by Asim Jalis
Here are some ideas on metrics, grades, and measurement that I
have been thinking about for some time.
THE GRADE GAME
1. Grades are a game. There have been three phases in my
relationship with grades. (a) Initially I was brainwashed by the
system to really care about grades. I worked as hard as I could
to get A's in everything. (b) At some point I saw through the
lie. I took the red pill and realized that this was all an
elaborate sham. Grades did not really matter. Naturally, this
realization caused them to plummet. (c) The third phase was when
I realized that even though this was just a game, grades had to
be taken seriously, and for their own sake.
2. Grades are like unit tests around a piece of code. If you get
an A it does not mean you learned all the things you were
supposed to learn. If you get an F it does not mean that you
learned nothing. But there is some correlation. It sets a bar.
The bar has to be inaccurate. But it's better than no bar.
3. Grades are a kind of metric. They tell you how cold or hot you
are. They are a coarse-grain mechanism for feedback. There is
real value here.
SCHOOL VERSUS WORK
4. I have noticed that I did much better in school than I do at
5. In fact I know several people who were in school with me, and
even though I did better than them in school, in our professional
lives we have done about the same.
6. There is a pattern here. I was good at school but am average
in the real world. There are other people who are good in the
real world and were mediocre in school.
7. I was looking at my transcript the other night as I was
cleaning my room, and I noticed a pattern. I did poorly on two
courses, and they were both independent study courses. There was
no feedback during the course. I procrastinated and then at the
end of the quarter submitted mediocre deliverables and got
8. This leads me to some insights about why I do well in normal
courses. I do well because there is constant feedback. Even
though the feedback is coarse-grain and not as precise as it
could be, it is there, and it allows me to course-correct.
9. If I am slacking off at the beginning of the quarter the
grades allow me to get back on track.
10. In school, grades and deadlines provide structure which
allows me to work much better. At work there is no such
GRADING WORK PROJECTS
11. So it occurred to me, what if I create the same structure at
work. Take work projects, break them down into deliverables with
deadlines. Assign a score to each deliverable. Assign a penalty
for lateness. At the end of the project compute a project grade
by adding up the grades on the deliverables.
12. Let me make this more concrete. The first deliverable for any
project will be a list of deliverables. The difference from
school is that here I am the instructor and I am the student. So
the first deliverable has to provide the structure for the other
13. Once I have completed the deliverable (the program or website
is online) then the metrics can change to something more
process-oriented rather than being project-oriented. The metrics
can be the number of people using the tool, customer satisfaction
(based on surveys) or other forms of feedback.