Friday, December 27, 2013

NYPD demonstrates the self defeating nature of bureaucratic command.

Upworthy  - The 17-Year-Old Who Blew The Lid Off Racial Profiling With His iPod

The actual recording of the 'stop and frisk' event is creepy enough; it shows that the event is simply an unprovoked assault by police officers.

What is truly horrendous is to hear - from the anonymous police officer contributors - is that the whole process is driven by a dehumanised policy of command and control through abuse and conquest. This is bureaucratic idiocy approaching its extreme: the measure of 'high performance' has been totally divorced from the true task of policing. The point of policing is to prevent crime and to maintain law and order.  The policy of 'stop and frisk' does not do this:

  • free citizens not in the course of committing a crime and probably for the most part not even contemplating one are stopped and searched, verbally assaulted and often, it seems, physically assaulted  just because they are not white and do not look middle class - this is not crime prevention because it is not related to criminal activity [by the citizens at least]; 
  • these incidents almost certainly constitute an on going series of crimes perpetrated against innocent citizens by the NYC constabulary; the temporary outcome may be less obvious appearances of dark skinned citizens on the streets but the enduring outcome is certainly a complete loss of respect for NYPD and the city government;
  • taxpayers of NYC are being conned and their tax dollars wasted subsidising a policing policy which brutalises both a class of citizens and the police officers themselves. 
That last dot point is worth thinking about quite thoroughly because the effect of acts of violence on the perpetrators of the violence is just as deep as on the victims. The victims suffer pain and humiliation but they don't necessarily loose their ability to empathise [ie their 'soul']. Those who commit violence for its own sake however, as in the policy of NYPD in 'stop and frisk', lose their ability to perceive their victims as persons; in other words each such act of aggression erodes the connection of the aggressor to their own true self and to the rest of humanity. 

The policy has potential to reach the penultimate stage that Karl Popper predicts of regimes where democracy is absent.
Those who suffer the negative results of dictatorial policy become so numerous and their situation so devoid of hope of redress that they feel like they have nothing left to lose. It is then just a matter of time before the situation explodes.

In so far as the result of systematic discrimination and violent aggression against minorities has been shown through the history of the last few centuries to be either very counter productive or completely self defeating,  NYPD policy of 'stop and frisk' for its own sake is objectively STUPID!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Open Communication Amongst Peers

The answer to most of the ills of bureaucracy is Open Communication Amongst Peers.

If we assume, reasonable in my opinion, that Capitalism is the default state of economies in the Modern Era the we must also assume that taking care of things that the capitalists can't make money out of is always going to be overseen by bureaucracies. There is no point in lamenting this; it is inevitable.  Advocates of small government need to pull their heads out of the sand or whatever other dark places they put them and realise that this is not the result of devilish conspiracies but simply what must happen when the pursuit of individual and corporate profit is held to be the reason for our existence.

Bureaucratic method however is fraught with difficulties. It can be very frustrating and sometimes quite mind-numbing either to deal with a bureaucratic agency or to work within it. I have described some aspects of the reasons for this in previous posts. Here I wish to point out that upwards of twenty six years experience in one particular agency assures me that the best way to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of bureaucratic organisations is to allow and encourage real internal communication.

In particular I advocate Open Communication Amongst Peers [= OCAP] as a fundamental requisite of any large organisation if it is to survive and achieve good and useful outcomes without destroying people in the process. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Google Chrome Blog: An even more secure Flash Player for our Windows u...

Google Chrome Blog: An even more secure Flash Player for our Windows u...: One of the great things about the web is that you can hop from page to page watching videos, playing games, or checking email without instal...      
Funny that - feel good about something to the extent of wanting to extol its virtues and then .... for several weeks Chrome developed a practice of helpfully telling me that 'Flash player has crashed' even when I didn't know it was doing anything.   I think it may have been something to do with FaceBook ... but it was too hard to try and track down what was happening.
Chrome developers have tried to make their baby as transparent as possible to ordinary users which is good, but I don't think they have gone as far as they can towards helping users find out what is going when their browser, or indeed any other system, has got the jitters.

I would expect that the great and mighty Google would want to be at the forefront of practical problem solving but they seem to be following a much more conservative and generally bureaucratic path - "got a problem? Well here's a database - go search it!"

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Who was Karl Popper, and why should we care?

Well, Santa has been and gone. I hope it was that we have all been good little girls and boys over the past year so the patron Saint of Mercantile Magic was not required to leave Carboniferous anthracite  in anybody's stocking?

No!?  Good, then it's time to get on with the next stage of this drawn out solstice festival and start pretending we are going to refurbish body and soul with a complete set of new good habits. I used to do that - make new year's resolutions - and then forget about them. About a decade ago however I thought "Stuff that silly process!" and made my last ever new year's resolution. I decided to be a reasonable optimist, and it was so. Now I just have to remember this, any time of year, not just the beginning of January, and it is so once more.

Part of being a reasonable optimist involves thinking about why it is reasonable to 'think about the bright side' and 'see that the cup is half full'. I maintain it is very reasonable so long as we seek to know the truth about our world and not just listen to the opinions of others. Sure, everybody has a right to have their own opinion and be allowed to say what it is if they so desire; that is what democracy is about, amongst other things. One could even say it is almost a sacred duty to have an opinion, so long as it really is one's own opinion and not just an uncritical regurgitation of somebody else's thoughts.

To really have one's own opinion however requires a skeptical approach to the world. Being truly skeptical is not about being always negative and cynically disbelieving everything, but wanting to know what is really true; it is about habitually asking oneself: How do I know if this is true or not?  How do I know this is not make believe?

If you stop to consider it, this process of questioning what is true is the very foundation of scientific method and the application of scientific method in the last four hundred years or so has brought about more change in human culture than occurred in the previous 40 thousand years. So skeptical method is not something trivial nor is it bad, quite the opposite; skepticism is a very powerful tool which can contribute mightily to keeping us safe, healthy and reasonably prosperous.

And here is the connection of all this to bureaucracy in contemporary Australia, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. If you must make a new year's resolution this coming Sunday, why not resolve to find out about Karl Popper! He was one of the great minds of the Twentieth Century and provided us with some really important conceptual tools for understanding how to get the most out of civilised life. I don't mean how to take as much as we can but rather how to understand what is needed to really contribute to the common good and what is needed to really release the potential for creativity and productive effort of all the people of [pretty much] any society.

Karl Popper wrote some big books about the nature of science and knowledge and about what is needed for maintaining a free and open society. Luckily there are many places now on the Internet and in other books and journals where one can find information on his ideas. And indeed Popper himself, over time,  found better and easier ways to convey the essentials of his ideas so that later editions of some of his most important books have the essential concepts spelled out in a foreword, or in footnotes. One can find references to these on Wikipedia and other places.
An example: 
Wikipedia - Karl Popper
Wikipedia - Open Society

It is about time that Honchos of the Sausage Factory gave some thought to the theoretical underpinnings of open communication provided by Karl Popper. 
Ignorance of Karl Popper's contributions to civilised life is probably not sinful but it sure ain't something to be proud of!

Happy New Year

Mark Peaty

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Breadcrumbs and recipe books

Dear Friends, [well, all right, the two of you that have actually looked at this site :-] 

it is with amazement and pride I relate that great effort has been made to provide a search function for the Sanger Savers' Instant Recipe Book. And sometimes it comes up with what the user is looking for so that is truly wonderful! Still no breadcrumbs though which, for a recipe book, is an on-going cause of frustration and disappointment to its users. 

As we approach the second anniversary of this particular marvel it can be seen to be lagging well behind the development curves of its predecessors. The recent history of the Sausage Factory shows that such devices require about two years before the original [and almost completely arbitrary] content, layout, and functionality come to reflect the requests made by users in their feedback. Relevant content with almost optimal layout and a degree of user friendliness *can* be achieved, even at the Sausage Factory and other large government organisations as long as feedback from users is taken on board as soon as possible.
The problem is this takes us into the time frame for a *major improvement*. The previous four incarnations of in-house on-line recipe book used by the Sanger Savers have each gone through such an evolution. Each has gone from well-nigh-hopeless to not-bad-at-all. Then each one in its turn was removed and replaced with something that did not embody the improvements which had evolved within its predecessor. 

Why this has to be so is a mystery.
I hypothesise that it indicates the true rate of information flow from factory floor to the home of the honchos: about a year. This means that once a honcho has blessed the implementation of anything new that new thing is then by definition "Good" if not actually sacred. It follows then that nothing can be wrong with it, so all mid level managers are duty bound to speak this word. Potential insights of a contrary nature coming from users are by definition expressions of ignorance, incompetence or outright heresy. Thus it will take up to a year for such feedback to actually start having any effect. By this time the mid level managers have become aware of problems and may even be ready to admit they don't know all the answers. This watershed or tipping point bodes well for end-users because the pace of improvements picks up. 

In the meantime rumours of dissatisfaction have actually started to reach the honchos. These can be ignored as ignorance, incompetence, etc, until somehow or other *someone of importance* mentions hearing of problems. Perhaps this takes place at a cocktail party or other social function [where real people meet?], who knows. But finally one or more honchos decides that that wonderful new thing has not lived up to first expectations; something must be done about it! And so the system which is finally approaching a condition of optimal content [the users are now voting for it by choosing to use it and telling each other that "it's got a lot better these last couple of months!"] is slated for replacement.
We shall see.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tyrant solipsism as an indicator of intrinsic narcissism

I think this may be one of the key questions of our time:

  • Does the manifestation of apparent tyrant solipsism necessarily indicate entrenched narcissism in the honcho concerned?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I should have known: "Newspeak" is the only language they know.

I think I mentioned some time ago of my attempts to get an on-line discussion board in place so that front line sanger savers, [AKA phone specialists, service consultants, team mentors, technical support, whatever,] could put questions and suggestions to their peers. The need for this kind of consultation arises when some apparently novel question or problem comes up and the sanger saver cannot find an answer in the sacred scripting of TRAMS or the on-line oracles of the Sausage Factory website. I have been talking about the need for this kind of discussion facility for more than two years now. It has been more than 18 months since I first launched an official request/suggestion about it, 15 months since the first knock-back and just over 12 months since a High Level Honcho decided that it sounded like a good idea and endorsed it.

So after 12 months of, what we might foolishly believe to have been, official endorsement of the idea and umpteen attempts on my part to encourage implementation of the discussion board where is it now? Well, Friday last [25/3/2011] I was told by a manager that they had just discovered on Monday last [21/3] that someone back in 2008 had made a decree that no more discussion boards could be created using the Sharepoint software which is what we we proposing to use.

I was shown an email in which someone expressed the opinion that "a review was needed" and I realised that this meant: "this must stop!"
The opinion elaborated that: [in so many words] the use of Sharepoint should be considered by a committee and "a [factory]wide approach considered". I realised that this more or less meant that: "if we can't [centrally] control this, it must not exist." I believe my interpretation of this is fair enough in that two years have passed since that edict was handed down. That interpretation was confirmed by another email where it was noted that no new such discussion facilities have since come in to existence.

I think this demonstrates a couple of things fairly clearly.
  1. that George Orwell's concept of "Newspeak" was not at all fanciful; words can be made to mean their opposite, particularly when apparently describing policies and/or responses to calls for change; we are again being taught that change is only good if it "comes from the top"
  2. the Honchos of the Sausage Factory have no sense of any kind of urgency about the need for improved communication within the organisation, and quite possibly have no idea that the Factory is floundering through lack of real communication within and between the various far flung parts of its organisation. The evidence for this lack of communication is clear however, examples include:
  • letters are sent out by parts of the organisation which immediately create problems for public contact areas because the latter were not informed and phone staff struggle to find out what callers are talking about
  • various on-line facilities which may be crucial to particular types of client enquiry are unilaterally removed without consideration of the consequences - most recent example is a form for recording "community information" about wrongful or fraudulent behaviour relating to the bacon supply
  • changes to procedures laid down in TRAMS [AKA "the two tonne oxymoron in the room"] about how addresses may be updated where, for example, a member of the public or an organisation has need of a particular form to be sent out but the new process for updating the address has a minimum turn around time of 24 hours so the form cannot be sent until the poor phone staffer has confirmed that the new address has taken
  • the Factory has a policy of deliberately retaining out of date addresses on the records of clients who have ceased involvement in one or other of the channels of bacon supply; this means that if those clients restart such an involvement some years later, even though other information supplied by them in the mean time shows they have moved, the Factory will send forms and letters to an old address as a matter of course. This problem has been around for decades but the obvious solution has never been applied: simply ASK THEM on the annual sausage survey form. [The mind boggles!]
I could go on and on but the smell of over cooked bacon is not conducive to good sleep.