Before falling for marketing syrup regarding The Cloud, be sure to recollect the early days of smartphone data charges

If you are a manager whose due diligence regarding the procurement of IT infrastructure amounts to “It’s cool and it’s convenient and we’re sure to use it all the time,” don’t be surprised down the road when you receive a pink slip.

There was a time when the server industry presented itself to consumers as boring but reliable. Now it’s more about vendors competing to appear most like a Times Square spectacle, as though “five nines” has mutated into a table of three-card monte.

There was also a time when consumers of computer & networking hardware laughed at the idea of returning to an IT paradigm based around big servers offering connections to to dumb terminals. Indeed, during the BBS heyday known as the 1980s, sysops and the users of their dial-up systems tended to consider any pitch regarding terminal-based computer networking as a thin-client grift designed to wrest control of their data from their newfangled hard drives.

2017 is, of course, a different time, a time of increasing grifter heyday. Systems administrators, web/app developers and users alike are far less likely now to be savvy about the dangers of trusting third parties with their day-to-day needs for data storage and processing. Server manufacturers understand as much, and they also understand that taking advantage of the relatively ignorant masses who have flooded online during the past two decades might lead to increased profit. All they needed during the early part of this century was a clever-sounding name for their tired old server marketspace.

There happened to be a diagram all ready to appropriate as both symbol and denotation for their rejuvenated industry. For a long time, collaborators standing in front of whiteboards and sales professionals making presentations to prospective clients tried to depict networks in general and the internet in particular as looking like a cloud (the idea being that computer networking takes place within an ethereal realm).

Now that's a handsome cloud

Now server vendors are implying by way of slick marketing rhetoric that the entire internet has become their exclusive vendor domain, so don’t be a sucker. Minimize the amount that your employer uses The Cloud, and thereby minimize bottom line costs in the same way you do by limiting the amount of personal time you spend online with your relatively dumb terminal known as a smartphone.

There is no such thing as a CXO (Chief eXperience Officer), and you should consider walking away from any company which tries to create such a position

No customer ever fails to have an experience with your employer, and any enterprise which seeks to control that experience by way of a C-level strategy is asking for consumer boycott & consequent bankruptcy.

Business managers do exactly that: manage a business. Trying to manage consumers is not only foolhardy and futile, it makes the business look like a bully.

Marketing is one thing. That thing is, of course, persuasion — and any marketing professional who resorts to dishonesty for purposes of persuasion is going to find themselves staring down at the gritty tile inside the unemployment office (okay we’re dating ourselves here: that should be “staring down at the gritty carpet inside the room at home where they’re online looking for a new job). For the vast majority of marketers who don’t resort to dishonesty, persuasion is still not synonymous with control.

One thing that marketing is not about is “architecting” anyone’s “journey.” Within the enterprise, such behavior amounts to bureaucracy-style incompetence. At the point of consumer contact, it reflects a lack of respect for consumer self-determination.

Each consumer is at all times in the driver’s seat of economic production (as opposed to the Keynesian canard about consumers having an imaginary spend-spend-spend obligation as some kind of collective engine of production). Luckily for civilized humanity, we experience almost all of our lives — even while at work producing things for market — consuming things already available from various markets. Imagine the relatively tiny producer aspect of your personality trying to dominate the much larger consumer aspect, and then imagine how much more frustrating it would be to have complete strangers try to dominate consumer you.

The only legitimate way for your employer to drive sales and accumulate profits is to persuade existing & potential customers/clients that your product or service is the logical choice to satisfy their demands. Leave the bullying disutility to your competitors, and come together as a team, C-levels and others (without any bureaucratic nonsense), to keep smiling at consumers and trying to persuade them as they plot their own journey through life.

Beware IT practices that are more worst than best

Technocrats and likewise Progressive experts offer many pigs in pokes.

Most professionals can relate anecdotes of managers behaving like know-it-all bureaucrats who expect displays of personal acquiescence regarding every idea that, upon hearing someone else’s anecdote or marketing pitch, they become convinced their employer cannot do without. From shelves filled with third party vaporware to initiatives destined for likewise obscurity, the common denominator of misguided business imperative appears to be the scapegoats who receive a reprimand or a pink slip for the sake of covering bureaucratic tail.

There are, of course, legitimate business imperatives which competent managers will recognize as opportunities for their employer to serve consumers better and thereby increase profitability. Discerning the difference between legitimate and misguided is what separates successful managers from just-do-as-I-say bureaucrats.

Your work colleagues are exactly that. They are neither above you nor beneath you, and they certainly are never your internal customers or your internal vendors. Hierarchies satisfy only an underlying bureaucracy, while the thing which you and your coworkers must focus on is satisfying consumers.

Take best practices for IT. Please. Seriously, though, among the thousand or so “best practice” recommendations for IT programs, approximately none of them are right for your organization. Considering the fact that approximately is not synonymous with precisely, the key is the same as it always is for managing an enterprise: due diligence.

Rethinking feedback in learning

Does feedback always improve learning?

Instructional designers often assume that feedback is necessary in learning design to correct errors, confirm knowledge, and provide direction, especially in asynchronous learning. Writing feedback is such a common task in elearning design that most rapid authoring programs have quiz-making features to automate it for instructional designers. They provide some variation on the default “Yes – that’s correct!” and “Sorry, try again.” responses. If your project timeline and budget allows, you can customize the responses to specific selections. But is feedback always valuable? Does it lead to better learning?

Not always. Feedback can’t overcome deficiencies or problems in the learning content or design. In other words, if learners don’t understand the content, feedback after quizzes or activities won’t solve the lack of understanding. The better solution is to redesign the course content, activities, and assessments.

Feedback is most beneficial to reinforce difficult or challenging content, and refresh content that learners have forgotten. Feedback also helps learners navigate their own path and set their own goals through the learning content, important features for self-directed learners.

CI doesn’t stand for Coder Ideology — although that’s a good way to pitch it to software engineers

Make Continuous Integration a key element of your employer’s CD (Continuous Delivery) strategy.

Tools are not methodologies. Don’t get trapped within a development culture which seeks automation software as a convenient excuse to neglect professional coder obligations. Sitting in a passenger’s seat can’t make anyone a good driver.

There are, of course, important uses for automated build tools. Problems can arise, though, when organizations designate machines as their de facto managers. Each developer must instead be the manager of the tools.

Managing tools is much easier when the code getting checked in to the central repository is already safe from regression failure. Be sure to code in short bursts, testing often on the local machine before checking in any revisions or new features (and then test everything again after checking in the edited files). Procrastination amid any endeavor can become a spiral of larger and larger TODO lists triggering greater and greater fears of failure leading to more and more procrastination. In the specific case of software, putting off local testing and integration into the existing codebase stored on the build server can spiral into and endless series of mega-merges and bug hunts and patches that in all likelihood were never necessary.

Here’s the bottom line: businesses that can embrace more than just a machines-have-my-back approach to Continuous Integration will leave competitors in the digital dust.

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Rearchitect your employer’s monolithic software into a robust conglomeration of cross-transactional microservices

Decentralization is about more than just improving Political Economy.

Monolithic client-server software architecture is analogous with socialism itself. For any typical networked computer program from the late 20th Century, a control freak such as int main(); initialized a core set of server functionality which in turn conscripted routines within the same runtime instance to perform auxiliary duties. At no time did the algorithmic tyrant permit autonomy, and problems within even one auxiliary unit often caused the entire binary society to crash domino-style into operational ruin — even if users were not experiencing problems with the client app on their end, no user would be able to access the monolithic service experiencing downtime on the server end.

Like a great escape from a German prison camp, microservices offer the software equipment your employer needs to guarantee that its net-enabled application’s Tom tunnel will stay operational even if both Dick and Harry experience digital cave ins. The decentralization of business logic duties among numerous separate-but-interconnected software services facilitates robust development and deployment opportunities, at the expense of some additional processing overhead from the APIs which allow such microservices to speak to one another, so to speak. Advantages include:

  1. Scalability — a microservices architecture allows development teams to pick and choose which services will receive the most runtime attention from clients and will therefore need more processing power to cope with the demand of ever-increasing numbers of users
  2. Enhanced bug hunting — this is simple math: a large, monolithic arthitecture will be a bigger haystack to hide bug-needles than an architecture of microservices within which a process of this-one-is-still-running elimination minimizes the overall amount of hay that needs to be searched
  3. Distributed development teams — this one is simple Political Economy: segregation of duties and comparative advantage increase profitable efficiency (note that initial investments of additional resources might not be cost-effective for smaller organizations)

Note that some software vendors are approaching microservice architecture with the same weaselly dismissal of open standards as so many of them did previously at the monolithic expense of consumers. They market themselves as a special brand providing exclusive products, but they are in actuality trying to lock in repeat business by offering only a my-way-or-the-highway set of options.

Don’t work for one of those weaselly companies. Each consumer is at all times in the driver’s seat of production amid any healthy economy (as opposed to Keynesian duplicity regarding consumers having some kind of spend-spend-spend obligation toward producers as a collective engine of production). Remember always that the vast majority of everyone’s life, even while at work producing things for market, entails consuming things which are already available from various markets — kind of like the way that microservices improve the algorithmic markets of networked computing.

Will the marketing buzzword “smart” doom Smart Contracts?

A corollary to bureaucracy dumbing down generation after generation is that many other things — even inanimate things — start to appear smarter in comparison.

Don’t bet on your smartphone or your smart home or your smart appliance or your smart vehicle achieving sentience anytime soon. AI will never offer anything other than a facsimile of intelligence (i.e. artificial intelligence). Sure, machines will continue to increase the speed with which they can perform the calculations which go into approximating human cognition, but approximations they will remain.

Consider the typical private sector bureaucrat pretending to be a big shot business management deciderer. They want everyone around them to act like servile bureaucrats by pretending that everything the Big Boss Bureaucrat says is genius. Such narcissists are often quick to demand so-called smart technologies, which they hope will automate the lickspittle process of personal coercion and professional misconduct.

Enter into the scene Smart Contracts, a mashup of algorithms and processing code which addresses the creation and execution of standard contracts. While the qualifier “smart” might be a catchy marketing phrase (especially to narcissistic bureaucrats who are desperate to present themselves as being smart), actual business managers might want to refer instead to Automated Contracts or Self-Executing Contracts to emphasize that the blockchain underlying each could not possibly be as smart as the parties to that contract.

Blockchain technology is, of course, a distributed ledger system which enables the crypto part of many cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. While Aleph Infotinuum Services has a low opinion of any putative currency — digital or otherwise — which lacks a tangible commodity (e.g. gold) as its real-wealth backing, the concept of blockchain-based cryptography is itself as promising as any alternatives for securing the storage and transfer of sensitive data.

Follow the link below to learn more about the way that blockchain platforms can streamline the contract lifecycle (just try to refrain from calling such contracts smart).

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In the Information Age, competent business managers don’t neglect the information

Data are informational, and information is comprised of data, and The Cloud represents the same old system of networked computers rebranded as a mysterious new trend.

If it seems trendy & mysterious, bureaucrats pretending to be important management deciderers will become motivated to fixate on the trendy mystery instead of on the business imperative. Vendors that market something old as something new bank on personal insecurity to act as incentive for such disguised bureaucrats to commit their employer to procuring that which becomes a sunk cost before anyone gets a chance to perform an adequate cost-benefit analysis. Many storage room shelves become IT graveyards for what amounts to vaporware.

When bureaucrats insist that other employees recognize their deciderer influence above all other considerations, information & data often become neglected vapor in their own right. Make no mistake: The Cloud will not “take care of it.” Indeed, at its core, The Cloud represents a hopeful revisitation of the 1980s-era “thin client” attempt to swindle computer users into allowing third parties to be caretakers of all their data.

What, then can a competent business manager do to differentiate themselves from those who merely pretend to be business managers while demonstrating decidedly bureaucratic behavior? Information is the key, and that doesn’t mean hoarding information for purposes of appearing indispensable to the enterprise. Business managers are obligated to lead by example, which for information means sharing everything that isn’t an explicit element of organizational confidentiality. Processes for sharing information range from email attachments (risky and unprofessional) to formal collaboration workflows. As always, you’ll get what you pay for — so don’t skimp on the investment simply because everyone already has a hard drive and an email/IM client, because that way leads toward insolvency.

Bottom line: far too many businesses neglect information management, to the detriment of their bottom line.

Aleph Infotinuum Services posted this entry on

What’s the difference between learning and knowledge?

Confusion over the definition of these two concepts explains why most corporate training programs fail to achieve their business outcomes.

Put simply, learning is the process and knowledge is the outcome. And instructional designers are responsible for designing the learning process by:

  • ensuring learning outcomes meet business goals
  • designing appropriate learning strategies and materials
  • selecting the required content necessary to achieve learning outcomes
  • identifying how to deliver the content
  • ensuring users have adequate opportunity for practice, application, and failure

The last point is key to ensuring learning sticks. The process of practice-application-failure makes the learning content meaningful and memorable to users. That’s the acquisition of knowledge. And that’s why businesses invest in training programs. Sustaining and growing corporate knowledge helps drive businesses forward. Learning is what happens behind the scenes.

Learn to recognize the signs of individual knowledge & expertise encountering the destructive force that is bureaucracy

Artificial hierarchies, which business owners and business school graduates often implement as personal fiefdom enablers, become the riskiest set of organizational silos.

Amid human society, no hierarchy is natural. There are no natural-born leaders, because the term leader is merely a temporal metaphor. The very concept of vertical subordination within an enterprise is tantamount to fraud — at the very least, it is an example of bullies pretending to be important deciderers by way of rigging things in their favor.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that any employee or contracted consultant can do their own thing without regard to satisfying the obligations of the role for which they are expecting to receive remuneration in the form of a wage or a salary or a chart-of-accounts transfer from AR (Accounts Receivable) to some or other bookkeeping revenue account (e.g. a checking account at a bank). Neither business line managers nor non-managers get to behave like they’re more important than their coworkers.

Growing a business is difficult. That’s why so many people who call themselves a business manager end up behaving like a bureaucrat. That’s also why so many people choose to join guilds. The imagined outcome is unquestioning obedience and exclusivity of opportunity. The actual outcome is economic stagnation, which sometimes compels those with a bureaucratic mindset to seek the protection of a larger bureaucracy called government, which sometimes leads to trade wars, which sometimes lead to shooting wars. Who’s kidding whom: more than sometimes.

How, then, can a professional help to minimize the risk of warfare? Knowing that political activism is inherently immoral, the answer becomes obvious: economic activism. Include as part of your employer’s value stream map a knowledge mapping process designed to guide employees and likewise authorized contractors toward the resources they need — all without them ever feeling obligated to approach someone who believes themselves to be hierarchically entrenched in order to beg for entrance into that person’s specific information silo.