Definitions daft and deft: light, fanciful and/or serious for thinking about and discussing the nature of information systems.

Belief. ‘Believe, and you shall be proved right, for you shall save yourself; doubt, and you shall be proved right, for you shall perish. The only difference is that to believe is greatly to your advantage.’ William James

Budgets. ‘Do not be overawed by budgets. There are so many ways of presenting them, and compiling them, that they look complex and authoritative. They are not. Most accountants tend to generate budget information (with or without input from operational managers) and then fail to obtain agreement from the management team for the full budget package which results. In consequence even the least numerate ‘broad brush’ manager who could look at the totals and know instinctively that they are rubbish, does not have the chance to do so before the year is well under way, by which time it is better to keep quiet. They can blame the budget development process later, when actual results look sick. The ugly truth is that the actuals always prove the budgets wrong. The massive authority generated by the sophisticated compilation process is eroded as soon as the first few months of the year have passed and flaws are visible. It is at this point that managers suddenly become numerate and point knowingly to all the weaknesses they kept quiet about in the first place. They know, better than most accountants, that budgets can never be perfect. Unlike most accountants, they have no professional belief in their innate rightness.’ John Courtis, Bluff your way in Accountancy, Ravette Limited, 1987.

Collateral damage. ‘The generals and colonels, in their briefing sessions, use a phrase I wish they’d drop: “collateral damage.” It means civilians – old men, women young and old, and children – incinerated and gone for good. Good night. It was a reminder that this pedantic old sweetie (once compared by the Telegraph to ‘the Queen Mother: a loved and regal personage above controversy’) has continued to hold the line for conventional decency in the face of monolithic hypocrisies for longer than most of his critics can remember or envisage.’ John Walsh writing about Alistair Cooke in The Master’s Final Piece, Vanity Fair, Dec. 1992.

Communications. ‘Method of combining incompatible software working to incompatible standards to produce difficult to understand results.’ The Devil’s PC Dictionary, PC User, December, 1984.

Computer. ‘A computer is an automatic information handling machine that can execute instructions in a predetermined and self-directed manner.’ Joseph Orlicky, The Successful Computer System, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1969.

Computer science. ‘Akin to numerology and astrology, but lacking the precision of the former and the successes of the latter.’ Stan Bootle, ‘The Devil’s DP Dictionary,’ Computer Weekly, 1 November, 1979.

Discovery. The act or process of obtaining knowledge for the first time. Young’s Law: All great discoveries are made by mistake. Corollary: The greater the funding, the longer it takes to make the mistake.

E-mail. ‘Method of sending messages between PC users, rather than letting them talk to each other.’ The Devil’s PC Dictionary, PC User, December, 1984.

Education. ‘If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.’ (George Plossl)

Fact. A piece of information presented as having objective reality.

FIG. Panic mode in which investments are guided by Fear, Ignorance, and Greed. One of two human norms. See sloth.

Filing and Retrieval. Information filing and retrieval is one of the most tedious and time consuming tasks in offices today. Computers love to do tedious and time consuming work, because they are fast and dumb. This is also why a certain type of people love them.

Guidelines from cynical scientists:
When you do not know what you are doing, do it neatly.
Experience is directly proportional to the quantity of equipment ruined or destroyed.
Past experience is always true; never be misled by present facts.
In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.
Do not believe in miracles: rely on them.
Teamwork is essential. It allows you to blame someone else.
Record of data is essential. It indicates you have been doing something.
No matter what is anticipated, someone will always fit facts to it.
No matter what happens, there is always someone who believes it happened according to his pet theory.
The probability of an event occurring is inversely proportional to its desirability.
That quantity which when added to, subtracted from, divided into, multiplied by, the result obtained experimentally will give the correct result, is known as a constant.
Experiments must always be reproducible; they should always fail in the same way.
If an experiment works, you must be using the wrong equipment.
An experiment may be considered successful if no more than half of the data must be discarded to obtain agreement with your pet theory. Anonymous?

Information engineering. The formal study and application of proven techniques for effective management of all of the information of an enterprise.

Information retrieval systems. Mooer’s Law: ‘An information retrieval system will tend not to be used whenever it is more painful and troublesome for a customer to have information than for him not to have it.’ C.N. Mooer, 1960.

Information system. A set of procedures and usually computer-based facilities for acquiring and storing data and converting it into useful information.

IntelligenceMr Cole’s Axiom: The sum of the intelligence on the planet is a constant; the population is growing.

Jargon. What one calls the technical terminology and characteristic idiom of people with whom one does not wish to be seen as being closely associated.

Person. A human being. Usually this gets forgotten, pace Human Resource Planning Systems: trying to decide who will be best for which work and vice versa.

PhilosophyGinsberg’s Theorem: 1. You can’t win. 2. You can’t even break even. 3. You can’t even quit the game.
Freeman’s Commentary: Every major philosophy that attempts to make life seem meaningful is based on the negation of one part of Ginsberg’s theorem. 1. Capitalism is based on the assumption that you can win. 2. Socialism is based on the assumption that you can break even. 3. Mysticism is based on the assumption that you can quit the game.

Pig. Never rassle with a pig. Ya both git all dirty and the pig likes it.

Planning and Control Systems.
A central heating system is an example. Meeting the objective of keeping comfortably warm requires all four elements of planning and control systems:
1. Set the thermostat. (Policy or Plan)
2. Allow a small deviation from the setting. (Norm or Tolerance)
3. Record the temperature. (Progress Monitoring)
4. Turn the furnace up or down. (Corrective Action).
Computers can help with each element, especially with progress monitoring, but they cannot unless people can and will set goals and permit corrective action. You do not need a thermostat if you have not got a furnace.

Project Scheduling. Ninety-Ninety Rule: The first 90% of a task consumes 90% of the time allotted; the last 10% consumes the other 90%.

Recursive.See Recursive.

SDC System Development Cycles. Methods aimed at providing structured building of systems which are cost effective and relevant to user needs. Most are misguided, promoting waterfall and other jargon obfuscating the need to deliver systems which people want, need, can use and will use. “Set Development in Concrete”?

Software engineering. ‘The application of methods and techniques by vocationally educated and suitably experienced professional staff, which improve the quality, maintainability, and cost effectiveness of computer programs.’ Allen Macro.

System. ‘In the most general sense, a system is a collection or arrangement of entities or things, related or connected such that they form a unity or whole.’ James C. Wetherbe, Systems Analysis and Design; Traditional, Structured, and Advanced Concepts and Techniques, Second Edition, West Publishing Company, 1984.

Used cars. When you buy a used car, you are buying someone else’s problems. When you buy a new car, you are buying your own problems.

User. In the mythology, the person for whom those information systems needed to operate and manage the business have been developed. See Pusher.

User manuals. ‘Is forbitten to steal the hotel towels please. If you are not person to do such is please not to read notis.’

World record. ‘World’s chicken-eating record: Last year, Seth Aiken set a world’s chicken eatin’ record at the PO FOLKS in Paint Rock, Texas. He ate 7 drumsticks, 12 breasts, 11 thighs and 22 wings at one settin’. Sinct then he ain’t done nothin’ but cackle and eat a little cracked corn. Mrs. Thomas said she reckoned as how she ought ta take him TA the doctor but she needs the aigs.’ PO FOLKS Restaurant menu.


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