Presentations and public speaking for managers

Last week I did a morning session with practice managers with the Institute of Urban Indigenous Health through UQ Executive Education.  A very switched on group of of women who are doing terrific things – if perhaps drinking a bit too much V to get them through the day.  Anyway, it was a really good half-day – they were presenting their work later that day – and we got to discuss things like what to watch in an audio-visual presentation as well as those five magic things that are important in the world of Rostrum:  Purpose, Content, Structure, Voice, and Body Language.  


This was in the city – and I don’t get to go into Brisbane too often, so here are a few photos of me returning to my old haunts:

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And finally, here’s me with the graduating class.  The ladies are (L-R):  Imogen, Marti, Julie, Camile, Alison, Ray, Cassie, Noelene, Leila, Belinda and Samara.  A wonderful group – though it might be time for me to get a haircut and lose some weight.  Hmm.  

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The effects of continued use of intelligent decision aids upon auditor procedural knowledge

This is the abstract of my confirmation document; this abstract won ‘best abstract for unconfirmed phd student’ at this year’s University of Queensland Research Colloquium:

Student:  Micheal Axelsen

Supervisor:  Professor Peter Green, Dr Fiona Rohde


This research proposal builds upon the theory of technology dominance (Sutton & Arnold 1998), which has as one of its propositions that the continued use of intelligent decision aids may have the effect of deskilling auditors over time.  A theoretical contribution is made through a consideration of this effect through the operation of the anchoring and adjustment heuristic (Epley & Gilovich, 2006; Kowalczyk & Wolfe, 1998; Tversky & Kahnemann, 1974) and cognitive load theory (Mascha & Smedley, 2007; Sweller, 1988).  The anchoring and adjustment heuristic is a technique used by people in judgment tasks to remove cognitive burden.  In making a judgment, the assessor ‘anchors’ upon the first value provided in making an estimate, and then ‘adjusts’ this estimate until a ‘reasonable’ estimate is reached.  This heuristic has the effect of a systematic adjustment bias in the final estimate made.  Cognitive load theory finds that an expert uses different and more efficient problem-solving strategies as a result of their past experiences in comparison to the novice.  The expert draws upon their experience with past problems to develop their problem-solving strategies.  Theoretically the argument is developed that the professional auditor’s ability to develop efficient problem-solving strategies is reduced as a result of their use of the anchoring and adjustment heuristics encouraged by the continued use of intelligent decision aids.

It is proposed that this integrated theory be empirically tested through a series of semi-structured interviews with audit professionals and a survey of public sector auditors designed to test the developed theoretical model.  This investigation will consider the role of the continued use of intelligent decision aids and any deskilling effect such use may have upon auditor ‘know-how’, or procedural knowledge.

The contributions of this proposed research are several.  Firstly, a theoretical contribution is made through extension and reconciliation of the theory of technology dominance with the anchoring and adjustment heuristic and cognitive load theory.  Secondly, a practical contribution is made by extension of the testing of the theory to the field rather than experimentally.  A third practical contribution is made through an empirical test of the theory of technology dominance in the context of procedural knowledge (auditor ‘know-how’), which has not previously been tested.

Gail Trimble and Geek Girl eye-candy

I’m married to my very own geek girl, who is a devil at Trivial Pursuit and answers questions like ‘Why can’t dead people participate in the tax refund bonanza going on in Australia at the moment?‘ – and is actually right (unlike most people at pub quizzes).

I also remember going to a musical performance at UQ in 2000 – at the height of Big Brother – and paying $6 to see a performance by the musical geniuses there.  I thought $6 was a lousy amount to pay, but they were so very, very good.  For the record – a xylophone is fine to play as a 5-year old, but when you have five of those donger-things (I’m very musical) going at once, that requires real, absolute, talent.

And despite clear talent and deserving people all over the place, we celebrate so much absolute mediocrity and ignorance on television (bloody bunny-ears on your head and the ‘bum-dance’ – obesity and mediocrity writ large?) so it was with much delight that I see Gail Trimble is apparently not someone you would want to invite around to play Trivial Pursuit – ‘Superbrain’ stuns Britain with genius quiz show run – but is still supremely intelligent and should be celebrated, not mocked, as some seem wont to do.  No doubt they are driven by their own ignorance, fears, and clear lack of interest in the world around them.

Although this piece about burning her at the stake for obviously being a ‘whore-strumpet of Satan and a bit smug‘ is funny, I think any woman who is intelligent, smart, presents herself well and knows her way around Latin literature should be celebrated for their ability and skill.

For the record, I attach a photo of my own geek girl, who I’m very proud of and think is also terrifically good-looking in a swimsuit.  She once answered the question ‘What Irish alcoholic Welsh poet wrote <some bloody obscure piece of poetry>?’ with ‘Dylan Thomas’.  Correctly.  I may be a philistine but I still have little idea of who Dylan Thomas is.  [Ed:  apparently]

You are in clover with intelligent geek girls.  Unless of course they decide to use their powers for evil – in which case run very fast, because they WILL catch you.  Geek girls come highly recommended – although to some it seems that being a demonstrably smart girl is less socially acceptable than taking up another hobby like, say, kitten-blending.

The first of three types of ambiguity: potential ambiguity

Again, this is lifted from my thesis which looks unlikely to ever see the light of day unless I take it off the shelves in BEL library at UQ.

Potential ambiguity arises when a term or a sentence is ambiguous in and of itself, for example, before its use in the context of a sentence or paragraph.  Three types of ambiguity are categorised as potential ambiguity:  lexical, syntactical, and inflective. 

Lexical Ambiguity

Lexical ambiguity is the most commonly known form of ambiguity (Reilly 1991; Walton 1996).  It occurs when words have more than one meaning as commonly defined and understood.  Considerable potential ambiguity arises when a word with various meanings is used in a statement of information request.  For example, "bank" may variously mean the "bank" of a river (noun), to "bank" as related to aeroplane or a roller-coaster (verb), a savings "bank" (noun), to "bank" money (verb), or a "bank" of computer terminals (noun) (Turner 1987).  Lexical ambiguity is often reduced or mitigated by the context of the sentence. 

In the case of an information request, lexical ambiguity exists in the statement "A report of our clients for our marketing brochure mail-out".  The word "report" may have several meanings, independent of its context.  A gunshot report may echo across the hillside.  A student can report to the lecturer.  A heavy report can be dropped on the foot.  Although the context may make the meaning clear, the lexical ambiguity contributes to the overall ambiguity of the statement and increases cognitive effort. 

Syntactical Ambiguity

Syntactical ambiguity is a structural or grammatical ambiguity of a whole sentence that occurs in a sub-part of a sentence (Reilly 1991; Walton 1996).  Syntactical ambiguity is a grammatical construct, and results from the difficulty of applying universal grammatical laws to sentence structure.  An example of syntactical ambiguity is "Bob hit the man with the stick".  This phrasing is unclear as to whether a man was hit with a stick, or whether a man with a stick was struck by Bob.  The context can substantially reduce syntactical ambiguity.  For example, knowing that either Bob, or the man, but not both, had a stick resolves the syntactical ambiguity. 

Comparing the phrase "Bob hit the man with the stick" to the analogous "Bob hit the man with the scar" provides some insights.  As a scar is little suited to physical, violent use, the latter formulation clearly conveys that the man with the scar was struck by Bob (Kooij 1971).

In the case of an information request, syntactical ambiguity exists in the request "A report of poor-paying clients and client managers.  Determine their effect on our profitability for the last twelve months."  The request is syntactically ambiguous because the end user can interpret "their" to mean the poor paying clients, the client managers, or both.  Although the context may reduce or negate the ambiguity, syntactically the request is ambiguous.

Inflective Ambiguity

As Walton (1996) notes, inflective ambiguity is a composite ambiguity, containing elements of both lexical and syntactical ambiguity.  Like syntactical ambiguity, inflective ambiguity is grammatical in nature.  Inflection arises where a word is used more than once in a sentence or paragraph, but with different meanings each time (Walton 1996).  An example of inflective ambiguity is to use the word "scheme" with two different meanings in the fallacious argument, "Bob has devised a scheme to save costs by recycling paper.  Therefore, Bob is a schemer, and should not be trusted" (Ryle 1971; Walton 1996).  

In the case of an information request, inflective ambiguity exists in the example, "A report showing the product of our marketing campaign for our accounting software product".  Ambiguity derives from using the word "product" in two different senses in the one statement (Walton 1996; Fowler and Aaron 1998). 

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Living with the HP2133 Mini-Note

I note that Dell has just released its UMPC equivalent, the Dell Mini-9.  Of course, when you see a new release in the market you’ve just bought into (clearly, I bought the HP2133 Mini-Note), you get a case of buyer’s remorse. 

However, from what I can tell the Dell is smaller and of course this is at the case of a crippled keyboard.  When everything I do on the computer – that is serious work, anyway – needs a good keyboard, the keyboard is a deal-breaker for me.  I type at about 120wpm, and I find the Mini-note keyboard to be excellent to type on, without the need to cripple the keyboard (no function keys, no F11, F12, etc). 

The Mini-Note isn’t perfect, of course, but it’s more than livable with.  I also seem to be the only person in the western world so far who is sticking with Vista.  It is livable, and most of my needs aren’t high-level. 

After three months using it now I’d note the following:

  • Machine runs hot.  Really hot.  Unbelievably hot.  Keep the vents ventilated.
  • Battery life is abysmal on the three-cell.  On high-performance, I doubt that I’m getting an hour out of it.  I’ve got my 6-cell battery on order which should keep me on stream for longer and it’s only $A129, so you know, that’s good.
  • Screen glare means that working in full sun is off the menu.  Shouldn’t do that in Australia anyway.
  • Size/form factor is very convenient, and having the disk space is good as well.  A 16GB SSD is all very well and good, but if I do want to do some relatively serious work I like to have my library with me.  I’d be tied to a portable hdd if I did that, which is inconvenient and quickly removes weight advantages.  No problem so far with the HDD over the SSD (famous last words?).
  • Keyboard is great, fantastic, what can I say?
  • Lots of good ports
  • Performance is very adequate, even with Vista (I do have the higher-spec processor and 2GB of RAM – I shudder to think what it would be like on the lower-specification).
  • Sound is excellent but of course that chews power
  • I have tried to run full-size videos on it from time to time and it does glitch up.  But you should keep in mind the purpose of the machine.

It’s very easy to live with. Size and weight are great.  I let it roll around in my messenger bag (a very manly handbag) and that doesn’t seem to have scratched it or anything.  The shell is nice and durable and doesn’t seem to be fingerprint prone. 

I have a full-size laptop for when I want to do a lot of mobile work.  But if I’m going to be wandering all over the city for a day with an hour or two in the middle to fill in (I work at clients from time to time, am studying at UQ, and lecturing at QUT), the HP 2133 mini-note is my favourite to whip out and work with.  In a pinch I could do full size work with the laptop (but you have to watch backpain!  Scourge of the modern world!).

Since I installed Office 2007 (another of Microsoft’s crimes against humanity), I’ve noted that one truly annoying feature of HP’s seem to be the HP Health Check, HP Network Centre, and so on suite of software.  By default, they’re set to use the same really useful keyboard shortcuts that Outlook uses.  I found myself typing ctl+shift+C and expecting to see a new contact, and getting the HP Health Check.

The trick is to go into the program shortcuts on the start menu and remove the shortcut keys assigned to the program there.  Why on earth anyone thought that was a good idea, I don’t know. 

Anyway, no real regrets so far.  The laptop also seems to be the coffee shop equivalent of a Porsche convertible – it does get admiring glances from waitresses at coffee shops who say how ‘cute’ it is.  My only response to that is that it is cute in a Very Manly Way.

This UMPC is dearer but it’s more functional and usable (keyboard for the win!) than certainly the ASUS eee pc and I think than the Dell Mini-9 (haven’t put my hands on one of those yet though).  If you need the convenience, want a laptop that doesn’t feel like a toy, and you could work with all day if you really, really had to, the HP2133 Mini-note wins on the points that matter.

Just buy the 6-cell battery and get asbestos underpants.