Monday, August 30, 2004


Hurricane Frances regional imagery, 2004.08.30 at 1415Z. Centerpoint Latitude: 18:33:46N Longitude: 59:16:14W.

CIOs Cheerier About Future Spending

CIOs in the United States are surprisingly optimistic about the future and think IT spending will climb nearly 7% in 2005, a research firm said Monday.

Let it be so.

How the use of technology is transforming the current Presidential campaign

EBusiness Morning Forum Event

Presented by NVTC's eBusiness Committee and Security Sub-committee of the IT&T Committee.

September 14, 2004

7:30 am Registration
8:00 - 9:30 am Program

The E-Campaign: How the use of technology is transforming the current Presidential campaign, and the associated security issues.

Join us for a panel discussion regarding how the use of technology is transforming the current Presidential campaign and the associated security issues. Examples include the collection, use, and security of voter and donor data, how money is being raised through the Internet, what voter history data is collected and used, how voter/donor data is being used during and after the campaign, how the campaigns are keeping in touch with their supporters/donors and the security of voting machines and election data.

Michael Turk, eCampaign Director for the Bush campaign
Carol Darr, Institute Director, The George Washington University
Melissa Boasberg Deputy Director, Internet Operations for the Kerry-Edwards campaign
Jeremy Epstein, Senior Director of Product Security, webMethods

Wilson P. Dizard III Senior Editor, Government Computer News, a PostNewsweek Tech Media publications

Technology owes a great deal to Howard Dean. Without his campaign it would have taken much longer to discover the political and marketing potential of web logs and their role in communications.

Does sex sell?

Study urges less sex in marketing

Young urban trendsetters around the world are growing bored with sexually explicit advertising and can be better reached with more wholesome marketing appeals, a new study says.

The study by HeadLightVision, a trends analysis arm of marketing company WPP, suggests that many young adults are trying to reclaim their innocence through “play...silliness and family-style togetherness.”

Examples of the trend include the popularity of bingo and board games at trendy bars, the embrace of childlike fashions, and respect among young people for “computer geeks” and skateboarders.

The agency says advertisers should respond by playing along with the younger set, emphasizing feelings of nostalgia or kitch, or crafting commercials that are seductive rather than explicit.

To Technoflak's ear the phrase play along with the younger set sounds a little creepy. Good public relations starts with respect for your public.

Nothing says our copy writers have run out of ideas like an advertising campaign based on sex. It is particularly inappropriate in business to business selling, where you need to convey the idea of building your customers' profits.

Beyond that, Technoflak can only say that stereotype of computer geeks as sexless is not one that the technically inclined are likely to appreciate, and the idea that skateboarders are more sexually innocent than any other group of young people is not one that would have previously presented itself.

Somehow Technoflak is unable to dismiss the thought that WPP has misread the results of its own survey.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Why journalism matters, the Biro report

Tom Biro publishes The Media Drop, an entertaining web log that tracks the business of news media. But he never forgets why the news business matters and reports on the terrible price some pay to report the news:

2004's journalist casualties getting worse

Editor Sajid Rashid stabbed outside his office

Olympic glory

Italian athletes will add black arm bands to their uniforms while participating in Olympic events on Friday. The arm bands will be in memory of Enzo Baldoni, the journalist killed yesterday in Iraq.

Some day the only glory journalists will have is high ratings, increased circulation and best sellers. Until then we will have the sad honor of remembering heroes like Enzo Baldoni.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Stopping spam at the source

New antispam technology standards are on the way that promise to hit spammers where it hurts the most--their wallets.

At issue is the ability to authenticate the original source of e-mail messages, a major hole in the current system that allows spammers to easily forge return addresses and hide their tracks.

This month, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) reviewed several e-mail authentication proposals, agreeing to fast-track a submission from Microsoft known as Sender ID. The group also reviewed submissions for signature-based authentication from companies such as Cisco Systems and Yahoo and recommended the authors combine and resubmit those proposals together.

Technoflak is not enthusiastic about any solution that gives one vendor a monopoly.

Why aren't spammers in jail? Almost all spam is obviously fraud, so why are they prosecuted under existing laws?

Friday, August 20, 2004

Enterprise Content Management and the Web

NCC-AIIM Monthly Meeting, Thursday, September 9, 2004

NCC-AIIM is pleased to open the season with the analysts' view of Enterprise Content Management and the Web. Charles Brett, Vice President of Technology Research Services at the META Group is our featured speaker.

Drawing from extensive research available from META Group, Mr. Brett will provide an overview of the current state of the ECM market and the critical trends facing the industry today. While many organizations are implementing and moving toward infrastructure-scale ECM deployments and consolidation, fully leveraging – and understanding – web-based architectures requires much more than browser access to content.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

AIIM 2005 Conference

May 17-19, 2005 Philadelphia, PA


AIIM International is looking for qualified speakers to deliver presentations at the AIIM 2005 Conference. If you are an end-user, an industry expert, a consultant or analyst on an industry topic, a solution provider willing to present with a client, or any combination of the above, we are interested in reviewing your submission.

Please carefully review the following instructions before submitting your abstract:

(1) Selection preference will be given to end-user, analyst and consultant speakers followed by speakers from vendor/supplier companies. Speakers from vendor/supplier companies must co-present with an end-user client. This client must be identified by name and company within the original submission.

Here is a great PR tip. Encourage your best customers to be speakers at industry conferences. Resist the temptation to grab the spotlight. Never doubt that if your customers look good, you look good.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Standards, vendors and end users

While SAML was first to market and WS-Federation has the biggest backers, it's the Liberty Alliance that may be the best bet for identity federation.

Word has come down about a new project to outsource your company's HR, payroll, and 401k management functions. Word has also come down that the project will revolve around an identity federation infrastructure between your company and three service providers. The goal is to provide Single Sign-On (SSO) for your users while leveraging each party's existing identity management and authentication system. All this will be done using a standardized Web services interface.

The only word that hasn't come down is which federation framework to go with: the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), the Liberty Alliance specifications, or the Web Services Federation (WS-Federation) specifications? That decision has been left to you.

The Web Services Federation and SAML are both dominated by vendors, the Liberty Alliance has the most participation by end users. Technoflak believes that standards are too important to leave to vendors and only participation by end users can insure quality.


The problem with blogosphere is that when you slip on a banana peel, the whole world knows about it. Dichotomy's Purgatory offers Technoflak a clue.

Two new Saturn satellites may be big discoveries

The Cassini spacecraft has spotted to previously unknown and small moons orbiting Saturn in an unexpected location.

Monday, August 16, 2004

What does grok mean?

Grok is a slang verb sometimes used by geeks roughly meaning "to understand completely" or more formally intuitive understanding

The term originated in Robert Heinlein's novel Stranger in a Strange Land, where it is used by a man raised with Martians and literally means "to drink".

A character in the novel (not the primary user) defines it:

"'Grok' means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science— and it means as little to us (because we are from Earth) as color means to a blind man."

Now you now.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

XML Forum, September 21, 2004

Forum on XML Authoring/Editing & Content Management of Legislative & Regulatory Documents Attendee Invitation

Sponsored By:

Federal Government XML Working Group, CMS Watch and Washington, DC Area XML Users Group

Date: Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Time: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Location: Key Bridge Marriott

Pictures of XML Authoring Forum 2003

Attendee Registration

Potential Vendor Invitation

Civil service IT humor

From Owen Ambur's web site:

Party ~ A meeting for which no records are kept. (See also: "tacit knowledge")

E-mail ~ A stage of immaturity through which we must pass. (See also: "chaos")

Company (Firm) ~ A group of people subscribing to the same data elements for mutual monetary gain.

Association ~ A group of people subscribing to the same data elements for mutual mental gain.

Complaint ~ An expression of a problem that is insufficient to effect action.

IT Architecture ~ An abstraction sufficient to enable inaction.

Revolution ~ Evolution on Internet time.

News site registration shuffle

Tom Biro has one solution, "Publishers absolutely need a way to figure out demographics and get their content paid for, but I do agree that it's unreasonable to think that people are going to register at every single site out there, and keep the logins straight. I'm of the general opinion that if the publishers who run multiple web properties could just aggregate logins so that signing in at one publication gets you in to all the publications, reading news would be a lot less painless."

Good idea, but that only addresses the convenience side of the equation. Privacy is also a major concern. Readers may understand why you want to know their zip code. They might even understand why you want their age and gender, but when registration asks for more information, readers feel they are being spied on. That is why services like Bug Me Not are popular. Boing Boing illustrates the privacy problem, Elizabeth Albrycht shows how the registration process can be rigged to sign us up for email we do not want.

Shorter version, advertisers and publishers need to give up this idea of control and adopt business models that cultivate customers, not spy on them.

Damage control in progress

What would you do if you had a trio of reporters hot on your heels? Suppose the reporters thought they had the sort of story that can make a career. Such a case is unfolding before our very eyes. Let’s pretend you were the PR flack concerned and examine some of the steps you could take.

Part of the rationale for the Iraq war was the allegation that Iraq had acquired “yellow cake” uranium from Niger. We now know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and that the documents that were the basis of the “yellow cake” uranium story were forgeries. For the reporters, the question is who forged the documents and why?

Now everything that has ever been written about crisis communications advocates candor. Alas, this idea is more honored in the breach than observance. Let’s pretend you are the sort of flack who believes it is possible to create confusion until the whole ugly mess blows over, or another news event comes along to distract public attention.

You could always put out a decoy story, like a fox laying back tracks in an effort to throw the hounds off scent. You could plant a story that the forged documents were not the only evidence indicating that Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium. You could suggest that the forgeries were made by an independent operator, not connected to the government in any way. You would want to be sure to plant these stories in a newspaper which had not been a big cheerleader for the war, such as the Financial Times.

But false trails rarely serve. News hounds usually catch on to the newsmaker fox’s tactics. The next step is the strategic disclosure. You leak just enough information to scoop the unfriendly reporter and steal their thunder.

You can muddy the water with competing stories. Once those stories are printed, the news organizations in question will be intellectually vested in perpetuating their version of events. In the ensuing confusion over competing versions, voters may well give the government the benefit of the doubt.

The other trick for the is to define the issue as narrowly as possible, were we technically lying? If not, it follows we were telling the truth.

Obviously, the blend of intelligence operations, press leaks, and official announcements described here are way beyond the scale of most PR work. But watch how this plays out, for there will be many lessons. Notice the evil influence of anonymous sources.

Technoflak’s view is that governments should wage peace, and avoid war. War is sometimes necessary, but its terrible cost must never be underestimated.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

On the Waterfront

On the Waterfront is the story of an ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman who struggles to stand up to his corrupt union bosses. By degrees he comes to understand that his obligation is to society and right conduct, and not corrupt union bosses. The difference between solidarity and omerta is as great as the grand canyon, but human beings are social creatures and sometimes omerta can look like solidarity.

Matthew Cooper of Time magazine is facing a similar dilemma and we must hope he learns the difference between solidarity and omerta. He is one of the cold-call-six, the reporters who received the leak that Amb. Joe Wilson’s wife was an undercover CIA case officer. Not just any case officer, his wife was in charge of tracking the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Apparently it did not occur to Cooper at the time that he was witnessing a crime in progress and that it was his duty to alert his readers. But at least he knew better than print the story, unlike Robert Novak who took the bait and ran with it.

Such is the cult of anonymous sources that even now the whole controversy has degenerated into a legalistic dispute. The loss of our intelligence network monitoring the spread of weapons of mass destruction, at a time when our country is threatened by terrorism, is not deemed a newsworthy subject. Emboldened by the lack of editorial outrage, the deadly anonymice to continue to sacrifice national security on the alter of political expedience. Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, a double agent and computer genius, who had succeeded in penetrating the highest levels of al-Qaeda, was exposed when the anonymice revealed his name in the course of justifying the latest terror alert. Now his usefulness is gone and his life is at great risk.

So, Matthew Cooper tell us, who are the anonymice? Your obligation is to your readers and your country, not the anonymice who place us all in danger. Tell what you know, not just to the grand jury, but to the entire world. It is the story of your life. You could be a contender.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Crony journalism

Jim Horton and Tom Biro have both commented on the troubling case of the dubious Cyndy Brucato, of KSTP-TV.

While Brucato remains the owner of a public relations firm--Brucato and Halliday--she says she is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the company. If a story about a client suggests a conflict of interest, she adds, she will disclose the relationship to viewers.

This doesn’t pass the laugh test. KSTP can kiss their credibility good bye. The next time they accuse any politician of having a conflict ofinterest you can be sure the press secretary will make the obvious retort, ”look who’s talking.”

Brucato and Halliday is no better off. One of the things clients pay PR pros for is the knowledge of how things will come across to the general public. This is clearly a firm without a clue.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Why journalism matters, the struggle for Russia

Putin’s Progress

In the years since he came to power in 2000, Putin has presided over what could be seen as the neutralisation of Russia's once vibrant independent media. This has been achieved by a range of methods, including the seizure of assets of leading critics, the removal of independent-minded directors and the intimidation of journalists and their sources.

There is some evidence that Putin is not above the cruder methods.

Security, Privacy and RFID

Via our good friend Privacy Digest

Report exposes potential RFID weaknesses

A leading consultancy firm has warned that the widespread adoption of RFID could open up the door to a range of potential scams, resulting in huge losses for retailers and manufacturers, writes Anthony Fletcher.

The report, from Forbes, suggest that while bringing huge potential benefits in terms of traceability and access of information, there are still flaws in the concept.

For example, a consumer wishing to pay less for a product could alter the price of a particular product by taking out a hand-held personal digit assistant (PDA) equipped with an RFID reader and scanning the product’s tag. He could then replace that information with data from the tag on, say, a €3 carton of milk.

If the checkout stand is automated, then the store's computer system will be none the wiser.

Spyware blues

From the Palm Beach Post:

Personal and business computers across the country are being infiltrated by programs called spyware that can track your online habits, draw a bead on your interests and then flood your screen with unsolicited advertisements. Like human infiltrators, these programs can be evasive, dangerous and determined to seize control.

"People are tearing their hair out and screaming about this," says Megan Kinnaird of the nonprofit Internet Education Foundation in Washington, D.C. "It's causing problems for everyone."

That might be only a slight exaggeration.

"I'd say 75 percent of the computers we've seen have spyware on them," says Dan Bukowski, owner of Computer Medic Center in North Palm Beach. "The only ones that don't are those folks who don't go on the Internet."

Spyware, also called adware, lurks on many Internet sites that sell products or that offer downloads such as music, software or photos. Some of these sites appear to be free but are supported by advertisers who pay to have spyware deliver their messages or collect information about what computer users are browsing for.

Why isn't spyware a felony offense? Why is it that the politicians who are so eager to put filtering software on public library Internet connections do nothing to protect us from spyware? You would think they would at least want to protect their own computers.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

AIIM Content Management Solutions Seminar

September 28, 2004
Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill
400 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Telephone: 202-737-1234

The AIIM Content Management Solutions Seminar is where you can get the information and education you need to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver your content.

- Educational sessions presented by industry providers will detail case studies of real-world enterprise content management applications.

- Meet one-on-one with leading solution providers and test products in the Demonstration Room (OPEN ALL DAY).

- Luncheon Round Tables allow time to discuss hot topics and learn from others in your industry and geographic area.

- And, best of all, it's FREE to attend.

Great moments in content management

YES, THERE ARE MULTIPLE TYPES OF PDF FILES...A couple of weeks ago the Justice Department, after finally acceding to a Freedom of Information request, posted a study on "workforce diversity." However, it was heavily redacted: nearly half of the report was blacked out.

But in yet another example of utter cluelessness about how computers work, the report was posted on the web in PDF format. More specifically, it was posted in a PDF format called Image+Text, so while the viewable image was redacted, the underlying text (which allows you to search the document) was still there, buried in the innards of the file.

The memory hole has both versions for your viewing pleasure.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Federal XML Work Group, July 21st meeting

Technoflak arrived after the break and so missed Steve Hanby’s presentation on EAI Components in Relation to eGov, LOBs & FEA.

After a brief introduction from Bently Roberts, Clerk of the Merit Systems Protection Board(MSPB), Tim Korb, Manager of Information Services, opened the second session with a description of the MSPB’s requirements for XML technology and the potential for document storage and retrieval.

Korb began by describing the work of the Merit Systems Protection Board. It is part of what used to be the Civil Service, and its mission is to protect the merit system in government employment. In addition to generating studies it adjudicates disputes. Its adjudication system acts as a court, receiving many filings and sending out notices and decisions in field offices across the country. Korb said, ”We create a lot of electronic documents, unfortunately not as accessible as they might be.” He lamented ”limited search capabilities and even where good, different from one silo to another.” The MSPB must cope with different applications in different repositories and can vary from one format to another and one version to another.

The MSPB was looking for a solution that would be vendor neutral and would allow for accessibility into the future. Already there are difficulties accessing documents in older versions of Word. Korb asked, ”How are we going to get what we have now into XML?” The MSPB needed a solution that would convert virtually any common format into XML and present the look of the original document. They also needed the capability to use the metadata of the legacy documents and the ability to search the documents. They would need the capability to take data from XML and put it into other formats. The MSPB needed to leave the old versions of documents undisturbed, keep old data bases intact and synchronize with the XML data base. Korb explained that the case management system is a relational data base. Here Owen Ambur, chair of the XML Work Group, asked if the MSPB is participating in the Office of Management and Budget’s effort to standardize case management. Korb answered, ”Not at this time.”

Korb explained that unlike the Federal Courts, which require electronic documents to be submitted in PDF format, the MSPB permits electronic filings to be submitted in almost any format. Korb went on observe that it would be nice to have full text search on previous inquiries (FOIA, congressional requests, etc.) so that MSPB would know how they had previously handled such an inquiry.

Owen Ambur said that the Federal Courts had wanted PDF-A used as the standard, and he wanted to give Adobe credit for building XML capability into their products.

Ambur observed that if we are to have a citizen-centered government, then we must permit the citizens to file documents in whatever format they prefer. If government makes it difficult to for a citizen to do business with it, then it is not doing its job, at least not in a democracy.

Here Technoflak observed that PDF format does not show a document’s history of revisions. Word and other formats do permit this, as Tony Blair knows to his cost. Ambur expanded on this, saying that IT people do not always understand the business requirement for preserving the integrity of the document, what lawyers refer to as the ”four corners of the document.” It is critical for both legal and archival reasons that documents look the same tomorrow as they do today.

Here Tim Korb introduced Ipedo’s team which was led by Kam Thakker, with Chetan Patel and Alex Chang assisting. They described their system as an XML intelligent platform. Ipedo delivers enterprise-information-integration by using XML to integrate and manage information from disparate complex data sources.

Ipedo’s software creates a ”virtual data layer” by taking information from a data store, creating a virtual XML file, analyzing the data and assembling it to put it into the appropriate form.

The system handles relational data bases, documents and messages. It can retrieve structured, semi-structured and even unstructured electronic data. Ipedo can grab live data from public and private web pages and even messages if necessary. Security and encryption are built in so that it can be used outside the firewall.

The application is format and schema independent. It fits with existing developer tools, .Net or Java, and is platform agnostic.

Thakker talked about the evolution of this kind of software from Extract/Transform/Load (data warehousing, bulk loading and historical analysis) to Enterprise Application Integration (scheduled data movement between applications) to Enterprise Information Integration (on-demand data extraction and combination of disparate data sources). Examples of government applications for Ipedo’s technology include intelligence gathering, searching across different data bases, digital asset management, financial reporting (combining financial data from multiple systems) and portal integration.

Ipedo features include XML venues (JDBC and Web Services), XQuery builder, XML rules processing (semantic checks), and vertical accelerants (prebuilt modules and schemas).

The XQuery implementation conforms to W3C XQuery 1.0 draft. Ipedo is an active member of the XQJ expert group (JSR225 - Java API for XQuery). Their XQuery system has strong support for XML Namespaces and has full text search capability.

The Ipedo XML schema management uses both DTDs and W3C schema.

Here, Owen Ambur asked if Ipedo had Web Distributed Authoring Versioning. Thakker responded that it would be in the next release.

Thakker began a demonstration of Ipedo’s work for the Merit Systems Protection Board with a sample search query -


and pulled up search results by case number and document number, using both Word and HTML versions.

Thakker noted Ipedo had browse capability in Word format. He pointed out that Ipedo took a ”blob of unstructured data” and made it semi-structured.

Ipedo uses SVG loaded as XML data to get the document preservation right. (The demonstration showed a Word document presented in SVG format.)

Ipedo uses tagging in Word and XML XSLT style sheet transformation. This permits on demand views and transformation.

Thakker was asked about Ipedo’s two day turnaround. He replied that the MSPB had provided a series of Word documents, which were converted into XML and then imported into Ipedo’s system. Thakker explained that the Word documents already had the metadata. Here Korb said he was proud that the MSPB had been using metadata for a while, and he had had something to do with that. Thakker went on to say that Ipedo queries go into multiple sources. The query default is ”or”, so putting ”and” will bring up additional documents.

Minutes of the July 21st meeting

Next meeting will be in August 18th.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

July Meeting of DC XML Users Group

Dave Sullivan, of Zonar, spoke about the limits imposed by existing DTDs and schemas upon XML’s ability to encapsulate data and allow for its optimal use by existing data systems. Using his work for realtors as an example, Sullivan made clear the almost unlimited number of qualifiers you could have for any element. He gave as an example: a house, a house with a ceiling fan, a house with a ceiling fan by a specific manufacturer.

Sullivan emphasized the importance of establishing conventions concerning definitions and adhering to them.

One thing he said that caught Technoflak’s ear was that to design proper systems, “you have to know the industry, you have to know what you are talking about.”

After the break, Tom Passin, author of the Explorer’s Guide to the Semantic Web, gave an overview of the ideas presented in his book.

He described four views of the semantic web: the machine readable data view, the intelligent agent view, the distributed data base view, and the servant of humanity view (Tim Berners Lee’s view). Passin summarized the ”servant of humanity” view as ”machine consumption of web data + more semantics = good things for people.”

He described the nature of the web as ”open, huge, heterogeneous, evolutionary, and not necessarily benign.”

Passin described Friend of a Friend networks at length and how they might work with intelligent agents to retrieve information. At this point a member of the audience said, ”This is an example of why you need to know more about serialization than you think.” To this Technoflak would only add, precisely so. The ability of intelligent agents to crawl the web and retrieve all manner of information is a perfect example of why software development is too important to leave to software developers.

Passin talked about Resources Descriptive Framework, which consists of a thing, its trait or aspect, and its value. It is like the grammatical construction of subject, verb, predicate. Passin observed that many view Resources Descriptive Framework as the basis for the semantic web. Passin said that, ”real logic people regard the semantic web as ridiculous”, and he described them as ”pretty intolerant in discussion lists.”