Normally I don’t like business-related TMA questions, because it feels like an incursion by the world of work onto the serene oasis that is my OU studies. But Question 5 of M366 TMA03 is just funny enough to make up for that:

In this final question we are asking you to put yourself in the position of a senior technical employee of a software company. Your immediate line manager has recently seen a television science programme which mentioned, briefly, the power of neural networks in handling problems that conventional software systems struggle with, and has been temporarily shaken out of her usual torpor to become excited about this. […] Your manager has a short attention span, so your case study should be no more than 1200 words.

I wonder if the assignment author had a bad experience working in industry? I work in a public sector organisation, so I can’t comment on whether software companies are good or bad places to work, but I think dealing with well-meaning yet clueless managers is probably a near-universal experience!

Anyway, now that I’ve finished my concise 1200-word report for my imaginary line-manager, I’m pretty much done with TMA03 for both M366 and MS221. As I was saying in my last post, I’ve enjoyed this M366 assignment a lot more than I expected, particularly the section about self-organising maps. There’s something about SOMs that really captures my imagination – I guess I like the idea of training a SOM to detect meaningful patterns that are just too subtle for my feeble human senses to notice. Though there’s always the danger that the SOM will find interesting-looking but ultimately meaningless patterns in the data, I guess; kind of like the way humans often read patterns into things that aren’t really there.

I’m quite glad Block 4 of M366 is over with now, because it’s the block I’ve felt least confident with. I think taking a break in the middle for M257 revision was probably a bad idea, and to be honest my understanding of the topics in Block 4 feels a bit shaky and fragmented – still, plenty of time to do TMA04 and then get on with revision for the exam in October!


* I don’t really have anything against Click in particular, I just happened to catch an episode of it while on my internet-deprived holiday, and it seemed like exactly the kind of thing that a technically-impaired manager might get excited about. I’m sure if I’d written this blog post 10 years ago, I would’ve name-checked Tomorrow’s World instead!