Sunlight, process, systems, moats, tennis courts, flipping, heatmaps, mashups and flat screen TVs.


From the cc flickrstream of sludgegulper Thanks!

I have been watching and reading about the goings on with the UK parliamentarian expenses with a mixture of incredulousness, dismay, horror, and anger. This is a grave insult to the UK tax payers, and a blow to global democracy.  Corrupt politicians around the world can sleep easy. One man’s moat is another man’s Wabenzi.

Other than all the information about moat cleaners, tennis courts, duck shelters, large screen TVs, iPhones for husbands, 200 mile taxi rides, tax advisors, and mortgage payments on mortgages that no longer existed, I was struck by the absolute lack of process and systems to manage the expenses. The inefficiencies and the lack of control are astounding. 

The problems are bigger than technology, The whole process needs a complete overall, but essentially we are talking about some basic compliance procedures. Workflow approvals, automated routing of claims out of policy, electronic receipt management,and SOD (separation of duties).  Even simple expense management system would go a long way to stopping this sort of abuse happening again. Rules can be easily automated and enforced, and with a bit of configuration, even issues such as flipping and claiming for trivia could be managed.

Driven out of a good process system, the data could also be easily mashed up with consumer analytics tools such as Google maps, and a simple query tool, allowing concerned citizens the right to audit.

Indeed, there has been a wave of excellent mashups and analytic reports based on the data that has been released and collated.



Charles Arthur over at the Guardian has a closer lookTony Hirst’s blog gives an excellent account on the technical efforts needed to do this. Looking at what he has done with essentially free software. It is interesting to see how various technologies and techniques have been deployed. more here.  It is a fascinating study for anyone interested in analytics and data visualization. It does make the analytics offerings of many of the software vendors I cover seem rather dowdy, but that story is for another day.

Shining a bit of sunshine on the issue by opening up the data  is the best remedy. After all, when I last looked, parliamentarians work for the citizens.


Mathematics history turned on its head


(photo from the cc collection of lambageek, thanks)

I’m not a mathematician, not even by the wildest stretch of imagination. I reckon I have about another 3 years before the kids homework will defeat me.  However, I’m a big fan of the history of mathematics and science; Riemann conjecture, Nash equilibrium, Gauss and number theory, Mandelbrot and so on.  I’m a sucker for layman books on maths and science history, just don’t ask me to factorise, solving where X is a real number.

One of the great  mathematical rivalries was between Newton and Leibniz over who came up with Calculus first. It turns out that they were arguing over second.

A Palimpsest rediscovered showed that Archimedes had a grasp of the principles of calculus 2000 years before either Newton or Leibniz. You can read more about the discovery here.

I wonder how many other inventions and discoveries that we hold so dear are in fact rediscoveries?  Palimpsests do make prior art literature reviews rather difficult.

Steering wheels and application UIs.

The Benz museum in Ladenburg is a regular haunt of mine. In walking distance of my house I can see one the of the first cars ever made.


It is  one of the finest collection of vintage and significant cars as you will find anywhere, other than at the other Benz  museum in Stuttgart. It is my sad affliction to think about software design at the weekends, and the Benz museum provided some ideas on usability.

This is an early French  racing car. a 1921 Amilcar. 28 horsepower, 908cc motor.


This is the steering wheel of a formula one  championship  winning car. Comment below if you can tell me whose.


It would overwhelm most of us, but for the best drivers in the world, every switch is vital and a lot of thought went into its layout. It is a User interface built for one.

The problem with a lot of business application software is that it has as many buttons and switches as the example above, but most users would be better of with the Amilcar layout. Most users just want to get in and drive. It is only when you really get to know your user that you can actually design something that works for them.

On another note, It is a very child friendly museum. 

IMG_0446 (2)


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Gosh. Hugh is on form.

I’ve never actually met Hugh face to face, but we have chatted a couple of times, we have several mutual friends, and his ebullient on-line presence means that I feel like I know him rather better than I probably do.

He is a cartoonist. I’ve followed his cartoons on the back of business cards since I started blogging, and they regularly bring a smile to my face.  I watched blue monster experiment with Steve  Clayton.

I’m finding his recent series on the Social Media Specialists really really funny.






Excellent stuff Hugh. Keep them coming. Making people laugh is goodness.

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The death of a word.

You were a lovely word. It wasn’t your fault.

A maverick is an unbranded range animal, especially a motherless calf; it can also mean a person who thinks independently; a lone dissenter; a non-conformist or rebel. The word first arose in mid-19th century America from Samuel Augustus Maverick, a Texas politician with a large ranch full of unbranded cattle

From Wikipedia.

I think it will be at least a generation before the word can recover.



A cow. In Garmisch. THanks to the opensource stream of heritagefutures.

Quoting Blogzilla. A blog well worth reading.

Blogzilla is an excellent blog on privacy technology and law, I was hoping to catch up with Ian again at GIKIII but I will be in San Francisco instead of Oxford.  Normally he posts on privacy law stuff, but today’s post caught my eye.

Here it is.

The complicity of the American Psychological Association in torture at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere has been deeply disturbing. Particularly repellent has been the CIA’s perversion of Martin Seligman’s work on learned helplessness. Finally, the APA has rejected this disgusting conduct, with a (small) majority of members voting in favour of the following petition:

Whereas torture is an abhorrent practice in every way contrary to the APA’s stated mission of advancing psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting human welfare.
Whereas the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Mental Health and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture have determined that treatment equivalent to torture has been taking place at the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. [1]
Whereas this torture took place in the context of interrogations under the direction and supervision of Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs) that included psychologists. [2, 3]
Whereas the Council of Europe has determined that persons held in CIA black sites are subject to interrogation techniques that are also equivalent to torture [4], and because psychologists helped develop abusive interrogation techniques used at these sites. [3, 5]
Whereas the International Committee of the Red Cross determined in 2003 that the conditions in the US detention facility in Guantánamo Bay are themselves tantamount to torture [6], and therefore by their presence psychologists are playing a role in maintaining these conditions.
Be it resolved that psychologists may not work in settings where persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independe


Better late than never.

Oh dear. The applicancization of the PC.

Jonathan Zittrain holds the Chair in Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University and is a principal of the Oxford Internet Institute. He is also the Jack N. and Lillian R. Berkman Visiting Professor for Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, where he co-founded Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society in 1996. With students, he began Chilling Effects, a web site that tracks and archives legal threats made to Internet content producers….

I’ve read many of his academic papers, and I’ve ordered his new book,  the Future of the Internet and how to stop it. People will be reading him 200 years hence. His paper on the Generative Internet  should be compulsory reading for anyone studying the internet or working in technology industry.

Jonathan, please tell me you are using the word applicancization for a bet.



It is a word only in the sense that this is a wheel. (thanks Bepster)

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