Games of Skill
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Part Time Job Bank
Real Life Status
If you asked the technical staff for a "wish list," every list would include a training item. Technical people understand how critical knowledge is to their survival. Most likely they've suffered through a project where they didn't know enough, and the acts of discovery were painful.
At any group meeting, within minutes of noting the need for training someone feels compelled to explain how it's too expensive and this particular period is not a good time to have the staff away from the office. Typically, this is spoken with such nervousness that you know that even if the training was affordable, having key people unavailable for any period of time would be stressful for those left behind. In today's high pressure environments, the combination of budget constraint and pure lack of time kill the chances of on-going, meaningful training.
Direct opposition to the impossibility of formal training is futile. Better people than you have fought the training battle and lost. It's time to stop charging the fortress with rakes and shovels and look for another way.
Another tact might offer an answer. What if training cost $9.95 per month and didn't require anyone to leave the office? In addition, let's say that it was on-going and addressed the latest technologies. Now we're talking. Even the tightest finance guy and the most nervous project manager could live with that.
A Web site could easily provide a full range of technology training at an individual subscription rate of $9.95 per month. It might require some downloading and a script to keep the network interaction down, but those are manageable difficulties. I can think of no technology that can't be converted to an interactive computer based training course. Forget the frills, just presentations, questions, review, and a method for finding additional information. Ten million techies would subscribe.
When I need an answer on an technical application, I need the answer quickly. Sometimes the problem is simple; other times it requires complex configuration and recovery efforts. It doesn't much matter where the answer comes from, as long as it addresses my problem. This should be an opportunity for third party support providers to capture the excess traffic from overloaded technical support desks. In fact, many customer oriented companies contract assistance when they feel their customers are not getting adequate response. In sharp contrast, others would rather abuse their customers than let any revenue slip away. Therein lies the opportunity.
Furthermore, it seems like most support questions surface repetitively, and the customer support personnel are just repeating back what they have learned through this repetition.
If that's the case, and the problems are repetitive, it would seem that third party support would work as well and might eliminate the delays and poor response from poorly staff support desks at the primary manufacture. Furthermore, if support was truly assessable, it would be easier to proactively explore how things works before going ahead and hoping for the best.
Every topic that I've come across evokes the same questions. Each has a predictable set of who, why, what, where, and how do I get around that questions. They're known. Every technical manager and supervisor has to answer these as each new person comes through the organization. Multiply that by thousands of companies and technologies and the weight of simple questions is staggering.
Since these queries are predictable, it seems like a natural for a unified FAQ's service. Topics may range in the hundreds of thousands, but current database technologies should be able to hand that.
Face it, people like to gamble. It's exciting, and the chance of a high return is quite an allure.
Another, often ignored attraction comes from the enjoyment that comes from using your skills. If a game allows you to be more clever, or apply the rules better, or have a better memory than an opponent. Attacking a problem and being successful is pleasurable. If success is rewarded with money or other useable commodities, you have a solid model. Las Vegas was build on the skills and hopes of black jack and craps players.
Chances are the Internet will become a massive betting/gaming facilitator.
As has been demonstrated with the explosion of interactive gaming, people enjoy testing their talent against others. It might be against a high score on a pin-ball machine, or against another person in a game of chess. The challenge and reward of victory is quite enjoyable, especially when it's unencumbered by the political maneuvering and interpersonal complexities of a traditional workplace.
The enjoyment of chasing a high score is usually enough, however, if a real reward was thrown into the equation, the event would be worthy of serious attention. Let's say, for example, a card game like Texas Hold'em could be played against several opponents on-line. The person who understood the dynamics better, who knew the odds better, would win. The spoils would be the pot, just like a real poker game, but without the need to travel to the card parlor and sit next to a heavy smoker.
If the rewards were real and substantial, players would gladly lose money initially, understanding that a certain level of training must be experienced in live action. The true skilled players, on the other hand, would reap these rewards.
Indeed this has been the goal of all risk takers and gamblers -- invest in study and practice: if you're good enough, you receive the rewards. This is an excellent match for the quick wits and risk takers on the internet.
Find a game that pits skill against skill and enlist contestants in some legal way. Obviously some percent, let's say 5% goes to the organizers, but the rest ends up in the hands of the most skilled. You'll attract thousands. Don't believe it? Consider the success of Las Vegas.
When material is read on line, it seems that downloads take place at the most inconvenient time. As I page down and am waiting to view more material, the network transmission starts. It would have been much better if the transmission could have happened while I was reading the previous page.
It doesn't take an AI algorithm to project that if I am reading a three page document and I'm on page one, page two is what I want to see next. Since that's the case, download the next page while I'm reading page one and have it ready to display when I key to it. At that time load the next page. This leap-frog system could simulate a seamless interface.
From a browser's perspective, it would need a "next page" link that could be inserted at the end of each file. Whether it was stored in memory or on the local disk could be configurable. In fact, the loading coincides with much of the cache logic already in place.
Our part time work force stands as one of our greatest untapped resources. The savings in fuel, commute time, and road maintenance alone are substantial. More importantly, once acclimated to the work requirements, a substantial amount of talent would become more available. Those who previously restricted their talents would more be available.
Many people would love to have each afternoon off. There would be time for the basketball, hikes, research and experimentation. Exploration and commitment would become the mainstays of the culture.
A good deal of my everyday decisions are a guess. I take a chance that it's a good time to good to the local supermarket; I guess that the lines at the Post Office are short. The aggravating part is that I could easily go some other time, a time when it's less busy. I need a way to monitor if the lines are acceptable.
A real-time camera or status line on the Internet would help a great deal. I could make decisions and organized my activities based on the state of events without having to monitor them physically.
I've seen ads for a camera feed that transmits image at a 28.8MHz rate. Designed to pass live scenes to Web servers, it sounds like an excellent fit for this use.
My favorite applications for real-time monitoring information are:
If I could dial into an Internet site and get a live feed of these situations, my life would be much simpler.
Since I wouldn't stay connected, there would be little traffic drain on the users' end. Updating at the server would impact the unit's I/O capability, although stretching the intervals to 5 or even 10 seconds would eliminate most problems.
I would gladly pay a reasonable subscription for this service.
Web-Based Training Cookbook
by Brandon Hall. Wiley, 1997.
Web-Teaching: A Guide to Designing Interactive Teaching for the World Wide Web
by David Brooks. Plenum Publishing, 1997.