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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