematical discipline. Rhythm is division: One quarter note can equal two eighth notes, four sixteenth notes, three eighth note triplets, or an endless number of variations. Harmony as taught by Johann Joseph Fux in his treatise on counterpoint called “Gradus ad Parnassum” can be boiled down to an almost purely boolean process. The study of music in early education programs is shown to make students more adept at science and math overall. Even Einstein himself was an avid violinist.

But despite years of professional experience, recognized industry expertise, and results of the highest standards, it remains that most people just don’t get it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been turned down for whatever position because of the lack of a technical degree. A simple piece of paper. But usually it’s that music degree that got me in the door in the first place, and it is a masters.

I’m tired of having to defend my education as compared with my career. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. And I’ve always wanted to get a technical masters, if ever a decent and relevant program could be found. So it’s back to school with me. I hope that this will help clear things up when I have these discussions in the future, so that the music degree becomes more of a “wow” bonus on top of the technical degree and not a big fat WTF

The hard part has been identifying a program that is either local or entirely online, can be done part time, and is quality enough from a respectable established university and not some ridiculous thing where you fill out some forms and they print you a diploma. After much research and evaluations of curriculum and such, I have decided to enroll in University of Denver’s online program.

The thing I liked about this program was it’s flexibility. The CIS program has several tracks, including two that interested me: web development and information security. On the web development side, I am already pretty accomplished. So I didn’t want to take all my classes in things that I was already good at. On the security side, I have some very good solid experience, but I have a lot more opportunity for learning new things in this area. I didn’t want to abandon one side or the other really – a combination of the two would be optimal for my needs. And this works out perfectly with their individualized option. They have classes in application security and e-commerce security which directly related to web dev, plus the two core security courses prepare you for CISSP certification on top of everything. The security program there is recognized by the NSA, which helps a lot on the credibility level.

Quality-wise, the classes looked to be on-target. I didn’t want to take a bunch of irrelevant classes just to grab a piece of paper. But these courses include things like a bit of JavaScript, a nice chunk of XML, and some ColdFusion programming. All good stuff that I’ve been trying to dig deeper into lately. I’m looking forward to it!