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David B. Black
See this for details: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/david-black/a2/2b4/49b
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For a wide variety of human-understandable reasons, software is perceived as a science. In academia, it's taught in the Computer Science department, often part of the math department. What could be more precise and scientific than that? Whatever its pretensions, software is anything but scientific. It's mostly driven by fashions and fads, led by "experts" who promote theories that sound good when described -- but which entirely lack any form of scientific process, testing or evidence. Software diseases will continue to severely hamper our computer systems until we wake from our long, pre-scientific sleep. We will know we're making progress... Continue reading
Posted Apr 9, 2019 at The Black Liszt
When you are going to acquire or make a major investment in a company, it makes sense to perform due diligence. Not only does it make sense, it's a fiduciary responsibility! Due diligence on the company's financials are a no-brainer. Same thing with legal. Wouldn't want to be surprised by a landmine in one of the contracts, would you? If there is software involved, most people perform technical due diligence. In each case, you hire an expert who combs through the relevant portion of the company. The expert produces a report, at minimum highlighting any deficiencies. They're all pretty similar,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2019 at The Black Liszt
First there was Bitcoin, friend of criminals, speculators and tech geeks everywhere. It’s grown amazingly. Then there were alternatives to Bitcoin, often sharing much of the same code, but with different and incompatible tokens. One of those Bitcoin alternatives, Ethereum, introduced the concept of Smart Contracts, which I discuss here. Now, increasing attention is being paid to “blockchain,” said to be the foundation on which crypto-currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are built. Large corporations are taking up the charge, places like IBM and Microsoft, and leaders in various industries have projects going to prove out the technology. While the terminology... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2019 at The Black Liszt
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Chatbots for financial and other applications aren’t just a cool new thing. They’re a necessity! They solve the worsening problem of too many options to choose from on shrinking screens, with unhelpful help screens. Do you access your financial accounts online? If you do, perhaps you’ll remember that the first time you tried to do something, you had the fun of poring over the menu system to find what button to click, sometimes only to reach another screen full of buttons and menus. On the plus side, online financial systems let you get a lot done. On the minus side,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2019 at The Black Liszt
As I’ve described, cryptocurrency losses started long ago and have kept on mounting over the years. Most recently, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in Canada, QuadrigaCX, has experienced a little problem that has resulted in what appears to be a permanent loss of over $130 million for its many customers. The losses don’t seem to make any sense. My account is stored in a ledger that’s immutable – it can’t be changed because it’s locked down by unbreakable cryptography. It can’t be lost because the ledger is distributed, so even if a few computers are lost, there are still loads of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2019 at The Black Liszt
Bitcoin is an amazing technology. I admire it. The central idea of how to implement a virtual currency with no one in charge, but where the “bank vault” is nonetheless pretty safe, is clever, as I explained here. However, the second you take this clever idea and apply it to situations for which it was not designed, it quickly becomes ridiculous – inferior by factors of thousands compared to existing solutions. It’s as though you liked hiking and camping in a tent -- and went back to your home on your suburban block, knocked your house down, disconnected from electricity,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2019 at The Black Liszt
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Smart contracts are all the rage in the blockchain world these days. They are the key feature that has pushed Ethereum to prominence. They’re everywhere! There are just a few little problems. They’re not smart. They’re not contracts. They’re rife with security issues. And they violate the core principles that are supposed to make blockchain wonderful. Other than that, they’re great! There is a huge amount of rhetoric and propaganda about what Smart Contracts are supposed to be. Here’s the reality: A smart contract is a software program. It’s written in one of a variety of mostly brand-new languages, chief... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2019 at The Black Liszt
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Nearly everyone professes to LOVE data. Just think about all the talk about Big Data, Data Lakes and the rest. Lies. Liars lying big LIES. Everyone says they like data ... until they get near it. Suddenly they develop fevers and rashes. They're allergic! Someone else will have to actually handle the data! Data, the foundation of AI, ML, Analytics All you have to do is get a job in one of these fancy subjects, and you quickly get hit with reality. When you were in school, you had wonderful exercises where you could develop your skills in deep learning,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2019 at The Black Liszt
There is a striking hierarchy of skills in software, as I've explained here. When you dive into any particular aspect of software, you usually find that it's got a hierarchy all its own. Data science is a subject of intense interest these days, so in this post I'll explain some of the basics of the data science skills hierarchy. A skills hierarchy is very much an insider's game. What most people care about is status. I talk about the basics of software status here. Remember, the skills hierarchy is a whole world away from the status hierarchy that most people... Continue reading
Posted Mar 12, 2019 at The Black Liszt
The story about TBI is priceless, thanks for sharing...
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Software experts do NOT think about blood-letting. But ALL medical doctors thought about blood-letting and considered it a standard and necessary part of medical practice until well into the 1800's. They continued to weaken and kill patients with this destructive "therapy," even as the evidence against it piled high. The vast majority of software experts strongly resemble medical doctors from those earlier times. The evidence is overwhelming that the "cures" they promote make things worse, but since all the software doctors give nearly the same horrible advice, things continue. Blood-letting Blood-letting is now a thoroughly discredited practice. But it was... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2019 at The Black Liszt
Apple’s had a rough time recently, with bugs, security problems and sales issues. The recent Facetime bug is particularly embarrassing. It’s made the news! There are stories about it all over. Apple is scrambling to fix the issue and end the pain and embarrassment, pronto. Blockchain has also had a rough time, with recent cavernous losses that extend a years-long pattern. Blockchain enthusiasts march on, seemingly oblivious to the intractable problems that cripple their beloved technology. So far as anyone can tell, no one is scrambling to fix the problems. Comparing the two situations is interesting and educational. The Apple... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2019 at The Black Liszt
Insiders most like to describe Blockchain as Immutable Distributed Ledger technology. They love that it’s distributed, and a “ledger” rather than a database. But most of all, they seem to like that it’s “immutable.” To enthusiasts, this means that the unbreakable cryptography and other techno-nerd elements result in impregnable, hack-proof software. In a world filled with crappy software that’s thoroughly “mutable,” hackable, breakable and a smorgasbord of other criminal, consumer-hurting things, this is a wonderful thing. No wonder so many people and corporations are jumping on the Blockchain Bandwagon. The smell of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) fills the air.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2019 at The Black Liszt
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There aren’t many true and surprising new things in software technology, in spite of all the gushing about new stuff. At the center of Bitcoin is a tech advance. Not a minor step forward. Not an enhancement fueled by faster chips. An amazing idea that is the engine that has fueled its explosive growth. It’s not something people talk much about, sadly. They should. The core of the idea is the miners that are the heart of the Bitcoin engine. If you’ve heard anything about Bitcoin, you’ve probably heard that it’s a crypto-currency. You’ve heard it’s totally secure because lots... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2019 at The Black Liszt
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I got an email from my health insurance company, telling me I had an important message I could read if I clicked and got to their website. Here's what happened. While I was on the site, I discovered they were delivering break-through functionality making it easier to pay those annoying doctor bills that appear in the mail long after the visit. Here's the scoop. This post tells what happened next. One of the best things Anthem did to enhance their customer website experience is to be humble. So many stuck-up website creators are sure they’ve done the best job that... Continue reading
Posted Feb 19, 2019 at The Black Liszt
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I personally experienced the roll-out of Anthem BC-BS’s new patient billing initiative. As is well known, and as I’ve discussed in detail, patient billing, both from providers and payers, is a nightmare for everyone involved. Fixing it appears to be tough – it’s worse than being between a rock and a hard place; billing is between a rock, a hard place, the devil and the deep blue sea. As I’ve said many times, Anthem is one of the best health insurance companies out there, full of hard-working, well-meaning people who just want to do the right thing. Their many efforts... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2019 at The Black Liszt
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Giant organizations have trouble building effective software that works and gets the job done. I have gone into depth on this subject, giving examples of the problems. But there’s something about being a large organization that seems to prevent even being aware that there’s a problem, much less being able to fix it. I recently had occasion to dive into my health insurance company’s website, enticed by an email to do so. What I experienced was a travesty. If this company were run like a company should be run, heads should have rolled. It’s as bad as a trucking company... Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2019 at The Black Liszt
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Using advanced software techniques can make a dramatic positive impact on business. It’s important for everyone to assure that your software efforts aren’t stuck in out-moded, last-generation tools and techniques. Nearly everyone, including me, agrees with this simple statement. Nearly everyone also agrees on at least the top members of a list of reasonable candidates of “advanced software techniques” that are not “out-moded” or “last-generation.” That last statement is where the best technical people part ways with the crowd. No, I’m not talking about hard-to-understand weird-o’s babbling about esoterica in some corner. The best technical people understand and support using... Continue reading
Posted Jan 29, 2019 at The Black Liszt
I’ve been involved in computer software for decades. Lots has changed over that time. One thing that hasn’t changed is the question people most like to ask me. It’s this: “What do you see that’s new and interesting?” It’s a perfectly reasonable question, though one for which I rarely have a ready-made answer. A question I never hear goes something like this: “What do you see that’s touted as the newest new thing, but is mostly old stuff, and was completely predictable?” Now that’s an interesting question. And the un-helpful but honest answer is “Practically everything that’s touted as a... Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2019 at The Black Liszt
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Here's what the experts do for computer security: Hire security experts to implement best-in-class security. Follow all the regulations. Pass all the audits. Spend lots of money. Then, of course, you get breached, because in spite of doing the above, you have no idea what you're doing... Here's how you respond: Get more experts to find what happened. Establish a carefully-thought-out strategy to recover from the breach and minimize damage to your reputation. Alert the public and your users about the event and your concerned, respectful response. Then, of course, you change your website, put lots of money into attractive... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2019 at The Black Liszt
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What else is new? Everyone knows that software planning is, well, just impossible. Live with it! I mean something else entirely. I mean that software planning, in the usual sense of the word, is literally impossible to do. Planning for a new house? OK. Planning a new road or intersection? You may not like the cost, disruption or time, but it can be done. "Planning" in the sense that everyone means it and uses it for everything else, is literally impossible for software. Here's why, in a nutshell: a "software plan" that is the exact equivalent of an architectural plan... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2018 at The Black Liszt
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We all know that incentives work. That's why you always read about the "low prices" and the "sale" about to start, or the "limited-time offer." They're incentives to buy this or that. A server at a restaurant is incented to provide good service to get a good tip, and a salesperson is incented to sell by getting a commission. What a good idea it must be to apply this idea to healthcare, right? Maybe the idea of incentives applies to healthcare. I take no position on that subject. But I do know that when the sprawling bureaucracy of a health... Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2018 at The Black Liszt
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“Fashion” is a word we associate with clothes. Software is hard, it’s objective, it’s taught in schools as “computer science.” Software can’t have anything to do with “fashion” if it’s a “science,” can it? Sadly, software is infected by fashion trends and styles at least as much as clothes. Fashion has a huge impact on how software is built. Understanding this, along with other key concepts like those involved in Wartime Software, can contribute greatly to building great software that powers a business to great success. Fashion We all know what fashion is, exemplified by fashion shows like this one:... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2018 at The Black Liszt
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I've gone through quite a bit to get the results of my MRI. See here for the previous installment, and here for the start of the saga. I glanced at the report and it looked good. In this post, I'll describe the unsettling things I found when digging deeper. In sum: the whole baroque nightmare of scheduling, performing and delivering results of medical tests is not only inefficient and riddled with needless high cost and waste, but more important there are serious quality problems leading not just to delay and waste, but bad results. I fully acknowledge that what has... Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2018 at The Black Liszt
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I've done everything I can to use the Mount Sinai patient access portal to access my test results, without result. (See here for the start of this saga, and here for the previous post.) Now it's time for desperate measures. I finally take the radical step of picking up the phone and calling for help. Surely the results are there! Here's what happened. I called. I was put on hold. I explained the situation. I was put on hold while the CSR checked something out. More questions. More holding. Rinse and repeat several times. Hold while I check with my... Continue reading
Posted Oct 30, 2018 at The Black Liszt