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Michael J. Coffey
More tea is better than less tea; some tea is better than no tea.
More tea is better than less tea; some tea is better than no tea.

Michael J.'s posts

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Entrepreneurship Education at Seattle Central College
The Business Technology Management (BTM) program has a number of short-term certificates, industry certificates, and other options. I teach two of the courses that are in the Entrepreneurship certificate.

As their new website points out, these are useful whether you want to start a new business or would like to work with a startup. And as I like to stress in one of my classes, even if you're working for a big corporation, entrepreneurial skills are still useful as a way to better contribute to your organization, or as a way to think of your department as a business-with-a-business.

The aforementioned new website:

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I haven't read all of it yet, but what I have is interesting, so sharing as a combination of "you should read this" and "save for later"...

Via +Kee Hinckley
The dynamics of disinformation, propaganda, "fake news," and conspiracy theories can be studied by watching how they spread. This is a summary of a scientific study (by one of its authors, who links the full paper) into this, and it's chock-full of fascinating results. They focused on responses to mass shootings in particular, as these are a favorite target of conspiracy theories. Conspiracy stories, it turns out, spread with a very different pattern than other types of story - and botnets, quasi-replication of stories between sites, and similar patterns of signal manipulation are key to them. This (as well as other interesting commonalities between the sites which propagate these) suggests that there is something systematic and intentional behind these theories: they aren't emerging organically, they're being curated. 

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Not a lie. I can hardly overstate my satisfaction.

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I can't see the random forest for the decision trees.

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This is why so many scientists say, "more study is needed."

Via +Rhys Taylor:

Apparently, the backfire effect - where people tend to believe more strongly in something when presented with opposing evidence - just doesn't exist, or at least has been hugely overstated. I find it unlikely that it doesn't exist at all, because anecdotally it most certainly does. Overstated is much more plausible - as the article describes, there are other reasons why simple fact-presenting may still not work in (political) practise. E.g. if you hear the facts once but the lies a dozen times; the power of a fact to reduce belief may not necessarily translate into changing votes; I suppose there could also be a "hard core" who do suffer the backfire effect and then go on to promote lies more vigorously as a result, etc.

Still, it's tough to argue with this given that the authors of the original 2010 study are on board with it. But what this article doesn't address is why the studies produced such very different results. Did the original have some methodological flaw or suffer some unintended selection effect ? Was the sample size just too low ? Could it simply be due to how the information was presented ? Intriguingly :

“Across all experiments,” the researchers write, “we found only one issue capable of triggering backfire: whether WMD were found in Iraq in 2003.” Even there, changing the wording of the item in question eliminated the backfire effect.

See also :
Via Slate Star Codex: apparently the "backfire effect" of political facts isn't necessarily correct:

> First described in a 2010 paper by the political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, the idea is simple: If someone believes something that’s false, and you present them with a correction, in many situations rather than update their belief they will double down, holding even tighter to that initial belief. [...]

> Two new upcoming studies of the backfire effect call into question its very existence. These studies collected far more subjects than the original backfire study, and both find effectively no backfire effect at all. And unlike the original study, the subjects in these new ones weren’t just college students — they were thousands of people, of all ages, from all around the country.

> If this new finding holds up, this is a very important, well, correction: It suggests that overall, fact-checking may be more likely to cause people, even partisans, to update their beliefs rather than to cling more tightly to them. And part of the reason we now know this is that Nyhan and Reifler put their money where their mouths were: When a team of two young researchers approached them suggesting a collaboration to test the backfire effect in a big, robust, public way, they accepted the challenge. So this is partly a story about a potentially important new finding in political science and psychology — but the story within the story is about science being done right. [...]

> As the paper notes, the experiments were set up in ways designed to maximize the chances of a backlash effect being observed. Many of the issues the respondents were asked about are extremely politically charged — abortion and gun violence and illegal immigration — and the experiment was conducted during one of the most heated and unusual presidential elections in modern American history. The idea was something like, Well, if we can’t find the backfire effect here, with a big sample size under these sorts of conditions, then we can safely question whether it exists.

> And that’s what happened. “Across all experiments,” the researchers write, “we found only one issue capable of triggering backfire: whether WMD were found in Iraq in 2003.” Even there, changing the wording of the item in question eliminated the backfire effect.

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The Entrepreneurship Toolkit.
Thinking of starting a business? If you're in the Seattle area, I'm teaching an 11-week course on the skills necessary to be successful in business. You'll hear the personal stories of Seattle-area business owners and what they've learned through their own entrepreneurship journey (and have a chance to build your own network)

Other skills and takeaways:
* Goal setting
* Community resources for business owners
* Assess your strengths and communication style
* Designing your business so that it works for you

The course can be taken as a non-credit Continuing Education offering, or as an enrolled Seattle Central College student for credit through the Business Technology Management program.

More information and registration:

An interview with both myself and the course creator, Jeff Levy, on the SCC blog:

#business #entrepreneurship #education

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Word of the day. Actually, I've been hearing it more frequently for a couple of months now.

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Difficult, but important, to remember (referring to both videos, not just the featured one).
I like this.

"Carrie Poppy is one half of the Oh No Ross and Carrie podcast (previously), a skeptical look at fringe science and paranormal claims whose hosts distinguish themselves by their compassionate, open-minded approach to their subjects, fuelled in part by their upbringing in evangelical Christianity, a faith they've both since renounced.

"In this Tedx Vienna video, Poppy recounts the curious and surprising story of a time when she thought she was staying in a haunted house ('what happened next' as they say 'will surprise you'), and uses that as a springboard for a wonderful framework for skeptics to use when talking to people about their spiritual or paranormal beliefs -- basically, how to say, 'I don't believe you' without being an asshole."

See also: Phil Plait - Don't Be a Dick []

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Well, I've got one more class session this week to get as much across to my students as I can. At least I know it's doing some good.
Critical thinking instruction in humanities reduces belief in pseudoscience

A recent study by North Carolina State University researchers finds that teaching critical thinking skills in a humanities course significantly reduces student beliefs in "pseudoscience" that is unsupported by facts. "Given the national discussion of 'fake news,' it's clear that critical thinking -- and classes that teach critical thinking -- are more important than ever," says Anne McLaughlin, an associate professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the work. "Fundamentally, we wanted to assess how intentional you have to be when teaching students critical thinking," says Alicia McGill, an assistant professor of history at NC State and co-author of the paper. "We also wanted to explore how humanities classes can play a role and whether one can assess the extent to which critical thinking instruction actually results in improved critical thinking by students. "This may be especially timely, because humanities courses give students tools they can use to assess qualitative data and sort through political rhetoric," McGill says. "Humanities also offer us historical and cultural perspective that allow us to put current events into context."...The psychology class served as a control group. The two history courses incorporated instruction explicitly designed to cultivate critical thinking skills. For example, students in the history courses were taught how to identify logical fallacies -- statements that violate logical arguments, such as non sequiturs.

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