About a month ago when I returned from a month in Aus, I had a few things to do in a day which combined to get me thinking about simplification as it seems that despite all our wonderful “web technology” (what are we on – 3.0?) we seem to reaching the stage where we are making things that worked about a year ago complex and harder to use for no reason! For illustration, here are the two web based tasks I had that day:
- Reserve an item in store at Curry’s
- Reset a password for a Google account
Sounds simple enough? As mentioned, a year ago each of these would have taken max 5 mins each. Instead, each took 1/2h! What’s going on???
1. Reserve an item in store at Curry’s
Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Last time I did it, it was – you clicked reserve & collect, entered your postcode, selected a store, input your name, email and that was it! You’d get a confirmation email with reservation number and the item was held for 24 hours for you. Just go and pick it up :-)
What went wrong this time? You click Reserve & Collect and are given a message that it’s available for Reserve & Collect! Really? I’d hope so, but my money says there are some items where you click on this link and are told it’s not available for R&C…
Anyway, I persisted and was now asked also for my phone number (which I input a false one for – it’s wasn’t relevant) – why? After declining the privilege of being contact by Currys and various 3rd Party organisations I then tried to reserve the item – nothing, nada, nicht!
OK, I’ll try phoning the number on the web site. After being led down 2 IVR blind paths I gave up and drove to my local store. I noticed that there was a B&Q (hardware store) nearby and went there first, so I took some “consumer action” – they had the item and I was happy, but after a long and tortuous route I would have preferred not to take.
2. Reset your Google Password
In the afternoon, I was doing some “IT Support” for my 80 year old neighbour and he forgot his password for Google. “No problemo” said I (naively). I then went to the appropriate link where you’re asked for the email address and put it in. Last time I did this, you got a “check your email” message and off you go. Now, I got a security question (his cars numberplate) – ok, they’re beefing up security a bit – that’s good…
NO IT WASN’T! They’d beefed up security so much that we were asked another 5 or so questions about which Google products he used, when he started using them and even how much he used them! Although we were told that the system would allow for some mistakes, we were both sweating as we attempted to prove that Ken was indeed Ken!
Unlike the store, we couldn’t just go somewhere else, so after (what seemed like) 10-15 minutes looking up various bits and nervously waiting for Google’s assessment of his “Ken-ness” we finally PASSED – WOOHOO! I now have a backup record of his password, as neither of us want to go through that again…
What just happened? My two consumer type actions on the web in one day were a disaster! They wouldn’t have been a year ago…
Both systems seemed fine, but have now been bureaucratically engineered beyond their intent and optimal usability. If this keeps going on, we really will have computers like in Brazil
After too many years working for such organisations, I can take a pretty good guess at why both “enhancements” were done:
- The original R&C was probably a side project which worked great. But either the great Hammer of IT or EA came down and demanded compliance with their CRM strategy. This would have demanded more information be collected so they could “engage” aka annoy their customers. The system was obviously not fully working and the IVR, well that was probably a disaster (as are most) from the get-go.
- Due to increased identity fraud etc, there is clearly a need for increased security, especially around password resets. Unfortunately, some CRM / Security people got involved and thought of a whole bunch of questions which only they could answer. Us mere mortals never stood a chance :-(
With quite a bit of Solution Architecture experience, I’m going to put my SA hat on and suggest some potential low impact solutions to both these ?
- If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! This system should have been left as is as it was the minimum usable implementation. “But we need to populate our CRM system” you may say. Well, in that case do it, but progressively. Give people the option and motivation to give you information and respect their choice if they choose not to (which is a subject of a whole other post).
- Stop being so damn “smart”, because it’s not really! Google have a history of only hiring the “best and brightest” and this is one of their products, so no real surprise here. There are so many dimensions of information that Google have on people. Create questions that people (and not machines or people who are like machines ;) can relate to. Use information such as IP’s, location to reduce the need for the “20 genius questions”.
There’s a common theme here
– both solutions were supposedly “improving” a system. Both had a common problem of an over and mechanistic engineering of the solution. Maybe part of the problem is the implicit “continual growth” in capitalism. Why can’t we sometimes just leave parts of a system as they are because everyone is happy with them?
Furthermore, if we do have to change something, how about we do it in a humane way? As the Antimatter Principle from @flowchainsensei would say, being sensitive to the needs of the real user rather than some abstract entity cooked up for the convenience of analysts, technologists or even worse, the business or their CRM system!
If you are ever in the position of dealing with a system which interfaces with people, then assuming you want it to be “nice” ask some questions like this: “Would I personally want to use a system like this?”, “Would my partner and children want to use this system?”, “If the CEO of the company used this system” (which they rarely do, but that’s another problem ;) “what would they think?”
If you’re in the position of allocating funds / priorities for systems, you may want to ask questions like “What is this doing for our customers?”, “Is it making their lives better / easier?”, “Politics aside, is this really the best way to spend the companies money?”, “What would happen if we didn’t do this change?”, “Is there something else in the organisation which could make better use of the money if we didn’t do this project?”
It’s the end of the day here, and what a day it’s been with 3 causes, 2 manifestos and so many hashtags I lost count! ;-) Organised chaos springs to mind… But it’s been worth it. I’ve done my best to spread the word and went to my first CryptoParty (and Unconference :) at English PEN, which I just thought I’d briefly recap. The function was at their offices in London which were probably a bit small for the event even though there was a small lecture theatre space included.
Luckily as the numbers were limited it wasn’t too crowded, just very comfy. The mix was interesting – a few business people, some good hackers, information & freedom people, quite a few IT people (like me :) and just many who were interested and wanted to find out more. There was certainly a wide range of topics covered (in no particular order):
- Secure SMS
- Smart Phone Security
- Secure Storage
- Encrypting Mail
- Safe Web Browsing
- Why Bother? I have nothing to hide…
- A Secure OS – Qubes OS
- How Google and Facebook make money from you
- TruCrypt (the software Snowden et al use)
In all, I’d say a Total Success! I was able to chat with many people and my wife was educated on many issues, some of which I’d talked about. The great thing was that it wasn’t just me blabbering on and there were some interesting freedom and rights perspectives that were also given.
One of the key messages was that privacy should be the default (ah – remember the good ‘ol days ;) and that we should politically move towards this.
In the mean time however, we need to implement “stop gap measures” that increase peoples privacy by encrypted communication, storage and working. This has given me some focus for my contribution.
I’d planned on leaving Google this year anyway and blog about it. I can now see that I actually have a greater need to reclaim my privacy, and I’ll be blogging about that also. I can’t wait to see what happens on next years The Day We Fight Back, Necessary and Proportionate, to Stop The NSA, and Stop Spying on US! Or as I’d like to call it – Information Freedom Day :-)
Updates: Just in today:
- DOJ accuses firm that vetted Snowden of faking 665,000 background checks – that’s right – over 600k people working at the NSA have not been checked!!! They could be way worse than Snowden – criminals, foreign agents, terrorists, general ner’ do wells’, cads, bounders – who knows???
- Want to Store Secret NSA Metadata? – Yes, that’s right – Obama has decided to store secret NSA Metadata at a private company – here’s the RFI – nepotism, of course not! What could possibly go wrong..?
Welcome to my meager effort in the push back against unconditional mass surveillance. At the moment I’m waiting on some treatment for a pinched nerve that means I can’t use my right arm much for typing, which is literally a pain. Still, nothing will stop me blogging on this auspicious occasion which I passionately believe in!
Anyone who knows me virtually or physically knows that I am a passionate believer in people, humanity and freedom – some of the core principles of The Magna Carta and The American Constitution. For this reason I’m fully signing up to The Day We Fight back. To me, this means a sort of non-violent revolution along the lines of
How to Start a Revolution by Gene Sharp
which has been behind many recent revolutions such as the Arab Spring and Eastern European ones. Ironically, we now need tools such as this to ensure our own freedom in Western Civilisation…
Why? Because the USA (NSA) and other countries such as the UK (GCHQ) and Australia (ASIO) seem to be heading down a very dark path based around the darker side of human nature. This has been trodden before and never ended well for anyone…
The current situation with mass surveillance will soon be beyond what George Orwell warned against in his book and the movie 1984. Even allowing for the fact that people have “nothing to fear” if they “obey the law”, there have already been numerous instances of NSA Employees abusing the current system and the NSA helping US corporations conduct corporate espionage. Here in the UK, we’re now looking at our confidential health information being sold to whoever wants it which is a total violation of patient-doctor confidentiality.
Underlying all of this is the dangerous assumption that large institutions (be they government or corporations) can tramp over the rights of individuals (aka people :) and exploit them as they would any other resource for their own ends. I think it’s time people really understood the value of the privacy and took it back so we don’t all end up going somewhere where most people don’t want to be and won’t enjoy. The choice is yours…
PS If you’re in the UK, although it’s not on the official page, there’s a (CyberParty) event at English PEN tonight – seems like there are still tickets available…
I’m not the most prolific of bloggers, but after that first post on the 30th June 2012 “Hello world! Of Architecture and Change” this is now the 100th post – WOOHOO! As you can see above, I had a fairly modest celebration with a few Grenadier mates – thanks guys ;-)
As with any Base-10 based moment, I think it’s time for a bit of reflection and cogitation… What better place to start than the “mission statement” from that first post:
If you’re interested in IT, Privacy, Science, Maths, Process, Systems (of people and technical), Programming, Organisations and any other topics that grab my attention, then you may want to follow this.
So how did I score?
- I think I had pretty good coverage of IT, Process, People Systems and Organisations
- But, I only touched on maths and didn’t really cover any Science, Technical Systems (ironic or not, as that’s what I work with much of the time) or Privacy (although I did tweet a lot on this as I have some pretty strong and liberal views on this).
- “any other topics” covered a number of things such as some funny movies, inspiring kids, The DailyRiczWest which was an attempt at semi-automatic curation, some physical and virtual holidays, and some reviews of things and conferences. I also chatted with some bots, lamented Generation Debt Recession, Curated some Tweets by Jennifer Sertl, was on a train with a Happy American Conductor in the UK, used The Most Expensive form of travel in The World, did a Juice Reboot and went to a Campus PARTY all in the past 1.5 years!
The inevitable question is where now? Firstly, I think it’s time for a renewed mission statement:
To boldly go, where I've not gone before To seek out new ways of being, living, thinking and working To explore seemingly strange new worlds and ideas of other people These are the voyages of me... In physical, virtual, emotional & mental space: The final frontiers
- I like blogging about “anything”. I know this may be frustrating for some who very much stay on a particular “message topic”, as one day I’m talking about a product, another some programming, people or an organisation type. Well, that’s just me so I won’t change that…
- I do want to increase the “technical content”, by which I mean around Architecture, Design and Programming. I got drawn down a people and process rabbit hole, which in some ways culminated with previous post on Toxic Waterfall. I’ll still blog in this area, but have a lot of technical ideas I want to explore and talk about along the way
- I think topics like Maths, Science, Privacy and the like are probably better covered on Twitter, which I’ll be getting back on to next year after I’ve returned from a well earned break in Australia
- People (& Organisations)
- Process (with People and Organisations)
- Technology (to implement Processes for People in Organisations)
but most importantly in a humane context
Yet again, I’m taking a break from Twitter – the last time was over a year ago and I have some holidays (to Aus – WOOHOO!) and other things to attend to. As with last time, I’d like to give some of the resources and inspiration for me on twitter:
- Jennifer Sertl @JenniferSertl – Strategy, Leadership and the Soul: Resilience, Responsiveness and Reflection for a Global Economy – we obviously need people like her!
- Bob Marshall @flowchainsensei – another “must follow” – I’ll be doing some things on this blog on Rightshifting and the Antimatter Principle
- Alex Ley @AlexEvade – worked with him for a bit – you should check out his latest project : http://www.nerdability.com
- Tony DaSilva @Bulldozer0 – a “self declared twitter buddy” :-) Leave your sacred cows at the door before reading him though
- Jakub Holý @HolyJak – We think quite similarly and I’ve since met him at EuroClojure – a cool guy (and I’m not just saying that because he’s interested in Clojure ;)
- Andrea Chiou @andreachiou – puppy person GREAT agilist and now NVC’er
- Jim Benson @ourfounder – do I really need to introduce him? no…
- Ruth Malan @ruthmalan – I always value what Ruth says – such a fountain of knowledge
- John Wenger @JohnQShift – Recently landed in UK and doing all sorts of systems and leadership thinking
- John Hagel @jhagel – Co-chairman, Deloitte LLP Center for the Edge – worth checking out
- Bernd Nurnberger @CoCreatr – I like this guys take on global events
- Paul Klipp @agileactivist – The only Anthropologist I follow on Twitter – oh – he’s very much in to Kanban and software in general
- Ari-Pekka Skarp @apskarp – A mysterious Finn. But then again, which Finn’s aren’t mysterious?…
- Kurzweil AI News @KurzweilAINews – Are you ready for “The Singularity”? These guys will keep you up to speed
- Saybrook University @SaybrookU – Great posts on change
Does that mean I’m disconnecting myself from the world? Not at all (just the twitter one) – I’ve already done a bunch of conferences and met some amazing people and will be doing more entries on this blog as time allows.
One thing to note is that I will still be publishing links to Twitter automatically when I do a blog entry. As I won’t be looking at twitter, if you do have any comments then please use the Comments area in WordPress if you want a response from me.
If you want to contact me directly, most people have my email but if you don’t, the best bet is to LinkIn with me at http://www.linkedin.com/in/rwest.
On the weekend there was an event called Silicon Milkroundabout which is basically a jobs fair for TechCity, the tech hub for London. I was going to physically attend, but it was a cold Autumn Sunday afternoon, so I decided not to. Luckily, the website had a full list of all the companies there so I opted for a Virtual Tour and came away with a few gems I wanted to share:
- http://import.io – an interesting concept of turning (scraping) web pages in to data
- https://www.fundingcircle.com/ – a potentially disruptive way of funding, without banks using peer-to-peer lending
- http://www.medicanimal.com – nothing hugely new, in that they’re a veterinary supplies site for the public but as I love animals this one is worth noting :-)
- http://www.pitchup.com – a booking site for campsites and holidays – just seems a bit different
- http://www.quietriots.com – any site that uses the Mad as Hell speech from Network should have something going for it. These guys are facilitating consumer action, so that’s a big tick from me
- https://www.sportpursuit.com – a discount sports gear site
- https://state.com – another opinion aggregation site, but more generic than quietriot
- https://transferwise.com – something close to my heart – international money transfer without ripoff fees
- https://www.rentify.com/ – a seemingly popular renting website, again bypassing the intermediaries aka Real Estate agents who also had some great articles on “engineers”
I think the common theme here is in removing (usually bloodsucking ;) intermediaries such as Agents, Distributors etc… which I personally think is a worthy endeavor for a company. In all, well worth spending 1/2h or so going through the site. I may even physically pop along there next year…
As I blogged about a bit over a month ago, I started a Juice Reboot. A few weeks ago I decided to finish it, just because I felt like eating again, which means that I did a reboot for 3 weeks. This wasn’t due to any “bad stuff” / withdrawal symptoms as you get past those is the first week or so. It just felt right.
I’d originally targeted 1-2 months, so am I disappointed? Absolutely no way! I achieved what I wanted which was to lose a bit of weight – I don’t know how much as I’m not in to weighing myself*, but I can say that I can fit in to t-shirts, shirts and Jackets I couldn’t fit in to a month ago… Way more important than that though, is I feel like I have rebooted my metabolism and have certainly rebooted my “food habits”. I no longer crave for carbohydrates or overeat – I’m probably eating around 1/2 of what I used to eat as I’m still having a few juices per day and will continue to as they’re just so yummy and healthy :-) Even better, the food I’m eating is better quality and contains a lot more raw vegetables – Salads Rule! I will still be eating meat though, but again it will be better quality and way less – i.e. a few times a week rather than per day.
So overall, how will I change my diet / lifestyle?…
- I’ve never been in to breakfasts, but I’ll start the day with a fresh fruit juice – it gives you a whole bunch of fruit sugars to attack the day with and keeps you pretty full, especially if you put a banana in it
- No more coffee – that was probably my one last “addiction”. Now, I just don’t need it. I’m sure I’ll have a nice one occasionally, but no longer regularly
- Lunch may sometimes be a juice, but more likely to be a salad, sometimes with some sort of meat or fish mixed in (in Thai cuisine this is quite common)
- Dinner may be a juice, but probably just a “snack” – a bit like some European cultures where it’s not a meal, but some meats, cheeses and in our case fresh vegetables
- Minimum carbs – we’re having the same meals we used to, just without any pasta, potatoes etc… If I do have bread then it’s some sort of sourdough and very rarely
- I’ve cut down drinking alcohol. The UK is well know for it’s drinking culture, as is Australia so up until now that’s been quite “natural” for me. Gone now is the regular drink with a meal, especially during the week. I’ve also discovered that it’s possible to go out with colleagues and not drink (i.e. just Juice or Soda Water+Lemon) after you get the obligatory ribbing ;-)
- Exercise – I’d stopped exercising seriously many years ago and pushed on by the weight loss, have decided to start exercising regularly, mostly by walking which I’ll probably do a post on as it’s easy to take up excising if your reasonably skinny, but if you are overweight (which I still am – just less than before :) then you really need to ease yourself back in to things.
I think this is really a microcosm of our consumerist society and it’s approach to buying as much or even more than you need and consuming it just because you can! I think there’s also an element of “comfort eating” (I know there was with me) due to stress. I’m sure most of us don’t do this consciously, but I’ve come to realise that this is a message that is programmed in to us from so many angles and via so many channels** that it’s very easy to fall in to the trap – not for this little duck any more…
Simple – I think I’m a pretty typical example of someone in their 40’s who works in a passive job and really just let things get out of control. At one point I knew things were bad but just never got around to doing anything about it. Finally, spurred on by a documentary as I blogged about earlier, I decided to do something about it and have now started some new behaviors. So in that vein, to be a bit cliched about it, if any of these posts somehow inspire even one person to eat more healthily, lose a bit of weight or get a bit fitter, then they’ve done their job :-)
* Much research shows that you should set quantitative goals. For me, especially at my weight, it’s pretty obvious if I’ve lost weight and I didn’t want to get caught up in a whole reward / punishment cycle as to whether I’ve met some quota. It’s working for me, but others may want to use different methods… Furthermore, I reserve the right to change strategy on the fly as needed ;-)
** When you’re fasting for weeks – boy, do you notice the food and drink ads and that there are so many of them!
Last week I managed to attend the Campus Party on Friday. And boy, am I glad I did – not exactly what I expected, but in a good way. It’s an interesting combination of Open Source, Geekiness, Corporatism, Art and Health. As a result, there has been some criticism of it along the lines of organisation and some of it’s rules, but I don’t think that’s bad enough to rule out attendance at it.
I didn’t take a lot of notes as I was just soaking up the atmosphere but below are some outlines of the sessions I attended along with a few resources and comments. If you have a day spare and can attend one then I’d definitely go. A week is another question – that’s a long time but who knows? Only one way to find out…
11:00 Mark Townsley – Rebuilding The Heart Of The Internet Without Missing A Beat
Mark is a Cisco fellow and was talking about the Internet Protocol, IP and how the world is transitioning from v4 to v6
- Overall, the transition of IP addresses and their usage has been from:
People -> Process -> Data & now going -> Things
Nolan Bushnell is a technology pioneer, entrepreneur and scientist. Often cited as the father of the video game industry, he is best known as the founder of Atari Corporation and Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time Theater.
- Talked about Neurogenisis , which is the creation of new neurons in the brain and can occur in adults – we need constant challenge for this though
- Neuron maintenance and growth is maintained by Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
- All this leads to his latest venture – Brainrush, which is a new learning venture which certainly looks interesting.
- In 5 years, learning will be 10 times faster
- He’s also just released a book “Finding the next Steve jobs” and has another one coming soon called “Video games 2071”
“When you create an idea tha is revolutionary, no one will tell you you’re right” ~ Nolan Bushnell
The Spring Project
These people had quite a strong presence at the conference and ran a number of workshops, one of which I attended.
It certainly sounds interesting, having a formula, which they call “the human source code”, of
brilliance = (integrity + responsibility) x curiosity
14:00 Workshop: Integrity
This started out with a short video on integrity and then jumped straight in to some story telling from the facilitator along with some body-work which related to this and was tied together by some gentle NLP. I think everyone emerged from this energised and in a new frame of mind.
15:00 Andrew Armes – Unlocking Brilliance: A Technology Of Body And Mind
Andrew co-founded The Spring Project – he introduces the history of The Spring Project, what it stands for and aspires to, whilst pulling together all the elements of The Human Source Code discussed at workshops and events throughout the week at Campus Party
- Spring Project was 5 years in development
- The Human Source Code – unlocking Brilliance in people
- Goal: To liberate people from fear
- And Create: Concious & Connected – Sustainability
“The best way to introduce a change is to create an alternative and make it work” ~ Andrew Armes
Note: That’s almost a hacker ethic!
Many people teaching programming today think that knowing a high level language is “good enough”, that programmers are “abstracted away” from being able to optimize their code. This, of course, is rubbish.
In this talk Jon “maddog” Hall will talk about a lifetime of optimization issues that have allowed him to either increase the performance of code others have written by up to 220 times, or allowed him to put code into very small address spaces, or (in a lot of cases) made code both smaller AND faster.
- In Japan, they can predict earthquakes 30s in advance. So what? This means they have time to shut down infrastructure which minimises damage
- Adapteva – supercomputer on a card – “Raspberry Pi for Real Programmers”
- Writes a Blog for linuxpromagazine.com
- On Programming Languages:
- 1st Programming Language should be shell
- 3rd Programming Language should be some assembler
- Book: 21st Century C – C Tips from the New School
- Beowulf Clustering
“Real Computer Programmers should be Computer Engineers” ~ John ‘Mad Dog’ Hall
The Hyper Hype curve, showing the development of words and concepts as practiced by some companies in a manner that generates an amazing amount of revenue (for them, not necessarily their customers ;).
The thing that continually amazes me is the queue of large, fat and stupid organisations that drink from this trough of swill… and come back for more!
I suppose it’s just because it’s easier to do that rather than perform your own thinking and investigations because <<universal entity>> forbid, you may then end up with solutions that are actually tailored to your environment!
Upon further analysis and a survey conducted 3 days ago (n=1, locn=my-head) it has been discovered that the above scenario only 21.6% of the time. Unfortunately (for everyone) the more common phenomenon, which is not as widely publicised is that of the Hyper-Stall which occurs 78.4% of the time:
As can be seen this doesn’t end well for anyone: The consultancies don’t get to milk their customers for the next few years and the customer emerges disillusioned, with the knowledge that it’s all smoke, mirrors and a rubber stamp.
Luckily for everyone, most organisations and their “leadership” (who are often replaced regularly) are always changing or have the attention span of a teenager with ADD so all the pain and lessons are forgotten.
It’s adapted – seems like there’s quite a bit of flexibility involved too, as it’s probably about 20 feet below all the other trees…
Over to Jennifer now:
- Jay Forrester’s Shock the System sloanreview.mit.edu/article/jay-fo… by @ArtKleiner via @MITSloan HT @EkolojikZeka
- Self-Determination Theory selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/… by #ROC treasure Professor Edward Deci
- Treasure trove of article references from military resilience training ppc.sas.upenn.edu/mrtinarmyjan20…
- 10 Principles for a Swan Proof World ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/5… by @nntaleb
- Trajectory Shift Request: At Davos: Why U.S. companies fail to innovate |ti.me/Ts9y6V via @TIMEBusiness
- Mastering Risk gbn.com/articles/pdfs/… … via @gbntweets
- Viktor Frankl’s Man’s search for meaning . . . perhaps the most important read in your lifetime: Man’s Search for Meaning
- The Stockdale Paradox + Optimism bigthink.com/think-tank/the…
- Resilience is to the 21st century what growth was to the 20th bit.ly/I52mE (treasure trove) via @auerswald
- Pure gold: Resilience + Knowledge Management knowcademy.com/2013/03/17/res… HT @toughLoveforx