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Re: [ontolog-forum] SME (subject matter experts) and Ontology developeme

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Thomas Johnston <tmj44p@xxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 18 Mar 2015 06:52:11 -0700
Message-id: <1426686731.84987.YahooMailNeo@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
re IBM giving the keys to the PC kingdom to Bill Gates. Just when you thought there was nothing in the sound and fury of human existence in the corporate world that could surprise you anymore, there's a story like this. Of course there's nothing surprising in what happened. But the ramifications are almost unparalleled.

Almost but not quite. I believe that Steve Jobs picked up the idea for using mice as pointing devices from the Xerox PARC people, when he was taking a public tour of the place. I believe they were the same guys who invented Ethernet. In both cases, Xerox made nothing out of the brilliance of those guys.

On Tuesday, March 17, 2015 2:27 PM, John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Dear Matthew and Tom,

Your comments represent different kinds of experience.  Methodology
developed to support Shell can support many other businesses as well.
But as Tom (and Dilbert) have painfully observed, managers make mission
critical decisions based on what they understand.  Following is an
excerpt from an old Beetle Bailey cartoon:

    Corporal:  Why are we using typewriters? In my previous assignment,
      we used computers.
    Sarge:  The general does not like people who understand things that
      he doesn't understand.  Understand?
    Corporal:  Understood.

> I agree there is much that can be done, particularly in linguistic
> analysis of documents, identifying and extracting terms, events, and
> relationships at the instance level, and this will be useful in its
> own right. The results are at the folksonomy end of the ontology scale,
> but this is often enough to add considerable value.

Much, much more can be done.  Please look at slides 7 to 15 of

This is the legacy re-engineering problem, which Arun Majumdar and
André LeClerc solved in 15 person-weeks with an early version of the
VivoMind software.  Note slide 11: "A major consulting firm estimated
that the job would take 40 people two years to analyze the documents
and generate the cross references.  With VivoMind software, it was
completed in 15 person weeks."

The results, which required Arun and André to do a fair amount of extra
programming to supplement and tailor the VivoMind tools, included a
CD-Rom with "Glossary, data dictionary, data flow diagrams, process
architecture, system context diagrams."  The client said that was
exactly what they wanted.

That project convinced us that the software was sufficient to start
a business.  That was the basis for VivoMind.  Unfortunately, it was
very hard to find clients that the same problems and managers who
understood the potential for the solutions we proposed.

We spoke to a small consulting firm (with about 20 employees).  But
the CEO did not want software that might shrink two-year contracts
to 8-week contracts.

We spoke to one of the founders of a lager company that produced
software for converting legacy systems to more modern systems.
He and one of his staff members were very receptive to our proposal.
But the co-founder, who owned a controlling percentage of the company,
said no.  He realized that it might change their entire business
strategy -- or maybe not.  Either way, he wanted no part of it.

I can provide many related stories from my years at IBM and from
discussions with people at other businesses, large and small.

> I just want to dispel the myths that management, in any commercial
> enterprise, can differentiate experts from the rest.  They can't.
> There are occasionally non-management personnel in commercial IT
> who command remuneration that busts the upper limits that HR sets
> for the job title they have.  Some of them are pretty good, but none
> of them are that good.  Most of them have a personal style that a
>  senior manager -- VP or even C-level executive -- has been impressed
> by.  Most of them are distinguished from the rest of us by nothing
> more  than that.

That is certainly true.

And managers trust consultants on the basis of how much they charge,
which is usually unrelated to what they know or what they contribute.
A corollary is that they do not trust their own employees, who may be
far more knowledgeable.

Just one example:  A couple of guys at IBM Research had implemented
an OS for the original PC in six weeks that was far and away superior
to QDOS (Quick and Dirty OS), which the developer knew was obsolete
when he sold it to Bill Gates.  But Gates promised the clueless IBM
executives everything -- and signed a contract that gave them nothing.

The manager of the group that designed the IBM PC was a hardware guy
who knew nothing about software.  The even more clueless CEO promoted
him to vice president on the basis of the initial sales success.  But
he had no idea that he had given away IBM's monopoly to Microsoft.

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