Wednesday, February 28, 2007

How not to do damage control

Walter Reed patients told to keep quiet

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.

Telling your employees to just shut up is not going to work.

For those not familiar with the story -

Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army's Top Medical Facility

Public Relations, good and bad

Our good friend Tom Murphy points to this remarkable video by PR Watch. It is a compelling, if crude piece of propaganda. I think people outside the news industry have this immaculate conception of reporting, as if reporters are just supposed to know what is happening without any sources. Of course companies and other organizations are going to send them material, what’s wrong with that?

Sadly, you can fool all the people some of the time. When that happens, when disillusion sets in, the price you pay is very steep. If you cannot persuade by honest methods, that may be a sign that your message lacks merit.

PR at it’s finest is understanding your client’s role in society, and communicating that both to your client and to the society in which you operate.

Dell, stalling on Linux

Despite consumer demand, company isn't ready to commit to selling laptops with Linux pre-installed

Despite obvious support for the idea last week from thousands of visitors on its new customer suggestion Web site, IdeaStorm, the company said it's not yet building machines with Linux pre-loaded for the consumer and business markets.

Last Friday night, Dell posted a note on the IdeaStorm Web site saying it was listening to thousands of users who had posted messages asking for Linux on its machines by moving forward to certify three of its corporate hardware lines -- OptiPlex desktops, Latitude notebooks, and Dell Precision workstations -- for use with Novell SUSE Linux.

My guess is that one of the Asian manufacturers will be the first to build a Linux PC.

Buy on rumor, sell on news

SEC Sues Company For Using Hacked Information In Trades

The Securities and Exchange Commission is suing a Hong Kong company for allegedly making more than $2.7 million from illegal trades they made by reading corporate press releases before they were made public.

Google goes to Washington

Google Searches For Government Work

The search engine giant showed off its ambition yesterday to expand its business with the federal government, kicking off a two-day sales meeting that attracted nearly 200 federal contractors, engineers and uniformed military members eager to learn more about its technology offerings.

Google has ramped up its sales force in the Washington area in the past year to adapt its technology products to the needs of the military, civilian agencies and the intelligence community. ...

... Google declined to comment on which federal agencies it serves and would not reveal its revenue from government work.

But publicly available data indicate that the nascent business quadrupled in just one year, from $73,000 in 2005 to $312,000 in 2006, according to, a nonprofit unit of OMB Watch, an advocacy group that tracks federal contracts.

Google is obviously looking to do far more then $312,000 in the future.

Abdel Kareem Nabil

Egyptian Blogger Appeals Prison Sentence

CAIRO, Egypt -- Lawyers filed an appeal Monday on behalf of a blogger who was sentenced to four years in prison for insulting Islam and Egypt's president.

Abdel Kareem Nabil, a former law student at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, used his blog to advocate secularism and criticize conservative Muslims.

Let's hope Egypt comes to it's senses.

Edit -
Egyptian Blogs Aggregator

New Profiling Program Raises Privacy Concerns

Ellen Nakashima and Alec Klein, The Washington Post

The Department of Homeland Security is testing a data-mining program that would attempt to spot terrorists by combing vast amounts of information about average Americans, such as flight and hotel reservations. Similar to a Pentagon program killed by Congress in 2003 over concerns about civil liberties, the new program could take effect as soon as next year.

I can't be the only one to notice that this administration is far more interested in tracking people than cargo.

US durable goods orders slide

Eoin Callan, Financial Times

There was an unexpected drop in orders of durable goods across industry sectors as demand slid by a record 8 per cent to $204bn in January. The biggest monthly fall ever recorded underlined the continued risks to US economic growth from weak domestic business demand, which has lagged behind consumer spending.
A bad sign. A very bad sign.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Central Banks Diversify From Dollar, Survey Shows


Feb. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Central banks are increasingly diversifying their reserves, including cutting holdings of dollars, according to a survey sponsored by Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, the U.K.'s second-largest bank.

A bad sign. A very bad sign.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Presto Vivace Blog at 3

It slipped by, but last Thursday marked the third anniversary of this blog. It started out as a way to communicate my ideas about PR and build visibility. It has given me the opportunity to participate in Global PR Blog Week 1 and 2, the original New Communications Forum, and Bull Dog Reporter's PR University. It has also offered me a wealth of knowledge that would otherwise be unavailable.

It's been great, thanks to everyone who reads Presto Vivace Blog.

AHIC privacy co-chairman resigns in protest

AHIC privacy co-chairman resigns in protest, Government Health IT

Paul Feldman resigned on Feb. 21 as co-chairman of the American Health Information Community’s Confidentiality, Privacy and Security (CPS) Workgroup, citing in a letter to Interim National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Robert Kolodner the panel’s lack of “substantial progress toward the development of comprehensive privacy and security policies that must be at the core of a nationwide health information network.”

A bad sign. A very bad sign.

The wisdom of Scott Kirsner

Advice to PR flacks, from other tech reporters interviewed by Media Survey

Scott Kirsner, freelancer
His preference for PR agencies tends toward the smaller or independent PR pro. "The biggest agencies are all horrible, unresponsive and slow to return have to explain the story you're working on 16 times to 16 different people... The most helpful have been self-employed PR people who have the freedom to tell the client, 'I'm not going to call the Wall Street Journal because they're not going cover it.'"
Via the always enlightening Phil Gomes.

Change management

Los Alamos Warns Employees About Daylight-Savings Impact On Coffee Makers

Friday, February 23, 2007

Whither SOA

Joab Jackson, Tech Blog for Government Computer News

The emerging technology special interest group of the Industry Advisory Council has posted a survey about Service Oriented Architecture. If you get a chance, go and fill it out. It should take only 10 minutes or so, promises Greg Hauser, who is the chair for the IAC SOA committee.

Not long ago I was at a meeting of IASA where the speaker asked how many had used SOA in their programming, only a few raised their hands. Cleary we are in the early adopter stage.

Data Security, a question of business practices

Bearing the Cost of Stolen Data

TJX, the parent company of discount retailers TJ Maxx and Marshalls, said Wednesday that the data breach it reported last month is bigger than it first thought.

As my colleague Ellen Nakashima reported yesterday, TJX initially said it was hacked into sometime between May 2006 and January 2007. Now, however, it thinks its computer system was also hacked a whole two years earlier, in July 2005 and on "various subsequent dates" that year.

I think mordaxus has it precisely right:
If Congress wants to do something for consumers, it would be to require lenders to be responsible.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Always use one.

Studios, FBI Teach Swedish Cops to Hunt File Sharers

Daniel Goldberg, Computer Sweden

The FBI and the MPAA, with the Swedish antipiracy organization Antipiratbyren, are training Swedish law enforcement officers in copyright and piracy matters.

So the FBI is content to play enforcer for a trade association and the Swedish government is going along with it? Not what you would call citizen centric is it?

Congratulations Fran Allen

IBM-er wins tech's version of Nobel, but few women keep her company

Today, IBM's Fran Allen becomes the first woman to win the most prestigious prize in computing, the A.M. Turing Award.

Jobs bashes teachers unions

His comments came at an education reform conference

February 20, 2007 (Computerworld) -- Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs laid into teachers unions Friday at a Texas education reform conference, an Austin newspaper reported, saying they're "what's wrong with our schools."

Teachers unions have traditionally represented one of Apple's most loyal group of customers and have largely stuck with the company since the days of the Apple IIe.

Unionization, said Jobs in reports filed by both the Associated Press and the Austin American-Statesman, was "off-the-charts crazy."

During a joint appearance with Michael Dell that was sponsored by the Texas Public Education Reform Foundation, Jobs took on the unions by first comparing schools to small businesses, and school principals to CEOs. He then asked rhetorically: "What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in, they couldn't get rid of people that they thought weren't any good? Not really great ones, because if you're really smart, you go, 'I can't win.' "

No one would dare talk about police departments or firefighters in this way. I have never understood why this is acceptable where teachers are concered. What does Jobs actually know about public education?

The Joost Viacom deal

Larry Dignan of ZDNet has a hilarious deconstruction.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Who's the boss of $1B interoperability fund?

Alice Lipowicz, Government Computer News

The Homeland Security Department has no clear authority at this time over a $1 billion fund for public safety agency interoperable communications equipment that it has been publicizing as a first responder grant program, according to a Congressional Research Service memorandum.
I would have thought that the Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Assistance would have been the obvious choice.

Online communications basics

For years our good friend Tom Murphy has been writing about the abuse of Flash, and still, we see otherwise smart companies using flash on their introductory page. Why? How does flash help someone looking for information on your site?

Try to look at it from your customer’s point of view. What they want is a site that downloads quickly, is easy to navigate, and easy to read. That means a prominently placed navigation bar and large font. Perhaps we went overboard with minimalist design at Presto Vivace, but it has the merit of being clear.

Try to avoid PDF. There are circumstances, such as long documents, where using PDF makes sense. Most of the time search engine friendly HTML is your best choice.

When writing for the web remember that large font and white space are your friends. This is a world of short attention-spans, so short, punchy paragraphs are what you should present. It may be useful to link to larger, more detailed documents, especially for investor relations or GSA catalog information, but the initial presentation should be succinct.

Avoid nonspecific jargon and buzzwords. Leading provider of advanced technology solutions to the government and military, or similarly vague sounding phrases don’t tell the reader anything. Try to be specific. It is far easier for the reader to go from the specific to the general rather than the reverse.

Make sure your contact information is current. Recently I have been working on a project that has involved looking at numerous corporate websites. I am stunned by the number whose contact information is not current. It is also helpful to be specific in contact information, compare:

LittleEngineThatCould Systems Integration


LittleEngineThatCould Systems Integration
Sales -
Technical Support -
CEO Dr. Ed Entrepreneur,

It is much easier to make in inquiry if you know who you are addressing, rather than send a note to “sales.”

Dee Rambeau and Chris Bechtel wrote the best piece on online newsrooms I have ever seen. I can’t add anything to what they said, save to emphasize the obvious. Contact information needs to appear on every release and releases should be posted in HTML, not PDF.

In honor of President's Day

George Washington's Resignation Speech Left the U.S. Military

The speech, scholars say, was a turning point in U.S. history. As the Revolutionary War was winding down, some wanted to make Washington king. Some whispered conspiracy, trying to seduce him with the trappings of power. But Washington renounced them all.

By resigning his commission as commander in chief to the Continental Congress -- then housed at the Annapolis capitol -- Washington laid the cornerstone for an American principle that persists today: Civilians, not generals, are ultimately in charge of military power.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Web 2.0 explained in under 5 minutes

Digital Ethnography, from Professor Wesch.

This is the future of presentations. PowerPoint won’t be good enough anymore. Put your demo into digital video and put it on the web.

Edit - Chip Griffin alets us to John Battelle’s interview with Wesch.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Black Hat DC 2007

Black Hat DC Training 2007

February 26-27
February 28-March 1
Register Now! Regular Registration rate closes February 18, 2007

Black Hat DC 2007 Training.
The Training Schedule is now available. We will be offering weekday training sessions prior to the start of the Briefings.
Black Hat DC 2007 Briefings Schedule.
There will be 4 different tracks, over 2 days comprised of renown information and computer security professionals.
Via our good friends at ARMA Northern Virginia.

Congratulations Allan Holmes

Allan Holmes to Join Government Executive Magazine

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A different kind of online community

David Greene sent me a note about his new venture, ClinicaHealth, an online support network. Communities are organized around health issues where they can discuss, blog, and generally share useful information.

This is just another example of how the Internet is transforming our world.

Improving blog search

Most of the blog search tools have the ability to locate the most recent links and identify the most influential blogs (at least in terms of inbound links). We need more capabilities. What if you want to know what blogs were writing about your client last year? or the year before that?

What if you don’t want to know what the high traffic blogs are saying about your client, what if it is precisely the small guys you want to look at? Suppose you wanted to do a search on what small blogs were saying about your client three years ago?

What if you wanted to know what the economic blogs were saying about your client one year ago? We need tools to enable us to do more precise searches.

Correction, and apology to Robert Cox

For Liberal Bloggers, Libby Trial Is Fun and Fodder

It is the first federal case for which independent bloggers have been given official credentials along with reporters from the traditional news media, said Robert A. Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association. Mr. Cox negotiated access for the bloggers.

This is the second time Cox has taken credit for arranging for press credentials for the FireDogLake bloggers, and for the second time FireDogLake has denied it:

One correction, though: the MBA did NOT negotiate our media passes. We have been working on getting passes for this trial from the moment Libby was indicted. Jane and I made calls to the courthouse, e-mailed, wrote letters, and worked on getting credential from very early on. To emphasize our commitment to doing serious coverage, we enlisted the help of Arianna, whose Huffington Post name was more recognizable than FDL to folks not familiar with how blogs had been covering this investigation. But the gaining of our three media passes? That was OUR work.

Why persist in taking credit for getting bloggers credentials when you didn’t do it? It doesn’t make you or your organization look good.

Correction: February 16, 2007

A front-page article yesterday about bloggers covering the perjury trial of
I. Lewis Libby Jr. referred imprecisely to the role of Robert A. Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association, in securing credentials. Mr. Cox negotiated access for his association, which was the first blogger group to be granted credentials to cover the trial. He did not negotiate on behalf of and other blogs that received their credentials later.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Page views, advertising and Web Design

Steve Rubel points to this illuminating article from CBS:

New Tech Puts Online Ad Measures to Test

Experts say the stubborn attachment to page views also may be keeping some sites from improving their usability.

Jakob Nielsen, a Web design expert with Nielsen Norman Group, notes that many news sites force visitors to click multiple times to read longer stories in sections, even though he would much prefer scrolling down a long story and avoiding interruptions.

"Because you are measuring the wrong things, you are driving your project in the wrong direction," Nielsen said. "You are not maximizing what causes value. You are maximizing the things a computer can count easily."

For my part, I think the future of online advertising lies in embeding key words and links in RSS feeds. A whole science will grow up around learning which key words to use in what sort of feeds.

Why we need sleazy PR people

This is not going to be the response that BL was expecting when she wrote PR's Already Tarnished Image Takes a Hit from Hagar the Horrible. There is a time and a place for sleazy PR people to defend sleazy clients.

Suppose the late Saddam Hussein had hired Washington PR powerhouse, Smoke, Mirrors & Hatched, and suppose Smoke Mirrors & Hatched had been able to effectively counter Judith Miller’s bogus reporting for the New York Times. The United States might never have gone to war. We might have been able to concentrate on getting bin Laden.

As this is being written a third aircraft carrier task force is sailing towards Iran. There is a real chance of another war breaking out. Had Iran been able to engage the services of Smoke Mirrors & Hatched the war propaganda might have been exposed. Just because a client and PR firm are sleazy doesn't mean that they don’t have a legitimate point of view.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

APWG eCrime Researchers Summit

Call for Papers

The second APWG eCrime Researchers Summit will be hosted by Carnegie Mellon CyLab, October 4-5, 2007, in Pittsburgh, PA.

Original papers on all aspects of electronic crime are solicited for submission to eCrime '07. Topics of relevance include but are not limited to:

  • Phishing, pharming, click-fraud, crimeware, extortion and emerging attacks.
  • Technical, legal, political, social and psychological aspects of fraud and fraud prevention.
  • Techniques to assess the risks and yields of attacks and the success rates of countermeasures.
  • Delivery techniques, including spam, voice mail and rank manipulation; and countermeasures.
  • Spoofing of different types, and applications to fraud.
  • Techniques to avoid detection, tracking and takedown; and ways to block such techniques.
  • Honeypot design, datamining, and forensic aspects of fraud prevention.
  • Design and evaluation of user interfaces in the context of fraud and network security.
  • Best practices related to digital forensics tools and techniques, investigative procedures, and evidence acquisition, handling and preservation.

Accepted papers will appear in the ACM Digital Library as part of the ACM International Conference Proceedings Series.

Paper submissions due: May 15, 2007 (midnight, US East Coast time)
Paper notification: July 15, 2007
Poster submissions due: August 3, 2007
Poster notifications: August 15, 2007
Camera ready due: August 15, 2007
Conference: October 4-5, 2007

Monday, February 05, 2007

Capital Wireless Integration Network


The design and development of the CapWIN system is being performed using open standards, wherever possible. As a system designed to enable data interoperability across multiple technical platforms, jurisdictions and public safety disciplines, CapWIN personnel are participating in the implementation and development of new data exchange standards at the state, local and Federal levels. CapWIN is planning to add a dedicated transformation server to handle XML transactions that utilize a multitude of XML Data Dictionaries (DD) and Data Models (DM).

They are new to me. As long as I have been working on this I am still discovering information sharing organizations.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

New to me PR blog

Karen's public relations blog

Yet another Pentagon PR disaster

Potshot at Guantanamo lawyers backfires

Two weeks after a senior Pentagon official suggested that corporations should pressure their law firms to stop assisting detainees at Guantanamo Bay, major companies have turned the tables on the Pentagon and issued statements supporting the law firms' work on behalf of terrorism suspects. ...

... Brackett Denniston, senior vice president and general counsel of General Electric, said the company strongly disagrees with the suggestion that it discriminate against law firms that do such work. "Justice is served when there is quality representation even for the unpopular," Denniston said in a statement.

That's General Electric, major defense contractor and owner of NBC News.

Threats are rarely good PR, this one was partcularly cow handed.