Do Blogs Matter Any More?

January 1, 2015

Copyright © 2013 The Ambiguous Press.

Orange Juice, Napoleon, and Analytics

There are lots of messages filling up my voice mailbox from folks wanting to sell me something they call ‘Analytics’.  Some tell me I need to buy a data warehouse.   Others say I need some dashboards.  One guy insists I really need his company’s data model.    I’m old, tired, and confused, so I decided to develop my own framework for evaluating ‘Analytics’. I call my approach the Orange Napoleon Continuum.  

On one end of The ON Continuum is the tenth anniversary, Philippe Starck gold plated juicer.  On the other end is Charles Minard’s graphic depiction of deaths suffered by Napoleon’s army as they marched to Moscow in 1812, and then their retreat back to the Neman River after the Russian Campaign.  The Starck  Juicer was issued in 2000.  Minard drew his graphic (by hand) in 1869.

Philippe Starck's Juicer

Philippe Starck's Juicer

Minard's Graphic of Napoleon's Russian Campaign

Minard's Graphic of Napoleon's Russian Campaign

When we look at Starck’s gold juicer, we get the same feeling we get when we see a beautiful work of art.  In fact, Stark’s juicer is a work of art because one is on display  at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.   Psychologists call our feelings about the Starck Juicer  a ‘visceral reaction’ because we don’t consciously evaluate the juicer’s beauty.  It’s just beautiful and seductive and cool and that’s it.  But there is one big problem with owning a tenth anniversary Philippe Starck gold plated juicer – it’s pretty, yes, but you can’t make juice with it.  In fact if you buy one, you’ll get a piece of paper explicitly instructing you not to make juice because the juice will damage the gold plating.

At the other end of the ON Continuum is Minard’s graphic.  With one quick glance, Charles Minard’s delivers a snapshot of human suffering difficult  for the human mind to comprehend.  We can see the army first crosses the Neman River with half a million soldiers.  After the retreat from Moscow back to the Neman only 10,000  survived .  

From an ‘Analytics’ perspective, one word sums up the power of Minards graphic – CAUSE.  At locations of major battles, we can see significant reductions of soldiers (e.g. Borodino,  Berezina River on the retreat).  Minard shows us ‘CAUSE’.   Minard brilliantly included a record of Russian winter temperatures over the duration of the retreat showing another ‘CAUSE’ of death - thousands froze as they marched home.

Cause.  Isn’t this what we must demand from our Analytics?  Only when we know cause can we hope to devise solutions.  But determining cause is difficult demanding scientific thought and rigor – it’s hard.  On the other hand, canned dashboards, gauges, and pie charts are easy, and though they are really pretty,  most of the ones I’ve seen,  can’t make juice.

Copyright © 2013 The Ambiguous Press.

Patriotism, Coolness, and Your Disk Drive


     In the olden days I just wanted some storage - someplace to put my reports, pictures, poems, and love letters. Today just storage just isn’t good enough.  Function, function, function.  That’s the ticket in 2014.  Storage can’t just store, it has got to do something cool.   Take SmugMug.  It arranges my photos on to a stunning website.  Or Evernote.  That's where I go to re-size, optimize, synthesize, organize, categorize, and scrutinize the mountains of information I scan, jot, type, spreadsheet, and clip from the Web.   I don’t need to tell you about DropBox - the Cloud’s Wunderkind.    Speaking of the Cloud, there’s something  else about storage.  It’s definitely got to be someplace else - where that ‘someplace else‘ is doesn’t really matter.  But wherever ‘someplace else’ is,   I’ve got to be able to get to my stuff from any device I happen to have on my desk; in my pocket; on my key chain; or in my backpack.   If you’re not taking advantage of all this storage  coolness like I am, you’re obviously a dim witted Luddite.  There’s one more thing.

     The government, Google, Chinese,  Amazon, and God knows who else needs to be able to read everything you store without your knowledge much less permission, and you wouldn’t want to cause problems for the government, Google, the Chinese, Amazon, and God knows who else by storing your stuff on a locally encrypted hard drive because that would be totally un-American not to mention totally un-cool.  Totally.


Copyright © 2013 The Ambiguous Press.

Executive Belief Not Executive Support



I am flying home from yet another “computer conference”, and this crappy gin-and-tonic has put me in an overly reflective state of mind.  For several days,  I have listened to wholesome young professionals present their project case studies.  Regardless of the subject, every presentations had one thing in common.  By the third slide each speaker proudly proclaied (as if it were a first-time epiphany) that “Executive Support” is the one, absolute ingredient for success.  Without it, the project is doomed.   Heads in the audience nod.   Everyone seems to enthusiastically agree;  everyone but me.  Lets work backward to see if we can discern what an IT professional really needs from his or her executives.

The Endgame:  Process and Organization Change
Strategic use of technology (any technology) always requires change.  History unequivocally proves this point.  Change is difficult.  Change is resisted.  Change is criticized.  Change is risky and sometimes fails.  Change is a verb that can be measured. Change cannot begin in a vacuum.  The agent for Change is not technology.  The agent for Change is Political Will.

The Middlegame:  Political Will
Political Will is the conscious willingness to bring about change through the exercise of authority.  But Political Will is not a verb.  Change and its enforcement are the instantiation of Political Will.   Political Will cannot be measured until it creates a verb and sustains this verb until the goal is reached.   But only Belief begets Political Will.

The Opening:  Belief
Belief  is the personal acceptance of a proposition.  Acceptance (or it's flip side - non acceptance) can be based on fact, observation, faith in authority, or simply cognitive assent.  Belief is not Executive Support until is gels into Political Will strong enough to impose and enforce Change.

Executives "support" technology projects for all kinds of reasons – and not necessarily because they believe in the proposition at hand.  I want to tell all young conference-going firebrands to not waste their time finding executives who say they support them;  instead find executives who believe what their doing .    Only believers give you the support you need in the beginning, and (more importantly), when the going gets rough and the non-believing executive "supporters" queue up to throw you under the bus.


Copyright © 2013 The Ambiguous Press.