Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Oracle Learning Library - H/T @eddieawad

Eddie Awad is an Oracle ACE Director, which demonstrates that he has a deep technical knowledge of Oracle products.

I cannot write a join statement.

For those with any level of knowledge who want to learn more about Oracle products, Awad has shared a link to the Oracle Learning Library.

If you go to, you will be directed to a row of buttons that link to just about every part of Oracle's stack (although I couldn't find hardware). For example, when I clicked on the "Database" button and queried for "Active Data Guard," I received links to six items that told about Active Data Guard. One of these was a 60-minute "Oracle by Example" tutorial.

There are a variety of resources that you can consult to learn how to use Oracle products, and the Oracle Learning Library is a valuable addition to this list.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Of course Charles Manson is in his cell. The computer said so.

Bruce Schneier links to an Ars Technica post that reports on a demonstrated ability for a hacker to open a prison cell door from a remote location.

Schneier was stuck by this paragraph in the Ars Technica post:

"You could open every cell door, and the system would be telling the control room they are all closed," Strauchs, a former CIA operations officer, told the [Washington] Times.

(See the Washington Times article here.)

Think of the ramifications of this - not just with prisoners, but with everything. In the prison case, you have a computer screen telling you that Charles Manson is safely in his cell, muttering about George Harrison or whatever Manson does in his cell. But perhaps if you actually went down to the cell, you'd see that he had actually been freed (or, in Strauchs' scenario, killed).

Now extend that to other computerized systems that tell you something that may not be true. I don't believe that we can categorically state that every computer system is 100% accurate. For example, I'm sure that they put some incredible design into traffic lights, but it's probably possible for a situation to arise in which green lights appear in all directions. The possibility may be extremely small, but it's possible.

So if I'm driving down the street and approaching a green light, and I see a car on the other street approaching the intersection without slowing down, it would not be wise for me to say, "Of course he'll stop. He has to have a red light since I have a green light." (Obviously the more likely scenario is that the other driver DOES have a red light, but is ignoring it.)

But what do you do in other cases in which a computer is telling you something that might not be true?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Groupon education of its merchants

While using the Washington Post Social Reader in Facebook, I just read another Groupon problem story entitled "Groupon horror: Bakery must make 102,000 cupcakes." According to the story, Need a Cake Bakery in Woodley (UK) offered a 75% discount on its cupcakes, but didn't cap the maximum number of items available at this price. To meet the demand, Need a Cake Bakery had to hire temporary help at nearly US$20,000 - a move which wiped out the bakery's annual profits.

When stories are offered via the Washington Post Social Reader, you can use your Facebook account to comment on the story. As I read through the comments, one of the biggest topics of discussion was what Groupon should (or should not) have done to educate Need a Cake Bakery before offering its deal. So I got curious - what type of education does Groupon provide for its participating merchants?

I went to Groupon's merchant site at This is different from the main Groupon site - it even has a different micrologo. The merchant services site is definitely targeted toward merchants:

Merchants come first at Groupon.

The people who are searching for Groupon deals may feel differently - but I digress. The page describes Groupon's merchant education; here are some excerpts:

We collaborate with you to structure a deal that delivers on perfomance goals, expectations and service limitations....

We work with you to calculate the optimal number of Groupon customers relative to regular traffic; calculators are customized to address specific dynamics of key industries (eg, restaurant table turn rate, therapists on staff, etc.)...

We offer advice on ways to convert Groupon customers to your own -- from collecting email addresses on-site to ongoing communications to build strong relationships....

We'll monitor your campaign success and do everything we can to deliver satisfaction and recommend deal structure modifications, if necessary, for subsequent features. Over the long-term we intend to develop a partnership that constantly addresses your ever-changing merchant needs.

From the sound of things, Groupon offers merchants the opportunity to educate themselves on how to structure the deal - but once the deal is set, it's set. This is understandable, since anyone who sees a guaranteed deal for a 75% discount on cupcakes would be very displeased if the deal were suddenly withdrawn.

But even with education, does the model work? Amy Lee at the Huffington Post surveyed various sources back in June. According to Ronan Percival (as quoted by Dylan Collins, the beauty salon appointment segment requires a 10% conversion of Groupon buyers into regular clients - however, it appears that the actual conversion rate is only 1%. Back in 2010, the Wall Street Journal referenced a Rice University study, which showed varying performance between merchants:

The Rice study found that 66% of the 150 merchants responding found the program profitable, while 32% said they were unprofitable. Forty percent of the respondents said they would not run such a promotion again.

There was another interesting ramification from the Rice study:

“Satisfied employees” is the most important factor for the Groupon promotion to work successfully for a business, according to the study. If employees remain satisfied through the promotion, the likelihood of its profitability is significantly higher. The percentage of discount offered and the number of Groupons sold did not predict the deal’s profitability, nor did the percentage of Groupon users who purchased beyond the Groupon’s value or purchased again at full price.

“Because the Groupon customer base is made up of deal-seekers and bargain shoppers, they might not tip as well as an average customer or be willing to purchase beyond the deal,” said Utpal Dholakia, author of the study and associate professor of marketing at the Jones School. “So employees need to be prepared for this type of customer and the sheer volume of customers that might come through.”

Interesting observation, because if the employees are dissatisfied - especially in a small company - then the business owner is going to have a big problem. Take a look at this post:

The food lived up to its excellent reputation, but the only way to get our server’s attention was to flail my arms about like some over-eager 2nd grader dying to be called on by the teacher. If anything, service at a four-star restaurant should border on hovering. This felt more as if we were being quarantined for some highly contagious virus .... We couldn’t help but think that our early admission of using the Groupon had an overall negative impact on service.


The servers I’ve spoken with all complain that users frequently tip on the discounted amount, and not on the actual amount of the food. For expensive restaurants like the one we went to, that could mean the difference of $100 – $200.

Of course, this is not just limited to Groupon. Businesses need to evaluate every advertising method they use - their websites, their banner advertising, their telephone directory listings (remember telephone directories?) - to determine not only the business return on investment, but also the types of customers that will be attracted by the advertising medium.

And of course there is a responsibility for the customer also. The Southern California restaurant chain Don Jose offers a Fiesta Club that provides coupons once a month - sometimes more frequently. The usual coupon entitles the bearer to one free dinner entree with purchase of a second one at equal or higher value (offer good Sunday through Thursday only). My wife and I use these coupons frequently - but when we do, we calculate the tip based upon the pre-discount amount, not the post-discount amount.

Of course, I'm sure the the number of patrons from the Fiesta Club is much lower than the number of patrons who would suddenly show up if a Groupon promotion were run.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I was wrong - the NBA lockout will probably be settled in 2011

[Live from the Corner Bakery Cafe at the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California]

When you read some business blogs, there may be bloggers that gloss over strong pronouncements that they had previously made, but that no longer turn out to be true.

As for me, I take perverse delight in ridiculing myself when I am wrong about an issue.

I figured that the NBA owners and players had become so entrenched in their stands that there was no way that the strike would be settled this year. In fact, I was speculating on the possibility that the owners might even consider bringing in replacement players.

Quoting from Jim Bakker, I was wrong.

Reports today indicate that the the owners and player representatives have reached an agreement, and that leaders from both sides will urge ratification. Should this happen, the NBA is hoping to hold its high-profile Christmas games.

Some effort is being devoted to determining who blinked. Some reports indicate that the owners blink, but you have to remember that the players were guaranteed to lose ground no matter what agreement was reached.

An FBI reminder in advance of Cyber Monday

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation is responsible for investing a variety of Federal crimes, including online crimes. In that spirit, the FBI has released this announcement from Special Agent Herbert Stapleton.

A healthy dose of skepticism will go a long way keeping people protected when shopping only online on cyber Monday - and throughout the year. Abide by the old adage- if it looks too good to be true then it probably is.

Go here to find the link to the podcast. The FBI warns of the following types of scams:

Fraudulent auction sales, gift card scams and phishing e-mails are among the many techniques cyber criminals use to lure their victims.

Yes, blog reading can be very seasonal

I am happy.

My Empoprise-BI business blog has accumulated enough junk valuable material so that people are reaching the blog because of things that I have already written. This ensures that the blog will continue to have a steady readership, rather than just depending upon my latest post.

I checked my analytics for Thursday, November 24 and found that the two most popular posts on that day were these posts:

Both of these oven-related posts were very popular on Thanksgiving Day, when everyone was cooking turkeys in their ovens. Hope that the birds came out OK.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What if the wireless spectrum were not allocated by the government?

OK, for some people it's obvious that Carly Foulkes is not the most important part of the AT&T/T-Mobile story.

In my previous post, you'll recall that I linked to a Google+ thread shared by Eoghann Irving. I reshared this item, and a discussion began on my own thread. Various people weighed in on the ramifications of a possible rejection of the AT&T acquisition, mentioning various scenarios (including a likely rejection of a Google attempt to take over T-Mobile, since Google now owns Motorola Mobility).

Kevin LeCureux then weighed in:

The worst thing for Telecom competition and improvement is the FCC.

To put LeCureux's comment in perspective, let me share a comment that I almost added to the thread, but didn't. My comment, which would have been addressed to Alex Scoble, would have gone something like this:

Alex, even the most doctrinaire libertarian would agree that this is good news for cell provider competition. Unlike oligopoly conditions in some other industries, the cell provider industry depends upon a scarce resource, regulated by the government - namely, the wireless spectrum. Since you can't create any more spectrum, it makes sense that the DOJ and FCC are stepping in here.

Like I said, I was thinking about writing something like this, but didn't. So when Kevin LeCureux stated that the FCC WAS the problem, I was naturally curious. So I asked:

+Kevin LeCureux, do you have a concern with the FCC's stance on the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, or are you talking about another FCC action?

As you can see from the thread, LeCureux had a problem with the idea of the FCC regulating the spectrum in the first place.

So much for my idea that hardly anyone would question the FCC's right to have jurisdiction in the AT&T/T-Mobile matter.

LeCureux promised to provide a link to a post in which this was discussed in more detail, and he did provide the link. While the main issue addressed in LeCureux's August post is rural wireless access, some of his points can be extrapolated to the allocation of all portions of the spectrum, including cellular phone access.

Let me touch on one part of the topic - if there isn't an FCC around to grant portions of the spectrum to individual companies, then how do we prevent companies from stepping on each other in the spectrum? LeCureux specifically addressed that issue:

What about interference? How would it be prevented? In the courts, just like any property rights. The company that is claiming to be interfered against could ask for an injunction against the allegedly interfering party until the matter gets a court date. The plaintiff would have to provide evidence of infringement and damages, just like any other property damage case. Each party would have to provide evidence that they were the first to use that part of the spectrum, for example by showing equipment purchases, electrical bills, independent field measurement surveys, customer invoices, and so forth.

A key part of the proposal outlined by LeCureux is homesteading - if you want a piece of the spectrum, you have to actually use it. If you stop using it, then someone else can step in and use it.

But wouldn't all of the spectrum always be in use, you may ask. Actually, Dave Burstein notes that much of the spectrum that has been allocated today is unused:

Across the vast bulk of the country, T has plenty of spectrum not used at all right now. In a very limited number of places, there's little. Across the country, the figure is probably 20-60%, but that's a wild guess. Upgrade inefficient uses and put the fallow spectrum to use, and T can easily handle five times the current demand and probably ten to twenty times without adding spectrum.

And even where the spectrum is used, it's not necessarily used efficiently. Burstein:

FCC sources tell me there's a massive efficiency improvement possible if more carriers shared spectrum but none were willing. AT&T Wireless & Cingular did a joint build in New York City that saved $100's of millions according to CFO Ron Dykes. AT&T and T-Mobile could do the same and get most of the spectrum advantage of the merger while staying independent.

And if the merger bid is rejected, that might be what AT&T and T-Mobile may have to do - although T-Mobile may not want to do so, since it would reduce the possibility of its being bought out by someone else.

Back to LeCureux's proposal. In a sense, it's a departure from the way things have been done in the past. If I buy up a whole bunch of land but don't use it, I have the perfect right to do so - well, at least until the government uses eminent domain to put a sports stadium or shopping center on my land.

And perhaps the "eminent domain" issue applies here, in a sense. Cellular provider X is sitting on a lot of spectrum but not doing anything with it. A case could be made that this harms the economy. And because of this, government needs to step in...and immediately get out of the way.

I encourage you to read LeCureux's entire proposal - there's a lot that I didn't get into here. Then I ask you to comment at LeCureux's post, or perhaps at this post or elsewhere - whether you're talking about rural wireless Internet or about the cellular phone spectrum, would a "homesteading" type of solution offer better service than the current spectrum auction system?

The 99% are armed also

On Thursday morning, Loren Feldman started a Google+ thread about Black Friday. He's against it.

I shared the following in Feldman's thread:

Black Friday has nothing to do with shopping. It's an EVENT, like the people who wait in line for days for a movie or gadget. Or the people who snare Super Bowl tickets without knowing the difference between a safety and a safety pin.

Needless to say, I wasn't out shopping at 4am or even midnight (no, I didn't go to Kohl's at midnight). When I woke up this morning, I was curious to know if there had ben any tragedies on Black Friday.

Thankfully, as far as I know, no one was killed. But, according to a Mark Krynsky link to a Los Angeles Times article, a shopper at a Wal-Mart in Porter Ranch used pepper spray and injured at least seven people.

Yes, pepper spray.

For the last couple of weeks, pepper spray is all that we've heard about after the incident at UC Davis in which a campus police officer pepper sprayed someone. No, no one was killed by the pepper spray, but because of all of the reaction, you'd think that someone had been. Let's put it this way - Jerry Sandusky is happy because no one's talking about him any more - now they're talking about John Pike, and doctoring up pictures of John Pike, and everything else. Pike has become - A MEME.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart woman is still on the loose as of last report. And of course no one will blame the woman for the incident; it's all Wal-Mart's fault, of course.

Perhaps the occupiers will demand that all stores close between Thanksgiving and Christmas to eliminate the profit-taking corporate greed. Yeah, that's a solution.

Guess I'd better not quote Revelation on this Blogger blog

Ignore the fact for a moment that Google, the company that hosts this blog, does business in multiple countries. Pretend for the moment that Google just did business in the United States. In such a situation, Google doesn't necessarily have to listen to EU water-hating bureaucrats or Chinese firewallers - Google only has to listen to American legislators.

That in itself is a lot to listen to, inasmuch as Senator Joe Lieberman is apparently reviewing Blogger's Terms of Service, according to Talking Points Memo. This publication "obtained" a letter that Senator Lieberman wrote to Google's Larry Page on November 22. After discussing what Jose Pimentel used the Blogger/Google servers to do, Lieberman then noted:

Blogger’s Content Policy does not expressly ban terrorist content nor does it provide a ‘flag’ feature for such content.

Apparently Senator Lieberman is not aware how Google works - or doesn't work. I can just picture what would happen if Blogger had a "terrorist" flag. Some Glenn Beck supporter would flag an Obama supporter's blog for advocating Kenyan rule of the United States, and the Obama supporter would then flag the Beck supporter's blog for advocating the mass annihilation of poor people.

And what would happen? If Blogger's flagging policies were anything like YouTube's, the blog would be "permanently disabled," and you wouldn't be able to talk to anyone about it.

Now perhaps Lieberman is (understandably) sensitive about this issue because of the Dmitry Dyatlov affair - incidentally, I have no idea whether Dyatlov used Blogger to post his suggestion that Lieberman was "one Jew, who we absolutely must shoot in the face (many times)."

But in the Dyatlov case, you didn't need Wikipedia-editor types to alert the populace - one of Dyatlov's co-workers alerted the police.

And what is a terrorist post? Is it any post that could fall under the definition of treason? In that case, am I a terrorist if I publish a link to Revelation 19:14-15?

On a more serious note, this blog and every other Blogger blog includes the capability to report terms of service violations, including "Hate or violence" posts. So it appears that Senator Lieberman's concern is already covered.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Slow news day? Not for Carly Foulkes.

Here in the United States it's Thanksgiving, and of course no business news will appear today.

Or will it? Eoghann Irving alerted us to this story that broke right before the Thanksgiving holiday. AT&T, faced with adverse reaction from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission regarding its planned acquisition of T-Mobile, has withdrawn its bid - temporarily, it claims:

AT&T and Deutsche Telekom Continue to Pursue Sale of DT's U.S. Wireless Assets

Companies Withdraw FCC Applications; AT&T Expects to Recognize $4 Billion Charge; Companies Focus on Gaining DOJ Approval
Dallas, Texas, November 24, 2011

On Nov. 22, 2011, the Federal Communications Commission indicated a proposed order was circulating that would designate for hearing the applications of AT&T Inc. and Deutsche Telekom AG For Consent To Assign or Transfer Control of Licenses and Authorizations, WT Docket No. 11-65. On November 23, 2011, AT&T Inc. and Deutsche Telekom AG electronically withdrew without prejudice, as of that date, the pending applications listed in the Public Notice released by the Federal Communications Commission on April 28, 2011 in that proceeding. Associated manual notification of withdrawal filings also are being made.

AT&T Inc. and Deutsche Telekom AG are continuing to pursue the sale of Deutsche Telekom’s U.S. wireless assets to AT&T and are taking this step to facilitate the consideration of all options at the FCC and to focus their continuing efforts on obtaining antitrust clearance for the transaction from the Department of Justice either through the litigation pending before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Case No. 1:11-cv-01560 (ESH) or alternate means. As soon as practical, AT&T Inc. and Deutsche Telekom AG intend to seek the necessary FCC approval.

As a result of the FCC’s action, AT&T expects to recognize a pretax accounting charge of $4 billion ($3 billion cash and $1 billion book value of spectrum) in the 4th quarter of 2011 to reflect the potential break up fees due Deutsche Telekom in the event the transaction does not receive regulatory approval.

About AT&T
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) is a premier communications holding company and one of the most honored companies in the world. Its subsidiaries and affiliates – AT&T operating companies – are the providers of AT&T services in the United States and around the world. With a powerful array of network resources that includes the nation’s fastest mobile broadband network, AT&T is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high speed Internet, voice and cloud-based services. A leader in mobile broadband and emerging 4G capabilities, AT&T also offers the best wireless coverage worldwide of any U.S. carrier, offering the most wireless phones that work in the most countries. It also offers advanced TV services under the AT&T U-verse® and AT&T | DIRECTV brands. The company’s suite of IP-based business communications services is one of the most advanced in the world. In domestic markets, AT&T Advertising Solutions and AT&T Interactive are known for their leadership in local search and advertising.

Additional information about AT&T Inc. and the products and services provided by AT&T subsidiaries and affiliates is available at This AT&T news release and other announcements are available at and as part of an RSS feed at Or follow our news on Twitter at @ATT.

Cautionary Language Concerning Forward-Looking Statements
Information set forth in this press release contains financial estimates and other forward-looking statements that are subject to risks and uncertainties, and actual results might differ materially. A discussion of factors that may affect future results is contained in AT&T's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. AT&T disclaims any obligation to update and revise statements contained in this news release based on new information or otherwise.

The good news? The T-Mobile pitchwoman, Carly Foulkes, apparently will be able to keep her job for a while.

Don't go vanilla on a job application

In honor of Thanksgiving here in the United States, I'll adopt a food theme for this post, although it's not really about food.

I recently participated in an election in which three candidates were running for a position within a particular organization. I won't reveal the position or the organization (although some of my readers may know what I'm talking about), so let's just say that the Widget Guild is seeking a Chocolate Manager.

As I mentioned, there are three candidates for the position. All three candidates have a lot of widget experience, as detailed in their candidate statements.

But only one of them spent any appreciable time talking about chocolate.

One candidate included an extensive resume that talked about widgets in detail. One line in the resume mentioned sweeteners, but didn't explicitly mention chocolate.

A second candidate's resume didn't talk about chocolate at all. But there was a mention of chocolate at the very beginning:


The third candidate did devote a long sentence to a discussion of previous chocolate experience.

Now perhaps if I knew these three people, I'd find out that all three of them have a lot of chocolate experience. But I don't know any of them, so I had to rely on their candidate statements to see how they felt about chocolate.

I'm just shocked that two of them hardly talked about chocolate at all. They trotted out generic resumes, but didn't make any effort to customize the resumes to match the position for which they were applying.

Why am I shocked? Let's just say that these, um, "widget" experts should have known better.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

(empo-tuulwey) @stevedenning on Clayton Christensen, Ratios, and Absolutes

When I was taking my MBA classes at Cal State Fullerton, we spent a lot of time analyzing companies and looking at various ratios.

According to a Forbes article by Steve Denning (H/T Bill Gross via a Google+ share), Clayton Christensen believes that our concentration on these ratios is stifling innovation in the United States.

Christensen cites the story of an American company, Dell, who pursued higher profitability ratios and ended up creating a competitor:

Christensen retells the story of how Dell [DELL] progressively lopped off low-value segments of its PC operation to the Taiwan-based firm ASUSTek [LSE: ASKD]—the motherboard, the assembly of the computer, the management of the supply chain and finally the design of the computer. In each case Dell accepted the proposal because in each case its profitability improved: its costs declined and its revenues stayed the same. At the end of the process, however, Dell was little more than a brand, while ASUSTeK can—and does—now offer a cheaper, better computer to Best Buy at lower cost.

Dell isn't the only company who has outsourced huge chunks of operations to Asia. Morris Chang, whose company TSMC is one of the beneficiaries of American outsourcing, thinks that we're crazy:

You Americans measure profitability by a ratio. There’s a problem with that. No banks accept deposits denominated in ratios. The way we measure profitability is in ‘tons of money’. You use the return on assets ratio if cash is scarce. But if there is actually a lot of cash, then that is causing you to economize on something that is abundant.

Read the rest of the Forbes article here.

In the spirit of what Christensen has said, it's interesting to read the press release which accompanied Dell's latest quarterly statement. Here are some excerpts:

Dell's continued strategic focus on higher-value opportunities, combined with an increased mix of enterprise solutions and services sales, resulted in increased profitability on revenue of $15.4 billion in its third quarter, flat compared with revenue a year ago....

Revenue for Dell's enterprise solutions and services business -- including sales of servers, storage, networking, and services -- increased 8 percent over the same quarter last year to $4.7 billion, an all-time high. As the revenue mix steadily shifts more to the higher-value enterprise portfolio, Dell is delivering on its commitment to improve profitability, with operating income up 12 percent for the quarter and at 7.6 percent of revenue for the fiscal year to date.

So Dell is moving into "higher-value" businesses - something that many people, including myself, would praise. I've been in the software industry for over two decades - sometimes in software-only situations, and sometimes in situations in which fairly unique software is bundled with mostly-commodity hardware. With this mix of hardware and software, software is obviously better from a margin standpoint.

So what has this targeted strategy done for Dell?

Revenue in the quarter was $15.4 billion, flat compared with the same quarter last year.

Remember what Morris Chang said. From Chang's perspective, are this year's dollars better than last year's dollars? And when you look at Dell division by division, you can see some cracks in the story.

Consumer revenue was $2.8 billion, a 6 percent decline. Operating income was $76 million or 2.7 percent of revenue. The migration to higher-value products has proven to be effective, with overall company revenue for the high-end XPS consumer laptop growing 207 percent. XPS revenue now accounts for nearly 20 percent of Dell's total consumer laptop business.

An outstanding success story - and it's probably the reason why I'm not typing this post on a Dell (or Hewlett-Packard) computer. In fact, I happen to be using an Asus netbook.

Of course, we all know that schlock companies like Asus are no competition for a strong American company like Dell.

And of course, thirty years ago we all knew that schlock companies like Dell and Compaq (at the moment, part of Hewlett-Packard) were no competition for a strong American computer manufacturer like IBM.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

(empo-tymshft) Raining on the cloud

I have said before that IT philosophy swings like a pendulum between centralized and decentralized models. Time-sharing gave way to individual PCs, and then we centralized, and then we de-centralized. This week's buzzword is "the cloud," which leans toward the centralized end of things again. Whether you're talking about enterprise stuff, or you're talking about consumer stuff, the cloud offers you the wonderful capability to store things in a central location and access them from anywhere. Everyone involved in IT, with the possible exception of Ashton Kutcher, has been bombarded with cloud sales pitches.

But the praise of the cloud is not unanimous. Peter Evans-Greenwood argues that the cloud is outdated.

...the future of IT in business will be determined by the need to knit together a fabric of IT enabled services, many of which will be obtained externally. I don’t need a project portfolio management solution, I need a portfolio management capability backed by the tools and skills required to make it work. I don’t need a CRM solution (SaaS or not), I need a sales management and reporting methodology (Holden? Miller Heiman?) supported by technology to enable it to scale. It’s outside in thinking, rather than inside out.

What will the industry that accretes around this new need look like? If we look at many of the current on-demand / SaaS vendors, then they could best be described as enterprise software, but in the cloud!. Take the old model and make it multi-tennanted.

However, I don't see such a market happening - because of organizational behavior. In such a "cloud 2.0" market, you'd have all of these different services vendors who plug and play with other stuff. However, no vendor is willing to do just one thing. Remember when Oracle was a database company? Now they offer everything from hardware to vertical software packages. Why? Because Oracle belives it can make more money by offering a bigger share of the pie. If you go tell Larry Ellison to divest most of Oracle, and concentrate on making the best possible database that will be interoperable with everything else, Ellison (and Ellison's stockholders) will tell you to go pound sand.

So don't expect objects - whoops, that's an old term - to dominate the market any time soon.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Note to Kohl's - you want people to LIKE your Black Friday commercials

There's a reason why I'm posting this in my business blog rather than my music blog. But first, let me tell you what I'm posting about.

The song "Friday" by Rebecca Black.

I've never written a full-fledged post about the song, either here or in my music blog (although this post linked to a Google+ discussion of the song), but most everyone knows the story. In case you don't - young girl and her parents contract with some El-Lay people to create a song and video to show off the girl's talents. The El-Lay people come up with a song late one night, and the lyrics are (to put it mildly) not all that good, even for pop music. The song is then recorded, but the girl's voice is smothered in auto-tune and stuff by the El-Lay people. The video shoot looked like it was kind of fun. The video was posted on YouTube, and then it went viral.

Why? Because, according to the ears of (literally) millions, the song was REALLY BAD.

The girl got a lot of attention that she really didn't want to get, and is now trying to restart her career, but not with the El-Lay people that she worked with previously.

Meanwhile, the song has garnered a reputation on a standing with other failures, such as "Heaven's Gate" and the Los Angeles Clippers - things that cause a negative reaction when you hear about them (or, in the case of the song "Friday," hear it).

Normal businesses would run away from such failures.

But the advertising agency that does commercials for Kohl's instead chose to embrace this failure.

The advertisers, thinking that the song was catchy, added this comment to the posting of the video:

You'll be singing this song every day until Black Friday. Guaranteed.

I guess the people at the advertising agency thought they had picked a winner. This was a song that everyone was talking about! And it includes the word "Friday" prominently in the song! And our sale will take place on Friday!

What could go wrong?

Apparently the advertisers didn't consider WHY the song was so famous. And I'm sure that some advertiser is looking at the YouTube votes and wondering, "Hey, why does our video have 646 likes and 1,191 dislikes?"

Now I didn't influence that voting - since YouTube permanently disabled my account, I can't vote.

But unless you're marketing to specific audiences, you want your customers to feel good about what you're advertising. Based upon the numerous negative reactions on YouTube and on other places such as Google! and Gizmodo, people aren't feeling good about Kohl's right now.

Can airport X-ray scanners break electronic ink Kindles? It's uncertain.

Shawn Rossi shared something that led me to a widely-read Telegraph article entitled "Amazon Kindles 'damaged by airport scanners.'" Christopher Williams quotes some anecdotal evidence, and then quotes a statement from Professor Daping Chu of the University of Cambridge. Professor Chu said, in part:

[Y]ou can get a build up of static inside these machines, caused by the rubber belt rubbing. If that charge were to pass through a Kindle, it’s conceivable that it could damage the screen.

Apparently this only affects "electronic ink" screens, and doesn't affect the LCD screens used by other devices. But Amazon says that it doesn't happen at all (although the Telegraph notes that Amazon has replaced some devices):

Exposing your Kindle to an X-ray machine, such as those used by airport security, should not cause and problems with it.

This is not a new issue - I found a May 2009 report of a similar issue. Incidentally, the fact that an Amazon customer service rep stated in 2009 that X-rays could be a cause of the failure doesn't mean much to me - individual reps can say all sorts of things.

The problems with transparency

There are those that say that consumers are better served when companies are transparent. As a result, "transparency" has become a rallying cry for consumer watchdogs and boardroom activists and the famed "social media experts." (My view: if you call yourself a "social media expert," you probably aren't. My other view: if you work the acronym "SEO" into your content, I probably won't read it. But I digress.)

Years ago, I was talking with two different people at a then-competitor of my then-employer. I asked them both why they didn't print a customer list on their company's web page. One person believed that this should happen. The other disagreed, saying that the only people who would pay attention to such a list would be competitors such as myself.

I was reminded of this when I read something that Jason Alba recently wrote about company pages on LinkedIn:

The advocates are suggesting that people will come to your Company page, learn about your company, and then buy something (or something like that).

Everyone else teaches LinkedIn users how to use Companies to do competitive intelligence research, figure out how to network into a company, sell something to that company, or even steal employees from that company (recruiters would do this).

Go here to read Alba's advice about company pages (although you can probably guess what he advises).

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why business is like dating

This item in the Winter 2012 Biometrics Summit caught my eye.

9:30 a.m.

Speed Networking

Become acquainted with your fellow attendees in this informative and fast-paced forum!

Yes, "speed dating" has come to the business world.

However, you have to remember that speed dating only applies early in the dating cycle, and speed networking only applies early in the business cycle.

You still have to close the sale.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cooking the books at Portland Garden Supply LLC in Forest Grove, Oregon

I have an MBA degree, and my coursework involved a lot of case studies. We'd look at a company's income statement and balance sheet, calculate some ratios here and there, and figure out the health of the firm.

But I never had a case study that looked like the one that's been discussed in Oregon papers in 2010 and 2011.

You see, there was a business called Portland Garden Supply, located on a street in Forest Grove, Oregon (a suburb of Portland). And someone ended up looking at the books for the business.

A financial review of the business found that over 93 percent of the deposits between July and October were in cash totaling $104,678, and 94 percent of Wen Han Chen's expenses were to Hydrofarm, Inc., a California-based wholesaler that supplies hydroponic equipment....

Well, with all of that hydroponic equipment, you'd expect to see a bunch of tomatoes and stuff for sale at Portland Garden Supply, wouldn't you? Not exactly.

"There's barely anything on the shelves. They basically hung a sign for delivery people to call them, and then the Chens would come and pick up their orders," Lufkin said.

One thing that wasn't present on the income statement was a large entry for electric bills for all the hydroponic equipment. That's because those charges never made it to the books. In fact, Portland Garden Supply's financials probably never would have been investigated if Portland General Electric hadn't discovered something.

The investigation began [in the spring of 2010] when Portland General Electric detected power diversions at several homes in the metropolitan Portland region, and alerted police.

Residential-based marijuana grow operators either tamper with their existing meters or rewire nearby distribution power lines to mask the large volume of power they need to run the lights that serve indoor nurseries, prosecutors said.

"They take 6 or 8 times the amount of electricity of a normal house," Lufkin said.

In this case, PGE estimates its losses at more than $10,000.

There was a fingerprint found at one of the homes, which led investigators to Jin Yu Chen. It appears that Portland Garden Supply's main business was to sell stuff to Jin Yu Chen. Police went after Jin Yu Chen as well as the owner of Portland Garden Supply, Wen Han Chen. Depending upon the source, the equipment was used to grow either 1,559 or 1,957 marijuana plants.

Not only did they grow marijuana and launder proceeds (insert joke here), but they also stole electricity and damaged one of the homes after a malfunctioning water system flooded the home.

I wonder if the Feds will go after them on tax evasion charges.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

You have to use some intelligence with this fingerprinting device


Both CNET (in two articles) and New Scientist are reporting about a device from an English company called Intelligent Fingerprinting. This device uses a fingerprint for two purposes. Unlike other devices that use a fingerprint to make your preferred coffee drink, this device uses your fingerprint to perform a drug tests.

CNET links to a 10 November press release:

Contact: Simon Dunford, press officer
University of East Anglia

Prototype hand-held drug testing device launched
The world's first prototype of a hand-held fingerprint drug testing device has been created by UK technology company Intelligent Fingerprinting.

The unique device detects drugs and other substances from the sweat contained in fingerprints and will enable mobile testing with instant results.

A spin-out of the University of East Anglia (UEA), Intelligent Fingerprinting Ltd is based in the NRP Innovation Centre at the Norwich Research Park. The company developed the prototype with eg technology – a product design, development and engineering consultancy based in Cambridge.

Paul Yates, business development manager at Intelligent Fingerprinting, said: "The launch of this prototype is a significant milestone. There has already been considerable worldwide interest in the use of the technology for testing within a wide range of applications, including criminal justice forensic science, homeland security, and institutional testing such as prisons and workplaces. But the ability of a hand-held device to carry out testing in-situ brings a whole new range of benefits and opportunities."

The device will enable testing of fingerprints for illegal drugs and other substances using disposable cartridges. The samples are quick and easy to collect and do not require specialist handling or biohazard precautions. Because of the imaging of the fingerprint, they have an in-built watertight chain of evidence continuity and are almost impossible to cheat.

The potential uses for the device are wide ranging and cover testing individuals in the workplace - especially in safety critical industries where there is a need to judge whether someone is 'fit for duty' - through to screening drivers at the roadside for drug-driving impairment.

David Russell, CTO of Intelligent Fingerprinting and Professor of Chemistry at UEA's School of Chemistry, said: "The development of the Intelligent Fingerprinting hand-held testing device has been a technological success. Working closely with eg technology we have been able to design a device that carries out the full analysis and imaging of a fingerprint in only a few minutes. The first prototype will be able to test individuals for drugs of abuse but we will be working to widen the range of substances to include other drugs and health markers that are found in fingerprints."

The prototype is scheduled to go into full production in 2012 and the team will work with customers to develop new applications.

Danny Godfrey, director of eg technology, said: "Intelligent Fingerprinting's core intellectual property is fascinating, offering a unique, robust way of linking a test result to the individual. Designing a device to automate their well-defined laboratory process has required input from all of our skill groups – microfluidics, optics, electronics, software, industrial and mechanical design. The release of the prototype is a major milestone towards the unveiling of the production device next year and we're delighted to be part of such an exciting development."

But before we get all excited about the "watertight chain of evidence," let us consider exactly what this shows.

It does NOT show that the person whose fingerprint is being captured is taking illegal drugs.

It DOES show that the person whose fingerprint is being captured has failed a drug test.

There is an important difference.

One term that is often used in the biometric industry is "false positive," or an assertion of a particular connection when no such connection is truly present. The initial identification of Brandon Mayfield as a suspect in the Madrid bombings is an example of a false positive.

False positives are not limited to biometric identification; they can also be found in drug tests. For example, ingestion of poppy seed bagels can result in a false positive for morphine use. has documented several cases in which people lost their jobs (in most cases only temporarily) because of a failed drug test that resulted from eating poppy seed bagels (or a similar item) before the test was conducted.

Now I don't know if the Intelligent Fingerprint system has safeguards against this particular false positive. But even if it does, one has to remember that no one can claim that any particular drug test is 100% accurate. So there is always the possibility that there is a false positive - which means that the test only proves that the person whose fingerprint is taken has failed a drug test, not that the person whose fingerprint is taken is taking drugs.

And I haven't even delved into the entire "fingerprint spoofing" issue - admittedly difficult in this scenario, but in certain cases (such as a corrupt person taking the fingerprints), even this system can be spoofed.

Which just goes to show that you have to be very careful when you use phrases such as "watertight chain of evidence."

Someone's gonna find a leak.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Closing the deal? Ryan Seacrest kiises it off

Media outlets are desperate for quality content. If you can provide quality content to a media outlet, they will wine you and dine you (well, if you're Mormon or Muslim, they'll dine you) and do whatever it takes to get you to commit to provide the quality content to the outlet.

In the description below, note that "quality content" means "content that gets a lot of people to hear our advertisements."

In his spare time, Ryan Seacrest hosts a morning radio show in Los Angeles on radio station KIIS-FM. One of the features is something called "Ryan's Roses," in which a cheating boyfriend is exposed. The way it works is as follows:
  • A woman calls Ryan on the radio and voices her suspicion that her boyfriend is cheating on her with someone else. Ryan listens intently, sympathizing with the woman, because HE CARES. Commercial break.
  • Ryan gets the woman to consent to what is about to happen, and then the boyfriend gets a phone call (broadcast on the air) from a flower delivery service, offering a free bouquet. The boyfriend is asked to say who should get these free flowers. In the ideal situation, the boyfriend then gives a name other than that of the girlfriend, the girlfriend confronts him and cries and yells, and we all listen intently. Commercial break.
  • The phone call ends, and everyoone calls in with their opinions.
Hillary, you're better off dumping that boy Bill, 'cause he's a cheater and he's cheating on you and you don't need no one like that. And Monica, you're a TRAMP for going out with Bill, because you're ... well, you're a tramp.

The power of this episode is that it spans several segments, causing people to continue to listen to the station - and to all of the commercials that air before and after "Ryan's Roses" makes its call.

I was flipping stations during my morning commute on Monday, and I happened to run across a Ryan's Roses segment in progress. They were just setting it up, with the girlfriend saying what was going on, or what was not going on. And Ryan was listening intently, sympathizing with the woman, because HE CARES.

Then (after a commercial break), Ryan was ready to make the call, and just needed the girlfriend to give her on-air consent for Ryan to call the boyfriend. However, the girlfriend ended up saying "I can't do this," mumbled something else, and hung up. Attempts by KIIS to call her back went unanswered.

And all of a sudden, Ryan Seacrest didn't care so much any more. In fact, he was mad, asking what she just did, or what she just said at the end? "Did she say she had to talk to herself? Why does she have to talk to herself?"

From the perspective of the radio station, the girlfriend had just wasted valuable air time. The station had invested a lot in the girlfriend, but had no return on their investment.

From the perspective of the girlfriend, she had second thoughts about the whole thing. No contract had been signed, and upon further reflection, she felt that she was better off not pursuing the opportunity.

Should KIIS have obtained its consent several minutes earlier? But what if they got the girlfriend's consent, and then discovered that the girlfriend's story wasn't so riveting?

This is a classic seller-buyer situation, in which both parties check each other out, and then - and only then - get down to the business of closing the sale. And if either of the parties has serious doubts, the sale won't happen, despite all of the preparatory work that took place beforehand.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ethan Sherwood Strauss on looking for work

OK, enough with all the basketball posts. Let's move to the real world and look at what real people do.

Many of the people who read this blog are employed. And many of you have worked at several different jobs during your life. In fact, I was talking with someone last week who left her job at one company, and got a better paying job at another company.

I'm sure that you agree that this is terrible - for the first company. You see, if people keep on leaving this first company, they're going to have to pay more to get new employees - something that would adversely affect the profits of the first company. It's unfair that the second company pays more than the first company, so the obvious solution is to create a system in which the second company is restricted in its employee payments. This will ensure that all companies are profitable.

As some of you have probably guessed by now, I'm a liar.

Yes, this post is about basketball. But let's look at how Ethan Sherwood Strauss framed the issue.

Were you inspired by KG’s Minnesota futility? Does a mired Chris Paul bring a smile to your ears? Does your heart flutter at the thought of Blake Griffin piling up losses for a sneering Donald Sterling?


To the small marketeers, I say: If you build it, they will stay. Tim Duncan had little reason to leave San Antonio, and Kevin Durant likely won’t ditch OKC for a better nightlife. Loyalty is the reward for good stewardship.

This is only a small portion of what Strauss said. Read the rest here.

And if you want another example from another sport, look at everyone who is talking about a football team based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Yes, Green Bay, Wisconsin. With the exception of one particular quarterback, people don't beg to leave Green Bay, Wisconsin. Shouldn't they, since it's a small market?

The NBA players and a "disclaimer of interest" vs. a "decertification"

In the past, I've quoted Jim Bakker's autobiography title, I Was Wrong.

And just yesterday, while talking about Ashton Kutcher's defense of Joe Paterno, I mentioned that Kutcher should have spent five minutes researching WHY Paterno was fired - especially since it involved one of his pet causes, child abuse.

Well, in my defense, I DO spend five minutes researching my posts.

I should have spent ten.

In a recent post, I made the statement that the NBA players' union was decertifying itself. Then I got in my car, drove to work, and ended up listening to Bill Handel and Rich Marrotta.

Marrotta noted that the union is NOT decertifying, but that they are instead issuing a "disclaimer of interest."

ESPN explains the difference:

In utilizing a disclaimer of interest rather than an involuntary decertification, the players have chosen a timelier but riskier approach. The disclaimer will likely be challenged by the league as a "sham," as the NFL did when faced with the disclaimer issued by the players' association; the league argued that the dissolution was merely a negotiating tactic, and that the union was still representing the players' interests.

The NBA players' union also passed up the opportunity to use the 45-60 days before a decertification vote to continue negotiating with the additional leverage the pending vote would provide. Instead, the players decided that there was no reason to wait for a vote, because additional bargaining would be futile.

One important difference between the NBA and the NFL - the NFL players utilized the legal option immediately. As Marrotta noted, it was easy to argue that the NFL players were not bargaining in good faith.

But the NBA players have continued to negotiate through training camp, and through the first few weeks of the season. Meanwhile, the NBA owners have gone on record, effectively saying that they will not continue to negotiate, but will instead backtrack to a less favorable offer.

However, remember that legal action was already initiated - by the owners.

The NBA has an ongoing lawsuit in a federal district court in New York, in which the league is attempting to establish the lockout doesn't violate federal antitrust laws. If the NBPA decertifies and the union's dissolution is ruled lawful, the NBA is requesting player contracts become void and unenforceable. Legal analysts disagree over whether the league's federal case directly applies to decertification or only a disclaimer of interest. However, NBA commissioner David Stern said Friday agents "playing with fire" will get burned. "If the union is not in existence, then neither are $4 billion worth of guaranteed contracts that are entered into under condition that there's a union," Stern said.

Wait a minute.

So if the contracts are no longer enforceable, then there's no barrier on the NBA bringing up replacement players.

This is getting interesting.

What NBA players' union? The decertification effort - and a possible replacement effort


Hope you like college basketball. It looks more and more like that will be the major basketball entertainment in the United States this year. The NBA players' union is decertifying:

The union has abandoned its right to negotiate on behalf of the players in order to sue the NBA in antitrust court for massive damages within the next 48 hours, according to its revamped legal team. The players in attendance said the decision was unanimous — that the league had backed them into a corner with ultimatum after ultimatum, even after the players gave back the equivalent of nearly $3 billion over a 10-year deal by lowering their locked-in share of the league’s revenue. That move covered the league’s annual losses of $300 million, which union chief Billy Hunter again characterized as “exaggerated.”...

The move will shift the process from the bargaining room to the court system, endangering the season and infuriating Stern, who said on ESPN minutes after the union’s announcement that players had “been badly misled.” Stern dismissed the union’s move as a negotiating ploy that had been in the works since at least February 2010, when Kessler, in Stern’s telling, informed the commissioner that the union would go this route if talks broke down.

And while comparison was made to the NHL season, which was lost, comparison was also made to the NFL's legal wranglings in the courtroom earlier this year, which may not necessarily be a precedent for what will happen with the NBA.

Labor experts say the appellate ruling that reinstated the NFL’s lockout, after a lower court halted it, is a tricky opinion that did not provide the complete victory the NFL sought. Legal precedent for this kind of case is thin....

Speaking of precedent, what about the use of replacement players? If the NBA can't get these players to play, then how about grabbing some other ones who would presumably play for much lower salaries?

One would think that since this is a lockout (imposed by the owners) rather than a strike (instigated by the players), this option wouldn't work. But in this labor fight, anything is possible. The NFL action earlier this year was also a lockout, but the NFL owners were not willing to say that they COULDN'T use replacement players.

It would presumably take a good deal of lawyering to get this to happen, but if Michael Jordan and other new owners want to get some revenue coming in, and if they want to enforce a lower percentage, why not get some new players to do it?

One potential issue is that the NBA, more than any other league, is star-driven. But the use of replacement players could be very effective, if employed. It was certainly effective during the 1987 NFL dispute:

While the strikers lost an average of $15,000 per game (approximately $80 million in salaries altogether), the average owner's profit per game actually rose from $800,000 before the work stoppage to $921,000 during the strike....

Realizing they had no chance of winning concessions, the union's representatives voted to return to work on Thursday, October 15.

Now in this case I'm not sure what will happen with the TV revenue. If the NBA has to make up the lost games to the networks, there could be a loss in that department. But if the move results in the NBA's preferred 47-53 scenario, it could pay off in the end.

Of course, the NFL owners got to twist the knife one more time in that instance.

However, the owners refused to allow the last holdouts to play the following Sunday, costing them another paycheck.

And I wouldn't put it past the NBA owners to pull something like that again.

For the record, when Stern was recently asked about replacement players, he said that it was premature to talk about that. But it's probably being discussed behind closed doors.

And the meetings industry gets around and is connected...

But I'm not the only person sharing stuff on Google+. Shawn Rossi shared an item that discussed advances in meetings technology. Nor surprising, mobile technology was one of the twelve items discussed.

Recent data from MPI’s FutureWatch 2011 Survey and others indicate that more than 80% of meeting professionals use smartphones and other mobile devices in their jobs. Yet, relatively few planners (9%) have used mobile applications yet for their own meetings. This is about to change. There will be a very significant adoption of mobile apps for events in 2012 and 2013. If a meeting does not have a mobile app, the attendees will soon wonder why the meeting organizers are behind the times.

More here.

And the backup industry has redundancy...

Here's something that I initially shared on the Google+ page for the Empoprise-BI business blog. It's an item by Art Wittman that begins as follows:

Data deduplication repeats a pattern we've seen dozens of times.

Wittman was talking about business patterns in the market, but he might as well have been talking about the technology.

Evolution of the pages associated with the Empoprise-BI business blog

Ever since I started the Empoprises series of blogs, I have always thought about creating a conversation area, separate from each blog itself but somehow complimenting the blog in question.

My first foray into this was to use FriendFeed to create pages that were associated with the blogs. For the Empoprise-BI business blog, the associated FriendFeed page is at Since FriendFeed is an aggregation service, I attached various feeds to the page - not only the Empoprise-BI business blog itself, but also other business-related feeds that I thought would complement the blog content. All of these feed into the Empoprise-BI FriendFeed page automatically, requiring no effort on my part.

And perhaps that was the problem. With everything on auto-pilot, I wasn't necessarily motivated to manually add content to the page. I have to confess that I don't even visit the page much any more. I just looked at the four subscribers to the page, and I don't know that I've ever interacted with any of them.

Facebook appeared to be a more promising avenue, especially since there are many more people on Facebook than on FriendFeed. So I created the page. Facebook does not allow an unlimited number of feeds per page, and perhaps that's a good thing. The only thing feeding automatically is the blog itself, both via a native Facebook feed and via NetworkedBlogs. And the subscriber, Greg Guitarbuster, is someone with whom I DO interact.

This Facebook page is clearly a promising avenue for interaction with blog readers, but I just need to commit to it more.

Which brings us to the most recent page associated with the blog - the Google+ page. The full stream is at; this includes the feeds of the friends of the page. The items that I specifically posted to the Empoprise-BI page are at
At present, all of the content is entered manually - although if Google ever allows feeds to automatically populate business pages, I'll probably add the feed for the blog.

I'm interacting more with this page as of late, probably because of the "shiny new toy" syndrome (Facebook business pages were only introduced over the last few days). I can't definitively say that the Facebook page or the Google+ page is better - as far as I'm concerned, they both have possibilities - especially since some Facebook users will never join Google+, and some Google+ users will never join Facebook.

Of course, there are other ways to interact with the blog. The easiest way to do so is via the Disqus-provided comment functionality.

And Is hould remind you that if you just want to consume content, but don't necessarily want to interact, you don't necessarily have to come to the blog itself. You can subscribe to in your favorite feed reader or in your browser itself.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mister Phone, meet Ms. Phone (Susan A. Kitchens on Samsung Alias cel fone pix transfer)

After posting tips for Motorola Q, LG env3, and iPhone 4 users, I ended up calling myself Mister Phone.

But I'm not the only one who shares helpful mobile phone tips.

Susan A. Kitchens was recently trying to transfer cell phone pictures from a Samsung Alias phone to her computer. She ran into problems, but when she finally figured out how to do it, she blogged her solution.

Now I'll grant that only a small percentage of online people blog, but these tips can invariably help other people who run into the same problem and find the blog posts via a search engine.

So, power to Susan and others who share these tips that benefit others.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Stupid Windows command line tricks

Inspired by this post in Maybe Not Safe for Work. (That one is.)

Of course, this version of Windows came out after 2003.

Joe Gerrity has a different view on NCAA popularity during the NBA lockout

Yesterday, I published a post entitled NBA Basketball Veterans, Your Absence is Now Irrelevant. My argument was that as NCAA basketball kicks in, people are going to miss the NBA less and less. Loss of a basketball season? We'll worry about it after March Madness:

David Stern and Derek Fisher, you can take some time off now.

Come back to the fans at the end of March 2012.

If the fans are still there.

I also talked about the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic that took place last night, attended by President Barack Obama (a/k/a The First Hoopster). I didn't watch the game myself - I was listening to the USC game online - but apparently it was an event, even if the final score wasn't all that close.

Even on a night when he played the first outdoor college basketball game on an aircraft carrier and met the President of the United States, freshman guard Travis Trice wanted just a little bit more.

Trice and the MSU men’s basketball team took on No. 1 North Carolina in the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic on Friday aboard the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego. The Spartans battled to the end but lost, 67-55, and Trice said the only thing that could have made the night better was putting a mark in the win column.

“It was great,” Trice said. “You can’t make up a better first game, but I wish we could have came out and won. It still hurts that we lost tonight.”

Prior the game, President Barack Obama talked to both teams before addressing the crowd of 8,111 on the flight deck of the Carl Vinson. There was a flyover, and all the pageantry you’d expect out of such an event.

But in the early stages of the game, the play on the floor didn’t quite stack up. Both teams struggled to get in an offensive flow while adjusting to the unfamiliar surroundings.

The lead was traded between the teams, but North Carolina won in the end. And they'll move on, with Michigan State going to Madison Square Garden on Monday night.

So college basketball has begun, and women's college basketball is also beginning, and people - especially in cities with top-ranked teams - are probably starting to say "LeBron who?"

However, it's fair to say that my opinion is not universally shared, as Joe Gerrity notes.

As someone who was brought up watching professional sports, I just can’t get into lower levels of competition. Be it baseball, football, basketball, or even stuff like soccer, I just don’t care if it’s not the top level.

Gerrity then performs an apples-to-apples comparison, which I encourage you to read. His point? Some apples are really tasty; other apples may be good, but they don't compare to the best apple (in Gerrity's case, the Honeycrisp - or the NBA).

But the NBA apple is starting to get worms in it.

In a negotiation, you have your negotiators, and the people who are represented by the negotiators. The negotiators know that the people behind them will have to approve any deal that is proposed. And in both cases, it will be hard to get that approval.

On the owners' side, you have new owners such as Michael Jordan who have recently bought teams in small markets and don't want to lose any more money than they've alreday lost. What is their incentive to sign up for a mediocre deal?

On the players' side, you have a group of people who have already backtracked from their former 57% share of the proceeds. What is their incentive to sign up for a mediocre deal?

So now there's talk of the owners moving from a 50% player share to a 47% player share, This will not speed up the negotiations. There's also talk of the players filing for decertification of the union. This will not speed up the negotiations either.

And people are going to start looking at what happened on February 16, 2005. That was the day that the National Hockey League cancelled the remainder of the 2004-2005 season during that sport's lockout. Granted, the NHL is not as popular as the NBA in the United States, but it's more and more likely that we'll see something similar in the NBA come 2012.

There's business, and then there's business

From the junk mail folder of one of my accounts.

I'm not sure that I'd classify both the "You have been invited to hook up for sex" messages and the "Create a resume that will get you working" message under the same category, but I guess they both have their similarities.

And for the record, it appears (based upon this limited sample) that the sex purveyors are twice as determined as the resume writers.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Is Francis Gurry in an unwinnable war? (Copyrighting Azerbaijani heritage)

My analytics reported a sudden uptick in activity for a post that I wrote back on October 10. The post was entitled Was Francis Gurry Right? (Patenting the Internet). Gurry heads the World Intellectual Property Organization. In the post, I engaged in a "what if" scenario, wondering what would have happened if a company such as Xerox had patented some of the underlying technologies that support today's Internet. My conclusion - there wouldn't have been an Internet, because Xerox would have used those underlying technologies to connect photocopiers rather than people. Of course, tools are not always used for their intended purpose.

Howard Cosell: "I am perturbed by the juvenile antics of certain individuals at the National Broadcasting Corporation who continue to transmit electronic representations of their posteriors to yours truly"

However, I had the sneaking suspicion that the post was not receiving activity because of my witty prose. I concluded that Francis Gurry must have done something newsworthy again, and that people were upon my post while looking for the news that they really wanted to hear.

In the process of searching for the latest news on Gurry, I ran across this item, which begins as follows:

The Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Francis Gurry responded to the Azerbaijani Copyright Agency's appeal made in connection with larceny and misappropriation of samples of Azerbaijani folklore, works of authors and other samples of the intangible heritage by the Armenians.

Oh boy. It looks like Francis Gurry has gotten himself entangled in an ethnic war. You know how Armenia hates Turkey? Well, Armenia itself is the recipient of the hatred of Azerbaijan - which made things pretty uncomfortable when both were part of the Soviet Union - and before that time.

The item that I cited didn't provide Gurry's response in detail, but said the following:

The WIPO Director General's letter addressed to the Azerbaijani side stresses that all the facts will be considered. The letter expresses hope for further good relations with the Azerbaijani Copyright Agency.

Spoken like a true bureaucrat.

For other views on this, see what folklore enthusiast Scott M had to say in response to the Copyright Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The latter contains some disconcerting news for Trololo lovers:

The same problem occurred in connection with "Vokaliz" work, created on the basis of Azerbaijan folk music. As it has been stated in the letter, addressed to WIPO, as a result of illegal use of that song by Armenians requirements of the Law " About the legal protection of expressions of Azerbaijan folklore" (incorrect indication of origin) as well as respecting article of Bern Convention, provided for protection of unknown author's work, as well as folklore works, and also requirements of respecting articles stipulated for protection of arrangement and private non-property right were breached.

NBA Basketball Veterans, Your Absence is Now Irrelevant

As the NBA lockout has progressed, there have been various drop-dead dates. If we don't reach a deal by date X, then action Y is going to happen.

All of these dates have passed, and the world has not ended.

The latest one was the drop-dead date that was supposed to occur on Wednesday at 2:00 pm Eastern time. [8:00 AM - WHOOPS, I MEAN 2:00 PM PACIFIC TIME. BUT IN THE END, IT DIDN'T MATTER.] If the players didn't agree to a deal by that time, the owners would pull their offer and replace it with a worse one. So what happened? David, stopped the clock.

But November 11 will truly be a drop-dead date. That day happens to be Veterans Day in the United States, and it also happens to be the day that the "veteran" players and owners of the National Basketball Association will find themselves in a world of hurt.

You see, until this date, NBA basketball really didn't face any big issues - other than those people who depended upon income from the games that were cancelled in November. But even then, all of the outside pressure was on both parties to conclude a deal so that we can have basketball back.

However, basketball will come back on November 11.

It just won't be under the auspices of the National Basketball Association.

Have you been missing basketball and want to see some people play? Well, there are a bunch of NCAA Mens' Division I games that are taking place on the 11th. (All times are Eastern.)

2:00 PM NW Missouri State at UMKC
3:00 PM Hartford vs. Sacred Heart*
4:30 PM Montana State at Arizona State
5:00 PM Northeastern at Boston University
5:00 PM Johnson and Wales (Den) at Brown
5:00 PM Eastern Illinois at Indiana State
5:30 PM Fairfield vs. Quinnipiac*
6:00 PM Montreat College at Presbyterian
6:30 PM Simpson University at Utah Valley
7:00 PM Maryland-Eastern Shore at George Washington
7:00 PM Jacksonville at Florida State
7:00 PM Stony Brook at Indiana
7:00 PM Anderson IND at IUPUI
7:00 PM MIT at Harvard
7:00 PM Milligan at East Carolina
7:00 PM North Carolina-Asheville at North Carolina State
7:00 PM Loyola (MD) at Wake Forest
7:00 PM Suffolk University at New Hampshire
7:00 PM Cornell at St. Bonaventure
7:00 PM Howard at Bowling Green
7:00 PM Monmouth at Villanova
7:00 PM Covenant at Coastal Carolina
7:00 PM Lees McRae at Appalachian State
7:00 PM St. Peter's at Buffalo
7:00 PM Lake Erie College at Detroit
7:00 PM Illinois-Chicago at Eastern Michigan
7:00 PM Long Island at Hofstra
7:00 PM Lafayette at La Salle
7:00 PM Randolph College at Liberty
7:00 PM Navy at Longwood
7:00 PM Tennessee Tech at Miami (FL)
7:00 PM Northern Illinois at Purdue
7:00 PM Delaware at Radford
7:00 PM Rider at Robert Morris
7:00 PM Western Carolina at South Carolina
7:00 PM UNC Greensboro at Tennessee
7:15 PM Bethune-Cookman at Stetson
7:30 PM Louisiana-Monroe at Ole Miss
7:30 PM Dartmouth at Rutgers
7:30 PM Roanoke at Furman
7:30 PM Holy Cross at Charleston
7:30 PM American University at Richmond
7:30 PM Alabama State at Marshall
7:30 PM Valparaiso at Georgia Southern
7:30 PM Southern Utah vs. UC Davis*
7:30 PM Houston Baptist at Campbell
7:30 PM Cheyney at Coppin State
7:30 PM Rhode Island at George Mason
7:30 PM Pennsylvania at UMBC
7:30 PM North Carolina Central at Charlotte
7:30 PM St. Francis (PA) at Virginia Commonwealth
8:00 PM McNeese State at Auburn
8:00 PM USC Upstate at Arkansas
8:00 PM Florida A&M at Georgia Tech
8:00 PM Wofford at Georgia
8:00 PM Saint Joseph's at Western Kentucky
8:00 PM Bucknell at Minnesota
8:00 PM South Dakota at Nebraska
8:00 PM Texas A&M-CC at Oklahoma State
8:00 PM Idaho State at Oklahoma
8:00 PM Arkansas-Little Rock at Tulsa
8:00 PM Gardner-Webb at Clemson
8:00 PM St Gregory's at North Texas
8:00 PM Yale vs. Central Connecticut State*
8:00 PM Guilford at Davidson
8:00 PM Chicago State at Iowa
8:00 PM Charleston Southern at Kansas State
8:00 PM Austin Peay at Middle Tennessee
8:00 PM Le Tourneau at Northwestern State
8:00 PM McMurry at Southern Methodist
8:00 PM Centenary at Stephen F. Austin
8:00 PM Florida Gulf Coast at TCU
8:00 PM University of Mary at Green Bay
8:05 PM North Carolina A&T at Creighton
8:15 PM Fort Valley State at Lipscomb
8:30 PM Harris Stowe at Murray State
8:30 PM Tennessee State at Saint Louis
8:30 PM Texas Lutheran at Texas State
8:30 PM Arkansas State at Lamar
8:30 PM Dillard at Southern University
9:00 PM Montana at Colorado State
9:00 PM Miles at Jacksonville State
9:00 PM Elon at Massachusetts
9:00 PM New Orleans at New Mexico
9:00 PM Oral Roberts at West Virginia
9:00 PM Texas-Pan American at DePaul
9:00 PM Loyola (IL) at Illinois
9:00 PM North Dakota State at San Francisco
9:00 PM Alabama A&M at Tulane
9:05 PM Brigham Young at Utah State
9:05 PM UT-San Antonio at UTEP
9:30 PM CO Christian at Boise State
9:30 PM Army at Air Force
9:30 PM Portland State at Denver
9:30 PM Claflin at South Carolina State
9:30 PM Troy at Texas Tech
10:00 PM Central Arkansas at Stanford
10:00 PM Cal Lutheran at UC Riverside
10:00 PM Ft. Lewis at Colorado
10:00 PM Illinois State at Fresno State
10:00 PM Grand Canyon at UNLV
10:00 PM Missouri State at Nevada
10:00 PM Chapman at UC Santa Barbara
10:00 PM Fresno Pacific at Saint Mary's
10:00 PM Northern New Mexico at Weber State
10:05 PM Redlands at Cal State Fullerton
10:30 PM Bryant University at San Diego State
10:30 PM California Merced at Santa Clara
10:35 PM Menlo College at Sacramento State
11:00 PM Cal State Northridge at USC
11:30 PM Northern Arizona vs. Louisiana-Lafayette*
11:59 PM Citadel vs. Virginia Military*

And that's just the mens' Division I. That doesn't count the lower divisions, or the women.

All of those people who have been yearning for basketball will be able to find more than enough basketball to follow. And if television and radio stations start using these games to fill their gaps in NBA coverage, then people will be able to hear basketball whenever they want. To emphasize the point, Barack Obama is scheduled to attend the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic between the Michigan State Spartans and the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. If there are no Bulls, then the First Hoopster will attend college basketball. And people will be watching on ESPN (7:00 pm Eastern, 4:00 pm Pacific).

David Stern and Derek Fisher, you can take some time off now.

Come back to the fans at the end of March 2012.

If the fans are still there.


(empo-tuulwey) Do you want to read this blog post fifty years from now?

A lot of us are involved in the production of information. Maybe you're just planting crops on your farm, or perhaps you are writing the leading business blog of Ontario, California, but in either case you are creating information that will be stored somewhere.

Will you be able to retrieve that information the day after you created it? In many cases, you will be able to do so?

How about a year from now? Ten years from now? Fifty years from now?

The answer to that question partially depends upon how the data is stored.

Enter the microfilm folks. Take, for example, Heritage Microfilm, who has a particular mission:

Our Mission

It is the mission of Heritage Microfilm to be the world's leading provider of historical newspaper content, focusing on individual people and the events that impacted their lives. Through constant improvement, we are committed to providing a high volume of quality content via innovative and useful delivery methods. Heritage Microfilm will demonstrate this commitment by empowering creative employees who possess a high level of personal accountability and a dedication to excellence.

As can be ascertained by its company name, the company uses microfilm as its preferred preservation tool. Needless to say, Heritage Microfilm explains why they made this choice:

The life of digital images stored on magnetic media (hard disks or tapes) is about three to five years. After that the files begin to deteriorate. Systems that rely on tapes for long-term storage require a "refresh" by copying the data onto new tapes every 3 to 5 years. Most CD's have a media life of 5 to 10 years. Most CDs contain a layer of light reflective/reactive material that decays over time. These same LE's apply to DVD's. Microfilm, as created by Heritage Microfilm, has an LE of 500. (Film created prior to about 1980 was on a type of plastic [acetate] that gave the film an LE of 100 years.) Poor processing, poor handling, environmental contaminants, and especially humidity and heat will substantially shorten the LE of microfilm. Overall, microfilm has an LE of at least 25 times that of any other available media. ADVANTAGE: Microfilm.

Of course, it's always valuable to check multiple sources - especially when you consider that Heritage Microfilm might be a tiny bit biased regarding non-microfilm media. Especially when some of the claims violate common sense:

Dear Cecil:

In 1994 I read an article in the British music journal The Wire that claimed that compact discs have a life expectancy of ten years. I have seen references to an article in Scientific American making the same claim and heard that this has been confirmed many times by other studies. The only thing is, uh, I've had a few CDs for more than ten years, and they play fine. So what exactly is the deal? Does the speed of degradation have to do with how often the CD is played? I mean, most of the time, my CDs are sitting in their cases on my shelf. Please tell me whether I should be getting my Sonny Rollins fix from some other recording technology (like, say, vinyl).

— Michael R., Chicago

Cecil Adams provided a comprehensive answer to Michael's question, noting in passing that sometimes the true problem is not the preservation of the media, but the preservation of ways to access the media. (Can YOU play your eight-track tapes?) But in answer to Michael's specific question, Adams notes that the statistics quoted by Heritage Microfilm aren't quite as cut and dry as was implied:

The longevity of CDs and other optical storage media is controversial. CD manufacturers generally claim their products will last 100 years and possibly much longer, based on "accelerated aging" tests. (Typically these involve subjecting the media to heat.) Skeptics say five to ten years is more like it, but that seems alarmist where nonrewritable CDs are concerned. The "CD rot" stories that circulated years ago apparently sprang from substandard disks sold by a CD bootlegger in Italy, in which the aluminum oxidized after a short time. That won't or at least shouldn't happen with a properly made CD, nor will such a disk wear out with repeated use (although scratches and other abuse may cause it to fail).

Adam's conclusion:

The truth is, nobody knows.

But there's one medium that has stood the test of time. Jeff Rothenberg, author of the Scientific American article that Michael R. and Cecil Adams both referenced, subsequently expanded the article into a paper Rothenberg's 1999 paper includes a picture (on page 4 of 18) of various types of media storage, including paper tape, magnetic tape, 5 1/4" floppy disks, 8" floppy disks...and a replica of the Rosetta Stone. Rothenberg comments:

In addition to being quite legible after nearly 22 centuries, the Rosetta Stone’s preservation is directly attributable to the fact that its import (i.e., that it consisted of three versions of the same text, one of which, being Greek, might provide the key to deciphering the lost Egyptian scripts) was visually apparent to the French lieutenant (Pierre Francois Xavier Bouchard) who was in charge of the squad that discovered the stone. The digital storage media shown surrounding the replica have already failed to remain readable for 1/100th as long as the Rosetta Stone.

(It should be noted that Rothenberg defines "readable" to refer to both the physical preservation of the media and, as noted above, the preservation of ways to access the media.)

So if I really thought that this post merited preservation for future millennia, I would write it in stone (eHow explains how to do this) and translate it into other languages (using a facility such as

I don't know that this post is really worth preserving.

أنا لا أعرف أن هذا المنصب هو حقا يستحق المحافظة عليه.

(Just in case I'm wrong.)