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What Content Management Systems Ring the Chimes of US Government Procurement Teams?

September 28, 2016

The answer to this question does not require a consultant in content management or, as the insiders term it, CMS. Navigate to Digital Gov’s run down. The list is, like many things about the US government, “unofficial.” You can look up an agency like the Economic Research Service and learn that the whiz kids at ERS rely upon Umbraco, an open source CMS which works with Microsoft software. It should. Umbraco lists Microsoft as a customer. What this says about SharePoint I will leave to you, gentle reader.

There are some interesting systems in use; for example:

  • EpiServer from former Microsoft Sweden folks
  • DotNetNuke for the Department of Defense. The name of the product may have resonated with someone at the DoD.
  • RedDot, a German software product which is now an OpenText property
  • WebZerve, product of xpdient Inc.
  • InMagic Presto, which I thought was a law firm centric system. InMagic is now owned by a Canadian firm.

The list is a sure fire guide for those who want to sell CMS consulting services to government agencies. Any notion of standardization or buying US software seems to be out of fashion.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2016

Yahoo Security Breach: The Pee-Wee Purple Solecism

September 23, 2016

Remember ShrinkyDinks. Kids decorate pieces of plastic. The plastic then gets smaller when heated. I believe the ShrinkyDink management process has been disclosed. The innovator? Marissa Mayer, the former Google search guru turned business management maven.

Image result for shrinkydinks

What’s the ShrinkyDink approach to running a business? Take a revenue stream, decorate it with slick talk, and then reduce revenues and reputation. The result is a nifty entity with less value. Bad news? No. The upside is that Vanity Fair puts a positive spin on how bad news just get worse. A purple paradox!

ShrinkyDink Management. Pop business thinking into a slightly warmed market and watch those products and revenues become tinier as you watch in real time. Small is beautiful, right? I can envision a new study from Harvard University’s business school on the topic. Then comes an HBR podcast interview with Marissa Mayer, the Xoogler behind the ShrinkyDink method. A collaboration with Clayton Christensen is on deck. A book. Maybe a movie deal with Oliver Stone? As a follow up to “Snowden,” Stone writes, produces, and directs “Marissa: Making Big Little.” The film stars Ms. Mayer herself as the true Yahoo.

I read “Yahoo Verizon Deal May Be Complicated by Historic Hack.” Yahoo was “hacked,” according to the write up. Okay, but I read “hack” as a synonym for “We did not have adequate security in place.”

The write up points out:

The biggest question is when Yahoo found out about the breach and how long it waited to disclose it publicly, said Keatron Evans, a partner at consulting firm Blink Digital Security. (Kara Swisher at Recode reported that Verizon isn’t happy about Yahoo’s disclosures about the hack.)

CNBC points out that fixing the “problem” will be expensive. The write up includes this statement from the Xoogler run Yahoo:

“Such events could result in large expenditures to investigate or remediate, to recover data, to repair or replace networks or information systems, including changes to security measures, to deploy additional personnel, to defend litigation or to protect against similar future events, and may cause damage to our reputation or loss of revenue,” Yahoo warned.

Of interest to me is the notion that information about 500 million users was lost. The date of the problem seems to be about two years ago. My thought is that information about the breach took a long time to be discovered and disclosed.

Along the timeline was the sale of Yahoo to Verizon. Verizon issued a statement about this little surprise:

Within the last two days, we were notified of Yahoo’s security incident. We understand that Yahoo is conducting an active investigation of this matter, but we otherwise have limited information and understanding of the impact. We will evaluate as the investigation continues through the lens of overall Verizon interests, including consumers, customers, shareholders and related communities. Until then, we are not in position to further comment.

I highlighted in bold the two points which snagged my attention:

First, Verizon went through its due diligence and did not discover that Yahoo’s security had managed to lose 500 million customers’ data. What’s this say about Yahoo’s ability to figure out what’s going on in its own system? What’s this say about Yahoo management’s attention to detail? What’s this say about Verizon’s due diligence processes?

Second, Verizon seems to suggest that if its “interests” are not served, the former Baby Bell may want to rethink its deal to buy Yahoo. That’s understandable, but it raises the question, “What was Verizon’s Plan B if Yahoo presented the company with a surprise?” It seems there was no contingency, which is complementary with its approach to due diligence.

image

The decision making process at Yahoo has been, for me, wonky for a long time. The decision to release the breach information after the deal process and before the Verizon deal closes strikes me as an interesting management decision.

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Is Google Biotech Team Overreaching?

September 9, 2016

Science reality is often inspired by science fiction, and Google’s biotech research division, Verily Life Sciences, is no exception. Business Insider posts, “‘Silicon Valley Arrogance’? Google Misfires as It Strives to Turn Star Trek Fiction Into Reality.” The “Star Trek” reference points to Verily’s Tricorder project, announced three years ago, which set out to create a cancer-early-detection device. Sadly, that hopeful venture may be sputtering out. STAT reporter Charles Piller writes:

Recently departed employees said the prototype didn’t work as hoped, and the Tricorder project is floundering. Tricorder is not the only misfire for Google’s ambitious and extravagantly funded biotech venture, now named Verily Life Sciences. It has announced three signature projects meant to transform medicine, and a STAT examination found that all of them are plagued by serious, if not fatal, scientific shortcomings, even as Verily has vigorously promoted their promise.

Piller cites two projects, besides the Tricorder, that underwhelm. We’re told that independent experts are dubious about the development of a smart contact lens that can detect glucose levels for diabetics. Then there is the very expensive Baseline study—an attempt to define what it means to be healthy and to catch diseases earlier—which critics call “lofty” and “far-fetched.” Not surprisingly, Google being Google, there are also some privacy concerns being raised about the data being collected to feed the study.

There are several criticisms and specific examples in the lengthy article, and interested readers should check it out. There seems to be one central notion, though— that Verily Live Sciences is attempting to approach the human body like a computer when medicine is much, much more complicated than that. The impressive roster of medical researchers on the team seems to provide little solace to critics. The write-up relates:

It’s axiomatic in Silicon Valley’s tech companies that if the math and the coding can be done, the product can be made. But seven former Verily employees said the company’s leadership often seems not to grasp the reality that biology can be more complex and less predictable than computers. They said Conrad, who has a PhD in anatomy and cell biology, applies the confident impatience of computer engineering, along with extravagant hype, to biotech ideas that demand rigorous peer review and years or decades of painstaking work.

Are former employees the most objective source? I suspect ex-Googlers and third-party scientists are underestimating Google. The company has a history of reaching the moon by shooting for the stars, and for enduring a few failures as a price of success. I would not be surprised to see Google emerge on top of the biotech field. (As sci fi fans know, biotech is the medicine of the future. You’ll see.) The real question is how the company will treat privacy, data rights, and patient safety along the way.

Cynthia Murrell, September 9, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

Yahoo and Its Five Mistakes Mom Insists You Must Not Make

August 18, 2016

I love parental inputs to commercial enterprises run by real professional managers, mavens, accountants, and lawyers. The advice is fascinating and almost as amusing as a 1946 episode of “The Jack Benny Show.”

Navigate to “5 Things Entrepreneurs and MBAs Should Learn from Yahoo’s Fall.” Let’s look at each of the admonitions. Mom, I promise that I am listening to you.

The first point is that Yahoo mixed up “being in the right place at the right time” as being smart. Okay, Yahoo was one of the first directories for the Internet. Since folks were struggling to get a sense of what the Internet was, Yahoo’s directory was a good place to start. The company followed its nose and ended up with a big valuation in those early Internet years almost a quarter century ago. The write up points out:

[Yahoo] should have built strong engineering foundation instead focusing on sales and revenue.

My thought is that Yahoo, like many other outfits at that time was trying to figure out how to keep the site online, cope with bandwidth issues, and pay for stuff. Looking back, mom, it is easy to do the shoulda woulda coulda. Yahoo is amazing for surviving as long as it did. Money, mom, is important. May I have my allowance now?

The second point in the write up is tough for me to figure out: “Yahoo forgot what had taken them there.” I am not sure Yahoo knew where the company was at any one point in time. The growth, the engineering challenges, the successes and the failures were one crazy blur. Yahoo in its hay day was like Google now but without the online advertising revenue. Sure, Yahoo had GoTo.com, Overture.com, and its own systems, but lacked the ability to do what Google did. In case you forgot, mom, Google focused on using online advertising to generate revenue from search. That’s it. The rest of Google did not exist. Yahoo had the disadvantage of being in the midst of a cyclone of opportunities. Yahoo, even today, cannot contain the environmental effects of being blindsided by success in its formative years. Mom, I don’t know what happened after the punch I drank.

The third point seems to be that Yahoo killed its “golden goose.” For Yahoo, selling its share of Alibaba was a bad idea. I am not sure that Yahoo management at any point in time could identify a goose, let alone a golden one. Mom, I don’t know why I jumped naked into the Wilson’s swimming pool last night. Honest. Yahoo was and remains a consequence of its formative experiences. Companies have cultural momentum. Change is not particularly  effective. Mom, yes, I will pick up my room.

The fourth point is that Yahoo hired professional managers to fix up the company. See point three. Change is hard. Mom, yes, I will take out the garbage as soon as I get home from Jim’s house.

The fifth point is sort of an MBA diagram. Like many great MBA diagrams, the arrows offer several subtle management insights. Here’s the diagram:

image

Yahoo did not see opportunities. Yahoo ran into icebergs just like the Titanic. Mom, I promise I will enjoy my time in juvie detention. It will be okay. I have learned my lesson.

What the write up says, in my opinion, is that an entrepreneur riding a hugely successful, little understood roller coaster should:

  1. Understand that luck is not intelligence or, even better, wisdom
  2. Nosce Te Ipsum. Figure out what made one successful: Luck, lots of cash, inept competitors, users who came from the woodwork, etc.
  3. Do not kill sources of money
  4. Do not hire MBAs
  5. Recognize the next big thing and make it a huge success.

Easy. Just like growing up. Mom, you really helped me after I was arrested. I promise I won’t get in trouble again. Parental inputs were, are, and will be the type of information that often makes zero sense. Entrepreneurs, listen to your mother.

Stephen E Arnold, August 18, 2016

Read the Latest Release from…Virgil

August 18, 2016

The Vatican Library is one of the world’s greatest treasures, because it archives much of western culture’s history.  It probably is on par with the legendary Library of Alexandria, beloved by Cleopatra and burned to the ground.  How many people would love the opportunity to delve into the Vatican Library for a private tour?  Thankfully the Vatican Library shares its treasures with the world via the Internet and now, according to Archaeology News Network, the “Vatican Library Digitises 1600 Year-Old Manuscript Containing Works Of Virgil.”

The digital version of Virgil’s work is not the only item the library plans to scan online, but it does promise donors who pledge 500 euros or more they will receive a faithful reproduction of a 1600 manuscript by the famous author.  NTT DATA is working with the Vatican Library on Digita Vaticana, the digitization project.  NTT DATA has worked with the library since April 2014 and plans to create digital copies of over 3,000 manuscripts to be made available to the general public.

“ ‘Our library is an important storehouse of the global culture of humankind,’ said Monsignor Cesare Pasini, Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library. ‘We are delighted the process of digital archiving will make these wonderful ancient manuscripts more widely available to the world and thereby strengthen the deep spirit of humankind’s shared universal heritage.’”

Projects like these point to the value of preserving the original work as well as making it available for research to people who might otherwise make it to the Vatican.  The Vatican also limits the amount of people who can access the documents.

Whitney Grace, August 18, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

 

Superior Customer Service Promised through the Accenture Virtual Agent Amelia

August 17, 2016

The article titled Accenture Forms New Business Unit Around IPsoft’s Amelia AI Platform on ZDNet introduces Amelia as a virtual agent capable of providing services in industries such as banking, insurance, and travel. Amelia looks an awful lot like Ava from the film Ex Machina, wherein an AI robot manipulates a young programmer by appealing to his empathy. Similarly, Accenture’s Amelia is supposed to be far more expressive and empathetic than her kin in the female AI world such as Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. The article states,

“Accenture said it will develop a suite of go-to-market strategies and consulting services based off of the Amelia platform…the point is to appeal to executives who “are overwhelmed by the plethora of technologies and many products that are advertising AI or Cognitive capabilities”…For Accenture, the formation of the Amelia practice is the latest push by the company to establish a presence in the rapidly expanding AI market, which research firm IDC predicts will reach $9.2 billion by 2019.”

What’s that behind Amelia, you ask? Looks like a parade of consultants ready and willing to advise the hapless executives who are so overwhelmed by their options. The Amelia AI Platform is being positioned as a superior customer service agent who will usher in the era of digital employees.

Chelsea Kerwin, August 17, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

SEO Is a Dirty Web Trick

August 17, 2016

Search engine optimization is the bane of Web experts.  Why?  If you know how to use it you can increase your rankings in search engines and drive more traffic to your pages, but if you are a novice at SEO you are screwed.  Search Engine Land shares some bad SEO stories in “SEO Is As Dirty As Ever.”

SEO has a bad reputation in many people’s eyes, because it is viewed as a surreptitious way to increase traffic.  However, if used correctly SEO is not only a nifty trick, but is a good tool.  As with anything, however, it can go wrong.  One bad SEO practice is using outdated techniques like keyword stuffing, copying and pasting text, and hidden text.  Another common mistake is not having a noindex tag, blocking robots, JavaScript frameworks not being indexed.

Do not forget other shady techniques like the always famous shady sales, removing links, paid links, spam, link networks, removing links, building another Web site on a different domain, abusing review sites, and reusing content.  One thing to remember is that:

“It’s not just local or niche companies that are doing bad things; in fact, enterprise and large websites can get away with murder compared to smaller sites. This encourages some of the worst practices I’ve ever seen, and some of these companies do practically everything search engines tell them not to do.”

Ugh! The pot is identifying another pot and complaining about its color and cleanliness.

 

Whitney Grace, August 17, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

 

As a.I. Scientists Forge Ahead Teaching Robots to Hunt Prey, White House Discusses Regulations And “Understandings”

August 15, 2016

The article on Engadget titled Scientists Are Teaching Robots How to Hunt Down Prey marks advancements in artificial intelligence that may well feed into an A.I. arms race. The scientists working on this project at the University of Zurich see their work in a much less harmful way. The ability to search for and retrieve prey involves identifying and tracking a target. Some of the applications mentioned are futuristic shopping carts or luggage that can follow around its owner. Whether the scientists are experiencing severe tunnel vision or are actually just terrifically naïve is unknown. The article explains,

“The predator robot’s hardware is actually modeled directly after members of the animal kingdom, as the robot uses a special “silicon retina” that mimics the human eye. Delbruck is the inventor, created as part of the VISUALISE project. It allows robots to track with pixels that detect changes in illumination and transmit information in real time instead of a slower series of frames like a regular camera uses.”

Meanwhile, conversations about an A.I. arms race are also occurring, as illustrated by the article on ZDNet titled White House: We’re “Clear-Eyed” About Weaponizing A.I. Humans have a long history of short-sightedness when it comes to weapons technology, perhaps starting with the initial reasoning behind the invention of dynamite. The creator stated that he believed he had created a weapon so terrible that no one would ever dare use it. Obviously, that didn’t work out. But the White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, claims that by establishing a “code of conduct and set of understandings” we can prevent a repetition of history. Commencing eyebrow raise.
Chelsea Kerwin, August 15, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

Why Search Does Not Change Too Much: Tech Debt Is a Partial Answer

August 12, 2016

I read “The Human Cost of Tech Debt.” The write up picks up the theme about the amount of money needed to remediate engineering mistakes, bugs, and short cuts. The cost of keeping an original system in step with newer market entrants’ products adds another burden.

The write up is interesting and includes some original art. Even though the art is good, the information presented is better; for example:

For a manager, a code base high in technical debt means that feature delivery slows to a crawl, which creates a lot of frustration and awkward moments in conversation about business capability.  For a developer, this frustration is even more acute.   Nobody likes working with a significant handicap and being unproductive day after day, and that is exactly what this sort of codebase means for developers. Each day they go to the office knowing that it’s going to take the better part of a day to do something simple like add a checkbox to a form.  They know that they’re going to have to manufacture endless explanations for why seemingly simple things take them a long time.  When new developers are hired or consultants brought in, they know that they’re going to have to face confused looks, followed by those newbies trying to hide mild contempt.

My interest is search and content processing. I asked myself, “Why are search and retrieval systems better than they were in 1975. When I queried the RECON system, I was able to find specific documents which contained information matching the terms in my query. Four decades ago, I could generate a useful result set. The bummer was that the information appeared on weird thermal printer paper. But I usually found the answer to my question in a fraction of the time required for me to run a query on my Windows machine or my Mac.

What’s up?

My view is that search and retrieval tends to be a recycling business. The same basic systems and methods are used again and again. The innovations are wrappers. But to make search more user friendly, add ons look at a user’s query history and behind the scenes filter the results to match the history.

The shift to mobile has been translated to providing results that other people have found useful. Want a pizza? You can find one, but if you want Cuban food in Washington, DC, you may find that the mapping service does not include a popular restaurant for reasons which may be related to advertising expenditures.

We ran a series of queries across five Dark Web search and retrieval systems. None of the systems delivered high precision and high recall results. In order to find certain large sites, manual review and one-at-a-time clicking and review were needed to locate what we were querying.

Regular Web or Dark Web. Online search has discarded useful AND, OR, NOT functions, date and time stamps, and any concern about revealing editorial or filtering postures to a user.

Technological debt explains that most search outfits lack the money to deliver a Class A solution. What about the outfits with oodles of dough and plenty of programmers? The desire and need to improve search is not a management priority.

Some vendors mobile search operates from a vendor’s copy of the indexed sites. Easy, computationally less expensive, and good enough.

Tech debt is a partial explanation for the sad state of online search at this time.

Stephen E Arnold, August 12, 2016

Battle of the Maps

August 10, 2016

Once upon a time Mapquest.com used to be the best map Web site on the Internet, then came along Google Maps and then Apple Maps unleashed its own cartography tool.  Which is the better GPS tool?  Justin Obeirne decided to get to the bottom and find which application is better.  He discussed his findings in “Cartography Comparison: Google Maps And Apple Maps.”

Both Google and Apple want their tool to be the world’s first Universal Map, that is the map most used by the world’s population.  Google Maps is used by one billion of the world’s population, but Apple Maps has its fair share of users too.  These tools are not just mere applications, however, they are powerful platforms deployed in many apps as well.

These maps have their differences: colors, styles, and even different types of maps.  The article explains:

“At its heart, this series of essays is a comparison of the current state of Google’s and Apple’s cartography. But it’s also something more: an exploration into all of the tradeoffs that go into designing and making maps such as these.  These tradeoffs are the joy of modern cartography?—?the thousands of tiny, seemingly isolated decisions that coalesce into a larger, greater whole.  Our purpose here is not to crown a winner, but to observe the paths taken?—?and not taken.”

After reading the article, take your pick and decide which one appeals to you.  From my experience, Google Maps is more accurate and prone to have the most updated information.  Apple makes great technology, but cartography really is not their strongest point.

 

Whitney Grace, August 10, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

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