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The Unfulfilled Promise of MOOCs

23 May
MooMassive Online Open Classes (MOOCs) will make higher education more accessible. They will bring courses and teachers to the most remote corners of the world (assuming the corners have Internet connections). If you agree that ignorance is a key cause of many of our biggest problems, you can immediately see the appeal of MOOCs on the macro level. Accessible higher education will bring us closer together, help us with a common global viewpoint that can narrow the gap between ideologies and (hopefully) economies. And that is what made The New York Times proclaim in November that this is the year of the MOOC (not very clear if they meant 2012, or 2013). Ivy League schools jumped in with classes, startups launched and investors started drooling at the smell of investment opportunity. People like me, with somewhat grown kids, and well-on-their-track careers, rejoiced that there was finally something intellectually stimulating that goes outside of the book club experience.
MOOC notes

I learned to outline my thoughts like that in the analog American University in Bulgaria. Still waiting for a better/digital way to do so.

And there lies the problem with MOOCs — it is a great way to enrich your knowledge, to broaden your intellectual foundation and explore subjects adjacent to your field or that you have a personal passion about. What MOOCs fail to do is inspire the initial desire to learn, or offer a straightforward path to a comprehensive base of knowledge.

First, there is the issue of content. At the time of this post Coursera lists 374 classes available from a long list of colleges and universities. While the number is impressive, and there is a pretty good varierty of content — from Introductory Physics, to Growing Old Around the Globe. What is missing is a path —what do I do when I finish my Intro to Psychology class? Would there be a follow up course that will help me delve deeper into a subject I loved? EdX, which is a MOOC platform funded by Harvard and MIT, offers only 51 classes. Wouldn’t it make sense to have some standards that identify where the class fits within a full curriculum, so that you can chart your own path? And how do you determine which class is worth your time and which isn’t? How do you know what you do not know?

Second, the course may be massive and open, but it sure does not feel like there is a community around it. By the social media standards of today, courses are using a “first generation” technology. It does not help that each course brands the tools they are using with their own creative names and each has slightly different capabilities. One class I signed up for sent me to three different websites for the homework, for the lectures and for the discussions. I tried this class exactly once, for 10 minutes. Instead of innovating on top of what is available in terms of community and social networking technologies, MOOCs seem to be relying on the most basic of these technologies.

And here is the third challenge. This kind of learning requires very little commitment and investment. That is what makes the courses attractive but it also what makes dropping out painless and guilt-free (and guilt is a big motivator for me). It does not help that you cannot see ratings of previous classes or the professors that teach them so that you know what to expect — we did not have that system of reviews in our analog colleges either, but the real social interactions we had in the dorms and between classes told us which professor to avoid and which class was a drag. So I blindly sign up for mildly interesting classes, knowing fully well I would stick with one.

Helping people find the right classes and encouraging them to stick with their choices will be key if MOOCs want to become a valid educational option. What motivates us is knowing that we are investing our time, even if we do not invest our money, in something meaningful. And this is where the MOOCs fail — they are intellectually titillating, but not that meaningful. Yet.

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The Immigrant Novel

15 May

At a recent conference, a tech guru said something interesting (probably not original, but it was well put). What drives us are two conflicting desires — the need to be unique and the need to belong. While in different cultures one of these desires may be slightly more dominant than the other, overall, it is a pretty accurate way to sum up a universal truth about people. It is also a source of a permanent conflict for immigrants. What we have in abundance is uniqueness. What we strive for is to belong. But in order to do that, we have to leave behind, unlearn, forget and even denounce some things that make us who we are.

Molding to a new culture can make you question yourself as if you are a teenager, rebuilding the idea of who she is every time she passes a mirror, a real one or her reflection in someone else’s eyes. It is exhausting. It is an impossible conflict between who you are, who people think you are and who you want to be. Perhaps, that is why it is such a fruitful topic for good novels — because it is complex and human, and requires a mastery of language to express the nuances of emotions that paint even the most mundane situations a deep rich blue:

Shards

imagesEven when you escape a war-torn place, a part of you always remains there. Like your reflection in the shards of a broken mirror, you are not whole but a sum of overlapping, skewed and twisted images, each from a slightly different angle, in slightly different light. Even when you manage to put the pieces together, the cracks remain, like permanent scars. Ismet Prcic’s scars are much deeper than mine. 

Brooklyn

brooklynThis is a book about hope and about love and the sacrifices people that leave and people that stay make in the name of hope and love. It makes you think about the cost of change and wonder (on gray days) if the choice and freedom to build a new and better life might be a Pandora’s box, better left unopened.

Ru

ruThis lyrical book is not as much of a novel as it is a reflection on identity. Tragedies are described in simple words, a stream that sometimes almost feels monotonous and that is what makes them more striking. A key recurring theme is the power of extended family in retaining your identity. Ultimately, this is what grounds you, whether you are in the country you are born, or on the other side of the world.

The Victim of Progress No One is Talking About

23 Apr

No, I am not talking about our brains, our ability to do math or concentrate on tasks that take longer than 30 seconds to accomplish or thoughts that require more than 140 characters to explain. I am talking about smells, pleasant or not, that are gradually disappearing as technology weasels itself into our lives to make them better, smoother, easier, less smelly but more sterile than ever. And as it does, it is also erasing some of the childhood memories.

I am writing random things down these days, and last week I just realized that I have compiled a list of smells that are disappearing. These were different smells – home cooking, bookstores and iron, but their archenemy, or reason they do not exist anymore is more or less the same—progress.

AC vs. Roasted Peppers 1:0

chushkopekMy home cooking observation requires a bit of background. Growing up in a Bulgarian city meant that the smell of summer was not the smell of sand and beaches, of wild flowers and summer rain. The smell of summer was roasted red peppers, fried meatballs, fresh garlic, onion, dill and parsley being chopped, minced and otherwise manipulated to elicit the maximum amount of flavor and smell. You would walk in a neighborhood and smell what everyone is cooking for dinner. That was because everyone would cook on their balconies, instead of their kitchens. Why would we do that, especially if the temperature could easily pass 100F? Simple — we just did not have air conditioning. Cooking outside was hot, but at least it did not heat up our bedrooms. It also livened up a lot the rather monolithic apartment blocks as neighbors chatted while waiting for whatever they were cooking to thicken, crisp up or boil over.

I went back to Bulgaria last year for a high school reunion in late June. Leaving a still soggy Seattle, I was looking forward to the heat and the smell of summer as I remembered it. Alas, that smell is gone. Instead, every apartment has an AC unit on it. Windows are closed. Nothing wafts from balconies when you walk by a building, no chatty neighbors gossiping about their day, work, friends, other neighbors. You just hear and feel the dripping of the ACs.

The old “just books” bookstore

Another lost smell is that of the bookstore. Granted, bookstores in general are endangered species, but even the ones that remain do not smell the same—of new or dusty books, of paper that is getting brittle with time. They smell either of coffee (because is there a bookstore without a snacking station anymore?), of magazines which have perfume-y scent from all the inserts in them, or the book smell is diluted from all the toys, music, Nooks and non literary gifts that occupy more and more of the bookstore’s inventory list. I did not realize that the smell is missing until, on a trip to Prague, I walked by a small bookstore. It was not an antique or used books bookstore – it was a regular no frills, no Starbucks dusty and comforting smell of things to read.

Iron – the smell you hate, until it’s gone

Have you ever touched a metal handrail and then, accidentally, discovering the discomforting smell of iron with hints of old blood on your hands? Or have you ridden an old train, and the smell of metal permeating your hair, your clothes and leaving a metal taste in your mouth? I hated it and still do, but I am also a bit sad, that I do not sniff this anymore. Am I missing the iron or the long vacations that the train took me to or the creepy iron cage elevator door that made me wonder if I would make it to the top floor?

Proust and Childhood Memories

It is not surprising that these smells mean so much to me. Scientists call this the Proust phenomenon – or the ability of odors to trigger really powerful childhood memories. But what about the smells that I have forgotten and that have disappeared? Are they locking other sweet memories? How can I recover them if the world has changed so much since I was a kid?

And what would be the smells that would open my kids’ memories 20-30 years from know? Kindles, iPhones and Facebook do not smell. Perhaps it will be the smell of airportis and pop tarts.

If only we could make Google Nose happen!

P.S. Dare to guess what the photo is? 

 

@Medium – The Next Big Thing in Content or a Snobbish Exercise in Self-Gratification?

7 Apr

Medium is not yet a fully launched or fully defined content platform but is popping up in all of my online reading places. When you check it out, it is distinctly clean, simple and minimal—no extra links, cute photos, too much sharing or navigation options. What is supposed to make you stay on the page is what is written on it. And the contributing writers are very, very impressive – Steven B Johnson, Sarah Doody, Felix Salmon, to name a few. In the world of busy Facebook, WordPress, Tumblr and BuzzFeed, Medium is like a breath of fresh air.

It is also very, very annoying in its current form.

We shall not cease from exploration

Screen shot 2013-04-07 at 8.03.58 PMMedium is organized in collections. The person that creates the collection can decide if others can contribute to it. Yet there is no way to search for collections, or authors. If you happen to stumble upon an article you like you can click on its author and see his/her other posts and collections. For example, I found out that Steven Johnson is a contributor from a tweet of his. If I had not stumbled upon that (it is not like Twitter is designed to help you never miss anything), there was absolutely no way for me to know that Johnson was a contributor. Who else is writing for Medium? I don’t know and it is not possible to find out.

I am sure that Medium’s goal is to encourage visitors to immerse themselves in the content rather than jump around too much and to an extent it is succeed. But Medium should not be doing that at the expense of readers’ ability to find what interests them. Even in a library, this old fashioned mausoleum of slow reading and serendipity, I can search for the books I want.

If you hit a pony over the nose at the outset of your acquaintance, he may not love you but he will take a deep interest in your movements ever afterwards

Screen shot 2013-04-07 at 8.10.17 PMThat seems to be what Medium is trying to do with the persistent “How Do I Post” button. It follows you on every page, taunting you to ditch whatever inferior platform you are using for your blogs and become part of this elite writing community. You click it and then you are slapped in the face with the snotty “Creating new posts and collections will be open to everyone soon.” There is nothing wrong with not giving everyone permission to post this early. And the question about how you can post is important. But if you are not ready to give people access, do you really want to ask them on every single page if they want it?

As every parent will tell you, if you are out of candy, you do not ask your kid if they feel like chocolate.

If that is not frustrating enough, try to find information about the site.

  1. To get to About Medium, you need to click that same How Do I post button.
  2. That takes you to the Medium Help Center, which has some generic language about Medium still being in preview mode. There is also a link to the FAQ page
  3. The FAQ page has a list of questions, but most of them are NOT answered on the page.
  4. Instead you need to click a link to a blog post that answers each specific question. And guess what, there is no breadcrumb navigation to take you back to the FAQ page.

In short, if I have a question about Medium, I need to take at least four steps to get to an answer, and the only entry point is through the “You want some chocolate? Too bad!” button.

To Launch or Not to Launch: That Is the Question

To be fair, the site is still in closed beta and as many online entrepreneurs will tell you, it is a challenge to find the right balance between features you want to show early and get people excited about (great writers! minimal distraction!) and the ones that you are fine-tuning to work flawlessly before you unveil them (scale, search).

Medium’s motto is “Sharing ideas and experiences moves humanity forward,” but the preview site leaves me with the feeling that the creators meant to add “if, when and however we feel like it.”

I still love the idea and believe it has a huge potential to become a destination for thoughtful content. But until the official site is launched, I will only visit Medium when I think that my self confidence needs to be taken down a notch.

Note: The use of literary quotes undoubtedly qualifies me for a beta contributor. Should this happen, I reserve the right to change my opinion of Medium and re-center on its brilliance.

April 21 Update: Last week I was invited to contribute to Medium. To try it out, I used  my  Nostalgia Is Fake post. Unfortunately, the problem of discoverability remains. Other small and probably on the way to be fixed issues also remain. Go to Medium.com and try to find me or the Analog & Antisocial collection. When you are ready to give up, here is the link: https://medium.com/nostalgia-what-could-have-been

Note Taking, or Rediscovering the Wheel

3 Apr

I like reading and I read quite a lot. But I am not good at remembering and this deficiency is only made worse by the constant distraction (self-inflicted or not) of online content, social media, apps, push notifications, email and so on. So recently, I started making a concerted effort to take notes of things. The incentive for that was the failed book club – I realized that to be able to comment on what I read, I need to write my thoughts down. Otherwise, I remembered the plot, but all the other more insightful (or simply a bit less obvious) observations went “poof” in a matter of minutes. When I started to write things down, I also thought about them more. Instead of just moving on, I paused to reflect and describe what I felt. And then I started taking similar notes at work, around the house, while taking the kids swimming…

685px-Commonplace_book_mid_17th_centuryI read Where Good Ideas Come From and had an epiphany (or what its author would call serendipity) – I was reinventing the commonplace book. I had never heard of the commonplace book. When I was getting my fill of 19th and 20th century literature and science, I was still in Bulgaria, so the term must have been translated to a “diary” or just plain notebook. But what a fascinating idea. Have a notebook to write things down. Not a digital to-do app, a mind-map tool or an email, but an actual notebook.

What’s my point? I am not sure. What I know is that if I did not have my newly created “commonplace” book, I would probably have already forgotten things like:

  • David Sedaris’ brilliant New Yorker essay on going through the hassle of immigration bureaucracy, let alone this vivid and hilarious:  “The picture in my stolen one [passport] was not half bad. But in the new one I looked like a penis with an old man’s face drawn on on it.”
  • My own reflections on how crowdsourcing resembles the creation of folk art. Grimm’s tales are just the recorded version of a story, to which everyone contributed, changed the plot, the ending, or the name of the prince.
  • How LinkedIn editorial attempts and posts like “5 tips to succeed” and “10 things to avoid” remind me of Dear Abby advice columns for people who are looking for a job or marketers (who else goes to LinkedIn?)

This may sound like rediscovering the wheel. But I bet for the people that actually had forgotten about it, rediscovering the wheel was huge. Bigger than sliced bread. What is sliced bread? Write it down less you forget.

The Facebook Book Club “Disaster”

24 Mar

reading-nook-design-ideas-2A few months ago I came up with a brilliant idea (or so I thought). I love reading books and I spend way too much on Facebook. Why not bring the two together and form a virtual Facebook book club? (Isn’t that what Good Reads is, you may ask, and my answer to that is: Does Good Reads also have pictures of your friends’ kids, pets and vacations?)

So, on my list of 180 FB friends (I am not that popular after all), there were a few who responded to the recruiting call. They shared the news with their friends, but apparently they are not that popular either, because at the end we ended up with a book club of 35 people. While that is a pretty good number if you compare it to an “analog” book club.

The rules were pretty straightforward. We take turns picking a book, we read it till a certain date, and then we post discussions and reviews. Well, we lasted exactly two books. So what caused our bookish enthusiasm to wane?

When we set up the book club, we decided that we will also use the group to comment on what we are reading as we go along. Facebook gave us an opportunity to jump in and share an insight or question right away without having to wait for the end of the month meeting. But it turns out that while the real time-ness of it theoretically should have encouraged comments, as the novelty of it wore off, so did the real-time comments. The absence of ongoing conversation meant that one of the biggest potential advantages of a virtual book club was gone. Which really exposed one of it huge drawbacks—getting together with a bunch of friends, over wine and snacks, to discuss something you all experienced was not possible on Facebook.

Our book club was big, but as we did not know each other that well, our tastes in books varied. Perhaps that resulted in book choices that were more limiting than we needed to engage everyone. I can’t help but think that people felt a bit more restrained in their discussions with this group of people they knew only virtually. Would we have had a different discussion on Italy in the 50s, if we knew where each one of us was coming from and knew what other things we, the club members, had in common? This single shared interest was not enough to keep us engaged with each other, it did not inspire us to get to know each other better or outside of the book club.

This is not to say that a bad choice in books does not happen in a “real” book club. We’ve all had our fare share of book choices that make us secretly groan and roll our eyes. But having to meet with your club peers in a month makes you endure the book and forces you to either find some redeeming qualities or, if you like the confrontation, build an argument for why it sucked. And here lies the other weakness of Facebook – it does not create the strong bonds between people that are the foundation of guilt.

Perhaps we were all just a bunch of detached Northwesterners. But I can’t help but think that it is not just our aloofness that prevented us from making the Bookclub Experiment a success. And I must admit, I am sort of glad for that.

My Grandma Was a Genius

16 Mar
Grandma with me and my cousin. I am the smiley one. People change.

Grandma with me and my cousin. I am the smiley one. People change.

Part of my work is to keep track of trends. These are usually technology trends, but as technology permeates pretty much every aspect of our lives today, what starts as a technology trend, quickly becomes a social, economic, or behavioral one.

Economist SharingOne of the recent trends I was reading about was the so-called collaborative consumption or sharing economy. The idea is that instead of buying the stuff you need, you can share it with peers, so that you spend less, you waste less, and you are less tied to the objects you own. Makes total sense! I had to read it in The Economist though to remember that that was one of my grandmother’s little pieces of wisdom. If you can borrow something from a neighbor, why spend the money to buy it? And that got me thinking about some of the other maxims she would often disperse. It turns out she predicted most of the trends we are all buzzing about.

  • Sustainability – Grandma hated throwing stuff away. She would save and reuse plastic bags until they started falling apart. She would wash yoghurt containers and find new ways to use them. In her tiny apartment, she would have drawers full of scraps of paper, fabric and strange stuff that she had saved to reuse. She was not a hoarder who stores things just so they have it. She believed that these things would come in handy. And they often did.
  • The Maker’s Movement – Chris Anderson wrote a book about it, but long before that, grandma knew and tried to teach us that creating something yourself, or adding a personal touch to something manufactured makes it special. She never realized her dream to be an artist (she dropped out of the Arts Academy to marry my grandfather), but after she divorced him and her girls grew up, she managed to turn her skill into a side business. She took up painting “champagne” bottles. There were two kinds of bubbly wine in communist Bulgaria – red and white. At weddings and christenings, people would often buy it to celebrate, but since it was not that good, it often did not get drunk. Grandma would do a personalized painting on the glass bottle, turning the undrinkable carbonated wine into a keepsake. I wonder how many liquor cabinets in my hometown still have an unopened champagne bottle from the 70s and 80s with a painting of a basket of roses, or Easter bunnies…
  • Seasonal food – You can tell a great cook from an OK one if they can do something out of nothing. My grandma was a great cook. But even when there were food shortages, she would try to cook with products that are fresh and in season. Even after a long winter, she would not buy the early tomatoes, because they would not have any taste. Waiting for the real tomatoes, the ones that have had a chance to ripen in the sun, that smelled like summer was worth it for her, even if she had to cook with the canned stuff for another month. It did not hurt that the canned stuff was home made from the late tomatoes from last summer, either.
  • Sugar and flour are evil – Grandma was fat, in a soft and comforting sort of way. Ever since I remember, she would try to loose the weight to look better and feel better in the summer heat. She did not need to read diet books or talk to a nutritionist (honestly, even the idea that such a profession exists would make anyone in Bulgaria laugh out loud) to know that she needed to cut out the bread and cookies. But she loved baking and she just had too much fun cooking, and enjoying her food. One of her self-depreciating jokes was that she was on a diet—she ate her fruit without any bread. She would have laughed if someone tried to convince her to that a low fat cookie or yoghurt, full of sugar, would help her get slimmer.

I would not get into her advice about picking the right bra or husband, but grandma had lots of other common sense insights. Granted, a lot of her wisdom came from economic hardship – she had to stretch a small income and, later, a pension, as much as possible, but it also comes from a feeling of self-confidence and self-knowledge that we seem to have lost or that we have stopped trusting anymore. So as Wired or The Economist proclaim the next trend and we all rush to analyze it, my first question will be “What would grandma think of that?”

On Feminism and “Born Again” Housewives

14 Mar

ImageI was reading all the recent hoopla about Sheryl Sandberg’s, Facebook COO’s, “sort of feminist manifesto,” Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, and remembered that 17 years ago, I wrote one of my own. I dug it up (I have one single hard copy, no cloud back-up in 1996) curious to find out if I would still agree with the ideas of my twenty year old self. The essay, which won first place in a Peace Corps International Essay Contest on Women Issues, was not entirely born out of passion (the chance of a money prize was a great motivator back in my college days), but I was surprised to see that I still agree with most of what I wrote.

I will spare you (and myself) the entire essay. The core of my argument went like this:

  • Women do have to overcome traditional stereotypes and prejudice. The fact that we still have to discuss if successful women are as likable as successful men shows that our thinking has not evolved much since 1996.
  • Balancing professional achievement and family is hard. Women who do so are often considered not feminine or motherly enough. By choosing a career they are compensating for a key feminine deficiency that prevents them from excelling at the traditional wife/mother role.
  • Many decide that balancing being a professional and a good mother is too hard and go back to the traditional role. In an effort to justify reverting to it, they embrace it with the zeal of a “born again” soccer mom. They erase their professional achievements and give up on the effort to define themselves in any other way but through their families.
  • Ultimately, it is this “all or nothing” attitude that creates a permanent feeling of guilt and perpetuates the challenges we face as women.

ImageContemporary French philosopher Elisabeth Badinter made a similar, much more sophisticated argument in her book The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women.  And I agree with her, the strive for perfection can be as debilitating and as regressive as the oldest of traditions, regardless of if its self-imposed or society-driven.

The Bottomless Glass of Evgeny Morozov

4 Mar

Eastern Europeans have a natural (or, as we will argue, historically necessitated) proclivity to be negative and I fit that stereotype pretty well. I am not a glass-half-full person. “Tell me what you are doing, and I will tell you what is wrong with it” is a pretty accurate description of my attitude. So, you can’t blame me, if I get fixated on someone whose glass is so empty that it makes mine look like it’s overflowing.

Meet Evgeny Morozov – a fellow Eastern European and “a writer and researcher, who studies political and social implications of technology.” It is an amazing field to dedicate your career to. On one hand, technology changes so quickly that, by the time you have discovered a phenomenon to study (music sharing via Napster, anyone?), it is gone. At the same time, our understanding of individual and group psychology and behavior is growing exponentially. One would imagine that the combination of these two factors would provide a researcher with plentiful opportunities to observe, investigate, develop and test hypotheses, build and tear down assumptions.

And then you have Morozov. He does not exactly study and research technology, he speculates about its impact. All of us in the tech world do a lot of that, but his bias is so strong that to describe him as a researcher is as accurate as to say that the American Family Association is about family. Judge for yourself:

  • In his latest New York Times piece, The Perils of Perfection, he argues that we should not use technology to fix our imperfections unless we are confident that the technology solutions Silicon Valley comes up with have pure intent. On the surface, that makes sense. And then you think about, where medicine would be right now, if we took the same approach with pharmaceutical research. Should we ignore progress, if it is driven by the desire for business success?
  • Earlier in 2012, he lamented about the Death of Cyberflaneurism, that ancient art of browsing the Internet for useless information. I guess, sites like Brain Pickings, which does an amazing job of finding interesting information; Prismatic that curates news content for you, or even Facebook (let alone Pinterest), where friends share a lot of useless stuff, make the art too easy.
  • And then there is his recurring column, Future Tense, on Slate.com. If someone reads his posts a hundred years from now, they would conclude that the Internet is killing us.

ImageTo be fair, Morozov does have a nose for the silliness and over-the-top enthusiasm of technologists. His ridicule of pointless services that Tweet after you die, products that “erase” the homeless from your view, or forums (TED) that make a communist parade seem propaganda-free, are absolutely on target. Yet, when I read his pieces, I can’t help but think of agent Nelson Van Alden, Boardwalk Empire’s puritanical government official, whose obsession seems a tad unhealthy. Does Morozov denounce technology because he likes it too much?

In one of his pieces, Morozov quotes Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski, who argued that being inconsistent is the only way to avoid becoming a doctrinaire ideologue. Morozov writes with admiration:

“For Kolakowski, absolute consistency is identical to fanaticism.”

Smart man, that Kolakowski.

Yahoo!’s No Working from Home Move — a Strategy for Self-Selection

26 Feb

“They pretend they are paying us, we pretend we are working,” went the old communist joke that accurately described the attitude towards the state-run economy and the dead end “careers” it provided. But while they lacked prestige and growth potential, they offered stable if meager compensation and security. Can this be the philosophy of Yahoo!’s army of “remote” workers and what has prompted the company to ban working from home?

ImageIn a decade, Yahoo! went from a shining star and an innovator, to a company with a mirky vision with no clear path on how to get there. As a result, there was a period in the late 2000s, when BusinessWeek and The Wall Street Journal reported regularly on the Yahoo! talent exodus. It happened so often that it stopped being newsworthy. Executives came and went, strategies changed and as the board pretended to have found the latest path to recovery, the people that remained lost their sense of direction.

Those of us, who have had the misfortune (or, if you are a half-glass full person, valuable learning experience) of toughing it out at a dead end job, know that how long you put up with it depends on various factors — from how experienced and good you are at what you do, to what stage of your life you are in. But no matter what the reason for staying is, if you think that you are making a compromise with yourself and your career, you inevitably start “pretending” to work.

This might be the real reason for why Yahoo! wants everyone back on campus. It is hard to fire everyone and rehire the people that really want to be there. But by summoning them back, it hopes to weed out the true believers from the pretenders. As everyone from a former communist country will tell you – there is no better shake out than when we stop pretending we believe our own propaganda.

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