Thursday, August 29, 2013

#oow13 Choose your measurement criteria so that you will meet it - how to go to Oracle OpenWorld 2013

My first #oow13 post.

I don't write much about Oracle any more - because of my 2009 job change, I haven't attended Oracle OpenWorld in several years - but I'm still on Oracle's mailing lists, and have received several invitations to attend Oracle OpenWorld.

Oracle realizes that OpenWorld can be expensive, so they want to help potential attendees justify their trip. In an effort to do this, Oracle's most recent e-mail stated the following:

Need Help Justifying Your Trip?

Consider this statistic: 99.5% of attendees surveyed last year said Oracle OpenWorld delivered on their objectives.

Of course, if your objectives were to hear a bunch of bands and to hear Larry say "Next slide please," Oracle OpenWorld clearly can deliver on those objectives (although Larry has learned how to advance his own slides these days).

Of course, Oracle realizes that you need a BUSINESS justification to attend. Here are some excerpts from the justification e-mail template that Oracle has prepared:

There’s no other conference where I’ll have the opportunity to learn the key information I need to get the most out of our current (and future) Oracle products and technologies. I’ll have access to experts from around the world—customers, partners, and Oracle—so I can grow my skills and increase our productivity.

I’ll be able to choose from more than 2,500 sessions, tailoring my schedule to get exactly the information I need.

At this point, there's a blank in the template. Since Oracle's stack has grown so huge, it's essential that the person using the template list the specific interests that he or she has. (When I attended, my interests were primarily in the database area, although I occasionally had interested in some related products.)

Incidentally, the current discounted rate to attend Oracle OpenWorld is $2,450. It HAS been a while since I attended, apparently.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Family farms

I was reading an item about water use in Kansas that included this passage:

“We really wrote the paper for the family farmer who wants to pass his land on to his grandchildren knowing that they will have the same opportunities that farmers do today,” Steward said.

At that point, I began wondering - are there family farms any more? Or are all the farms from families named Archer, Daniels, Midland, and Monsanto?

Well, it turns out that family farms are still around:

There are almost two million farms in the USA. About 80% of those are small farms, and a large percentage are family owned.

But are the family farms statistically significant? The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies farms based on sales rather than size (for reasons explained here), and offers these statistics:

The 2007 Ag Census showed that large and very large family farms produced over 63 percent of the value of all products sold (though they accounted for less than 9 percent of all family farms,) while non-family farms produced approximately 21 percent, and the nearly 2 million small farms and ranches (sales under $250,000) produced approximately 15 percent.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

United States consumers, you don't matter

Having lived in the United States all of my life, I have become accustomed to the fact that my voice matters more than others. When I was born, the U.S. was the undisputed leader of the Free World. After the Cold War ended, the United States was the undisputed leader of the world.

For a time.

This had some ramifications. While Canada's Steven Hodson, Australia's Duncan Riley, and the United Kingdom's Ian Mackney sometimes had to wait for certain technology goods - if they received them at all - I always knew that I could always get these goods. Maybe Canada and Australia and the United Kingdom - to say nothing of Kenya or Nigeria - would have to wait for something, but here in the United States, the product would be available on day one.

Well, we Americans are going to be in for a shock. Take this statement from a biometric company President and CEO:

China is now the world’s by far largest market for smartphones.

So as smartphone suppliers decide where to place their resources, where will they concentrate their efforts?

And as smartphone suppliers tailor their offerings to fit the legal environment of their largest customers, what country will be the focus of their efforts?

As products become available in China but are not available in the United States, U.S. consumers are going to howl.

Well, now we know how the rest of the world feels.

Monty Flameathon and the Holy Grail - trust no one, or trust but verify?

In a recent post in tymshft, I referred to Microsoft's monthly updates. This system provides millions of Microsoft product users with updates to their operating systems and software. In some cases, these updates are critical. Microsoft determined over a decade ago that this system was the best way to protect Microsoft users. In fact, Microsoft recommends that users set these updates to "automatic" mode, to ensure that they are installed.

I referred to this system in my tymshft post as a system that obviously requires a great deal of security. If you want people to trust that updates are coming from Microsoft, then you had better make sure that those updates ARE coming from Microsoft.

As I wrote that post, I didn't realize that Microsoft's security update system was compromised in 2012.

The exploit of Microsoft's Windows Update system by the sophisticated Flame cyber espionage malware was a "significant" event in the history of Windows hacking, experts said today....

What had those researchers reaching for superlatives was the Flame makers' theft of digital "signatures," or certificates, that labeled code as Microsoft's, and then the use of those certificates to "sign" malicious files that posed as legitimate Windows updates.

The combination allowed Flame to infect fully-patched Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 PCs that were on the same network as an already-infected system.

So, basically, Microsoft was protecting its Windows Update service by the use of digital certificates. But when the Flame writer(s) got a hold of those digital certificates, this resulted in a major compromise of the system. The aforementioned researchers kept on using the term "Holy Grail" to refer to the exploit.

So what did Microsoft do? First, it broke its rule of only issuing updates once a month and rushed out a special update. Second, it took another measure to close the loophole:

Microsoft modified the Terminal Services licensing certificate authority (CA), the one hackers had exploited, so it could no longer issue code-signing certificates of any kind....

On Wednesday Microsoft announced it would revamp how Windows updates are secured, saying that it would dedicate a new CA to Windows Update, in effect unlinking the service from all other Microsoft-generated certificates.

At least one critic said that Microsoft's move was long overdue, and that Windows Update should have had a separate certificate authority all along. I wonder what that critic was saying ten years ago; in all fairness, however, the critic may not have known that Microsoft was using a common certificate authority for many of its services. (The critic also noted that Microsoft was not providing a lot of information.)

Of course, such things are bound to happen, and something will happen in the future, because no system - NONE - provides 100% protection.

So how do we react to this? Do we take the "trust no one" approach and assume that Windows Update (or Apple Update, or Linux Update, or whatever) is permanently compromised? Or do we take the "trust but verify" approach, in which we verify (or double-verify) with a reliable source that the update waiting for our attention is truly a legitimate update?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Matt Walsh answers someone's f*cking question (via .@movieguyjon)

Jonathan Hardesty shared this Huffington Post item by Matt Walsh. Walsh observed a customer at a fast food outlet ask the following question:

Why can't I ever f*cking get good customer service?!

Go to Walsh's post to read the answer.

My contribution to the discussion - I know people with food allergies, allergies that are more serious than a mere dislike of ketchup. When these people place special orders, they check twice before the order is placed, and once after. And if these people subsequently discover that the order is messed up, they do not react the same way that Walsh's customer did.

Friday, August 23, 2013

APMP Training Day is dead. Long live APMP Training Day.

Within the pages of the Empoprise-BI business blog, I often write about my personal business. (It's not like Guy Kawasaki is going to write about my personal business any time soon.) Since my personal business for the last four years has involved proposals, that means that I've written about the training days of the APMP Southern California chapter.

Here's my 2010 post on that year's Training Day, written before I had carved out a separate tymshft blog. Here's my 2011 post on Training Day - and I didn't even go to Training Day that year. My 2012 Training Day posts were more substantial, both in quantity and in content - I addressed the Shipley Capture Guide, multi-multipurpose software, and the effects of the relationship between Shipley Associates and FranklinCovey.

In one of those 2012 posts, I included the following comment:

Those who attended last month's APMP Socal Chapter Training Day - the last-ever APMP Socal Chapter Training Day, by the way...

I chose not to explain my comment in that blog post, so perhaps a person or two thought to themselves, "Why is an APMP Chapter stopping its Training Day?"

Of course, the answer is simple - the APMP Socal Chapter no longer exists.

I could choose not to explain THAT comment, but that would be cruel. The truth is that the reason that the APMP Socal Chapter no longer exists is because this chapter has combined with the Northern California chapter, and now there is an APMP California Chapter in which southern Californians and northern Californians gather together in peace and harmony, just like millions of us do within our beloved state of California. Actually, relations between north and south in the chapter are much better than relations within the state as a whole; because of extensive planning by the leaders of the two former regional chapters, we have (to my knowledge) become one big happy family. (It's good when merger planning goes well; of course, that's why I'm back in Proposals in the first place.)

The combined California Chapter has chosen to hold a Training Day, following the traditions of the old Socal Chapter. And this first Training Day will actually be held here in southern California - let's face it, people like to come to Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. Training Day will be held on Friday, October 25, and will feature an impressive list of speakers, including Mike Parkinson from 24 Hour Company; Dick Eassom from CORTAC Group; Ed Alexander from Shipley Associates; and Robert (BJ) Lownie, one of the guys from Strategic Proposals. The training is open to both APMP members and non-members, although non-members may pay a little more.

For more information, go to the Chapter's Calendar page and follow the links.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ayo Kimathi may be protected from termination for his racist views - but you may not have similar protection

I have previously written two posts that discuss Ayo Kimathi, his political views, and the demands that he be fired from his job at the Department of Homeland Security. In one of the posts, I threw out an additional question - if a DHS employee supported Bradley Manning's freedom, could that employee be fired because of his or her political views?

Now I'm going to state something obvious, but important - the Department of Homeland Security is a government agency.

Many of us, myself included, do not work for a government agency. Instead, we work for private businesses.

That can make all the difference regarding whether or not we can be fired for our political views.

Now there are certain protections that you have from firing in the United States, regardless of whether you work for the public sector or the private sector. Nolo lists these protections:

Federal law makes it illegal for most employers to fire an employee because of the employee's race, gender, national origin, disability, religion, genetic information, or age (if the person is at least 40 years old). Federal law also prohibits most employers from firing someone because that person is pregnant or has a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.

Individual states may have additional protections against firing - for example, some states prohibit people from being fired based upon their sexual orientation.

Notice one thing that DOESN'T appear on that list?

Political views.

Now many people think that the whole political views thingie was settled when Joseph McCarthy was disgraced. You can't be fired for being a Commie (or a black racist, or a supporter of a convicted criminal), can you?

Michael Italie found out the answer the hard way:

On Oct. 22 [2001], a sewing-machine operator named Michael Italie was fired by Goodwill Industries, the network of nonprofit groups best-known for collecting and selling used clothing and furniture in order to provide job training for the disabled....

At 5 p.m., half an hour before the conclusion of his 10-and-a-half-hour shift, Italie's supervisor called him into the personnel office, where he was greeted by the plant's head of security. "Because of your views of the U.S. government, which are contrary to those of this agency, you are a disruptive force and cannot work here anymore," he said, according to Italie. "Take your things and go."

Italie was a member of the Socialist Workers Party. This was not a secret; he was very publicly running for mayor of Miami. Although he wasn't campaigning at Goodwill, the public knowledge of his political beliefs was enough to get him fired.

Italie went to the American Civil Liberties Union for help...and received a surprise.

[W]hen the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union looked into Italie's case, it discovered...that Goodwill was on strong legal footing. "There is no legal case to be brought," explains Miami chapter president Lida Rodriguez-Taseff. "The law is pretty clear that a private employer can fire someone based on their political speech even when that political speech does not affect the terms and conditions of employment."

But what applies to Michael Italie may not apply to Ayo Kimathi.

If local or state law doesn't prohibit it, private employers generally can terminate an individual because of his or her political beliefs. The First Amendment, however, restricts public employers from engaging in this practice.

Remember that the First Amendment itself only says that Congress (and, by extension, government) cannot do certain things. Now perhaps other laws may restrict private employers, but not the First Amendment itself. So if you work in the private sector, and your company tells you to shut up, you can't claim that your First Amendment rights are being violated. (Perhaps some other right is being violated.)

But let's get back to Ayo Kimathi. The very fact that he works for the government itself gives him some level of protection against termination for his political views. Now perhaps Kimathi will get fired for some other reason....

Another view on a prior post - should Bradley Manning supporters be fired from Federal Government positions?

The piece below is fictional - kind of.

During the day, George Madison works as a small business specialist at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), dealing with companies which sell handcuffs, ammunition, guns, and other items for agents of the agency. Away from the office, Madison runs a Web site called Detention on the Horizon (DHO), where he says mass detention in the U.S. is imminent. He calls for mass civil disobedience, immediate freedom for Bradley Manning, dropping of all charges against Edward Snowden, and the “cleaning” of “red and blue statist-loving Constitutional traitors.” The latter group includes President Obama (“a treasonous secretive spy”), John Boehner, Dianne Feinstein, and Larry Ellison, among others.

So what would the reaction be to the story of George Madison?

Obviously, unanimous calls for the Department of Homeland Security to fire him immediately.

"But Madison didn't break any laws," you may say.

It doesn't matter whether he broke any laws. He has promoted controversial views that are unacceptable to a significant number of people, and the Department of Homeland Security can't have employees who are condoning the acts of traitors. Fire him now!

"That is unfair!" you loudly proclaim. "George Madison is exercising his Consitutional right of free speech! As long as he does not break any laws himself, he should be allowed to share his personal views without interference from the Federal Government!"

Think about that argument for a moment.

Now re-read my earlier post about a man who works as a small business specialist at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and runs a Web site called War on the Horizon.

A man who has been subject to unanimous calls for his immediate firing.

Yes, I know that Ayo Kimathi, using his alias of Irritated Genie, has said things about whites, blacks who like whites, and gays, and that he apparently (again, I couldn't get to his website to confirm) advocates the killing of whites.

But has he actually killed any whites?

Meanwhile, have the actions of Manning or Assange resulted in the deaths of anyone? Apparently not - but they COULD have, in the same way that Kimathi's views COULD inspire someone to kill a cracker or an Uncle Tom.

So if it's OK to support Bradley Manning, even though his actions could have potentially resulted in killings, why isn't it OK to support Kimathi, even though his actions could potentially lead to killings?

As you're mulling over that, consider Ned Hardy's recent post entitled "Why You Should Care About Your Privacy Even If You Have Nothing To Hide." (Thanks to Steven Hodson for sharing this.)

Now write a private e-mail about Ayo Kimathi, Bradley Manning, or those two hot dogs you ate for lunch.

See what happens.

Ayo "Irritated Genie" Kimathi - inter-agency competitiveness sometimes goes a little too far

As I've said before, I do not fear Big Brother - at lesat in the form of multiple coordinated agencies, all coming after me.

Why not? Because the last thing that an agency wants to do is to cooperate with another agency.

In that respect, it's not surprising to learn that an employee of the Department of Homeland Security does not have a high regard for the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, part of the Department of Justice. This DHS employee has referred to the former FBI Director as "Gay Edgar Hoover." This was not meant as a compliment.

But that's not all that this DHS employee, Ayo Kimathi, has said. He does not have complimentary words for his President:

a treasonous mulatto scum dweller … who will fight against reparations for Black people in amerikkka, but in favor of fag rights for freaks in amerikkka and Afrika

If you'd like to see him, as "Irritated Genie," speak about Obama, watch this video:

Kimathi advances other interesting proposals:

The mass murder of white people. His site says, "warfare is eminent, and in order for Black people to survive the 21st century, we are going to have to kill a lot of whites – more than our christian hearts can possibly count."

A conspiracy theory arguing that white people are trying to "homosexualize" black men in order to make them more effeminate and therefore weaker. As part of this, Kimathi, praises a series of laws in some African countries that criminalize LGBT behavior and people. Kimathi also advocates for the supremacy of black men above black women — he offers tips on his site, for instance, "to help every Black woman in the world understand what she needs to do to keep a strong Black man happy."

His website, War on the Horizon, can be found here. (When I tried to access it, it took forever to load, probably because of all of the attention that the website has received lately.) The site is registered to a post office box in the District of Columbia. And Kimathi may have all sorts of time to devote to the web site; after receiving unwanted attention from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Atlantic Wire, and the Homeland Security News Wire, it's possible that Kimathi's employer may decide that he's not the best person to be responsible for homeland security.

(Not that this petition will make a whole lot of difference. But it feels good.)

Incidentally, if you wish to monitor Mr. Kimathi's employment status, this is the easiest way to do so. As of this afternoon, this DHS page listed the following contact information for its Small Business Contact:

Mr. Ayo Kimathi, ICE Office of Acquisition Management, is the ICE Small Business Specialist, who serves as a point of contact for private firms seeking agency-specific acquisition information. Meetings with the ICE Small Business Specialist are scheduled through the DHS open for business website.

Mr. Kimathi can be reached at the following address:

Ayo Kimathi
ICE Office of Acquisition Management
801 I Street, NW, Suite 910
Washington, D.C. 20536
Telephone: (202) 732-2775
Fax: (202) 732-7368

Why precise wording is important

I am connected to a number of organizations, and in this capacity I received an e-mail one day from someone who owed money to the organization.

The person stated her organization's P.O. number, my organization's invoice number, and the amount of the payment. She then said that her organization's check was returned, and asked the question:

Did you change your bank account information?

Note that she did not ask if my ORGANIZATION had changed its bank account information. She asked if I had changed MY bank account information.

I'll be in Europe for the next few months. I've always wanted to winter in Monaco.

And yes, I'm kidding - I gave the e-mail to the organization's accounting person. For reasons that I can't state publicly, a personal diversion of funds wouldn't have worked in this case anyway. But I found this fund diversion story that was particularly jarring:

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has announced the seizure of a property in Lagos, over the illegal diversion of funds perpetrated by the owner of the property....

The action is in respect of an ongoing investigation contained in a petition received in the Commission in 2011 involving Akinyemi Badejogbin and Lanre Bakare over acts bordering on illegal diversion of public funds for their personal use.

OK, perhaps you're yawning. But take a closer look at how the alleged scam occurred:

They were alleged to have used their former positions as Co-ordinator and Treasurer, respectively, of the National Anti-Corruption Volunteers Corps (NAVC), Lagos Chapter, to divert millions of Naira from the official NAVC Trustee Account into an illegally opened account named “NAVC Senatorial Account.”

Yes, the treasurer of an anti-corruption group is alleged to have engaged in corruption. Probably not surprising, but it's sad.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Returning to the "no universal ethics" theme (he's got legs and knows how to use them)

In previous posts, I have stated that "we are unsuccessful when we try to set up standards of ethics that apply to all people on earth."

That particular quote comes from a post that discusses widely varying views on Christopher Dorner, the former Los Angeles cop who killed several people because he believed that "[t]he tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." I've also discussed the school in Guin, Alabama that prohibits its students from dancing or watching movies, and the forthcoming birth certificates in Germany that allow parents to select a sex of "blank" (other than male or female).

These examples are everywhere, and Iuri Tarabanov provided us with another one.

A man in skirt may be arrested in Italy, for example. Of course it is clear, what men in skirts are in question, but what should the Scotch, which revere their traditions, do in Italy?

Birth in Germany - why you need to keep up to date with the law

All businesses - and all people - operate under a set of constraints, some of which are imposed by society, and some of which are imposed by the government(s) where business (or personal life) is conducted. (This raises the question of what happens when two communities have two opposing conventions; I'll only touch on that briefly.)

I was reminded of this recently, when the famous "MorphoTrak Question 21" re-emerged. Although I work for MorphoTrak, I still have no idea where "MorphoTrak Question 21" is actually asked; it appears to be for some sort of civil purpose, rather than a criminal one. Basically, the question asks for the person's sex (gender), and provides three options - male, female, or both. If you want to see the question, @franciscanmom tweeted a picture.

If you have an unbelievably retentive memory, you'll recall that I blogged about MorphoTrak Question 21 in 2010, when someone else tweeted about it. Back then, I thought it was a criminal question, not a civil question, and made a point of examining field 2.024 of version 9.0 of the Electronic Biometric Transmission Specification. (That's how I roll.) I just checked the current EBTS version, version 10.0, and the FBI still has seven options for sex (and yes, they call it sex, not gender).

But it's one thing to classify someone at the point of arrest, or at the time of a job application. One of @franciscanmom's friends, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, reports on a new law in Germany. He quotes from Der Spiegel:

Germany is set to become the first country in Europe to introduce a third, “indeterminate” gender designation on birth certificates. The European Union, which is attempting to coordinate anti-discrimination efforts across member states, is lagging behind on the issue.

The option of selecting “blank”, in addition to the standard choices of “male” or female” on birth certificates will become available in Germany from November 1. The legislative change allows parents to opt out of determining their baby’s gender, thereby allowing those born with characteristics of both sexes to choose whether to become male or female in later life. Under the new law, individuals can also opt to remain outside the gender binary altogether.

Remember how I said how laws could become problems with other communities? Well, at least in Germany, passport law hasn't caught up yet - it only recognizes two sexes.

I could go off on all sorts of personal tangents on this, but since this is a business blog, I'll constrain it to the business issues. Even if your company only does business in a single country, you may still have to deal with the ramifications of such issues. What if someone in a foreign country wants to work for you - and he plans to move here with his four wives? Or what if a new male employee wishes to ensure that both he and his husband will receive benefits? Or what if an employee refuses to work on Sundays? Or on Saturdays? (For extra credit, consider the issue of someone who champions an "English only" legal initiative, and then has problems celebrating the Tridentine Mass.)

And needless to say, if your company does business in multiple countries, it can really get complicated. (Hint: if you're a health insurance company, your contraceptive policies offered in China may kinda sorta have to differ from your contraceptive policies offered in Vatican City. And let's not even open the privacy Pandora's Box.)

Any company is bound to offend someone or another at some point. So how does a company deal with it?

Friday, August 16, 2013

When your online presence is all "talk"

I know that this has been discussed before ad nauseum, but I just ran across a reminder of this.

My employer has multiple facilities in the United States, and one of these facilities fell victim to a power outage that affected multiple buildings. I noticed that the electricity provider for this facility had an online Twitter presence. Not only that, but the provider's Twitter handle included the word "talk" as part of the handle. In addition, I noticed that the Twitter account was updated fairly regularly, so this indicated that there was someone there.

I had checked the electricity provider's website and could find no information on the power outage. So, figuring that the presence of "talk" in the Twitter handle meant that we could talk to the provider, I tweeted a question about the power outage. I tweeted this publicly, since I figured that other people (especially those in the affected area) would be interested in the response.

A little while later, the Twitter account posted something new - but it wasn't a response to my question. Instead, it was a tweet about something that the electricity provider wanted to promote.

It appears that the presence of the word "talk" in the electricity provider's Twitter handle simply means that THEY will talk - and we will listen.

Actually, I take that back. The electricity provider does interact with its Twitter followers on extremely important matters.

Now perhaps I'm being harsh, but it seems to me that an electricity provider's first communication priority would be related to the electricity that they are - or are not - providing.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Odiogone - or at least a little glitchy

In my earlier post on Odiogo, I encouraged you to try the service:

For a demonstration of the service, go to the top of this post and click "Listen Now." Just be sure to do it in the next couple of weeks.

My previous experience has been that the Odiogo version of the post is usually available a few hours after the post appears.

So, a few hours after my post on Odiogo, I clicked on "Listen Now" - and got nothing.

I clicked on posts from the previous couple of days - and got nothing.

That's when I checked my Odiogo feed and discovered that it hadn't been updated since early July. But that seems to fit - Odiogo hasn't updated its blog since July 2011.

So if you want to check Odiogo, go to the top of this July 5 post and click "Listen Now."

There are effects, and there are effects - the Oprah effect on Bahnhofstrasse

When a famous or powerful person makes a statement, it can have seismic repurcussions. There are two types of "effects" that are associated with celebrity statements.

One type of effect is typified by the "Streisand effect." In this case, a statement by the celebrity (such as "don't post this picture of my house") results in the exact opposite of what the celebrity intended.

Another type of effect is typified by the "Scoble effect." In this case, a statement by the celebrity (such as "join this exciting new social media site") will result in exactly what the celebrity requested - but at an order of magnitude greater than what was envisioned. In Robert Scoble's heyday as a trend-setter, he could mention Service X, and this would result in so many people flocking to Service X that the site would crash. "You should have been ready for the Scoble effect," people would then say.

Oprah Winfrey clearly falls in the latter category of "effects," even today after her on-air presence has diminished on free TV. If Oprah likes something, people will rush out to get it. If Oprah doesn't like something, much anger will be generated toward the offending entity.

A few days ago, I wrote a post about Oprah's visit to a high-end store on the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich. (Incidentally, I should point out that all three effects listed in THIS post are named after Americans. I haven't seen a lot of people talking about the Angela Merkel effect.) When she talked about the poor service that she received at a particular store, Winfrey did not name the store, but she did name the country in which the store was located. (People figured out what store was being discussed anyway.)

All of a sudden, an issue in a particular store was elevated by the crowds and became a discussion of an entire country. It's a wonder that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson didn't call for a boycott (I mean a personcott) on Swiss cheese. However, what did happen is that the country of Switzerland ended up apologizing. (Actually, the country was more apologetic than the store owner.)

At which point Oprah said, whoops!

“I think that incident in Switzerland was just an incident in Switzerland. I’m really sorry that it got blown up. I purposefully did not mention the name of the store. I’m sorry that I said it was Switzerland."...

“It’s not an indictment against the country or even that store,” she continued. “It was just one person who didn’t want to offer me the opportunity to see the bag. So no apologies necessary from the country of Switzerland. If somebody makes a mistake in the United States do we apologize in front of the whole country? No!”

Actually, sometimes we do - you'll know that I quote Jim Bakker often - but the point was made. A single incident with a single salesperson in a single store was, because of Winfrey's global reach, magnified into something huge.

This can sometimes be a good thing. One could argue that the death of Rock Hudson was just a single illness affecting a single actor, but publicity of that one incident galvanized the fight against AIDS and HIV.

At other times, this can be a bad thing. I tend to believe that Winfrey did not want her rabid fans to jet off to Switzerland and kill every Italian-speaking salesperson there. (People who are not fans of Winfrey may think otherwise.)

The weird thing to consider is that although I don't have the global reach of Barbra Streisand, Oprah Winfrey, or Robert Scoble, there are (for whatever insane reason) people who consider me influential - and I'm not just talking about a click on a Klout page.

I need to remember this and act accordingly.

Odiogone - well, Odiogo's still around, but its terms have changed

I don't know how many of you have noticed the "Listen Now" button on the posts in my Blogger blogs. This ability to listen to my posts via computer-generated audio is provided by a service called Odiogo - a service that I've used since 2008.

Sadly for me, and for Odiogo, I have received an e-mail from Odiogo that begins as follows:

August 12, 2013

Important change to the Odiogo service

Dear Odiogo User,

We would like to share with you important information and changes we are making to the Odiogo Service.

When we started the company a few years ago, we were under the belief that our vocalization service would be paid for via embedded pre-roll ads. Unfortunately this did not prove to be the case. The many of brands and agencies we reached out to were skeptical about audio advertising on the web and preferred staying with the traditional banners and web formatted film ads for the videos.

This situation is driving us to shift to a different model which will help us sustain in the market and provide high standards of product and support. Starting September 1, 2013 the Odiogo Service will be made free only to personal, non-profit blogs. All other blogs or sites using Odiogo will have to switch to either the "Plus" or "Pro" plan....

As it turns out, my Blogger blogs do not qualify as non-profit blogs, for the same reason that I chose to wait three months before blogging about my recent service as an alternate juror.

And in my case, it's not worthwhile to pay over $100 per year to continue the service under a paid plan.

I bear no hard feelings toward Odiogo; the company needs to develop a business plan that provides it with revenue. I wish them well in the future, and if you truly do have a non-profit blog, or if your business blog would benefit from audio capabilities, definitely check Odiogo out. (As I write this, the site has not yet been updated to reflect these changes, but check the site later.)

For a demonstration of the service, go to the top of this post and click "Listen Now." Just be sure to do it in the next couple of weeks.

If you can get both traditional and crowdsourced funding, do it (Arkami)

DISCLOSURE: I am employed in the biometrics industry. However, this post does not concern biometrics itself, but business models. And since my employer and its immediate competitors are large multinational firms, this particular company's funding methods are unrelated to those that affect me in my day job.

Arkami is a southern California-based company that is responsible for the myIDkey product. As a small startup, it found that it needed outside funding, and it recently turned to Kickstarter to achieve that funding.

Now the whole Kickstarter funding model is nothing new - if you've heard the commercials from Jim Koch (one of the two heroes of the Empoprise-BI business blog), you know that he started the Boston Beer Company with the help of funding from his "drinking buddies." And you can obviously do this outside of Kickstarter; recently, I participated in a crowdsourced funding campaign. But the whole idea behind Kickstarter and the like is that you ask ordinary people to chip in a few bucks for your project, and you offer them something in return. It could just be a thank you, or it could be something substantial; if you're asking people to fund product development, perhaps a certain contribution will entitle you to the product.

So Arkami started a Kickstarter project to raise $150,000 in development money. Partway through the funding round, Arkami had raised $354,000. By the end of the funding drive, $473,000 had been raised.

Now "social media experts" were probably falling all over themselves, saying that the wisdom of the crowds and collaboration and crowdsourcing and transparency and likes and comments and sharing cat photos were obviously valuable. #SoMe had not only liberated the Middle East (how did that work out?), but was now also bringing cool products to fruition.

However, while $473,000 is certainly impressive, it's not real money.

Arkami just announced that they've received some real money - $1.8 million worth. And they didn't go to the crowds to get it.

ALISO VIEJO, CA – August 13, 2013 – Arkami™, creator of myIDkey™, today announced a $1.8 Million Series A round of financing....

The funding round included investments from Gordon Clemons, McNeel Capital and Mark Swanson as well as a number of other veteran angel investors. The funding will be used to accelerate the development of myIDkey, meet customer demand, and facilitate company growth.

Perhaps the angel investors were impressed with the Kickstarter campaign, but they presumably evaluated many other factors in making their funding decision. Any yahoo can craft something to impress amateur investors, but professional investors want to see something more.

Now, if the myIDkey idea really takes off, then Arkami may eventually turn to another funding source - the one that Facebook pursued not too long ago.

So, the next time that some startup person asks you, "Should I look for angel investors, or should I crowdsource my funding?" your simple answer should be "yes."

Monday, August 12, 2013

(empo-tuulwey) Why Useless PLASTICBOX 1.2 wasn't buy

Well, this tweet from @plasticjesusart is getting a lot of attention.

The Daily Mail explains what happened:

Best Buy stores have been targeted by a prankster who has placed worthless plastic boxes on the shelves complete with authentic labels.

The black boxes have product tags in the style of the American discount electrical giant that read 'Useless PLASTICBOX 1.2' for $99.99.

The labels read: 'Another gadget you don't really need.

'Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of use.'

The prank is attributed to the person who originally shared the picture, Plastic Jesus. P.J. was quoted in Melrose and Fairfax:

We are sold these gadgets in a way that makes us think that THIS new gadget is THE one. The piece of kit that will transform our lives. How often do we pay out hundreds or thousands of dollars and in-fact the product will not do much of what it is claimed. The frustration these things actually create in out lives is far greater than any possible benefits. It's only once you've purchased the item and you try to set it up and use it, often faced with long phone calls to overseas call centres, speaking to 'help desk' staff who read from scripts and leave us more frustrated.

We all need to make a strong statement to gadget manufacturers and demand products that work and customer support that actually support the customer and not the profit of the companies...

The Melrose and Fairfax writer wondered if any of these sold.

I'd be willing to bet that they didn't - not because everyone immediately realized that it was a prank, but because the Useless PLASTICBOX 1.2 wasn't attractive enough.

Oh, Plastic Jesus tried. These types of devices can only come in two colors - pure black, or pure white. While perhaps a little more drool would come from a tech-weenie's mouth with a white device, black is perfectly acceptable.

But the big problem is the $99.99 price.

It's way too low.

Ideally, to be lusted after, such a device would need a price closer to $1,000 than $100. Perhaps $899 would be good, with a $999 price for the future white PLASTICBOX 1.3.

Certainly for a true luxury good, the price would have to be much higher - in the tens of thousands of dollars, or maybe even in the hundreds of thousands. But you have to remember that the product was placed in Best Buy, and apparently was placed in the GPS aisle at Best Buy. Maybe Plastic Jesus could have commanded a higher price - $5,000 or above - if the product had been placed in the high-end audio equipment section.

But $100 is just too low for the trendies to take notice.

Thanks for Jack C. Crawford for the original share of the Daily Mail article.

Jack Clark is the latest to learn that dissenting opinions will not be tolerated

For all of the babbling that people sputter about government censorship, private restriction of free speech is much more prominent. Remember that private restriction of free speech is NOT a First Amendment issue; businesses can, under many circumstances, restrict what their employees may say. For example, I cannot go out and reveal confidential information about my employer (as long as I'm not revealing a criminal act) and then cry that my First Amendment rights have been violated.

And restrictions against employees can also apply to contractors. For those of you who recall the name Michael Hanscom, he earned his fifteen minutes of fame from taking an unauthorized picture at Microsoft.

But there are two more recent examples.

I'll start with something that happened back in 2010. At the time, Rob Dibble was the host of a radio show on Sirius XM, and he made a comment after Washington Nationals pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg was removed from a game.

"Okay, you throw a pitch, it bothers your arm, and you immediately call out the manager and the trainer?" Dibble said after Strasburg was removed from a game with an apparent arm injury. "Suck it up, kid."

Unfortunately for Dibble, his comment was poorly timed, since it turned out that Strasburg HAD suffered an injury. But it did offer a potential opening for commentary on older vs. newer players, since it is apparent that modern pitchers do not throw as much as they did in Rob Dibble's heyday.

However, a second newsworthy item occurred, since it turned out that Dibble did not only have a job with Sirius XM, but also had a job as a broadcaster with the Washington Nationals. And the Nationals apparently didn't care for the "suck it up" comment - so they fired him.

Perhaps it's not surprising - in many cases, the last broadcast outlet that will tolerate negative comments about a sports team is the broadcast outlet that carries the sports team's broadcast. I don't think that Vin Scully would be fired if he were to say that the Dodgers are terrible, but there are a lot of team media outlets that will fire someone who says something negative about a current player.

Well, what about a former player? Let's look at St. Louis broadcaster - whoops, FORMER St. Louis broadcaster - Jack Clark:

When [Kevin] Slaten said on the air that he long has believed that [Albert] Pujols “has been a juicer,” Clark said, “I know for a fact he was.”

Pujols, of course, is the former St. Louis Cardinal who recently departed the team and joined the L-- A------ Angels of Anaheim. (As you know, I don't use that team name.) Clark is the former Cardinal who was working on the Los Angeles Dodgers staff several years ago, where he made the acquaintance of one Chris Mihlfeld. Clark claimed that Mihlfeld told him that he had "shot up" a promising young ballplayer in the St. Louis organization - and Mihlfeld wasn't talking about Joe Garagiola.

Well, pretty soon after that radio exchange, both Slaten and Clark no longer had jobs.

WGNU sells its weekday airtime to insideSTL Enterprises, which has a variety of employment deals with the hosts. A source said the arrangement with Clark and Slaten did not have them working directly for that company. So technically they couldn’t be fired, simply not allowed to return.

Early Saturday, insideSTL announced it “has terminated its relationship with Jack Clark and Kevin Slaten. As independent contractors, we want to make it clear that the opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions of insideSTL. Also as independent contractors, insideSTL did not have editorial control over the show’s content.’’

Actually, insideSTL DID have editorial control over the show's content, after the fact. You say something that insideSTL doesn't like, then don't come back to work on Monday.

So what happens next? Well, Rob Dibble was able to get a new job after the Nationals fired him - significantly, on a national radio show (rather than a local radio show). And perhaps Jack Clark may find employment at the national level.

Because at the local level, it's becoming more and more obvious that certain opinions will not be tolerated.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to tune in to the local Los Angeles sports radio shows and see which hosts are demanding that the Los Angeles Lakers get rid of Kobe Bryant.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Qualifying bad behavior is an imperfect science - or, the REAL reason why Oprah wasn't served in Bahnhofstrasse

In my previous post about the saleswoman who (reportedly) refused to show Oprah Winfrey a handbag worth tens of thousands of dollars because the saleswoman didn't think Winfrey could afford it, I noted that Winfrey and others have attributed the snub to racism. Whether that was what motivated the saleswoman, many people have assumed it. And Heidi Moore not only accused that racism was involved, but that other things were involved:

No doubt, the details of the incident will be pored over. It has already been attributed to racism, and rightfully so: Oprah's incident tripped a wire that worries many women of color: to be judged negatively and immediately by their race, to be treated as second-class citizens, to be pointed to the things that are not the best, but considered merely "good enough" for you. The best and most expensive, the implication goes, is saved for those with the obvious status markers: well-groomed, accompanied by a wealthy-looking man, and usually, not coincidentally, very thin.

This is what Oprah, and most other women, rarely talk about: the struggle for respect faced by women of color is shared, at times, with another group: women of size, another category to which Oprah belongs.

Perhaps Moore is right, but I argue that it's extremely speculative to conclude that size-ism motivated the Swiss saleswoman. Or that the other things did.

Yes, Oprah is black, and there is certainly a history of discrimination against black people. Now I don't know the ins and outs of Swiss racism, but since everyone tells me that Europeans are so much better than we backward Americans, I am forced to conclude that racism is not a factor.

Yes, Oprah's waist does not look like Barbie's waist, and again there is a history of discrimination against people because of size. However, Bahnhofstrasse caters to rich people, who are commonly called "fat cats." If someone goes shopping on Bahnhofstrasse, I suspect the salespeople aren't really going to care about their guts, but are really going to care about their wallets.

You may have noticed that Heidi Moore also threw another thing in there - Oprah apparently entered the shop alone, and was not accompanied by a male figure. Now, at the risk of sounding like a sexist ugly American, I have to ask - how many men accompany women in handbag shopping excursions? In fact, I bet that $40,000 handbag stores get more sales when the men are not present. Oprah doesn't need Stedman (or whoever) standing over her shoulder, yelling "You're going to pay HOW MUCH for a purse?"

Heidi Moore and others have tried to deduce the reasons why Oprah Winfrey was denied service. However, Moore and almost everyone else who is pontificating on this topic are members, in one way or another, of the Mass Media Empire, governed by the Illuminati from their secret underground bunker below Brussels. And as such, the Mass Media Empire figures are suppressing the real reasons why Winfrey was denied service.

Chief among them is another very identifiable fact about Oprah - not that she is black, or that she is unmarried, or that she is non-anorexic.

I hope you're sitting down for this.

Oprah Winfrey is...AN AMERICAN.

Now consider how the Europeans have thought about Americans for the past decade or so. First, they were all upset about George W. Bush, who was promoting the Patriot Act and war in Afghanistan and Iraq and just generally being an American cowboy like his philosophical uncle Ronald Reagan.

It appeared that Barack Obama was going to change things and make the United States play nice with the rest of the world, but then he up and kills Osama Bin Laden and spies on everyone in the entire world and just generally acts like an American cowboy like his philosophical uncle Lyndon Johnson.

So consider this. You're an Italian-speaking saleswoman in Zurich (the country with many languages), and this person comes in, with an American accent, speaking English. And I bet that the person was acting like an ugly American, throwing her money around and looking at this and that in a big rush.

Hello. I'm going to my friend Tina's wedding and would like to see that handbag, please.

Now that's probably what Oprah said. I look at that statement and find nothing wrong with it. People from other cultures look at that statement and see something entirely different.

In many cultures, you don't just launch into business. Perhaps you go to dinner, meet the family, talk about philosophy, drink coffee together, or whatever. Even in less formal situations, you at least exchange some pleasantries.

But Americans such as Oprah and myself don't necessarily do that. "I want that purse," we'd say. (Or she'd say it, anyway.)

As some of you know, I work in a company that is a subsidiary of a French company, and there has a sprinkling of French nationals working throughout the company. When I went on a business trip to another of our facilities in the U.S., at least two of the French nationals commented on my tendency to eat lunch quickly and be done with it. It's enough to make you realize that when you're in Roman, you'd be better off doing as the Romans do.

And when you're being served by an Italian-speaking woman, take your time.

Qualifying customers is an imperfect science

I help to sell automated fingerprint identification systems for a living. Before we begin to respond to a Request for Proposals from a law enforcement agency or other government agency, one of the things that we must do is ascertain the customer's budget. If the product that the customer wants is worth $10 million, but the customer's budget is less than $100,000, then it would be a waste of our time and the customer's time to try to sell the product. At the end of the day, the customer won't buy it.

Note that there are a number of assumptions in the paragraph above. How do we know that the customer's budget is less than $100,000?

My company obviously isn't the only one that has to make guesses about customers. Let's say that you're a shopkeeper, and you sell handbags. Expensive handbags, retailing in the tens of thousands of dollars. In this case, your market of potential customers is relatively small, and you do not want to waste your time with those who can't afford your product. At the same time, your inventory obviously has a high value, so you take steps to protect it.

When I visited Switzerland in 2000, I visited the famous Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich, a street with some of the most expensive stores in the world. I didn't enter any of them, but apparently an American woman did enter a handbag shop on this street. According to the woman, she wanted to look at a particular handbag priced somewhere between $35,000 and $40,000 (reports vary), but the saleswoman refused to let her look at it, saying that the customer couldn't afford it. The customer politely left the store...and subsequently shared her story with Nancy O'Dell on Entertainment Tonight.

You see, the woman in question WAS able to afford the handbag. I won't tell you the woman's last name, but her first name is Oprah. And Oprah speculated that her race might have been the reason that the saleswoman concluded that she couldn't afford the handbag.

For the record, shop owner Trudie Goetz claims that there must have been a misunderstanding, and that Oprah was allowed to see the handbag in question, and that the saleswoman was not proficient in English. Some aren't buying it:

So as the store owner you: blame the employee, blame the employee's heritage, claim it was all just a "misunderstanding".


And even if this WASN'T a case of racism, there's one point to remember:

[Y]ou lost a $40k sale.

H/T to James Russell, who shared the Gawker version of the story.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Foreign purchases of U.S. cloud services - are the storms temporary?

While I realize that 94.6% of you have already determined that this is the most informative item that you will read today, I still have to sell the other 5.4% of you on this obvious fact.

Thus we see the power of statistics. If something can be quantified, then it acquires the veneer of truth. But what is truth? We've discussed this before, when looking at the $775 billion figure for piracy losses. And Ashton Kutcher's figure citing hundreds of thousands of sex slaves in the U.S. And the repeated statements about how Windows is being trounced by MacOS and Linux.

So here's today's questionable statistic. Mitch Wagner linked to a Washington Post article that linked to another Washington Post article that linked to a ComputerWorld UK article that talked about a survey that was conducted by the Cloud Security Alliance. The announced objective of the survey, called the Official CSA Snowden/NSA Patriot Act Survey, was as follows:

During June of 2013, news of a whistleblower, US government contractor Eric Snowden has dominated global headlines. Snowden provided evidence of US government access to information from telecommunications and Internet providers via secret court orders as specified by the Patriot Act. As this news became widespread, it has led to a great deal of debate and soul searching about appropriate access to an individual’s digital information, both within the United States and any other country.

The purpose of this survey is to collect a broad spectrum of CSA member opinions about this news, and to understand how this impacts your attitude about using public cloud providers as well as any other broadly available Internet services. Several questions are specifically intended for either US or non-US citizens, please be aware that you must provide your country of residence to participate.

By the time that ComputerWorld UK reported on the survey, the major news was generated by the respondents who reside outside of the United States:

A Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) survey found that 10% of 207 officials at non-U.S. companies have canceled contracts with U.S. service providers following the revelation of the NSA spy program last month. The alliance, a non-profit organization with over 48,000 individual members, said the survey also found that 56% of non-U.S. respondents are now hesitant to work with any U.S.-based cloud service providers.

Those numbers have been extrapolated, quantified, folded, spindled, and mutilated, and the Washington Post article cited by Mitch Wagner put a dollar figure on the cloud providers' losses - "$21.5 to $35 billion over the next three years."

Needless to say, everyone is focusing on the larger number, and people have concluded, based upon the quantified and therefore true evidence, that the U.S. economy has taken a $35 billion hit because our government is snoop-happy.

Hold on. Let's back up, all the way to the ComputerWorld UK report that discussed the initial survey results.

Yes, the survey did show (if you trust the respondents) that U.S. companies HAVE suffered from cancelled contracts from non-U.S. companies.

How many respondents have cancelled contracts?

Well, ten percent of 207 is 21 (more or less).

So each of those 21 people represents over a billion dollars of lost business each.

"But John," you say, "you do not understand the methodology of surveys. A 10 percent contract cancellation rate among this survey sample can be extrapolated into the general population of non-U.S. companies."

Well, naysayer (you must be part of the 5.4%), I clearly understand the methodology of surveys. So I ask you - is this sample representative? The results were based upon respondents who were motivated to respond to the survey. As far as is known, the only requirements to participate in the survey were (1) the ability to see the Cloud Security Alliance announcement, and (2) a willingness to state one's country of residence. While one would hope that the CSA would not attract spurious survey results, it is certainly within the realm of possibility that one, or ten, or even twenty people could see the survey, yell "BUSH OBAMA SUX," and respond with glee.

And how did the Cloud Security Alliance treat the results of the survey? According to ComputerWorld UK, the response was...surprise:

"The level of skepticism was greater than I expected," said Jim Reavis, co-founder and executive director of the CSA. "I had thought that more people would understand that these activities happen all the time in their countries as well."

This would be highlighted in an incident that happened during the survey period. The survey was conducted between June 25 and July 9. In the middle of that survey period, Bolivian President Evo Morales left Russia on a plane, heading toward Bolivia. There was a suspicion that Edward Snowden might be a stowaway on the plane, so one would expect that the plane might run into some trouble if it entered U.S. airspace while traveling between Russia and Bolivia.

But the plane didn't encounter a problem over U.S. airspace. It encountered a problem over French and Portugese airspace, and was forced to land in Austria, where the plane either was or was not searched, and was allowed to continue to the Canary Islands (Spanish territory) either with or without conditions.

And who was the short-term winner in the brouhaha? Finland:

Finland-based security firm F-Secure, which provides a range of hosted security services has felt some of the ripple effect from the recent disclosures.

"Ever since the PRISM scandal started in June, prospects in Europe, Middle East and Asia, are asking whether the ownership of the company is in U.S. or whether we host customer data in U.S.," said Mikko Hypponen, F-Secure's chief research officer.

"Right now, there are many customers who don't want to buy American -- or to buy from a NATO country in general," Hypponen said. "Then again, there are many customers who don't want to buy Chinese, Russian or Israeli either. In a situation like this, it's good to be a solution provider coming from a fairly neutral country."

But before we immediately conclude that Finnish cloud and security providers will get $35 billion in business, let's wait for some actual results. Although I can't talk about it, I've seen enough surveys over the years that took rosy head in, cloud assumptions and restated them as sure things of multiple billions of business. And, when the next year arrived and the rosy predictions didn't come true, the same survey process was repeated and the multiple billions predictions were moved out a year.

Heck, based upon that type of survey method, California's Ontario International Airport is an economic powerhouse.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Have it your way - in the proposal delivery world, the customer is always right, no matter what

I've stated before that the proposal industry is one industry that has to adhere to deadlines. When a request for proposal (RFP) includes a deadline, you have to adhere to the deadline.

No matter what.

Lohfeld Consulting Group has shared a few proposal delivery horror stories, and I figured that one of them would be of interest to my readers. When you here the story, you'll probably laugh and think that it's an example of the Federal Government lacking common sense, but put yourself in the shoes of the Marine Contracting Officer while you read the beginning of this story.

Fellow Lohfeld Consultant Brooke Crouter had a proposal due on September 12, 2001 on the Marine Corps base at Quantico. The base shut down at about 0930 on September 11. She had to have the duty officer contact the Contracting Officer (CO) to see if the proposal delivery deadline was extended or not. Since the CO didn’t want to extend, there was an issue of how to deliver to a base that was shut down.

Now any adult (i.e. anyone who was around on September 11, 2001) who read that is probably shaking his or her head. But remember that in this case, the governing authority - and the only person whose opinion matters - is the Contracting Officer. If you forget this, then you might as well not try to have any business career, because you have failed to place the customer first.

The Contracting Officer has a job to do, and his or her job is to procure certain items, and to receive and review proposals by September 12 in pursuit of that goal. If you can't get your proposal in on time, that's YOUR problem.

Well, in this case it was Brooke Crouter's problem. And Crouter had to remain flexible throughout the process - which lasted several weeks after the September 12 due date. In the end, Crouter had to tell the customer, "Have it your way" - and that's exactly what the customer did.

Finally, she got a call to show up NLT 1300 at the Burger King outside the back gate. There was a government vehicle parked with the trunk open. You handed off your box and got a receipt. It looked like a very strange drug deal going on.

But the proposal was delivered to the Contracting Officer's satisfaction. Although I'm not sure that the Contracting Officer would have been allowed to receive a side of fries if Crouter had included that in the submission.

Now that is a proposal delivery success story. If you want to read about a proposal delivery failure - including the problems that can occur when a helicopter with no landing rights is used for a proposal delivery - read the original post.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Dear Time Warner and CBS...please do NOT reach an agreement

Dear Time Warner and CBS,

It's happened again, and this time neither of you blinked. According to USA Today, CBS owned-and-operated stations and CBS networks (such as Showtime) are no longer being carried by Time Warner Cable.

This has happened before, and before, of course. A content provider wants money, and a cable/satellite provider doesn't want to pay, so they make all sorts of threats. The content providers airs commercials saying, "Call your cable/satellite provider and tell them that you want to see our programming on your system!" Meanwhile, the cable/satellite providers air commercials saying, "Call your content provider and demand that they allow their shows to be shown on your system!"

And it's happened here. A few days ago, I heard a commercial urging me to call Time Warner. And I'm sure if I listened long enough, I would have heard a commercial urging me to call CBS.

And, Time Warner and CBS, you know what happens next. After you air all of these warring messages, you eventually reach an agreement, and all is forgotten - until Time Warner and Disney get into a fight, or until CBS and Dish Network get into a fight.

The USA Today writer seems to think that you guys will settle your little spat once the summer's over. By the time AFC football and the fall season starts, you guys will buckle down and work out an agreement.

Well, Time Warner and CBS, I hope you don't.

Time Warner, I hope that you keep on fighting and claim that CBS is trying to extort money from you.

And CBS, I hope that you keep on fighting and tell Time Warner to pay what your shows are worth.

Frankly, I hope that CBS programming never appears on Time Warner ever again.

And I hope that these fights spread, so that all of these content providers disappear from all of the cable/satellite providers.

If that happens, then obviously people won't pay for these cable/satellite services any more. And at the same time, the content providers won't get all of that guaranteed revenue that has made them greedy.

Then both the cable/satellite providers and the content providers will really have to fight for my business. Instead of holding these fake crisis wars every few years, they'll have to come up with a new business model - oen that will make it worthwhile for me to watch your shows.

Time Warner, CBS, and everyone else, I want you to pay ME to watch your stuff.

But you'll claim that's unreasonable.

Well, why should I have to pay YOU so that you get the privilege to air commercials in my home? Shouldn't you be paying me so that I will become part of your audience?

I'm waiting.

Cloud applications COULD be highly available...but read the fine print

I had previously stated that it's more risky to depend upon an outside service to host your applications than it is to host your applications yourself.

Of course, I was wrong.

When I host my applications myself, I am dependent upon my own computer software and hardware. My computer software and hardware is not perfect - something that I know well after having a hard drive die on me a few years ago.

Now cloud applications aren't 100% reliable either, but you can design your cloud systems for high availability. If there's a failure of one of the cloud servers, the system would simply switch to another server, with no interruption of service. (Unless things go wrong.)

Of course, it costs money to provide that high availability, and it costs money to keep a system up all the time. And when a company is faced with profit issues...well, they may just cut costs a little bit.

Ask Dave Veffer about this. He's had some intermittent problems accessing Adobe Creative Cloud, the cloud-based replacement for Adobe's former applications that you hosted yourself. Now Adobe's a big company, so you'd think that they'd want to have their applications available. Veffer found otherwise when he had a problem accessing Adobe Creative Cloud, contacted support, and received this message from the support person:

I am sorry to inform that due to maintaince (sic) we are unable to access the applications of Adobe hence it will not be possible for me to fix the issue at this moment.

When Veffer asked how long this maintenance would last, he received this reply:

It will take 2-3 hours.

Well, obviously Adobe isn't promising "five nines" (99.999%) availability for Adobe Creative Cloud. If Adobe were providing 99.999% availability, downtime would be less than six minutes per YEAR. Now perhaps five nines is overkill for an application such as Adobe Creative Cloud, but what level of downtime is reasonable? Veffer was faced with a deadline in two hours when this happened, and it appears that Adobe Creative Cloud won't be available until after the deadline has passed.

What availability does Adobe promise for its cloud products? I was curious about this, so I checked Adobe's terms and found this paragraph, in all caps:


Now one can understand such terms when you're getting a free service, such as the services provided by Google. But when you're a paying customer of Adobe Creative Cloud, and Adobe isn't even willing to guarantee that the service will be available, that's pretty worrisome.