Sunday, June 04, 2006

A column so good, he sold it twice

Nick has once more written a column on whether the public is getting value for money from public services. But do the rags that pay Nick to recycle the same old stuff over and over again get value for money? Well I guess it is their money, but if I were paying I'd be asking some questions.

Nick's latest, from the Observer, is largely a rewrite of a column from the New Statesman of only three weeks ago. There are, however, some minor differences. Back then, Nick wrote:

Computing was astonished by the failure of Choose and Book, becausethere is no real difference between booking a hospital bed online and booking a flight. Yet I doubt if the DoH’s advisers recommended going to either easyJet.com or lastminute.com and buying and adapting their programs.

Nick must now think that this was too simple. (Does he read Aarowatch?)

As an astonished writer for Computing magazine said: 'This is bog-standard business technology. This is simple stuff, but they just can't get it to work.' To be fair to the NHS, booking beds in a hospital isn't quite as simple as booking a flight with easyJet. A hospital has to assess who needs treatment and who can wait, while airlines make no distinctions between their passengers.

Elsewhere, Nick has a go at Lord Stevens over his Di investigation and at Channels 4 and 5 for promoting game shows that pander to the lowest common denominator. As someone who takes a small professional interest in decision theory, I've rather enjoyed those episodes of Deal or No Deal I've tuned into. But perhaps I should take Nick's advice and restrict my viewing to "serious news and drama".

14 Comments:

Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

Thinking about it, I should also have taken the opportunity to notice that one of the themes of the column is that management consultants bill their clients for as many hours as possible. If they can get away with it, they probably bill two different clients for the same hour of work. High-minded columnists would never do such a thing of course.

6/04/2006 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Backword Dave said...

Slightly OT, Nick is described in a Canadian article reprinted in a recent GerasBlog post as "left-wing Independent columnist Nick Cohen". (I find the capitalization strange, and factually incorrect.) Mind you, the author also referred to "Francis Wheen, a foremost authority on Karl Marx" (he wrote a biography of KM, which I own, but it's more a cheerful romp than an authoritative work, IMO). And Marko Attila Hoare, whom I believe Captain Cabernet knows, is merely an historian, when I believe he's the most deserving of the adjective "foremost."

None of these are quite as odd as "Norm Geras, Marxist scholar and emeritus professor at Manchester University". A "... scholar and [a] professor" now that's some crazy shit, man.

6/04/2006 07:08:00 PM  
Anonymous dsquared said...

Somebody has got orthogonally mixed up on three separate axes of confusion; Nick and Aaro, the Independent and the Observer, the 1990s and now.

6/04/2006 08:27:00 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

"It roared through hundreds of Internet web logs and rumbled on through the pages of The Guardian, The Hindu, The American Spectator, and Blueprint, the magazine of the U.S. Democratic Leadership Council"

The Guardian, The Hindu, The American Spectator and Blueprint? Clearly this manifesto is conquering the world. Note also the repeat of the '300,000 mentions' lie.

6/04/2006 09:26:00 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

I hate to be OT, but it was in the Observer and thus vaguely relevant, but I'm just wondering how confusing it will get for you guys, and anyone attempting to understand decentism if Alan 'the minister' Johnson should get his wish granted and become Alan 'the Deputy Prime Minister' Johnson. Should one of them add a middle initial to their name to stop any confusion? I'd suggest Alan 'not the minister' Johnson becomes Alan D (The D is for Decent) Johnson, but I'll leave it in the hands of expert Decent-watchers like yourselves to ponder this great issue of our age.

6/04/2006 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger marcuse said...

As an IT specialist I find that change you highlight quite significant and show him to be quite an unthinking arse.

In many ways a hospital booking system is more akin to an "events management" system than a "travel management" system: you have to bring together an array of people, rooms, resources and timetables. The resource and people requirements add a layer of complexity over travel (e.g. plane/hotel) reservation.

6/05/2006 12:55:00 AM  
Anonymous dsquared said...

From casual reading around this, the problem with the NHS IT system is that nobody can agree how much patient data should be transmitted with the booking information, which if true is a problem of the doctors, not the nerds.

Nick: I think the convention is more likely to be that we will just update Alan "not the minister" Johnson's name to "Alan 'not the Deputy Prime Minister' Johnson". It's a bit cumbersome but it keeps things clear in case any other Alan Johnsons happen along who already have middle initials.

6/05/2006 06:22:00 AM  
Anonymous dsquared said...

thinking about it, the Easyjet analogy was always fucked. Hospitals don't publish a timetable of operations they're going to carry out and let patients turn up if they want to have them, and Easyjet doesn't wait for a passaenger to turn up and say they need to go somewhere before finding a pilot to fly them.

6/05/2006 06:24:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

Surely it would be easier to associate the ODPM with some handy mnemonic, rather than spelling it out ...

So we could have

Alan "Croquet" Johnson and Alan "not-Croquet" Johnson OR Alan "the postman" Johnson and Alan "not-the-postman" Johnson.

6/05/2006 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

It is a tricky issue. You must remember that the Minister presumably has never been confused with the man of Decency, so the tag is only to save him the embarassment of people thinking he's the Minister.

I had high hopes that these various Decency campaigns would raise 'Not the Minister's' profile higher than that of the Minister, so we would could just call him Alan Johnson and the Minister would have to have the 'not the editor of Democritya etc' tag, but given the rather lukewarm reception to the Euston Manifesto and the Minister's seemingly unstoppable rise there is now no chance of that.

So really we hve no choice but to call Alan 'Not the Minister' Johnson not whatever title Alan Johnson, the Minister, gets.

6/05/2006 08:42:00 AM  
Anonymous dsquared said...

Even that is not necessarily going to work. We would be in a real bind if Alan Johnson's leadership bid was seen as disloyal and led to him losing ministerial office, but remaining a sufficiently prominent backbench MP to have a higher public profile than Alan "not the Minister" Johnson. We would then be reduced to something like Alan "not the former Minister" Johnson which is a pretty chilling prospect. If Tony Blair is reading AW, it would be very helpful indeed if you could persuade Alan Johnson to accept a peerage, then we could just have "Alan Johnson" and "Lord Johnson of Deptford" or whatever.

(I quite like "Alan 'croquet' Johnson", but is there any evidence to back it up?)

6/05/2006 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I think it is unlikely - his friends at Harry's Place/Nick Cohen would never forgive him. Also croquet is quite a time consuming game, and I'm pretty sure all the Decency projects would get in the way of obtaining a decent Croquet stroke.

As I understand it though, the Education Secretary has a fine arm, some say almost international standard.

6/05/2006 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

Evidence! I was just thinking that there might be a long-term association between the ODPM and croquet. I guess it all depends on whether Prescott was playing it in a personal or an official capacity.

6/05/2006 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger Simstim said...

I suppose A"NTM"J could get a peerage and a ministerial post for his sterling work in the world of manifestos, but then you can fallback onto your Lord/non-Lord distinction.

6/05/2006 12:24:00 PM  

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