Monday, 15 December 2008

Inside Out

Over the past week or two, I've been experiencing the "Symbian Signed" process for the first time from outside of Symbian, and the process looks very different from the two sides. There's some interesting stuff about Symbian Signed (and interesting stuff in general) to be found in David Wood's blog at - http://www.dw2-0.com/

I won't go on at length here about the signing process, as David manages to talk about it with much more knowledge and eloquence than I could ever manage.

What's been interesting for me is to see how a process can look so different from the inside and from the outside.

There's an endless tension between the users of systems ("I wish the system would do this") and the owners of the system ("It can't, because...") and this isn't only true of signing processes, of course - it's true of almost any system you can think of - not just software.

Children of a certain age tend to go through a phase of asking "why?" as the response to everything you tell them.

"That's Daddy's car"
"Why?"
"Because he bought it"
"Why?"
"Because he liked it"
"Why?"
"Because it goes fast"
"Why?"
"Because it has a big engine"
"Why?"
"Because the car company put one in"
"Why?"
"Because they thought they could sell more cars that way"
"Why?"
"Because people like me would buy one"
"Why?"
"Because I liked it"

And around you go...

But annoying as this can be, a less childish and more productive version of the same questioning technique sometimes yields results, even in the world of work.

Think of the times when someone tells you that something doesn't work, or that they can't do something by the end of today, or that they won't be able to look at your issue until a week on Monday. A polite, and genuinely inquisitive, "why?" in those situations can get you to some useful information.

All too often people take things at face value, and again this applies across life. Plumbers will come into your house and tell you that they need to replace a part on your boiler, digging down a few levels by asking "why?" will quite often get you a greater understanding of what actually needs doing.

Answering the question "why?" is one of the hardest, and deepest questions to answer. But it's also an important one to answer in most things you do. "Why?" tends to provoke thought and get behind the "what?" "when?" and "who?" questions which don't describe something and don't attempt to get underneath and understand that something in more detail.

Attempting to answer the quesiton "why?" has been behind some of the greatest discoveries of all time. And the answers to the question "why?" are much more interesting than the answers to the question "what?"

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