Thursday, January 24, 2008

Don't you wish that you'd studied Latin in school...

...Not so that you could - as Vice President Dan Quayle desired - to speak with people from Latin America, but so that you could understand websites like this:

Pizza 2.0 : A Slice of the Web
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

I came across this today and was driven to Wikipedia for an explanation as to why this is so commonly used by web designers as a placeholding text.

According to Wikipedia: "In publishing and graphic design, lorem ipsum is common placeholder text used to demonstrate the graphic elements of a document or visual presentation, such as font, typography, and layout. It is a form of "greeking".
Even though using "lorem ipsum" often arouses curiosity due to its resemblance to classical Latin, it is not intended to have meaning. Where text is visible in a document, people tend to focus on the textual content rather than upon overall presentation, so publishers use lorem ipsum when displaying a typeface or design in order to direct the focus to presentation. "Lorem ipsum" also approximates a typical distribution of letters in English."

If you were curious, it is from Cicero and it reads: (According to H. Rackham's 1914 translation)

"Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?"

Pretty cool - and a very interesting internet factoid - but how many people who use it are aware of its origin? It is interesting to think how many things are done simply because they were done before without any additional thought as to why they're done and whether they ought to be perpetuated.

This is probably a problem in most companies. New hires are taught how to do things the same way that the people who hired them were taught and unless feedback is explicitly solicited, it is unlikely to be divulged. So rather than constantly having the processes by which an organization is run fine-tuned and refurbished through repeated and perpetual evaluation, these companies stagnate and are forced to spend enormous sums of money on consultants and so forth.

It's not so hard to ask the Deming-esque questions without having to pay a "TQM consultant" thousands of dollars to prompt you.

Just stop every now and then and ask, "Why?"

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