Sunday, 17 January 2010

Pareto's 80/20 Principle...

How I Heard About This: This is something I'd vaguely heard about before but doing some research today on business I found something rather interesting.
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Topic: Lifestyle/Economics

Details: The Pareto principle is also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few and the principle of factor sparsity. It simply states that in many cases: 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Joseph M. Juran devised the principle and named it after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who noted that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

Juran went on to show how 80% of the productivity in a business come from the top 20% "star" workers. It is also commonly known that 80% of wealth in the world is owned by only 20% of the people.

It can then be applied to our own lives in many ways. For example when we set about work on a project we do almost 80% of it in 20% of the time. The other 20% is spent fiddling with the details to get it right. It has been suggested by a great number of people that if we just let it go around 80% we'd have a lot more time to do other projects and have better lives.

I'm still in the middle of being convinced of the application in my own life, but I can already think of ways that it can be used to save a LOT of time.

Friday, 15 January 2010

There Are Only 7 Stories Ever...

How I Heard About This: At university we studied the 7 basic story archetypes. Today I found a website that described them so well I had to include them here.
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Topic: Storytelling/Writing

There are apparently only seven basic plot archetypes, it is from these that almost every story ever written is derived. Any story you read or watch at the cinema will a combination of one or more of these. The descriptions are taken from the fantastic suite101 website.

* The Quest

The Quest story model revolves around a central protagonist striving to meet an all important and often far off goal. The hero cannot rest until this task has been completed. Along this journey the hero will be met with obstacles and forces trying to stop him from achieving his goal.

Examples of the this story model are The Lord of the Rings, Apocalypse Now, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

* Voyage and Return

Much like the Quest, the Voyage and Return story type is based around a journey. In this plot type the hero is transported to another world and then back again. On this journey the protagonist learns things that give him a deeper understanding of himself and the world around him.

Examples of Voyage and Return stories are Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver's Travels, Back to the Future, the Wizard of Oz.

* Rebirth

In the rebirth story type the protagonist is often cast under some dark spell either instigated by himself or an outside force. The heroes liberation can only be achieved through the actions of other good forces. In these story types the redemptive power of love can be a liberating force. What is striking about the Rebirth story type is that the protagonists imprisonment is derived from something from within his own psyche.

Examples of the Rebirth story type are A Christmas Carol, Beauty and the Beast.

* Comedy

Defining the Comedy story archetype is problematic as in modern times the term has come to mean simply anything that is funny. Therefore stories constructed from the other basic plot types have been mistakenly termed comedies.

Aristotle described comedy as showing people to be worse than they are and tragedy as showing people to be greater than they are. In the classic definition of Comedy plots the characters are thrown into a state of confusion, darkness and bewilderment where resolution can only come when these constricting factors have been played out to their extremes.

Comedy examples are All’s Well That Ends Well, When Harry Met Sally, Some Like It Hot.

* Tragedy

In Aristotelian tragedy the central character is an individual (usually of great status) who goes through a series of actions and decisions that unwittingly brings about their own downfall. This downfall is supposed to provoke feelings of pity and fear in the audience and end in a catharsis or what is sometimes called a “purging” of emotion.

Examples of Tragedy are Hamlet. Carlito’s Way, Macbeth, Oedipus the King.

* Overcoming the Monster

In Overcoming the Monster stories the hero/heroes must overcome a dark evil creature/person/entity that has exerted an evil destructive force over a place, persons or people.

Examples of this plot are The Silence of the Lambs, Dracula, Jaws, Hansel and Gretel.

* Rags to Riches

In Rags to Riches plots the central character is seemingly plucked from nothing to greatness where he/she is very often rich and of immense status. In this story type the hero very often gets quick success which is swiftly taken away from him/her. In order for him/her to return to this “rich” state the protagonist must very often defeat a foe of some kind.

Examples of this story type are Aladdin, Cinderella, Great Expectations.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

What My Digit Span Is...

How I Heard About This: Having spent almost a decade tutoring children of various ages, I'd often heard of the digit span. I understood the basics but decided to research it further and see what my digit span is now.
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Topic: Memory/Learning

Details: The memory span is the number of items that a person can retain and recall over a brief period of time. It is called the Digit Span when numbers are used. People who can retain and quickly recall higher numbers of items often do better in Psychometric tests. Why is it interesting to me? Being dyslexic I was subjected to a large number tests as a child, and as was to be expected, I performed far better verbally than I did whilst writing things down. Although I had a slight photographic memory I would often have to look at the black board for almost every letter of a word I was trying to spell out. This became very time consuming. Looking back now I can guess that my digit span (when relating to letters) must have been no higher than 2 but likely to be as low as 1.

After years of extra lessons I was able to speed up this process but by the time I left school I doubt it was any larger than 6. For me it wasn't until university and my work as a music producer after that I started to really push my brain. Today I wondered what my digit span was and took the test linked below. Having done it a couple of times the highest I can get to is 15 digits. Certainly a lot better than when I was younger. Apparently practicing this can increase your digit span, and thus increase your likelihood to do well in Psychometric testing.

Have a go yourself: take a digit span test now.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Aristotle's Six Elements of Drama...

How I Heard About This: As I've started to write a script I started looking through my old film degree notes and found this. I don't know if remembering something counts as learning a new thing but it was very new to me reading it today.
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Topic: Story Structure/Writing

Detail: Aristotle's Poetics theories have influenced almost every great play-write of the last two thousand years.

The six elements of Drama are:

* The Characters: It is important to make sure your characters are watchable as your story will be told through their trials and tribulations. Whether they are a Mother Theresa or Adolf Hitler they must be compelling else they should be re-written or scrapped.

* Plot (Action): This is what actually goes on in your story and in what order it all happens. Classic three act structure consists of you plucking your hero out of his ordinary life, treating him pretty badly and then putting him back down again. It is important to keep things moving and always interesting. Some writers think that you should have a surprise on every page.

* Ideas: A good story always means something. What does your story mean and what is it's central theme? This central theme should be weaved into every part of your story.

* Dialogue: The dialogue (or lyric poetry) is very important. If your characters talk, then they need something to say, and a way to say it. They should have some form of accent, even if it's RP, and how they say things will tell the audience a lot about who they are and where they come from.

* Music: Music is an incredibly powerful tool. From the earliest operas, ballets and plays through to modern cinema: music can easily create tension and affect the emotions of the audience. It should be used carefully but if done well will add an amazing amount to your story/play/film.

* Spectacle: This is everything that is included in the visual and audio production. The explosions, the magic, the sounds, the costumes and set are all part of the spectacle and people's enjoyment can be increased by careful use (or even lack) of spectacle.

According to Aristotle, great Drama is formed by understanding these six elements, and by combining them carefully.