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Posts Tagged ‘lazy

The image in the tweet above is amusing, but that is all it is. It reminds me of online quizzes that claim they can tell you your personality type or which Hogwarts house you belong to.

I am none of the options in the image. Someone might think of categories to lump people into, but they cannot be exhaustive.

You might be in more than one or you might jump from one category to another depending on the circumstances. We are fickle and complex that way. 

You might also argue that such quizzes or questions that categorise you are harmless fun. They might be if you are a critical thinker. The problem is that such “fun” is more popular than the work of actually thinking for yourself. You become lazy if you cannot critique something that relies on lazy thinking to propagate itself.

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I love how Dr Inna Kanevsky does not hold back when responding to trolls and crackpots on TikTok.

In this latest salvo, she shot down the perception of one such troll on the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) and the MBTI in general. 

A critic might ask what the harm is in taking the test. My response: It is all fun and games until it is not. If companies still use it to hire, advance, or even fire, its use has serious consequences.

The creators of the MBTI were charlatans. The agencies that flog it are multi-million dollar business based on pseudoscience. To paraphrase a comment to Dr K’s tweet: You might as well rely on astrology to sort students and workers.

So what is the harm on using tools like MBTI? You sort people with a tool that is neither valid nor reliable. Its continued use also breeds uncritical and lazy thinking.

I am not the first to point this out and I doubt I will be the last. The legal disclaimers or warnings that are automatically added to the end of organisational emails are ridiculous and unenforceable.

Here is one example:

This message and any files transmitted with it may be privileged and/or confidential and are intended only for the use of the addressee. If you are not the intended recipient, you shall not disseminate, copy or use this message for any purpose. If you have received this message in error, please notify us immediately by return email and delete the original message. Thank you.

Simply adding it to the end of an email message does not absolve the sender of carelessness, stupidity, or responsibility. It tries to put the onus on the recipient while not being able to ensure their compliance.

So why do it? My guess is that someone started doing it and lemmings followed. If you are not convinced, read some corporate email and count the number of gentle reminders, kind assistance, or revert backs. It is lazy language disease that spread with use.

Just because something is high-sounding or threatening does not make it legally-binding. It is a lazy way to look effective but not actually be effective.

The writers of Quartz, some of whom I have described as using lazy writing, wondered why one of the world’s wealthiest countries is also one of its biggest online pirates.

The country was Singapore, “the world’s fourth richest country, measured by gross national income per capita and adjusted for purchasing power”. Quartz wondered why Singaporeans still resorted to piracy despite having access to Netflix.

Does it assume that 1) there are no poor people in Singapore, 2) everyone here has heard of Netflix or other legal video streaming platforms, 3) the rich people here (all of us!) subscribe to something like Netflix, and 4) having access to legal streaming should reduce piracy significantly?

These are flawed assumptions. In not trying to answer its own question, it revealed lazy thinking and research.

For example, it did not mention how Netflix Singapore only offers 15% of TV shows carried by Netflix USA. (The exact figure might vary over time and is available in the table at this site.)

It did not mention that we have relatively low-cost fibre optic broadband plans.

Telcos here now push 1Gbps plans. One needs only a cursory examination of this chart maintained by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) of Singapore to see that the plans hover around S$50 now.

The low access to the full Netflix USA library combined with ready access to high speed Internet point to our ability to get the same resources elsewhere.

Quartz decided to call our behaviour kiasu. That is a catchall term that avoids actual thought and explanation. The label is convenient: You are all just like that despite your money and access.

Like most sociotechnical phenomena (behaviours shaped and enabled with technology), the underlying reasons are nuanced. I have suggested just two and backed it up with the data.

Yesterday was Labour Day, a public holiday here to acknowledge the efforts of workers everywhere. Unfortunately, everyone could not take a day off or the place would shut down.

Some people have to work hard for others. Some people are hardly working. I might have discovered an example of the latter.

Thanks to this tweet, I read this Quartz article, Asians spend seven times as much as Americans on tutoring to give their kids an edge.

As it turned out, the “Asians” were not all those living in continental Asia, but those in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea. America referred to the US of A. (Edit to add-it: Why “America” is not synonymous with the “USA”.)

You might say I am nitpicking; I say we should be precise. Such precision is important because a) you should not assume everyone understands things the way you do, and b) if you have a poor understanding, you should not perpetuate inaccuracies.

In another example of lazy writing, the same article dated 27 April 2017, concluded with a paragraph chunk copied from an article dated 14 September 2016.


“There is nothing wrong with parents trying to do the best for their children,” Manu Kapur, a professor of psychological studies at the Education University of Hong Kong, and former head of curriculum, teaching, and learning at the National Institute of Education of Singapore told Quartz. “It’s what they value as being good. That has to change.”


Kapur and other Singaporean policymakers recognize these challenges. “There is nothing wrong with parents trying to do the best for their children,” Kapur says. “It’s what they value as being good. That has to change.”

It is an excellent quote for the 2017 conclusion, but I wonder if:

  • it is ethical and logical to transfer a quote from one context and article to another.
  • a professor who lives and works overseas can be considered a Singaporean policymaker.
  • the author of the 2017 article bothered to check Kapur’s status (he is now Chair of Learning Sciences and Higher Education at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, source).

It is lazy writing to not update old information or to check facts.

Just as disturbing was reusing the same image for two different articles: One about Singapore and another about China. The 2016 article was about Singapore, but it featured a photo of students from China taking an exam from a different article six months earlier.

Screenshot of article about Singapore:

Article about Singapore with same image as the next one.

Screenshot of article about China:

Article about China with same image as the one above.

Visuals communicate powerfully and in ways that words cannot. The leading photo sets a tone and draws the eye to the article. Is one insidious message that China and Singapore are the same? Do we have the same mindset and behaviours?

An observant educator in Singapore would probably suspect the authenticity of the leading photo. I noticed the students were wearing the same jackets, were racially less varied, and in a hall likely larger than largest examination room we have.

How did I do my homework? I relied on the grapevine and an online search about Kapur, and I used TinEye reverse image search to investigate the leading photos.

A writer is also a fact-checker, particularly one who is doing investigative work. Did the Quartz writers and editors fact check? Do we teach our students adequately to do the same?

Ultimately, rigorous fact-checking and precise writing build trust. This trust erodes if these basics are not done right. Now I will think twice before tweeting about or recommending a Quartz article.

I can almost hear a collective groan from some English teachers when a new word of the year (WOTY) is unveiled. Depending on where and when you look, the WOTY might be emoticon, YOLO, bae, vape, or selfie.

It is not just the young who are reinventing language. In Singapore, I have noticed service aunties and uncles at fast food joints creating one-word questions like: Member? Upsize? Chilli?

Some time ago, I stood behind a Caucasian patron, who on ordering his meal, was asked, “Member?” He responded, “I beg your pardon!”

The auntie meant, “Are you a member of this restaurant?” and “Could you please show me your membership card?” Member was a severe truncation of all that.

However, our word-smithing efficiency was not received the same way. “Member” is another word for “private parts” in other parts of the world. It would be a very unusual eatery to require that you present your genitalia when you order food.

Now “upsize” and “chilli” refer to whether you would like a larger side order and drink (and if so, what size) and what condiment packets (and how many) you prefer.

You have to be a local enough to learn such word-smithing. But do you have to accept or even use it? Some segments seem to think so.

I wish I had taken a photo of the sign along an expressway upgrading works that declared it was being “upsized”. That stretch of road now has more lanes. Those lanes eventually narrow to the same limited number of lanes elsewhere because the rest of the road system cannot accommodate it.

Outside local use, member, upsize, and chilli are not universally understood. This is fine if you choose to communicate only your own household. It is not if you wish to make the world your oyster.

Beyond language use and evolution, the lazy use and adoption of language is indicative of mindset. On one hand, it asks the question, “Are you willing and able to change?” On the other, it begs the question “Are you critical enough to prevent good values from slipping?”

Almost every day I get notified on Twitter that something I created or shared is part of someone’s “curated” e-paper. I should feel flattered, but I am not always pleased.

The part of me that celebrates is the fact that everyone today can be a leader, publisher, or broadcaster. Your artefact can be right beside or even more highly featured than a prize-winning journalist or a Sir Ken Robinson.

My beef is not with the content creators because they are the leaders, publishers, or broadcasters. I like them even more when they share generously and openly because the rest of us benefit from their ideas, perspectives, or wisdom.

lazy by delgrosso, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  delgrosso 

I take issue with those that pretend to curate the content with tools like, flipboard, or some equivalent. I have shared some other thoughts on auto-curation before.

Auto-curation tools are efficient. They allow a user to pull and pool content from just about anywhere into themed e-papers. But it is one thing to do this for your benefit (like how some of us still use RSS to get our daily nuggets). It is another to share these as one’s own effort and expertise.

I have described these efforts as fire-and-forget because there is little effort beyond initial set up. These tools, and by association the people that use them, trawl social media riches but remove the social, the personal, and the contextual.

For example, I know of e-curated sites that feature only one source of articles while touting how many people tweet-share articles from that source. Others put their articles in the top-ranking section at the beginning and everyone else’s later. These are more about self-promotion than sharing.

There are others that claim expertise or specialization in a topic. To the uninformed eye, the daily churning out of e-papers with articles based on the hard work of others seems impressive. However, quite a few of the “curators” do not produce any of their own work to share. They might also have little or no reputation in the topics they dabble in.

If you try having conversations with these entities, you soon learn that they sometimes a) do not reply, b) are bots, or c) cannot carry a light load of logic or critical thought.

What saddens me is that curation might be redefined by efficiency and convenience instead of care and context. There are digital tools like Diigo and that lend themselves to more considered and reflective curation. However, I worry about the slick and shiny tools used by educators and non-educators alike who inevitably push the wrong curation agenda. I worry that it promotes lazy thinking.

I am all for showing people how easy it is to use today’s technology. But I am against modelling that good use is effortless. Like most things, the best things in life often take care and hard work. Digital curation is no exception.


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