Mindfulness Meets High School Science Club Management Methods

October 23, 2020

I read “Silicon Valley’s Corporate Mindfulness Hypocrisy.” I found my “mind” full of thoughts. The main point is that consulting savants are booking engagements and billing for educational sessions which teach employees how to be mindful. (No, I don’t know what that means, and, to be frank, I am not particularly interested in the snake oil coated academic guruish explanations.

The essay contains an interesting sentence:

Corporate mindfulness is a poor substitute for organizational change. By reframing structural and systemic problems as an individual-level pathology, by putting the onus of responsibility all on individuals – telling them, “Just do this mindfulness practice” –is akin  to victim-blaming.

The bound phrase which I noted is “organizational change.”

Why on earth would a Silicon Valley company making money, keeping the funding sources at bay, and employees working from home want substantive change.

The purpose of high school science club management methods is to institutionalize anti-adult behavior. Entitlement, money, and Clubhouse fame are goals. The other stuff like the well being of the lucky people who get paid to filter content that semi smart software cannot be trusted to block is not a big deal.

In my opinion, HSSCMM are the norm, and they seem to be working for some outfits. Change is hard. Let the employees learn how to channel their inner demons. The top dogs want to check out the new Porsches.

If you don’t get it, you don’t belong to the science club, and you probably won’t be noticed.

What’s the science club saying about the upcoming Congressional hearings in late October? Scary, right?

Stephen E Arnold, October 23, 2020

Gartner Predictions: Fresh from the Patisserie

October 20, 2020

I spotted “Gartner Reveals the Top Strategic Tech Trends for 2021.” The write up is an information croquembouche. Here’s what Wikipedia offers as a typical confection whipped up by trained chefs:

image

This is a croquembouche. A tower of sugar-filled balls, filled with custard. Caramel enlivens the gourmet experience.

What are those delicate balls of goodness? Maybe empty calories or evidence of the wisdom for the saying, “A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips?” The write up states without one reference to a poire à la Beaujolaise or tasty teurgoule. I had to content myself with the jargon and buzzword equivalent of pièce montée.

Here are some examples. Please, consult the original article or the menu available directly from Gartner for the complete list:

  • Artificial intelligence engineering, perfect for those who have mastered plain old AI
  • Anywhere operations, the bane of real estate professionals with empty buildings and clients who are missing their lease payments. Just WFH and do “operations” from one’s bedroom.
  • Cybersecurity mesh. I have zero idea what this means, but there will be reports, speeches at WFH conferences, and maybe a podcast or two from the merry band of brownie makers.
  • The IoB or Internet of Behaviors. Yep, that’s where the Rona makes its entrance. Remarkable.

To wrap up, what’s in a croquembouche, a cream puff tower. For starters one needs:

  • 30 eggs (raised by a mid tier farmer in New Jersey)
  • 4 sticks of butter (from cows who produce milk while consultants’ sales pitches are played in the barn)
  • 5 cups of sugar. So far no government health warnings are required.

Perfect those cream puff towers of knowledge and deep thoughts. Who wants seconds?

Stephen E Arnold, October 20, 2020

Gartner: Sweetening Its Data Confections

October 19, 2020

The dead tree edition of the Wall Street Journal (October 19, 2020) ran an interesting story. The ingredients made my mouth water. My interest in technology activated like yeast as well. Imagine the implements a confectioner requires: A spreader, piping nozzles, melt drippers, cookie cutters (templates), and sugar, spice, and everything nice.

The title of the write up is “Reboot. Career Reinvention: A Cordon Bleu Trained Pastry Chef Ditched Desserts to Become a Data Analyst at a Global Advisory Firm.” (Note: This Hyperglycemic write up is locked in the cupboard, and one without a subscription must pay.) What was the name of the “global advisor firm”? Answer: Gartner Group, the chefs behind the hype cycle!

The write up states:

But after more than five years in the kitchen, he [Chris Pariso, the cordon bleu pâtissier] realized he wanted to do more with my life than bake cookies and brownies all day long.

Gartner’s human people people spotted the talented brownie expert and slotted him into “assessing cyber security risks” or “digging into concerns of possible fraud or internal waste” or developing “modes to forecast the company’s expansion.”

Gartner is apparently a stressful employer. The write up notes:

Habits he learned as a chef, such as working calmly under stressful, time-sensitive situations are useful in his job… Experience in open kitchens has given me some great inter personal skills.

And those Gartner reports: Sweeter than ever. Empty calories? Absolutely not. Sugar frosted? Hmm. Good question.

If you are working in food service, consider Gartner, a global advisory firm.

Stephen E Arnold, October 19, 2020

Journalists Do More Than Report: The Covid Determination

October 17, 2020

One of the DarkCyber research team alerted me to “Facebook Greatest Source of Covid-19 Disinformation, Journalists Say.” That’s the factoid, according to the “real” journalists at a British newspaper.

The main point of the write up may be an interesting way to send this message, “Hey, we are not to blame for erroneous Rona info.” I hear the message.

The write up states:

The majority of journalists covering the pandemic say Facebook is the biggest spreader of disinformation, outstripping elected officials who are also a top source, according to an international survey of journalism and Covid-19.

The survey prompted another Guardian article in August 2020.

Let’s assume Facebook and the other social media high pressure data hoses are responsible for bad, weaponized, or just incorrect Rona info. Furthermore, let’s accept these assertions:

Journalism is one of the worst affected industries during the pandemic as hundreds of jobs have been lost and outlets closed in Australia alone. Ninety per cent of journalists surveyed said their media company had implemented austerity measures including job losses, salary cuts and outlet closures.

The impression the write up creates in the malleable Play-doh of my mind is that journalists are no longer reporting the news. “Real” journalists are making the news, and it is about time!

The sample probably reflects the respondents reaction to the questions on the survey, which remain unknown to me. The survey itself may have been structured as a dark pattern. What better way to explain that bad things are happening to “real” journalists.

What’s interesting is that “real” journalists know that Facebook and other social media systems are bad.

One question, “How long has it taken “real” journalists to figure out the harsh realities of digital streams of users unfettered by internal or external constraints.

Maybe the news is: “It is too late.” Maybe the working hypothesis is that “better late than never”?

Stephen E Arnold, October 17, 2020

Work from Home: Stating the Obvious and a Newish Word

October 12, 2020

I read “Organizations Have Accrued Technical Debt in the Shift to Remote Work, and Now They Have to Face the Fallout.” Three facets of the article snagged my attention. The first was this observation attributed to a Security Awareness Advocate at KnowBe4, a information services firm:

“Many organizations have accrued a lot of technical debt, for lack of a better term, to get people working remotely,” said Malik. “They’ve enabled remote access to servers that they traditionally would never have given access to, or they might have relaxed some security rules. I heard of an organization that actually dropped 2FA to allow all of their employees to easily connect into the office, because they didn’t have enough resources to deploy 2FA to everyone, or train them up, or to deal with the number of tickets that would inevitably come in.

Okay, the obvious has been stated.

Second, the use of the phrase “technical debt” indicates that services firms want to make clear that taking one set of technologies and applying them to remote work has risks.

No kidding. News? Hardly. Reports from assorted cyber security companies have been pointing out that phishing has become a go-to mechanism for some time. A useful report is available from Interpol.

The third facet of the article was the use of the portmanteau “websem.” The coinage appears to be a combination of the word “webinar”, itself a modification of “seminar, and the now ubiquitous term “Web.”

Observations:

  1. Recycling Interpol data does not constitute an insight worthy of a consulting gig
  2. Whipping up jargon adds some froth to the Reddiwip analysis

Why not cite sources and use words WFH’ers will understand; for example, Zoom-eeting. Mammals braying, excitement, and snacks with toppings? The fallout? Plump targets for phishers.

Stephen E Arnold, October 12, 2020

After Decades of the Online Revolution: The Real Revolution Is Explained

October 9, 2020

Years ago I worked at a fancy, blue chip consulting firm. One of the keys to success in generating the verbiage needed to reassure clients was reading the Economist. The publication, positioned as a newspaper, sure looked like a magazine. I wondered about that marketing angle, and I was usually puzzled by the “insights” about a range of topics. Then an idea struck me: The magazine was a summarizer of data and verbiage for those in the “knowledge” business. I worked through the write ups, tried to recall the mellifluous turns of phrase, and stuff my “Data to Recycle” folder with clips from the publication.

I read “Faith in Government Declines When Mobile Internet Arrives: A New Study Finds That Incumbent Parties Lose Votes after Their Citizens Get Online.” [A paywall or an institutional subscription may be required to read about this obvious “insight.”] Readers of the esteemed publication will be launching Keynote or its equivalent and generating slide decks. These are often slide decks which will remain unfindable by an organization’s enterprise search system or in ineffectual online search systems. That may not be a bad thing.

The “new study” remains deliciously vague: No statistical niceties like who, when, how, etc. Just data and a killer insight:

A central (and disconcerting) implication is that governments that censor offline media could maintain public trust better if they restricted the internet too. But effective digital censorship requires technical expertise that many regimes lack.

The statements raise some interesting questions for experts to explain; for example, “Dictatorships may restore faith in governments.” That’s a topic for a Zoom meeting among one percenters.

Several observations seem to beg for dot pointing:

  1. The “online revolution” began about 50 years ago with a NASA program. What was the impact of those sluggy and buggy online systems like SDC’s? The answer is that information gatekeepers were eviscerated, slowly at first and then hasta la vista.
  2. Gatekeepers provided useful functions. One of these was filtering information and providing some aggregation functions. The recipient of information from the early-days online information systems was some speed up in information access but not enough to eliminate the need for old fashioned research and analysis. Real time is, by definition, not friendly to gatekeepers.
  3. With the development of commercial online infrastructure and commercial providers, the hunger or addiction to ever quicker online systems was evident. The “need for speed” seemed to be hard wired into those who worked in knowledge businesses. At least one online vendor reduces the past to a pattern and then looks at the “now” data to trigger conclusions. So much for time consuming deliberation of verifiable information.

The article cited above has discovered downstream consequences of behaviors (social and economic) which have been part of the online experience for many years.

The secondary consequences of online extend far beyond the mobile devices. TikTok exists for a reason, and that service may be one of the better examples of “knowledge work” today.

One more question: How can institutions, old fashioned knowledge, and prudent decision making survive in today’s datasphere? With Elon Musk’s implants, who will need a mobile phone?

Perhaps the next Economist write up will document that change, hopefully in a more timely manner.

Stephen E Arnold, October 9, 2020

Cyber Threat Intelligence Report

September 24, 2020

DarkCyber finds cyber-centric research interesting. We spotted a new report, current through June 30, 2020. The report costs about $1,600. The publisher / creator identifies 62 vendors, includes contact information, and details about each firm. For the $1,600, the information hungry buyer receives a 34 page report and — hang on to your hats — an Excel spreadsheet. One enthusiastic reviewer reports that vendors included in the report are:

Anomali
DarkOwl
Intsights
LookingGlass Cyber Solutions
Recorded Future acquired by Insight Partners in 2019
Sixgill (named after a type of fish)
SpyCloud
ZeroFOX

Factoids from the report include:

Funded companies had healthy growth despite the headwinds; for example, Sixgill almost doubled in size.

Headcount among the sample grew at an astounding three percent.

And revenue across the 62 companies, more than $500 million by December 31, 2020.

Want more information? Navigate to IT Harvest.

One minor point, DarkCyber could not rely on the firm’s blog posts through September 21, 2020. Here’s what was available in that service:

image

Yep, nothing. What’s that say about the firm’s attention to detail?

Stephen E Arnold, September 24, 2020

Efficiency: Modern Analytic Techniques Are Logical

September 21, 2020

I don’t pay much attention to writing about motion pictures. The title “Why Christopher Nolan Actually Blew Up A Real Plane For Tenet” was a bit of a baffler. I did not recognize the name “Christopher Nolan.” I knew the meaning of the word “tenet” but I had zero clue it was entertainment. When I looked him up, I did not recognize his cinematic masterpieces. Nevertheless, the premise of the essay was interesting:

Skip using a computer to fake blowing up a large airplane. But a 747 and just blow it up.

Interesting. Were there environmental costs? Were their additional safety related costs? Were there clean up costs? Were there additional legal costs associated with making sure that someone would have to pay if the whole deal went south? Maybe a post explosion maintenance worker catching on fire or just getting sick from breathing fumes?

Hey, breathing. What’s the big deal?

The write up does not address these questions, and my hunch is that expert cinema professionals think much about these problems even if some bright young sprout asked, “What happens if we screw up, kill a bunch of people, and maybe pollute the creek running next to the shoot?”

Hey, ducks and fish. Who cares? These folks are creating art for real people. Ducks? Or, “Hey, don’t rain on my parade” could well have been the response.

Thinking and acting efficiently is the way of the world among a certain cohort of professionals. If movie makers cannot ask, “How much will it cost if we screw this up?”, what other intellectual shortcuts have been taking place.

My hunch is a lot. Efficiency? Love it. Do large technology companies think in the manner of an esteemed, powerful creator of motion pictures? Yeah, good question.

Stephen E Arnold, September 21, 2020

Thought Leaders Thought Lead: Better Late Than Never

September 8, 2020

I read “Scale Digital Technologies to Thrive in New Reality: KPMG.” This document is what I would characterize as a “thought leader piece.” The idea is that consulting firms have to give the impression that their sales pitches are in step with most business thought just a tiny bit ahead. Then the thought leader becomes an expert on the subject and can use that perception to sell consulting work. The method has worked since the efficiency studies of Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Gnostic message of the buggy whip case study.

This particular blue chip consulting firm output tackles the importance of being digital by Oscar Obvious Wilde, who wears upscale casual clothing, has a family confident in its wealth and connections, and a day time TV star smile. What’s not to like?

The write up states:

Improved decision-making is the top criteria for investments in emerging technologies…More than 90 per cent of companies are investing across emerging technologies as enterprises believe more in combined use of emerging technologies.

I think this means invest to make better decisions. Don’t worry about silver bullet technologies. Combine technologies.

Let’s go back to “what’s not to like”.

Sticking or combining technologies together is not magnetic. Two magnets will either snap together or push one another away. Now dump 12 magnets on the table and push them together. What happens? That’s tough to predict, so one has to be prepared to run tests, then fit the data to a pattern.

Does that sound like a sure fire way to spend a lot of time without having a result on which one can depend?

Yep, that’s the purpose of being a thought leader. Sell time and services. Does the approach create improved decision making. Sometimes. The client learns to be less accepting of some experts’ pronouncements.

Transformation can be hard and digital ones can be harder if we are not bold to question the status quo. It is a reboot/reset moment for all of us. We either ride the wave or get drowned.

There is an alternative, particularly for firms which embraced digital solutions years ago. Another option is to stay out of the water. Not everyone wants to be a surfer writing big checks.

Stephen E Arnold, September 8, 2020

Windows and Its Fan Boys: Sound Problems Plague Podcast

September 4, 2020

At the gym yesterday, I was listening to a new to me podcast called Windows Central. The program focused on the two phones stuck together. About 15 mintues into the podcast, one of the experts on the program could not turn off sound from another program running on his Windows 10 computer. There was muttering; there were unhelpful suggestions from a co-host; and there was the sound of clicks and sighing. Most amusing was the fact that the expert could not figure out from whence the unwanted sound was coming. Ah, Windows 10.

But there is a fix for our intrepid Windows’ cheerleader. “PowerToys Now Lets You Mute Your Webcam or Microphone on Windows 10” provides a link to a free but experimental control that allegedly may have solved the expert’s quite shallow mastery of Windows 10. (I mean an expert who cannot mute sound communicates a great deal about “experts” and, of course, about the Byzantine, increasingly exciting Windows 10 operating system.)

I want to point out that the $0.99 codec for HEVC which I downloaded from the Windows Store (!) did not install. But that was a minor problem compared to forced updates that killed my printer not long ago. Yes, Microsoft is a JEDI knight, but the fancy engineering powering the system has some — how shall I phrase it — issues. What happens in a battle when the sound does not work on a JEDI powered laptop? Telepathy? Luke Skywalker suddenly appears?

And for experts who cannot figure out why two sound streams are playing on a podcast? That will be a boost for these wizards’ credibility. No, I don’t understand why I want two phones held together with a hinge.

And, no, I did not listen to the entire program. I mean an expert who cannot control his machine’s audio. Amazing stuff.

Stephen E Arnold, September 4, 2020

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