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...