Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Slow Death Of ITIL?

Nothing lasts for ever. In the heady fin-de-siecle period that we've recently passed through when dotcoms were a-booming and bugs of the millenium were being predicted, I became an ardent fan of a genre of music that came to be known as chillout. It was electronica with overt nods to hip-hop, dub and orchestral forms. It was slow and very, very lush. With each new album released by the likes of Zero 7, Sven Van Hees and Nitin Sawnhey (or the Cafe Del Mar, Om Lounge, or Luftkastellet compilations) I grew ever more enchanted. However even then I sensed somehow that this form would at some point become unfashionable and I would have to move on with the times. I'd invested a great deal of time and money into learning about (and purchasing) music within this genre. I was entrenched - Kuhnian-style - within this paradigm (see earlier blog entry). However I was determinded to avoid the fate of those aging rock 'n' rollers that I remembered seeing around in the nineteen seventies. They were still decked out in their drainpipes and crepe shoes, refusing to let go of a brilliant but outmoded form from twenty years earlier.

Needless to say chillout, after a desperate but ultimately futile rebranding as downtempo died out somewhere around 2005.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A little bit of self-congratulation

I was watching the movie The Hudsucker Proxy last weekend and found it a fascinating recreation of how business operated in the nineteen fifties; i.e. before the information technology revolution. Messages were sent using rolled up paper inserted into vacuum tubes, or on the memo trolley. There were huge typist pools whose job it was to create letters. The stock price was relayed to a few senior individuals via a ticker tape machine in the boardroom.

It made me think of all those people who suggest that IT is an expensive cost centre and seek to denigrate its achievements. In that I include the many knockers of the government's NHS Connecting For Health project. Yes information technology is costly, is often not delivered on time, and doesn't always meet requirements, but it changes things for the better in a huge way. In 20 years time perhaps paper patient records will seem as quaint as the vacuum memo system in the movie.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Social Network Analysis

Have you read Thomas Kuhn's The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions? It's appeared on lists of the most influential books of the last century; it would certainly sit near - if not on - the summit of my top ten. Here comes the 'in a nutshell bit'. Pay attention. 

Kuhn said that science isn't this objective, rational pursuit that many like to think it is. He argues that scientists are subject to the same social forces that affect the rest of us and this colours their practice. Thus they work within an accepted framework (or 'paradigm') and ignore anomalous information that's occurring outside the paradigm. For example when scientists working in the framework of Newtonian physics found anomalous results (curvature of spacetime) they put it down to measurement error. He suggests that it takes a great deal of social pressure to get scientists to adopt a new paradigm (after all they've invested so much in the old one). He termed this framework transition a 'paradigm shift'.