The Tyranny of Rules Tue 06 Mar 12

Rules are meant to be an means to an objective not an end unto themselves.

Caution tyranny ahead charlesfettingerThis past week, Beren Acadamy, an Modern Orthodox Jewish high school made the headlines when they advanced to the semifinals in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) basketball tournament.  What made this especially newsworthy wasn’t their basketball prowess (as good as they are) but the fact that they decided to forfeit rather than play in a game scheduled during the Jewish Sabbath, a remarkable demonstration of staying true to your religious beliefs.

Beren had appealed to the TAPPS board for an accommodation to reschedule the time that would not conflict with anyone’s religious beliefs.  The board pointed out that Beren was made aware of the potential conflict when they joined the league years ago and denied the request for an accommodation.  Berens admitted that they knew of the scheduling issued but had hoped for an accommodation based upon their religious beliefs.

TAPPS issued a statement that says in part “When TAPPS was organized in the late 1970's, the member schools at that time all recognized Sunday as the day of worship.   The By-Laws were written to state that “TAPPS would not schedule any competition or activities on Sunday”.  At that time, there were no member schools that observed their Sabbath on Saturday.”  They statement goes on to explain that Beren was aware of this and didn’t see a problem as they wanted to play in a ‘district’.

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A Tale of Apple, Microsoft, Google and Others For The Holiday Season Tue 21 Dec 10

In the spirit of the holidays and with most profound apologies to Moore and/or Livingston my gift to you this holiday season is this little poem written with extreme poetic license.  Please feel free to add a stanza of your own.

Danish Christmas Tree Wikipedia Malene Thyssen 'Twas The Night Before An IT Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, and in all of the NOCs

All was quiet with laptops secure in their docks;

The tapes were hung by the racks with care,

In hopes that St. Techolas soon would be there;

The techs were nestled all snug in their chairs,

While visions of the fun soon to be theirs;

And with Ballmer in his suit, and Jobs in his jeans,

Each trading barbs and being so mean.

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Wikileaks Positive Side Effect for IT Fri 10 Dec 10

The disclosure of diplomatic cables by the organization Wikileaks got a tremendous amount of attention. Given that the story involves issues related to theft, sexual assault, the moral duty for civil disobedience and just plain gossip, this is not at all surprising.

We shouldn't take any comfort in the notion that this is just an issue for the government. The corporate world may be next. Recently there have been rumors that Wikileak's next target is Bank of America. In addition a hacker group in support of Wikileaks took Mastercard's website down for a period of time in retaliation for Mastercard blocking payments to Wikileaks.

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What Sarbanes-Oxley, Lawyers, and Auditors Really Mean for IT Wed 24 Nov 10

Don't rely on a "higher authority" to justify your policies and procedures

A lot of IT folks routinely invoke a higher authority as justification of why we have to do something or a policy can't be changed.  This "higher authority" is usually included in one of 3 tried and true excuses:

  • We have to do that to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley.
  • The lawyers say we have to do that.
  • The auditors make us do that.

Question authority curiousyellow That bumper sticker from the late '70s urging us to "Question Authority" may have been right all along.  In reality those 3 reasons are just spurious excuses, not valid reasons for doing something.  Although the "required" action may actually be the right thing to do, citing an excuse such as one of these is wrong for a number of reasons.

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Making IT Better For Customers Wed 27 Oct 10

Three things to keep in mind when designing applications.

IT spends a lot of time trying to improve our system and the user interface, especially when they will be used by our external customers. Most of the time, we're pretty good at delivering easy-to-use applications. However, I recently came across two examples of how our systems can impact customer perception even when the customer doesn't use them, or when it is a minor utility application.

Headache powders crunchcandy

The first example was when I renewed two prescriptions. The pharmacy I use is a large national chain. It has online prescription renewal, and everything went smoothly. Shortly before I picked them up, I received an automated phone message that one of the prescriptions was delayed. This was a little off-putting since the pharmacy didn't say which one was delayed. It also struck me as strange that it ran out, as both were very common prescriptions.

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"Bring Your Own Technology" Is In Your Future Wed 13 Oct 10

IT leaders need to start thinking in terms of users making their own technology choices.

Consider the concept of BYOT, or Bring Your Own Technology.  The premise is that instead of IT dictating the supported computing platforms and cellphones, users will make their own selection based on what best meets their needs or preferences.

As a result you may have PCs, Macs, iPads and their coming slate competitors, iPhones, Droids and Blackberrys within your environment, and you'll be expected to support all of them.  Add to the myriad various models of each device and it becomes a mind boggling array of technology.

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SIMposium2010 Sun 10 Oct 10

Simposium2010 I'm not a big fan of IT conferences.  For the most part you're just paying for the privilege of attending a vendor sales pitch.  I don't like the free ones and certainly see no need to pay for one.

The one thing that is nice about the conference is the opportunity to meet other practitioners and discuss topics of interests openly and to learn from each other.  When I have gone to conferences this is the factor that draws me in.

I've been a member of SIM (Society for Information Management) for about 10 years but have never bothered to attend their annual conference for the reasons mentioned above.  However, as I became the president of the Houston Chapter of SIM I thought I should attend to see what it was all about - so last week I was in Atlanta for SIMposium2010.

 All I can say is - boy, was I wrong about judging this one.  SIMposium2010 was fantastic!  Although there are vendors there it is not just one big sales pitch.  The vendors are limited in number and there is no hard selling.

As I mentioned the one thing I do like is being able to meet other practitioners.  SIMposium was great for this as it is designed by and for senior IT leaders.  Because of this you have a great opportunity to discuss issues with people that are in similar situations as you and they understand the problems and opportunities you meet on a daily basis.  The panel discussions in particular were very good as they had a lot of open and frank discussion among both panel members and the audience.

My only regret about SIMposium is that I waited so long to attend.  I met a lot of great people and made some good friends.  I'm looking forward to next year's conference in Orlando.  I hope to see you there.

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How IT Can Give Better Presentations Wed 15 Sep 10

Cut out jargon and focus on helping, not limiting, customers.


IT has long sought to be considered a partner to the other business leaders in our companies. It's all part of our pursuit of the holy grail of "having a seat at the table."

Naturally, getting there means we have to promote our ideas, explain technology concepts and communicate our plans. In today's world that also means we use a lot of PowerPoint presentations.

Sadly, IT doesn't have a reputation for giving great business presentations. In the world of death by PowerPoint, IT guys are ninjas.

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Why IT Must Embrace Facebook, Twitter, iPhone Wed 01 Sep 10

Consumer technologies are infiltrating the corporate world. Learn to leverage them.

Brave New World alles-schlumpf I like TED. TED is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to "Ideas Worth Spreading." They have conferences where they bring together thought leaders from the world of technology, entertainment and design (hence the acronym).

The great thing about TED is that for those of us who don't actually get to attend its conferences, the talks are posted on its website. The downside is that there is a lot to see and you can spend a lot of time there. (Or is that an upside?)

That is why I was happy to see an article by John Brandon, 8 must-see TED talks for IT pros, where he's found some talks about interesting new technologies that should interest IT professionals. Brandon doesn't just list the talks but also reviews them and has some consumer analysts give a "reality check" on how ideas such as this come to market.

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Top Five Technology Fanboys Wed 18 Aug 10

Apple has its lovers. Microsoft and Google have fanboys who love to hate them.

A popular theme for technical writers is to compare one product or technology with another. PC vs. Mac, iPhone vs. Droid, IE vs. Firefox, etc.

These debates include well-reasoned disagreement and other critical commentary. They also gather a lot of fanboy reaction. Fanboys are the folks who never let manners get in the way of their passion. They are loyal no matter what. Loyalty trumps facts and personal attacks suffice as sound, logical reasoning. Believing the best defense is a good offense: "You're a moron/idiot/shill/[insert favorite derogatory term here]," is the best way to showcase your analytical rigor for a real fanboy.

When you look at it in this light, the PC vs. Mac debate isn't all that different than Yankees vs. Red Sox or Ford vs. Chevy. Different topics, same passion.

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