Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Presto Vivace Blog at two

As of last week Presto Vivace Blog is two years old. I started blogging to chronicle Potomac area technology events as well as build a dialogue with public relations professionals, marketers, journalists, software developers, project managers, analysts, IT departments, and end users.

Inspired by the example of Constantin Basturea’s Headlines from PR weblogs, I have created Tech on the Potomac to create a sense of community among local tech and PR bloggers.

When I started there were less than 50 PR blogs; as of now there are more than 300. I hope by the end of this year there will be twice as many.

The next thing in web design

The message is the medium.

I think BL is on to something. The high traffic sites will be interactive. My client, The International Association of Software Architects has a website that is a good example of a site that is designed to be interactive. Health Care IT Blogs is another good example.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Not making this up

Be Mickey Mouse's Spy

US Treasuries slipped

Yields edge cautiously higher

US Treasuries slipped and yields nudged higher yesterday as investors watched the shape of the yield curve and sifted through reports of longer-dated bond buying ahead of today's month-end.


He wants us to tag our email?????????????????

Tom Foremski

Here is my proposal:

Deconstruct the press release into special sections and tag the information so that as a publisher, I can pre-assemble some of the news story and make the information useful.

-Provide a brief description of what the announcement is, but leave the spin to the journalists. The journalists are going to go with their own spin on the story anyway, so why bother? Keep it straightforward rather than spintastic.

-Provide a page of quotes from the CEO or other C-level execs.

-Provide a page of quotes from customers, if applicable.

-Provide a page of quotes from analysts, if applicable.

-Provide financial information in many different formats.

-Provide many links inside the press release copy, and also provide a whole page of relevant links to other news stories or reference sources.

And tag everything so that I can pre-assemble my stories.

I am tempted to say get over yourself Foremski, but it is his blog, so if he wants his material that way, then that is the way we have to present it if we want our clients in Silicon Valley Watcher.

Fortunately Walter Mossberg still gets most of his story ideas from press releases.

Trevo Jonas comments.

Is Tom Foremski talking about XPRL?

Todd Defren comments.

Responding to online critics

Discretion is the better part of valor.

Because we don't have enough online distractions

Balloon Pop

Phishing for trouble, or this isn't the way the government contacts people

Symantec: More phishers impersonate government

More cybercriminals are pretending they are government agencies to fool people into providing confidential information or downloading malware, a security expert said today.

IRS Warns of e-Mail Scam about Tax Refunds

IRS Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts

Advice to spammers, the federal government does not take kindly to impersonators. They can and will come after you.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Site Visit - GPO Future Digital System

NCC-AIIM Monthly Meeting
Thursday, March 9, 2006

Site Visit - GPO Future Digital System (FDSys)
US Government Printing Office
732 North Capitol Street, NW
Washington, DC 20401

The proposed FDsys will ingest, preserve, and provide access to the information produced by the U.S. Government--including information produced by all three branches of Government --and to the material currently in the custody of the Government Printing Office (GPO). The proposed system is envisioned as a comprehensive, systematic, and dynamic means for preserving any kind of content, independent of specific hardware and/or software. The system will enable GPO customers to obtain hard copy publications and to electronically access the content they want, and it will enable GPO to deliver that content in the formats its customer's desire. The system should automate many of the content lifecycle processes and make it easier to deliver the content in formats suited to the needs of GPO customers. The proposed system is required to be policy neutral so that it can support not only GPO's current operational policies but also changes that are expected to emerge. For more information about GPO's FDsys visit http://www.gpo.gov/projects/fdsys.htm.

What is naked short selling?


Short selling is the practice of borrowing stock, then selling it in hopes that the price will go down and it can be bought back at a lower price, generating profit and allowing one to return like shares for the borrowed ones.

"Naked shorting" refers to "shorting" a stock for sale without first borrowing it. When one sells short a non-borrowed stock, one is selling something that they do not possess. The risk, that one may not be able to then acquire the shares needed to deliver on the sale, is a contributing factor to the controversy surrounding this practice.

Securities Exchange Commission, Division of Market Regulation: Key Points About Regulation SHO

Naked short selling is not necessarily a violation of the federal securities laws or the Commission's rules. Indeed, in certain circumstances, naked short selling contributes to market liquidity. For example, broker-dealers that make a market in a security generally stand ready to buy and sell the security on a regular and continuous basis at a publicly quoted price, even when there are no other buyers or sellers.

... Naked short selling, however, can have negative effects on the market. Fraudsters may use naked short selling as a tool to manipulate the market. Market manipulation is illegal. The SEC has toughened its rules and is vigilant about taking actions against wrongdoers. Fails to deliver that persist for an extended period of time may result in a significantly large unfulfilled delivery obligation at the clearing agency where trades are settled. Regulation SHO is intended to address these effects by reducing the number of potential failures to deliver, and by limiting the time in which a broker can permit a fail to deliver to persist. For instance, as explained above, Regulation SHO requires brokers and dealers to close-out the open fail-to-deliver positions in "threshold securities" (i.e., securities that have experienced a substantial number of extended delivery failures) that have persisted for 13 consecutive settlement days.

Eric Weiner, Huffington Post

In case you didn't see the story in Saturday's Times, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a subpoena to Carol and another respected financial journalist, Herb Greenberg, seeking their notes on stories that were critical of certain companies, particularly those involving a sketchy outfit called Overstock.com.

Unless you follow the stock market fairly closely you probably don't know much about Overstock. But if you do, you've got to be wondering how the SEC ever allowed itself to get involved with these guys.

So what happened, Overstock.com got some negative press and went crying to the SEC? And instead of laughing of laughing them out of the building, the SEC subpoenas the reporters in question?

Society needs an independent press to keep us honest. Great journalists make PR possible. A positive case history or feature story has no credibility unless it is placed in a publication capable of writing negative stories where negative stories are appropriate.

Let us hope the SEC comes to its senses.

Customer alienation management

Your Call Should Be Important to Us, but It's Not

PAUL M. ENGLISH never imagined that a pet peeve would become such a cause célèbre. For more than four years, Mr. English, a veteran technologist and serial entrepreneur, has maintained a blog on which he shares everything from his favorite chocolate cake recipe to the best management advice he's received.

But last summer, fed up with too many aggravating run-ins with awful customer service, Mr. English posted a blog entry that reverberated around the world: a "cheat sheet" that explained how to break through automated interactive voice-response systems at a handful of companies and speak to a human being. He named the companies and published their codes for reaching an operator — codes that they did not share with the public.

The reaction was overwhelming. Visitors to the blog began contributing their own code-breaking secrets and spreading the word. The consumer affairs specialist for The Boston Globe wrote about Mr. English, who is now the chief technical officer of Kayak.com, a travel search engine he helped to found, and gave his online cheat sheet mainstream attention. That led to appearances on MSNBC, NPR and the BBC, an article in People magazine — and more than one million visitors to the blog in January alone.

This is sign, heed it.

Get Human

Friday, February 24, 2006

Great moments in spin

Violence Strains U.S. Strategy and Imperils Pullout Plans

Rather than see a collapse or a setback, I think in some ways, you can see an affirmation that the approach we've been taking has worked," said Adam Ereli, a State Department spokesman. "You've got political leadership acting together on behalf of the common good, and you've got security forces demonstrating that capability and a responsibility as a national entity that we've been working to develop and that has now been put to the test and, I think, is proving successful."

As of press time we were unable to determine if Mr. Ereli was being coached by Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf.

Live online at the Washington Post, Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers

Today at 2 PM.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Ted’s take

Somehow I missed that Ted Leonsis is blogging. Thanks to Planet Sab for the tip.

Asia enters blogosphere in a big way

The movers and shakers

Those were all blogs that appeared on both lists and managed to climb up in the ranks. More surprising, however, was the fact that 65 new bloggers appeared on the list, new claimant to the title of top blogger. A quick analysis seems to point to Asian blogs becoming a major force, one that I personally have not heard much about in discussion of the evolution of the blogosphere. David Sifry's State of the Blogosphere did not cover any of this type of movement when he did his last overview of the state of the blogosphere. I don't know if he deliberately decided to ignore the data or whether he did not see it as that important but I consider this a pretty powerful observation. In a world where globalisation is key, the blogosphere has not yet fully grappled with the impact of the Asian Pacific region and there probably will be some interesting discussion around this in the future.

This really should not be surprising. There are a lot of people in Asia.

It is time, past time, for software vendors to get serious about intuitive redaction

Police report on Cheney shooting incident reveals license info

It seems that local authorities did not properly redact the personal data when they released the police report. The ordinary person thinks that when they delete content, it is gone. The idea that there is a set of electronic footprints that can be followed back is an idea that simply would not present itself.

In fact there is a whole group of companies devoted to proper redaction. This and other topics will be covered at the Town Hall Meeting at the KM Conference. In the mean time those with solutions might want to propose them to ET.gov.

If your customer is subject to public embarrassment because of problems with redaction, talking about the need for user training is not going to be a workable PR strategy.

Pod slurping?

Beware the ‘pod slurping’ employee

A U.S. security expert who devised an application that can fill an iPod with business-critical data in a matter of minutes is urging companies to address the very real threat of data theft.

As soon as we have a new technology, we have a new way to steal.

The next buzzword

word-of mouse

Technically a phrase, not a word. Clever now, I give it one year before it becomes a tired cliché.

Brian Noyes, live in concert

Brian Noyes will be presenting at the inaugural meeting of the Microsoft Integration and Connected Systems User Group. I won’t be able to go; but will run an account of it if anyone wants to write one.

Cool homepage

NVT Technologies, Incorporated

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Building the open source community

JNetDirect and Vanward Sponsor Open Source Website - QualityLabs.Org

Reston, VA -- February 13, 2006 -- JNetDirect and its consulting services subsidiary, Vanward Technologies, announced today that they have established Quality Labs, a development and distribution environment for the open source community to further expand projects and forums dedicated to enhancing software quality.

One of the first projects established is NDbUnit, a .NET framework for simplifying unit testing of code which relies on a database.

I am missing something. .Net is a Microsoft product, but this is for open source. Comments welcome.

Talking about venture capital

Venture Capital Forum

How do I give feedback while pairing?


Hedge funds enter the venture capital market

Bill Burnham

Hedge funds now have hundreds of billions of dollars under management and increasingly fewer public places to put them. As the buyout industry has already discovered, this over supply of capital is rapidly spilling over from the public world into the private world and causing all kinds of disruptions in the process. The supply of capital is such that the hedge funds are not likely to stop with buyouts, indeed it’s only a matter of time before they start making their presence felt in the venture capital market. Very quietly some initial beachheads have already been established by a number of hedge funds, such as DeShaw. More funds are rumored to be following in their footsteps and there are several examples of funds dipping their toes in the late stage end of the VC market a bit lately.

Julia Spicer of the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association talked about hedge funds competing with venture capitalists at last month’s MIT Enterprise Forum. I can’t say I am very enthusiastic about this. It seems like just one more way for hedge funds to get into trouble. For reasons unclear to me, hedge funds are not covered by the some regulations that apply to mutual funds.

Fairfax County sees big increase in venture capital funding

Barton Eckert, Washington Business Journal

A new survey of venture capital trends shows 45 Fairfax County information technology companies managed to attract $296.9 million in investments in 2005.

May it be a sign of things to come.

The unique world of federal contracting

Ellen McCarthy, The Washington Post

In its eight years of existence, St. Louis-based Savvis Inc. has patched together a global network of 25 data centers and taken on the information technology work of major companies including Reuters and Microsoft Corp. But as it made a plan for breaking into federal contracting, the company decided, for now, to avoid the government itself.

Direct contracts might mean more revenue but would also mean government inspectors, government auditors and government rules. It would mean drafting affirmative-action plans, drug-free-workplace plans and small-business set-aside plans, and meeting a host of other requirements of the Federal Acquisition Regulation -- work that would preoccupy the company's new six-person federal division with little prospect of immediate return.

... Washington area firms earned an estimated $52.6 billion from federal contracts in 2004 -- a figure that has prompted the formation of countless small start-ups and lured many commercial companies to try to win federal contracts. But selling to the government is neither cost- nor trouble-free, and even experienced companies can be surprised by a market that operates with its own language and rules, where business is done more by committee than by handshake.

Actually most IT selling is more by committee than handshake, but peculiarly so of federal contracting. Selling cycles, from first contact to close, can easily last for two years, advanced systems can take as long as five years. The costs of maintaining the account are much higher and the profit margin is far lower than the private market.

So why would anyone bother? Because of repeat business, once you win a contract and establish a good relationship with your federal customer, it is unlikely that any competitor will take that contract away from you. Also the federal government is recession resistant (although not recession proof). Federal work will often get companies through lean times; that is one reason why the dot.com crash did not hit this area as hard as the West Coast.

Neville Hobson’s house warming party

Not really, but A view from the isle tells us he has a new URL.

Monday, February 20, 2006

'NewComm Forum' One Year Later: A Q&A with Albrycht & McClure

Dan Forbush has a fascinating interview with Elizabeth Albrycht and Jennifer McClure about the upcoming New Communications Forum. I am really sorry I won't be able to go this year, because it was simply brilliant last year. I console myself with the knowledge that there will be plenty of live blogging, so those of us who won't be able to go will be able to get a sense of it.

Guy Kawasaki on blogger relations

Kawasaki has a very clever and insightful post on blogger relations, my personal favorite:

Make connections before you need them. Mediocre marketers try to befriend bloggers when they need them. Good marketers befriend bloggers before they need them.

Kawasaki really practices what he preaches. In the summer of 2004 I posted about an event where Kawasaki spoke and sent him the link. He wrote back a very nice note even though Presto Vivace Blog was almost unknown at the time.

Should you use blogs in a crisis situation?

Not so fast. The answer is it depends.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Information exchange, bringing it all together

CAD and RMS Information Exchange Standards Development Are Underway

The Office of Justice Program's (OJP) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) in the U.S. Department of Justice is sponsoring a project to develop information exchange standards between computer aided dispatching (CAD) systems, law enforcement records management systems (RMS) and related external supporting systems. The project is a collaborative effort between multiple organizations that have direct interest in establishing open standards for these exchanges.

Now why does this matter? Because if you report a crime in progress, your local 911 dispatcher, or the responding officer may need to exchange data with local police records or federal agencies. You don’t want to wait two weeks for that to go through, you want all the systems to work together.

Why can’t we share?

Welcome to Washington e.Republic

e.Republic Opens Washington Bureau

e.Republic, Inc., publisher of magazines covering information technology in the public sector, has opened an editorial bureau in Washington, D.C., to serve its growing roster of publications.

The company has hired Alison Lake, a former managing editor at the Maryland Public Policy Institute, to be its bureau chief. She will cover federal government information technology practices and policies for Public CIO, Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines.

American Brands Losing Favor with Teens Worldwide

Daily Dog

The recent GenWorld study, conducted by market-research firm Energy BBDO , compared big global brands it considered "teen relevant," gathering feedback from thousands of youths in 13 countries—including the United States. The study’s findings, published today in the Christian Science Monitor, show a significant drop-off in the recognition and likeability of U.S. brands—which formerly ruled the global roost.

Gosh, why is our country so unpopular these days?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Better times ahead?

Dramatic shifts in the candidate market could soon have organizations competing fiercely to attract and retain top talent

At Robert Half Technology, my colleagues and I are convinced that a fundamental shift is indeed taking place. In both our research and our everyday interactions with hiring managers and applicants, we see real evidence that the IT job market is increasingly being driven by the candidates themselves, though employers remain selective about whom they bring on board. CIOs and other IT hiring managers must acknowledge this shift, and modify their hiring and retention strategies accordingly.

Of course as a staffing agency, Robert Half has a vested interest in promoting this point of view. Nevertheless, it makes very pleasant reading.

Congrats to the Robert Half PR team for placing the story.

Poetic justice

Apple Embeds Poem For Thieves In OS X

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Federal PR spending, where does it go?

Jim Horton points to PR Watch's item on the 1.62 billion spent by our government on PR. Of this, 1.1 billion was for Dept. of Defense PR. Jim asks:

One wonders why the Defense Department feels it needs so much PR.

Why indeed? Given the recent history of payola PR in Iraq this is very worrisome. It is not just the danger of believing our own propaganda, there is an even greater danger of payola PR turning into shakedown journalism. Consider the situation in Iraq. I don’t think shakedown journalism would be confined to negative reporting.

Demystifying the CIA

Larry Johnson

Basically, folks join the CIA thinking they will become Jack Ryan or Mitch Rapp. Within a few short years they realize they are Dilbert.

History lesson

Valetines Day

Monday, February 13, 2006

Stop that buzzword!

If you could get your colleagues to stop using “win-win” or some other catch phrase from the business world, what would it be?

Take the survey.

Government technology events

Government Technology Magazine has created a list.

Streamlining? or a straightjacket?

New Grant System Excludes Mac Users

The new "Grants.gov" system, under development at a cost of tens of billions of dollars, aims to replace paper applications with electronic forms. It is being phased in at the National Institutes of Health, Department of Housing and Urban Development and other federal agencies. All 26 grant-giving agencies are supposed to have their application processes fully online by 2007.

The problem: Although many U.S. scientists and others depend on graphics-friendly Macintosh computers, the software selected by the government is not Mac-compatible. And it is expected to remain so for at least a year.

This is not citizen-centric.

Personal-identification verification data model

Jason Miller, Government Computer News

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has issued draft specifications for smart cards to retrieve and use identity credentials under Federal Information Processing Standard 201.

NIST Special Publication 800-73-1 specifies a personal-identification verification data model, communication interface and application programming interface. The document also “constrains implementers’ interpretation of the standards to ease implementation, facilitate interoperability and ensure performance.”

If you have an opinion about this, now is the time to speak.

Don’t be afraid to make a mistake

In a very thoughtful post, Tom Biro talks about a pitch to AdJab about an advertising promotion that Adjab had already posted about. Biro responded to the pitch by saying they had already written about it, complete with link to the post. Biro never received any response to his email.

In my judgment there were two mistakes. This first was sending out a pitch without first checking to see who had posted about the story. The second, and far more serious, was the failure to respond to a simple email from a blogger. Had I made the first mistake, and sooner or later we all slip on a banana peel, I would be quick to apologize for sending out the duplicative pitch. I would also hype the AdJab post from here to Sunday in a demonstration of blogger interest in the promotion as well as an effort to drive traffic to any site who posted favorably about a client. I think both reporters and bloggers respond well to flacks who hype their work. I don’t think it would make them more likely to write about your client; but I do think it will make them more forbearing when you make a mistake.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Alaskan Volcano Observatory

There’s many lost, but tell me who has won


I can’t believe the news today
Oh, I can’t close my eyes and make it go away
How long...
How long must we sing this song?
How long? how long...

’cause tonight...we can be as one

Broken bottles under children’s feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end street
But I won’t heed the battle call
It puts my back up
Puts my back up against the wall

Sunday, bloody sunday
Sunday, bloody sunday
Sunday, bloody sunday (sunday bloody sunday...)
(allright lets go!)

And the battle’s just begun
There’s many lost, but tell me who has won

Publish or Not? Muhammad Cartoons Still Vexing U.S. Editors

Do these editors have broccoli for brains? Why would you publish cartoons which were calculated to be insulting? Why would you pour gasoline on this dangerous fire? Just to show you have the power to do so?

That is about as intelligent as publishing the name of a CIA case officer. Oh, that’s right, many of these editors did precisely that.

Maybe they do have broccoli for brains.

Allen Jenkins gives us the memo.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Dogging our footsteps

The Daily Dog has added a new feature, The Blog Run, which highlights the best and worst of PR Blogs, written by PR blogosphere’s own Jeremy Pepper.

Online relations just keeps getting more tangled. Who is the newsmaker? Who is the press? Who are the flacks? Throw in comments and online forums and life gets even more complicated. On the bright side, if this were easy clients wouldn’t pay us to do it.

I think it is a fine feature as long as Presto Vivace Blog is never flagged as one of the worst PR blogs.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The unique world of government public relations

From the Project on Government Oversight we learn that the US government has set up a new site called Expect More:

candid assessments of Federal programs in jargon-free language, so taxpayers can know which programs work, which ones do not, and what they are all doing to improve

Wouldn’t it make more sense to ask citizens which programs are working and which are not? Wouldn’t it make more sense to ask citizens and civil servants alike what could be done to improve a program’s effectiveness? Can you imagine what it is like to work on one of the programs singled out as ineffective?

There is no private sector equivalent for this. Can you imagine McDonald’s setting up a site showing which of its restaurants were good and which ones had been cited for health code violations? Or General Electric setting up a site listing which of its products where good and which were lemons?

Can you imagine the political jockeying that went into creating this site? Who is going to be on the effective list and who is not?

One thing is sure, the Office of Management and Budget has a snazzy new logo. Wonder if they will get a new one for FEMA?

Call for Papers: Workshop on the Economics of Information Security

Via Adam Shostack:

The Fifth Workshop on the Economics of Information Security, 2006

University of Cambridge, England, 26-28 June 2006

Deadline for submission is noon GMT on Monday 20th March, 2006

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Online reputation management

It just keeps getting more complicated.

Who is the media? Who is the press?

When not to send a press release

I think putting words into someone's mouth to puff your product is a bad idea to put it mildly. To then send the quote to the expert in question shows a degree of crust I would not have thought possible.

Another black eye for PR (and the Bush administration)

George Deutsch first came to public attention as the NASA flack who warned NASA Scientist James Hansen not to speak out about global warming and sent an e-mail message to a NASA contractor saying that the word "theory" needed to be added after every mention of the Big Bang.

It turns out that in addition to having no idea about the proper role PR at NASA, he lied about graduating from college.. I agree with others that Deutsch’s lies about his resumé are the least important aspect of this case.

Yesterday, Dr. Hansen said that the questions about Mr. Deutsch's credentials were important, but were a distraction from the broader issue of political control of scientific information.

As an American citizen I want to publicly thank Dr. Hansen for not only going pubic with the information, but doing so on the record. Americans owe this scientist a great deal, at minimum we must work to see that his career does not suffer as a result of his willingness to keep us informed.

Intellectual Property Issues for Companies With U.S. Government Contracts

Nothern Virginia Chapter, IEEE, Wednesday, February 15, 2006

This presentation will address the increasing importance of intellectual property in a knowledge-based economy and begin with a basic tutorial in the area of patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. It will then explore some of the unique aspects of dealing with intellectual property in U.S. Government Contracts. It will conclude with a discussion of some current intellectual property issues including the licensing of software, open source software, and dealing with Universities on intellectual property matters.

Speaker Bio

Colin M. Raufer is an Intellectual Property Attorney with The Boeing Company’s Integrated Defense Systems. Based in Arlington, Virginia, he currently provides support on a wide range of intellectual property issues across numerous Boeing programs, specializing in the IP issues associated with Government Contracts. Prior to joining Boeing in 2005, Colin worked for 6 years at Raytheon Company where he supported their Intelligence and Information Systems Division in Reston, Virginia and their Space and Airborne Systems Division in El Segundo, California. Prior to that, Colin worked as a Patent Attorney for the Motorola Company where he drafted patents related to digital cellular telephone technology.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The continuing fight for the open Internet

Here's hoping Congress keeps the pipes open

The issue is network neutrality. If the right law is passed it might prevent telephone, cable, and other high-speed-connection providers from becoming complete twerps.

The idea of network neutrality is simple: Whoever carries data to your house shouldn't care what's in that signal. If it's e-mail from Aunt Shirley or a phone call from the White House, it's all handled as efficiently as possible. The network is neutral. But some companies don't see it that way.

Imagine you make a phone call to a friend, but instead of hearing it ring, you get a recording: "We're sorry, but the person you are calling has not paid Verizon to carry his or her conversations. We apologize for any inconvenience."

Saving the Net: How to Keep the Carriers from Flushing the Net Down the Tubes

Friday, February 03, 2006

No, I don’t think so

Richard Edelman reports on what he heard at Davos:

"Advertising will look different. It will be location based and segment based. It will be solicited by customers who can be tracked by Global Positioning Service. We believe in an open garden approach, with collaboration with all players in the media and technology industry."
---Sanjiv Ahuja, CEO, Orange

No, I don’t think ordinary citizens will permit themselves to be continually tracked by advertisers. Indeed, I think the great push back for privacy has already begun.

Privacy violations will be the growth area in crisis communications.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The short step from payola PR to shakedown journalism

From Michael Sommermeyer we learn about the case of Robert Lewis.

According to the lawsuit, Walters' company, Walters Golf, paid Travel Golf Media from March 2003 to February 2005 to refer Walters' courses to golfers on the Internet through golf course reviews and advertisements.

Walters said the Internet reviews of his Stallion Mountain golf course were glowing during the business relationship.

... But Walters said that when the business-advertising relationship between Walters Golf and Lewis' companies soured, Travel Golf Media demanded a 300 percent increase to the monthly fee it was charging Walters Golf.

Walters' suit alleges Lewis then threatened to make the Internet golf course reviews of Walters' courses negative if a new deal wasn't reached. When the contract couldn't be renegotiated, the scathing reviews of Walters' courses started to appear on the Internet.

Lewis plans to invoke Nevada’s shield law for journalists. But it is not clear what role, if any, anonymous sources came into Lewis’ reporting, such as it is. So I don’t see why the shield law would even be relevant.

I don’t see what difference the medium makes. Either you are doing the work of a journalist or you aren’t. Paper, broadcast, cable, the Web, none of that should make any difference.

Attention federal contractors, nominate your customer

Government Computer News IT Leadership Awards, call for nominations

Deadline: February 24, 2006
The GCN Government IT Leadership Awards recognize government career workers whose exemplary record of performance and leadership has inspired others to high performance and resulted in extraordinary delivery on mission. Send GCN your nominations now. Nominees must be a full-time career civil servant GS-13 or above (or military, state/local government equivalent) and be directly involved with information technology in the performance of their duties. Contractors employees or short-term political appointees are not eligible. Anyone with direct knowledge of the nominee and his or her accomplishments is welcome to nominate. Winners will be named in GCN's May 1 issue and recognized at GCN's May 24 Government IT Leadership Conference.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Forecasting Markets: The Capital Update

The MIT Enterprise Forum held another of its continuing satellite broadcasts on technology and venture funding. Moderated by Bob Crowley, president of the Massachusetts Technology Development Council, the panel included: Ned Hazen, managing director of Lighthouse Capital Partners, Martin Hensel, chief executive officer of Texterity, Inc., T.L. Stebbins, managing director and chairman of Investing Banking for Canaccord Adams, and Claire Wadlington, partner and chief financial officer of FA Technology Ventures.

The event opened with Crowley introducing Martin Hensel, who, with self-deprecating humor, described his qualifications as "done many things wrong,” including getting ahead of the market, failing to recognize success when it came because it came from an unexpected direction and failing to listen to customer feedback.

Hensel talked about different kinds of forecasts, saying, "You can get a forecast for anything.” He explained that industry forecasts make investors happy and that "you can fool yourself,” referring to his unfortunate involvement with ebooks. Hensel did not seem very enthusiastic about industry forecasts, describing them as merchandising tools for the companies that created them.

He described entrepreneurial forecasts as always early, going on to say that customers were really smart and could spot value when they saw it. Hensel observed that it takes a while for young companies to hear customer feedback and internalize it.

Hensel seemed to have a better opinion of investor forecasting. He described investors as "sponges” for information. He said they are excellent judges of trends and people. Talking about startups, Hensel said, "Once you take outside money a clock starts ticking.” He made the point that it is critical to keep your burn rate low.

He concluded by listing the necessary qualities for members of your board: grace and candor in communications, and assuring the entrepreneur that they would be there, if the business milestones were met.

Claire Wadlington gave an overview of the current venture capital investing climate. 2005 saw the first rise in overall activity in four years; however, that only brought it to the same level as 1998. Software remains the single largest category, with biotech, Internet specific, medical devices and wireless also receiving significant funding. There were 922 startups in 2005 (startups have in been in the low 900’s for years). Significant funds went to later stage companies. Wadlington indicated this was because Venture Funds did not have exit strategies for their existing startups. Venture Funds invest in new companies with the money they earn in IPOs and acquisitions. Without an exit strategy they cannot fund new ventures. While IPO’s remain flat, merger and acquisitions are growing.

Wadlington predicted that open source, Web 2.0, wireless/third screen, energy technology, robots for unstructured environments, and biology/engineering co-development would continue to be areas of growth and investment.

She concluded with advice for entrepreneurs looking for venture funding: try to get a solid referral or "warm intro.” Venture capitalists will see your ability to get a referral as an indication of your networking capability. It is critical to be credible; be knowledgeable about your field and don’t repeat what everyone else is likely to have said, such as "it is a huge market and we only need one percent.” Demonstrate that you understand your market and competition. Best of all, find a champion within the venture firm.

Ned Hazen was there to talk about venture lending, which he described as "little known and understood.” Certainly, this author had never heard of it before. Venture lending is made to companies who are, as Hazen phrased it, "cash flow negative or pre-revenue.” Typically, entrepreneurs get equity from venture firms and then borrow from venture lending firms. Venture lending has the same criteria as venture investing, a strong management team, a real solution, and a real market. Entrepreneurs use loans to hire engineers, build prototypes, buy office equipment and furnishings and the like. The benefits of venture loans are the reduced dilution of ownership and extending what Hazen described as the cash runway, or how long you can go without revenue.

Hazen advised entrepreneurs on what to look out for when evaluating venture loans. Aside from such obvious considerations as warrants and interest rates, be careful of covenants, material adverse change clauses (which can mean anything the lender wants them to mean), and right of offset.

He described venture lending as a nascent market and “here to stay.”

T.S. Stebbins opened by saying that Canaccord Adams was Canada’s largest independent broker/dealer. Looking back over 2005, he observed that small capital stocks had outperformed large capital, but that the market was very volatile. The US market had underperformed every other major market in the world, but the strength of the dollar reduced the gap.

Stebbins said that the IPO market continues to be huge, but mostly from private equity rather than venture capital. Last year saw 380 new listings on NASDAQ.

He said that institutional equity commissions for sell side research have dramatically declined since 2001 and will continue to decline. (In an email to me Stebbins explained that, "Sell side commissions for research are the institutional commissions that, say, a Fidelity pays the sell side, i.e. broker/dealers, for research.) Most small capital stocks have no analytic coverage.

Compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley will cost approximately 2.5 million dollars. Stebbins said that the SEC and regulators and, as he put it, "our good friend Mr. Spitzer” were constraining the flow of capital to small companies.

Stebbins said that NASDAQ was still viable for small companies, but more difficult than in the past. He said, and this surprised me, that 100% of the employment growth in the US last year was directly attributable to small capital companies.

All other major markets have attempted to recreate NASDAQ. Most failed, some spectacularly. The London Stock Exchange has succeeded with the Alternative Investment Market (AIM).

Stebbins said that the preferred public market for small capital companies could be migrating to the Caymans and Bermuda in order to excuse themselves from the SEC. I could only wonder why anyone would wish to invest in companies who felt a need to excuse themselves from SEC regulation.

He said Institutional investors are looking for opportunities to invest in non-dollar denominated emerging markets. London’s Alternative Investment Market is doing a good job of attracting these companies. Trading systems and regulations in US public markets make it more difficult for companies with capitalization of less than $350 million. If the US junior market is weakened, others will take its place to the long term detriment of the US economy.

Here, Stebbins made a series of pessimistic predictions: interest rates are going up; real estate is going down; the Iraq war will make for a volatile international situation; growth in China and India will create increasing pressure on natural resources; the US balance of trade will remain hugely negative; and the dollar will remain under pressure. He predicted great volatility for 2006.

Stebbins concluded by saying that, in such a period, large capital companies have a natural advantage. He predicted that the dollar would continue to be weak, accentuating commodity/energy prices. A weak dollar will discourage investment in the US. In sum, it will be a year of struggle for US capital markets with great volatility and risk.

This concluded the telecast. The Washington/Baltimore chapter of MIT Enterprise Forum turned off the broadcast and instead elected to have a presentation from Julia Spicer, Executive Director Mid-Atlantic Venture Association. This was an excellent notion, for instead of vague generalities about the national scene, we were treated to an analysis of our own market.

Spicer asked for a show of hands to indicate how many entrepreneurs were in the audience; not quite half the audience responded. The rest worked in professional or financial services.

She began her presentation by saying, "We think now is a very good time; people are hungry for new deals.” I could only think that there would be a huge response to her words.

The Mid-Atlantic Venture Association represents 115-120 investment funds that range from family groups to angel funds to venture funds. MAVA recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and represents a more mature financial market locally.

Spicer said that post-bubble, funds moved toward later stage companies. Now, there is more money for early stage companies.

She spoke about greater Washington’s unique knowledge base. There is unique intellectual capital centered around NIH, the FDA and other agencies that creates unique investing opportunities.

The wireless telecom, internet and software areas are all good prospects for continued investment.

Most of the recent successes for local venture backed companies have come in the form of acquisitions; IPOs have still not reached pre-bubble levels.

Here, the floor was opened to questions. I asked if any of the local funds made a point of looking at phase III SBIR companies. Spicer replied that venture funds specialized by sector. Thus, funds investing in defense technologies might be interested in SBIR companies who received funds from the Defense Dept., likewise with NIH and so on. She went on to say that most phase III companies were too small for most venture funds and were better suited to angel funds.

The next questioner asked if it were possible that there were too many venture funds for the available opportunities. Spicer said that for about two years entrepreneurs were advised to "bootstrap it,” and so they did. Entrepreneurs were scared away from the venture market.

Another questioner asked Spicer to say more about the NIH and FDA related opportunities. Spicer said that she "knew enough to get into trouble.” In the past, large pharmaceutical companies would invest in small life sciences startups and then move them to New Jersey when they got big enough. Now there is more emphasis on keeping them local so that there can be a community of companies that feed off of one another.

The last questioner asked for advice as to how to network with local venture firms. Spicer replied, "Show up.” She talked about MAVA’s events including the Mid-Atlantic Venture Capital & Entrepreneurs Networking Luncheon on March 7th.

View the presentations from the panel of experts.

Listen to what Patrick Fitzgerald is not saying

Talking Points Memo

Fitzgerald's letter says that "we have learned that not all email of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system."

Fitzgerald is not saying the email was destroyed, only that it was not preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system. That may mean the email was destroyed, or it may mean that Fitzgerald’s evidence recovery team has recovered the email in question. There is no way to know.

In scandal after scandal the attempted deletion and evidence recovery of email has played a crucial role in litigation. Now is the time to learn about email and records management.

NCC-AIIM Educational Seminar

Enabling Information Sharing with Enterprise Content Management

Susan Miller's execellent summary.

New to me local tech organization

American Entrepreneurs for Economic Growth