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February 22, 2013

The Need for Innovation in UK Universities

Here is a short video I created to demonstrate the importance and goal of my PhD study concerned with helping UK universities become more innovative.

Note: You can use higher resolutions for better quality (HD).



TEASER: Benefits You will receive after participating

As part of my doctoral studies, members of staff from UK universities who participate will have access to a number of useful free resources. Here is a sample (teaser) of these resources:


Reviews of Useful Tools for use in Education

Nowadays, there are many tools and technologies that can be used by both teachers and students in universities or even schools. Therefore, I developed an interactive website where I write short reviews of some of these useful tools and technologies and give examples of how they can be used. Here is an example:

Many tools/technologies are reviewerd and categoried into different operatnig systems

Reviews

Each tool/technology will have a summary along with any useful links (such as education discounts)

Review Summary

and specific rating

Tool rating

From 0 to 380,000 Fans: Can we use Social platforms in Education?

There is no more doubt today that social platforms can be used in education or to enhance learning. There are many examples of such social learning platforms including YouTube Education, iTunes University and much more.

I have been personally interested in how Facebook can be used to enhance or disseminate learning and useful resources. Therefore, back in 2009, I started an Arabic sceitfic research Facebook page. Now, I have over 380,000 fans and conting. This is all a personal effort! The Facebook page gained quite a lot of attention in the Middle East and it still do.

It is been almost 4 years now and I have gained quite a good experience from this. Therefore, I created a rich presentation of the good practices and lessons learned which I would like to share with you.

If I, as an idividual, was able to get this far and help educate thousands of people from over 15 countries, I am sure universities can benefit and achieve much better, especially since this can be used for marketing as well!

Social Media Marketing in Education


Use of Twitter in Education and Research

In addition to the two resources I have prepared for you above which I will share with you after taking part in the study, I would like to go ahead and share with you NOW some useful resources I came across recently. They are focusing on the social platform Twitter and how it can be used in education and research.

To thank you in advanced for participating in the study, here are the links:


If you are a member of staff working within any UK university, please go ahead and participate in the study to receive access to the rest of the free resources:

Participate in the study (Link will be updated soon)


June 12, 2012

MindMap: Presentation Tips

Here is a Mindmap which I've created after going through the 3 excellent workshops on presentation skills presented by Adair @ The university of Warwick and reading a number of books. I hope you guys find it useful!

presentation2.pdf


May 29, 2012

IKEA…You Fail at Customer's service…

To start of, I usually put the URL when I talk about something. In this case, I am not even going to put any links to IKEA's website so that they don't benefit from any visitors and search engine ranking.

Long Story Short

I bought a large desk. The desk was delivered damaged. I called IKEA over 3 weeks to replace it, every time they say we will send someone, they give me a date and no one comes. After that I decided to return the item, before the return period runs out. They say OK, we respect that and we will send someone. Of course, they give me a date, no one shows up. I call, they give me another date and no one calls or show up and the story goes on and on and on. The last appointment they gave me was last Saturday. No one called or showed up...

There is clearly a pattern here and they could go about doing this for quite sometime...I am not willing to try how long it will take them though! although someone else with more free time and a since of humour might have found it to be a good way to test how bad their customer service is.


Waste of Time

I am really annoyed by how much time I've wasted chasing them, when a one call should have been sufficient. Clearly, they don't care about customer's time. Imagine yourself chasing a company for almost 2 months and every time you call you are put into a queue and you wait to get someone to answer and once someone answers, you spend sometime explaining the problem, waiting for the employee to check the records, wait for him to explain how sorry they are and that they are going to fix this for me.


Lack of Trust !

Needless to say after hearing the phrase "Sorry for the inconvenience" and "We will sort this out" over and over again, I lost both trust and hope in IKEA. Hence, writing this post. Apparently some companies have used these words for too long that they have forgotten what they mean.


Can you help?

Since I am an international student, I am trying to understand what steps could be taken. Obviously I want my money back! and also, I want the damaged items taken from my apartment.

After 2 months of calls and live chats, I know I gave IKEA more than enough time. Now I am done waiting, I want to follow possible legal or other actions that can be taken to resolve this issue once and for all. I can't waste more time chasing them!

Therefore, if you read this post and you have any experience with companies not wanting or bothering to honor their return policy for any reason and you have took an action to resolve that, I would really appreciate your input. I know about the legal advisors at the university's Students Union and I am just not free this week to check with them and I thought some visitors might be able to help!


Oh...One more thing!

How would you feel if you experienced something like this? Please let me know in the comments!


May 17, 2012

The Good…and the BAD

I am a Muslim and I am proud to be one. Islam taught me to be respectful to others, and I hope that I am good at doing that! If not, please let me know :). I am keen to correct the bad image of Islam caused by the media around the world by respecting and helping others, helping those that need, by participating or contributing to great causes or organisations such as UK Heart Foundation, UK Cancer Research among many other things. Of course I am not writing this as a show-off, rather, to show that I care about others and I know I am not the only Muslim doing this.

The world is full of injustice, especially injustice towards Islam or Muslims and in some cases treating them unfairly.

Here are a few comics that I've found and I wanted to share. Unforutantelly, I gave up finding the source so I couldn't add it or mention it.

Islam 1
















Islam

Islam

Islam


Conclusion:

As with everything else in this life, there is the good and there is the bad! but I know you already know this!

The question is, did you do your research before making any judgement? Of course I am not talking about Islam here, I am talking about everything!


March 22, 2012

Scrivener, a great writing environment!

Writing about web page http://drhariri.com/blog/1384/scrivener/

Note: this is a summary of a blog post I wrote on my Arabic research blog (برنامج الكتابة الرائع Scrivener), a blog that I have been running for over 3 years, aiming to spread knowledge and resources to help postgraduate students and researchers in the middle east.


For a while, I have been finding it more and more difficult to use Microsoft Word for writing, especially when it comes to bigger documents.

I often find myself thinking about where to write a certain chunk of text and even if I decided, it is sometimes hard to quickly reach the section that I want to update/edit.


A couple of week ago, Paul, my supervisor, started a discussion with me on how best to store and work on my thesis. He suggested that I use a feature that exists in MS Word where documents can be linked together to a certain master document. So, I went ahead and decided to learn about this feature which I have never heard of before. However, while writing, it came to my attention that some users reported their files and projects becoming coprrupted as a result of using this feature. So, I decided that using it is too risky, so here is an X for that.


I decided to look for alternatives, and all of a sudden, I remembered a certain software called Scrivener, which seemed very inetresting to me about a year ago so I decided to follow their Twitter account back then.

I decided to visit their website and I found out that they have already released a Windows version as it only had a Mac version back then and although I use a Mac mainly, I didn't start using it back then.

I took a look at the introduction video and their website and it was fascinating to me to find out that many novelists, authors, journalists and even researchers have been using Scrivener and have been very happy with it.

I also started googling Scrivener and found that others are using it in education and research.

Scrivener Interface

The main concept behind Scrivener is that it offers a great writing environment where documents are split into chunks of texts. Those chunks could be chapters, sections, a few paragraphs or a few lines. The beauty however about Scrivener is that if you decided to combine all of those chunks into a single document for printing or sending, this can be done automatically and very easily using Scrivner's compile feature.

What this means is, if you are writing and do not want to worry about structuring or stylying at all, you can do that without any problems, and once you finish you can tell Scrivener to combined everything and format it in a way you specify. So, you could tell it to format chunk's titles as H3, for instance and to format any higher level groups as H2s or H1s.

The big advantage in this case of course is, your writing space is always there and you are free to add as many chunks of texts or images as you want.

Scrivener Interface

Scrivener of course is more than just a writing environment, it has many geat features that I suggest you check.


Inregration with Reference Management Software

Since its important to me to have the ability to insert citations within Scrivener as I currently do in MS Word, as it has my Mendeley's plugin installed, I decided to look for possible ways of integration. to my surprise, there was no way to do this with Mendeley at the moment. However, it seems that those using Endnote or Zotero have a better luck as both of those reference management software offer an RTF scan feature that can be used to update citations and references list once the final document is made.

This is a quick video showing how Endnote can be used with Scrivener:


And here is the longer version of it where the author, a PhD student, explains how he uses tools like Evernote and Scrivener in his research activities.


Any hope for those using Mendeley?

Well, personally, I wouldn't turn down a potentialy beneficial software just because it doesn't work nice with another one. In this case, I decided to use Scrivener and insert citations manually like I usually do anyway. However to stay alerted to where they are I write them, for instance something like (John, 2000), then, I highlight them in Scrivener.

I don't see a huge problem of not being able to automatically use Mendeley within Scrivener. However, I decided to tweet those @Mendeley_com and @ScrivenerApp to see if there are any chances for an integration between those 2 to be born, and to my joy! they said that they have met and they are working on something that will make it possible for Scrivener and Mendeley to play nice with each other! So, let's hope that they develop something for us very soon!

Join the campaign and spread the tweets for a Mendeley Scrivener integration!

By the way, if you use Mendeley and would love to use Scrivener, don't be shy to do just what I did, LET THEM KNOW!. go ahead and tweet to both of those great companies how you love to see an integration as soon as possible.

If you are new to twitter, use something like:

Hi! I'm very interested in an integration between @Mendeley_com & @ScrivenerApp please!


October 01, 2011

Atlas.Ti 6 vs NVivo 9: A Comparison

Follow-up to Potential uses of CAQDA software packages from A.Hariri's

A couple of days ago I received an e-mail from one of my research blog (in Arabic) followers asking for my opinion on choosing NVivo or Atlas.Ti. I've sent her a summary of some of the issues that I faced when I tried both of them.

Today, I was asked by a friend of mine, Salma Patel of why I chose Atlas.Ti over NVivo as well, therefore, I decided to write a detailed post about this to help those who may be looking into this as well.


I found that Atlas.Ti 6 and NVivo 9 were two of the most used software packages out there. So, I went ahead to do some research and I decided to try them both. I ended up choosing Atlas.Ti although I was much inclined to use Nvivo for the following reasons:

Nvivo stores everything within 1 project file. There is the obvious risk of losing everything if this file becomes corrupted.

Yes, I will make backups, but I still want to be safe. Furthermore, what if there is a bug in the software itself? It wouldn't really be able to access anything.

Atlas.Ti has a project file that only stores projects information and certain details. Documents/PDFS do not have to be imported into the project. Atlas.Ti can get them where they are :).

In the worst case scenario that something may be wrong with the file, you can still access external documents such as PDFs.

I already have a working structure of my documents (Thanks to Mendeley), why would I need to copy those files over to NVivo too? Waste of space in my opinion. Some could say delete the PDFs from Mendeley and just have the record for each document. Well, this can be done but then, I wouldn't really be using Mendeley's nice features such as effective searching within PDFs and pictures, etc..

Because Atlas.Ti will reach your documents where they are, you could have Mendeley arrange your library into a certain structure, then, you ask Atlas.ti to link those documents to your project.

Note: You may want Mendeley to sort your documents into folders based on Years at the the top level so that you could easily see which document your passage you are reading if you output a list of passages within Atlas.Ti. I have also had Mendeley rename the files so that Author's names are in the begining of the file name for the same reason too.

Because it relies on 1 project file, there is no doubt that the file size would become bigger as you go on. Project file remains very small.
I found NVivo to be a bit slow although I was working with an empty project... Still going fast
The bigger the project size the laggier NVivo becomes. Would not lag as much because the project file which runs the show is relatively small.
Until recently, NVivo had a very bad support for PDFs and I was surprised to see the company taking their time (months!!!) to release an update that would fix this although I would expect this to be a core feature in this age! I haven't looked into the update which they said should fix any PDF issues because I had already decided to go with Atlas.Ti. Excellent support for PDFs!
Due to the above point, I believe that NVivo should look more into updating more frequently, especially when certain things should be fixed and are demanded to be fixed by customers in the forums Many updates released continuously which improves the way Atlas.Ti works or fixes bugs and so on. In fact, I think I've seen 4 minor updates for Atlas.Ti within the last 2-3 months. It tells me as a customer that they care!
Although a bit slow sometimes, the UI is better than Atlas.Ti which was one of the main reasons I was seriously hoping to use it. However, the late release of the update and the slow response killed any chance I had of using it. UI not as nice as NVivo, but, as I started working more with Atlas.Ti, I started to appreciate the UI and how it is arranged. However, it is obvious that I am more interested in performance.


These are what I think some of the key issues I based my comparison on, when it comes to features, both software packages offer very similar set of features.

After writing this comparison, I have to say that I do not hate NVivo, I simply think it wasn't for me. Others may find working with NVivo is better for their own reasons. I still follow the development of both NVivo and Atlas.Ti, and I still retweet some of their announcements and so on to my Research Blog (in Arabic) followers.

I hope some of you out there find this helpfu! and I am happy to learn about your experiences with any of the mentioned software packages.


Potential uses of CAQDA software packages

About a year ago, I was looking into Computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDA) software packages that may help me in doing my literature review by allowing me to code certain passages within documents into codes that I could then easily explore or retrieve.

I think one of the potentials I saw in some CAQDA software packages is that if you code useful passages within lots of papers and documents into codes (which are similar to keywords), this will make it easier for you to retrieve those stored passages of texts within different documents.

For example: if I have read 100 PDFs and assigned things that I believe relevant to my research into codes, it would be much easier to just output the passages that belong to a certain code within those 100 PDFs in 3-5 pages (since other information within each document will be hidden) showing where every passage came from and how they can relate to each other (You can use relationships between them too!). This would surely be much easier than having to check all those 100 PDFs to try and find bits and pieces here and there that belong to the topic I am trying to write about.

Another potential where I personally think CAQDA could help is building a rich research library of journal papers and different documents over the years. Because, in many cases, a PhD might be the first step of your research career, especially if you are a lecturer or someone that is interested in publishing journal papers in the same field. I guess what I am trying to say is, lets assume that while doing your PhD you come across 100 journal papers that you consider important in your research field. After that, you become a lecturer at some university where you are expected to do more research. So you read more journal papers and you assign more information to codes within the CAQDA software. After a couple of years, you could have a very rich library of papers that you have already read and classified into certain codes or keywords.

After that, all you have to do really when you want to write a journal paper is ask the CAQDA to output information related to a keyword and start writing.


For instance, you may choose to first write a background, so, you output background information which you store in a code. Next, you may choose to become more specific, so, you may want to identify previous gaps and even gaps that may still be in need of research. You output information assigned to a code "Gaps in....." and you find all different arguments by different authors, etc...

I believe that using a CAQDA helps a lot when it comes to writing, if it was used by the researcher while he was doing his literature review.

I know that some would argue that it is not good to just read certain parts of the paper and assign them and just forget the rest of the paper may see like taking things out of context, but this is only true if the researcher himself didn't pay attention to that.


Of course I am only scratching the surface here as most CAQDA have much more advanced and useful features such as reports & networks diagrams where you could visually show the relationship between different passages. For instance, you could show a number of authors disagreeing with author A while may others are supporting him.


I have been working with a CAQDA software (Atlas.Ti) mainly as part of my literature review as I believe it keeps me organised and helps me find information that I have already looked into much faster than I would usually do. I will continue to use it as I go on with my PhD and I hope that I learn more about it and try the various features available and be able to share what I find or anything new later on.


August 21, 2011

Wordpress Mac Permissions Issues with Zend Server CE

If you have installed Zend Server CE on your computer to use as a development server, you may have ran into the issue of Automatic update not working on Wordpress. This is the function that usually updates your Wordpress plugins and Wordpress system or core files. Furthermore, another related problem that you will likely to have as a result of this is that you won't be able to have Wordpress edit your .htaccess to change the way your blog URLS look like.


The cause of this problem is that the Apache user used by Zend Server CE (User: daemon, Group: daemon) is not given enough permissions to be able to make changes to your files on your Mac. The solution to this should be simple, at least it worked for me right away.

The Solution:

  • Open your Terminal application (Applications -> Utilities)
  • Use the following commands in bold:
  1. Navigate to your htdocs folder that was created by Zend Server CE using something like:
    cd /usr/local/zend/apache2/htdocs
  2. Change the user of your blog folder which resides within the htdocs folder. In my case my blog folder is called blog, so I used this command:
    sudo chown -R daemon blog
  3. Change the permissions of the folder using:
    sudo chmod -R g+w blog
  • Now, try to update your Wordpress plugins or Wordpress system itself (core files), this should have solved your Wordpress Mac permission issues. In my case, I didn't restart and it worked. If it doesn't work rightaway on your development environment, try restarting your Mac.

Note: The solution above worked for me because I don't allow any network access to my development environment, if you for some reason need better security, you should probably check Zend Server's documentation to follow their suggestions with regard to how to make your development environment safer.

Hope these steps work for you!


January 27, 2011

Qualitative Research related blogs

Writing about web page http://merlien.org/news/qualblogs.html

A great list of qualitative research related blogs by Merlien institue. Can be found here.

Do you have any similar excellent resources? Share them please!


January 20, 2011

Visual Understanding Envrionment

Writing about web page http://vue.tufts.edu/index.cfm

The Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) is an Open Source project based at Tufts University. The VUE project is focused on creating flexible tools for managing and integrating digital resources in support of teaching, learning and research. VUE provides a flexible visual environment for structuring, presenting, and sharing digital information.

Wow. A really amazing and interesting open source tool. You have to check it!


December 12, 2010

Mendeley

Writing about web page http://www.mendeley.com/

From Mendeley's website:

Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research.

  • Automatically generate bibliographies
  • Collaborate easily with other researchers online
  • Easily import papers from other research software
  • Find relevant papers based on what you're reading
  • Access your papers from anywhere online
  • Read papers on the go, with our new iPhone app
  • View more features…

Mendeley is one of the new software/services that provides advanced references management features.

What I liked in Mendeley

What I really liked in Mendeley is that:

  • It can sync your references between multiple PCs/Macs.
  • Allows you to read, annotate & comment on PDFs from within the software itself.
  • User interface is very nice!
  • Can be set so that it starts watching your resources folders, adding every paper/document that is added to these folder to the library itself while tagging these auto added documents as 'To be reviewed' so that you can review and confirm that every bit of information is correct.

If you have been using Endnote (like me), you will be happy to know that you can export your Endnote library to Mendeley directly. Ofcourse, this doesn't mean that you can't use Endnote at all if you swich to Mendeley. You can work on Mendeley and if for any reason you wanted to insert bibliographies from Endnote or for any other reason, you can export your final library to Endnote and use it.

Research & Decide yourself!

Lastly, I just wanted to know that although I see Mendeley as a good choice for referencing management, etc.. However, I don't want to influence your decision in anyway!

You should spend sometime comparing/researching whatever software you are aware of, for example, for me, I ended up comparing Endnote, Zotero and Mendely. I quickly took Endnote out of the equation for a number of reasons such as its lack of easy sync features and inability to edit PDFs within the software. Lastly, I ended up choosing Mendeley over Zotero because:

  • Zotero is a Firefox plugin. Therefore, it relies on another software which really adds another variable into the situation that could go wrong. For instance, what if there were some problems in Firefox? What if Zotero become unstable or incompatible for any reason with one of Firefox's future updates? Lastly, what if Zotero affects Forefox's performance?
  • Mendeley's ability to edit PDFs within the same software is just great!
  • The ability to watch folders within Mendeley is nice!

Therefore, it really depends on your work style and the set of features you might require which can be available in a certain software and not in the others.

Do you use any of these?

If you are using one of the mentioned software, I would really like to hear your experience. There might be features that I am not aware of in any of these mentioned software.


December 09, 2010

NVivo 9 Tutorials

One of my friends told me that his friend suggested that he uses NVivo for management of sources and qualitative data analysis. I have never heard of NVivo before so I wanted to give it a try. I downloaded the software and installed but still didn't really have the time to give it a try.

Furthermore, while searching for relevant reviews. I found that there is a good number of people who have suggested the use of NVivo in Academic Research and most certainly by PhD students.

I am really interested in finding what others who have used/are using NVivo think about it. I know that there is a need for some coding, but since I am going through the new journal papers I am downloading I will probably scan be able to code quickly.

One of the advantages of using NVivo is that it allows me to see all the sources related to one node (Theme or topic). Which really saved time especially if you are talking about having 100s of papers in your library. Being able to assign certain parts of papers to different nodes/topics is a really nice and very helpful feature!

I don't want to waste a lot of my time learning about NVivo 9 and testing it until I know for sure that it can help. Therefore, I haven't started using it.

I am actually hoping that some members of staff or some visitors would shed some light as to if NVivo 9 is indeed helpfull for me as a PhD student or not.

So, if you have any experience using NVivo 9 or any previous version, please let me know how it was. Did it help you get better results? Was it worth it?

Below are a number of videos that explain certain basic parts in NVivo 9, in case you wanted to learn more about it.

Introductin & Overview


Importing Sources to NVivo 9



Linking Cases to Attributes in NViv



Connecting Sources to Demographics in NVivo 9




December 07, 2010

Thumbnails in Wordpress 2.9+ and 3.0+

Now that Wordpress added a thumbnail feature (2.9+), we longer need to assign custom fields and give them values each time we write a blog post. Insted, while writing a blog post, there is a small panel or block to the side that allows us to choose a thumbnail for the post.

However, for people like me, who have been using custom fields to show pictures for sometime, there is a decision to be made. Should we stick to the custom fields and just continuou using them or should we start using the core thumbnails featre instead?

Well, you don't really have to the choose one of these two, you will keep using them both. How you ask? Well, simply, stop using custom fields for any new posts you write and use the thumbnail feature to assign thumbnails to blog posts. Then, edit your templates and add some simple conditions so that Wordpress checks whenever a blog post is viewed if it has a custom field thumbnail or a core wordpress 2.9+ thumbnail. By doing this, your old blog posts thumbnails will still show and your new thumbnails, the one you assign using the new feature will also show.

Honestly, I was very worried about having to choose one of these two, and since I am not a programmer/developer/coder, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to figure this out. However, with some thinking and imagination and with the help of a number of great Wordpress articles I was able to use my thumbnails in my Blog homepage. Not only that, but using some of the new features related to thumbnails, I was actually able to set specific sizes for the different pages in my blog. For example, on my homepage, all posts thumbnails are 100px x 75px. However, when a visitor clicks on a certain blog post to view it, he is shown the same picture but in a different size, say 200px x75px. This is really nice and it's really simple to achieve.

As I said, I am not a programmer and I was able to figure this out with the help of the following resources. There is no reason why you shouldn't be able to get similar results :). I would also like to thank each one of those blog authors:

If anyone (not good with coding as I am) wants to look at the code I have used in my template pages to show the thumbnails, I would be happy to share.

If you want to check what I was talking about, you can visit my Arabic Research Blog. Don't ming the language, but make note of the thumbnails then follow some of them to the post view page to see if the thumbnail's dimension will change or not. Please note that because some of the thumbnails are actually cropped, they might not show in a bigger size if you follow them to the post.


December 05, 2010

Get Your Research Library Organised with Zotero

Writing about web page http://www.zotero.org/

Zoter.org:

Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser itself.

Honestly, I find it one of the best tools available for researchers. really!

Zotero video:


Check Zotero's website for more information.


Zotero's features:

    • Capture Research Data
    • Archive the Web
    • Store related PDFs, files, images, and links in your library
    • Take Notes
    • Drag and drop bibliographies anywhere: into an email, a blog post, or any word processor
    • Plugins for Word and OpenOffice make it easy to drop in references on the fly
    • Zotero comes preloaded with all major styles, and thousands of additional journal-specific styles are freely available
    • Get the best of both worlds: Work locally with your research materials and automatically sync your data between multiple computers
    • Even without Zotero, you can access your collection from any web browser. You can even view your collection on mobile devices like the iPhone.
    • Share your research with the world and make your library and collections public
    • Create group libraries to collaborate with other Zotero users
    • And Many more...


    So, What are you waiting for? Get Firefox if you don't have it and give Zotero a test drive :)!


    July 12, 2010

    Wordpress Link Library plugin

    Writing about web page http://yannickcorner.nayanna.biz/wordpress-plugins/link-library/

    Wordpress Link Library plugin is one of the most useful plugins I have used for Wordpress. Not only it allows you to show your links along with their categories in a nice way that can be easily formatted, it also allows your Wordpress blog visitors to suggest new links, this was very helpful on one of my websites as I needed a way to allow others to do this.

    Other features include: the ability to set an RSS icon for each link and show/hide links descritions. ofcourse, there are many more!

    I have been using Wordpress Link Library plugin for quite some time on my Arabic Research Blog, in the Research Links Library and Link Library Wordpress plugin have proven to be a very useful and stable plugin.

    Lastly, the Link Library plugin's developer Yannick, is also very useful and helpful when it comes to answering any questions related to any of the Wordpress plugins that he developed, and his blog is the biggest indicator of his will to help others. Thanks Yannick!

    To view some examples of how this plugin can be used, visit the Link Library plugin and look under examples or configuration.


    Lastly, if you find this plugin very helpful (like I did), please don't hesitate to donate, as this will help keep the project going and help Yannick with any costs related to the maintenance of his blog or as a little incentive for him to keep going :).


    July 08, 2010

    Learn and Create Facebook Applications

    A few months ago, I wanted to create a simple Facebook application which allows me to show few items from an RSS feed in a Facebook Tab in a specific way I want. However, because I had no idea whatsoever about Facebook Application development, I spent days trying to figure out how I could create an application that would do that for me. And what made this worst is the fact that I hate programming in general and I had no clue where to start a Facebook application from.


    Facebook Application Development Training Videos

    Finally, I saw an item on Amazon which claims to teach Facebook Applications development. At first, I was very sceptical and I thought that this item is probably going to be useless. However, I decided to order it anyway hoping that these CDs will be of any help and therefore, save my time, as I spent days and days researching...

    Facebook Application Development



    Click on the Image For more information



    The CDs included video tutorials which explain everything clearly! Although you might find a bit of repetition here and there, I found that I learnt quite a few things from the CDs, and I have found the source code included to be really helpful too!

    If you are like me, Zero in programming and Zero in Facebook Applications development and you need to learn a few basics things in order to create your very first Facebook Application, give this a go!


    Please note that a few parts of the CD are outdated due to Facebook updates and/or bugs. However, the rest are very valuable!


    Example of the Facebook Application I have created

    After learning a few things from the CDs, I managed to create what I wanted to do. To view an exmaple, please visit this Facebook page which I am working on for a cousin of mine.

    Shirts 2 Go

    From this page, visit the Shop tab and Enter the UK/EU Shop.

    Let me know of what you think of what I have done so far :) . I am open for any suggestions for improvements if you have any, as this is stil my first Facebook Application!!


    July 03, 2010

    البحث العلمي

    Writing about web page http://drhariri.com/blog/links/

    قمت في موقع د. حريري و البحث العلمي بإنشاء دليل البحث العلمي، و الذي يتم من خلاله جمع العديد من الروابط للخدمات و المجلات و المنشورات العلمية المختلفة و أي مواقع علمية، و التي أقوم بزيارتها شخصيا أو يتم إقتراحها من قبل زوار الموقع.


    إذا كان لديك أي روابط تود إقتراح إضافتها إلى دليل البحث العلمي، لا تتردد في زيارة دليل البحث العلمي، حيث ستجد في آخر الصفحة نموذج لإقتراح رابط جديد.


    الأقسام المتوفرة في الدليل حتى الآن:

    • المجلات و المنشورات العلمية
    • مكتبات و محركات بحث الرسائل و الأطروحات
    • مواضيع و توجيهات في جمع البيانات
    • مواضيع و توجيهات في البحث العلمي
    • محركات بحث عن المراجع العلمية
    • أدوات مساعدة

    May 25, 2010

    Facebook Like button on your Wordpress blog

    Writing about web page http://ottopress.com/wordpress-plugins/simple-facebook-connect/

    A couple of months ago, Facebook released new Facebook Social plugins that can be used on any website. The benefits of using these plugins includes: creating a stronger link with your Facebook fans, allowing your blog visitors to share stories, recommendations and anything with their friends or anyone they have added as friend on Facebook.

    For marketing purposes and in order to grow your website/blog visitors and fans, it is really important to integrate some of these Facebook Social Plugins into your blog, to allow your blog visitors to easily share anything they like or comment or the various things on your blog.



    Facebook Social Plugins for Wordpress

    One of the plugins that I found very easy to use to integrate Facebook Social Plugins into your Wordpress blog is through the use of Simple Facebook Connect Plugin.

    This Wordpress plugin is easy to use, and includes almost all the functionalities and plugins you might want to include in your blog (Comments box, activities, like, share, etc...).



    Facebook Like Button in Simple Facebook Connect

    Although the mentioned Wordpress plugin above allows you to add almost all the Facebook Social Plugins easily, there is a simple step that you can do to improve the Facebook Like button that comes with the same Simple Facebook Connect plugin.

    While the Facebook Like button (Read here for what this plugin does) will work as it should after implementing the plugin, whenever someone presses the like button on an artcile on your blog, in their facebook account, it will show that they like your website while showing your website name.

    While you do want others to see your website name, you wouldn't want it to show like this on anyone's Facebook profile. Simply because lets assume that a visitor likes 4 posts in your blog, and he goes on liking each one of them. After he's done, his Facebook profile will show 4 different lines saying the same thing that he he liked "This Blog", which is stupid and non-informative at all as to what he liked there...



    Like button Additional information

    The solution to this is very simple if you are using Wordpress, all you have to do is provide additional information (using Open Graph Protocol) in your Wordpress theme you are using, in the header file (usually header.php) in particular.

    Open your theme's header file and anywhere between the <head> and </head> tags, use the code shown Here (Can't show within the post as it is HTML), then save.

    After adding the header tags shown, visitors who like any post on your blog will have more meaningful information shown in their Facebook account as the post title will be shown, and whenever they like another post, a different title will be shown. Less repitition, More information and better for your SEO (i think)!


    Now, go ahead and press on the like button in one of your posts and check your Facebook profile to see if this is working!


    Joomla 1.6 on its way

    Writing about web page http://www.joomla.org/component/content/article/5252.html

    In a previous post in this blog, I talked about a great Content Management System (CMS) called Joomla and I included many general and specific information regarding this CMS.

    Now after the long-time Joomla 1.5 has been out, many (including me) were looking forward to the new version of Joomla 1.6. This is because many important features that were not available in Joomla 1.5 are going to be available in Joomla 1.6.

    One particular feature that many can't wait for in Joomla 1.6 is called ACL. This feature basically allows Joomla administrators to create various groups while giving them different permissions and access rights. This was not available in Joomla 1.5 and many of us had to use commercial extensions to have such feature. However, with Joomla 1.6 coming out soon, we will finally be able to do that without the need for any extensions!


    This is a quick preview of Joomla 1.6, you can take a look at some of the changes coming.



    July 30, 2009

    Guaranteed employement

    There was an incident during the management of change module about whether or not it is appropriate to make "promises" to employees like guaranteed employment, benefits and so on. This is a real situation that happened to our company Flexipart during the business simulation.

    In real life, the same dilemma is faced by well known companies. Like everything in life, there appear to be two sides to the story. While some argue guaranteed employement is Good for the company because  employee are more likely to be loyal and hence less turnover costs. I remember reading this from Deming's book where he cite the example this in Japanses business practice. 

    However, contradicting evidence include the likes of General Motors, well known for the deal it made with the union worker for 'sweet' pension and retirement benefits. According to an article from the Economist, such employee benefits was a major cause for General Motor's collapse (because it can't meet its pension obligations) . So this make the following question relevant and interesting

    Should organisations offer guaranteed employment to employees?

    Well Argyris provide an interest take on this question, from a different perspective from above, I will just quote him i think

    He writes in an interveiw with Acme CEO, the CEO wrote

    "If the employees express fear about the new plan because the  'old' company guaranteed employment, say: "The new organization will do its utmost to guarantee employment and better prospects for growth. I promise that."

    and

    "If the employees express fear that they are not used to dealing with the market approach, say: I promise you will get the education you need, and I will ensure that appropraite actions are rewarded."

     

    Now if I recall correctly, when this happned during the MOC business simulation, the tutor said to our managing director (I paraphrase) "Making false promises to your employee that they will always have their job is not doing them good, it is an act of cowardice". The rationale behind this is that when under pressure , the MD approached the employee's fear by offering a simple no brainer solution "I give you job no matter what happens", thinking this should eliminate sense of fear and enhance commitment. But the MD in fact have no control over the external environment. By simply asserting that he will guarantee jobs is a momentary attempt to regain legitimacy using his positional power while having no concrete plan to ensure his promises can be fulfilled. (He was treading on thin ice basically)

    Now the three argumentsI mentioned above, all have a very anti-management bias (I didnt invent this term, Argyris did). Basically it first assumes the responsibility of job security rest in the top management while it completely ignores and removes employee's own personal responsibility for ensuring job security. Argyris wrote

    "But look at the confusion of messages and roles. If the CEO means to give these employees a sense of theri own power over their own professional fate - and that was his stated intent - then why emphasize instead what he will do for themEach time he said, "I promise you," the CEO undermined his own goal of creating internal commitment, intrinsic motivation, and genuine empowerment."   (p105)

     Argris's example again illustrate the point that each and everyone of us has our own hidden unsaid assumptions about they way we behave. In the CEO's case, he assumed the management has the full responsibility for employee's job security. But we often don't realise these assumptions are inconsistent with our espoused  (publicly stated intent and behavior).  When we don't realise these two are inconsistent, we produce actions that are inconsistent with are stated beliefs. To others, we appears inauthetic (Dee Nicholls) in our words and actions.

    Now what should one do if he/she was in the CEO's shoe? Well I won't bore you with all the same words about leadership and communication. But I will leave you with an story from Mathew (co-tutor in the module). Instead of using fear to motivate , which is the opposite of guaranteeing job security (saying If you don't work hard , you and I will be both out of a job!).  I think he said "I want us to be the best in what we do". Now I don't know if saying this is actually better than the other approaches mentioned above. I 'd happily welcome your thoughts and comments. :)

    To quickly sum up. It is clear hopefully from my description that Guarantee-ing employee job secruity is NOT a good idea. For two main reasons. Firstthe external environment will dictate organisational action beyond management control (i.e. recent mass layoff from financial crisis), you end up shoot yourself in the foot. Second, it removes that sense of urgency from the very people you try and expect to change their behavior.

     Argris, C (2001). Good Communications that Blocks Learning. Harvard business Review Paperback on Organizational Learning


    The idea of system

    In the past few weeks has been a really good period for me. I am reading stuff but I also find myself thinking about things, and understanding more about organisations, inter-personal behviors and so on. When I have these 'insights' i like to write them on blog immediately fearing they would quickly slip away. Doing so also help me clear thinking, analyse situations and so on... but I am not sure whether these ideas have any real value to others. They do to me though.

    Anyway, building on my previous entry about defensive reasoning. I just like to relate it to the idea of "system" which W.Edward Deming use as a concept for explaining why problems in organisation occur. His use of word "system" is abit differnt from another well known author Peter Senge's System thinking. Whereas Senge refers to system as a way of making sense of the causal relationship between different events and therefore argue sometimes, what people think to be the cause  (cause #1) of a problem could have a underlying (unobvious) cause (cause #2) as the result of our action taken on cause #1.  The number of causes can of course be as many as you like depending on the complexity of the problem (situation). The point is our action may inadvertently agrevate the cause of the very problem we try to eliminate because of the circularity in the cause and effect. He use the example of US invasion of Iraq

    US perceive Middle Eastern threat -> American take military action -> Middle East perceive US threat -> Muslim take militar action  -> US perceive greater Middle Eastern threat -> so on and so forth

     But Deming's idea of system is slightly different. It's more about the difference between superficial causes and underlying causes. They are not necessarily in circularity like Senge's idea. But rather superficial causes are the result of underlying cause. The underlying cause is a broken system. Let me illustrate with an personal example I experienced yesterday.

    I went to see Paul Robert for not receiving feedback on my KBAM assignment. It was not to be found on the network or on Paul's personal computer. Long story short. It was probably never received by the WMG department yet somehow submission was recorded as "received" and Paul marked "something" and gave me a mark. I followed the entire event and I thought about how complex the entire system was from student submission, admins recording receipt, making copies, send to tutors, tutors send to tunitin, mark assignment, making different files for recording marks, send marks and feedback back to admin, admin send feedback to student... and so on. If there was any error in the process (by the student, admin, or the tutor) it would have resulted in delays. Sounds like a broken system that need process improvement?  ... haha... I think so.  But the thing is I think throughout the entire incident, everyone seemed to be quite happy with the way the system works. They try to go to the bottom and find the cause. They check IT, check student's record, tutor's records, somehow the cause is there "somewhere" and "we just haven't found it yet".  But has anyone ever wondered why such error occur? and as far as I know from the admin, not just infrequently.  As a student, I think I can say for myself that the submission system is WAY too complicated to use. There is even a dummy mechanism for you to PRACTICE submission.... now having need to practice SUBMISSION is quite strange to some people.  Does it really need to be this complex?

    Now I think there is a rationale behind all this. Need for control, and need for back up. As we learned in books and classes. Excessive control leads to bureacracy. As people find more and more need to have check points , the longer the chain of commands, and the greater the ineffciency is likely to result. The idea of backing up is good, system engineering RDD right? but any additional back up system impose a cost. And in organisations, this cost in time, and money being wasted on the the process of making an copy "just in case".  Okay, I know I sound terrrrrrribly like books and consultant... maybe I have been reading too much that I have been 'converted', but yeah something worth thinking about.

    Funnily whenever such errors occur we tend to be very tolerant if it was a fault of customers. We would say "let's make things more user friendly so that customer won't make the same mistake twice!" (although not every organisation positive thinker like this). Whenever such errors occur within organisation, we tend to be very intolerant of our employee. Insisiting such problem arise because employee did not do job properly, overlooked certain things, not trained properly (then the blame goes to managers), or whatever.


    defensive reasoning

    Argyris work on organizational learning really has been really useful to me. At first , I remember myself dimissing it as 'stating the obvious' . Single loop and double loop learning, yeah right. But the more I read, I find myself realising more and more how prevalent the issue of learning is in our society. In almost everyday, every news I read , stories from people I talked to , I find see in some way it relate to what Argyris refers as defensive reasoning

    Whenever problem arise, people look for a solution, but at the same time they also seem to have a tendency to blame others. It usually come across in words like " I told him this and that" or "It's not responsibility to..." or " Who did this? who was responsible when the problem took place?" and so on. Then the debate comes down to who was right and who was wrong. To illustrate, a week ago, a news in the US about  a black Harvard professor being arrested by a white policeman for breaking in his (the black professor) own house. I spent some time listening to these media pundits arguing passionately defending whoever they thought no wrong. The supporter of the black professor would say "It is not breaking the law for breaking into his own house, the white police man obvious overreacted (some also implcitly suggest it is racial profiling by the policeman)" . On the other hand the supporter of the policeman would say "The police was only doing his job, he checked after a call for a suspected burglary, the black professor lost his temper and would not listen to the policeman's request to come out of the house, the balck professor is racist himself".

    Well, after listening to both sides of the argument, and some reports of the actual incidents. I think it is obiviously that both parties had misbehaved. The black professor obviously overreacted (sure people would defend again saying "under the historitcal circumstances, and being suspected for no wrong doing, anyone would be overeacting"). Sure that is true but does that mean it was the "right" thing to do at the time? Does that mean, you (as the black professor) could be excused for not following the police request, and yell racial slurs to the policeman? No, I don't think so.  Similarly, did the policeman have to  arrest the black professor after confirming that he (the professor) was not the burgarlary and the situation was just a misunderstanding? No he didn't. But if he had not done so, he probably would have looked bad to the gathered people and to colleague at the police station (this I am really guessing his motive, but probably far -fetched guess) .

    The point I try to make is  while each parties are busy defending themselve, and accusing others. Everyone seem to overlook the fact that perhaps both parties were responsible for the outcome of the incidenct. If this was in an organisation, the contructive approach is to engage both parties to a conversation , and talk things through. Not only to resolve the misunderstandings. But to inquire why the event happened the way it did without putting on blames. Did they way the professor reacted was perhaps due to an underlying assumption he held about the white policeman in America?  Was it okay for the white policeman to assumethe only way to deal with "disorderly behavior" was to arrest this guy and clear his name later?  After the incident both parties hopefully was already thinking about theses issues anyway.

    But doing so, questioning one's own underlying assumptions, as according to Argyris , is extremely difficult because it would mean crticising self for holding those assumptions, and be in a position of blame, which is not something we like to admit to. 


    July 27, 2009

    Thomas Peter's confession

    Okay , I have been reading Tomas Peters and Robert Waterman's 'In Search of Excellence'  for a good hour or two. It was generally interesting to see what they say about business excellence

    Apparently the book was a big hit during the 80s , and even today, you can find 6-7 copies in the library which kinda suggest the book is a worthwile read right?

    But hey I came across this article (link) attributed to Tom Peters himself (written by an editor who interviewed Tom) , written in 2001, where he confessed to criticisms that he and Waterman faked the data in the book Search. What I find amusing though is he also talks a lot of well known business figures like Drucker, Xerox , and the dark side of McKinsey where he worked as consultant. Some of the quotes from I like from this article are ...

    "I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote Search

    The 8 basic rules of management in Search originated from

    "One morning at about 6, I sat down at my desk overlooking the San Francisco Bay from the 48th floor of the Bank of America Tower, and I closed my eyes. Then I leaned forward, and I wrote down eight things on a pad of paper. Those eight things haven't changed since that moment. They were the eight basic principles of Search. "

    Why did he write this book? Because he was pissed! Pissed at what?

    "Who was I pissed off at? At Peter Drucker, for one. Today, everybody acts as if Peter Drucker has always been one of those who gets it. Go back and read Concept of the Corporation. Peter Drucker may be an Austrian, but he's more German than the Germans when it comes to hierarchy and command-and-control, top-down business operation." 

    You think Xerox is a great company?

    "Xerox was considered to be the company of the century, but I knew better. There it was, all in one place: the bureaucracy, the great strategy that never got implemented, the slavish attention to numbers rather than to people, the reverence for MBAs -- you name it....So here it is: If you want to reduce Search to a core message, that message would be this: Xerox sucks."

    I am only up to page three and  this gives me a sense of thrill and excitement like I am reading up on some business gossip ... haha...

    Despite confessing in public of his that the book doesnt quite stand up in terms of academic rigor, by the time you get to about page 4 (of the article, not the book) , one begin to see that that despite the inadequacies, his main message was essentially right "Soft is Hard". He argues the conventional wisdom at the time was Hard was Hard. People who deeply believed that strategy, structure, procedures, and numbers were the ten commandments to business management. This message mirrors all the stuff we have been learning in our class so far EFQM, Six Sigma, TQM, Kowledge management and so on. The key message is this, without an utter attention to the people, all the best strategies, tools, programs, initiatives are close to complete uselessness. I believe this is also something that deep underpins my current project which is looking at some of the limitations of these management innovations. Looking back , the reason that the message of this book was essentially correct is, I believe, not a mere coincidence. The fact is , even though the data (presumably qualitative data the authors claimed to have interviewed business managers) was fabricated, the fact is both of them were consultants who had years of experience with business industry. Furthermore, Tom himself got a PhD from Stanford on Organisational behaviors . Taken together they probably had a pretty good theoretical background on business management, and a practical view of real world business. Coupled together it was not suprising their conclusion were not too far from the truth. The book itself , allude to plenty of management theorist at the time such as James March, Karl Weick, Chandler and many other well respected organisational and management theorists, making a strong case for their argument from a academic point of view.

    In the last couple of pages, Tom concludes that he is no longer interested in excellence, but he is interested in interesting. He argues the way business may suceed in today's world of fast paced environment is daring to try, to learn, and be different. Customer does not buy the same even if it has always remained the same for many years. They buy new, cool things. However, we often attribute consistency to quality as well , for example if every can of Heinken has a slight different taste, would it still be popular as it is today? So, here then is one of greatest paradox of business. "To be excellent, you have to be consistent. When you're consistent, you're vulnerable to attack. Yes, it's a paradox. Now deal with it!"

    At this point I am also thinking about whether it is appropriate to try and define excellence (i.e. find the set of associated characterisitcs). The difficulty and the dilemma with this exercise is , like many other kind of vague mysterious words e.g leadership, love, courage, what ever you come up with, you can always find an exception to the rule.  If excellence is what Tom describe it to be - Different, then perhaps the very exercise of trying to define it (and hence standardise it) , very much contradict what it means to be Excellent.


    Personal defenses

    An important discussion in organisational learning is why organisations does not 'learn'? Argyris argues learning is the continuous double loop learning - challenge and changing those deep held assumptions (theory in use). But double loop learning is inhibited by organisational defenses. Argyris explains organisational defenses arise from deep held individual belief to avoid oneself from threatening situations. Some of these beliefs include

    • Self protection at all cost- avoid confrontational situations that exposing myself to blame
    • Protection of others- avoid testing other's assumptions which evoke negative feelings in them, and making them feel they are to blame  
    • Control the situation and task- taking actions or views , act privately, avoid public inquiry that might refute my own view

    If I think about these things , I can easily recall myself having these beliefs and how they controlled my decisions. Take blogging for example, I believe sometimes I don't want to express my views because I don't want it to be refuted by others. Certainly in life, I am the type of person that would try to avoid exposing other's flaws. My unwillingness to confront the deeper level problems, both in myself and in others, often led me to believe I was helping others but when in fact I was merely rescuing others. The latter doesn't actually doesn solve the problem and doesnt prevent the same issue from re-ocurring.

    This seem like good practice of social behavior, in order to get along. But in organizations, these assumptions manifest itself in distrust, non-cooperation, political game and so on ... all are merely symptoms of set of our underlying assumptions about interpersonal behaviors.

    When people holds these assumptions about the behavioral world of organisation, the organisational whole becomes resistant to accepting new views, trying new things, and change organisational routines (theory of action) that may inadvertently reinforce these personal level defenses.

    A few years ago the notion of EQ or Emotional Quotient was very popular. People often relate one's EQ to their success in life. Now I think about it, people with high EQ are probably quite aware of their personal defenses and know how to manage it effective in themselves and others.