Thursday, November 29, 2012

Join the service that you already joined!

Solicitations to join a service that you have already joined are embarrassing. They're even more embarrassing when the potential (actual) member can't do anything about it.

I recently received an email that read as follows:

Dear John Bredehoft,

One or more of our government agency members* would like for you to register with [NAME OF SERVICE] to receive notice of their bids, RFPs, and contract opportunities. To respond to these bids, RFPs, and contract opportunities, registration with [NAME OF SERVICE] is required. Register your company today at no charge--it's fast and easy.

* The specific government agency member cannot be provided as we represent hundreds of agencies who have asked us to continually find a variety of vendors to participate in the bidding of their RFP's and contracts.

There's only one problem - I'm already registered with this particular service.

Actually, there's a second problem. The email came from a generic email address, so I can't necessarily write the service back and say "Please tell the government agency that I am already registered with your service under the ID xxx." If I sent such an email, the service presumably wouldn't act on it.

Oh, and there's a third problem. This email was sent to the email address that I used when signing up for the service in question. This isn't a case where the service found my old Motorola email address and sent the solicitation to that one.

So, in effect, the service is using its list of existing customers to send out requests to...become a customer.

Not impressed.

Freedom, homeland security, and Ingress

In the United States, there are two mutually exclusive views of the world.

One view, the libertarian view, holds that a person can do anything except that which is explicitly prohibited by law.

The opposing view, which I'll call the "homeland security" view, holds that if people do something out of the ordinary, it's best for society if that behavior is checked out. You can't be too careful, you know.

Google, which is generally perceived to fall in the first camp, has created an application that falls afoul of the second camp. Ingress is a game that can be played twenty-four hours a day, can be played anywhere in the world, and results in people going to a variety of places - including post offices and fire stations - and frantically keying things into their smartphones for a few minutes.

Erica Joy has shared an account from Reddit of what could go wrong. The writer, and the city in which the writer resides, are not anonymous.

So I got arrested....

I was out capturing some portals (I live in a medium sized city and only one other person is playing that I noticed, only one portal was taken.). And I walk by the police station and notice that the portal was still free! So I grabbed it. then my phone locked up. I restart it, and load the game back up when a cop noticed me, shouted to me and arrested me. Apparently sitting near a police station for about 5 minutes with a GPS view of the surrounding area with little blue blips on the screen is a red flag. I was in a holding cell for nearly 3 hours explaining to them it's just a game by google. Strangest night ever.

The reddit thread includes other stories of people who have run into trouble with the police while playing Ingress, or while doing lower-tech activities such as geocaching.

One person managed to talk himself out of arrest:

I had been hacking portals parked in front of a "high traffic drug area" and then when I was leaving made an illegal turn. I explained the game and mentioned beta testing and portals, I showed him one and pulled up it's info car and he just said cool and let me go, I'm guessing he thought there's no way this nerd is here for drugs.

But now you have to wonder - what if you're detained by an officer who is an Apple devotee? Are you REALLY in trouble then? "Hey, your Android phone contains stolen property!"

It should be noted that there are people who were in public places. Google warns players against trespassing:

Don’t trespass while playing Ingress (and don’t try to lawyer that guideline, just respect it). Do not access any property or location while playing the game if you’re not sure you have the right to be there.

This conflict between libertarianism and homeland security is not unique to Ingress. As I mentioned above, it's also something that occurs in geocaching. And to provide another example, many years ago I crossed the border from Calexico, California to Mexicali, Baja California, wandered around for a couple of hours, and then went back across the border. This aroused immediate suspicions - who other than a drug dealer would cross the border into Mexicali for a few hours? - and I went through a couple of searches before I was allowed back into the United States.

Needless to say, I won't be visiting this portal any time soon...

Do we really want authenticity?

I recently read a post from Geoffrey James at Inc. His Sales Source blog included a post entitled "Build Your Blog Traffic: 12 Rules." While I encourage you to read all twelve of his suggestions, I'd like to delve into his seventh item.

7. Have a Real Opinion

Your readers want you to be authentic and genuine even if that sometimes means being controversial. Nobody wants to read puff pieces from a corporate weasel who's terrified to offend somebody.

Excellent advice, and I try to follow it - to a point.

Why to a point? Because, sadly, the premise is wrong. And I can prove it.

I know that we all talk about being real and being authentic and not being a corporate weasel, and we decry the corporate weasels that we encounter.

But when someone actually comes across as real and authentic, is that person praised?

Why don't we pose that question to Tony Hayward?

If you don't remember the name, Hayward was the Chief Executive Officer of British Petroleum, and was the CEO at the time of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in April 2010. He was the person charged with responding to the spill itself, and to the reactions of countless people to the spill. Two months after the initial rig explosion, Hayward said five fateful words:

I want my life back.

You don't get any more real, authentic, or genuine than that.

So did Hayward's comment meet with universal acclaim? Not at all. ThinkProgress:

The millionaire CEO of foreign oil giant BP, Tony Hayward, is upset at the inconvenience caused to him by his company’s devastation of the Gulf of Mexico. BP’s offshore drilling explosion claimed 11 lives on April 20, and has since spewed 20 to 100 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. At least 491 birds, 227 turtles and 27 mammals, including dolphins, have been found dead. On Sunday, immediately after apologizing, Hayward then complained about the effect of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on his personal life....

A few days after making the initial comments, Hayward apologized. Less than two months later, Hayward was moved to another job in BP's organization.

So the next time that someone urges you to be real and authentic, ask the person, "What good did it do for BP's Tony Hayward?"

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The floor wax/dessert topping revisited

I take notes when I attend conferences. Sometimes the notes are even related to the conference topics.

This one was, at best, tangentially related. Those who attended last month's APMP Socal Chapter Training Day - the last-ever APMP Socal Chapter Training Day, by the way - may realize why this particular thought crept into my head:

If Excel had the ability to create Gantt charts, would that be a valid feature, or would that be feature creep/bloat/jumping the shark?

Whenever I think about two unrelated things being put together, I think back to Shimmer. Older people may recall that Shimmer was a fake product advertised on an early Saturday Night Live - a product that was both a floor wax and a dessert topping.

I've used Shimmer as an example before. In 2009, I noted that InformationWeek's Bob Evans questioned HP's then-CEO Mark Hurd, asking why HP remained in both the business and consumer markets. More recently, I asked if Steve Ballmer was correct in asserting that people wanted a single device that could function both at work and at home. Ballmer claimed that people did want such a device, and that Microsoft Surface was the device that met their needs.

Does it pay off to have one company or device or product do two totally different things, or are we better off having two separate companies or devices or products? This question is not confined to the technology world. Stroll down the medicine aisle in your local drug store, and you'll see that half the products combine several different medicines into a single pill, while the other half of the products only provide you with the medicine that you need, without loading you up with other stuff.

Is there a clear case in which either the combined solution or the separate solutions are preferred?

LCD price fixing

I read two U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) newsfeeds because of my job, but I often run across things that have nothing to do with biometrics.

People could be forgiven if they believe that the FBI has only focused on terrorism since 9/11. In reality, they still pursue all sorts of criminals, including a Taiwanese company accused of price fixing for LCD panels:

[T]op-level executives from a number of Asian manufacturers of LCD panels met secretly in a Taiwan hotel room and agreed to a plan to fix the prices of LCDs in the U.S. and elsewhere.

During subsequent monthly meetings, group members exchanged production, shipping, supply, demand, and pricing information on LCD panels used in computer notebooks, monitors, and flat-screen TVs. Participants agreed on prices and would then sell their products at these prices to some of the world’s largest technology companies who used LCD panels in their products.

The company that was charged, AU Optronics, continued these meetings for several years, although it and the other companies had to change their tactics to avoid detection. Initially, top-level company executives would meet in hotel rooms. In later years, lower level employees would meet in cafes.

Eventually the FBI got involved, and AU Optronics was subject to a $500 million fine, and company executives were sent to Federal prison.

But there's still a terrorism connection. The FBI took pains to note that the first meeting of the Asian manufacturers occurred right after 9/11.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Is it better to be a Thai prisoner than an El Monte city employee?

While a current San Gabriel Valley Tribune article notes that tonight's El Monte City Council meeting will honor an Olympic skeet shooter, the article fails to note that the meeting's public comment period affords an opportunity to ask why the 14 El Monte lifeguards are NOT being reinstated.

As I noted in the previous posts linked above, everyone thought last month that the El Monte lifeguards were going to be reinstated. According to the lifeguards, it's not happening.

Manuel Carmona with HR stated that Human Resources and the city manager's office agreed that the city WILL NOT BE ISSUING REINSTATEMENT LETTERS. Lifeguards have the option to resign now; however, HR is asking that resignation letters are dated today, but also state that the "effective" date of resignation be Sept. 5th (the date of our termination). Any lifeguards who want to go back to work will be reinstated if and only if they are recommended back by the independent investigator.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a recent Associated Press article reminds us that the Thai Navy did their own Gangnam Style parody - and no sailors were fired as a result.

However, that wasn't the only point of the AP article, which I am not quoting myself because I don't want to get in trouble. (You know how the AP is.) But the AP mentioned that Thai prisoners were competing in a Gangnam Style dance contest. Stress relief and fitness were cited as reasons for the prison officials sponsoring the contest.

Well, aren't these people supposed to be fit also? Why are they being subjected to such stress?

Monday, November 26, 2012

The El Monte City Council will meet on Tuesday. Betcha the lifeguards will be mentioned during public comment.

Earlier today, I posted an item entitled The El Monte lifeguards are NOT being reinstated - a story that the mainstream media is not covering yet, as far as I know.

The reason is obvious. As far as the mainstream media is concerned, the El Monte lifeguards were already reinstated. For example, when the Huffington Post took the information (with credit) from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune on October 17, the Huffington Post used the title El Monte Lifeguards Rehired After 'Gangnam Style' Video Flap. You had to delve into the post to find this little tidbit:

The City Council in the Southern California town of El Monte voted to rehire them PENDING A MANAGEMENT REVIEW AT THE AQUATIC CENTER...

As we now know, that management review apparently didn't include reinstatement.

I went to the El Monte city website this evening to see when the City Council's next meeting will be held. It turns out that it will be held tomorrow (Tuesday). And it's a special session. The agenda includes seven items:

5.1 Presentation to 5th Time Olympian Kim Rhode.

And no, Ms. Rhode is not a swimmer. She is a skeet shooter.


And incidentally, there are some rules regarding public comment. Rules such as this are always in place at all meetings of all City Councils, but anyone who is planning on speaking tomorrow may want to read these rules carefully.

This time has been set aside for persons in the audience to make comments or inquiries on matters within the general subject matter jurisdiction of the City Council, the Housing Authority, the Financing Authority and/or the Water Authority (collectively, the “Council”) that are not listed on this agenda. Although no person is required to provide their name and address as a condition to attending a Council meeting, persons who wish to address the Council are asked to state their name and address. Each speaker will be limited to three (3) continuous minutes. Speakers may not lend any portion of their speaking time to other persons or borrow additional time from other persons.

Except as otherwise provided under the Brown Act (Gov. Code section 54950 et seq.), the Council may not deliberate or take action upon any matter not listed on this posted agenda but may order that any such matter be placed on the agenda for a subsequent meeting. The Council may also direct staff to investigate certain matters for consideration at a future meeting.

All comments or queries presented by a speaker shall be addressed to the Council as a body and not to any specific member thereof. No questions shall be posed to any member of the Council except through the presiding official of the meeting, the Mayor and/or Chair. Members of the Council are under no obligation to respond to questions posed by speakers but may provide brief clarifying responses to any comment made or questions posed. The Council may not engage in any sort of prolonged discussion or deliberation with any speaker or group of speakers on matters that are not listed on this agenda.

Enforcement of Decorum: The Chief of Police, or such member, or members of the Police Department as the Chief of Police may designate, shall serve as the Sergeant-at-Arms of any Council meeting. The Sergeant-at-Arms shall carry out all orders and instructions given by the presiding official for the purpose of maintaining order and decorum at the meeting. While members of the public are free to level criticism of City policies and the action(s) or proposed action(s) of the Council or its members, members of the public may not engage in behavior that is disruptive to the orderly conduct of the proceedings, including, but not limited to, conduct that prevents other members of the public from being heard when it is their opportunity to speak or which prevents members of the audience from hearing or seeing the proceedings. Members of the public may not threaten any person with physical harm or act in a manner that may reasonably be interpreted as an imminent threat of physical harm. All persons attending the meeting must adhere to the City’s policy barring harassment based upon a person’s race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical handicap, medical condition, marital status, gender, sexual orientation or age.

After the public comment period (which may last a while, even with the three minute time limit) comes item 7, adjournment.

This promises to be an interesting meeting. How many of you from El Monte will be going?

The El Monte lifeguards are NOT being reinstated


Remember the story of the El Monte lifeguards who were terminated for their Gangnam Style video? Remember all the fuss that everyone raised over the terminations? Remember how in October they were all going to be rehired?

Here's what the San Gabriel Valley Tribune was saying on October 21.

FINALLY, the El Monte City Council has come to its senses and moved to reinstate the 14 part-time lifeguards it fired back in the summer for making and posting a harmless music video using the city's pool.
Well, three of the five members have.

Still, we're glad to see the majority of the Council reverse itself for what we said a month ago was "a pompous overreaction."

But even then, the Tribune warned:

First, requiring these former employees to be interviewed as part of a lengthy review of management and procedures at the city-run Aquatic Center is rubbing salt into the wounds. Instead of more grilling, the city should be issuing apologies.

Looks like the Tribune was right in issuing that warning. It's now over a month later, and the lifeguards have not been rehired. In fact, just this afternoon an update was posted on the lifeguards' Facebook page:

Manuel Carmona with HR stated that Human Resources and the city manager's office agreed that the city WILL NOT BE ISSUING REINSTATEMENT LETTERS. Lifeguards have the option to resign now; however, HR is asking that resignation letters are dated today, but also state that the "effective" date of resignation be Sept. 5th (the date of our termination). Any lifeguards who want to go back to work will be reinstated if and only if they are recommended back by the independent investigator.

At this point, would ANYBODY want to work for the City of El Monte? And I'm not just talking about the part-time lifeguard positions that have been listed on the City's website since last spring. What about more permanent jobs, such as police officer? Will anyone want to fill those positions?

DNA and human rights violations

Because I am employed in the biometrics industry, I have maintained a professional interest in DNA (despite the fact that I do not write proposals for DNA products). According to some people, DNA is an absolutely wonderful and glorious thing, even if sometimes it takes a long time - such as a quarter century - to process it.

But the Ombudswoman for the government of Cyprus doesn't think DNA is all that wonderful:

THE MIGRATION Department is violating the human right to family life and privacy by forcing families with a foreign mother to undergo paternity testing at their expense to prove the father is a Cypriot national, according to the Ombudswoman’s Office.

Following a series of complaints made in 2011 concerning the practices of the migration department when dealing with families containing a foreign mother and Cypriot father, Ombudswoman Eliza Savvidou launched an investigation into the matter.

The result is the damning report against the department issued on October 31, 2012, which Savvidou said effectively violates human rights.

The problem for Savvidou is that Cypriot law provides no provision for the capture of DNA to investigate migration cases. And if it's not legal, it's not legal.

This is an example of something that both governments and businesses must examine. Technology is capable of doing all sorts of things, but how SHOULD technology be employed?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Predicting the Ingress expansion by looking at the past

When speaking of Google's new augmented reality game Ingress, there is a lot of talk about the plan.

No, not the plan that is revealed (or not revealed) in the storyline.

The plan to move the game beyond closed beta.

Whenever there is a post on Ingress that is open to comments, the most common comment that is seen is "I want an invite." As of right now, Ingress requires an activation code in order to play it, and the present demand for such activation codes far exceeds the supply.

There are several reasons for such a strategy. First, having a limited number of players helps to debug the underlying software and servers to make sure that everything is working properly. Second, when everyone is talking about getting access to a Google product, this results in a, buzz for the product. The tactic is successfully used for both the launches of free products and the launches of paid products.

But when should Google open Ingress up to a larger audience? It may, or may not, be helpful to look at past Google product introductions. When Google+ came out, Kathy Gill asserted that the success of Google+ was due to a rapid expansion:

In October 2009, Google launched a not-quite-ready for prime time product. There was a virtual stampede for invitations, which were doled out slowly and in small amounts. Less than a year later, Google would retire Wave.

It’s June 2011. Google launched G+ on Wednesday; early participants could play but not invite anyone. But by late afternoon Thursday, invitations were running wild, although Google did eventually pull the plug.

I'm not sure that the availability of invitations was critical to Google+'s long term success (and there are still people who maintain that Google+ is a ghost town). But if (and this is a big if) the Google servers are ready for an increased load, would it be beneficial to Google to open up invites more widely - and to provide Ingress on smartphone platforms other than Android? (This would take time for things such as Apple approvals, something that may not be quick.)

As of now, the Niantic Project website appears to support dates between November 1 and November 30. The 30th happens to be a Friday. Perhaps millions of Android phone users will spend the weekend running around the place.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dueling business cases - subscription vs. single purchase

I just discussed this issue in a post in my Empoprise-MU music blog for the case of songs, but I wanted to extend the discussion.

In my music blog post, I looked at the economics of subscription services. In brief, is it better for the artist if I buy a song for a dollar, or if I stream the song for a penny a play? A simple application of the math shows that if you stream a single song A LOT - as I've been doing with the Wolfsheim song "I Don't Love You Anymore" - then Wolfsheim is better off if I stream the song.

On the other hand, of course, if I'm only going to listen to the song one or two times, then Wolfsheim would prefer that I buy the song.

I'm going into tymshft territory here, but in the olden days your choices were more limited. Unless you wanted to wait around the radio for your favorite song to play, the only way that you could listen to a song was to buy it. Once you bought the song, you could listen to it as many times as you wanted, forever (at least theoretically).

Of course, songs aren't the only thing that can be purchased via either a single payment or a subscription. You can buy a house (single payment) or rent it (subscription); ignoring the appreciation (or depreciation) of the house, there are certain cases in which it's better to buy, and certain cases where you're better off renting.

So if you're offering a product or service, are you better off selling it for a single purchase price, or charging periodic payments as long as the product or service is being used?

The answer - neither model is the best model.

Ideally, you want to do both. Sell the product or service at a particular price, and then continue to charge fees as long as the product or service is being used. Country clubs charge an initiation fee, coupled with monthly dues. My own company (and our competitors) charge a one-time fee to buy and install an automated fingerprint identification system, and then charge annual maintenance fees after the warranty expires. Other companies such as Oracle do something similar.

How long until we get charged for single plays of songs we already own, or conversely until we have to pay a fee before streaming anything? Right now I get Spotify for free (although I have to listen to ads), but that could end at some point if Spotify can get away with it. After all, television content providers charge cable and satellite companies for the "privilege" of carrying their programming - and then they show commercials on top of that.

The Golden Rule - he who has the Gold rules.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Is a moral victory a victory? BCTGM/Hostess and Hobby Lobby/Obama

On Friday, I blogged about the role of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers' International Union in the liquidation of Hostess Brands. That post focused on the union itself and the many industries in which its workers work; I didn't really get into the "whose fault this was" argument.

Subsequently, I expressed my feelings in a Google+ comment:

I'll grant that the company was not only mismanaged, but was also in a declining business - despite the worker's pride in the business, the junk food and junk bread business consistently runs afoul of the Michael Bloombergs of the world

Given all that, I still blame the unions in part. At the end of the day, is it better to take an $9,000 pay cut, or a $34,000 pay cut? Perhaps the union members have their pride for not agreeing to a bad job offer, but a bad job is better than no job at all.

You will not be surprised to learn that the BCTGM disagrees with my assessment. Its website is now available, and this is part of what the union had to say:

Pundits should be applauding the Bakery Workers of Hostess Brands for standing up to Wall Street interests and standing for decent working standards and the middle class....

t’s heart-breaking to think of each of those workers in cities and towns all across America who have seen their jobs vanish. But as painful as it is, it’s heartening to know these brave workers stood up against the greed and destruction of Wall Street.

It’s incredible.

The unified Bakery Workers rejected the last cruel deal from executives by a vote of 92 percent. They chose to raise their heads with pride, as well they should.

From the perspective of the union, this is a great victory. From the union perspective, it is better to reject a substandard contract than it is to accept it.

In other words, this is a moral victory.

I don't know if the term "moral victory" is technically an oxymoron, but it certainly is not a victory. The term is only used when you lose - you can feel better by saying that you've achieved a moral victory.

To illustrate the term, let's take a look at something from the other side of the political spectrum - Hobby Lobby and contraceptive health benefits. (DISCLOSURE: I am a member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which agrees with Hobby Lobby on this particular mandate.)

In a sense, Hobby Lobby is facing a choice similar to that faced by the BCTGM union. Hobby Lobby can keep its principles - in this case, to refuse to pay for particular medical services that Hobby Lobby's ownership believes are immoral - or Hobby Lobby can acquiesce to the government's demands and escape financial penalties:

The mandate will hit Hobby Lobby in about two months — on January 1, 2013. At that point, it will face the choice of dropping employee health insurance altogether (and paying about $26 million a year in penalties), or continuing its current plan (which will expose it to about $1.3 million in fines per day).

As I noted above, there is actually a third choice - include morning after contraceptives in a Hobby Lobby sponsored health plan.

Unless a court intervenes, I suspect that it is likely that Hobby Lobby will drop health insurance for its employees altogether and face the $26 million in penalties. Hobby Lobby is a privately owned firm, and therefore is not subject to stockholder pressure to do one thing or another. Therefore, Hobby Lobby will probably choose the avenue that best agrees with their consciences - and that would presumably be to "wash its hands" of (in its view) supporting abortion.

Another moral victory. The employees are thrown to the wolves of Obamacare, and the company pays $26 million a year, but the owners have a clear conscience.

From a financial perspective (excluding externalities or long-term results), moral victories are failures. Thousands of BCTGM employees are out of work, and Hobby Lobby employees may be about to lose their health insurance.

But what of the long term? Will Hostess' liquidation serve as a turning point that increases union member benefits in the long run? Will Hobby Lobby's loss lead to an eventual repeal of the mandates that force companies to do things that violate their consciences? Only time will tell.

When to clap, and when to ground - being a supportive co-worker

Even in a supposedly solo career (such as race car driver), your performance is highly dependent on your co-workers.

One of my former co-workers recently started a job with a new company, and this co-worker has noted that the co-workers at the new company are very supportive. In fact, if someone at the company announces good news at a company meeting, the rest of the co-workers applaud.

But sometimes you need a different type of support. There's another person who recently started a job with a new company - a job that is usually performed by experienced people. Although this person doesn't have a lot of experience, he has still done well - or at least better than one would expect.

I speak of Robert Griffin III, rookie starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins. Griffin is in the spotlight now, and while he's not receiving unanimous praise, he is receiving a lot of commendations for how well he's doing as a rookie.

How can his co-workers best support him in this situation. Griffin tells us:

I try to make sure I stay grounded. A lot of people around me make sure I stay grounded. You just never want to feel like you’re bigger than life.

Although Griffin didn't elaborated, I'm sure that Redskins players have ways to make young rookies stay grounded.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

TUAS (today's unfortunate acronym story)

Woodward Table is a Washington, DC restaurant. Like any other fancy-dancy restaurant (and some not so fancy-dancy ones), it is centered around a concept - or, actually, two concepts:

Jeffrey and Sallie Buben’s Woodward Table, housed in the historic Woodward Building is a concept that exudes a timeless feel with neighborhood charm. Located just one block from The White House, Woodward presents a “table” of dining possibilities with two eateries…the main restaurant with its creative and diverse American menu and Woodward Takeout Food, a sprite artisanal alternative for breakfast and lunch.

A what? A "sprite artisanal alternative"? WTF is that?

"Yes," Abbott and Costello respond. For, you see, when Jeffrey Buben named his sprite artisanal alternative, he was unaware of the meaning of the acronym. Huffington Post:

Owner and chef Jeff Buben claimed to Washington City Paper's Jessica Sidman that he was completely ignorant of the name's other meaning until he'd already committed to using it...

Incidentally, I would link to the Washington City Paper's original piece, but it appears that the WCP is in the process of moving its servers right now.

Incidentally, I learned about this story via O'Neil Godfrey. Ordinarily I would say H/T O'Neil Godfrey, but the last time I used that acronym, Matthew DeVries asked:

You're calling +Tad Donaghe Hot and Tempting?

Friday, November 16, 2012

It could be worse. Rebecca Black could be the BCTGM's president.

There are a number of businesses - legitimate, legal businesses - that cause revulsion in people. For example, while it is legal to provide high-interest unsecured loans, companies that do such things are not highly regarded by many people. There are many other examples - telemarketers, rural Nevada brothels, and so forth. (In fact, I am willing to claim that EVERY business is offensive to someone or another.)

Now let's say that you work for one of these companies. Are you an evil person for doing these terrible things, or are you a poor victim of the capitalistic process who must resort to such a despicable job to make ends meet?

Everyone is talking about Hostess Brands today, which is liquidating its operations because it could only get one of two unions to make concessions to get Hostess out of bankruptcy. Coincidentally, my employer is holding its company Thanksgiving lunch today; Hostess products are on the menu, since they may disappear for some time (or at least until someone buys the brands).

The union that would not agree to Hostess' concessions is the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers' International Union. The union's website is at, but the site was displaying "509 bandwidth limit exceeded" messages earlier today.

BCTGM. Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers. What a combination. It looks like this union has problems way beyond Hostess.

According to society's nannies, BCTGM is utterly evil. Let's take a look at the product lines that these workers support.

Let's start with bakery, which happens to be Hostess' product line. Even if the bakery products aren't complete junk food like much of the Hostess product line, bakery products are high in carbs and are therefore despicable in the eyes of many health advocates. I'm sure that there are some nutritionists that are jumping for joy today now that Hostess is being liquidated.

Let's move on to confectionery, which is a fancy word for candy. If the nutrionists are jumping for joy at the demise of a bakery, imagine how giddy they would be if a candy company were to go under.

The next category is tobacco. For those who have been hiding under a cowboy hat for the last forty-plus years, tobacco is utterly condemned by portions of the government (while other portions of the government support tobacco growing; go figure). Think about it; I can legally eat a Twinkie or a candy bar in my cubicle at work, in most public parks, and in an apartment building. You can't do that with tobacco.

The last category is grain millers. Relatively non-controversial, right? Well, what if those grain millers are working with genetically engineered grains?

The BCTGM is obligated to increase the employment opportunities of its members, which means that it has a financial incentive to support increased consumption of bakery items (including junk food), candies, all sorts of tobacco, and any kind of grain that requires milling. As such, the BCTGM would naturally oppose any efforts to reduce the use of corn syrup in foods, and would oppose disclosure of food items that contain genetically engineered products.

Even libertarians would not necessarily sign up to all of BCTGM's agenda - while BCTGM would support the sales of bakery products in public schools, libertarians would want to close the public schools entirely.

And as for the nanny state politicians of both political stripes, the BCTGM is against everything that they stand for. Don't expect the BCTGM to make political donations to Michael Bloomberg, for example.

So what can the BCTGM do? One thing would be to take a cue from the tobacco companies that employ BCTGM workers. In the same way that tobacco companies expanded their businesses into non-tobacco lines, the BCTGM could expand its union membership to include categories outside of its four traditional lines. In fact, I'm willing to offer a few suggestions for expansion.

Add people who work in the alcohol industry.

Add oil workers.

Add legal sex workers, ranging from the aforementioned Nevada brothels to the (now condom-wearing) adult film industry in Los Angeles County.

As I said before, EVERY business is offensive to somebody. Even blogs are evil.

P.S. As an added bonus, don't forget that as the United States approaches its most important holiday, Black Friday, this is a good opportunity to recall the musical sensation that was Rebecca Black's first hit.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Recruiting to a service - doesn't it feel spammy?

In any line of business, you are always looking for new customers.

I have two jobs as a proposal writer - to win new customers over to my employer, and to keep the customers that we already have. In my case, I spend much of my time responding to Requests for Proposals (RFPs), in which customers actively want to be courted.

But there are a number of cases in which potential customers don't want to be bothered.

Take the online games industry on Facebook (and other services). Regardless of the specific game or the specific game provider, most if not all games provide in-game rewards if you bring new people to the game. Unfortunately, it's not always explicitly clear that you're bringing new people to the game. For example, a game may offer you the chance to send game gifts to your friends; you have to look at that list really closely to see that many of the gifts are for people who are not playing the game at all. I like to think that I'm wise to this tactice, but there have been several times when I've discovered that I've inadvertently posted a game advertisement on a friend's wall.

And it's not just the game industry.

I am a frequent participant on Google+, and this particular service is another one that encourages you to make friends with others using the service. For example, Google+ recently placed this item up on my wall.

Basically, Google is trying to get me to recruit Robert Hunt, a non-Google+ user, to join Google+. There are two clues that indicate that this is a recruiting message, and not an effort to link with someone already using the service.

The first clue is the phrase "In your contacts." Most people realize that Google+ is not a stand-alone service like Facebook, but a service that is integrated with many other Google properties, including Gmail. I don't recall ever sending anything to Robert with my Gmail account - perhaps I did, or perhaps Google managed to get the contact information from one of my other accounts. Regardless, this is some information that Google has stored in its servers, and is using in an effort to get me to get Robert to join Google+.

The second clue is in the word "Robert." Robert is a high school classmate of mine. After we graduated, I headed to Portland, Oregon. Robert also headed west, but not quite as far west - he never went any further than the bustling metropolis of Hayti, Missouri. Somewhere along the way, he dropped the "Robert." Readers of the Knoxville News Sentinel, as well as almost everyone else (including his wife), know him as "Bob." In fact, when I call his home and ask for "Robert," his family immediately knows that the caller is someone who knew Robert a LONG time ago.

Why do I say this? Because in an online context, Bob Hunt would always refer to himself as Bob. So obviously he doesn't already have a Google+ profile.

Perhaps it's me, but these tactics to get people to sign up for a service seem awfully spammy to me. If you are managing a campaign and planning to do something like this, ask yourself - how would you feel if someone did it to you?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Government does not end at the borders of the Beltway

Perhaps it's a false impression, but it often seems to me that when people in the United States think about government, they think solely about the role of the President. In this line of thinking, the government begins and ends with President Obama and his Cabinet Secretaries.

There are others who have an expanded view of the government. These people acknowledge that one's local Congressperson or Senator plays a role.

Then you have the state's rights people. These people acknowledge that there is power in the state capitals (in my case, Sacramento, California).

The problem with these views of government is that they exclude most of government - the counties, the cities, the school districts, the water districts, and the like. I'd be willing to bet that you're more affected by your city's failure to pick up trash one day then you'd be affected by a Presidential press conference. But where do we concentrate our attention?

I should note that on a personal level, this also affects me in my job. The vast majority of proposals that I write are addressed to city, county, and state agencies, rather than to national agencies. So when I am seeking information on government procurement, I really don't care about what the Department of Defense is doing.

Luckily, there are organizations that share my concern. One of these organizations is the Public Technology Institute. Here's some information about the Institute:

Public Technology Institute actively supports local government executives and elected officials through research, education, executive-level consulting services, and national recognition programs.

As the only technology organization created by and for cities and counties, PTI works with a core network of leading local officials — the PTI membership — to identify research opportunities, share solutions, recognize member achievements and address the many technology issues that impact local government.


•Offers online training, publications and books, and conferences designed for the local government technologist.

•Creates partnerships between local government, private industry and federal agencies to ensure that jurisdictions have access to the latest and most effective technology solutions.

•Recognizes local government innovators with awards and recognition programs.

•Serves as the national voice for technology development and dissemination within local government.

•Partners with leading national media and academic institutions to showcase local government technology issues.

More information here.

Incidentally, I became aware of the Public Technology Institute via a Deltek seminar.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The problem with regime change (Mike Brown and the Lakers)

I'm going to pull an Ann Landers.

Over a year ago, I wrote a post that discussed calls for regime change at Microsoft and at the Los Angeles Dodgers. Since that post, new ownership has taken over at the Dodgers, while Steve Ballmer is still in control at Microsoft.

This morning, multiple news sources reported that Mike Brown had been fired as the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Lakers have confirmed this via a press release. Some people are dancing in their virtual seats, and some people are dreaming that Phil Jackson will come back and everything will be hunky dory.

Will it?

Before I launch into my Ann Landers routine, I should start by saying that the news surprised me. For the Lakers to make such a change so early in the season, with a key player injured and another recovering from an injury, suggests that the internal brain trust determined that things were not going to get better under Brown. Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak are not ones to panic.

That having been said, let me share some thoughts which may seem strangely familiar to regular readers of this blog.

In the political world, I am not a fan of regime change for regime change's sake. And I am not a fan of regime change in the business world either.

While such appeals seem attractive on the surface, business regime change proposals, like political regime change proposals, often don't consider what would happen afterwards.

All you have to do is ask a basic question - who will replace Mike Brown?

Once you start filling in that blank, and a real person emerges as a competitor to the current leader, then the idea of throwing the bum out often looks less attractive.

Take the Lakers, for example. I seriously doubt that the Lakers will lure Big Chief Triangle (Phil Jackson) back for a third term with the Lakers, especially with an aging group of starters. And it would be surprising - not shocking, but surprising - to see the Lakers hire one of Big Chief Triangle's warrior braves. Brian Shaw is with the Indiana Pacers, but the Lakers have already rejected him once. Kurt Rambis is working for ESPN, but may be damaged goods after his term with Minnesota.

Marc Stein has listed four other promising candidates: Mike D'Antoni, Nate McMillan, Jerry Sloan, and Stan Van Gundy. But can any of these potential head coaches deal with the El-Lay egos?

So before you jump on a regime change bandwagon, ask yourself - can you propose a likely, viable successor?

Don't hide the truth via statistics when the truth will be found out anyway

As P.T. Barnum once said, there are lies and there are statistics. Actually, I don't know if P.T. Barnum said that, but I figured that he had some working knowledge of the subject matter. And after all, as Abraham Lincoln once said, everything you see on the Internet is true.

Regardless of who said what, statistics can often be used to obfuscate the truth. Such obfuscation is sometimes successful, but at other times it is not.

Speaking of obfuscation, I cannot reveal the names of the organizations in the following story, but it is true.

A little while ago, Organizations A and B jointly bought a product from Organization C. When it came time to buy the product a second time, Organization A bought the product on behalf of A and B - and then told B about the purchase.

"The total price of Organization C's product increased by only 8%," said Organization A, who then said, "and we at Organization A are paying 70% of the total price this time around. You will recall that we paid 80% the last time we made the purchase."

If you think that Organization B was pleased at this news, you are sadly mistaken.

"So you're saying that Organization B's cost increased by 62%," said Organization B.

There was a pause.

"Why didn't you say so in the first place?" asked Organization B.

It's safe to say that a lot of goodwill was lost as a result of Organization A's presentation.

(For the true history of the unexpurgated phrase about lies and statistics, see this Wikipedia entry. If you believe Wikipedia.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gillian A. Dionne on data, information, knowledge, and wisdom

Long-time readers will recall that I previously wrote about Sujatha Das on data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. It turns out that Gillian A. Dionne, in a post on the 24 Hour Company website (yeah, those people), also addresses this.



OK, enough disclosures - back to data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. Specifically, Dionne concentrates on tools to use to convert information to knowledge. Dionne speaks of knowledge management, and because people are people, this is abbreviated as KM.


The not so new field of KM seeks to apply technologies and tools listed below to transform information into meaningful knowledge. A KM system (KMS) is not plug and play, it is more typically a custom integration of tools into an organization once a cultural change has been established to acknowledge the role and capabilities of such a system.

This is an important point - if senior management doesn't buy in, it's not going to happen. If you assume that senior management buys in, then you can adopt a wide variety of tools and integrate them together. Dionne mentions several possible tools, including everything from social and groupware tools to simulation and artificial intelligence tools.

Dionne's post discusses how business development artifacts can be used as inputs to these tools, then talks about the need to move from information management to knowledge management. In this case, one size does not fit all.

There are several turnkey KM systems in the proposal/business development marketplace. Some systems require a wholesale replacement of your existing IT infrastructure and your BD process. Turnkey systems are best deployed in a small centralized organization that will readily accept such fundamental change and has the financial commitment to support a complete overhaul of systems, processes, and procedures.

If you don't work in a small centralized organization, however, you'll need to adapt your existing tools (and/or acquire new ones piecemeal) to create your knowledge management system.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The acronyms were flying

YAAP (yet another acronym post).

This morning I posted an item in my Empoprise-MU music blog about the U2 song "Beautiful Day." You may recall that the video for that song featured scenes shot at Charles de Gaulle airport, outside of Paris.

After the item posted, I was doing some related reading and found this thread, written in September 2000 after the video came out.

The thread was on an civil aviation forum. So, as you can imagine, the conversation in the thread didn't discuss the Edge's guitar playing techniques.

A few samples:

Anyone seen this particular music video? As far as I could tell, it was filmed exclusively at CDG!

A/c featured were an EVA Air 744, taxying past the flyover (that part of the taxiway at CDG which crosses over the highway), an Air France A320, and a MEA A310, plus numerous shots of other a/c flying over the group’s head....

Notice they edited out the titles on the EVA 744 but not the MEA A310. There was also a NG737 (SAS 736?)....

Thanks, A343E....

In a related thread, one of the participants asked if Bono was "one of us." Not if he doesn't know all of those acronyms, he isn't.

Yet another example of how acronyms can both assist practitioners in a particular discipline, and (either intentionally or unintentionally) exclude non-practitioners from the discussion. Of all of the acronyms listed above, the only one that I knew was "CDG."

Questions on data ownership - just what the cloud providers need

I am not a lawyer, and if I'm missing something here, please enlighten me.

Steven Edward Streight (who, incidentally, alerted me to the iFone story that I recently wrote about) has posted something on his Facebook account from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). This concerns its client Kyle Goodwin, who stored some files on the Megaupload service - files that the government has apparently accessed. In EFF's view, the government did not have the authority to access those files.

Here's what the EFF says:

...the government's approach should terrify any user of cloud computer services—not to mention the providers. The government maintains that Mr. Goodwin lost his property rights in his data by storing it on a cloud computing service. Specifically, the government argues that both the contract between Megaupload and Mr. Goodwin (a standard cloud computing contract) and the contract between Megaupload and the server host, Carpathia (also a standard agreement), "likely limit any property interest he may have" in his data. (Page 4).

Later, the EFF goes on to say:

Apparently your property rights "become severely limited" if you allow someone else to host your data under standard cloud computing arrangements. This argument isn't limited in any way to Megaupload -- it would apply if the third party host was Amazon's S3 or Google Apps or or Apple iCloud.

Now this issue is not new. Before people were worried about what Amazon or Apple would do to their data, they were worried about what popular photo sites would do to their data. In fact, as of May 2001, data that you uploaded to Lockerz was not your data. The Next Web reproduced this quote from Lockerz's TOS:

“This Website and the content and all intellectual property rights included in or associated with the Website, including, but not limited to patents, copyrights, trademarks, service marks, logos and Decalz™ (collectively “Content”), are owned or licensed by us, and all right, title and interest in and to the Website and Content remains with us or our licensors, as applicable.”

And, as The Next Web noted, even those sites that didn't claim ownership of your data claimed the right to use your data. See The Next Web for specific details.

So what's the difference between 2011 and 2012? Back in 2011, everyone was worried about what a private company would do with someone's data. Now, everyone is worried about what the government will do with someone's data.

In my view, there's not a big difference between the two. Either way, someone other than you is doing stuff with your data. And, in fact, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has criticized companies for their terms of service.

So how will large companies react? Large companies have lawyers. Now I like lawyers, but you have to realize that the job of a lawyer is to protect the company. And I bet you that a bunch of lawyers are grabbing this EFF bulletin, going to their CEOs, and saying to them, "Hey, we may lose our data if we put it on one of these cloud services."

Just what the cloud services need - fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Old blog posts - the gifts that keep on giving

I have written for a number of blogs over the years, and I have noticed that as the blogs have matured and their posts have incorporated themselves into the cybersphere, some of these posts eventually begin to get a lot of traffic and exhibit predictable traffic patterns.

For example, my Oracle OpenWorld posts in this and other blogs tend to get more traffic in the fall than at other times of the year.

It appears that one of the posts in my tymshft blog is going to exhibit a regular pattern of popularity also.

I was checking my analytics for Saturday, and I noticed that there was a huge spike in the readership on that day. I initially wondered - were that many people enamored about driverless cars?

Then when I dug into the analytics, I realized that the readers were mostly looking at a single post that I had written in March - Benjamin Franklin's Daylight Saving Time joke is taken seriously.

Since the United States, where most of my readers reside, was about to end Daylight Saving Time, the spike in readers for that particular post is understandable.

See you next spring. Well, I might see you earlier if you're having problems with your KitchenAid oven temperature probe. Or if you receive an incredible offer via a fax from Ruby Addo or Samuel Kofi Atta Mills. Or if the Dodgers' ownership does something really dramatic.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Trademark wars south of the border - iFone wins (but not as much as you think)

Back in 2010, I wrote a post about a number of products that had names beginning with the letter "i." These included the i-Dog, a number of iCarly products, and the iGasm.

I seem to have missed one:

iFone, S.A. de C.V. es una empresa de telecomunicaciones que vende sistemas y servicios de comunicación. Cuenta con la representación de AltiGen para México, Latinoamérica y España que está desarrollando actualmente su red de distribuidores para la comercialización de sus productos; AltiGen Communications Inc. es una empresa de alta tecnología que fabrica “PC-PBX” conocidos también como “soft-switches”; hardware y software de comunicación que corren sobre servidores Windows 2000. Este es un cambio en la industria que puede compararse con lo que paso con los Mainframes y la PCs.

But Apple was paying attention to what was going on in Mexico, and was even less pleased about iFone than it was about the iGasm. According to Fox News Latino, Apple went to court:

In 2009, Apple filed a complaint against iFone with the Mexican Industrial Property Institute, or IMPI, demanding that firm stop using its brand name because the phonetic similarities could confuse users.

Only one problem:

But the petition was denied after authorities found that iFone - a provider of software for call centers - had registered its trade name in Mexico in 2003, four years before Apple did.

The Mexican firm later filed a countersuit for damages and to block Apple from selling its flagship smartphone product in Mexico.

Forbes writer Tim Worstall offers some clarification:

Apple can use iPhone for the phone, or for a gaming device, because they have that trademark in that sector. What they can’t use it for is telecommunications services: which isn’t really all that important to the company even if it’s worth attempting to get the trademark in that class.

Worstall references an item in the Verge that explains that the "iFone" trademark is in Class 38, telecommunications services, while Apple has "iPhone" trademarks in Classes 9 and 28. In the United States, Apple does have a Class 38 trademark on "iPhone," and the whole case was about an attempt to get the Class 38 trademark in Mexico recognized.

So what's the net result of the court case? According to The Verge, Apple cannot use "iPhone" for telecommunications services in Mexico. In the short run, this is not a big deal.

But it could be a big deal later. Why do I say this? Because of the history of the term "Apple" itself. As you are probably aware, Apple Corps and the company formerly known as Apple Computer have a long history of litigation. Back in 1981, when Apple was known as the Apple II company, it reached an agreement with Apple Corps in which it agreed not to enter the music business. At the time that seemed reasonable - why would a company that manufactured personal computers want to sell records and cassettes?

Fast forward a couple of decades, and Steve Jobs is selling iPod hardware and iTunes software. Needless to say, both sides ended up in court again. However, Apple Corps lost, and now Apple owns the Apple Corps logo.

So while it doesn't appear that iFone's win is a big deal at the moment, what could happen twenty years from now?

P.S. It was personally amusing for me to read this, because in the current draft of my business fiction ebook, there is a mention of a legal tussle - not a trademark tussle, but a patent tussle. For details, you'll have to read the book (once I finally finish it).

Friday, November 2, 2012

Stan in the place where you don't live (Baluchistan)

I plead geographic ignorance, but I'm an American and we're all geographically ignorant.

It seems that ever since the breakup of the Soviet Union, a bunch of "-stan" countries have emerged all over the place. In truth they've been there all along, but when some of them were part of a single country, ignorant Americans like me didn't pay attention to them.

However, these countries are not limited to the area that formerly comprised the Soviet Union. Even Americans have heard of countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Today, I ran across an area with which I was unfamiliar - Baluchistan (also called Balochistan).

Gunfire attack on a bus at a petrol pump in Khuzdar area of Balochistan set off a fire on Friday, killing 18 people.

It turns out that Baluchistan is not a country in and of itself, but is a significant part of another country.

Baluchistan is the largest of all provinces of modern-day Pakistan, making up nearly two-fifths of the entire country. The enormity of its size, contrasts strikingly with its low percentage of population and its economic destitution, particularly in comparison to Punjabis, Sindhis and Pathans. The province of Balochistan accounts for 43 per cent of Pakistan's territory but is the smallest in terms of population.

Which makes Baluchistan the Pakistani equivalent of San Bernardino County. Except that Baluchistan has more valuable natural resources (or at least resources that are more coveted).

The province has sizable reserves of coal and natural gas. It is also believed that it also holds large untapped reserves of petroleum and thus has special importance in Pakistan’s energy profile. Pakistan’s economy is one of the world’s most natural gas dependent, accounting for about fifty percent of its total energy resource. Out of the proven natural gas reserves i.e. approximately 28 trillion cubic feet, about 19 trillion cubic feet that is 68% are located in Baluchistan.

Incidentally, the suffix "-stan" is derived from an ancient Persian word meaning country or land. Ironically, modern-day Iran does not have a "-stan" in its name.

Ghana politics - it's more than just fax transmissions

Most of us know what we know about Ghana politics from fax scams. But as I previously noted, the death of President Mills occurred a few months before an election in Ghana.

And the forthcoming election is having business effects:

Ghana’s government put its plan to sell its stake in Agricultural Development Bank Ltd. on hold as leaders of the West African nation focus on their election campaigns, according to the Finance Ministry.

President John Dramani Mahama and his ministers are preparing for the Dec. 7 presidential and parliamentary votes, Yvonne Quansah, acting director of the ministry’s financial sector division, said by phone yesterday from the capital, Accra.

“Because of time constraints, the discussions have been put on hold so that the party that comes to power next year would take it up,” she said.

If it were the United States, the incumbent party would sell the bank stake as soon as possible, before the opposing party could mess the deal up.

A snippet on groups from Larry Newman

No one interacts with a group; you interact with individuals that comprise a group.

From the Shipley Capture Guide (page 55), mentioned previously.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The cost of manual driving

A discussion of online grocery stores that has bounced between Google+ and a post on my tymshft blog has morphed into a discussion of driverless cars. Specifically, Tad Donaghe has stated that driverless cars will reduce the cost of an online grocery service, and may help to make such a service viable today when it wasn't viable in the Webvan days.

Which got me thinking - what are the cost savings from driverless cars - or, alternatively, self-driving cars?

In a December 2011 post, Greater Greater Washington made this point:

They'll reduce labor costs: A self-driving car needs no operator, thus removing human labor from the equation. Self-driving cars will put taxicab drivers out of business. What will those thousands of people do with their skillset when a computerized system makes them obsolete?

But when considering costs, you also have to consider opportunity costs. And when you think of a self-driving car (as opposed to a driverless car), the effect of opportunity costs becomes evident. Slate:

On the Verge, Jeff Blagdon argues that self-driving cars would make financial sense for many commuters: “Call us crazy, but in the US, at the $16.57 median hourly wage being able to get work done during your half-hour commute would be worth about $4,140 a year, which would make an extra $3,000 for autonomous driving a steal.”

Assuming, of course, that you actually got some work done during your commute. In my case, I'd probably nap - although that provides benefits also.

If you're saying that a competitor infringes on your design (or, why Samsung is cool in Germany)

I saw a rash of stories pop up regarding some legal issues for Apple in the United Kingdom. Here's InformationWeek's take:

Earlier this year, Apple lost a court case to Samsung in the U.K. regarding the design of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10. Apple accused Samsung of copying its design language, specifically that of the iPad. After losing its appeal on October 18, Apple was ordered by the court to officially apologize to Samsung for suggesting that the Galaxy Tab 10 copied the design of the iPad. Apple issued that apology last week.

The first two segments of the apology quote portions of the ruling about the Galaxy Tab 10, the iPad, and the findings of the judges. It appears as though Apple complied with the judge's ruling. But the last paragraph got Apple in trouble...

Before Apple UK yanks its entire initial statement, I'm going to reproduce it here. This was taken from at 12:30 pm in the afternoon California time.

Samsung / Apple UK judgment

On 9th July 2012 the High Court of Justice of England and Wales ruled that Samsung Electronic (UK) Limited’s Galaxy Tablet Computer, namely the Galaxy Tab 10.1, Tab 8.9 and Tab 7.7 do not infringe Apple’s registered design No. 0000181607-0001. A copy of the full judgment of the High court is available on the following link

In the ruling, the judge made several important points comparing the designs of the Apple and Samsung products:

"The extreme simplicity of the Apple design is striking. Overall it has undecorated flat surfaces with a plate of glass on the front all the way out to a very thin rim and a blank back. There is a crisp edge around the rim and a combination of curves, both at the corners and the sides. The design looks like an object the informed user would want to pick up and hold. It is an understated, smooth and simple product. It is a cool design."

"The informed user's overall impression of each of the Samsung Galaxy Tablets is the following. From the front they belong to the family which includes the Apple design; but the Samsung products are very thin, almost insubstantial members of that family with unusual details on the back. They do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design. They are not as cool."

That Judgment has effect throughout the European Union and was upheld by the Court of Appeal on 18 October 2012. A copy of the Court of Appeal’s judgment is available on the following link There is no injunction in respect of the registered design in force anywhere in Europe.

However, in a case tried in Germany regarding the same patent, the court found that Samsung engaged in unfair competition by copying the iPad design. A U.S. jury also found Samsung guilty of infringing on Apple's design and utility patents, awarding over one billion U.S. dollars in damages to Apple Inc. So while the U.K. court did not find Samsung guilty of infringement, other courts have recognized that in the course of creating its Galaxy tablet, Samsung willfully copied Apple's far more popular iPad.

Forget about the last paragraph - my issues with the statement begin with the third and fourth paragraphs, which basically state that the Samsung doesn't infringe upon Apple's design because Apple is so much cooler.

Which brings me to a point that I raised some time ago. There is a layperson's way to determine whether Samsung infringed upon Apple's patents, and it doesn't require lawyers or court cases in multiple nations. I call my method the MG Siegler test. It works as follows:

Step 1: Place a Samsung device in front of MG Siegler.

Step 2: Examine his mouth to see if he is drooling.

Step 3: If Siegler is drooling, Samsung is guilty of infringement. If Siegler is not drooling, Siegler is not guilty of infringement.

We could have saved a lot of headaches if people had just followed advice like this.

Which brings me to the last paragraph of Apple's statement - the one that may have gotten Apple in trouble with UK judges because it says that judges in Germany and the United States upheld Apple's claims.

Of course, this means that in Germany and the United States, Samsung is cool.


Understanding your competitors' decision makers

Derek Johnson recently wrote about 6 ways to monitor your competition online. I encourage you to read all six of his tips, but in this post I'll concentrate on his final tip.

Understand the people behind the scenes. Figure out everything about the people that you are up against. Learn what makes them tick....

Johnson then goes on to provide some suggestions about how to monitor the competition.

Of course, the first step is to identify exactly who the key players are at your competitor. Sometimes it's very easy to know who's running the company; at other times it may be more difficult. Private companies are sometimes tight-lipped about who is actually calling the shots. When you have a division of a multinational firm, it's sometimes hard to figure out who is running the division. But it can be done.

Once you know who you want to track, Johnson suggests some ways to track them. In the ideal world, of course, your competitor's CEO would post something like this:

We are about to submit our proposal for the North Dakota widget deal, with a price of $35 million. We're prepared to go down to $30 million if the customer requests a best and final offer.

No sane CEO would do that. But sometimes our propensity to share will cause us to reveal more than we want to reveal. (This is why I do not discuss the proposals on which I'm currently working, for example.) Here's an example:

Getting ready for my trip to Bismarck, North Dakota!

This piece of data, in and of itself, means nothing. But why is your competitor going to Bismarck? Does he or she have family in Bismarck? Does he or she have a customer in Bismarck?

Do YOU have a customer in Bismarck?

You can see how this information could be valuable. Once I wanted to know whether a particular employee of a competitor was going to attend a particular event. (I won't discuss why I wanted to know this information; let's just say that this particular employee's attendance or non-attendance could potentially be significant.) This employee would post travel information on a particular social media site, and while there was no record of the employee going to that particular city, I could see that the employee was going to be in that part of the country at that time. Valuable information.

Of course, there's always the possibility that someone could post misinformation. I'd say more about it, but I'm preparing for a trip. By the time you read this post, I'll be on my way to Beijing...

(For those who are not in my industry, I should note that my particular product is subject to United States government export controls, and certain of our product lines cannot be sold in China.)