Thursday, February 28, 2008

Human astroturf

Comcast Accused of Falsely Taking Hearing Seats
The organizer of a federal hearing Monday at Harvard Law School on Comcast's treatment of subscriber Internet traffic said yesterday that "seat-warmers" hired by the company prevented other people from attending.

Comcast acknowledged that it hired an unspecified number of people to fill seats, but said those people gave up their spots when Comcast employees arrived to take their places.

Catherine Bracy, administrative manager of Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, disputed that assertion, saying most of the three dozen seat-warmers who arrived hours before the Federal Communications Commission hearing remained during the event's opening hours, as many other people were turned away.

Whatever the benefits of preventing critics from filling the FCC hearing has been more than lost by the use of human astroturf. Real public relations communicates your message in such a way that your company has actual public support.

The PR of WikiLeaks

Bank Julius Baer emerges from hibernation, issues official statement
This just landed in my inbox. Bank Julius Baer would like to clear up some “misconceptions” regarding the WikiLeaks debacle. Here’s their statement, with commentary to follow. — D. T.
ZURICH / NEW YORK, February 28, 2008 — Julius Baer wishes to address certain misconceptions relating to a recent court decision to take the website off line.

This decision was arrived at only after a month long effort on the part of Julius Baer and its advisors had failed to identify and engage the operators of Wikileaks in a dialogue regarding the unlawful posting of stolen and forged bank records. This matter has nothing whatsoever to do with censorship or The First Amendment. Instead, Julius Baer’s sole objective has always been limited to the removal of these private and legally protected documents from the website.

The way to handle this is to strip WikiLeaks of its whistle-blower hero image. Who would send a company memo to WikiLeaks? A heroic whistle-blower motivated by public good? Or a disgruntled Linda Tripp stabbing her employer in the back? Or an industrial sabateur secretly working for a rival company?

Living in freedom means acting in the open; otherwise we are just a pack of Stalinist secret denunciators.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The importance of an easy install

First impressions count most with open source; make it easy to install and the rest follows
Open source is very different. Users hear about the software, they research it, download it and then try it - nearly always unattended and nearly always solo. The key thing here is the first impression is much more about how easy it is to get the software and use it successfully the first time. Otherwise the user is free to go somewhere else.

This goes double for reporters who are reviewing software.

Overhauling Website–Traffic Measurement

Interactive Advertising Bureau Requests Audits of ComScore and Neilsen to "Get on the Same Page"
Content publishers and tracking agencies aren't always on the same page when it comes to Web metrics, which are key to a site's appeal to advertisers. In 2004, upstart MySpace was watching its user traffic rise fast. But executives were having a tough time luring new advertisers to the social network because it didn't show up in the lists of top websites compiled by Internet audience trackers ComScore and Nielsen Online, CNET reports.

"We had a hard case telling people how big we were and how many unique visitors we had. They didn't believe us. We didn't show up on people's radars," said Jason Feffer, former vice president of operations at MySpace who is now president and chief executive at opinion–forums site "It was frustrating that advertisers wanting to advertise to that demographic would go to Friendster when we were 10 times bigger than them," he told CNET writer Elinor Mills.

That changed fairly quickly for MySpace. But the problem persists for many other websites competing for advertising dollars in an environment where the difference between being ranked fourth or fifth in a category can directly impact the bottom line. Being undercounted by the audience measurement firms costs publishers advertising deals and threatens their ad–based businesses.

The entire new business model is dependent on getting this right.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Potomac area technology culture

On this week’s edition of District of Corruption Geoff and Aaron discussed AOL’s closing it’s Virginia HQ and Sprint moving to Kansas City. They thought these were not good signs for the local tech scene and indeed it is very bad news.

However, in my view the Potomac area’s role in tech has never lied with the business side of technology and never will. Too often we forget that is was the Dept. of Census that funded the development of the first Univac computer. The miniaturization necessary for all current electronics came out of the space program and the Internet grew out of the Dept. of Defense Arpanet. Advanced technology is inherently buggy and there are very few customers who can cope with the problems of implementing early stage technology. The federal government is one of the very few that is willing to do so. The most advanced leaders in technology are not working for our largest companies, neither are they teaching at our universities, rather they hold obscure positions within the federal civil service, where they work on projects so advanced that it is difficult to explain them to the general public.

The Potomac area also leads in standards development and process improvement. Because of the colossal influence of the federal market, the Federal Enterprise Architecture Data Reference Model is the de facto industry standard.

The largest chapters of AIIM and the Software Process Improvement Network are located in our area. The work of these organizations shapes the entire tech industry. I have tried, with only limited success, to interest the local press in the unique role our area plays in technology.

Online visibility

Whenever I want to research a company, I begin with a search on their name. I continue to be surprised on the number of times I cannot find their corporate website from a search on their name. This is a serious problem, reporters, prospective customers, job applicants, and everyone else expects to find you on the Internet.

It is one thing not to be in the first page of returns on your industry. I hate to think how far back Presto Vivace is in a search on Public Relations or even Technology and Public Relations. But it should be possible to find your website on the first page on a search on your company’s name. This is so basic.

The quick fix on this is to use social tagging sites to raise your visibility. But that is just a quick & dirty fix to tide you over for a proper solution. I can’t advise on the details on web design, but I would advise encouraging employee blogging as a way to raise online visibility, as well as the other well known benefits of corporate blogging.

Catbert doesn’t get it

Need a New Situation? Check the Internet, WSJ February 12, 2008
Digital Dirt, Digital Attraction
Scanning the Web for information that might derail a job hunter’s candidacy is now routine procedure for recruiters at many firms says Cynthia Shapiro, author of “What Does Somebody Have to Do to Get a Job Around Here.” Many recruiters even engage in the practice even before extending interview invitations.

“If what pops up is a ranting blog about the evils of corporate America or a picture of you topless in Cancun with a beer in your hand, you’re in trouble” she warns. “Your resumé will land in the trash, and you won’t even know what happened.”

I have no doubt this is true. It is just one of the many ways search is being misused.

Whatever happened to judging a candidate on job related criteria?

The individual who rants about the evils of corporate America under their own name is not the one you need to worry about. That is not the individual who is going to anonymously forward internal company memo’s to websites. The anonymice who leak information do not have the courage to speak under their own names.

More over, how do you know that the person who rants on the Internet and your job applicant are the same person? Is it Alice Marshall, Alice Marshall, Alice Marshall, or a different Alice Marshall all together?

As for the topless lady in Cancun, well, all I can say is God forbid you hire Vanessa Williams.

How would you like it if prospective customers, to say nothing of investors and government regulators, made judgments about your company based on what they saw on the Internet? What goes around comes around. Don’t be part of creating a culture you don’t want to live in.

The Internet which can be such a force for freedom is in danger of being perverted into an instrument of conformity and intimidation. It does not have to be that way, all we need to do is learn to concentrate on the issue at hand.

Edit -
Perfect example of a heavy handed employer

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Great moments in records management

Hired through WorkforceLogic USA, he claims to have come up with the idea and presented it on an internal Google Groups e-mail discussion group.
In a lawsuit filed on Wednesday in Atlanta's Northern District Court of Georgia, a former Google (NSDQ: GOOG) contract worker claims that Google stole his idea for Google Sky.

Google Sky is a feature that was added to the Google Earth application last August that lets users navigate through stars and galaxies.

Plaintiff Jonathan Cobb claims that starting in 2006, as a contractor hired through WorkforceLogic USA, he convened an internal Google Groups e-mail discussion group wherein he "presented, advanced, and refined the Google Sky concept and idea."

Obviously I have no opinion on the merits of the case; it depends on the terms of his contract. Clearly we will see more of this sort of litigation until the legal status of contract workers is better defined. I would just note the crucial role email will clearly play in this case.

Looking towards the 2010 Census

Over-Budget Contract Could Stall 2010 Census
A $600 million program to buy handheld devices and create an automated network to collect data for the 2010 Census faces major cost overruns and could cause delays in preparing for the nationwide head count.

Mitre's independent evaluation warns that numerators may need paper

Oh dear.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

How PR uses Slashdot

After my latest survey on where Washington’s favorite sources for tech news, I began to spend more time on Slashdot. After a few of my submissions made it on to the front page, I acquired sufficient positive Karma to gain access to the firehose. The firehose is Slashdot’s term for the queue of stories readers have submitted for consideration for the front page. Readers with Slashdot journals can automatically submit their entries for the front page if they so choose.

The firehouse has a color bar to indicate how popular a story is. Blue is neutral, which can change to green, yellow, orange, and ultimately red. Stories with a red rating are usually placed on the front page. When the blue changes to purple, that is a indication that Slashdot users are not interested in the story.

Watching the firehose offers great insight into the editorial process. Stories you think will catch on will frequently fall flat. Others which seem so-so will catch fire. It takes a while to get a feel for the community.

Then there are times when a story seems to be catching fire, soon after submission the color change to yellow, than orange, and then it starts to cool off, meaning Slashdot users are rating the story down. Why? The most obvious explanation is that readers of the firehose consider the story to be overrated and not suitable. But in at least some cases it appears that negative stories that are hot are suddenly rated down. Is that because readers spontaneously decided the stories were “not the best,” or were corporate flacks down rating the story as a form of damage control?

Of course, who could afford to continuously monitor the firehose? So far as I know, there is no way to subscribe to it.

Slashdot is a valuable public square, and it is inevitable to flacks will be attracted ot it. Somehow Slashdot’s proprietors will have to find ways to prevent us from taking over.

Friday, February 15, 2008

New to me compliance blog


Text analytics in the legal space

IBM on Text Technologies for the Legal Sector

My last blog article relayed key points about e-discovery and potential knowledge-discovery (KDD) applications in the legal sector that were reinforced by my participation in the recent LegalTech conference. A LegalTech exhibitor I spoke to mentioned his company's discussions with IBM, so I dropped IBM text-technologies researcher Aaron Brown a note to learn his company's side of the story.

Aaron is program director, Content Discovery and Search, IBM Information Management Software. His thoughts on legal-sector KDD were very much in line with mine.

The next decade will produce and explosion of prosecutions and civil litigation, which will provide the incentive for major advances in legal technology.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

For Valentines Day, Roses from the South

Social media and analyst relations

Jeremiah Owyang, Sr Analyst at Forrester Research
I can’t imagine ever advising a client to deal with an advertising, PR, or interactive team that doesn’t get social media. Of course, I’m biased as I’m sitting right smack in the middle of the social media space. But with the power shifting to the participants, agencies must demonstrate they can participate before they can ever help clients with it.

Sadly, most agencies still don’t get the new space, or if they do, they lightly gloss it over by saying “Oh yeah, we’ve a blog” and when I look, it’s a bunch of self-serving posts written by a variety of different folks with little strategy and few comments.

Online communications is an indispensable part of tech PR, make sure you hire someone who knows what they are doing.

Email, every case seems to come down to email

The murky world of pay TV pirates
If few remarked on Adams’s departure in May 2002 during the hullabaloo, no one noticed a minor incident involving his vehicle. According to NDS, someone broke into the family car that month and stole the hard drive from his laptop. The hard drive contained some 26,000 pages of confidential NDS documents, including hundreds of pages of internal NDS emails detailing the activities of its covert operations group.

In a global hunt to retrieve the documents, NDS lawyers appeared in a Vancouver court last September, where they claimed the hard drive had been obtained by Plamen Donev, a Bulgarian hacker who had been on the NDS payroll. He had passed copies of the documents to Canadian satellite pirates on two CDs.

The Vancouver hearing was just an outlying skirmish related to a much larger case due to go to trial in April in the California District Court, where EchoStar (and its smartcard provider, NagraStar Corp) is claiming $US1 billion damages against NDS for industrial espionage in a trial.

The EchoStar lawsuit quotes extensively from an explosive series of NDS emails that NDS says came from the missing hard drive. EchoStar says it obtained the emails from a range of sources.

The issue of source seems beside the point. The bottom line is that on NDS’s own account, the innermost secrets of its undercover ops are on CDs being hawked around the world in a boxed set.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Blogs: honey bees or hornets?

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Social Media Marketing for Government Contractors
DATE: Friday, February 22, 2008
Blogs can establish your company as a thought leader, they can reinforce your relationship with customers and introduce you to prospects. They can pollinate your business, but they can also sting.

Now, just in time for FOSE, Presto Vivace, Inc. offers an audio conference which will teach you how to increase search engine visibility in a positive way, generate buzz, and drive traffic to your website and show booth.

It's a great time to be in e-discovery!

Database Company Ingenix – Used by Dozens of Insurers – at Center of Scheme
Cuomo Notifies Ingenix and its Parent, UnitedHealth Group, of Intent to File Suit; Subpoenas 16 Other Companies

NEW YORK, NY (February 13, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he is conducting an industry-wide investigation into a scheme by health insurers to defraud consumers by manipulating reimbursement rates. At the center of the scheme is Ingenix, Inc., the nation’s largest provider of healthcare billing information, which serves as a conduit for rigged data to the largest insurers in the country.

Cuomo also announced that he has issued 16 subpoenas to the nation’s largest health insurance companies including Aetna (NYSE: AET), CIGNA (NYSE: CI), and Empire BlueCross BlueShield (NYSE: WLP), and that he intends to file suit against Ingenix, Inc, its parent UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), and three additional subsidiaries.

The insurance industry, finance, real estate, White House email, torture tapes, the list goes on. E-discovery, evidence recovery, records management, and content management, are all going to enjoy boom development. The misconduct of the last eight years has brought a great deal of misery and stands to bring even more, but for those charged with investigating it, there will be fortunes to be made.

New to me local career blog

40plusdc blog, 40Plus of Greater Washington offers a proven system of hands-on training, peer support, and networking for professionals in job and career transition.

Added to Tech on the Potomac RSS reader.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Using social media for networking

Notes from the presentation to the Greater Baltimore Technology Council

Alice Marshall, founder and owner of Presto Vivace, Inc., launch Presto Vivace Blog in February of 2004

Blogs and social media are an economical and time efficient way to network.

I started the blog to record local tech events, which I could send out to the event's participants. It was a way to build goodwill and position my agency.

Technorati search led to Media Culpa's list of top PR blogs. Soon received a email from Trevor Cook of Corporate Engagement to participate in an online conference. This led to Global PR Blog Week 1.0 and spread my reputation all over the world.

Linking is the currency of blogs. Use linking to reinforce existing relationship and establish new ones. Link to the reporters who cover your industry, to your fellow bloggers, to partners and competitors, and anything that would interest your readers.

After reading my article on spam, Owen Ambur, then chair of the Federal XML Work Group, asked me to participate in their proceedings. I began to blog the meetings and Owen was kind enough to link back to my notes from the official website. This is visibility that cannot be bought for any price and a perfect example of how blogs can be used to build goodwill.

Originally I used my sidebar to list local tech organizations, now I have moved that list to my corporate website. The Greater Baltimore Technology Council would be an obvious addition to your corporate blog's sidebar.

I wrote a post linking to The Spy Who Billed Me. She subsequently offered to send me a review copy of her book Outsourced (highly recommended). She also subsequently referred a few prospective clients to me. This is an example of how blogs create relationships that would otherwise never exist.

Blogs and social media are an economical and time efficient way to build relationships. A blog works for you twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, all over the world, limited only by language.

A cautionary note - blogs and all social media are dependent upon net neutrality. This is something we can no longer take for granted and a subject for further discussion.

Edit - Jared Goralnick has posted all the presentations.

Note - On February 22, Presto Vivace will be giving and audio conference on Social Media for Government Contractors.

Friday, February 08, 2008

New to me IT governance blog

Information Governance Engagement Area: The Information Governance Engagement Area has been established with the goal of aggregating key compliance, electronic discovery, and storage news for further review, study, and consideration by legal and corporate professionals. Welcome to the Information Governance Engagement Area.

It's a great time to be in e-discovery

Durbin Calls for Inspector General Investigation of Torture Memos
But Durbin says the emphasis should be on those who authorized the activity. He explains: "Under U.S. law, command responsibility is a well-established theory of liability that covers those who authorize violations of law."

And accordingly, Durbin writes that he will ask the Justice Department’s Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility "to investigate the conduct of Justice Department officials who advised the CIA that waterboarding is lawful."

Entire firms will be built on investigating the actions of the last eight years. We could be treated to the spectacle of government contractors investigating each other, or at least supplying the consulting and litigation support services to do so.

I look foward to new technologies in evidence recovery, search, and content management.

The next decade will be a great time for government IT reporters, as they will have the best insight and ability to explain all this to the general public.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Presto Vivace! Live in Concert! Feb. 12

Greater Baltimore Technology Council

The ROI of Social Media

February 12, 2008
7:30 a.m. - 8:15 a.m. Networking & Continental Breakfast
8:15 a.m. -9:30 a.m. Panel Discussion
BWI Airport Marriott
1743 Nursery Road
Linthicum Hts, MD 21090

Register Today!*
(This event is FREE for GBTC members, $30 for non-members)

You have a Facebook and MySpace account, over 100 connections in LinkedIn and even started a Blog…now what? You’ve joined the Social Media frenzy, but have no idea how to leverage the time spent into dollars earned. How do you justify the resources committed to Social Media? And in the end how do you measure its success?

Join us on February 12th to hear our five panelists answer these questions and more. In a new Meet the Members format, each panelist will present their Best Practices when it comes to Social Media. Be on hand to listen, learn and ask questions. This is an event you can’t afford to miss!


Greg Cangialosi, President, Blue Sky Factory

Jared Goralnick, President, SET Consulting

Alice Marshall, Owner, Presto Vivace

Brian Ocheltree, CEO, PartnerPoint

Catherine Pancake, Director of Account Services,Web Ad.vantage

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Financial blogging

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Bonddad Blog

Calculated Risk

The Housing Bubble

Angry Bear

Security Companies Agree To Testing Standards

IBM, Microsoft, McAfee, Symantec, Trend Micro, and Panda Security are among those in Spain this week hammering out details of the anti-malware group.
Despite their business differences, computer security companies are coming together to standardize testing for anti-malware products and services.

In Bilbao, Spain, on Monday, more than 40 security researchers and anti-malware testers convened to formalize the charter of a new Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organization.

Ultimately this is not a technical problem, it is a legal problem. We will have to do a better job of sending these crooks to jail.

New to me local tech blawgs

From Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice: Unfair Business Practices
This blog focuses on unfair business and trade practices such as business conspiracy, breach of fiduciary duty, misappropriation of proprietary information, fraud, tortious interference with contracts and other unfair business practices that are not neatly defined. Since we are located in Tysons Corner, Virginia, many of the cases discussed will come from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia courts. We hope the reader finds this blog instructive.

Commlaw - Mass Media, Following the Broadcasting Industry

Added to the Tech on the Potomac RSS reader.

ITAA, GEIA to merge

Gautham Nagesh, Government Executive
The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) and the Government Electronics and Information Technology Association (GEIA) announced yesterday that their merger had been approved by both organizations’ boards of directors. The merger is expected to close on April 1.

April fools :)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Why journalism matters, Jerry Bledsoe

Via Ed Cone, Jerry Bledsoe's chilling account of what it is like to live under a death threat, I was particularly struck by the part about the database:
Barrett and Gardner were not big on small talk. They got right down to business. The threat against me had arisen during the course of an investigation, I was told.

"A drug case?" I asked.

It was.

"Well, I probably can tell you who's involved," I said. I gave them names of three people who have been known as long-time drug bosses in Greensboro.

They looked at each other.

"How do you know that?" Gardner asked. "Do you talk to officers, or what?"

I said that I did talk to officers among other things. As it turned out I was right on one of the three people I'd named, but I wouldn't know that for a while.

I was offered no details about the investigation. Nobody said that somebody wanted me dead. That was understood.

Instead, I was told what to look for. If they came, the killers likely would be young black males. I should be watchful for cars with out-of-state tags, particularly from New York.

"I assume it will be a home invasion or a drive-by," I said, and they agreed.

I asked if Rhinoceros Times Editor John Hammer or former Police Chief David Wray were considered to be in danger. Not that Barrett and Gardner were aware of, I was told.

"Is there any connection to Greensboro police officers?" I asked. None that they knew about was the answer.

They had flagged my name in databases so that no law enforcement officers could access information such as my home address, vehicles that were registered in my name or my driver's license bearing my age, height and weight, along with my photo. All of that would be helpful to killers.

I asked Barrett and Gardner if they knew whether anybody already had retrieved information about me, particularly anybody from the Greensboro Police Department. They would check, Barrett said, and let me know

Federal Acquisition Summit

March 19 - 21 2008
Understanding the latest trends in performance based acquisition.

Friday, February 01, 2008

DC Design Talks 2008

February 29, 2008
Just a great one-day web design conference in DC.

DC Tech Events

DC Tech Events has been redesigned, very cool.

The case for social media for Government Contractors

This is a response to Andrew Wright’s Tweet:

@GeoffLiving the gov't contractors I know get so bogged down in RFPs, Soup vehicles, GSA schedules. Until someone demonstrates SM value.....

Government contracting, even more the most sales, is all about relationships. Social media, blogs, microblogging, etc., is an economical way to reinforce existing relationships and establish new ones.

Moreover, as Debbie Weil put it during our appearance on Federal News Radio, it’s all about search. Blogs, even obscure ones, are search engine friendly. Blogging, and linking to partners in your industry, will help build organic search results that are friendly to your company.

Presto Vivace, Inc. will be giving an audio conference on Social Media for Government Contractors on February 22. We look forward to speaking to this blog’s readers.

Technology and activisim

For Peru's Indians, Lawsuit Against Big Oil Reflects a New Era
Environmental groups are going beyond word of mouth and lawsuits to assist indigenous groups.

One day last fall, Guevara Sandi Chimboras was bouncing a pickup truck along a remote oil road near the Achuar community of Jose Olaya. Carrying a digital camera, notepad and a Global Positioning System transceiver donated by the civic group Shinai, Sandi walked through a grassy field to a pool of stagnant water. With a stick, he dug up a clump of glistening, pungent mud, and sniffed.

"The companies say these sites are clean," he said. "They won't believe us without documented photos. With words, they don't believe us."

There are no mass media in the rain forest. But Shinai has translated a U.S.-made documentary about the Achuar's problems into Machiguenga, the language spoken by Indians in southeastern Peru, where a U.S.-backed natural gas project is underway. The group uses DVD players powered by solar panels and generators to show the film to Indians considering agreements with oil companies.

Meanwhile, Google Earth is proving to be an omniscient eye. Peter Kostishack, a Colorado-based rights activist, uses the application to record coordinates and satellite images of rain forest erosion and post them on his blog. With help from the U.S.-based Amazon Conservation Team, Indians in Brazil's Amazon Basin have used Google Earth imagery to spot river discoloration caused by illegal mining operations.

"Many times a company claims natives don't have the technical knowledge to understand that it is doing the best it can, when in fact it may be doing as little as possible," said Bill Powers, chief engineer of E-Tech International, a nonprofit engineering firm based in California that provides Indians with technical expertise.

Technology has drastically lowered the barriers of entry. The implications of this are still being realized.