Interesting elsewhere – 11 July 2012

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

  • Software Inventory – Joel on Software Every product attracts new feature ideas, and you can’t implement ideas as fast as you can think them up, so you write them down, and this list is called the feature backlog. A lot of the ideas on the backlog are bad ideas, and you merely wrote them down to avoid hurting the feelings of the people who thought them up. Backlogs make everyone feel good.

    The trouble is that 90% of the things in the feature backlog will never get implemented, ever. So every minute you spent writing down, designing, thinking about, or discussing features that are never going to get implemented is just time wasted.

  • Dark Matter and Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Vocabulary – Strelka Institute for media, arhitecture and design Dan Hill outlines a new vocabulary of design, one that needs to be smuggled into the upper echelons of power. He asserts that, increasingly, effective design means engaging with the messy politics – the “dark matter” – taking place above the designer’s head. And that may mean redesigning the organisation that hires you.
  • Exactly how digital do we need our leaders to be? « Curiouscatherine’s Blog I am looking for an awareness of the key issues, such as open data for example, but more importantly an awareness that digital is a driver of social and behavioural change and not just a passive tool for mechanisation of process. Its for this reason that the role of IT, and digital as a channel, should be a major element of any strategy to address the big themes which were being talked about at conference – it goes beyond efficiencies and should be a transformational tool.
  • Marbury: how to change your mind There's hardly anything I respect more than someone struggling honestly to come to terms with a way of seeing the world that is very different from their own. The volte-face achieved through the hard work of reason is very rare indeed. We all pretend to be open to different points of view. But in reality, most of us stick to a narrow spectrum of opinions shared by our friends and peers, one which yokes different issues together simply because they're part of the same cultural gestalt.
  • Here’s our Cabinet Office paper on randomised trials of government policies. It’s readable. Read it. – Bad Science We also show that policy people need to have a little humility, and accept that they don’t necessarily know if their great new idea really will achieve its stated objectives. We do this using examples ofpolicies which should have been great in principle, but turned out to be actively harmful when they were finally tested.
  • Can you recognize the million pound chair? The problem is that when it comes to identifying technology needs, and procuring successfully to fill them, you can’t simply rely on general life experience to save you. It’s a specialist skill, and one that requires knowledge to be constantly relearned and unlearned as technologies change.

    Too few large organisations understand this. They see buying a new computer system as very much like buying new furniture – it’s just ‘all stuff the office needs’, along with car parks, printer paper or tea bags. This attitude fails to see that many modern organisations don’t have IT systems and websites, they are IT systems and websites. They can no more delegate this to some junior staffer than they can delegate the strategy of the whole business.

  • Why the Higgs particle hunt was always going to be a waiting game | Science | The Observer If there is one thing that being a scientist has taught me, it is how difficult it is to know something with certainty. Without the anchor of experiment, it is very easy to become seduced by an idea and develop the impression of understanding where none really exists.
  • Joho the Blog » [2b2k] PDF 2012 – In Defense of Echo Chambers To have a conversation of any sort, you have to have 99% agreement. (I made that number up.) You have to be speaking the same language, have the same basic norms of conversation —who gets to speak for how long, how interruptive you can be, and so forth —and you have to be interested in the same topic. Then you can find some small differences to talk about … and then you iterate on that 1% of difference. This need for a vast similarity is not a failing of conversation, but is its condition. And that’s because human understanding itself works this way. We understand the new by assimilating it to our existing context- our densely interrelated web of concepts, ideas and feeelings.
  • Schneier on Security: High-Quality Fake IDs from China The only real solution here is to move the security model from the document to the database. With online verification thedocument matters much less, because it is nothing more than a pointer into a database.
  • Schneier on Security: Teaching the Security Mindset It is difficult to defeat a creative and determined adversary who must find only a single flaw among myriad defensive measures to be successful. We must not tie our hands, and our intellects, at the same time. If we truly wish to create the best possible information security professionals, being able to think like an adversary is an essential skill. Cheating exercises provide long term remembrance, teach students how to effectively evaluate a system, and motivate them to think imaginatively. Cheating will challenge students’ assumptions about security and the trust models they envision. Some will find the process uncomfortable. That is OK and by design. For it is only by learning the thought processes of our adversaries that we can hope to unleash the creative thinking needed to build the best secure systems,become effective at red teaming and penetration testing, defend against attacks, and conduct ethical hacking activities.