Tuesday, August 31, 2010

VITA's vitals very vamaged - Virginia computer outage continues

As a follow-up to my Monday post, it should be noted that the DMV put out another press release on Monday.

Monday, August 30, 2010
Media Contact: Melanie Stokes
Department of Motor Vehicles
(804) 367-6623

State Computer Outage to Continue on August 31, 2010
No Driver's License Service Available in DMV Offices

RICHMOND - Unfornately, DMV will not be able to process driver's licenses or ID cards in its 74 customer service centers on Tuesday, August 31 due to a continuing statewide computer system problem affecting those transactions only. The Virginia Information Technologies Agency and Northrop Grumman (VITA/NG) are working to restore service. DMV is updating important service messages online and on the phone system (804-497-7100) to keep customers informed.

When service resumes, DMV anticipates high customer volume. Driver's license issuance will be a top service priority. Customers who have other DMV business such as renewing vehicle registrations are strongly urged to use another service method such as www.dmvNOW.com, automated telephone service at 1-888-337-4782, or U. S. mail. You will avoid the $5 fee for in-person service when you renew your vehicle decals through one of these self-service options.

During the service outage, customers are encouraged to renew licenses at www.dmvNOW.com or through the automated telephone system, 1-888-337-4782. Renewal notices indicate whether customers are eligible to renew licenses through another service option. Eligible customers can use PINs to update their records instantly, print temporary driver's licenses valid for 30 days, and receive the permanent driver's license in the mail, usually within a week. However, due to computer system problems, license production may be delayed. Please allow 15 days for delivery of your new license. Also, customers are encouraged to keep their temporary license with them in case it's needed during a traffic stop.

# # #

Monday, August 30, 2010

Metrics for product managers

Back when I was in product management, someone observed to me that product managers have all of the responsibility but none of the authority.

At least in the organizations with which I am familiar, no one reports to the product managers. They need to obtain resources from a variety of different organizations to get a product out.

So how do you measure the effectiveness of a product manager?

Michael Shrivathsan has looked at this, and has found several commonly used metrics wanting. For example:

Product Line Revenue

* PM teams do not control the revenue. Even if they do their jobs extremely well, revenue depends on execution by Marketing & Sales teams - over which PM teams usually have little control, and minimal impact.

Similarly, Shrivathsan notes that other measures such as profit and loss (P&L) look at things outside of the control of product management.

I do not like any of these metrics because they measure the performance of a team (PM team) using metrics over which they have little control, and further only a vague idea of how to influence those metrics.

So what is Shrivathsan's magic bullet? Product satisfaction. And because he's a good product manager, he uses an acronym to describe it - PSS for product satisfaction score.

What is it?

* PSS focuses on customer satisfaction with just the product.

* It excludes other factors such as customer support experience, friendliness of sales teams, etc.

However, I see one big problem with this metric - I'm not sure how an evaluator can focus on just PSS, ignoring all other aspects of the entire experience.

Take my product (well, now it's Bob's product) as an example. By the time that Cool County gets its automated fingerprint identification system, they have not only received a product that has been developed to a set of standards partially set by the product manager, but they have also received a CONFIGURED product which has been tweaked to meet the specific needs of Cool County. The product development was primarily done in various programming languages, while the configuration was done in XML. When most customers look at a particular screen, they are unable to ascertain which parts of the experience were configured, and which were actually coded by the development team. (In fact, if you show me a product with which I am not familiar, even I wouldn't be able to tell one from the other.)

So even if the customer is able to tune the customer support person and the salesperson out of his/her mind, how is the customer going to differentiate the product from its configuration?

Now someone may claim that this is unique to the complex product lines that talented people like me manage. (You can stop laughing now.) But I'm not sure about that.

As I write this post, I have a bottle of Crystal Geyser Sparking Mineral Water sitting on a table next to me. Now I have no idea how Crystal Geyser's product management organization works, and whether a single product manager is responsible for the water and the bottle and the label, or whether Crystal Geyser has a dozen different product managers, including one for the bottle caps.

But assume for the moment that the "product" is the water itself. What if I unknowingly bought a bottle of Crystal Geyser that had been sitting on a store shelf for two years? (I checked the entire bottle, including the aforementioned bottle cap, and could not find any date stamp.) In that case I might be very dissatisfied with the product, but the product manager couldn't be blamed for that.

I don't think.

VITA's vitals vamaged - Virginia government computer outage

[FCC DISCLOSURE: My employer provides driver's licensing equipment and software, though not in this instance.]

I ran across this press release, as well as subsequent press releases that indicate that the situation has not changed.

Thursday, August 26, 2010
Media Contact: Melanie Stokes
Department of Motor Vehicles
(804) 367-6623

Statewide Computer Issue Halts In-Person Driver's License Transactions
Vehicle Titles, Decals, Etc. Still Being Processed in DMV Offices

RICHMOND - Due to a statewide computer system problem, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles is currently unable to process driver's license transactions inside its 74 customer service centers in Virginia. Customers who can renew licenses through another service option are encouraged to go online at www.dmvNOW.com, or use the automated telephone service at 1-888-337-4782. The Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) is working to resolve the server problem that is affecting 24 different state agencies. VITA has not reported a recovery time.

At DMV, all other types of transactions, including vehicle decals and titles, transcripts, etc. are being processed normally.
# # #

Richmond's WTVR cataloged the agencies affected:

The Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) is working to restore a server problem that's affecting 24-different state agencies including: Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Virginia Department of Transportation and Virginia Employment Commission, to name a few.

As the systems started coming back up (although DMV is still anticipated to be down today), BusinessWeek identified the issue:

The failure occurred in one memory card in what is known as a "storage area network," or SAN, at VITA's large suburban Richmond computing center, one of several data storage systems in different parts of Virginia.

Even though the system had built-in redundancies, something else went wrong:

[W]hen the memory card failed Wednesday, a fallback that attempted to shoulder the load began reporting multiple errors.

VITA itself is providing updates on the repair work. Here's the Friday update:

Update on storage outage
11 a.m., Friday, Aug. 27, 2010

• Maintenance and repair work proceeded as expected overnight. Applications, servers and the damaged storage system were taken down as planned.
• The storage system has been repaired.
• More than 60 percent of the servers attached to that storage system have been brought back up and are operational. Agencies are testing those servers and related applications.
• Work continues to restore the remaining servers.
• The system is not yet 100 percent operational. We will be brining services up throughout the day. Some data must be restored.
• Unfortunately, DMV still cannot process driver’s licenses at its customer centers. Please check the DMV website for details on services available at the customer centers and online. Some other agencies continue to be impacted.

The impermanence of blog posts, and the impermanence of blogs

Don't tell Dave Winer, but I got involved in another conversation in blog comments. As my thread with the Goddess of Garey Avenue progressed, she made the following statement:

Wow, I was unaware that you have had so many blogs. Cool!

She said this because, while writing a comment on this Empoprise-BI blog, I made a reference to the very first blog that I created, the Ontario Empoblog. And presumably the Goddess found the post that I wrote about her in my Empoprise-IE Inland Empire blog.

I've probably created upwards of a dozen blogs since I started blogging in 2003. Some of them, such as the Ontario Empoblog, were general blogs in which I would literally talk about anything. Others were (somewhat) focused on more specific interests. Most of the blogs were public, but one of them was behind a corporate firewall.

Regarding the public blogs, I would start one (or two) (or three) of them, use it for a year or two, and eventually discard it. Using my very first blog as an example, that particular blog lasted a little over three years. The first post, on October 14, 2003 was full of promise:

Why did synthetica start with fake bluegrass sounds? Why not? This is the Ontario Empoblog, or the blog for Ontario Emperor, which has nothing and everything to do with Canada, New Mexico, and Texas, but also California, which is a location in California. It exists in cyberspace, which is also synthetic.

The Ontario Empoblog may or may not touch on a variety of subjects, including music, poetry, poker, the supposed familial relationship between Brian Eno and Slim Whitman, the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop (1,121 - I checked), various comments about frogs, and the nature of nature.

The (second to) last post, written on February 9, 2007 and entitled "Hiatus," indicated one of my many changes in direction:

The Ontario Empoblog is shutting down, at least temporarily.

In fact I'm ceasing activity on all of my existing Blogger blogs, and redirecting people to mrontemp, my new Blogger blog.

One of the reasons for this is a change in style. My blog posts (in this blog especially) have become long posts that morph from one subject to another in a non-toadlike wild ride of whatevers. As you can see from my first few posts in mrontemp, I'm trying a more succinct style.

We'll see how it goes. Catch you at mrontemp.

A little over two years later, I shut down mrontemp also - in this case, because of my shift in my blogging name from "Ontario Emperor" to "John Bredehoft."

And over the years I've ceased activity at a number of blogs, including KOER, KOET, mrmicro-oe,
mrontario, my MySpace blog,Ontario Logoblog, Ontario Technoblog, andOppose Traffic Calming Obstructions. I seem to recall having a Frappr blog at one point also, and probably some others.

And don't forget the pre-blog activity, such as the Ontario Emperor Yahoo group that I founded in 1998, and the Tripod site that I started at about the same time.

At one time each of these properties served a vital purpose, but my interest changed, or my strategy changed, or my name changed, and then the properties weren't as vital any more.

Right now I manage four blogs on a regular basis, including the aforementioned business and Inland Empire blogs, a music blog, and an NTN Buzztime blog. That has been my blog lineup for the last twenty months. But I can't predict what will be going on twenty months in the future. Maybe I'll still have all four of these blogs. Maybe I won't have any of them. Maybe I won't even be blogging.

Meanwhile, others are more consistent with their online presence. If you go to scripting.com, you can go back in the archives to an April 1, 1997 entry. Now that's consistency.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Has the NFL "sacked" the Associated Press?

Sportscaster Ben Maller shared a link to a Josh Stewart article about Greg Aiello, the National Football League's Senior Vice President for Public Relations.

Stewart quoted Aiello as saying:

"It's like a wire service now, so if I want to get something out today, the quickest way would be Twitter," says Aiello. "As opposed to the old days where you'd send it to AP, and then when the AP got it on the wire, everybody had it. Or more recently you e-mailed it to everybody in the media at the same time, and they communicated it. And we still do all those things, but now we can put it on our Twitter accounts and move it out right away and it gets circulated very widely in a very short period of time."

This does not necessarily mean that Aiello is disagreeing with Mark Cuban on the value of Twitter. As I noted in November 2009, Cuban made a point of noting that Twitter does NOT compete with the more traditional news services, and that Twitter is often used to include a link to a much longer piece. Perhaps both Cuban and Aiello are right - Twitter is a good conveyance for a link to a longer article, but to get that link out, you need Twitter to do it. To prove that, here's a tweet from Greg Aiello:

Enough about everone else. What about me? RT @SyossetPatch: Greg Aiello goes from Syosset Advance writer 2 NFL PR VP: http://patch.com/A-31W

Note that if Aiello decides to charge people who quote five or more words, from his tweets, he won't make that much money - Twitter can't handle a lot of words.

Aiello's Twitter account, by the way, is @gregaiello. Maller's is @benmaller. (Maller's tweet about Aiello is here.) Mark Cuban's is @mcuban. The AP's account is @ASSOCIATEDPRESS (yes, it's in ALL CAPS - you may snicker now).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fun with logtransport2.exe

On Wednesday, I noticed that my work computer was running really slowly. I thought that it was a problem with the work servers or something, until I started the Task Manager and realized that something called logtransport2.exe was consuming huge amounts of CPU and memory.

A quick web search revealed that this was associated with the Adobe Acrobat family of products, and that you could permanently turn it off by going to the Help menu, selecting "Improvement Program Options," and changing your response to "No."

It's kind of sad when you have to improve something by turning off an improvement program, but that's the way it goes.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Promote your business blog! (applying "A Pattern Language" to locate complementary "places" in a virtual world)

There is a local blogger who calls herself the Goddess of Garey Avenue (Garey Avenue being the main north-south thoroughfare in the city of Pomona - geddit?). Earlier this month, she wrote a post entitled At Night in Pomona which quoted extensively from a book called A Pattern Language. Here are some excerpts from her excerpts:

2. If evening activities such as movies, cafes, ice cream parlors, gas stations, and bars are scattered throughout the community, each one by itself cannot generate enough attraction....

6. It is difficult to estimate the exact number of night spots that need to be grouped to create a sense of night life. From observation, we guess that it takes about six, minimum.

7. On the other hand, massive evening centers, combining evening services which a person could not possibly use in the same night, are alienating. For example, in New York the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts makes a big splash at night, but it makes no sense. No one is going to the ballet and the theater and a concert during one night on the town. And centralizing these places robs the city as a whole of several centers of night life.

All these arguments together suggest small, scattered centers of mutually enlivening night spots, the services grouped to form cheery squares, with lights and places to loiter, where people can spend several hours in an interesting way.

The theory makes sense. How many times have you gone to a place (for example, Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California) which features several different establishments that you can visit? Even the modern mall is an example of this - people are more inclined to "go to the mall" than to go to a particular store in the mall. As long as the different establishments are complementary, this will work. It won't work, however, with non-complementary businesses - a gas station, a four-star restaurant, and Westboro Baptist Church do not a destination make.

But can you create such complementary destinations in the virtual world? Of course.

Within the next hour, my Empoprise-IE Inland Empire blog will contain a post that will explain how I discovered the Goddess of Garey Avenue in the first place. You see, the Original Skrip blog contains, in its upper right hand corner, a list of blogs "around town." The rationale is that if you're interested in the local blog Original Skrip, you may be interested in other local blogs (such as Empoprise-IE and Goddess of Garey Avenue) that also have a local slant. In fact, if you look at some of these blogs, you'll see that they cross-reference each other extensively. My own Empoprise-IE blog hasn't been doing much of this lately, but I'm trying to improve my performance there in the future.

Why? Self-preservation.

In fact, it's a lesson that I can carry to all of my blogs, including this one. Now certainly the posts in this blog reference posts in other blogs on numerous occasions, but I haven't made a conscious effort to insert this blog into an ecosystem of similar business blogs.

This is where you come in. If you write a business blog that you think is somewhat complementary to Empoprise-BI, tell us all about it in the comments.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When technological advances DON'T affect "real-time"

Last Tuesday morning - on the same day that I left on the trip that I won't discuss - I posted something that talked about how "real-time" can vary among industries. For example, "real-time" for a computer-aided dispatch system could be different from "real-time" for a different application.

But the post contained an underlying assumption that as technology improves, the times that are required to do things can get shorter and shorter.

That assumption, like many assumptions, turned out to be a faulty one. But before I explain why, let me share what things were like way back when I was younger.

If someone went to the grocery store, they would often pay for goods with something called "cash." If you have never heard of this term, it is a payment system created by the Federal Government that you can use, even today (in some places), to make purchases. So if you had to pay $6.83 for something, you would get out several pieces of cash, the total of which had a value of $6.83. In this example, you would take out something called a "five dollar bill," and something called a "one dollar bill," and a variety of things called "coins."

As you can imagine, this system was somewhat cumbersome, so instead of using cash, people at a grocery store would often use something called a "check." While it was also cumbersome, it avoided the need to carry all those bills and coins around, and because it tied directly to your bank account, you could make huge purchases without having to cary a bunch of cash around. Imagine spending $50 at the grocery store at one time! Checks let you do that.

However, there was one little peculiarity about checks. As I mentioned, checks were written against your bank account. However, it would take some time for the bank to find out that you had written the check. If you went to the grocery store on a Saturday afternoon, the check would sit in the grocery store's cash register. Eventually all of the checks would be collected, but it could conceivably take days for the checks to actually make it to the bank, which meant that even though you spent $50 on Saturday, the bank wouldn't know this until Monday or possibly Tuesday.

Of course, some people used this to their advantage. Let's say that you got paid on Friday. As long as you deposited your paycheck on Friday before the banks closed, you could actually start spending your money on Thursday!

Well, provided that the bank honored your paycheck that quickly. Sometimes banks would place a hold on checks, which effectively meant that they were using your money before you could use it yourself. The big boys always win.

Of course, things such as "cash" and "checks" aren't used all that much any more. The big thing now is the fantastic plastic - credit cards, debit cards, gift cards, what have you. Unlike checks, these cards are tied into vast computerized systems, which can theoretically calculate your total balances and potential balance changes within minutes. The days of float are over, and any transaction you make is recorded within the hour, updating your balance at the same time.


The one thing that I did share about my trip was the fact that I took a plane from Ontario to San Francisco. For my trip, I took one carry-on bag and one checked bag. You know what that means - a $25 fee. (You can now deduce that I did not fly Southwest to San Francisco.) Because my airline did not accept cash for the baggage fee, I had to use a credit card. I did a similar thing when I flew back to Ontario on Saturday.

Whether I used a credit card or a debit card, you would think that the transaction would be recorded the same day. But it wasn't - not because of the bank that issued the card, but because of the airline. Here's what one of my banks showed the day after one of my flights:

$25.00 Temporary merchant authorization
Amount may change - waiting for final amount from merchant

Now I don't know why this particular airline only provides a temporary authorization for baggage fees, and what they anticipate they are going to change. I could assume that they are reserving the right to ship my bags for free, but somehow I don't think that's their intent. I suspect that because they charge the fee before they actually weigh the bag, they're reserving the right to charge more if the bag weighs too much.

Temporary authorizations are also used at places such as gas stations and restaurants. At gas stations, they can be used before the gas is purchased to temporarily authorize the potential amount of gas that you may purchase. So even if you only end up putting $6.83 of gas in your car, your credit card temporarily shows a $50 or $100 or whatever charge. In this case, the gas station eventually adjusts the dollar amount to the correct amount.

And even when temporary authorizations aren't used, sometimes it takes forever for the business to submit the bill to the credit card company. There have been times when I have returned from a trip, all ready to submit my expense report...and some of the expenses haven't hit my cards yet. Hotels seem to be notorious at this; it seems that I don't see hotel charges until a few days after I have checked out. Maybe they're holding the submission of the amount to the card company so that they can first check and make sure I didn't steal any towels.

So in essence, even with debit cards and credit cards and the like, the update of account balances is not instantaneous. Why not? Because in some cases the merchant doesn't know how much was actually purchases. And perhaps sometimes the merchant is lazy about getting all those danged expenses turned in.

It would be interesting to compare businesses based upon how quickly they submit charges to the relevant card companies. I wonder if faster submissions are correlated with more profitable firms.

Monday, August 23, 2010

De-evolution of online content? Bloggers, put on your energy domes!

Don't tell Dave Winer, but I've been engaging in conversation in the comments section of a Louis Gray blog post on, of all things, a perceived decrease in online interaction.

Specifically, I've been trading comments with Steven Pickering. In the course of our conversation, he made the following assertion:

These systems that we are so proud of are devolving the quality of content. Book->Magazine->Blog->Tweet/FB Update->Check In seems like a de evolution in quality of content.

Expanding on this thought, Pickering stated:

Heck I just a few years ago we all though blog posts were a joke. And they were a joke compared to books and even long, well thought out magazine articles. Now our attention spans have shrunk so much, a blog post like this or Leo's comes along and we hail it as Moses coming down the Mountain.

Pickering's intent, incidentally, wasn't to criticize Gray or Laporte for their posts, but it was just an observation that such a blog post would have seemed ordinary a few short years ago.

At first glance, Pickering's assertion seems to coincide with the facts. Where is the excitement in the tech press these days? It sure isn't about a shiny new blogging platform, as the term "blogging" is commonly understood.

But if our online capabilities are devolving, why? In another comment, I made the following assertion:

Stephen, if your thesis is correct, perhaps this is because social media has moved past the early adopter stage, not because of the design of social media per se. Perhaps those who joined Twitter in its early stages were more likely to be content creators, while those who are joining Twitter now are more likely to be content consumers.

Or if not merely content consumers, perhaps clickers - people who check in and do little more.

But what of the people who decide, today, that they want to engage in long-form blogging? What are the wise pundits saying about present-day blogging? Jennifer Horowitz shared these statistics (among others):

All of the stats are courtesy of “2009 State of the Blogosphere by Technorati”

* More than 133,000,000 blogs have been indexed by Technorati since 2002
* 60% [of bloggers] are 18-44
* 75% have college degrees and 40% have graduate degrees
* One in four has an annual household income of $100K+
* Around half of Bloggers are working on at least their second blog
* 68% have been blogging for two years or more
* 86% have been blogging for at least a year
* 57% say that their future plans include blogging even more (including 74% of 18-24 year olds).
* Part-Timers, Pros, and Self-Employed Bloggers are blogging as much as or more than ever (73%, 76% and 80%, respectively), while Hobbyists are blogging somewhat less.
* 15% of Bloggers spend 10 or more hours each week blogging.
* One in five Bloggers report updating on a daily basis.
* The most common rate of updating is 2-3 times per week.

Meanwhile, gapingvoid made the following assertion:

No, it’s not too late to start blogging. “But the Blogosphere is so crowded now, it’s too late to get first-mover advantage”, I hear you say. Perhaps. But it’s only crowded in the middle and the bottom. There’s always plenty of room at the top. People’s need to be informed and inspired by the good stuff is insatiable. But, as I implied, it has to be good, it has to be more than good in order to get there. Nobody has time for mediocre drek. The world is just too interesting and competitive now.

Abview Data Acquisition and Quality of Data

I encountered a stray mention of "Printrak" (the former name of my employer) on the web, and was mystified as to why it was being mentioned. So I followed the link and found this:

If the FBI Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), a repository contains 43 million in September fingerprints.AFIS sellers include Printrak, NEC Solutions America Inc. and Sagem Morpho Inc., Printrak, a Motorola Company, Inc., for the first time on the market and provides commercial AFIS for the FBI in 1975. NEC AFIS is used in identifying West Network Inc., which covers several states and a database of more, Abview Data Acquisition, than 17 million records of fingerprints.

Apparently the text has been run through a translator or something; the reference to "West Network Inc." should properly be a reference to the Western Identification Network, which is a multi-state AFIS system installed by NEC. The reference to Abview Data Acquisition, however, was mystifying.

I scrolled up to the top of the post and saw that the text was apparently based on a July 2003 press release that trumpeted an appearance by a firm called Markland in Federal Computer Week. I couldn't find the original press release, but the FCW reference to Markland Technologies can be found here. Markland itself didn't do so well after that; according to a BusinessWeek web page, it stopped filing reports with the SEC in 2005.

So I returned to the reproduction of the press release that was just posted today, and noticed something interesting in the second paragraph.

Biometric for measuring physical or behavioral,, Abview Data Acquisition, Abview Data Acquisition, characteristics to verify the identity of the person who sees some use in the federal sector. Technology used against offenders more visible and secure access to sensitive military technology and public labs.But track today, biometric technologies on the verge of mass market phenomenon. Interest in biometrics is a country with September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks prompted major security problems have risen sharply.

And in the third:

And the technology is, Abview Data Acquisition, ready to play its role in border security and other initiatives to protect, Abview Data Acquisition, the homeland. In the Federal Republic in the workplace, biometrics will complement or replace passwords and personal identification numbers of those opportunities, access to infrastructure and computer networks. These technologies will also contribute as a way to verify the use of e-government market has the potential to encourage providers to improve the market participants, competition and expand the range of available technologies.

Well, it appears that Abview Data Acquisition has been acquiring data from press releases. And, based upon the one item I already found ("West Network, Inc."), it's been acquiring BAD data. But if it brings people to their Google ads, all the better.

But who is Abview Data Acquisition? I read about them:

นี่เป็นตัวอย่างแรก สำหรับการเริ่มเขียนบทความหรือเนื้อหา ใน blog MaxsiteTH.com นี้ สามารถจัดการได้ในภายหลัง

Google Translate provided some illumination on the matter:

This is the first example. To start writing articles or content on this blog MaxsiteTH.com be able to later.

That really helped. But some further investigation revealed that this (apparently) Thai site hosts blogs that talk about almost anything. Presumably they all have Google ads which are raking in the cash. And, if the WHOIS record is correct, then we know who's getting it:

narongrit sritana
Parkview Vipavadi
Don Muang, 10210

Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
Created on: 18-Aug-09
Expires on: 18-Aug-11
Last Updated on: 20-May-10

Administrative Contact:
sritana, narongrit mt761@hotmail.com
Parkview Vipavadi
Don Muang, 10210
66 81 4995175 Fax -- (662) 576-6380

Technical Contact:
sritana, narongrit mt761@hotmail.com
Parkview Vipavadi
Don Muang, 10210
66 81 4995175 Fax -- (662) 576-6380

Domain servers in listed order:

The funny part about all of this? Apparently there is no "Abview Data Acquisition." There is, however, a very popular Data Acquisition module in LABview. Here's a tutorial.

No word on whether this module would be of use to West Network Inc.

On the exonetwork - how many social networks have you joined without knowing it?

If you follow my Foursquare check-ins (which can be seen on my Twitter account), you may have noticed the following three check-ins:

A Tuesday check-in at Ontario airport.

A Tuesday check-in at San Francisco airport. This check-in included a joke about arriving at Oracle OpenWorld 2010 a month too early - one that was retweeted by @oracleopenworld.

A Saturday check-in at Ontario airport.

However, between my arrival in San Francisco and my return to Ontario, I did not tweet or otherwise communicate anything about my whereabouts.

Well, actually I did write something which appeared in this blog on Tuesday afternoon:

[T]his post ... will appear in my blog ... on Tuesday at 5:15 pm. This post was NOT being written on Tuesday at 5:14 pm, and in fact it would be impossible for me to write this post on Tuesday at 5:14 pm and post it on Tuesday at 5:15 pm.

My friend "Bill" knows why I couldn't write this post at 5:14 pm on Tuesday.

Most of my FriendFeed friends don't.

(More later.)

Other than that (and one other exception), I have not written anything on-line that talks about my whereabouts between Tuesday and Saturday.

There's a reason for this, but before discussing that reason, I'd like to offer my definition of the exonetwork.

When you sign up for a network service such as Foursquare, Twitter, or Facebook, the service usually has rules that say that only one person can use the account, and that it is not to be shared by others. So if someone such as myself, or Louis Gray, joins Foursquare, that does not automatically mean that our families, friends, and employers have also joined Foursquare. After all, when Gray or myself join Foursquare, it is solely for our own use.

Or is it?

Take a look at this tweet of mine from February 25, 2010:

I'm at El Toro (1128 Broadway, Tacoma). http://4sq.com/5rCVrv

Now to most of you, the fact that I like Mexican food doesn't seem to be much of an issue. But some of my co-workers will realize that this probably indicates that I was visiting my employer's Tacoma office in February. More importantly, some of my competitors will realize that I was at the Tacoma office in February. Why was I there? Imagine if I had tweeted "At El Toro reviewing the SuperWidget product plans"; what kind of information would this have provided to the competition?

So, in essence, even though my employer never joined Foursquare ... they have. So they're part of the Foursquare exonetwork. If I were to share the wrong thing, the results could be disastrous.

Let me cite another example. Jake Kuramoto recently expressed a desire to document his life as he approaches fatherhood. Now Kuramoto would not be the first person to do so; Louis Gray, a blogger (and AppsLab reader) is well-known for documenting the lives of his twins. For example, see this tweet:

Saturday Scenes: Matthew and Sarah Playing in the Sand, Chasing the Ball, At the Park in Woodside /cc... [pic] http://ff.im/-kLQSU

At some point - perhaps later, perhaps even now - Gray could conceivably share something about Matthew or Sarah that shouldn't be shared. Perhaps he might check in at a pediatrician. Perhaps he might check in at a day care center. Perhaps he might check in at a police station ("Bailing out Matthew after PD caught him TPing Scoble's house"). Again, even though Matthew and Sarah didn't sign up for the services Louis uses ... they have. Again, part of the exonetwork for those services.

However, Gray is no dummy, and he recently shared something that talks about this very topic - a Valleywag post about the proper etiquette for using Facebook Places. It cites an example from Kunur Patel, who went out dining one night.

Facebook Places went live last night and I decided to give it a whirl soon after being seated for Mediterranean food at a neighborhood restaurant. My husband and I were waiting for two friends and, even before they could walk through the door, I checked all of us in at Zenon Taverna in New York City.

The four diners were all very familiar with location-based technologies.

[T]his was a foursome of twenty-somethings, a bunch of typical iPhone-toting over-sharers who have all been guilty an incriminating photo or tweet. Among us were at least a couple of Foursquare mayorships and one notorious Facebook photo tagger. Together, we have 1,544 Facebook friends. From our profile pages, you'll learn what we're doing at work, where we live, what we're reading, email addresses, even one cell phone number. Via mobile uploads and wall posts, you'll find out one of us recently took two trips: one out of the city for a clam bake, and Philadelphia before that.

Patel didn't tell the others that she had tagged them in Facebook Places until the second bottle of wine arrived. She was surprised by their reaction.

Shock ensued.

Read the rest of Patel's post to find out why these people were horrified at this share. Note the ease with which Patel checked in the four people (and that she easily could have checked in people who were NOT there - couple that with the ability to check in at locations that you never visited, and we have a topic for an entirely different post).

But for the moment, let's assume that you are performing true check-ins at locations where you and other people actually are. How is the person going to react when he/she finds out that you've impinged on that person's privacy, without any knowledge of it?

Which is why my whereabouts between Tuesday and Saturday were not shared. If anyone asks, I was at "Deer University" (i.e. I was not at Reed College, the college that I attended).

I've blogged about pseudonymous entities before. Back when I blogged as Ontario Emperor, I referred to my (then) employer as MegaCorp. However, I didn't do this consistently, and when I began blogging under my real name I stopped the practice.

However, when I'm blogging about people other than myself, use of a pseudonym for an entity or a location may be warranted.

QUESTION: I'm curious about how other people handle this, especially those who are active on multiple services themselves. Where do you draw the line regarding what you share about family, friends, and employers? And do you have different rules for different services?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

If you don't discuss a blog post at the post itself, then where should you discuss it? (Dave Winer's blog comments proposal)

From the outset, I should note that a comparison of my blogging experience with Dave Winer's blogging experience is by definition a faulty comparison. I have been blogging since 2003; Winer has been blogging for a longer period. And Winer's readership is, to put it mildly, larger than my readership. So therefore I have not really encountered the problems that Winer has had with blog comments, as described in his post "Proposal: A new kind of blog comment system."

Once the blogosphere had grown sufficiently that the central role scripting.com played was largely forgotten, I brought comments back. I've been mostly satisfied with them, but certain subjects evoke predictable and futile "arguments" in response and unless moderation is applied, they will spiral into a flamy back and forth that you can find in any of thousands of different places in the blogosphere.

Hence, Winer's proposal:

So all this has led me to an idea that comments could work quite a bit differently and remove the incentives to replay old arguments, and keep the comments focused on the ideas being responded to. Permanent link to this item in the archive.

1. A fixed commenting period for each post of 24 hours....

2. Until the period expires, none of the comments would be visible to other commenters....

3. You could edit and refine your comments during the period....

4. There would be a length limit of 1000 characters to keep people from using comments in place of a blog post. No one is going to read a blog post in a comment....

5. After the commenting period is over, the comments would become visible, and no further comments would be permitted....

Ironically, Steven Hodson's WinExtra blog is going in the opposite direction, and is actually encouraging people to write comments that can be promoted to blog post status. (And if I ever have a truly profound thought on Windows, I'll get involved in that.)

But the major ramification of Winer's proposal is that it removes the interaction between commenters. Winer acknowledges this:

I know some people think that blogs are conversations, but I don't. I think they're publications. And I think the role of comments is to add value to the posts. If you want to rebut a post, then you can create your own blog and post your rebuttal there.

In essence, this is consistent with Winer's "let a thousand blogs bloom" decentralized philosophy. Rather than going to teacher's site and putting your comments there, set up your own danged site. Or, to put it another way, comment fragmentation in the extreme. Perhaps Winer's ideal blog post won't reap the benefits of the discussion (or, if Winer advertised, the advertising dollars), but the entire Internet will be better off with a decentralized discussion.

And to prove the point, Winer ended his post as follows:

I've disabled comments for this post to give a brief demo of what it might feel like to find other outlets for your ideas, or to allow you more time to consider your response.

And I guess it worked - I'm writing here, aren't I?

While noting that I have only had to rarely moderate comments on my blogs, I clearly have a different view of the most effective ways to post my reactions to a blog post. While sometimes I will write my own blog post in response (especially if the original blog post does not accept comments, or requires you to register to post comments), more often than not I will respond with a comment at the blog post itself, or respond via another avenue such as a Google Reader note or a FriendFeed comment.

One reason that I do this is because of the comment fragmentation mentioned earlier. If you have 1,000 blog posts responding to a Dave Winer post, the chances are that no one, including Winer himself, will see all of them. And this will make it difficult to encourage the cross-pollination of ideas that can happen when all of the items related to a particular topic are gathered together. Granted, a truly motivated person can find all the relevant conversations, but this makes the cross-pollination that much harder.

And with that, I'm heading over to Livefyre and to other places.

The "act" of decision-making, or how the early Christian church grapped with a strategic decision

Yes, another Sunday, another "religious/business" post. The post, while using a religious book as the topic, looks at the items discussed from a business viewpoint. It will veer toward a more religious discussion at the end, but I'll give the rabid secularists plenty of warning before I go in that direction.

One of the good points about me, which is also one of the bad points about me, is that I prefer that decisions be made quickly. Gather what information you have, take a look at it, and make a decision. If a process requires three meetings to make a decision, I believe that the first two meetings should be cancelled and we should go right to the third one.


Obviously, some people feel differently about this, and believe that decision-making should be an iterative process, and that one should not rush into something hastily. These people argue that one should take the time to consider the ramifications of the decision, listen to a variety of views, mull on the matter, and allow for re-evaluation of the decision.

As it turns out, my church is doing a sermon series on the book of Acts, and my Sunday school is independently studying the book. For those not familiar with the book, it tells the story of the early Christian church in the first few decades after Jesus Christ ascended - or died, or went to North America, depending upon your particular religious beliefs or lack thereof. However, people of all religious persuasions can agree that Jesus was not there any more, and the people who were left had to decide how they were going to conduct their affairs from that day forward.

One of the biggest challenges facing the early church was the decision about who could actually join the early church. In this particular case, the decision had overwhelming strategic ramifications, which have influenced not only church history, but also world history, for millennia afterwards.

It's important to remember that in those first weeks, and months, and years of the church, it was regarded as a Jewish church. While most Jews of the time regarded the church as a body of blasphemers, the church considered itself to be thoroughly Jewish. Jesus was regarded as the promised Messiah, sent to the twelve tribes.

The idea that Jesus was anything other than this was considered rarely, if at all, by the church at the time. Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight, and Christians can read specific passages in the Gospels and in the Old Testament as evidence that the Messiah was to be sent to both Jews and Gentiles alike.

So how did the church make the change from a Jewish body to a Jewish/Gentile body? Well, it wasn't one of those quick decisions that I would have liked. The whole process, as outlined in the book of Acts, took many years. (I won't go into the post-Acts story, in which the church actively became a persecutor of Jews at several points in its history.)

People like me who like to see evidence of a single decision often point to the Council of Jerusalem (Wikipedia entry here), a meeting which occurred roughly 20 years after Jesus' crucifixion, as THE point at which the change was made. The story is told in the 15th chapter of the book of Acts.

But there was another meeting that took place earlier, also in Jerusalem, that is recorded in the 11th chapter of the book of Acts. Basically, through a series of events recorded in Acts chapter 10, Peter was instrumental in baptizing a number of people in Caesarea as Christians - people who were definitely NOT Jewish. By the time Peter got back to Jerusalem, word had gotten around, and portions of the church were criticizing Peter. Why? Because he entered their house and ate food with them. Peter explained his actions (in essence, saying that God told him to do it), which resulted in the following (Acts 11:18 NIV):

When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life."

So the matter was settled, and non-Jews could officially join the church.

Not exactly. The church sent Barnabas to Antioch, Barnabas called Paul (Saul) from Tarsus to Antioch, the two ministered to people (Jews and non-Jews) for a year in Antioch, then they spent some time in Jerusalem, then they went back to Antioch, then they undertook a journey through much of modern-day Turkey - again, speaking to both Jews and Gentiles - and then returned to Antioch, where they stayed "a long time."

So it had been several years since Peter had spoken to the church elders in Jerusalem, the message had been spread to the Gentiles - but for some, the decision had not been finalized (Acts 15:1 NIV).

Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved."

In essence, "some men" were saying that Gentiles could certainly become Christians - as long as they became Jews first. This was the background for the meeting that has been labeled as the Council of Jerusalem. The upshot of the meeting, as recorded in Acts, was that Gentiles did NOT need to be circumcised to become Christians. (There were a few conditions placed on them, however.)

So the matter was settled, and non-Jews could officially join the church.

Not exactly.

If you look at the second chapter of Paul's letter to the Galatians, it appears that the issue had to be revisited at least one more time. If you assume that the events in Galatians 2:1-10 refer to the Council of Jerusalem (which seems to be a fair assumption, since both Paul and James are mentioned, as well as the specific issue of circumcision), and if you assume that the events beginning on Galatians 2:11 occurred AFTER the Council of Jerusalem, it appears that the issue had to be revisited once again (Galatians 2:11-14):

When Peter came to Antioch, I [Paul] opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

Today it all appears as part of one big decision, but in truth there were three different decisions that took place here, each one building upon the previous decision that was made.

The first question was whether or not Gentiles could be baptized into the church.

The second question, while assuming that Gentiles could be baptized into the church, asked whether the Gentiles had to become Jews first before being baptized into the church.

The third question, while assuming that Gentiles could join the church without becoming Jews, asked whether the Jews in the church could associate with the Gentiles in the church.

Take a step back from Acts, and Christianity and Judaism, and look at this from an organizational perspective. People make decisions all the time, and often do so with imperfect information. The decisions that are made result in actions with consequences that require additional decisions to be made. The classic example from the last decade is the U.S. decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Once the decision was made to remove Saddam Hussein from power, we invaded Iraq and removed him from power. OK...now what? Another example is the reunification of Germany. Once the Berlin Wall fell and Germany reunited...now what? (A December 2008 post in my music blog, of all places, looks at that topic.)

I'm not sure what would have happened if ALL of the questions had been addressed by the church right after Caesarea resident Cornelius was baptized. As it turned out, several years elapsed as all of these different decisions were being made, allowing people to carefully consider the ramifications of the decisions. And perhaps the passage of time helped to guarantee the success of the decisions in the long run - imagine what would have happened if, as part of the Brown v Board of Education decision, the Supreme Court had said, "Oh, by the way, this means that as of 1954, Birmingham buses are integrated, Little Rock schools are integrated, lunch counters all over the country are integrated...and the Boston, Massachusetts schools are integrated also.


Now perhaps this doesn't remove my bias toward making decisions quickly, but it does help me to be sensitive to the fact that decisions made on one day may have ramifications on a future day, and even if these ramifications cannot be anticipated at the present time, they will have to be dealt with at some point in the future.

Now to the ramifications for the Christian church that resulted from the episodes above, and what happened afterwards. As I noted earlier in this post, the Christian church changed from one in which Jews were the only members, to one in which Gentiles were the only members, and they persecuted Jews.

What happened?

In effect, we forgot the lessons that were taught by the episodes in the books of Acts and Galatians. Rather than realizing that Jews and Gentiles form one body in Christ, and that all of us were responsible in some way for Christ's sacrifice, some of us conveniently forgot the church's Jewish heritage, and angrily denounced the Jews as "Christ-killers" (although technically the Roman government carried out the death sentence.)

Paul Maier (yes, the Paul Maier from the church founded by Martin Luther) wrote about anti-Semitism and Good Friday in this 2007 commentary. After looking at Luke 23:37, and drawing a distinction between the people who appeared before Pilate and the "multitude" who followed Jesus to the cross, Maier concluded:

How, then, could Jews in general ever have been called fickle “Christ-killers” and been subject to centuries of anti-Semitism in the face of these weeping Jewish followers of Jesus on Good Friday? Later on, anti-Semitism might have developed because of the Jerusalem persecution of the early Christians, St. Paul's struggles with Jewish opponents during his mission journeys, and the split between church and synagogue. But it should never have arisen because of Good Friday.

On the other hand, too many radical revisionists today are claiming that no Jews were involved on Good Friday, and that the Gospels have misled us. Yet this is equally mistaken. The New Testament has it exactly right: Jesus certainly did have Jewish opponents who wanted him dead and did yell “Crucify!” on that infamous Friday, but they were not the “fickle Jews” of Palm Sunday. Instead, they were a priestly directed claque from the Sadducean authorities who controlled the Temple — again, Annas, Caiaphas, and their coterie. They wanted Jesus terminated as a pseudo-Messianic figure who might lead a revolt and bring on the Romans. Josephus tells us that there were 10,000 in the Temple police alone. Less than 5 percent of that number would have been more than enough to crowd into Pilate's courtyard and serve as a speech chorus of condemnation directed by Caiaphas and the priestly aristocracy of Jerusalem.

Bottom line, then: the “Hosannas” of Palm Sunday and the “Crucifys” of Good Friday came from entirely different Jewish crowds.

In short:

[T]his reading of the sources contradicts not one syllable of the Gospel record. Rather, it picks up on that important nugget of evidence that Luke supplied, tears away one large root of anti-Semitism, and makes the events of Holy Week that much more credible. Had more attention been paid to Luke 23:27, perhaps the pogroms of Medieval Europe and even the Holocaust might have been diminished. Certainly the countless debates — every 10 years — over perceived anti-Semitism in the Oberammergau Passion Play or even Mel Gibson's “The Passion of the Christ” might have been muted.

Or maybe it wouldn't have made any difference at all. But certainly all of us - well, most of us (see this Southern Poverty Law Center report about Westboro so-called Baptist Church) - agree that persecution of the Jews is wrong.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Everything you know is wrong. Caribe?

Upon reading Steve Johnson's post about the need to localize messages in local markets, I thought back to the popular Chevy Nova story. I vaguely remember hearing that the story wasn't true, and checked to see what snopes.com said about it.

The truth is that the Chevrolet Nova's name didn't significantly affect its sales: it sold well in both its primary Spanish-language markets, Mexico and Venezuela. (Its Venezuelan sales figures actually surpassed GM's expectations.)

Yet sites such as anvari.org haven't gotten the message:

When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it was apparently unaware that "no va" means "it won't go." After the company figured out why it wasn't selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish markets to the Caribe.

The Caribe, incidentally, was a Volkswagen car. (The Chevrolet Caribe was a 1966 model related to the Impala, not the Nova, which was released several years before the Nova was introduced into Latin America.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Now that we know what a phone isn't, what isn't a bike or a backpack?

I talk about phones a lot on this blog. You know, the things that have a cord attached to the wall and have the round twirly thing that you use to contact people?

OK, phones have changed a bit since I was a kid.

But at least a bike is the same as it was before, right? No. All Points Blog discusses an Apple patent application that changes things a bit:

The application for a smart bike reads like a description of a connected bike computer; that is, it collects the same data many inexpensive bike computers capture, but can share it among devices.

Well, we still have the backpack. You can't really change that. Oh yes you can:

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley developed a backpack that uses a combination of lasers, cameras, and location-sensing equipment to map out rooms and corridors inside buildings.

OK, it's time for me to adopt a new way to invent things. You may have heard of my previous way to invent things, which is to take ANY food, precede it with the word "fried," and follow it with the words "on a stick." (For example, fried asparagus on a stick.)

So my new way to invent things is to take any object, take an adjective that seemingly has nothing to do with the object, and put the two together. Examples include computing telephone, networked bicycle, and map-generating backpack. Additional examples include encrypted pencil, anti-tuberculosis lightbulb, and libertarian collie.

Once you've put your two words together, contact a patent attorney, make sure Oracle isn't already laying claim to your idea, and start picking out your Rolls Royce.

Your professional football stadium Rolls Royce.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Esteemed Lending Services won't lend you money to get Viriliteas

If you go to http://wemarket4u.net/esteemed/index.html, you'll find the website for Esteemed Lending Services, which advertises:

A loan for every situation. Guaranteed.

Welcome to Esteemed Lending, where we guarantee a loan to fit every situation. Our qualified loan specialists have been helping people just like you find the best interest rates and loan terms possible for your unique situation. We will guide you every step of the way to get you the loan you need. You can lower your current payments on your mortgage, refinance existing debt, and even get extra cash to pay for unexpected expenses.

Interestingly enough, they have a typo toward the end of their statement.

Even if you've been turned down by other lenders because of a less than perfect credit history, we can helop.

But if you click on any of the page's links - to find out about the site's privacy policy, to get more information, or to apply for a loan - you'll discover something very interesting about Esteemed Lending Services.

I won't give the secret away, but the same organization that set up the Esteemed Lending Services website has also set up several other sites:

FatFoe, which lets you kiss your dieting days goodbye.

Glucobate, something for diabetics that offers the healing aromatics of muskmelon.

Sundae Station, a work-at-home opportunity that's advertised as a ticket to sweet profits.

Two sites (age-specific) for Viriliteas.

And while these sites are relatively new, the efforts are not; the organization that set up the Viriliteas website registered the Viriliteas trademark back in 2001.

But while Viriliteas (the plural) was trademarked, apparently the organization never got around to trademarking the singular. You can find Virilitea (described as "virile for men") at the Ceder Biotea website. They are a Malaysian supplier of dehydrated bulk ingredients to Japan, Korea, and Europe.

Oh, and there's a ViriliTEA in New Zealand:

'There is no meaning to life except the meaning man gives his life by unfolding his powers' Erich Fromm Ingredients: North Indian teas blended to create a strong breakfast tea.

Capacity: 100gm

Price: NZ$16.90

Can we generalize an average Muslim consumer?

Generalization is good and bad. On the one hand, it allows an easier response to identifiable segments of the population. On the other hand, the generalization may end up being too general, potentially alienating your target audience.

I haven't really explored the so-called Muslim market segment in this blog before, other than a post in Islamic banking. But I personally wonder if you can lump someone from remotest Saudi Arabia, someone from Indonesia, and someone from Detroit into the same market segment. But perhaps I'm wrong. Marsha Weinstein:

“Muslim consumerism” is thus hardly an oxymoron; why single it out? The consumer behavior of Muslims worldwide is like Western consumer behavior -- especially online -- but exceptional in its extensive use of the Internet for Islamic goods.

Today’s Muslims are young, tech-savvy dotcom aspirants: 50 percent of America’s 1.5 million Muslims are under age 39, and 75 percent of the Middle East’s are under 35.

Young Muslims animatedly blog about iPhone apps that wake them in time for early morning fajr prayers and point them toward Mecca, no matter where in the world they are.

Weinstein also discussed eSoouk, an online site which describes itself as follows:

Alhumdulilah! All praise is due to Allah (SWT) who has allowed this project to blossom and become a reality in the blessed month of Dhil-Hajj 2008!

We thought you might like to know a bit more of what we’re all about!

Originally founded in April 2006, esoouk.com started as a vision and an intention for the Muslim community, to unite and connect Muslim people, businesses, buyers and sellers all under one roof and to improve the economic conditions of the Muslim community at large by establishing the Islamic trading principles of Honesty, Integrity, Mutual understanding and Trust.

This is our intention, and Allah Subhanahu wa ta'ala will only reward people for what they intended, and we pray Allah (SWT) accepts from us the good from this website and forgives us for any bad from this website. We are not perfect nor do we claim to be, we are human beings just like you, so we ask if you see anything on this site un-Islamic or you feel you have not been treated fairly we ask you to contact us so we can Inshaa'Allah resolve the issue together for the sake of Allah (SWT).

(I discussed some of the Muslim business ethical principles in my prior post.)

Now perhaps people in Taliban-dominated areas aren't rushing out to buy from these sites, or from Western companies such as Nestle who have adapted their processes so that halal foods can be provided.

But maybe there is a commonality of sorts between the shoppers in some portions of the Muslim world. Despite their different national backgrounds, there are some commonalities between them that support a unified marketing approach.

But I'm waiting to see what happens when the "Muslim market" tries to influence school textbook publishing. California and Texas won't be able to tolerate the competition.

P.S. Also see the comments to this CNN post. Sample:

Shama Ahmed
August 11th, 2010 10:19 am ET

With Muslims having more opportunity of a better education their understanding of the Islam religion is also growing. Muslims are an integral part of the financial system as the Muslim consumer is a big market. Having products that adhere to Islamic values are very important as these will be more attractive to the Muslim consumer. This is quite noticeable with the growth of Islamic Banks and also many none Islamic Banks have products to suit the Muslim customer. There is also the ever growing businesses of restaurants, clothe shops, book store, which are catering to Muslim needs such as halal food, modest fashionable clothes, literature and art.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rethinking the feed workflow - when the so-called "friendfeed" gets to my real friends

Back on April 3, 2008, I wrote a post in my mrontemp blog entitled How I Publish. The post illustrated how things that I did on one online service would show up in another online service - for example, how something that I shared on del.icio.us would end up on both FriendFeed and MyBlogLog.

The post is hopelessly out of date, but rather than redoing the entire workflow, I'll simply sum it up as follows: stuff that I do on a lot of services ends up on FriendFeed, and from there it goes from FriendFeed to Facebook. (Incidentally, this doesn't included Amplify, which I joined last weekend.)

Why? Because that's the way that I set up a lot of stuff a couple of years ago. Technically I could have all of these services go directly to Facebook, but I really haven't wanted to re-engineer all of that as long as FriendFeed remained a viable service. To do it right, I would not only have to set up last.fm, my blogs, and everything else to go to Facebook, but I would also have to set up things so that when these services hit FriendFeed, they didn't result in duplicate entries in Facebook. (I try to minimize cases in which any of my feeds include duplicate information.)

The drawback of my approach is that when all of my stuff hits Facebook, it all appears as coming from FriendFeed - which it did, but this ignores the fact that some items come from Google Reader, some from Twitter, some from last.fm, some from Blogger, some natively from FriendFeed itself, etc. The result can look something like this:

When someone views this feed, even if they're technically savvy, the results can be somewhat confusing. And if you're not familiar with how certain services work, they can be downright maddening.

For example, take the first item in the picture - the one that begins with "(The inspiration for Jesse Stay's post on the topic.) Fwd: Hmmmm. Fight!" followed by a TechCrunch link, followed by an ff.im link. A knowledgeable FriendFeed user will figure out that I found something on someone's feed on FriendFeed (in this case, it was an item in Louis Gray's feed), reshared it to my own feed, and added a parenthetical statement of my own. (If you're not familiar with FriendFeed, but are familiar with Twitter, think of it as a retweet on steroids.)

The third item in the picture is probably even more confusing. It came from Twitter, but I didn't write it. My FriendFeed page includes a search for all tweets that include my Twitter name @empoprises - the search found a particular tweet from Derrick Jefferson which was in response to something that I had written. (He was looking for some in Louisiana who could cut a black man's hair; I referred him to a barber in southern California, the place where he used to live.)

This confusion about the origin of various items is compounded by the fact that they often appear out of context - especially since my sharing activities on all my various online services can sometimes border on the eccentric. This is part of the FriendFeed culture itself; people there are accustomed to navigating around FriendFeed and Google Reader and Google Buzz and this service and that service, carrying conversations from one service to another, and generally treating the entire World Wide Web like a good plate of spaghetti.

I didn't really think of the ramifications of this, but once all of this stuff hits Facebook, it can get mightily confusing. Once someone saw something that I had shared in Google Reader (which sent it to FriendFeed, which sent it to Facebook) and assumed that I had written it. After all, it appeared in my Facebook thing as just another thing from FriendFeed; doesn't that mean that I wrote it? I can't blame the person for that.

But I didn't really think about it a lot until the end of Sunday School, when someone (I'll call him "Bill") approached me. He and I are friends on Facebook, and obviously we go to the same church, and we also have a business relationship. After Sunday school, he approached me and noted that he was often confused about all of the things that show up on my Facebook feed. I mentioned at the time that most of that stuff comes from FriendFeed, but it wasn't until later that I realized that the "all FriendFeed" appearance of everything can lead to natural confusion.

So perhaps I should rethink my workflow, since Facebook is obviously going to be around a lot longer than FriendFeed will. I don't know if I'll just feed all of the services into Facebook directly so that people can tell a Google Reader item from a last.fm item (and then somehow making changes so that those same things don't get echoed into Facebook from FriendFeed). Or perhaps I'll do something else. This will help reduce the confusion of my real-life friends - the ones that I physically see several times a month.

Again I mean no disrespect to my FriendFeed friends, but I haven't met most of them in real life. (Derrick Jefferson happens to be an exception to the rule; I met him at a FriendFeed meetup a year and a half ago.) But as wonderful as my online friends are, there are things that "Bill" and other real-life friends know that my FriendFeed friends do not know.

For example, this post is a scheduled post, written in advance, which will appear in my blog (and on FriendFeed, Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz, etc.) on Tuesday at 5:15 pm. This post was NOT being written on Tuesday at 5:14 pm, and in fact it would be impossible for me to write this post on Tuesday at 5:14 pm and post it on Tuesday at 5:15 pm.

My friend "Bill" knows why I couldn't write this post at 5:14 pm on Tuesday.

Most of my FriendFeed friends don't.

(More later.)

P.S. As mentioned above, this post was written in advance of its Tuesday publication date...and was also written in advance of FriendFeed's Monday night outage. Depending upon the seriousness of the outage, perhaps my reconfiguration may need to be accelerated...

(empo-plaaybizz) Sleep is death - the "fight club" of games

I joined Amplify over the weekend, but currently am reading it more than posting to it. I found this item from Kol Tregaskes, which led me to a Randy Smith blog post which asks, "When Is A Game Not A Game"? When I play Starfleet Commander or Sudoku, I play within a defined set of rules. An Atlas can't overpower 5 Ares, and I can't place 9 one's in a row. Smith describes another reality:

The only strange thing about this talking wolf is the high quality of its conversation. “I could shoot you, you know,” I threaten the wolf, having already established that my daughter might still be alive inside its belly. That wasn’t picked from a dialogue menu; I typed it in. Without missing a beat, the wolf responds, “I’m afraid you’ll have to.” Sentient characters and interactive dialogue have been common this entire play session. Impressed? The game’s responses are driven by game designer Jason Rohrer.

Yes, I do mean that he designed this game, Sleep Is Death, but I also mean that he’s controlling the world I’m exploring and typing in the responses for each character I speak to. It’s through the magic of this ‘man behind the curtain’ solution that Sleep Is Death is easily able to bring players to places few videogames are capable of, meaningfully exploring stories about family, euthanasia and coming of age, to name a few.

This is nothing new, at least for those of us who played Dungeons & Dragons in the 1970s. For those who never played the game, a Dungeonmaster would set up the initial world in which the players roamed, but the Dungeonmaster could always interject a level of personal control, or change things around to meet the situation of the players. And until computer artificial intelligence becomes much better, and games learn much more about the people who play them, the personal touch of a game "master" will provide a much richer experience than something that was programmed by a staff of people.

Now games such as baseball, basketball, and football (whatever flavor) have entire books of rules. A simplified rule set can be frightening, but it can also be liberating. I'm not a movie person, but I'm well aware that "Fight Club" has few rules:

Welcome to Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club! Third rule of Fight Club: if someone yells "stop!", goes limp, or taps out, the fight is over. Fourth rule: only two guys to a fight. Fifth rule: one fight at a time, fellas. Sixth rule: the fights are bare knuckle. No shirt, no shoes, no weapons. Seventh rule: fights will go on as long as they have to. And the eighth and final rule: if this is your first time at Fight Club, you have to fight.

Compared to the rules for other games, that's nothing. And while it's a stretch to apply it to Microsoft's attempted takeover of Yahoo in 2008, there are certainly some possibilities to use "fight club"-like tactics to score a business knockout.

More details about Rohrer's game can be found at http://www.sleepisdeath.net/.

The varying definitions of "real-time"

Each of us may say that a particular event occurs in "real-time." However, the meaning of that term can vary by the person, and by who is speaking.

I'll give you an example from my biometrics background. Back in the 1990s, my employer was known as an automated fingerprint identification systems company. I was working in proposals back then, and we'd often talk about our "real-time" technology that allowed searches to come back in just minutes, rather than taking hours or days. Despite what television may show you, fingerprint matching can be a complex process, and the ability at the time to measure searches in minutes rather than hours was something that was revolutionary.

But then our company acquired several other companies and/or divisions, including a CAD company. Now when I refer to "CAD," I'm talking about computer-aided dispatch, or a system which assigns police, fire, or ambulance personnel to a particular location in response to a particular need.

I can't imagine what our new co-workers were thinking when we ran around talking about responses in minutes. If CAD systems took minutes to respond, people would die.

Of course, there are often speed improvements which allow you to do things more quickly, and one of those improvements has been claimed for DNA analysis. Again, if you see a TV show in which a forensic analyst gets DNA results back in a few seconds, treat it as science fiction. Even if you ignore the fact that many DNA labs have huge backlogs, it takes time to analyze the DNA samples and reach conclusions.

According to Forensic Magazine, someone has reduced this analysis time:

A new system developed by researchers from the Forensic Science Service uses an instrument loaded with a DNA processing cartridge to speed the DNA analysis. Using this system, the entire process from taking the sample from a suspect, to database compatible DNA profile production can be achieved in less than 4 hours.

However, this is only part of the equation:

"If the full impact of these new technologies is to be gained, the rapid delivery of chemistry must be supported by a capability to submit and compare the DNA profile in near real time. Currently neither the CODIS database, nor the UK National DNA database have the capability to support rapid chemistry protocols."

Whenever you decide to speed up a process, you need to look at all of the steps in the process. Once I was looking at a particular process, and identified a modification to a particular step which would result in a drastic reduction in time...for that particular step. However, the net effect on the overall process was negligible.

P.S. You'll want to stay tuned to this blog today. In about twelve hours you'll see a (previously scheduled) post that talks about the possibility of my changing my personal workflow so that items from various feeds, rather than going to FriendFeed BEFORE going to Facebook, would instead go directly to Facebook. For the record this (previously scheduled) post was primarily written BEFORE FriendFeed went down on Monday evening.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sex and the (Filipino call center) city - the side effects of outsourcing

I'm working on a post for my Empoprise-IE Inland Empire blog which will talk about the outsourcing of Hilton Hotel call center jobs from Hemet (and other locations) to the Philippines. Normally when people talk about outsourcing, the first country that comes to mind is India. But other countries are trying to dethrone India from its outsourcing lead - some on the basis of cost, and some on other issues.

The Philippine IT Offshore Network (PITON) trumpets the advantages of its home country:

As a former US protectorate for more than five decades, the Philippines is known to possess the closest cultural affinity to the US among all offshore destinations. The country’s schooling, legal, medical as well as business system and processes have been adopted from or patterned after the US system. A recent Gartner research report on “Outsourcing Opportunities to the Philippines” emphasized on the fact that “US customers consistently cite cross-cultural differences as one of the biggest hurdles when engaging with Indian-based firms. With regard to working with Filipinos, this issue is rarely cited. The ability of Filipinos to work with Americans and assimilate to their professional environment, as well as their interpersonal norms of behavior and organizational culture, is often praised by US enterprises.”...

“American” English is the official language in the Philippines making it the world’s third largest English-speaking country. English is the medium of instruction from primary up to post-secondary levels....

The Philippines possesses a considerably large, highly educated and extremely skilled workforce. With an annual output of approximately 400,000 graduates the country is well positioned to support its exponentially growing BPO industry. The literacy rate in the Philippines with over 94% ranks as the second highest in Asia....

And as outsourcing booms in the Philippines, other changes are happening there:

[E]ntire 24/7 service industries -- including convenience stores, bars and fast-food restaurants -- have sprung up around the new office towers to serve the needs of the booming sector.

However there are concerns about the way the industry is reshaping young adult society, as well as the pressures the workers face as they remotely help customers and clients on the other side of the world.

The odd hours, irate clients, tedious workloads and performance demands often drive staff -- particularly call centre workers -- to early burnout.

And perhaps you're among the irate clients that the call center workers encounter.

Cici said one of the hardest parts of call centre work was simply dealing with customers angry at having to speak with someone on the other side of the world.

"One customer said: 'I don't wanna talk to you. I want to talk to an American'... I cried," Cici said.

And apparently when you live, breathe, and eat work, you also...um..."sleep" work.

Both Cici and Pau said they had heard similar stories in the call centre office they used to work at, which have beds in rest areas for exhausted staff.

"Our sleeping quarters were for both sexes. Some of my friends told me that there were certain things that happened there," Cici said.

As early as 2009, companies were reported to be taking steps to prevent this.

Stricter dress codes for women are required to make sure that none of them will wear revealing and indecent outfits when reporting for work. The temperature inside the offices is set couple of centigrade lower than usual to make employees wear jackets, therefore covering up exposed skin.

Hidden cameras and CCTVs are also installed around the premises, especially on the areas where employees were caught having sex. These areas include sleeping quarters, fire exits, parking lots and conference rooms.

Why was this necessary?

The social profile of the employees working for call centers is one of the biggest factors of the increasing incidence of sex in call centers. Majority of the employees are young, ranging from 20-30 years old. Most of them are single and a fair lot of them are fresh graduates. People in this age range are at the height of sexual exploration, and working with people with the same age and liberal attitude can lead to bold experimentations with their co-workers right in the office premises.

The financial capabilities of the call center employees are also seen as another major factor. The big salaries allow many of these workers to live away from their parents and do practically everything they want. This exhilarating feeling of freedom makes them adventurous enough to commit forbidden sex in the workplace.

And either because of the workload or because of the extracurricular activities, the call center workers are apparently exhausted. This singer couldn't even stand up to sing his call center song.


(empo-plaaybizz) Owen Van Natta plays around

The last time that I wrote about Owen Van Natta, it concerned the mixed messages that Van Natta and his boss Jon Miller were sending out about MySpace layoffs. On the one hand, Van Natta was telling MySpace employees were "friends and colleagues," and that the round of layoffs was a difficult decision. On the other hand, Van Natta and Miller were telling investors that MySpace was "bloated."

I hadn't followed Van Natta since, but apparently Jon Miller determined a few months later that MySpace was still a little too bloated, and one more layoff was required:

The long-running telenovela that has been MySpace over the years took yet another dramatic turn late today when News Corp. Chief Digital Officer Jon Miller fired MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta, whom he had hired only nine months ago to turn around the troubled social networking site....

While News Corp. tried to paint the departure as more mutual in its official statement, it was most definitely not, as problems among top execs finally came to a head today....

Sources...noted that Van Natta...had begun to bridle at not being able to select his own execs and at increasing meddling in the MySpace turnaround by Miller.

Like I said, I missed all of this news when it happened in February. But I definitely caught the recent announcement of where Van Natta was landing.


Zynga, the dominant social-gaming company that seems to spend most of its time raising money, has finished up yet another deal: It has officially brought in Web veteran Owen Van Natta, giving him the title “Executive Vice President of Business Operations.”

Following last month’s hire of Allen & Co. vet David Wehner as CFO, the move will be interpreted as yet another signal that Zynga is moving toward a big-money public offering.

Zynga headed for an IPO? A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz can't be pleased.

(empo-tymshft) Books for the haves and the have-nots?

On August 11, I wrote a post in my Empoprise-MU music blog that discussed something called a "record." If you have no idea what a record has to do with music, read the post.

Obviously, the music industry isn't the only one that is dealing with product obsolescence. It may be that a future generation may not know what a "book" is. Or, perhaps Brad McCarty will be right and books will remain. McCarty offered the following prediction:

The saviors of paper and ink publishing will come in two forms: the purists and the poorest.

Now I'm not sure how many true purists there are, but there are certainly poorest - and even if you don't look at the people who can't afford a Kindle or other reading device, you need to look at the people who can't or won't use reading hardware in certain instances.

Devin Coldewey makes another point when noting who actually buys books, or e-books, or whatever:

[T]he buying generations right now were raised on books, and although younger people are adopting e-books and iPads like nobody’s business, a huge amount of spending is done by demographics who still aren’t sure what an iPad is. Rely on it: “old-fashioned” isn’t just a kind of donut, it’s a market hundreds of millions strong, with far more disposable income than hip young bloggers and early adopters. Comfort and willful ignorance may be the enemies of progress, but you ignore them at your peril.

In the same way that a pencil offers some definite advantages over my new netbook (odd term, isn't it?), a real book offers some definite advantages over the new reading media. Until writers create things that cannot be reproduced in a traditional book, it's premature to announce the death of the book.