Thursday, May 27, 2010
Lets take an example of a case deciding how suitable a computer systems is for a particular purpose. If you are running a web server, the right choice might be different for modeling the start of the Universe from running a low latency equities trading system. I have heard that in a different world people use computers for things like writing documents, read email and download porn, but that is not the world of computing I live in.
The risk in question is that a particular architecture won't run a particular workload well, so the customer I saw this morning quite rightly reduced that risk by calling in an expert in computer systems performance. In the end they could not find one, so they had to make do with me. There is still some of this risk left on the table as some days may have higher or different load which I did not see in my monitoring for 30 minutes at a time of normal load. They could manage this risk by setting up a test suite and load testing or doing some long term monitoring. Both of which would probably be greater than the cost of the systems they are considering buying to replace the existing systems.
I think this is a case of a bias that there is a correct choice and I don't think there is. There are just different sets of risks which may manifest themselves depending on sets of events which we can't know the probability of them happening without great effort and cost.
I think this is a case of Information Bias mixed with Need for Closure by trying to get answers to questions that are expensive or too complex to answer within their environment.
In this case they did the right thing, looked around and tried to find as impartial an expert as they could (as mentioned they did not find one, so ended up with me) and sought to ask the question "what do you recommend we buy". I very much hope I did not favor either of the 3 options, but helped them both in process and content to weight up the process and cons of each options, this risks of each option and how tolerant to each risk they are given the cost of reducing the probability or impact of that risk. At the end of the day, apart from running and interpreting commands like prstat, mpstat (No DTrace, Solaris 9), most of what I did was Rational Process and that is the bit that really added value.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I am a regular reader of the "Risks Forum" which has being throwing up stories like this for some time and tonight I removed myself from Facebook. I could have gone through the various security setting and screwed them down, but you don't know, based on the last 6 months, when they will change other defaults and as a IT Professional (I hate that term) I find it irresponsible of me to interact with people who may be partically IT literate on a medium that is insecure by design.
I no doubt run larger information technology related risks, but this is one I can do without and there appear to be no immediate downsides other than I need to phone my friend Catharine in Devon on a more regular basis.
Lost for Words is a tour of the way the English Language can be misused by elected representatives, sales and marketing types, academics and public servants with an agenda to protect and promote. He has a very rich set of past experiences to draw on over his 35 years as a broadcaster and indeed has been quite successful at being either feared or hated in many political quarters. What an epitaph.
I am not a language pedant, not can I claim a great mastery of the written language, but I would like to do better and in my daily battle against cognitive bias understanding how other people use and abuse language and how I might be clearer myself is very valuable. I mentioned a few posts ago that this book got me thinking about self esteem and the role it presence and absence plays in my motivations.
At the end of the book, there is a section which sums up very well why this book is worth reading
The best defense against manipulators is to know what is going on. That is why we should demand that people in power use clear, simple English [or Welsh] instead of cliched, dumped-down, inflated and bogus management-speak that so often passes for English today.
I won't be writing to Radio 4 when I hear “to boldly go where no man has gone before” and its infinitive splitting, but I will be taking more of an interest in the language I hear from all quarters and rather more confrontative.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Laugh, I almost fell over.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
I did learn a few other interesting things about the milk industry, the most significant being that, no surprise, that UK farmers are much larger(3x) and more efficient than the rest of the EU. We produce the cheapest milk in Europe and are self sufficient in the stuff, but still import just under 1 billion worth of butter, cheese and yoghurt.
The upshot here is that liberalization of the EU dairy industry will greatly benefit todays UK dairy farmers (not those who have left the industry in the last 10 years because they can't make ends meet) and some of that will arrive in 2015 when quotas get phased out, though export subsidies for milk power and butter will remain.
This raises the question of who the existing subsides is there to help, the farmer or the milk processor. The answer may depend on which country you live in.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Some days I'll spend three hours in the Today studio and go home thinking I did a reasonably good job. Other days - too many of them - I leave wondering why I ever became a journalist in the 1st place. If I am incapable, after forty five years in the business, of doing a half-way decent interview with a not-very-bright politician I really should pack it in and grow carrots.
He then goes on to talk about self-esteem and that anyone who does not experience a lack of it at some point is a smug, self satisfied moon or on some pretty powerful drugs.
I got off the train at Cosford, drove down to Church Stretton and went for a run on the Long Mynd following the course of the rather brutal Long Mynd Valleys race which is 12 miles and 4500ft of up and down as part of my Bob Graham Round training. I got round in a rather pleasing 2 hour 40 without really pushing myself hard, the last hour was in the dark. Mulling over what Mr. H has written it occurred to me that I achieve something, think well done Clive, good lad, then over the next few months my eyes get opened to what possible is beyond that and I start to look down on what I achieved previously. Some examples
- Rock Climbing : in my 20's I ended up doing a few routes of E4 (which is quite hard). Moving up through the grades, each level would feel good for a while and then I felt the need to push myself to the next level. Harder, more sustained and technical, exposed, more necky.
- Diving : we ended up as BSAC advanced divers and advanced instructors in pre-children days which was fun in itself. Small steps in getting more experienced, diving deeper and more adventurer and even to the point of just gaining diving knowledge as an end in itself.
- Running : From not having run for over 10 years, can I run 10 miles, can I run 16, can I run 22, can I do the Peris Horseshoe (oops extended myself a bit far on this one at the time), 30 miles Wye Valley Ultra and the most daft to date, the 53 miles Highland Fling and now can I do the Bob Graham Round. Along the way you meet people who open your mind to what can be done and you set about closing the gap.
- Work : 13 years at Sun as been characterized by more technical and complex customer problems and more volatile customer situations. The satisfaction of fixing a customer issue is short lived as the next one arrives and indeed it becomes a perpetual cycle of fighting cognitive bias as you jump from one issue to the next. I am not power or money motivated, but I do love the challenge of solving hard, complex technical problems
- PhD : As one of life's late developers in school with writing and speeling problems which remain to this day finishing a PhD while working was a bit of a prize. It was a war of attrition at the time which dampened much of the satisfaction from being awarded it, but always feel you could have done better, not had re-writes, etc. Started as being a MPhil and as you see others doing a PhD, you start to aspire not believing that you can actually achieve that goal, but pushing on at your own pace.
Having low self esteem is clearly a problem, very much so for young people. Equally could having a high level of self-esteem, all the time, actually be a limiting factor in achieving your potential as you have nothing to prove to yourself. Without the ebbs and flows of self belief, the motivation to push yourself further and achieve something you previously though was out of your league, will remain distant and weak. You can't be serious about a long term challenge like the Bob Graham Round or a PhD to please or impress anyone else, such motivations are very internal.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Bias of the week : They looked OK technically, but they seemed to be rather pushing the Oracle message.
On 10 May 2010, at 17:41, XXXX XXXXXXXX wrote:
Thanks for sending your slides. They looked OK technically, but they seemed to be rather pushing the Oracle message. In our experience this often has a very negative impact on the audience, as they object to feeling that they are being “sold to” and tend to turn off. Do you think you could revise them to make them more as a case study and more neutral? We need the final version by 12 May at the latest.
Otherwise, you will be pleased to know that plans for the above event are all in place and we are looking forward to a very interesting event.
>rest deleted as not interesting<>So taking the feedback on board (if you have ever seen me talk you will know selling is not my preferred speaking style) I went through the presentation again and found the following images
Hence my reply.
- A Sun 3/160 from 1989
- A Cray T3E from 1997
- A Sun E10K from 1996
- A Sun E15k from about 2003
- The founder of Motorhead (it is a talk on stress testing after all)
- A lion eating a wildebeast
- A slide which shows the workings for a guess at how many lines of code it takes to support you buying something you don't need on Ebay after getting home drunk from the pub on a saturady night
Hi XXXX,So what is going on here. I suspect we have a reviewer who looks at the slides and see images of systems next to the Oracle logo and assumes that I am in some way promoting those systems. There was no reason from someone with no background in Computers and their history, who is just looking at the images to work out that a Sun 3/160 was 1st sold in 1989. If they had read the text next to it they might have got a clue, but they can't be expected to do this. If all your world is a Windows P.C. and you don't know what Enterprise class systems look like and which era they come from, then you can understand this mistake being made. After all, such events have to put up some reasonable defense against sly sales pitches.
I am surprised by that observation as none of the systems in question have been on the price book for at least 2 years. Most discussed are over 10 years old, 1 is over 20 years old, one was never an Oracle (or past Sun) system and that it is the concepts that I am discussing highlight past shortcomings, you might want to have an other look at the presentation. The founder of Motorhead has yet to strike a deal promoting Oracle products as far as I am aware, but stranger things have happened.
Other than the slide template which I am required to use, you might want to take a 2nd look and if you still feel that they "push the Oracle message", then please call me
and explain which bits are "selling Oracle" to the audience and I will make the changes accordingly.
Very happy to cooperate, but for the reasons above, I don't get the "selling" bit and its not my style.
The nearest bias I can find is Projection Bias, but it does not fit, so maybe it is just a bit of deletion, distortion and generalization, something we are all guilty of.
The approach I take to writing slides is provide to anchors for topics when I then discuss, so it should be quite hard to get the thread of the talk from just the slides. I do this to make the
talk itself more interesting and engaging, though as shown above there are downsides to taking this approach. Avoiding "death by Powerpoint (or OpenOffice)" is a constraint, not a goal.
- Why it is what it is
- What is being done now to improve
- What should Wales stop doing
- What else needs to be done
Gross Value Added (GVA) is a measure in economics of the value of goods and services produced in an area, industry or sector of an economy. In national accounts GVA is output minus intermediate consumption; it is a balancing item of the national accounts' production account.A more interesting link is to the National Statistics Office which states that
The gross value added (GVA) per head of population for the UK as a whole was £20,520 in 2008. London had the highest regional GVA per head of population at £34,786, followed by the South East at £21,688. Wales had the lowest GVA per head of population at £15,237.I would argue that many parts of Wales have higher social capital than London for example, but you don't pay for schools, hospitals and widening at A487 near Dyfi Junction with feeling part of a community, however much you value it and it adds to quality of life.
Statistics are not everything. Out of context they can be dangerous and misleading and I would like to hear the argument that GVA does not matter or a suggestion that XYZ is a better metric.
The GVA measure taken at face value shows that in Wales is a economic drag on the rest of the UK, whatever the root cause and which door blame should lie are not that interesting a set of discussions. What is more critical is asking are we undertaking the right set of activities to get to average and if not what do we need to stop doing and start doing to make progress.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
I have very high regard for a number of religious people. The good work that many vicars, priests, rabbi, and clerics do in the name of their god makes a huge contribution to parts of society otherwise neglected. I don't agree with a minister of religion being considered as a profession, but it very much should have a respected place in society.
I attended a Westminster Skeptics meeting a few months ago where Dr Evan Harris spoke. He was articulate, talked sense and was quite funny. He was also in touch with reality and supported science based medicine and the reform of UK libel laws which is important to an extent that would shock most people.
This article in the Telegraph about how great it was that Evan Harris, aka Dr. Death lost his seat suggests that George Pitcher is not suited for his day job. A subset of comments sum up very well where Rev George has gone astray.
and on a more sarcastic angle
Yeah, what a relief – on his website it says he campaigns “for science, evidence-based policy, free speech, human rights, equality”and the best one
What a disaster it would be if people like that ever came to have any sort of influence
and last but not least
To begin, I’d like to point out that writing ‘Dr’ doesn’t negate the FACT that Dr Harris is a qualified Doctor of medicine. You know, one of those men/women of science who do good for others.
There is a whole other thread in the comments about Iraq and Jews which escaped me.
‘A stranger to principle’ you say. Really? Not a man who stands up for his convictions then, in the face of the right-wing press who seek to besmirch him, to describe him as ‘Dr Death’ because he doesn’t follow what was written in your 2000 year old handbook for life!
Dr Harris has been a dedicated local MP, an important voice for science and for civil liberties. Even you, ‘Rev’ Pitcher (see what I did there?) need men like Dr Harris. There are plenty of groups who would have had your superstition-based groups outlawed, rather than stand up for the rights of ALL.
Note the difference, equality for all, not for special interest groups.
Then in the Telegraph(same paper) we get this from Tom Chivers who appears to be the Telegraph version of Martin Robbins without the beard. The summary is "George, you were very wrong, particularly the comment of Evan Harris having no principles, they are just different from yours".
One of the big problems for any government intent on reform will face are various types of leaders who stand in the way of sorting out systemic underlying issues include
- Trade union leaders opposing pension reform
- Religious leaders opposing research of many kinds
- Business leaders who allow libel tourism
Evidence based science should be beyond the influence of these special interest groups and that is perhaps what made Dr Evan Harris a target of these right wing groups and people like George Pitcher. Dr. Harris was a visible champion for Evidence Based Science and what George and friends are really scared of is having to provide evidence to back up a reasoned argument.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Lots of talk about electoral reform to give parties power which is more aligned with their proportion of the votes cast, but the net for candidates needs to be cast wider to include (and select) those with aptitude for solving the [pick your scale : Planet, UK, Wales, Ceredigion, whatever] problems, rather than those who want power.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
I was writing some code (C) to reproduce a customer problem while in the office near Reading this week and needed to parse an argument, so used the function atoi. I got strange results when I entered large numbers on the command line. Overflow (the size of the number was larger than the type would accommodate) entered my head, but I checked it and carried on debugging the problem as it appeared. After about 10 minutes I ambled off to ask Lee, who I work with, if he would just stand there and after I explained the problem to him, he could point out the daft error I had made.
Within 15 seconds of starting explaining the problem to Lee, I had caught the problem myself, it just jumped out while explaining the issue. He smiled and wondered off knowing that the next time it may occur in reverse.
Explaining a problem to someone else who is fresh is a very powerful problem solving technique, even if they make no direct contribution. Prehaps the bias is a tendency to carry on and not ask for someone to spend a few minutes looking over your shoulder while you explain the pathology of a problem.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
A number of years ago on an evening out with the Sun Patch Test group I opened a door into Bertie Ahern in a pub in Dublin, in fairness he was standing behind it as I entered. It sparked from interest from some real heavies for a second or 2 until it became obvious Bertie was just standing in the way of an inward opening door. I was just opening a door rather than using it as a weapon to batter a serving Prime Minister having a pint of Bass in his local.
It seemed quiet alien to me that a serving prime minister of a country would just go for a beer down his local and mix with the real public. When I opened the door into him, I did not know who he was, but his face seemed familiar. It took about 30 seconds and a comment from Gerry Haskins for it to click who it was. Some lessons there for Gordon and his peers, but my take away was to take more care when opening an opaque door into a pub incase you hit a serving Prime Minister with it.