Once more unto the breach, dear friends…

“…once more, or fill up the wall with our English dead” – to quote Shakespeare’s Henry V

Because, yes, it’s Himself the Welsh Dragon that’s at it again, in yet another public attempt to denigrate me, my work, and, of course, my professional credibility, competence, integrity, and the rest. Of course.

Oh no, not again…

You know what? I really don’t want to be bothered. I see no reason to pander to this inanity any more: having to deal with Himself has cost me way too many lost days and sleepless nights, to point where even the mere mention of his name is like a powerful emetic (even literally so, over the past few days…)

But by way of apology to the long-suffering Bruce Waltuck – who unknowingly found himself pig-in-the-middle in the current splat in this sad saga – and to protect what little is allowed to remain of my professional honour, I suppose I’d better reply to the current spray of accusations and aspersions…

(Yeah, this is going to be long and point-by-point tedious, so skip it unless it’s of essential interest – I’m only doing this ‘for the record’, so to speak.)

Bruce kindly published an edited version of Himself’s riposte, to which I’ve added item-markers and a couple of minor edits (e.g. ‘twf‘ for ‘That Welsh Framework’) in [[italics]]:

To be accurate Tom…

– …the squiggle on the bottom. . . represents a type of boundary, shown as a cliff in the HBR article (which [[1]] you say makes no mention of it).
[[2]] You state that only unordered domains are value creating, when [[twf]] does not privilege one domain over another.
[[3]] You say that [[twf]] cannot be used as a categorization model but directly link to a comment I made on your blog which says it can.
[[4]] You say that we have stopped using [[another person]]‘s tetrahedrons, when in fact they are still in presentation and training material.
[[5]] You say that the only [[twf]] strategy for chaos is to “get. . .out” when the innovation methods call to deliberately enter that domain.
[[6]] You admit that you know little of the CAS literature, but claim authority over a framework designed around CAS? [[‘CAS’ is presumably ‘Complex Adaptive Systems’]]
– [seemingly] you take a. . . [[7]] 17th Century position when you say science is based in the complicated domain.
[[8]] You confuse complexity theory with chaos theory and so on.

You post prolifically. . . and [[9]] I have followed you for years, but [[10]] I have yet to see you report any actual use by you of [[twf]] . . .You went on one course in Australia as [[11]] I recall, and [[12]] you were far from the first non-IBM person to attend (another factual error from one of your posts). . . .

You’ve also take to . . . statements, like suggesting that SenseMaker® is [[13a]] a simplified adaptation of a public domain US Government project. I have no idea where you got that . . . but the US government work was [[13b]] a partially working prototype, subsequently the Singapore Government invested just under $2m to create operational software and we are just coming to the end of a major redevelopment in V3.0

So, point by point:

— [[1]] Very possibly: I may well have missed that point. (Yes, I can actually admit in public that I’m either probably wrong, or actually wrong, about something. I’ve never seen Himself do so. Not Once. Not Even The Slightest Hint Of Such An Admission. Ever. Have you? Yet working in any form of concept-development, especially about the Complex and Chaotic domains, means that by definition we’re going to be ‘wrong’ a lot of the time, in one way or another. Go figure…) In my defence, though, it’s kinda difficult to do literature-research when even the author’s name has become a literal emetic (see above)…

— [[2]] Either Himself is being disingenuous here, twisting my words to make a false target that’s easier for him to hit, or else is just failing to grasp that truth itself has value? I’ll be charitable here and assume the latter… Though I’ll also add that whilst, yes, we definitely don’t privilege any domain over any other per se (and, by the way, I definitely did not say that we do), for practical purposes we indeed do and must privilege specific types of sensemaking (i.e. categories as twf domains) in specific contexts: for example, there ain’t much point in setting up a Complex emergence-experiment or setting out to design a Complicated algorithm when we’re dealing with real-time right-here-right-now.

— [[3]] I didn’t say that twf can’t be used as a categorisation-framework: far from it – indeed, it was the fact that I’d used it in a way that seemed to Himself to be a categorisation-framework that drew his ire in the first place. What I did say was that Himself has routinely attacked people (not just myself, but others as well) who appear to him to have used it as a categorisation-framework, but then – as he confirms above – he uses it in exactly that way himself. An interesting inconsistency there, perhaps?

— [[4]] Again, someone seemingly can’t tell the difference between “seem to have stopped” – i.e. a personal perception based on public evidence, which I did say – versus “have stopped” – a supposedly-factual claim, which is what I didn’t say. If it’s only in the private training material, I guess it’s become one of those ‘open source methods’ that no-one else gets to see, yes?

— [[5]] See [[1]]. But you know what? – I don’t believe him. The intent might be there, but the action isn’t: everything I’ve seen in the methods, the twf dynamics, the pronouncements, the way that in that webinar diagram all development ceases at ‘Complexity Science’, and, of course, so many of those merrily unwelcome attacks on me, all of it screams at a refusal to have anything to do with what twf describes as the Chaotic domain. Unlike some of Himself’s attacks on me, I won’t accuse him of lying on this: I’m just saying that I don’t believe him.

— [[6]] See [[5]]. Unlike Himself, I don’t purport to be a ‘scientist’: I’m just a practitioner, a toolmaker, nothing more than that. Like every competent technician, I use what works, not what theory asserts ‘should’ work: and whenever I do need to go back to theory in the unordered domains, I always go back to first-principles, not an arbitrary choice of someone else’s interpretation of those same first-principles. My professional opinion on how much of twf actually is ‘based on CAS’ – as opposed to merely grabbing at various bits of other people’s work on CAS as a gloss to make it seem more convincing and hence more saleable – is probably best left unsaid.

— [[7]] Sure, I’ll happily admit that in some ways I gravitate to the 17th Century, which in Britain was one of the last times when people actually remembered their responsibility to think. But in the pejorative sense meant here, I know which one of us is stuck in the 17th Century, thank you, and it ain’t me…

— [[8]] Really? Do I hear a certain phrase about “pot”, “kettle” and a specific colour? – and perhaps even more so about the difference between Complexity/Chaos theory versus Complexity/Chaos practice?

— [[9]] “I have followed you for years” – quite possibly, though my experience has been that it’s been more like stalking-for-the-purpose-of-random-assault – hence the definite need to invoke Sutton’s ‘No Asshole Rule‘. Certainly don’t seemed to have learned much from all that ‘following’, anyway – other than certain hurried backtraces such as the recent post on why the boundary between Simple and Chaotic?

— [[10]] “I have yet to see you report any actual use by you of [[twf]]” – really? Gosh! All of those posts on this weblog, and references in published books, about how to apply the then-official version of [[twf]] in enterprise-architecture and the like – they never happened? Then what on earth were all those relentless attacks about, on my website, by email, and elsewhere? To use a famous phrase, “this does not compute…”.

— [[11]] Didn’t need to recall, I’d already given the date as 2003 (somewhen around 8 July, according to my file-dates?). But the “I recall” is a nice way to reinforce the notion that I can’t be trusted, I guess…

— [[12]] “were far from the first non-IBM person”: quite possibly, though it looks again as if someone isn’t able to tell the rather important difference between “I was told that we were the first” (i.e. believed but known-uncertain) versus “we were the first” (an assertion of certainty). Hence an inappropriate usage of the term “factual error”, because no ‘fact’ was claimed. Once again, seems to me like someone has serious difficulty with grasping even the notion of uncertainty, of modal-logics, of the fluidity of ‘fact’ within any unordered context – which would make him very unsuitable for doing anything in the Complex domain, let alone the Chaotic…

— [[13]] “I have no idea where you got that”: hmm… let’s just ignore the “playing ingenuous” bit, okay? Throwing in the comment about ‘prototype’ is a nice red-herring: the concern was a simplification of approach – the underlying concept, not the surface expression as content. The software may well be at V3.0 by now: I don’t know. But I also don’t know if the underlying concept has been improved, either – which may actually be the more relevant point?

Anyway, enough said about that.

On twf itself, my opinion is that the more I’ve explored, and the more I discover, the less impressed I get. To me it looks more and more like something that’s been cobbled together from all sorts of different sources by someone who has just enough understanding to know what would seem like sense to make it more marketable, but not much more than that. (“Cobbled together from different sources”? – gosh, that sounds like my work too! And lots of other developers, in every field! But there might be some rather important differences there, don’t you think – especially if we look a little deeper?) Worse, one of the key drivers seems to be a relentless ‘need’ to put down everything else and everyone else, an ‘it-must-be-right-because-the-other-is-wrong’: even the ‘proper name’ of twf seems little more than a crass ‘Celticisation’ to ‘one-up’ Nonaka’s ‘ba‘, which likewise means ‘(deep sense of) place’.

To be honest, I struggle to see much that’s original in twf. The SCCC categorisation (Simple, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic) is very useful, sure: but there are clear antecedents in Jung, for example, which are actually much more usable than the too-constrained ‘official’ description in twf. Although I doubt that Himself ever read it, his description of the role of the ‘squiggle’ seems all but identical in concept to the Law->Idea boundary that I described in my book Inventing Reality, way back in ’86; likewise the parallel between the ‘reality as swamp’ metaphor there, versus the ‘Disorder’ domain in twf, more than a full decade later. The order/unorder distinction is important, and genuinely new, and likewise the relationship-‘pyramids’: but as Himself now acknowledges, both of those came from Cynthia Kurtz. For the rest? – well, I tend to file most of it under “interesting, aligns fairly well with what’s familiar from other sources, but probably not relevant”. (Which, to also answer [[10]] above, is the very simple reason why I haven’t posted anything about using the full, extended, complicated tangle of twf methods, in the ‘officially-prescribed manner’: I don’t find them useful, so I don’t use them. Kinda simple, really…) For the few bits that would be relevant for my field, there are more-accessible alternatives that are often much-better-described and much easier to use – and, importantly don’t come with a vast array of unwarranted and unwanted baggage.

Including, of course, the fact of Himself, with all that that implies. Let’s just say that from my all-too-firsthand experience of him over the past few years – and also from helping others either avoid or recover from same – I had best say that my opinion about his professional behaviour, intellectual-honesty, professional-integrity and, increasingly, professional-ethics, is, and will remain, unprintable – in every sense that that implies.

Let’s just leave it at that.

That’s it: the battle is over, okay? Finished, all done, over-with: like every battle, yet another waste of effort, waste of life, a literally bloody mess.

And as with every battle, everyone has lost.

Well done. Congratulations. Satisfied now?

So please, can we now at last lay this rotting corpse to rest?


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