On the use and abuse of Technology and its Management from the perspective of an academic at UCL specialising in Project Management, Systems Engineering and Space Science/Technology.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Merlin is a wizard. Merlin is a project wizard for Mac OS X.

It's an interesting application, with some of the non-Microsoft feel of Pertmaster mixed with a bit of Basecamp. It's light, fresh, and cogniscant of non-bureaucratic ways of thinking at working. In contrast, MS Project feels stodgy and administrator-centric.

I think it's a bit immature to be relied upon as the sole tool in the box, and certainly not representative of the industry enough to be used in teaching (we feel we have to prepare people for the prevailing practices, even if they are not the best ones -- is that wrong?).

Playing with the demo, I feel like Mickey turning on spells I don't understand.

Fantasizing that he's in control of the very forces of nature, he's rudely awakened to a flood of reality; even the simple broomstick is beyond his control. Realizing too late that there's no shortcut to greatness, Mickey learns you've got to slosh your way to the top one bucket at a time.

from the Disney Archive

One of the things that got my toes wet is the concept of Elements, despite skimming the 10-page explanation on their site, I couldn't understand if these were defined data types within their project database or arbitrary links to external files, or, confusingly, a mixture. I'm clearly going to have to study this.

These Projectwizards also need some translation into actual English. Though the Eurolish is effective enough it keeps me chuckling.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

New MSc project : assessing engineers' understanding


Rather than sit and take notes, we both stood and filled the whiteboard. This is fine for planning a short research program.

We started by thinking of an airport-book style subtitle: "Why some engineers are so much better at getting to grips with complex systems projects, what this means for product quality and what to do about it."

I think we both concluded that informal learning mechanisms are going to be quite significant in determining the performance of engineering teams.

In addition, both of us will be feeling slightly nervous as this research gets into social and qualitative areas, as distinct from engineering or physics. There seem to be some tractable fronts of inquiry, so a start can be made.

I'm very interested to see how this one will turn out.