Unmasking Batman: A Systems Failures Approach


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I gave this talk at Ignite Liverpool 3 on 5th August 2010 dressed as 'The Caped Crusader' himself.

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  • Good Evening. When I’m not busy fighting crime, I’m interested in Technology Management, Strategy & the way that systems work. So Tonight I’m going to talk a bit about a technique I picked up recently called the Systems Failures Approach.
  • What’s it all about? There’ll be plenty of Batman related stuff, but also we’ll be looking at a formal approach to figuring out why things sometimes go wrong. It comprises of four main steps.
  • The first two steps are fairly straightforward. Initially we gather lots of information about what’s going on. Then we identify a collection of component parts – a system – which when viewed together, perhaps aren’t preforming quite as well as we’d hope.
  • After that we draw out the system as a diagram, and compare how it works in practice with some sort of perfect model. And finally, we identify those areas of the model where problems might lie, look for patterns, and maybe come up with an action plan.
  • For steps three and for, we use something called the ‘Formal System Model’, which shows how idealistic, successful systems work. So all we need to do is look for discrepancies between the system we’re interested in and this formal one.
  • Well that’s the theory out of the way – it’s really useful for things like IT Project overspends, but of more relevance to me is that my arch-enemies really aren’t much of a challenge. Can we apply the Systems Failures Approach to them and give them a bit of help?
  • It’s said that the Joker likes to boast, but I also find that he lacks enough focus to be called a true criminal mastermind. When he’s committed to a proper crime spree, he’s unstoppable, but most of the time he gets sidetracked by his dumb pranks. He also runs away a lot rather than actually doing any fighting.
  • All my research translates into the Joker’s own version of the Formal System Model, and my Bat-Computer highlights the weak areas for us in red. So we can see that The Joker’s not very good at turning decisions into action, knowing when to make off with his swag, or when to keep quiet!
  • I’ve probably been a bit harsh on The Joker – some of his themed work like ‘The Zodiac Crimes’ (a great 3 parter, you should watch it) is truly inspired, but he’s let down by things like the time he tries to take over the world by becoming a surfing champ!
  • Now, The Riddler is the strangest of the super-villains – he’s not actually interested in committing crimes! Instead he lives only to out-riddle the Dynamic Duo, who are, in fact, the only people capable of solving his riddles. Commissioner Gordon & Chief O’Hara are both particularly bad.
  • The Riddler struggles to understand feedback on how his riddles are being received, and also his strange world view means he only partially relates to the people, victims and police around him. I think this unfortunately means that he might be sufferring from a mental illness.
  • Well, that aside, some further points. Gollum had hundreds of years to perfect his technique, and we all know how that turned out. Likewise the Bridgekeeper from Monty Python & the Holy Grail was a total failure – perhaps we can conclude that Riddling just isn’t a good line of work for an Antagonist?
  • Catwoman is unusual to say the least. Firstly she’s an accomplished cat-burglar, with a very high success rate. She’s also in love with Batman, and in her spare time she likes to design breathtakingly bizarre cliffhangers for him, like giant magnifying glasses and coffee pots.
  • She’s also the only super-villain with actual super-powers – namely 9 lives – which means she’s able to cheat at the area marked in green on her model and fool the authorities into thinking she’s dead! Also the red line indicates Catwoman’s confusion about reforming her criminal ways.
  • I’ve not really got very much to add for Catwoman; she’s well on the road to success within the criminal fraternity, but you’ve got to wonder if that’s what she really wants to get out of life, or whether she yearns for something more.
  • Finally, Pengy is my favourite super-villain. He’s great at making gadgets, has a way with the ladies, and never really puts a flipper wrong. No, instead his problem is sheer bad luck.
  • Here’s a perfect example – he’s happily firing torpedoes at a magnetized Dynamic Duo, when a group of porpoises leap in front of them and sacrifice themselves! Poor guy! So it seems that Cause & Effect just don’t work properly in Gotham City and the DC Comics Universe in general, particularly, in my experience, when you’re the aggressor.
  • That works both ways though, so perhaps The Penguin should look for opportunities to use the environment against Batman. He’s also a successful businessman, by the way, with a string of restaurants, umbrella factories & submarines to his name, so the guy has a lot going for him.
  • So we’ve finally reached the end of our investigation, and whilst it could be said that a lot of our observations are pretty obvious, identifying areas in the Formal System Model is really useful for putting our super-villains on the right path for the future.
  • I hope you’ve enjoyed this run through a much simplified Systems Failures Approach. Below are a list of resources that were drawn upon during it’s production. Resources Learning from IS Failures Study Guide (T852), The Open University Information Systems: Achieving Success by Avoiding Failure, 2005, Joyce Forune & Geoff Peters. ‘ Batman’, 1966 William Dozier Film ‘ Batman’, 1966-68 ABC TV Show Thanks Batman / Bruce Wayne – Adam West Robin / Dick Grayson – Burt Ward Catwoman – Julie Newmar & Lee Meriweather The Joker – Cesar Romero The Riddler – Frank Gorshin The Penguin – Burgess Meredith The Narrator – William Dozier And credits from YouTube Michelle66 FanOfBats
  • Unmasking Batman: A Systems Failures Approach

    1. 2. What this talk is about <ul><li>Batman (kind of) </li></ul><ul><li>The 1966-68 TV show specifically </li></ul><ul><li>Batman’s Arch-enemies </li></ul><ul><li>The Systems Failures Approach </li></ul><ul><li>What was that last one again? </li></ul>
    2. 3. A Systems Failures Approach? <ul><li>Assess the situation </li></ul><ul><li>Decide on a failing system </li></ul>
    3. 4. A Systems Failures Approach? <ul><li>Compare it with a system that works properly </li></ul><ul><li>Which parts are failing, and how? What can be done better? </li></ul>
    4. 6. A Bat-Problem! <ul><li>Gotham City’s Super-villains are no match for the Dynamic Duo! But why? </li></ul><ul><li>Let’s treat each villain + lackeys as their own system </li></ul><ul><li>Can we identify their problem areas? </li></ul><ul><li>To the Bat-poles! </li></ul>
    5. 7. Why, it’s That Clown Prince of Crime!
    6. 8. Bat-Analyser: The Joker
    7. 9. Advice for the Joker <ul><li>Choose crimes which have a theme you can really buy into </li></ul><ul><li>Stop walking into Police HQ for a chat with the Commissioner! </li></ul>
    8. 10. What’s this? The Count of Conundrums?
    9. 11. Bat-Analyser: The RidDler
    10. 12. Counselling for the Riddler <ul><li>Take a hint, riddling’s been tried before </li></ul><ul><li>Psychiatric treatment doesn’t have the same stigma attached that it used to, you should seek help </li></ul>
    11. 13. Next UP, The Princess Of Plunder!
    12. 14. Cat-Analyser: Catwoman
    13. 15. Catnip for Catwoman <ul><li>Make your mind up: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Kiss Batman </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Or kill him </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Both at once just isn’t working for you </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Use extra lives to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Maximise earnings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Avoid long stretches in jail </li></ul></ul>
    14. 16. Meanwhile, Atop the Umbrella Factory…
    15. 17. Bat-Analyser: The Penguin
    16. 18. Fishfood for The Penguin <ul><li>Play to your strengths </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Umbrellas </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Penguin-related items </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Water </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Don’t be so quick to go on the offensive </li></ul><ul><li>Diversify into legitimate business – you’re good at it! </li></ul>
    17. 19. Final Thoughts <ul><li>Riddling doesn’t pay, but crime can (if you have 9 lives) </li></ul><ul><li>Use wacky laws of causality for defensive purposes only </li></ul><ul><li>Always keep the Systems Failures Approach in your utility belt, it could save you from certain death! </li></ul>