Who benefits from the continuation of culture ?

From something I wrote a decade ago that still seem quite appropriate given the difficulty we have we with change in this country who benefits from the continuation of culture. “The sanctity of property, the unflinching materialism of farmer calculations, the defense of professional status” were for decades the key values of the Irish State, values baptized by the Church (Lee, 1989 pp 159). These barren virtues were typical of the mercantile cultures that predated the intellectual enlightenment in Europe, and indicate unenlightened attitudes to knowledge and innovation as dangers that can upset the status quo. Innovation does upset the status quo, generating a new dynamic in a non-linear system leads to unpredictable results. Enabling this dynamic to proceed is the essence of economic growth and development. Powerful interest groups tend to block technologies to protect their rents (Mokyr, 2000, 2002); society’s structures, beliefs, and attitudes need to ensure that dynamic change is allowed to occur. The essential Faustian bargain of dynamic living systems is the recognition that the birth of new things involves the death of old... read more
Dubunking some of our notions about support for Science

Dubunking some of our notions about support for Science

We held our first #debunk in the Project Art Centre on the 9th of April.  It’s the first in a series of free morning Near Future events in Dublin where we explore #debunking some of the truism’s that misguide us all in our thinking and decision making. After great coffee and pastries our first speaker Barre Fitzpatrick (pictured above) spoke eloquently on the nature and role of funding for basic Science research in Ireland.  This is a topic of critical importance to Ireland as a society and its place in the world. Barre pointed out that before 1999 we lacked a serious policy and investment in Science. This despite significant achievement in Science over many years. The changed with the foundation of Science Foundation Ireland in 2000 and in some respects the period from 2000-2009 can be seen as a brief golden age for Science in Ireland.  An all too brief period it seems. Despite a decade of work the foundations that were being build are starting to crumble. A letter signed by over 900 Irish Scientists appearing just before our talk served to underline this problem. A key point that Barre made, and is raised by the letter is that By their very nature, such discoveries are not predictable and cannot be prescribed by what the Government calls “oriented basic research”. Equally unpredictable are the areas in which important discoveries will be made. Basic research should be funded on the criterion of excellence alone to ensure a credible and sustainable scientific infrastructure. The Innovation Union Scorecard shows that Ireland According to the Innovation Union Scoreboard 2014, Ireland ranks ninth on the performance of research and innovation systems in the... read more
A sense of #Úllconf

A sense of #Úllconf

I have copious notes to write up on Ùll. Pages and pages. Eventually The images below are a sensory fragments of a  “A family wedding without the family rows.” It is to paraphrase someone in the corridor “Enough technology to qualify as a business event, but to call it a technology event undersells the scale of what it does”. And yes. The 5K was completed (evidence below).... read more
Snails, Systems and Slack

Snails, Systems and Slack

Paul Quigley CEO of Newswhip wrote a lovely blogpost about the great Snail Derby of 1998. Faced with the problem of getting the Snails to race in the same direction, an innovative 6yo came up with Snail Trails.  Snail trails. Snail trails are not a product you can buy. Snail trails are a streak of water, placed in front of a snail using one’s fingertip. You see, snails prefer pushing themselves over wet surfaces than dry surfaces. My girlfriend observed that a simple streak of wetness leading directly from the snail’s current position to the finish line kept them on the straight and narrow, so to speak. Snail trails saved the day, and the snail derby of 1988 was a roaring success. Paul goes on to describe how you create snail trails for customer acquisition for SaaS businesses. There is a broader lesson for businesses in the use of technology.  Demming said that “A bad system will beat a good person every time.”  A snail trail is a better system. It’s a very clever use of lightweight technology to reduce friction in a process.  Good systems do that. They reduce organisational friction.  They drive better organisational conversations.   And the value of reducing friction in processes and conversations is very very large. One company that is building organisational snail trails is Slack.  I’m a very big fan of Slack. The value of what it’s is doing is rumoured to be up to $2 Billion. Double what it was worth 12 months ago. That’s part of the value that Slack is capturing. And it reflects a small portion of value that it is creating by building better Snail Trails. /Dermot... read more

Less a conscience provision than bigotry derived from religious principles

The Catholic Church would like to insert a conscience provision around the forthcoming equal marriage legislation. Not one that has an opt out for priests. That already exists.  But they’re looking for one for lay Christians. Asking “does he not have freedom of conscience. Is his conscience different to mine as a priest”. At one level it sounds almost reasonable. What’s not to like about having freedom of conscience? In the end though religious based bigotry is still bigotry. Its also a power play. If you are member of a religious group and members of religious groups have an opt out from providing certain services there will be an attempt by the church to ensure that none of its members provide those services. More fundamentally its freedom for bigotry. As with many good arguments when I Googled a few specific phrases, a well written version of what I wanted to say presents itself  on Crooked Timber Bigotry derived from religious principles is still bigotry. Whether the people who implemented Bob Jones University’s notorious ban on inter-racial dating considered themselves to be actively biased against black people, or simply enforcing what they understood to be Biblical rules against miscegenation is an interesting theoretical question. You can perhaps make a good argument that bigotry-rooted-in-direct-bias is more obnoxious than bigotry-rooted-in-adherence-to-perceived-religious-and-social-mandates. Maybe the people enforcing the rules sincerely believed that they loved black people. It’s perfectly possible that some of their best friends were black. But it seems pretty hard to make a good case that the latter form of discrimination is not a form of bigotry. And if Friedersdorf wants to defend his sincerely-religiously-against-gay-marriage... read more
Minister’s Reply to Primary Online Database Complaint

Minister’s Reply to Primary Online Database Complaint

I received the following reply to my email complaint in relation to the Primary Online Database (POD). Link takes you to the full letter. The fundamental questions still remain unanswered. My comments are interspaced with text from the Ministers  letter On retention of data The current retention policy for Primary Online Database (POD) data is for records to be maintained for the longer of either the period up to the pupil’s 30th Birthday or for a period of ten years since the student was last enrolled in a primary school The Department’s retention policy is for audit and accounting purposes as pupil’s data is used in the allocation of teaching posts and funding to schools. The policy also serves to trace retention trends in the education system, is important for longitudinal research and policy formation, as well as being an important statistical indicator nationally and internationally. Aggregate and not individual data is used for the majority of these purposes This reads to me as “we’ll hold data until the kids are 30 even though we only need aggregate information for statistical purposes.” There is a clear conflict  in need between aggregate information, information for allocation of resources while children are in school and holding detailed information until the children are 30 (or possibly longer given we don’t know what processes will be in place to remove the information in 18 years time). On the racist nature of the cultural/ethnic categories We are committed to reviewing the questions asked in POD. As part of this we have reviewed our question in POD on the collection of information on Ethnic or Cultural Background. We feel that the question used... read more
Apples and Energy. Motivation and the Úll 5K.

Apples and Energy. Motivation and the Úll 5K.

Its not often that you can say a conference helped change your life. Especially a technology conference with no mind or body changing gurus in sight. Úll was that conference for me. So when Dermot Daly (the other Dermot) asked me to write a blog post for Úll about running a 5K for at last year’s conference I was only happy to write. He also mentioned the theme of this year’s conference is around the subject of motivation. The piece below is thoughts on motivation, running the 5K and Úll itself. Turns out this wasn’t quite what I started out to write. After two years of not going to Úll (and regretting it) last year I decided to go. At some point probably early in March I got an email saying that they were going to run a charity 5K at Úll. I was badly out of condition and badly overweight at the time, and hadn’t done any jogging, cycling, or proper exercise in quite a while. The initial thoughts were a mix of “bugger I’ll look silly if I don’t do it” and “If Dermot and Sasha are doing it sure I’d better give it a try” combined with “well it is for charity”. There were about 5 weeks to Úll when I started training. I downloaded a couple of Couch to 5K apps, picked one of them and started the program a couple of days later. After a couple of weeks, I bought a new pair of runners. By the time I got to Úll last year I was up to about 3K and was about 4 to 5 weeks into my... read more
Dept of Education and Primary Online Database

Dept of Education and Primary Online Database

What is the Department of Education up to with the Primary Online Database. Simon McGarr has a hypothesis Why is the Department of Education so determined the #POD database be established that it will threaten to defund children's education? — Simon McGarr (@Tupp_Ed) February 8, 2015 I'd have said it was blind institutional inertia. But then I read the papers on the site the Dept refers schools to re DP from the #POD site — Simon McGarr (@Tupp_Ed) February 8, 2015 Though it is always impossible to know the motivation of a gov Dept, my new theory fits all the available facts and explains #POD mysteries. — Simon McGarr (@Tupp_Ed) February 8, 2015 Dept of Ed plans to keep a database of sensitive personal data on school children goes back to at least 2008, per DPC http://t.co/euMEJTO5vO — Simon McGarr (@Tupp_Ed) February 8, 2015 2008 was the year Louise O'Keeffe lost her Supreme Court case to find the Dept liable for child abuse in school. Appealed to ECHR #POD — Simon McGarr (@Tupp_Ed) February 8, 2015 Some extracts from the Data Protection for Schools site written in consultation with the Dept and which they link to pic.twitter.com/Uz3wqw8dfv — Simon McGarr (@Tupp_Ed) February 8, 2015 That site advocates grossly excessive "indefinite" retention periods for sensitive data, obvs. pic.twitter.com/tuVnEfTjLW http://t.co/SWlu9LrPvu — Simon McGarr (@Tupp_Ed) February 8, 2015 Dept is also seeking to hold children's data indefinitely, per this circular. The 30yo piece is a smokescreen. #POD pic.twitter.com/9OCK8vxsOD — Simon McGarr (@Tupp_Ed) February 8, 2015 They're explicit: why hold kids records indefinitely? It is to use against them to defend abuse claims in... read more
The Emperor’s New Facts

The Emperor’s New Facts

“It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble, it’s the things we do know that just ain’t so.”  Artemus Ward We’re focussed on helping people improve their businesses in Near Future.  And we think a lot about how we might do that. A part of that involves improved thinking, and asking awkward questions.  I’ve found over time that most ideas are logically constructed and the best way to challenge ideas are to challenge the assumptions, the basis on which they’re built.  If the assumptions are wrong everything else falls apart. Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert L Sutton wrote a wonderful book on evidence based management a few years ago called “Hard Fact, Dangerous Half Truths & Total Nonsense” which poked holes in many of the modern Shibboleths of management. One of the myths that Sutton and Pfeffer explored in their books was on the nature of Financial Incentives. The evidence shows that incentives sometimes demotivate, sometimes motivate the wrong behaviour and often attract the wrong sort of talent. Even in the best of circumstance are damn hard to get right. Even a company as clever as Microsoft has managed to design disastrous incentive systems that it has now abandoned. We are planning a breakfast event in a few weeks in. It will be on the theme of what we know that isn’t true.  It is designed to break open a few management myths, the Emperors New Facts. The event will be invite only and we have a few open slots, email dermot  @nearfuture.io if you’d like to be included in this or future events that we might... read more