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Will the Economist Become a Fiat Uno or a Maserati Levant?

August 11, 2015

i read “Exor to Get 40 Percent of the Economist after Pearson Stake Sale.” Pearson, an outfit which once owned a wax museum, is apparently going to sell a chunk of its share of the Economist (a magazine which calls itself a newspaper) to an outfit connected with the Agnelli family. For those who do not track the activities of the Agnellis, the family is a controlling shareholder in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

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Fiat Uno compared to  Maserati Levant SUV. Is the Economist like to emerge with Fiat Uno styling touches. From my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek, the Economist folks think of themselves owning a Maserati.

I rented a Fiat Uno once. Quite an interesting vehicle was that. The Economist is upscale. At one time it used coated stock in its magazine, sorry, newspaper. I assume that the Economist will receive some design and quality enhancements. Will the Economist emerge as the Fiat Uno of business information? The family wants to make Juventus football club number one. Football and tony business information may be complementary businesses.

Stephen E Arnold, August 11, 2015

The Girl with the Advert Tattoo

August 10, 2015

It looks like real publishing companies are now into tattoos or, at least, into leveraging ink’s growing popularity. The Verge reports, “The Desperate Book Industry and ‘Tatvertising’ are a Perfect, Tragic Match.” Reporter Kaitlyn Tiffany tells us that Hachette Austrailia put out the call for a model willing to be tattooed and photographed as part of a promotion for the next Steig Larsson book, “The Girl in the Spider’s Web.” Tiffany likens the effort to a practice, widely considered predatory, that was common just after the turn of the millennium: websites paying those desperate for cash to have ads tattooed on them, (sometimes on their faces!)  But, hey, at least those people were paid good money; apparently the reward for this scheme was meant to be the tattoo itself. The article elaborates:

“But why the [heck] does it need to be a real tattoo? When reached for comment, a representative from Razor & JOY, the advertising agency in charge of the campaign, told me, ‘The character of Lisbeth doesn’t do things in half measures — and so we wanted our marketing to capture this passion.’ The representative also explained that the compensation for the woman who is cast would be something… less than monetary: ‘This campaign is an opportunity to give a truly passionate fan a free tattoo that is unique to a strong literary character.’ And a new type of degrading, unpaid labor in the publishing industry was born.”

I’m not sure I’d personally consider this scheme “predatory,” but apparently Tiffany was not alone in her outrage. I visited the link she supplies in her article, and was greeted with a take-back notice; it reads, in part, “The campaign was conceived with good intentions …  but some people have been offended. As this was never our intention, we have listened and we have decided we will not continue with the tattoo element of the campaign.” At least the company was wise enough to make a change in response to criticism. I wonder, though, what they will come up with next.

Cynthia Murrell, August 10, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

IT Architecture Needs to Be More Seamless

August 7, 2015

IT architecture might appear to be the same across the board, but depending on the industry the standards change.  Rupert Brown wrote “From BCBS To TOGAF: The Need For A Semantically Rigorous Business Architecture” for Bob’s Guide and he discusses how TOGAF is the defacto standard for global enterprise architecture.  He explains that while TOGAF does have its strengths, it supports many weaknesses are its reliance on diagrams and using PowerPoint to make them.

Brown spends a large portion of the article stressing that information content and model are more important and a diagramed should only be rendered later.  He goes on that as industries have advanced the tools have become more complex and it is very important for there to be a more universal approach IT architecture.

What is Brown’s supposed solution? Semantics!

“The mechanism used to join the dots is Semantics: all the documents that are the key artifacts that capture how a business operates and evolves are nowadays stored by default in Microsoft or Open Office equivalents as XML and can have semantic linkages embedded within them. The result is that no business document can be considered an island any more – everything must have a reason to exist.”

The reason that TOGAF has not been standardized using semantics is the lack of something to connect various architecture models together.  A standardized XBRL language for financial and regulatory reporting would help get the process started, but the biggest problem will be people who make a decent living using PowerPoint (so he claims).

Brown calls for a global reporting standard for all industries, but that is a pie in the sky hope unless the government imposes regulations or all industries have a meeting of the minds.  Why?  The different industries do not always mesh, think engineering firms vs. a publishing house, and each has their own list of needs and concerns.  Why not focus on getting industry standards for one industry rather than across the board?

Whitney Grace, August 7, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Viva The Academic Publisher Boycott!

July 30, 2015

Academic databases provide access to quality research material, which is key for any student, professor, or researcher to succeed in their work.  One major drawback to academic databases is the high cost associated with subscription fees.  Individual researchers cannot justify subscribing to an academic database and purchasing a single article runs high.  This is why they rely on academic libraries to cover the costs.  Due to changing publishing trends, academic publishers are raising subscription fees.

Elsevier is one of the largest and most well-known scientific journal database, but it is also the most notorious for its expensive subscription fee and universities are getting tired of it.  Univers reports that “Dutch Universities Start Their Elsevier Boycott.”  The Netherlands, led by state secretary Sander Dekker, want all scientific content to be free online.  In order to be published, the university or financier pays to be so.  All content by Dutch scientists will hopefully be open access by 2024.

In the meantime, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands has asked all Dutch scientists that work with Elsevier to resign from their positions.  As to be expected, some are willing and others are more reluctant.  The goal is to pressure Elsevier to change its practices.

“In Univers nr. 8, in January, professor Jan Blommaert called the current publishing system ‘completely absurd’. Not only because of the costs for subscription, but also because the journals have a lot of power over the content: ‘A young PhD student who has been able to get an article accepted by a journal may still have to wait 18 months for it to be published, because the editors prefer well-known names. It is not unthinkable that if I would submit a love letter, it would be published sooner than an intelligent scholarly article by a young researcher.’ ”

The Dutch universities are setting a standard that many libraries and universities will also follow, but the hardest part is encouraging more to participate.  Libraries and universities have an obligation to provide needed materials to researchers and a boycott will hinder the step.  Large boycotts, rather than individual, will be more effective and instrumental in changing Elsevier’s practices.

Whitney Grace, July 30, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Real Journalists and Presstitution

July 24, 2015

I read and enjoyed an article for one word: “presstitute.” You can see the word in context in “Are Media Companies One Native Ad Away from Becoming Presstitutes.” Perhaps the word “native” is not clear? Inclusions, inserts, or paid advertorials will make the meaning of native clear.

The idea is that “real” journalists were before the eye opening days of yellow journalism were objective. Messrs. Pulitzer and Hearst were like Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page more than a century ago.

Flash forward to the present and the “real” journalists are struggling to make their well honed business model work in a world of iPhones and Instagram.

Read the original essay. You get some dancing around the May pole, but the article is significant because of the word “presstitute” in my opinion. That’s a business model with legs. No comment about whether the legs are comely, hirsute, appropriate, or inappropriate from me, however.

Stephen E Arnold, July 214, 2015

Scribd Obtains Social Reading

July 22, 2015

Access to books and other literary material has reached an unprecedented high.  People can download and read millions of books with a few simple clicks.  Handheld ebook readers are curtailing the sales of printed book, but they also are increasing sales of digital books.  One of the good things about ebooks is bibliophiles do not have to drive to a bookstore or get waitlisted on the library.  Writers also can directly sell their material to readers and potentially by pass having to pay agents and publishers.

It occurred to someone that bibliophiles would love to have instant access to a huge library of books, similar to how Netflix offers its customers an unending video library.  There is one and it is called Scribed.  Scribd is described as the Netflix of books, because for a simple $8.99 bibliophiles can read and download as many books as they wish.

The digital landscape is still being tested by book platforms and Scribd has increased its offerings.  VentureBeat reports Scribd’s newest business move in: “Scribd Buys Social Reading App Librify.” Librify is a social media reading app, offering users the opportunity to connect with friends and sharing their reading experiences.  It is advertised as a great app for book clubs.

“In a sparse press release, Scribd argues Librify’s “focus on the social reading experience” made the deal worthwhile. The news arrives at a heated time for the publishing industry, as Amazon, Oyster, and others all fight to be the definitive Netflix for books — all while hawking remarkably similar products.”

Netflix has its own rivals: Hulu, Amazon Prime, Vimeo, and YouTube, but it offers something different by creating new and original shows.  Scribd might be following a similar business move, by offering an original service its rivals do not have.  Will it also offer Scribd only books?

Whitney Grace, July 22, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Amazon: A Hungry Female Tarantula Amidst Digital Bananas

July 17, 2015

I read “The Book World Need Not Fear Amazon.” The essay tips its fedora to Amazon’s 20th year in business. I am reminded: “It [Amazon] kick started the ebook revolution.” Revolutions are good, aren’t they?

The main idea is that publishers are not too thrilled to find the Amazon tarantula in their now mostly empty book stores. The revenue from backlists is no longer the olive groves they once were.

The write up states:

Some publishers believe that, essentially, Bezos’s company despises them: they are unnecessary intermediaries between authors and the reading public. And then there are the working conditions in Amazon’s warehouses, and the company’s tax avoidance … The news that the European commission is investigating Amazon’s business practices – among which is the stipulation that rivals should never receive more favorable terms – has brought cheer.

But the kicker is this statement:

Perhaps Amazon will destroy literary culture. Or perhaps in 20 years’ time we’ll find it hard to remember, as we do with Microsoft, why we were so afraid of it.

Fascinating. The problem is not what Amazon has done. The problem is what book publishers were unable to do. The emergence of a digital book powerhouse comes as a result of publishers who were content and still are thrilled to operate with water wheels and oxen as sources of power.

The Amazon plugs in to a market that no longer reads by candlelight. The fear is warranted, but I don’t have too much sympathy for those who are increasingly disintermediated and marginalized.

Stephen E Arnold, July 17, 2015

Search the Snowden Documents

July 16, 2015

This cat has long since forgotten what the inside of the bag looked like. Have you perused the documents that were released by Edward Snowden, beginning in 2013? A website simply titled “Snowden Doc Search” will let you do just that through a user-friendly search system. The project’s Description page states:

“The search is based upon the most complete archive of Snowden documents to date. It is meant to encourage users to explore the documents through its extensive filtering capabilities. While users are able to search specifically by title, description, document, document date, and release date, categories also allow filtering by agency, codeword, document topic, countries mentioned, SIGADS, classification, and countries shared with. Results contain not only full document text, pdf, and description, but also links to relevant articles and basic document data, such as codewords used and countries mentioned within the document.”

The result of teamwork between the Courage Foundation and Transparency Toolkit, the searchable site is built upon the document/ news story archive maintained by the Edward Snowden Defense Fund. The sites Description page also supplies links to the raw dataset and to Transparency Toolkit’s Github page, for anyone who would care to take a look. Just remember, “going incognito doesn’t hide your browsing from your employer, your internet service provider, or the websites you visit.” (Chrome)

Cynthia Murrell, July 16 , 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Pew, Pew, Phew: Bad News for Real Publishers

July 15, 2015

I am not a real publisher. I am mostly retired. I live in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky. Google thinks I am in Greenspring, Kentucky. The mail person thinks I live in Louisville. The newspapers to which I subscribe think I am Tyson Arnold. Tyson, as you may recall, was one of my prized boxers.

Publishers, in short, don’t know that my dog reads their dead tree outputs. Ah, the life away from the hustle, bustle, tweets, and Facebook posts of the major metropolitan areas.

But apparently, even here, where the AR 15s lay waste to the squirrels, news comes via means other than printed publications. Bummer.

Navigate to “New Pew Data: More Americans Are Getting News on Facebook and Twitter.” I like the sonance of the “new pew” juxtaposition. But, to business. The write up reports:

Facebook and Twitter users across all demographics are increasingly using the social networks as news sources, though they are seeking out different types of news content on each platform…

The article points to a Pew research report, which I don’t think I will scrutinize. (I have a juicy new document from Recorded Future and a couple of European Community reports about the Dark Web.)

You, gentle reader, should plan to scrutinize the data in the study. For me, the report is old news.

For publishers, the Pew data in the study are a knife to the heart. I saw knives plunged into these outfits’ torso years ago.

Everyone seems to recognize that “real publishers” may be facing some challenges when they try to pump up those revenues. The only outfits who seem to be unaware of their plight are—wait for it—the publishers themselves.

Okay, back to more substantive stuff, not “the real world impact of journalism.”

Stephen E Arnold, July 15, 2015

Page Load Speed: Let Us Blame Those in Suits

July 14, 2015

I read “News Sites Are Fatter and Slower Than Ever.” Well, I am not sure about “ever.” I recall when sites simply did not work. Those sites never worked. You can check out the turtles if you can grab a peak at a crawler’s log file. Look for nifty codes like 2000, 4, or 12. Your mileage may vary, but the log file tells the tale.

The write up aims at news sites. My hunch is that the definition of a news site is one of those toip one percent things: The user is looking for information from a big name and generally clueless outfit like The Daily Whatever or a mash up of content from hither and yon.

Enter latency, lousy code, crazy ads from half baked ad servers, and other assorted craziness.

The write up acknowledges that different sites deliver different response times. Okay.

If you are interested in data, the article presents an interesting chart. You can see home page load times with and without ads. There’s a chart which shows page load times via different mobile connections.

The main point, in my opinion, is a good one:

Since its initial release 22 years ago, the Hyper Text Markup Language  (HTML) has gone through many iterations that make web sites richer and smarter than ever. But this evolution also came with loads of complexity and a surfeit of questionable features. It’s time to swing the pendulum back toward efficiency and simplicity. Users are asking for it and will punish those who don’t listen.

My hunch is that speed is a harsh task master. In our work, we have found that with many points in a process, resources are often constrained or poorly engineered. As a result, each new layer of digital plaster contributes to the sluggishness of a system.

Unless one has sufficient resources (money and expertise and time), lousy performance is the new norm. The Google rails and cajoles because slow downs end up costing my favorite search engine big bucks.

Most news sites do not get the message and probably never will. The focus is on another annoying overlay, pop up, or inline video.

Click away, gentle reader, click away. Many folks see the browser as the new Windows 3.11. Maybe browsers are the new Windows 3.11?

Stephen E Arnold, July 14, 2015

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