April 2015 Archives

For-Profit Colleges

It’s not really surprising that Corinthian Colleges shut its doors. It’s also not surprising that there are students out there who are angry the schools are closing.

I see two things come from this event.

  1. Everyone with pitchforks who hate for-profit colleges want to see them all burn.
  2. Too many students are upset because they’re now without a completed degree, but don’t understand their degree probably wouldn’t land them a job in the first place.

When it comes to for-profit education, it’s easy to lump all schools together. However they’re not all alike. In the case of Corinthian Colleges, their “campuses” were really just large commercial/retail spaces that taught very specialized material. Everest College was strictly medial, and WyoTech was strickly mechanical. These schools did not provide general post-secondary education in high-demand fields.

You can typically tell what the overall end-goal of a for-profit college is by what it offers students. In Corinthian’s case, they jumped on the bandwagon carrying people who sat at home watching day-time TV and collected unemployment checks. I know, I used to be in that position. That was the only time of the day they advertised, likely for two reasons:

  1. It’s cheap to advertise mid-weekday in a market
  2. The best suckers are the ones who feel most vulnerable and use Jerry Springer episodes to feel better.

The second reason is likely a stretch and generalization, but there’s also a reason Jerry is only on mid-weekday in most markets.

The people protrayed in the ads are those who Corinthian likely hoped would see them: single men and women of all colors who probably had families to feed and insane amounts of debt. They just want to do something good with their life, so why not medial billing or fixing something?

That sounds great, but neither are careers unless you plan on working for a large facility at some point in your life. In order to even be looked at, though, you’ll have to have a full degree from somewhere accredited.

Problems start seeping through the cracks right about now.

Employers cared very little about Corinthian school educations. If two people applied for one job and had all the same qualifications but one got their education at Everest, you know which one the employer will pick.

This became a real problem for a lot of students because the faux job placement assistance ended up being garbage. I’m sure there are a few out there who got jobs, but I doubt they got good jobs. A good comparison is the IT world. There’s a big difference between fixing computers at Best Buy’s Geek Squad for a career, making $12/hour and working on one of Google’s many systems engineering teams, likely making $75/hour.

I do want to say that not all for-profit schools are a waste of time. Quality comes down to what they offer, like I said before. That sounds counter-intuitive, but let me give a great example.

Argosy University. It’s parent company has had their name thrown around before related to other schools in their organization being less than ideal. Argosy University as a school, however, offers actual accredited degrees, however. Some facilities go as high as Ph.D. and Psy.D. level education with industry accrediation. Everest wouldn’t have ever reached that goal with the quality of education they provided.

While I’m sure Argosy’s parent company has had their fair share of exposure for “meh” educational offerings, in post-secondary education, it’s not always appropriate to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Before I wrap up, I want to make it perfectly clear that I used Everest/WyoTech and Argosy as examples because those are examples I am familiar enough with to use as comparisons. I wouldn’t promote or sponsor any of the schools or companies mentioned in this post even if I was paid to, because that’s not right and that’s not what I do on this blog.

I will also make sure to point out that Education Management Corp, the company that owns Argosy University, hasn’t been without its faults, but the level of investigation and potentially shady behavior has been limited to specific schools in specific areas, not the organization as whole.

So with that out of the way, keep an open mind, but don’t be stupid. If it sounds like its too good to be true, it probably is. In the case of Corinthian Colleges, everything they said they did was too good to be true and what they actually provided couldn’t have been farther from what was advertised.

The Sad, Lonely World of Yik Yak

So I downloaded what some are calling the winner of the Secret-Whisper-YikYak battle for anonymous sharing. YikYak works like Whisper and Secret, except there’s one thing very different about it, at least from what I can tell.

After spending just ten minutes on the app, a trend started appearing. Actually, several trends. If you struggle with any of the following:

  • Boys
  • Periods
  • Love
  • ADHD Drugs
  • General Sadness
  • High School
  • Drinking
  • High School Drinking
  • General High School Sadness
  • Awkward First-Time Sex
  • Awkward Butt Stuff

Then Yik Yak is for you. Ask your doctor about high-strength Yik Yak that involes constantly commenting on stranger’s life struggles with your own quips that likely have a nominal effect.

One thing I noticed with Secret is that people seemed to as least be older than 15. I never tried Whisper so who knows what whack stuff went on there.

So when it comes to YikYak…

Enjoy. I think…

The Vox Media Open Source Meme Generator

I spent some time scouring GitHub this afternoon looking for cool projects. One I stumbled upon was a tool created by Vox Media for creating Twitter cards and Instagram images that included text, source, and site brand logo. I thought it was pretty interesting so I gave it a look-see and started it up in my own space.

I’m not sure if it’ll serve me much purpose and I haven’t seen Vox use it much if at all lately. It might have been a one-time use tool, probably around election time. If you’re interested in giving it a whirl, check it out their GitHub page, their running example, or ~my running example~.

One thing I’m not sure they totally get is that these image aren’t quite memes. These are memes.

Like That Zappos Guy

A couple days ago I talked about killing in people relations, a.k.a kicking @$$ at customer service. I suggested a book by Dale Carnegie called How to Win Friends and Influence People. I also said there was a second book I recommend.

That second book is by the CEO of Zappos, the site that sells a ton of shoes. Delivering Happiness isn’t just about learning how to smooth-talk through the phone or how to close a sale. It’s about making people feel appreciated. The book outlines what Tony Hsieh (pronounced shay) did and still does to make Zappos as awesome as possible.

  • Pay brand-new employees $2000 to quit.
  • Make customer service the responsibility of the entire company-not just a department
  • Focus on company culture as the #1 priority
  • Apply research from the science of happiness to running a business
  • Help employees grow-both personally and professionally.
  • Seek to change the world.
  • Make money.

I took that list from Amazon’s description. They also feature a Q&A with Hsieh that’s quite enlightening and definitely worth checking out. If you have an Kindle or a tablet, I suggest buying it that way as it’s cheaper than the Hardcover and Paperback, and it takes less space. If you’re like me and feel like taking a nap when you read, get the Audible version.

If you’ve read it already, let me know what you think.

100 Books

Amazon came out with what equates to a bucket list for books. Their 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime features a load of great reads crossing all genres and categories. I’ve only read maybe a handful from this list, so perhaps it’s time to start a book club?

Killing It In People Relations

(May 2018: I stopped here there a couple years ago)

My latest challenge in my career is executing the position of Senior Technical Support Lead for the Americas at Zephyr, the software company that is, I believe, up-ending the software test management space. My primary responsibility is making technical support as awesome as possible for our Americas customers. This got me thinking on what resources I could use to my advantage in bettering the experiences our customers have when they call in or open a case at

The first thing is my technical support team needs to be challenged. Not just technically, but challenged within themselves. Each individual needs to be challenged to better themselves including their confidence levels, relationship skills, communication, and being able to think on their feet when the time comes.

That’s a long list of things to work on though and becoming overloaded is the last thing I want to happen which is why I want to use this post to focus on one’s self. There are two really good books that anybody who’s speaking with people on a regular basis should read, one of which I’ll cover today, and the next I’ll cover in my next post.

The first, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Yes, Carnegie’s dead. Yes, the book was written in the old days. Yes, it’s still relevant. What he said in 1936 still holds weight today, because at no point in history was it suddenly OK to be happy with mediocrity. No one said that taking a bland lifestyle should be the norm. We used to call the American Dream the American Dream for a reason. If you dream of middle-of-the-road-ness, then go for it.

I’d bet money though, that you don’t.

Here’s what Amazon said in their formal review of the book (emphasis my own):

Carnegie believed, is due 15 percent to professional knowledge and 85 percent to “the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people.” He teaches these skills through underlying principles of dealing with people so that they feel important and appreciated. He also emphasizes fundamental techniques for handling people without making them feel manipulated. Carnegie says you can make someone want to do what you want them to by seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view and “arousing in the other person an eager want.”

That’s exactly what every individual in a human-facing position should be able to do. There’s a line between being fake and manipulative and being powerful in your position. I don’t think this book covers that and it shouldn’t. Where that line is drawn is wholly up to you, but whoever it is, stand on the good side. As a good friend of mine once told me, “you have to put a leash on it and own it.”

If you only do one thing today make it this: buy this book. Read the hell out of it. Read it again. I want you to consume this knowledge as I will.

Norway’s Radio

There seems to be a bit of confusion surrounding Norway’s announcement they’ll stop broadcasting FM radio. Someone didn’t do their homework when they started writing titles for the various articles that are covering the matter, so I hope I can spend a few minutes and clarify the topic for you.

Let’s start with the original source. An article by uses the following title in their article:

Norway to Switch Off FM in 2017

That sounds pretty ominous like there’s an end to radio broadcasting as we know it, or something. Other news outlets are twisting it into being Norway killing radio altogether.

Too bad that’s not the whole story. The article goes on to talk about how “the Ministry of Culture announced a national FM-switch off, to complete the transition to digital radio.” Wait, so we’re not killing off FM radio? They just said FM is going away.

Yes and no.

FM as we know it (the analog broadcasting medium that requires a lot of radio bandwidth and provides little result) is going away… eventually. In Norway, it’ll start on January 11th, 2017 and will start with national broadcasters like NRK, P4, and SBS. The end of this transition is slated for December 13th of the same year, almost a full 12 months. So really, analog FM radio is dead in Norway on December 13, 2017, not January 11th.

What won’t cease to exist is radio broadcasting. Norway is dropping analog FM for an open standard called DAB or Digital Audio Broadcasting. It also goes by the name Eureka-147 in the standards world because it was created as a research project in the late 90s for the European Union by Eureka, a pan-European research and development organization.

Digital Audio Broadcasting is like the United States’ HDRadio, except the US version is proprietary and owned by a corporation (not surprising, really). According to what I’ve read about DAB and the specs therein, it’s essentially over-the-air broadcasting of MP2 or AAC-encoded audio and is broadcasted as a part of a package of streams within a chunk of radio frequency. Each broadcast allows for 1000kbps of bandwidth per “channel” whereas HDRadio only allows 300kbps and is based on a main broadcast with digital simulcasts immediately above and below on the spectrum.

Digital Audio Broadcasting will never likely catch on in America since the Federal Communications Commission chose HD Radio is the go-to standard nor will analog radio broadcasts ever likely be eliminated in the states, which I’m sure broadcasters here both enjoy and hate at the same time.

Analog terrestrial radio takes an immense amount of power to do successfully and the amount of interference from neighboring towers and stations gets higher as you increase said power. Analog radio bleeds a lot into neighboring frequencies unlike digital so the amount of stations possible in the FM band is limited more so in comparison to all digital broadcasts.

Norway has the right idea. Sure they won’t be using the FM frequencies, anymore, but what does that matter? FM is too low to support any meaningful data transfer and the frequency bands for DAB (Band III in particular) are high enough to stay out of the way of FM (should it become a free zone like CB and Wifi) but low enough to avoid other arbitrary bands used for other purposes. In America, though, Band III covers half of the old analog TV spectrum (174-216mhz plus a few mobile and fixed radio uses). Combining that with the FCC going with HD Radio, DAB is dead in the American water.

I don’t forsee anything to worry about. Typically people that freak out about stuff like this don’t really realize they might already be in a digital broadcasting area and just don’t know it. Analog’s death as a broadcasting medium should have happened a decade ago. It’s expensive and power-hungry and offers very little in terms of feature.

Ten Days a Californian

If my calendar is correct, ten days of living in California is today. As someone who’s lived in one state their whole life, nay, one metro area in one state, it’s been a huge change. The world around me is fresh and exciting, but equally craptacular.

The good news is, I’m not leaving. Maybe that’s also the bad news, who knows. We’re here for the long haul and I’ve discussed and mentally prepared for it quite far in advance. I even highlighted my trip by day in summary (day ~1~, ~2~, ~3~, ~4~) and reflected briefly after all the dust settled.

I’ll just come right out and say it: this place is dry. Not dry like “my clothes are dry, this dryer rocks!” More like: “my clothes turn to dust! This dryer rocks!” The humidity was 14% today. That might not seem like much but to compare, think desert. No, not dessert. One “s,” like the sounds snakes make… in the desert.

See exhibit A.

That about sums it up.

It’s not all bad, though. Moving from a state that gets eight feet of rain a year to a state that gets sloppy seconds from Mother Nature has perks. It’s sunny, a lot! This time of year, we were lucky to see the sun. It rained. Of course now that I’ve moved away, Washington’s getting a sexy session with the sun and there’s a lot of sun to go around.

I’m also tan. It took exactly one day to become tan. Us northern people tan easy. Too bad it doesn’t make traffic any less of a suck-fest and California drivers any more skilled at using their turn signals.

I could rant for a solid hour on California drivers, but I don’t think that’s necessary. This guy has a pretty good summary on video, so consume this 18 minutes of sad-but-true. Half of this I see on a regular basis.

I don’t feel I’ve given California enough credit. The ocean is damn awesome and I love being so close to it. Without traffic, it’s 45 minutes. That’s spectacular. In Washington, it was a four hour romp (each way) that included an hour (each way) and $50 (round trip) on a ferry. Given the scale of the Bay Area, everything’s so close, too. Public transit (train-based) is legit and quick to move around. The bus system blows harder than Katrina, though. Who needs to have a 45 minute layover half-way through a 10 mile journey?

Maybe this guy:


Oh well.

Dust Settling

It’s been a couple weeks since I posted anything substantial, for good reason. Today is one of the first days I’ve had since the beginning of the month to sit down and write, now that the dust is settling. Moving is a big deal and is nothing short of a lot of work. Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing some of my adventures and experiences. After that, I’ll talk about what it’s like for a northwesterner in California, a state that’s had minimal rain since I arrived. I’ll give you a sneak peak: I’m already tan.

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
blogging, design, technology, software, development, gaming, photography