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July 09, 2009

e-Framework - time to stop polishing guys!

The e-Framework for Education and Research has announced a couple of new documents, the e-Framework Rationale and the e-Framework Technical Model, and have invited the community to comment on them.

In looking around the e-Framework website I stumbled on a definition for the 'Read' Service Genre. Don't know what a Service Genre is? Join the club... but for the record, they are defined as follows:

Service Genres describe generic capabilities expressed in terms of their behaviours, without prescribing how to make them operational.

The definition of Read runs to 9 screen's worth of fairly dense text in my browser window, summarised as:

Retrieve a known business object from a collection.

I'm sorry... but how is this much text of any value to anyone? What is being achieved here? There is public money (from several countries) being spent on this (I have no way of knowing how much) with very, very little return on investment. I can't remember how long the e-Framework activity has been going on but it must be of the order of 5 years or so? Where are the success stories? What things have happened that wouldn't have happened without it?

When you raise these kind of questions, as I did on Twitter, the natural response is, "please take the time to comment on our documents and tell us what is wrong". The trouble is, when something is so obviously broken, it's hard to justify taking time to comment on it. Or as I said on Twitter:

i'm sorry to be so blunt - i appreciate this is people's baby - but you're asking the community to help polish a 5 year old turd

it's time to kick the turd into the gutter and move on

(For those of you that think I'm being overly rude here, the use of this expression is reasonably common in IT circles!)

Of course, one is then asked to justify why the e-Framework is a 'turd' :-(.

For me, the lack of any concrete value speaks for itself. There comes a time when you just have to bite the bullet and admit that nothing is being achieved.  Trying to explain why something is broken isn't necessary - it just is! The JISC don't even refer to the e-Framework in their own ITTs anymore (presumably because they have given up trying to get projects to navigate the maze of complex terminology in order to contribute the odd Service Usage Model (SUM) or two). It doesn't matter... there are very few Service Usage Models anyway, and even fewer Service Expressions. In fact, as far as I can tell the e-Framework consists only of a half-formed collection of unusable 'service' descriptions.

So, how come this thing still has any life left in it?


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There's quite a bit of stuff to be getting on with there, but the thing that I don't understand is why it should be so strange to spell out your reasons for disliking something rather strongly. There are quite a few developments and programmes that I'm not convinced of, but if I don't have the time or can't be asked to find out more, I'll shut up. If I do sound off, I'll make a best effort to try to understand exactly what's wrong and why. That's not just common courtesy, but also simple backside covering, I think.

Besides, even if you think that either the model/approach, its rationale or the partnership has had no value (and I know of several people who would disagree strongly on all or some of those counts), surely the worst thing to do is to forget about it and pretend it never happened? When the e-framework was conceived it had a wide scope, dealt with a new technological approach in a new way in a new partnership. Five years later, not everyone will think that every aspect worked out as well as initially conceived. Fine. That's the nature of research and development; you then look at what went well and why and what went wrong and why. Seems to me that the present consultation is part of that.

Just for completeness' sake: this is just my own opinion, not JISC-CETIS or the e-framework partnership. The tech model and approach is also not my baby; I was at best a midwife who has seen it toddle off in some interesting and unexpected directions.

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