The Skeptical Informer, May 2008, Volume 2, No. 5

The newsletter of the IT Skeptic. All the IT skeptical news that is fit to print... and then some!

The Skeptical Informer is a little late this month, so first of all our apologies for that. Regular readers will know that the IT Skeptic has been out of touch lately (hopefully only literally speaking). After a stint in the Netherlands riding trains and talking ITSM followed by 10 days of southern alpine fresh air and quality father/son time, expect a newly energised Skeptic in May.

On the other hand, this blog takes a lot of time for very little return. Costs have been in six figures, counting opportunity costs, and returns have barely made four figures, even counting travel expenses. So you'll have to excuse me if the real world gets in the way from time to time. In the short term there's consulting to pay the bills and in the longer term there is a business to develop if I'm not to be working for ever.

Nevertheless, the itSMF conference in the Netherlands showed that the ITSM space will be fertile fields for comment for a long time to come. Attendees at my presentation heard that the IT Swami predicts Governance and Assurance will become equally as important aspects of business-IT alignment as Service, i.e. the organisation will look to IT to deliver all three equally and in an integrated manner. Look for a model to emerge of IT Management made up of ITSM, ITGM and ITAM or somesuch - even the terminology has not coalesced yet, but the IT Swami says it will. Given the "psychotropic prognostication" techniques he pioneered in Amsterdam using New Zealand Government overseas-factfinding-tour funds, the IT Swami should know. (Actually I think the IT Swami originally got the three-way model from talking to Craig from Concrete Campus).

The blog is already heading in that direction. Expect to see more about Governance, especially trying to better define the word, and more about aspects of Assurance that interest the IT Skeptic such as privacy and compliance.

Which is not to say that we will lay off favourite topics such as analyst Crap Factoids or ITIL dirty deeds. Wouldn't want to take the fun out of the blog, would we?

Speaking of fun, the IT Skeptic website has Chokey the Chimp issuing Crap Factoid warnings. Do we need a new character to monitor ITSM mischief? Contact the IT Skeptic with suggestions for a website personality monitoring and reporting on the dark side of ITIL, or perhaps IT in general. If your idea is used, you get a complementary copy of the new book IT Service Management Global Best Practice, which includes a short chapter from yours truly along with much other material that is actually useful.


The IT Skeptic's Crap Factoid Early Warning Service brings you this warning of extreme crap factoid danger.

This post has been podcast
Crap Factoids are pure B.S. that almost sound like a fact, and will be presented so often that everyone will think it true. Let us look closer at a classic Crap Factoid where the results were deliberately skewed, then hyped up by marketing people, and the resulting Crap Factoid thrown to the winds like GM seed. It is time people called analysts to task for this stuff because we all suffer the consequences when decision makers fall for it.

The changing world creates pressures to employ technology advances for our protection. As these advances compromise our privacy, they also drive social change in our attitudes to privacy. Business and government are working to set standards and policies to ensure these security advances deliver us benevolent security: Big Uncle, not Big Brother.

Either is possible with the technology: benevolent security is dependent on the legal, social and business policies that govern the technology.


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Linky love

There has been another change to the way this blog works - a tiny change that is bigger than it looks. It shares the linky love. All registered comment contributors especially should read this. [Update: bug fixed, should work for all users. please report to me if not working]

If you are a registered user and if you have specified a website on your profile,then every comment you leave will be followed by a "(@)" with the @ linked to your website. Here's an example. Some registered users of this site who contribute comments DON'T have a website on your profile. Put one on and receive some linky love.

(And if you do have one, check that it starts with "http://". This link from a comment will still work if it doesn't but Drupal doesn't set it up properly for anyone viewing your profile).

When you post a comment on any Drupal site, the post is followed by your name (if not anonymous). If you are not a registered user, Drupal links your name to whatever URL you stated. If you are a registered user, Drupal links your name to your site profile ("user/nnn").

The link on the comment is one more link for Google search engines - one more bit of linky love back to your site. From a page-rank 5 site like this one, that is worth having. This is why I occasionally need to delete comments dropped that say "Great site, man!" posted by "fred" whose URL is "" or somesuch. People get paid to wander round dumping this stuff.

I get a few pretty empty comments from sites in the ITIL sector too - I tend to leave them alone. Welcome brother - happy to share if you don't abuse it. You may recall that was something SpamWatcher accused me of a while ago. Where is that jerk now? He could do something useful like go pester the link-droppers on this site.

So if you don't register for the site, you get a link. If you do register, you don't. This didn't seem fair to me. So I fixed it, on this site at least.

You're welcome. Thanks for contributing.

Recent podcasts

This is a podcast of the original article IT analysts produce crap - what to look for in analyst "research"

Crap Factoids are pure B.S. that almost sound like a fact, and will be presented so often that everyone will think it true. Let us look closer at a classic Crap Factoid where the results were deliberately skewed, then hyped up by marketing people, and the resulting Crap Factoid thrown to the winds like GM seed. It is time people called analysts to task for this stuff because we all suffer the consequences when decision makers fall for it.

Classic Skeptic

You have several easy options to choose from:
1. Be an author. Wait 3-5 years for the next ITIL Refresh. Tender for one of the books. Be one of about a dozen people worldwide to win a tender. Devote a year of your life to writing a book.
2. Know an author. Get networking now: you have 3-5 years to guess who the next ones will be and get into their professional circle. Then persuade them your idea is better than theirs.
3. Contact OGC to tell them you have some content to contribute. There is no documented process to do this, not any advertised contact point, but OGC are British government bureaucrats so you should find them helpful and communicative if you just send stuff off to any old address you can find. Once you have their attention, they will put you in touch with the next authors. See 2 above.
4. Forget it.

From the blog

Big Uncle is the concept of benevolent security. We have been looking in previous posts at the loss of privacy and the positive side of what it means. One application is finding enemies of society.

As the amount of data grows and as it becomes more integrated, a natural trend is to use data mining for more advanced security. The world has barely started down this path. There is much more that can be done to apply existing data technologies and techniques for

We have an interesting discussion thread going on the suspension of critical faculties in the face of analyst research, and especially on the desire for it to be true. Cognitive dissonance and denial have been suggested as two causes. The IT Skeptic explores some ideas.

There are a couple of fundamental causes underlying the success of analyst crap factoids as memes [a meme is an idea that propagates through the species like a gene].

Big Uncle is the concept of “benevolent security”. We discussed previously how privacy is a dated concept, disappearing fast. People get all tied in a knot over this, but the consequences are only as bad as we let them be. Like any technology, there will be evil applications and there will be good ones.

We have been discussing Big Uncle: the benevolent aspects of ceding privacy to security systems. Be aware how little privacy you have in electronic communciations.

After a few days in the Netherlands for the itSMF's Best Practice conference, the IT Skeptic can say it is an unusual country. It is unusually flat, with an unusually large number of canals and ditches, but that is not what is meant. It is unusually friendly and orderly and honest but that isn't what is meant either. It must be the only country in the world that is widely skeptical about ITIL.

The IT Skeptic's Crap Factoid Early Warning Service lists the following Crap Factoid as mild, so Chokey the Chimp is staying at "high" risk, but watch out you don't step in this one. Relatively harmless but still smells bad on your shoe.

We have been discussing Big Uncle, the benevolent aspects of the loss of privacy to security systems. Today we will look at how most of us willingly surrender privacy every day and will do so increasingly online (except for the most paraniod among us: you know who you are and so do we).

Readers may think I'm exaggerating about the spread of crap factoids. Back at the end of 2006 we spotted the crap factoid "ITIL reduces costs by up to 48%". This one was particularly pernicious because it had the Gartner name behind it, which gives it a CF multiplier of 2. Where is it now? Let's see.

In the fine tradition of Prada and Rolex, comes an ITIL IP provider who understands that the more you charge the more a minority of buyers will line up to pay for "the best". As a good capitalist I guess I should cheer them on but I'm afraid I just choke at the sight of a twenty thousand dollar pricetag for a set of ITIL process maps. No services, just a download. Well I never.
BTW, they actually provide quite a bit of nice free info on the site. I guess they can afford to.

We have been discussing Big Uncle, the benevolent aspects of the loss of privacy to security systems. Today we will look closer at the concept of privacy.

The IT Skeptic has zero tolerance for copyright violation. It is theft, pure and simple. On the other hand we support fair use. Almost all theft online is clearly not fair use.

When the IT Skeptic was made aware that posted links to free ITIL exams were in fact copyright violators, we acted quickly to take them down. It's scum like that who give we MFAs a bad name.

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