Thursday, October 30, 2008

Snake oil under color of OSINT

I am learning about Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), which is the analysis of publicly available information to deduce intelligence trends. The CIA has now formally adopted Open Source Intelligence as one of its many tools to be used in defense of national security.

Much that is marketed under color of OSINT is nothing more than snake oil. Every sort of rant, paranoid fantasy, imperial hubris, and just plan racism, is offered up as careful analysis to be considered seriously. We need an aggressive press to sort the wheat from the chaff. Based on recent history, I am not optimistic.

Why Cloud Computing will be a growth sector in a down economy

If you are a systems integrator, you are searching for a way to save your customers money while maintaining profits. In the past your price to your customer included the cost of hardware, software, plus the price of your own custom development and installation. With Cloud Computing you can eliminate the cost of hardware, drastically reduce the cost of software to actual usage, and charge the same for your services. Thus the price you offer your customer is drastically lower while your company’s profits remain the same. There is no wonder why developers are stampeding into the Cloud Computing market.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Words of wisdom from Scott Baradell

PR Tweet of the day: The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said.

This is soooooooo true. It is the most important thing my late father taught me in selling and it is as true in public relations. What people are not saying tells you much more than what they are saying.

There are certain objections prospects raise right before they buy, absence of these questions is a dead give away that they are not seriously considering buying. Lack of follow questions from a reporter is a frequent indicator that they are not seriously interested in the story. The silence tells you so much more than the words.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Three cheers for Josef Ackermann

Wall Street banks in $70bn staff payout
Pay and bonus deals equivalent to 10% of US government bail-out package

Pay plans for bankers have been disclosed in recent corporate statements. Pressure on the US firms to review preparations for annual bonuses increased yesterday when Germany's Deutsche Bank said many of its leading traders would join Josef Ackermann, its chief executive, in waiving millions of euros in annual payouts.

Well done Josef Ackerman, it is nice to know that someone in management has a sense of proportion.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New to me local PR blog

Bulletproof, the blog on crisis communications.

Great moments in government relations PR listing had Barack Obama Halloween mask under 'terrorist'

I have a question for Jeff Bezos, what does a stunt like this do to the image of Amazon? There is a real possibility that not only will Obama win; but that he will win big. So how do you think his supporters feel about Amazon? Can Amazon afford a fight with Obama's supporters? And why would you pick such a fight? What is the upside?

In the event of an Obama victory, what is this going to do to your relations with the new administration?

One more question, are you proud of this stunt?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

e-Discovery; not just for email anymore!

The Big Picture has been following the House Committee on Government Oversight and unearths this little Instant Messaging gem from S&P analysts:
Rahul Dilip Shah: btw: that deal is ridiculous

Shannon Mooney: I know right ... model def does not capture half of the risk

Rahul Dilip Shah: we should not be rating it

Shannon Mooney: we rate every deal

Shannon Mooney: it could be structured by cows and we would rate it

Instant Messaging and social media are going to add a whole new element to records management and e-discovery.

Call for Speakers: Enterprise Search Summit 2009

Deadline November 10, 2008
We are now accepting proposals to speak at Enterprise Search Summit 2009, which will be held May 12-13 in New York. (Pre-conference sessions May 11). Click here to submit a proposal. The deadline for submitting proposals is November 10, 2008.

Author and friend

Internet stukachi

Students Competing For Slots At Elite Colleges Resorting To "Facebook Sabotage"
Students competing to get into the nation's most elite colleges and universities have begun to use sneaky, under-handed tactics involving Facebook, according to a new report from the Chicago Tribune. Via anonymous letters mailed to college admission offices, applicants suggest to admission officers that they check out the photos on a rival's Facebook page before determining whether or not to accept them into the institution. With competition for spots fiercer than ever, the experts cited in that article believe this marks the beginning of a new trend: "Facebook sabotage."

If our institutions of higher learning are permitting themselves to be guided by the Linda Tripps of this world, we are in very serious trouble.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why journalism matters: Nigel Brennan and Amanda Lindhout

Somalia Journos’ Kidnapping: Inside Job Rumor Persists

Two months ago two foreign journalists and their Somali colleagues were abducted while reporting on refugees outside Mogadishu. Aussie Nigel Brennan and Canadian Amanda Lindhout and as many as three Somalis were grabbed on the heavily traveled Afgooye Road, apparently under the noses of Ethiopian troops. My friend Mohamed Omar Hussein, a reporter in Mogadishu, relayed rumors that the grab was an inside job — that the journos’ bodyguards, provided by the popular Shamo Hotel, perhaps were behind the crime.

All our prayers for their safe return.

How not to use FaceBook

Aaron Brazell
The spam is a nifty little trick where you publish an event, group or picture of a product, service or event. Pretty typical Facebook activity, really.

Spamming PR people then use Facebook’s “tag” feature, something that is more in context for photos where you can tag someone that is in the photo and they receive a notification that they’ve been tagged. People like me are tagged in Facebook content where we have no context with the expectation that we will be notified of the content (event, whatever) and will click through and maybe cover their product.

So. Not. Cool.

This flack doesn't have a FaceBook account; but as I am in the custom of aggressively tagging things on every topic on which they could conceiveably be searched, this is the sort of error I might have made. Not now. Thank you Brazell for explaining why this is not such a hot idea.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New to me local tech blog

Semprebon on Software; The search for better software development tools and techniques

Developing secure software for Macs

10 Things I Learned from C4[2]
Security is scary, but not as scary as not succeeding.

There was a wild presentation on security that said: don’t pretend to be a security expert. Stick to using the Keychain or bcrypt for passwords, use openssl or gpg. Don’t use installers or open up listeners on ports. Don’t write directly into the DOM. But all of that doesn’t matter if your business doesn’t succeed if you don’t have a nice looking application and it is unstable or slow. Also, filter user-supplied content and write a fuzzer for the content you accept. Make sure you have a security contact, use a crash reporter, and use auto-update securely. Finally, turn off Java in your web browser to prevent against some of the newer, crazier attacks like GIFAR.

Good to know that Mac developers are not complacent about security.

Monday, October 20, 2008

In praise of user groups

Alan Pelz-Sharpe
At user group meetings you get the Real Story, you talk to your peers. Whereas at the vendor's own annual event, you endure hours of sales pitches, and ecstatic announcements of new bells and whistles to come in the next release. Of course few people really care that much about the next release; they care about getting value from the release they currently use, typically some version well behind the latest.

I think for tech flacks, user groups are indispensable. This is the ultimate audience for your press releases. This is how you learn about your customer's customer.

Social media is NOT free

Jennifer Leggio has an interesting post on social media; but I have to disagree with this assertion:
Can you do any of this for free? Are there people on your team or other teams who are social media savvy who would love the visibility of a cutting edge project?

This flack
is on record as recommending that companies encourage their employees to participate in social media and frequently holds up the Microsoft bloggers as an example. But this is not free, it is an additional duty for these workers for which they should receive recognition.

The job of the social media consultant is to help develop a company blogging policy (explaining what is meant by don't be stupid), provide tips for blogging platforms, and, most critically, monitoring the blogosphere to alert the company of any controversy they need to respond to and what that response should be.

However, I love the quote from Tony Hsieh of, “We don’t really think of social media as a marketing channel; that would be kind of like asking about ROI on answering phones.”

New Media for Small Business video conference

Small business video conference from Network Solutions
Network Solutions is producing the Solutions Stars Video Conference on October 29 at 1 p.m. This free video conference aims to provide insights and online marketing tips to small businesses. It will be of great service to small businesses, particularly now that the economy has gotten tough, and it’s not as easy to attend a conference in person.

They have a great line up, check it out.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The coming boom in criminal justice IT

Cash crunch could result in more corruption cases

“We’ve seen the high-water mark for [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] cases,” said Steven Tyrrell, chief of the Justice Department’s fraud section, speaking at a Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association conference today. “[But] I believe we have yet to reach the crest of the wave.”

While the current credit crisis, and the lawsuits and prosecutions related to it, may produce a crop of additional FCPA cases, Mr. Tyrrell noted the recent boom of sovereign wealth funds is an area of particular interest to the Justice Department, though it has not yet garnered any definitive cases.

Desperate men will do desperate things.

Anonymice strike again

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
You have no law we need take notice of.

Associated Press: FBI investigates ACORN for voter fraud
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Justice Department regulations forbid discussing ongoing investigations particularly so close to an election.

The Justice Department officials knew that they were breaking the law by leaking this to the Associated Press, and the reporter knew that she was collaborating in a crime by running the story. What's next? Are we going to blow a CIA case officer's cover? Oh right ...

How to increase the impact of your monthly meeting


We are all TV producers now.

New launches in online advertising

CMS Wire reports that Google has created an online ad builder that enables advertisers to build their own ads without hiring a professional. I suspect the real skill lies in purchasing the right key words.

Impelsys is now offering a new content management system for selling print content online: iPublishCentral.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Al Gore's movie

Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, has succeeded in transforming our national conversation more than I thought possible. CNET has an entire Green Technology section. Any chance that would have happened absent his movie?

More marketing with video on the web

Lewis Shepherd has a intriguing post on Microsoft's new Touchless software, which has a nifty video explaining the concept.

Clearly all new product launches are going to require a video. One more skill to be learned.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dept. of irresponsible allegations

Kurt Cagle throws around some wild accusations in his XBRL column.
While there are many culprits to blame in this (and its easy to blame anyone and everyone) one group of individuals that are getting especially heavy scrutiny are the banking regulators. It is very likely that some corruption exists here - suborning the regulatory mechanism is the very first step necessary in order to make the kind of deals that ultimately led to the financial collapse possible, and there is no doubt that more than a few regulators should probably be wearing prison orange jumpsuits right now.

And the evidence for that would be? Truly, before you start throwing that sort of allegation around you need to be able to document it chapter and verse. Did the regulators fail to uphold the law? Or was the law bent by their political masters? We will need a detailed analysis of the financial follies of the last decade in order to know who needs to be held accountable.

John Stewart on the blame game

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The public relations of high profile litigation

This blog has been on record for years that the growth sectors of our profession will be those which cope with the aftermath of the misconduct, political and financial, of the past eight years.

While this blogger has no personal experience in legal public relations, some things are clear. The ideal is to fight your case in court; the reality is that what happens in the courthouse is greatly affected by the larger debate. Indeed, which controversies explode into full scale legal investigations, and which deflate will, in part, be driven by public relations. No one should think that aggressive PR can fend off potential prosecution, but it can avert fishing expeditions. In the event of investigations, or high profile congressional inquiries, good PR can minimize the damage. Console yourself with the thought that there will be so many controversies in the future that yours may be relegated to sideshow status.

First, do an internal review. What part of your present operation is likely to attract unwelcome attention? Those of the things that need to change before Henry Waxman hauls you before the cameras to berate you. Review your records management policy and be sure it can cope with the revised rules of civil procedure. It is probably advisable that you set up a meeting with your internal PR spokesman, corporate council, and CIO.

Make your friends before you need them. This blogger assumes you have a PR effort that is cultivating the reporters in your field; be sure to include a social media component to that. I recommend encouraging your employees to blog, Tweet, or participate in whatever social media attracts them. The role of house PR should be to monitor social media along with the traditional media to spot relevant trends and discussion lines.

In the event of controversy your first job is to get the facts out as soon as is consistent with accuracy. Your corporate website has a news section doesn’t it? You do post your press releases in HTML as opposed to PDF right? You do have an RSS feed on the news section of your corporate website? All these things will be critical in the event of a high profile controversy.

In the event of litigation, consider establishing an online library of the public documents connected to the case. If you choose this route you must include all the public documents in the case as a carefully edited selection will invite ridicule. A comprehensive collection of the documents tells the general public that you consider the facts to support your company.

Litigation support: growth sector of IT

Via Gabe's Guide:
Subprime mess sends number of fraud lawsuits higher
Investors sued 110 companies for alleged stock fraud in the first half of this year, up from 107 in the previous six months, according to a study released Tuesday by the Stanford Law School Securities Class Action Clearinghouse and Cornerstone Research. About half of the suits included claims related to subprime and other credit losses, the authors of the study said.

Subprime fiasco keeping class action lawyers busy

SEC to Examine Subprime Accounting

Accounting software and criminal justice IT should also see substantial growth.


Note - Gabe's Guide and Kevin LaCroix take a similar view.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ultra cool DARPA request for proposal

DARPA calls for help in designing submersible aircraft
October 9, 2008 (Computerworld) It may sound like something out of a James Bond movie, but the U.S. military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is putting out the call for researchers to come up with a design for a submersible aircraft.

Yup, you read it right. DARPA, a research branch of the U.S. Department of Defense, is looking for someone to prove that a vehicle can be built that will fly, as well as maneuver underwater.

The call for research went out earlier this month, and initial proposals are due by 4 p.m. EST on Dec. 1

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Someone is spoofing the FDIC

This morning's mail brought a missive allegedly from the FDIC asking me to use a link to check my account. Obviously I realized the FDIC does not send email about such matters.

I contacted the FDIC by phone and was assured that they were aware of the scam and were in the process of shutting it down.

The Federal government takes an extremely dim view of this sort of fraud. I predict the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

Edit -
FDIC Consumer Alerts

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Understanding our economic situation

This is a public relations/marketing/technology blog. Rather than attempt to offer any insight I will just offer my preferred sources of economic and financial news:

The Levy Institute

The bonddad blog

The Housing Bubble

Nouriel Roubini's Global EconoMonitor

Calculated Risk

All of these sources predicted the real estate and related credit crash years before it finally happened.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Email, it always comes back to email

And, to be sure, fraud is everywhere. It's in the loan application documents, and it's in the appraisals. There are e-mails and memos floating around showing that many people in banks, investment banks and appraisal companies - all the way up to senior management - knew about it.

It's a great time to be in e-discovery and litigation support.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Why you should read that boring press release redux

Reading Aaron Brazell’s Twitter feed this morning, I was reminded of this previous post.

Let me begin by stating what I consider the role of flacks and the role of hacks.

The role of flacks is to present our client’s message to the public in a way that is compelling, relevant, and persuasive. That means we must do our best to identify the columnists, reporters, bloggers, and all other influencers relevant to our client’s business. We must do our best to understand the preferences and idiosyncrasies of these influencers. Do they prefer email, web form, or are they one of those rare individuals who actually prefer phone pitches (yes, there are some). It is our obligation to build as many relationships as we can with these influencers. That is what our clients pay us for.

It is the role of the hack to provide interesting, compelling and relevant information to their readers. It is their prerogative to determine what constitutes relevant, how they wish to receive that information and who they wish to receive it form. Flacks have no choice but to respect that. We are the least important player in all of this.

As Brian Morrissey observes, “pretty tired of vendors who think i'm here to advertise their 'new solutions' under the guise of news.”

Hacks have the obligation to put their readers first. Readers don’t care about a hack’s relationship with their sources. Where the information came from has no relevance, save that it is true and relevant. Even if the press release is clearly self serving and comes from a flack who is a complete stranger; it may still be worth a glance. Remember, the reader doesn’t care about your relationship with your sources.

BusinessWire is listed as a top sources on TechMeme’s Leaderboard. Clearly many readers are interested in what flacks have to say. In a world of Google news alerts there is no distinction between a news organization and an online press release. According to an Outsell study, over 51% of IT professionals reported that they get their news from press release. If our writing were so boring and irrelevant, we would not have so many readers.

I write this not merely out of self-interest to encourage hacks to read Presto Vivace press releases. The reason I write this is because I think the great blunders of contemporary journalism stem at least in part, because of journalists who put relationships before readers. (I wish to specifically exclude Brazell from this; but feel that this is such a slippery slope that I must speak out.)

If the only sources you are willing to use are those who took the trouble to build a relationship with you, then the only news you are going to hear is from corporations and other organizations that can support the cost of building those relationships and you will only hear their point of view. That attitude has not been good for journalism or our country. Indeed it can be deadly. Readers are best served by hacks who remain open to all sources and are willing to bear the burden of separating the wheat from the chaff.

Malware Challenge

Technical OSINT innovation contest: the 2008 Malware Challenge
While the worlds of most OSINT analysts do not typically overlap with those working in the more rarified fields of digital network intelligence, forensic analysis, and network warfare, there are a highly specialized subset that may be interested in testing their skills as part of a challenge of their own. While clearly not as high profile as the recent DNI OSINT contest, the 2008 Malware Challenge promises interesting responses of its own.

Malware Challenge

The 2008 Information Security Summit

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Little considered aspect of Software as a Service

Making technology investments in tough times
Some commentators have opined that more customers will turn to SaaS-based solutions inasmuch as the cash crunch will hit buyers' capital ("CapEx") budgets first. If that's the case with you, you'll want to weigh reduced initial cash outlays against potentially higher operating costs on a long-term basis under a SaaS model. Depending on the type of service provider, you're shifting at least part of the capital burden to your SaaS vendor, so you'll want to weigh their liquidity very carefully.

More generally, it's prudent to examine the financial health of all your major technology suppliers, current and prospective. We've always counseled looking more closely at balance sheets rather than profit-and-loss statements. Many vendors still remain cash-rich, even as they become customer-poor. I'm no financial expert, but I'd value short-term assets over things like "goodwill."

Keep in mind that bigger does not always mean more solvent.

Industry analysts in the age of Google

I have been in the Enterprise software business for over 25 years and I was listening to a Stanford Thought Leadership podcast recently by Tien Tzuo, one of the pioneers of This got me to thinking about the change since the mid 1990’s and today and is Google now more relevant than Gartner for enterprise software. In the 1990’s there was a disconnect between product development and sales that fed into “the complexity machine”. There was a lack of product information and access to product. To discover a new product and work through the complexity machine to get “the new top ten” you went to Gartner. There was no other choice.

The world has changed. The Internet has made access to information and product ubiquitous. Think about Wikipedia and iTunes. Today, to discover a product you go to Google. To get information you rely on the wisdom of crowds not the high priests of complexity. People are turning away from “the complexity machine” and rewarding simplicity, value and transparency. Tools such as Google trends in real-time show market trends, masses of blogs offer information. Ranking and access allows good information to rise to the top. This is what has driven the success of Wikipedia vs. Encyclopedia Britannica. This new world also offers transparency. Research should publically show the categories on how a product is ranked. The score and weightings should also be publicly available. This is the new world of transparency for banks governments and the Internet.

I would argue that Wikipedia beat Encyclopedia Britannica on price. But I think there is something to his larger point. A person's first inquiry begins with Google, so those first ten results shape the industry. Search engine visibility is vital. Just one more reason your employees should be encouraged to blog.

FOSE 2009 Open for Registration

FOSE 2009 is Open for Registration. Are you planning to exhibit? If so, NOW is the time to plan your FOSE publicity effort. Reporters appointment books fill up months in advance.

MySQL Conference Opens its Call for Papers

MySQL Conference & Expo
Sun and O'Reilly Media are looking for great presenters for the 2009 MySQL Conference & Expo, scheduled for April 20-23, in Santa Clara, California.

Deadline runs through midnight October 22, 2008.