Tuesday, September 30, 2008

PR lessons from the bail out blunder

From a PR perspective, the question arises of how the President and Speaker could have miscounted so badly. How could they have assumed that the House would go along with a bill that enraged millions of Americans?

From the point of view of our democracy, it is a very bad sign that they would attempt to railroad through legislation that is so clearly unacceptable to the vast majority of their constituents. This is not over, there will be a re-vote this week, so they may yet succeed in subverting the public will. This is not a proud moment for our country.

Angry constituents crash the congressional server

DorobekInsider: House.gov overwhelmed
AP is reporting that the House of Representative’s Web site was brought to its knees yesterday as people flooded the site seeking information on the vote to reject the Wall Street rescue plan.

The numbers must have been astronomical, as the server is designed for waves of public pressure. The worker bees of Capitol Hill IT have been working very hard indeed.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Welcome back Kim Hart

The Sounding Board interviews Kim Hart on the occasion of the return of The Download.
Since The Download will be returning, can you tell us what you find most interesting about the local tech scene currently and what you see for DC tech in the next few years?
I think it will be interesting to see how the start-up community continues to evolve and how young firms will ride out the current economic situation. There's also a whole new generation of serial entrepreneurs, investors and networking gurus that I hope to get to know. I will also be paying attention to trends in government IT contracting as security and privacy standards tighten and new Web technologies become more widely available. What do I see for the DC tech community in the next few years? That's what I'll be trying to find out along the way.

That is very encouraging, the Potomac area has a unique role in the creation of standards affecting privacy and security. From my interview with Ann McDaniel:
ALICE MARSHALL: Software standards have a huge impact on the interoperability of systems. Whether you are a CIO trying to cope with a merger or a law enforcement agency trying to track suspected terrorists, interoperable systems are critical to information exchange. The Potomac area is a leader in the standards process. Many of the standards groups, the Federal XML Work Group, AIIM, Global Justice XML, etc., are located here, yet there is almost no coverage of this process. Is there any discussion about how to present this to the general public?

ANN L. MCDANIEL: Those decisions are up to the individual editors.

Glad to see that the individual editors are coming round.

George Soros is half right

Paulson cannot be allowed a blank cheque

By George Soros
The bill submitted to Congress even had language in it that would exempt the secretary’s decisions from review by any court or administrative agency – the ultimate fulfillment of the Bush administration’s dream of a unitary executive.

Mr Paulson’s record does not inspire the confidence necessary to give him discretion over $700bn. His actions last week brought on the crisis that makes rescue necessary. On Monday he allowed Lehman Brothers to fail and refused to make government funds available to save AIG.

In my opinion, the management of Lehman Brothers and AIG are responsible for the failure of their companies. It will be a very good thing if it is made clear that there is no such animal as too big to fail. In my never-was-humble-opinion nothing else will serve to cure the hubris that played such a large role in the present debacle.

Soros' book, The Age of Fallibility: The Consequences of the War on Terror, is filled with insight and highly recommended.

Edit -
Soros proposes an alternative plan, I am not sure I like it; but it is certainly superior to what the Senate passed last night.

Trojan Horse does the Limbo

Trojan can grab extra personal banking data
A Trojan horse program now available to a growing number of fraudsters can add data entry fields to legitimate online banking sites and entice consumers to give up sensitive information such as bank card numbers and PINs (personal identification numbers).

The Limbo malware integrates itself into a Web browser using a technique called HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) injection, said Uri Rivner, head of new technologies at RSA Consumer Solutions, a division of EMC. Because it's so closely integrated in the browser, it can operate even while the user is at the real bank site and can actually change the layout of that site, he said.

In case you weren't already paranoid.

Google makes it look easy

Google Goes to Washington, Gearing Up to Put Its Stamp on Government
"Sometimes they'll look at us and say, 'But what do you actually sell?' " said Mike Bradshaw, Google's head of federal sales, who has sold technology to the government for IBM and Microsoft.

Their answer is nothing. Well, nothing entirely new, anyway. Google wants agencies and the firms working with them to give "cloud-computing" a try. That means, for example, using Google Maps and Google Earth to visualize massive amounts of information, or using Google's search tool to organize internal data, and storing that information on Google's servers "in the cloud." The enterprise versions of the tools, which come with extra storage and security features, cost around $50 per user, per year.

Obviously Google does a great deal, they just make it look easy. They are one of the most successful companies offering cloud computing and clearly they are going to do very well with it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Wall Street crisis and its lessons for net neutrality

Art Brodsky
The laws regulating the telecommunications world and those regulating the financial world have a joint history. The Communications Act of 1934 wasn’t passed in a vacuum. It was part of a new generation of laws that passed after the Depression, including the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. A law was passed in 1935 giving the Federal government the power to regulate interstate electricity, which updated a 1920 law governing water power much as the Communications Act updated the Federal Radio Act of 1927.

The Communications Act, as with the laws of the same era, was passed with the intent of protecting the public from the abuses of private industry. The basic tenets of non-discrimination were written into that law. If regulators do their jobs, everyone wins – the industry makes money and provides services, and consumers aren’t harmed. If regulators don’t do their jobs, and/or if a compliant Congress passes laws allowing for an industry to run wild by taking away federal regulation, then it’s a different story. That’s what happened in financial services and in telecommunications the last few years, and now we’re suffering the results.

We’re seeing that last scenario play out now on Wall Street, as firms acted unwisely with no government oversight, and the public ends up losing, whether from the taxpayer perspective, the loss of jobs, or the dumping into the toilet of retirement plans based on the stock market.

I am very concerned that the whole Web 2.0 crowd and the entire tech community are way too complacent about net neutrality. It is true that articles about net neutrality are regularly featured on Slashdot's front page and tech publications have done some great reporting on this, but I think too many people take the point-to-point architecture of the Web for granted and don't realize the entire basis of their business model could be destroyed.

Friday, September 26, 2008

German police arrest two terror suspects

Deutsche Welle
German police have arrested two suspected terrorists at Cologne-Bonn airport. The two men, a 23-year-old Somali citizen and a 24-year-old German born in Somalia, were removed from a KLM plane bound for Amsterdam just before take-off in the early hours of the morning.

The world didn't stop just because of the US financial crisis.

Last week nineteen people were killed in attack on the American Embassy in Yemen. Editors can't stop their national security coverage just because Wall Street is in melt down.

Fog computing

eWeek: Cloud Computing
Meanwhile, Anderson discussed a project he is working on that he calls "fog computing," which attempts to tap the unused power of private PCs and devices owned by people around the world. The goal is to use the underused computing power as a resource pool to tap for scientific research, Anderson said. Already "about 1 million computers are volunteering" in the effort, he said.

We may have to give up all those jokes about vapor ware.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

SEC begins to investigate hedge funds

SEC demands records from hedge funds
The Securities and Exchange Commission has ordered more than two dozen hedge funds to turn over trading records and e-mail communications made between Sept. 1-19, The Wall Street Journal reported today

The object is to determine whether traders spread rumors to manipulate shares.

Sock puppets are not just immoral, in the case of hedge funds they are illegal.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cloud computing and chain of custody

Cloud Computing Reality Check
There are a range of IT governance issues, not the least of which is e-discovery. Some questions that came up: How do you run e-discovery against hosted e-mail? And what privacy protections are in place so that your company's legal experts can access what's needed, but not the cloud service provider? Another way of looking at this is the "chain of custody" of your corporate data in the cloud.

The era of e-Discovery and evidence recovery has begun

F.B.I. Looks Into 4 Firms at Center of the Economic Turmoil
F.B.I. officials said Tuesday that the total number of corporate fraud investigations at the bureau was 26, an increase from the 24 open cases cited just a week ago by Robert S. Mueller III, director of the F.B.I. That number stood at 21 as recently as July, but the bureau has not named most of the targets.

Mr. Mueller told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the major corporate investigations are aimed at companies that “may have engaged in misstatements in the course of what transpired during this financial crisis.”

He added that “the F.B.I. will pursue these cases as far up the corporate chain as is necessary to ensure that those responsible receive the justice they deserve.”

In addition to the major corporate cases, the bureau said it had about 1,400 open investigations into smaller companies and individuals suspected of mortgage fraud.

e-Discovery and litigation support software companies are going to do very well indeed.

Specifics of Software as a Service (SaaS)

The Truth About Software as a Service (SaaS)
SaaS has a distinct meaning that’s essential to understanding its role in your application portfolio. With SaaS, there’s just one code base for the software, used by all customers, in what’s called a multitenant architecture. While the software might be configurable by users to their individual needs, the code itself is the same for all and is not customizable for any individual customer. Any enhancements made based on one customer’s requests immediately become available to all customers. So forget competitive advantage or differentiation based on the software itself.

The underlying data model and system architecture of SaaS is also not customizable. The advantage in this for the vendor is that it spends less time managing compatibility and upgrades across several versions of the software. It also spends less to support customers, as they all use the same version and they don’t run it on their own equipment. That’s one reason that venture capitalists have glommed on to SaaS. The VCs also like the fact that SaaS can reduce startup costs, promising faster time to market, notes Warren Weiss, a general partner at Foundation Capital, which has invested in SaaS startups since 1996.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Definitions: Cloud Computing, Utility Computing, Grid Computing, SaaS

Cloud Computing:
Cloud computing is Internet ('Cloud') based development and use of computer technology ('Computing'). The cloud is a metaphor for the Internet (based on how it is depicted in computer network diagrams) and is an abstraction for the complex infrastructure it conceals[1]. It is a style of computing where IT-related capabilities are provided “as a service”[2], allowing users to access technology-enabled services from the Internet ("in the cloud")[3] without knowledge of, expertise with, or control over the technology infrastructure that supports them[4]. According to the IEEE Computer Society it "is a paradigm in which information is permanently stored in servers on the Internet and cached temporarily on clients that include desktops, entertainment centers, table computers, notebooks, wall computers, handhelds, etc

Utility Computing

Utility computing is a metered service where computing or storage resources are provided on a needed basis similar to the way public utilities (water, electricity, telephone, etc.) are provided to homes and paid for as they are used. The purest form of utility computing requires two service characteristics metered billing and dynamic resource allocation. Customers of utility computing are not billed for a specific computer or server but are billed just for the computing or storage facilities and cycles used. In the simplest terms, utility computing implies the capability to use more resources temporarily and on-demand during peak periods.

Grid Computing
Grid computing allows the virtualization of distributed computing and data resources such as processing, network bandwidth and storage capacity to provide a unique system image, granting users and applications access to vast IT capabilities.

Software as a service (SaaS)
A software application delivery model where a software vendor develops a web-native software application and hosts and operates the application for use by its customers over the Internet. Customers pay for using the software itself, not for owning the software.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cloud Computing, open source, and business models

From a comment on the Slashdot discussion of Stanford Teaching MBAs How To Fight Open Source:

resistence is futile
unless your product is targeted at such a small subset of users that noone in the OSS world would bother to create a competing product there will always be some geek out there willing to dedicate all their spare time to create something that will compete with your product... for free. What proprietry vendors need to do is charging for software as a service and provide support packages that the OSS world don't bother to do.

In a world of Software as a Service and Cloud Computing, where the developer charges for the initial work and usage, the role of intellectual property in guaranteeing a return on investment will diminish.

Cloud Computing Expo 2009, call for Papers

SYS-CON's Cloud Computing Expo 2009 East in NYC: Call for Papers Now Open
SYS-CON Events, producer of Cloud Computing Expo 2009 East, to be held March 22-24, 2009, in New York City, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of providing or using massively scalable IT-related capabilities as a service using Internet technologies...

Call for Papers Deadline - October 15, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Blogging on the cheap

BL Ochman has an excellent post on the limits of blogging, shorter version, it is not for every company. She goes on to say that companies must be prepared to spend significant money on blogging. Here I must dissent.

It is my view, which I argued with some force at the Technology Council of Maryland, individual employees should be encouraged to blog, or Tweet, or whatever they prefer. The collective impact of numerous individual employee blogs is far greater than any corporate blog that could be devised. The role of the professional communicator in all this is to advise on blogging platform, develop appropriate guidelines and then let employees run with it.

The Microsoft blogs are a perfect example of this. There are hundreds of Microsoft blogs, my favorites include .Net DevHammer, Brian Noyes Blog, Jonathan Cogley’s Blog, and Justin Burtch’s blog. While not all of them are kept up to date, collectively they give a reader a feel for Microsoft culture.

Blogosphere, social media, and social networking still in early stage

My distinguished competitor, Geoff Livingston suggests that the market for social media services is mature. I disagree. Here are some trends I am noticing - people are using technology in new ways. For example I am now a member of four groups within the LinkedIn community. Before I just had my profile on LinkedIn and didn’t think much about it; but clearly others are forming communities within LinkedIn to promote their interests. Understanding communities within a social media platform is going to be very important in the near future. Very large PR agencies will not just have social media specialists, they will have microblogging experts, social networking experts, blogging experts, YouTube experts, and so on. Incidentally, I think video blogging is going to be a huge growth area for online marketing, it is so efficient.

I am also noticing a blurring between citizen generated content and professional news organizations. For example, Computer World has Tech Dispenser. CNN is using Twitter and blogs in its reporting. I have mixed feelings about this. I am concerned that cheap corporate management may think they can fill their pages with donated copy rather than paying salaries for reporters who know what they’re doing. Such a trend would not be in the interests of our clients. Journalism is work. You need smart people to do it and you need good salaries, health plans and pensions to attract and retain smart people.

I remain convinced that we are still in the very early days of social media and a year from now our world will be transformed again.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Amtower's Ultimate Guide to Getting Publicity in the B2G Market

Tuesday, November 18, 2008, 7:30 AM-11:30 AM
Nothing gives you more credibility than being written about in an industry trade publication or being interviewed on the radio station that targets your market. You can buy advertisements, billboards, send out email or snail mail – but those quoted in the publications or interviewed on the radio are considered the “experts”. Ever wonder how those people get that coverage?

When you tune in Federal News Radio or open Washington Technology, how often do you hear your voice or see your name?

Are you tired of seeing and hearing your competitors being interviewed or quoted? Do they really know more than you?

If you are ready for prime time, if you know enough to get quoted in industry trade publications you need to attend

Amtower’s Ultimate Guide to

Getting Publicity in the B2G Market

Since 1996, Mark Amtower has done over 500 interviews, appeared in over 150 publications, on over 100 web sites, done radio interviews around the country (including Alaska, Hawaii and Canada) and has delivered over 100 speeches. He has been in Federal Computer Week, Government Computer News, Washington Technology, VAR Business, Government VAR, Federal Times, NY Times, LA Times, Washington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur (4 times, including interview and photo), Chicago Tribune, Washington Business Journal and many others. Without a doubt Amtower is one of the most quoted people in the government market.

And….he does this without a PR agency.

Through tactics developed since his first major press exposure in March, 1994, a photo spread and interview in Marketing Computers (March, 1994), Amtower has targeted trade media and national media and garnered more press – and received the expert status that goes along with it.

Join us for this in-depth look at how Amtower targets very specific media for coverage - and gets much more than his fair share.

HEAR the skills and tactics Amtower employs, the tools he uses and all of his secrets to getting massive press coverage;

DISCOVER the difference between “on the radar” and “off the radar” publicity, and how to get both;

FIND OUT what reporters want and need from you;

LEARN the difference between what radio wants and what print wants.

No one is this market gets more press than Amtower – it’s time you got your fair share by learning from a master!

New local tech blog


Washington, DC and Lehman Brothers

It seems that Lehman Brothers handled some of DC's bonds and the tightening markets mean that DC City taxpayers will pay a higher interest rate on bonds. It is a great pity, the needs of this city are so great.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Congressional hearing blues

Lehman’s Fuld called to Capitol Hill
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has scheduled a hearing to examine the regulatory mistakes and financial excesses that led to the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

There is a whole speciality within PR crisis communications that consists of preparing clients for congressional testimony. Unfortunately Presto Vivace does not offer this because these practitioners are going to earn a bundle in the next twelve months and very likely beyond.

Brand parody

Rolex Lobbies for Inclusion on Terrorist Watch List

From Thomas Claburn, who has a very amusing blog.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New to me local PR blog

Capital Communicators Group, he Capital Communicators Group is an organization of more than 600 communications professionals in the D.C. area. Our "meetings" consist of monthly lunches focusing on communications-related topics. And our blog will let you know about upcoming lunches, provide overviews of past lunches, and address communications-related topics.

How To Add New Media To Your Existing Media and Communications Department

Think of social media as the online version of business socials. Groups such as the Tech Council of Maryland offer the opportunity to meet with your colleagues. Social Media is the online version of that, only it offers the possibility of working all the time. Your online conversations will be similar to the sort of things you say in the social hour before meetings and the individual conversations at the tables.

Put your blog or blogs on your site, failing that, build an RSS reader that picks up headlines of posts.

Redo your media page to make it friendly to social media

Build a sense of community, for example, on your website, link to online discussion groups concerned with your industry. This will encourage your employees, partners, and customers to participate in those discussions, drive traffic to your site, and build your online presence.

Most important tip of all:
Encourage your employees to use social media. Encourage them to link to your partner’s blogs. Social media should NOT be the monopoly of the communications department.

Blogs and microblogging (Twitter, Friendfeed, etc.) can be used to promote upcoming events. Twitter can amplify the effect of an event as participants send out Tweets about the event in progress. This can be good or bad, but it is something we all have to get used to.

Develop some basic guidelines for corporate blogging, no flame wars, etc.

Keep in mind we are speaking of corporate blogs. We live in a free society, your employees' personal blogs are not your concern.

Examples of good local tech blogs

Encourage employees to put links to their Twitter account, Digg, Slashdot page, and any other site they use in their work.

Most of all, keep in mind that social media is here whether we want it or not. Better to make it your friend rather than your adversary.

How can you add a 2.0 media room to a website?

Start with your present media room. Are your press releases still in PDF format? Your first priority should be to change the to HTML. Ideally each press release should have tagging icons at at the top or side of each news release (the same way news organizations use social tagging). Photos, in a format suited for news publications, will encourage news organizations to use your stories. Do not use iStock photos in your media room, use actual photos of your personnel and company events.

Use categories and tags to assist navigation.

If you have more than one video, establish a theater room. Videos can be used to illustrate technical concepts.

Make your presentation notes and slides available in the event section of your website before your events. Give each slide presentation its own link and use tagging in the event that readers wish to tag individual presentations.

Wherever you use social tagging you should also use Sphere It; this will enable site visitors to see what others are saying about your releases, which will encourage them to join conversation about your company. It will also convince journalists that your company is newsworthy.

Above, never forget the basics, contact information should be at the top of each news release, name, direct phone number, and email. It is surprising how often otherwise excellent companies forget the basics.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Maryland Tech Council: Social Media for Business

Register now for the Growing Your Business Through Social Media Seminar on Wednesday September 10th at Johns Hopkins University, Montgomery County Campus in Rockville from 8:00 am until 12:00 noon.

The Growing Your Business Through Social Media Seminar is vitally important for marketing professionals and the professionals who manage the day-to-day business. You’ll learn easy-to-use tips to increase your company’s web footprint for little or no cost.

Learn how to leverage the power of new media to acquire leads, drive new business that will help your company grow. You’ll learn how to take advantage of FREE Web 2.0 tools at this FIRST-TIME seminar.

Over a dozen Web 2.0 marketing veterans will teach you and your staff expert tips on Internet channel marketing to help increase your company profile, generate leads, and earn press coverage from the comfort of your desktop.

Sponsored by Vocus, the cost to attend Growing Your Business Through Social Media is $49 for TCM MemberPlus; $60 for TCM members and $129 for everyone else. Only 20 seats remain! Register now!