Communicating with the Future

by | Nov 27, 2019 | ICT4D |

As we settle into our new house there are many discoveries. Some good, some not so. There are many outlets on the walls and countless wires in jumbled mass under the stairs. None are labelled. Some we can guess at because of the type of wire it is or the end point. However, some have just been cut off in haste. So we have been doing a lot of guessing, testing, guessing again as we slowly figure things out. We would have saved a lot of time if the wires were labelled. Maps have legend for a purpose; so should wires.

Connecting systems to other systems can be a bit like making sense of a jumbled mess of wires. When we do not understand our own systems and the data within it, it is hard to connect to another. We often want or talk about the ‘result’ we want without thinking about other options. So we plough ahead with guessing, testing, and getting systems to talk to each other, but we don’t take the time to ‘label’ the data. So the next time, when someone new looks at it, it is a jumbled mess for them to sort out. And the guessing starts again.

Interestingly, when an electrician installs a fuse box, s/he will label each fuse or breaker explaining what circuit it is related to. This is standard practice. The boxes in which the fuses/breakers sit are manufactured with space for the labels. The standard exists and it is expected to happen. This helps in communicating to someone you don’t know; communicating with the future. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a standard for labelling wires.

Standards and common approaches take time to develop. Accomplishing this can be done formally. However it can also be done when we celebrate and adopt practices that others already do or that benefits the other. Labelling our work, documenting our systems, may all seem tedious and a ‘waste of time’ but it is one way we communicate with the future.

And in one way, it helps us be ‘efficient’. Perhaps not in the immediate term, but definitely in the long term. When we take the long view, labelling wires, labelling our systems, creating standards, is one of the greatest time saving things we can do.

Photo by Yung Chang

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