Need Free Data? Two Thousand Terabytes Are Available

October 2, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I read “Censys Reveals Open Directories Share More Than 2,000 TB of Unprotected Data.” What’s an open directory? According to the champion of redactions the term refers to lists of direct links to files. True?

The article reports:

These open directories could leak sensitive data, intellectual property or technical data and let an attacker compromise the entire system.

Why do these “lists” exist? Laziness, lack of staff who know what to do, and forgetting how an intern configured a server years ago?

The article states:

Why don’t search engines prohibit people from seeing those open directories? Censys researchers told TechRepublic that “while this may initially sound like a reasonable approach, it’s a bandage on the underlying issue of open directories being exposed on the internet in the first place.

Are open directories a good thing? I think it depends on one’s point of view. Why are bad actors generally cheerful these days? Attack surfaces are abundant and management floats above such hard-to-grasp details about online systems and services. Hey, what time is lunch?

Stephen E Arnold, October 2, 2023

KPIs: The Perfect Tool for Slacker Managers

September 22, 2023

Many businesses have adopted key performance indicators (KPIs) in an effort to minimize subjectivity in human resource management. Cognitive researcher and Promaton CTO Ágoston Török explores the limitations of this approach in his blog post, “How to Avoid KPI Psychosos in your Organization?

Török takes a moment to recall the human biases KPIs are meant to avoid: availability bias, recency bias, the halo/horn effects, overconfidence bias, anchoring bias, and the familiar confirmation bias. He writes:

“Enter KPIs as the objective truth. Free of subjectivity, perfect, right? Not so fast. In fact, often our data collection and measurement are also biased by us (e.g. algorithmic bias). And even if that is not the case, unfortunately, KPIs suffer from tunnel vision: they measure what is measurable, while not necessarily all aspects of the situation are. Albert Einstein put it brilliantly: ‘Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.’ This results in perverse motivation in many organizations, where people have to choose between doing their job well (broader reality) or getting promoted for meeting the KPIs (tunnel vision). And that’s exactly the KPI psychosis I described above.”

That does defeat the purpose. Not surprisingly, the solution is to augment KPI software with human judgment.

“KPIs should be used in combination with human intuition to enable optimal decision-making. So not just intuition or data, but a constant back and forth of making (i.e. intuition) and testing (i.e. data) hypotheses. … So you work on reaching your objective and while doing so you constantly check both what your KPI shows and also how much you can rely on it.”

That sounds like a lot of work. Can’t we just offload personnel decisions to AI and be done with it? Not yet, dear executives, not yet.

Cynthia Murrell, September 22, 2023

Kill Off the Dinobabies and Get Younger, Bean Counter-Pleasing Workers. Sound Familiar?

September 21, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I read “Google, Meta, Amazon Hiring low-Paid H1B Workers after US Layoffs: Report.” Is it accurate? Who knows? In the midst of a writers’ strike in Hollywood, I thought immediately about endless sequels to films like “Batman 3: Deleting Robin” and Halloween 8: The Night of the Dinobaby Purge.”

The write up reports a management method similar to those implemented when the high school science club was told that a school field trip to the morgue was turned down. The school’s boiler suffered a mysterious malfunction and school was dismissed for a day. Heh heh heh.

I noted this passage:

Even as global tech giants are carrying out mass layoffs, several top Silicon Valley companies are reportedly looking to hire lower-paid tech workers from foreign countries. Google, Meta, Amazon, Microsoft, Zoom, Salesforce and Palantir have applied for thousands of H1B worker visas this year…

I heard a rumor that IBM used a similar technique. Would Big Blue replace older, highly paid employees with GenX professionals not born in the US? Of course not! The term “dinobabies” was a product of spontaneous innovation, not from a personnel professional located in a suburb of New York City. Happy bean counters indeed. Saving money with good enough work. I love the phrase “minimal viable product” for “minimally viable” work environments.

There are so many ways to allow people to find their futures elsewhere. Shelf stockers are in short supply I hear.

Stephen E Arnold, September 21, 2023

Bankrupting a City: Big Software, Complexity, and Human Shortcomings Does the Trick

September 15, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I have noticed failures in a number of systems. I have no empirical data, just anecdotal observations. In the last few weeks, I have noticed glitches in a local hospital’s computer systems. There have been some fascinating cruise ship problems. And the airlines are flying the flag for system ineptitudes. I would be remiss if I did not mention news reports about “near misses” at airports. A popular food chain has suffered six recalls in a four or five weeks.

Most of these can be traced to software issues. Others are a hot mess combination of inexperienced staff and fouled up enterprise resource planning workflows. None of the issues were a result of smart software. To correct that oversight, let me mention the propensity of driverless automobiles to mis-identify emergency vehicles or possessing some indifference to side street traffic at major intersections.

9 5 data center collapse

“The information technology manager looks at the collapsing data center and asks, “Who is responsible for this issue?” No one answers. Those with any sense have adopted the van life, set up stalls to sell crafts at local art fairs, or accepted another job. Thanks, MidJourney. I guarantee your sliding down the gradient descent is accelerating.

What’s up?

My person view is that some people do not know how complex software works but depend on it despite that cloud of unknowing. Other people just trust the marketing people and buy what seems better, faster, and cheaper than an existing system which requires lots of money to keep chugging along.

Now we have an interesting case example that incorporates a number of management and technical issues. Birmingham, England is now bankrupt. The reason? The cost of a new system sucked up the cash. My hunch is that King Charles or some other kind soul will keep the city solvent. But the idea of city going broke because it could not manage a software project is illustrative of the future in my opinion.

Largest Local Government Body in Europe Goes Under amid Oracle Disaster” reports:

Birmingham City Council, the largest local authority in Europe, has declared itself in financial distress after troubled Oracle project costs ballooned from £20 million to around £100 million ($125.5 million).

An extra £80 million would make little difference to an Apple, Google, or Microsoft. To a city in the UK, the cost is a bit of a problem.

Several observations:

  1. Large project management expertise does not deliver functional solutions. How is that air traffic control or IRS system enhancement going?
  2. Vendors rely on marketing to close deals, and then expect engineers to just make the system work. If something is incomplete or not yet coded, the failure rate may be anticipated, right? Nope, what’s anticipated in a scope change and billing more money.
  3. Government agencies are not known for smooth, efficient technical capabilities. Agencies are good at statements of work which require many interesting and often impossible features. The procurement attorneys cannot spot these issues, but those folks ride herd on the legal lingo. Result? Slips betwixt cup and lip.

Are the names of the companies involved important? Nope. The same situation exists when any enterprise software vendor wins a contract based on a wild and wooly statement of work, managed by individuals who are not particularly adept at keeping complex technical work on time and on target, and when big outfits let outfits sell via PowerPoints and demonstrations, not engineering realities.

Net net: More of these types of cases will be coming down the pike.

Stephen E Arnold, September 15, 2023

New Wave Management or Is It Leaderment?

September 12, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Here’s one of my biases, and I am rather proud of it. I like to word “manager.” According to my linguistics professor Lev Soudek, the word “manage” used to mean trickery and deceit. When I was working at a blue chip consulting firm, the word meant using tactics to achieve a goal. I think of management as applied trickery. The people whom one pays will go along with the program, but not 24×7. In a company which expects 60 hours of work a week the minimum for survival of a Spanish inquisition inspired personnel approach, mental effort had to be expended.

I read “I’m a Senior Leader at Amazon and Have Seen Many Bad Managers. Here Are 3 Reasons Why There Are So Few Great Ones.” The intense, clear-eyed young person explains that he has worked at some outfits which are not among my list of the Top 10 high-technology outfits. His résumé includes eBay (a digital yard sale), a game retailer, and the somewhat capricious Amazon (are we a retail outfit, are we a cloud outfit, are we a government services company, are we a data broker, are we a streaming company, etc.).

9 3 leader

A modern practitioner of leaderment is having trouble getting the employees to fall in, throw their shoulders back, and mark in step to the cadence of Am-a-zon, Am-a-zon like a squad of French Foreign Legion troops on Bastille Day. Thanks, MidJourney. The illustration did not warrant a red alert, but it is also disappointing.

I assume that these credentials are sufficient to qualify for a management guru. Here are the three reasons managers are less than outstanding.

First, managers just sort of happen. Few people decide to be a manager. Ah, serendipity or just luck.

Second, managers don’t lead. (Huh, the word is “management”, not “leaderment.”)

Third, pressure for results means some managers are “sacrificing employee growth.” (I am not sure what this statement means. If one does not achieve results, then that individual and maybe his direct reports, the staff he leaderments, and his boss will be given an opportunity to find their future elsewhere. Translation for the GenZ reader: You are fired.

Let’s step back and think about these insights. My initial reaction is that a significant re-languaging has taken place in the write up. A good manager does not have to be a leader. In fact, when I was a guest lecturer at the Kansai Institute of Technology, I met a number of respected Japanese managers. I suppose some were leaders, but a number made it clear that results were number one or ichiban.

In my work career, confusing to manage with to lead would create some confusion. I recall when I was working in the US Congress with a retired admiral who was elected to represent an upscale LA district, the way life worked was simple: The retired admiral issued orders. Lesser entities like myself figured out how to execute, tapped appropriate resources, and got the job done. There was not much leadership required of me. I organized; I paid people money; and I hassled everyone until the retired admiral grunted in a happy way. There was no leaderment for me. The retired admiral said, “I want this in two days.” There was not much time for leaderment.

I listened to a podcast called GeekWire. The September 2, 2023, program made it clear that the current big dog at Amazon wants people to work in the office. If not, these folks are going to go away. What makes this interesting is that the GeekWire pundits pointed out that the Big Dog had changed his story, guidelines, and procedures for this work from home and work from office approach multiple times.

Therefore, I am not sure if there is management or leaderment at the world’s largest digital mall. I do know that modern leaderment is not for me. The old-fashioned meaning of manage seems okay to me.

Stephen E Arnold, September 12, 2023

Disney Alleges Some Cast Are Not Decorous

September 11, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I spotted a story which may not be 100 percent on the money. If I were not 78, I would scour online resources to determine the veracity of “Furious Disney Bosses Call in Investigators after Disgruntled Employee Shares Shocking Clips of Beloved Characters.” For the purposes of this brief essay, let’s assume that the estimable Sun is writing the Truth According to Walt, who is allegedly frozen in a cryogenic chamber with machine generated images of Minnie Mouse doing interesting things at Disneyland.

9 3 twerking mascot

A mutant character finds its way to a football game in Orlando. The egg shaped mascot shouts, “Everybody now. Twerk twerk twerk.” The Orlando Pride faithful takes off their Orlando Solar Bear’s hats and puts on official Mickey Mouse ears. Twerk twerk twerk. Walt and Roy Disney look alikes joined the fund. Thanks, MidJourney. No red alerts on my prompt. Too bad reversing the gradient descent is going to be difficult. Twerk twerk twerk.

The write up reports as “real news”:

Disney chiefs are furious over leaked videos showing theme park characters twerking. Dancing staff are also seen provocatively removing their costumes in behind-the-scenes footage.

The well paid and really content “cast” members dancing in a suggestive manner and/or removing their clothes? Come on, Sunny. Disneyland is super clean. The trash is removed and carried away via underground service tunnels. I have heard that interesting activities have taken place in those service tunnels. But my source with a retired Orlando law enforcement officer who was not a fan of the Disney outfit. I assumed he had to watch Snow White too many times while raising his two children. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to jail we go or some similar refrain is lodged in my brain, and I saw Snow White only one time. That was sufficient, right, Dopey?

The write up adds:

They [the management team presiding over the smoking crater of Disney earnings] have called in a team of investigators in a bid to root out those involved in filming the footage and those posting it. A source said: “It looks silly, but for Disney protecting the integrity of those characters is absolutely paramount. “They’ve asked top investigators to shut down the feed and try to identify those responsible, who are in breach of their employment contracts. “The last thing Disney wants is decapitated Mickey and Minnie heads going viral online and, even worse, anything that looks at all risqué or adult.

I am not sure about the “last thing” assertion. I learned while preparing for an upcoming lecture about smart software generating interesting Disney clips for those who like their anime spicy. Smart software is merely a technological enabler. It takes a human to merge a Disney character with the mentality of a ComicCon Furry meet up.

And what about Disney’s streaming tactics? Charter Spectrum and some sports fans who leave ESPN on 24×7 are not happy with the Magic Kingdom.

Okay, cast, more training will be required. For those curious about the beloved characters antics, check out TikTok.

Stephen E Arnold, September 11, 2023

Google: Trapped in Its Own Walled Garden with Lots of Science Club Alums

August 30, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I read “MapReduce, TensorFlow, Vertex: Google’s Bet to Avoid Repeating History in AI.” I found the idea that Google gets in its own way a retelling of how high school science club management produces interesting consequences.


A young technology wizard finds himself in a Hall of Mirrors at the carnival. He is not sure what is real or in which direction to go. The world of the House of Mirrors is disorienting. The young luminary wants to return to the walled garden where life is more comfortable. Thanks, MidJourney. Four tries and I get this tired illustration. Gradient descent time?

The write up asserts:

Google is in the middle of trying to avoid repeating history when releasing its industry-altering technology.

I disagree. The methods defining Google produce with remarkable consistency a lack of informed control. The idea is that organizations have a culture. That cultural evolves over time, but it remains anchored in its past. Thus, as the organization appears to move forward in time, that organization behaves in a predictable way; for example, Google has an approach to management which guarantees friction. Examples range from the staff protests to the lateral arabesque used to move Dr. Jeff Dean out of the way of the DeepMind contingent.

The write up takes a different view; for example:

Run by engineers, the [Google MapReduce] team essentially did not foresee the coming wave of open-source technology to power the modern Web and the companies that would come to commercialize it.

Google lacks the ability to perceive its opportunities. The company is fenced by its dependence on online advertising. Thus, innovations are tough for the Googlers to put into perspective. One reason is the high school science club ethos of the outfit; the other is that the outside world is as foreign to many Googlers as the world beyond the goldfish’s bowl filled with water. The view is distorted, surreal, and unfamiliar.

How can a company innovate and make a commercially viable product with this in its walled garden? It cannot. Advertising at Google is a me-too product for which Google prior to its IPO settled a dispute with Yahoo over the “inspiration” for pay-to-play search. The cost of this “inspiration” was about $1 billion.

In a quarter century, Google remains what one Microsoftie called “a one-trick pony.” Will the Google Cloud emerge as a true innovation? Nope. There are lots of clouds. Google is the Enterprise Rent-a-Car to the Hertz and Avis cloud rental firms. Google’s innovation track record is closer to a high school science club which has been able to win the state science club content year after year. Other innovators win the National Science Club Award (once called the Westinghouse Award). The context-free innovations are useful to others who have more agility and market instinct.

My view is that Google has become predictable, lurching from one technical paper to legal battle like a sine wave in a Physics 101 class; that is, a continuous wave with a smooth periodic function.

Don’t get me wrong. Google is an important company. What is often overlooked is the cultural wall that keeps the 100,000 smartest people in the world locked down in the garden. Innovation is constrained, and the excitement exists off the virtual campus. Why do so many Xooglers innovate and create interesting things once freed from the walled garden? Culture has strengths and weaknesses. Google’s muffing the bunny, as the article points out, is one defining characteristic of a company which longs for high school science club meetings and competitions with those like themselves.

Tony Bennett won’t be singing in the main cafeteria any longer, but the Googlers don’t care. He was an outsider, interesting but not in the science club. If the thought process doesn’t fit, you must quit.

Stephen E Arnold, August 30. 2023

Better and Modern Management

August 29, 2023

I spotted this amusing (at least to me) article: “Shares of — Whose CEO Fired 900 Workers on a Zoom Call — Slumped 95% on Their First Day of Trade.” The main idea of the story strikes me as “modern management.” The article explains that helps its customers get mortgages. The company went public. The IPO was interesting because shares cratered.

8 26 confused

“Hmmm. I wonder if my management approach could be improved?” asks the bold leader. MidJourney has confused down pat.

Other highlights from the story struck me as reasonably important:

  • The CEO fired 900 employees via a Zoom call in 2021
  • The CEO allegedly accused 250 of those employees of false time keeping
  • The CEO underwent “leadership training”
  • The company is one of the semi-famous Softbank venture firm.

Several ideas passed through my mind:

  1. Softbank does have a knack for selecting companies to back
  2. Training courses may not be effective
  3. Former employers may find the management expertise of the company ineffectual.

I love the name Better. The question is, “Better at what?” Perhaps the Better management team could learn from the real superstars of leadership; for example, Google, X, and the Zuckbook?

Stephen E Arnold, August 29, 2023

A Group without a Leader: Lost in the Digital Wilderness. No Signal, No Hope

August 10, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I read a story in a business magazine which may not make executives at a certain company happy. In fact, some of these executives may be thinking about some form of digital retribution. The story concerns Google Maps, a Google product/service which I find is pretty much unusable. Keep in mind that I am a dinobaby and dinobaby talons can’t hit the miniature graphics which cover Google maps like my ninth-grade acne. (Yeah, ugly.)

8 6 lost in wilderness

A high technology company’s project team. The group is lost. No one has any idea what to do or which direction to take. Their manager told them, “Rely on the digital maps your colleagues made.” How is that working out for you? Thanks, MidJourney. You have the desperation look nailed.

Google Maps Has Become an Eyesore. 5 Examples of How the App Has Lost Its Way” contains a list of issues the author who probably has more online experience than I do identifies five issues with the much-loved service. The “love” refers to the revenue generated from Google Maps, not the “love” or lack of it from users like me.

These range from icon acne to weird behaviors with the street name “feature.” I am not going to romp through the issues the article flags. I want to focus on two which are deal breakers for me. In fact, the digital map thing recently forced me to purchase a trucker’s edition of a printed road map to the United States.

For me, Google has made it difficult for me (probably not you, dear GenX reader) to find the street view. I quite like finding a location and then being able to look at the physical surroundings. How do I address this need now? I use Bing Maps.

The second issue that drives me crazy is the omission of businesses (intentionally or unintentionally) because the business does not advertise. I have written about the Cuba Libre Restaurant issue, and it bedevils me even today. I was standing in front of the bustling Washington, DC, restaurant, but my digital map service did not show it. Objectivity, they name is not Googzilla, I say.

Let me shift gears and offer my hypothesis why Google Maps is almost unusable for me.

Imagine a team responsible for a mapping product. There are a couple of people who have some tenure with the team. A couple have escaped from a more dysfunctional team; for example, a failed smart software project. Plus, there are two new hires with zero clue how or why they are working on maps. These individuals are experts in data center engineering and never leave the servers and, therefore, don’t know anything about maps, just wiring diagrams.

Okay, now the group sits around and someone says, “What are we supposed to do?” The most senior person who is totally occupied about getting on a hot team focused on killing another vendor’s AI effort, says, “Let’s just come up with some ideas and implement a couple.” The group mumbles, plays with their mobile devices, chats with the data center wizard about slow response on the internal messaging system, and look out the windows. One hard charger says, “Let’s make a list of ideas on the whiteboard, rank them, and do the top two or three.” More mumbles. A list is generated. The six team breaks into two groups and the employees retreat to the snack area to talk about implementing the functions. The work is agreed upon and the coding is dumped on the two network professionals. These individuals write the code, make sure it doesn’t kill anything, and emails it to the others on the team. No one looks at it but everyone says, “Fine.” Done.

This work procedure evidences:

  1. Zero guidance from an involved, motivated “manager”
  2. The mental attitude of the engineers
  3. The indifference of the individuals to the idea of delivering useful, quality features.

Now the author of the article about Google Maps knows nothing about this modern management approach to adding features at an unnamed high technology company.

That’s why I don’t rely on digital maps. The printed map works just fine. Plus I have to stop and read the map. None of the figure out a map driving or walking, which can lead to a collision with a smart, self driving automobile or an engineer looking for work at another company.

Stephen E Arnold, August 10, 2023

The Zuckbook Becomes Cooperative?

August 10, 2023

The Internet empowers people to voice their opinions without fear of repercussions or so they think. While the Internet generally remains anonymous, social media companies must bow to the letter of the law or face fines or other reprisals. Ars Technnica shares how a European court forced Meta to share user information in a civil case: “Facebook To Unmask Anonymous Dutch User Accused Of Repeated Defamatory Posts.”

The Netherlands’ Court of the Hague determined that Meta Ireland must share the identity of a user who defamed the claimant, a male Facebook user. The anonymous user “defamed” the claimant by stating he secretly recorded women he dated. The anonymous user posted the negative statements in private Facebooks groups about dating experiences. The claimant could not access the groups but he did see screenshots. He claimed the posts have harmed his reputation.

8 7 cooperation

After cooperating, executives at a big time technology firm celebrate with joy and enthusiasm. Thanks, MidJourney. You have happiness down pat.

The claimant asked Meta to remove the posts but the company refused based on the grounds of freedom of expression. Meta encouraged the claimant to contact the other user, instead the claimant decided to sue.

Initially, the claimant asked the court to order Meta to delete the posts, identify the anonymous user, and flag any posts in other private Facebook groups that could defame the claimant.

While arguing the case, Meta had defended the anonymous user’s right to freedom of expression, but the court decided that the claimant—whose name is redacted in court documents—deserved an opportunity to challenge the allegedly defamatory statements.

Partly for that reason, the court ordered Meta to provide “basic subscriber information” on the anonymous user, including their username, as well as any names, email addresses, or phone numbers associated with their Facebook account. The court did not order Meta to remove the posts or flag any others that may have been shared in private groups, though.”

The court decided that freedom of speech is not unlimited and the posts could be defamatory. The court also noted posts did not have to be deemed unlawful to de-anonymous a user.

This has the potential to be a landmark case in online user privacy and accountability on social media platforms. In the future, users might need to practice more restraint and think about consequences before posting online. They might want to read etiquette books from the pre-Internet days when constructive behavior was not an anomaly.

Whitney Grace, August 10, 2023

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