WordPress database error: [Got error 134 from table handler]
SELECT * FROM wp_bas_visitors, wp_bas_refer, wp_bas_ua, wp_bas_os WHERE referer = referer_id AND osystem = os_id AND useragent = ua_id AND lasthere > DATE_SUB(NOW(), INTERVAL 20 MINUTE) AND visit_ip = 65444442 AND ua_string = 'CCBot/2.0 (https://commoncrawl.org/faq/)' ORDER BY lasthere DESC LIMIT 1

The Cargo Cult of Business

All Too Familiar

Published on 9 Mar 2012 at 3:21 pm by Ringo | No Comments | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business, Manifest Masquerade, Thanks for Playing.

Great case of CargoCult biz from Derek Lowe who is guest blogging for Ms. McCardle at the Atlantic.  (BTW, does anyone else see a pattern in the progression of her "projects"…  Maybe it’s just me but…   congrats to her if I’m right.)


 Things always changed.

I remember trying to get this across to representatives of the managerial group pushing this new system. We kept hearing about how better goal alignment, "coaching for success", and a good dose of positive attitude would make this whole thing a success, and I couldn’t take it any more. "Look", I said, "I can’t ‘just put down what I’m going to be working on for the year’, because I don’t know. I can’t ‘just focus on the projects that are most likely to succeed’, because I don’t know what those are. I don’t care what it says on the org chart. I’m in research, and my real bosses are a bunch of cells in a dish and a bunch of rats in cages. They determine what I’m going to work on next. And they can’t be coached for success, and they don’t care how much team spirit I have, because they don’t listen to me."
This didn’t go over well. My audience from HR seemed to think that I was either lying, trying to be funny, misinformed, or (most likely) just not enough of a team player. 


Wonderful stuff, as they say, " Read the Whole Thing "   

Quote of the day, maybe the decade

Published on 3 Mar 2012 at 9:50 am by John | 1 Comment | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business, Technopolitical, Design, Interface, and Usability, Health and Safety, Legal, Law, and Courts, Government: Federal, State and Local, Main Stream Media.

It was as if an entire generation had forgotten what things were for. The means became ends in themselves until finally the ends themselves were forgotten.

– Richard Fernandez at Belmont Club

Still Not Getting VoIP

Published on 3 Nov 2008 at 12:14 pm by Oliver | No Comments | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business.

Even the saintly Skype is missing a boat or two in the world of VoIP. Skype is, as far as I know, the first company to understand that we want to call PEOPLE, not station instruments. A wired phone is, by definition, tethered in a room somewhere. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, I don’t talk to rooms.

Skype nailed it with their first-generation product. You called people. Numbers didn’t exist, nor should they. But now Skype wants to grow. OK, I get it, I’ll buy a Skype-in number so people can call me. I’ll get my own number to server as a gateway to the legacy phone system.

The trouble is, Skype has not sorted out multiple logins, aka following the human. I’m not _always_ in front of my computer. Sometimes I’d prefer to take a call on a more phone-shaped box. Skype hasn’t figured out how to let me answer from where I am.

Has anyone else? I’m all ears if you have a solution. 

In it for the money?

Published on 12 Sep 2008 at 9:44 am by John | Comments Off | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business, Manifest Masquerade, Business and Corporation Related.

Megan McCardle writes this morning about school teacher compensation, here: How dare I


I have some opinions about the performance and compensation of school teachers, but what I was most struck by was how Ms. McCardle’s very sensible and realistic view of employment is a striking discord with the kind of consensus delusion which seems to be the default expectation in hiring.

She says:

Microsoft does not depend on every salesman being passionate about the XBox, every payroll clerk having dreamt from an early age about giving something back through the power of the healthcare deduction.

The truth of this statement seems self evident to me,  so why the  masquerade? 

Here are some quotes from a very quick google of various job search and interviewing articles:


"take this opportunity to show your passion for the role"


Once I hired a temp, I had seven employees at that time, I went up to her halfway through the first week and I said, “How do you like working here?” She said, “It’s a job.” I let her go at the end of the week.


"Convince the interviewer that you are looking for exactly the type of work that this position is offering."


"…convince the interviewer of your motivation and passion."


I took a class a while back which was a guide to the application process for graduate school, it emphasized the same thing. Both for the applications and the interviews, I was told, it is essential to convince, or at least plausibly present the pretence that this field and this school are the ONLY ones of interest.  Reasons for application should never include "this is the only school in town which offers the major I want".  Selection of majors (except maybe for MBA) should never be explained by "It appears to be a lucrative field" or even "I find it interesting." The "right" answer is, "Everything I’ve done up to now was either in support of this one over-riding goal to work in Acme corp’s mail room / get an MA from City State U or was a side track I had to tolerate to get here. 

So what goes on here?  Why the contradiction?  Do we really want to start these employment relationships with deceit? 

Review: On Truth

Published on 7 Feb 2008 at 2:27 pm by John | Comments Off | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business, Brain Trust.

On Truth
Harry G. Frankfurt

This book is, in the words of its author, "a sort of sequel to On Bullshit, or as an inquiry to which that work might serve as prolegomenon…"  While I find it a little less accessible than On Bullshit, it is by no means as impenetrable as the word prolegomenon might suggest.

In the lengthy introduction — I can’t avoid that description for a twelve page introduction to a book of less than a hundred pages — Mr. Frankfurt sets out his intent, which is to describe why bullshit is a problem, and why truth is preferable.

The ensuing chapters aren’t nearly as much fun as On Bullshit, but are still worthwhile. Mr. Frankfurt’s clear thinking translates into clear writing spiced with wit as he underlines not only the existence of truth but its utility.  

His penultimate chapter, in which he discusses truth as understood beyond the false statements of those in a relationship seems somewhat tangential to the rest of the book, and I’m inclined to regard it as an entertaining explication of a Shakespearean Sonnet more suited to an appendix than included in the main work.  It seems to me to do little to further the argument, though it is fun to read, and undoubtedly on topic.

Earlier in the book, especially in the introduction and first chapter, there are some wonderfully concise demolitions of postmodernism and magical thinking which are probably of little use in converting anyone who believes in those things, but are tremendous fun for those of us who are frustrated by them, and potentially useful to those on the fence who are looking for a way to think about these issues.  

All in all a quick and entertaining read, a worthy though lesser companion to On Bullshit, and a book with potential as a gift particularly for high school or college students.

My favorite excerpt from the book is quite lengthy, but here’s an excerpt from the excerpt:

    "It is well known, of course, that a cavalier attitude toward truth is more or less endemic within the ranks of publicists and politicians, breeds whose exemplars characteristically luxuriate in the production of bullshit, of lies, and of whatever other modes of fraudulence and fakery they are able to devise. This is old news and we are accustomed to it.
    "Recently though, a similar version of this attitude — or, indeed, a more extreme version of it — has become disturbingly widespread even within what might naively have been thought to be a more reliable class of people."


On Truth

More ways to infuriate your customers

Published on 29 Nov 2007 at 12:42 am by Ringo | No Comments | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business, Service With A Smirk, Business and Corporation Related.

There’s a post at Coyote Blog here: Memo to Customer Service…  mentioning some of the same things we’ve talked about here:   How to Chase Away a Customer   and here:  Enraging Customers

I’d like to add that in the hall of shame, Experian completely takes the cake.  It is literally impossible to get in touch with a human being without ordering a credit report.  Thankfully we are each entitled to a free one each year…  but in my case the problem I was calling to discuss was…   Refusal to issue a credit report!  

 When I did finally get in touch with a human being she was entirely unable/unwilling to tell me anything or be of any assistance whatsoever.  Experian provided far and away the worst customer service experience I can remember.

Here’s another person’s experience with Experian.  I suppose that given their business model, they have little incentive to good customer service where the public is concerned.

 But for those companies which are actually dealing with customers and potential customers this way,  I honestly don’t understand why terrible customer service is so common.  It isn’t that hard.

 Update:  A few more words on the topic from Seth Godin:  Please Go Away


Net Neutrality

Published on 1 Nov 2007 at 10:28 am by Oliver | No Comments | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business.

With the recent news that Comcast is actively interfering with peer-to-peer services, the debate over net neutrality takes a new turn. What, indeed, is fair in this case? Assuming that the ISP or carrier defines a policy, can the carrier have pretty much any set of rules for users that the carrier wants?

And if you’re of a libertarian or free-market persuasion, what - if any - justification do you have for regulation in this area?

Perhaps the first shibboleth that deserves to be punctured is "bandwidth is free". Much ballyhooed by the Wired Magazine set and others of that viewpoint, in point of fact it simply ain’t true. Carriers spend millions bringing broadband to users, and  hundred-megabyte World-of-Warcraft updates shows that demand for bandwidth can and will rise to fill the pipe no matter how big the pipe is.

In this light, do carriers have the right to engage in various types of shaping/filtering/blocking? If so, what types are permissible? 

We’ll examine this in a series of follow ups. Stay tuned, and feel free to jump in! 

Listening to Experts

Published on 26 Sep 2007 at 10:44 pm by Oliver | 2 Comments | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business.

A friend of mine is a registered dietician. To become one, she had to earn a four-year degree in a curriculum long on science subjects. By the dint of hard work and excellent grades, she was able to intern at a prestigious university hospital. She went on to earn advanced degrees in nutrition and exercise physiology, and has published several research papers.

As a result of her years of study, training, and experience, she gets to deal with patients who read a diet article in a magazine, or talked to someone who took a twelve-week course to be a "nutritionist".

She has chosen to leave the field. There’s no profit in arguing with fools.

Corporations frequently hire outside individuals or groups for their expertise. Getting the corporation to listen is more difficult. The expensive PR consultant drafts the press release, but everyone at the firm is a better writer and will edit the copy. 

There are dozens of examples like this. Here’s a hint, folks: if you hire an expert, let them do their job!  


Requiem for Foleo, and a Prediction

Published on 10 Sep 2007 at 11:15 am by Oliver | No Comments | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business.

Palm recently announced it was pulling the plug on Foleo, the mini-notebook system it had announced a few months ago. It appears as though the reason was resource constraint within Palm - too many different platforms to develop and support in the developer community. This sounds reasonable, although the mixed response the Foleo got must have been a factor.

It’s too bad. Certainly the industry pundits, from their commanding heights, were mostly quick to condemn Foleo, but I suspect most industry pundits don’t face the problem of the average worker-bee; namely that corporate America has converted our "personal computers" into terminals on the corporate network, and locked them down completely. They’ve done so for mostly-valid reasons; security and all that.

Do you remember when computers were personal? Did you ever sneak an Apple II (or an early CP/M) machine throught purchasing, or in the back door? Do you remember the feeling of liberation when you discovered what _you_ could do with a computer?

We need to re-invent the _personal_ computer, and I think the smart cell-phone may be the key. High-end smart phones, such as the Palm Treo, contain way more CPU power than even the best laptops of ten years ago. Add a decent-size screen and a real keyboard, along with a lightweight OS, and you have an entirely competent notebook computer for most office (as well as personal) applications.

Prediction: someone else will pick up the concept of Foleo, if not the design, and you will see a product announcement by the end of 2009. The product will be a thin, 1-kg notebook-sized gizmo into which you will dock your PDA/phone and connect, via 802.11 or some form of cellular data.

It will run a light OS - probably Linux - and be able to handle Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, as well as mail and web.

Some engineering details: the CPU inside will be "two-speed" - a lower voltage, lower power speed for handheld use, and a power-up mode when docked. Thermo-electric cooling might be used to keep the CPU cool when docked and running in high-power mode.

The ‘disk’ will be Flash, and the on-time essentially instant. The docking module will have all the usual I/O slots - SD, USB, etc, and maybe some extra archival storage capacity, but mostly it will be a display and keyboard. A bluetooth mouse is included, with a special slot for docking/charging when not in use. 

Here’s hoping it works well. I’ll buy one, that’s for sure, just as a vote of confidence. 


Published on 5 Sep 2007 at 11:06 am by Oliver | Comments Off | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business, Manifest Masquerade, Pathetic Success, Brain Trust, One Corporation Under God, Business and Corporation Related, Main Stream Media, Public Relations and Marketing, Humor.

I was recently engaged by a small semiconductor company to re-write the rough draft of an article originally penned by a VP of Engineering. Fred, we’ll call him, was a grizzled veteran of our fair industry, and a long-time employee at "Production-Quality Semiconductors" - PQS for short. Fred’s article centered on the many tricky problems of assuring a supply of, well, production-quality parts. It is indeed a complex technical - and business - task.

Fred’s draft had been sent to an editor, who commented that it was disorganized and a bit jumbled, but had potential. If we would organize it better, and deal with one legal problem, they would use the article.

The article was indeed a bit disorganized - lots of good points, but it skipped around from A to B to C and then A again and then some D and a little B and - oh, this on A, and did I mention C? Well, that’s easy enough to fix. I did so, and then turned to the legal problem.

Some years ago, the leading maker of IC plastic-packaging compounds developed a new formulation of the black plastic used to package most ICs.  Said leading supplier of such materials has a well-earned reputation in the business. Their new formulation was intended to improve several key characteristics of packaging materials. Samples were sent to most of the leading semiconductor and packaging companies - Intel, Amkor, TI, NSC, etc. Tests were run - lots of tests. After several months of testing, the material was approved by all and went to production. Things were fine for awhile, but then quality problems appeared, and investigation showed the new material had a previously-unsuspected long-term issue, a new failure path not anticipated or tested for.


So, what’s the legal problem? The magazine editors felt that, since this was hearsay, it might be better to refer to said leading manufacturer as "a leading supplier of IC packaging materials" - why tangle with their legal department? While no one is accusing them of bad faith (or incompetence), it’s better to avoid these things, and anyway the point of the story is just as valid without the name. Everyone in the industry knows it’s ********.

Thus, I edited the article to take out specific names, but make the point anyway - reliability is tricky.

Our friend Fred at PQS ripped the whole article. We’d ruined his priceless prose - ruined the story - changed His Words! How could we???

Uhh, because we’re trained professionals who can write? And it’s what you pay us to do?

Fred wouldn’t approve the re-write. The article never ran. Me? I got paid, so I don’t really care, but in case you’re listening, Fred, the moral of the story is:

    If you hire an expert, listen to them. _Especially_ if you disagree!



Networking Technology

General Interest

Design, Interface, and Usability

Business and Corporation Related


Apple Computer Related