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(slightly skeptical) Educational society promoting "Back to basics" movement against IT overcomplexity and  bastardization of classic Unix

The timeline of Carr's "in the cloud" writings

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Before publishing his 2003 HBR article Nicholas Carr has had no real connection to the IT industry. The only connection that I have found was the fact that in 2001 he edited and published a foreword to the collection of articles "Digital Enterprise : How to Reshape Your Business for a Connected World" (A Harvard Business Review Book)

The publication of Carr's 2003 HBR article is in self an almost detective story. As one Amazon reviewer aptly put it:

"While filling in for a 'let go' editor of the Harvard Business Review (HBR), a business writer with no personal involvement or experience in IT uses prime-time pages of HBR to conjure up a British tabloid piece that raises him to IT stardom."

The wave of feedback and indignation about backstabbing the industry which was at the end of long dot-com slump  was so fierce  that HBR published a selection of letters of reader in subsequent June 2003 issue (An HBR Debate).  Typical responses from IT community were extremely negative, but a little bit over-emotional, for example:

In fact, I think he planned his entire career around putting forth and publishing absurd and retarded ideas, once after another. Stop buying his works of fiction and ignore him and force him to get a real job. Then, after he has walked a mile in our shoes, lets see him spew forth his pack of lies, half truths, and other hair brained ideas.

In 2004 (just a year from the article) Carr published his first book Does IT Matter Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage Nicholas G. Carr Books  It contains seven chapters:

The first two chapters are historical overview  promotes Carr's false analogies between IT and electrical utilities and as such does not have any value to informed reader.

The third chapter is  essentially an expanded version of the initial article and contain the same frivolous treatment of facts. In this chapter he actually managed to confuse architecture with protocols.  Chapter four expands on Carr views about competitive advantages and contain the same examples as the article (SABRE and AHS order system).  I would like to provide a good counterexample: IBM Tivoli -- expensive proprietary system which survives since 1996 and even managed to gain market share despite existence of a dozen of open source and commercial rivals.  He manage to get one point right: move to open systems and protocols helps to save money in most cases but incorrectly attributes this to commodization, while open source systems by definition are more customizable then proprietary software.  Here they have a competitive advantage against proprietary rivals (with the exception of those which have internal scripting language). This fact is not understood by Carr. 

Chapter five is relatively new and contains incoherent discussion of role of IT in speeding up the elimination of competitive advantage between commercial rivals. Carr correctly claims that IT technology is easily replicatable but forget to note that this is now typical for the all industries. Borrowing something the competitor created is already faster a end cheaper that creating a new product.  But reality is more complex that Carr description of it. I would like to remind Carr Wal-Mart successful lawsuit against Amazon, where it proved that Amazon lured key specialists in order to replicate Wal-Mart IT processes. He also praise the "screwdriver" approach to building PC and servers citing Dell's advantage in direct order systems. I would like to remind him that Dell is now opening retails outlets and is selling computers via Wal-Mart and Sams club.  Also Dell itself proved to be not immune to the  'race to the bottom' and is now suffering both from HP (which sell its products mainly via retail) and from Acer. The latter undercut its costs in ultraportable laptops area (Eeee).  

Chapter six contain a very superficial discussion of why IT projects fail, and high number of failures convinces Carr that this waist of resources should be stopped and companies should buy off the shelf software.  It did not come to his mind that high level of failures is correlated with tremendous complexity of the projects. That's extremely naive but that's typical for the whole book.  Carr also repeats his standard three recommendations ("spend less",  "follow, don't lead" and "focus more on vulnerabilities then opportunities" ) -- basically the same (false and superficial, see below) argumentation as in the article.

Chapter seven touches the influence of IT on productivity.

In 2008 he published The Big Switch Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google Nicholas Carr Books. This 276 pages book got 20 mostly positive reviews and managed to get the Amazon sales rank 3000,  but an interesting thing I noticed is that when on May 10, 2008 I published my, highly critical review it was immediately followed with a 5-star review.

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Groupthink : Two Party System as Polyarchy : Corruption of Regulators : Bureaucracies : Understanding Micromanagers and Control Freaks : Toxic Managers :   Harvard Mafia : Diplomatic Communication : Surviving a Bad Performance Review : Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime : PseudoScience : Who Rules America : Neoliberalism  : The Iron Law of Oligarchy : Libertarian Philosophy


War and Peace : Skeptical Finance : John Kenneth Galbraith :Talleyrand : Oscar Wilde : Otto Von Bismarck : Keynes : George Carlin : Skeptics : Propaganda  : SE quotes : Language Design and Programming Quotes : Random IT-related quotesSomerset Maugham : Marcus Aurelius : Kurt Vonnegut : Eric Hoffer : Winston Churchill : Napoleon Bonaparte : Ambrose BierceBernard Shaw : Mark Twain Quotes


Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law


Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Haterís Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D

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