Information Technology is Fraud

From the CBC:

Seven people, including Revenue Quebec employees and officials with computer companies IBM and EBR, were arrested this morning in connection with an alleged corruption scheme aimed at obtaining a government IT contract worth $24 million.

Two Revenue Quebec employees, Hamid Iatmanene and Jamal El Khaiat, stand accused of providing privileged information about an upcoming government contract to a consortium made up of IBM and Quebec company Informatique EBR Inc.

As long as businesses engage in 90s-style information technology management and purchasing practices, there is always the risk that we'll see stories like this.

For the record, here's the website of Informatique EBR. Based on the evidence, I wouldn't have trusted this gang of clipart botherers to organize much of anything anyway. Their contact page has fax numbers on it for one thing.

The Lean Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon is primarily interesting for the way its gameplay reproduces the business conditions in which it comes to exist. It's about dungeon crawling, yes, but what it's really doing is teaching the player to manage waste in a Lean startup.

Lean is a manufacturing doctrine that originated in Japan. In this context, waste is ruthlessly defined as any process that does not produce value for the customer. Unsurprisingly, Lean has become one of the organizing narratives for software development in the past ten years. But dungeon crawling? Should we really approach dungeon crawling as if it's a startup? Consider, if you will, the original 7 muda, or "wastes to be eliminated":

Transportation

In Darkest Dungeon, simply moving into a dungeon will, in 100% of cases, result in degradation of the product's value.

Inventory

Characters that are inactive are dead stock. They do not produce value for the customer and are therefore inherently waste. Ideally all characters should either be in a dungeon or in stress relief (but anyone who has played the game knows that managing this impossible condition is what Darkest Dungeon is all about).

Motion

In a dungeon, moving through rooms in a suboptimal way is pure waste. "Explore 90% of rooms? Okay then, pick the best route.

Waiting

Wait a week before retrieving a character who is in stress relief or various other cures. "Unavailability for selection" is a real problem in Darkest Dungeon.

Over-processing

Upgrading your town buildings or characters beyond what is strictly required will almost always get you in trouble. You will end up waltzing through battles you could have won anyway, while diverting your own resources away from stress relief. (See above.)

Over-production

In Darkest Dungeon, over-production means generating too many provisions. Remember the feeling you get the first time you set out for the dungeon with 18 rations, 16 torches, and 4 shovels? (You know what I mean.)

Defect

The characters incur defects as a matter of course. This unpredictability requires vast amounts of rescheduling and rework. The Dungeontology is such that being in the world is a kind of defect in and of itself.

Transparentism

Based on my informal study of Glassdoor, a job site that hinges on current and former employees posting anonymous company reviews, there are a lot of people out there who feel their workplaces could stand to be more transparent.

I'd argue that, if transparency was something you could reliably measure, the standard deviation would actually be very low. Most companies probably have about the same amount of it, whether they know it or not, and the perceived acquisition and loss of it over time is not a cynical narrative about the concentration of power. Rather, transparency is a technology problem. In fact it's a problem of one particular technology.

I'll make you a bet, dear reader. I'll bet you that the companies whose employees most frequently cite transparency as a concern are also those that are the most culturally reliant on communicating internally via email.

So many of the emails you sent and received were never intended to be private or exclusive, but they ended up that way anyway. So much of their content wasn't deliberately being kept from people who weren't in the reply chain, but it felt that way anyway. A whole software paradigm (the intranet or corporate wiki) even sprung up to try to, well, it was the equivalent of printing out emails and putting them in a folder somewhere. Email's unrepentant users slowly hacked away at the technology to make it relevant and inclusive by overusing features like carbon copy and reply all, but all that did was create a progressively widening informational fog as your company grew.

Adapting to a tool like Slack or HipChat for internal communication increases employees' perception of transparency. You can lurk as other groups work, follow along as they make decisions, and cleanly opt in or out when it becomes TMI. It won't change the fact that big decisions still get made behind closed doors, though, so maybe the apt term is transparentism instead of transparency. Are you using Slack or HipChat but still feel in the dark? Well just imagine where you'd be without it.

Email was just a technology, but it had been with us so long that it became a naturalized, internalized fact that was somehow outside technology itself.

Memories.app

OS X 10.10.3 is coming soon, iPhoto is going away, and we're getting Photos.app to replace it. There has been a lot of worry about whether Apple can truly pull off a Cloud-native photo management experience. "What if I delete a photo, or the app removes it to save space, and then somehow it's gone as in gone-from-the-Cloud?"

The discourse of personal photography and photo management has not advanced as fast as photography itself. It used to be emotional, tangible, and occasional (in the sense of a special occasion). It's now reflexive, omnipresent, and ephemeral. I simply take more photos than I did when iPhoto was first released, they mean less individually, and I don't attach the same ceremony to their presentation. I certainly don't assiduously drag'n'drop them into albums like I used to. The idea that you could somehow lose a memory of a loved one by deleting a file is atavistic and probably stems from the days when you maybe only took 32 photos of somebody ever in your life.

Number of Discrete Feature and Spell Uses Requiring Rest at Level 3 in D&D 5th Edition

Feature Uses Requiring Rest in 5e

This chart certainly can't tell us which features are better than others, or which classes are ultimately more powerful than others. Some classes get features that are bonus-based, "at will," ability/skill based, or use some other timer altogether. It's hard to say for sure whether a uses-per-rest feature is more valuable than a bonus or vice versa.

But, if we take each discrete use of a feature or spell as an actionable something that can potentially shift the balance of a conflict—or even just give the player an opportunity to roll dice—it's clear that the rest mechanics in D&D 5th Edition are bound to affect some classes more than others.

Notes

  • I stopped at level 3, since I'm primarily interested in early-game mechanics.
  • Each spell slot, regardless of level, counts as a discrete use; no attempt is made to quantify the value of a 1st-level spell slot versus a 2nd-level spell slot.
  • In any case where a class variant was offered with additional uses-per-rest features, I picked it (e.g. Arcane Trickster).
  • The Paladin's "Lay on Hands" feature is hard to work with since it restores a user-defined number of HP per use ([5 HP x Paladin level] per long rest). I chose to express this as three discrete uses since it increments by 5 from levels 1–3.
  • Base ability scores were assumed to 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8.
  • A given class's primary ability score was assumed to be in the range 16–17 after racial modifier.
  • A given class's secondary ability score (e.g. Charisma for the Paladin) was assumed to be in the range 14–15 including racial modifier.