Building a Community of Academics Using Multi-Sites & Multi-Networks – WordCamp A2 2014

I’m speaking this Saturday, Oct 4, 2104, at WordCamp Ann Arbor 2014.  Here’s the teaser from the schedule:

In developing an online voice, higher education faculty face many challenges and a distinct lack of institutional support. Yet there is an enormous opportunity to improve student learning, improve faculty productivity, and reduce costs for faculty through WordPress and related technologies.

Malartu Inc is a non-profit project launched in Michigan to help provide WordPress sites and technologies to higher ed faculty. After a couple of years of planning and experimentation, the project is launching its first sites in summer 2014 using a WP multi-site/multi-network installation. A BuddyPress/Commons-in-a-Box implementation is added to develop a social network space for collaboration within and between schools.

This session will explore the challenges, benefits, and risks of creating a multi-user / mulit-site community with social network features. The presentation is oriented towards: anyone in higher education and power users/developers interested in multi-site.

I’m talking about my recent experiences with my new project, Malartu Inc., a non-profit organization for creating social and web-based technology to help higher education professors be more effective and more productive – especially the legions of professors at teaching schools or that are adjunct.

Here are the slides:

Battle For The Net

If you woke up tomorrow, and your internet looked like this, what would you do? Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites.Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream Cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?On September 10th, just a few days before the FCC’s comment deadline, public interest organizations are issuing an open, international call for websites and internet users to unite for an “Internet Slowdown” to show the world what the web would be like if Team Cable gets their way and trashes net neutrality. Net neutrality is hard to explain, so our hope is that this action will help SHOW the world what’s really at stake if we lose the open Internet.If you’ve got a website, blog or tumblr, get the code to join the #InternetSlowdown here: https://battleforthenet.com/sept10thEveryone else, here’s a quick list of things you can do to help spread the word about the slowdown: http://tumblr.fightforthefuture.org/post/96020972118/be-a-part-of-the-great-internet-slowdown Get creative! Don’t let us tell you what to do. See you on the net September 10th!

via Battle For The Net.

10 Things I Learned At WordCamp This Summer

I’m speaking at the Metro Detroit WordPress Meetup, Sept 21, 2014, and shockingly, I’ve got my slide deck ready well before time!

This slideshow could not be started. Try refreshing the page or viewing it in another browser.

Links for more info:.

  1. Brute Protect:  https://bruteprotect.com/
  2. WP Multi-Networks Plugin:  https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-multi-network/
  3. Future of WordPress Updates:  http://wordpress.tv/2014/06/30/andrew-nacin-advanced-topics-in-wordpress-development/
  4. P2 theme:  http://wordpress.org/themes/p2
  5. API-JSON:  http://wptavern.com/json-rest-api-slated-for-wordpress-4-1-release
  6. Desktop Server from ServerPress:  http://serverpress.com/products/desktopserver/
  7. WordPress Philosophy:  http://wordpress.org/about/philosophy/
  8. ChalkPress:
  9. Making Presentations in/with WordPress:  Other plugin and theme presentation options include:
    1. Jetpack Presentation Shortcode http://en.support.wordpress.com/presentations/
      1. You can see a demo of the Jetpack Presentation Shortcode, including underlying code, at http://bluelotusworks.com/organizing-the-wordpress-backoffice-eight-plugins-that-help/
    2. 3D Presentation http://wordpress.org/plugins/3d-presentation/
    3. HTML5 Slideshow Presentations http://wordpress.org/plugins/html5-slideshow-presentations/
    4. Post Presentations http://wordpress.org/plugins/post-presentations/

Bonus:  Year Without Pants

CAA May 2014 – Economics of Intergenerational Transfers

I’m speaking to today to the Council on Action for Aging at Henry Ford Senior Living Village. I’ll be talking about the economics of intergenerational transfers and how, contrary to the views put forth in much of the news media, the Social Security system is actually doing quite well and “will be there” when even the youngest among us retire.

HLC 2014 – Effective Strategic Planning for Disruptive and Challenging Times

Higher education is facing some very interesting time – challenging and disruptive times. Although virtually all colleges and universities engage in strategic planning, the way they approach strategic planning is ill-suited to the when markets, stakeholders, students, technology, and regulations are changing as rapidly and predictably as they are now. In effect, there’s too much plan and not enough strategy in higher education strategic planning.

My presentation today to HLC 2014 conference (embedded) and more summary below the fold. Continue reading

There’s No “Skills Shortage”

There are plenty of reasons why higher education in the US needs to change. There are plenty of good reasons why community colleges in particular deserve greater investment. But the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) gets it wrong when they claim

There is a skills gap in our country, causing employers to have unfilled positions and too
many Americans unable to find family wage supporting jobs.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.  This is a zombie economic idea.  It’s enormously disappointing when leaders in higher education can’t even get the basic economic thinking straight.  First, let’s just apply some basic economic thinking to it.  Although there are good heterodox reasons for not thinking of the labor market is not an ordinary market (i.e. it’s institutional, not transaction-based), but let’s roll with the idea since so many purveyors of the “skills shortage” myth act like it is.  The implication is that there are multiple “job markets” and that many, perhaps, most are suffering a “shortage”.

So what’s a “job market”.  A simple definition would identify the nexus of potential workers and potential employers in a specific geographic region in a particular occupation.  For example, “welders in metro Chicago” or “CNC machine operators in SE Michigan” or “software developers in Houston” would be examples. Now if there’s a “shortage” in one of these job markets, it means there are fewer sellers (smaller quantity offered, to be technical) and more buyers demanding a larger quantity at the going market price.  Now what happens in both theory and practice when a market has a persistent shortage? Anybody? Yes, the price rises.  Price goes up to attract more sellers and discourage buyers.  And the price keeps going up until equilibrium between quantity offered for sale and quantity demanded become equal and eliminate the shortage. If there were shortages in job markets we should see wages going up!  We should see companies tripping over themselves to offer more and better benefits.  But we don’t see that do we? Wages are stagnant across the board.  That’s because there really isn’t any widespread “skills shortage”.

What we have is business owners and managers reporting a shortage of highly skilled workers who would be willing to work for below-equilibrium and falling wages.  Remember as a nation we’ve drastically cut back on public funding of education and over the last generation  companies have drastically cut their spending on training and apprenticeships.  Those businesses now expect a free-ride from others.  They want workers to pay for their own education and training without paying the wages needed to make that human capital investment worthwhile.  If there were truly a skills shortage, not only would we see rising wages but we’d also see rising college enrolments as the rising market wage encouraged students to invest.  But we don’t see either rising wages or rising enrolments.  In fact for the last couple (few?) years, enrolments have been declining.

I’m not the only one pointing out how bad this zombie “skills shortage” myth is.  Paul Krugman pointed out recently:

    …this new EPI report is a useful reminder of the extent to which another doctrine that sounds serious retains a grip on discourse — namely, the notion that we have big problems because our work force lacks essential skills.

This is very much a zombie doctrine — that is, a doctrine that should be dead by now, having been repeatedly refuted by evidence, but just keeps on shambling along. EPI presents some very interesting evidence from a survey of manufacturing, but they’re hardly the first to show that the data don’t at all support the skills-shortage hypothesis.

But it’s not just Paul Krugman and progressives saying that the “skills shortage” idea is bunk, its leading conservative economists too, like Ed Lazear in this 2012 paper.   Even the Boston Consulting Group, who we might expect to take push the “skills shortage” idea since business owners like to push the idea, seems constrained to follow the data and their data show that:

So what accounts for the high and lingering unemployment?  The Economic Policy Institute looked at the whole issue and surveyed the literature and research in this January EPI report.

There is a sizeable literature on whether a skills mismatch is a driver of today’s weak jobs recovery, and the strong consensus is that the weak labor market recovery is not due to skills mismatch (or any other structural factors). Instead, it is due to weakness in aggregate demand.

That’s it.  We have a shortage of aggregate demand. We have a shortage of customers who spend. We have a shortage of spending. We don’t have a shortage of skills.

Higher education leaders who position their plans based on the false premise of a skills shortage do themselves and their institutions a dis-service, so we may have a shortage of higher education leaders willing to do their own critical thinking and rely on research instead of parroting politically popular zombie ideas. I can understand the temptation of many higher education leaders to use push the idea because they think it will help them get funding. But that’s a losing strategy. By embracing such zombie ideas, they destroy their own credibility with the faculty, the very people they need to implement the changes they’re advocating.