March 28, 2010

Pranks of the past

As April Fool’s Day approaches, it may be amusing to review pranks of the past.

February 25, 2010

People are very confused about privacy

According to CNet, Anthony Stancl ran an interesting scheme:

Stancle had been accused of creating a Facebook profile belonging to a nonexistent teenage girl and then, between approximately the spring of 2007 and November of 2008, using it to convince more than 30 of his male classmates to send in nude photos or videos of themselves.

Stancl then reportedly threatened to post the photos or videos on the Internet if they didn’t engage in some sort of sexual activity with him. At least seven of them have said they were coerced into sex acts, which Stancl documented with a cell phone camera.

Stancl’s victims were teenage boys focused on sex — not exactly the world’s clearest thinkers. Even so, I find it remarkable that multiple people would:

  1. Send nude photographs of themselves to a stranger.
  2. Be so concerned about those photographs getting published online that they would submit to sexual blackmail.
  3. Allow the results of their sexual blackmail to be photographed.

Literally — WTF??

January 6, 2010

Updating our disclosures

From time to time a blogger should make disclosures about sources of income and other potential influences.  Fortunately, I’ve covered most of them in the past.

One new development is that for the first time since 2001, I’ve taken stock in a private company. It’s Petascan, a seed/stealth-stage outfit with some very innovative ideas about how to use Flash memory in support of analytic data processing.  I’d like to do more of this, with conflicts evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  For example, I bet I could bring a lot of value to vertically-oriented analytics start-ups, who would at worst compete with only a small fraction each of the business of the more horizontally-oriented companies I generally write about.

December 14, 2009

Our services for technology vendors

Monash Research provides what we hope is great advice, to technology vendors, users, and investors alike. Working with organizations who want more insight and interaction than is available in our free blogs, we consult on a broad range of subjects – marketing and technology, strategy and tactics, large companies and small ones, all across a variety of industry sectors.

For the past several years, we’ve had an annual refresh of our vendor service offerings, always unveiled in the fall. This year has seen more change than usual, and so I’d like to share some of the highlights with you here. A revampimg of our services for users is in the works as well, and I’ll share that too with you when it is finalized.

Aspects that haven’t changed much include:

The biggest change from prior years is that there are now three tiers of the Monash Advantage, up from one.

The early response to this tiering has been very positive, and we have had multiple sign-ups for 2010 at each of the three levels.

Another change is that we no longer require companies to join the Monash Advantage on a strict calendar-year basis. Now, it’s calendar quarters, and for Custom members we’re completely flexible.

Finally, we’re open to doing stock deals with seed-stage companies, at least ones that don’t compete closely with our other clients. For example, I’ve just started advising one stealth start-up in a hardware area that complements analytic DBMS, and I’m having a blast.  I’ll disclose the names of any companies I have private stock in, as well as offering at least a capsule of what is publicly known about what they’re pursuing.

September 3, 2009

OpenOffice vs. Microsoft Word for WordPress blogging — a 65:1 ratio in cruft

I prepare most of my blog posts in OpenOffice. Most of the rest I write directly online in WordPress. I almost never use Microsoft Word.

The reason, simply put, is cruft.

When I copy a post from OpenOffice to WordPress, I invariably get a line at the top that looks like

<!–         @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in }         P { margin-bottom: 0.08in }     –>

I delete that, which according to OpenOffice stats amounts to exactly 100 characters; I fiddle with the bullet points a bit; I add a title, categories, and a MORE separator; and I’m basically good to go.

By way of contrast, in a recent post I copied a sentence from a press release I’d recieved across Google Mail in .DOC format, forgetting to stage it into OpenOffice first.  The cruft I needed to delete consisted of 6489 characters, namely: Read more

May 12, 2009

Star Trek companions

Hat tip to Linda Barlow for a long list of allusions and references in the recent Star Trek movie, including the comment thread.

Meanwhile, this is as good a time as any to offer lyrics and music/video for the classic Leslie Fish filk song “Banned from Argo.”

Our proper, cool first officer was drugged with something green
And hauled into an alley, where he suffered things obscene
He sobered up in sickbay and he’s none the worse for wear
Except he’s somehow taught the bridge computer how to swear

Actually, this version has better sound and image quality, but the video part doesn’t speak to me.


April 20, 2009

I’m holding forth on public policy again

I was interviewed by Federal News Radio again, and will edit in a link to an audio file if/when they give me one.  (Here it is.) The subject was the completion of the Aneesh Chopra/Vivek Kundra team for United States CTO and CIO, something I find alarming due to their lack of focus on the tough project management/data integration and privacy issues at the heart of government IT.

Overall, the interview went a lot better than my last one with the same station.

March 12, 2009

Interesting times in the Monash home

The set-up

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.

The flare-up

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

February 7, 2009

Should we include my blog A World of Bytes in our general feed?

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:

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.

That is A World of Bytes, which I write for Network World. Read more

January 19, 2009

When law meets technology, and you can help

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.

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