DISTRACTION – So coin! Much gender. Wow

Ah Bitcoin, you reminder that cognitive dissonance and random hope are the fundamental drivers of human culture.

Let us draw two circles, let us create a Venn diagram of two sets. One being those who “mine” the Bitcoin, the other being women. And the intersection of the two, the common members of both sets? I strongly suspect that it will be zero, a null set.

Has currency, the concept of money, always been gendered? Has Bitcoin merely thrown a light on something that always was there, obscured by time and common practice? I reach for my Delphy.

Let us draw another circle, this time let it be made up of those who complain about “fiat currency”, those who demand that money be based on something that has intrinsic value.

Which is of course an absurdity, anything and everything is only worth what someone is willing to give in return for it. And that applies to the medium of exchange like everything else. But I still remember the shock in my classmate’s voices when, as mere cubs, we were told the truth about money. That it is an agreed collective delusion. Like everything else we call culture or human nature.

Now let us look at the circle of true money believers and the Bitcoin “miners” (so macho, much struggle, wow). I suspect that this time the intersection is not empty and that the two groups overlap to a marked extent. Despite, no, of course, because Bitcoin is a delusion based on bits, on the hum of the machine. Boil the oceans so that we may be journey deeper into the Bank of Babel.

Bitcoin is Tlön. An answer to an obscure trivia question in 2021. It is not caek.

Bartleby, the CIO

I recently shared this piece on how “IT Departments have become utterly useless”. The number of retweets shows that it has resonated with many people.

So why is that? I mean, I have been a CIO for a number of organisations and on some massive projects, why have we allowed ourselves to become a stereotype of delay, obstruction and failure?

Here, in no particular order, are a few of the reasons why:

Risk – We live in a world where the core assets of our businesses – information, money, delivery systems – are all completely reliant on technology. Companies are robbed these days not with guns but with 0-day vulnerabilities. This creates an immediate tension between what people want to do and what they should do.

This is not a technology issue, it is a business issue. Yet it is convenient, simpler to push the onus down to the CIO, on to the back of technology. So risk then becomes embedded in the service management sausage machine and like all machines, it grinds and it grinds, and it grinds and it grinds very small.

In the public sector we have the concept of a Senior Information Risk Owner (SIRO). This is someone who can take a pragmatic, business view of the risks around a particular asset, system, service or project. I am often asked who the SIRO should be?

My answer, brutal but important, is that it needs to be someone worth sacking if it goes wrong. Their seniority, their reputation, their authority needs to be aligned with the value of the asset and scale of the risk. “Business is the management of risk.”

But individual responsibility is tricky concept so too often we return to the service management sausage machine to not just control risk but to grind it into vanishingly small chunks.

So when you wonder why you can’t access Twitter from your office machine or why it takes 7 minutes to boot up in the morning it is often down to an unowned risk being ground in the machine.

Outsourcing – Outsourcing is a tool, like all tools it is both morally neutral and proffered as a universal panacea. The MBA siren call of the recent past was “Focus on your core business”. Unfortunately outsourcing has revealed that a lot of people do not understand what their core business is.

Outsourcing has boundaries – I wash the plate, I hand it over to my outsourced plate drying service, they return a plate that has been dried to the agreed standards by the agreed upon deadline. And those boundaries need to be policed, policing of the boundaries means more service management and more grinding into dust.

Contempt – much enterprise IT demonstrates contempt for the user. I often ask people from big organisations, public and private sector, how they feel when they have to use their corporate HR or finance systems? And I do mean feel, usercentricity starts with how we feel.

The universal, UNIVERSAL, response I get is a chorus of groans. People hate using these core, fundamental business systems. Some of that is down to the business processes which themselves are often bedevilled by some of the things I have mentioned previously, but a lot is down to a user experience which seems rooted in a contempt for those who are forced to use these systems.

Delivery – by which I mean the opposite, no delivery. My current team and I have about 40 projects on the go at any one time. Some are large and involve perhaps 30-40 million users and in some cases hundreds of billions of pounds, some are small and involve a handful of users.

There are 5 of us, we ship an average of 5-6 products every quarter, we save an average of £10 for every £1 we cost.

Why aren’t we the norm? You can call it agile, you can call it digital, you can call it user centred. It is all of those things but most importantly, it’s delivery.

I have been a CIO, I may be one again. The name is irrelevant, the challenge is clear. What is stopping you from doing the same?

Or are you Bartleby?

Bringing dragons into the enterprise

I am currently playing Ni No Kuni and enjoying the excellent art work and well written script.

One of the grimmest neologisms of recent times is “gamification”. The concept that adding elements for gaming into, usually drudge, work will make us happier and more productive.

So we have seen attempts to combine role playing games with housework so you gain points for mopping the floor. For me this seems a bizarre hybrid of grinding and drudge work.

But playing Ni No Kuni I am reminded of something games do very well, guide the user through a world upskilling the player as they go. You start with a simple stick and seamlessly you are guided to a point where you are flying a dragon, commanding a ship, crafting items and performing magic.

Compare this with the grey, grim world of Enterprise IT with “Press F1 for help” that seldom ever helps, “wizards” that are never going to open the pod bay doors, and training courses that vanish from memory the instant one leaves the room.

Why can’t we replace that with the organic learning we find in Ni No Kuni?

Horsesoft Dobbin 2013

You sell horses. You have made a lot of money over the years selling horses. Pretty much every business in the world and every household owns one of your horses. You bring out a new breed of horses every 3-4 years. Sometimes these new breeds of horses are failures but in the main people replace their old horses with your new breeds.

Your only rivals in the transportation market are a bicycle company whose products have traditionally been expensive, and a whole range of people offering rideable llamas for free, but these llamas have a history of being ugly, high maintenance and frankly – they spit.

But in recent years the bicycles have become cheaper and faster and every time you go to a conference pretty much everyone there now has a bicycle rather than a horse, indeed most of them have traded in their horses for the new world of portable, folding bicycles.

The llamas are less ugly, more pliant and spit a lot less frequently these days too.

It is time for your regular release of a new horse breed.

In order to maximise your market you decide in the following approach for Horsesoft Dobbin 2013:

  • You increase the cost of actually buying a horse significantly.
  • You introduce a new arrangement where people can hire a horse for a year but that horse can only be used by one person. At the end of the year the horse is taken away.
  • The horse is a horse, it does come with a new ribbon in its mane but that’s it.

 

As an MEA (Master of Equine Administration) student, do you think that the sum total of people buying and renting Horsesoft Dobbin 2013 will be higher or lower than previous breeds of horses?

Chromebook – first thoughts

Google yesterday launched the Chromebook and a lot of the coverage has been about the 3 year leasing model which they offering.

I am still waiting for more details but based on the information here I have some first impressions.

Chromebooks essentially appear to be thin clients in netbook form – data and apps are stored remotely with the device essentially being the presentation layer.

On a 3 year basis the cheapest device has a cost of $28 x 36 or $1008 as opposed to the one off purchase cost of $349.

So the question is “Is the service wrap worth $659?”

The only details I can find so far are here.

Cost savings seem to be mainly captured in this paragraph:

Chromebooks and the management console automate or eliminate many common, time-intensive IT tasks like machine image creation, application distribution, patching, and upgrades. Additionally, there is no need to purchase licenses for anti-virus, data encryption or data back-up software. Subscription pricing means that you only pay a low monthly amount.

Minimum quantity is 10 so service wrap will be a minimum of $2197 per annum.

But someone still needs to do configuration, deployment, run the management console etc.

Will do some more detailed modelling and realworld comparisons but will be interested to see a) how the thin client model works in operation and b) whether the netbook form factor is now too unfashionable for the market to accept!

A Pound of Email Please

Is email like cheese or is it like air?

Cheese is a finite resource – no matter how much you may like cheese you can only eat so much, your larder can only hold so much and all the cows + sheep + goats of the world can only produce so much. We could indeed run out of cheese!!!!

Air is an infinite resource – we do not even think about it save in very rare circumstances. It just exists and we can use as much of it as we like, indeed we do not even consider that we are using a resource – it is so invisible and ubiquitous.

Users of email think of it as being like air, providers of email services think of it like cheese.

Two different stories, one platform

Twitter release an updated client for iOS which puts a large black hashtag bar across the top of the screen which results in users complaining bitterly that the functionality of the app had been sacrificed to the demands of monetization.

This morning I awoke to an update from someone whose long established Twitter username had been claimed by an organization who post-dated the person’s use of that username but who were a registered commercial entity.

The thing which they have in common is that they both reflect the difference between open and proprietary platforms.

The thing which most differentiates Twitter from email is that the email we use is based around a series of open standards – RFC1939, RFC822, RFC5321 amongst others.

Twitter can change the rules at any time.

But it’s not just Twitter

I wrote earlier this week about the risk of a single point of dependency in business models, but what if that single point of dependency is in our social and personal lives instead?