Double dyno

Years ago a climber called Johnny Dawes coined the phrase double dyno. This is basically a near suicide climbing move that involves jumping from one decent hold, to another decent hold via a crappy one. The idea is to get a little bit of support from the intermediate one, even though it wouldn’t take your full weight. I tried many times on the local climbing wall, but all I remember is some startling falls.

The point being that you need to leave the comfort of something safe, and move to something risky on your journey upwards. (well more like downwards (fast) in my case)
I see the same sort of thing in learning – sometimes you have to stop doing the comfortable and try the risky or new. I see this on the horizon for a few of us (whether we like it or not), in terms of taking on new technologies for example.

I also see the same effect in MS product development. Yes, VBA is a decent lock-in for many customers, but MS seem to be willing to give up this comfort to move to the next level of lock-in (sharepoint and .net?).

I’m not totally convinced the leap from VBA to Sharepoint/.net is totally valid though. From what I see its the massive orgs that are tied into VBA, and they are not adopting Sharepoint so rapidly. The medium sized orgs are definitely adopting Sharepoint, but they are not so locked into VBA. So it seems to me MS are giving up the lock on the huge orgs for a better lock, on medium orgs. I have no idea if that makes good business sense, if it is the case?

I’m talking here of the business issues rather than technical. Sharepoint isn’t any sort of a technical replacement for VBA, but it may be a lock-in mechanism replacement. And to be frank I think I would rather be locked in by Sharepoint and .net than VBA. What do you reckon?

What are you seeing in terms of Sharepoint adoption?

Maybe its time to get some Sharepoint learning done?




6 Responses to “Double dyno”

  1. gobansaor Says:

    I would classify the relationship between business and Excel as more of a love-in than a lock-in. Users who manage data just love Excel. Most of the ‘code’ written to build models in Excel is written not in VBA but using plain old spreadsheet formulae. It’s a client-side technology and more importantly an alternative-to-dealing-with-IT tool. Sharepoint belongs to the realm of centralised IT, it’s a tool to provide end-users with managed information sharing solutions, solutions that can be provided by scores of other products, everything from Facebook to Google Docs to Lotus Notes and all points in between.

    I would say if you’re going to do a double dyno, take a real risk, don’t just restrict yourself to the MS path, have a look at viable (and often hugely cost-effective) alternatives. The lock-in that MS achieved (and continues to achieve) on the desktop will be not be repeated server-side.


  2. Ross Says:

    >>solutions that can be provided by scores of other products, everything from Facebook to Google Docs to Lotus Notes and all points in between.

    Big time!

    I don’t know much about SP, I only went on a SP web for the first (knowing) time a few weeks ago.

    This has some interesting points:

    I think that its probably ok and is going to become a significant technology, it just bugs me that MS write these purposely crappy, slightly buggy, slightly do it this way with MS tec only, clunky, none standard compliant software. Its like you can feel them sucking you in and you don’t like it, but it’s hard to stop. A bit like listening to country music.

  3. Marcus Says:

    “What are you seeing in terms of Sharepoint adoption?”
    Not a great deal so far. At a current company, Documentum is used. At a prior one, SP was used a little but this was dominated by Lotus Notes.

    I think Tom’s on to something about the nature of the relationship. Many business users want to be in the desktop situation (Excel/Access/VBA) situation they’re in as it preempts a need for their own IT dept to get involved. (This has good and bad repercussions).

    It’s interesting that we use terms such as ‘locked in’. For 20 years business has been screaming for standards and having applications that ‘talk’ to each other. Doesn’t a ‘standard’ imply some sort of commitment? For any organisation fully committed to XML, wouldn’t abdication to say, tab-limited flat files, cause headaches as they’ve committed to a standard?

  4. Howard_NYC Says:

    When you consider SP, .NET, MS SQL, MS Project Server, et al… what you are seeing is a return to the old days of central planning, centralized IT services… all those high end, big ticket, mega-powerful tools do their tasks adequately enough to be viewed as something to consider… however very few of the IT staff – – let alone general staff – – have a clear idea of just how many features are not being exploited… consider something that MS Outlook has offered for years… survey forms…

    Q: how many people have figured out how to gather information and store into MS Access and then construct an evaluation via a pivot table?

    MS Excel is all things to all people because it is there in a single menu bar and there is always some clever (or brute force) way to do something… if nothing else, buy a computer with a faster CPU, more RAM and a larger hard disk… people have built 75Mb worksheets (that’s all formula, no graphics and no data) which require twenty minutes to load and hours to run… same results could be achieved by a couple thousand lines of VBA Inside of MS Access, and it would run in minutes rather than hours…

    However… the end-user couldn’t build an MS Access application, indeed, would never quite realize that having constructed a worksheet with hundreds and hundreds of formulas is akin to problem solving via VBA coding… just slower and more twisted…

    Speaking as a one-time developer who became an analyst/architect … and is now considering returning to coding fulltime… I can tell you there is nothing as over-tweaked as MS Excel…

    people use MS Excel for math… they use it for staff rosters… to do lists… inventorying various things… organizing softball teams… mashing up a project plan before attempting to formalize it inside of MS Project… people find it to be an “incremental learning interface” which is a fancy way of saying they don’t need to sit through hundreds of hours of classroom instruction before getting their hands on the wheel… moreover, they can experiment in a ‘sandbox’ which they administer… make something that fails, quietly trash it and try again… they find themselves needing to do something wild, then they’ll read a book, google an article or (as a last resort) ask one of the IT department’s SMEs…

    small steps, that add up to miles and miles of results…

    on the other hand, they can bollix up an entire team with something that is crude, rude and clunky… and only when there is no other way of dealing with the problem will they consider bringing in an SME who can rebuild their solution/widget by writing VBA and/or MS Access forms…

    It is the sad experience of many people in corporate America that IT departments are as likely to restrain innovation as they are to support the needs of the general staff… both sides of the argument had their points (not to be rehashed here)…

    Q: what does the future hold…?

    A: there is more than one answer…

    One possibility… If a division’s manager is wise enough and powerful enough he/she will force central IT to supply workstations, data feeds, and administer accounts… and then hand over three or fours SMEs who will sit in that division, within shouting distance of the manager… who will not allow silly things like writing out pounds and pounds of tech specs before even trying to code a single line… no, there would be a series of meandering, clumsy attempts which would gradually home in on what the general staff – – perhaps rain makers as well – – really need to do their job… and that is the point where it is okay to go back and use proper SDLC and formal PM and detailed tech spec’s to build onto the existing IT infrastructure and roll out a new tool for the entire enterprise to use…

    I have worked in such a situation and it was as exhilarating as it was aggravating…. There were daily arguments over “do you want it now or do you want it right” (and the usual, clichéd response being “well, I would like it right now”) … I had to wrestle everyone’s good ideas into a list of priorities and then write code as fast as I could to replace the seat-of-pants ad hoc stuff people brewed up to get through the work load… somehow we didn’t kill each other, the work got done, and there was eventually a set of procedures which anyone in the entire department could do… just type in a few dozen parameter values, click “OK” and step back as the data was massaged and zillions of reports were slicing through all that data…

  5. Harlan Grove Says:

    Rock climbing is a poor analogy. Using evolution as a metaphor, existence is a risk, but dominant species get that way by adapting themselves or their environments to produce ever FEWER risks. Double dyno would seem to have evolutionary application in the Darwin Awards sense.

    Anyway, how much of the client-to-server migration is driven by customers? How much is driven by MSFT coming to realize that MSO 2003 might just be good enough that many organizations decide they could upgrade (as in pay for) Office no more often than once every 5 to 7 years? That is, MSFT’s perceived need to create functionality available only to those who upgrade regularly?

  6. Simon Says:

    Harlan your use of the Darwin awards comparison show what a good metaphor double dyno is.
    Everyone (well many VB6 devs!) said the VB6 retirement would be a disaster for MS (a la Darwins). I don’t think that is clear even now 6/7 years later. Same with the dd – Johnny Dawes is still going strong even though one might have expected him to have taken a life changing fall.
    I think MS are taking big risks here, maybe they are so dominant they can?
    re whos driving, yes I agree.
    Howard_NYC -good points, especially getting the techies into the business with no faff.

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