It’s been a good day. I had to drag myself away from PHPStorms to write this blog. I used phpMyAdmin to create the tables I needed, then wrote a few scripts in PHP to connect , insert records and execute queries. I used Dreamweaver and Textwrangler for the HTML. In a day or so, I’ll probably add some JavaScript for error-checking, prompting and hints.

Although I took BASIC, FORTRAN and yes, even COBOL, back in the dark ages, most of my programming for several years was limited to SAS in every flavor – on Windows, Unix, Mac (when they had that), then the new SAS On-Demand. I used SAS macro language quite a bit, a huge variety of statistical techniques, SAS Enterprise Guide, SAS Enterprise Miner a little bit and SAS/GRAPH (which I hate) even less.

When I started graduate school, I already knew SAS because I had been working as an industrial engineer and we used it for analyses. As a graduate teaching assistant, I taught three-hour computer labs that students were required to take in addition to their lectures. Yes, a three-credit statistics course required SIX hours of class time, three hours in the lab and three in the lecture. On top of that, you were actually expected to read the book and do the homework problems, which could take from one to four or more additional hours, depending on how much previous mathematics/ statistics you had. SPSS and SAS existed, but only as code. Students had to learn programming because that was the only way to get your results.

For reasons beyond one blog post, universities have been cutting back on requirements to accommodate working students, so now students get less for their money – less requirements, less hours in class. I teach statistics primarily to students who don’t want to learn it – people getting doctorates in education, psychology, business. Add on top of that programming and I (erroneously) thought it was a bit much given that most of my students work full time, drive an hour or two to get to class and back, and have additional classes on top of that. Many of my students are in professional and managerial positions, working over 40 hours a week.

Because they didn’t really want to do programming and they could use pointy-clicky options like SAS Enterprise Guide and SPSS, I went with that. Even then, many of the students had problems because the whole statistical analysis process was new.

Still, I was wrong. The work I did today (and for the last couple of years), was VASTLY easier because I had used SAS. I understand the concept of loops, arrays, macro variables, user-defined functions (a.k.a. macros), and a very large number of varied types of functions – text processing ones like changing to upper case, trimming blanks, finding substrings, and mathematical functions to find minimum, maximum, etc. etc. I know about IF and ELSE statements, and thanks to PROC SQL, SELECT, INSERT and CREATE statements.

I could go on and on but the point is that whether I picked up Ruby or JavaScript or PHP, all of which I did in the past couple of years, it was made immensely easier because of my prior experience. A Ph.D. is not a vocational certificate, even though it has turned into that for many people and institutions. A college degree of ANY type ought to prepare you not just for the jobs that are available now, but also for the jobs that haven’t been invented yet. Learning any programming language would give my students a greater range of job opportunities in the future. Also, the whole data analysis with a computer application is new to them, so maybe learning SAS will be a bit more uncomfortable, but it is very definitely not beyond their capabilities.

If I had a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology without the ability to program, my options for supporting my children when my husband fell ill and later died would have been much more restricted than they were. Financially, having learned programming has been a huge benefit in my life and that of my children. In many projects, even when I wasn’t doing much of the coding myself, understanding programming has made me much more effective in design and management. On top of it, I love my work.

So … starting this year, I am back to teaching programming.

For an amusing discussion of whether to teach SPSS or SAS or R, check out the Lovestats blog.

This is number 12 of 55 things I have learned in almost 55 years, back by (believe it or not) popular demand. You can find #11, just accept that you can’t do everything, right here.

I’ve had a fair bit of success lately, as well as in my life overall – made some money, published a book, won some gold medals, had some lovely, accomplished children. When I look through the photos on my phone almost every one is the sort of thing some people dream about, from ocean views to famous people to five-star restaurants. Life is very good.

view from MalibuLike most people who start out with very little and have a lot of their dreams come true, I’ve found it to be different than I had expected.

A dear friend of mine commented wryly,

“I’ve found how interesting my opinions are to younger people to be directly correlated with my financial success.”

The more successful you get, the more “friends” you have. Like my friend, I’ve started multiple companies (back before serial entrepreneur was a thing. We were just in business). During years I made lots of money, I was the flavor of the month and everyone wanted some. When I would sell one business and start over, I was, like my friend, not nearly as interesting. These days, things are going well and I have a lot of new best friends. Few people are surprised to find that their popularity expands and contracts with their success (whether it is financial, athletic or professional). What will probably surprise you is the people who stick with you through thick and thin aren’t always the ones you expect. One of the benefits of lean times is that you can learn who your true friends are.

Success can lose you friends. I didn’t see that one coming. It can be for a lot of reasons. Sometimes your lives just diverge – you’re vacationing in the Bahamas, eating at Chinois, and your friend feels awkward always having you pick up the tab, even if you don’t mind a bit. Maybe you have a Ph.D. and want to talk about the latest book you read and your friend wants to talk about the hometown high school football team that you haven’t thought about since high school. Your friends get jealous of your success. It doesn’t seem fair that someone who was once in the same class/ team/ building as them is now doing whatever it is that you’re up to. Imagined slights – you forgot to call on their birthday, didn’t notice them in a crowded room, didn’t mention them in your latest interview – turn into full-blown arguments out of the blue.

You may start out determined to be successful to “show them” – the mean girls in your school, the five ‘elite’ families in your small town, or even the people who quit being your friends – but by the time you get to a point where they’ll envy you, you probably won’t give a rat’s ass what those people think. In fact, you’ll probably have forgotten they exist.

backersWhen our Kickstarter campaign first started, I questioned the impact of social media. Despite being tweeted out by my darling daughter #3, who had over 170,000 followers on twitter, equal numbers of backers came from direct links (that is, people I had emailed directly) and twitter.

By the end of the campaign, we had 255 backers and had raised over $21,000. If you look at the graph above, you can see that, in the end, compared to how we started out, a higher percentage came from twitter and a much lower percentage from Kickstarter itself. About a third of the “other” category came from radio shows and an ad on an on-line film channel that mentioned our game . The rest of the “other” was a combination of a few MMA sites that had interviewed me recently, and Google (which was the source of only 8 out of 255 backers).

The graph below shows the NUMBER of backers, rather than the percentage, at the beginning and in total.

kickstarternum

First of all, twitter turned out to be more important than I had expected in bringing us backers. As the week of Ronda’s fight came, she was on twitter very little, so I assumed her 170,000+ followers would do us little good.  Even with a world title fight on her mind, Ronda still tweeted out the link a few times (what a good kid!) Equally important, some early backers became quite interested in the project and re-tweeted links several times.

I thought direct links – me sending email to my friends and family – would be important at the beginning but less so at the end. I was wrong. I have an awesome family. So, although I sent direct links to people I knew and they pledged in the first few days, then THEY sent email to people they knew, who also tended to pledge far more often than people who just happened to see a reference to the project on my blog or some other site. I was a bit surprised by the Facebook results, since I don’t have that many friends on Facebook, but then I realized that some of my younger relatives (and even some of my not-so-younger friends) are on Facebook quite a lot and they shared the link on their pages and their friends did also.

So …. I would say three things were borne out that Kickstarter tells you from the beginning:

  1. Most crowd-funding is going to come from people you know and people they know. The idea of some viral spreading across the internet where you end up with hundreds of thousands of dollars is probably not going to happen. However, if you get a LOT of support from those close to you, you can be successful.
  2. It is a LOT of work. My oldest daughter put so much time into it she said, “I would say you owe me your first-born but since that is me, it would just get confusing.”
  3. The video needs to be short. We put enormous amount of time into making the video. It was a learning experience. I learned that there are not enough drugs in Los Angeles to enable me to tolerate a career in video-editing. Even though we cut our video to 3 and 1/2 minutes, of the 4,153 people who watched it, only 17.3% watched the whole video. (Seriously? You couldn’t watch 3 and 1/2 minutes?) I knew a lot of people didn’t watch it because they would tweet me questions that were answered in the video. Make your video short.

The odds were against us in a number of ways. We wanted to raise $20,000 – the average project raises less than $10,000. According to one published study, a 30-day project of $10,000 has a 35% chance of success. Projects that are featured have an 89% chance of success versus those that are not featured – like us – who have a 30% chance of success.  According to the Kickstarter statistics by category, only 33% of game projects get funded. So …. we were not featured, we were above average in the amount we wanted to fund and we were a game. Each of those individually would give us less than a one in three chance of success and the combination, substantially less than that. While Kickstarter features prominently on its page the overall success rate – 44% – if you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover that the success rate may be much lower for your type of project.

Even if you go into it with both eyes open, expecting a lot of work and to just barely make your target – which is exactly what we did expect and exactly what happened – you may still be in for a few surprises. Because we are older than the typical start-up co-founders, more of our friends and family tend to be employed at a fairly good salary.  We expected that our average pledge would be higher than typical and it was – $83 versus the average for Kickstarter of $71. Our mode – $50 – was also higher than the mode for the site as a whole – $25.   We were a bit surprised that some people who, when we mentioned our project, immediately volunteered that they would back it, some even mentioning large amounts, never backed our project at all.

One thing that helped us greatly in the last week is that we had several larger pledges, but only one came from someone we knew.

Other people pledged far more than we would have asked. We got about what we expected but not really from who we expected it. I thought about this a lot and I finally came to a conclusion. Success in Kickstarter, of course, begins with having a good product. After that, it does not help you to have friends with deep pockets. What helps is to have deep friendships.

 

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