David K. Every
I know, I know. People are very sensitive about Nazi's. It is politically incorrect to point out the philosophy that lead to the Nazi's. But of course "politically correct is historically inaccurate". To learn from History we must study it -- not deny it, or over-simplify it.
I have said that IS/IT types who want to standardize on Windows are similar (loosely) IN PHILOSOPHY to Communists and Socialists -- even National Socialists (Nazi's). Of course people forget what the philosophy was that led to Nazi's power, and what they stood for. Instead they oversimplify any discussion of the issue, into childish extremes of black and white -- "Nazi's killed people, so you are saying that person X is a murderer". Of course that is not what I am saying, I am only saying that a particular philosophical belief is dangerous, based on what has happened when others believed that same thing.
Remember the Nazi's came to power because it was the societal belief (or tolerance for the belief) that, "The good of the many outweighs the good of the few". Germany just then took that belief to its natural conclusion. Communism has stood for much the same thing, with much the same results.
What do many in IS/IT organizations believe again? Last I heard, they believed that the good of IS/IT outweighs the concerns of the many. So they are even a bit worse, "The good of the few, outweighs the need of the many".
This philosophy must be watched and is cause for concern.
Don't get me wrong. I don't buy most slippery slope arguments. You can have capital punishments or "living wills" without becoming a society that believes in shooting Jay-Walkers on sight or exterminating all welfare recipients. Some centralized control has benefits. But we should recognize the slope, and be leery of it -- without being absolutely black and white and pretending that there is no good to be gained from that choice. Pretending that all Germans were evil, or that what happened over there could never happen again, is naive. We must be diligent and cautious, without being close minded.
Over here (in the U.S.) we have already started to match most of the beliefs of the Brown-Shirts. Many people are for more Gun Control (less freedoms), more nationalized standards, more central control, more federal power, Govt. and Business working hand in hand (a euphemism for more govt. control of businesses), subjective taxation, subjective legislation, subjective punishments, charity done at gun-point, group thinking (political correctness), and tolerance for things that are wrong (because they are popular). All these conditions and beliefs helped lead up to the greatest atrocities in history -- and they exist in our nation right now!
We even allow such things as a govt. board to create decree's as to how communities and individuals will educate their children. Remember, there are trade-offs. National Standards have a place... but we should not forget that generalization is a way to oppress all the minorities (and we are all minorities in one way or another). Most people would be against having their neighbors create "national standards" for how much they must spend on all their expenses (gardening, housing, etc.) or for how they will spend their time. Why? Because needs vary from individual to individual, from region to region -- and we know in our hearts that politicizing this issue would make it into a chaotic mess of special interest, and having other individuals trying to cram their views down our throats. Yet the same people against it for themselves, are often for creating federal regulations to do the same thing to everything else (when it suits their cause or special interest). They will do what they know can't work (well) -- even down to trying to tell every community in the nation what is best way to educate their kids (or how to spend their money on education).
To fail to realize that different communities have different standards and objectives, and to think that a central board can take all those considerations into account, is terminally naive. So the issues about standardizing anything (beyond a certain point), not only isn't in the federal charter (nor should it be), but also is guaranteed to fail and be harmful (as well as helpful). History tells us that the costs have generally outweighted the rewards in this centralized meddling. There are a few successes, and many failures. Too many only look at one side of the equation, and fail to look at the balance. (I am not saying I am for or against national tests/standards or control, I am just pointing out the costs that so many ignore -- and I am certainly not for them to the degrees we have, or many would like to go to).
These same "dangerous" thoughts, apply to computers as well. IS/IT can never take into account all the specialized needs and desires of all the different users (and all the uses for a computer) in a large organization. This is exactly why IS/IT must be a service TO the users, and not in control of the users (and making choices for them). But again, we are failing to think about the costs and ramifications of our choices -- and the results are that groups and individuals are being harmed, in the name of the greater good.
Almost every time you hear someone tell you that standardization is good, odds are they mean "if THEY made all the choices". It is an indirect way of saying that they know what is better for you (or everyone) than you do. When you hear "good of the nation", "good of the company" , or "good of the schools" -- think what the person is really saying, "it would be better for me if I could politicize the issue, in order to cram MY special interests down your throat".
I don't expect people to all agree with my views (political or philosophical) -- and certainly not to the same degrees as I do. I am just pointing out some views that should make people think a little, even if they don't agree.
Before we get too critical of ONLY these groups, we should also look at our own industries (or ourselves) as well, and learn what we can do to improve them. (This whole site is part of my efforts to improve mine).