Posts

Don't Look Up: a stranger kind of Christmas movie

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Good Christmas movie: Don't look up. Strange, but good. Funny. Silly. Serious. Controversial. Silly. I watched it because there were a few very positive reviews and a few very negative reviews. So, a controversial movie. The genre that creates cults. I liked it. It has huge amounts of pop culture references. Good acting, good directing, pretty much good everything. A parody with continuous referencing to science, family, peer reviews, tech tycoons, politics, media, marketing, science, human relationships, anxiety, polarisation, trivia.  Idiocracy + anti-vaxers + Big Bang Theory + Armageddon + Jackass + Saving Private Ryan / Star Troopers. Of course the plot is exaggerated. It is a parody. Yes, in real life there are functional research and communication networks, and governments don't always listen to public opinion when it comes to emergency situations, and politicians and people are not always stupid and always vain. But this is a parody. And I liked it. Ps. I admit that the

R vs. Python, or programming vs. software engineering

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I read a recent debate whether R is better than Python, or better than SQL, and which flavor of SQL is best. Which reminded me of an old series of workshops I organized years ago, when I was arguing for software engineering instead of programming.  "You are thinking as a programmer, not as a scientist or engineer, or architect", I said. Programmers talk about programming languages, and their preferences for one or another. But engineers should move from a language to another with ease. Languages and technologies are bricks: masons lay bricks, but engineers design structures. So, a programmer might know Transact SQL. A good programmer might know standard SQL, T-SQL, MySQL and PL/Sql. But an engineer and an architect know relational mathematics, so learning a new SQL flavor becomes a matter of rtfm. My workshops on software engineering vs. programming were not very successful. Maybe I was too ambitious, and I condensed too much information - it became somehow a crash course in

Synopsis of management frameworks

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I studied a number of fascinating management frameworks, as model for the IT Project Complexity Management IT-PCM framework .  A typical management process structure consists of the following main phases, or processes: Planning. Identification. Analysis. Developing response plans (strategies, actions). Implementation, monitoring, control, and lessons learned. Some widely recognized and accepted frameworks in project management and IT/software engineering are presented below. Risk management Risk management consists of the following processes (PMI, 2017): Plan Risk Management - defining how to conduct risk management activities. Identify Risks - identifying individual project risks as well as sources. Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis - prioritizing individual project risks by assessing probability and impact. Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis - numerical analysis of the effects. Plan Risk Responses - developing options, selecting strategies and actions. Implement Risk Responses - impl

Anti-vaxers, risks, side effects, and the power of medicine

A popular antivax theory says: " vaccines have possible side effects and risks, and nobody is willing to take the responsibility, you must even sign a disclaimer ". So let me tell you a story about risks and side effects, about the power of medicine, and the importance of the "signature". On a beautiful February afternoon in 2014, I was taken to the hospital for a serious medical emergency. And there's this doctor that puts a disclaimer in my hand to sign. Well, imagine me in the ER, drugged through all channels, naked and ready for surgery, but - professional reflex, I start reading the bloody paper. It said I agree to the surgery, and I take full responsibility for everything that might happen. And I panic: "gosh, I am too drugged to read this, so what happens if I don't sign?" To which a serene and humorous doctor says: "Oh, if we don't operate on you right now, you're going to die." I signed the paper instantly (she did explai

Frameworks and methodologies for IT governance and management

IT governance is the system that ensures that the use of ICT is directed and controlled at the level of an organization, sustaining and extending the organization's strategies and objectives (ISO/IEC, 2015). COBIT - Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology is one of the most used enterprise governance of information and technology (EGIT) frameworks (ISACA, 2019). COBIT specifically differentiates between governance and management. Management is the group of processes that ensures the execution of the organizational activities, in alignment with the direction set as part of the Governance processes. IT Management  processes cover activities such as building, implementation, maintenance, operation, and support of IT systems, as well as transversal processes referring to risk, security, and data protection management.  In the IT industry, project management tools and techniques are used in conjunction with IT-specific frameworks and tools, such as software developmen

PhD thesis published: Managing positive and negative complexity

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My PhD thesis is finally published:  Managing Positive and Negative Complexity. Design and Validation of an IT Project Complexity Management Framework .  Also poster and presentation slides . I am highly interested in your opinion on the new proposed concepts of positive and appropriate complexity. This project was about understanding IT project complexity and contributing to its theoretical foundations and practice. It proposes a holistic view, and provides insights into its Positive, Appropriate (requisite), and Negative effects. It proposes a structured framework for IT Project Complexity Management (IT-PCM), composed of formal processes: plan, identify, analyze, plan responses, monitor and control. These are defined and described in terms of inputs and outputs, and with an inventory of available tools and techniques. Anchored in this framework, new practical tools are proposed, for: measuring complexity; analyzing its sources and effects; planning and monitoring complexity mitigat

Covid recovery and resilience plans, and eurocratic slang - a pedantic linguistic approach

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The EU's Recovery and Resilience Facility  was approved in February with a budget of €672.5 billion. It targets the post-covid return to normal, repairing the economy, and  making Europe more prepared for future similar crises.  Most European countries already submitted to the European Commission their national recovery and resilience plans. Everybody talks about them, but most European citizens probably consider the words yet another eurocratic gibberish. So here we go. Recovery is the short-term action of returning a system to a previous state. Resilience is used by most people as a buzzword - similarly to sustainability . So let's take it a step higher, from vulnerability. Vulnerability management is a relatively new niche domain, that deals with negative (external) events, analyses their impact, and the system's capability to cope with them. It is closely related to management, and particularly to risk. Marle and Vidal proposed an interesting analysis and management fra

Effective, interactive video-conferences, webinars, online eLearning. 3-minutes guide

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Covid-2019 is tough, for work, education, socially.  I attended online eLearning courses, gave online lectures, attended thousands of video-conferences. Here is my 3-min. guide on what works. The web offers much more detailed materials on this topic, e.g. here , or here . Raising attention online Raising and retaining attention is much more difficult online. What works: Simulate the normal physical environment as much as possible.  Keep eye contact with the camera - not with your screen, not to your slides or notes. Position your webcam at eye-level. Position your text-to-read immediately under the camera, so that even if you are reading text or something, the audience would still have the impression you are looking at them. If there is a panel, only the speaker should look at the audience; the rest of the panelists should look at the speaker . Tone, pronunciation, pace. Maximize signal = useful voice, visual, images. Reduce communication noise.  Eliminate heavy backgrounds, sounds, im

Project success vs. project management performance

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“Project success” has 2 perspectives:  the perspective of the process , i.e. delivering efficient outputs; typically called project management performance  or project efficiency . the perspective of the result , i.e. delivering beneficial outcomes; typically called project performance  (sometimes just project success ) [1, 2]. The established (project) management school, and even practice, puts more priority on processes, rather than on results. We measure screens, workflows, processes, APIs, requests, forms, sometimes even lines of code (remember the beautiful KLOC paradox ). Yes, some of these are reasonable proxies for measuring results. But even if they can be measured, they are still proxies. Interestingly, this is not the case for engineering; it is mostly the management view. Quality management is famous for example for its obsession for documenting and measuring processes. Continuous improvement of processes becomes sometimes a religion, with fanatics following blindly 7-sigma,

The KLOC Paradox

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The KLOC paradox goes something like this: Suppose we count lines of code per day (LOCs, or KLOCs) to measure the productivity of a software engineer: Then, if programmer A writes 100 lines of code, his productivity is 100 lines of code per hour. Even if this introduces a bug. If programmer B deletes the 100 lines of code, then his/her productivity is negative . Even if this actually solves the bug... Guess no-code solves this problem. N.b. I read this long ago, but I cannot find a simple form online. It was listed together with other software myths such as: the Mongolian horde concept: just throw-in more people to solve any problem, including delays in delivery. the First rule of cyclism: you always run up-hill and against-wind. "We can fill-in the details later". The 95%-ready paradox. Maybe it was from Pressman (2001). Software Engineering - A Practitioner's Approach.

From Vikings to quantum teleportation

The question is not if we are going to colonize Mars, but rather when.  7 months of travel in zero-gravity is really an easy problem. There are much more difficult problems. I would compare this problem with the problem of colonizing America by Europeans, 1000 years ago. It was very difficult. It was possible, but difficult. Vikings settled America 1000 years ago, but it was so difficult, that their colonies died shortly, and the colonization failed. But it was done 500 years later by their descendants, which had developed significantly better technology by then. Asimov came up with a great aphorism: it is sufficient to know that something is possible, to be able to do it. Knowing that something is possible is sufficient to start working on the task; and then it is only a matter of time and resources to achieve the task. He was actually referring to hyperspace travel. By the way: we now know that hyperspace travel is possible. So, someday we will have it - in 5, 10 or 200 years, but we

Target fixation in risk management. Arguments for the bright side of risk

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Target fixation is the tendency to hit an obstacle because of excessive attention to it.  The source is practical experience of fighter-bomber pilots in WW2. It is popular with racing and motorcycle schools: "always look where you want to go, not where you are going - or else the bike won’t turn"; " never look directly at the obstacle, or else you hit it " .  It is related to tunnel vision , which is a medical condition: the loss of peripheral vision, while retaining central vision. Or, in a generalized form: diminished awareness of additional objects because of fixating on a specific target. Target fixation and tunnel vision are relevant metaphors for cognitive biases regarding the relation between objectives, expectations, and results; e.g. the Pygmalion effect - a psychological phenomenon wherein high expectations lead to improved performance. Risk management is a negative concept Risk management is a key knowledge area in project management. Its terminology has

Dunning Kruger in a Dunning Kruger article

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Dunning-Kruger is a bias that says that we tend to overestimate our competence in topics where we are less competent, and that our relative overconfidence decreases as we become more knowledgeable in that particular topic. It is of course related and a little conflicting to the  overconfidence bias and the better-than-average bias - where most car drivers believe themselves to be well above average, which makes no mathematical sense of course. It is probably related to the regression to the mean effect. In fact, there are well knowns biases especially in surveys, such as the social desirability bias or the neutral answer dilemma. The social desirability  bias  explains  that respondents  may  select an option  that  they  perceive to  be  more socially  accepted  or  desirable. In fact, this explains why a lot of voters answer centrist in surveys, but then vote Trump and Brexit - people subconsciously refuse to disclose publicly that they have silly political views.  The neutral poi

Make essential Covid research and vaccine open-source

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Pfizer vaccine was developed with public funding. The classical ethical and pragmatic dilemma of intellectual rights vs. copying essential medicines doesn't even apply here. Yes, of course we can consider the moral right of various groups to steal IPR in order to save lives. We can even reframe the topic in a more abstract discussion regarding the right of the government to nationalize private property, which is in our case IPR - and when nationalization (or expropriation) becomes theft. But we are taking here about a lot of public funding. US, Germany, UK, the European Commission pushed billions into research for a new Covid vaccine. Tax money. Was it right for the state to intervene in the regulation of banks and their directors' bonuses in the 2009 crisis? Well, yes, when the state saved these banks and pushed billions to get them back on track, then the state has become the main stakeholder but also main shareholder, so it has the right and the moral obligation to have a sa

Google Photos makes yet another case for antimonopoly legislation

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Google starts monetizing Photos, as freemium, similar to gcloud, gdocs and gmail. The problem with this is that they made use of dominant positions in other markets, to enter into a new market (or support creating a new market), which they now monetize from a top position. Kind of like what Microsoft was doing with Internet Explorer, Bing, maps and Media Player, some 15 years ago. "After years of Google Photos offering unlimited, free storage of “high-quality” compressed images, Google announced its policy is changing. Starting next June, any new photos you upload will count toward the 15 gigabytes of free storage offered to every Google account. After that, you’ll have to pay a subscription fee for Google One, its cloud storage service.  ...totally reasonable policy. Storage isn’t free or unlimited, and 15 gigabytes is still a lot of space." ( https://onezero.medium.com/google-photos-just-made-the-case-for-breaking-up-big-tech-420dc6b5d375 ) Small companies cannot compete ag

Academic vs. practical problems

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I participated recently in a seminar on problem-solving, and I gave a lecture on complex IT projects at KU Leuven. The difference between academia and practice is fascinating. In academia, it’s much more important to learn HOW to solve problems, rather than actually SOLVE them. And all practical questions tend to have fuzzy vague answers; the answer is never “42”, or “white”. Only theoretical questions have clear solutions, which of course are applicable only in the case of a perfectly spherical cow in a vacuum. In practice, we face complex situations, impacted by uncertainty, ambiguity, butterfly effects, and black swans; we make assumptions and take subjective impulsive decisions; and there is no silver bullet.  So why do we still need theoretical foundations and formal processes?  Because theory provides the framework in which to manage practical projects, and proposes sets of potential tools to deploy for approximating potentially useful solutions. 

Qualitative and quantitative measures of education and eLearning results

Yesterday, during a lecture at KU Leuven on complexity & innovation in public sector IT projects, I received an interesting question: how do you measure the quality of eLearning?   *) How do you measure eLearning and education? It is a challenging question. The evaluation of education is a serious painful topic, with huge implications: the resource allocation and funding of all the corporate training programmes in the world, but also of the entire public school and university system: what do you fund, how do you measure the impact, how do you measure the performance of professors or even schools, of manuals, of any kind of tools including eLearning? My initial instinct was to avoid the answer, by deferring the question to experts in pedagogy, because there is a lot of theoretical research on this topic, and a lot of failure and limitations on the results of this research. Measuring the output of education is very difficult – it costs, it is unreliable. Education faces in this regar

AI - (Artificial) Intelligence all around

The best definition of AI is still the Turing test; because it is simple, practical, general, it focuses on effects rather than methods, and it recognizes that the key aspect of the definition is the relation to "human intelligence": we only recognize and understand intelligence by comparison to ours. Intelligence is typically defined by using terms such as adaptation, learning; creativity, logic; communication, collaboration; intent, self-awareness, consciousness. But there are numerous forms of intelligence in the universe covered by such structural descriptive definitions. All around us we see forms of communication, collaboration, adaptation, learning, logic and intent: in plants, viruses, bacteria, genetics, complex systems such as ecosystems or large scale planetarian systems; even in machines. Various animal species are even conscientious. And here is my final point: we are not able to recognize other forms of intelligence than human intelligence, or subsets of it. We

Results, Process and Proxy metrics

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I stumbled upon a great article from  Marius Ursache  -  Why You Are Tracking the Wrong Metrics For the Wrong Purpose . Kind of common sense, but this is the power of good articles: they are well structured and make sense, so they tend to seem obvious. The article shortly clarifies metrics vs. indicators vs. KPIs; then differentiates between vanity, lagging, leading (decision) metrics, and coincident (benchmarking) metrics; and lastly, it proposes a practical seven-step recipe to success. Please do read. Process, Result and Proxy metrics I use the terms Process metric and Result indicator. They overlap with the concepts of leading and lagging metrics in the article.  Result indicators are similar to lagging indicators. They are the final objective. They are the Why you do it.  Process indicators are the What - they tell you what you do. They measure actions: number of calls, tickets, nails, and emails.  Proxy metrics are used as a substitute, when we lack relevant data.  Marius Ursache

Infusing capital for boosting the economy is actually a redistribution of wealth

Governments are pushing huge amounts of money into economies. People: do you realize that all this cash is in fact a loan on your future revenue taxes ?! Infusing capital in the economy is simply a redistribution of wealth in society, controlled by the state. We, the whole society of taxpayers, are actually handing our wealth to the government, who decides where best to use it, redistributing it back to society. Details 1. Money is an abstract construct. Its only value is that we can exchange it for actual products. Money exists only because somebody (all of us) trusts them. 2. A theoretical model (valid theory, I love it) is that fiat currency is in fact a loan against future taxes. I.e. The government prints money, i.e. creates abstract value, which is not backed by anything yet. There is no "product" created. So where is the product? The product is the taxes that we will pay in the future, using the exact same currency created by the government now. So basically money is a