Saturday, July 2, 2005

Famous Quotes (about resistence to change and predicting the future)

I am reminded of these quotes every time I talk to someone who believes that rulebases, knowledgebases, and expert systems are a fad...


"The telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.”
Western Union internal memo, 1876

"The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys."
Sir William Preece, chief engineer of the British Post Office, 1876 *

"Drill for Oil? You mean drill in the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy."
Response reported by Edwin Drake as he tried to hire workmen who knew oil just bubbled out of the ground, 1895 *

"Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899

"It must be accepted as a principle that the rifle, effective as it is, cannot replace the effect produced by the speed of the horse, the magnetism of the charge and the terror of cold steel."
British Cavalry Training Manual, 1907 *

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
Marshal Ferdinand Foch (who become the supreme allied commander in World War I), 1911 *

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"
David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1949 *

“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.”
Popular Mechanics, 1949

"I have travelled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."
Editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957 *

"We don't like their sound and guitar music is on the way out."
Decca records rejects the Beatles, 1962 *

"There is no reason in the world anyone would want a computer in their home. No reason.”
Ken Olsen, Chairman, DEC, 1977

"I believe OS/2 is destined to be the most important operating system, and possibly program, of all time.”
Bill Gates 11/87

"640K of RAM ought to be enough for anybody.”
Bill Gates, 1981

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it”
Alan Kay

* Thanks to Jocelyn Paine for these quotes:

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Friday, June 10, 2005

What's wrong with Business Rule Engines and Expert Systems?

One of the biggest obstacles we face in the Business Rule Management industry is that rule engine/expert system software tools are "that good".


  • Some companies just can't believe all the "claims" that we (the BR software vendors and BR consulting firms) make, so they go away and don't buy. They think our "claims" are "hype".

  • Some companies do believe all the claims and immediately see the power and value that Business Rule Engines and Expert Systems can add. Then the IT side realizes that "business people writing rules" really means "IT people don't have to". So all too often some IT People raise technology issues and concerns such as Top 10 Reasons Why We Should Not Manage Business Rules or use Business Rule Engines that slow down or derail the whole effort.

  • Some companies that have figured out how to "do rules right" and really leverage BRE/ES technology get so much value out of it that they just don't want to talk about it. Some clients don't want to stake a "claim" - - they prefer to stay under the radar and keep firing away (no pun intended) at their competition. If you had a secret competitive edge, would you tell your competition? (See: "Expert systems didn't really go away. They went undercover.")

So even though there are lots of BRE software vendors and a few visionary niche methodology/consulting vendors that Gartner calls "Satellite Methodology Vendors" like BIZRULES.COM (shameless plug!), one of the challenges we face is that our solutions and technologies are "so good" that clients won't tell, and potential clients won't believe.

For 20 years, people in this industry have been trying to solve this problem. I wish I knew the answer.

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Top 10 Reasons Why We Should Not Manage Business Rules or use Business Rule Engines

Here is a list of what I call "the usual suspects" - - These are the quotes that you will hear many IT People say when someone proposes the idea of using a rule engine instead of hard-coding or hard-wiring rules.

The Proposer sees the rule engine as a way to increase IT productivity, improve time to market, and reduce IT costs.

The "Old IT" People see the rule engine as a threat because it means they won't have to write as much code. Less code to write means less money to make.

The "New IT" People see the rule engine as an opportunity because it means they won't have to write as much code. This will give them more time to do more higher value-added work.

So listen up next time someone suggests using a rule engine in your company: See if you can tell from the response and feedback who gets the "New IT" of the 21st Century, and who is still stuck in the "Old IT" of the 20th Century?

10. "This is different." - - I agree, yes, traditional procedural applications are quite different from declarative rule-based applications

9. "This is not how we build traditional procedural-IT systems around here."

8. "This is not the way we hard-code or "hard-wire" our rules in our systems."

7. "If we use a rule engine, we may not need as many IT business analysts." - - This is a fact. Subject Matter Experts and other Business People may indeed be able to author the rules themselves, without IT Business Analysts

6. "And if we really learn how use this rule engine well, we may not need as many IT Programmers either..." - - This is a fact

7. It's not object oriented." - - This is wrong on multiple levels. First of all, object oriented programming systems evolved from A.I. and expert systems research labs. The earliest inference engines and expert systems were actually among the first (if not the first) computer programs that were truly object oriented. Remember SmallTalk?

6. "The inference engine will be too slow." - - This is wrong. This statement may be made by somebody who has experience working on expert system projects back in 1985. Everything was slow back then. Inferencing is a lot like thinking - It's hard work! Remember, PC's were running at 10 or 20 MHz back then. Inference engines run fine on my 3 GHZ PC in 2005.

5. "It'll never work." - - Some people just don't get it. They cannot deal with change. Lots of very smart people say things like that, and they turn out to be dead wrong. See Famous Quotes

4. "We tried that years ago, but it was too slow." - - See #6

3. "This rule engine adds one more layer for our programs to deal with." - - Technically, you may be right. However, did you stop to consider how many layers of legacy rule code you will be able to get rid of once the way you throw out all the spaghetti-code rules logic and put the rules in a rulebase (aka rule engine) instead? Getting rid of all that "hard-wiring" is probably going to eliminate about 23.5 layers of junk. So, yes, I agree with you on this one: Using the rule engine will add "one more layer". Let's call it the "business logic layer" or the "knowledge layer"

2. "Our rules are too complex for a rule engine." - - Every time I hear this claim, my jaw drops, then I go speechless. After a few seconds, I will explain the fact that the more complex your business rules are, the more you need a rule engine. This is usually the right moment to bring up the RETE algorithm and discuss how it scales and handles more rules without degrading.

1. "We'll just write our own rule engine." - - This is usually the last gasp. Once all the claims above are debated and proven false, this is the one that seems to come up last. At this point, even the IT People realize the way to go is a rule engine. But the first thought is "He's right, we need one... We need a rule engine... We need to build a rule engine." Right.... Let's see. How about a database analogy? What you are saying is that you should build your own rule engine, the same way that you should build your own relational database management system instead of buying Oracle or SQL Server or DB2. OK. I see your point....

Well, if you're that smart, you may be better off writing your own programming language as well. VB is too slow. And Java just adds one more layer.

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