Training vs Education

October 8th, 2015

It’s easy and actually quite common to interpret that both training and education means the same thing. But as we shall read it from Thomas E. Ricks, the author of The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today, training and education is 2 very different things:

Training tends to prepare one for known problems, while education better prepares one for the unknown, the unpredictable, and the unexpected.

Training is very much like a step-by-step exercise repeated continuously to achieve an expected result. Think of it like a simulation with predefined objectives, with the set of challenges known and familiar to the participant. Usually, it’s also expected for the participant to engage training exercises within confined rules and regulations. The desired outcome is when the participant becomes very competent tactically in the given challenges.

Consider another scenario where a Susan, a six year old child, is enrolled in a coloring exercise. In an effort to train her to become very good at coloring, she was told not to color outside the lines. Next, she was told that she must color based on the example given (the objective). The grass must be light green in color. The sky must be blue. The trunk of the tree must be brown. Any variations from the example, the exercise is considered a failure.

Everyday as part of her training regime, Susan is given new coloring exercises and taught many different coloring techniques to achieve the desired outcome. And these exercises are often repeated until she masters the technique, which is evaluated by how close her results are to the examples given. Eventually, she becomes very skillful in most of the coloring techniques and she can reliably reproduce the outcomes that is expected of her. Susan is now a very well-trained colorist.

Next, we look into the realms of education, which may sound very similar to training but is essentially a very different form of cognitive exercise. In education, you are given a lot of contextual information. In our coloring example, the child is taught about primary, secondary and tertiary colors. She also learn about warm and cool colors complementary colors. She is also taught that black and white are not really colors (this is a highly debatable topic, depending on which color theory you are coming from). She also learns how colors affect our moods and give meanings to our every lives.

In short, education seems like learning a whole bunch of theories, so much so that the student sometimes would start to doubt if it’s really necessary to be so educated in the practical world we live in. However, it is only with a good understanding of theories, an in-depth knowledge of the subject matter and a habit of constantly questioning the status quo that we can hope to confront the unpredictable and randomness of real-world challenges.

Training puts you in a box and asks you to give your very best within the boundaries. Education informs you that though the problem is about the box, the solution is likely outside the box.

If your sixteen year-old daughter told you that she was going to take a sex education course at high school, you might be pleased. What if she announced she was going to take part in some sex training at school?

Jay Cross, credited with inventing the term e-learning

So, are you well-trained or well-educated? Maybe you have the best of both worlds :-)

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OpenCart Extension: Total Import Pro & Special Characters

September 17th, 2015


If you are using OpenCart and you have like 1000+ inventories, you will do yourself a great favor by using this tool called “Total Import Pro” written by these great people @ HostJars.com. You can thank me later.

As with all great piece of software, you also get your share of annoying little bugs that somehow got shipped along with the good stuff. And today, I just wrote to them about the possibility that their importer could be causing special HTML characters not parsed correctly in OpenCart.

Hi Guys/Gals,

I’ve been using Total Import Pro for the past 3 years, and I must say you guys have saved hours of my life. For that, I would like to thank you for such a great piece of software.

However, I recently noticed a Total Import bug that would eat up at least 50 hours of my life if I am to fix them manually. So, I really want to reach out to you and hope you can once again save my life (50 hours of it).

Here’s what happened:

1) I have a product with the title “K&N Performance Air Filter 33-2922″. Notice the special character & in there.

2) When I import using Total Import Pro, what happen next is, I am not able to find the product after I type the character “K”. So, imagine the number of products I have with the starting letter K…

3) However, I could fix the problem if I manually save the product again using OpenCart. Somehow when I save using OpenCart, the ampersand is properly parsed in the database as a valid character. In other words, when I import using Total Import Pro, the symbol ampersand is not treated as such.

4) This also leads to the problem of generating a valid sitemap for Google, because each time I tried to load my sitemap, Chrome will tell me the “Sitemap is not well-formed”. Well-formed or not, I am not looking for a kick-ass, bootylicious XML, but at least one that will not return any errors when parsing special characters in the product title.

As such, I would really appreciate it if you could tell me how I can import my products with the special characters registered normally in OpenCart.

Name a price for 50 hours of my life.

I will post it up here once I get a response from them.


And on Sep 22, I got a reply from Matt of Hostjars.com

Thanks for getting in touch! It looks like you have discovered a bug, as we offer bug fixes for free this will not cost you anything to have fixed! In fact, our developers have just released a patch for this issue this morning. It is still undergoing our internal review process, but to save you any further delay while this happens I am going to send you a copy of the latest version of Total Import PRO which contains this fix.

Follow the installation instructions and overwrite your existing files to update your installation.

Once you have updated please try your import again and let me know if you have any further problems.

Warm regards,


Can’t wait to install the new patch on my OpenCart.

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Amazon’s Customer Metrics

September 15th, 2015

If you are selling on Amazon, you would be familiar with the following metrics Amazon uses to benchmark your customer service.

Customer Metrics
Customer satisfaction is one of the most important performance measures we use to determine how well you are doing as a seller on Amazon. The Customer Metrics page provides reports that give you greater insight into how you are doing with respect to customer satisfaction.

The following performance metrics are included in the report:

Perfect Order Percentage (POP): The percentage of orders that are perfectly accepted, processed, and fulfilled.

Order defect rate (ODR): The percentage of orders that have received a negative feedback, an A-to-z Guarantee claim or a service credit card chargeback. It allows us to measure overall performance with a single metric.

Pre-fulfillment cancellation rate: This measures your in-stock rate for items sold with Amazon.com.

Late ship rate: On-time shipment is a promise we make to our mutual customers. Orders confirmed after the expected ship date are considered to be late.

Percentage of orders refunded: High refund rates may be an indicator of item stock-outs.

And if you use these metrics on all your other online sales channels, it should give your sales a very good boost in the long scheme of things.

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Stop Blaming the World

July 11th, 2015

Came across a great quote from one my random reading adventures:

“A man only begins to be a man when he ceases to whine and revile, and commences to search for the hidden justice which regulates his life. And he adapts his mind to that regulating factor, he ceases to accuse others as the cause of his condition, and builds himself up in strong and noble thoughts; ceases to kick against circumstances, but begins to use them as aids to his more rapid progress, and as a means of the hidden powers and possibilities within himself.”

James Allen, As a Man Thinketh

Makes me want to read more from this author now. It sounds a little too philosophical from my average selection, but I have had enough of serious biographies for the past few months.

Often times, I have observed how people are quick to point at others the moment shit hits the fan. I am guilty of this too. But shit don’t get wiped off from the fan no matter how hard you point at others. In the workplace, it’s very easy to witness such episodes.

I somehow believe that condemning failures is the main reason why finger-pointing becomes the most practiced exercise in the cubicles. We have been trained since young that failures is something to be shunned at all cost. We must not allow failures and all that training we get about the 101 ways to avoid making mistakes. And deep down in our subconscious, we fear failures almost as much as death itself. Worse yet, some even start to make up stories (read: lie) to cover up for their mistakes, which is a lot more effort than owning up to it. These make-believes don’t exactly help us to become a better person. hey just make us better liar.

That’s also not to say that we should blame ourselves for everything that went wrong. People get depressions because of this. It’s important to know accept the fact that we cannot resolve all the challenges around us. The idea here is to at least stop passing the buck around, take control of the situation and act on it. Even if we fail, it will be very likely we will put ourselves in a better position than before we started. So while we cannot get a perfect ten in every life’s challenges (which is impossible in my opinion), at least we are above the average because we keep working at it.

Like one of my school teacher used to say (I can’t give him credit because I couldn’t remember which teacher actually said it), “While you have one finger pointing at others, you have another four pointing back at yourself”.

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Am End Cees

July 6th, 2015

First, we read that JVC is quiting Malaysia and relocating to Thailand.

About 500 workers from consumer and professional electronics devices corporation — JVCKENWOOD Malaysia Sdn Bhd — were laid off as part of the Japanese company’s plans to relocate its operations, shutting down its plant here.

News of the factory’s official closure today had been making its rounds over social media, attracting netizens to lament on the workers’ plight and the state of economy.

While some described the sudden closure as being unfair to the workers, checks by The Rakyat Post revealed that this was not the case.

“The workers were not laid off suddenly as they were already notified of the closure earlier this year,” a factory worker said.

While some of the staff were retrenched, appropriate compensation was paid and JVC had also assisted others to secure employment elsewhere.

“They told us that the factory operations were moving to Thailand,” said the worker.

Source: The Rakyat Post

And then we read about the possibility of Shell’s winding up their IT operation here in Malaysia.

Around 850 jobs could be at stake at Shell offices in Cyberjaya as the Anglo-Dutch oil major consolidates its IT functions at a new base in Bangalore, India.

While no decision has yet been made, a senior officer dropped this bombshell during a town hall meeting with staff in Cyberjaya late last month, said sources.

The Bangalore move could also affect some 1,000 third party contractors if they are unable to relocate to India, the sources said.

Source: RoyalDutchShellPLC.com

And we always read about how our government provides tax rebates, free trade zones and many other perks to get these multi-national corporations (MNCs) to setup their operations here. These MNCs provides job opportunities and brings money to invest, so goes the logic.

Anyway, I’m rather amused by the way these MNCs just close shops like that, citing higher cost of operation as their main reason. In a way, as a business strategy, I totally agree that when the environment becomes hostile, a business should always relocate to a more business-friendly environment, e.g. cheaper labor, lower tax rates etc.

But bear in mind, these corporations do not have any loyalty to the Malaysia, or it’s likely they pledge no allegiance to any countries. They will stick around as long as the countries are conducive to their operation. Instead of spending resources to attract these MNCs, I suggest that we put more effort to build up the local businesses in Malaysia, specifically the small and medium enterprises (SMEs). These local businesses are the ones that faithfully contribute taxes and keeps the economy going even during the worst recessions. They are also likely the business segment that is responsible for the majority of the employment in Malaysia.

They are a lot of reasons why we should boost local businesses. Perhaps you can name a few.

While there’s nothing wrong with making Malaysia a lucrative place for foreign corporations to setup shop, but I really think that there’s nothing much being done to make life easier for local businesses.

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A Marketing Experiment while Getting My FujiXerox Machine

June 21st, 2015

There was this computer hardware company (we will call them Company AT) where I bought a few entry level Xerox printers 5 years ago. And ever since I checked the ‘Subscribe me to the latest promotion…’ check box, I have been receiving their newsletters. And I did not opt-out of the mailing list, which probably says alot about my level of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

They started sending me emails, and the links in their emails were directed to their website at AT2U.com

And in the beginning of those emails, their website was either out of service, or was hacked. I actually took the trouble to call them up and alerted them about it, but they don’t seem to be able to fix it. Or nobody seemed bothered about their website.

And a few more months passed. They seemed to have decided that their website could be an important sales channel to complement their retail operation. And that’s when the SMS starts coming in, and I had to admit I was quite impressed at the level of customization that was invested in these promotional SMS- “Get Your Xerox Phaser 3010 Toners at Only RM225.00″.

They actually remembered which printer I bought.

And I did buy those toners from them.

And just today, I bought a bulky Fuji Xerox CM305DF for our new office. But I did not buy it from them. I got it from a retail store that I have never heard of in the mall.

Then, as I drove back to setup the printer in the office, I kept thinking what went wrong with Company AT’s marketing? They’ve been very consistent with their Petronas and KFC Vouchers. They occasionally sent me warnings about toners and printing supplies price hike which I find very useful.

But why didn’t I buy the CM305DF from Company AT? Where was my sense of loyalty to this company that has been persistently sending me product updates and offerings? I was just comparing their prices online with other online portals such as Lazada and Lelong yesterday, and they’d one of the lowest pricing.

The salesman that was attending to me wasn’t very knowledgeable and not at all helpful in closing the sale. He was lucky I was a determined buyer who had done his homework.

And so, I ran a list of possible factors that could have caused me to buy from the unknown retailer:

1) There was no additional value buying from Company AT. No member points, no rebates. Maybe free delivery, but I am already in the mall, so it makes no difference.

2) There’s a lack of human interaction when I am shopping online. There are a lot of other questions I threw to the salesman where I got almost instant answers, e.g. price of the toners, similar price products, cost of ownership, special features etc. I couldn’t get all these from the online stores, at least not instantly. And if you are shopping online at 11pm, the phone numbers don’t work either. I guess fast and timely human response is very important to get me to part with my money. Impulsiveness at work here.

3) I could get physical with the products. I tried to carry a few of the printers to gauge their weight, opened up the compartments and paper trays, checked out the cable connectivity. All these help to reinforce the idea of possessing the printer, even though I hadn’t pay for it yet. I was also able to instantly visualize how the printer would fit in my office. And there’s no way these information can come so easily from product photos on the web.

4) A retail space can be a very controlled experience. The moment I stepped into the retail shop, instead of being distracted by irrelevant banner ads, annoying Facebook game invites, I am surrounded by products that the retailers wants me to see. The retailer had somehow meticulously designed the surroundings to give him the best ROI per square feet. It’s like walking into a trap :-)

As a guy who runs a few e-commerce businesses, I am particularly curious in identifying what goes on in the mind of a potential customer who in the end, after all the marketing and communications I’ve done, still end up not buying from me. A returning customer is one of the best assets a business can have. If I can keep improving the odds of my customers coming back over and over again, we are on the right track to a healthy bottom line.

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