The constraint of choice (and a dodgy football analogy)

Watching England play on Saturday made me think about VLEs (that is not a sentence many people will write I expect). Whether that was an indication of my current VLE monomania as I complete the book, or an indictment of the quality of the game, I’m not sure. All football fans suffer from the ‘football as a metaphor for anything’ complaint, and here is another. I appreciate that to actually understand the analogy you need to have a good grasp of both VLEs and football, so it fails the first test of being a useful means of explaining one topic by mapping to another, but hey, how often do you get to talk about service oriented architectures and Steven Gerrard in the same post?

One of England’s problems has been an embarrassment of riches in midfield (VLE people stick with me for a bit). They have both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, both of who are attacking midfielders. But when they are placed together they curb their natural appetite to go forward with the result that neither plays as well as they do for their clubs. Eriksson has been paralysed by his options here and always plays both (one feels that if he had been the England manager in the early 80s he would have played Shilton in goal and Clemence at right back to avoid choosing between the two). The tough decision would be to play a holding midfielder, who isn’t as good as either, and allow the remaining one full scope. The argument being that it’s better to have 100% of either than 50% of both. It would probably be a blessing for England if one of them got injured and thus forced this change.

And now, onto the VLE bit. Well, not just VLEs, but any software, and maybe even strategic decision. What the England situation demonstrates is that choice is not always liberating. When we were considering VLE options for the OU, we knew that a full service oriented architecture was the most appropriate, but were concerned that such an implementation would get mired in debate as to the best way to achieve it. Choosing an open source option, in our case Moodle, is a good compromise here, since it overcomes much of that debate – you have to do things the Moodle way. One loses some choice, because you are constrained to doing things the Moodle way, but that actually saves you a lot of time. It is akin to one of Gerrard/Lampard being injured but the balance of the team benefiting as a result.

There, I’m glad I’ve got that out of my system. Tomorrow – the link between Ronaldinho and social bookmarking….

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