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Knowledge Factor

Filed under: — 3:34 pm

Speaking of education, I was introduced to a fairly young company today called Knowledge Factor. My dad had passed on an article from the Denver Post on this new company. Put simply, Knowledge Factor is a company that has patented a testing methodology based on over a decade of research by Dr. James Bruno at UCLA. This methodology is not to merely test what one knows, but how confident they are in their answer. Why does confidence matter? As Phil Kastelic put it: confident decisions are what drive behavior.

In other words, if you know something with confidence you act upon it. This translates into productivity. If you are unsure or doubt your knowledge you’re most likely not going to take any action. But, if you are confident in a wrong answer… chances are you’re making mistakes; mistakes cost money.

Basically, the standard multiple choice test is beyond flawed. An example was talked about where a multiple choice test was given. But, there were no questions. The average score was 30% and a few people recieved scores over 70%. It’s pretty obvious that multiple choice tests are hardly proving anyone’s knowledge. I can attest to this: Business Statistics last year was nothing but repitition and guesses (I got an A).

The problem with tests, I think, is there is no opportunity to say “I don’t know” and then learn from it. When you leave an answer blank you lose credit. You’re rewarded for guessing! It’s pretty obvious what happens when you confidently give a wrong answer… the education system is telling us to take educated guesses and hope they’re right (with little to no punishment). This certainly won’t fly in the real world. As a doctor do you think I want you guessing? Do I want someone who “figured out” the MCATs working with me?

Knowledge Factor offers their services by helping companies develop their questions in order to increase “Mastery” of the content. The test gives you three possible answers. From there you can pick (with confidence) one of the three, take a guess between two (in other words, your answer is “I think it’s either A or B”), or simply put “I don’t know”. You are fully penalized if you incorrectly answer with confidence or guess. If you do guess you only get partial credit. All answers that you don’t know just fall under “Unknown”. Once you’ve taken a test it becomes pretty clear what you really know and what you really need to work on. Clearly the confidently held misinformation needs to be remedied before anything else. These are the answers that cost businesses money…

I truly hope this methodology becomes widely accepted. I hate multiple choice tests (at least IB essays let me articulate my knowledge… but that takes lots of resources). Companies should really implement this (ROI?). Schools should really implement this. The claims that Knowledge Factor makes are pretty awesome: learning time is reduced, pass rates become 100%, efficacy begins to reach 100% and retention is drastically increased. It’s because the tests are learner-centric, not content.

The scary part about testing though? Most people that previous certifications have considered “experts” have shown to fail these confidence-based tests. They don’t actually know as much as they thought. These people are the same that came through our education system. From experience I can confidently say that our country has a number of misinformed people making important decisions. As the Fortune article mentioned, our education systems really need to be changed in order for this country to compete.

…this concept is such a big shift though. Learning wouldn’t be the same.

How China Will Change Your Business

Filed under: — 3:05 pm

Barry points to an awesome article from INC on China. I read the recent Fortune on America vs China. This has become an increasingly interesting topic for me (I am going to learn Chinese). China is going to drastically change things and the United States is not prepared. In my humble opinion, the Space Race is to the 50’s as China is to today. There will be a wake-up call and there will be a need for educational reform… our systems are hardly prepared…

Windows Vista and IE7 Betas Released

Filed under: — 2:59 pm

At work last night I signed onto every hour or so to see if it had happened yet. The status of the “Longhorn” beta had been pending for a few weeks now and it was time for that to change. Finally I signed in and saw that the beta was active. I downloaded IE7 onto my other machine at 2am last night. Now the servers seem to be a little slow. When I get a reliable connection I’ll download the ISO for Vista… or wait until the DVD comes. Either way, I’ll havent plenty so say pretty soon.


Microsoft Infringes Upon Vista Name?

Filed under: — 11:30 am

Microsoft announces its new operating systems name to be ‘Vista’. It’s supposed to be this nice, friendly name. Apparently there’s another company with the name right down the road from Microsoft. Wow, from a company that likes to protect it’s name ( this may put it in hot water… just look at this quote from the Seattle PI:

Microsoft’s choice of Vista has some intellectual-property experts wondering if a company that has fiercely protected its own trademarks will get hauled into court. There’s already a line of sewing machines, an elevator monitoring system, even a brand of detergent used to clean dairy equipment — all bearing the brand name Vista.

This is where most people stop reading the article. They think “haha Microsoft should have thought this through, it’s so dumb and evil!” Sad. If one were to re-read the statement it may become a little more clear. If there’s already a line of sewing machines, where was the lawsuit against the detergent? When did Vista go attack the elevator monitoring system? The point is, they haven’t gone to court and never will. Why not? Becuase under the trademark lawthese un-related products with similar names will in no-way confuse consumers.

People still argue: “what about all those other computer-related Vista products out there? They’ve all got a case against Microsoft!”

“They’re all coexisting and have been coexisting for a long time, and they haven’t been challenging each other,” said Russell Pangborn, a Microsoft lawyer.

Simon Property, Morgan Stanley to build Chinese Malls

Filed under: — 11:19 am

The New York Times is reporting a $700 million real estate venture in China:

The Simon Property Group, one of the biggest real estate and shopping mall developers in the United States, has formed a partnership with Morgan Stanley and a state-owned Chinese company to develop about a dozen shopping centers in China

The two companies are just a couple of the many trying to capitalize on China’s booming growth right now. This deal would be one of the largest foreign real estate investments ever made in China. Here’s some (barely) surprising news: Wal-Mart will be the anchor store for the malls.


MSN Virtual Earth Commentary

Filed under: — 4:13 pm

I swear, I’ve said it before, but sometimes people make up for intelligence with volume. It appears that the louder you are the better you think you sound. This time people are attacking Microsoft’s newest technology, Virtual Earth. Yes, it may be a little late (Google Maps is pretty sweet) but it’s still a formidable product. All I hear is “Microsoft is too late, they just copied _____, etc”… so what? You think it’s easy to make an online atlas? Is it simple to crawl the entire web and make it searchable? No. Google has done a awesome job these things (and many more). But, we don’t know how long Google Maps was in the works. Don’t you think Virtual Earth’s beta was released pretty quickly? Google is the #1 search engine but MSN turned around and became strong competition in less than a year… Microsoft certainly deserves some credit for that I think.

…the comments that piss me off the most, though? “MSN Deletes Apple” (Scoble). Frankly, comments like this could be blamed on Google. They’re the ones that released some awesome betas (Gmail, anyone?). Now everyone expects a beta release to be the final product or something. I’m sorry, but it’s pretty unreasonable to make comments such as: “Is Microsoft’s version of the landscape a fantasy for Bill Gates?” Yes Ted Britis, leaving a building off a map will make me forget how much I want an iPod. Seriously… the photography is outdated…

Scoble: “I just talked with Chandu over on the Virtual Earth team and he says they are working feverishly to acquire/process and update the satellite images.”


Learning Chinese

Filed under: — 10:00 am

I’ve debated whether or not another language would be a good idea. I learned a great deal of spanish throughout high school (not just 4+ years, but 4 full years of IB spanish). Colorado has a decent spanish-speaking population and there are plenty of opportunities to practice… but Chinese? Why would I want to do a silly thing like that?

There are billions of reasons! Literally! China is on the cover of Fortune. Chinese companies are buying up American companies. China is now making cars. Put simply: China is about to change the way we live. It’s not like I’m going to “give in” and figure “if you can’t beat ‘em, join em”. Again, it’s pretty simple: the world does business with us and they do it very well. Therefore, they learn english. If you want to do business (well) with China, you guessed it, you learn Chinese.

…and then I looked at the 5-day a week CHIN 1010 offered at school. Ha. I have class on Tuesday and Thursday next semester and I won’t change that. But I still want to learn… I know I can get started somewhere else.

So far Google has introduced me to some decent introductory sites (the BBC has a nice one). I just wish there were some more structured beginner websites…

My questions to you: do you have any suggestions on starting out with Chinese? Is there one or two books that I should really look into? Maybe even some decently-priced software or online courses? Has anyone else even thought/looked into this?

PS: To illustrate my earlier point, Tom Peters has highly recommended this book: Three Billion New Capitalists: The Shift of Wealth and Power to the East.

Build Your Credit

Filed under: — 9:38 am

When I turned 18 I immediately applied for a credit card through my local credit union. By immediately I mean: the loan officer jokingly sang happy birthday on the phone to me… point being, I knew that the sooner I had a credit card the sooner I could buy things!

…and the sooner I could buy things the sooner I could get a monthly bill. And, the sooner I got a bill, the sooner I could (just like applying for the card) immediately pay it off. That was about 10 months ago I opened that card. I’ve since left that bank and opened a new credit line. In addition, I have a Sears card. Again, point being, I can buy things and pay off bills with these cards.

A number of people have their own ideas on what works for establishing credit… this is what’s worked for me. Get a credit card as soon as you can. Start paying off those bills (in full), too. It’s been less than a year but I’m already in the habit of treating my credit card as a debit card. In fact, I rarely carry cash anymore. I figure the credit card is slightly more secure and transactions are much easier to track (I’m a huge fan of using Microsoft Money).

In addition to the credit card I have a cell phone (through T-Mobile) which is another line of credit. All I need to do is pay off the phone bill and that too is helping me on my way towards good credit. Here’s the ironic part though:

I went to American Eagle and the GAP the other day. I figured “hey, time to buy some clothes on my credit card”. I then thought to myself “hmm, if I get these stores’ credit cards I could save 20% today!”. I was quite mistaken. Both stores declined my credit application. Why? I won’t know for sure yet but my best bet is that I haven’t had a credit line (continuously) open for a long enough period.

Sad, two of the largest banks are willing to take my money but not two large retail stores. Oh well… their loss… but there’s another good point here: one card is enough. My mom got a credit card for all the big retail stores she shopped in. She told me that if she were to somehow lose her purse she wouldn’t even know what all she would need to call up and cancel…

…just a thought.

Another good idea? Take out a small loan.


Dow Jones Makes More Online

Filed under: — 9:04 pm

The business2.0 blog points out an interesting (yet hardly surprising) fact: more money is made online than off for Dow Jones (WSJ publisher). The blog poses the question: why print? The answer seems pretty straight forward and I’ll let my father sum it up:

The question is likley answered by the ad revenues and their ad client’s preference for “print” ads. Madison Ave has spent a century (in round numbers) perfecting how to get mind share with a printed page as the medium. That won’t die quickly.

Ironic. Seth Godin points out the amazingly high cost of a full page ad in a paper such as the WSJ… an ad that, as he illustrated, most people ignore.

But, thats not the only reason the presses wont stop any time soon. Simply put: the concept of a ‘newspaper’ has not yet disappeared.

…[it’s] how folks are educated. Mostly, they had books and other printed material, so takes another generation or 2 that never had “printed” material when they got their education to erase the printed page.

I guess I should point out that he gets the WSJ delivered every morning while I use the RSS/online subscription model. Same paper, different medium.

Quick Longhorn Thought

Filed under: — 8:39 pm

Hey Robert: Do you think Microsoft will be able to outline some pretty comprehensive guidelines for bloggers when Longhorn is released for beta testing? Sure I’m familiar with that three-letter-acronym… But wouldn’t it be in Microsoft’s best interest to be slightly more transparent when trying to release a volutionary new operating system?

..especially one that everyone says is too late.

Personally, I’d like to let people know that it’s not a disappointment (or if it is, why, and see what Microsoft will do about it). On that subject, will there be an (official) Longhorn blog?

Thanks, Robert. From comments:

Yes, we’ll be a lot clearer on this in the future. If you have questions about any NDA issue, you can contact me and I’ll get you an answer.


Students, Get Better Housing

Filed under: — 1:28 pm

As a student in Boulder (CU) I look around at the numerous housing options available to me. They all have one thing in commmon: they’re over-priced and have been trashed by other college students for a number of years now. If you’re anything like me you like to keep money (rather than spend it). Thats why I think I’ve come up with the perfect alternative. Commuting.

Yeah, thats a no no-brainer, right? People do it all the time. Folks live in San Francisco but drive all the way to San Jose. Why? It’s cheaper. People do it everywhere. The same can apply to college. You wake up, get ready for the day and then go to school, do your thing, come back. You’ll probably be doing it in a few years, why not practice? For many this may not be as convenient as walking up the street to class but I think the benefits definitely outweigh that slight convenience. Instead of paying $750 for rent (Boulder) I’m hardly at $400. Our townhome is barely 4 years old and in excellent condition. You would only dream to find a place as nice and as big as what we have now in Boulder.

I don’t know, it seems like the smarter idea to me. Besides, Boulder is a little weird for my taste..

Let me put it another way: I live 10 minutes away from school and 30 seconds from the mall… I’ve got my priorities straight.

The Personal MBA 40

Filed under: — 1:12 pm

Josh has put together his final list of reads for his “Personal MBA”. His proposal on ChangeThis has finally been accepted and I’m pretty excited for him.

I’m on my way over to to join the conversation…

Back From San Diego

Filed under: — 1:02 pm

I visted San Diego this past week. PricewaterhouseCoopers flew me out to get to know the firm a little better. The western offices put together a nice program and I relaly enjoyed it. Plus, come on, free trip to San Diego…

Having read A Whole New Mind I thought a little about the accounting profession. Sure, some of the skill can be automated (TurboTax, anyone?) but the interaction that a public firm has with a client is far from a simplistic left-brained activity. I’m pretty excited about the experience(s) PwC has to offer…

…besides, a step towards a career is pretty exciting anyway.

I also learned a valuable lesson: flying on Saturday nights can get you any seat you want. But, I came back home to over 800 new unread posts in my aggregator (and countless emails). One exciting email I got though (heads up Nathan) was my invitation to beta test Windows code-named Longhorn. Exciting times…


Banking Question

Filed under: — 12:39 pm

I’m curious. Very very curious. I arrive at my Bank (Wells Fargo) the other day. It appears that the ATMs are closed so I have to go into the branch. I open up my wallet, grab my ATM/debit card and head in. I let the teller know I need to make a quick withdrawl (just $20) and hand her the card. She doesn’t use it. There’s a card swipe right in front of me.. but its not used. Instead I’m handed a withdrawl slip. She has to look up my account number, I have to write out the word ‘Twenty’, sign it and then I can get my money. Wait! She needs to see ID?! Its out in the car though. (This was supposed to be a simple withdrawl!). At this point she asks me account-related questions (where it was opened, etc). At this point I’m finally allowed to have my money. Time spent? Easily 6 minutes.

Now, why is it that if you own a car and have a PIN you can bypass all this nonsense? If I really weren’t who I said I was all I needed to do was go to an ATM and put in the PIN. No signature. No ID. Nothing but fast cash.

Why do banks do this (or maybe its just mine)? Do they intentionally want me to stay far far away from the tellers? I suppose that’d make sense.

…customer service and satisfaction is so overrated anyway. Especially when so much money is involved…

Ebbers Sentenced to 25 Years

Filed under: — 12:32 pm

WSJ- Bernard J. Ebbers, the founder and former chief executive of WorldCom, was sentenced to 25 years in prison today for his role in an $11 billion accounting fraud at WorldCom.

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