Ming the Mechanic:
Thursday, October 11, 2002

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Thursday, October 11, 20022002-10-11 02:01
pictureby Flemming Funch

  • I'm tired of communications that go wrong because there's no two-way handshake, no good way of checking whether the intended recipient actually got it. Lots of stuff is communicated in a one-way sort of fashion that is increasingly likely to fail. I get many hundreds of e-mails each day. I also get a lot of paper junkmail through the post office. In both areas I easily miss things I should have seen, in the volume of stuff I don't care about. I just noticed my dental insurance had gotten cancelled without me noticing before. I suppose I missed paying a bill at some point. And I missed them telling me about it. When I call them, they tell me of course that they already told me they would cancel my insurance if I didn't pay. All very reasonable, except for that I didn't get the communication. Oh, legally that's probably my fault. The letter could have gotten lost in the mail, blown away, eaten by wild wolves, or maybe it just looked like a phoney sweepstake contest and I threw it away. My point is that it doesn't work to count on that people have gotten your message just because you sort of sent it in that general direction. Even more so with e-mail. E-mail can get lost along the way in a number of ways. And e-mails can most particularly be lost in my inbox, which contains thousands of messages. Most messages I get are either spam or some sort of automatic monitoring messages from programs I've written. Often people will get really disappointed or concerned that I haven't answered their letters. Because they implicitly assume that I got their message, and I just somehow am unwilling to respond to them. No. It isn't communication unless somebody actually gets what was sent. Just like Schrodinger's Cat might be dead or alive, depending on whether somebody checks or not. In our busy modern world we need two-way communication for important stuff. Simply that you send something, and you hear back somehow whether people got it or not. Not whether their mailbox got it, but whether THEY got it. And if you don't get such an acknowledgement back, then they didn't get it. There's a feature built into standard e-mail formats, for returning a receipt to the sender, to let them know that the message was opened. I've just never seen it actually work in any e-mail program I use.

  • Donald Rumsfeld got along well with Saddam Hussein when he visited him in Baghdad in December, 1983. He got along just as well with Tariq Aziz, his foreign minister, when he met with him in March, 1984, on the same day that the U.N. released a damning report about Saddam's use of poison gas against Iran. Then, in 1988, while Saddam was using poison gas against the Kurds, George Bush Sr. sent him (Hussein) $500 million in subsidies, to buy American products. And the following year, after Saddam was done with the Kurds, President Bush senior doubled this subsidy to $1 billion, and also supplied germ seed for anthrax, helicopters, "dual-use" material for chemical and biological weapons, and other good stuff. Hm, seems like all those folks have quite some history with each other. Did Saddam not gas the right people, or where did the friendship go sour? article

  • Ray Ozzie: "Why do we take for granted that everything should be closed? What if we started taking for granted that everything should be open? Instead of asking: "why should we be open?" started asking: "why should we be closed?"... This goes for software, information, organizations, etc. I'm not suggesting that everything should be open - just that we considered everything to be open as default and take the discussion from there" (later correction: it was actually Thomas Madsen-Mygdal who said that)

    "New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not common." — John Locke, 17th-century English philosopher

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    Other stories in
    2012-05-03 00:04: An evolving path
    2012-01-02 13:52: 2011 Accomplishments and 2012 Aims
    2011-11-17 02:20: Your inner piece
    2011-02-01 00:05: Slow Mo Flow
    2011-01-22 18:40: Recognition
    2010-08-23 00:36: Where's Ming?
    2010-07-20 14:24: Getting other people to do stuff
    2010-06-22 00:27: Inventory
    2010-06-19 23:10: Conversations
    2009-10-28 12:31: Then a miracle occurs

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