Formation of new society/discussion group

From:         Pete Mellor <pm@cs.city.ac.uk>
Date:         01 Apr 93 04:07:49 PST
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       Society for the Promotion of Ergonomically Reasonable Measurement
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                                                Peter Mellor, 1st April 1993
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This is to announce the formation of the above-named Society.


Aims:
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1. To resist the use of meaningless scales of measurement. 
   
2. To improve the friendliness of information systems. 

3. To resist imposed uniformity. 

4. To counteract official nonsense with unofficial nonsense. 

5. To have a good piss-up at least once a year. 

6. Err...that's it.


Discussion of Aims:
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There is a regrettable tendency today to make everything more friendly to 
computers, and less friendly to people. Even some recent changes which were 
intended to make calculations easier for humans have had unfortunate effects. 

For example, when measuring the height and weight of people, is it more 
meaningful to say:

"Pete Mellor is 1.880 metres tall, and weighs 79.378 kilogrammes stripped." 

or:

"Pete Mellor is 6' 2" tall, tips the scales at 12 and 1/2 stone, and looks 
quite striking in a pair of tight-fitting flared jeans."? 

Supporters of the aims of the Society would all agree that the second of 
these descriptions is easier to grasp, and conveys far more information 
that is likely to be of interest than the first. 

The Society therefore supports the use of scales of measurement that are 
scaled to people. So, for instance, the inch (length of top joint of thumb) 
is more informative than the millimetre when doing anything on a small scale. 
Going up one level of scale, the foot (distance from big toe to heel) and yard 
(distance from tip of nose to end of middle finger of outstretched arm) have 
served architects and furniture makers well for centuries. The metre, by 
comparison, is too large for small work, and too small for large. Nobody ever 
uses the decimetre or decametre anyway, so most of the metric system is 
immediately redundant. Similar remarks apply to grammes and kilogrammes versus 
ounces and pounds.

The scales of measurement that have evolved with us are the ones that we find 
most natural to use. This applies even when it comes to measuring new things, 
like software. The Society therefore promotes the measurement of source code 
in hands (applied vertically up the side of a pile of print-out, in the same 
way that the height of a horse is measured). 

The Biblically minded may use the cubit for medium-scale measurement, otherwise 
the use of the rod, pole or perch is recommended. 

The system of units that the Society favours will be known as the "ton, 
furlong, fortnight" system. 


Political Allegiance:
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In the UK, the society will seek the support of the Rainbow Alliance, and the 
personal patronage of Screaming Lord Sutch and Cynthia Paine. 

In Italy, it is hoped that La Cicciolina will be persuaded to sponsor us. 

In other countries, all suggestions welcome. 


Diversity:
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Any Eurocrap aimed at doing away with our essential differences is deprecated. 

For example, in the UK pillar boxes and telephones should be red, in Germany 
they should be yellow. 

The Society believes that books written in Britain should be spelt according to 
the Oxford Dictionary. Americans who do not wish to follow this standard 
are encouraged to use Mencken. The Society fully supports the Academie 
Francaise in its attempt to prevent its fine language from being corrupted by 
either American or English. In fact, it would like to see the Germans 
doing more, such as reintroducing Gothic script. The same goes for the Welsh, 
Irish, Russians, etc. 

The intention is to cause a fragmentation of knowledge across language 
boundaries. Since there is already far too much information around for anyone 
to use sensibly, this would be entirely beneficial. 

Any academic who really wants to know what is going on in artificial 
intelligence at the University of Beijing should have the dedication to 
learn Mandarin Chinese! 


Membership:
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The fee is 17s. 6d. per annum, payable to: "P. Mellor Ethanol Supplies Ltd." 

Annual meetings will be held in the King's Head, Upper Street, Islington, 
London, where beer is still sold at 1 pound 16 shillings per pint. 
(Dates to be arranged to suit members.) 

Paid-up members may charge for consultations on any matter regarding 
measurement, provided fees are quoted in the appropriate national currency, 
e.g., a UK member should quote a consultancy rate in guineas per fortnight. 
(Any attempt to quote in ECUs will result in immediate expulsion.) 


Other points:
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The use of metric sizes of nuts and bolts in the UK should be discontinued 
in favour of Whitworth. 

Aeroplane prices should be quoted in the currency of the country of origin. 
For example, British aeroplanes should be sold at so many pounds sterling per 
hundredweight, like everything else of a comparable size. 

If this causes a problem in purchasing an A320, it is recommended that the 
individual bits be bought independently from the various members of 
the Airbus Industrie consortium in the appropriate national currencies and that 
these are assembled by the buyer, rather like the purchase of a motorcycle 
in "kit" form. 

Since the Society opposes the use of acronyms, anything that you might have 
thought the initial letters of the Society's name might have spelt is 
irrelevant. 

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Peter Mellor, Centre for Software Reliability, City University, Northampton 
Sq., London EC1V 0HB, Tel: +44(0)71-477-8422, JANET: p.mellor@city.ac.uk 
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