Thursday, May 24, 2007

IBM Technical Leadership Exchange

I'm on my way home from The 2007 European "Technical Leadership Exchange".

Luis was there.... As was Andrew. And so was Roo.

Being my usual useless self, I failed to find or say hello to any of them.


Regardless, I had a (mostly) excellent time.  Some useful technical sessions, some excellent "soft" sessions, good networking opportunities (even if there's something deeply wrong about drinking Champagne inside the Disney park while the children are locked outside) and some very good keynote speakers (Bruno Di Leo in particular).

I say "mostly", however, thanks to my ability to injure myself in unexpectedly exciting ways.

I'm not sure how I did it but I have managed to mess up my neck: I can barely move it and, whenever I do, I am in agony.

I've dosed myself up with paracetamol and ibuprofen, left the conference early, moved my flight forward and booked an appointment with my doctor for tomorrow.   Most annoying: there were some sessions today that I really wanted to see but there was no way I would have been able to sit through them. Pity :-(

Apart from that though, an excellent event.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The one where Richard writes to his MP

My MP voted for David Maclean's grubby attempt to exempt Members of Parliament from the Freedom of Information act. So I wrote to him:

Dear Jim Fitzpatrick,

I understand from the BBC
( that you voted to
give the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill a third reading. I was
surprised as none of the supposed justifications I have heard for this
bill are credible.

I have not felt the need to write to my MP before but your cynical,
self-serving act has outraged me in a way I didn't think possible.

I hope you are ashamed of yourself.

Yours sincerely,

Richard G Brown

He wrote back. I haven't asked for permission to report what he said so I'll just show you my reply:

Dear Jim,

Thank you for your quick response.

Although the downgrading of MPs' expenses from being covered under FoI to being available at the discretion of the speaker is worrying, my problem with this bill is somewhat deeper.

Whenever parliament imposes a new regulation or obligation on others, there are real costs: complying with the regulation can be expensive, failure to do the right thing can mean otherwise well-meaning people find themselves on the wrong side of the law and people will find ways to exploit the regulation in unintended ways, to the detriment of those forced to comply with it.

The great beauty of FoI was that it finally forced MPs to experience some of this phenomenon: silly, timewasting queries that waste researchers' time, the indignity of having one's expenses published and the need to be familiar with complicated processes in order to keep confidential correspondence private were all consequences of the FoI legislation and served to remind MPs - every day - of the knock-on costs that occur when parliament creates red tape with abandon.

I was, therefore, utterly outraged when you and others surveyed the impact of FoI on your working life and, rather than learn a lesson from it and resolve to do better when regulating in the future, chose simply to exempt yourself from it.

You may have noticed that nobody else in the country has such privilege; we cannot opt out of rules and regulations that we find inconvenient.

It was this arrogant show of hypocrisy that drove me to write to you and, although I was impressed by - and grateful for - your quick response, I continue to be dismayed by your voting for this bill.

Thanks and best regards,


Monday, May 14, 2007

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I want to move to Ukraine

Yes. I know I shouldn't have. But I seem to have found myself watching the Eurovision Song Contest.

Ukraine's entry is quite possibly the most insanely silly song I have ever seen.

Think Su Pollard meets Elton John meets Pet Shop Boys meets Dame Edna Everage.

Jaw-droppingly bizarre.

Friday, May 11, 2007

WebSphere Stuff

I was in Munich this week for some technical training on new IBM WebSphere products.

My main focus this week was on learning more about WebSphere Service Registry and Repository and WebSphere Business Services Fabric.

Many people may wonder why, in this connected age, we need to fly halfway across Europe to sit in the same room as each other to learn this stuff: why can't we do it remotely?

The reason is that a large amount of the value (and learning) comes from the spontaneous discussions over coffee, the chats over drinks and the atmosphere created in the classroom when one student's questions trigger somebody else's.   I've not yet seen this work as well when done remotely.

Munich Airport Rules

As my regular readers will know, I don't do queues.

Therefore, my entire week in Munich (of which more later) has been spent in eager anticipation of the journey home.

You see, Munich Airport have invested in the most fantastic check-in system for Lufthansa passengers.

As soon as you enter Terminal Two, there is a bank of self-check-in machines.

But these are no ordinary self-check-in machines.

There are self-check-in machines that weigh your checked backage, print a strip for you to attach and provide a conveyor belt to send your bag to the plane.

No need to queue for "fast" bag drop!!!

I've used them several times and still get excited by them.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Twitter, Dopplr and stuff

As Andy correctly points out, I signed up to Dopplr earlier this week (I am "gendal") and immediately discovered that he and I would be in Edinburgh at the same time the following day. Spooky.

We had drinks and dinner and he reminded me about all the stuff that is happening outside the world of WebSphere, the Financial Services Sector and BPM. He is a bad man. I don't get paid on Web 2.0!

However, he's not quite accurate. He did interest me in Twitter and, last night, I signed up (I am "gendal")

So now what?

Do I get charged for each text I receive? (It's turned off until I know!)

How do I tell it who I'm interested in hearing from?

I'm sure it's all obvious :-)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

SOX for Politicians

James links to a suggestion that politicians should be forced to read - and understand - any legislation they sign.

What an excellent idea!

I guess there's the minor problem that, were this rule to be applied more widely, you'd probably need to test all citizens before they're allowed to vote.  Not something I'd relish.  The cleverer someone is, the more ridiculous their political beliefs usually turn out to be. (You, dear readers, do not count, of course).

I wonder if there is any way to achieve this directly?

I suppose one could encourage the media to ask questions about bills politicians have voted for in an attempt to ridicule them.

Another option, I guess, would be to find a way to encourage bill drafters to include little nuggets that, left unamended, would make something bad happen to an MP.

But there must be some more creative ideas :-)

Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool!

I ordered some old maps of London -  and ancient plans relating to the land the flat now stands on - from the Corporation of London the other week.

My interest in old maps shows no sign of being sated though... it seems you can fly over 1843 London on Google Earth now too!