State of Play 2018/wk12

Website been down since attempted to get my SSL certificate renewed about 2 weeks ago. Finally regained access and got rid of the unsafe site notice late Friday afternoon (24/03/2018).  In the meantime transferred websites on wordpress and blogger that I helped my dad setup,  to my own accounts so that I can do something with them.

Starting to question why I pay for web hosting, wordpress themes, woocommerce plugins and using wordpress at all. The hosting is too slow. Before I lost access to the site I had simplified the home page to speed things up, but now, today anyway it is slower than ever. Each time my Divi theme updates I need more memory allocating, I have now allocated the limit my web hosting provides. I have to unload plugins to get to be able to write a post, which is ridiculous. Also some of the woocommerce plugins seem to be in conflict with the Divi theme licensee manager and the woocommerce license manager. As in when attempting to update woocommerce for groups I get an error about Divi API and license keys.

Blackboxes

Attempting to get my SSL certificate renewed, and the multiple phone calls and emails involved got me thinking about black boxes and the design of experiments. (statistical process control, quality assurance, k factorial design of experiments)

input -> blackbox -> output

Basically the web hosting company is a blackbox, I will call it “X”. As a blackbox I do not know what the internals of the business are, no customer does. Customers cannot crack the blackbox open, tweak the internal workings and get it working, or otherwise improve its effectiveness or efficiency. {NB: S system cannot be efficient if it is not effective}

If customers cannot fix or repair a defective black box, then all they can do is throw the defective, broken blackbox away. That is the customer is left with no choice but to ditch company “X”, and replace them with a blackbox which performs the required task. That is for the required input generate the required output.

So for example I provided a required input, and the expected output was an SSL certificate installed and operational within 48 hours of the money being removed from my account. This did not happen. It did not happen because the required input wasn’t properly recognised by the internal systems of the blackbox, and the blackbox didn’t have adequate feedback to rectify the matter. The required feedback was inadequate both in terms of internal communication between the internal divisions of company “X”, and also with respect to the outside world, keeping the customer properly informed on the state of progress. After each transaction company “X” issues a survey request, even though there was no successful conclusion to the interaction.

All that a customer can do is interrogate the blackbox with varying stimuli (inputs) and monitor the outputs, varying the inputs until the required  output is achieved. Or give up attempting to get the required output and conclude that the blackbox is not suitable for achieving the required output: either because it is defective or just plain the wrong blackbox for the task at hand.

This got me back to another issue. Professional cults, modern day Rum Corp, who claim asymmetry of knowledge and seek legislation to be granted a monopoly on supply of service. A monopoly which removes the ability of suppliers to provide services best suited to the needs of individual consumer. Do architects and engineers need to be granted a monopoly? I don’t believe so, and neither do doctors and lawyers: such monopoly should be taken away.

But if we take the monopoly away from doctors and lawyers, then people will be at risk! No they won’t. The law does not prevent people offering services as a doctor if they are not suitably qualified, it merely imposes a penalty on them if they are discovered. And fools believe the higher the penalty the better the deterrent. It’s the quality control versus quality assurance issue. Quality control: allow defects to happen and then correct afterwards. Quality assurance: avoid producing defects in the first place by design of appropriate product and process.

Asymmetry of knowledge

Web hosting companies basically have monopoly as a consequence of the expense of the resources required to set up: sure there is more than one, but there are few choices. Changing web hosting is no simple exercise: but it is within the capabilities of the individual and DIY. Web developers, designers and programmers are other professional cults, who believe legislation should be enacted to grant them monopoly of service. Such legislation corrupts the generic use of words. Just as it is preferable that a vacuum cleaner is named such rather than an Hoover. It is equally preferable that the words engineer, architect, and web developer, are not restricted in their use, by legislation.

There are a whole variety of people who are suitably qualified to provide the limited services which architects and engineers typically supply. There is no point granting a monopoly to a group of people who do not provide services compatible with their potential. Even worse are those who charge for potential rather than actual contribution. Professional cults now seem to be believing their own propaganda concerning their capabilities and contributions to society. Membership of one of these professional cults is no indicator of competence and reliability. Professional cults are not learned societies, they are not guardians of a body of knowledge, they are not qualifying nor examining bodies. Professional cults just sell a brand.

How does a person determine if an organisation is a professional cult or a learned society? To those outside the orgnanisations, the entities are mere blackboxes. In the main prospective members do not know what inputs need to provide nor what output to expect. Or if they know the output to expect or wanted, the problem is determining if the organisation is able to supply. For example I found Engineers Australia unable to meet my learned needs, and is overly expensive to maintain membership for zero return. Engineers Australia may be beneficial to graduates wanting to work for some of the large national consultancies: but neither the members nor the public should be misled into believing that MIEAust CPEng NER is an indicator of technical competence.

As a member of the public and buyer of technical services we need to have some means of testing the blackbox. We have two black boxes we want to test. The first is the organisation and the second is the individual consultant.

So Engineers Australia introduced the string of post nominal detritus, which needs to be paid for each year in an attempt to improve the status and prestige of its membership: public safety and welfare were of secondary consideration. If we grant the monopoly to this professional cult, will we the public be better for granting such benefit. I suggest not. But there is little which can be done to stop it, as fear, uncertainty and doubt will be used to get the monopoly, and then it will be used to maintain the monopoly.

Its relatively simple. As far as I know some of the most serious engineering disasters have occurred in Queensland where they have registered engineers (RPEQ’s). If these people are competent then by rights there should not be any disasters there. Similarly the USA as professional engineer licensing (PE/SE), and once again the location of some serious defects in design and construction. Victoria recently introduced a bill to implement engineers registration.  Cases in point of failures:

  1. Florida foot bridge collapse leaves four people dead
  2. Nine people taken to hospital following St Lucia balcony collapse
  3. Balcony collapse at Doncaster East Christmas party kills two people, injures 17 others

Therefore registration and licensing does not protect the public, yet the latter case of the balcony collapse is probably the reason Victoria is considering introducing licensing/registration. Why? Because once have the licensing system,  it doesn’t result in the conclusion that the licensing doesn’t work. The conclusion is that the licensing scheme is defective, to many defective people are given the license, so tighten the filtering process, make it harder to get licensed. Does this improve things. No! it leads to shortage of licensed people, and more failures. The reason it fails is because it fails to understand the quality loss and consequent cost to society. Too  many people equate quality to high performance product: quality however is the right product with the right performance for the job. You don’t use a sledgehammer to crack nuts. You don’t go around imposing the need to use a D9 bulldozer where a bucket and spade is best suited for the task.

Professional cults do not merely take advantage of the asymmetry of knowledge they deliberately create such asymmetry by using jargon and otherwise holding knowledge to ransom. Management consultants especially: last years graduate soon becomes obsolete, not because they don’t understand what they are doing, but because a new secret language of acronyms has been introduced. So whilst they are busy getting on with their job, a whole new body of knowledge is being generated: but only new in so far as the language used: its the old concepts wrapped in new clothes.

This happens in many areas. For example most old school structural engineers would consider FEM stands for fixed end moment, whilst new age engineers would consider it stands for finite element method. I consider engineering takes place at the frontiers of science and technology: and engineers originate. Professional cults and legislators think engineers are members of a rubber stamp brigade.

But not just an issue of acronyms having different meanings from one professional cult to another, and meanings of words changing with passage of time. So words are not so easy to define, the words have extremely generic meaning. For example what is meant by make me a table? What is a table? Even if we discard data table, and restrict meaning to material object with a surface on which other material objects can be placed. It still isn’t clear what a table is, what shape and form it takes. Similarly for a house, you would like a house design. What is a house, and what is a design? Similarly what is a web site?

Some black boxes I need to check out:

  1. This business and its relationship to its customers
  2. Web developers and/or suppliers of web development resources
  3. Drafting services
  4. Alternative CAD software
  5. Alternative Structural Analysis Software
  6. Engineer with expertise in coastal engineering
  7. Engineer with expertise in agricultural engineering
  8. Chartered Engineer who can provide independent review

… to be continued.

I’d write more but having memory management problems with wordpress and the Divi theme. It keeps crashing when I attempt to save draft, publish or update. So I’m considering ditching Divi. I only want a style theme, Divi is bloated with stuff I don’t really need nor want: the builder isn’t really all that much benefit. Something I have more use for is a form builder, to collect and process data. Also wordpress.com and blogger are more restrictive on the themes which can be installed. So backtrack to something cleaner and simpler. Simpler because whilst Divi is not entirely a black box, tweaking it demands more effort than necessary due to stuff I don’t need.

So I will get back to black box testing at  a later date.