What is your plan?
I am not an expert. This is only my opinion after teaching in some career schools, some community colleges, and some universities in one metropolitan area.
Obviously, the career schools are in the news, what with some of them having recently closed. I knew of two of them, and those two richly deserved it. But that doesn’t make them categorically a bad deal.
Almost a side note, but I think it’s worth bringing up, just because, as a teacher, this is a pet peeve. I believed any institution purporting to offer education would place some emphasis, arguably the highest priority, on the classroom. I have not found this to be true everywhere. Public, Private, community college, university, career school, etc.; without much hyperbole, it appears to me that the classroom is the last place many schools actually care about. I don’t understand that, except, perhaps, that by the time the process gets to the classroom, some schools have made as much money as they’re going to make, so who cares?
This is why teachers have to adapt, improvise and overcome.
The better the school, the better the teaching environment. Teaching in a University is worlds better than some of the places I’ve been, but there are still classroom issues. And a process in place to resolve them.
How do career schools, with such a bad reputation, attract students? Why do students pick them over the “name” schools, with their obvious advantages?
Career schools offer two things:
- They can be easier to get into.
- They can be quicker to graduate.
First, let me say this about schools, teachers, and so on: Learning depends more on you than on anything else. One of the worst teachers I ever had – the man absolutely could not talk to a group – taught me more about computers than any other experience I ever had. We students had to work at it, though. He was a very smart guy, a very nice guy, and an Einstein about computers. He was not a teacher. We learned anyway.
Some schools; some teachers, are worse than others, and some are better. It is easier to learn in some places, and from some people, than others. But those are NOT the controlling factor. YOU are. If you insist on learning, you will learn. With or without a teacher, with or without a book, you can learn. What you learn, how well you learn, is all up to you. Easy or Hard, it’s on you.
I’m a great teacher. One of the things that makes me good is that I teach my students how to learn; to make them better at learning. It is easier to learn from me than from others, but I am not necessary to the process. If you insist on learning, you will learn.
School costs you two things: your time and your money. Where’s the best place to put them; where do you get the best return on your investment? How do you measure success?
Obviously, if you are looking at “name” schools, then you have a good idea of how HR departments perceive them. But if you are looking elsewhere, how do you know?
You don’t. So, ask them.
Plan ahead. Whatever you think about your life now, at the tender age of high school graduate, or beyond, the future always brings changes. That is not a reason to “wing it”. Your life is important; it will become your children’s life.
Make a plan. Have a direction. Pick a target. Set a direction. Have some idea of where you will be going and how you will get there. Exert some control over your life; don’t let it “just happen”. Your life is important. Too important to “just happen”.
So, consider some jobs you might apply for after graduation. Pick some HR departments and go ask them what they think of this school, or that school. Doesn’t matter what you decide to do after graduation, their answers won’t vary significantly. Most won’t respond. Be stubborn. This matters. You matter.
Take HR hiring staff to lunch; ask them about their corporate reaction to various schools. If you want a job at Valero, or HEB, or USAA, ask them what your school on a resume means to them. FWIW, military recruiters will always talk to you. If the military won’t accept your school to meet an educational requirement, be wary.
To be sure, check accreditation. A school must be accredited. It can be in the accreditation process, but know that; know what’s going on there – if a state school is opening a new program and that program hasn’t received final accreditation, that’s not bad – an accredited school seeking accreditation for a new program is likely to be successful.
Another place to ask is other schools. If you want a 2 year program somewhere to get you into a 4 year school somewhere else, go to the 4 year school and ask them. Will your course credits transfer to other schools?
Keep in mind, life is what happens while you’re making plans. Life will happen whether you plan or not. Many things will influence your life. Be one of those things; be the major influence in your life on this world. You will change your mind about many things as your life progresses, but have a mind to change. Have a plan. Plans change, but people with a plan succeed more often than people without plans. People without plans depend on luck. Not a good idea.
The so-called “career schools” offer you time and acceptance. Many students are more likely to get in, and the programs can be completed in substantially shorter time. They often don’t have as rigorous entry requirements as other schools, so the academically challenged may be more likely to get in. This is not necessarily a good thing.
Many of these schools accelerate the program – it’s called a quicker, or shorter term, etc., but there is no tradeoff in the work required to learn. If you want to complete a ‘standard’ 4 month program in one month, you have to work 4 times as hard – 4 months of work must be completed in 4 weeks. The courses use the same textbooks; there isn’t a “condensed” text for the shorter course. A student seeking entry to such a school because of academic challenges may struggle more, hence the lower graduation rate for such programs. But, the school loan doesn’t go away. Pass or fail, win or lose, the money must be paid back. You can’t declare bankruptcy; you can’t get out of it.
Speaking of which, please ensure the program you are seeking, anywhere, from any school, will qualify you to earn the income necessary to pay back any school loans. Idealism is fine, but people have to make a living, the banker as much as the teacher. I borrowed money, when school was much cheaper, and paid it back. Eventually.
If you’re not sure of how you will pay back the financing needed for school, you may want to rethink your education financing. There is already talk in policy circles about considering the return rate on education programs in award decisions. Which is a careful way of saying we, as taxpayers, might want to consider whether we want to provide large amounts of money for History of Oppressive Basket Weaving Studies programs, there being a stunning lack of jobs for such. Perhaps a more remunerative program should be considered. Jobs being a measure of success for the career schools, more so than the traditional schools, they don’t usually offer such programs. That’s why they are called career schools, they offer to qualify you for a career; a job.
What is your plan?
This is a learning contract I discuss with my students on the first day of class.
The Learning Contract
Unfortunately, much of what follows will seem negative. It does consist in large part of “thou shalt not”. That’s because this is like the bizarre warning label on electric hair dryers: “Not For Use While Bathing”. We all know how that label got there. That’s how this document came to be. Somebody, Sometime… etc. I apologize in advance. FWIW, the most common grade I give is an A. On the other hand, there was that one class…
Let’s start with something nice. Be nice. Be nice to one another. Be civil, be courteous, be on your best behavior. It’s expected of you as a leader in the workplace; start practicing now. Most especially, do not use profanity in this classroom. I spent over 35 years in and out of uniform in the Navy and the Army; I literally curse like a sailor. If I can control it, so can you.
Let’s discuss the learning contract. What do we expect from each other? I’ll go first: I expect you to earn an A in this class. This is how to get an A in this class:
- Show up and participate; contribute
- Do the Work
- Exceed requirements
More than 90% of you already know and practice this: “A” students come on time (early when they can); they come prepared, they sit in the front, they pay attention, and they take notes. It annoys students to lose the class time you paid for, and are doing your part in, while you patiently wait for the teacher to coddle the less than 10% who demand special treatment; who couldn’t be bothered to carry out their part of the learning contract. I certainly don’t want to read annoyed student’s comments about that on my evals at the end of the course! So, I don’t do it. I insist students participate. I insist on the Golden Rule: Come to class. Be prepared. Participate. Contribute.
That means be on time, and don’t do anything else but this course’s classwork while you are in this class. If you absolutely, positively, must work on something else, please leave the classroom. This especially includes games, texting, social media, napping, annoying your neighbors, annoying me, etc. I will not warn you once; I will simply ask you to leave. If you refuse to leave, we will enjoy a short class break while I refer the matter to a higher power. You are here to learn the material included in this course as presented by the instructor chosen by the University.
A typical class session:
- Attendance question and answer (on the board)
- Class Discussion blog, feedback re emails, etc.
- Assignment/test review/feedback
- Lecture/demo/class work
- Questions, discussion, etc.
Here are my expectations of you; the requirements of our learning contract; the “Rules”, for this class:
- Do Not Talk While I am Talking. I am a jealous teacher, and I demand everyone’s attention while I am speaking. Also, I think I’m funny. You’ll get used to it. Or not. But laughing at my jokes is recommended. Try to sound sincere. A happy teacher is an easy grader.
- Learn to use, and be comfortable using, every resource you paid the University to provide. I don’t repeat myself. I won’t give you, again, information already provided. If the answer to your question is in Blackboard, the text, a previous class lecture, the internet, etc. I won’t provide the answer for you again. I will not let you miss learning opportunities you paid for. Learn to use the text completely – the Table of Contents, the glossary, the index, citations and references, etc. If you missed a class, coordinate with a fellow student for any needed material; work with each other. On the other hand, if you’ve given it your best shot; if you’ve utilized all available resources and you’re still stuck, ask.
- If you must miss a class, inform me as soon as you know. I will work with you when necessary. I have gone so far as to teach classes in hospital rooms.
- You are responsible for every part of Blackboard, every day, as well as campus email. Come to class prepared. “I didn’t see it” will not help a bad grade, and it will cost you a point off your final course grade. Check every day. You Have Been Warned.
- You are required to complete all coursework found in in the syllabus, the text, covered during class lecture, and Blackboard. It will also require such incidentals as a syllabus, peer, course, content, instructor, and Blackboard reviews and feedback. All are required. Failure to complete all work may hold your grade back.
- Please remember to include your course number in every communication. If I can’t figure out which class you are in, your email, text, smoke signal or letter, will wind up in the “eventually” stack.
- Turn in all work as required:
- All work is submitted on the document provided, or, if the student is required to create a document, the document must be in a current MS Office compatible format. Work submitted otherwise is not accepted. (consider academic licensing, etc.). See me for assistance with software, computers, etc.
- Follow the instructions. “Close enough” is not, in fact, good enough. If you haven’t followed the instructions, you have not met the requirement. If you do not know how to follow instructions, you will have to learn how in this class before you will be able to earn a passing grade.
- Your coursework will require you to do research. Learn to love it. Wikipedia is never an acceptable citation or reference. But it can be a great start point and time-saver.
- “Copy and paste” is never acceptable. Use your words. I have an automated plagiarism checker and I know how to use it. Nothing is easier to grade than work that shows little effort. There’s not even any feedback. There is no second chance on work like that.
- Graphics, title pages, citations pages, etc., are never included in the page count of a paper. A “page”, as in “write a 1-page paper”, is at least 500 words. “Not less than 2 pages” means at least 1000 words.
- Only work submitted at the assigned turn-in link in Blackboard will be graded. Work submitted otherwise is not graded. Work submitted via email can show “on time” (if it was needed because Blackboard was broken), but cannot be graded and must ultimately be uploaded as instructed into Blackboard. You are responsible for keeping a digital copy, in the correct format, of all classwork.
- No work will be submitted using the available Blackboard “Write Submission” option. Such work will be deleted from BB.
- Late Work: one day late costs 10 points (i.e., a letter grade). More than one day late will be graded as 0.
- If you are not satisfied with your learning experience, please come see me. The end of course instructor evaluation is too late.
- Feel free to comment on my use of our LMS, Blackboard. I am not a Blackboard expert, and I know you see many different course Blackboards. If you’ve seen something you think would help the course, let me know. If I use your suggestion, you will get extra credit. Even if I don’t, you might get extra credit anyway.
Grades, Final Grades and Final Exam:
- The posted grade, and the grade turned in, is your responsibility. If you believe a correction is needed, it is your responsibility to ensure it is carried out in a timely manner. The week before grades are due is not a “timely manner”.
- You must submit an assignment, test, etc., to get a grade.
- When it becomes necessary to give credit for an assignment because the assignment was not doable, you must have actually submitted the assignment to get the credit.
- A “1” for a grade in BB is not a bad thing. It means you can review and resubmit. Blackboard demands something, and putting a “0” is just so painful, don’t you think? If I gave you a 1, I also gave you feedback. Read it and use it. But, be timely – the opportunity won’t last forever. When I have to finish grading, 1’s will become 0. No Work is accepted the last 2 weeks of class.
- The “Projected Course Grade” in Blackboard is a PROJECTION. It is not a final grade; it will change, up or down, as Blackboard grades are adjusted, corrected, etc., until the final grade is turned in.
- The final Blackboard course grade calculation may drop one or more of your lowest grade(s). Maybe.
- If your final course grade, not including any extra credit, exceeds 89.0, I will record that as a 90. This will adjust as the grade range for an A adjusts – the point is, if you are less than 1 point from an A, I will record your grade as an A.
- If your projected final course grade, not including any extra credit, exceeds* 95 by the week before grades are due, you may be exempt from the final exam. You must also, as of the week before grades are due:
- Lack any attendance or late issues.
- Have all work turned in and graded – this means turning in the last assignments early. TBD
- Be in good standing otherwise.
- Receive an email from me stating you are exempt. Assume Nothing.
- Students whose projected final course grade exceeds 95 after the deadline mentioned above, regardless of corrections, etc., will not be exempted from the final. No exemptions will be made after the deadline of the week before grades are due.
- Exams: I do not give “open book” exams. You may use your notes, which you wrote with your pen or pencil, on your paper, in your notebook. No copies.
Extra Credit: I give extra credit as incentives to exceed the requirement, for adding value to the course, and when the whim strikes me. I will tell you when you have earned an extra credit, BUT!!! You must email me a reminder with “extra credit” in the subject line, reminding me of what I told you earned the extra credit. No email, no credit.
Extra Credit is added to your final course grade after all else is factored in. Previous students have earned as much as 8 extra credit points in a term. Think about that. 8 points added to your final grade!
- If you see me looking for something, the first one to let me know where it is will get extra credit. I lose my glasses, markers, pens, laser pointers, flash drives, my notes, etc., while I’m lecturing.
- If you find errors in Blackboard, the syllabus, etc., let me know. First one to report it, via email timestamp, will get extra credit.
The teacher giveth, and the teacher taketh away. How to lose points from your final course grade:
- Attendance (including late) – see the syllabus for the University policy regarding absences. (discuss attendance with BB sign in process).
- Don’t participate (i.e., not paying attention, doing something else, etc.)
- Be unprepared – “I don’t know” will cost you points. So will “I didn’t see it”.
- See the syllabus for other academic sins of death.
Late work, unsatisfactory grades, etc.: Life is what happens when we are making plans. If you are doing your best and life is handing you lemons, come see me as soon as you know. I will do everything I can do to help a student who is trying their best. See below about “knowing your name”. If you have been fighting for that A, I will fight with you.
- I can be lenient, given good cause, about late work. But when it’s time, it’s time. I will not be working overtime at the end of the course grading late assignments. Late assignments might not get graded. Oops.
- If we’ve passed the first couple of weeks in the course, and I don’t know your name – you have not been participating. Make sure I know your name. Raise your hand. Answer questions. Contribute. Bring me an apple. (Actually, don’t. That would violate some guideline of the department of education). (On the other hand, if you find a Red Rome – we’ll talk.)
- One student even introduced herself to me after the first class. She came up, shook my hand, introduced herself and told me a little bit about herself – she ran a dance/marketing business. She was one of the best students I’ve ever worked with. She earned an A in that class.
- If your work just meets minimum standards, that work is “average” at best, and earns no more than a “C”. If you want an “A” in this class, do “A” work. Exceed the requirement.
- Group work will include anonymous peer reviews, which will be used to calculate a % multiplier for your part of the group grade. If your peers don’t value your group contribution, your group grade could be multiplied by 50%. Or worse. You can fight this, but wouldn’t it be easier to work with your group? Probably more fun, too. Some groups rock. The Marines are a group. So is this school.
- If this course requires a personal computer supplied by the student, it must be a wintel platform running a current version of the Windows OS and the appropriate software. All assignments are turned in as MS Office compatible formatted files. Any variation may not be supported by the instructor or the university; it is the responsibility of the student to turn in all work in an acceptable format. If you require assistance with this, please come see me.
- Your writing ability and use of MS Office, academic writing formats, etc., are all gradable events. Learn to use Windows and MS Office.
- *“exceeds” means “more than”. Not “equal to”.
- You can always challenge a grade. There has to be a grade to challenge. Ultimately, late work turned in too late will be graded “0”. Especially if you’re hoping I’ll grade it the day before I have to turn grades in at the end of the term. Oops. Ultimately, my judgement of your work (i.e., your grade) can be challenged. It’s probably easier to just get the A in the first place. The ultimate “weighted” grade is my opinion as to whether you have shown you know the material. I am always prepared to give an oral exam in front my superiors to demonstrate whether my judgement is correct.
- There is no “extra” or “makeup” work. If I ever do lose my mind and decide to offer more work that I would have to grade, you won’t like it. Imagine a comprehensive exam made up of long essay questions.
- Yes, you have to do all the work. You have to do it all. Every bit of it. It’s all testable, every moment of every class; every bit of the content on Blackboard, the text, or anything else that ever came up anywhere near the course. Don’t ask “what’s on the exam”. If you have to ask whether it’s required, or whether it’s included in a test, then the answer is “yes”. The exam covers the material on Blackboard, the text, and in the classroom. All the coursework; it all counts. The material comes from:
- Homework, in class work, tests, labs, etc.
- Projects, group and otherwise
- Etc., as announced in class, the syllabus, and so on.
- Yes, I know I repeated. Somebody is still going to ask.
- “I never read the text”, “I don’t do homework”, “I don’t come to class” … etc., etc., etc. Yes, students have actually said those things, to me. The teacher. I’ve never understood what the speaker was trying to convey with such statements. I’m not sure what there is to brag about in incurring high costs for a product then announcing that you will refuse to use it. Whatever. I will give you your final grade immediately if that is your position.
- Don’t ask whether I covered anything important while you were absent. This hurts my feelings. I usually remember you asked when I’m calculating final course grades
The Learning Contract: Your turn. What are your expectations?
Your first assignment: Write a short paper, not less than 1,000 words, discussing your expectations of the course, the instructor, the course resources and your fellow students:
- After reviewing the syllabus and this class’s Blackboard, what is your specific learning expectation of this course? Include your reason for taking this course, the course material from the syllabus and Blackboard, and your expectations of the instructor in your discussion. Define success.
- How will you team with your fellow students to excel in this course?
- How will you use Blackboard to excel in this course?
You know those cool keyboard shortcuts – the control key combined with another key, like CTL+C for copy? You can make Excel do your own keyboard shortcuts for more than just simple commands. That’s a macro.
Let’s say you’re on the receiving end of raw data dumps from an external source, and the first part of your job is importing the files into Excel, or just opening them in Excel. They’re full of extra blank columns, columns you don’t want to use, not formatted the way you need them to be, etc. So on every single file, you go through and clean them up, configuring them the way you need them – the exact same series of steps on every file. It’s gotten to the point the letters have worn off those keys.
You can turn all those steps into one keyboard shortcut. That’s a macro.
Macros are great time savers and productivity enhancers, and far easier to use than many think – for some reason, they seem to intimidate most of my students when we get to that chapter. What follows is specific to Excel 2013; it will more or less work in other versions – YMMV; you may have to do some research.
Trust me on this, it’s easy. This will not be a complete macro tutorial, just a primer to get you started. Once you know how to record one and assign a shortcut, you have much of the value of a macro. There is more, but this is the simple stuff. This simplified set of instructions will only work with a default Excel installation. If you’ve already been using macros, and customized how Excel works with them, then these instructions may not work, and you probably don’t need them.
- First Fun Fact About Macros: Any time you find yourself doing the same thing repeatedly, make a macro.
- Second Fun Fact About Macros: You can share macros! You can copy, paste, email, import, export and otherwise share macros on other computers, files, and users.
- Third Fun Fact About Macros: WARNING: Macros are executable code – like a virus or other malware. Do Not Use, Download, Open, Run, or otherwise have anything to do with a macro unless you built it or you know who did. In fact, Excel won’t even let you keep it until you change the type of workbook your macro is in, and, Windows will act as though you had brought in bubonic plague when it sees a macro until you promise it’s OK.
- Fourth Fun Fact About Macros: yes, macros are written in Visual Basic – that’s the “executable code” – but don’t worry, you don’t do the writing. You just tell Excel “watch this” then do what you do. Excel will record your actions (aka “macro”), writing the VB code for you, until you tell it to stop.
Here are the steps for making (recording) a macro:
- Remember, the reason you decided to make a macro was because you were repeating yourself. So you should know what it is you are going to do. Feel free to make notes.
- First, you must enable macros by enabling the Developer Tab on the Ribbon bar.
- Open the Excel Options dialog box:
OPTION 1: Click on File, Options, Customize Ribbon. Or,
OPTION 2: One after the other, press and release the Alt key, then press and release the F key, then press and release the T key, then press and release the O key.
Either option will open the Excel Options dialog box.
If not, please check to see whether you are now holding down the Alt, F, T, and O keys. If you are, let them go, then go back to step 2, OPTION 2, and read it very, very, carefully. We’ll wait.
- If you’re not already there, In the Excel Options dialog box, on the left side, click on Customize Ribbon.
- In the Customize the Ribbon section on the right, make sure Main Tabs is selected in the drop down (should be, it’s the default), then look down the list to find the Developer. If its check box is clear, click on it to place a check mark in it. It should look exactly like the figure above.
- Click OK at the bottom.
Now, macros are enabled and you are ready to record a macro. It’s called “record” because that’s exactly what happens. Excel records your actions as you carry out the steps you have been repeating.
- Before you start recording the macro, decide what the name will be, and decide what the shortcut key will be. Best practice is to use an upper case shortcut key, and try it on a spreadsheet before you start recording. You want to make sure it is not already in use by Excel or Windows. If it is, you can still use it, but you will lose whatever it was doing before. If you want to keep its original function, select another key and test it. The shortcut key will always be the Control Key followed by whatever key you have decided on. If it is a capital letter, and it should be, then the shortcut key combo will be, for example, CTL+Shf+T. That’s the Control key, and the Shift key, and whatever other key you picked, pressed all at the same time. That’s what the plus sign means – “press these together”. If it was one after the other, they would be separated by a comma instead of a plus sign.
- On the Developer tab, in the Code group, click on Record Macro.
- In the Record Macro dialog box, fill in the prompts. For the moment, make sure to Store Macro in This Workbook. The Description should tell anyone managing/editing this workbook after you what the macro is for.
- Click on OK and carry out your procedure. Don’t worry about errors, correct yourself and keep going. Worst case, you’ll have to delete the macro and start over.
- When you are finished, there are two ways to stop the macro:
OPTION 1: Where you clicked on Record Macro, it now says Stop Recording. Click on that. Or,
OPTION 2: At the bottom left of the Excel window, on the status bar, just right of the READY prompt, is a small square. If you hover over it, a popup will say “A macro is currently recording. Click to stop recording”. Click on it.
Voila! You have now made a macro. To test it, open a new spreadsheet tab (the plus sign at the bottom) and use the shortcut key. You should switch to a new spreadsheet tab because the one you were on already has the macro action done to it and it may be difficult to tell what changed when you press the shortcut key.
Now, this macro works on this spreadsheet that you had open when you created it. To make it available in Excel whenever you open Excel, with any spreadsheet, simply select Personal Macro Workbook in the Record Macro dialog box in the Store macro in drop down list when you record it.
Ready for a little advanced macro stuff? Get your geek on!
Now that you have a macro, click on Macros in the Code group on the Developer tab on the Ribbon. The Macro dialog box will open. Select the macro you just created in the Macro Name: section, then click on the Edit button on the right side. This opens the Visual Basic Editor to the code for your macro. Some things to look for, beginning on the left side in the Project window:
- In this case, the spreadsheet’s file name I created a macro in is found in the line VBAProject (MACROmod4 SAMPLE FINAL PRODUCT DATA REPO…) In your case, your file name will be seen as VBAProject (your file name)
- If it is not already expanded, click on the plus sign to the left of this VBAProject line, then again as needed to expand the structure.
- Look for the section named Modules
- Immediately underneath it is Module1 – this is your macro. If the code for it isn’t already open on the right, double-click Module1 and it will be. Try to read the code, it might be surprising.
- Now, click on the File command at the top left. Note the Import File and Export File commands. Yep, they work exactly as you would think they would – you can export your macro and save it, thus making it available for email and such. And, likewise, you can import a macro someone has sent you.
- The macro – Module1 – in this location is in the workbook you were working in when you opened the VB editor. You can move it to the Personal Macro Workbook, making it available to any spreadsheet in Excel. Simply click and hold on it, then drag it to VBAProject (Personal.XLSB) and drop it there, not in the Modules section below. Excel will take care of putting it where it belongs. Save.
- When you’re done, click on File again, then Close and Return to Excel, then save and close Excel. Be sure to save when prompted. You’ll have to change the file type to a macro enabled workbook – don’t worry, Excel will prompt you. Reopen Excel and try the shortcut again. If you get a warning, just accept it – it’s the macro setting off Windows’ plague alarm. Since you created this one, you know it’s not going to mail your secret folder to everybody in your contacts folder. Probably.
That’s it. Now you know how to record a macro and how to share them. As always, feel free to email if you have questions.
AKA the opening battle in the last great war of the 20th century, the Desktop Marketing War, ultimately won by Windows via Microsoft’s marketing strategy. In which I discuss the animosity between the loyal, stalwart, and superior in every way Apple adherents and the ignorant, lowlife simpletons clinging bitterly to their Windows trailer-park “computers”. This will be a more-than-usual mean-spirited, bitter rant, awash in a sea of sarcasm. It’s a harsh world. You have been warned.
TRIGGER WARNING – RANT ENSUES: Herein I am less than kind to a class of IT denizens stereotyped as socially unskilled geniuses living in relative’s basements. These unfortunates share a common trait relevant to this post; a religious belief in the purity of some technologies over others. For example, a hunting sling (David’s sling) is somehow more moral than an atomic bomb. Or Windows, and especially Microsoft, are evil, but Macintosh was delivered by a benevolent Earth mother goddess because Apple is pure of heart and the salvation of nature.
Having had to work with such fools, or work at undoing the damage some of them (aka “hackers”) cause, I am unsympathetic to their feelings, their claims, or their notion of logic. I barely tolerate them near keyboards, and never unsupervised. I am not objective, I am biased, prejudiced, discriminatory, intolerant, and completely out of patience with these luddites. They lost, it’s time for them to move on.
Also, I will generalize and assert unsupported. Offensive, I know, but it is a harsh world. THUS ENDETH THE RANT.
It is common knowledge; i.e., “everyone knows”, that Bill Gates stole the idea for Windows from Steve Jobs through legal chicanery and influential friends in high places on Wall Street, that den of iniquity that is the downfall and ruin of America and all that is good in the world. Also with help from international conspiracies. And Satan.
“Everyone” is ignorant, spending too much time listening to ganja addled adolescents editing Halo maps in their grandmother’s basement thinking this makes them programmers. These poor misfits like Mac because the interface was then easier to use and they believed with a passion born of desperation that their mastery of Apple PCs would make girls think they were cool. Unfortunately, as in so much else, they were wrong, but they clung to their belief in the Mac OS desperately.
These ideological worshipers of a technology they would never understand took offense when the Harvard dropout’s marketing strategy put his arguably inferior product first in the wallets of those ignorant consumers who should be listening to them. They still hold to this even though Apple’s implementation of a cell phone has given Apple a clear victory in the money game- that Windows holds an equally clear lead in the desktop market still leaves a burning in their hearts; they will still claim that is only because Bill cheated and is immoral; Microsoft is not worthy:
“The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste … They have absolutely no taste. And I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their products.” – Jobs, 1996 public television documentary “Triumph of the Nerds.”
Here are some essential facts pertinent to the claims that Bill stole Windows from Steve:
- Apple did not invent the idea of “windows” for an operating system. They copied that idea from somebody else.
- Copyright protection does not protect ideas, but rather, with some limitations, the expression of an idea; how an idea is implemented. You can patent a ladder, you can’t patent the idea of climbing.
- Xerox* invented the graphical user interface technology (GUI), the technology behind both Windows and the Mac OS.
- Xerox was visited by the Mac design team, where they saw Xerox’s GUI.
- Apple licensed elements of Xerox’s GUI for its OS.
- Microsoft licensed elements of Apple’s GUI for its OS. Of 189 claims of copyright infringement, the court ruled that 179 were covered by this license agreement. (FWIW, Steve Jobs had resigned from Apple by then).
- Copyright protection extends only to original expression. Of nearly two hundred separate claims of copyright infringement in the lawsuit, many were based on their license from Xerox and so failed because they were not original to Apple, or because there was only one possible way of expressing the idea.
“Much of the court’s ruling was based on the original licensing agreement between Apple and Microsoft for Windows 1.0, and this fact made the case more of a contractual matter than of copyright law, to the chagrin of Apple.” – wiki
So, given that Apple is not run by idiots, and they knew the facts as well as anyone, why did they sue?
Simple. Microsoft was taking Apple’s lead in the PC market away from them through superior marketing. Considering the lawsuit, it appears that Apple believed that Microsoft had taken advantage of their licensing agreement to build a product that was more competitive, but still based on Apple’s idea. If so, they were wrong.
As always, PC history seems to depend on who is telling; many of the players are still around and have yet to come clean. This is the way I see it:
Bill beat Steve through marketing, not technology. It is especially telling that when Apple supporters do realize that Microsoft’s business processes, common throughout the history of business, are responsible for beating out Apple’s arguably superior technology in the minds and wallets of consumers, these supporters, who know absolutely nothing of business, then claim that these common and traditional business processes are somehow cheating and immoral, and should be prevented by law. Preferably as a capital offense, with public hangings and beheadings.
Specifically, that Microsoft will buy or license applications from others and incorporate them in Windows, such as various browsers; doing that is somehow cheating and immoral.
Understand what happens here: Microsoft recognizes an idea they would like to use in Windows when they see someone else express that idea in an application that is doing well in the market. Microsoft could do their own development and then bring to market their expression of this idea and risk competing with the original application in the market. If they lose, all the money Microsoft put into it is lost. Or, they could reduce a lot of risk by simply asking the original application owners whether they’d be willing to sell it or license it to Microsoft. For money. Like, you know, filthy lucre, ‘cuz Apple supporters are far too moral to care about profits and such. Apparently their bills are paid by the magic bill fairy.
This further outraged some Apple supporters, who thought it should be illegal. OBTW, this is exactly what Apple did when it licensed a GUI from Xerox. Apparently it was moral enough when Apple did it.
Let me make this one thing clear: At least at the beginning of this competition, the Mac OS was a superior operating system, and did many things better than Windows did for a very long time. Among other things, it was probably much easier for a newcomer to learn. Then, and now, it enjoyed a performance edge in graphics applications so much so that it is still a force to be reckoned with in that market. If you want an Apple, go for it, you will be happy with it and be productive as anyone else. It is a very good computer; their laptops are things of beauty and a joy to behold. I use an iPad mini myself, and I’ve borrowed a Mac laptop for business use. I’m writing about the constant refrain of “bad, bad, bad” that comes from a segment of the Apple community that I wish to correct, not the value of Apple products. You decide that. Personally, I like them enough to use them along with the Wintel boxes I’m using. Between my wife and I, we have 5 Apple systems, 2 WINTEL platforms, and I’m about to develop at least one, if not as many as 3, Linux laptops. Of course, the workhorse of the place is my Frankenstein PC, of which I’ve written about elsewhere, but the others get their share of use. My PC won’t fit in my briefcase, anyway.
Window’s performance in the market is not due to any advantages in technology, or performance. Windows’ advantage came from a price advantage, Apple systems tended to be pricey compared to the Wintel platform.
“By 2000 a Mac product was costing ten times more than Windows to develop, and its market was about ten times less than Windows” – Tim Berry
Where did that price advantage come from?
What is marketing? Contrary to popular belief, it is not advertising. Marketing is the study and management of exchange relationships.
Oh, well, that’s clear then. What the heck is an “exchange relationship”? An exchange relationship is a voluntary exchange of values (aka a “trade”) between two participants – a sell, and a buy, between two willing participants who come to a mutually beneficial agreement on the value of the transaction. Marketing is about all of these events and all of the people that participate, aka a “market”, such as the PC market, or the car market, or the housing market. Who’s buying, who is selling, what are specific products going for, are prices rising or falling, and why? What product is most popular (aka market share)? How can I get my product into a market, such as when starting a new car company? Where can I sell my idea, i.e., find a market – I have a new widget, who is buying things like this? Then there’s actually creating a market where there was none – somewhere, somebody made the first purchase of the first cell phone, and the cell phone market was born! Or, is this just an extension of the market for telephones? How does the market for a phone with a wire differ from the market for wireless phones?
Let us now consider the marketing for software. Such as Operating Systems like Windows, Mac OSs, and their predecessors, such as CP/M, Commodore DOS, Atari OSs, GEOS, MS-DOS, and others. A vaguely generalized timeline of the PC market might look something like this: Research/academia, hobbyist/special interests, business world, home computing, more or less in that order with lots of overlap.
Each step, or growth in the size of the market, gave rise to the next. For example, in the research/academia step, almost all PCs are strongly related to minicomputers, hand-made one-offs made by their ultimate users, or for single use purposes. This led to the hobbyist/special interest market, which grew to a size that some thought there might be a profit to be made from meeting this demand. IBM’s decision to get into the PC market is attributed to the growth in this step of the market.
At that time, the “industrialization” of the hobbyist market, anyone could order a wide variety of PCs from a variety of manufacturers, with a wide range of compatibility, or incompatibility. This hardware did not then automatically include software, which could be ordered as one of many options, or bought elsewhere – and often was. There was a wide compatibility gap – most software simply would not run on most boxes; you had to ensure the software you wanted ran on the box you wanted. A subsidiary market grew for the more popular PCs; those manufacturers wanted you to buy from them when you bought software, so they licensed software from the developers of that software and listed it as an option, promising to only offer compatible software, reducing the buyer’s risk.
Typically, for example, a PC you wanted to buy had more than one option for an operating system, for a range of prices. Which one you ultimately selected depended on many factors, including what you were going to do with it – research, publication, gaming, or whatever.
A common arrangement among the distributors of the PC and the software developers, such as Operating System (OS) developers, was that it would license the OS for a fee. Every time that OS was selected by a buyer for a PC, the developer would get a share of the proceeds from that sale. To be clear: Bob, a programmer, develops Operating Systems. So does Les Lee. Steve, a programmer, writes applications, such as NotExcel, or Games, such as WhackaMoleOnline. Elise, a programmer, writes software for video cards, or game controllers. Darla, Justin, and Lacey each run their own little business making their own computers for people to buy. Vanessa, a budding entrepreneur, started a company, NewBraunfelsBrainBox, Inc., reselling computers she got from Darla, Justin or Lacey, with software she gets from the developers. Vanessa puts out a catalog that includes all of the computers, and lists software as options for the computers. It all works a little like this:
- Justin, with a known reputation as a serious gamer and hardware guy, builds a computer a lot of people want to buy because they figure if Justin designed it, it will be awesome.
- Justin pays Elise a license fee to include the video cards and controllers she writes software for.
- Justin and Bob get together to make sure Bob’s OS runs on Justin’s computer. They have a financial arrangement that depends on how many sales each has.
- Elise has to pay Bob a license fee to make sure her software runs on Bob’s OS.
- Les Lee also pays Justin a fee, and Elise has to pay Les Lee a fee too, if she wants to get the info she needs to make sure her software runs on Les Lee’s OS.
- Repeat as needed for computers built by Darla or Lacey
- NewBraunfelsBrainBox lists all these in their catalog.
- Apple sells their own computers through their own outlets.
See where this is going? everybody’s got some skin in the game, but they all depend on the buyer deciding to buy the computer and the OS that they have software available for. If the buyer picked something else, oh, well.
Then Bill made a deal with IBM for an OS he had bought from somebody else and modified for the IBM PC under a set of arrangements that left Microsoft free to license this new Microsoft OS to anybody else he wanted to – such as competing, existing PCs you could buy out of Vanessa’s catalog. Bill could enter into a license agreement with these PC distributors and compete with all the other software developers. And it was very competitive. Each software licensee wanted as much as he could get, but the harsh reality was that if your OS was a 350 dollar option with a PC, and somebody else’s was a 240 dollar option, you might not get as much market share as you’d like. Your product (the OS) would have to provide at least 110 dollars more value for people to buy it, or at least they’d have to believe it did.
Then Bill came along to make a deal with the PC distributors, NewBraunfelsBrainBox, Inc. Negotiations opened up with the expectation that Microsoft would ask for a lot; after all, their operating system, MS-DOS, was running IBM PCs! It must be better!
Bill had a better idea. His licensing fee was very low, but with a switch. He was not asking to be paid a fee for every computer Vanessa sold with MS-DOS, he was asking her to pay him a very low fee for every computer Vanessa’s company sold, regardless of what OS was on it. In return, NewBraunfelsBrainBox, Inc. could sell, or not, as much MS-DOS as their heart desired.
Got that? Every computer they sold would already have MS-DOS factored into its price, regardless of what OS the buyer chose. Oh, NewBraunfelsBrainBox offered it as an option anyway – Vanessa not being born yesterday. For a very low fee. Now the user is looking at a set of optional operating systems for his computer that might look like this:
- $350.00 BeOS
- $240.00 U/PM64
- $40.00 MS-DOS
How many copies of DOS do you think were being loaded on PCs? Obviously, Microsoft’s market share grew. Wait. It gets better.
Wanna take a wild guess what Bill’s license fee was to the developers and programmers, so they could write their software to run on MS-DOS? In mid-1990, Microsoft gave away the Microsoft Solution Developer Kit, everything a developer needed to write applications compatible with MS-DOS. In other words, the license fee was zero. Guess what OS had more applications and accessories available to it than the others?
At the same time, Apple computers, which required proprietary software and was not sold through other distributors, or even built by others, required a stiff license fee for a developer to acquire the rights to write compatible code. So, the availability of application software and accessories for Apple computers was relatively limited compared to Microsoft compatible computers. Which were cheaper, too. And ran more software. Like, way more games. And had IBM selling to the business market. Plus, there was Justin’s Serious Gamer Box. Hard to beat.
So, if you specified DOS as the operating system for your new PC, it was cheaper than if you ordered any other OS. And, it had more applications, games, and accessories available than a PC with another OS, including Apple PCs. Pretty soon, more people were buying PCs with DOS than anything else. When Microsoft then started offering Windows as their new and improved Operating system, they had a ready –made market for it, along with a bunch of developers familiar with and ready to do business, writing games, applications, and software for accessories.
Microsoft’s market share grew and grew. People bought computers running on Windows more than any other kind. Microsoft became huge, and, for a while, Bill was the richest man in the world. He bought Apple and changed the name to Peaches.
Ok, I made that last part up. But even though Apple not only overtook MS, but passed it in sales, that was because of the iPhone, not PCs. Microsoft still dominates the desktop operating system market. And many Apple worshippers hate the thought. Life sucks when you’re wrong.
Victory was ours! Bwaahhahahahha… the forces of darkness, and Microsoft, Reign Supreme!
ProfessorJoe teaches MS PowerPoint as part of our MS Office offering, and we also teach presentation skills, including a presentation practicum. What follows is a combination of highlights from both.
What is the difference between a “speech” or “public speaking”, and a “presentation”? Turns out there are as many definitions as there are interested parties. How surprising. Here I’ll offer something I think this audience can work with; what I use when I teach presentation skills at the college level.
Since there are so many different ways of thinking about this subject, I’ll make clear what Assumptions and Definitions I am using here:
PowerPoint is a presentation tool; it is an aid to communication and a spur to thinking. It employs the concept of the bulleted slide. Generally, a slide is used to set an expectation in the mind of the audience what the speaker will be talking about – preparing the ground, so to speak. This facilitates understanding.
Public Speaking, aka a “speech”, is usually to the public, whereas a presentation is usually meant for a specific, more defined, audience. This post will not discuss public speaking. This post is limited to a discussion about using PowerPoint to support effective presentations.
There are generally two types of presentations:
- Information transfer, as in teaching a class, or providing a status report.
- A decision request – at the completion of the presentation, a decision is asked for.
Fun Facts about presentations:
Fun Fact #1: The speaker is the presentation. The deck of PowerPoint slides that may be used to support a presentation is not the presentation. A slide show is not a presentation.
Fun Fact #2: An effective presenter can give his presentation without the slides. The slides are for the audience, not the speaker.
Fun Fact #3: Fancy slides, or many slides, or both, usually ruin presentations. Every slide; every bullet point on a slide, and every element on a slide, should add value to the presentation; should enhance the speaker’s communication with his audience, or it detracts from the presentation. There is no middle ground. It helps, or it hurts.
An example of a bad slide, and possible contender for world’s worst (your tax dollars at work):
And first runner up:
If you are a glutton for punishment, feel free to expand them to a legible size. Legend has it that when General Stanley McChrystal saw the first one, he is alleged to have remarked that when we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war.
And finally, an example of a good slide, if a little on the sparse side:
Now that we share a common understanding of PowerPoint and Presentations, I’ll discuss a process that I believe uses PowerPoint to assist an effective presentation.
Presentations: There are many ways to “flow” a presentation; what works best depends on the presenter, the topic, and the audience. Here, I’ll suggest a general outline that can be varied to match a broad range of requirements. The components of an effective presentation include, and follow the general pattern of “Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell them, Tell ‘em, Tell ‘em what you told them”:
- Title: This is often already up as people come in to the room; so they know they’re in the right place. It should at least tell the audience something about the topic (Presentations), perhaps the name of the speaker and/or a corporate sponsor.
- Introduction: Once the presentation starts, this first slide can expand on the speaker’s remarks welcoming everyone and providing more info about the topic, such as why, or an expected result, for example.
- Table of Contents / An Agenda: either or both, in whatever order seems best; the point is to give the audience some idea of what they’re in for and some idea of what order major topics will be presented.
- Body of presentation: Slide Titles for major topics – NOTE: this is not the title of every slide. A major topic could consist of several slides, here only the major topics should be listed – this expands on the Table of Contents or Agenda.
- Discussion/Questions: This and the next bullet tend to vary in order and practice. The point is to gather audience feedback and answer questions.
An effective presentation – or even a bad one, for that matter – consists of three elements: the speaker, the topic, or subject matter, and the audience. Each exerts an influence on the presentation; with the audience being the most significant. Every part of a presentation should be shaped around the audience; the success or failure of a presentation is defined by the audience. What follows address each of those in no particular order.
- The key to an effective presentation is controlling the audience’s attention. The sole purpose of PowerPoint is to assist the speaker in controlling the audience’s attention. The relationship between the speaker and the slides is exactly that of the magician and the diversions he uses to keep his audience spellbound while he works his magic.
- Know your audience. What do they know about your topic? Are they receptive or hostile? Who are they? Why are they attending? What is each one’s job? What do they do for fun? What do they read, what are their hobbies? Check their social media. What will they do with the information you provide? Learn everything you can about them; you won’t know what is relevant or not until the presentation.
- Know your subject matter. When you know it well enough to deliver an impromptu chalk talk at the water cooler in response to an idle question, you might be ready. When you can discuss the topic reasonably and justly, both for and against, then you might be ready. The first time you present on a topic, you are not ready. At best, you are smooth; you present well, you are calm, etc. You are ready when the questions stop being new.
- Use a murder board; a practice audience that will challenge you – if your target audience surprises you, your preparation was not as effective as it could have been.
- Always try to visit the venue a day ahead. If at all possible, rehearse at the venue, with all equipment and software. You don’t want your first use of or attempt at anything to be in front of a live audience. Be wary of substitutions.
- The information on the slides is secondary to how and when the slides are presented – the speaker does not match his words to the slides, the slides are matched to what the speaker is saying. A slide appears when the speaker is ready for the audience to look at something, and then builds, using animations and transitions, with what the speaker wants the audience to see when the speaker wants the audience to see it.
- NOTE: a slide can stay up until the speaker is ready for the next one – once the audience has gotten what they can from a slide, they will ignore it. Using a “filler” slide is a terrible idea since every slide change will divert the audience for at least a moment, and a slide that doesn’t fit with what the speaker is saying will confuse the audience, it will break their concentration, and the speaker will have lost control and have to regain it.
- The content of a slide supplements, or expands, or introduces, what the speaker is saying. It does not repeat it. The only reason for a speaker to speak words found on a slide is to emphasize a point; make it clear that is what is being done. Never, Never, Never let the audience think you are just reading the slides. You will lose them at that point.
- Do Not Read The Slides. The audience is rarely blind; they usually can read slides by themselves; they rarely are in need of assistance in doing so and will usually resent it. They did not come to read slides, they came to hear you. On occasion, reading part of a slide can emphasize a point.
Slides: PowerPoint has more features than you can shake a stick at, plus the stick, and they are impressive. It is tempting to use them, but in fact, without careful consideration, these features will usually constrain rather than enhance communication. Learn how to use at least the basics of PowerPoint, including Master slides, templates and themes, transitions, animations, and multimedia. Learn how to integrate MS Office applications, such as Excel, with PowerPoint.
The primary question to ask before anything – a bullet point, a comment or note, some impressive feature, anything at all, goes into a slide is “How will this enhance communication with the audience?”. If that question cannot be answered in my classroom, the student has failed to meet this requirement. In the classroom, if the student can answer that question, I will give them an A. I may not agree that what they have done on the slide enhances communication, but they get the A; they understand how to decide what goes in and what does not. That’s the goal.
Some basic principles of an effective PowerPoint supported presentation:
- Keep it Simple
- Presentations are:
- A knowledge transfer of a limited set of concepts.
- Or, decision support limited to relevant factors.
- Generally, the slide deck should be about 5 to 7 slides, with 15 as a maximum.
- Each slide should have 3-5 bullet points
- If less, consider combining slides
- If more, consider breaking up into multiple slides
- These approximate limitations – the numbers mentioned above – are based on studies of the capacity of the human mind to absorb concepts quickly; they are approximate guidelines.
- Slides should be consistent – every change from slide to slide causes a break in the audience’s attention from the speaker. The speaker must always control the audience’s attention, so any such breaks should be deliberate, not inadvertent. Therefore:
- The slides should share a common format, font, and pitch, and variation in same, as in bullet points for example.
- Use templates, themes, slide masters and such to ensure consistency.
- To Repeat: Any break in consistency should answer the question: How will this enhance communication?
- Be wary of backgrounds and such. Most common use is for branding; it identifies where the speaker is from, or the background is on topic – a watermark of a giant trout in a sales pitch about fishing equipment, for example. These make sense, and the audience gets it immediately. Avoid like the plague “theme” backgrounds. What exactly does “Geometric” mean? Or “Contemporary”? I don’t know what Microsoft had in mind, and I don’t want my audience trying to figure it out, either. I want them paying attention to what I’m saying.
- Hidden slides: some slides are focused on specific questions and are otherwise unnecessary. Hide such slides at the end of the presentation, with a hyperlink to them at the slide that would likely bring the question up. If nobody asks, the slide never shows. Hint: Be sure to put a hyperlink on the hidden slide to get back to the jump point.
- Always bring originals of multimedia files or other embedded, attached files, etc., with you on a flash drive or some such. You will be amazed to learn how often what worked on your computer at work and at home is just a broken link at the venue. Windows works in mysterious ways.
- Audience handouts: There are different schools of thought on this. On the one hand, if you give the audience handouts, it can complicate attention control. On the other hand, it can give them something to focus note taking on. I’ve always thought it depends on the specific presentation; usually more useful for a decision brief than a sales pitch, for example. I prefer the 3 slides to a page printout for this.
- Similarly, put a page number on every slide. This simple practice vastly improves the discussion session at the end.
- Speaker’s notes: Definitely use for rehearsals, and write extensive notes, etc., on them – use the same set for as long as possible. For me, at least, this helps to put the presentation firmly into my head. Doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. Find out what works for you and do that. I prefer the one slide to a page with a note section printout for this. Do not use during a presentation.
- If you have to have a memory aid, do anything but hold it in your hand. This pulls your head down and away from eye contact with the audience. Use a teleprompter, have people hold up prompt cards, use a laptop or a monitor, anything but note-cards in your hand you read from.
- Audience gimmicks can be effective, but watch your audience – if you gauged them wrong, some gimmicks will lose them, so be prepared to abandon whatever cute trick you thought would work well. Having said that, it’s amazing how much attention people will pay if they think they can win a prize or a candy. Be conservative with this, you never know who will be offended by what.
- Anybody who brought only one backup deserves everything they get. A backup is not a backup unless there are two of them. Two copies of a file on the same flash drive are not two backups. Depending on load limitations, this should include cables, laptops, projectors, etc. Test every backup. Assumptions will kill you.
Well, that’s it. That’s what I teach, it’s how I do it, and it’s what’s worked for me for a while now. I’d love to hear what works for others – one thing I’ve learned is that there’s always another way. What’s your way?