Saturday, June 25, 2011

How do know whenl you are burnt out

Being over-burdened with work, monotony and the perception of lack of recognition can all be catalysts for burnout syndrome. A team of scientists has analysed the factors that influence the development of the three sub-types of this condition -- 'frenetic', 'under-challenged' and 'worn out'.

Chronic workplace stress and the perception of lack of recognition at work create a breeding ground for burnout syndrome. "This condition is increasing in prevalence in Spain and poses a serious problem to society because of the economic losses it causes and its consequences for health," Jesús Montero-Marín, lead author of the study and a senior researcher at the Aragon Institute of Health Sciences, said.

The experts distinguish three profiles depending on the features of the syndrome displayed -- 'frenetic', 'under-challenged' and 'worn out'. The study, published in BMC Psychiatry, reveals the sociodemographic and employment factors associated with each of these. The Montero-Marín team used questionnaires to survey a sample of 409 employees working at the University of Zaragoza, including administrative, services, teaching and research staff and interns.

"The 'frenetic' profile is associated with the number of hours worked," explains Montero-Marín. A person who spends more than 40 hours per week working is six times more likely to develop the syndrome than a person working less than 35 hours. These kinds of employees are usually heavily involved in their role, are very ambitious and have a large task overload.

A worker who does monotonous tasks, with a tendency to get bored and a lack of personal development opportunities, is more at risk of developing the 'under-challenged' profile. Administrative and services staff are almost three times more likely to fall within this group than teaching and research staff. It is also a primarily masculine profile. "While men tend to distance themselves from the company's objectives, women are more likely to develop emotional exhaustion," the psychologist explains.

The 'worn out' profile, meanwhile, tends to appear among people with a long history in the same job, who ends up ignoring their responsibilities due to the lack of recognition they perceive in their environment. A worker with more than 16 years' service in the same place of work is five times more at risk of developing this profile than another worker with a service record of less than four years.

People holding down multiple jobs and those on temporary contracts end up 'frenetic.'

Whatever kind of burnout it is that they suffer, workers will experience emotional exhaustion, cynicism or lack of efficacy at work. In general, the experts consider that this syndrome is present if the person displays at least one of these three characteristics.

The type of contract a person is employed on also impacts on whether they will develop burnout. Employees on temporary contracts are more involved with the company, because they seek to form connections that will give them greater stability. This attitude may result in them developing a 'frenetic' profile, which is also the case with people on half-day contracts, "who probably have multiple jobs," the expert points out.

Apart from the factors that cause this syndrome, a person's social environment can act as a counterweight to it appearing in the first place. "Having a family, partner or children can act as a protective 'cushion', because when people finish their day at work they leave their workplace worries behind them and focus on other kinds of tasks," the psychologist explains.

Read more here

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Project Management: 4 Ways to Manage Your Tight Budget

Project managers do nothing else right they need to meticulously manage their budgets. Here are four strategies for maintaining control of your project budget and preventing massive cost overruns.

1. Continually forecast the budget. A project run without frequent budget management and reforecasting will likely be headed for failure. Why? Because frequent budget oversight prevents the budget from getting too far out of hand. A 10 percent budget overrun is far easier to correct than a 50 percent overrun. Your chances of keeping the project on track with frequent review of the budget plan is far greater than if you forecast it once and forget about it.

2. Regularly forecast resource usage. Just as the budget needs to be constantly revisited to keep it on track, you need to do the same for resource usage, since the people working on a project contribute to its cost. Project managers should review the number of people currently working on a project and the project's future resource needs on a weekly basis . Doing so will ensure that you're fully utilizing the resources you have and that you have the right resources ready for the rest of the project. Regularly revisiting the resource forecast will help keep your project budget on track.

3. Keep the team informed. Always keep the project team informed of the project budget forecast. An informed team is an empowered team that takes ownership of the project. By keeping the team informed of the budget status, they will be more likely to watch their project charges and far less likely to charge extra 'gray area' hours to your project (those are the hours that they know they worked by aren't sure what they were working on.)

4. Manage scope meticulously. Scope creep is one of the leading causes of project overruns. As unplanned work finds its way into your project, billable hours mount and the project budget can get out of control. Project managers must carefully manage scope by creating change orders for work that isn't covered by the project's initial requirements. Change orders authorize additional funding for the project to cover the cost of extra work, and thus keep the project to its new budget.

The project budget must be a living part of projects—something project managers review with their teams and their stakeholders on a regular basis. Project managers who carefully watch budgets throughout the lives of their projects will keep stakeholders and management happy and thus experience greater project and career success.

Man as Industrial Palace: Famous 1926 Lithograph Brought to Life

In 1926, Fritz Kahn, a German gynecologist and anatomy textbook author, produced a lithograph called Der Mensch als Industriepalast (Man as Industrial Palace) that depicted the human body as a factory (see here), a chemical plant of sorts.

Kahn’s body came complete with mechanical lungs, a rock-sorting stomach, gears for a throat, and a switchboard for a brain, and it illustrated rather metaphorically the degree to which industrialization had taken over Western life, creating deep anxiety for some and curiosity for others.

More than eighty years later, Henning Lederer, a German artist, has brought Kahn’s mechanical body to life with some gifted animation. This dynamic version is currently on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of the “Health for Sale” exhibition.

To learn more about Lederer’s project, you will want to spend more time on and particularly with this helpful PDF. Other animation by Lederer appears on Vimeo. Many thanks to Elliot for sending this along.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Four easy-to-remember passwords that will protect your accounts

The recent security breach at the beloved online storage service, Dropbox, has reminded us of the weakness of the Web.

Founded in 2007 Dropbox that uses cloud computing to allow us to store all kinds of large files on the Web, and across a variety of operating systems, that are then easily shared with others.

For about four hours on June 19 anyone could get access to any account with a dummy password. “It was like our skirt got lifted for hours.”

This is what Dropbox wrote on their blog yesterday:
Yesterday we made a code update at 1:54pm Pacific time that introduced a bug affecting our authentication mechanism. We discovered this at 5:41pm and a fix was live at 5:46pm. A very small number of users (much less than 1 percent) logged in during that period, some of whom could have logged into an account without the correct password. As a precaution, we ended all logged in sessions.

We’re conducting a thorough investigation of related activity to understand whether any accounts were improperly accessed. If we identify any specific instances of unusual activity, we’ll immediately notify the account owner.

This should never have happened. We are scrutinizing our controls and we will be implementing additional safeguards to prevent this from happening again.

This is a serious issue for Dropbox—a company valued at $1.5 to $2 billion—since trust is the number one value they offer over their competition. Until we hear more about the “additional safeguards” they intend to implement it does give us pause about our chosen passwords.

We live in a password era, and we all have our passwords that range from the ridiculously simple and cheesy like “love” to impossible-to-get-straight gobbledigook. Apparently a shocking 50% of passwords are “based on names of a family member, spouse, partner, or a pet,” according to this book “Perfect Password: Selection, Protection, Authentication.”

We also learned recently that 75% of us use the exact same password for everything. This is a huge mistake. All it takes is one hacker and one weakly protected site and your key to everything, including email and banking, is up for grabs.

When you use the same password for everything it is only as strong as the weakest site and, unfortunately, there are plenty of weak sites. Ninety-three percent of organisations have been hacked at least once in the past two years, according to the US State of Web Application Security Survey, Ponemon Institute.

You can use the same series of numbers and letters but do mix them up (upper case, lower case, order, creating what may be a near limitless variety) for different sites, banking, discount shopping, online publications, airlines, etc. and change them up regularly.

There is a better, simpler way, according to Christopher Mims at MIT Tech Review. He suggests that you create only four passwords and use them in a tiered system.

Low-tier password: Something you may already be using that is so easy to get that it might as well be your middle name. Use this for low level importance sites. One's you don’t care about, like commenting sites for online magazines or music streaming sites. If you get hacked the worst that can happen is that your username suddenly likes Lady GaGa!

Second-tier password: “For sites on which you have personal data and definitely don’t want to be impersonated (Twitter, Facebook, etc.),” says Mims. Here you need something longer as long as you are comfortable with recalling complex phrases. Remember to use at least one special character, especially inserting it into the middle of the phrase, not at either end.

Never, ever use what is called a “dictionary password” i.e. any real word that will exist in a dictionary. A classic tactic that hackers use to break into sites uses a fast program that repeatedly inserts real words until it finds a match.

Third-tier password: This is your second highest level of security and can be used for email accounts and your cell phone. It needs to be unique, long and interspersed with special characters. Your email account is where you might hold information about your other passwords, so it must be highly guarded. It is the “master key” of passwords.

Fourth-tier password: The gold standard of passwords should be used to protect your wealth i.e. your bank and financial information. This password should be unique and can only be used for your banking, nothing else.

So we don’t need to have 30+ passwords memorised, or worse, documented in email or on scraps of paper, we just need four — or at least three — that are tiered for importance and security.

As for tips on creating a vice-like, gold standard password we suggest reading an informative post on the worst passwords of all time, and avoid them.

Even a cryptic string like “abgrtyu” is on the list, so be wary. The hard part is following the paradoxical mantra of password creation: Easy to remember, hard to guess.

Once you’ve mastered that statement, try measuring your password strength using this useful Microsoft test. I used to get angry and hurt when my passwords were noted as “weak” as if it were a personal affront. Now I know it can be part of an entire strategy of protection.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Iran satellite is step towards human space flight

On 15 June, Iran put its second ever satellite, Rasad-1, into orbit 260 kilometres above Earth. The nation hopes to use the experience to launch a monkey into space this year and, by 2019, a human. The worry is that such rockets could also be used to fire missiles at targets on Earth.

At 15 kilograms, Rasad-1 may be tiny, but it is a boost to Iran's space capabilities, says Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation think tank, headquartered in Washington DC.

"People wondered after the first time if they just got lucky," he says. "Now that they've put two satellites up there, that indicates perhaps it wasn't a fluke the first time. It demonstrates that their rocket technology is pretty good."

Monkey on-board
Rasad-1 is reportedly taking low-resolution images of Earth. But its launch seems intended mainly to give the country more experience in launching and operating satellites.

It is one step forward in what looks like an ambitious space plan, says Laura Grego of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "They have this pretty ambitious list of six or seven satellites over the next three years," she says.

At least one of them is expected to carry an animal on board. Iran's state-run television company says the country will launch a monkey into orbit on a one-way trip "later this year". It also says Iran plans to launch an astronaut into space by 2019.

"The monkey seems perfectly plausible," Weeden says. Flying and safely returning a human to Earth by 2019 is more of a stretch, but it might be possible for Iran if it is a suborbital hop rather than a more challenging orbital flight, he says.

The Art of Enchanting Presentation

The Art of Enchanting Presentation

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Five Myths about Collaboration

1. The Right Tools will make you Collaborate
Technology can make it easier to collaborate when applications directly mirror a more intuitive, fluid work style, but selecting a tool without addressing roles, processes, metrics and the organization’s workplace climate is putting the cart before the horse.

2. Collaboration is inherently a Good thing
Many organisations can’t articulate what benefit they hope to achieve by employing social media to become more collaborative. This decreases the likelihood of achieving a successful implementation. The most successful social media initiatives solve real business problems. The KPI impacted must be real and relevant to the business.

3. Collaboration takes up Valuable Time
When IT leaders perform a thorough analysis of the target audience's workflow to make sure key integration points among applications are identified, they will avoid the common mistake of simply layering collaboration tools on top of existing applications that workers are expected to use. If collaboration and social software tools are not integrated with other critical applications, workers must shift context, which slows them down or duplicates effort (e.g., cut/paste from one application to another).

4. People will Naturally Collaborate
Depending on their level of cynicism, people believe that humans naturally collaborate, or naturally don't. While there are individuals at each end of the spectrum, most are somewhere in the middle and can be encouraged to collaborate under the right conditions. IT leaders should ignore the reluctant minority and work on motivating the majority of workers who can be persuaded to collaborate when expectations are clear and collaborative behaviours are rewarded.

5. People Instinctively Know How to Collaborate
Individuals will be forced into using their own interpretation of collaboration, without a set of expectations about what it means to work collaboratively with others. Few organisations have a clear set of guidelines that describe how people should interact with each other to produce optimum results. A better approach is to clarify what attitude a collaborative individual needs to bring to their work, what abilities and skills they need to master and what personal style works well in a team setting. It is also critical that managers demonstrate the behaviours they want their employees to mirror.

YouTube - UK MoD Paranoid video campaign

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched a marketing campaign warning against posting potentially risky messages on social networks.

The Personal Security Online project consists of a website and a number of accompanying materials, including two videos.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Andrés Segovia: Father of Classical Guitar, at the Alhambra

Andrés Segovia first visited the Alhambra, the storied 14th Century Moorish palace in Granada, Spain, when he was ten years old. “It was here,” he said, “that I opened my eyes to the beauty of nature and art. To be here is to feel oneself to be near, very near, paradise.”

Segovia is often called the father of classical guitar. As a young boy he learned to play flamenco, the traditional music of his native Andalusia, but by the time he was a teenager he was transcribing Bach and other composers, adapting music originally intended for different instruments.

Over the course of his lifetime, Segovia transcribed much of the classical repertoire, refined the standard technique, and established the guitar as a serious instrument, bringing it out of the parlors and into the concert halls.

In 1976, at the age of 84, Segovia returned to the Alhambra to perform for the documentary, Andrés Segovia: The Song of the Guitar. In the excerpt above, Segovia plays one of his favorite pieces, “The Legend of Asturias,” by Isaac Albéniz, who composed it for the piano as a prelude to his “Cantos de España.” The complete documentary is available on a two-film DVD, Andrés Segovia: In Portrait.

Related Content:
The Guitar Prodigy from Karachi