September 11, 2012

The Business Alchemist, our virtual guru at Assist Knowledge Development, has had several musings over the last few months, including:


Firstly what does this have to do with the subject of my blog?  I’ve often expressed annoyance with Snakeoil salesmen in the world of development akin to “if you use our fantastic new Method all will be well” or “just do X – it works for me so it must work for you”.

Secondly an apology to Warhammer 40k fans who’ve found this post – no you haven’t got a new army list for your Tau army… yet.

Today (28 June) is Tau day – but what is Tau?   Well Pi day (as celebrated by google and others) is 14 March (3.14 geddit?) and as Tau is 2*Pi then 6.28 is Tau day!

Who came up with this crazy notion?  Some mathematicians who believe that the constant we should use instead of Pi (π) for calculating things like the circumference of a circle is Tau (τ). The basis of their argument is as follows:

  • A circle or arc’s radius is more frequently used than its diameter – no problem with that
  • The definition of π  is however the ratio of a circles circumference (C) to its diameter (D) – so π = C/D; it would be better to work with the ratio of a circles circumference (C) to its radius(r) – i.e. τ = C/r
  • In many calculations and formulae you find you need to multiply π by 2, such as in calculating the circumference (2πr if you needed reminding).  How inconvenient!
  • You can read more at this link

I don’t have a lot of time to waste on this, but in a nutshell:

  • Why break the habit of many lifetimes – Pi was calculated by the egyptians 5000 years ago and has been in regular use since – although not known as Pi until the greek alphabet came along obviously
  • Is multiplying a constant by 2 really that painful.  How many times are you using it in a formula where you could probably  simplify the expression by dividing by 2 anyway!
  • The area of a circle is π(r^2) (Pi * r squared) – is it really easier to use (τ/2)r^2 ?
  • Did you notice how similar the symbols for tau and the letter ‘r’ are in that last example?  Mathematicians aren’t known for the neatness of their handwriting; a major disaster waiting to happen if you ask me!
  • If you really want to use tau then do so.  Simply add the following line to the top of your work to define it:

let τ =

My main gripe is this.  Mathematical notation and the definition of certain constants are designed to permit effective communication of the purest form and relies on some very basic principles; universal recognition and readability.  These are the same reasons we like standards in the world of IT and development – to aid communication and remove ambiguities, hence the popularity of UML and similar.

Just don’t get me started on why in IT some kilo things are 1024 and others 1000…

While I’ve been busy delivering training courses and putting the finishing touches to some new AssistKD training courses (more to follow soon) I’d like to report on a few matters.  Firstly the Business Alchemist blog at AssistKD has released two excellent observations on:

I’ve also been involved in a number of groups attempting to pin down exactly what we mean by the term Enterprise Architecture and ensuring that any function by that name creates value for organisations.  I have been in groups of 20 people who between us probably have 30 definitions, depending on our experience or viewpoint.  I am looking forward to hopefully being involved (if only on the periphery) in an initiative led by Dr Cameron of the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) at The Pennsylvania State University.  He is presenting a session called Enterprise Architecture Education and Research in Higher Education on 11 May 2011 organised by the BCS Enterprise Architecture Specialist Group – details here.  I will be looking to see what we can take from his work to improve the world of vocational qualifications in this area.


The Business Alchemist blogs about ‘Process improvement – focus on the customer to deliver real value

Assist Knowledge Development Ltd (my employers) have a new blog called “The Business Alchemist’s blog” which concerns itself with all matters of interest to the company including:

  • Business Analysis
  • Systems and Solutions development
  • Enterprise and related Architectures (inc. Solutions and Business)
  • Competence and skills frameworks
  • Training, learning and consultancy

The first entry “The challenge of eLearning”  is about eLearning and about what gives it value; and it’s not a glossy appearance.  Trust the Business Alchemist to know how to find gold in the most unlikely places!

Find it here.

UML Fever spreads

March 1, 2011

…and I don’t mean fever in a positive manner. UML has been around for over a decade now and has been broadly adopted by many people and organisations. I say adopted, maybe I mean ‘caught’.

In 2004 Ian Bell of the Boeing Company wrote an excellent article on some of the perils and pitfalls of ‘adopting’ UML without correctly implementing it. What makes it one of my all time favorite articles is the amusing, almost satirical, manner in which he presents typical problems in the form of a class of fevers (classified under several meta-fevers) that represent issues – not with UML but – with the way organisations implement UML poorly.

Another reason I like this article is that  seven years later it appears that not a lot has changed in the world of UML.  If anything the fevers have managed to adapt and find new hosts such as Agile and Enterprise Architecture.

Anyway – you can download and read this excellent article in PDF format at

Another channel opens…

January 12, 2011

This is my first foray into the world of WordPress.  This blog will be used to post items related to my professional work.