“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Archive for May, 2006

Enough with Katie already!

Posted by direwolff on May 31, 2006

Ordinarily I wouldn't have had a clue that Katie Couric was moving from NBC's Today Show to CBS News, at least not much beyond what I read on the Google News page, where this story has long ago passed the top headlines, but that was all back in the days where I was single and oblivious to all things not kitesurfing or Internet related. My fiancee on the other hand, enjoys watching the Today Show, and though we have a 3 TV house, this past week she has chosen to watch TV in our shared office area. I try to be congenial about this since the overlap from the time I get up into the office until she shuts the TV off isn't generally more than an hour. Also, given that I've been pretty religious about catching the NBA playoffs on our living room TV, which I know doesn't rank among her favorite shows, sort of requires me to be a little flexible as well.

These past two weeks however, have been brutal. It seems that every one thinks Katie is either retiring, dying or is some sort of deity who is leaving the proverbial "us". Granted, I'm not Katie, but shouldn't so much meaningless attention adorned on any one be embarassing? Especially when she's not actually going anywhere but perhaps a few buildings over to do another TV show. In all of this I'm not sure what's worse, the staged goodbyes from various celebrities and former interviewees of Katie's or being subjected to all of those wonderful people who voted Shrub…I mean Mr. President…into office, all pining over the death…I mean departure…I mean move from one network to another, of Katie. It makes you want to swallow the muzzle of a loaded .44 magnum and pull the trigger. OK, I exaggerate, the feeling is more like needing to puke.

I'm having to vent here because today being her last day on the Today Show, has been the true "piece de resistance" with more mind numbing praise than has been bestowed on Gandhi, Joseph Campbell, or other truly great people who have accomplished amazing feats for humanity. Granted, entertainers have always been subject to fandom and the excesses that come from those who worship the ground they walk on, but seeing NBC play this up reminds me that where there's fandom there's money and this is their last chance to milk the Katie cow…and they're doing it for all it's worth. I wonder how much more ad spots are costing for this show, and how much these will dip tomorrow. Imagine that, two weeks of reminding people that their idol is "going away and we will miss her", (isn't idolization against the religious and moral belief system of the very people idolizing Katie in person?…hmmm…). Well, it's been an effective marketing campaign and at least in the case of my fiancee, it has resulted in her watching every day without fail and created lasting discussions with her friends on the subject.

Fortunately, this all comes to an end today and hopefully all of these people who have been religiously showing up to see her at Rockefeller Plaza in New York will get back to having a life. More importantly, I can now get back to some sense of normalcy in my office and stop having to put on my headset to get into a space far away from Katie and her minions. On a positive note, CBS is going to get a nice viewer lift from Katie's move, but of course with all such matters, the question is for how long. If I was an executive at CBS, right about now I'd be sending my counterparts at NBC a case of champagne in thanks for building Katie up beyond her humanly existence. Not that I watch the evening news on any of the major networks, but if I did, all this has done is assured me that CBS will not be my network of choice.


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In the beginning…

Posted by direwolff on May 21, 2006

…there was my Blogger blog. Just sucked it up here so that I can consolidate it with some other blogs that I started several months later as I was assessing the various platforms.  With the flexibility offered by the WordPress environment I feel that I’ll be better able to experiment with the various interesting widgets that I’ve been seeing out there in the blogosphere. Let the fun begin.

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AT&T – Lies, lies, and more lies…Thank you EFF!

Posted by direwolff on May 18, 2006

Here’s a *must* read PR from the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

EFF’s Class-Action Lawsuit Against AT&T for Collaboration with Illegal Domestic Spying Program

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T on January 31, 2006, accusing the telecom giant of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans’ communications.

The true insanity here comes in the form of the government’s action:

“On May 15, the United States government filed a motion to dismiss EFF’s suit. While EFF was not permitted to see the government’s entire brief, in a redacted version made publicly available the government said that the case against AT&T should be immediately terminated because any judicial inquiry into the whether AT&T broke the law could reveal state secrets and harm national security.”

A government that cannot be trusted cannot be counted on to govern the people. It just keeps getting worse, and I know that somewhere (actually lots of places) in the red states there are people saying, we have no choice this is the world we live in now and steps like this are necessary. Still waiting to wake up from the coma I must be in so I can find out that these past 6 years were only part of a bad dream…

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Posted by direwolff on May 18, 2006

A friend of mine sent me this link recommending the video on the landing page, and so after seeing it I’m recommending this to those of you who happen to catch this blog post, so you can also experience it.

Check out:

Some times it’s the simple ideas that are worth the most, and while this isn’t solving the big picture, it may be a good achievable first step towards beginning to reverese the natural course of things.

Posted in Public Policy | 1 Comment »

When politicians have too much time and too little knowledge on their hands, things get weird

Posted by direwolff on May 13, 2006

From the department of misguided laws and regulations that never needed to get the time of day, we bring you Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R-Pa) latest attempt to bring his vision of the perfect world to the rest of our country (does any one know why it’s always the Pennsylvania representatives that seem to behave with such disdain for tolerance of any sort?).

Follow the action here to see why he’s seeking a bill to block access to MySpace…and this guy calls himself an American, blasted! And of course, my favorite line if not for its idiocy and hypocricy comes in the form of:

“The social networking sites have become, in a sense, a happy hunting ground for child predators,” said Fitzpatrick, a father of six children, including three teen girls. His legislation, called the Deleting Online Predators Act, “is essentially a bill to protect children from the Internet.”

(Someone had better tell him that it wasn’t so long ago that the Congressional Pages program used to be the happy hunting ground for child predators.)

And how does Rep. Fitzpatrick propose to achieve his goal of protecting the children, you ask? By prohibiting “anyone under 18 from accessing [“social networking” websites] on school or library computers”. Will the people of Pennsylvania (a state that I have much affinity with and a great respect for its people) *PLEASE* stop voting for idiots!!! Arrrrgggghhhh!!!! :-)

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NSA sleuthing and the importance of social networks

Posted by direwolff on May 13, 2006

Ran into an interesting article this morning on how the NSA is using its access to Americans’ telephone calls (are these the “lugs” so often referred to in “Law & Order”?), courtesy of our friendly phone companies, to map social networks.  Here’s the article, while short, it gets the basic point across.

So imagine that we could find out through people’s phone records (oh yeah, and cell phones too), everyone they called.  As the article suggests, knowing what was discussed is far less important than who’s talking to who.  Building implicit social networks is something that many services have been trying to do, but for a start-up the challenge is far greater than for the NSA and it’s “we have ways of making you talk” methods for getting the phone call records from the telcos.  Companies like Spoke do this for corporations where they let their employees’ e-mails get processed for just such type of relationships.  Others like ZoomInfo work on putting together implicit bios on people from sucking in the various press releases, news articles, and Web site company bios about them.  With services like LinkedIn or one that I recall Alacra offering that mapped executives’ corporate affiliations and board seats, you can really start getting a good sense for the corporate relationship landscape.  Of course none of this does anything to address mapping the “masses”, and certainly nothing quite like the phone logs.

OK, so where am I going with this?  Something about this feels like a more invasive privacy violation than someone getting a hold of my credit card information and purchase history.  Explicit links are one thing, but when we get to implicit it raises several other issues.  These are currently being raised and debated in the context of, but also need to be looked at in this latest NSA context.  At what point will people’s information be held to a higher standard, to a private standard.  Has the idea of privacy really lost all meaning under the directive of the war on terror (someone please explain how one can be at war with “a state of intense fear”…and they say that English is our country’s national language, but I digress).

Now if we take a counter position here for a moment, the extent of the abuses that we’ve been experiencing in corporations and government (some times being one and the same) lately, which I do believe have greatly surpassed those of previous decades (part of our culture of breaking world records I guess) both in scope and in damage, this really starts to support the idea that we need a way to understand who knows whom both in government and in corporations.  If to at least stem the payola abuses between corporate lobbyists and government officials.  The Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay fiasco certainly points to how lobbyists and charities were even used in quite an elaborate scheme.  But when you go below the surface and start to see who knew who, you really get a good picture for how incestuous and insular the group involved in these fraudulent activities were.  You also get a good picture of how and why those involved were involved and how they knew each other.

So the question of privacy here really comes with a double-edged sword, of which both sides are strongly defendable.  What also occurs to me is that those often making the laws are the ones who violate them the most aggregiously and for whom these laws really need apply.  Call it the cost of going into “public” life.  The NSA knowing my social network won’t really do much for them given that I have no inclination for power nor for any nefarious activities.  But them knowing Tom DeLay’s social network could unearth more crimes than we could prosecute him for in his lifetime.  The funny thing is that he has already shown the power to have judges and evidence removed  from his case, so will any of these NSA actions really ever affect him?

Given that government officials are held to higher standards (by their own doing and arrogance most often) and corporate chieftains of public companies are now making significant sums of money and positioning themselves as part of the public trust, then it’s probably right that these folks be subjected to the social network mapping exercise, while leaving the “hoi polloi” to go about its private business privately.  Or at worse case, people should only have this sort of intrusion occur if they’re suspected of committing a crime, but not as a matter or policy as it appears to be happening with these NSA exercises.  It’s really very interesting to see that in our country where the cries of privacy and freedom are loudly pronounced and bandied around like they’re part of the common sense of living here, we now live in a place that ‘s closely reminiscent of what we were told was happening in the Soviet Union in the late 1970s.  It was all the rage to talk about how the Soviets were spying on their own and no one was free to say anything against the government for fear of retribution.  They weren’t free was the mantra espoused in this country at the time.  Well, who’s not free now?  If you follow the progression of these violations you can start to see how the current investigations into government “whistle blowers” tied to mapping of their social networks could start to get a lot of people in trouble for doing the right thing…and yes, then we could never say anything derogatory against our government either…but I digress.

With that I’ll end my rant :-)


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So what’s missing out there Stowe?

Posted by direwolff on May 2, 2006

Flew to LA today for the AlwaysOn OnHollywood conference at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. The hotel sits in a pretty seedy part of Hollywood as was described by someone, but I like to think of it as the character filled more edgy side of Hollywood. The Chinese Theatre is straight out of my hotel room window and its a veritable carnival out there w/some gal dancing on her own non-stop, musicians down a block or so from her, tourists by the dozens, all sorts of interesting costumed characters (wait, I see a Goofy handing out pamphlets of some sort), all-in-all a pretty crazy scene out there.

While having lunch, I noticed Stowe Boyd blogging away down the hotel bar from me and went over to introduce myself. Super nice guy and he’s apparently become a paid model recently. He pulled this off by auctioning his t-shirt-wear space to the highest bidders and is now booked w/logo’d t-shirts for the next 240 days. Too funny. He had very fond words for Tribe (wishing it was doing better), and more specifically for Mark Pincus.

After eating lunch I caught up w/him again and asked him the question, “so Stowe, what’s missing out there, or what have you seen that’s interesting, new and unique?”. He paused and explained per one of his previous posts (which I’ll refer to here after I find it on his site), that there are lots of clusters of so-called Web 2.0 applications. It feels like as soon as someone does something interesting several others rush to do the same stuff with incrememental differences. But it does seem like there’s lots of other stuff out there that no one has yet taken a crack at. The example he gave was accounting systems.

I loved it. Given that accounting systems do often require several people to interact w/them, enabling a distributed Web accessible accounting system does seem to make sense. Sure there are security issues, but no better no worse than what has to deal with. Perhaps even with a synching component if the company deemed a need to back-up its content locally as well as having it sit in the cloud. I thought this simple example was actually very insightful given how many small companies out there deal with accountants on a retainer basis and need them to regularly look over their bookkeeping entries. It would save both the accountants and the small companies time. For the accountants they could simply review reports electronically at will. For the companies, they’d save time in not having to print everything out or e-mail reports to the accountants.

I’m always amazed by what interesting information can get unearthed some times from asking the simple questions. Now time to get started working a hosted accounting system before a cluster emerges there too.

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