Taoffi's blog

prisonniers du temps

The social vs. networking

Numerous of the latest events reveal as much of collisions between technology and social activities.

You may have a look at some of Zeynep Tufekci's articles to get an idea about how broad the problem is.

Information Technology seems to have grownup immersed in its own technical problems with little regard to the social role it might (or might have to) play.

It is somehow astonishing, for instance, to watch how a company like Facebook does not seem to grasp few simple responsibilities about what it may / may not sell or buy and to whom. And how it came up at the end by admitting that a 'human' check is required over ads sold on its network!

Definitely, some technology companies seem to have grown up from their technical issues to at least one social notion: profit.

Unfortunately that cannot be enough. May they just recall that even profit is constrained by laws and, accessorily, some fundamental ethics!

Thuggish practices in businesses

I keep being surprised of the number of unmentioned violent incidents we live everyday while condemning violence is a common theme in all occasions. We seem to agree that exerting violence in some form is condemnable, but accept (or at least keep unmentioned) other forms of violence that are often the seeds of the condemnable type.

One common type of violence, that many people live without even having the right to talk about, is violence exerted in the workplace. Harassment in businesses is more and more a common practice. It even seems to have been elevated to some high level of craftsmanship or art, all with its own techniques!

If we try to summarize violence as an act of offering the choice of: 'Do that or otherwise die' / 'You did not do that, you deserve dying', that would exactly be the significance of harassment in the workplace: 'Do that or otherwise be fired' / 'You did not do that, you deserve being fired'. Where being 'fired' ultimately means: have no resources, and, most probably Die! (Or at least, join those beggars you just met in your commute this morning!)

I can hardly consider such situations otherwise than a violence exerted on people.

I wanted to talk about this subject after having found myself in a real situation during a mission at a small company where nervousness among the people was perceptible in a way I did not see before. In the workplace, you could easily guess who are the 'foremen' specialized in people harassment (themselves being harassed by others …less visible!). The thick ambiance all being clothed into artificial ways of 'humanization' through – more or less superficial – parties, drinks, games and the like. But which could not mask the ambient anxiety.

On the ethical side, such violence is questionable.

Not surprisingly, on the productivity side that had negative effects too. You cannot be creative nor productive by fear.

The global technical level and practices of the company were rather 'low' by many standard measures. But you could not find an ear that may accept changes, or just accept discussing change proposals. The thick ambiance turned the business activity into sclerosed processes deaf to change. 'Change' became Fearful!

All that activity (and violence) were of course performed through, allegedly, 'Agile' and other artifacts which are sometimes just words decorating the worst unethical practices and bad results you can imagine!

 

Anecdotally, the company's business was: 'to help businesses in investigating unethical practices'!

No need to mention: I was fired J

Inspiring Jargon

I read:

"Arianespace… announced […] that two satellites it had tried to launch to join the European Space Agency's Galileo constellation, had entered a "non-nominal injection orbit"—in other words, gone wrong"  

You probably now know how to better say "I got a bug" (when it is just a "non-nominal behavior")!

Microsoft case: going monochrome

On the Windows Phone 8, the latest MSFT phone OS, you have a nice Theme selection option, which says:

"Change your phone's background and accent color to suit your mood today, this week or all month"

Quite attractive!

The feature proposes two settings:

  • Background
  • Accent color

 

On 'Background', you have two options: Light / Dark

On 'Accent color', you have a palette of 21 colors (which seems to be a pretty little choice on a device that, according to the manufacturer, can display 65000 colors or more!)

I should admit, that not having a choice is in a way less time consuming. May be this was the initial OS designer's intended objective.

 

Now let us leave WP and go back to the desktop machine to have a look at Microsoft Office 2013.

Here too, you have a nice feature to select your theme.

You have the choice between:

  • White
  • Light gray
  • Dark grey

 

The difference between the three is really too subtle:

I tried them all, and ended up by selecting 'Dark': a little more readable!

On another point: after all the literature about the 'user interface design guidelines', it now seems that Microsoft Office apps are the only applications that can keep being outside of any graphical constraints. Those guys are really too spoiledJ

 

Conclusion

It seems that someone at MSFT has decided to re-form our education about colors. The 'monochrome' seems to be the new MSFT User Interface Strategy (you can check yourself: Windows Phone, Windows 8, Office 2013…)

Some people may find this abusive… but, in a way, we are much less embarrassed with this new reduced theme strategy… we may gain more time to think about things more useful!

Of recipes and methods – Agile and agile rituals

Let me first clarify:

Learning that the square root of 144 = 12 is a 'recipe'.

Learning how to retrieve the square root of a number is a 'method'.

Recipes represent one application of a method in a specific context.

They are efficient and straightforward, gratifying, easier to retain and easier to sell !

Still they most likely apply to a context and can hardly be useful if elements of the context change.

Methods are less easy to retain and assimilate. They also often need to be ascertained through applications in various contexts before being accepted.

The bad thing with recipes is that they are sealed, and tend sometimes to occult the openness of their originating method.

One good demonstrative example of this is the Agile principles (method) vs. the multitude of – more or less ridiculous – rituals (recipes) falsely attributed to the originating method.

Some of the rituals may have been correctly applied in specific contexts producing suitable results. But, no doubt, with different context, the same 'successful' rituals may be disastrous.

It is easier to retain rituals than to understand principles… even easier to retain those rituals that you may find attractive!