Wednesday, April 30, 2008

National Contract Management Association in denial

Contractors are here to stay By Florence Olsen
When presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) declared in 2007 that she would eliminate 500,000 federal contractors if elected president, some policy experts said she couldn't’t do it. One of those experts was Steven Schooner, senior associate dean of academic affairs and associate professor of law at George Washington University.

Whether the federal government relies too much on contractors is an interesting — but irrelevant — philosophical, public policy and moral question, Schooner said in an interview.

Putting aside the merits of Clinton's proposal, the fact that she has made it is evidence that federal contractors in general, and security contractors in particular, have become so unpopular with the public that there are votes to be had by attacking them. When your community has sunk to political whipping boy status, it is time to rethink your approach to the world. Something isn't working.

Schooner's casual and condescending dismissal of Clinton's proposal is a study in hubris. What politicians can do politicians can undo. Clearly the National Contract Management Association thought it was in their interest to not just release Schooner's statement, but promote it.

The National Contract Management Association needs to recognize the public outrage of the documented incidents of contractor misconduct and acknowledge that their might be very good reason for such outrage. Their members might begin with a Google search on their company's name and see what turns up. That first page of results, that is what the online world thinks of you. If you don't like it you need to take action. Patronizing statements from tenured university professors will only make things worse in the present environment.

Lurita Doan resigns from GSA

Lurita Doan resigns as GSA administrator

What took so long? Too many other scandals distracting the White House?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Excellent advice from BL Ochman

BL Ochman
be nice to bloggers when they call you, even if you don't know who they are. better yet, google their name while on the phone

There is no such thing as an unimportant person. If you make a practice of being nice, you won't have to make a special effort when you deal with a big short, be they media or otherwise.

After your front operation is exposed

DoD Suspends Military 'Media Analysts' Program
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon has suspended a public affairs program that has come under fire for using retired military "media analysts" as surrogates to get out its messages on the Iraq war, a spokesman confirmed April 28.

Let's hope the program will end, rather than be "re-branded."

Of course, in a country where a defense contractor owns a news network, I am not sure how much difference this makes.

It has got to be embarrassing to be caught in something like this.

Local venture funding

Venture Funding Rises 13.9% in Region
Venture capitalists invested $264.6 million in the Washington area in the first three months of 2008, up 13.9 percent from the comparable period a year earlier, according to a MoneyTree report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. The report was based on data from Thomson Reuters.

"In spite of strong headwinds, the venture market is still pretty robust," said Don Rainey, a general partner with Vienna-based Grotech Ventures, a venture capital firm. "It is doing well locally."

May it be a sign of things to come.

The problem with people search

Paul Taylor of the Financial Times
Imagine my surprise (and dismay) when I found my photograph, taken at a technology conference, alongside stories about a man of the same name, born in the same Liverpool suburb, who had been sent to prison for a racially motivated murder.

The unfortunate juxtaposition, which came to light as I was testing a new “people search” service called Spock (, was quickly remedied, but it underscores the importance of monitoring one’s online identity or digital persona – particularly if your name is not unusual.

People search companies need to do a better job of avoiding mistaken matches.

Taylor's article goes on to discuss some handy tools:

Cofusing economic power with political authority

When Young Teachers Go Wild on the Web
It's almost like Googling someone: Log on to Facebook. Join the Washington, D.C., network. Search the Web site for your favorite school system. And then watch the public profiles of 20-something teachers unfurl like gift wrap on the screen, revealing a sense of humor that can be overtly sarcastic or unintentionally unprofessional -- or both.

Unless an employee's online activities involve the employer, a hands off policy is the most prudent course of action. If an employer has a policy of firing workers for online activity, then it could be argued that they are liable for the online activity for those they did not fire. An employer with a hands off policy for off-site activities is in a strong position to deny any liability.

In a free society employers do not have the right to limit an employee's speach. If this changes we would no longer be a free society. That would be a shame, a real shame.

note - as to the gender attitudes contained in the article, well, it is no mystery why The Washington Post has difficulty attracting female readers.

The energy sector, PR and economic indicators

New Global Research Shows Exxon–Mobil Ranks Low on Transparency — Revenue Leader is Most 'Secretive' of Oil and Gas Companies
The world's largest energy group, Exxon–Mobil, is as secretive as its Russian and Chinese rivals, new research has suggested. Transparency International evaluated the reporting practices of 42 oil and gas firms including payments made to resource–rich countries. Exxon was the least transparent along with China's CNOOC and Russia's Lukoil. Transparency International, which targets corruption, is a global network across more than 90 countries. It said the lack of transparency can cause corruption and hurt the poor, BBC News reports.

In response to the report, Exxon says it was committed to honest and ethical behavour and opposed corruption. The firm said it, along with other members of the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers, disagreed with the report's methodology.

The report ranked BP, the UK's largest firm, as "medium" for revenue transparency. Anglo–Dutch firm Shell was classed as "high" for transparency along with Brazilian firm Petrobras.

It's never a good thing when your firm's lack of transparency is compared to that of the Russians and Chinese.

Big oil boosts buy-backs in absence of new investments

Rising nationalism, insufficient talent and scarce supplies are limiting investment opportunities for the world's major oil companies, leading them to increase share buybacks, said Jim Mulva, chief executive of ConocoPhillips. ...

... "One could argue that companies spending this amount of money buying back stocks are slowly liquidating themselves," said Robin West, chairman of PFC Energy, the consultancy.

At a time of record gas prices, this is not reassuring.

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Case for 2008
It is conventional wisdom for most of the people following the peak oil story that we still have a few years to go before the real troubles begin. Some say 2011, others 2015 or later, but in general, among those calculating the depletion vs. new supply balance most have been talking about troubles starting in years rather than months.

Let’s ponder for a second the meaning of “peak oil.” Ever since the concept was invented some 50 years ago, peak oil has meant the point in time when world oil production increases to a level that never again will be reached. For most of us, however, peak oil will not be a point on a government chart, but will be the day when we drive up to a gas station and find the tanks empty, restrictions on how much we can buy, or more likely a price that makes us realize our lifestyles are going to change. We can no longer afford to use our cars in the manner that we have been doing all our lives.

In recent weeks there have been developments suggesting that the troubles associated with peak oil may be coming faster than many realize.

Time to find some new energy experts.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Washington Post/ Washington Business Journal

I am in the preliminary process of analyzing my reader survey of favorite sources on tech news. The good news for The Washington Post is that they are a favorite source of technology news, only CNET had an equal number of respondents. The bad news for the Washington Business Journal is that not a single respondent named them, even though it was a prompted response.

The Washington Business Journal concentrates too much on venture capital and merger and acquisition and too little on technology itself to attract readers. The subscription wall is also a huge barrier for a technology audience. With all of the IT trade press offering free access, it is a little difficult to persuade techies to pay for a subscription.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Business practices and computer security

Jeremy Kirk interviews Bruce Schnier
So what do you think is the biggest threat right now

Schneier: Crime.

So how do you fix it? It's expensive to investigate, it's cross-jurisdictional.

Schneier: It might not be fixable. A lot of [the solution] is going to be making the things that criminals are going after harder to get. You're not going to stop the criminals. But in the United States, it's really easy to get a credit card in someone else's name. The credit card companies like it that way. So a lot of it is looking at how the criminals are attacking things and making it harder to attack them. The brokerage companies want it to be easy for you to log on and make trades. Make it harder, and the businesses don't like that.

They're afraid they're going to drive away customers.

Schneier: Of course. If I strip search you before you go into the bank, you might change branches. In the U.S., the government doesn't have the balls to require stuff like [stronger authentication]. You've got to make the banks responsible for losses. The brokerage company has to [reimburse] me if I didn't make the trade. Period. End of sentence.

That's how you fix it. Because then, my brokerage is going to start buying security, otherwise they won't. The basic rule of security: You make the entity in the best position to mitigate the risk, responsible for the risk. Make them responsible. They'll figure it out. That's how capitalism works.

I had a similar take on spam and the issuance of merchant accounts:
Nothing in this writer’s research has explained why VISA, Mastercard, et al, tolerate spammers. Without credit cards spamming would not be possible. So why do these companies traffic with such operators? We need to make this a customer relations issue.

Senate hearing on Net Neutality

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is having a hearing on the Future of the Internet. I am following the proceedings on Twitter.

Edit -
CNet reports on the morning's proceedings. EWeek says that FCC Chair Martin accused Comcast of widespread throttling. IP Democracy has a similar account. Save the Internet focuses on the testimony of representatives of the Writers Guild. Technology Liberation Front dismisses the Writers Guild representatives as celebrities.

Monday, April 21, 2008

New to me local tech blog

powdermonkey - Grinding together ideas, technology and information

added to the Tech on the Potomac RSS reader.

Online advertising: standards needed

Measurement: 'Further Than Nowhere, Less Than Somewhere'
The lack of a standard is a big problem. It's creating confusion and an aversion to spending. According to Booz Allen Hamilton, 98% of media executives say this deficiency is inhibiting marketers from spending more on digital.
(Via Steve Rubel.)

I am glad to know that they industry is aware of the problem and at least moving towards a solution. If writers are to be paid, online advertising needs to expand. Advertisers need to have some from of reliable measurement and there needs to be an end to sleazy practices.

Why you need a PR pro to pitch your stories

Because bloggers and journalists are real prima donnas about how they get their pitches. If you don't pitch it exactly the way they want it, into the trash bin, real or cyber, with your story.

Now small businesses and start ups, the ones most likely to have actual news, don't have time to keep up with everyone's personal preferences. That is why they need a PR agency with experience with traditional and new media. But from a reader's point of view it isn't very edifying and if I were a technology reporter I would repress the urge to explain how to kiss up to me and the necessity of doing so.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Insulting the public, ripping off advertisers

When Monetizing ISP Traffic Goes Horribly Wrong
In seeking to further monetize Web site traffic on their networks, a number of major Internet service providers may be inadvertently exposing their customers to a greater risk of online attack from identity thieves, according to research released today.

Many ISPs have already adopted the controversial practice of serving advertisements when a customer tries to browse to a Web site that does not exist. But a growing number of providers also are serving ad-filled pages when customers request a subdomain of a Web site that does not exist, such as This practice, which experts say potentially introduces new copyright violation claims, also potentially introduces security threats when ISPs outsource the ad-serving process to third parties.

Paying per click sounds like a great bargain until you start to consider all the negative associations that can arise from your company's name placed in negative context. When you lose control of ad placement, you lose control of your marketing message. The same companies who are adamant that their advertisement not appear opposite of a negative story about them or a positive story about the competitor, or their competitor's ad, are perfectly happy to buy paid search advertising that may place their company's name in the most appalling context. Sometimes a bargain is no bargain.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Coin operated experts

Lawrence Lessig coins a brilliant phrase in talking about the coin operated experts which are so plentiful in our nation's capitol during his testimony to the FCC on the subject of net neutrality.

Clue to Lessig: e2e may be a cute logo for end-to-end, but take it from a professional communicator, it is just one more buzzword that confuses the public, and confusion is what the opponents of net neutrality are counting on.

The Washington Post and Arts Technica report on the day's proceedings. Strangely Silicon Valley Watcher is silent, as is Tech Crunch.

Open Office XML, a Potemkin standard?

At last night’s meeting of the DC XML Users group I asked what they thought of the controversy surrounding the International Standards Organization adoption of OOXML. There was general agreement that the ISO had not covered itself in glory and that its reputation has taken a major hit. Someone mentioned this post by Tim Bray -
The important thing is this: The ISO Delta is completely irrelevant to the marketplace. It is not implemented in the shipping Microsoft products. Microsoft may choose to implement some portion of it in some future release of some product, or they may not. Given Office’s release and adoption cycle, it’s very unlikely that any pieces of the delta they decide to implement will be widely deployed in anything less than five years.

Thus, if you write OOXML software and you generate ISO-Delta markup, it won’t be usable by the deployed base of software. In fact, we have no information as to how gracefully Office will react; will it bypass such markup or explode messily? I’m not optimistic. So, implementors should not generate ISO-Delta markup.

If Bray is correct, the whole purpose of a standards organization has been defeated. It is a shame, a real shame.

Measuring online influence

This blog has 201 subscribers on Feedburner, and 104 on Bloglines. As of today it has Technorati authority of 53. According to Blogpulse it has a rank of 2435. I have 14 fans on my network, 13 friends in Digg, and 2 friends on Slashdot. My Twitter feed has 204 followers.

Try to think how many meetings you would have to attend to build the same number of relationships. This is the power of online communications. It is a time efficient way to build relationships. It offers readers a low key way to get to know you. That, in brief, is the power of business blogging.

Are ISP's injecting ads into web pages viewed by their customers?

ISPs Meddled With Their Customers' Web Traffic, Study Finds
About one percent of the Web pages being delivered on the Internet are being changed in transit, sometimes in a harmful way, according to researchers at the University of Washington.

In a paper, set to be delivered Wednesday, the researchers document some troubling practices. In July and August they tested data sent to about 50,000 computers and discovered that a small number of Internet service providers (ISPs) were injecting ads into Web pages on their networks. They also found that some Web browsing and ad-blocking software was actually making Web surfing more dangerous by introducing security vulnerabilities into pages.

"The Web is a lot more wild than we originally expected," said Charles Reis , a PhD student at the University of Washington who co-authored the paper.

From a Internet user's point of view this really stinks. If you are a publisher, it is a very serious matter that someone is using your content to sell advertising and not compensating you.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Supporting Universal Business with Open Standards Meeting

NEXT Friday, April 25, 2008, 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

As an opportunity to introduce Document Engineering Services, we would like to invite you to be our guest at a free seminar on "Supporting Universal Business with Open Standards". This is an opportunity to hear about exciting new developments as well as international projects that use open standards for e-government and electronic business. Specifically:

* the business aspects of open standards
* the European Government e-Procurement Interoperability project
* management and governance challenges in universal business applications
* the document exchange standards landscape

Speakers include:

* Tim McGrath,the Managing Director of Document Engineering Services and author of "Document Engineering: analysing and designing document for business informatics and web services"
* Jon Bosak, Distinguished Engineer,Corporate Standards Office of Global Government Strategy, Sun Microsystems and Chair of the OASIS Universal Business Language (UBL) Technical Committee. He organized and led the working group that created XML and served for two years as chair of the W3C XML Coordination Group.
* Michael P. Onder, USDOT-Federal Highway Administration.

NIST seeks comments on revision of risk management framework

Government Computer News
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has released a second draft of Special Publication 800-39, titled “Managing Risk from Information Systems: An Organizational Perspective,” for public comment.

NIST calls the document the flagship publication in the standards and guidelines it is developing under the Federal Information Security Management Act. It provides a framework for managing the risk to organizational operations and assets, individuals, other organizations, and the nation resulting from the use of information systems. It builds on a foundation of best security practices for agency leaders, chief information officers, information system designers, developers and administrators, auditors, and inspectors general.

The current version of the document contains significant changes based on feedback on the first draft, released last fall. Comments on the current draft are being accepted at until April 30.

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

Great moments in government procurement

OMB issues records management guidance
When agencies build or purchase new information technology systems, they should make records management and archiving capabilities be part of the system, decreed the Office of Management and Budget earlier this month in a memo signed by Karen Evans, OMB’s administrator for e-government and information technology.

The memo also suggested purchasing such software through the General Services Administration's SmartBUY program.

There's one small problem, according to Tony Byrne, who runs CMS Watch, an analyst firm for enterprise content management software. Namely, there is only one records management product on the SmartBUY list, from a company called Meridio, now owned by Autonomy. And Byrne writes that while it does records management, it is not a full archiving solution (a charge the company disputes, see below).

Congratulations Autonomy.

Preserving Government Records

Panel would reform records storage
“Too often over the past several years, our investigations have revealed weaknesses in government preservation of e-mail that could leave substantial gaps as future historians examine White House and agency decision-making,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the committee's chairman and one of the bill’s sponsors, in announcing the legislation.

In a related development, preliminary findings from the Government Accountability Office released today summarized a survey of recordkeeping processes at four agencies. Although the agencies generally met NARA's statutory requirements, its policies were not always followed, GAO auditors said.

“The loss of documents and information through indifference should be viewed with as much alarm as their loss through a system breach,” said Patrice McDermott, director of, in her opening statement for a hearing set for today by a subcommittee that deals with federal information policies and issues. After a series of votes delayed lawmakers, the session was postponed indefinitely.

Little progress has been made in electronic records management across the federal government, McDermott said, and “we repeatedly have to relearn the lesson, apparently, that servers and backup tapes are not appropriate records management systems.”

It is unclear whether we need to relearn that lesson or whether the Bush White House chose not to learn that lesson.

1105 Rising Star Nominations 2008

The Deadline is May 2
The Rising Star Awards program recognizes young people in the government information technology community -- government or industry -- who have made a difference in their agencies or the community in the past 12 to 18 months.

There is no age limit. However, the program is aimed at individuals who are in the first third of their careers.

The award recognizes specific accomplishments, but the goal is to highlight people who have the potential to contribute to the government IT community in years to come -- true rising stars.

Rising Star Award winners will be honored at a lunch this summer. They also will be featured in one of three 1105 Government Information Group publications, depending on their field of expertise: FCW for policy/management; GCN for technology; and Washington Technology for industry.

Advice to contractors: nominate your customer.
Advice to trade associations: nominate someone who works well with your industry.
Advice to managers: nominate your staff.
Advice to politicians: nominate someone on your staff or someone in the civil service who made you look good.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Blowing smoke on net neutrality

Baltimore Business Journal
"Why should I have to pay a special higher premium toll for something that's basically essential to my business?" said Miller, now president of the D.C.-based Career College Association.

But that's already happening on the Internet, argued Bill McComas, a technology lawyer at Baltimore firm Shapiro Sher Guinot & Sandler. Companies commonly pay for what is known as search-engine optimization -- in which that fee allows their Web site to become a more popular result in a Web search.

What McComas is referring to is search engine optimization, which is entirely separate from net neutrality. Search engine optimization has to do with designing your website in such a way as to make it accessible to search engine spiders. Net neutrality has to do with with Internet Service Providers treating all web traffic the same. The best way to take something away from the public is to convince the public it is already gone. By conflating net neutrality with search engine optimization, McComas clearly hopes to confuse the public. The question is, can he get away with it?

BarCamp: Social Develpment Camp East

May 10 2008
SocialDevCampEast is the Unconference for Developers of the Future Social Web

Where is the social web going? It's going mobile, to geocentric services, and to open platforms. Join a community of like-minded developers for an unconference to discuss the future of the social web.

We're looking for thought leaders from DC to Boston to meet, forge relationships, and envision the future.

How to get the CFO to Fund an Electronic Records Management System

NCC AIIM May monthly meeting

Speaker: William E. Neale,
IBM Enterprise Content Management

We have all become familiar with justifying Electronic Records Management Systems (ERMS) using risk and compliance requirements for the primary business case – which often does not work until too late, after a major disaster or litigation.

Mr. Bill Neale, long known in the metro DC and Richmond area for his work in ARMA and AIIM, offers this unique presentation of a practical business case for ERMS Discover how the implementation of an ERMS system, including business process management (BPM), not only reduces risk, enables compliance, and improves organizational processes and collaboration, but how it also generates true business value leading to a tangible ROI. Learn how to reduce the future cost of compliance and recordkeeping using ECM and BPM to build a cost effective, enterprise-wide records program.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Open letter to my RSS subscribers

According to Feedburner, 229 readers subscribe to this blog, 104 readers subscribe on Bloglines. Preliminary results tell me that very few of you have taken my survey on your favorite sources of tech news. Please do.

While not scientific, this survey is my annual snapshot of where readers get their tech news. It helps me to serve clients. The feedback will help all of us to better understand our community.

Please take my survey.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What is your favorite source of Tech News?

Once again I am taking a reader survey to find out my readers' favorite source of technology news -
Click Here to take survey

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dept. of burnt bridges

Company Sells Access to Behind-the-Scenes Wal-Mart Footage
Flagler Productions, who recorded countless hours of internal Wal-Mart meetings from the 1970s through 2006, was fired two years ago. While that move effectively cut off most of the company's revenue stream, Flagler discovered there are actually plenty of people out there interested in viewing such material -- especially if it involves managers prancing about in drag at an executive meeting. According to the AP, Flagler is charging $250 an hour to outside parties for "video research" and additional fees for a DVD copy of film clips.

Flagler better hope the DVD sales go well; because who is going to hire them after they burn a client like that? Walmart is vulnerable to this sort of thing because of its protracted labor dispute. At some point you have to ask, wouldn't it be better business to sign a union contract and be done with this?

Security Outlook

In 2006 the Dept. of Defense banned the use of Outlook Web Access and HTML email. This is why.

Great moments in inventory control

Sensitive Military Gear Hawked On eBay, Craigslist
GAO investigators were able to buy two F-14 components from separate sellers, special night-vision goggles, body armor vests, and body armor protective plates.

I trust we will be hearing more about this.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

For your next event

About Ustream.TV
Ustream.TV is the live interactive video broadcast platform that enables anyone with a camera and an Internet connection to quickly and easily broadcast to a global audience of unlimited size. In less than two minutes, anyone can become a broadcaster by creating their own channel on Ustream or by broadcasting through their own site, empowering them to engage with their audience and further build their brand.

Technosailor broadcast the last DC Social Media Club meeting. I can see how this could be used by millions of groups to increase their reach.

A most unusual call for participation

Get Paid to Find 'Back Doors'
A security research and training group is offering up to $20,000 in grants to anyone with computer programming chops who can help locate and close hidden "back doors" in commercial hardware and software.

According to the Bethesda, Md.-based SANS Institute -- the group offering the grants, hundreds of millions of devices -- from printers to Internet routers and storage systems -- are being placed on networks with built-in back doors. Software and hardware makers have for years quietly built these remote administration tools into their products, mainly to help customers troubleshoot the devices.

This is an excellent publicity stunt by SANS, and it will be good publicity for any security consultant who wants to participate.

Third party applications on the iPhone

Apple Developer Connection
The Objective-C language is a simple computer language designed to enable sophisticated object-oriented programming. Objective-C is defined as a small but powerful set of extensions to the standard ANSI C language. Its additions to C are mostly based on Smalltalk, one of the first object-oriented programming languages. Objective-C is designed to give C full object-oriented programming capabilities, and to do so in a simple and straightforward way.

For those who have never used object-oriented programming to create applications before, this document is also designed to help you become familiar with object-oriented development. It spells out some of the implications of object-oriented design and gives you a flavor of what writing an object-oriented program is really like.

iPhone SDK Downloads Top 100,000
CUPERTINO, California–March 12, 2008–Apple today announced that more than 100,000 iPhone developers have downloaded the beta iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK) in the first four days since its launch on March 6. The iPhone SDK provides developers with the same rich set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and tools that Apple uses to create its native applications for iPhone and iPod touch.

“Developer reaction to the iPhone SDK has been incredible with more than 100,000 downloads in the first four days,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “Also, over one million people have watched the launch video on, further demonstrating the incredible interest developers have in creating applications for the iPhone.”

In addition to the iPhone Software Developer Kit, Apple has agreed to offer all iPhone Applications through iTunes, thus insuring compliance with iPhone standards and insuring quality control. Apple will not charge developers for applications that are free of charge. Developers who wish to charge for their applications will pay Apple 30% of their retail price in exchange for distribution through iTunes. This is going to be very popular and we will be hearing much more about it.

OpenTheGovernment is a coalition of journalists, consumer and good government groups, environmentalists, library groups, labor and others united to make the federal government a more open place in order to make us safer, strengthen public trust in government, and support our democratic principles.

Governance: is guided by a Steering Committee (members listed below). A subset - the two co-chairs and three steering committee members - are appointed to the Executive Committee which provides day-to-day guidance, as needed, to the Director and assists in the development of an annual budget which is brought before the full committee for approval. Subcommittees include a nominations committee and ad hoc committees and working groups as needed.

They are participating in the StratML committee.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Why standards are newsworthy

There is a demonstration in Oslo against Microsoft's Open Office XML format. A demonstration for crying out loud!

Standards matter. Standard selection is vendor selection; which is why Microsoft has put so much money in persuading the International Standards Organization to accept OOXML.

The Potomac technology community is one of the most influential in standards issues. Even more than money, standards determine the direction of future technology. It is a pity local editors do not understand this.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Congratulations WTOP!

WTOP cracks top ten in revenue
WTOP Radio now ranks as one of the ten highest-grossing radio stations in the nation.

Using blogs to market small buisness

Wall Street Journal
Andrew Milligan was stuck. He had spent $60,000 on trade-show exhibitions and magazine advertising for the bean-bag chairs made by his company, Los Angeles-based Sumo Lounge International, and sales were still languishing at a couple of bean bags a day.

So Mr. Milligan, like many small businesses looking to gain exposure and boost sales, turned to the blogosphere. He sent an email to the popular technology blog, asking the editors to review his product. While they declined that request, they agreed to trade three months of advertising on their site for 20 Sumo bean bags to outfit their new office.

Reaching out to bloggers and social-media sites can help small companies build buzz even when marketing budgets are small. These blogs and books can get you started, says Scott Monty, relationship director in Boston at Crayon, a marketing company.

Within 48 hours of the Sumo ad's appearance on, an editor from Playboy magazine clicked on the ad and liked what he saw. He featured the bean bags in the magazine, and within about a week, Sumo had sold 500 bean bags.

Most of the time the results will not be so dramatic. But the article makes an excellent point that blogs offer an economical way to build an online presence. Blogs have the added benefit of being search engine friendly, so a nice mention on even a small blog, will show up in search results.

Congratulations Washington Post!

The Post Wins 6 Pulitzer Prizes

The Internet, consumer protection, and privacy

FTC Divided Over Online 'Behavioral Targeting'

The Federal Trade Commission recently issued a report on consumer protection and technology that explains how the commission will prevent Internet fraud as well as unfair and deceptive advertising. The report, entitled "Protecting Consumers In The Next Tech-ade," outlines consumer protection challenges as technologies evolve.

It found that "questions regarding the types of consumer data collected for use in behavioral advertising, how such data are used, and what protections are provided for that data remain." After a November town hall meeting on Internet tracking, targeting, and advertising technology, the FTC began drafting principles to encourage self-regulation of online behavioral advertising.

I don’t think most people realize that privacy enhances security. Lack of privacy is itself a security vulnerability. It is possible to design for privacy.

Creating software that protects privacy, particularly online, is going to be the next killer ap. The market isn’t ready for it yet, but it will be.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Manual data collection for the 2010 Census

Census abandons handheld devices for 2010 count

After years of trying to ramp up a system for collecting data for the 2010 census using handheld computers, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez told Congress on Thursday that the department was giving up on the plan.

The Field Data Collection Automation project “has experienced significant schedule, performance and cost issues,” Gutierrez told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science. He added that “a lack of effective communication with one of our key contractors has significantly contributed to the challenges.”

GCN has not yet been able to reach the contractor — Harris Corp. — for comment.

When you bid on something as high profile as the census, you need to arrange for good communication with the government contracting officer.

When you mess up a high profile contract, your flack needs to be available for comment. Directly you hear that the Government Accountability Office is looking into your contract, and that Congress will be holding hearings, you need to prepare your response. You can’t hide under a bed in a situation like this.

Census counts on paper for 2010

The 2010 census was to be the first paperless population count, but problems emerged early on. Initial tests with commercial handheld devices revealed difficulties, so the bureau turned to Harris for help, awarding the company a five-year, cost-plus-award-fee contract in 2006 to automate field data-collection activities. The contract was initially worth $595 million but later increased to $624 million.

The partnership quickly ran into trouble. The Government Accountability Office and independent evaluator Mitre found that Census’ delivery times and requirements differed from those of Harris. In January, Census officials sent 400 new and revised technical requirements to Harris.

“We had underestimated how difficult it would be to communicate our business model,” Census Director Steve Murdock said. “We really didn’t manage it correctly.”

One of the main sources of the cost increase was the need to maintain a help desk to respond to problems that might arise with the handheld devices. The original contract allocated $5 million for the support, which was not enough. The bureau now wants to pay Harris $217 million to $220 million to run it.

Was Harris retained as part of a competitive bid? If so, did the original request for bid specify delivery dates? Did the original contract specify delivery dates? Why did Harris agree if they could not make delivery deadlines? Why did they agree to an unrealistic help desk budget? I look forward to additional coverage.

Using LinkedIn for business research

Secrets LinkedIn can tell you about your customers
One of the frustrating things about an open-source business is you don't generally know who is using your software. The paid customers you know, of course, but generally this represents a small fraction of the total user base. ...

... Today I found a new way. LinkedIn. What do I mean? And is this only something for open-source vendors?

I was searching for potential sales engineers, and initially did the standard searches: People in Chicago or Austin with Documentum, FileNet, Sharepoint, Java, etc. in their profiles.

Dense though I am, it eventually dawned on me to search for the word "Alfresco" in the LinkedIn database. What I found surprised me.

First, I discovered a wide range of people with Alfresco experience. Some are existing Alfresco customers and partners, some are employees. But a significant percentage include potential customers and partners.

Think about that. Wouldn't you rather hire someone that already knows your code? Wouldn't you rather engage a partner that has already done implementations of your software? Of course you would. LinkedIn can help.

I would never have thought of that. I am sure LinkedIn is being used for all manner of interesting research. I would like to thank the two individuals who sent me an invitation to join LinkedIn. At first I did not understand the value of it; but I think a LinkedIn profile is almost expected, the same way a website is expected.

Eric Litman, Washington Venture Capitalist

Building His Own Start-Up Ecosystem
If you listen to him explain his vision for the future of technology, it sounds quite sweeping:

"There's the perception that the Internet is done in terms of innovation. . . . We're still at the very beginning in terms of human-computer interaction models in terms of opportunities. . . . People today sit in front of a computer typing on an absolutely bizarre keyboard layout that was traditionally designed to prevent people from typing too quickly, so they wouldn't jam the typewriter. We use a device that causes repetitive stress syndrome called the mouse."

Excellent points; some of the most important technological challenges involve the basics.

Eric Austin Litman's Weblog

Sunday, April 06, 2008

DC tech scene

I just found this post by Matt Bowen describing the local tech scene, he gives an excellent overview. He also has an aggregator of DC tech blogs.

Friday, April 04, 2008

MIT Enterprise Forum blog

The MIT Enterprise Forum of DC finally started blogging.

Added to the Tech on the Potomac RSS reader.

Small business and the neutral net

The Baltimore Business Journal reports on the fight over net neutrality. The interesting thing about this article is that it makes clear the importance of the neutral net for Web 2.0 companies and small business generally. Your humble servant is quoted.

2008 Mid-Atlantic Business Plan Competition

Via Casey Software, we learn about the 2008 Mid-Atlantic Business Plan Competition. The deadline is April 26.

Edit -
From the comments I learn that the deadline has passed.

Blog Potomac; PowerPoint Free

I saw Geoff Livingston at a social media breakfast at the beginning of the week and he told me that there well be no PowerPoint presentations at Blog Potomac. That alone will make it worthwhile. I hope other conference organizers will be guided by his excellent example.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Open Source Intelligence

Today's spies find secrets in plain sight
Intelligence officers have gleaned insights on Iran's nuclear capabilities from photos on the Internet. They've scooped up documents, including a terrorist training manual, at international conferences and public forums. They've found information in foreign university libraries and newscasts.

Such material is known as "open-source intelligence" or, in the acronym-laden parlance of the 16 federal agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community, OSINT. The explosion of information available via the Internet and other public sources has pushed the collection and analysis of that material to the top of the official priority list in the spy world, intelligence officials say.

We are going to be hearing a lot about this in the future. The secret to good intelligence is recognizing the significance of what you are looking at, well that and the ability to remain objective.