If you are a Londoner, this may make you cross [fire statistics analysis]

The tragedy at Grenfell tower ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grenfell_Tower_fire ) has turned a lot of attention to what has been happening in the fire service. There are numerous claims of improved performance, and counter claims of "fiddling the figures". So, the question is, what does the data really look like?

FRA (Fire Rescue Authority) and FRS (Fire and Rescue Service) data is publicly available at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/fire-statistics-data-tables

There are many many tables and sheets of data available, and it has been a challenge to keep this "brief".

The data above covers the whole of England, broken down by authority. The starting point is to accept the data and take it at face value, before performing analysis and drawing conclusions. Indeed, analysing the data can help to determine its integrity.

There are various caveats associated with the data as it is provided, and these need to be understood. Indeed, something that is quickly apparent, is if you don't know how to handle this data correctly, you will make mistakes and errors that will lead to incorrect conclusions. I can say this with authority, because I made a few initially! 

Simple things like changes in capitalisation of dimensions between time periods, can cause aggregation to fail. Similarly, much of the data contains totals as well as broken down data, causing the risk of double counting for those not paying attention. Finally, most of the sheets do not have raw data, but have year by year drop downs - necessitating copious amounts of copying-and-pasting to reassemble the underlying information.

What changed when?

Much public discourse has been made of the fact that accounting systems changed, particularly during the tenure of Boris Johnson as Mayor. Indeed, the accounting system did change, from a paper based one to an online one (2009/10), which ultimately has provided greater granularity and timeliness. In my opinion there is no obvious attempt to "cook the books" due to the change of this system of recording.

Further discourse has covered the classification of fatalities, with the claim that, for example, fatalities later in hospital began to be omitted from statistics. Neither the accompanying notes, nor the evidence from the data supports this hypothesis.

Indeed, the data includes non-fatalities as well as fatalities, and classifies the former into different types, which includes the nature of the hospital treatment. It is hard to envisage such a well-classified data set, collected from 10's of individual authorities purposefully being manipulated to consistently exclude one type.

Note - due to the fact that injuries can become fatalities quite some time after the initial event, data for the most recent year is not necessarily complete. Fatalities may rise in due course, while injuries decrease. For the present year at the time of writing, ending financial year April 2017, data is considered complete up to January 2017 (thus is lower overall than previous years)

So we can dispense with introduction and get to the meat of this subject, the notes from the data sheets themselves are posted at the end of this page.

Let's look at the data - England - the broad trends

The first chart is total Fatalities due to fire, in England, over the period since 1981. The chart below includes a computed trendline to best-fit the pattern.  Over the last 38 years, overall fatality has, basically, steadily fallen.

We can see that same data, now broken down by location type; and this is one of the first of several important steps in making correct sense of the data. Prior to 1999, data is only available as a whole for dwellings. But subsequent to that, it is classified by dwelling, road vehicle, other building and other outdoors.  This important, because I want to focus on dwelling fires.

Looking at fatalities naturally leads us into considering non-fatal injuries as a comparison.

Here the story is rather interesting. The first point to note, is that prior to 2009/10 and the introduction of the online reporting system, we did not have any sub-classification.   This does open the door to potential misuse of the data - e.g. to compare "severe hospital" injuries post 2009 with "all injuries" pre 2009 and claim an astonishing drop.  However, if one were to do that, the discontinuity would be so great, that it would be immediately obvious. In contrast, the properly aggregated data shows the same post-1989 falling trend in injuires as with fatalities.

Perhaps of equal interest in the above chart is the steep rising trend in injuries from 1981 - 1998.  The data itself does not give the answer to why this happened; undoubtedly numerous factors are responsible. (Amongst those reasons may be changes in fire regulations, and for those who wish to explore them, a summary can be found on wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_fire_safety_legislation_in_the_United_Kingdom)

The shape of this chart is likely to lead some readers to suspect malfeasance is afoot. However, as before, while we see a reversal in trend, we do not see a marked discontinuity; rather a turning of a worsening situation to an improving one - which is of course the intended effect of fire regulations and fire prevention policy. In truth, we should be glad to see this effect.

The natural next step is to plot fatalities and non-fatalities against each other to see any correlation. Here I have broken the data down into decades (by colour).

Looking at the 80's and 90's what we see is a trend that is most probably a result as a focus on fire fatality prevention. As fatalities decrease over those two decades (starting at the far right and working left), injuries increase. You can plot a fairly good fit trend line through the brown and blue marks, which tends to suggest that fatalities were being "turned into" injuries. I.e. the seriousness of the worst fire injuries were being reduced.  Many factors could contribute to this trend, such as improved fabrics and materials, improved building materials and building standards. (e.g. measures such as fire doors which delay the impact of fire, thus reduce risk of death but may not prevent injury from smoke).

Then we have the inflexion point at the turn of the millennium, where the previous rising injury trend is fully reversed. Now fatalities AND injuries are falling.

It's tempting to suppose this sharp turn is mysterious, but perhaps it is not as sharp as we might think: there is a cluster of 10 or so points at the turning point of this chart, representing a whole decade turning fate around.  It is not the turnaround I find most surprising, but the sharp descent as we come into the 2000's and 2010's. Here the improvement in injuries is as rapid as the worsening was pre-2000. This must surely be attributable to some significant interventions?

One that I particularly suspect is the introduction of smoke alarms. Smoke is a key cause of injury, and the availability of an early warning to escape smoke injury must likely have a dramatic effect. Indeed, smoke alarm ownership rocketed during the 1990's.

Causes of Fire

Once again, for the curious, we can look at general causes of fire, before looking specifically at dwellings. This can help us understand whether factors outside the control of the individual (such as home wiring, manufacturing standards of appliances etc.) have a role to play.   Causes of fire are shown below. I have chosen to show them as a percentage of all recorded primary fires, so that any relative rising or falling trends can be seen.

Unfortunately the data contains a large number of "other/unclassified" records, so I have replotted the chart with that line removed (data NOT recalculated).  The new plot seems to suggest cooking appliance fires on the rise, but we shall below, all is not what it seems.

If we now look at causes of fire, but this time for dwellings only (with "other" still included), well, that's different picture - this time we see a much flatter line for cooking appliances; though perhaps not surprisingly they account for 50% of dwelling fires.

Somewhere along the line I expected to see smokers' materials drop too (especially with the advent of e-cigarettes), but that actually seems to have changed little. Electrical distribution causes have risen slightly over the period. Again, in the light of revised building standards, this seems counter-intuitive, but on the other hand, older buildings continue to age and presumably increase in fire risk from older wiring. 

What's happening in London?

The data above sets the broad context for the events that triggered this article. The analysis above has not found any obvious discrepancies in the data. That is not to say that data, or portions of it, could be used and quoted out of context, either deliberately or inadvertently. But that is left for the reader to judge for themselves.

One of the key thrusts of discourse surrounding London fire and rescue services has been the budget cuts imposed. The headline budgets, of course, go towards vehicles, premises, equipment, training, staff etc. We have data for staff for Greater London - which speak for themselves.

Stepping back, you can't argue that while there have been cuts to fire service staffing since 2010, fire fatalities and injuries have continued to fall, suggesting that the cuts themselves have had no impact.  This is probably an unwise conclusion, for various reasons:

  1. The fall in fatalities and injuries, as we saw earlier, is part of long term, nationwide trend stretching back at least 36 years. Other factors, which improve fire safety, are clearly at work here; and cuts to budget may simply be serendipitously "riding on the back" of the general trend.  Removing "slack" in the service has a certain logic to it, but cutting too deep can only have negative consequences in due course. 
  2. The fire service does not just provide reactive response but also proactive preventative measures, such as education and fire-checks. Unlike "fire response", proactive measures have a longer term, delayed impact and the effects may not be seen until several years down the line.
  3. The fire service is essentially an insurance policy. It needs to be there when you need it, otherwise it is not effective insurance. By definition this implies it must also be resourced at times when it turns out not to be needed.

The data shows that both reactive and proactive functions have suffered during the time period of budget cuts. The chart below shows response times in minutes (x axis) vs. number of incidents in a given year. Broadly, incidents have been falling, so higher incidents (y axis) are earlier in time.  

When you look at the cluster around 6.5 minutes, all of which occurs from 2010 onwards, you can't help but think someone made a conscious decision that 6.5 minutes was the target response time. Sadly, the data is not available to look at the actual distribution. 

The conclusion here is stark, response times have increased from 4.5 - 4.7 minutes to 6.5 - 6.7 minutes DESPITE the number of incidents decreasing.  This suggests that cuts have not simply been to remove "slack", but have been much deeper, to the tune of 40% or more worsening of average response times.

Proactive measures

Interestingly, there are reports of 25% reduction in fire inspections as a result of budget cuts ( http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tower-block-fire-safety-checks-10641046 ).

However, the number of inspections itself does not tell the whole story, because the quality of those inspections may also matter. The available data actually reports number of inspections (not broken down by type, sadly) and also number of hours performing inspections. These are plotted together below.

So, here’s a classic kind of chart which lets you tell whichever story suits your purpose: over the period 2010 - 2016, fire inspections have actually increased on aggregate. If you are a politician, that would be a good number to quote.

But the number of hours spent performing them has radically fallen, by 56% on the 2010 level, and 58% on the 2013 level.    This means a 2016 inspection was being performed in well under half the time It was 5 years previously. One might question whether quality suffers as a result, or if something else has transformed the nature of inspections.

For me, personally, this is the most telling, and I hazard-to-say, shocking insight.  The door is open, potentially, for some form of technological solution to have slashed the time taken to perform inspections, but there has been no other evidence forthcoming to support this position as yet.

Regrettably it leaves my analysis somewhat inconclusive, and we sit and wait for promised enquiry to reveal a deeper set of facts about the events and context surrounding Grenfell tower. We can only hope that we do get those facts.


The statistics in this table are Official Statistics.                                                                    Source: Home Office Operational Statistics Data Collection, figures supplied by fire and rescue authorities.

Contact: FireStatistics@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk                                                                        

Next Update: Autumn 2017

The full set of fire statistics releases, tables and guidance can be found on our landing page, here-                                                                                        

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/fire-statistics                                                                                        

                                                                               

Financial Years                                                                                        

2015/16 refers to the financial year, from 1st April 2015 to 31 March 2016. Other years follow the same pattern.                                                                                        

Note on 2009/10:                                                                        

Before 1 April 2009 fire incident statistics were based on the FDR1 paper form. This approach means the statistics for before this date can be less robust, especially for non-fire incidents which were based on a sample of returns. Since this date the statistics are based on an online collection tool, the Incident Recording System (IRS).                        

General note:                                                                        

Fire data are collected by the IRS which collects information on all incidents attended by fire services. For a variety of reasons some records take longer than others for fire services to upload to the IRS and therefore incident totals are constantly being increased (by relatively small numbers). This is why the differing dates that data are received by is noted above.        

Note on Imputed figures

During 2009/10, Greater Manchester and Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Services were unable to fully supply their casualty data. As such totals for these Fire and Rescue Services were imputed. For these imputed records detailed breakdowns are not available. As such, some detailed breakdowns may not sum to their corresponding totals.                                                   

The England total hours figures above for "Number of Fire Risk Checks carried out by FRS" include imputed figures to ensure a robust national figure. These imputed figures are-                                                                                        

2015-16: Staffordshire                                                                                        

2014-15: Staffordshire, Surrey                                                                                        

2013-14: Cleveland, Staffordshire, Surrey                                                                        

2012-13: Cleveland, Staffordshire, Surrey                                                                        

2011-12: Cleveland, Lincolnshire                                                                

2011-12: Bedfordshire, Cleveland, Greater London                                                                                        

Figures for "Fire Risk Checks carried out by Elderly (65+)", "Fire Risk Checks carried out by Disabled" and "Number of Fire Risk Checks carried out by Partners" do not include imputed figures because a large number of fire authorities are unable to supply these figures.                                                                                       

1 Some fires are excluded when calculating average response times. Please see definition document for a more detailed explanation.                                                                         

2 Primary fires are those where one or more of the following apply: i) all fires in buildings outdoor structures and vehicles that are not derelict, ii) any fires involving casualties or rescues, iii) any fire attended by five or more appliances                                                                

3 The largest components of 'other buildings fires' are incidents in private garden sheds, retail and food/drink buildings

4 Typically outdoor fires that are ‘primary’ because of a casualty or casualties, or attendance by five or more appliances5 Typically outdoor fires not involving property                                                                        

Definitions

1 Primary fires are defined as fires that meet at least one of the following conditions:                                                                                

(a) any fire that occurred in a (non-derelict) building, vehicle or outdoor structure,                                                                                

(b) any fire involving fatalities, casualties or rescues,                                                                                

(c) any fire attended by five or more pumping appliances.                                                                                 

2 Includes fatalities marked as "fire-related" but excludes fatalities marked as "not fire-related". Those where the role of fire in the fatality was "not known" are included in "fire-related". Fire-related deaths are those that would not have otherwise occurred had there not been a fire. i.e. ‘no fire = no death’.                                                                                

3 Dwellings includes HMOs, Self contained Sheltered Housing, Caravans/mobile homes, Houseboats, Stately Homes and Castles (not open to the public).                                                                                

4 If more than one smoke alarm was recorded for a fire, the fire is categorised under the most positive operation status of all the smoke alarms recorded.                                                                                

The data in this table are consistent with records that reached the IRS by 4th January 2017.                                                                                 

1 Accidental is defined as when the motive for the fire was recorded as either Accidental or Not known. As such this excludes deliberate fires.                                                                                                        

2 Other breathing difficulties includes: Choking and Other breathing difficulties.                                                                                                        

3 Physical injuries includes: Back/neck injury (spinal), Bruising, Chest/abdominal injury, Concussion, Cuts/lacerations, Fracture, Head injury, Impalement and Other physical injuries.                                                                                                        

4 Other includes: Collapse, Drowning, Heat exhaustion, Hypothermia, Other and Unconscious.                                                                                                                                                                                

Ode to Skoda

Just had my car MOT'd at ALS Lock Skoda, and as usual Skoda asked me for feedback. When they asked why I rated the service the way I did (excellent by the way), my initial response was rejected as too short! pfft!  So, I decided on a bit of poetic license to expand it out.

My Octy is aging; now needs MOT
I called ALS (she was bought there, you see)
Their garage is handy, just a few miles away
So, taking it there doesn't ruin my day.

I dropped her off early, they then ran me home
saying "when she is ready, we'll give you a phone;
If there's anything wrong, we can do the repair"
Said with a smile, so you feel that they care.

The job was done quickly, with minimum fuss.
She passed all her tests - well done me ol' bus!
The car had been washed, the test had been done,
all safely approved for another year's fun.

Sometimes you're worried, prepared for a fright,
but I'm happy to say, the price was just right.
So, they came to collect me, no quibbles, no moan;
I like ALS, cos it just feels like home.

A fortnight of fatherhood

untitled shoot-9921-ex-LR.jpg

Well, it's been quite a two weeks! Bringing a new homo sapiens life into the world is, of course, one of the most literally life-changing things you can do. Especially since once you've done it, you have to keep it fed and watered! For about 20 years! 

About three days in I went through a shaky moment after 2 sleepless nights (3 for Helen, who had a night in hospital). But anyone that's seen my Facebook timeline will know I am quite the doting father, totally smitten with our wee son, Edan. This was just shock to the system and a sort of instinctive panic, that if this was how it now was, I might not cope, especially once back to work. But I will, because it's a team effort and it will get easier. 

Which leads nicely into mentioning Helen, who is a remarkable mum. Her training as a nurse is invaluable and she has a gentle and confident touch that is reassuring to both baby and dad. And through propped-open eyes she retains a vigour and commitment that belies the fact she is recovering from a major operation and has had additional complicating ailments to deal with. Edan is blessed to have her as a mum.

We've already experienced the fretfulness of having to get medical intervention; and then the angst and guilt of having to administer regular medicine to a little boy who doesn't understand why he is forced to drink something so luminous and foul tasting. (Quite naturally he's decorated a few choice locations with it). I found myself looking into his teary eyes this evening saying 'please don't hate me' and experiencing for the first time that paradox of 'doing something horrible because I love you...' Henceforth, I expect a lifetime of such confusion.

I suppose this underlines why becoming a parent can be so significant; affirming, yet daunting in equal measure - because there is so much new to experience and it all comes at you like a sonic boom. 

A Father's Hand

A Father's Hand

2 weeks in, and despite a few missed showers and shaves, the initial anxieties have gone and regardless of the sleep deprivation and unending whir of the washing machine, the joyfulness is emerging. A good deal of that has already come from the photography - i can't say Edan is the most co-operative of models, but he's certainly photogenic and keeping me on my toes. 

Another heart-tugging moment was my first 'FaceTime' tonight while away from home - into a captivated pair of deep dark eyes that followed my waving hand 130 miles away. Lumpy-throat-moment. There are so many more of these moments to come.

Thanks so much to all my friends all over the globe, with messages of kindness and support, cards and gifts (every surface is filled), and for enduring my gushiness (such as this). I've left it a bit later in life to be embracing fatherhood, well past my midlife crisis, so perhaps there is a certain 'seize the moment' gusto and yearning for playfulness that inevitably comes with age. I'm not going to apologise for that :-)

I'm looking forward to a good solid 5 hours sleep tonight in the travelodge! But come tomorrow, really it's time to think about our next chapter....

On the birth of baby Edan (4th Feb 2013)

2013 Edan Feb-0041-ex-LR.jpg

Well - what a day. Is it dram-o-clock yet?

IMG_7510.JPG

The most important thing is to thank everyone that has sent their good wishes by almost every means possible barring winged beast. I've struggled to keep up at times, and as a bare minimum at least have tried to "like" facebook messages, if not reply more fully. If somehow in the collage of today's events I have missed a direct thank you, please consider yourself now thanked.

I never quite realised how surreal that transition from in-utero to ex-utero would be - it feels like such a pivotal moment, rather than merely a continuation of the predicted time-line. Well, it did to me. The day was not without its anxiety and Helen can only be commended for her wilful endurance.

My final words are for baby Edan after his first 12 hours amongst the "muggles" - it is, after all, a strange, and sometimes frightening, old world. But that's the hand he has been dealt, and perhaps he may have to play his role in it for 100 years, give or take. So here goes, straight from the heart:

first snuggles

first snuggles

At last you are here wee man. What a journey it has been; what emotions we have ridden along the way. We could not be happier. You are our beautiful miracle child and we will love you always. 

Be unique

Love and be loved

Dance and laugh like tomorrow depended on it

And never forget that we are your rock - on that rock your world is built. Xxxx

I'm in love with Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom. I remember trying it many many years ago in pre-version 1 form. It was disappointing. My overworked PC ground to a halt. I didn't really see the point of it - it seemed liked a bloated photo organiser. 

Half a decade or more on, my photo collection of some 30,000 images was languishing, unloved and closeted on a humming server in the corner of my underworked recording studio. The mere thought of sifting and organising my photo portfolio had become an insurmountable brick wall - too much to handle in one go; too much, even, to divide and conquer by hand. 

So, in summer 2011 invested in Lightroom version 3 - if for no other reason than all my photographer friends and acquaintances use or mention it, or its Mac "equivalent" Aperture. Lightroom has moved on hugely - now a superbly powerful workflow and editing tool, not just a photo organiser. I didn't even realise quite how powerful when I invested in it, but day by day I'm discovering more and getting increasing value and utility from it. Now I'm kicking myself: how did I manage so long without it

In the first instance, the major achievement Lightroom delivered for me was access to my photos again. That sounds like a bizarre thing to say, but the ability to browse, sort, filter, move, organise images with trivial ease and barely a click has made discovering what was in my collection a pretty straightforward task. This had previously become impossible - despite the superior abilities of Windows 7 to search and display files, I could still not easily get the 30,000 ft view, the 10,000ft, 1000ft and move with ease between them. In this respect, Lightroom totally delivers - working my way round 30,000 images is trivial. Identifiying those I like, those I hate and those I will decide on later is simply done. 

One of the other stresses I faced in the pre-LR era was the organisation and naming of my files. Was my folder hierarchy right? Should I have source and production images together? If not, how do I track forwards and backwards between them? How do I keep multiple exposures (e.g. for HDR photography) together? How do I know which are published and which are not? Keep them in a special folder? Move them? Copy them?

So, file organisation, naming and proliferation had become a total headache. That worry has gone now. And I mean totally gone. I let lightroom do pretty much what it wants. I know that I can move files around if I want to organise them physically, but by tagging them appropriately I can collate any group of pictures according to any criteria I want. Collections of images can be pulled together dynamically based on almost any criteria you can imagine. So, forget where they are on disk, they are always just one click away from you in Lightroom anyway.

These two benefits delivered what I wanted, but Lightroom had/has more to give: Publishing

This incredibly powerful feature allows you to set up connections between your photo library and online photo publishing on sites such as facebook, flickr, 500px, zenfolio. The king of this feature is a wonderful gent called Jeffrey Freidl, who has written a large number of plugins that enhance existing and add new functionality for a raft of photo hosting locations; including in some cases the ability to two-way sync between your online pics and your local library. Wow

At first I ignored this feature, thinking I wouldn't use it; that was until I started tagging my photos more effectively. I quickly realised that I could develop a tagging system and a set of smart collections that pull photos together and automatically publish them to multiple sites effortlessly. And keep everything in step. So, you want 5 star rated pictures, that are a final production version, containing buildings, taken at sunset, outdoors, not indoors, and you want them dropped into a collection on facebook? No problem - totally automated with one click in fact. Oh, and you want those same images dropped onto 500px and Flickr too? Yep, that's one click. Oh, and you want those Flickr photos cross posted out to 10 or 50 or 100 buildings and architecture groups? Well, that's no clicks - the plugin will do it all for you.  Of course if you need some resizing, watermarking, renaming and so on while you go about it, that just all happens for you to. 

For me, this has truly become one of the most powerful and time saving aspects of Lightroom. I've encoded my workflow using tags; I've classified my pictures by topic. Lightroom now decides if they should be published and where. I just push the button to say yes, make it happen.  I honestly cannot tell you how something that took hours to do (and thus rarely got done) now takes seconds, and I really mean seconds. It's almost insane. 

I've not even talked about editing lightroom - which is not only powerful, but non-destructive (i.e. applied virtually, totally reversible and modifiable at any time). It took me a while for the penny to drop how powerful this was; perhaps because my first experience of this many years ago was Google Picasa, which is lame in comparison. It was some sort of unhappy hybrid between destructive and non-destructive editing and limited in functionality. In contrast, Lightroom has wonderful and precision editing capability and hooks into external applications. I don't even have photoshop installed. 

There are a couple of features I really love. 1) Stacking - which allows you to virtually group images together like a stack of cards. Perfect if you are an HDR shooter and want to keep your bracketed RAWs together. Or if you want to produce a few versions of an image with different looks. Talking of which, number 2) Virtual Copies - without making a copy on disk, you can simply make a virtual copy of an image, and then edit that, leaving the original untouched. It's a wonderful way to play with and compare mutliple different looks for an image. I love this feature.

Which actually brings me back to the start - I love the whole thing. Lightroom as a tool has totally transformed my workflow, brought life back to a neglected photo collection and provided a platform to take my photography to the next level, without having to worry about underlying administrative issues about file systems and folder hierarchies, about multiple copies for multiple purposes and trying to keep track of every single picture and where it has been used.

This baby is awesome and I know it has even more to give. It's worth every penny and I love it. 

 

TOGAF 9 Exam Pointers

Having been the first of a bunch to take the TOGAF 9 Combined level 1 & 2 exam (and pass, I might add ☺) I thought I would share my general tips about the exam as I've been asked by loads of my colleagues who are about to take it.

Please note, there are strict disclaimers to sign about keeping exam material confidential, so I will not be sharing any of that here - however, some of my own study observations are mine and mine alone, and also some basic mechanics of the test are helpful for first-timers. I don't see why they couldn't tell you this upfront to reduce anxiety.   

Study Tips

1) I put everything in a mindmap in order to visualise the whole structure and relate concepts. I took everything our tutor had highlighted and put it here, along with keywords to remember and his other useful tips for passing. By doing this, in one whole view you can see everything you need to know and remember to pass level 1.

I HAVE HAD MANY REQUESTS FOR THE MINDMAP, in fact it has become a bit unmanageable - so you can now access a small pack of documents for a small donation, which also includes some example exam questions too.. The document pack contains mindmaps in the following format:

.mm = freemind
.mmap = mindjet
.xmind = xmind

 

The TOGAF mindmap is large - this is just a small section

My personal tips for Scenario questions (part 2 of the exam)

Please note, these are my personal tips based on my experience of one exam. They are therefore not scientifically/statistically valid, so be prepared to junk them if they don't apply. That said, maybe they will:

1) when looking at an answer, don't just consider the things they have covered in the answer to gauge its correctness, but consider the things that are missing in the others. If you read the rationale given on the example answers, you'll see why.
 
2) USE THE BOOK. Do not guess, even if you think you know it. In particular, remember there is stuff that may not have been taught. So, for example, in the BOOK there are recommendations about additions to process or other little snippets we never covered. You can't learn it in all in advance, but if you use the book during the exam (and know your way around it) you'll find the missing stuff.
 
3) Be careful with scenarios, not to over complicate them and distract yourself. But, consider reading at least the last 30% of the scenario (after you've read the question) - in most cases I found this was necessary to give the right context to the question. This helps avoid situations where there may be deliberate confusion going on with "fully correct" answers, but for different ADM phases. I get the sense that the examiner wants you to figure the phase(s) you are entering, in or exiting - and the answers alone may not establish that. 

For those that think having access to the book makes everything trivial - be careful. As you know, some concepts are not grouped as individual parts of the book. One particular scenario question took me almost 25 minutes to try and complete, much of it scanning backwards and forwards - and in the end, I gave up on the book and used instinct, because it was not helping me. (There are usability issues with the book too, see below).

Exam Mechanics Tips

First things First: you might have been allocated a 4 hour slot, but this is not the time you get to take the exam. This slot includes registration, signing everything, tutorial time, wrap up etc. For the exams you get:

  • 60 minutes max  for Level 1 = 40 multiple choice questions
  • 90 minutes max for Level 2 = 8 scenario questions
  • You cannot use time from level 1 to carry over to level 2
  • The exams run straight from one to the other  - there is no pause in between
  • You can end early if you so wish - e.g. end level 1 after 40 minutes and go straight into level 2.

So - it's a straight 2.5 hour session plus registration etc. So, as with any exam, my advice is don't eat and drink beforehand!

I had to hand over all belongings, including keys and watch and of course, smartphone. So, you might as well take as little as possible with you to the exam centre.

The exam is conducted on a PC equipped with keyboard & mouse. You barely have to use the keyboard.

Writing materials are provided in the form of a marker pen and 2 laminated sheets of paper, a rather baffling solution. I had to ask for an eraser, concerned I might use all the sheets. I found this a generally unsatisfactory solution - felt tip too blunt, eraser ineffective. But that's it, that's what you have to deal with.

There is a tutorial to watch on the PC first about how the exam system works. I strongly recommend watching this as it explains how you can mark your answers for review and go back to them later if you have time.

The open book part of the exam allows reference to the TOGAF 9 book in PDF form. I found this system very clunky. The exam runs full screen (kiosk mode) on the PC and you cannot change this. The PDF opens up in front. You can move this and resize it to help see the content side by side, but it is a poor user experience. You could not maximise it. My screem was at most a 15 inch monitor running at, what I suspect was 1280x800 resolution. It was appalling, and barely possible to read the PDF, especially the diagrams. The whole thing opened with the contents window on the left of the PDF reader way too small and even if resized, it kept resetting back to this.

I'm not sure if the PDF reader was an old version or something customised - but searching was a poor exerience: slow; and the FIND button, while helpfully on screen, took up a load of really valuable screen estate. I was unimpressed with the setup in terms of usability.

There is only one cure for this (unless you get a better PC system): know the book as much as you can in advance.

The system allows you to leave questions unanswered if you wish and also "mark" (i.e. flag) them for review. After the last question you then have a summary page which shows a list of all your questions and which are unanswered and "marked". You can go back to any question at this stage to continue working on it. I finished early, but used all the time available via this review screen to go back and check all my uncertainties. The exam system itself is easy to use and navigate - I had no complaints with this.

Your time remaining is shown at the top right of the screen in minutes and seconds at all times. I had no access to any other clocks/watches other than looking at the sun.   

And if you are taking your exam soon: Good Luck!

Think Different

Of course, as everyone raced to type their reviews of the iPhone 4S on Tuesday 4th October (myself included), little did they know that Steve Jobs was on his deathbed. And that Tim Cook, the new CEO, was having to deliver his annoucements almost certainly knowing that was the case.

I feel a great sense of loss of such a wonderful role model; many would say in the field of business, marketing, user experience - and clearly Jobs had so many talents in so many areas. But for me, all that rolls up into a genius for insight, innovationsimplicity and change.

It is absolutely immeasureable the influence Steve Jobs had on so many lives in the digital age. He may not have solved World hunger, but you can bet your bottom dollar that his legacy in bringing digital information to the masses marks a turning point in history.

So much has been said about Steve Jobs over the 48 hours following (over 4000 tweets per second) and will no doubt continue to do so, that it's hard to add a fitting tribute.

So, I'm going to play back some of Apple's own words, words that have Steve Jobs' DNA all over them. Words that, to me, are poetry.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Rest In Peace Steve

Why Apple integrated iOS5 with Twitter, not Facebook

If you look around the blogs there's lots of speculation about complexity of integration, history of sour  negotiations over things like Ping.

I don't think it's anything like that - here's my really simple list of reasons:

Raison D'Etre

Facebook is essentially an "Application" - it collects content, stores it, aggregates it, distributes it. It allows users to have "space" on the web - a virtual home, so to speak, albeit connected with their circle of interests. 

This is nothing like what Apple/iOS needs. As a device and operating system, iPhone/iOS needs connectivity; it needs conduits for information - channels if you like. That's what email is, that's what SMS is, that's what instant messaging is.

That's also what twitter is - twitter is not an application as in the sense above; it is a transport hub, a conduit for realtime data to flow between relevant users. It might be described generically as "social media", but its modus operandi and purpose are entirely different to facebook. Twitter is a way for information, of almost any type, to flow between users. Facebook on the other hand is designed as a place to land to consume content.

That's not to say that Twitter doesn't intend to move up the "value chain" to become a place of higher value consumption - indeed, its acquisitions of the likes of tweetdeck and the long overdue enhancements to its online experience, such as the tie in with photobucket, clearly signal this intent. 

But quite simply, the DNA of twitter is more akin to the phone line as Facebook's is to the phone. 

Culture Clash

There is a complete cultural mismatch between Facebook and Apple. Apple lead the way on user experience and strive for total customer satisfaction. Apple's mantra is to put users first. Apple is slick and consistently good. (Yes, they've had their hiccups, but they deal with them sensibly.)

Little could seem to be further from the truth for facebook. Facebook acts first in its own interests, then retracts if the backlash is sufficient. Their mantra is clearly "It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission". Facebook is clumsy and self-centred. 

Shoddy user experience and scant regard for user privacy have been demonstrated by Facebook time and time again. These two brands do not make good bedfellows. 

And that's it - these two reasons alone, in my opinion, have killed for the forseeable future any likelihood of Apple and Facebook joining forces. Personally I see it as no great loss. 

How to make election stats say anything you want

I'l be honest - for the first time in my life I've been gripped by the UK 2010 election and the workings of the politics.

We live in such a different era to when I was first able to vote: wall-to-wall blanket media coverage, 24 hour opinion and speculation, and something I've found particularly interesting, helpful, amusing (and silly at times): the whole social media channel - which in a sense has given real-time interaction and access to opinions that are not edited by TV moguls with an agenda.

However - that's not to say all this coverage has been excellent or impartial - far from it. Nothing is more annoying to me than selective use of facts simply to create spin - and there has been plenty of that.

So, I thought I would list out some of the key facts from the outcome of the election and list some of the possible statements that can be made - all true - but selected depending on what spin you wish to give.

If i had more time I'd turn this into an interactive tool that allows you to construct any statement you wish, but for now, here are the guts of it.

Quantity of votes

(Con ~10.7m ~8.6m Lab LD ~6.8m) source bbc


CON > LAB
CON > LIB DEM
LAB > LIB DEM

Thus

"labour did not win"
"lib dem did not win"


CON ~ >1/3rd vote
Lab ~ <1/3rd vote
LidDem ~1/4 vote

"~2/3rds did not vote for con"
"~2/3rds did not vote for lab"
"~3/4ths did not vote for Lib dem"

+ "and yet they are getting their policies implemented" etc.

 

when it comes to seats

CON < 326 (the number required for an outright majority)
LAB < 326
LD < 326

thus:

"con does not have a mandate to govern" or "con did not win"
"lab does not have a mandate to govern"
"ld does not have a mandate to govern"
"we have a PM that was not voted for"
"we have a Deputy PM that was not voted for"


CON + LD > LAB
LAB + LD > CON
CON + LAB > LD

thus:

a con + LD coalition represents the majority
a lab + LD coalition represents the majority
a con + lab coalition represents the majority


Because both coalition parties have to compromise on policy:

"con no longer represents their voters / has sold itself down the river"
"LD no longer represents their voters / has sold itself down the river"

and so on..

I've not even covered level of turnout, which means something like ~35% of the populations' views are unknown and thus can be used to reduce the mandate of all the above figures.

You can do this stuff all day.. :-)

Bullying for love...

 

Once upon a time I worked for a company who released an HR policy on bullying. Part of that policy claimed that bullying was in the "eye of the beholder" - i.e. if you felt it was bullying, it was. 


My reaction at the was one of slight incredulity - how on Earth could such a thing either be provable or enforceable. Policies without teeth are surely pointless?

Many years on I actually see the point and I actually disagree with my former self. Perhaps I'm older and wiser and understand human nature a bit better.

Perhaps I thought that bullying was always something physical. Perhaps I thought it had to involve coercion. Perhaps I thought that the bully always got their own way. I don't believe any of that now. 

For starters, bullying is most definitely in the eye of the beholder: different people respond differently to being subjected to the same behaviours. 

The confident employee who is pal-y with the boss may take jibes, swearing, back-slapping, throwing of objects (lightheartedly or otherwise) and unreasonable demands with a pinch of salt. A less-confident employee may, on the other hand, take such things very much more personally. It might affect their work and their ability to feel open. It might further harm their confidence. It might make them start to fear engaging with their boss. If it gets to that point, then actually whether you label it "bullying" or not, it's a problem - it's "inappropriate behaviour".

Which begs the question - what is bullying? 

Is it physical? is it coercive? Is it about someone else getting their own way?

It can be all of things, but it doesn't have to be. 

For example, inaction can be as damaging as action. Blanking or ignoring someone can be damaging and controlling. Busting a gut to produce a great piece of work, only to be met with silence and blankness can obviously be hurtful. If this is directed discriminately at specific individuals or is part of an ongoing pattern, even more devasting. This type of behaviour is sending psychological signals to an individual - controlling them in a subtle way - in my book, bullying.

The same is true of an explosive temper. (Interesting word "temper", also meaning "make more temperate, acceptable, or suitable by adding something else; moderate; "she tempered her criticism")  Of course all humans have in in-built anger mechanism and have times when this needs to be released. What we try to do is ensure that in the workplace, at least, this is - if you pardon the pun - tempered. If it is not, then it can create a culture of fear. If employees' actions or mistakes are met with colleagues' explosive rage then, again, this is essentially a psycholigical tactic to control another employee's actions - whether or not that tactic is done consciously or unconsciously, spontaneously or in a considered way.

Probably most people agree that rage and anger and temper and other 'destructive' emotions certainly have the potential to cross that line in the sand that separates "enthusastic personality" and "someone who gets things done" from "bully" and "tyrant"; and different people will draw different lines. But the conundrum for me is that I also think bullying can be done in a spirit of generousity and love. Yes, really.

I argue that any kind of controlling behaviour is a form of bullying. It doesn't matter what the motivation for that behaviour is - when one person tries to systematically control the actions or desires of another, it's bullying.

You see this sometimes happen in families. Take, for example, the person who always insists on paying for meals out. Always. On the surface it's an act of kindness and generousity. But what this behaviour does is deny anyone else the same privilege. It denies anyone else the same expression of kindness or generousity towards their family. IT DENIES ANYONE ELSE THE SAME. 

It turns out then, that this behaviour, when performed relentlessly, is selfish - even though it is driven by generous motives. Now that's wierd. 

That's why bullying IS in the eye of the beholder - because it's about the EFFECT of behaviours. It has less to do with an absolute value judgement of the behaviour of the bully, and whether their actions are well-intended and apparently harmless.  

Well - food for thought (am I'm not paying).