My first editor at the Rice Thresher, Steve Jackson, had a big gaming hit called Ogre. To cut down on the number of game pieces (war games used to have cardboard die-cut pieces) he gave one side one piece — a powerful piece called the Ogre. This cut costs practically in half!
I mention this because during this decade technology has been playing giant games of Ogre. This is especially true in the telecom front. The most dangerous fact is that, with the help of the government, the Ogre has been winning.
I have been writing against this for years, but it is still gratifying when the light bulb goes off in someone’s head who has a big audience. Like Joel Spolsky of Joel on Software. He was recently given what was allegedly a "hot, new Sprint MP3 phone" and found it was anything but.
Which is logical. It fits in with what I call the rule of the many. The more people you have in on a decision, the worse that decision will be. On the other hand, when you have many people making their own decisions, the greater the likelihood that one of those decisions will be outstanding.
The only way to even come close to getting a handle on this is to
enforce a rigid engineering-driven corporate culture where there is one
metric everyone bows before. In this case the metric becomes the
decider. Want to know why Intel and TI remain leaders in their field?
Of course, even in that case your company can’t face the market
directly. It can only face other engineers, or entrepreneurs, who will
build what you make into something larger. And, again, it helps to have
a lot of these guys. Thus, when even Intel or TI try to make consumer
products under their own name, they tend to fail. It’s not what they
do. It’s not in their DNA.
Which brings us back to telecomm. Right now we have two companies,
composed of giant committees, making nearly all the decisions in
telecommunications. Even in cellular, which is supposed to be a
competitive market (oligopoly is more like it) you have four. And
Sprint (the donor to Spolsky) is the smallest of these companies. The smallest.
The key to success in any technology is having as many competitors as
possible. This is true in telecommunications, which is now a technology
rather than a utility, as it is elsewhere. What our telecommunications
policy is doing, therefore, is harming our economic security. And by
extension, our national security.
Not because people are evil, or because of a conspiracy. It’s a law of bureaucratic nature.
Dilbert, in other words, is a documentary.