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Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Text File formats – ASCII Delimited Text – Not CSV or TAB delimited text

In ASCII, development, File Formats, software, technology on October 31, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Unfortunately a quick google search on “ASCII Delimited Text” shows that IBM and Oracle failed to read the ASCII specification and both define ASCII Delimited Text as a CSV format.  ASCII Delimited Text should use the record separators defined as ASCII 28-31.

The most common formats are CSV (Comma Separated Values) and tab delimited text.  Tab delimited text breaks when ever you have either a field with a tab or a new line in it, and CSV breaks depending on the implementation on Quotes, Commas and lines. Sadly Quotes, Commas and Tab characters are very common in text, and this makes the formats extremely bad for exporting and importing data.  There are some other formats such as pipe (|) delimited text, and whilst better in that | is less frequently used they still suffer from being printable characters that are entered into text, and worst of all people, when they look at a file format and see the delimiter, think that it is a good idea to break things up with in fields using the same delimiter as the file format.

The most anoying thing about the whole problem is that it was solved by design in the ASCII character set.

If you use ASCII  31 as your field separator instead of comma or tab, and ASCII 30 as your record separator instead of new line.   Then you have a text file format that is trivial to write out and read in, with no restrictions on the text in fields or the need to try and escape characters.

It is even part of the design of the file encoding system.  The ASCII standard calls these fields

  • 31 Unit Separator
  • 30 Record Separator

And ASCII has two more levels with Group and File Separators

  • 29 Group Separator
  • 28 File Separator

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_separator and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delimiter#ASCII_Delimited_Text

In summary ASCII Delimited Text is using the last 4 control characters (28-31) for their purpose as field and record delimiters and not using CSV (Comma Separated Values)

MBA Oath – Great Idea shame about the MBA programs

In business, management, mba on October 31, 2009 at 8:55 am

My thoughts on a new oath for MBA graduates (modelled on the hippocratic oath for medical doctors) that has been ‘released’ – in hopes of encourgaing our future business leaders to be able to make enterprises more accountable, honest and a generally better force for good…:
http://mbaoath.org/

 

I think that it is a great idea, my problem is with the MBA program.

There are a quite a few problems with management, but unfortunately most MBA programs (I just checked the Harvard MBA syllabus), still do not address the core issue.

A culture that focuses on doing “the work” better, with a real understanding of statistical quality control, so that management understands the reasons for any issue and what is the responsibility of management and the process and what is the responsibility of the worker.

Deeming’s criticism that that the MBA with the bag of tricks is unable to improve the process, and will make things worse, but can buy and sell the business is still the case.

There are examples such as Toyota Production System, Lean and 6 Sigma that look at how to make processes better, and these should be covered in the MBA syllabus.

There are two key issues in business.

  1. Creating the right thing
  2. Doing it well

The Harvard MBA Course has bits about managing scientific advance, and entrepreneurship. It may identify how to do a me to business, since “me to” business is the safest.

There is an established market, and you have a way of improving, quality, cost, sales, speed, or some other factor that will provide you with an advantage. It helps to have a good understanding of the market, but an outsider may be have some useful insights.

New markets are created by specialists and visionaries that understand the area. e.g. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, HP, Ford, Sony, Toyota Not by MBA’s.

It is important that MBA’s understand their role in the organisation, which is to help grow and improve, and develop technical leadership, and it would be helpful if there was more emphasis on the practical tools required rather than the financial tools, since most organisations already have a finance director.

If an organisation is going to do really well it needs to be run by people that really understand the organisation, and its area of business. Sadly MBA’s are too often part of the job hopping CEO mentality, that is detrimental to progress.

When Harvard first introduced the MBA course it was for experienced business professionals that understand a business, and want to professionalise their management skills.  This is still a valid path, unfortunately it is now more often an immediate follow on to a degree.  e.g. You can now go straight into a Harvard MBA, though the preference is 2-5 years experience.  However you have to commit to a 2 year course, which is going to be difficult if not impossible for anyone that has progressed beyond there initial training and is now active in their career.

This is why their is a conflict between the requirement to have people that understand the business and how to improve the core of the business running the business and the MBA program which takes people that are not yet ready to run the business and gives them tools that are not appropriate to improving the business along with a belief that they should run the business.