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Comment: Re:Shame this happened (Score 2) 122

by plover (#46786807) Attached to: Plant Breeders Release 'Open Source Seeds'

A lot of the animosity towards Monsanto comes from their overall behavior. Creating the terminator gene is first to mind. Next are the numerous allegations about misconduct: complaints that they do inadequate studies, they hire certain researchers expecting certain study outcomes, that they tamper with study results, and that they have bribed government officials. However, most of those reports come from the wacko anti-GMO crowd (who are really a bunch of anti-anything idiots), so it's hard to know if there's a shred of truth to any of the complaints.

The biggest gripe I have is their drive to produce pest- and herbicide-resistant crops. Every one of these is putting other farmers' crops at risk, because they're creating pesticide-resistant super-bugs and herbicide-resistant super-weeds. Those bugs and weeds don't limit themselves to Monsanto-seeded fields, they're natural organisms that spread, and those bugs are now attacking non-Monsanto crops, and the weeds are infesting non-Monsanto fields. Monsanto knew this was going to happen from the start of the program, they estimated it would take about 20 years for it to happen (it actually took less than 10 for the corn rootworm to evolve Bt resistance), yet they went ahead and did it anyway.

Had they focused their modifications only on creating high yield and high nutrition crops, instead of trying to fight the resistance battle, their overall agricultural activities would have been a lot more responsible.

Comment: Re:So much nonsense in terms (Score 2) 236

by plover (#46785689) Attached to: Criminals Using Drones To Find Cannabis Farms and Steal Crops

LED lamps do not put out nearly as much heat as High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lamps. I have a (disconnected) 400W HPS that I could easily have cooked on the top of the reflector, and probably broiled meat directly beneath it. I replaced it with a 144W LED floodlamp, and now I can hold the operating heat sink in my hand; the glass lens pane on the bottom is at room temperature. I am no longer concerned about fire safety in my house.

One major difference, though, is I'm growing orchids, which require far less light than cannabis. I need only two 144W LED floodlamps to illuminate a 72 square foot area. The pot growers will cram as many 400 W lamps in a grow operation as they can, sometimes a dozen or more in a single small room, whatever they can draw from the circuit breaker panel. They'll keep a large external vent fan running year round, including the dead of winter, to keep the room from igniting.

If I were to grow pot, I'm sure I'd need a lot more light fixtures, but even a dozen LED lamps in the same room probably wouldn't risk burning my house down.

Comment: Re:Enh as much as I dislike Oracle... (Score 2) 152

by plover (#46785595) Attached to: Oracle Deflects Blame For Troubled Oregon Health Care Site

Oracle consultants were in the midst of the mess, they saw the failings, they repeatedly reported to the state that the project was going off the rails, and yet they still managed to cash their paychecks.

Had the consultants actually threatened them with "either you hire a professional to do the systems integration or we're off the job," and had they then removed themselves from the failing project, they'd be 100% blameless. But they didn't walk away, they just wrote some CYA memos and collected their money.

Oracle gets to take as much blame as anyone for their mess.

Comment: Re:Nonsense (Score 1) 283

by plover (#46783623) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: System Administrator Vs Change Advisory Board

Hes not saying "dont do that", hes saying "dont be an obnoxious obstacle when this stuff comes up." Tell them theyre doing it wrong, if they insist, fulfill the request to the best of your ability, and make sure you have records of where you told them they were doing it wrong.

That would be fine if it were true, and if it were the end of it. But it's not. The enablers take over. If the bad ideas aren't stopped early by facts, their owners proceed down whatever path they've concocted, and the further they get without objection the more convinced they are that it's the correct path. An enabler will not tell them they're on the wrong path; or they'll say it once, but never correct them again for fear of losing their job (only a blocker says "you're still on the wrong path".) Without honest feedback about the mistakes being made, you can go a long way before realizing that you've led yourself astray.

One big problem is the belief that all problems can be stopped by governance processes. Therefore, all these processes are designed to be a form of change prevention. The idea is that by preventing incorrect changes, you avoid risk. But a process cannot distinguish between an incorrect change and a valuable change until after it has executed, so it must slow them all down equally. A process also handles the unknown poorly - it is designed to handle only certain changes, and everything else is awkward or not streamlined.

Change approval processes also encourage lies. When someone has to get a change through a process, they will tick whichever checkboxes will get them through the process with the least amount of effort, struggle, or paperwork; they will not voluntarily tick the box that ensures a microscopic review of their change, even when it may be appropriate.

Worse than all of the above, governance processes are hugely inefficient in that they're after the fact: create a large pile of changes, try to deploy it, then wait around days, or weeks to learn only then that the changes aren't approved. The feedback from governance is so late that the developer has long moved on to other tasks. Stakeholders get their changes in months instead of minutes.

Another sign the process is off the rails is if the disapproval is issued due to failure to follow the process, not with problems in the task being attempted. Too many failing processes leads further around the vicious cycle of process 'improvement', that then creates a process to follow the process, inserting delays into the delays. (Yo, dawg, I heard you like process, so I put process in your process...)

If you ever want to read a story about how bad process can get in the real world, read Red Plenty by Francis Spufford. He tells an interesting tale of just how far the Soviet Union's bureaucracy went, including goofiness such as one process that valued a machine by weight. The more modern machine that doubled production weighed less than the older machine it replaced, therefore the older machine was more valuable, and the budget rules that ensured progress did not permit replacing a more expensive machine with a cheaper machine.

Instead of after-the fact governance process, strive for continual, automated testing, starting with Test Driven Development. Have a repeatable method for delivering products that have quality built in from their very design. Once you've established the trust, you can minimize the processes. Something else valuable is a fail-forward philosophy: if you acknowledge that bugs will happen no matter what ("Failure is always an option"), you can often survive by putting in place the ability to recover from defects within minutes by being able to push out new patches. So instead of trying to avoid all risk by using a big process, you can get away with minimal process by accepting a little risk. This is a great approach because everything moves fast, especially the delivery of benefits.

Comment: Re:Nonsense (Score 4, Insightful) 283

by plover (#46778615) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: System Administrator Vs Change Advisory Board

"Yes men", or "enablers" as you call them, are the root cause of the out-of-control bureaucracy problem.

Management wants desperately to have processes that can be followed by minimum wage desperate people. They want to believe that they're incredibly smart and insightful, and that their knowledge of their business is so absolute and perfect that a process is easily applied to every situation. The enablers then create the real problems by saying "yes, we'll make this work," when they are actually lying. The problems then get worse, because the enablers also feel that every status report must be green, otherwise their process is not as perfect as they said it was.

The transparent lies breed more processes to control the mistakes that never seem to get fixed, despite the change review board processes. Nobody ever questions the process, because they'd be seen as a blocker. Change becomes impossible, because the middle-management process owners who have been lying "yes" will lose their jobs if their process is removed.

The process explosion reaches critical mass as each failed process begets two more to control it. The business goes into a death spiral of bloat and inefficiency.

Everything is painful. The smart middle managers flee early, leaving only the enablers behind, and they refuse to see or acknowledge any problems. The loyal people have their jobs turned into paperwork and outsourcing. With luck, the board will recognize the out of control costs, and bring in a lean outsider. An organization this bad off may need to fire 50%-90% of the people. Or the board may go the wrong direction, and outsource the whole damn mess, further eroding their ability to change.

This philosophy has caused more damage to business and productivity than any other idea, ever.

Avoiding this is simple, in theory. Tell the truth, and don't be afraid to change your mind if shown evidence that you're wrong.

Comment: Re:Specialized Pieces (Score 1) 352

by plover (#46772215) Attached to: Kids Can Swipe a Screen But Can't Use LEGOs

He had a space shuttle model that he put together one time, and as far as know it still remains in the shape of the space shuttle. It didn't grow dinosaur engines, it didn't have wooden castle doors, it never had gears and shafts and pistons protruding from the wings, it just stayed a space shuttle model. The castle, on the other hand, was sometimes a tube, sometimes a fort, and sometimes a box, depending on what he was playing.

He's now 25 years old, and I don't suppose he's all that interested anymore. However, he's probably not too far from having a kid of his own to take it apart and remake it in the shape of a zombie tractor ninja robot.

Comment: Re:Matches. (Score 1) 352

by plover (#46772065) Attached to: Kids Can Swipe a Screen But Can't Use LEGOs

What happened to playing with matches?

The problem is that it's all the frickin' strike-on-box junk nowadays. Good old fashioned strike-anywhere matches are getting harder to find. You have to dig deep through grandma's junk drawer to find a box, and then you still have to sneak them out to the garage to see which of grandpa's mysterious cans of fluids are the most flammable.

Comment: Re:You can't use technology to raise children (Score 1) 352

by plover (#46771917) Attached to: Kids Can Swipe a Screen But Can't Use LEGOs

I saw a video on Youtube titled "A magazine is an iPad that does not work." It featured a 1-year-old child tapping images on a magazine, expecting something to happen, and being somewhat frustrated that nothing does. There's a kid who may never throw a ball in his or her life.

Now I'm trying to figure out if that actually matters or not -- I certainly don't see ball-throwing as a necessary skill for life anymore, it's now strictly a form of recreation. We're no longer hunter-gatherers, we don't have to climb trees to get fruit or throw spears at boars to eat meat. We may be missing out on a lot of the experiences in the world by avoiding such activities, but we don't truly need them to survive in this age of McFood, Amazon, and Farmville.

Comment: Re:Specialized Pieces (Score 1) 352

by plover (#46771789) Attached to: Kids Can Swipe a Screen But Can't Use LEGOs

The best Lego set we ever bought for my son was a castle set at a garage sale. It didn't have instructions. He just put together pieces and made castles, they didn't have to look like anything pre-made at all.

Had I been more forward thinking, I would have thrown away all his Lego instruction sheets and booklets.

Comment: Re:That micro-floppy (Score 4, Insightful) 275

I think he drawing showed a miniaturized typical computer of the era primarily because the artist wanted it to be recognizable as a computer on the wearer's wrist. A drawing of a Pebble would have shown a smooth featureless slab; it would also have been hard to represent an RF data connection replacing physical data transfers, even if such things had been envisioned 33 years ago. (Although not impossible: Dick Tracy comics showed lightning bolts coming from the "2-way wrist radio" back in the 1950s.)

Comment: Re:Until warp drive is invented... (Score 1) 292

by plover (#46721755) Attached to: Nat Geo Writer: Science Is Running Out of "Great" Things To Discover

Of course I meant ubiquitous global communications. I will spend time in the morning talking with a co-worker in India, during the day I may attend an on-line meeting being held in Arizona, then the evenings chatting with a friend in New Zealand, and not think twice about where any of them are, other than to make sure I'm not calling them at an inopportune time. This kind of communication (and at no incremental cost!) has been around only for the last decade or so.

There will still be plenty of room for more research; and some will be revolutionary. We are just seeing the tip of some really cool advancements in fields as diverse as biotech, farming, and AI. The patent office is a long way from closing their doors.