Saturday, April 30, 2005

Mark to market

In 1997 the SEC changed the accounting rules, allowing publicly held companies to chose a mark to market valuation system, where an asset could be valued on its market value. This change in accounting rules made the Enron debacle possible. My hearty congratulations to those in the SEC who made the ruling for remaining anonymous. Excellent bullet dodging and buck passing, even on Washington standards.

I learned about this watching Enron, the smartest guys in the room. It is a very revealing film and I recommend it. One of the things the movie makes very clear is that this was not just a question of a few bad guys at the top of Enron. This scandal was only possible because all those who could have stopped it, the accountants, financial analysts, the financial press, FERC, all eagerly cheered it on. Enron represented a perversion of our economic system, whose lessons have still not been learned in my judgment.

How not to pitch a blogger

John's scrapbook

How many PR firms are ordering bloggers around?

After mailing me a review copy of Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, the PR shop pushing this film, Special Ops Media, repeatedly nagged me to inform them (along with other bloggers, see postscript) "asap" as to when I am going to review it, and when I am going to tell them about my plans to review it:

John - This is just a reminder that your review of the film needs to be posted this week or next (before April 21).

John -- let me know what is going on with this asap

John -- I made it clear from the outset when the review needed to be posted (see the emails below).

It isn’t their job to hype your client, it is your job to explain why their readers would be interested. Sheesh.

How It Works: XML & Justice Integration

Tod Newcombe, Public CIO

Criminal justice leaders have long envisioned how technology can expand and improve information sharing, only to be frustrated in their efforts. Now the justice community has extensible markup language (XML) in its sights, which will allow police, prosecutors, court clerks, judges and corrections officials to exchange information in a timely manner without breaking the bank.

Within the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Office of Justice Programs put together a task force of 32 federal, state, local and international organizations to design an XML standard specifically for criminal justice.

Their hard work seems to be paying off -- funds are beginning to flow toward pilot projects, and more than 50 justice information-sharing projects now use XML.

In February, the National Governors Association awarded six states -- Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- each a $50,000 grant to run pilots to improve existing justice systems.

Also in February, the U.S. departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced a new partnership encouraging use of XML throughout federal, state and local government. Government officials believe this is a major step in broadening how the public sector uses XML standards, especially the Global Justice XML Data Model (Global JXDM) being developed by the DOJ.

Making systems work is as much political cooperation as technical advance.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Russia’s FSB Demands Control Over Internet


Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Thursday that special services need an extension of their authority to control communication networks.

Dmitry Frolov, spokesman for the FSB information security center, was speaking at the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, RIA Novosti reported. In particular, the FSB representative said his agency suggested developing new rules for internet providers that would prevent the spread of extremist ideas on the Internet, register internet activity.

He also said that the FSB should get access to user databases of telephone companies with information on all internet addresses of users, both static and mobile. Frolov also said it was necessary to introduce obligatory registration of all mobile phone users, as they can also use the Internet.

A bad sign. A very bad sign.

Project management schedule games

Schedule Game #1: Schedule Chicken

Schedule Game #2: 90% Done

Schedule Game #3: Bring Me a Rock

Schedule Game #4: Hope is Our Most Important Strategy

Schedule Game #5: Queen of Denial

Schedule Game #6: Sweep Under the Rug

Schedule Game #7: Schedule Dream Time or Happy Date

Congratulations Daddy Lark

Sophia Virginia Lark

The Counterterrorism Blog

The first multi-expert blog dedicated solely to counterterrorism issues, serving as a gateway to the community for policymakers and serious researchers. Designed to provide realtime information about cases and policy developments.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Where buzzwords come from


Harbor’s new study, "Connecting to Your Future: The Networking of Every Manufactured Thing", finds that the Pervasive Internet is unleashing an age of “living intelligence” enabled by networked devices, and companies are creating new business opportunities for themselves and their partners. These new business opportunities are quite different from traditional product development roles. Harbor Research has identified four major new ways to organize a business: the Embedded Innovator, the Solutionist, the Synergist, and the Aggregator. Knowing which business model to use and how to use it are becoming increasingly important for maintaining a competitive market position. Companies that can master these skills in the near-term will be strategically positioned for growth.

Analysts love to invent buzzwords. They can invent these terms and charge money to explain their meaning to the rest of us. Why do we put up with this?

Buzzwords confuse prospects, lose sales and are the leading cause of PowerPoint poisoning. Presto Vivace was founded to liberate our industry from the grip of buzzwords.

The privacy challenge for wireless technology

Andy Dornan, Network Magazine

Mobile light switches may be attractive to consumers, but the main enterprise use for ZigBee will be automated sensors. These will require a link to the LAN and a secure way to ensure that different ZigBee networks remain distinct. Without strong security, ubiquitous wireless could mean that every appliance becomes a potential rogue AP, and every visitor a potential war driver.

Ultra wideband’s potential

Andy Dornan, Network Magazine

The main advantage of UWB is even lower power consumption than current 802.15.4, allowing devices that require no batteries at all. Futurologists predict that UWB meshes will eventually be composed of "smart dust," microscopic radios that generate their own energy through nanotech windmills or photoelectric cells.

Wouldn’t that be something?

Wireless terminology

Telemetry: A space-to-ground data stream of measured values (including instrument science data, instrument engineering data, and spacecraft engineering data) that does not include command, tracking, computer memory transfer, audio, or video signals.

Wi-Fi: Short for wireless fidelity This is another name for IEEE 802.11b. It is a trade term promulgated by the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA). "Wi-Fi" is used in place of 802.11b in the same way that "Ethernet" is used in place of IEEE 802.3. Products certified as Wi-Fi by WECA are interoperable with each other even if they are from different manufacturers. A user with a Wi-Fi product can use any brand of Access Point with any other brand of client hardware that is built to the Wi-Fi standard.

A wireless data networking protocol generally used to connect PCs and laptops to a network. Also known as 802.11b and WLAN (Wireless LAN), it is the most common means of wireless networking and operates at 2.4 GHz.

NIC: Network Interface Card.

AP: Access Point, A device that transports data between a wireless network and a wired network (infrastructure).

Bluetooth: The code name for a new wireless technology developed by Ericsson Inc., Intel Corp., Nokia Corp. and Toshiba. The technology enables data connections between electronic devices such as desktop computers, wireless phones, electronic organizers and printers in the 2.4 GHz range. Bluetooth would replace cable or infrared connections for such devices.

VPN: Virtual private network, a private data network that makes use of the public telecommunication infrastructure, maintaining privacy through the use of a tunneling protocol and security procedures.

PDA: Personal Digital Assistant. A handheld computer that provides a calendar and organizer for personal information. A PDA normally contains at least one database with names and addresses, to-do lists and a notepad.

PAN: A personal area network, or PAN, is a networking scheme that enables computing devices such as PCs, laptop computers, handheld personal computers, printers and personal digital assistants (PDAs) to communicate with each other over short distances either with or without wires.

UWB: UWB stands for Ultra Wideband, a new kind of wireless broadband which emits radio waves over a broad spectrum, risking the disturbance of other data traffic.

MultiBand OFDM Alliance (MBOA)

QoS: Quality of service. Measure of performance for a transmission system that reflects its transmission quality and service availability.

ZigBee: ZigBee is a proprietary set of high level communication protocols designed to use small, low power digital radios based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for wireless personal area networking. The relationship between IEEE 802.15.4 and ZigBee is analogous to that existing between IEEE 802.11 and the Wi-Fi Alliance. The ZigBee 1.0 specifications were ratified on December 14, 2004, but are available only to members of the ZigBee Alliance. It is expected that the standard eventually will be open.

GSM: Global System for Mobile Communication. Originally developed as a pan-European standard for digital mobile telephony, GSM has become the world's most widely used mobile system. It is used on the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequencies in Europe, Asia and Australia, and the MHz 1800 frequency in North America and Latin America

GPRS: General Packet Radio Service. A GSM data transmission technique that does not set up a continuous channel from a portable terminal for the transmission and reception of data, but transmits and receives data in packets. It makes very efficient use of available radio spectrum.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Great moments in misapplication of government policy

In a Freedom of Information Act request by the watchdog group Judicial Watch, the FBI has redacted information on bin Laden to protect his privacy rights!

Because online content is forever

Beware the Stealth Interview

Library of Congress debates whether or not weblogs are considered "serials" in librarianship term

Weblogs No Longer Candidates for LOC ISSNs

Attention Potomac area entrepreneurs

From the MIT Enterprise Forum:

Application Deadline: Calling Early Stage Startups!
Apply now for the May 17 “Talk to the Angels“ Roundtable Forum.

Talk to the Angels presents a unique opportunity for qualified early stage startups to ask a question and receive feedback outside the board room, receive a diversity of responses, get a better understanding of how experienced execs and financing sources might view your businesses, possible areas for improvement, and learn from other entrepreneurs who face similar problems.

Apply online now - it's free!
Application deadline May 7, 2005. Companies will be notified by May 10, 2005.

Monday, April 25, 2005

New to me blog

Thank you BL Ochman for pointing to Defense Industry Daily.

Academy Sharing Knowledge

Ask Magazine, published by NASA’s of Program and Project Leadership.

Why journalism matters, Saleh Ibrahim

AP cameraman killed, photographer injured in Iraq

Congratulations David Nitkin

Baltimore 'Sun' Reassigns State House Bureau Chief

The statehouse bureau chief for The Sun of Baltimore -- one of two Sun writers whom Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich barred state employees from speaking to -- has been reassigned away from the state capitol and into a new position, Editor Tim Franklin told E&P Friday.

Beginning next week, David Nitkin, a six-year Sun employee who has headed the statehouse bureau for three years, will become Maryland political editor -- a post that will combine oversight of political coverage with reporting on some issues.

The problem with astroturf

In the age of the Internet it is just too easy to get caught. Giovanni Rodriguez and Dan Gillmor both point to an article in the Contra Costa Times detailing a recent incident where letters were printed under assorted pseudonyms.

There are web sites such as this one which track political astroturf.

Shameless self promotion

BL Ochman would like you to nominate What’s Next for Marketing Sherpa's Best Business Blog Awards. I would like you to nominate Presto Vivace Blog. Make your own choice.

MarketingSherpa Issues Call for Nominations to 2nd Annual Best Blog Awards

Sunday, April 24, 2005

McDermott: Feds closing the door to information

Florence Olsen, Federal Computer Week

Patrice McDermott remembers when government information was freely available on the Web. Beginning about 1994 and up to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, federal employees published thousands of documents on the Internet. Information that previously had been difficult to find suddenly was easy to get.

The mood then was "let a thousand flowers bloom," said McDermott, deputy director of the American Library Association's Office of Government Relations. "People were independently putting a lot of stuff up. There was not a lot of oversight."

But lately, McDermott has seen the flowering of electronic access to government information begin to fade. It's one of several trends that worry her.

Another is that prospects for expanding e-government, which she said looked promising in the early days of the Bush administration, now appear diminished. Administration officials who favor more government secrecy in the wake of the terrorist attacks seem to have gained the upper hand, she said.

Since the attacks, online government information has been disappearing, and McDermott said that is a dangerous trend. "The greatest risk to the public is the notion that the government should withhold anything that might potentially be of use to terrorists," she said.

Truer words were never spoken.

Rembrandt's Late Religious Portraits

National Gallery of Art, West Building, Main Floor

Went to see a special Rembrandt exhibit today. I love Dutch masters, so I really enjoyed it. Rembrandt painted two pictures of the grieving Mary. I think it is the first time I have seen a painting of Mary as an middle aged woman. She is simply portrayed as a grieving adult. Her eyes are clear but downcast. The Dutch painted women much differently from the Italians or French, resolute with a penetrating look.

Friday, April 22, 2005

In defense of the trade press

Paul Graham was very unfair when he wrote this:

Different publications vary greatly in their reliance on PR firms. At the bottom of the heap are the trade press, who make most of their money from advertising and would give the magazines away for free if advertisers would let them. [2] The average trade publication is a bunch of ads, glued together by just enough articles to make it look like a magazine. They're so desperate for "content" that some will print your press releases almost verbatim, if you take the trouble to write them to read like articles.

I encourage anyone to read Colin Clark’s articles on the debate over Iraq that ran in Defense News during the summer of 2002. Unlike The New York Times or The Washington Post, Clark’s reporting holds up very well.

Or read Michael Hardy’s coverage of the voting machines controversy in Federal Computer Week. Vastly superior to anything I have seen in any mainstream publication.

I have heard of trade publications giving away editorial for advertising, but never the kind of payola journalism that currently infests allegedly credible news organizations.

Paul Graham’s submarine

Paul Graham has written a fascinating analysis of PR’s influence on the press. Shorter version, Graham is not enthusiastic about our work. He is correct to say we have a huge impact on story selection, otherwise our clients would not pay us.

Organizations, commercial and otherwise, need to get their message out, news publishers and broadcasters need stories to tell. I would suggest there is a creative tension between the two that serves the public interest.

I certainly agree with Graham that PR is essential for small businesses whose advertising budget is limited; that is why I started Presto Vivace, Inc. I also think this observation is exactly right-

Whatever its flaws, the writing you find online is authentic. It's not mystery meat cooked up out of scraps of pitch letters and press releases, and pressed into molds of zippy journalese. It's people writing what they think.

I didn't realize, till there was an alternative, just how artificial most of the writing in the mainstream media was. I'm not saying I used to believe what I read in Time and Newsweek. Since high school, at least, I've thought of magazines like that more as guides to what ordinary people were being told to think than as sources of information. But I didn't realize till the last few years that writing for publication didn't have to mean writing that way. I didn't realize you could write as candidly and informally as you would if you were writing to a friend.

Next time I write a press release I will try to bring my blog sensibility to bear, and see if it does not improve the copy.

Dan Gillmor comments.

Reptile Rants comments.

Virtual journalist

Control the pipes and you control the Internet

Barry Steinhardt and Jay Stanley explain.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

For my developer readers

Extreme Markup Languages® 2005

A peer-reviewed technical conference. An unfettered festival of unconventional markup. Pointy-brackets, pointed questions, and sharp ideas. Nearly a week of geek speak.

August 1-5, 2005
Montréal, Canada

New to me blogs

Data Direct blogs

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

M2M Blog

Susan Smoter and George Coffin of the IRS talk about Portals and Content Management at NCC AIIM

George Coffin, Chief of the Public Portal Branch, opened his remarks by saying the IRS had only been in the web business a few years, having recently migrated from a dial-in bulletin board. The IRS public website needs to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Information must be available whenever the taxpayer requests it. There is a tremendous emphasis on security for obvious reasons.

There are three different portals. There is the public site where information can be anonymously requested. The IRS does not track visitors to its public site. There is a registered secure portal which is password protected, where taxpayers can request specific information on their return, such as the status of their refund. There is also an internal portal for IRS employees.

The IRS has introduced new services at its registered portal, including the ability to apply for an Employer Identification Number, free-file, e-file and a suite of e-services for tax preparers.

The key features of IRS web portal design are: role based design (based on user needs, not internal structure), search enhancements (Because users need to retrieve what they want when they want it, the IRS continuously improves its search engine.), key words on the home page (such as “the 1040” and “file an extension on April 14”), usability testing, and an advanced content management system to be sure that displayed information is current.

Coffin offered a glimpse of the site traffic on the IRS public site. There are 80,000 items, 39,000 static files, 24,000 HTML files, and 12,000 JSP files. The IRS is currently using Vignette (Congratulations Vignette!).

He listed the their key successes. The IRS implemented a decentralized content management application and created an organization to manage it. Two hundred and fifty users were trained, including authors, reviewers and publishers. Business rules and standards were established. They were able to improve content quality and establish a consistent look and feel for their web documents.

Coffin concluded his presentation with lessons learned. Pay attention to organizational readiness. Be careful of the URL format. Be sure to create forms for feedback. Address the taxonomy and metadata issues early. Implementation is a continuing effort.

Richard Barry asked if the IRS had a records management system to archive the website as changes are made and if its system is 5015 compliant. Coffin responded that there is a manual system for tracking the public site but not for the employee web portal.

Coffin concluded with a slide illustrating the day’s site traffic. The IRS was receiving 2,148 hits per second as of 4:15 PM, April 14.

Susan Smoter began her part of the presentation by saying she would not answer tax questions, “I do IT.” She asked if anyone had not heard of e-file; no one raised their hand. She was surprised, but given the number of IRS contractors in the audience, this was to be expected.

She showed a slide quoting from The Washington Post:

Taxpayers filed nearly 56 million returns electronically as of April 8, an 8 percent increase over 2004 figures. That translates to nearly two-thirds of all tax returns, the IRS said. Not only that, Uncle Sam's bean counters expect that this year will mark the first time that more than half of individual tax returns will be filed online. A lot of that is due to the Free File software, which the IRS said accepted more than 4 million tax returns as of April 6, an almost 45 percent increase over the number filed last year.

Referring to the Washington Post story, Smoter said, “I’ve only been in this town all my life, and I still believe what they tell me”. Here, there was general laughter, not a good sign for The Post.

Smoter showed a series of slides illustrating how paper returns are handled and offering a glimpse of the massive volume the IRS must deal with. Boxes of returns are sorted, and each return must be keypunched into the IRS system. Paper returns for individuals have a 21% error rate, business returns 13% and e-filing 1%. Processing paper returns requires 40 days, e-filing 21 days. Obviously the IRS is eager to encourage e-filing.

Free-filing is available to taxpayers who meet certain criteria. The IRS worked with a consortium of partners to develop this service.

Smoter said of the IRS, “We are all civil servants; we’re here to serve the people.” She went on to joke, “I’m from the IRS and I’m here to help”, to general laughter.

Smoter began to talk about future developments for IRS web portals. The IRS plans in terms of enterprise portal business strategy, “because it is not about technology.” Their strategy includes better channel management and the use of existing structures to capitalize on investments. Here, she pointed out that tightly coupled structures are desirable for good data management. Smoter talked about the importance of chunking, “so you can throw away old chunks and insert new ones.”

Smoter talked about the importance the IRS places on its partners, the software providers who, as Smoter put it, “are our front end.”

She listed the benefits of an enterprise strategy: the ability to develop once and reuse, composite applications, the ability to store once and use many, and transparency. Here, Smoter threw the floor open for questions.

The first question was about personalization. Smoter was emphatic that the IRS would never use personalization. “We know our customers don’t want us to know who they are.” (general laughter) She went on to say that multilingual web pages are at the top of IRS priorities.

The second questioner wanted to know what was being done to make sure that the IRS did not turn into another ChoicePoint. Smoter said the IRS is very concerned with protecting taxpayer security and privacy. The IRS is in the process of examining what Smoter described as the entire “tax ecosystem.” They are reviewing requirements for how IRS partners handle the information they receive from taxpayers.

Smoter said that, according to Gartner, XBRL will be the business reporting language. The European Union is adopting XBRL. The IRS is looking at it.

The last questioner wanted to know if Smoter could “tell us about procurement terms and planning.” “No!” responded Smoter, but she went on to say that they had a Request for Information out, and “I hope you’re all reading it.”

A record e-filing season, David Perera, Federal Computer Week

ChoicePoint Data

During the April NCC AIIM meeting, a member of the audience asked how the IRS’ Free-File could avoid becoming another ChoicePoint, clearly a reference to recent security breaches. Everyone in the room immediately understood the reference; no explanation was needed.

Susan Smoter explained that the IRS was reviewing security procedures with its partners. Partners must explain to the IRS how they handle information they receive from taxpayers and what security policies and procedures they have in place.

ChoicePoint Data is now synonymous with security breach and loss of privacy. This is a public relations disaster for the company.

Adam Shostack has additional information.

An inadequate response from Visa

"Carders" can put fraudulent info on swiped cards - a "very serious threat" to smartcard security - Visa won't say what if any action they will take

If you know you have a security problem, try do take action before you hear from the press. If the press contacts you before you take action, do not give them the run-around. The worst possible approach is to sit and wait to see if the story has has legs. That is the path to PR disaster.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Well done New York Times

RSS becoming a key driver of traffic for NY Times - Feed-related traffic up more than 300%

Source code metrics

JDepend, now live

Why should I Register with
Registering with provides the opportunity for your emerging technology to ‘get discovered’ by the Federal community and fosters the maturity of your technology in the Federal market. can shorten the ‘Time to Market’ for your emerging technology in the Federal community.

I participated in the usability test. I think this is going to be very helpful, especially to small contractors.

Friday, April 15, 2005

David Patton at the Washington DC XP User Group

David Patton presents Agile .NET to an XP audience

David Patton gave a presentation at the Washington DC XP User Group on Monday night. It was different to the typical XP/TDD presentation due to the audience (who needed no introduction to TDD!) and also David's experiences. It was interesting to hear the audience's surprise at the maturity of the tools for Agile development on the Microsoft platform and also to hear the comparisons to tools on other development platforms.

If you don’t understand user groups, you don’t understand technology.

Sarbanes-Oxley & other Regulatory Compliance: A Legal and CEO Perspective

NCC-AIIM Monthly Meeting
Thursday, May 12, 2005

Panelists: Dendy Young, Chairman and Chief Executive of GTSI
Peter Unger, Esq. of Howrey Simon Arnold & White, LLP
Moderator: Suresh Shenoy, Executive Vice President with IMC, Inc.

Regulatory compliance is a serious challenge impacting nearly every organization. Rising costs, risk assessment, and operational impact assessments are just some of the legal and business areas being examined as part of this roundtable discussion. Please join us to learn more about how your business can face some of these daunting challenges!!

Mr. Dendy Young is the CEO of GTSI – one of the largest government contractors in our region. He will discuss the burdens placed on publicly traded companies and the practical challenges for compliance. Attorney Peter Unger from Howrey Simon Arnold & White, LLP will present the view from a legal and regulatory perspective. The panel will be moderated by Suresh Shenoy, Executive Vice President from IMC, Inc. IMC is a leading technology services and solutions company.

The panelists will discuss the emergence of compliance as a business problem – demanding methodologies to meld process, security and archiving to deal with increasing governance issues and increasing regulations such as Sarbanes Oxley, Gramm-Leach-Bliley, Basell 2, and HIPPA others.

We will also examine how IT services can help the CEO to create a “real time enterprise” with access to both structured and unstructured information for compliance. Professionals chartered with managing content – incoming mail, paper transactions, fax/scanned images – and those seeking new & better ways to improve accuracy, speed and costs of capture, will benefit by attending.

IRS Announces the 2005 Dirty Dozen

List of notorious tax scams reminds taxpayers to be wary of schemes that sound too good to be true.

Consumers Not Told Of Security Breaches, Data Brokers Admit

Jonathan Krim, Washington Post

Executives of two major data brokers acknowledged to a Senate panel yesterday that their companies did not tell consumers about security breaches that occurred well before recent incidents exposed more than 400,000 people to possible identity theft.

ChoicePoint Inc. and LexisNexis also suffered breaches before passage of a California law in 2003 that requires companies doing business in the state to notify consumers that their data might be at risk, officials said. But the companies chose not to alert the public in those cases.

"Why not?" snapped Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Judiciary Committee chairman.

"I can't explain it," replied Douglas C. Curling, president and chief operating officer of ChoicePoint.

Somehow that does not seem an adequate response.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Broadcasters Must Reveal Video Clips' Sources, FCC Says

Frank Ahrens, Washington Post

Television broadcasters must disclose to viewers the origin of video news releases produced by the government or corporations when the material runs on the public airwaves, the Federal Communications Commission said yesterday.

The FCC's ruling comes as video news releases produced by the Bush administration and aired as part of local television news reports have come under attack from critics who call them unlabeled Republican propaganda.

That was fast.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

National Center for State Courts

NCSC GJXDM Wayfarer 1.9

S. 678

Paragraph (22) of section 301 of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431(22)) is amended by adding at the end the following new sentence: `Such term shall not include communications over the Internet.'.

New House bill protects political bloggers

Software agents give out PR advice

New Scientist, Duncan Graham-Rowe

Governments and big business like to indulge in media spin, and that means knowing what is being said about them. But finding out is becoming ever more difficult, with thousands of news outlets, websites and blogs to monitor.

Now a British company is about to launch a software program that can automatically gauge the tone of any electronic document. It can tell whether a newspaper article is reporting a political party’s policy in a positive or negative light, for instance, or whether an online review is praising a product or damning it. Welcome to the automation of PR.

Till now, discovering whether the coverage you are getting is good or bad, negative or neutral has usually meant hiring a “reputation management” firm. Teams of people employed by the company will read through everything written about a chosen organisation, person, event or issue and report back on how favourable it is.

As well as being expensive, this can be a long, slow process, says Nick Jacobi, director of research for the Corpora Software company in Surrey, UK. “There’s a massive information overload.” A single news agency may churn out more than eight articles each hour. That is almost 200 stories a day per news outlet.

With any luck PR software is more reliable than translation software.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Why don’t lawyers work with PR Pros?

Jim Horton has an insightful post on Maurice Greenberg, former CEO of AIG, losing PR war with Eliot Spitzer, attorney general of New York. Spitzer is clearly choosing his prosecution targets for maximum political effect. Putting aside whether you think this is a bad thing or whether you think it is a good thing, if you are counsel for the defense you cannot ignore the PR side of the case. Spitzer would never do this were it politically counterproductive.

I have not followed this closely and I am not a lawyer, so I cannot comment on the particulars of the case, but any lawyer whose client is being pursued by the Eliot Spitzers of this world would be well advised to work closely with the public relations spokesman.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Va. Lawmakers Aim to Hook Cyberscammers

Karin Brulliard, Washington Post (reg. req.)

The Virginia General Assembly this year passed a handful of new bills aimed at cracking down on computer and online crimes, including a statute that observers say is the nation's first law that criminalizes "phishing" schemes.

Makes me proud to be a Virginian.

Thanks to our good friend Privacy Digest for the tip.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Top technologies honored at FOSE

Here’s a list of all the Best of FOSE winners:

- Adobe LiveCycle Policy Server, Adobe Systems Inc.
- Altova XMLSpy 2005, Altova Inc.
- Apple Remote Desktop 2, Apple Computer Inc.
- Comet 12, Tadpole Computer Inc.
- Gateway 9415 Server, Gateway Inc.
- HP ProCurve 3400cl series switches, Hewlett-Packard Co.
- HP xw9300 Workstation, Hewlett-Packard Co.
- Intel Centrino mobile technology, Intel Corp.
- Kodak i660 Scanner, Eastman Kodak Co.
- MPC Transport X3100, MPC Computers LLC
- Telkonet PLC, Telkonet Inc.
- VoteFiler, Comfidex Corp.

Congratulations to the winners.

Blogging FOSE


Going to FOSE

Wallace Wireless Introduces Emergency Mapping Application for the BlackBerry

MacGossip am 6. April


Tiger sightings - FOSE

Intel in the Beltway


Intel's Otellini Calls for Government Action on Broadband

My Hard Drive has over heated!

Cingular Answers Fort Hood Police’s Call

Tiger 8A428 on display at FOSE

6Mi-Co Exhibits Mi-Forms Governmental Software Solutions with Key …

"Federally Challenged"

Some advice on e-mail records policy

Jason Miller, Government Computer News

When is an agency e-mail message an official federal record that must be preserved? That is the question puzzling records managers as e-mail volume among and within agencies continues to grow exponentially.

Michael Kurtz, assistant archivist at the National Archives and Records Administration, said 95 percent of all agency e-mail messages are considered federal records, but only a small percentage need to be kept.

"Most e-mail is transitory in nature for setting up meetings or going to lunch," Kurtz said today at a meeting of the Federal Information and Records Managers' Council at the FOSE 2005 trade show in Washington. "This is an area of some contention or concern because of the public interest groups that want to save the records. We will work through it. Most e-mail should disposed of quickly and not entered into the file system."

Kurtz said NARA issued a draft policy in November to help agencies quickly dispose of e-mail records except for a small number that employees will continue to print and file until NARA finishes developing the Electronic Records Archive.

The Federal government is leading the way in managing email archives.

Another spammer for the slammer

Spammer gets 9 years in prison

Leesburg, VA, Apr. 8 (UPI) -- A Virginia judge Friday sentenced one of the top 10 spammers in the world to nine years in prison.

Makes me proud to be a Virginian.

First responders to get biometric IDs

Alice Lipowicz, Government Computer News

About 200,000 first responders in the Washington region will be issued biometric smart card IDs under a new program to be deployed by the Homeland Security Department, in partnership with state and local agencies in the Washington region, Lee Holcomb, DHS chief technology officer, said today.

The initiative will involve police, fire and emergency response agencies in the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, Holcomb said at a forum on interoperability at the FOSE trade show in Washington.

I would have thought a decent communications system that allows fire and police to communicate with each other would have been more to the purpose.

Which journalists are blogging?

Cyberjournalist keeps a list of journalist blogs. Thanks to BL Ochman for the tip.

Freedom blogs

Congratulations to Dan Gillmor, Jay Rosen, and Declan McCullagh for being nominated for have been nominated for a Freedom Blog by Reporters Without Borders.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

XML Humor

The W3C Wind tunnel test

Thanks to Loosely Coupled Thinking for this gem.

Saudi security concerns mount


Clashes earlier this week between Saudi security forces and militants north of the capital Riyadh come shortly after an influential US Army War College report recommended that US policymakers develop "a well-established plan in the event of catastrophic events in the Kingdom."

A bad sign. A very bad sign.

When you don’t care about public relations

A marketing brochure from Barrett Firearms boasts that its 50 caliber sniper rifles are capable of destroying aircraft with a single shot.

Advice for Sale In Battle for Federal Contracts

Ellen McCarthy, Washington Post (reg. req.)

The impetus for the growth is clear. While local companies collected $42.5 billion in federal-contract revenue in 2003, $19 billion of that went to 1 percent of the firms, about 60 companies, according to a study released by the Greater Washington Initiative this week. The industry has ballooned, but not everyone is getting an equal share of the business.

Small firms have long complained that it is expensive to become a qualified government vendor and tough to compete against large companies that offer more services and seem to know every federal procurement official on a first-name basis.

Even though the Federal government has requirements that a certain amount of business go to small firms, the reality is that the big firms get almost everything. This is partly because of the we need to go with an established firm mentality.

The best advice I can offer any small business is get involved with the trade associations and user groups. That is why I have many of them linked on my sidebar.

Great moments in copy editing

A brief excerpt from a popular (and unnamed) PR newsletter:

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

When good people give bad advice, the Infocom Group

I just received the following email:

Lead Story / How PR Can Protect Sources

Don’t Jump in Head-First: Media Ethics Professor and Columnist Shares Inside Tips for Negotiating the Finer Points of Interviews

“A reporter has the obligation to make sure you know when you’re on the record,” says Knight Professor of Journalism Ethics Edward Wasserman, who teaches journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University when he’s not filing columns for The Miami Herald, The Palm Beach Post and the Knight-Tribune wire service. “Even so, reporters are not in the business of saving people from embarrassment,” he warns.

The comment follows a story by Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Natalie Pompilio about a former San Jose Mercury News columnist who apparently believed she was speaking off-the-record — and yet was quoted by a colleague after she went on to work as a press secretary for Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown. Pompilio’s insightful piece — which ran in the American Journalism Review and was entitled “Does No Mean No?” — raises questions about the ground rules of interviews for PR practitioners, media trainers and sources alike.

“In this case, it’s difficult to believe that someone with [the source’s] media sophistication would have made inflammatory remarks unless she thought she was sharing private concerns with a colleague,” Wasserman says. “So it comes down to whether the reporter behaved properly, whether he chose to benefit from ambiguity — or whether it was a case of miscommunication.” Either way, “This type of thing happens,” he cautions. Wasserman offers these quick tips for negotiating interviews — and for avoiding unhappy situations like the one outlined above:

1. Align yourself with the reporter’s needs — find out about deadlines. “The first thing you need to know is how much time you have with the interviewer and how desperate the reporter is,” he says. “You will then have a better sense of how thorough the reporter will be and how thoughtful your remarks can be. If the story is weeks out, you’ll probably have several conversations and may talk in different ways at different times. This will give you more flexibility. In addition, [asking about deadlines] helps to align you with the reporter as a collaborator — you can present yourself as being on hand to help and do things like provide background.”

This is sickeningly true. Over a series of conversations, sources can often seduce reporters into collaborators. Do not be part of this pernicious practice.

2. Don’t jump in head-first — get the reporter talking instead. “A smart approach is to open by saying, ‘Let’s talk a little bit off the record first.’

Never do this. Asking to speak off the record is a clue you are about to say something which should remain unsaid.

You want to get a sense of the person and his agenda — and this is one way to get that,” Wasserman suggests. “Say, for example, ‘This part’s not for publication.’ That gets the reporter talking and gets him to tell you what the story is about and where he’s going with it. Most reporters are too savvy to give you the angle, but just ask what they’re hearing and what they need. Knowing what other sources are saying will tell you whether this interview [opportunity] is for you. It lets you know how you will fit into the story — and gives you time to formulate an appropriate sound bite.”

I would be real careful about asking what other sources are saying, there are far too many reporters only too happy to play lets you and him fight.

Similarly: “Once you get a sense of what the story is and whether the person is on deadline, then I would schedule time for another conversation,” advises Wasserman. “Most people aren’t great on their feet. This lets you try out some thoughts and ideas in a way that doesn’t wind up in print. Remember, also, that reporters are more likely to agree if the [reschedule] is positioned as a way to increase accuracy and avoid [corrections].”

3. Know where you stand — ask about the interviewee’s policies when it comes to protecting sources. “There’s nothing wrong with telling a reporter that you can provide information — but that he’ll have to confirm it from someone else before he can use it,” says Wasserman. “If a reporter tries to get you talking by saying he won’t use your name, then ask how far down the road the reporter will go to protect his sources. Some papers have policies in place saying they won’t divulge sources unless ordered to do so by a court. Others will rat you out if they get a letter from a lawyer. You need to find out where you stand with the reporter before you agree to be a source — especially if you’re dealing with a story that might [cause you or someone else harm].”

Reporters who disclose sources names are not ratting out their sources, they are informing the public, which is their job.

4. Make sure you understand each other — don’t leave attribution up to interpretation. “Let’s face it, most of the time your worries about being named in a story are really about [the story making] things mildly awkward for you. For example, maybe your boss will look at you cross-eyed. In those cases, going on the record is really subjective,” Wasserman says. “But the real issue is to make sure you and the reporter understand each other. For example, some people think ‘off-the-record’ means the conversation’s not happening — others think it means their names can’t be used. I would avoid those distinctions,” he advises. “Instead, use the definition. For example, say, ‘I want to say some things, but I don’t want you to use my name. Can we talk about attribution?’ The goal is to get beyond misunderstandings before you speak.”

In addition: “Understand that it’s the reporter’s job to authenticate information by identifying a source as thoroughly as possible,” Wasserman says. “That means the reporter will push for as close an attribution as possible because he has to — not to screw you.”

Exactly so, it is the reporter’s job to tell readers the source of their information. Reading a newspaper is not a faith-based activity.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask to hear your quotes — many reporters will comply. “If you’re still concerned after or during the interview, then consider asking to hear your quotes,” he suggests. “This is a touchy area, but most reporters will read back what they have you saying while they have you in the interview. The reason is they want to ensure accuracy and give you a chance to clean up quotes during a call — they don’t want to have to do it later or [issue a correction]. However,” he cautions, “this can only happen during the interview. Most reporters will let you edit yourself on the call, but they’ll tell you to piss up a rope if you call later to change a quote. Also, make sure the reporter feels that you’re not trying to control the context or story elements. Tell him that you don’t want to edit the story — you just want to make sure you said what you meant to say.”

This is extremely good advice. Even if you never go off the record, you want to be sure the reporter got the quote right. Even the best note takers make mistakes. That is why I prefer reporters who use tape recorders. If possible, ask the reporter if they mind if you make your own recording of the interview. The purpose of this is not to catch a dishonest reporter, but to allow you to evaluate your interview technique and improve upon it.

6. Understand the reporter’s job — make allowances for minor mistakes. “What reporters do is very hard,” says Wasserman. “It’s hard to get things right. Three reporters can sit in on the same meeting and end up with three different stories,” he allows. “This isn’t because of bias. It’s due to limited resources, primitive tools and deadline pressures. Reporters aren’t taking minutes, but relating what they think is important to readers. So be forgiving,” he advises.

This is also excellent advice. If you do not have a background in journalism, try to do some original reporting. You will quickly discover how difficult it is to take notes and pick out the most newsworthy parts of any event.

Wasserman concludes with this advice: “I know it’s hard when you pick up one paper of 400,000 copies and you think you sound like an idiot. Naturally, you’ll want to react. If you do respond or complain, however, start the process with the reporter,” he suggests. “Send an email saying, ‘Good story, but I feel that what I said was distorted.’ Remember that issuing corrections isn’t such a loss of face in print. Broadcast outlets won’t likely comply — but for others, it makes them into ‘nice guys.’” His point: “Have no compunction about demanding corrections. Just do it with [tact] and understanding.”

This whole controversy started because a newsmaker wanted to say something inflammatory about someone. This is what anonymous sources are all about, you want to put out dirt on someone, but don’t want to take responsibility for said dirt. Anonymous sources aren’t courageous whistle blowers, they are gossip mongers at best and character assassins at worst. NEVER BE AN ANONYMOUS SOURCE. Let us put an end to this pernicious practice.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The difference between HTML and XML

HTML defines how data elements are displayed while XML defines what those elements contain.

Congratulations to the winners

The Pulitzer Prize 2005

Peter Jennings Has Lung Cancer

ABC News

NEW YORK Apr 5, 2005 — Peter Jennings, the chief ABC News anchorman for more than 20 years, has been diagnosed with lung cancer and will begin outpatient treatment next week, the network said Tuesday.

Jennings, 66, told ABC News staff members of his diagnosis Thursday morning and said he will continue to anchor the broadcast when he feels up to it as he begins chemotherapy.

Best wishes for Jennings.

New to me

IBM Developer Blogs

Monday, April 04, 2005

Brian Krebs on Computer Security

You Have Just Received a, Virus

The SANS Internet Storm Center is reporting -- for the second time in the past week -- that they are hearing from people who are being targeted by an e-mail scam that pretends to be an invitation to retrieve an online greeting card. It turns out these invitations instead tried to download a "Trojan horse" onto the user's computer.

Just discovered this new blog at the Washington Post. Seems they have finally caught on. Welcome to blogosphere.

The Federal Election Commission moves to regulate blogs

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding the regulation of political activities over the internet

Note to my readers in the United States, Comments are due on June 3.

Alliant draft RFPs hit the street

Government Computer News

The General Services Administration yesterday issued the draft requests for proposals for the multibillion-dollar Alliant full and open and Alliant small-business contracts.

Small Business Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts Center

GSA has 8(a) and Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) set-aside contracts already in place and ready to meet tomorrow's technology procurement challenges.

The Small Business Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) Center has a diversified portfolio of pre-competed, multiple award contracts with high-quality, small business industry partners. These small business firms specialize in providing innovative, information technology solutions to federal agencies worldwide.

Federal agencies may access these unique contract vehicles either through a delegation of authority granted by the Small Business GWAC Center or through GSA Federal Technology Service Client Support Centers. GSA provides assisted services in the form of client interface and support, task order issuance, financial management and project management.

Small Business GWAC Center Planned Events

Dept. of Huh?

Student tracker proposed

The Education Department wants congressional approval to create a federal database that would track individual students throughout their college careers and give federal officials better information for policy decisions.

A feasibility study released this month by the department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) states that the center can handle the technological and privacy challenges of such a database, but adds that it would impose additional costs on colleges to update their administrative systems.

The proposed tracking system would require a centralized database and secure off-line storage to manage millions of student records initially, along with millions of new records that would be added each year.

Perhaps we need a data base tracking the follies of interfering nosey-parkers.

Want someone else's Social Security number?

Jonathan Krim, Washington Post

It's $35 at It's $45 at, where users can also sign up for a report containing an individual's credit-card charges, as well as an e-mail with other "tips, secrets & spy info!" The Web site promises that "if the information is out there, our licensed investigators can find it."

Although Social Security numbers are one of the most powerful pieces of personal information an identity thief can possess, they remain widely available and inexpensive despite public outcry and the threat of a congressional crackdown after breaches at large information brokers.

What we have here is the private enterprise version of secret police.

The preparation for Global PR Blog Week 2.0 has started!

First Announcement

The Global PR Blog Week 2.0 is an online conference on how new media technologies are changing the practice of Public Relations and corporate communications. We’re talking weblogs and participatory journalism, wikis, podcasting, and RSS - but the list of topics is open.

If you would like to participate, click on the link and join the fun.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Compare and contrast

To ENIAC and Beyond, by Paula Thornton

Taking advantage of my Washington DC proximity, I made a trip to the National Mall again today – this time taking in the American History Museum. While it needs some serious updating, the one exhibit that I was most inspired by was the one on the Information Age. ...

But from that display and others I later saw an interesting thread of artifacts I hadn't noticed before. Most of the justification and financing that initiated these technologies came from an unexpected industry: the military.

Militaristic technologies are generally associated to things like weapons: the advent of gunpowder and nuclear weapons. I had not really previously considered the other contributions that have seamlessly been absorbed into our daily lives without recognition.

Pentagon to Significantly Cut CS Research

Pentagon Redirects Its Research Dollars

Hundreds of research projects supported by the agency, known as Darpa, have paid off handsomely in recent decades, leading not only to new weapons, but to commercial technologies from the personal computer to the Internet. The agency has devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to basic software research, too, including work that led to such recent advances as the Web search technologies that Google and others have introduced.

The shift away from basic research is alarming many leading computer scientists and electrical engineers, who warn that there will be long-term consequences for the nation's economy. They are accusing the Pentagon of reining in an agency that has played a crucial role in fostering America's lead in computer and communications technologies.

"I'm worried and depressed," said David Patterson, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley who is president of the Association of Computing Machinery, an industry and academic trade group. "I think there will be great technologies that won't be there down the road when we need them."

Friday, April 01, 2005

Reconfigurable Computing After A Decade

A New Perspective and Challenges for Hardware-Software Co-Design and Development presented by Tirumale K Ramesh, Ph.D.

Northern Virginia Chapter of the IEEE Computer Society

Thursday, April 14, 2005; Held at Oracle Facility, Reston, Virginia, 6:00 - 9:00pm

Over the last decade, the focus of reconfigurable computing has dramatically shifted from academic research into industrial applications and especially in supporting and accelerating high-data stream applications in commercial and military applications. This is due to need changes and the densities available in today’s field-programmable chips. However, there are still hurdles such as not having an easy programming model to facilitate high-level programmers in hardware-software co-design and development for embedded systems. This paper talks generally about the architectural shifts over the last decade, the tools and methodologies challenges for hardware-software co-design and development and the near and long-term future for its growth.

April Fool

The Surprise Symphony