Monthly Archives: June 2019

Tech drains English of meaning

Alien ‘word’. Actually explaining the three kinds of quotes and Linux sensitivity. by Ezra S F

Semantic Drain and the Meaninglessness of Modern Work makes an interesting point that a problem with knowledge management work is that much of is filler work without a fulfilling purpose. I was far more stressed as the university webmaster than as a database administrator. The webmaster job was highly subjective with people getting upset about the tiniest of minutia that almost no one would notice. “Move this 5 pixels to the left.” “The color in the logo is FF0202 when it should be FF0303.”

Semantic drain in this context is about the pervasiveness of jargon and how it is inventing new insider terminology for concepts that already exist. I really liked the discussion about “content” for the author became to to mean text one-way communication that has no value. It is less than journalism. A content specialist is someone who creates useless drivel.

It goes on to talk about the difficulty in seeing the end product of knowledge work. One of the things I like about working in database and application administration is having a better sense about how what I do affects others. Living in a college town and running a computer system college students use, I ran into people all the time who were impacted by my work. True, it is a lot more abstract than a plumber, but it is no more abstract than a widget maker. I should visit the Georgia Archives more so that I can better relate and understand the meaning of my work with their systems.

From Tech drains English of meaning published June 27, 2019 at 06:38PM.

Micro Quorums

Listening to the Radiolab Bit Flip episode. If you haven’t listened, then you really should first.

Cosmic rays bombard the Earth. Electrical engineers are finding that these rays can trigger an electrode in a computer chip. The electrodes are bits. The cosmic rays changing a bit is a bit flip. Almost all the time these flips are benign. The wrong flip, though, can cause out of control behavior in automated systems.

Think the Toyota sudden unexpected acceleration or the Boeing 737-MAX’s autopilot dropping the plane a thousand feet. As electrical engineers discover these behaviors, they are building in redundancies. Instead of depending on a single sensor, there will be multiple and the computer¬†will act on the majority, aka a quorum.

The episode didn’t say this, but it reminded me of the Boeing 737-MAX issue where the planes had a single pitch sensor light unless a buyer opted for the multi-sensor package with a light saying the two sensors disagreed. Given what is known about bit flips, I would think it would be typical airplane safety to have these redundancies built into an autopilot.

Now, I don’t expect microprocessor quorums everywhere. There will be too many sensors to affordably do this everywhere. But, I do expect them in systems designed to preserve human life.

From Micro Quorums published June 26, 2019 at 07:22AM.

Reward Tracking and Product Recalls

booth branding business buy
Photo by Pixabay on

Stores like for us as consumers to give them a customer ID to track what it is that we are buying. Many have phone number or a card or an email address. They use this information to track our purchases and personalize their nudges for us to buy products.  There is one way they might improve customer loyalty: Recall notices.

I pay attention to the news, so I see recalls every week. But, I doubt I am seeing them all. And, I doubt that I can reliably say whether I have the recalled item. But, the store where I bought it probably does.

A couple years ago, I was in a grocery aisle mulling over what to select when a manager came through to take off the shelf something nearby. He had a scanner which told him the information about the recalled item.

What would be really cool is if the system that is telling the stores what to pull from their shelves, looks through the customer purchases and informs the customers. They could pass along the recall notice and let the customer identify the lot number the same as the store. (I knew the manager was working a recall notice because he was talking to himself.)

Thinking maybe this already exists as an opt-in, I checked the stores where we have web site accounts. Nothing. (Given these places tend to go with an opt-out model, I was not surprised.)

From Reward Tracking and Product Recalls published June 24, 2019 at 07:07PM.