Lessons I learned While I Was Away

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I wanted to apologize for being away for so long but as loyal readers, you no doubt remember that life often gets in the way of bloggers. And even this time, I haven’t been away without good reasons.
On June 9th, I graduated from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in Economics and a minor in Slavic Languages and Literature (with a focus in Russian Language). And even as I was sitting in the crowd dressed in a black suit and a black polyester gown (in 80 degree weather), listening to speaker after speaker go on, I managed to take away some points for all of you. The second speaker that came on stage made some tongue-in-cheek remarks about the university and then, while reminiscing, emphasized how we all have spent countless hours on Facebook, no matter what time of the year, and even when we had exams the next day, and how we will continue to use it after graduating, as a tool to stay in touch with other people.
In my mind, there are three kinds of products. Those that are completely useless, those that last a while and become a fad but eventually die out, and those that provide long term value. Without knowing, she was making the case for a truly useful product. Facebook, unlike its other social networking counterparts, has been able to engender a community that is incredibly loyal to the service and has been able to evolve the service to meet the needs of the core community as well as make it useful for a larger audience, and this was clearly evident from the reaction of the crowd.
Then came the next and the last speaker. He too made some remarks about the college and how academic the college community was. He went on to talk about citing papers we write and how while we are taught to always cite works we borrow from, some famous people in history, though they built upon the works of others, never gave credit. And while making a joke, his punchline was “It’s okay, I used Wikipedia for all my references.” While it was a joke because we aren’t allowed to cite Wikipedia as a source, it was also amusing because many people still use it as a reference guide, because (though it has some shortcomings) it does provide a repository of largely accurate information that can be used as a good starting point for research, and does provide good references.
It’s true. As I was sitting there among 1200 or so other graduates, I was thinking about what the speakers were saying and if my readers were there, what they would take away from the speeches. And you may have noted that I said that I had been away for good reasons. The other reason is that I have been sick, and lessons from that adventure will follow soon.

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  • Congratulations on your new degree.
    So you think Facebook will outlast its fad phase? Seems to me that social media products are whimsical by nature.
    Anyway, your dedication to the content on this blog is impressive. Thinking about this during your graduation? Phew. Hope to hear more about your adventures.

  • Hey, big congrats on your degree. Good to see you back.

  • We didn’t have a university-wide policy, but I was a TA for a 100-level class and even there the professors usually remembered to tell students not to use Wikipedia as their final source. As you note, it’s a good place to find better sources. As with any encyclopedia, if you’re really doing research, you shouldn’t end it there.

  • Congratulations on getting your degree Muhammad!

  • I just got my degree as well a few weeks ago and had some similar thoughts while sitting there for what seemed like days. From one grad to another – Congrats!

  • While my usage of other social media sites has varied over time I have been a pretty consistant user of FaceBook for well over two years now. It is nice to see that so many people have joined in the last few years which has increased its value to me. Personally, I think FaceBook will become more popular than MySpace.
    Congratulation on Graduating!

  • Congrats on graduating.
    It is kind of amusing to meet someone, who knows a bit of Russian and studies its literature. What were the reasons to go this way?
    I have to say that it is a bloggers trait that whatever they are doing, they find a way to relate the life to what they are blogging about. You’d be pretty amused to know in which situations I have found insight to posts or have thought “Now that’d make a good blog story!”

  • Leo

    U of C is such a fantastic school and graduating from there is quite an accomplishment! Congratulations!!
    I can say this because my son is considering U Of C (the econ program, of course). The program is VERY competitive.
    Any wisdom/advice that you could spare to someone starting the journey you just successfully completed?
    PS: When do you report to GS HQ for your 1st day?
    PPS: Sorry, couldn’t resist!