No-fooling: A new blog-tagging meme – by Curt Monash

Software Memories - a Curt Monash blog

By way of [very necessary] explanation, this post is a response to an idea started on the blog of Curt Monash (@CurtMonash), doyen of software industry analysts. You can read the full article here. This is intended as an early April Fools celebration.

A summary:

[…] the Rules of the No-Fooling Meme are:

Rule 1: Post on your blog 1 or more surprisingly true things about you,* plus their explanations. I’m starting off with 10, but it’s OK to be a lot less wordy than I’m being. I suggest the following format:

  • A noteworthy capsule sentence. (Example: “I was not of mortal woman born.”)
  • A perfectly reasonable explanation. (Example: “I was untimely ripped from my mother’s womb. In modern parlance, she had a C-section.”)

Rule 2: Link back to this post. That explains what you’re doing.
Rule 3: Drop a link to your post into the comment thread. That will let people who check here know that you’ve contributed too.
Rule 4: Ping 1 or more other people encouraging them to join in the meme with posts of their own.

*If you want to relax the “about you” part, that’s fine too.

I won’t be as dramatic as Curt, nor will I drop any names (they have been changed to protect the guilty). I also think that my list is closer to a “things you didn’t know about me” than Curt’s original intention, but hopefully it is in the spirit of his original post. I have relaxed the “about me” part for one fact as well, but claim extenuating circumstances.

My “no-fooling” facts are, in (broadly) reverse chronological order:

  1. I have recently corrected a Physics paper in Science – and please bear in mind that I was a Mathematician not a Physicist; I’m not linking to the paper as the error was Science’s fault not the scientists’ and the lead author was very nice about it.
  2. My partner is shortly going to be working with one of last year’s Nobel Laureates at one of the world’s premier research institues – I’m proud, so sue me!
  3. My partner, my eldest son and I have all attended (or are attending) the same University – though separated by over 20 years.
  4. The same University awarded me 120% in my MSc. Number Theory exam – the irony of this appeals to me to this day; I was taught Number Theory by a Fields Medalist; by way of contrast, I got a gamma minus in second year Applied Mathematics.
  5. Not only did I used to own a fan-site for a computer game character, I co-administered a universal bulletin board (yes I am that old) dedicated to the same character – even more amazingly, there were female members!
  6. As far as I can tell, my code is still part of the core of software that is used rather widely in the UK and elsewhere – though I suspect that a high percentage of it has succumbed to evolutionary pressures.
  7. I have recorded an eagle playing golf – despite not being very good at it and not playing at all now.
  8. I have played cricket against the national teams of both Zimbabwe (in less traumatic times) and the Netherlands – Under 15s and Under 19s respectively; I have also played both with and against an England cricketer and against a West Indies cricketer (who also got me out), but I said that I wasn’t going to name drop.
  9. [Unlike Curt] I only competed in one chess tournament – I came fourth, but only after being threatened with expulsion over an argument to do with whether I had let go of a bishop for a nanosecond; I think I was 11 at the time.
  10. At least allegedly, one of my antecedents was one of the last hangmen in England – I’m not sure how you would go about substantiating this fact as they were meant to be sworn to secrecy; equally I’m not sure that I would want to substantiate it.
  11. And a bonus fact (which could also be seen as oneupmanship vis à vis Curt):

  12. One of the articles that I wrote for the UK climbing press has had substantially more unique views than any of my business-related articles on here (save for the home page itself) – sad, but true, if you don’t believe me, the proof is here.


Other Monash-related posts on this site:


The latest and greatest versus the valuable

A World of Bytes by Curt Monash

This article expands on some comments I made on Curt Monash‘s latest blog posting: Why the basically good choice of Aneesh Chopra for US CTO scares the bejeesus out of me. In this, Curt argues that:

[the new US government CIO and CTO may be] so focused on shiny new technologies that they won’t address some of the devastatingly critical challenges of government IT.

Curt then goes on to list some of the important areas that he is concerned will not recieve enough attention. Although Curt’s piece was directed at a very specific area, I think that it raises some general questions. Here are the comments that I made on his blog:

“As you allude to, one of the main problems that IT faces is its focus on the new and shiny, sometimes to the exclusion of the older, but more worthy. I’m by no means a technology Luddite, progress is to be desired, but there has to be some reason for it; something beyond just being neat.

This is a double-headed monster in my opinion. First IT types like me are often drawn to the new and sexy – maybe that’s why we got into the business in the first place. Second, the flashy – particularly when it makes it to general business publications, can generate a “me too” attitude in senior executives, sometimes deflecting IT attention from less glamorous, but more necessary work.

As with most things in life, a balance between both elements of IT is probably what is most necessary.”

I have touched on this area already a couple of times. It was one of the issues that I identified in Problems associated with the IT cycle, where I said:

“On top of this we can add some attributes of IT staff which, although generally desirable, can have a downside as well. Many IT people want to be involved in the latest and greatest technology – this is not always what is going to add most value to the business.”

Also, much of my article about dashboards relates to this issue, as may be deduced by the title: “All that glisters is not gold” – some thoughts on dashboards. In this I comment:

“[…] echoing my comments on BI tools in general, I think an attractive looking dashboard is really only the icing on the cake. The cake itself has two main other ingredients:

  1. The actual figures that it presents (and how well they have been chosen) and
  2. The Information Architecture that underpins them”

Making what I realise is something of a bold leap here, I think that this fascination with the new and technically cool is one reason that IT managers sometimes feel left out of the inner circle of executives of an organisation. In some people’s minds (sometimes those of influential people) IT is too readily associated with Sci-Fi conventions, comic books and and pocket protectors (with of course my apologies in advance to devotees of each of these). This may seem a trivial point, but such associations sometimes run deep; everyone loves a good stereotype.

Of course there are many business-focussed IT managers out there striving to deliver value for their organisations, to boost sales, or reach new customers, or reduce costs; I have been one of them myself. But these industrious individuals are sometimes still seen through the “geek” prism I have described above. Maybe it is only by focsuing more established technologies, ones that demonstrably add business value, that the profession will be able to throw off this yoke.

Although I am rather fond of using quotations on this blog, it is not typical for me to cite religious texts. However, maybe St. Paul had IT in mind when he wrote:

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

While the IT leads of the US government can be accused of too great a focus on what many might view as childish things, then it seems that we still have some way to go.