Thursday, June 13, 2013

Communication versus Babble


(Note: This was originally written in 2008)
Babble is aptly named after the Tower of Babel where, if you believe what is written in the TaNaKh or Bible, The Almighty confused the tongues of men so that they could not understand each other. And so it is with communications in Information Technology (IT). Rolando Hernandez and I were talking today about having a meeting where we would have both business users and IT users (commonly called geeks or nerds or...) in the same meeting. Here is the problem:

If you talk about objects, attributes, LHS, RHS, EHS, Rete, Rete 2, Rete III, Sequential Rules, etc. in a meeting with Business Analysts, PMs, CEOs, CIOs or CTOs you will get lots of blank looks while they try to determine whether or not to call the guys in white coats to escort you out of the building. BUT, if you talk about ease of programming, ROI, IROI, NETP, NET-NETP and things like that, then they will applaud you for being able to communicate.

On the other hand, if you explain objects, attributes, LHS, RHS, EHS, Rete, Rete 2, Rete III, Sequential Rules, etc in the meeting with the Rule Geeks, then they will just get up and leave the room since you would be, effectively, talking down to them. Using the terms is OK because the Rule Geeks understand them fluently. BUT, mention ROI, IROI, NETP, NET-NETP and the Rule Geeks will not come back - that is NOT why they want to use a rulebased system.

Another great example: Rolando Hernandez sent out an email to various users and business guys where he was explaining things in relation to Zachman's Chart on Enterprise Architecture. He talked about the Executives and Managers being on row 1 or row 2 while the implementors, the coders, would be on row 5 or 6. However, he forgot to mention that he was referring to Zachman's Chart and the geeks were thinking that the managers would be sitting on the first row in the meeting and the programmers would have to sit in the back of the room on row 5 or row 6.

On ANY presentation you HAVE to know your audience; Geek Speak is cool with Geeks. Financial Analysis is great with the CxO guys. So, Rolando is now proposing a monthly meeting in DRG for Business guys from 5:00 - 6:00 and the subject will be rulebased systems (usually sponsored by a specific vendor) and the information will be on HOW the rulebased systems can help the company increase the bottom line. Then, from 6:00 to 7:00 there will be a social hour (yes, a whole hour) where the Vendors, Business Guys and Geeks get together and just hang out with drinks and maybe supper of some kind, and then there will be a two hour meeting from 7:00 to 9:00 on some technical part (DRG) of rulebased system just using Geek Speak.

Same room. Same subject. Different audiences. Different words. What a deal!

Failure is NOT an Option


Remember the movie, "Apollo 13" starring Tom Hanks, Gary Sinese, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton.  Four of my favorite actors.  It came out way back in 1995.  Quite a movie.  What if the motto of Apollo 13 had been, "Well, maybe failure is OK and we can try again next time."  No way, Jocko!  The Flight Director's motto was, "Failure is NOT an option!"  You see, that movie was based on real-life story.  And the Flight Director's motto was taken from a real-life person at NASA.  They just did not accept failure.

That movie came to mind when I went to a web site today and saw a link that said "Accept Failure and Focus on Experimentation for Innovation".  The rest said "As Scott Anthony says, 'No matter how smart you are, no matter how hard you work, your first idea will be wrong.' Innovation experts Scott Anthony and Steve Wunker describe the mentality organizations must have to foster true innovation: one in which failure is accepted and experimentation (even those that do not succeed) is rewarded. " 

With this attitude, no wonder we have so many failures in today's startups.  There used to be the"Magic 7-Ps of Planning:  Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance !"  (OK, it's a bit risque but it makes the point!) I really believe in this planning principle.  And in the first word of it:  PROPER Prior Planning, not just Prior Planning.  Like my Dear Old Dad used to say, "Practice doesn't make Perfect.  Perfect Practice makes Perfect."  In order to do things properly, it takes training; lots of training and experience.  Experience that you don't get by going to one-week schools nor reading books nor by attending the best universities.  You get this in the school of hard-knocks at the feet of some of the very best in the world.  In whatever field of endeavor you have selected to be trained.  Train with the best and learn from the best.  Then, one day, you will be one of the best and you can train others to be the best.  There is no easy path to being the best.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

One More Book Series


Already my bookshelves creak and groan in protest over the number of books per shelf on each one. So, the question is: Is there room for one more book on rulebased systems? Maybe not. Anything that we could say about the elements and strings of rulebased systems has already been said many times over - maybe not in the way that I would have said it but in a way that many readers did understand it.

On the other hand, what if we gathered together this year under one big tent just a few of the voices, knowledge and wisdom of several industry spokes persons and wrote a series of coordinated papers on rulebased systems and it's misbegotten step-child, BRMS as well as Neural Networks? Remember, a BRMS (Business Rule Management System) can be something as simple as a notebook that contains the rules of the business or something as complicated as JRules or Advisor. Both and everything in between serve a purpose; to help the user understand and manage the rules of their company or industry.

So, then: This is an open call to the God Fathers and God Mothers of this AI working industry to work together to build a system that will complete the needs of all users. I'm thinking of a series of books: Beginners, Intermediate, Advanced - things on  Statistical, Analytical, Industry-Specific (Psychology, Oil and Gas, Insurance, Banking, etc.) as well as those white papers from around the world on various topics of interest.

The series could be, might be White Books (Beginner 1), Yellow Books (Beginner 2), Green Books (Intermediate 1), Blue Books (Intermediate 2), Brown Books (Advanced) and Black Books (Industry Specific). The White Books (Beginner 1) would be a continuing series of books intended for the introduction of both technical and non-technical users so that they could get grounded in the principles of AI and rulebased systems. (This could be easily done by ripping out the first two or three chapters from each of the 15 books on my bookshelf and mashing them together.) The Yellow Books (Beginner 2) would be slightly more advanced in explaining the principles of the Rete Algorithm, SOAR, Conflict Resolution, Searching Algorithms, etc.

The Green Books (Intermediate 1) would delve into Neural Networks, ANN theory, etc.  These would prepare the novice for life with the other branches of AI and data analysis.  The Blue Books (Intermediate 2) would go deeper into Statistical Reasoning, Forecasting, Probabilities and Constraints, Confidence Intervals and Gaming Theories.

The Brown Books would be would continue to be more in-depth analysis of the Blue Books and prepare the student for the final phase of going into Black Belt industry.  (More on this later.)  The Black Books would be those concerned with specific industries, each to a different aspect of the industry such as Banking, Insurance, Oil and Gas, Psychology, Astrophysics, etc. In these books, the first few chapters would explain the specific industry itself while the middle chapters would address the problems being faced by that particular industry and the final chapters would deal with theory and meta-thinking.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New Macs


OK, I bit the bullet and bought a new MacBookPro.  My old Core2Duo MacBookPro that I had upgraded to a 1TB HD and maxed the memory to 3GB of RAM could not be upgraded to Mountain Lion.  Even with the new Logic Board.  All-in-all, I have spend about $2K on that puppy.  So, I upgraded to the new MacBookPro with 16GB of RAM, 750GB SSHD that is really lightweight and super-thin.  And, might I say, extremely fast.  I haven't run the benchmarks on it yet, but I'll be posting those later this summer.  I expect it to be on the order of 4 - 6 times faster than my old MacBookPro.

And the screen, while only 15" rather than the 17" of the old MacBookPro, is really clear.  (OK, so the Retina is really sharp.)  But the problem was that I had to buy a ton of adaptors to go from the Thunderbolt port to my 30" Mac Cinema, another to my Firewire 800 HDs that I already owned, another to all of my USB stuff that I already owned, even though there is ONE (only) USB port on the MacBookPro, and finally I had to spend another $80 for an external SuperDrive that used to come standard on the MacBookPro.  Yes, there are $30 versions of DVD drives but sometimes they work and sometimes they don't and when you are on-the-road you really, really want something that really, really works all the time.  Sure, sure.  All of you "rich" guys who upgraded two years ago or last year wrote tons of articles and warned me about all of this already so I kind of knew what to expect, but it still hurt when I had to spend an extra grand to adapt to the Brave New Mac World. 

So, now I am carrying my new Mac around with the 20-pound Dell that my client gave me to carry around. OK, the Dell is only 11 pounds.  But it feels like 20 pounts when it's on my back and I'm carrying it across parking lots and down the streets of big cities.  At least the Mac doesn't add a lot of weight.  Maybe 6 pounds at most even with adaptors and power supplies.  Also, my Mac stays charged.  That Dell boat-anchor discharges overnight even if you don't use it.  What a piece of junk!  And it's a NEW Dell!!  It gets charged all day at the office and at night it just sits in my backpack.  I use my Mac all day at the office (off and on - not all the time) and it is still pretty much ready to go when I get back home at night.

Mac still rules!  And, no!  I will not sully my Mac with Windows!  It already has Windows Office on it.  That's about my only concession to the Windows world.  I tried to go the Open Office route but there were just too many inconsistencies and problems.  I don't have time to adjust a Windows Office look-alike and spend countless hours finding "fixes" and solve their problems.  It's just way, way cheaper to go ahead and buy the Mac version of Windows Office and go on my way.  BUT, since I already have to have a Windows laptop with Office on it I don't normally use Windows Office on the Mac anyway unless I'm NOT working on something specific for that particular client.  And there are plenty of those times - like when my son needs to use it for school work or my wife needs it for her work. 

Anyway...  Such is life for a Mac guy who has to live and work in the Windows World.  Mac has made life easier now so I guess I'll tote my Mac around quitely act all superior around my office mates.  Maybe I'll give the MacBookPro to my son and just carry an iPad around for EMail and not even do development anymore.  Maybe...  Naaaahhhh....  Then I'd be a manager and I'd have to cut my throat or something.