Saturday, December 10, 2016

Public Speaking isn’t the most common Personal Fear in the third annual Chapman Survey of American Fears for 2016 - reptiles are

On June 26, 2016 I blogged about the 2015 Chapman Survey of American Fears in a post titled How could you spin the results of a fear survey where public speaking wasn’t even in the top 5, 10, or 20? One answer was to ignore most of the results and instead focus just on one category with 18 rather than 89 fears.

That same strategy can be applied to the 2016 survey. As shown above, we could focus just on the 15 Personal Fears and ignore the other 64. In a post at The ONE thing blog titled How to become a talented public speaker and tell a story that makes an impact they ignored that public speaking ranked 33rd out of 79 fears and instead said:

“If the mere thought of standing in the front of a room and talking to a group of people has your heart pounding and palms sweaty, rest assured, you are not alone. Public speaking is the second most common personal fear. According to a Chapman University survey, over a quarter of people are afraid of speaking to a group. Being the center of attention and knowing that all eyes are on you is a truly terrifying prospect for many people.”

That’s silly because overall 8 of those 15 personal fears were ranked in the Bottom Ten (as also is shown above). I have shown the percentages listed in the Chapman blog post, and mine based on raw data without adjusting for those who didn’t answer (refused).

How could you do even worse? By missing the fear or reptiles. In an October 31, 2016 article at Brain Alchemist titled 5 Blood Curdling Fears and Worst Nightmares of Public Speaking Anastasia Pryanikova claimed:

“According to findings of the Chapman University Survey on American Fears, public speaking is the top personal fear in 2016, afflicting 25.9% of Americans.”

In another blog post on October 22, 2016 titled According to the 2016 Chapman Survey of American Fears, adults are less than Afraid of Corrupt (federal) Government Officials and only Slightly Afraid of the Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare) I discussed how to calculate a Fear Score where:

1.0 = Not Afraid

2.0 = Slightly Afraid

3.0 = Afraid

4.0 = Very Afraid

The Fear Score for reptiles is 2.060, or just above Slightly Afraid (2.0). For public speaking it is 1.933, and even below Slightly Afraid.

An image of a timber rattlesnake came from Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Before you waste time replying to a help wanted ad, make sure you know what game they are playing

On December 7th I saw two posts on the Jane Genova Speechwriter-Ghostwriter blog titled Lifehack, et al. - Read through Application Before Applying and The Cover Letter - It’s Not About You. The second one was missing some important information about analyzing a help wanted ad, which I learned about way back in graduate school.

One game is when the employer really is looking for someone to hire. A second very different game is when they already have found a foreigner, and now need a tall pile of applications to prove that they simply couldn’t find a suitable American. The second might well be referred to as a green card game, and you don’t want to play it.

Sometimes it is fairly easy to tell when the second game is being played, because there are overly specific requirements listed that look like and were reverse-engineered based on the background of the candidate who already really has been selected. You don’t need to go learn game theory to recognize that game is being played. 
Another variation on the second game is an EEO game, where an inside candidate already has been selected (or is very strongly preferred). Then the opening still must be advertised to keep HR looking clean. That EEO game happens both with companies and government agencies. It can be less obvious than a green card game.

Back when I was in graduate school some other PhD students and I were invited to a local research lab to present seminars about our thesis research. Someone from human resources (HR) asked us if we would like to fill out and later return their job application form. We were flattered, and did so. Of course, we never heard back from HR. But in the next few months we did hear that they had just hired a foreign student who’d received his PhD from an Ivy League university.  

Sometimes the games go even farther. Once when I was looking for work I was invited to interview at a research lab up the Hudson River from New York City at the very end of the year. Almost everyone there had an engraved wall sign in a holder next to his office door. The only exception was a Russian engineer, who obviously just had been hired. It was clear to me that HR was finishing using up their annual recruiting budget by paying for my plane ticket, hotel, and car rental. 

Help wanted ads sometimes show up repeatedly, as Jane described in another post titled Education Labs - Here the help-wanted is yet again, on May 30, 2016. Back when I was in graduate school, I remember an ad in the back of Metals Progress magazine. It was for an engineer to work on clad metals at a very large electronics company. That ad showed up every 18 months or so. By the third time it looked very peculiar. I wondered if it was a job that only Superman could have filled successfully.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Spouting nonsense: Alanna Ketler claims surveys about our fears show public speaking consistently ranks at the top of the list

On December 5th there was an article by Alanna Ketler at the Collective Evolution web site titled 9 Uncomfortable Life-Hacks That Could Pay Off Forever. Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone.

They were to:

1] Wake Up an Hour Earlier Every Day
2] Keep a Food Journal
3] Track Your Spending
4] Question Everything
5] Be Honest
6] Pick One Thing to Master at a Time
7] Accomplish an Almost Impossible Task
8] Practice Public Speaking
9] Incorporate Some Form of Meditation Daily

Under her #8, Practice Public Speaking she began by claiming:

“Surveys about our fears show that public speaking consistently ranks at the top of the list, even before death, and I have certainly had my fair share of horror stories in this realm.”

Of course, that is total nonsense, so she earns a Spoutly. Two obvious counter examples are the 2016 and 2015 Chapman Surveys of American Fears where public speaking was ranked 33rd out of 79, and 26th out of 89.

She might have gotten her silly claim from Glenn Croston’s book The Real Story of Risk, as I discussed in an April 25, 2015 blog post titled Is public speaking by far the scariest thing that people face? Even more than death? No, it is not!

Perhaps Allana should have paid more attention to her #4, Question Everything, where she had said:

“This one is important. Do not take the information that is presented to you at face value. Question everything. If you see something on the news but a little piece of you has some doubt, look into it further and do your own research. Do not just believe everything you read, even if it’s an article on Collective Evolution! Look into things further and form your own opinion.”

Monday, December 5, 2016

A brief book review of Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts

Earlier this year a wonderful book for introverted kids and teens was published. It is Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts by Susan Cain, with Gregory More and Erica Moroz. It follows-up her earlier book, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. In 2012 she also gave a widely viewed 19-minute TED Talk on The power of introverts.

Each chapter in Quiet Power contains several brief stories, and ends with a summary of points and usually a page of instructive cartoons by Grant Snider. For example, Chapter 13: Quiet in the Spotlight is about performing and sharing your talents with others. It has:

Introductory stories about Carly and Liam, followed by A Shy Introvert shines (Ryan), The Fairy Godmother Sings Soprano, A Nudge from Mom (Victoria), Free Trait Theory, and An Audience of Dolls (Caitlin). The Summary is titled How to Shine in the Spotlight, and it has sections titled Prepare, Study the Experts, Slowly Build the Pressure, Familiarize Yourself, Breathe, Smile, Connect, and Look Outward.  

The four main parts of this book and their chapters are:

Chapter 1: Quiet in the Cafeteria
Chapter 2: Quiet in the Classroom
Chapter 3: Group Projects, the Introverted Way
Chapter 4: Quiet Leaders

Chapter 5: Quiet Friendship
Chapter 6: Quiet Parties
Chapter 7: # Quiet
Chapter 8: Opposites Attract

Chapter 9: Quiet Creativity
Chapter 10: The Quiet Athlete
Chapter 11: Quietly Adventurous
Chapter 12: Changing the World the Quiet Way
Chapter 13: Quiet in the Spotlight

Chapter 14: The Restorative Niche
Chapter 15: Quiet with Family


Quiet Power is not perfect. I disagree with her statement on page 249 in A Guide For Parents:

“But if your child is one of the many with stage fright - public speaking is the world’s most common phobia, afflicting extroverts as well as introverts - here are some ways to help him overcome it... “

That is an doubly inflated unsupported variation (both geographically and by fear level) of a statement in Quiet:

“...public speaking is the number-one fear in America, far more common than the fear of death.”

It would be much more useful to point out some real survey statistics on adolescent fears. Back on January 29, 2012 I blogged about Is public speaking the greatest fear for US teens? I discussed how in a 2005 Gallup poll it was not even in their top ten. On  June 11, 2012 I blogged about What social situations scare American adolescents, and what are their top 20 fears? In that post I discussed results for 14 situations from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). 24.9% feared speaking in class, compared with 13.3% for going out/dating. 

On February 18th NPR had an interview with Susan described in an article titled How Parents and Teachers Can Nurture the ‘Quiet Power’ of Introverts. It includes a discussion on public speaking.

I wish something like this book was around when I was a kid. How shy was I five decades ago, when I was in 10th grade? I was the second of five children - three boys Harry, Richard, and Thomas, and two girls - Ellen and Sally. After school Ellen was talking with a group of her girlfriends and waved to me to come over. I thought she might be playing matchmaker. No such luck. She had told them that her brothers really were named Tom, Dick and Harry (in reverse order), but they thought she was kidding. They all knew about Harry, the Eagle Scout who was a whiz at math and chemistry. And they all knew about Tom, the musical prodigy who became the lead cellist in the school orchestra while only in seventh grade. But I (Dick) was invisible. Until she introduced me, none of her friends believed that I even existed.   

Finally in 11th grade I really started to blossom. In trig class I got asked to put homework problems up on the blackboard and explain them. My classmates began to realize that I almost always got them right. I also was one of three 11th graders who took Advanced Placement (AP) chemistry, and got a 5 on the AP exam (meaning when I got to university I didn’t have to take either semester of freshman chemistry). On the qualifying test for National Merit Scholarships I was a semi-finalist, and also outscored a girl who later became one of four valedictorians (Later my sister Ellen got a National Merit Scholarship).

In 12th grade I  took both AP physics and calculus. I got a 5 on the AP exam for calculus, and a 3 on the one for physics. I began my freshman year at Carnegie-Mellon University with a semester worth of AP course credits. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A bad way to make passwords secure

On November 23, 2016 the Computerworld website had a SHARK TANK article with a software horror story titled Now THAT’S password security. It described what a government employee encountered when he tried to login to another agency, as he had to do quarterly. It seemed like he could never remember his password, since he was told it was invalid each time he tried to use it again. 

“Eventually, fish can no longer restrain his engineering urge, and he decides to do some testing to identify the actual problem.

First he attempts a login, and as usual it fails. He goes to the password-reset page, but instead of typing his new password into the input box, he types it into a text file, then copies and pastes it. That way, he knows he'll be inputting exactly the same password every time.

Then he immediately logs out and tries to log back in by pasting in the password. And as before, the new password fails.

Fish tries several more times, and it keeps failing -- even though it's the same pasted password every time.

Clearly, it's help desk time. Fish makes the call, and after several rounds of debugging and testing, there's finally a clear answer: The passwords that fish is creating when his account is reset are all too long.

‘But instead of failing, the reset system simply chopped off the extra characters and saved the result’ fish says. So my password of ABC=12345 became ABC=12. But on the password-setting page, there was no mention of a maximum length, and no error message for a too-long password.

And a year later, now that they're aware of the problem, there's still no error message, and no warning of a maximum password length. I guess it's more efficient to have users create a new password every time they log in than it is to tell them what a valid password is.”

The image of an Xacto paper cutter was derived from one at Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

You can’t tell what people in the city are eating for lunch from an aerial photo

A good speech, article, or blog post calls for detailed, careful research. You always should go back to primary sources. If instead you just depend on superficial secondary ones like a brief magazine or newspaper article, then you can miss important details.

I just ran across a September 28, 2016 article by Fredrik Haren at his Lessons from the World of a Global Keynote Speaker web site titled The most dangerous job in the world (just kidding). Mr. Haren had based his article on a single-page one in the September 19, 2016 issue of Bloomberg Business Week. That article by Evan Applegate was titled Obamacare scares more people than a nuclear attack. It was the print version of an infographic I blogged about on November 7th. The article and infographic begin with the same sentence:

“Chapman University asked 1,541 American adults what they fear most, then ranked the answers by the share of respondents who indicated “afraid” or very afraid” for each.”

Then the print article lists 50 fears (a Top 50 out of 89 they surveyed) without showing the percentages, while the infographic lists 42 fears but shows each percentage when you mouse over an image.

In his article Mr. Haren commented that:

“On a plane from Omaha where I had just delivered a speech I read an article in Business Week where they reported on a study by Chapman University about the things that Americans feared the most.

It was a long and depressing list of threats, from fear of corruption (number 1) to fear of cyberterrorism (number 2) and fear of personal data tracking (number 3) to fear terrorist attacks (number 4) and so on. (Americans are afraid of a lot of scary things that are statistically very, very unlikely to hurt them.)

What I found absolutely amazing is that the ONLY thing on this list that was actually a choice – meaning something that a person can choose to do or not do to! – was ‘the fear of public speaking’! (and perhaps also ‘heights’.)

‘Fear of public speaking’ came in at place 26 just after ‘fear of robots replacing the workforce’ and just ahead of ‘fear of property damage’.

The more I look at this list the more amazed I am by it.

There is this saying that people are ‘more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying’ – something I always thought must have been an exaggeration – but according to this survey it turns out to be true! (Fear of dying came in at 43…)”

Results from the Chapman survey were reported on October 13, 2015 in a blog post titled America’s Top Fears 2015. What simple question should have told Mr. Haren he was not seeing the whole list? Where was the fear of flying? It is 61st.

Is Mr. Applegate’s title Obamacare scares more people than a nuclear attack correct? Well, sort of. Obamacare was ranked 13th and feared by 35.7%, while nuclear attack was ranked 16th and feared by 33.6% - a difference of 2.1%. Based on the sample size of 1,541 the Margin of Error for the survey is plus or minus 2.5%, so the difference is not significant.

In my November 7th blog post I pointed out that the Chapman survey questions really were “How afraid are you of...?” not “What do you fear most?” and, there were four possible answers:

1 Not Afraid

2 Slightly Afraid

3 Afraid

4 Very Afraid

What do Americans really fear most? Back on October 30, 2015 I blogged about how According to the 2015 Chapman Survey of American Fears, adults are less than Afraid of federal government Corruption and only Slightly Afraid of Public Speaking. In that post I showed how to calculate a Fear Score from the percentages for those four possible answers shown in the detailed results from the Chapman survey:

Fear Score = [ 1x(% for Not Afraid)
+  2x(% for Slightly Afraid)
+ 3x(% for Afraid)
+ 4x(% for Very Afraid)]/100 

For Corruption the fear score was only 2.7, which isn’t even at Afraid (3.0). For Public speaking it is 2.022, almost exactly 2.0 (or just Slightly Afraid). For Zombies it was 1.308, and the very lowest for Gender was 1.201 (not far above the 1.0 for Not Afraid). This analysis fits with what Mr. Haren said in another article on Nov 6 2015 titled The world is less dangerous than we think.

How about the comparison between the fears of public speaking and death? Many people know about it based on a Jerry Seinfeld joke that I last blogged about in October. 

An image of New York City in 1977 by Derzsi Elekes Andor came from Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ignite Seattle celebrates the tenth anniversary of its five-minute talks

On November 15th Clare McGrane had an article posted at GeekWire describing how Ignite Seattle marks 10th anniversary, a decade after accidentally launching a global phenomenon. It is unintentionally hilarious for ahistoricism (lack of concern with history). 

The format for a five-minute long Ignite talk involves 20 slides with auto advance after 15 seconds. The similar format for a Pecha Kucha talk (from back in February 2003 in Tokyo) also involves 20 slides but with auto advance after 20 seconds for a 6 minute and 40 second talk. Ignite and Pecha Kucha customarily ignore each other. For an example, see Sandy Rushton’s September 19th blog post at BrightCarbon titled Lessons from PechaKucha Night.

Pecha Kucha and Ignite both are constrained versions of a Lightning Talk (about five minutes, perhaps from 1997). But brief speech formats go back almost a century to the April 1917 first talk by the Four Minute Men, which I blogged about back in August 2010 in a post titled The power of brief speeches: World War I and the Four Minute Men.