American economist Leo Cherne died in 1999. He was a bit of an optimist if we rely on his oft repeated thought. I first saw it in 1980.
“Computers are incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid. Human beings are incredibly slow, sloppy, and brilliant. Together they are powerful beyond imagination.”
As our society becomes more involved with computer based technology, we should notice that the marriage of computers and humans results in an offspring that might be “fast, accurate and brilliant” but “slow, sloppy and stupid” is not out of the question.
Horse breeders have known for decades that the transmittable genes do not always present as you wish. Fast, high endurance horses like Secretariat do not always come from fast sires with little endurance and slow mares with great endurance. Transmittable genes show up the desired result about 25% of the time.
With computers and people I doubt the good result occurs more often. The key to better, not available to horse breeders, is managing how the two come to interact. There are choices. Good outcomes depend on management not on a hope.
There are some things to notice.
If you can’t do it with a pencil, you can’t do it with a computer either. Computers do not resolve chaos, they just make it visible quicker. Harder to find the trail usually, too.
Obamacare failed partly because no one was in absolute charge. Computer system developments need a dictator. Someone who demands the outcome and cannot be dissuaded by technicians or lawyers or politicians.
Intuitive, sometimes called “user friendly,” is a synonym for rigid. If you want the system to be usable you must drive the users to use it the way it wants to be used. The problem is that developers use their idea of intuition instead of the intuition the user will bring to the site.
Users have a duty to be a little more aware of what can and cannot be done by a computer.
Developers sometimes confuse quantity with quality. Quality is usable, quantity gets in the way, especially if some of the quantity is obsolete. Purge systems regularly. Archives are okay but not in the mainstream of the site.
Complexity is not a value, even though some other developers might think it is. Recall Finagles fourth law of programming and if you are the dictator, force the technicians to avoid it.
“Never make anything simple if you can make it complicated and beautiful.”
Few websites designed by governments, large corporations, or businesses with complicated product can meet the intuitive and simple guidelines. Rebuilding systems is terrifically costly so few want to do it. Customer service frequently tells people the information is available on line. That may well be true if you can find it.
I have been keeping track a little lately. Not many large sites give me what I want on the first try. Sometimes never. I think it is not me. I have a clue about how to program and arrange data access.
Organizations cannot rely on the luck of the combination. It takes clear direction, maintenance and a dictator.
Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario. In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.
Please be in touch if I can help you. firstname.lastname@example.org 866-285-7772