Facebook: Friends Are Useful

April 16, 2019

I read “Mark Zuckerberg Leveraged Facebook User Data to Fight Rivals and Help Friends, Leaked Documents Show.” I must admit I was going to write about Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind’s smart software which classified the fire in Paris in a way that displayed links to the 9/11 attack. I then thought, “Why not revisit Microsoft’s changing story about how much user information was lost via the email breach?” But I settled on a compromise story. Facebook allegedly loses control of documents. This is a security angle. The document reveal how high school science club management methods allegedly behave.

According to CNBC:

Facebook would reward favored companies by giving them access to the data of its users. In other cases, it would deny user-data access to rival companies or apps.

If true, the statement does not surprise me. I was in my high school science club, and I have a snapshot of our fine group of outcasts, wizards, and crazy people. Keep in mind: I was one of these exemplars of the high school.

Let’s put these allegedly true revelations in context:

  1. Facebook has amassed a remarkable track record in the last year
  2. Google, a company which contributed some staff to Facebook, seems to have some interesting behaviors finding their way into the “real news” media; for example, senior management avoiding certain meetings and generally staying out of sight
  3. Microsoft, a firm which dabbled in monopoly power, is trying to figure out how to convert its high school science club management methods in its personnel department to processes which match some employees’ expectations for workplace behavior.

What’s the view from Harrod’s Creek? Like the Lyft IPO and subsequent stock market performance, the day of reckoning does not arrive with a bang. Nope. The day creeps in on cat’s feet. The whimpering may soon follow.

Stephen E Arnold, April 16, 2019


Crazy Consulting Baloney: Ambient Data Governance

April 13, 2019

I spotted this phrase in the capitalist’s tool. That would be Forbes Magazine, an outfit which publishes some pretty crazy management recipes. Navigate to “How To Prepare Your Company For Ambient Data Governance.” Click thorough the ads and the pop ups. The reward is a write up about “ambient data governance.” I must admit that I don’t have a clue why this phrase is necessary. Governance by itself is a limp noodle. What company has governance today? Wells Fargo, Facebook, or another one might wish to nominate? You pick. Management of most companies takes short cuts; for example, killing products after announcing them and putting the name of the product in advertisements (a nifty play at Apple, a company with governance one presumes).

Here’s a passage I noted:

Forrester recently issued a prediction for 2019, saying, “Ambient data governance will take the trauma out of old-school governance,” and predicting that “ambient data governance will prevail as a strategy to automate and intelligently scale data policy deployment while learning and adapting policies based on data consumer interaction.”

Okay, Forrester. Selling reports and consulting or is it consulting which yields reports? I just don’t know.

What does one do to become adept at “ambient data governance”? Easy. How about these astounding recommendations:

Appoint a chief data officer. Make sure this person can walk. This is the “ambient” I deduce.

Become data literate. Okay, what’s data? What’s literate mean in this context?

Evolve to an insights driven organization. Yeah, anyone at Forbes read Darwin? Intent-driven evolution is an interesting concept. The method does not work too well.

There you go. A recipe for governance. More like a recipe to write an article in the capitalist tool and hook a crazy buzzword to Forrester. SEO at work. Rev your Harley’s engine, Malcolm. Speed away from this management jargon accident.

Stephen E Arnold, April 13, 2019

High School Science Club Management Method Number Three: Lay Low

April 10, 2019

I spotted a business related post in the article “Google Founders Have Skipped All Of The Company’s 2019 Town Hall Meetings.” The write up states:

Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have yet to make an appearance at any of the company’s weekly “TGIF” town halls in 2019.

The “real news” story opines that transparency may not be a Google core competency. I noted this passage:

Their withdrawal isn’t entirely unexpected, according to a company source. The cofounders planned to step back their Google involvement when they formed Alphabet in 2015 — a holding company that contains Google proper along with “other bets” in areas such as Waymo’s self-driving cars, and companies focused on life science and anti-aging. The idea was to give Google CEO Sundar Pichai the ability to assert his own leadership during a tumultuous time. The cofounders remain actively involved with the other bets.

Okay, a reorganization, creating a new “face” for the company, and avoiding any type of spotlight which might lead to awkward questions about business practices—these are part of the standard operating procedure for those embracing the high school science club approach to management.

“Bro” culture doesn’t capture the spirit of HSSCMM or H2CS2. That is unfortunate because a failure to recognize the hallmarks of perceive entitlement makes it difficult to realize that the leaders of Facebook are going to be scrutinized. Google is simply more skilled at H2CS2.

Stephen E Arnold, April 10, 2019

Comfort with Big Data or You May Not Be Hired

April 5, 2019

I read an interesting essay in Analytics India Magazine, a source I find useful in explaining how managers from that country think about certain issues.

Case in point: What makes a good employee, presumably of a company operating in Analytics India’s home territory or managed by a person who devours each issue in search of data nuggets.

The article which caught my attention? “Why Everyone In The Organization Has To Be Comfortable Dealing With Data.”

I noted this passage:

For a successful functioning of an organization, it is necessary that everyone in an organization is comfortable dealing with data.

I like the categorical affirmative: Everyone.

I like the notion of not being informed, good, or competent. Comfortable only.

Now the questions?

  1. Does the argument require the HR (personnel) to define “comfort” and then measure that quality?
  2. What happens to those who perform certain services like greeting visitors, providing administrative support, or chauffeuring the owner to his or her private jet? Outsourcing perhaps? A special class of workers removed from the Big Data folks?
  3. What happens to employees in countries which graduate individuals from a university lacking desired numerical skills? No jobs?

I enjoyed the recommendations for addressing this requirement. Educate and upskill (presented as two action items but to innumerate me these are one thing. Then “every department has to realize the power of data.” I love the “every” and the sort of adulty phrase “has to realize.”

But the keeper is this statement: “Adopt methods for data cleaning.”

Yeah, clean data for Big Data. Who does that work? Obviously employees who are comfortable. Yep, comfort will deal with data issues like validity, consistency, etc. etc.

Stephen E Arnold, April 5, 2019

Alphabet Google Ethics Board: Planning R Us

April 5, 2019

I found this item amusing: “Google Cancels AI Ethics Board in Response to Outcry.” Google’s attempt to get — in the words of a PR expert I once knew — in front of the building tsunami of government push back against the online ad company is no more. That which made me laugh was that Facebook’s call for regulation did not seem to stimulate such robust activity. I assume that someone younger and brighter than I might make a case that public opinion is discriminating against Facebook.

The write up states:

Google told Vox [my real news source] on Thursday that it’s pulling the plug on the ethics board. The board survived for barely more than one week.

Each time Amazon launches a new service, there’s an expectation that the oddly named and almost monikers will continue to chug along no matter what the online bookstore does. Sure, Amazon killed its mobile phone and a bunch of third party sellers. That’s not quite the pace of ideas-killed-off for the GOOG.

Let’s set aside the notion of people who wanted to help Google figure out AI ethics for a moment. The key fact for me is that high school science club management methods are in use.

Planning? Check.

Efficiency? Check.

Staff management? Check.

Participant recruitment? Check

What could go wrong? Apparently quite a bit.

Stephen E Arnold, April 5, 2019

Silicon Valley: Are Its Governance and Innovation Showing Signs of Deterioration?

March 30, 2019

I was zipping through the news items which assorted filter bubble robots fire at me each day. I noticed three items, which on the surface, appear to be unrelated. I asked myself, “What if there is a connection among each of these items?” Let’s take a look.

car in hole small

Was this driven by a Silicon Valley bro or smart software?

The first item is Apple’s admission that it cannot create a viable wireless charging device. The company has labored for years and admitted that it cannot pull off this “innovation.” “Apple Kills AirPower Charging Station, but Here Are Some Alternatives (for a Single Device)” states:

Citing technical difficulties in meeting its own standards, Apple has issued a statement announcing the long awaited AirPower wireless charging mat will not ship, ever. AirPower was announced alongside the iPhone X with a pending release date, and now, more than 550 days later, it has been cancelled.

Apple has people. Apple has money. Apple has failed. Problems exist with the butterfly keyboard. What’s happening?

The second item is about disappearing emails and messages. Some might describe these digital artifacts as evidence. The article “Some of Mark Zuckerberg’s Old Facebook Posts Have Disappeared” reports:

the social network accidentally deleted some of Zuckerberg’s old Facebook posts, including all the ones he made in 2007 and 2008.

This is interesting because I thought backups were mostly routine. Apparently this was not the case at Facebook. What’s happening?

The third item is about a failure to get one’s act together. I read “Google Accidentally Leaks Its ‘Nest Hub Max’ Smart Display.” I learned:

in a leak on its own website, Google might have accidentally revealed an upcoming product called the Nest Hub Max.

What’s happening?

Now let’s consider several hypotheses which may help me creep a bit closer to the thread linking these apparently isolated events.

  1. The three companies are not able to govern their commercial empires. A failure to deliver a product, an egregious and difficult to believe statement about “losing email”, and an inability to organize a news item—the problem is governance of the business process.
  2. The three companies seem indifferent to the implications of each firm’s individual actions: Apple’s misstatement about a device, Facebook’s continued dancing around information, and Google’s PR flub—each illustrates a deeper issue. I term it “high school science club management method.” Bright folks see what they see, and not what others see. HSSCMM at work.
  3. The three companies demonstrate the inherent weaknesses of the Silicon Valley approach: failure, ineptness or duplicitous behavior, and taking one’s eye off the ball.

Just a series of hypotheses, mind you. What if these examples are the tip of a fast melting iceberg?

Stephen E Arnold, March 30, 2019

Quote to Note: HP Boss and the HP Management Style

March 25, 2019

I read “The Tech Lawsuit of the Year: HPE v Mike Lynch and Sushovan Hussain.” The write up contains a remarkable passage. The sentences in the article include a quote to note. Here’s what I circled as memorable. Your mileage may vary, of course:

In court filings seen by The Register, Lynch accused HPE chief exec Meg Whitman of responding to concerns he raised in HP management meetings shortly after the Autonomy buyout by “playing country music to the meeting [and] instructing the senior executives attending to take the meaning of the country music songs and apply them to their own management methods”. Lynch also claimed that he was “placed on gardening leave for six months” after telling Whitman that “we are now rapidly losing a lot of good people”.

For me the description of management approach sounds a chime of truth. Here is the statement next to which I placed an exclamation point and a note to myself saying, “Yes”:

playing country music to the meeting [and] instructing the senior executives attending to take the meaning of the country music songs and apply them to their own management methods“. [emphasis added]

As I considered this observation, two songs in the genre of country, particularly the Wild West of Silicon Valley, activated:

  • I’d Be Better Off in a Pine Box
  • I Bought the Boots That Just Walked Out On Me.

HP and its management methods?

Stephen E Arnold, March 25, 2019

New CIA Chief Information Officer: Watson, Who Is It?

March 19, 2019

The answer comes not from IBM Watson. “CIA Announces New Chief Information Officer” reveals that Juliane Gallina, an IBM professional has landed the job. DarkCyber finds this interesting for three reasons.


Aurora, which means dawn and $500 million for one system, may be a new technology the CIA explores.

First, Amazon’s policeware found some traction in that government agency. IBM covets US government work. Amazon may find that Gallina may ask different questions in her tenure.

Second, IBM Federal Systems is the poster child for old-school government contracting. The idea within some sectors of the US government is to find a new-school approach. Gallina may have some interesting ideas about how next-generation systems are selected, shaken down, and made operational.

Third, Gallina has intelligence sector experience. Presumably that experience will make it easier to determine which units can best be served by specific technologies. Will that insight match the diverse community of interests within the CIA?

The appointment is going be one closely watched by those within and outside the Beltway. Perhaps there will be a new technology dawn at the agency. Aurora, it’s called.

Stephen E Arnold, March 19, 2019

Google Adds to Its Fancy Dancing Repertoire

February 21, 2019

I assume that someone at Google learned about the UK report hashtagging Facebook as a “digital gangster.”

Google is almost certainly aware that regulatory scrutiny of the firm’s practices is likely to increase in 2019. One of Google’s easier dance moves is reported in “Google Exec Reorganizes Policy Shop as Global Threats Loom.” Nothing solves problems like influencers, insiders and money. The write up asserted:

“Public Policy,” will become “Government Affairs and Public Policy.”

Ah, wordsmithing.

Tougher to explain is the report is another wave of advertisers (many of which have no other way to promote their products and services) are finding themselves taking a mor-tical stand. (That’s a combo of moral and ethical, a neologism for online marketing.)

I noted “Nestle, Disney Pull YouTube Ads, Joining Furor Over Child Videos.” The sometimes source free Bloomberg reports:

Walt Disney Co. is said to have pulled its advertising spending from YouTube, joining other companies including Nestle SA, after a blogger detailed how comments on Google’s video site were being used to facilitate a “soft-core pedophilia ring.” Some of the videos involved ran next to ads placed by Disney and Nestle.

Bloomberg, true to real news norms, adds this statement:

YouTube on Tuesday released an updated policy about how it will handle content that “crosses the line” of appropriateness.

I don’t want to dwell on appropriateness, lobbying, or the cycle of surprise, apologies, and remediation which seems more like a visit to the previously owned and lightly used shop.

Like Facebook, Google has some interesting methods of generating revenue as it continues to avoid the “digital gangster” moniker. Inappropriate kiddie content is, however, problematic for any organization. How? Why? How much? Who? — Questions which may warrant answers some day. Maybe.

It may be time for the founders to distance themselves even more from the online ad giant. The quite valuable 25 year old teapot may be reaching it limit for safe operation.

Stephen E Arnold, February 21, 2019

Elsevier Excitement: Not an Oxymoron

January 16, 2019

Professional publishing – the information designed for lawyers, accountants, scientists, technologists, and their ilk – is usually a quiet place. Notice that I did not say, “Dull.”

Now one of the leaders in this small club of gatekeepers has evidenced some actual management excitement at least here in Harrod’s Creek.

According to Inside Higher Education:

The entire editorial board of the Elsevier-owned Journal of Informetrics resigned Thursday in protest over high open-access fees, restricted access to citation data and commercial control of scholarly work. Today, the same team is launching a new fully open-access journal called Quantitative Science Studies.

Most of the folks outside the STEM world of publishing are unaware that many professional publishers rely on a very reliable business model. Some of its features include:

  1. Work with august academic institutions to make sure the paper based “publish or perish” model is required for anything close to a tenure track or a jump in pay
  2. Charge the authors for various things. Remember. The authors have to publish in esteemed journals which are in theory reviewed by hard working peers. The idea is to make sure those fudged data are identified and stopped before the vetted paper is published. Non reproducible results? Let’s not talk about those.
  3. Charge the academic institutions with the tenure track and aspiring scholars to subscribe to these peer reviewed journals.
  4. Recycle the content in different ways to generate downstream revenue from online databases and services.
  5. Work with vendors who create digital or microfilm versions of the older versions of the publications to generate royalties.

Most of these methods are little known and only partially understood by individuals who don’t pay much attention to a $2,000 for four issues paper publication.

Now the revolt is indeed exciting. The write up does the normal journalism thing. The good stuff is the business model, the somewhat generous money generating mechanisms from which the authors and the institutions are excluded, and the fact that scholarly information is only available to those with the money to pay for these documents.

Is this the beginning of the end for Elsevier-type outfits and their close cousins, the Reed Elsevier type outfits?

To me this is an interesting question.

Stephen E Arnold, January 16, 2019

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