Going online…

I had a pretty normal undergraduate experience – 4 years, a couple of summer or winter classes, and done. I managed to earn a full academic scholarship at least for tuition, so fortunately I didn’t have to pay the freight for that education. I won’t say I loved every minute of it, but I look back very fondly on those four years.

In the early stages of my federal career I was on the road more weeks than not and opted for an online MBA. I don’t know what the fees for such a thing are now, but back then I was paying $1,850 per six week class, for a total of $24,050 by the time I earned my degree. My impression of online education, based on that MBA experience, is that you could get as much or as little out of it as you were willing to put into it. It wasn’t hard to slip through doing the minimum, but to really learn the subject you needed to put in extra hours beyond the homework and discussion boards. I didn’t love it, but I ended up learning a lot and it served its purpose for a guy whose schedule wouldn’t have otherwise supported getting a degree. 

I’m seeing articles indicating that brick and mortar schools largely plan on charging full tuition for their slate of online classes for the fall semester. I fully realize that these schools have sunk costs that they need to keep paying regardless of how instruction is delivered, but at the same time I can’t fathom by what logic an entering freshman would pay full price for severely reduced services. Better I’d think to take your intro level classes from the local community college, save your money, and transfer them on when your school of choice opens back up for learning in the flesh. Under the circumstances, I’d even argue a gap year could be a better investment of time and resources.

Pretending that you’re completely justified in charging full price for the undergrad college experience while providing significantly reduced service feels distinctly like perpetrating a fraud… although if you have a large enough group of people willing to unquestioningly pay the bill, I suppose you can take every cent they’ll willingly hand over. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Like so many others in recent memory, this week could be a laundry list of annoyances from the great to the petty. As always, I tried to drill into the beating heart of the three that annoyed me most this week… but ask me again in five minutes and the list could have easily changed again.

1) Hiring freeze. One of the fun aspects about a hiring freeze is that although people go away and are not replaced, the things that they were doing while they were working never go away. They just get shifted around until they find someone who can do a half-assed job of getting them done. It’s the old standard philosophy of “doing more with less.” It’s a perfectly find concept when applied as a stopgap measure lasting for a relatively short duration. As a permanent part of the business model, it’s somewhat more problematic. At some point the system comes collapsing down under the weight of its own absurdity and the lords of creation have to accept one of four options: 1) Call in reinforcements; 2) Accept that sometimes they’ll just have to do fewer things with the reduced number of resources; 3) Fire everyone and hope a new crew can do it better; or 4) Continue to do everything as usual with a consequently lower level of quality. What you can’t do over the long term is keep taking on additional work while keeping up with business as usual.

2) 216 miles. Having driven or flown across most of the country at some point over the last ten years, I’ve never given much thought at to distance. It’s always just been ground to cover. Lately, though, I’ve been thoroughly, thoroughly annoyed by 216 miles. I guess perspective, and motivation, change everything.

3) The Pinterest-ing of Facebook. I like Facebook. Or I like the concept of Facebook. I’m not sure I’m a fan of how it’s evolving, but that’s another post. I like Facebook as a tool for delivering pithy updates, comic pictures of cats, and generally keeping up with friends and family. What I‘m not so much a fan of is how recently my newsfeed has been taken over by recipes, chain posts, and all manner of corporate ads. I can’t do anything about the ads and I’m not going to de-friend anyone, but you can bet your sweet ass I’m exerting extreme editorial control over the “Change What Updates You Get” function.

Good intentions…

I always sit down to write with the best of intentions… like taking time to edit whatever it was I just dumped on the page or hitting some topic that’s caught my attention with a painful level of detail. More often than not what actually happens is I hit “publish” as soon as I’m done typing and then fix errors as I find them… sometimes days or weeks later. And detail? Yeah, let’s face it, most of the time I’m lucky to stop rambling long enough to draw out a salient point or two. I’ve noticed that it’s mostly a battle between putting together quality or putting together volume. For the last six months or so, I’ve come down pretty squarely into the volume camp and tried to post five days a week. The part of me that’s curious about such things wonders if I’d write better if I only posted half as often.

One of the aspects of Get Off My Lawn that I’ve always enjoyed is that is has a “as it happens” feel because the posts a function of whatever happens to be going on at that moment. Setting a schedule of posting on say Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at least to me, seems to take away some of that flexibility. I don’t want to turn this into a set piece affair, writing on some formulaic “topic of the day,” but at the same time I’d like to bring a little more editorial and quality control to improve how things read and look when they come hot off the press.

I read a lot of blogs and know there are many out there who seem to effortlessly produce large volumes of quality posts. It’s not a contest, but I’m definitely interested in how much time they spend composing their posts and where they get their ideas. I like to think I’m a better writer now that I was when I started blogging. I know I’m certainly more introspective now. I might even be more technically accurate, but better? I’m not so sure. Sometimes it feels too mechanical, like I’m posting just to post.