Subject: Re: Bloatware/'de fatso' standards/The faster we run, the behinder we
From: email@example.com (John R. Mashey)
Date: Nov 22 1996
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com (Henry
|> The economists keep trying to understand why the massive investments in
|> computers haven't produced massive increases in productivity. Investments
|> in 'IT' (Information Technology) are currently the 'Black Hole' of the
|> productivity picture.
I'm not sure why this long thread is here in comp.arch ...
but in the general interest of promoting rational discussion and useful
analysis that might actually fit here:
(a) Does anybody discussing this topic *actually* understand:
- What the original statement actually means?
If so, please post.
- Is there a statement here that is actually amenable to scientific
analysis, i.e., like quantification and falsification?
(b) Be reminded that anyone who simply takes numbers from economists without
understanding how they are measured, or what they mean, can get led
seriously astray ... just as people can get led astray by benchmarks
and irrelevant architectural specifications.
(c) I'd love to see a good explanation of this from somebody who knows.
Here are the sorts of questions that one might want ask, that is, if there
are not good answers for these, then the original statement is not useful:
(1) Presumably, one can measure investments in IT.
(2) Presumably, one has productivity measures ... but which ones:
Productivity = output/input
Output could be:
Quality-adjusted goods or services, i.e., must
subtract problem cases from total shipped.
All sorts of other measures, such as lives saved,
# person-days of health
Input might be:
Per/person in producing organization
Per total asset base
(Note, of course, that when people throw the terms around
without thinking, absurd things can happen. Suppose, for
instance, you act like manufactured goods are what counts.
Suppose computer companies A & B are the same size, revenue,
but differ as follows:
A: sells you a computer, then every years, sells you a CDROM
with software updates. (product1+product2)
B: sells you a computer, and as a separate service, promises
to update your system once a year. (product + service)
Of these two, A now looks like a much more productive
(3) Averages mask distributions, and distributions are *important*.
The following statements are *very* different:
(a) The world, as a whole, invested $X, with no increase
(b) Some people invested, and productivity actually got worse
(that happens, after all); others got spectacular
returns on their investments.
(d) Personal opinion: the generic statement that IT spending is a black
hole is not very useful: it's clear that:
(1) Some people waste money on IT spending, for negative return.
(2) Some people spend money on IT, and accomplish crucial results,
which however, don't show up in typical productivity metrics.
(3) Some people spend money on IT that has *terrific* return, on any
measure you'd likely use.
Of course, some software has gotten bloated ... this tends to happen
For the bulk of users, there is a level of "good enough"
that has already been achieved, but vendors would like to
keep selling software upgrades.
Fortunately, there are other application areas where there is
no level of "good enough" likely to be achievable any time soon,
and can basically use whatever level of performance can be afforded.
-john mashey DISCLAIMER: <generic disclaimer, I speak for me only, etc>
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