my recent reads..

Reflections on a learning model

The conscious competence learning model has uncertain origins, but is probably the best known model for learning. Maybe that's because it is so simple and intuitive - I suspect making it exactly the right kind of 'model' to be picked up by the business book and management consulting fraternity.

It seems to me best applied to the development of "skills" (like riding a bike or programming in python), and less so to changing bahaviour or habits (like giving up smoking).

But for skills it works really well, and the simple 2x2 matrix of conscious-competence yields lots of interesting observations to ponder.

That's my version of the matrix. I re-label the "conscious" axis as either "self-conscious" (as in you are painfully aware that you can't do something), or "automatic" (where you have reached the stage where performance is reflexive).

Where you start, where you get to, and the path you take are really dependent on the situation and the individual. In the picture above, I've indicated a starting point of where you are self-conscious about the fact you can't do something; although the literature talks about the strict theoretical starting point of being totally unaware you can't do something (automatic - cannot do in the diagram).

So anything interesting to note?

  • Progressing from knowing you can't do something to thinking you can (the redish line above) is, I think, a perfect defintion of what we call "blur like sotong" in Singapore

  • How straight-line your pregession towards automatic-can do is probably a good guide of "natural ability"

  • Learning (or training, education and guided practice) tends to shift you up the scale of competence only - since it is more about giving you the knowledge and techniques to do the job 'right'

  • Experience (or practice with reflection) tends to move you up the conscious scale towards the point where it is automatic.

So is this model of any practical use? As a point of reflection on your own, or your collegues situation, I think it can be a good but crude diagnostic. It makes you remember things like just plain training needs to be coupled with real experience to get you all the way up the curve.
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Show the Whale!

Adam Keys and Geoffrey Grosenbach introduced the term for 2008 on the rails podcast: show the whale.
I think it's perfect, and in my lexicon already!
==> No, this is not the official fail whale logo! The real one was done by Yiying Lu, a young designer from China/Sydney, who now is world famous thanks to twitter's stability problems.
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24 Season ... 7?

Props to Sophia for finding me the Jack Bauer quotes at 24 wikia.

It's a curse to be reminded how long we've been waiting for Season 7, but great to find out that a two-hour Season 7 prequel, 24: Exile, will air in the US later this year on November 23rd.

Hmmm ... time to break out the 1-6 box set again and go sleepless for a week. That will be the longest week of my life;-)

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Heroku - Ruby in the Sky with Diamonds

I've been using Heroku since I heard about it on the Ruby on Rails podcast. It offers a hosted Rails development environment (all web-based), with instant deployment ... essentially you are running your dev, test and production environments 'in the cloud'. Heroku themselves use Amazon S3 I think.

It's worth checking out, even if you are not specifically interested in rails. A great example of how to operate 'up in the clouds'.

A couple of key things I've learned/noted in working with heroku..

Disabling the heroku toolbar

You probably don't want the heroku toolbar appearing for public users of your application (and I found it had some issues with IE). Disabling the toolbar is done by creating a file config/heroku.yml:
toolbar_collaborators: true
toolbar_public: false
request_timeout: 10

(picked this tip up from the mailing list)

Running with Rails 2.1

Rails 2.0.2 is the default, and 2.1 support took a while to arrive. It's here now. Simply update your config/environment.rb file to specify..

Distributed Version Control

Version control using git is rolled into heroku. And if you want to develop locally, there's a heroku gem that simplifies setting up your local clone. Once git and the heroku gem are installed, a typical session goes like this:
heroku create myapp
heroku clone myapp
cd myapp
ruby script/server
[ locally for a while..]
git add .
git commit -m "some changes made locally"
git push
[ on the server for a while and commit..]
git pull

Postscript Aug-09: heroku have since split their services in two:, which includes the online, web-based editor, and which is intended for high-performance production deployment (with no online editing)
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