I work from my house, as does my wife Linda Barlow. That makes it an interesting place right there, as Linda has published 15 novels, served two terms as a director of the Author’s Guild, testified as an expert witness on HTML technology in Federal court and, for variety, taught neurobiology at a local college. She is also a much better MMO player than I am.
Monday night, however, things got interesting in another way. On the whole, I’m not apt to be particularly celebrity-struck. I grew up in Beverly Hills; worked with bunches of politicians, Nobel Laureates and Fields Medalists at Harvard; talk for hours with some of the tech industry’s biggest names; and have met some extremely popular authors through Linda. Still, I thought it was cool to be Twittering back and forth with LeVar Burton, of Roots and Star Trek fame, especially when he sent a direct message that read, in its entirety, “Exactly!!! Well said.” But unfortunately, that wasn’t the most interesting part either.
While I was tweeting away in the middle of the night, I heard a shout from Linda. It turned out that we had a fire on our 49-year-old electric stove. (A burner had failed to turn off, a plastic cutting board had fallen onto it, and flames had started.) Read more
As is pointed out in the right-most column of this and every other blog page, we publish five blogs, all written by me. As per the boilerplate:
- DBMS2 covers database management, analytics, and related technologies.
- Text Technologies covers text mining, search, and social software.
- Strategic Messaging analyzes marketing and messaging strategy.
- The Monash Report examines technology and public policy issues.
- Software Memories recounts the history of the software industry.
But I actually write a sixth blog too, which has taken over much of the role previously filled by The Monash Report. It also overlaps coverage of internet technologies with Text Technologies.
I’ve been arguing passionately for years that technologists and policy-makers need to work together on ensuring information systems meet life-and-death needs without compromising essential liberties.* This is obviously a tall order, and last night something struck me — the case of electronic health records should be handled first, basically because it is free of the national-security rigmarole infesting other kinds of privacy issues.
Please take a look. (And please overlook the UI at those links. It’s been embarrasingly bad, especially in the matter of bullet points, ever since I started blogging there, and this month it got a lot worse. I’m sorry.)
Then please help, by advancing your take on these ideas by any means at your disposal. It’s going to take years to get all this right. Freedom hangs in the balance. We need to start NOW.
Discussion is also underway on Slashdot.
Dashing cross the Pond
Flown there by BA
Computers crashing ’round
Coughing all the way (hack, hack hack)
It’s been a heckuva week — personal computer crash, Massachusetts’ electrical outage, two-day trip to the UK, and the flu. I’m badly backlogged on email, blog posts, and the holidays.
I’ll catch up as best I can, starting this weekend.
I’m pretty passionate about electronic freedom these days.
Issues of privacy and liberty take at least five forms:
- Admissible evidence in court
- Admissible evidence in investigations (not exactly the same thing)
- The consequences of damaging information leaks from the government to the private sector
- Potential chill on useful technologies (e.g., electronic health records) caused by any of the other four kinds of issue
Taken together, that amounts to much of the Bill of Rights – or other countries’ equivalents – plus a whole lot of life-saving technology on the side. I.e., it’s more than huge.
That’s from a detailed recent post that ends with a call to action:
Please join me in raising awareness. Blog yourself. Send email to those who might have influence. Or – and this one’s really easy – just go to the suggestion page at www.change.gov and help draw the incoming Administration’s attention toward these crucial issues.
Please, please do at least one of those things. There’s still enough time for freedom to be preserved, since the worst practical threats are still some years off. But if it doesn’t happen during an Obama Administration, when will it happen, in the United States or the rest of the world? The time to make a difference is now.
I am to be interviewed at 7:28 am Monday 11/17 on Federal News Radio, AM 1500 in the DC area. That’s also an internet radio station. The producer writes:
We’ll zap this interview to the entire Maryland/VA/DC tri-state area. We’ll also stream it live at federalnewsradio.com. And afterwards, we’ll archive it online in its entirety (MP3 format).
Hopefully I’ll get a more precise link to the archive once it’s up, in which case I plan to edit it into this post.
The subject is what Obama should look for in a CTO, and what the Obama Administration’s technology priorities should be. This interview was surely triggered by my post arguing the new United States CTO needs to be more of a CIO, and the Slashdotting of same.
- MP3 of the interview
- My rant rebutting the attitudes represented by the interviewers
- Freedom even without data privacy
For the first time in ages, I put up a Monash Advantage Members-only Monash Letter at www.monashadvantage.com. Passwords can be obtained from my principal contacts at each Member. (If you can’t guess who that is at your company, please feel free to contact me directly.)
The subject is Positioning Choices in the Analytic DBMS Market. (Aka data warehouse DBMS, data warehouse appliance, analytic appliance, or whatever.) I proposed eight ideas that I think work, but they overlap a lot – four are variants on “great price/performance” and three are variants on “the safe choice.” I also called out a few that I don’t think work, including at least one that one of my clients is pretty much betting the company on.
Obviously, there’s a huge amount of research backing up this analysis over on DBMS2. (Just one example – my recent Teradata product line overview.) But I also invoked some underlying marketing theory. Part of that has been posted on Strategic Messaging. Other exists only in very crude draft form. (Sadly, that’s what my whole company website used to look like, until Melissa Bradshaw rescued it.)
During the campaign, Barack Obama promised to appoint a national Chief Technology Officer. Naturally, vigorous discussion has ensued as to who that should be. I’ve been right in the thick of it:
- Arguing that the CTO should really be a CIO, in line with Obama’s own description of the job. (That got Slashdotted.)
- Discussing which direct responsibilities the United States CTO/CIO actually should have.
- Recommending former IRS Commissoner and American Management Systems CEO Charles Rossotti for the job, both because of his accomplishments and his honesty. (Rossotti emailed me implying that he wasn’t interested. I shot back that this was the first time in our quarter-century acquaintance I didn’t precisely believe what he said.)
- Outlining my recommended list of Obama Administration IT priorities.
Much of the blogosphere and trade press discussion started out silly, speculating on Eric Schmidt for the job and so on. Richard Koman was one of the first to analyze the subject more sensibly. But now Dan Farber has weighed in with a great post, looking at the practicalities of the position in detail, which was quickly echoed by his old partner Larry Dignan.
Getting Federal IT straight is a VERY difficult job. It’s also utterly crucial. I hope the Obama Administration gets it right.
I’ve been writing quite a bit over on A World of Bytes about the technology used in the 2008 Presidential campaign. Subjects included:
- A brilliant viral get-out-the-vote video (from MoveOn.org, actually, not the Obama campaign as I first thought). What was so innovative about it was the personalization inside the video. This is one to learn from in your own business.
- Obama campaign successes and failures at local targeting (that one also has links to a number of other posts on technology-in-the-campaign).
- Two appallingly dishonest site-specific search boxes.
I’m also writing over there about what I think the Obama Administration should do with respect to technology policy. First up is a ringing recommendation of Charles Rossotti for CIO/CTO. More to follow.
McAfee has announced a takeover of Secure Computing, ending that company’s independent existence. To this I can only say: It’s about time! Early this century, I was asked to revive my old investment research career and find stocks to short. A promising candidate turned out to be Secure Computing, whose main product lines included:
- A high-end “proxy”-style firewall, which was widely used in the US intelligence and defense communities
- A two-factor authentication division
- A censorware division that, for example, had run Saudi Arabia’s web censorship since the late 1990s
- A firewall-on-a-board OEM deal with 3COM
The short idea was in large part that the firewall-on-a-board idea had caused great overoptimism, stoked by the company. On further digging, I found that CEO John McNulty’s resume, as stated for example in Secure Computing’s SEC filings, seemed inconsistent with his resume as stated in SEC filings of his prior employer. Nobody seemed to care much about correcting that, however. Read more