Data Are a Problem? And the Solution Is?

January 8, 2020

I attended a conference about managing data last year. I sat in six sessions and listened as enthusiastic people explained that in order to tap the value of data, one has to have a process. Okay? A process is good.

Then in each of the sessions, the speakers explained the problem and outlined that knowing about the data and then putting it in a system is the way to derive value.

Neither Pros Nor Cons: Just Consulting Talk

This morning I read an article called “The Pros and Cons of Data Integration Architectures.” The write up concludes with this statement:

Much of the data owned and stored by businesses and government departments alike is constrained by the silos it’s stuck in, many of which have been built over the years as organizations grow. When you consider the consolidation of both legacy and new IT systems, the number of these data silos only increases. What’s more, the impact of this is significant. It has been widely reported that up to 80 per cent of a data scientist’s time is spent on collecting, labeling, cleaning and organizing data in order to get it into a usable form for analysis.

Now this is most true. However, the 80 percent figure is not backed up. An IDG expert whipped up some percentages about data and time, and these, I suspect, have become part of the received wisdom of those struggling with silos for decades. Most of a data scientist’s time is frittered away in meetings, struggling with budgets and other resources, and figuring out what data are “good” and what to do with the data identified by person or machine as “bad.”

The source of this statement is MarkLogic, a privately held company founded in 2001 and a magnet for $173 million from funding sources. That works out to an 18 years young start up if DarkCyber adopts a Silicon Valley T shirt.

image

A modern silo is made of metal and impervious to some pests and most types of weather.

One question the write up begs is, “After 18 years, why hasn’t the methodology of MarkLogic swept the checker board?” But the same question can be asked of other providers’ solutions, open source solutions, and the home grown solutions creaking in some government agencies in Europe and elsewhere.

Several reasons:

  1. The technical solution offered by MarkLogic-type companies can “work”; however, proprietary considerations linked with the issues inherent in “silos” have caused data management solutions to become consultantized; that is, process becomes the task, not delivering on the promise of data, elther dark or sunlit.
  2. Customers realize that the cost of dealing with the secrecy, legal, and technical problems of disparate, digital plastic trash bags of bits cannot be justified. Like odd duck knickknacks one of my failed publishers shoved into his lumber room, ignoring data is often a good solution.
  3. Individuals tasked with organizing data begin with gusto and quickly morph into bureaucrats who treasure meetings with consultants and companies pitching magic software and expensive wizards able to make the code mostly work.

DarkCyber recognizes that with boundaries like budgets, timetables, measurable objectives, federation can deliver some zip.

Silos: A Moment of Reflection

The article uses the word “silo” five times. That’s the same frequency of its use in the presentations to which I listened in mid December 2019.

image

So you want to break down this missile silo which is hardened and protected by autonomous weapons? That’s what happens when a data scientist pokes around a pharma company’s lab notebook for a high potential new drug.

Let’s pause a moment to consider what a silo is. A silo is a tower or a pit used to store core, wheat, or some other grain. Dust is silos can be exciting. Tip: Don’t light a match in a silo on a dry, hot day in a state where farms still operate. A silo can also be a structure used to house a ballistic missile, but one has to be a child of the Cold War to appreciate this connotation.

As applied to data, it seems that a silo is a storage device containing data. Unlike a silo used to house maize or a nuclear capable missile, the data silo contains information of value. How much value? No one knows. Are the data in a digital silo explosive? Who knows? Maybe some people should not know? What wants to flick a Bic and poke around?

Read more

Silicon Valley: Management Talent Available for the Challenges of 2020?

December 24, 2019

Ho, ho, ho. It is the eve of a big time holiday. What do some Silicon Valley companies want to kick the festivities off in grand style? Fresh, experienced, capable management talent? New hires create new opportunities.

DarkCyber may have spotted several candidates. With proven leaders a company struggling in today’s difficult business climate may be able to revivify trust, increase market influence, and enhance credibility via key hires. Some MBAs believe that new management is just the ticket to win the revenue lottery.

Who are these candidates?

If the information in Reuters’ story “Boeing Fires CEO Muilenburg to Restore Confidence Amid 737 Crisis” is accurate, “Muilenburg’s departure followed a week of dramatic setbacks for Boeing, which vies with Europe’s Airbus for leadership of the $150 billion jet industry.” But one person’s setback is another company’s opportunity. It seems that this individual may be seeking his future elsewhere.

For companies looking for senior management talent for their European ventures, HR professionals may need to look no farther than the French executives who made headlines recently. According to “Three French Executives Convicted in the Suicides of 35 of Their Workers,” the method used to motivate colleagues was described as harcelement moral institutionnel. That means energetic constructive criticism.

DarkCyber believes that traditional hiring practices typically do a good job identifying and motivating professionals. Some individuals stand out for different reasons.

Stephen E Arnold, December 24, 2019

Google: We Can Be Avis, National Car Rental or an Off Airport Outfit Too

December 18, 2019

Quite a goal. Google wants to beat Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud. Err, isn’t Google a cloud centric outfit, or at least since it morphed from the cutesy Backrub into the behemoth it is today? What if Google doesn’t think it is a cloud business? Hmm.

Image result for avis rent a car

The answer, of course, is Googley. Google has waffled a bit. The phones, the home helpers, and the mouse pads. But the company operates “out there”, from data centers in regular buildings to wonky containers which can be towed to a location where power is cheap and skills are hard to come by.

A series of stories is zipping around about Google’s new desire to become the big dog in cloud computing. Just like the PR program featuring Jeff Dean, the Google is starting to realize that it may have more in common with the low rent business of scalping tickets than with high technology outfits changing the way business does business.

That’s an interesting thought because it runs counter to the received wisdom that Google is the font of technology. Like the fountains in Rome, lots of work is needed to keep the fountains spouting water. Tourists don’t see Rome’s plumbing, and for good reasons.

The goal of knocking off Amazon and / or Microsoft (love that lawyer conjunction, don’t you?) will be achieved by 2023. That works out to 24 months. Microsoft’s NT project turned into a death march, and I think this goal is likely to follow the same trajectory.

First, Amazon and Microsoft are not standing still. Good old Microsoft is working overtime to make Azure stable and semi-coherent. How many search engines does one desktop software company need? How many analytics solutions? How many servers? These are questions Microsoft engineers are rushing to answer. The airplane is aloft, and making adjustments to an engine when the plane in in flight can be difficult when it has to operate in a hybrid mode and the ground stations can be crashed by a software update. Cool?

Plus, Amazon is moving along a different trajectory. The company is engaged in a multi front war, and it is less and less a cloud company. That bookstore in Nashville and the undoing of FedEx make clear that not even a mid tier state like Tennessee is exempt from the Bezos bulldozer.

Second, Google has not been particularly adept at sticking with projects over time. Examples range from the social media attempts, to the Alon Halevy semantic tools, and to some as simple as messaging services. The culture of incompleteness is a hurdle. Managers can fiddle with incentives and tweak the hiring processes. But the company is a bit like a flotilla of sailboats generally heading toward port when a bad storm presents itself. Everyone knows where to go, but there may be some delays. Delays when trying to knock off Amazon and Microsoft may not be desirable.

Third, there are lots of other companies which want to be the Avis and National to the Uber business. Oracle, down but not out. IBM, a bit of a clueless geriatric but still capable of surprises like its sales success in India, and dozens upon dozens of other companies.

Net net: The write up “Google Brass Set 2023 as Deadline to Beat Amazon, Microsoft in Cloud” is useful, but it contains one telling statement:

Google shifted headcount growth to its cloud platform sales and engineering teams.

What’s going to be the Google equivalent of Windows 10 updates which don’t work, arrive late, and kill some data? If it is ad systems, Amazon is going to get the best location in the airport to serve rental car customers.

Stephen E Arnold, December 18, 2019

Business 101: Incentives Work at Facebook. Talk, Not So Much

December 18, 2019

Many years ago, I worked on a project for a very large, quite paranoid company. I am not sure how I landed a project to interview about two dozen unit CEOs and interview each about technology. As I recall, my task was to group the CEOs into three categories:

Bluebirds—These were the CEOs who understood technology germane to their business unit, evidenced no particular fear testing and integrating such technology, and who were following the company’s marching orders.

Canaries—These were executives who evidenced fear of technology. These individuals were not likely to move forward in order to reduce costs and staff using technology whilst increasing revenue and profits for the company.

Sparrows—These were hapless commodity CEOs who did not know much about technology, were happy snacking near careless MBAs lunching in the park, and who generally reacted to what most other CEOs were doing with regards to technology.

I had a bunch of fancy criteria, scoring sheets, prepared and consistent questions, plus other odds and ends required for such a subjective job.

My findings, I believe, revealed that the technology question was stupid. The CEOs were accountants and lawyers. Knowledge of technology was abysmal. The CEOs as a group responded to one thing—bonuses and raises. Chatter about technology was essentially irrelevant.

Whatever DNA this group of big time “leaders” had was warped in the intense radiation of benchmarks needed to take home a fat pay packet and get a bonus big enough to choke an investment banker.

I thought of this project when I read “Facebook Is Still Prioritizing Scale over Safety.” There’s quite a bit of yada yada in the write up, but this segment explains what drives Facebook:

Facebook calls its product managers’ ability to hit their metric “impact,” and impact can count for high percentages of product managers’ evaluations, though it varies by position and level. At the end of the evaluation process, each individual is assigned a rating by a manager — ranging from “doesn’t meet expectations” to “redefines expectations” — which is algorithmically tied to their compensation. Managers at Facebook aren’t given discretionary raise pools (raises are handed out evenly based on ratings) and there is no appeals process for evaluations, making a good rating paramount if you work at Facebook.

In order to be a bluebird, Facebook managers follow the incentive breadcrumbs. Why? Money. Public statements and other interesting Facebook behavior are irrelevant.

Why? The explanation may be found in the precepts of high school science club management methods. These are not taught in MBA school; these are learned in high school science club meetings and late night dorm sessions among programmers and assorted engineering wizards.

To fix Facebook, change the incentives.

Stephen E Arnold, December 18, 2019

Gamer Company Provides High School Science Club Management Methods Case Example

December 6, 2019

Razer is an ecommerce and product business serving that wonderful community of online game players. Now the company is the subject of a write up, which may be false, partially false, partially true, or true. Figuring out which these days is difficult.

Razer is in the spotlight which “is a desktop streaming camera with a powerful, multi-step ring light that you can dim or brighten on command.”

image

“So smile,” says “Razer CEO Berated And Threatened His Staff, Former Employees Say.” The write up reports in the glow of the Razer Kiyo ring light:

Tan [the top dog at Razer] has developed a reputation for being a tempestuous, volatile boss…

The company has a snake mascot. DarkCyber is not sure if the snake is a refugee from a high school science club herpaterium or just an emotion charged symbol like those cataloged by Juan Eduardo Cirlot. In case you are curious, more about Cirlot appears here.

The point of the write up is that Razer’s management approach is remembered by employees as:

  • Infused with top down control
  • Volatile management behavior
  • Demonstrations of management dissatisfaction
  • Curse words with a handful of faves recalled by former employees
  • Yelling
  • Abrupt terminations but the article does not pinpoint major holidays as the best time to allow an individual to find his/her future elsewhere.

Sound familiar?

DarkCyber characterizes the approach to motivating the game hardware company’s professionals illustrates HSSCMM or high school science club management methods.

Why document this approach in DarkCyber? The reason is that a certain very large online advertising company could be amping up its HSSCMM procedures.

There may be some lessons to be learned by studying Razer and streaming the results to the faithful.

Stephen E Arnold, December 6, 2019

Alphabet Google: Bail Out Time

December 5, 2019

The future of Alphabet Google is online advertising. Oh, there’s one other challenge rushing toward the company: Litigation.

Who is the new face for lawyers from most of the US states and a clutch of other countries? Sundar Pichai. You can get the Googley story in “A Letter from Larry and Sergey.”

Several observations:

  1. The legal scrutiny is not likely to be gentle and sweet. The good night may not be so good.
  2. The likelihood a change from high school science club management to a more McKinsey-like approach will produce some interesting disruptions. Fire people before Thanksgiving? Just a warm up, gentle reader.
  3. The “new” Google will be stripped of its down home Backrub charm. The influence of Indian high school and IIT will be significant.

Exciting? Probably. Good for lawyers. Absolutely? What about those mom and pop businesses that depend on Google for revenue? Amazon and TikTok are looking better each day.

Stephen E Arnold, December 5, 2019

Kitty Hawk: Dreaming Is Different from Doing When One Seeks Management Guidance

December 4, 2019

I read in the capitalist’s tool this story: “Inside Larry Page’s Turbulent Kitty Hawk: Returned Deposits, Battery Fires And A Boeing Shakeup.” The business story as a business school case study is an interesting journalistic niche.

The main idea is that Larry Page, founder of Google and all-around business Lionel Messi, has scored an own goal with its flying car business. Kitty Hawk has suffered a couple of minor setbacks; for example, battery fires and disenchanted supporters.

To add insult to injury, Forbes, the capitalist’s tool, sagely observes:

Kitty Hawk’s promise to bring personal flying to the masses has failed to take wing yet amid technical problems and safety issues with Flyer and unresolved questions about its practical use, according to four former Kitty Hawk employees who were among six who spoke to Forbes on the condition of anonymity due to non-disclosure agreements.

Yep, management of a science club project underscores the difference between thinking about a flying car and actually building one are different. Just a tiny bit.

Which company can “save” Kitty Hawk. What about Boeing (the 737 Max outfit) for business guidance?

Amazing.

Something a Hollywood screenwriter might struggle to conceive. Faulty software and burning batteries managed by Boeing and Google.

Here’s a summary of this interesting case study from the hollows of Kentucky: Another Googley DNW or “did not work.”

Stephen E Arnold, December 4, 2019

Open Source Software: A Digital Snail Darter

November 26, 2019

Years ago I worked on a project. The focus was the snail darter, a little fish. A commercial initiative intruded on the habitat of the creature. The bureaucratic process chugged forward. I lost track of the snail darter. Probably there are a few of the creatures around, but their future was impinged upon by the need and desire to covert streams and “undeveloped” land into a wonderland of EPA compliant effluent, asphalt, and industrial facilities.

snail darter

Wikipedia’s image shows a paper clip next to a snail darter. This reminds me of my mobile phone next to an Amazon data center.

I thought about the snail darter when I read “Dining Preferences of the Cloud and Open Source: Who Eats Who?” Not surprisingly the write up does not mention the snail darter or its obstruction of “progress”. But the article describes how open source has found its digital manifestations threatened by large commercial firms.

There is a description of Amazon’s method which has disrupted to some degree the happiness of Elastic (developers and maintainers of Elasticsearch) and MongoDB (a DBaaS service). No, I don’t know what DBaaS is. It may be a way to make community supported software tough in a cloud eat cloud datasphere.

We noted this passage:

Most of the current debate focuses on Amazon and a few open source companies they have startled, like gazelles on the savannah, specifically Elastic and MongoDB. All while chronically prefacing their messaging with “customers tell us…”, AWS is offering its own services that are built on (Elastic) or are compatible with (MongoDB) popular open source projects, thereby competing with the relatively successful commercial open source companies associated with those projects. In the case of Elastic, AWS has generously created a new open source distribution of the features that Elastic had held back as proprietary software. The prey have responded with both pluckily defiant blog posts and a frenzy of license engineering to impede AWS’ ability to use their ostensibly open source software. Others, like Cockroach Labs and Redis Labs, have followed with their own new licenses. This has renewed an existential and philosophical debate about open source: is it about free speech or does it also include the right to a free moat for key project contributors? In the end, the high priests of open source do not seem to be endorsing the “open except for people who compete with us” approach.

The main point is that the business model is in place, working, and becoming more important to many developers and organizations.

But Amazon is not unique. Google and Microsoft are following the lead of AWS. Sheep do not appear to be at risk when they tag along, content to generate revenue by playing the me-too game.

The write up concludes on an upbeat; specifically:

Open source is here to stay as a development model. It is hard to imagine any kind of infrastructure or developer software that isn’t open source. But there is work to do on the accompanying business strategy. The next great open source endeavor may be to make multi-cloud a reality, at least for key workloads. But the new associated business models will have to embrace services as the primary delivery model and make a serious commitment to a level of integration that is the hallmark of cloud services.

Net net: There are still some snail darters.

Stephen E Arnold, November 26, 2019

Who Owns the Future? Leonardos That Is Who

November 25, 2019

I found “The Future Belongs to Polymaths” oddly disturbing. The message is that people who are really smart and have mastered many field will own the future. People like Leonardo Da Vinci were identified to me in grade school as really smart people. I think one of my teachers, maybe Miss Soapes introduced the concept of Renaissance man to me in the fourth grade. This was good because I had missed two or three years of regular grade school because my family lived in Brazil. My local school had no provisions for an English speaker beyond “Yankee, go home.” My Calvert Course teacher died from an insect bite with complication from some obscure disease. Renaissance anything I wasn’t.

But the write up states:

Still, it’s clear that whenever we have had giants like Aristotle, Galileo, and Da Vinci, the contributions they made even in specialized fields may not have been made in the same way if they hadn’t attacked a problem with a diverse inventory of mental knowledge and understanding. Polymaths see the world differently. They make connections that are otherwise ignored, and they have the advantage of a unique perspective.

I think Facebook, Google, and the other members of the FAANG hire polymaths.

What’s the result?

Perhaps the reality created by polymaths is not so good for the other 99.8 percent of the population?

Here are some reassuring thoughts:

Now, in a world where Artificial Narrow Intelligence systems are going to displace most routine, specialized work, it isn’t too much of stretch to assume that this skill of learning to learn across disciplines may just be the difference between those who reinvent themselves and those who don’t. In fact, chances are that our current distinctions between disciplines will start to fade away and new ones will arise. Many of them will likely reside between areas that aren’t currently covered by specialization.

And the point of the write up is?

Stephen E Arnold, November 25, 2019

Quite an Allegation: Google, Brute Force!

November 23, 2019

I have been around very bright, quite proficient technologists for more than 50 years. Out of college, I worked at Halliburton’s nuclear unit. Real wizards were running around: John Gray, Julian Steyn, Paul Goldstein, and others. I did a stint at Booz, Allen. Maybe not in the nuclear physicist quartile but pretty bright. I did some other work at places with lots of bright people too. No ewok hunts. No weapons.

I can’t recall any threatening behavior. The only intimidation I experienced was a result of my boss and his brain. Dr. Sommers could pose questions which made we vow to spend more time reading and studying.

But Dr. William P. Sommers was soft spoken. He asked good questions and nudged me forward in my career. Maybe questions are brutal? Yikes! Questions.

I cruised along fat, dumb, and happy. But now I learn that a wizard Disneyland is into brutal behavior; specifically, “Google Workers Accuse Tech Giant of Using Brute Force Intimidation Tactics to Silence Employees.”

Image result for ewok hunt

The headline seems a bit energetic, tinged with some inner motivation to stimulate bad vibes toward everyone’s favorite online advertising vendor. Here’s what the write up says that a protest was planned for November 22, 2019. DarkCyber learned:

The protest, which will see full-time employees, temporary workers, vendors and contractors come together outside the Google building, comes following the company’s decision to fire an employee for allegedly leaking workers’ personal information to the media and place two other workers on leave over their alleged access of documents unrelated to their roles.

Now this quote:

“The company is claiming that it is for looking up calendars and documents, which is something we all do but we know that it is punishment for speaking up for themselves and others,” workers organizing at Google who requested that their names be withheld, said in a statement shared with Newsweek on Thursday.

Poor Google. Newsweek asserts:

Google has faced widespread scrutiny over its internal culture, particularly after thousands of workers around the world staged walkouts over claims of sexual harassment, racism and gender inequality within the company.

Yeah, brutality, intimidation? Okay, employees take money to do work for their employer. Employers create rules so work can be completed. Employees who run afoul of the rules can and will face some feedback.

But the headline evokes an image of a Google executive dressed like one of Darth Vader’s minions firing plasma weapons at hapless Ewoks.

As the professionals on sports programs say, “Come on, man.”

Stephen E Arnold, November 23, 2019

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