Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chapters 8 and 9

Make your sentences, paragraphs and subsections useful and if need be, persuasive for your readers.  That's the point of chapters 8 and 9 in Anderson's Technical Writing Text.

These chapters really get down to the blow by blow execution of writing.  The major theme is keeping things simple.  Readers typically like the point early and then to have the details later.  By getting the point early in a paragraph or section, they can use what follows to answer questions they had about the major point.  Sentences should also be kept simple and flow logically.  A simple sentence is direct, assertive, and concise. There are exceptions to the call for directness, but this is usually a persuasive tool used to address negatives.  Sentences should also flow from one to the next without major changes in subject without giving the reader a heads up.

For larger groupings, the emphasis is on headings.  Headings should accurately cover the subject matter in their section, and follow an hierarchy that lets the reader connect concepts to a larger theme.  The arrangement of headings is crucial.  They can follow an ordered format, a cause and effect format, a pros and cons, etc.  The format is determined by the objective of the writing.

The use organization in sections, and intelligent choices in sentence structure and words used can greatly enhance the effectiveness of your writing.

Fiver Dollars for the Privilege of Doing Business With Bank of America? Really?

Bank of America could learn something from a McDonald's.  The customer is always right, and expects quick and accurate service.  Unfortunately, the executive team at Bank of America regards it's customers as nothing more than suckers without options, and thus charges them as it sees fit.

So what's the latest offense?  Five dollar monthly fees for debit card holders.  This follows questionable overage charges practices, mediocre customer service complaints and a myriad list of poor business practices.  In a recent New York Times article found at, we're given a few examples of what people perceive as fair and unfair business practices toward customers.  The gist is that we understand supply and demand.  We might lament high gas prices, but we expect and understand it before Thanksgiving.  We don't like paying 20 dollars for a snow shovel when in the summer it was 15 dollars, but hey, there's snow on the drive, and you should have gotten it when it was cheap.  We get that.

What we don't get, is a business charging us for the simple privilege of holding and investing our money for a profit, spending it recklessly, taking our tax dollars to bail them out, and then charging us ridiculous fees to pay off OUR loan to them.  Bank of America has forgotten there are many fish in the sea, and in a competitive market, you'd better encourage customer loyalty.  The article states that, "LARGE businesses can face problems, however, when they forget about the long term."  That's the case with Bank of America.  People expect small offenses from time to time.  People expect you to try to make money.  What they loathe and close accounts for is a list of offenses they see over a period of time.  Long term stuff.  

Bank of America has gotten so big that it treats humans as mere assets resigned to the bank's authority.  It pays lip service to the idea of customer service but has failed in it's execution.  Perhaps it's time to show them how capitalism works by investing in the competition.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chapters 6 and 7

Reader centered research is the focus of chapters 6 and 7 of Anderson's Technical Writing text.  When researching for a writing project, one needs to consider how the audience can use the subject matter of the writing, and if there are persuasive objectives associated with the project, how can the research aid in that objective.

Chapter 6 emphasizes the need for a plan when conducting research.  Knowing what questions you want answered and what points you wish to find supporting evidence for will aid you in narrowing the scope of your research and circumvent dead ends.  Identifying the range of information sources will allow you to more fully consider any points you are trying to make and perhaps see links that might not have otherwise been apparent.  Grouping data into logical subgroups and taking detailed notes can help establish sub point and trends, as well as organize the data and provide references for later use.  As always, understanding intellectual property is critical, and understanding how to obtain permission to use material will aid in lending credibility to your research as well as ensuring no future liabilities.

Chapter 7 deals with analysis of data collected from research.  Again, one should always keep a reader first point of view when analyzing data.  First, review the objectives of your research.  Keeping objectives in mind will help guide your arrangement of data and analysis.  Arranging data into a more manageable form especially with graphics, will help identify trends and relationships at a glance.  Using these tools, search for meaningful relationships as they pertain to your objectives, and then interpret these relationships for your audience.  If conflicting or contrary data is present, account for it as well.  Offering an alternative explanation, even if what you are advocating is different helps credibility, and shows the audience you've considered alternatives.
From your interpretation of the data, state your conclusions, and from this make a recommendation.  Recommendations should be free of bias and account for counter evidence.

Chapter 5 blog post

Chapter five of Paul Anderson's Technical Writing text details methods for persuasive writing. Persuasive writing is either meant to influence attitudes and actions, or to encourage more effective collaboration, and works to reverse an attitude, reinforce and attitude, or shape an attitude on a subject on which your readers currently have none.

The first point the book makes about how to be more persuasive I believe is most essential. It states, “to communicate persuasively, you must listen well.” Listening and being flexible allows you to shape your communication for greater impact, and even revise your thinking to determine a more effective idea than your original idea.

Focusing on a reader's goals and values is the next most important aspect of persuasion. Know their organization goals and values, their personal values, and their personal goals.

Anticipating counterpoints can temper your thinking and help you design a more persuasive communication. Acknowledging counterarguments preemptively and then providing reassurances against them can demonstrate to the reader that you understand and have considered their concerns.

Providing sound reasoning and solid supporting evidence is very useful in persuading a reader. This employed with proper organization, can present ideas to the reader in an order in which they may be more receptive to the data they are given, and thus to your recommendations.

Building a good relationship with your readers will also enhance their receptiveness to your message. Establishing credibility will help them take you more seriously, and presenting yourself as an ally will prompt a more sympathetic response to you. Additionally, understanding when and how to appeal to a reader's emotions can affect your persuasiveness. Not all writing should appeal to emotion, but it can be a powerful tool if employed properly.

The chapter again covers largely intuitive concepts. Understanding your reader will make you far more persuasive.  

Chapter 4 blog post

Chapter 4 Blog post

Chapter four in Paul Anderson's Technical Communication instructs students in writing for reader utility. The chapter continues to remind a writer to adopt a read first approach when writing. In this case, we're interested in the reader's ability to get what they want and need out of one's writing.

This chapter breaks up a writer's considerations when planning for reader usability into 9 guidelines which I list below.
  1. Identify the information your readers need. As the book says, “readers can't use what isn't there.” A literary masterpiece of useless information is still useless to most readers. One must anticipate the reader's questions as well as account for those questions they may not think to ask, but should be given answers to.
  2. Organize around your readers' tasks. Information that is difficult to obtain due to poor organization and accessibility can be neglected. Grouping like information and organizing hierarchically renders your work easier to work with and more likely to succeed.
  3. Help the readers find what they want quickly. Use tools like summaries and heading to direct readers to exactly what they're really looking for.
  4. Look for superstructures for your work. Placing work in a standardized format can help readers who are familiar with the format access the information they want or need more quickly.
  5. Plan your graphics. Graphics can quickly and effectively illustrate a point. Exploit them to enhance your communication.
  6. Outline if it helps. Outlining allows you to experiment with the structure of a communication to determine its effectiveness.
  7. Account for cultural expectations. Different cultures have different ideas of what needs to be conveyed.
  8. Check your plans with your readers. You don't have to have a finished work to seek reader input. Inquire about their needs, and what will help them most.
  9. Investigate stakeholder impact. Determine who is impacted by your writing and their feelings on potential impacts.

The chapter details a very intuitive aspect of communication in general: Think of your audience. Even in simple speaking, being aware of whom you are speaking to and what they need or wish to hear is essential to the effectiveness of your communication. Not surprisingly, the same follows in technical writing.

Good News on the Economy...Sorta

The U.S. economy, for the last year, can be spoken of in a good news/bad news format. A recent entry in the CuriousCapitalist ( states the obvious: Yes, we are growing, and no, we're not growing fast enough.

The Good and the Bad

Yep, the economy is in fact, creating jobs. In 2011, about 150,000 jobs were created per month. The bad news? We'd like to see 200,000 per month. The good news? With a large number of baby boomers retiring, we might only need about 120,000 jobs created per month to reduce unemployment. The unemployment rate has dropped to 9% now, even with an influx of workers no longer claiming to be underemployed or "discouraged." James Paulsen at Wells Capital finds this encouraging. "The revisions show the economy is not as weak as we thought." Paulsen said. Good news right? Sorta.

While we are growing, our rate of growth is not increasing. The explanation is pretty simple. The housing market is not growing. Foreclosures are high and property values are still declining. A robust housing market spurs many other corners of the economy to grow. Without one, growth is merely marginal. So if people are getting jobs, and thus getting paid, where is the money going? Debt. With consumer and government debt as high as it is, any growth in employment rates will only have slight effects on economic growth. Expect the trend to continue.

Business article

Is the Sun Setting on the Euro?

Financial tremors are shaking the European Union, and nobody seems to sure about where it all will stop.  The European debt crisis seems to be spiraling out of control, and with the lack of cooperation between the member countries of Eurozone (those countries who share the Euro as a common currency) righting the ship is an increasingly dubious task.

Haves and Have Nots

Founded in 1999 Eurozone is a monetary and economic union whose intent was to establish agreeable and standard trade conditions among member nations and promote economic advancement. The easy flow of capital across national borders between the union's “haves” and “have nots” led to unsustainable spending, and an economic crisis at the end of a standard of living boom. The “haves” are the core nations of the union. Countries such as Germany and France, whose net trade deficit is in their favor. These core countries have more developed economies, higher worker productivity, and are primarily production based economies. The periphery nations, mostly Mediterranean states, suffer a negative trade deficit, have less developed manufacturing economies, and rely upon service industries such as tourism, making them vulnerable in a recession.

When Eurozone was founded, the periphery nations took advantage of surpluses from the core to improve their own economies in the form of capital investment. Short term debts were rolled over in favor of investment. Workers' compensation across the union increased, while productivity remained relatively constant. The periphery nations paid a high rate of exchange against the core, and hoped to make up for this with cost of goods produced. The core countries, however, did less to improve workers' conditions to maintain a competitive advantage. The result was an iniquity in trade regardless of the Eurozone's intent. From the founding of Eurozone until about 2006, the global economy was expanding, riding on top of a giant speculative bubble. When that bubble popped, the periphery nations were left with the bill for investments made in an unsustainable future. Now the global economy has stagnated, and the nations of Eurozone don't have the ability to produce either more efficiently, or more cost effectively.  The "have nots" of Eurozone's periphery are now on the brink of collapse.

Greece: The First Straw

Greece was hardest hit by the recession. Greece has long had an economy highly dependent on tourism but the inflated property values drove assets to unrealistic levels.  The global economic collapse coupled with lack of control over its own monetary policy left Greece without the flexibility to address it's own financial crisis. Bond yields on Greek government bonds rose above 7% triggering investor panic. Greece was left without any measures to pay its debts in the short term. Greece had to accept a bailout of 110 billion Euro's in May of 2010. The floundering Greek economy shows no prospect of being able to produce a surplus at present, and thus any financial relief from other nations is conditionally dependent on Greece enacting harsh austerity measures to reduce their national deficit. Such measures have met with widespread protest with the Greek populace.

The Plot Thickens:  Periphery Nations in Trouble

Portugal and Ireland have followed suit, accepting over 150 billion Euros in bailouts contingent on similar austerity measures, met with similar ire from their citizens. Spain has also followed suit, suffering from 21% unemployment, and nearly 40% unemployment among the nation's youth. The unemployment situation in the periphery nations, coupled with the harsh austerity measures needed just to pay public sector bills and long standing obligations have pushed tensions in these countries to a breaking point.

Italy: The Last Straw?

This week, Italian bonds have seen yields exceeding 7% despite the European Central Banks attempt to buy them and decrease this figure. This rise in yields is alarming to investors who recall the Greek collapse at 7%. Italy's debt is so significant that even an initial bailout package of 550 billion Euros exceeds the Central Bank's bailout fund. Unfortunately for the EU, Italy is too big to fail, but too big to save. Fears of Italy's collapse are driving up bond yield rates even in stable European countries, putting every member of Eurozone at risk.

Collapse Inevitable?

So is the disintegration of Eurozone inevitable? Economist Nouriel Roubini says it's a fifty-fifty chance. The major obstacles to stability in Europe are a weak economy, reluctance of the periphery nations to accept harsher austerity measures to balance budgets, and reluctance of the core nations to accept higher rates of inflation to ease the financial burden on the periphery nations. Even if the core and the periphery can accept these harsh measures, the economic and cultural inequalities of these two entities remain, inviting more issues down the road.

With the Euro's value relative to the dollar on the decline, yet another advantage of the Euro is fading. The periphery nations could see an advantage in breaking the union to re-establish sovereign fiscal policy and enjoy the benefits cheaper exports to boost suffering economies in addition to avoiding further unpopular austerity measures. For the core nations, funding bailouts and the risk of inflation have put even their usually firm footing on a slippery slope. Breaking the union would significantly increase the relative value of currencies like the Franc and the Deutsche Mark.

Collapse may not be a certainty today, but each day brings more speculation, and less certainty. Both are toxic ingredients to a union that desperately needs stability to stay alive.

For more information:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Demise of the Euro?

The Euro seemed like a good idea didn't it?  Meant to facilitate easy trade and circulation of capital between neighboring countries in Europe, and to promote economic development in the member countries, at first, the Euro showed a lot of promise.  The problem with a monetary or economic union, is that they don't work to well if people aren't on the same footing going in to the union.  Greece and Germany, the former being a "periphery" nation in Eurozone, and the latter being a "core" nation in Eurozone never were on the same footing.

After spending and borrowing aggressively in the hopes of being more competitive in the early part of the decade, Greece ran into a buzz saw late in the decade when the financial and real estate bubbles burst.  Having overspent and having not made significant gains against the other economies in the EU, countries like Greece, as well as Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Spain suddenly found themselves with unpaid debt and insufficient economic output to cover the gap.  Lacking control over monetary policy only further complicated their problems.  Now, facing coercive bailouts at the price of extreme deficit cutting measures, the periphery nations face a conflict between civil unrest and uncertain waters outside of Eurozone.

 Meanwhile, Germany and company face the distinct possibility of losing a currency value advantage if they leave Eurozone, but can at least avoid rising inflation associated with continued bailouts for the periphery.

It's getting harder and harder to see why these dance partners got on the floor to begin with, let alone why they'd stay past the witching hour.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The internet isn't a playground anymore - Its a marketplace, and you are marketable...or not

Courtesy on an on-line think tank:  Careful what you say or do online.  Your job may depend on it.  An article from career thought leaders found at pretty clearly shows us something I think we all knew or at least expected already.  The internet isn't a digital Woodstock.  There are real consequences to your actions in this once considered last bastion of free speech.  Sure you can say what you want online and post what you want online, but now, just like in the the old fashioned analogue world, your actions can come back to haunt you.

Why?  Because employers are increasingly interested in your online demeanor when determining if you're a good candidate for that 6 figure job.  The article featured a small sample of HR professionals and hiring managers but the results were overwhelming.  They're very interested in how you act online. The article claims that of those employers who used internet data mining to screen candidates, "70% have used data they’ve found online to reject job candidates – despite their own concern about the authenticity of that information."

Already, the majority of employers use information about you found online to draw conclusions about your professional potential.  This trend is only going to increase.  On the bright side, perhaps losing the faceless anonymity of the internet and its consequence free environment, will help our younger tech savvy generation develop the social skills they seem to have neglected in favor of online personas.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Modern job searches: Now they are looking for you online

After reading a recent article stating that employers will soon be primarily searching for their candidtates online as oppposed to the former practice of resume revue.  I have come to a few conclusions.

1.  It seems that self promotion has taken the place of professionalism.
While it used to be that the desire for a position had to be accompanied by qualifications it would seem the         new formula for job placement is based solely on ones ability to advertise.
2.  This new practice of searching for potential employees online blurs the line between social media and professional placement and opens the individual to embarassing and compromising information being exposed.
3.  Regardless of my feelings or of anyone elses feelings about this new trend, I anticipate the employement process will become even more wired.  Eventually I see interviews being conducted by Skype, personality profile exams online and perhaps in the future one might not even travel to work to perform their job.

It is difficult to accept changes in the professional environment since we deem professional to be a set of behaviors defined by our own preconceptions, but the bar is moving. What would be considered professional today is a far cry from the previous generations professional.  I'm sure that tomorrows professional will be different from todays.