Sunday, 4 September 2011

Rewards and credits

And so we come to the end of Star Wars Episode 4 A New Hope. The villains are vanquished and heroes rewarded.

Time for me to thank all the makers of the videos that have been used  to illustrate this narrative.

Lesson one where are the plans for the death star?

Pic of Darth Vader- Photo credit Me, figure by Lego. (purists may note the blue blade instead of red... Sorry!)


Photo of Stormtrooper over compensating by me. ( you have to admit, that's a big gun)

How to avoid being sold to jawas

Thanks to College humour, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

I have also used the College Humour series troopers even though it bears no resemblance to Star Wars whatsoever...

From the vastness of you tube I would ask you to thank the following people for their contributions by giving them thumbs up if you enjoyed the clip or subscribing to their channels.

 swthirty  cnscollon  hateablate  innsaane   HamillianActor  tokyostormtrooper (You have the groove!)

Littledude514  ElevatorShow   Hanszuper  stevenselectrical Niusereset   OneMinuteGalactica

lockergnome  Bubo25 The extremely talented PatrickBoivin startanica   AlNickelsFilms

Thanks for your time... I will be taking a break then looking at Empire Strikes Back.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Question? Where did Grand Moff Tarkin spend his holiday?

Answer - All over Yavin 4

Winston Churchill is attributed with saying "History is written by the victors". Perhaps if the historians took both sides point of view into account, history might not repeat itself so often.

But then is any record ever truly unbiased? Is it even possible to capture all the facets of a transaction? If we managed to, could we cope with all that information? Sometimes it's easier to remove the unsuccessful tenders and cancelled project files than to hang on to them.

For records management we are often quick to label material as redundant in an effort to maintain control over ever growing collections of material. Our ancestors were no different and thanks to the patient work of archaeologist, we have a picture of the life and times of our ancestors based on what they threw away.

What will an archaeologist look like in 300 years? Will they be a virtual archaeologist piecing together random bytes of code to produce a Wordperfect document. Will there be a need to do so?

Long term retention of digital artifacts seems to revolve around transitions to open standards or recreating original environments through virtualisation. Both have advantages and caveats.

My only concern is, can what we keep or throw away change the future?

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Welcome to Yavin 4

You know, I don't recall the end coming so quickly in 1977 but we are nearly there. The climactic battle between good and evil awaits.

The rebel base has been located courtesy of a well placed tracking device and a pre-arranged escape. (So why did all those Troopers have to die?) The rebels have barely time to brief the attack force before sending them off to destroy the dreaded Death Star..

I love the fact that in the Galaxy far, far away, there are no issues with file compatibility or connection standards. You can chuck data on anything, anywhere, anytime and it just works. Bothan spies obtain the plans, they are then copied to a droid that is ejected from a spaceship, lost in the desert wastes, bushwacked by Jawas, sold to moisture farmers, captured, freed, shot at and there you go, plans that can be easily read and a analysed. 

It makes us look so primitive doesn't it? I can't even imagine such a thing being available in my lifetime.

Why is this? More importantly, why do we accept and put up with it?

Sunday, 14 August 2011


And so we find ourselves in the Millenium Falcon pursued by tie fighters and carrying a tracking device.

There where a lot of shots fired and a lot of misses. A bit like document searching really...Accuracy and speed are sought after but not always mutually exclusive. The main thing is to phrase your searches in a way that is most likely going to get relevant results.

That's all for this week.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Getaway - Unless you are Old Ben

This weeks exiting episode brought to you by the makers of Mandalorian Beer!

Fear not... I haven't sold out to crass commercialism. Nor have I forgotten my responsibility to discuss the works of George Lucas in relation to Knowledge Management

So lets talk about escaping. Not just Death Stars but other things, like responsibilities for example.

Star Wars is all about responsibilities, taking personal responsibility and being responsible and reliable. Darth Vader has his responsibilities to the Emperor and eventually to Luke once he works out the whole thing about fatherhood, Leia must ensure the rebellion survives at all costs. Han eventually realises the value of friendship over money. Ben has the burden of honouring the Jedi and Luke stops being a brat.

Let's not forget Chewie... I guess he has the responsibilities typical of the first mate on any ship. To keep it flying. Our robot companions have whatever responsibilities their programming tells to have.  

What about us?

We are all responsible for ensuring that knowledge is passed on to the next generation. You duck that particular responsibility at your own peril.

Sometimes responsibilities make life hard. Ben is about to demonstrate how hard.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Somebody threw away a perfectly good rebel

Ever feel down in the dumps? Literally?

I have to wonder how all that waste got there in the first place. Think about how much material could have gone into constructing the Death Star and then just consider  how much it would cost to send that material into space. How could you afford to throw all this stuff away if it can be recycled? Surely the galaxy far far away has a need to conserve materials for the war effort against the rebel scum? 

Obviously Grand Moff Tarkin is not concerned about the environment... After all, he did blow up an entire planet.

But waste is not confined to the Imperials. While most large organisations are making a conscious effort to reduce waste for both environmental and profitability motives, the message does not get through to everyone. Ever go to a meeting and get handed an agenda only to see that same agenda displayed on a projector screen throughout the meeting? What about having someone hand you an email they printed out with some comments on it? It still happens...

I'm not saying that paper no longer has a place. The current hype surrounding e-books may have you thinking that books are going the way of the scroll. We were reliably informed that offices were going paperless too... Making the best use of information regardless of the format is the goal. That means not printing material that is born digital unless you really need to and not digitising print material unless you can clearly gain something from the effort.

Fortunately the waste disposal has a door (why?) and our heroes are about to make their way out. Meanwhile Obi Wan has a business meeting with Darth Vader. 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Norwegian tragedy
While this is a fairly light-hearted blog. we are saddened by recent events and wish those affected our sympathies. There is not much information on how we can help but the Norwegian Red Cross is a good place to start.

The Getaway

Okay, this time the actual scene from last week will be played in its entirety. No parodies... Promise.

So picking up where we left off... Searching...

Just how easy was it for Han to find the cell block containing our princess? A little too easy if you ask me. Now I can't see a screen showing the names of each cell inhabitant, can you? So just how did he do it so quickly? No doubt, we are witnessing some Hollywood magic here. Or perhaps it was just a really badly designed information system.

If I was to design a prisoner management system it would not use names at the sharp end. I would separate the name and location of captives so nobody had all the details at once. The prisoner gets a number and that is how the guards refer to them. The guards also know where the prisoner is kept  The administrators know the name and number but cannot access details on the location. Each group knows enough to manage the prisoner and no more. This is something that can be handy for managing confidential information but there are design limitations.

Speaking of which, don't get me started on the design of Death Stars, especially the garbage disposal being accessible from the cell area... Obviously, the designer had never watched an escape movie.

We will talk more about garbage and recycling next time.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?

When everything looks alike the exceptions stand out don't they? Especially with clones. Apparently Luke fails to meet the minimum height criteria and this is the first thing Princess Leia latches onto... Seriously?

It's different with documents. What distinguishes my current project spreadsheet from all the other project spreadsheets I ever created? What about when they are sitting in the document repository with thousands of other spreadsheets. It's not as obvious as a badly fitting Stormtrooper outfit but just like Leia, knowing the differences to look out for is important.Unless it is a duplicate, each document has it's own unique identity composed of metadata. In fact even dupes will have different creation dates. This metadata can be used to filter a search so that it is quite precise.

It all sounds very scientific but typically you know 3 things about what you are looking for that when combined properly, make finding it much easier. These may be the creation date, which does not need to be exact, part of the title (assuming you gave it a decent name of course), the author or the document format as in word excel etc. Only a small selection of documents will share these combined characteristics.

So next time you google, try the advanced search and see if you can get the precise results without the noise. While you're at it, you may want to look up escape plans and handy advice for removing tracking devices from spacecraft...  

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Hiding in plain sight

Think about the last time you lost something, only to find it exactly where you left it but not where it belonged. Frustrating isn't it? Not to mention the family and friends you annoy while looking for it...

You may also probably recall the last time you hid something from someone. A present or other surprise party perhaps?  I'm certain there was a moment of fear when you were nearly discovered.

Concealment is a recurring theme in the Star Wars Saga. Luke is hidden from his father on Tatooine, along with Obi Wan Kenobi. The plans for the Death Star are hidden in R2-D2 and then we come to this week's scene when the Millennium Falcon is dragged aboard the Death Star with it's crew concealed, Trojan Horse style...

Losing track of or deliberately hiding business records has serious consequences. It is a pre-requisite for corruption or fraud. It can be costly when evidence cannot be presented in court, regardless of how that situation came to be.

You can't lose a fish in bathtub but if there are a thousand fingerlings in that bathtub, it gets more challenging to keep track of individuals. So long as they are in the bucket it is a lot more likely they won't go missing.

Compared to fingerlings, documents have unique characteristics that can be more readily searched. In a well set up records system, they are much more easily managed.  

Luke, Han and old Ben are about to cause some trouble. Don't let missing records do that to you!

Great escape time...

Sunday, 3 July 2011

It's all about backup

Spoiler Alert- If you have never watched Star Wars, Alderaan is about to have a very bad day.

A hard drive dies... There go your photos, videos or your thesis. A terrible thing. Now multiply that, not by one hundred, nor a thousand, not ten or a hundred thousand but by millions. That what the data loss for a planet looks like. In the greater scheme of things it's nothing compared to the loss of life.

This is an extreme event and perhaps we may question the point of saving anything if no one is left to use it later. I would answer yes because if there is the slightest chance that someone survives, that stored knowledge is part of their birthright.

So what happens next? Wait, that's not a moon...

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Meanwhile back on the Death Star...


It's a nasty sounding word to match a nasty practice. While I am about to make fun of it, that is within the context of the Star Wars universe. I support the work of Amnesty International and you should too.

There is another type of interrogation that I regularly do as part of my work and that is requirements gathering for business information systems. There are a lot of similarities. I ask a lot of questions and my client is often not free with answers. I'm certain some of my clients think it is torture too. Hopefully that is not because of how I do it... It is a necessary process but it shouldn't be adversarial nor does it need to be.

Preparation is key. Make sure you have a clear idea of where you are at now and have it documented clearly before calling the consultant. That will reduce the pain for everyone.

So now our heroes are on the way to Alderaan while Princess Leia gets the VIP treatment from her own dad and his interrogation droid assistant... Harsh.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

On the road to Alderaan

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”
            Han Solo.        

Like Han, I don't really believe in the Force. I don't believe in blasters either. That's not to say I have no respect for anyone who does. In fact, when the movie starts and that scene appears... I'm a believer.

Belief is powerful. A firm belief can defy logic. Beliefs are a source of conflict and a means to promote savagery and hatred as just. They are also inspirational, a source of courage and joy.

My belief is in the power of information. Properly used, knowledge can liberate, enlighten and enable. It is a source for creativity, imagination and discovery.

Belief is reinforced by ritual, be that physical or procedural. Through practice with a light sabre, Luke aspires to become a Jedi.

My rituals are much less deadly but my intent and motivation is not unlike Luke's. They centre around learning how information created, captured, stored and shared. Through repetition, my understanding of the way knowledge works is expanded little by little. My ability to manage information improves.

Could this practice and increased awareness make me an Information Jedi? No. Nor do I wish to be one. I just want to be better at what I do than I was 5 years ago, one year ago or last week. Not radically better, just enough to know I have progressed.

You know I think I watched too many Kung-Fu movies yesterday. It was unintentional, as I rarely have the opportunity to sit and watch a movie at all but I ended up watching the unlikely combination of Forbidden Kingdom, Kung-Fu Panda and Kill Bill 2. I saw a parallel with what I am talking about today. Like Star Wars, the narrative is based on the journey taken by the central character that involves facing many challenges and the growth that results.

That's another of my beliefs; that you must accept and overcome challenges to be able to grow as a person and as a professional. I want my story be about my journey and my growth. If that's hokey, so be it.

Coming up - Disaster recovery on a planet wide scale; where do you put your off site backup?

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Two tickets to Alderaan please... And no questions asked.

People Smuggling.

It's topical at the moment. There is no doubt that people who take advantage of those desperate enough to do anything to escape their situation, are reprehensible.

So why is it we do not apply the same judgement on Han Solo? Here is someone who demonstrates no redeemable qualities whatsoever. He strikes a deal with Obi Wan and Luke, then kills Greedo and yet we adopt him as a lovable rogue.

We have this evidence that here is someone we should not trust but we do...

In records and information management, we deal with the capture of evidence that is intended to be used to make better business decisions. So who would hire Han Solo based on the facts contained in his employment history?

Should data override gut feel? That is what we are talking about here after all. I have seen people hired based on impressive documentation, who turned out to be duds. A good CV is not evidence of character, nor should it ever be.

Fortunately, Solo turns out to be a rough diamond after all but spare a thought the next time you evaluate based on the record. There may be more to consider than just the facts.

I wonder what would have happened if Obi Wan had spoken to Greedo about Han first? Or had stuck around to see Han get busy with his blaster?

Finally, we are leaving the Cantina and Tatooine and heading to Alderaan. It promises to be a blast.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Next week we finish examining the Cantina... this week we examine me

Sorry for drawing this out so long... I can only say the last 4 weeks has been pretty hard. Hopefully I can get past my end of semester exams. After that, I'm looking forward to a long weekend when I can get this blog back on track.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Pause to reflect

Before you declare me the world's oldest emo, understand that if I seem focused on loss lately it is really because I value what I was given so much.

Fare thee well Helen. We miss you.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Who shot Greedo??

A short post after busy week... Drama with Han and Greedo and with Blogger it seems. Can we really trust the cloud? Evernote and Dropbox yes. Local and cloud access to documents is good! Losing access to my material on Google Docs because there is no local copy. Not so good

Always keep the classic 321 backup strategy in mind. Back up to 3 kinds of media stored in 2 different locations with at least one online.

Now what do I back my cloud up to?

No video this week but A nice cartoon from mr hipp  to enjoy instead.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The severing of hands

"Just when I thought I had my problems on the run, they regrouped and are now making a counter attack".  
 Written on a novelty postcard that I bought in Dandenong in the mid 80's

I was raised to understand that life is hard and that regardless of what is being thrown, keep moving forward or occasionally sideways. It would be very easy to walk away from this project but I refuse. So long as I can post I will continue to do so. Hold me to this.

Back to business. I have decided that the lightsaber is the chain saw of the galaxy far, far away. I have come to this conclusion based on the recurring theme of limb loss in Star Wars. Starting with the Cantina incident. Admittedly, Chainsaws tend to remove extremities by accident and in a very messy way, whereas your lightsaber is precise, controlled and leaves a clean wound. My preference would be to retain my bits intact. I'm sure you feel the same way.

I want to talk about loss. When my father died I lost more than someone I loved. I lost access to what he knew, I lost a direct connection to my ancestry.  Sure, I can get the genealogy worked out but that gives me a list of names of people I never met. What of their stories? The family anecdotes that endear them to me, that make me feel they are worth finding in the first place.

My wife has connected to her past through a diary written by one of her ancestors. This journal is not only important from a personal perspective, it is an historical time capsule. Important enough for copies to appear in the collections of libraries and historical organisations. Had this not been kept and cared for, the only information on record would be the date of birth, marriage and death.

Those facts are important but they don't really bring the emotional response that a shared memory can provide.

So think about those people you are connected to and their stories. Are they captured and cared for? If not, why not? There is so much technology available to us to do this now.

In case you are not convinced of the lethality of the lightsaber...

Next post working title; Who shot first?

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Queue interval music

No posting for this week because family comes first. To make up for my slackness enjoy the dancing startrooper

We hope to resume normal programming shortly

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Lesson five and a bit - More Cantina antics

So last time I think I established that librarians should not require training in the responsible serving of alcohol and that bar staff need not concern themselves with Library of Congress subject headings.

On further reflection, why would you go to a seedy bar to hire a ship in the first place? Why not just go to the docking bays and look for a willing captain and crew to take you where you want to go? Surely Obi Wan could have found Han there without anyone losing an arm...  

I can only assume Old Ben must have sensed that the Cantina was the best option for asking about someone with a no questions policy.

This raises an interesting point. Where we choose to get our information from can shape the outcome we use that information for. We want to know that information we receive is reliable. We don't always go to the most reliable sources for it though.

Now before you assume this is an anti BitTorrent, Lime wire or Knapster rant. I'm not going to get preachy about downloads. Where you get your music from is your business. I'm thinking about what I used to do before Google. No, I'm not anti Google either. It is what it is but is that the most reliable source for information?

Before Google, I would search out trusted sources using a metasearch engine like Metacrawler or Dogpile. I would then search those sources directly for the information. I would compare the sources for accuracy by looking at the sources they drew upon for their information and back in the day I could communicate directly with person responsible to find out more detail if I wanted.

There were fewer netizens back then. The Internet Movie Data Base had just started a website. Before that it was a Usenet group called rec.arts.movies. Ah, the 90's... alt binaries newsgroups... Fond memories...

Then came Google. I still recall getting an email from a colleague suggesting it was worth a look. It changed my process for a while. It was faster. I could ask the question and then look at the results to identify potential sources and go direct to specific content .

Then I had an epiphany. Google is like the Cantina. It's where I go if I want something with no questions asked.  This is because if I where to ask a question it would be "So how come this particular result in ranked first?"I really don't know the answer. Since I know that Google can be gamed can I trust that I am seeing the best sources?  

Metasearch lets me compare results from Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search tools. It is like going to the Docking Bay and talking to all the pilots to find the one best suited. A site that ranks highly across multiple search tools is either the best choice for a trusted source or has the best Search Engine Optimisation strategy. Fortunately, I can tell the difference.

Something to ponder next time you Google....

We are not quite done with the Cantina yet. Nor have forgotten to include the standard parody video.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Lesson five - The Mos Eisley Cantina and information etiquette

For this lesson, we set the scene with a musical interlude, courtesy of Mr "Weird" Al.

As an impressionable eleven year old, I found this particular scene put me off the very idea of ever going near any kind of bar. Later on, I made the mistake of entering the infamous Waterside Hotel on a dare one afternoon, which only confirmed my suspicions about the rough types and suspicious activity that are part and parcel of such seedy dives.   

That was until I discovered three interesting facts. First, I liked girls. Having been educated at a boy's only school, the opportunity to realise this earlier had been denied me. Second, I learned to enjoy alcohol in moderation and still do to this day. Finally, by coincidence I found bars often had both alcohol and girls inside. It was a perfect storm.

Another place I liked was libraries. I still do. You see libraries had the thing that pubs and bars lacked. Answers. The same curiosity that got me to walk into the Waterside was only ever satisfied when I found what I was looking for in the stacks. I was never punched in the face or thrown up on at a library, an added benefit.

If I am ever going to make a point then it is this. There is a lot of talk about library 2.0  and libraries become a third space. The move away from the word library toward leaning hub is not disturbing of itself. It simple reflects that fact that print media, like the scroll and the clay tablet that preceded it, is no longer the most efficient way to get information. It concerns me that the library community is becoming more focused on the library as a social space as opposed to a learning space. Part of this is the perception of libraries being seen as boring by a section of the community. Another aspect is the need for local government to recover costs of services wherever possible.

I am not into multitasking. If I want to study, I want to be in a space that is conducive to study. If I want to be social, then I go to somewhere social. If you want to have coffee and music in the library, you may as well put books in the bars and teach the bar staff to shelve and catalogue. Imagine the patron wandering up to the bar and asking for some Tolkien and a schooner. 

A more detailed look at the Cantina next time.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Lesson four - Jedi mind tricks to amuse your friends and influence people.

Set the scene - Outskirts of Mos Eisley. Imperial checkpoint. You and your stormtrooper clone buddies have just pulled up a speeder with a young boy, an old man and two droids on board. By coincidence, you are looking for two droids just like these ones. Nevertheless, you both know these are not the droids you are looking for and tell them to move along. What a nice old man...

For some tasks there are better ways than human judgement alone, particularly if an individual's ability to evaluate results based on experience is lacking or biased. Sometimes this can be addressed through engineered solutions that automatically decide for us. A smoke detector takes all the guesswork out of deciding if you can smell smoke or not.

Information as evidence is neutral. It's just raw data. Human interpretation of information is subjective. The questions we ask and our reaction to the answers presented by the data determine the outcome. Occasionally, we choose to ignore the evidence that doesn't fit what we want to see.

This week's video is a case in point. I sought something to illustrate the scene I wanted to examine. I went to YouTube and entered "These are not the droids you are looking for". I got a number of responses, including the original scene, plus a number of parodies. My experience allowed me to tell which was which and from there select what I thought was appropriate.

What if I had never seen Star Wars? How would I know what to choose? Could YouTube choose for me? No, not really.
Being able to impartially evaluate unfamiliar information should be a basic skill. It also needs to be methodical and the techniques should be commonplace. That's why I was pleased to see Edward De Bono's Six Hats methodology being used in a local primary school. Critics point out the hats are silly and the process is longwinded and it can feel that way initially. Practitioners will point out that it becomes more intuitive with time and the actual hats are just symbolic. What matters is that the tool gives anyone a reasonable chance of making better decisions more consistently, even if they don't have a great deal of life experience.

This is critical in a business context. Too often, we assume that if we just dump all our data somewhere there will be someone with an overview that can advise us. In a typical office that may be the administrative assistant, office manager or that person who was with the company before television was invented. Let's hope they never go on leave or retire right?

For the record, my resolution for this scene would have been to shoot all droids matching the description on sight and then sort out the mess later...

And as a parting gift this week, here is another mind tricks video

Trooper - College Humour 

Next stop - The Cantina...

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Lesson Three - Why genealogy is important or "My dad was a good guy right?"

The scene - You are Luke Skywalker. The little R2 unit you bought off those Jawas has run away. You tracked him down but had a nasty run in with some Tusken raiders until old Ben shows up. Turns out he knows about your dad...

This clip has nothing to do with that scene but it's a nice follow up on the whole stolen droid thing from last time.

Ben. An old, mysterious man who lives alone in the middle of nowhere. That's not the least bit suspicious is it? Of course he seems nice enough and he did save Luke's life.

Turns out good old Ben has a past and Luke's dad was part of that. Really? Where are the records to prove this?

Seriously!  Perhaps the most important information there is relates to identity. This information defines who we are and what we have done and can do. It establishes our character and place in the community for better or worse. For our descendants, this information will be an invaluable resource, just as the material about our ancestors helps us understand where we came from and how we got to this point.

Should you really rely on a hermit for reliable genealogical data? Turned out the answer was no... I suppose Telling Luke his father was killed by Darth Vader is easier than saying "Luke, your dad is a seven foot tall homicidal maniac that is more machine than man and who sucks up to the Emperor big time".

If there is a moral here it might be to never falsely embellish your LinkedIn profile. It will catch up with you in the end...

Next time - That old Jedi magic has you in it's spell.


Saturday, 26 March 2011

Lesson Two - Buying a droid with confidence

Set the scene - You are Luke. You live with your Uncle Owen on Tatooine. Some Jawas have just pulled up out front in what can only be described as a steam-punk version of Noah's Ark and they want to sell you a droid or two. Got it?

Regardless of the answer, we know that this business arrangement of purchasing items of unknown origin, with no questions asked is commonplace on Tatooine (and certain places on Earth for that matter), and it is decidedly suspect.  So what could be done about it?

There are three pieces of information you really should demand in this situation. Whether you are buying a droid, a speeder, the Millenium Falcon or a DVD player from a shifty looking bloke at the local trash and treasure market.

  • Service history documentation - Before you go sticking your spanner into a droid you should know who was there first and just what they got up to in there.
  • The Manuals - We all know people like Luke that can pull things apart and put them back together with no parts left over. For the rest of us a good exploded diagram is a real boon. Unless your Droid is made by Ikea.
  • Proof of ownership - The last thing you want is to have invested time and effort cleaning and fixing a Droid only to discover he is the property of old Ben Kenobi. Caveat Emptor my friends...

A legitimate dealer would have all this information on file and they would provide it on request because they understand their reputation rests on that.  They also ask for it when buying something to protect that reputation.

This applies to organisational data as well. Reputation is established on the ability to accurately capture, store and retrieve data in a timely manner. What would you trust? The report that has all the audit history from an EDRMS or the word document someone remembered was somewhere on a shared drive?

There's another lesson in this for all of us. Sterilise your tech before you dispose of it! Wipe the data to make sure your personal information does not fall into the wrong hands when passed on. If you can't do that then don't get rid of it in the first place.

What do you call someone from Tatooine anyway? Are they Tatooinese? Tatooinians? Discuss.

Next time - Lesson Three - Why Genealogy is important or"My dad was a good guy right?"

Saturday, 19 March 2011

How to avoid being caught by Jawas or Deja Vu

This time, I don't need to set the scene. Someone has already done it for me!
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's Star Wars

Now this post could be about maintaining continuity in a narrative arch but let's not go there... Instead, I want to focus on the importance of records as an aid to memory. There are a few people with Eidetic memory who can remember what they did at 9am on October 3rd, 1973*. for the rest of us there but two options;

  1. Not worry ourselves about such trivial nonsense.
  2. Hope that there is some record held somewhere that can tell us, especially if it was really important to know, as in "Where were you at the time of the murder?" important.
So in this scene, we have two droids in the desert. One was built there, the other has visited several times. You would think they already knew their way around wouldn't you? 

Not necessarily. As a society, we are placing more and more of our memory into the care of technology. Cloud computing makes that information available to us from anywhere on a plethora of devices. Our memory is everywhere and that should make it harder to lose. Ask anyone who has ever lost a hard drive that was not backed up and they will tell you all about digital amnesia. Perhaps this would explain what happened to R2-D2 and C3-P0? Or they just got reprogrammed.

The Cloud is meant to avoid this. For the first time in human history, we can capture almost every interaction in minute detail and store it. This can be an absolute blessing for those whose memory is ravaged by disease. If we can retain this virtual memory over time it will be a treasure trove for researchers and historians. I'm certain that 200 years from now an anthropologist will write a paper on Lolcats that will provide a unique insight into the culture of our time.

This amazing ability to capture and store everything comes with a price. Sometimes there are things we would rather not recall with such graphic intensity. The four hours between 10pm and 2am, feeling helpless as the events of September 11 unfolded in my lounge room, courtesy of CNN.  Christchurch, Fukushima, The Boxing Day Tsunami and Haiti would all vie to be top of my list. I mean no disrespect to the victims or survivors but I'm sure they have no desire to relive those events either.

So is there a need to balance the cultural memory so that it is not dominated by such events? I don't think so. As much as I would rather forget them, they form part of the record, just as the memoirs of soldiers who served at Waterloo, Ypres or Gallipoli inform us of those times or the remains of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii provide a window into that time and place. Because even though there is great tragedy here there is also hope and inspiration. Far better to have this than nothing at all.  

This is all rather serious. It needs to be because we may be leaving more behind than any generation before us. We are also placing a great deal of faith in cloud computing keeping that memory safe for future generations.

Back to our scene. Our two droids, with no recollection of having ever been here are about to have an encounter that will set them on a new and exiting journey. Perhaps it is better they don't know what coming...

*I'm pretty sure I was at school assembly, singing the national anthem. (I think it was still God save the Queen)

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Lesson One - Where are the plans for the Death Star?

Set the scene. The Imperials storm the Diplomatic vessel. Darth Vader grabs the Captain by the throat and demands to know the location of the Death Star plans. It does not go well for the Captain...

Here are the pearls of wisdom to be gained from this.

  1. Secure your data. We could have skipped that entire scene if only the Imperials had bothered to lock down the plans properly in the first place. Sloppy.
  2. Make your data accessible where appropriate. You really shouldn't need to kill someone to get some information, even if you want to. Besides, his own people already told him the plans where not aboard the ship. Face it. That was just nasty. 
  3. Never ask the person in charge for a document. Let's be honest here, they won't know. They make decisions using the information. Knowing where it is is unnecessary detail. Asking the records admin is always a better investment of time and effort. Learning to search for yourself is good too.
  4. Sometimes an indirect approach works better. Maybe Lord Vader should have asked "Do you have any information on big lasers or large space stations?" Being specific can be a disadvantage. What if the rebels called the Death Star something else?    
  5. Put your eggs in more than one basket. If you have important data make sure you have redundancies in place. The Rebels should have made copies and put them on more ships... Or more droids. You would think that in a galaxy far far away there would be a data network of some kind wouldn't you?  
That's it for now. Next time we look at how good research can pay off when it comes to buying droids off Jawas.

The expected introduction

Dear Reader,

Like many of my generation, I sat in a cinema in 1977 and was spellbound by an epic tale. For me it was more than an entertainment. I discovered teachings that I would share with you now. Be patient, it may be a long ride...