Tuesday, November 30, 2010

TAAH (Twitter accentuates acronym hell)

Acronyms are confusing, because their best feature (their brevity) is also their worst feature. As the formerly-named Wisconsin Travel Federation found out, an acronym for one item can be confused with an acronym for another item.

However, our micromessaging services almost force us to use acronyms at times.

Take Rick Sturm, for example. He recently followed me on Twitter, and I chose to follow him back. Before doing so, I checked his Twitter profile just to make sure that Sturm (who goes by @rick345 at Twitter) isn't completely crazy. He's not, but his Twitter profile (which, like his tweets themselves, are limited in length) could prove to be a tad confusing:

CEO of EMA, author of 5 IT books & 100s of articles. Tech interests: Business Intelligence, data analytics, ITSM, SLM, SLA, BSM. Member #BBBT. Avid outdoorsman.

Of course, Sturm is presumably using Twitter to speak to a certain category of people. Since EMA (Enterprise Management Associates) markets to Information Technology (or IT) professionals, presumably Sturm is interested in talking with people who know the acronyms that he cites, and who have the same understanding of the acronyms as he does.

In my particular case, I was only familiar with a few of the acronyms (CEO, IT, SLA) as well as one acronym that Sturm didn't use (BI). But the fact that I knew some of these indicated to me that Sturm was probably talking about business tech issues, rather than talking about the Sudan Liberation Movement, the Bangladesh Society of Microbiologists, or Brooks Bridge Bait & Tackle.

Perhaps this is the solution to acronym confusion - use multiple acronyms so that your meaning becomes clear and cannot be misconstrued.

Maybe this practice should be promoted. I could promote it by referring to it as Contextual Repetitive Acronym Placement.

On the other hand, maybe I shouldn't.

Where do you get medical advice?

This story eventually made MSNBC's "weird news" category, but the original story can be found in the Idaho Statesman.

A Boise woman who police say posed as a plastic surgeon and fondled at least two women in local bars is being held in the Ada County Jail on a $100,000 bond for two felony charges for practicing medicine without a license.

Boise police and Ada County prosecutors say 37-year-old Kristina B. Ross — posing as Dr. Berlyn Aussieahshowna — touched women’s breasts under the guise of a “breast exam.”

Prosecutors said Wednesday one woman disrobed for Ross and another was grabbed above her clothes.

Ignoring the whole transgendered issue (Ross has a previous arrest record as a man), the basic reaction to the story has concentrated on the alleged stupidity of the women who submitted to breast exams in bars.

After all, everyone knows that you don't have medical procedures in bars. You have medical procedures in stores.

I talked about this a little over a year ago. Among other things, the article discussed the success of Walgreens subsidiary Take Care Health Systems, which had more than 345 offices at the time. They have approximately the same number today, according to their site.

Let's face it - in some respects, getting a medical procedure in a bar is equivalent to getting a medical procedure in a Walgreens. You object to booze in the bar? Many Walgreens stores sell alcohol. Don't like a bar's loud music? Walgreens cranks the in-store music up at times. Foul restrooms in bars? Not every Walgreens has a pristine five-star restroom. Weird people in bars? I don't think the customers at a Walgreens (including myself) are going to be on the society pages any time soon.

Of course, there are purists who insist that you need to go to a real medical clinic to get real medical procedures. But that is not a 100% guarantee:

A woman arrested at a South Miami clinic and accused of posing as a doctor is out of jail. Ana Young was released on $37,000 bond on Friday according to the Miami-Dade County Women's Detention Center.

Young was arrested Thursday morning at at the Family Holistic Health Center in the 7800 block of Southwest 57th Avenue. Police said the 55-year-old did not have a license to be practicing medicine.

Or how about this?

The West Alabama Narcotics Task Force alleges that Jeffrey Alan Bolling of Fayette, a former used car salesman, has illegally been posing as a diet doctor at a Tuscaloosa weight loss clinic, at times giving patients injections....

Now some may claim that those things happen in the south. Well, what about this?

Michail Sorodsky craved the distinction of being a doctor. Instead, he now has the distinction of being thrown into jail with a massive bail: $33 million.

Sorodsky has been accused of practicing medicine without a license since 1995 in Sheepshead Bay, a Brooklyn neighborhood.

Yes, he was in business since 1995 and never stopped.

So before you condemn Idaho bar patrons as stupid, what about the rest of us? eHow provides some suggestions on how to check your doctor's legitimacy; the prime suggestion is to check the doctor's claims of board certification(s).

Monday, November 29, 2010

Where is Marinette High School?

Marinette High School is at 2135 Pierce Avenue in Marinette, Wisconsin.

View Larger Map

As I write this, WBAY TV is reporting that an unnamed student is holding hostages at the high school.

Marinette is an hour north of Green Bay, right on the Michigan-Wisconsin border.

Unsharing, Unpublishing, Unpushing - less is more? (The flip side of unfriending)

When we sign up for an online service, the service provider strongly encourages us to link to all of our friends on that service. For example, if a new service called HongaWongaDilla suddenly appears (don't look for it; I made it up), it's a pretty safe bet that HongaWongaDilla will offer you the option of seeing how many of your Facebook, Twitter, and/or Google friends are already using HongaWongaDilla, so that you can connect with them. So we find ourselves connected to a bunch of people. At the same time, we get invitations from new people to connect with them. Perhaps we won't connect to the "USE-SEX-FOR-SEO-OPTIMIZATION-TO-SELL-VIAGRA" account, but we will go ahead and connect to that name that we vaguely remember from somewhere ("Hmmm...she's on HongaWongaDilla, I think").

Next thing we know, we're on a few dozen different services, linked to a few hundred or a few thousand people, and we don't really know any of them.

Louis Gray was fairly open to friend requests in the past. However, he has recently changed his strategy, as he notes in his post Unfriending, Unfollowing, Unsubscribing... Less Is More. Excerpt:

When Facebook launched their new messaging platform two weeks ago, putting an emphasis on the friends in the site having access to your in box, I started to have second thoughts about all these random people I'd blindly said yes to in the last couple years. For every great person who I would meet in the future and learn from, there were others trying to invite me to events and groups that were a waste of time, or whose updates were never catching my eye. So I took the opportunity to get out of the mess I had created.

Not only did Gray prune his Facebook and Twitter lists, but he also pruned entire services by deleting some of his accounts (e.g. his Plaxo account). Incidentally, I don't believe in deleting old inactive accounts (or old inactive blogs), but that's the topic for another post.

While thinking about Gray's actions (something which I sometimes do, especially on Twitter), I was thinking of the other side of the coin. While bloggers such as I are often content consumers, we are also content providers. And while we don't want to have a lot of incoming noise, it is also incumbent upon us to make sure that we aren't generating a lot of outgoing noise.

When this post is published, an announcement of the post's availability will appear on FriendFeed, Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz, and probably a half dozen other services which I've forgotten. For certain posts, I also choose to share them via other services, such as StumbleUpon and Google Reader. I have to ask myself - is that a wise move, or is there the danger that some people will be overwhelmed and Empoprises will be less prized?

Although my Twitter account is linked to LinkedIn, I share very few tweets on LinkedIn (my settings dictate that only tweets with the #in hashtag appear on LinkedIn). Some people have a very different philosophy. Is this a wise move?

Many services allow you to publish items on other services; for example, with one mouse click, something that I share on FriendFeed can also go to Twitter. In which cases is this a wise move? In which cases does it lead to overload?

Perhaps I should adopt a silo. I've previously wondered whether my re-sharing of all my FriendFeed content (which includes items from other services) on Facebook is a good thing. Perhaps a silo strategy is in order, in which Facebook only has my Facebook-generated content. Of course, I could carry that to the extreme, which would be to share nothing on FriendFeed itself - no last.fm likes, no Google Reader shares, no nothing. This is, of course, the opposite of the lifestreaming philosophy. But does it merit consideration?

Small town virtues?

If you were to listen to some people, big cities are evil, impersonal places, and we would all be better off if we lived in small towns, by small town virtues, where people were free to do what they wanted without the danged government bureaucrats getting in the way.


See what LoHud.com has to say:

[Andrew] DeMarchis and [Kevin] Graff, along with two other classmates, Zachary Bass and Daniel Katz, had a simple, if half-baked, business plan: sell their treats at Gedney Park for a couple of years and save up enough to open a restaurant.

Their first day was wildly successful, the boys said. They netted $120, of which they invested $60 to buy a cart from Target and added water and Gatorade to their offerings on their second day, the next Saturday, Oct. 9.

After about an hour of brisk business , during which DeMarchis and Graff — Bass and Katz were not with them — said they made $30, police arrived at their stand and asked them to shut it down.

"The police officer was extremely pleasant. He said he was sorry to have to do this, but that he was following up on a report filed over the phone by a Town Board member," said Suzanne DeMarchis, Andrew's mother, who was called to the scene.

The Town Board member, Michael Wolfensohn, in an open letter to the community, cited those danged lawyers:

I was finishing up a walk with my dogs in Gedney Park and saw two boys selling homemade treats. I asked them what charity the proceeds were going to, as I was going to buy something to support the cause. They told me it was for “the charity of us.” I said, “Fine,” and headed home with my dogs.

Once home, I started to think about what would happen if a treat made with nuts were sold to a child with allergies? Would the town be responsible? Would the boys and their families be liable?

Oh, and he had another concern:

Or, I thought, what if I go to the park next week and there are other people selling all kinds of products, not just baked treats? Is that what we want in our parks?

So it seems that people in small towns aren't necessarily allowed to live the American dream.

Or perhaps it's just because this particular town is in the state of New York. I'm sure that Wasilla, Alaska is unencumbered by regulation.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Proof that Foursquare has not yet penetrated the general population

I am now the mayor of Michael's in Upland, California, despite a mere two check-ins in the last 60 days.

So while Foursquare may have penetrated the tech crowd and the latte-swilling crowd, it apparently has not penetrated the crafty crowd.

For more commentary, see my tweets with the hashtag #lostmancard4mayorship. Well, at least for the few days or hours that Twitter will track such tweets.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Extrapolating from the scrutiny of channel checks

Louis Gray linked to AppleInsider, who linked to a Wall Street Journal article on SEC investigations of channel checks.

Small research outfits such as Mr. [John] Kinnucan's often rely on information from manufacturers' representatives to technology companies to gauge how a business is performing. Such information is referred to broadly as a channel check.

Such channel-check information has become crucial to Apple traders, who have come to expect a weekly dose of information from channel checks about Apple's iPad and iPod businesses.

Analysts relay the information—known in the business as "build plans"—weekly to savvy technology investors, who often dart in and out of heavily-traded Apple shares. Such information has grown to be almost as important as Apple earnings, able to move shares throughout the quarter.

The issue is that Federal prosecutors from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have been investigating such activities, raising the possibility that these people may be cited for insider trading.

Louis Gray worries about the consequences of this trend:

Assuming the new guide to insider trading is to be adopted, the suggestion essentially means that financial analysts should not be briefed by company employees during the quarter, should not survey those selling the products, their partners or maybe even the customers themselves. The rarified times an analyst can talk with the execs would be limited to the short conference call Q&A periods that occur after each briefing. This would make the already imperfect industry one further removed from real data.

Gray further notes:

What I worry about is not that Apple investors (or others like them) are suddenly going to be in the dark because 1 or 2 guys get slapped on the wrist for chatting up resellers. What this leads to is a company running unchecked with no communication to the outside world, except for every 90 days when they emerge from their corporate offices and tell you how they actually did.

Perhaps Gray is exaggerating, but what if he isn't? In a sense, this could potentially harm the companies themselves. For example, consider these two examples:

  • One of Apple's suppliers is the Taiwanese company Wintek. As a public company, it regularly reports earnings information. The particular example that I cited does not contain detailed information, but public companies (at least in the United States) have an obligation to reveal who their major customers are. If Wintek's monthly revenue happens to fall dramatically, and if it is publicly known that Apple is a major customer of Wintek, then does Wintek's monthly sales statement reveal inside information about Apple?

  • In Gray's scenario, official corporate communications would be limited to the quarterly reports. Obviously, companies communicate a lot in between quarters, although those communications generally include a multitude of disclaimers. Generally. Will more disclaimers be needed? If Steve is on stage and says that a new product will be the most insanely great product ever, will people from corporate wrestle him to the ground and cover his mouth before he reveals even more potentially damaging information?

A more worrisome aspect of this is the possibility that the rules have changed without notification. If the Wall Street Journal is to be believed, then the SEC has not previously prohibited the practice of channel checks. Now it would certainly be understandable if the SEC prosecuted a firm for giving an expensive product (such as an iPad) to a mail clerk, because that would be a violation under existing rules. But if a supplier voluntarily reveals that his plant has cut production on some supplies for Apple, and a channel checker reports this, then does the channel checker deserve prosecution?

In a sense it's too early to tell, since the SEC hasn't officially charged anyone yet. But for understandable reasons, a lot of Wall Street reporters are really anxious right now.

The Smartness of Ubiquitous Mindshare?

I saw an interesting exchange between Kyle Lacy and Jason Keith earlier.

Lacy wrote a post entitled The Stupidity of Billboard Marketing. Now Lacy does not believe that ALL billboard marketing is stupid:

There are really two types of billboards that make sense to me in the marketing realm:

1. Local Services – This billboard is announcing either a gas station, hotel chain, and restaurant that is available for the local consumer to frequent while driving by the exit on the freeway.

2. Entertainment – You experience this type of billboard while driving past cities that have entertainment value like casino or museum of interest.

But for everything else, Lacy argues that there are more effective ways to market, including extremely targeted marketing that can be performed on Facebook. Specifically, Lacy states:

The billboards that make no sense are the ones that are for brand value only. Why would you be spending that much money on something just for an intangible brand value?

In the comments to Lacy's post, Jason Keath took a different view. This is part of what he said:

[F]or large brands, getting the name and logo and tag line of your current campaign in front of large audiences of any kind is important.

If Coca-Cola took down all their billboards tomorrow, their sales would go down. It is much harder to measure and much less targeted, agreed. [But] it is an incredibly hard thing to a brand into the mind of the consumer consistently so that it is there, in the front of your mind, in the buying moment.

Now there certainly aren't a number of products that fit into this category, but there are some that could be classified as requiring ubiquitous mindshare. Some of them overlap with Lacy's first category - if a town has both a McDonalds and a Burger King, and you see a billboard for a Burger King and don't see one for McDonalds, then that billboard could make a difference. Then again, the non-billboarding golden arches towering over the landscape may be enough to draw you.

But Coke (and Pepsi) don't fit into Lacy's first category. Are they wasted advertising dollars?

Bear in mind that Coca Cola and Pepsi want to be profitable, and that they have an incentive to put their advertising dollars in the best places. In the worst case, they are relying on information that it solely provided by Clear Channel and the other billboard advertisers that touts the wonderful ROI of billboard advertising. Hopefully, firms employing billboard advertising are using their own methods to measure ROI.

And remember that if Lacy is right, and billboards are a waste of time compared to more targeted marketing with more metrics, then the big firms are going to discover this and all of the general billboard ads will disappear very quickly. The fact that they haven't disappeared, even though we've been in recession mode for a while, indicates that either billboard ads are bringing benefits, or businesses are very very stupid.

So which is it?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Will the TSA bodyscan programmers? All about atomic subversion

I have previously observed that acronyms can lead to confusing misinterpretations. But sometimes you don't need acronyms - words themselves can be confusing.

Take the title of this blog post - Atomic Coding with Subversion.

Is this some nuclear plot by al-Qaeda? Will the people promoting this be subject to full body scans (or overly enthusiastic pat-downs) from the U.S. Transportation and Security Administration?

It turns out that the "Subversion" in the title should be interpreted as two words - "sub" and "version." Subversion is a method to control versions of software code. Here's what the blogger, TAW, said about it -

Back when everybody used CVS, I viewed revision control as necessary evil - CVS was getting in the way more often than helping. It all changed with Subversion. It's not perfect for every possible development model, but for personal repositories and small teams it's simply awesome.

And no, CVS is not the pharmacy - it's a versioning system that predated Subversion.

But what in the heck is atomic coding? Back to TAW:

I want to say something about Atomic Coding. The idea is basically committing (to the branch you're working on - usually the main branch) as soon as you have a complete change, no matter how small.

You've written a single unit test ? Commit. Made one unit test pass that didn't ? Commit. Changed README file ? Commit. Fixed a typo in some comments ? Commit.

Breaking your work into small pieces is one of the most fundamental ideas in productivity ever. Programming han Unit Testing, project management has Getting Things Done's Next Actions and so on - they're all about breaking big and complex things into small and simple ones.

It's pretty straightforward to apply the same principle to repository management, but it's much easier to talk about something when it has a name, so let's refer to it as "Atomic Coding".

I don't code, but I write, and I do save drafts of my blog posts as I write them. But I don't save them after every word.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

So much for cardless transactions - Visa CodeSure and Gemalto Ezio

[DISCLOSURE: My employer provides solutions for the bank card industry.]

You may be forgiven if you think that plastic cards are going away. Some merchants are providing mini-cards that can be accessed by RFID readers, meaning that you don't have to carry a regular-sized card with you. And in some cases, the card is disappearing altogether - I never carry my grocery cards with me, for example, but instead enter a numeric code that corresponds to my account.

But that doesn't mean that cards are going away. During my recent trip to France, I had to make sure that I used services that could handle my old-fashioned card. Smart cards with chips are the rage in Europe, and are slowly being introduced in North America. But for some people, a card with a chip is not enough. This is what Visa said:

The introduction of chip and PIN has vastly improved the security of card payments across Europe. When the cardholder is physically present, chip and PIN provides the best possible indication that a genuine Visa card is being used by an authentic cardholder to conduct a legitimate transaction.

But, for transactions where the cardholder is not physically present, there’s far less certainty....

Visa CodeSure is a way of authenticating transactions where the cardholder is not present and chip and PIN transactions can not take place, such as when making purchases online.

In many ways, Visa CodeSure is a standard Visa chip card. It can be used just like any other Visa card to conduct transactions at the point of sale and ATMs. It can also be issued as a debit card, a credit card, a prepaid card or a commercial card. And it is fully compliant with other Visa solutions such as Verified by Visa.

What makes it different is that the card incorporates an eight-digit alphanumeric display, a button keypad and an inbuilt battery with a three year life-span. This means that it has all the necessary technology to generate the highly secure dynamic passcodes.

If you go to the Visa CodeSure page, you can see a picture of the card with the keypad.

But Visa isn't the only player in this market. Gemalto has its own solution, which is significantly simpler than Visa's eight button solution. From the press release:

The new Gemalto Ezio product is immediately available in the United States.

The card’s online secure password feature is activated by pressing a button on the face of the card. A one-time code is digitally generated and displayed. The card becomes a second factor of authentication, allowing the user to enter this unique and non-reusable numeric code on a Web page, in addition to their user name and password.

With these types of innovations, it appears that it will again be necessary to carry a card with you....

Monday, November 22, 2010

Who UN-defines abusive? Bret Taylor, that's who. (Lamebook follow-up.)

This seems to be my day for follow-up posts. This is a follow-up to my 4:55 pm post Who defines abusive? Or why this post title that mentions lamebook.com won't show up in Facebook. It describes an inability to post the text string "lamebook.com" to Facebook, or to import content that includes that text string.

In one of my FriendFeed threads on the topic, FriendFeed user Bruce Lewis offered the following comment:

See Bret's comment: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1932272

This linked to the following message:

This is Bret Taylor, CTO of Facebook. I responded on the other thread (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1932259), but cross-posting here since it is largely about the same issue.

This was a mistake on our part. In the process of dealing with a routine trademark violation issue regarding some links posted to Facebook, we inadvertently blocked all mentions of the phrase "lamebook" on Facebook. We are committed to promoting free expression on Facebook. We apologize for our mistake in this case, and we are working to fix the process that led to this happening.

Both threads got into some extended discussions of why Facebook has such a facility in the first place and when it should and should not be applied, but it is good to see that Taylor was proactive regarding the matter.

When you have large influential blogs such as Empoprise-BI and TechCrunch questioning your actions, there are four possible steps that you can take:

  1. Address the issue, admit the critics were correct, apologize, and fix the problem.

  2. Address the issue, calmly explain why your stance was correct, and make no changes.

  3. Address the issue, call your critics a bunch of idiots, and make no changes.

  4. Don't address the issue.

Obviously critics prefer that the original decision be reversed, but many will respect you if you explain your rationale and recognize your critic's opinions (even if you don't agree with them).

And now you see why Facebook bought FriendFeed, rather than buying Cooks Source.

More on San Diego County Regional Airport Authority Violation Code 7.14(a)

When I wrote my post San Diego Harbor Police Violation Code 7.14(a) - what is it?, it went to Twitter (among other places). After seeing it, @portofsandiego tweeted the following:

@empoprises @markjaquith @NuclearMoose The code you are referencing is not a Port code. It is a @SanDiegoAirport Authority code.

This is in response to several tweets. Mark Jaquith asked the basic question:

Is it really illegal to record at a TSA checkpoint? Show me the law, please.

Jacquith was carrying on a lively conversation with several tweeters, including the aforementioned @NuclearMoose, who tweeted:

@markjaquith - Patriot Act, perhaps? Seems to me as an non-American that it gives pretty much total power to gov't over citizen's rights.

Jacquith was also conversing with @chipbennett, who observed:

@markjaquith @kenny and don't you just love that her camera was confiscated - you know, to avoid any TSA-incriminating evidence

Anyway, back to the original tweet from @portofsandiego. I checked the @SanDiegoAirport Twitter feed, but found no tweets about the Sam Wolanyk incident. But the Twitter account did include a link to the airport's website, and there I found Code 7.14 regarding filming (PDF):



(a) No person shall take still, motion or sound motion pictures or voice recordings on the facilities and airports under the jurisdiction of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority (the “Authority”) without written permission from the Authority’s Executive Director or his or her designee.

(b) Filming of X-ray equipment located on the facilities and airports under the jurisdiction of the Authority is strictly prohibited. Any person(s) caught filming such X-ray equipment may have their film confiscated.

My first thought upon reading this is that this is a badly written law. I'll grant that Ontario International Airport does not fall under the jurisdiction of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, but if it did, I have broken clause (a) many, many times. For example, on September 21, 2008 I have irrefutable evidence that I took a picture at an airport. And no, I can't argue that was my evil twin.

Also look at clause (b), which was obviously written some time ago. If the airport authority were to observe the letter of the law, then anyone with a digital camera would not have anything confiscated, because there would be nothing to film. In addition, the (non-existent) film could only be confiscated if the person filmed an X-ray machine. Ignoring clause (a) for the moment and just concentrating on clause (b), it would be perfectly permissible to...um..."film" a TSA worker, or someone being strip searched, or anything else, provided that you didn't take a picture of an X-ray machine.

Which is, of course, why Wolanyk was charged under 7.14(a), the generic provision that prohibits any filming at the airport.

Of course, if Wolanyk were to be charged under that clause, then I'm sure that the San Diego Regional Airport Authority has gone after lawbreakers such as this person, this person, and this person. All of these people took "still, motion or sound motion pictures or voice recordings on the facilities and airports under the jurisdiction of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority" and, as far as can be ascertained, did not obtain "written permission from the Authority’s Executive Director or his or her designee" before doing so.

So if people feel that San Diego Regional Airport Authority Code 7.14(a) is silly and should be repealed, then where do they turn? Well, there's a Board:

The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority is governed by a nine-member Board, with three additional members serving ex officio. Board members serve 3-year terms and may be reappointed....

Board Member Bios (in alphabetical order)

Laurie Berman, Ex-Officio Member | District 11 Director CEA, CALTRANS

Laurie Berman was appointed in November 2009 as the District Director for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 11, encompassing San Diego and Imperial counties. She has more than two dozen years of experience with Caltrans and is responsible for the daily operation of 1,300 employees and more than 1,000 highway lane miles. Ms. Berman oversees $1.3 billion worth of highway construction projects and programs throughout the two-county area. Prior to her appointment to District Director, Ms. Berman served as the district’s Chief Deputy Director of Project Delivery....

Bruce R. Boland | Appointed by Mayor, City of San Diego
Email - 619.400.2408

Bruce Boland is a retired Rear Admiral U.S. Navy with a Naval Service career of more than 30 years. He was a Naval Aviator involved in Fighter Carrier Aviation and commanded Fighter Squadron 24 at Naval Air Station Miramar flying F8 Crusaders. His Navy career culminated with his appointment in 1985 as the Navy's regional commander in San Diego. In 1987 he was appointed Deputy Chief Administrative Officer and later the Director of Public Works for the County of San Diego. One of his responsibilities at the County included oversight of the eight County owned airports. He was appointed in 1993 as President/CEO of the United Way of San Diego County and served until 1999....

Greg Cox, Executive Committee Member | Appointed by San Diego County Board of Supervisors
Email - 619.400.2408

Greg Cox joined the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in 1995. He began his public service career as an educator in the Sweetwater Union High School District. He was elected to the Chula Vista City Council and later served two terms as Mayor of Chula Vista. The Governor of California appointed him Director of Local Government for the Office of Planning and Research from 1991 – 92. Mr. Cox also built successful businesses in the private sector....

Jim Desmond | Appointed by North Inland area mayors
Email - 619.400.2408

A fifteen year resident of San Marcos, Mr. Desmond was elected mayor of San Marcos in November 2006. Active in his community, he served as a San Marcos City Council member, Planning Commissioner, Chamber of Commerce Board member, and as President of the San Marcos Economic Development Corp. He is currently on the Board of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG)....

Ramona Finnila | Appointed by North Coastal area mayors
Email - 619.400.2408

Ramona Finnila served on the Carlsbad City Council for 12 years. During that time she was Carlsbad's representative to SANDAG where she served two-year terms as Vice-Chair and then Chair. She was also on the Executive Committee of the Local Government Commission, which is based in Sacramento....

Robert H. Gleason, Board Chair, Executive Committee Member | Appointed by Mayor, City of San Diego
Email - 619.400.2408

Robert Gleason is chief financial officer and general counsel for Evans Hotels, which owns and operates The Lodge at Torrey Pines, the Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa and the Bahia Resort Hotel, where he has been employed for over 20 years. In addition, he is on leave as adjunct faculty member in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at San Diego State University....

Jim Panknin | Appointed by East County area mayors
Email - 619.400.2408

James "Jim" Panknin has worked in aviation- related activities for over twenty five years. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering. He successfully completed a 20-year career as a Marine Corps Pilot flying helicopters and turboprop aircraft in airports all over the world. Mr. Panknin flew commercial charter aircraft based at Lindbergh Field from 2004 to 2008 as the Chief Pilot at Jimsair. Jim is the President of San Diego Executive Flight, a local Aircraft Management and Charter Company....

Colonel Frank A. Richie, Ex-Officio Member | U.S. Department of the Navy Representative

Colonel Richie is currently serving as the Commanding Officer of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. He served operational tours at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. During his operational tours he participated in Operation Desert Storm, contingency operations over the former Bosnia Herzegovina, Operation Iraqi Freedom and numerous deployments to the Pacific region....

Paul Robinson | Appointed by Governor, State of California

Since 1982, Mr. Robinson has served as partner for the San Diego law firm of Hecht Solberg Robinson Goldberg and Bagley, where he was also an associate from 1980 to 1982. Previously, Robinson was assistant to San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson from 1978 to 1980 and was deputy city attorney for San Diego from 1973 to 1978. He is a member of the Real Property and Public Law Sections of the California State Bar and of the Real Estate and Land Use Sections of the San Diego County Bar Association....

Tom Smisek, Vice Chair, Executive Committee Member | Appointed by South County area mayors
Email - 619.400.2408

A long time resident of Coronado, Mr. Smisek was first elected to the Coronado City Council in 1992. He was elected Mayor in November, 1996 and re-elected in November 2000 and 2004. Active in his community, he served as City Councilmember and Planning Commissioner for the City of Coronado for eight years before becoming Mayor. He also served as a Board member on the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) Board and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Board....

Anthony Young | Appointed by Mayor, City of San Diego
Email - 619.400.2408

A life-long resident of San Diego, Mr. Young was elected City Councilmember in January 2005 and was appointed City Council President Pro Tem in January 2006....

Thella F. Bowens, President/CEO

In March 2003, Thella F. Bowens was appointed President/CEO of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, the owner and operator of San Diego International Airport as of January 1, 2003. As President/CEO, Ms. Bowens is responsible for management oversight of the Airport Authority, the Authority’s $148 million annual budget and approximately 367 employees....

So if you want to overturn this code provision, you need to oust a bunch of people from the board. Let's see what Jerry Brown does.

And incidentally, those who are tying this incident in to TSA abuses may be wrong in this instance, as Voice of San Diego notes.

The Transportation Security Administration — the agency behind all those new X-rays and pat-downs — doesn't care whether you record video or audio in an airport. It has no policy against it. But the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority does.

Voice of San Diego asked about the code provision cited above.

Why do the rules exist? "I think this is all about security," said Ronald Powell, spokesman for the port district, which provides law enforcement services at the airport.

He thinks. Yup.

Voice of San Diego also quotes Terry Francke of Californians Aware:

"Normally when regulations are justified through limited control on time, place or manner, they have to serve a very important government purpose," Francke said. He said the part of the airport's rule that allows filming with permission raises questions about who could legally record and who couldn't.

I will share any instances of unapproved "filming" at the airport. But for now, people who fly in and out of San Diego airport should watch out - someone may try to take 35mm film from your digital camera.

Who defines abusive? Or why this post title that mentions lamebook.com won't show up in Facebook

[8:35 PM - See follow-up post.]

Whether you like it or not - hey, I gotta start using the phrase before January - there are a variety of definitions on acceptable vs. non-acceptable behavior. Something that is completely acceptable to me - for example, a picture of a woman eating a hot dog - may be completely unacceptable in Taliban City. Similarly, things that are acceptable to others may be completely unacceptable to me.

When you are a guest at someone's home, you are expected to defer to the wishes of your host. If these wishes are morally or otherwise objectionable to you, then you would probably stay away from the house, unless you insisted on making a point.

If you are a user of Facebook, then you are a guest in Facebook's home. Despite what we may think, it is not our home. And if Facebook says that we can't be abusive, then we shouldn't be abusive in Facebook.

Of course, if Facebook gives us the opportunity, then we could choose to question exactly what Facebook means by the term "abusive."

Which leads us into Jason Kincaid's post on TechCrunch. An excerpt:

[M]ake sure not to do something that might make Facebook angry. Otherwise it might nuke every link to your site, choking off this river of traffic that you’ve worked so hard to build.

That’s the message Facebook sent today with its censorship of links to Lamebook, a humor site that posts lewd conversations spotted on the social network. Facebook has confirmed that it is automatically blocking all links to Lamebook and that it has also removed the company’s ‘Fan’ page. Not because the content was offensive, mind you, but because Facebook doesn’t like Lamebook.

It turns out that there are legal issues between the two companies. Here is how Facebook has responded to said issues:

Not only is it currently impossible to share a Lamebook link to your News Feed or a friend’s Facebook Wall — you can’t even include them as part of a direct message or email to friends (you get an error message indicating that it’s “abusive or spammy”, which isn’t even accurate). That’s completely outrageous, and it’s a warning flag that comes only a few days after Facebook announced a new hybrid email/IM/SMS product. Do you really want someone to be censoring your outbound email?

I immediately began some experiments. Whether you like it or not (you can tell me when you get tired of this), all of my FriendFeed content flows into Facebook, including instances in which I mentioned the word "lamebook." But once I mentioned "lamebook.com," the FriendFeed content would not carry over.

But when life gives you lemons, you can make lemonade:

Actually this is a nice feature. If you have material that flows in to Facebook from outside services, and you don't want a particular item to show up in Facebook, just put "lamebook.com" in the text of the item. I did some experiments in FriendFeed and confirmed that this would work.

One of my posts in FriendFeed started a discussion, and the discussion reminded me that Facebook did offer an opportunity for a Facebook user to contest the blocking of content. The message, which is displayed in Kincaid's post, reads as follows:

Message Failed

The message contains blocked content that has previously been flagged as abusive or spammy. Let us know if you think this is an error.

So I did.

In essence, I argued that the text string lamebook.com is not abusive, because that is not the way that I see it.

Of course, I am a guest, and Facebook is the host, and Facebook may see it differently.

[8:35 PM - See follow-up post.]

San Diego Harbor Police Violation Code 7.14(a) - what is it?


I haven't really commented on the whole TSA bodyscan/grope brouhaha, primarily because I didn't have anything really to say about it. And finally when I do have something to say about the whole thing, it's technically not a TSA issue.

This particular story involves the San Diego Harbor Police.

And the interesting part to me isn't the main story about Sam Wolanyk, who didn't want to be bodyscanned, didn't want to be groped, stripped down to form-fitting bicycle shorts, bla bla bla. That resulted in one charge against him. However, Wolanyk was charged with two items:

The incident was confirmed by Harbor Police Sergeant Rakos who said Wolanyk was arrested on two misdemeanors, “failing to complete the security process; violation code 7.01 and illegally recording the San Diego Airport Authority (they confiscated his iPhone); violation number 7.14 (a).”

Yup, that's right, illegal recording. In fact, the San Diego Harbor Police noted that Wolanyk wasn't the only person guilty of this.

[Director of Communications Ronald] Powell also stated that there was another arrest of a woman who was allegedly illegally filming the x-ray, and TSA screening process with a video camera. The young woman’s camera was confiscated and she was given a citation and released from Harbor Police custody.

Powell did not specifically state whether the woman was cited on violation number 7.14 (a), or whether she was cited on something else.

Now when such codes are brought up, it's always a good idea to look at them. And many codes are available online - for example, you can find the California Vehicle Code here.

But so far, I have been unable to locate San Diego Harbor Police violation code 7.14(a), 7.01, or any other possible San Diego Harbor Police code that one could potentially violate.

I did find a San Diego Unified Port District Code in a PDF file accessible from this page, but section 7 of that particular code was labeled as "Engineering" with no code provisions. (I checked section 8.14 - it concerned parking meters.)

There is no section 7.14(a) in the San Diego Municipal Code.

So where is this mysterious section 7.14(a)? And is it worth repealing?


(empo-tuulwey) Non-sexy tools can be useful - the forensic ruler

My day job involves some interaction with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and therefore I received information about the Forensics at NIST 2010 conference, which will be held in Gaithersburg, Maryland on December 6-8.

When I looked over the agenda, a particular session (December 8, 9:25 am) caught my eye:

Standardizing the Most Widely Used Tool in Forensic Science: The American Board of Forensic Odontologists’ #2 Ruler

Now that's an eye-catching title. In a world in which I learn about a variety of high-tech devices, and in which the public perception of a CSI is heavily influenced by sexy technologies, the presenter is asserting - probably correctly - that the most important tool in forensics is a ruler.

And NIST being NIST, they want to make sure that the ruler is accurate:

In response to concerns regarding the accuracy of forensic photo scales, the Engineering Metrology Group at NIST studied the conformance of commercially available forensic rulers. The speaker will present the results of this study and discuss potential methods for the development of a quality assurance program for forensic photo scales.

Massimiliano Ferrucci, Physicist, Mechanical Metrology Division

Now I must confess that before reading this abstract, I had never heard of the American Board of Forensic Odontology. I couldn't easily find any information about forensic rulers at that site, but I did find a ton of discussion about accurate measurement at...well, it was at a 9/11 truth thread.

65. I think it is a forensic ruler.

The tool in the engine picture has a circle with a cross inside it in the corner as you see here. The tool also has the inch marks with offset lines as in this illustration. They must come in many sizes.

Not that you can trust a forensic ruler:

I bet that forensic ruler can't be used because it is anti-semetic. Or maybe one time at a party it turned down the sound on a 911 video, so it fakes evidence. Or it used to belong to Alex Jones - so it can't be trusted. Or one time it was used to measure the distance from the grassy knoll to where JFK was shot, so it must be a nut.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bridging cultural gaps - Fasten Seat Belts

It's unfortunate that I didn't hear about http://www.fastenseatbelts.eu/ before my recent trip to Europe.

The site describes itself as "a light hearted guide to avoid misunderstandings while travelling." Both European and Asian tips are available. For example, if you're going to Finland, you should learn about the sauna.

In Finland, don't be surprised to be invited for a sauna (they have more saunas there, than cars)! from 43 Films on Vimeo.

H/T Lifehacker.

P.S. This is a test post - for some reason, NetworkedBlogs stopped feeding to my Empoprise-BI page on Facebook. Hopefully it's fixed now.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Opportunity, motivation, rationalization, the University of Central Florida, and the young

Jake Kuramoto linked to an Inside Higher Ed piece entitled Cheating and the Generational Divide. To summarize, students in Richard Quinn's senior-level strategic management course employed an interesting strategy before their mid-term exam.

What is clear is that some students gained access to a bank of tests that was maintained by the publisher of the textbook that Quinn used. They distributed the test to hundreds of their fellow students, some of whom say they thought they were receiving a study guide like any other -- not a copy of the actual test.

Editors of the student newspaper argued that the students did not cheat.

"These students studied pertinent material and earned high grades,” the editors wrote, marking the paper's more muted stance on the issue after initially condemning the students. “This same information could have most likely been found in their textbook or course material. At this point, we're not sure whether this constitutes cheating.”

Another tactic is to blame the professor.

Some students have blamed Quinn, accusing him of misleading them and being lazy. They posted clips from the first class's lecture, in which Quinn can be seen telling his students that he is responsible for creating the test. The students have tried to use this statement to justify their acts; since Quinn told them he would be writing the exam, they did not think the prefab version they were using to study would be used.

However, even if one can believe that the students had no idea that material circulated by fellow classmates to selected people was NOT legitimate study material, there's that tiny little issue of what happened once the test started.

[S]tudents say that they only became aware that they had more information than they should have when they took the actual test, realized they had seen the questions before, and knew the answers.

And what did the students do at that point?

No one raised his or her hand during the test to acknowledge having had a copy of it, and the incident came to light only after Quinn statically analyzed the scores and saw that they ran a grade-and-a-half higher than in the past. His fears were confirmed when a copy of the test bank test was placed in the bin on his office door.

Again, reviewing the fraud triangle that Jim Ulvog has discussed (see my previous post), we certainly have opportunity, we certainly have motivation, and we have a ton of rationalization.

But there's another level of rationalization that's going on - the idea that this is something new. The title of the Inside Higher Ed piece asserts that there's a generational divide on cheating. On the one side, you have the young, as cited in Knight News:

UCF student Konstantin Ravvin told ABC News he thought UCF’s so-called cheating scandal had been blown out of proportion.

“This is college, everyone cheats. Everyone cheats in life in general,” Ravvin told ABC News. “I just think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in this testing lab who hasn’t cheated on an exam. They’re making a witch hunt out of absolutely nothing, as if they want to teach us some sort of moral lesson.”

On the other side, you have the old, as quoted in an unidentified forum referenced by Inside Higher Ed:

"The society you students are creating for yourselves to live in will be run by ignorant, uneducated snots with degrees they didn't earn," one observer, a self-described former professor, noted in an online forum accompanying one news outlet's coverage of the story. "People who whined and cheated their way through school will run your economy, design your cars and homes, handle your medical care. Have fun with that!"

This, in a perverse way, is its own rationalization - namely, an agreement by both old and young that cheating by the young is a new phenomenon, and certainly never happened when the professors were taking classes themselves. Yep, it's these danged young people who are cheating on tests, downloading torrents, and jailbreaking their iPhones.

But anyone who complains about the young whippersnappers modifying Apple products is going to have to realize that this is nothing new. After all, the two Steves (Jobs and Wozniak) didn't issue the iPhone as their first product. And no, their first product wasn't the Macintosh or the Apple II. Their first product was one that, like the iPhone, used AT&T's network. The only difference was that AT&T didn't authorize the use of the blue box. But that didn't stop the Steves from marketing it:

In 1971 Steve 'Woz' Wozniak designed a device called the 'Blue Box'. It allowed -- of course illegal -- phone calls free of charge by faking the signals used by the phone companies. His friend Steve Jobs instantly realized that there must be a huge market for something that useful. He bought the parts for $40, Woz built the boxes and Jobs sold them to his fellow students at the University of California in Berkeley for $150.

Now the AT&T that exists today wasn't the AT&T that existed in the early 1970s (although it is a logical descendant). The AT&T that existed when blue boxes were the rage is a company that was founded by Alexander Graham Bell, who would presumably be horrified at the young whippersnappers who were getting free long distance calls. Well, except for the fact that there are allegations about Bell:

The ostensible topic of Seth Shulman's new book, The Telephone Gambit, is how Alexander Graham Bell cheated his way into owning the phone patent. Apparently Bell copied research from his chief rival for the lucrative patent, Elisha Gray.

So any attempt to rationalize cheating by saying that it's a new phenomenon is false. Cheating has been going on since day one...or day eight, take your pick.

(empo-tymshft) Multitasking in all its glory

I often find myself using a netbook. On this small computer, there are times when I will be running Mozilla Firefox (with multiple tabs), Windows Media Player, the last.fm scrobbler, and maybe a solitaire game or something. To my mind, all of these applications appear to be working simultaneously. And unless I'm doing something like playing an HD YouTube video, even my small netbook can handle all of these things happening at once.

I take this for granted, forgetting that early in my business career, this was impossible on many systems that were accessible to most of us.

Multitasking has been implemented in several different ways over the years, as the Wikipedia entry on computer multitasking points out. The Wikipedia authors detail these differences, which include multiprogramming, cooperative multitasking, pre-emptive multitasking, and others.

An early example of a multiprogramming implementation was the LEO III, part of the LEO series of computers. The LEO III allowed three jobs to be run simultaneously. Well, sort of. As the Wikipedia authors describe it:

Several different programs in batch were loaded in the computer memory, and the first one began to run. When the first program reached an instruction waiting for a peripheral, the context of this program was stored away, and the second program in memory was given a chance to run. The process continued until all programs finished running.

Multiprogramming doesn't give any guarantee that a program will run in a timely manner. Indeed, the very first program may very well run for hours without needing access to a peripheral. As there were no users waiting at an interactive terminal, this was no problem....

As computer usage moved to another mode of operation, another solution was needed. One of the more popular solutions that consumers encountered was cooperative multitasking. This could not be implemented until the hardware was powerful enough to support it - in the early days, it was hard enough to get a computer to run one instance of DOS, much less two or more. Breakthroughs in this arena included Windows 386, which Steven Hodson described in a recent post. While the promo video is admittedly silly, it does demonstrate the ability to run one program, start running a second program, and have the first program finish what it was doing. It sounds trivial today, but this was a big deal back in the 1980s.

However, this solution had its own drawbacks. Wikipedia:

Because a cooperatively multitasked system relies on each process regularly giving up time to other processes on the system, one poorly designed program can consume all of the CPU time for itself or cause the whole system to hang.

And it didn't matter whether you were using one of the early Windows operating systems, or one of the early Macintosh operating systems - everyone had this problem.

Well, not the Unix users, who were sitting smugly in a corner. Unix may have had other issues, but memory management wasn't one of them. The pre-emptive multitasking system was more robust than the cooperative model followed in Redmond and Cupertino. Eventually, pre-emptive multitasking became available on other systems:

The earliest preemptive multitasking OS available to home users was Sinclair QDOS on the Sinclair QL, released in 1984. The Commodore Amiga 1000 released in 1985...made use of a preemptive multitasking kernel....

Eventually these crept into the Windows and Mac worlds, with Windows people obtaining this feature in Windows NT and Windows 95. When Mac OS X (which was Unix-based) was released, the adoption of pre-emptive multitasking was complete.

However you...um...slice it, the ability of personal computers, and even mobile phones, to multi-task has given us significant computing capabilities. If you don't believe me, imagine what would happen if multi-tasking were to be suddenly taken away.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Downward mobility - bad, or good?

In prior generations, there was always an expectation that the younger generation would do better than their parents. And for a good part of U.S. history, that was true. But that changed:

In 1973, however, average real wages began stagnating and during the 1980s the growth in the inequality of family income accelerated (Levy and Murnane, 1992; Karoly, 1993). Academics and the popular press expressed increasing concern that the middle class was disappearing (Thurow, 1987; Duncan, Rodgers, Smeeding, 1991 and 1992) and that "The American Dream" was vanishing (Dentzer, 1991; Samuelson, 1992). The expectation of upward mobility seemed to be dimming, and the fear of downward mobility growing (Vobejda, 1991; Koretz, 1992; Brownstein, 1992).

What are the macroeconomic consequences to a society with downward mobility?

Increasing downward mobility can also cause serious economic problems. The downwardly mobile must reduce consumption, investment, and savings. Such cuts by a substantial segment of the population could dampen future economic growth. Even those not downwardly mobile could feel more at risk, possibly depressing consumer confidence.

Therefore, U.S. governmental policy, whether executed by a Republican or a Democratic government, is designed in some way to preserve (or restore) upward mobility.

But not everyone thinks that downward mobility is a bad thing.

I recently referenced the core values of Stevens Creek Church. One of those core values was something called "downward mobility." While the church's website doesn't explain the concept, I did find a detailed explanation:

It is easy to assume that relationship with God translates into entitlement. Career advancement, upward mobility, assignments or calls to bigger churches with larger salaries and more prominent leadership positions are popular expectations of clergy. Their competition for prestigious pulpits and powerful positions threatens their witness. Their drive for the honored and well-compensated positions contributes to the weakening of congregations located in mission fields. Small, impoverished congregations become temporary stepping stones in the pursuit of prominent places.

Insights from the social sciences fill contemporary books on effective leadership. But although the social sciences provide helpful tools for understanding the dynamics of leadership, they must not be foundational for leadership in the church. Without a firm theological foundation, leadership is only a sophisticated means of upward mobility through institutional advancement. Much of the material I read sounds more like James and John pursuing prominence than Jesus calling us to a life of servanthood and downward mobility; it has more to do with the pursuit of power than the implications of leadership as the power of love.

It should be noted, however, that this is more of a microeconomic example of downward mobility. If the church truly believes that it is a small part of the entire society, then a world could exist in which all of the Satan-worshippers pursue upward mobility, the Christians pursue downward mobility, and everyone gets their rewards.

(empo-tymshft) SecureGive - donations in the 21st century

I finally found a Facebook ad that intrigued me. Now that Facebook has quit presenting French-language ads, I'm seeing some more relevant stuff, and I wanted to write about one of the advertised products, SecureGive.

First, I read about them:

SECUREGIVE is the original donation kiosk company. Dr Marty Baker, founding pastor of Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, GA came up with the idea in 2003 when he realized very few folks walk into church with a checkbook anymore. His goal was to meet the need of his church.

Depending upon the practices of any particular church, the church may accept regularly scheduled offerings, and it may also have one-off fundraisers. The old practice was to prepare a check before going to church for the offering, and then to either write a check or fish out a few bucks for the fundraisers.

Well, times have changed, and everyone has moved to the fantastic plastic and/or online financial transactions. Church offerings, for example, may be done by electronic transfer. But what about fundraisers? In a world in which many small businesses refuse to take checks, it's ridiculous to expect a church volunteer to do so. And some churches are just too small to sign up for standard credit card handling.

Perhaps this may not affect an aging church, but church demographics are obviously going to skew younger as time goes on (unless the church dies). And there are some clear differences between the young and the old:

We hope your organization is receiving cash and check donations for many years to come, but if that’s all you’re receiving, you’re probably missing out untold amounts of missed revenue. A groundbreaking Federal Reserve Study released in December of 2007 has shown a sharp and consistent decline in the use of paper checks and cash for all transactions since the year 2000 and this trend is expected to continue. Currently, 90% of people under age 35 carry a debit card but the vast majority of this same demographic does not consistently carry a check book. Our culture is moving away from traditional “paper” transactions and organizations that don’t respond may be left behind.

(Off-topic aside. Left behind? Heh. Steven Creek's core values don't get into that level of detail, although my church does.)

For part of the solution, SecureGive offers several kiosk configurations that can be set up to handle transactions. In addtion, SecureGive supports online giving.

One postscript that is outside of the realm of technology - back in 2006, Brad Richert expressed some concerns about the set-up of SecureGive in relation to Matthew 21:12-13. This is (part of) what he said:

Sure, there is no difference between using my debit card at a gas station and for giving tithing. Churches should not be afraid of change. The problem though is that change, as many Christians know, is not inherently positive. Mr. Baker’s proclaims that his motives are innocent: bringing the church into the 21st century. If this was true, I would pat him on the back. However, the fact that he is making a business out of tithing pretty much puts him into the “money changers” category, don’t you think?

Marty Baker responded in a comment:

About profiting from the percentage: Yes when a [person] uses a credit card a few pennies will flow to SecureGive. What most of our installations have opted for is Debit Card Giving. With a debit card, the church would pay [approximately] a dollar for the donation regardless of the size. A thousand dollar tithe would cost a dollar to process.

I don't think those fees are going to permit the Lord to buy Baker a Mercedes-Benz. (His friends may not have Porsches, so he may not have to make amends.) And anyway, the church preaches the concept of downward mobility - words that are definitely heretical in a secular business blog.

What do we censor? Why do we not censor?

The word "censor" is a pejorative word in our society, and if anyone asks you whether you censor stuff, your natural inclination is to say "No, I never censor stuff."

But then, the next statement out of your mouth is, "Except, of course, for...."

To my knowledge, no one has ever adopted a true, absolute "freedom of information" stance. As an example, Julian Assange's police report wasn't published by Wikileaks. Instead, a redacted version was obtained by the Daily Mail and other media. Will Wikileaks obtain and publish the complete, unredacted version of the police report? I'm not holding my breath.

Michael Hanscom discussed this in a recent blog post. Excerpt:

Last April, the internet and many people I know were thrown into a tizzy because of apparent censorship of LGBT-themed books, prompting the creation of the #amazonfail hashtag.

So, now we have the latest uproar over a book with unpopular ideas that is under attack — only this time, the popular call is for boycotting Amazon until the book is removed.

Not that Hanscom personally enjoys the contents of the book in question:

Yes, the content of the book in question is disturbing and advocates unethical, immoral, and illegal behavior. Depending on who you talk to and what area of the country or world you live in, most if not all of the LGBT section of any modern bookstore, including Amazon, can be described in exactly the same way.

In essence, Hanscom has boiled this down to an act of self-interest. Tangentially, I noted in a comment that my stance on the New York City mosque is itself an act of self-interest:

I am not a Muslim, but the primary reason that I support the mosque in the World Trade Center area is one of supreme self-interest. I figure that if someone can ban a mosque today, they can just as easily ban my Christian church tomorrow.

This also explains why some conservatives were outraged over MSNBC’s suspension of Keith Olbermann.

In effect, I have changed the conversation. Instead of saying "I support Idea X because all ideas should be supported," I have said "I support Idea X because if I oppose Idea X today, someone may oppose my Idea Y tomorrow." Martin Niemoller's famous statement "First they came for the trade unionists..." is of a similar construction.

And perhaps that's all we can do. I suspect that the next person who claims that information should be available to all will be faced with the choices that Julian Assange had to face - should EVERYTHING be available?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Password protection? Forget it.

When we choose passwords, we sometimes err and create an easy to guess password, such as our spouse's first name. In this world of social media connections, that isn't a wise move any more, so we try to come up with more complex passwords.

Just remember one thing - just about any password that you create can be cracked, if someone can get access to the password hash file.

Previously, computing time was a barrier that kept passwords somewhat protected, but technological innovation coupled with hardware advances have removed that protection. As the Register put it:

After optimising its rainbow tables of password hashes to make use of SSDs Swiss security firm Objectif Sécurité was able to crack 14-digit WinXP passwords with special characters in just 5.3 seconds.

Now "rainbow tables" are technology used by Objectif Sécurité, while the acronym "SSD" stands for "solid state disk."

Do you want to try it out with a Windows XP password? Go to the bottom of this page at the Objectif Sécurité web site and enter the hashed data.

The demo cracks passwords made of 52 mixed case letters, 10 numbers and 33 special characters of length up to 14....

Dan Dieterle tried it, and here is one of his results:

Hash: ac93c8016d14e75a2e9b76bb9e8c2bb6:8516cd0838d1a4dfd1ac3e8eb9811350
Password: (689!!!<>”QTHp
Time: 8 Seconds

Yes. If you're using the password (689!!!<>”QTHp, it can be cracked in seconds.

(H/T Biometrics4You.)

How do you say "turn around and be positive" in Swedish?

Three years ago, I wrote about the video for Veronica Maggio's video "Dumpa Mig." If you've never seen the video (recent unofficial video link here), it is a split screen video, with action on the left and on the right. On the left side, the woman is happy, while on the right side, the same woman is distraught. As you watch the video, you realize that the action on the right is happening in reverse. By the end of the video, you realize that the left side shows a train trip to a destination, while the right side shows the return train trip from the destination. At the end of the video, both sides converge in a single moment - the moment in which Maggio's character discovers something that turns her happiness to distress.

But you don't have to find a Swedish-Italian singer to see a demonstration of a reversal technique. You can find a different execution of the same strategy (but with a much happier ending) here in North America. WinExtra (Steven Hodson) and The Next Web (Alex Wilhelm) have already shared it, with Wilhelm noting that Microsoft's execution is similar to a 2007 video called "Lost Generation", which itself acknowledges the inspiration of a 2006 political advertisement from Argentina (in English?).

But let's return to the present day, and to Microsoft's execution of the reversal strategy.

I offered the following comment on Hodson's WinExtra blog:

The advertisement effectively shows how Microsoft occupies both the enterprise and the consumer spaces. Oracle could certainly craft a similar message for the enterprise space, and Apple could certainly craft one for the consumer space. But if you temporarily ignore that small Windows Mobile market share, only Microsoft could span both the enterprise and consumer spheres of human activity.

We have this mad desire for a unified platform, although we occasionally acknowledge that different form factors require different solutions, not the same solution. And since there is little financial incentive for different companies to work together to provide that unified platform, it's appearing more and more likely that the best bet at a unified platform is to align oneself with a single silo. And as silos go, Microsoft still has the biggest silo.

Incidentally, there are two things that allow us to ignore that small Windows Mobile market share, and I've discussed both of them previously.

First, while Microsoft's mobile OS market share is low, its computer OS market share, despite impressive gains in the Mac and Linux worlds, is still nearly 90%, as I previously noted. Incidentally, I followed up on Mind Booster Noori's excellent work, and as of October 2010, the relevant Wikipedia page shows that the Windows market share has continued to decline...all the way to 88.40%. Might as well remove that Windows section from your local bookstore, right?

Second, while Windows Mobile has a small share of the smartphone market, so does Android. And so does the iPhone OS. And so does the Research in Motion platform. So if an Apple fanboi argues that Apple offers an integrated solution, ask the fanboi about the 80-plus percent of smartphone users who don't have an iPhone. If you want to know what the leading smartphone platform is, see my previous post.

Now if Microsoft could only get Veronica Maggio as its spokesperson, the world will be a better place.

Did the client forget the original intentions, or were the original intentions just not communicated properly?

Language is an imprecise thing, and sometimes we don't convey our exact meaning properly. Take this recent exchange that was recorded in Clients from Hell.

Client: “I need a new website, the one I have is crap. I paid some cheap designer to do it for $200.”

When the bidder went to price his/her services for this client, the bidder obviously used this valuable pricing intelligence to determine (1) if it was worthwhile to bid on this project, and (2) how much to bid. Perhaps the bidder had standard rates, or perhaps not. The bidder determined that it was worthwhile to bid his/her services to this client and submitted a $1,200 bid.

This was not the winning bid. Do you think the winning bid was $1,000? $750? Go to Clients from Hell to find out the winning bid price.

Did the client forget what he/she said in the first place? I don't think so. Personally, I think that the client thought that $200 would get a cheap and worthless website, but that you only had to spend a little more to get a high-quality website.

Oh well...it could have been worse. Some of the stories on the Clients From Hell website are about clients who actually give the contracts to someone, and then refuse to pay. At least this bidder only lost the estimation costs - a normal part of doing business.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Does Judith Griggs of Cooks Source deserve our sympathy?

After some minimal statements, Judith Griggs of Cooks Source is talking again.

Jim Ulvog links to Dan Crowley's post which includes statements from Griggs. Here are some samples:

"I feel so bad for anybody now who has bad publicity because people can be so horrible," Griggs, 59, said in her first interview about the matter. "I don't know if I'm going to continue Cooks Source. At this point, it's looking doubtful."...

Although she made no excuses for taking Gaudio's story and running it in Cooks Source last month, Griggs said she's no expert on the finer points of copyright law.

"I don't know how other people handle this. We're so small," she said, of the publication. "I'm trying to figure out what to do next. I don't know if I can last through this."

Meanwhile, Sarah Lacy at TechCrunch has linked to the Cooks Source web site, which includes a new Statement. Note that this new Statement completely replaces the old Statement that was on the Cooks Source website as of November 9; if you never saw THAT statement, I reproduced it in a prior post. So here, for the record, is Judith Griggs' November 16 statement, in full.

Its sad really. The problem is that I have been so overworked and stretched that when this woman -- Monica -- contacted me, I was on deadline and traveling at the rate of 200 mile a day for that week (over 900 in total for that week), which I actually told her, along with a few other "nice" things, which she hasnt written about.
I was stupid to even answer her that night, her email to me was antagonistic and just plain rude and I was exhausted. But I got suckered in and responded. She doesnt say that she was rude, she doesnt say that I agreed (and did) to pay her. It was my plan to contact her after deadline and have a good discussion about it. The complicating issue was that one of the businesses we worked with had closed without notice, just a sign on the door -- leaving several people, including a chef who had relocated to this area from Florida -- out of work. I do not offer this as an excuse, but that, when she wanted money for Columbia University, it seemed ironic because there were all these people in this small town going into the holidays with no jobs, and no, well, nothing.

I should add that this email exchange took place the day before she wrote her article for the world. After she (likely) received my email, she called the home office phone at 10PM, I didnt answer that late, was in bed as I was traveling again the next day (left at 7AM the next morning) to Connecticut, and didnt get back to her. This is not an uncommon practice with anyone, to not respond to a phone call for a day or two, it happens to me from other businesses, all the time. I came home that day from being in Connecticut to find hundreds of phone messages and emails telling me I sucked and was a dirtbag... and much MUCH worse.

I really wish she had given me a chance to respond to her before blasting me. She really never gave me a chance.

Since then, we have had so much hate email (over 400 pieces) , phone calls and regular mail. My advertisers too, have been so harassed that it has all muddies up the waters as to what the real situation is. I took the site downbecuase someone threatened to go to all the distribution spots and destroy the new issue, also to protect my advertisers.
Facebook has not responded at all; not taken these advertisers name off this bogus site -- or remove the site completely -- and takes no responsibility that someone unnamed can just create a page that can suggest that people -- and I am sure that in real walking-around reality you are all really nice people -- that people should email total innocent strangers and harass them to death. Honestly, some of you have been pretty mean. I have been busy for the last week, apologising to these business owners and helping them to get things right again. If my apology to Monica seemed shallow it was because I was angry about the harm she has inflicted on others on behalf of her own agenda.

So let me say this now: Monica I am so sorry for any harm I caused you. I never ment to hurt anyone, and I think I did a nice job for you, but the fact remains that I took this without asking you and that was so very wrong. Please find it in you heart to forgive me. I sent the check to the University and also, because so many people really need help, serious help, I am sending one to Food bank of Western Massachusetts (sorry, I got the name wrong the first time, even tho we did write an article on them).

This is how it happened:
When putting together a magazine, a publishing firm usually has a staff of many, a stable of writers and proofreaders. Cooks Source doesnt, it is just us two...and believe me we would if we could use more help. Consequently I do much, have a few stalwart writers who love to write (for free) and a number of publishers and book agents who send me A LOT of books, recipes, press releases, etc -- I recieved one even today. In the past I have also assisted budding writers with their writing skills and given them a portfolio piece they can get jobs with, from magazines and newspapers that will pay them. In short, we do a lot of good, sell a lot of books for authors, and help a lot of people.
But one night when working yet another 12 hour day late into the night, I was short one article... Instead of picking up one of the multitude of books sent to me and typing it, I got lazy and went to the www and "found" something. Bleary-eyed I didnt notice it was copy written and reordered some of it. I did keep the author's name on it rather than outright "stealing" it, and it was my intention to contact the author, but I simply forgot, between proofreading, deliveries, exhaustion.

Cooks Source for those of you who are not familiar with it, works with small food-oriented businesses and farms to get the word out on their works/products. We are about getting readers to get up and go to some of these places, because they are so great and so much fun. We write every month on over 20 + businesses and feature a town a month and all their good food and interesting shops. We cover 16 towns and villages in Western New England, every month.

The bad news is that this is probably the final straw for Cooks Source. We have never been a great money-maker even with all the good we do for businesses. Having a black mark wont help...and now, our black mark will become our shroud. Winters are bleak in Western New England, and as such they are bleak for Cooks Source as well. This will end us. In the end if we did keep going, I would (very gladly) hire someone else to serve as editor and just continue my work with the towns. You should know that I did have an interview last week and the reporter grilled me seriously. I was able to show him all the promo books and articles we receive, all the photos we take and the "clip art" that is free for everyone. I also showed him those emails...

Thank you to all our readers, thanks to all our advertisers and writers... and to everyone who has been supportive and who has been a part of Cooks Source. To one writer in particular, Monica Gaudio, I wish you had given me a chance.

Jim Ulvog (whom I know well) and Sarah Lacy (whom I have never met) have reached different conclusions about the whole affair. Ulvog concentrates on what someone in Griggs' position should do. Here's a sample:

When in a very embarrassing situation of your own making, a profuse apology would probably help. Apologies by the editor as quoted in Mr. Crowley’s article are a bit weaker than I would expect.

Read the rest here.

Lacy concentrates on the actions of the mob. Here's part of her post, entitled "Congrats, Self-Righteous Internet Mob. You Killed a Magazine":

Was Griggs a total jerk who deserved to be called out? Yes. Plagiarism is obviously never OK and when called on it, even if you’ve had a bad day, you don’t ask for money. It was just mind-bogglingly stupid.

Is she as great of a copy editor as she claimed? Not judging by the typos in the above blog post.

Was Cooks Source likely going to go out of business anyway if this is emblematic of how it acts and it was tipped into insolvency so quickly? Maybe.

Did she deserve to have the Internet destroy her business over– from what most of us know– was one series of mistakes? No.

The honest reality is two people know exactly what happened and the rest of us are going by second hand accounts. If we let anonymous mobs have this much power, the world — the real, flesh-and-blood human one, not the virtual one of Tweets, blog posts, comments and LiveJournal feeds– is going to get worse, not better.

For those who don't recall, Sarah Lacy has had her experience with Internet mobs. If you perform an Internet search on the words sarah lacy mark zuckerberg interview, you'll get a feel for what happened to Lacy. In fact, when the audience began to demand that audience members, rather than Lacy, interview Zuckerberg, CNET quoted Lacy as saying:

"Let's go with the Digg model and let them have mob rule."

So even though Lacy completely objects to what Griggs did, Lacy clearly has some empathy for what she went through. Here's part of what she said at the end of the TechCrunch post:

I admit I thought it was outrageous and in my head high-fived Monica for publishing the whole thing. (I still do actually.) But the difference is I didn’t send Griggs personal hate mail and I didn’t actively try to run Cooks Source out of business. Reading Griggs post affected me, because she’s a human being who made a series of really bad mistakes. Assuming Cooks Source did have some merit as a publication, shame on advertisers for being that cowed by a “scandal” everyone will forget about as soon as the next scandal shows up.

But does Griggs deserve our sympathy? Perhaps she has made a series of really bad mistakes, but in my view she continues to make a series of really bad mistakes. Let's take a look again at her November 9 statement. It consists of nine paragraphs - two apologizing to or praising Monica Gaudio (the writer whose work appeared in Cooks Source without her permission); two listing the changes being made at Cooks Source; one talking about the Cooks Source audience; and four bashing the users of Facebook, Twitter, and the website.

Incidentally, I have made a correction to my November 9 post. According to Dan Crowley's interview, Judith Griggs DID make a $50 contribution to the the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Now let's look at Griggs' new statement. The two messages that emerge from that statement are: (a) I was overworked, and (b) it's Monica's fault. In essence, after Monica received a hastily-written e-mail with some unfortunate statements, Gaudio should NOT have written her post the next day, according to Griggs.

The sad truth is that Judith Griggs continues to blame others for her own actions. Based upon the word count from her two Statements, her apology is less important than blaming Facebook, Monica Gaudio, and the Internet mob for the predicament in which she placed herself. While Internet mobs can be ugly, part of the reason that the mob appeared in the first place was Griggs' initial and continued apparent lack of contrition.

Wikihow includes an article that discusses how to apologize. There are eleven steps in Wikihow's formulation, but a couple of them merit highlighting here:

2. Take full responsibility for the offense, without sharing the blame with anyone else, and without presenting mitigating circumstances. Admit that you were wrong emphatically, unreservedly, and immediately. An incomplete apology often feels more like an insult. An apology with an excuse is simply not an apology. It may very well be that other people or circumstances contributed to the situation, but you cannot apologize for them; you can only apologize for yourself, so leave them out of it.

3. Realize that there are no excuses. Do not try to think of or offer one. An apology with an excuse is not an apology. Take full responsibility for what you did. If the person to whom you apologize rejects your apology, then they do not deserve it. However, do not take it back. Be the bigger person.

And in conclusion, I can't let this post end without inserting this video.