Monday, December 28, 2009

Following the Twitter Zeitgeist

Mark Ramskill
Is the person I’m following bringing any real value to me? The million dollar question. It’s very easy to follow someone just because everyone else is, or because you they have a job that gives the assumption that their tweets will be useful. Often this couldn’t be further from the truth.

- Is the person I’m following tweeting unique information and links or are they mainly retweeting stuff I’m already getting from other sources?

- Does the person I’m following follow me and if they do, do they ever communicate with me or retweet what I put out there?

Ramskill has some very good advice. Twitter should be fun, and not taken too seriously (unless you are handling customer relations on Twitter).

For my part I don't really follow any one person. I follow almost everyone in the Potomac region who works in technology. I am interested in the stream of coversation rather than individual people.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


From J. Timothy Sprehe's opinion piece in Federal Computer Week:
So what does the agency do to achieve integrated information management? It conceptualizes the solution as one of standardizing on a single ECM system toolset.

I have been working in content management since 1994 and I have only a vague idea as to what he means by that. If I don't understand it, there is a good chance other readers don't understand it. The struggle against IT speak is a constant one and sooner or later we all succumb; but if you want to make your point to the general public, or at least policy makers, you have to make your prose more accessible.

Friday, December 18, 2009

New to me local writer's blog

Thinking Like A Designer, A site for authors who want advice on preparing to work with designers, and for designers who work directly with authors.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Soros proposes way to fund to fight global warming

"I've found a way for someone else to pay ... to mobilize reserves that are lying idle," Soros told Reuters on the sidelines of the December 7-18 conference that will end with a summit of 110 world leaders meant to agree a new climate pact.

Hungarian-born Soros said green loans to poor nations backed by International Monetary Fund gold reserves could total $100 billion.

"This $100-billion fund I think could just turn this conference from failure to success," he said, admitting there were several legal and practical hurdles to unlocking the cash.

From Soros' email annoucement:
In September 2009, the IMF distributed to its members $283 billion worth of SDRs, or Special Drawing Rights. SDRs are an arcane financial instrument but essentially they constitute additional foreign exchange. They can be used only by converting them into one of four currencies, at which point they begin to carry interest at the combined treasury bill rate of those currencies. At present the interest rate is less than one half of one percent. Of the $283 billion, more than $150 billion went to the 15 largest developed economies. These SDRs will sit largely untouched in the reserve accounts of these countries, which don't really need any additional reserves.

I propose that the developed countries--in addition to establishing a fast start fund of $10 billion a year--should band together and lend $100 billion dollars worth of these SDRs for 25 years to a special green fund serving the developing world. The fund would jump-start forestry, land-use, and agricultural projects. These are the areas that offer the greatest scope for reducing carbon emissions and could produce substantial returns from carbon markets. The returns such projects can generate go beyond reducing carbon; there will be non-carbon related returns from land use projects, the potential to create more sustainable rural livelihoods, enable higher and more resilient agriculture yields and create rural employment.

This is a simple and practical idea. There is a precedent for it. The United Kingdom and France each recently lent $2 billion worth of SDRs to a special fund at the IMF to support concessionary lending to the poorest countries. At that point the IMF assumed responsibility for the principal and interest on the SDRs. The same could be done in this case.

I am very curious about what it must be like to handle a major figure like Soros and one of my life's ambitions is to meet Michael Vachon.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Play by the rules

Buzz Bin as a good post on the new FTC rules for bloggers.:

While we don’t have a Sarbanes-Oxley-like law that codifies much of this for “endorsers,” the FTC has greatly expanded the things over which it will exercise influence. Endorsers (and influencers of endorsements) beware!

Beware indeed. Failure to observe the new rules will bring a Sarbanes-Oxley-like law down upon our industry's head.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Simply blacking out information in a Portable Document Format file won't keep data from prying eyes.

TSA officials posted what they thought was a redacted version of the TSA's airport security operating manual on a Web site used by private contractors looking for government work. The problem: the officials didn't actually delete sensitive parts of the document—they just blacked them out using a graphics tool.

That method left the underlying words intact, and they were exposed when readers cut and pasted pages from the document, "Screening Management Standard Operating Procedures," into a new file. The vulnerability isn't technically a bug in Adobe's product, but its existence shows how those handling secure information should be fully trained in the software they're using.

The end result of the foul-up was that highly sensitive information about TSA screening methods, interviewing procedures, X-ray machines and other terrorist prevention tools became easily available to millions of people on the Web.

This is just another case of the user failing to distinguish between a graphical blackout and deleting information. There have been many such incidents and Adobe invariably blames user error. But the Adobe design is completely counter intuitive. Adobe needs to correct this before someone gets killed.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Great moments in timing

Golf Digest cover.
The cover line: "10 Tips Obama Can Take From Tiger."

You have to feel for the editors of Golf Digest. Under normal circumstances this would be a fine article for a golf audience. The Golf Digest website makes no reference to their ill timed cover.

I think International Management Group bears some of the blame for the PR fallout. When you create an image for your client that is as odds with reality, and when maintenance of that image is dependent upon the press turning a blind eye to the obvious, it is only a question of time before the whole thing implodes. It would have been much better to give the public some inkling of your client's feet of clay. Then they would be prepared when his weaknesses became obvious.

A pyrrhic victory for the financial sector

The return of the plutocrats
So the plutocrats, it seems are going to win. They had a nasty couple of years, by plutocrat standards, and in a handful of companies operating under de facto state control they don’t quite have the free rein they would ideally like. But the system as a whole hasn’t changed, and those who thought that it might can’t quite believe how naive they were.

Arming Goldman With Pistols Against Public
Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- “I just wrote my first reference for a gun permit,” said a friend, who told me of swearing to the good character of a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker who applied to the local police for a permit to buy a pistol. The banker had told this friend of mine that senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank.

Any victory that leaves you so fearful that you feel the need to pack a weapon is no victory worthy of the name.

Do I have any readers who do not understand that this is a tragedy waiting to happen? What happens if some jittery banker shoots some homeless person who shouts at him? How is the public likely to respond to the spectacle of a banker shooting an unarmed homeless person? putting aside the resulting prison term.

What if an entire office panics at the sight of demonstrators and opens fire? Because that worked so well for the guards at the Bastille.

Goldman Sachs, and any other financial institution going down this dead end, needs to put away the guns and hire themselves an experienced conflict resolution team.