All posts for the month March, 2003

The Cost (and Benefit) of Abstraction – This originated with Seb [via Spike] [via Lilia]. I commented on Spike’s blog that least abstraction “necessary” is a good qualification, because we certainly couldn’t do without it – in fact humans succeed because they are evolved to be good at it. The problem is that abstraction is part of “compression” – packing all those “bits of knowledge” into manageable communicable units on which to base decision rationale. It would be so inefficient any other way.

This is how language evolves – words / jargon / acronyms / metaphors as brief memorable tokens for complex stories. One adage I use all the time with colleagues (at the interface between business analysis and system design) is “Why use one word when a sentence will do ?” – you only abbreviate to a jargon word once all parties exhibit common understanding – but crucially, not before.

Zero-Tolerance equals Zero-Intelligence – Morons in the News [via McGee's Musings]. Can’t quite see how this Richard Gayle quote get’s to be here [Quote] Oh. What a wonderful Catch-22. A 6 year old is facing expulsion for having a plastic butter spoon in his backback. A spoon he got in the cafeteria and wanted to take home. So if they press for expulsion, the parents will sue the school for provding a dangerous weapon to their 6 year old. Zero-tolerance is for morons. I hope the parents get a ton of money. [Unquote] But I think this is my Hyper-Rationalism thread – it is just not intelligent to apply “laws” scientifically in unscientific situations. Catch 22 at two levels, one at the level of it being rational to be irrational (less than 100% rational anyway), and two at the level of the double-bind of the parents having the school in a no-win situation.

As We Know It – A truly excellent blog from Paul Kelly. Will add to my side-bar, (and blogroll when I get that organised). I blogged earlier the link to a couple of articles I picked-up from the Knowledge Board RSS Klog Aggregator, though Paul’s blog doesn’t actually appear in the K-Board blogroll (?), and I’ve since discovered that Paul has a very rich and balanced vein of philosophical thought and links on what matters about knowledge. I’ve taken off-line copies of the articles to preserve them for the future – it’s amazing how quickly important stuff disappears. (Incidentally, is it my imagination, or is Canada a hotbed of good KM Stuff .)

Blogging was for Hippies ?Gerry McGovern [via James Robertson] says [Quote] the “hippie” period of “anything goes” in website design and information architecture should well and truly die – if information architecture is to solve problems cost-effectively, it will have to become rigorously defined.[Unquote]
I have interests in standardisation too, in fact that’s how I came to KM, but we need to be very careful not to seek standards in the wrong places. I say, we need to be careful not to throw baby out with the bathwater here. Part of the power of the web and blogging is its freedom and democracy – not very scientific I know, but true. The freedom of extensibility within common frameworks and protocols is good, but fixed ontologies can be the death of us. Democracy is the other key aspect, that whatever standards do come into play, they do so because a community finds it useful to have them, they evolve, adapt and are adopted, not “set”.

Blog Tools – This from BlogComp, [via Lilia's blog]
The main current deficiencies in Blogger Pro for me are Categorisation and RSS Aggregation. Although I host my blog content with my own ISP, I make use of Blogger’s own hosted tools and service. I’m not really in a position to have the software hosted elsewhere, unless someone would like to suggest how, in a way that is likely to be cheap and reliable ?

Incidentally, there is an error in the comparison. Blogger Pro does support e-mail posting and active e-mail notification, and it works.

Leadership by e-Mail ? Posted this comment against this article, and again against Lilia’s blog on the same subject. No problem with the concept that “real” networks of communication tell you far more about the way an organisation actually functions than any organisation charts, roles or procedures. This is well established fact in organisations that exist with multi-project matrices, rather than single production focussed lines. HOWEVER …. The dodgy premise here is that e-mail is representative of the real communications network. Good communicators (inc real leaders and managers) tend to maximise individual telecons or face to face contact. E-Mail traffic is skewed based on people’s between-the-lines motives for using e-mail. Self-aggrandisement, lack of courage and arse-covering are three to think about.

Rorty and Dennett on Knowledge Board aggregator. Interesting opinions about Rorty and Dennett in connection with Darwinian Evolution, Post-Modernism and Nietzsche amongst other things, from Paul Kelly’s blog – “as we know it”. And here was I thinking I was the only one following this philosophical line of investigation in Knowledge Management blogging. I get the impression that this writer also takes the view that disagreement between philosophies does not justify one attacking the other. There is a lot of grey between binary opposites. As I blogged in the last couple of weeks I’m having unexpected problems with Dawkins and Rorty, but currently enjoying Nietzsche.

Paul has this category [Quote] – Selection Theory – aka evolutionary epistemology, holds that evolution is a knowledge process. Knowledge, whether in the form of biological adaptation or cultural innovation, proceeds by the Darwinian dynamic of trial and error, blind variation and selective retention, conjecture and refutation, etc. [Unquote] Spot on. I might perhaps add the implied converse, that knowledge is an evolutionary process too. Re-inforces the idea that truth (in a strictly scientific sense) is quite different from knowledge.

Feedster Search Engine for Aggregated RSS Feeds. Was originally called Roogle apparently. [via nycsmith]
AAAAGGGHHH!!! – Feedster appears to have completely swamped the Knowledge Board aggregator (see previous blog). I expressed some concerns earlier about the incestuous nature of feeds, subscriptions and trackbacks exploding into multiple links and, even worse, circular links. My link to you creates a link to me creates a link to you ….. etc.

New K-Blog RSS Aggregator on-line at Knowledge Board. Interesting new addition to the Knowledge Board KM WebLogging community created by Gary Lawrence Murphy at Teledynamics.

This is very good – dead simple, but excellent. I do already use RSS, but the teledynamics page combining the various Knowledge Blogs is a really useful idea. I shall have to watch my P’s and Q’s if my feed is going direct to this page (!) I only put my headline and the link in my RSS feed, (and not the content as some others do) so people can choose to go and read or not, depending on the headline, rather than bulk up the aggregated page with masses of text.

If multiple people find this aggregator useful, it might become an excellent place to experiment with tagging conventions to classify links and content according to subject, purpose, content etc …. Whaddya think Seb ?

Counting Sheep – Didn’t I just read this in Dawkins, talking about big numbers – Blind Watchmaker wasn’t it ? Spookily, Disenchanted (linked to Qubits) relates quantum cryptography to intuitive “folk” view of large numbers. What would Dawkins think of it, I wonder ? (In Devils’ Chaplain he rolls current Quantum “hype” into the unscientific / mystic pot.)

Stalled a bit recently in reaction to “hyper-rational” rants by Rand (objectivist) and Dawkins (scientist) which boiled my blood and knocked my confidence a bit. Picked-up Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil – Preface to a Philosophy of the Future”. I struggled earlier with Zarathustra, as I was warned I would, but so glad I came back to Nietzsche. So witty and well written and, in my own experience, wise words too. Nuff said for now – 1886 ! – Wow.

Hyper-Rationalism – I think I’ve found the right word for what’s been bugging me.

I’ve been struggling for over two years in this blog and for half a lifetime before that, to avoid being perceived as a mystic, an unscientific woolly thinker, when I warn against the dangers of scientific rationale in decision making. In a scientific situation, I’m happy with science as the arbiter of truth – scientific truth. In complex situations – scientific truth may be largely intractable for practical everyday purposes, though it still clearly exists, and the scientists retain every right to rail against unfounded prejudice in such situations. Where that multi-layered complex situation involves a sentient being or beings in individual and/or social decisions and behaviours, then the scale of the intractabilty is so enormous, that scientific truth brings little except a few, albeit essential, identifiable “physical” boundary conditions.

In such complex situations, so many premises and causal metaphors, turn out to be founded on “emergent” conditions, that applying only scientific rationale and dialectic is not only not the most useful way of establishing the facts, it is positively inappropriate and can lead to disastrously “wrong” outcomes. Remember I still believe that the whole world, even the messy, living, human part of it, is founded ultimately on underlying physical science – it’s just that for all “intents and purposes”, science (as currently understood – dare I say) addresses only a small percentage of the problem.

Hyper-Rationalism – the mis-application of scientific rationale and dialectics to situations whose outcomes are goverened predominantly by premises and causal metaphors which are emergent from human understanding, communication, intent and behaviour ?

Navier-Stokes to the Rescue – At the risk of being branded a mystic I’ll mention this spooky little synchronicity.
I’ve just been reading Dawkins’ A Devil’s Chaplain and written an article prompted by it (Stop Press – Article now on-line here). As an aero engineer I chose, in that article, to follow an aeronautical analogy, picking up on Dawkins’ references to the Navier-Stokes equations and Chaos, and to a plane-load of social anthropologists. Is The Apothecary (with an interest in CFD apparently) also currently reading Dawkins ? Or is this just a coincidence. Spookier still, the article itself uses the word “evolution” to describe the effect of applying the CFD principles to pixels involved in photographic restoration.