Wednesday 23 June 2010

Beware of deceptive LinkedIn recommendations

Professional social networking
LinkedIn* is more or less the professional networking site that allows for people to keep tabs with people one has somewhat interacted with in professional life.
For a person who has been self-employed most of my working life and has worked in many organisations, LinkedIn offers a forum to keep tabs with people I have worked with and also allows one to keep abreast of the careers of those same people.
Most recently, I tapped this professional network for job opportunities after having been out of work for almost a year and that mostly due to serious illness. I was glad to find that many of my ex-colleagues responded with sympathy and help which eventually lead to a job.
Self-referencing resource
I have also found that the LinkedIn profile can serve as an adjunct to a curriculum vitae (CV) because it can contain information that would not necessarily appear on a CV for instance, it can be a self-referencing portal if an employer reviews the profile finds people you have worked with and probably knows those people or organisations and make qualified assumptions or deductions of the prospect.
A slightly more subjective but useful function in LinkedIn is the recommendation feature, it can be interesting and indicative of the views ex-colleagues have of a person, hence, it is important that the writer and recipient pay particular attention to the construction, content, context, intent and import of the recommendation.
The recipient is given the opportunity to edit and recommend to the writer changes that would reflect better in order not to have the opinions misconstrued by other readers.
Understand before acceptance
Where English is used but not the mother-tongue, it is even more pertinent that the matter be reviewed by an English speaker before publication. I have at least in a number of cases had to decline recommendations that were subject to unfavourable interpretation even though the intentions were noble and generous – such however should not be enough to allow a recommendation or it would be the equivalent of shooting oneself in the foot.
I was completely mortified when I read a recommendation posted on a LinkedIn profile, I was half persuaded to highlight that the intention and the meaning were at complete variance. However, on reflection, the writer might well have meant what he wrote and the recipient none the wiser about the nuances and pitfalls of the gentle English putdown has proudly published this damning assessment of abilities sandwiched in passable praise.
The short recommendation
Person is a great consultant with a lot of knowledge from everything. Doesn't bother helping you with all sort of things. Really a great team worker and a nice colleague.
Three short sentences that speak volumes that are either lost in translation from a Dutch context or are a good excuse to use language as a deficiency to castigate in the most unfair light.
Person is a great consultant with a lot of knowledge from of everything. Either way, the knowledge from or more correctly, the knowledge of everything could easily read as a Jack of all trades and a master of none. The more charitable turn of phrase would probably have been a very broad knowledge of technical concepts – giving it a more specific frame of context. Whilst Dutch allows for verbosity and generalisations that could be easily contextualised, English is not that forgiving.
Does he bother or does he mind?
Doesn't bother helping you with all sort of things. This is the damning part because it reads like he doesn’t mind helping you in every way but it says he is the most unhelpful person you can find regardless of the situation presented to him.
It might be that the writer thought bother was synonymous with mind; in some contexts ‘Are you bothered?’ or ‘Do you mind?’ could be interchangeable but definitely not here. With Google Translate to Dutch the meaning did not carry as well until I modified the sentence to read as “He doesn't bother helping you with all sort of things.
Dutch requires that the object and subject are very explicit in a sentence, it is not that good with implicit references and so this passed the censorship of the recipient when it should not have gone any further.
Can he really be?
Really a great team worker and a nice colleague. This would leave one almost wondering what the writer was trying to say after the first two sentences and it might well allow one to consider the possibility of a Freudian slip. Malevolently, this was the sweetener to the bait, obfuscating the intentions in the second sentence.
You might call it pedantic but recommendations are read with a greater attention to the detail rather than the general idea of what the writer is trying to convey – this recommendation has in my opinion torn the professional reputation of an otherwise knowledgeable and great consultant who is a nice colleague to shreds.
To think this recommendation has been published for over 2 years might well mean the damage is already done.
As for my opinions of the recipient, I could not possibly comment any further. The advice is, never accept wholesale a recommendation you do not fully understand and comprehend regardless of the good intentions of the benevolent writer.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Social Engineering email scam

I don’t know you
I thought I would post this before dashing out to catch my plane to Berlin for the weekend.
This email arrived in my mailbox with the premise that one of my web mail accounts might have been illegally accessed.
That kind of information, I would like to know if my email provider is monitoring strange activity on my account, but when it is addressed to undisclosed recipients, one has to get suspicious and when they ask for your password, well, it is a scam.
Don’t believe a word
This is a classic social engineering means of instilling fear to obtain information from the unassuming, not only can this be used to obtain private details as passwords, it can be extended to more intimate information as account details, identification numbers and more.
Just class the email as junk mail and a scam attempt, NEVER give your personal details to anyone, you might be offered the opportunity to verify or change information but never to give that information for any type of administration.
The service is theirs to offer but the access codes are yours to keep and never to be shared with anyone except under the duress of the law where all adequate measures have been taken to protect your rights.
The graphic below shows my views of what I read of the email. Beware!
Admin email scam

Monday 14 June 2010

Nigeria: A remark on the skills pool

A reflection of poor standards
It is rather unfortunate to say that the matter of the correct usage of English as presented in the blogs I have written about Babcock University might well be the tip of the iceberg of poor standards of education in Nigeria at all levels.
Our obtusely patriarchal setup stops people from questioning authority when wrong, prevents people from demanding accountability and quality in service provision and lulls people into a sense of complacency and acquiescence when the untenable is visited upon them.
This generalisation finds true in many circumstances especially with the case of many employees who have not been paid their wages for unreasonable lengths of time and have no recourse to any legal redress or actionable means to compel compliance.
Betters replacing Nigerians at home
The educational matter however touches on both formal and vocational elements of the delivery system such that in certain sectors of vocational discipline Nigerians are losing out to fellow West Africans who have mastered the skills better, have a sense of purpose and objective and are probably willing to undercut in terms of pay others who demand more but offer little.
Certain employers have found that many supposedly educated employees with graduate degrees in business and other disciplines do not have the requisite skills expected of people who have had university education.
The expectations of initiative, independence and minimal supervision of presumably expert personnel is dashed, that senior managers with the vision and direction for the organisation find themselves micro-managing their reports as if they are unskilled workers.
It is a sorry state of affairs if an employer has to resort to sympathetic employment of people who are kept on board for the fact that they have families to feed rather than because the employees are assets within the organisation earning their keep.
Education is the key
A complete overhaul of our educational system is required from ground up, from primary school education where pupils should be not be taught by rote but given the tools to comprehend the how’s and why’s of what they do in school.
Where teachers are not seen as demigods ready to mete out punishment with the whip as children are herded and nurtured as stubborn goats with the hope that the fear of violence might spur them on to grudging success.
The methods of measuring success do need to be re-evaluated, the brainiest kid should not be the one who has been able to regurgitate to paper what was in the notes verbatim but one that shows a clear understanding and comprehension of the requirements to answer the questions or provide solutions to problems creatively, sensibly and with a sense of original thought.
Children need childhood
Children need vibrant childhoods that allow for work and allow for play, the opportunity to read, explore, discover, question and debate without the fear of being rebuked because some age-old custom is being queried.
These fundamental childhood experiences are what give birth with ingenious and amazing minds and ensure that opportunity is equal and accessed with confidence later in life.
Our bad traditions of learning
Adults too have to adapt; inquisitiveness and precociousness should not be immediately be read as insubordination and the disrespect of authority, even adults can be wrong and they should be ready to admit that fact without the fear of losing face.
Engage, don’t ostracise; nurture and mould, don’t pigeon-hole; teach, don’t force-feed; lecture, don’t dictate and really, do let the children laugh – they do not have to suffer just because our childhoods were less colourful and lacking in excitement or adventure than what they might be ready to experience.
In this kind of atmosphere, no child will be left behind because the strengths of each particular child are known early in life allowing for the right guidance and help such that later in life they are aligned to the talents they possess rather than following from preconceived path of development that leaves them bereft of their abilities, personalities and sense of purpose.
The breed of child we need
Just imagine the number of students who on seeing the errors on the Babcock University website would have constituted a panel to edit, proofread and correct the mistakes being confident that they have a stake in the university without the fear of retribution but the expectation praise for doing the right thing.
We should be able to take on any institution for the sake of ensuring things are done properly, correctly and to a standard of quality that exhibits the presence of initiative, drive, ambition and vision.
Nigerian children can do this but only if they are nurtured in ways that allow us to become world-beaters in everything we do – it would not come with the kind of educational system we have now and the graduates being churned out of the universities today.

Sunday 13 June 2010

Nigeria: Ike follows the Babcock University cock-up too

Comment at your peril
I always welcome comments on my blogs and I do not get many. However, anyone who does leave comments has at times taken a dare, I am no shrinking violet.
Nothing gets me more than when those who leave comments on a matter that I have decided to take an authoritative stance respond without depth of reason, application of logic and lacking credence challenge those views without a modicum of rigour – to then attempt to without impeccable scholarship to qualify my views as ignorance leaves the person having tread too long on roads angels would not dare venture.
I’m English
I am no English major, but with English as my mother-tongue being the language I could first speak before any other by reason of birth and then tutelage, I could be forgiven for being particular, if not pedantic, I do not take the subject lightly.
When I wrote the blog questioning Babcock University’s use of Our Believe [1] rather than the commonly accepted use of Our Beliefs, I knew where I was coming from with the research I conducted before publishing the blog.
My view was a university with three departments that offer courses in language and the communication should not resort to improper use of phraseology or questionable contexts along with the fact that a good deal of their website had not been properly proofread.
Butt in with credibility
My advice was they constitute a panel of capable students and staff to review and edit the content as an activity that speaks to the expected rigour and application of meticulous scrutiny one would expect of a university.
Someone called Ike has now waded into the matter with two comments and in the process has incurred my wrath and I have to deal with ignorance masquerading as erudition, rhetoric disputing with reason and error seeking validation through the excuse of exceptions without authoritative example.
The comments appear below and I hope he goes back into his hole before he smokes out himself as unable, incapable and unworthy of engaging in constructive discourse.
1st Comment by Ike
Point of correction re "Nigeria: English cock-up at Babcock University"
Believe and Belief (out with the noun verb relations, the verb form "Believe" plays exceptional role in the active. For example, if you have it, it’s a belief; if you do it, you believe, that's why you have it there as "Our Believe" and not belief(s). As you know Babcock is a religious institution and it's about what they do (active). Second, to convey a particular message one uses inverted commas (“…”) in writing technical grammar , hence “lofty aim”, as against “lofty aims”. The next time you learn English grammar, try to learn about conditionals and exceptions (ausname).
My response
Dear Ike,
You offer no credentials in terms of your argument.
Incorrect usage being offered as an exception is an interesting view to take but there are no usages I can find anywhere that allow for "Our Believe".
I stand by my original comments and you only have to go through the whole website to see the so-called exceptions your bizarre attempts at erudition offer - proofreading, correct usage and distinction are expected of universities regardless of if they are religious or not.
This is a university not a tabloid where exceptional constructions, malapropisms and puns might well be the allowed without contention - English grammar cannot be given to personal (university) sentiment for the sake of entertainment or communication at its primitive best.
Then when read in context, if "lofty aim" were the only attribute, it would have sufficed, but the list of attributes in quotes, requires the declension to aims.
2nd Comment by Ike
Mr. Akin, you wrote "Incorrect usage being offered as an exception is an interesting view to take but there are no usages I can find anywhere that allow for "Our Believe".
Now, you have a good opportunity to go and find, don't be contented with your ignorance. Learned people do well by searching and researching, good luck.
PS. As in your earlier response ("...communication at its primitive best.) should have read ("...communication at its' primitive best.)
My response appears here
Dear Ike,
I did my research and you are the one that will come across as ignorant, the only other place where I have seen “Our Believe” in use is at another offshoot of a Nigerian university, no reputable institution from my Google search has used anything other than the other forms that are correct as. “We Believe”, “Our Belief” or “Our Beliefs”.
My response was challenging you to give credence to the views you offered which you have failed to do by asking me to go and conduct more research which I would willingly do because left on its own, I have experienced too many garrulous Nigerians who shoot from the hip offering flawed logic as authoritative fact just because they can shout louder than others – it does not wash with me.
A noun or verb
As you note in your 1st comment – “For example, if you have it, it’s a belief; if you do it, you believe, that's why you have it there as "Our Believe" and not belief(s).” The first part of that clause is supported by a reference on the usage of belief and believe [2].
Whilst what you have is a belief and what you do is what you believe, what we have is definitely our belief and what we do constitutes what we believe or what we have is our beliefs.
In Do Animals Have Beliefs? [3] The writer states that ‘"Belief" is ordinarily reserved for more dignified contents, such as religious belief, political belief, or--sliding back to more quotidian issues--specific conjectures or hypotheses considered. But for Anglophone philosophers of mind in particular, and other theoreticians in cognitive science, the verb "believe" and the noun "belief" have been adopted to cover all such cases; whatever information guides an agent's actions is counted under the rubric of belief.
Belief is by usage and context strictly a noun, believe is a verb which in proper usage should not be made a noun.
Possessions to qualify
Besides, what “We do” cannot become “Our do”, as a pun or malapropism it might be allowed but it is not accepted English grammar, it is “Our doings” – there are basic rules of grammar the possessive adjective [4] “Our” which does not replace the grammatical person [5] “We” which is first person plural.
The function of an adjective [6] is to modify a noun or pronoun and no dictionary definition of believe [7,8,9,10] allows it to be used as noun, it is a verb, sometimes a transitive verb but NEVER a noun except where it is prefixed with make- as in make-believe.
Nigerian English is Bad English
The only situation where Our Believe might be allowed might be in what some might term Nigerian English [11] with in fact is pidgin English because formal Nigerian English is derivative of British English and as a consequence usages of Nigerian English are aspects of linguistic creativity or just bad grammar – for a university, we can conclusively say Our Believe is wrong and Ike should go back to kindergarten English school.
If there is any contemporary body of academic work that clearly distinguishes Nigerian English from standard English apart of parlance, nuance, inflexion or urban usage, it is time for that to have serious review so that the rules, syntax, semantics, contexts and grammar can be learnt by all including myself.
As for the other comments by Ike, I will forgive that fact that I was addressed as Mr Akin when it should have been Mr Akintayo and as for “its” and “its’” [12], are you really that ignorant?
Why have I bothered with doing the research you should have done? Well, because lazy people like you can never prove anything you say.
If there is a lesson to be learnt from all this, those who live in glass houses should never throw stones – I hear the clatter of shattering glass in your glass house of poor English – my commiserations.
One concession to Ike
Ike, if have a rebuttal to any of my views with the requisite research, to use your own words. “Now, you have a good opportunity to go and find, don't be contented with your ignorance. Learned people do well by searching and researching, good luck
I will publish your rebuttal without edition or comment as is, on my blog with a recant if necessary – my email address appears on the blog.