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Category: Thoughts

Tight interconnections & high complexity

Might be an issue w the cloud as well as finance: tight interconnections & high complexity?

This article from the NYT is interesting as it seems to reflect the dangers inherent in the complex, tightly coupled financial markets: Wind it tight, connect it deep and unexpected problems can quickly spread:

‘Statistics dictate that the vastly greater number of transactions among computers in a world 100 times faster than today will lead to a greater number of unpredictable accidents, with less time in between them. Already, Amazon’s cloud for businesses failed for several hours in April, when normal computer routines faltered and the system overloaded. Google’s cloud of e-mail and document collaboration software has been interrupted several times. “We think of the Internet as always there. Just because we’ve become dependent on it, that doesn’t mean it’s true,” Mr. Cheriton says. Mr. Bechtolsheim says that because of the Internet’s complexity, the global network is impossible to design without bugs. Very dangerous bugs, as they describe them, capable of halting commerce, destroying financial information or enabling hostile attacks by foreign powers. Both were among the first investors in Google, which made them billionaires, and, before that, they created and sold a company to the networking giant Cisco Systems for $220 million. Wealth and reputations as technology seers give their arguments about the risks of faster networks rare credibility. More transactions also mean more system attacks. Even though he says there is no turning back on the online society, Mr. Cheriton worries most about security hazards. “I’ve made the claim that the Chinese military can take it down in 30 seconds, no one can prove me wrong,” he said.’

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“Computer” as vehicle.

I just read “$25 mini computer to be released in UK” and I just wrote a post on the demise of the tower computer. The question becomes – what is a computer in the post-desktop computer era?
I think the same thing happened around the end of the Ford Model T being new and innovative. Was a two seater, super-expensive sports/vanity car the same as a truck? In some ways yes, in some ways no, but the definition of what a vehicle was would change from being one thing to what it would do for us. A truck is a truck since it trucks cargo about. A sports car is a car you can drive in a more ‘sporty’ way than a family saloon.

Same thing is happning to computing. the term ‘computer’ will come to mean less and less. We’ll have laptops (not laptop computers) and desktop workstations (not desktop workstation computers) as well as smart phones (as powerful as any desktop workstation computer of the 1990s), eBooks and many more devices which can all be technically called computers since they have input/output, storage and processing but they are less and computers to their users.

They are vehicles used to get to and navigate through information.

And they will come in astounding forms.

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who this book is for

This book is for you, who want to work to make digital environments more useful in helping us work and solve problems together, either as a user or designer.

I only have pieces of advice for the liquid information systems designer:

1) Take ownership of the problem, not the solution. Focus on the actual use. What does the user need to accomplish, not just in detail but also in terms of the bigger picture? Try not to hold on to pet solutions.

2) Assume you are wrong. Always. Learn what you can, question it, talk to people in different fields, never forgetting actual users. Question your assumptions and their assumptions.

The goal is to help knowledge workers understand the world and communicate what they learn clearly. That’s really the heart of it.

The liquid approach will hopefully be useful to those who design Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and other knowledge augmentation systems for large companies where the whole systems are integrated and controlled. However, half of workers are employed by small companies (as defined by companies employing under 500 people in the United States ( and these people cannot be expected to have the support of a knowledge work focused IT department. Innovation happens at the edge. Be the edge.

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
Marcel Proust

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