Monday, September 7, 2009

(empo-tuulwey) The Presidential question

Ever since I decided to introduce series-designating labels to this blog, I wanted to devote a label to my pet phrase "a tool is not a way of life." I waited a while before starting this series, however, because I had decided that I wanted to tackle an aspect of the topic that had deep ramifications, possibly in the technology realm, possibly in the broader business realm. I wanted to find the prime example of how our myopic consideration of a particular tool - be in Twitter, ISO 9000, or whatever - obscures our broader needs to get things done.

But I figured that it would take too long come up with such a brilliant post, so I decided to write about underwear instead.

But I'll write about it in a Presidential way. If you don't know where this is going yet, let's go back in time to April 19, 1994.

Tabitha Soren. Welcome to MTV's "Enough is Enough" Forum with the President of the United States, Bill Clinton. Joining the President is an audience of 200, 16- to 20-year-olds from here in DC and all over the country. Obviously, there are a lot of issues on the President's mind today, including some hard decisions on the U.S. role in Bosnia. But we've invited him here to talk about violence in America.

Well, despite Tabitha Soren's high intentions, this particular forum is remember for one question.

Q. Mr. President, The world's dying to know, is it boxers or briefs? [Laughter]

The President. Usually briefs. I can't believe she did that. [Laughter]

If I had a political blog, I could delve deeply into the ramifications of that question, and how an answer (Bill Clinton's) or a non-answer (Barack Obama's) reflects positively or negatively on the candidate. But luckily for you, I don't have a political blog.

Ignoring the prurient issues related to the question, there are actually factors that can govern this choice for a man. MonsterGuide analyzes the question, taking several factors into consideration, and the question has also been crowdsourced via Yahoo Answers. And there are also reproductive considerations.

However, the two possible answers to this question have come to symbolize various things. How did the questioner react upon learning that President Clinton was a "briefs" person? Did the subsequent news about the Lewinsky affair confirm the questioner's attitudes about the President, or discount them?

In a more serious tone, this can illustrate how people will jump to a particular solution without analyzing all of the underlying questions. I work in requirements management - not for underwear, but for automated fingerprint identification systems. But if we were required to purchase underwear to incorporate into our AFIS systems - hey, stranger things have happened - we'd need to examine the underlying requirements to determine what we'd need. We wouldn't want to just say "provide boxers" or "provide briefs" - different products are more appropriate for different times. A fertility clinic, for example, could possibly have different underlying requirements than a strip club., don't jump to a particular conclusion until you know what your underlying needs are.

OK, we've had fun with this particular entry, and I'll probably have fun with some future entries. However, I think that the underlying point - a tool is not a way of life - is a serious one, which is why I've delved into it before - two times on June 8, once on June 15, and again on August 21. And I plan to delve into this topic again in the future.
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