This one is a “Catch-22 Stewpod”. Stewpod – because I gathered here, under a single theme, two unrelated podcasts; Catch-22 – well, you will have to keep on reading.
If you take any subject in life you would normally find yourself with many possibilities to pick from. Here are some technological examples: RSS feeds? – Feedburner‘s official numbers are ~250K; Blogs? Technorati‘s official is 27M; Linux Distros? Distrowatch‘s is 370~ ; Thinking about implementing SOA? Well, think again – there are so many different interpretations to what’s SOA; Forced to implement SOA with IBM? Hmm, there are 13 different products under the IBM’ SOA umbrella; which one do you need, or maybe do you need them all?
The point is clear – there are always too many possibilities, options and choices. But unlike the conceptual illusion that the more options one has, the more “free” (as in freedom), rich and significant his/her life would be, the lecture of Prof. Barry Schwartz – “Less is More”, demonstrates that the opposite is actually true: endless possibilities mean endless angst. Too many possibilities could well lead to paralyzation, stress and despair. Constraining the number of alternatives is, therefore, an existential necessity. Barry Schwartz suggests having a predefined default whenever possible.
Whoever used any RSS Reader knows they are coming with a predefined subscription on some selected, highly popular feeds. That’s a default. In the Enterprise world, the default’s equivalent might be a Technical Reference Model (or Manual) listing all the vendors, products and technologies authorized for use; or, as it’s usually the case, IBM is the de-facto default for practically anything.
The “Default” as a mean to regain happiness in a re-constrained world raises some evident moral questions (i.e. socio-economic and political :)), such as who’s responsible for setting the default value, for the “power of default” and its economic gains are invaluable.
Have a look, for instance, at the following Sys-Con SOA Awards. There are 21 categories related to SOA, and IBM, though never a winner, is a runner-up in 20 out of 21 categories! I would argue that this is an amazing demonstration of the power of default.
Another well known demonstration of the Default’s Power is Microsoft, with IE, Media Player, shipped as part of their operating system.
So who’s setting the default? In progressive Enterprises I assume that the Enterprise Architecture Office is in charge of the defaults. But in most Enterprises, it’s undoubtedly fear that determines which vendor gets this invaluable label. And here IBM plays, again, a major role, for “No one gets fired for buying IBM”. This axiom is a late adaptation of Keynes‘ famous remark: “It is better to fail conventionally, than to succeed unconventionally” (as quoted by James Surowieki, the other half of this stewpod). Yet, conventional failures might lead to disastrous outcomes (and see Tristan Yates: How IBM Conned Our IT Execs Out Of Millions, for an example).
Unlike the Enterprise, in the Web2.0 sphere there’s no fear, and out there the default is determined by the people’s attention. Technorati Rank, del.icio.us’ popular, digg etc. are all manifestations of the public attention. The public elects its defaults.
This leads us to the second lecture by James Surowieki – “Independent Individuals and Wise Crowds”. Humans are not ants, maintain Surowieki, and “the wisdom of crowds” is nothing but a myth. Too often the crowd is wrong and less intelligent than a single individual. Surowieki gives many amusing and interesting examples, as well as one practical advice on how to increase one’s independence in the face of the Web2.0 herd: keep your (social, intellectual, commercial, computational) ties loose. In other words – increase your options, possibilities and choices! “Inject randomness”, concludes Surowieki (Oy! Do I hear Grazing Lists?).
On the Power of Default
Linked: The New Science of Networks, Albert-Laszlo Barabasi
Web2.0 Herd Criticism
Andrew Keen: Web 2.0 Is Reminiscent Of Marx
Enterprise Defaults and Pressure
Muli Koppel: Pressure (The first article in the Pressure trilogy)
Technopod Rating: 9
Barry Schwartz – Less is More
Original Podlink: Barry Schwartz – Less is More
Technopod Rating: 9
James Surowieki – Independent Individuals and Wise Crowds
Original Podlink: James Surowieki – Independent Individuals and Wise Crowds