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  • feedwordpress 08:01:19 on 2017/09/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , , failure, , , , software, , Word   

    “It is not enough for code to work”*… 


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    It’s been said that software is “eating the world.” More and more, critical systems that were once controlled mechanically, or by people, are coming to depend on code. This was perhaps never clearer than in the summer of 2015, when on a single day, United Airlines grounded its fleet because of a problem with its departure-management system; trading was suspended on the New York Stock Exchange after an upgrade; the front page of The Wall Street Journal’s website crashed; and Seattle’s 911 system went down again, this time because a different router failed. The simultaneous failure of so many software systems smelled at first of a coordinated cyberattack. Almost more frightening was the realization, late in the day, that it was just a coincidence…

    Our standard framework for thinking about engineering failures—reflected, for instance, in regulations for medical devices—was developed shortly after World War II, before the advent of software, for electromechanical systems. The idea was that you make something reliable by making its parts reliable (say, you build your engine to withstand 40,000 takeoff-and-landing cycles) and by planning for the breakdown of those parts (you have two engines). But software doesn’t break… Software failures are failures of understanding, and of imagination…

    Invisible– but all too real and painful– problems, and the attempts to make them visible: “The Coming Software Apocalypse.”

    * Robert C. Martin, Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship

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    As we Code for America, we might recall that it was on this date in 1983 that Microsoft released its first software application, Microsoft Word 1.0.  For use with MS-DOS compatible systems, Word was the first word processing software to make extensive use of a computer mouse. (Not coincidentally, Microsoft had released a computer mouse for IBM-compatible PCs earlier in the year.)  A free demo version of Word was included with the current edition of PC World—  the first time a floppy disk was included with a magazine.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:26 on 2017/05/17 Permalink
    Tags: failure, , , , John Deere, Museum of Failure, plow,   

    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”*… 


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    The Museum of Failure opens in Helsingborg, Sweden on June 7.

    Museum of Failure is a collection of interesting innovation failures. The majority of all innovation projects fail and the museum showcases these failures to provide visitors a fascinating learning experience.

    The collection consists of over sixty failed products and services from around the world. Every item provides unique insight into the risky business of innovation…

    From the Apple Newton and “Bic for Her” to “Trump, the Game” and Harley Davidson perfume (above)– see them at the Museum of Failure.

    * Thomas Edison

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    As we try again, we might spare a though for John Deere; he died on this date in 1886.  A blacksmith and inventor in Grand Detour, Ill., he frequently repaired the wood and cast-iron plows of eastern U.S. design, which were troubled by the heavy, sticky local soils.  By 1838 he had produced three more suitable steel plows of his own new design, and more in following years, which expanded into the agricultural machine business he began upon moving to Moline, Ill. (in 1847).  In another ten years, his annual production had increased ten-fold.  Originally using imported English steel instead of cast iron, he converted to U.S.-made steel when Pittsburgh steel plants could supply a suitable product.  The company diversified with production of harrows, drills, cultivators and wagons… and grew to become the agricultural and construction equipment giant in business to this day.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:25 on 2015/06/11 Permalink
    Tags: failure, Franciscan, , , , , , ,   

    “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure”*… 


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    If you ever wanted a glimpse into what dooms startups, look no further than autopsy.io, a website that lists the reasons why many newborn tech firms imploded. The website offers entrepreneurs the ability to self-explain why their startup didn’t quite make it; in a bid to separate real-life stories from entertaining fictions, the application form asks for a link to a blog post or medium article “that tells the story of the failure,” along with the founder(s) Twitter handle and Crunchbase or Angel.co profile. Some of the reasons listed for failure are maddeningly opaque, such as UniSport’s “for a number of reasons” or PlayCafe’s “we didn’t reach enough users.” Others are bleakly hilarious; as the founders of Zillionears, self-billed as a “creative pre-sale platform for musicians,” confessed: “People really didn’t really LIKE anything about our product.” If you’re thinking of launching your own company, or you work for a wet-behind-the-ears startup, it’s worth scanning the list to see if any of these potential crises are brewing in your setup.

    Via Nerval’s Lobster at Slashdot.

    * Bill Gates

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    As we dust ourselves off, we might spare a thought for Roger Bacon; he died on this date in 1292.  A philosopher and Franciscan friar, Bacon was one of the first to propose mathematics and experimentation as appropriate methods of science.  Working in mathematics, astronomy, physics, alchemy, and languages, he was particularly impactful in optics: he elucidated the principles of refraction, reflection, and spherical aberration, and described spectacles, which soon thereafter came into use. He developed many mathematical results concerning lenses, proposed mechanically propelled ships, carriages, and flying machines, and used a camera obscura to observe eclipses of the Sun.  And he was the first European give a detailed description of the process of making gunpowder.

    He began his career at Oxford, then lectured for a time at Paris, where his skills as a pedagogue earned him the title Doctor Mirabilis, or “wonderful teacher.”  He stopped teaching when he became a Franciscan.  But his scientific work continued, despite his Order’s restrictions on activity and publication, as Bacon enjoyed the protection and patronage of Pope Clement…  until, on Clement’s death, he was placed under house arrest in Oxford, where he continued his studies, but was unable to publish and communicate with fellow investigators.

    Statue of Roger Bacon in the Oxford University Museum

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