Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Stinging nettle tea

I had an acupuncture treatment yesterday evening. The treatment dates were fixed at the beginning of the year, so it's coincidental that they occur when I'm not feeling well (as it happens, I had to cancel one as I was physically ill at the time of the appointment). Maybe this is a sign that I'm unwell frequently.... Anyway, the acupuncturist asked how I was and I told him about the anaemia. After discussing it, he suggested that I drink stinging nettle tea. My initial reaction was surprise, but he said that it was good for a variety of complaints. After the treatment, I drove to the health food shop in Bet Shemesh and bought a packet of 25 nettle teabags for only 13 NIS. The shop assistant didn't bat an eyelid when I asked for this tea.

Today I looked up stinging nettles on the internet, and this is what I found: Stinging nettle is an astringent, diuretic, tonic, anodyne, pectoral, rubefacient, styptic, anthelmintic, nutritive, alterative, hemetic, anti-rheumatic, anti-allergenic, anti-lithic/lithotriptic, haemostatic, stimulant, decongestant, herpatic, febrifuge, kidney depurative/nephritic, galactagogue, hypoglycemic, expectorant, anti-spasmodic, and anti-histamine. Nettle’s iron content makes it a wonderful blood builder, and the presence of vitamin C aids in the iron absorption. As a hemetic (an herb rich in iron), this is an excellent herb for anemia and fatigue, especially in women. It “promotes the process of protein transanimation in the liver, effectively utilizing digested proteins, while simultaneously preventing them from being discharged through the body as waste products.” 
If this herb is so wonderful, why have I never read about its benefits before? And how many of you have heard those adjectives before? Galactagogue sounds like a cross between a galaxy and a synagogue but probably has something to do with the sugar galactose; it's actually a substance that promotes lactation. That's fine for women who have just given birth but not really useful for me. Febrifuge is a fancy word for an anti-pyretic, a term which is also not in common usage; basically it means a substance that reduces fever.

Anyway, I have just finished my first cup of stinging nettle tea. It has an aroma and taste reminiscent of peppermint, which certainly makes a change from my regular teas. It's not bad tasting, the price is right, and if it performs only half the functions listed above, then I'm onto a good thing.

Green tea is as bad as black tea regarding iron absorption, and unfortunately I have quite large stocks of this. I shall have to adjust my tea regime to maximise the drinking of the stinging nettle tea whilst still managing to drink a few cups of green tea, which has its own benefits.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Yorkshire pudding

I wrote a few weeks ago about Jamie Oliver and his fifteen minute meals. One of his recipes which I noted was for Yorkshire pudding and smoked salmon; this seemed fairly easy and would be kosher. I had intended to cook this on a Saturday evening, but the timing never seemed right, until yesterday evening. Fortunately, I had bought smoked salmon and even had exercised the necessary self-control not to touch it.

Once I had decided that "tonight's the night", I looked for the recipe. I had kept the tv programme on our Tivo equivalent, but when I looked, I saw that the programme had disappeared (my wife had deleted it without telling me). So then I went to Oliver's website, only to find that the recipe wasn't there (the site itself isn't too user-friendly). Eventually I tracked the recipe down on someone's blog. I am repeating it here so as to save myself trouble in the future.
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Our oven takes a while to heat up so, so this stage has to be done well before anything else.
  2. In a 28cm frying pan, pour a little (teaspoon? spoon?) olive oil and heat. Add to it some rosemary.
  3. In a blender, place 2 eggs, 150ml milk and 65g flour. Blend well.
  4. When the oil is hot, pour the blended mix into the frying pan and fry for a minute.
  5. Place the frying pan into the oven for 13-15 minutes.
  6. Cut up smoked salmon
  7. Remove frying pan from oven, place salmon on top, cut and serve.
After 15 minutes, I checked with a knife to check that the pudding was cooked through. I quartered the pudding in the frying pan, then transferred to plates. Everyone said that the taste was pleasant and unusual; no one complained, but no one was extra-enthusiastic.

I am tempted to cook this again, possibly using tuna instead of smoked salmon, which I found too salty (and also expensive!). I thought about adding the tuna to the blender, but I suspect that this would make the mixture too heavy and so it wouldn't achieve the required light and fluffy texture.

As it happens, Jamie showed another vegetarian dish on Friday - cheese fritters. These are made with ricotta cheese (along with Parmesan) and look quite good. The timing couldn't be better as next week is the Shavu'ot festival, when it is traditional to eat cheese meals. This allows me a practice run before the festival.

Talking of which, our in-laws invited us to a barbecue for Lag B'Omer last week. I suggested that they come to us for Shavu'ot - this was partially a joke, as they are confirmed meat eaters and when faced with a cheese meal probably would feel as out of place as I do when faced with a barbecue. They told me that the festival is an excuse for another barbecue, tradition be damned.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Back to the research proposal

On Saturday I sent to my mentor the latest draft of my research proposal and yesterday evening I received his feedback.

I was disappointed to see him write that the Likert items should not be displayed in a random order. Whilst I could quote him the reference for this idea, I bow to his experience. This means that I will have to display a Likert item like this
<here comes a statement; mark your level of agreement with it>
  1. strongly disagree
  2. disagree
  3. neither disagree nor agree
  4. agree
  5. strongly agree
or possibly like this
strongly disagree   disagree      neutral         agree         strongly agree
But it's still too early to finalise such items. After writing that blog last week, I had an interesting meeting with my "opposite number" in a Priority-using company which is located very close to the kibbutz. I won't go into much detail about our discussion, but there was one very important issue: he would not be happy if my questionnaire were distributed as a computer program. I don't know where he stands on questionnaires which are displayed as webpages, but I do know that he would prefer a traditional paper questionnaire.

I read an interesting paper on Sunday about computer self-efficacy which connects tangentially to my research and introduces the concept of "organisational support" (OS). This could be defined as the extent to which the company encourages the use of Priority and discourages the use of spreadsheets. The paper includes the questionnaire which was used for all its variables so I don't have to invent questions to measure OS. This variable will replace a variable which I had introduced but not defined very clearly.

Yesterday I was in a meeting with one of business units. Over the past few years, the CEO (with my stalwart help) has been dragging this unit into using Priority more and more. Here is my account of a meeting with them from two years ago. These days, we are talking about a very complicated report which will show how much the intended costs were for a project and how much the actual costs were. This is complicated for various reasons, but what makes it very complicated is the fact that they frequently use raw materials which aren't in the original bill of materials (maybe the designated part is not in inventory but they have something similar). I won't go into the details but the CEO was insistent that all the data come from Priority, even if some of it (like projected installation costs) are indeed projections and not based on anything. "What, no Excel?", I asked innocently. Everyone laughed at this as if it were the year's best witticism. Obviously we've come a long way in the past two years.

This is the best indication of OS I have ever seen.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tea and iron

I remember that the last time that I was anemic, about ten years ago, I went to a dietician to see what I could do to improve the amount of iron that I absorb from food. The main thing that I remember from our discussion was that I was doing my best to absorb as little iron as possible from my diet.

The primary cause was/is tea. There's something in tea which prevents iron absorption. From that day, I started drinking herbal "tea" which is basically hot water with flavour: no caffeine, no tannins, no EGCG, no nothing. Obviously, drinking this is not going to cause any problems.

About a year ago I started drinking green tea: two teabags a day (I find that one teabag is sufficient for two cups), one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I drink two cups of black tea with milk in the afternoon/early evening. Yesterday, I started taking iron tablets: one at lunch, along with fresh fruit juice; the vitamin C in the juice aids iron absorption.

I was wondering whether green tea would have an affect on the amount of iron absorbed. I found this passageTannins are naturally occurring molecules in tea ... Many of them are found in other “healthy” foods, such as berries, pomegranates, and wine. Dietary iron comes in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is from meat sources and non-heme iron is from plant sources, such as cereal grains, legumes, and leafy greens. Heme iron is generally unaffected by tannins and is typically absorbed at a rate of 10-30%, depending on the body’s level of need for it at the time. Non-heme iron, on the other hand, IS affected by the tannins in tea and is only absorbed at a rate of only 2-10%. So, if you eat meat and are not diagnosed as anemic, then you will have no problems drinking as much tea as you like before, after, and during meals. However, if you are vegetarian/vegan and/or are diagnosed anemic, then you may want to place some restrictions on your tea drinking. Here’s why:

Tannins chelate non-heme iron. This means that they form an insoluble bond with some of the iron molecules, making it undigestible. The degree of chelation is dose-dependant: the more tea you drink during a meal, the less iron is absorbed. (FYI, calcium also chelates iron, particularly when taken in a large dose as a supplement, and foods such as spinach and soy are thought to chelate iron at a similar rate to tea.) The typical decrease in iron absorption from a meal with a cup (as in measuring cup) of tea in clinical studies is approximately 30-60%. If you’re already low on iron it can make a big difference. This reduction in absorption can be minimized in several ways.

The most commonly suggested means of managing non-heme iron and tea are to drink less tea and to not drink tea with meals. Three to four cups of tea a day is perfectly fine for a healthy vegetarian/vegan or for someone with mild anemia, provided you don’t drink it all during your one iron-rich meal of the day. Drinking tea no less than an hour before and after your meals greatly reduces the inhibition of iron absorption.

Calcium can also act as a friend rather than a foe in iron absorption. By adding a splash of milk to your tea, you can cause the tannins to bind with calcium BEFORE either one can bind with your iron.

From this, I can see two recommendations for my lifestyle: 
  1. Not to drink milk in the hour preceeding lunch
  2. Not to drink green tea for two hours after lunch
(I don't drink milk after lunch for Jewish dietary reasons). Neither of the above will be a problem although I shall have to start carrying herbal teas with me instead of green tea. 

[SO: 3582; 2, 13, 33]

Monday, May 19, 2014

Maccabi again, naturally

Saturday started in good fashion. After walking the dog and eating breakfast, I got down to work: transferring the recording of the previous night's basketball game to dvd (whilst editing out the breaks) and finding the page references for all the direct quotes appearing in my draft research proposal.

The second half - and especially the final quarter - of the game was quite extra-ordinary: CSKA had a 15 point lead about 12 minutes before the end of the game. Maccabi managed to chip away at this until they were four points behind with 19 seconds left to play. A short and sharp attack saw them score a three point basket, leaving CSKA with a one point lead, eight seconds to play and the ball in their hand. 

At this stage, most coaches for the defensive side would order a foul (ie a Maccabi player should foul a CSKA player), so that even if CSKA sank both the resulting free throws, Maccabi would have the ball for the remaining time and so could possibly score a three pointer, thus tieing the game. The Maccabi coach gave no such order; a CSKA player fumbled the ball which was picked up by Maccabi and converted into a field goal with five seconds left to play. CSKA did not manage to score from the final possession.

A fairy tale ending! Maccabi unfortunately has been on the wrong end of such last second plays a few times this season so it is satisfying when things do go right. 

In the evening, we went to my son-in-law's parents for a Lag B'Omer bonfire, along with many of his (many) relatives. This didn't start till about 9pm; we left early but only got home just before midnight. I was up again at 5:30am, feeling extremely tired - and as it later transpired, weak. I had an appointment (made a week previously) with our doctor, who confirmed my diagnosis of anaemia. I was so tired after the appointment (at 3:15pm) that it was all I could do to crawl home, lie on the couch and watch some television. I went to bed just after 8pm, in full recognition of the fact that I would not see the Euroleague final (if it starts at 9pm then it wouldn't finish until about 11pm and I didn't have the strength for that). But of course I recorded it.

On Saturday, I had been planning to write this blog entry with the title "Always the bridesmaid, never the bride (and sometimes not even that)" in recognition of the fact that Maccabi has managed to get to the Euroleague final several times in the past decade but not win. This title conveniently ignores the times that they have won. Instead, I get to use a variant of a song from 1973 by Irish warbler Gilbert O'Sullivan (born Raymond Edward O'Sullivan).

I slept very well and wasn't disturbed by any shouting or celebrating during the night. In fact, in my dreams (those that I can remember), there was nothing about basketball matches. My wife woke up while I was dressing and asked whether I was curious at to the game's result. She explained that she doesn't normally watch basketball matches, but she was watching Big Brother on one channel; every time that there was a commercial break, she would switch to the channel broadcasting the game, and as the score was so close, she decided to watch it until the end. She said that the game went into overtime and then Maccabi built a lead ....

After walking the dog, I confirmed via the official Euroloeague website that Maccabi did indeed win. I even read their report of the game but couldn't muster much enthusiasm. I will watch the game this evening.

I don't claim to be a basketball pundit, but I did have a certain amount of pre-game analysis. Man for man, Real Madrid are a better team than Maccabi, but then, so are CSKA and look what happened to them. I felt that Maccabi stood a good chance if it were a close match, but doubted whether they could present a challenge if Real dominated the game (as they did against Barcelona). Let us not forget that Real beat Maccabi earlier in the season on the final basket, so there is recent precedent for a Maccabi win.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday night

Friday night, Sabbath eve, or as we would put it in Hebrew, 'erev shabat'. It's the big meal of the week, and sharing it with us were our daughter and son-in-law. Before they were married, our daughter ate with us every week and our future son-in-law didn't (he ate with his parents), but now they come to us one week and go to his parents the other week.

This week was special as they brought with them the photo album from the wedding, along with the dvd. It was also special because Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball were playing in the Euroleague Final Four, the game starting at 7pm - just as we made kiddush before eating. I imagine that there were many families throughout Israel who ate their shabbat meal facing the television, something which is normally anathema.

I had decided previously to record the game; it's more important to me to spend time with my family. During the meal, I actually forgot about the game, but after we finished eating, I checked to see what the score was. CSKA were leading by eight points at half-time.

After we cleared the table and cleaned up somewhat, we sat by the television to watch the wedding dvd. Before we started, we had a quick peek at the basketball - Maccabi had cut the deficit to only three points with just over three minutes to go. In other words, the game was totally open.

We watched the dvd, which started with about ten minutes of footage shot prior to the couple arriving at the hall. This footage mainly consisted of two interviews with the couple, shot separately but interleaved. I have to say that the dvd was produced extremely professionally and was well worth the moment.

Suddenly we heard shouting from the flat next door. At first, we looked at each other blankly but then realised that the basketball match must have finished and that Maccabi must have won! We stopped the dvd and tuned the television to the channel which was showing the match - indeed, Maccabi had won by a single point! We then went back to watching the dvd.

It must have been a close and nail biting finish, although I also suspect that the last minute would have consisted mainly of fouls and free shots. Nerve wracking, but not good basketball. Tomorrow I shall watch the recording and transfer it to dvd for prosperity.

Who would have thought eight months ago that Maccabi would be in the Euroleague final? They were losing matches to winnows in the Israeli league, and I was almost ignoring them after the callous way in which they let the previous year's captain, Lior Eliyahu, go. Somewhere in November, the team started to coalesce, finishing top of its group in the preliminary matches. The second round - much harder - went better although Maccabi finished only third in its group.

The quarterfinal games against Milano were of very high standard (best of five, with home court advantage to the Italians). Possibly Milano were hindered by the decisions their coach made; the first game in Milano was lost by the home team after losing their heads (I saw three quarters of the game but missed the final and decisive quarter after assuming that Milano would win). The second game was much more straightforward for the Italian team, but they were outgunned when the next two games were played in Tel Aviv.

So now we have a final on Sunday evening, against either Real Madrid or Barcelona. Maccabi lost twice to Madrid but haven't played Barcelona this year (I should point out that they also lost twice this year to CSKA but won the semifinal); both teams are better than Maccabi and whichever Spanish team makes it to the final will be a strong favourite. But stranger things have happened.

To be honest, I don't like the style of basketball played in the final four. It's always very defensive and not very attractive. The exception which proves the rule was the blow-out by Maccabi in 2004 when they won by a record margin, 118-74. I've just had a peek at the Euroleague website and it seems that the last minute did not consist mainly of fouls and free shots.

[SO: 3577; 2, 13, 33
MPP: 396; 0, 1, 6]

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Likert items

Every now and then, the telephone will ring in the evening; on the other end of the line will be a pollster who wants to know our opinion on a variety of issues. For example, she might ask "On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 means that you strongly disagree and 10 means that you strongly agree, what is your level of agreement with the following statement: "the sentence passed upon former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was just". Normally this is said very fast, so I find it difficult to catch what is being asked. Also a scale of 1 to 10 gives a very large range: what's the difference between 6 and 7, or between 7 and 8?

In written questionnaires this appears as
Please indicate your level of agreement with the following statement: "The sentence passed upon former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was just".
  1.  strongly disagree
  2. disagree
  3. neither disagree nor agree
  4. agree
  5. strongly agree
Note that I've halved the range and also given each value a name as opposed to a number, making it easier to choose a value.

Such a question is called a Likert item; a whole range of such questions is called a Likert scale and allows statisticians to assign a numerical value to a set of attitudes. This is what I have done in my research questionnaire with regards to concepts such as user ownership, user satisfaction and cognitive style.

There are arguments as to whether there should be an odd or even number of options. An odd number means that there is a central value which respondents can choose almost as a default, whereas an even number means that there is an uneven gap between the values (if the five values were mapped on a line, then there is an equal difference between values 1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4 and 4 to 5, but removing the central value means that the difference between 1 to 2 (strongly disagree to disagree) is not the same as the difference between 2 to 3 (disagree to agree)).

I thought that I was being clever when I decided to use four value Likert items but my mentor convinced me (or rather, told me) to use five value items.

in a computerized questionnaire, there could be a sequence of eight such questions; a lazy person could leave a finger on the '1' key and answer every question with '1' – strongly disagreeing with everything. One useful piece of advice which I obtained from an article which I read recently on building questionnaires is to randomize the options: thus for one question, the options may appear in the same order as the above example, but for another question, the options may appear in reverse order. This causes the respondent to think more deeply about her answer (it also means that the amount of time needed to answer the question will increase by about 50%). In total, there are 5! (that's 5 factorial) different ways of organizing five items: 5 X 4 X 3 X 2 X 1 = 120.

Naturally (at least for me), my first thoughts after reading about randomizing were "how am I going to implement this in my questionnaire?" .. The first thing that came to mind was that I don't actually need to store the textual representations for every question (there are at least 25 such questions in my questionnaire): if I mark a question as being Likert, then the program that presents the exam knows that it has to present the five options. Technically, this saves room in the database and makes the exam program smaller, but I doubt if this optimization is worth doing. I should explain at this stage that there is a program which 'manages' the questionnaire: questions are defined, given options and then ordered. This program exports a resource file containing all the questions and options (as well as a few other details); this resource file is then read into the questionnaire program. Thus the questionnaire program is written only once, but can be rebuilt many times, each time with a new version of the questions.

In the exam, the five numbered statements are presented; the respondent presses on a number key to signify her answer. If the statements are presented in reverse order and the respondent presses '1', then a naïve implementation might store this value ("strongly disagree'), whereas in fact the value to be stored should be '5' (strongly agree). It is a trivial matter for the program to store the real value of each statement in the (Delphi implementation details above) label's tag then save the tag's value in the data file. The real value could also be stored in an array.

The exam progam has to know that the specific question will require a random display of statements, which brings me back to the idea that I don't need to store the textual representations in the resource file.

(written on the train between Tel Aviv and Haifa)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Restless legs and a research draft outtake

With respect to what I wrote earlier about waking up in the middle of the night, I conveniently forgot the fact that frequently my left leg is "restless". I have suffered in the past from restless leg syndrome; according to the wiki, one of the causes can be low levels of iron, and when I check the blood test which I did a month ago, I see that I am borderline anaemic (again). I shall make an appointment with the doctor and see what he has to say.

A few weeks ago, I came across a paper which mentions the concept of "spreadsheet self-efficacy"; computer self-efficacy is defined as " individuals’ judgement of their capabilities to use computers in diverse situations", and that paper defined "spreadsheet self-efficacy" as "an individual’s belief in their capability to use spreadsheets.” This idea of self-efficacy is very important but I needed a means of measuring it. I wrote to the lead author of that paper asking for the questions which were used to measure self-efficacy but have yet to receive a reply (most of the emails which I have sent to academics have been replied to almost immediately).

This afternoon I struck gold again in my research. I decided to google "spreadsheet self efficacy" and found a PhD thesis on the subject from a few years ago. Not only does this thesis contain all sorts of quotes which I can use, it also contains in entirety the nine item questionnaire which the author used to determine spreadsheet self-efficacy. I immediately added these questions to my research questionnaire which is now bursting at the seams. I will have to begin pruning questions which don't directly link to any of the research variables.

I will have to rewrite the efficacy material in the research proposal - something which I will be pleased to do as I will be improving what I have previously written - but at the same time I will be dropping a few paragraphs which unfortunately find no place in the proposal. Maybe I'll be able to restore them in the thesis. In the music business, we would call this an outtake. Here they are....

 - - - - - - - - -

An aspect of self-efficacy can be seen in what is known as Maslow’s hammer: Maslow (1966, revised 2004, p16) writes "I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail". A more specific rendering of this metaphor is "When the only tool that one has in one's mental toolbox is Microsoft Excel, then every problem looks like a spreadsheet". In other words, users bring the mental toolbox which serves them for solving private problems into the enterprise environment, not being aware (or ignoring the existence) of tools which are more suited to solving the given problem.

Wittgenstein put the same idea in a different way – "The limits of my language are the limits of my world. All I know is what I have words for". This is also similar to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (otherwise known as the linguistic relativity principle), a theory which proposes that an individual's thoughts and actions are determined by the language or languages that the individual speaks. If the language that one 'speaks' is Excel, then one's actions are limited to solving problems with spreadsheets.

Dreams, obsessions and predictions

For the past few weeks, I've been waking nightly at around 12:30-1am (although the actual hour varies), two to three hours after I go to bed. I don't know whether the cause is physical or psychological; I lean towards the latter explanation as there are so many thoughts rattling and rolling around my head. I think that I'm obsessed with the doctorate.

Whenever I use the word "obsessed", I am always reminded of author Robert Silverberg and his character Lew Nichols in the novel "The Stochastic Man". Chapter Six begins with these words: From September of 1997 until March of 2000, nine months ago, I was obsessed with the idea of making Paul Quinn President of the United States.  Obsessed. That's a strong word. It smacks of Sacher-Masoch, Krafft-Ebing, ritual handwashing, rubber undergarments. Yet I think it precisely describes my involvement with Quinn and his ambitions.

Replace the words "Paul Quinn" with "doctorate" and one gets a fairly accurate picture of my state of mind. Early on, Nichols wakes in the middle of the night after a strange dream (he's a uber-pollster but during the course of the novel, he learns how to predict the future, or see) and I too wake in the middle of the night after strange dreams. Instead of dreaming about naked women, I awake with words like "unicode" or "nominal variable hypotheses" on my lips.

I should point out these code words have immense value for me (in other words, they're not simply random): "unicode" meant that I would have to develop my computerised questionnaire using unicode components so there wouldn't be any problem in displaying Hebrew characters with computers running Windows 7 and 8. The questionnaire will be distributed to unknown users and I want the program to run "out of the box" with minimal support. Yesterday afternoon I worked on the questionnaire program, replacing 'normal'/old-fashioned components with their unicode versions; this was easier than expected, although I had to remember to create the resource file (which contains the questions) with a unicode aware resource compiler. Gibberish to you, probably, but important to me.

My previous blog entry mentioned the four kinds of variable (interval, ordinal, nominal and dichotomous); the phrasing of the hypotheses in my research was suitable for interval and ordinal variables but not for nominals. An example of a nominal variable is the department in which the respondent works: sales/marketing, purchasing, production or other. These values are differentiated only by their names or (meta-)categories and other qualitative classifications to which they belong.

My mentor is always bringing up the subject of hypothesis wording as obviously this is something very important. As I have no experience in this area, I am finding it difficult to phrase the hypotheses in an acceptable manner. I asked for an example which he sent me; I then rephrased most of the hypotheses in a similar manner to the example. Most of these are what are called 'directed hypotheses': I am predicting the direction of the association/relation between the dependent and independent variables (for example, "The level of EUC practice is directly related to the percentage of bespoke items within the company’s product range"). Sometimes the direction is reversed - "The level of individual EUC practice is inversely related to the frequency and/or depth of training with the ERP program". [Apparently the influence of the fictional Lew Nichols has been extending through the book's pages and affecting my thought processes]

But how is one supposed to word a hypothesis relating to a nominal variable? After about half an hour of searching this morning, I found a solution: There is a difference in the level of individual EUC practice with regard to the user’s department. It will be interesting to see whether this new wording finds favour with my mentor.

One of the psychological factors which I have been investigating is psychological ownership.  I had been searching for questions with which I could measure this factor, and two days ago, I found the necessary questions in a paper which I had downloaded over a month ago and overlooked. After rewriting the questions in order to deal with ERP and spreadsheets, I was uncertain about whether this was the correct factor which I had in mind, as the questions didn't seem suitable (for example,  the first original question is  "this is MY organisation", which I altered to "the data stored in Priority is MINE").

 In discussion with the occupational psychologist (a session which reminded me of a viva exam [How can it remind me (a verb about a past activity) about something which has yet to take place? More shades of Lew Nichols]), I realised that this factor is not what I had originally intended. I then reviewed papers which I had previously retrieved and printed, coming across a paper which discusses user ownership in an IT context. Not only does this concept correspond with the idea that I had been trying to propose, the paper included the questions asked during its research. So I was able to incorporate these questions into my questionnaire with minimal changes. The academic definition of user ownership is “the state in which members of the user community display through their behaviour an active responsibility for an information system”.

Here I am documenting a false step which I took and how I corrected it.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Doctoring, researching, sampling

We've been having crazy weather for the past week. On Sunday and Monday, it was incredibly hot - rather unfortunate, as Monday was Memorial Day, and extra-hot weather isn't suitable for elderly people attending long ceremonies in graveyards. Tuesday was Independence Day; not so hot, but very cloudy and humid. At about three pm, winds started to blow and the humidity dispersed. Yesterday was ok - cool in the morning, warm in the afternoon - but in the evening, there was a tropical thunderstorm, and it's barely stopped raining since! This isn't Edinburgh with its four seasons in one day.

I've been very busy doctoring and researching during the past week. At the end of last week, I was working on the questionnaire, adding questions about spreadsheet competency and cognitive style. Some of the questions now have seven possible answers, so I've had to work on the exam program in order to display these possibilities. Moving backwards through the exam in order to allow for second thoughts is going to be interesting (in other words, hard to implement).

My mentor recommended for me a book called 'Business Research Methods' by Bryman and Bell. Its list price is 47 pounds although British Amazon is selling it for 38 (although they'll probably charge an arm and a leg for delivering it). American Amazon is selling it for $69, with the Kindle edition a mere snip at $61. There are over 800 pages in the latest edition, so it probably is value for money. 

Not unnaturally, with prices like these, I looked for the book on the Internet. Google books offers it, but I dislike reading a book from this site (it's okay for reading a few pages, but no more). I did find an ebook with the same title, written by a Dr Sue Greely, which I downloaded then Kindled the pdf. Unfortunately every page contained an advert and every chapter break contained several adverts, so reading the raw material on the Kindle was very difficult.

Thus I spent a few hours with Calibre: I converted the original pdf document to epub format, then edited this, removing all the adverts and cleaning up the text. Once I had a reasonably clean version, I copied it again to the Kindle. It turns out that this book is only about 80 pages long - it probably took me more time to edit than to read.

But there are some nuggets in the book. I learnt about the four kinds of variable: interval, ordinal, nominal and dichotomous. I discovered that my research mentions 19 (!) different variables, most of which are ordinal, some are nominal and a few are interval. 

The most interesting part of the book was about sampling. Obviously I am not going to research all the companies using Priority and I am not going to interview all the users within each company. So I need to use samples and I have to ensure that these samples are representative. I have a good idea how I am going to sample the users within a company, but I suspect that my sample of companies will not be particularly representative. This is partially because (until now) I have received no help from the company that develops Priority; they haven't even answered any of my emails.

[SO: 3577; 2, 13, 32
MPP: 396; 0, 1, 6]