(newest first)

  • rembal | Fri, 26 Dec 2014 20:28:49 UTC

    The email case is not one person against a group of experts. It's a case of group of experts vs group of experts, but working in different ways.
    One group gathers together and quarells over a standard that will be based on the compromise they reach. It often ends up as a medley of their ideas, as everybody wants to have a say, and the hierarchy of the gruoup is based more on their esteem then their input. 
    Members of the second group works individually, creating a set of standards. Good standards attract more colaborators, creating a positive feedback loop and weak standards gradually die out. Hierarchy is created ad-hoc.
    The second approach is more evolutionary. It makes me wonder how would a living organism look like if it was created by a comitee. That might explain plytapus...
  • Fred Mellender | Fri, 17 Jan 2014 22:52:00 UTC

    The European wheelbarrow used for gardening has a small wheel in front to make the carrying bed low.  This means the cargo does not have to be lifted very high to load the barrow.  A large center wheel would raise the carrying bed.  A small wheel in the center would not work because the front of the barrow would hit the ground when the handles were lifted to waist height. The Chinese barrow was made for long hauls where the effort to lift the cargo is outweighed by the easy in pushing over the distance. The short haul, ease of loading European barrow is ideal for gardening.
  • Moody | Sat, 11 Jan 2014 05:00:56 UTC

    Interesting perspectives in your article. There are many models / metaphors that can be applied in this context. Each one highlights different aspects of the the underlying structural dynamics:
    1. Larger organizations typically don't have processes to match skill to task. People with design skills may end up doing testing. Architects  may end up in analysis. The metaphor here is of asking the right hand to do a foot's work. Overall architecture and design are critical to the success / failure of the project. These are often relegated to people who are not matched to that task.
    2. Missing feedback loops at all levels - a project is a learning process on several fronts - requirements, architecture, design, implementation, testing, deployment. There are missing feedback loops between these stages to change requirements, architecture, design, etc. as the project learns. Tasks tend to be siloed as a way to manage complexity. And those silo walls in complex, dynamic leads to the high failure rates we see in such projects. The metaphor here is driving while looking in the rearview  mirror.
    3. Project decisions for funding, resources, schedules are often made by people who don't have a good grasp of the dynamic complexity of such projects. And these decisions become rigid milestones where project / process learning is not fed back to change the milestones. The metaphor here is sailing with the sail in a position fixed at the shoreline and not adjusted with major shifts in the wind direction.
    4. IT culture tends to be monolithic silo oriented, i.e., individual / group / small team oriented with such entities having an adverserial mindset against each other rather than a cooperative project  mindset. The metaphor here is that we lots of lone rangers wanting to do their own hi ho silver away.
    This list could go on a bit longer as there are other dynamics at play in this context. Some thoughts for you to consider. Enjoyed reading your article and your insights into IT projects.
  • Torben Mogensen | Tue, 24 Dec 2013 17:16:51 UTC

    One reason a single person (or a small team) can succeed where a large corporation will fail is that the single person will realise that he can't ever complete a complex solution, so he simplifies, challenges assumptions and maybe solves a slightly different (but equally relevant) problem than the one presented to him in the first place.  The large corporation will blindly try to implement the complex solutions, creating more complexity on the way, and nobody will dare question the assumptions or solve slightly different problems, because the best way to keep their jobs is to do exactly as they are told.  And because of the multitude of people involved, miscommunication will go undetected for a long time, so different parts of the system that don't work together will get layers of patching put on top.
    Nearly all successful large systems have started out as small well-functioning systems that have evolved slowly over time.  While that can also lead to undue complexity and "baggage", it is incredibly difficult to design large systems from scratch, and in all too many cases such attempts fail miserably.  We really only hear about failures of public systems, but there are equally many (and maybe more) failed colossal IT systems in industry.
  • Claus Gravesen | Mon, 23 Dec 2013 10:59:32 UTC

    "The point here is that politicians point to the 1-man wonders and then legislate 10.000-man fiaskos into existence."
    So incredibly well put..!
    Happy holidays one and all :-)
  • Mike Small | Sun, 22 Dec 2013 20:48:41 UTC

    I think because you don't have friends or colleagues working in that area, perhaps, you're letting a bit of jargon from another industry trip you up. (The use of the word tool maybe is especially confusing.)  Brochures, pamphlets, videos, static html etc. is the form that decision aids take from what I've seen of my friend's work.   I suppose an expert system could function as a decision aid as well, but I've never heard of one of the foundations who produce them creating such a thing (on their budgets it would not be realistic I expect).  
    Here's another example of an organization, this one in Canada, who creates such things and has the term in their name:
    Here is a sample of one of their decision aids:
  • Thomas L. Kjeldsen | Sun, 22 Dec 2013 20:24:01 UTC

    Does complying with regulations slow down development?
    In Utopia someone will read all relevant laws and regulations and can work as a Verifier during  system development, to ensure that the current solution and future plans comply with regulations. Ideally, the Verifier can decide in constant time, but this is most likely not the case. This can slow down development speed because, ideally, every step would have to be verified by the Verifier. With frequent changes to laws and regulations the Verifier becomes even slower. As a consequence, development speed slows down, the overhead gets bigger and the cost increases.
    Another approach is to not care about regulation or even break it intentionally. This way you can move fast, but I doubt you'll win any big governmental contracts.
  • Poul-Henning Kamp | Sun, 22 Dec 2013 20:15:45 UTC

    @Mike Small:
    To paraphrase Justice Antonin Scalia:  "I trust Congress know how to write 'brochure' if they intend to write 'brochure'."
  • Mike Small | Sun, 22 Dec 2013 18:09:40 UTC

    That description doesn't at all imply a computer program to me. Rather it could describes a brochure (online or otherwise) or similar document with writing  and pictures.  It engages the way your article engages. It could be produced by the likes of organizations like the following with no programmers or computer scientists on staff:
  • Poul-Henning Kamp | Sun, 22 Dec 2013 17:43:11 UTC

    @J Story:
    Correct, it's obviously inconvenient volumetrically to have the wheel in the middle of things, but not as a matter of mass.  But read the article in Low-Tech Magazine (ref #2) and you'll see that it is far more interesting than that.  (Sails on a wheelbarrow ??)
    The point here is that politicians point to the 1-man wonders and then legislate 10.000-man fiaskos into existence.
  • ghjm | Sun, 22 Dec 2013 17:19:39 UTC

    I think the answer to your question, "Why is it that in IT one person can often do what thousands cannot?" is that they can't, and it's only confirmation bias that makes us think they can.
    Consider a marksmanship contest. A target is placed 1000 yards downrange. Under the rules of the match, the very best shooters with the very best permitted equipment are able to hit the bullseye half the time.
    But everyone in the world is invited. Inexperienced shooters fire away at the target, nearly all missing it completely. And at the end of the day, it is discovered that more inexperienced shooters managed to hit the bullseye with cheap Wal-Mart rifles than experienced shooters with military-grade sniper rifles.
    We might ask: Why can an inexperienced shooter often hit the bullseye when professionals cannot? And we might fool ourselves into thinking that the resulting ramblings of the inexperienced shooters actually matter or amount to anything.
    The bottom line is: It's very difficult to do predictably or reliably, but sometimes, you get lucky.
  • J Story | Sun, 22 Dec 2013 08:43:00 UTC

    I googled some images of chinese wheelbarrows, and it seems to me that moving the wheel toward the centre results in a trade-off with capacity (because room must be made for the top of the wheel). If the carrying area is raised higher, or widened, then maintaining balance becomes more difficult. A chinese-type wheelbarrow with two wheels nicely solves those problems, but requires a path that is as wide as the wheelbarrow. In short, everything is a trade-off, and specific jobs may work best with work-specific tools.
  • Etickets | Sun, 22 Dec 2013 08:20:45 UTC

    10 really smart people could absolutely have done a much better job and obviously for much less. 's function is not to run Obamacare, it is to sign people up for Obamacare and hand them off to the insurance companies. 
    The more big IT contractors puff up the requirements for a project the more money they make. The more bad suggestions they give and the more mistakes they make the more money they make.
  • sylvandb | Sun, 22 Dec 2013 06:39:45 UTC

    While I am generally disinclined to favor a gov't solution, inability to help everyone is a very poor reason to avoid trying to help someone.
    Why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?" The child replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die."
    Full of frustration, the man answered, "But, young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!"The boy listened politely, then bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it out past the breaking waves, turned back to the man and said, "It made a difference for that one."
     Paraphrased From: The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley. 
  • Jeff | Sun, 22 Dec 2013 06:17:57 UTC

    The real question for Obamacare is "How can we get to a point where nothing but emergency care and some basic preventative care is needed?"
    If the answer is "We can't, people will always do things to themselves that causes health problems in the future."  The real question then is "Why are we even bothering trying to help everyone if the goal is impossible?"
  • Sam | Sun, 22 Dec 2013 05:42:20 UTC

    Of course, once the patient is inside the hospital, with its smooth, predictable floors, everybody does indeed replace the front man on the stretcher with a gurney. The key is to ask whether you can guarantee smooth floors.
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