Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Building corporate culture

An article at Destination CRM discusses the importance of corporate culture: Great Customer Experience Starts with the Right Corporate Culture. Engaged employees make for more satisfied customers. You may recognize that as cultural. But how do you foster and encourage the right culture? The article offers these Dos and Don'ts about encouraging a constructive culture.

  • Be clear about company values.
  • Implement the right technology.
  • Spend time in employees' shoes.
  • Measure effectiveness with the right metrics.

  • Don't tie employees' hands.
  • Don't do employee surveys just for the heck of it.
  • Don't just motivate with money.
  • Don't ignore the hiring process.

The article emphasizes that companies that don't engage a positive culture will cultivate a lack of enthusiasm. Employees will become disengaged, which leads to lower customer experience and falling customer satisfaction. In contrast, highly engaged staff raise customer satisfaction; the article cites a study demonstrating a "positive linear correlation."

From the article: "One of the main drivers of employee satisfaction and engagement is good leadership." And coming with that responsibility, good leaders need to engage with their employees if they want their employees to engage positively with customers.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Minnesota e-Learning Summit wrap-up

Last week, I attended the Minnesota e-Learning Summit. A colleague and I were invited to present a poster, but it was also a wonderful time to interact with peers from other institutions and learn from them about what works best in online and mobile learning environments. Over half of the presenters have shared their materials via the e-Learning Summit online repository. I encourage you to review the presentations for topics that interest you.

A few presentations that I found most engaging:
Accessibility & Universal Design in Online Learning
Scott Marshall, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Sara E. Schoen, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Kimerly J. Wilcox, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

5 Words You Never Thought You'd Hear at the eLearning Summit: The Cognitive Science of Clickbait
Ann Fandrey, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Alison H. Link, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Cristina Lopez, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Creating Engaging Recorded Lectures
Robin O'Callaghan, Winona State University

Keeping yourself organized when designing courses
Mary Bohman, Winona State University
Robin O'Callaghan, Winona State University

Web Accessibility Assessment for Everyone
Tonu Mikk, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

The Open Textbook Network: Building Capacity and Momentum
David Ernst, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Speeches That Changed the World: Using Software to Help Students Analyze Rhetorical Patterns
Jim Hall, University of Minnesota - Morris
MaryElizabeth Bezanson, University of Minnesota - Morris
That last one is the poster session that Dr Bezanson and I gave about using DICTION in her "Speeches that Changed the World" class. I've mentioned the DICTION software before, as a way to make rhetorical analysis easier. If your research involves analyzing texts, you may be interested in this software.

DICTION is a computer-aided text analysis program for determining the tone of a verbal message. Conceived by rhetorical analysis scholar Roderick P. Hart, DICTION generates a "fingerprint" about rhetorical texts based on several key variables: Activity, Optimism, Certainty, Realism, and Commonality. This analysis gives the researcher a jump start in examining a text. DICTION can be used to analyze all sorts of texts: speeches, novels, political ads, inaugural addresses, court opinions, etc. If you can put it into a text file, DICTION can analyze it!

The power of DICTION is comparing multiple texts at once. While we have some reservations about the normative measures used in DICTION (the processes to apply norms to texts is hidden) we were able to escape this limitation by using means and standard deviations, to compare texts to each other. In our poster, Dr Bezanson and I demonstrated DICTION analysis of Queen Elizabeth II's Christmas speeches, throughout her reign: (the poster has the same charts in a slightly different format)

In this analysis, you can see several peaks and valleys. For example, the three-year peak in Optimism around 1960 was the Queen discussing royal births, and what wonderful lives they will have. The spike in Realism and Certainty in 1968 was the Queen's commentary on the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, and how this was a moment in history and civil rights that cannot pass unmarked. The dips in Activity in the late 1970s and in 1999 were from the Queen's reflection on a major anniversary of the British Empire and the passing of the Millennium, respectively; in these speeches, the Queen did not advocate a particular agenda or action, but reviewed events in history and quoted past leaders.

We also demonstrated an analysis from the Obergefell v. Hodges (gay marriage) Supreme Court decision, with the majority opinion and four dissents:

For example, you can see that the majority opinion scored high (relative to other opinions on the same case) on Realism and Commonality, and low on Activity, as the justices ground the case in legal theory and use language that seeks to unite. In the dissents, Justice Thomas has higher relative scores for Activity and Certainty, and lower relative scores for Realism and Commonality, as Thomas has a tendency to speak ex cathedra (based mostly on personal opinion and a sense of "The Right thing"™).

DICTION doesn't provide all of the rhetorical analysis, but is one tool to help researchers and students to jump start their deeper analysis.
photo: Pam Gades

The iPad as desktop accessory

Two years ago, I shared a vision of the future about the convergence of mobile devices and laptops. Some vendors have experimented in this space, with mixed success. Developers seem to focus on one or the other: either a laptop or a table. Microsoft's Surface seems to be a step towards unity, in that the Surface presents itself as a PC in a tablet form factor. The Surface isn't a perfect mix; stuck between two worlds, it doesn't really advance us to a new mode of computing. But it seems only a matter of time until someone strikes the right balance and this new unified device becomes the next "must-have" technology that displaces even the iPad.

In that vision, I shared my belief that Apple will be the first to find the "right recipe." Apple has the right mix of customer base, brand loyalty, and the engineering to do something truly remarkable in this space. But I also commented that Apple is currently less engaged in innovation, so would require several steps to become successful in this new space.

I looked ahead one, two, and three years to predict how Apple might merge the laptop and the iPad. Here was step one:
1. The iPad as desktop accessory (2014)

Apple releases a new "interactive trackpad" accessory, about the size of an iPad Mini. Similar to the current Apple Magic Trackpad, the "Interactive Magic Trackpad" has a video display like an iPad Mini, but no storage and minimal internal computing technology. It's not intended to be an iPad; it's a new kind of mouse trackpad for Mac desktops and laptops. The "Interactive Magic Trackpad" links wirelessly with your Mac—or connect via Apple's Thunderbolt if you need to charge.

With the "Interactive Magic Trackpad," users can still move the pointer using tap, point, and swipe gestures. But now the "Interactive Magic Trackpad" can display interactive images—such as a menu of options or other actions—if your Mac software supports it. The trackpad can even play sounds like an iPad, which is a useful enhancement for user feedback. People who do a lot of photo manipulation via Photoshop immediately fall in love with the ability to move images, pinch to zoom, twirl to rotate … and the ability to put shortcuts to commonly-used tools on the "Interactive Magic Trackpad." The Apple faithful quickly make this the new "must-buy" accessory.
With that in mind, it's interesting to note a recent addition to the Apple app store: Duet Display. Duet Display allows you to use your iPad or iPhone as an extra display to your laptop, either MacBook or Windows. Just install the app, connect your iPad or iPhone via the usual cable, and you're all set!

Sounds very similar to the "Interactive Magic Trackpad" I described in 2013, doesn't it? This is a "smart" version of the device I described, leveraging an existing iPad or iPhone as the second display. But with Duet Display, you can use the touch display to tap on icons and interact with the second desktop. This is a big step forward to converge the desktop and the tablet.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Raise your security game

Google recently shared new research that compares how security experts and non-experts stay safe online. To be presented publicly at the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security, Google's research shares the results of two surveys: one from security experts, another with non-experts. The results demonstrates the top five practices that these classes of users employ to stay safe online:

Security Non-expertsSecurity Experts
  1. Use antivirus software
  2. Use strong passwords
  3. Change passwords frequently
  4. Only visit websites they know
  5. Don't share personal information
  1. Install software updates
  2. Use unique passwords
  3. Use two-factor authentication
  4. Use strong passwords
  5. Use a password manager

Which list describes your browsing habits? If you find yourself in agreement with the non-experts, you can raise your security game by using a password manager to keep your passwords for you. This addresses several problems. The biggest is that many people use the same password for different websites. They might pick one password that is easy to remember, then use that same password for their email, social media, and news websites. All good until one of those websites gets hacked, and now a bad guy has your password to everything.

With a desktop-based password manager such as KeePass, you can have the program set a random password for every website you visit. When you want to visit that website, you simply copy the password from the password manager, and paste it into the password field on the website. Done!

With a browser-based password manager such as LastPass, you also have the program set up a random password for every website. When you visit that website, you click an icon so the password manager can automatically fill in your username and password. Easy!

Using this method addresses items 2, 4, and 4 in the "Security Experts" list. It is an easy way to make your web browsing safer.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Reminder: Netfiles will be retired in April 2016

I wanted to share a reminder that the Twin Cities has announced the retirement of the Netfiles online storage for April 2016. At this time, no action is necessary—we just ask that you find time over the next year to transition your data out of Netfiles. This affects both individual users and departmental accounts.

For more information, read Netfiles Retirement at the IT@UMN blog.

We recognize that retiring Netfiles doesn’t just mean moving files. In some cases, this also means changing other things. For example, you may have your vitae on Netfiles, or your department may link to forms and other documents available on Netfiles. (In both cases, note that it is possible to share a document or form via Google Docs so that you can link to it from a website.) The Twin Cities is letting us know about the Netfiles service retirement early in the planning process so that you can have the time you need to prepare.

To prepare for this change, IT has made these account changes effective July 2015:

  • Netfiles storage removed for all account owners who do not have files stored in their Netfiles personal directory.
  • Will no longer allocate storage space to new users.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Network upgrades coming soon

I wanted to share a brief update on our plans to upgrade the campus network. As you know already, we are working on an ongoing project to update the campus network. A few years ago, in partnership with the Office of Information Technology, we modernized the campus network and increased desktop speeds for everyone. Since then, we continue to improve wireless network coverage across campus.

This Summer, we plan to update the wireless network in the Regional Fitness Center, the Library, the Dining Hall, and the campus apartments. This will bring much-needed improvement to these high-traffic areas.

Looking ahead to other projects, we are scheduling work in Pine Hall, Spooner Hall, Blakely Hall, Education, and the MRC. We are also examining ways to provide wireless access to the campus Mall area, and perhaps expanding wireless coverage in other campus buildings such as PE.

Don't see your building on this list? If you think we have missed an area, or simply to put another campus building on our "radar," please let us know! We are always listening to campus needs. We also seek campus input twice each year, as part of our IT planning process. In the Fall, we solicit IT feedback and project ideas as part of the "Big Block of Cheese" week. And in the Spring, we again meet with campus leadership and governance representation as part of OIT's IT Input Cycle. Project ideas are filtered through the TechPeople group, and acted on by various teams in the technology Partnership.
image: Jonathan Briggs

Friday, June 19, 2015

Campus Codefest 2015

I wanted to share this update from Chad Fennell on behalf of Campus Codefest 2015:

Campus Codefest 2015 registration is open. Register now!

What is Campus Codefest all about?
Campus Codefest is an event that allows IT staff from across the University to organize and work together based on common interests and skills rather than upon organizational structures and reporting lines. Primarily, it is about professional development and strengthening relationships within our community. Secondarily, it is an opportunity to explore solutions to cross-organizational problems.

Who should attend Campus Codefest?
Many talents and interests contribute to making a great Campus Codefest. Designers, operations engineers, educational technology professionals, business analysts, aspiring programmers, and anyone else interested in building stuff, documenting stuff, automating stuff, designing stuff, or otherwise helping out with or having ideas for projects are welcome to attend.

What kinds of projects are right for Campus Codefest?
Have a look at a projects from a previous year to get some inspiration. At the same time, don't let these ideas limit your thinking! We are a welcoming and friendly group. Don't be shy, post your idea today!

If you have questions, please feel free to contact one of the Campus Codefest 2015 committee members: Alison Link, Kemal Badur, Michael Berkowski, Chad Fennell, Craig Gjerdingen, or Paul Rubenis.

When and Where
Thursday, August 20, 8:00am–4:30pm Humphrey 50A/B HHHSPA
Friday, August 21, 8:00am–4:30pm Humphrey SPA 50A/B HHHSPA
image: Pablo BD