Friday, June 30, 2006

fyi Would the bird flu kill the Internet, too?


Found content:

My take:

One of the things I love about a free press is how creative it is in exploring every last sensationalistic ramification of every fearmongering topic.

This headline put me in mind of the immediate weeks after 9/11. Back when the nation’s commercial air system was shut down temporarily, and many of us had little choice but to cancel travel, jump on the trusty Internet, and sit home coddling new visions of postmodern Armageddon. It was then that I realized the Internet is a great societal shock absorber, allowing us to carry on reasonably well in business, entertainment, and life when the analog world goes temporarily loco.

Considering that a pandemic would drive people into their caves indefinitely, the Internet would be their periscope for safely monitoring the emergency and coordinating life in the shadow of universal death. In the found content, one of the core theses is “The idea of everyone working from home appears untenable.” Which is certainly true, unless people redefine “home” to refer to any place that offers food/shelter and currently lacks the physical presence of other human germ-carriers. To the extent that ISP and other data centers everywhere are evacuated of all but the most essential staff, and those people are incentivized to camp out in those locations 24x7 until the pandemic subsides, then the Internet might be kept up and running to a degree.

Another core thesis is: “You can see the Internet as a self-regulating supply-and-demand mechanism….The more people use it, the slower it gets, so the less people use it.” Which is also true. The Internet is a rationing mechanism, like any market. To the extent that, in a pandemic, the Internet is evacuated of all but the most essential traffic (through QoS-driven user self-interested patience, forebearance, and abandonment of the ‘Net), then the Internet will keep running 24x7 to an acceptable degree, from the point of view of the world community as a whole.

The Internet wouldn’t “shut down” entirely, but it would certainly be hammered by universal hysteria. Society wouldn’t collapse, nor would infrastructure, but it would certainly be a nasty spell for all of us trying to hold body and soul together.

I’m fatalistic about all this. Anybody who lost their parents young would understand where I’m coming from.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

fyi Wiki Revolution a New Curve on Information Highway


Found content:

My take:
I recently used Wikipedia for the first time. I mean actually “used” Wikipedia for some substantive research project—not simply browse to and from it briefly. And it was useful, in much the same way as any other encyclopedia—as a reference book of final resort, after I’d extracted everything I need from primary research materials, and when I simply wanted one more relatively high-level take on my topics, so as to close off the research and get down to my own writing. Of an article to appear in August in Business Communications Review on new federation frontiers in IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS)—I looked up canonical definition/overviews of IMS, SIP, ENUM, and other related topics.

Wikipedia was useful, but not in any qualitatively different sense from any other resource on the Internet. Nothing wrong with wikis, but this “Web 2.0” notion that they—and their prime exponent, Wikipedia--are ushering in some “communal era” on the Internet is balderdash. That era’s been here since the dawn of the Web in the early 90s, and wikis are just another chapter. The Web was the true innovation—more specifically, the URL, HTTP, and HTML standards on which the Web was built. The Web made the world an open book to be populated and refreshed continuously from the edges, centers, wherever. As the found article notes, group authoring/editing sites have been around for quite some time on the Web before the name “wiki” started being applied to them.

This propaganda that “Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy of its science entries” is beside the point. What diligent researcher relies on any one reference work, and doesn’t cross-check each work against as many others as can be found? Are the editorial staffs/processes of any one reference work (including Wikipedia) infallible? How can anybody who has ever worked in a fast-moving editorial operation have any confidence in their ability to contribute day in and day out to production of a “single source of truth”? It all gets slapped together in haste by limited, benighted mortals. It’s all a sausage factory (in the words of the article: “an assembly line for knowledge”), and it’s usually no more “communal” or “social” than any other operation whipcracked under editorial overlords (who may be your bosses, in the Brittanica model, or who may, in the Wikipedia, simply be unseen cyber-colleagues with power to efface, erase, and overwrite anything you might post).

The old story from Detroit is that you don’t want to buy a car that was assembled on Monday morning (workers straggling back from the weekend) or Friday afternoon (workers with their minds on their six-packs, barcaloungers, and backyard barbecues). Likewise, you don’t necessary want to “buy”—without extensive cross-checking against other sources—any knowledge that gets assembled in Wikipedia. Especially when the entries there are unsigned by their authors, and there’s no indication of what changes were made by who and when. Research geek that I am, it’s important to me to see who authored a piece and what their qualifications/biases might be, so that I can determine the degree of confidence to place in some post. I’ve been in the IT industry as an analyst/pundit far too long to take anybody else’s “expertise” for granted: everybody’s selling something: everybody’s dissing something/somebody else: everybody imagines that they’re the victor who’s destined to write the official history of whatever.

At least with blogs (and “traditional” websites), there’s often a clear indication of authorship. Hence, of background, bias, and agenda. All of which you can factor into your decision to accept or reject something I’m trying to put across. No, I don’t allow readers to post direct comments to my blog, and I certainly don’t allow readers to overwrite what I post.

I’m simply trying to sell my own ideas. I’m not trying to put forth a be-all repository of unimpeachable human knowledge. And I’m not trying to build an ego-free reference work as a shared communal touchstone. I’m just sharing whatever local knowledge (or tomfoolery) pools between these ears.

Down here in Alexandria.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

fyi Microsoft Repurposes WinFS for Future Products


Found content:

My take:

Is this Bill Gates’ legacy as outgoing chief software architect at Microsoft?

That they couldn’t manage, year after year, product release cycle after product release cycle, project codename after project codename, to ship a unified file system to give users easy access to structured and unstructured data, wherever it might reside, from within Windows? That they got as far as a beta of the unified file system under Vista and then withdrew the technology prior to general availability? That instead of a unified technology, WinFS has essentially been decomposed into a grab bag of features that may or may not find expression in future products that may or may not ever get delivered? That, by way of “explaining” this retreat, all Microsoft could muster was some lame marketing spin about aligning the technology, in some indefinite future incarnation, with some mysterious “data platform vision"? That the company has offered no new timeline for future availability of what once was known as WinFS? That even if they had offered a timeline, nobody would believe it?

What kind of architect walks away from a project in such disarray? As Mr. Gates retires to his foundation work, is he paying close enough attention to the ongoing health of the place that generated his wealth?


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

fyi Senate Committee Chairman Says 'No' to Net Neutrality


Found content:,1217,a=181757,00.asp

My take:

This headline is misleading. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, didn’t say “no” to “net neutrality.” Instead, if you read the article, it’s clear that he said “no” to including any mention of “net neutrality” in a pending bill until somebody defines “net neutrality” to his satisfaction.

"Until somebody tells me what net neutrality means, until they can give me a definition, I don't want it in there," Stevens said to eWEEK on June 22. For the record, Stevens also said "The Internet should be free." Whatever that means.

For what it’s worth, I’ll offer a definition of “net neutrality.” I’ve been keeping myself from responding to this issue until it gets to the point where I care enough. Right now, I’m totally sick of the TV ads for and against “net neutrality” (living in the Washington DC area, I’m one of those privileged few Americans who are exposed to this nonsense, which is actually directed at the 535 Americans, such as Stevens, who live part-year in this area and have offices and staffs up on Capitol Hill).

Essentially, “net neutrality” refers to the need for broadband carriers to be regulated as common carriers. In other words, “net neutrality” is a regulatory regime ensuring that broadband carriers (telcos, cable, wireless, etc.) provide open, nondiscriminatory access, routing, interconnection, and termination services to all end users and application/content providers, including those app/content providers who’ve connected to the ‘Net via other carriers. What “net neutrality” is designed to prevent is a situation where each broadband carrier may provide preferential access, routing, interconnection, and/or termination services (and preferential pricing of those underlying network services) to “walled gardens” of their own, affiliated, and partner app/content providers.

If “net neutrality” isn’t mandated by law and enforced by US regulatory agencies, then broadband providers have every incentive to favor their walled gardens and to penalize providers of unaffiliated app/content providers (hence, penalize their end users) through higher prices, inferior QoS, and so forth. Is anybody, on either side of the dispute, truly denying that that will happen if some form of “net neutrality” is not guaranteed by law? You’ll subscribe to a broadband ISP (be it a telco, cable company, etc.) and will find that your access to unaffiliated sites is rendered less convenient, performant, and pleasant through numerous inconspicuous techno-hobbles that make it seem (to the unwitting end users) as if the unaffiliated ones are just naturally inferior and overpriced.

In a Republican-dominated government, there seems to be an ideological block against expanding the regulatory powers of the FCC. But there seems to be no alternative that will guarantee nondiscriminatory broadband provisioning to all endpoints. The carriers covet the success of high-powered app/content endpoints (e.g, Google et al) in the rapid rampup to broadband media, and they clearly want to siphon off a piece of revenue stream that flows to those properties.

Of course, some broadband ISPs are doing quite well by the Googles of the world, who pay billions of dollars for fast, fat Internet connections. One of the unspoken subtexts in the “net neutrality” debate is that the “have-not” ISPs—in other words, those that didn’t land these plum accounts—simply want to spread the wealth their way. Much the same way that say, owners of baseball teams in subpar regional markets have managed to grab an inordinate share of national TV advertising revenues to compensate for their shortfall in local ticket sales. Franchise subsidies through collective action by all franchisees against a baseball-reliant cash cow (i.e., advertisers and the broadcast TV networks that they sustain).

Is that the right analogy? Yeah….the Googles are sustained by advertising revenues. The Googles rely on bandwidth to push that advertising out to their target customers. The ISPs control that bandwidth: the playing fields where advertisers and their end users connect.

What is a stadium if not the original walled garden? A field of green available only to paying customers.


fyi SOA governance article


Article I just published in Network World providing market overview of SOA governance:

Additional kommentary:
The original title for the piece was "SOA Governance: Reining in the Mess, Reigning O'er the Mesh." Editors invariably change my titles and leads. But the published content on this one is pretty close to what I delivered. Thanks Beth.

I'm working on a piece for Network World, to appear in October, focusing on SOA governance case studies in the real world. If anybody has any good case studies to share--on SOA governance, not simply SOA--please contact me at or 703-340-8134.



Wednesday, June 21, 2006

note RC


A dynamic patchwork of
national, horizontal, and vertical
markets driven by the need for
professional services to audit and
independently verify the validity
of structured reports produced
to vouch for continued compliance
and attest to the efficacy
of automated and manual
operational controls
enforcing policies and processes
relevant to mandates
issued by legislative and regulatory
authorities and enforced
through civil and criminal
penalties imposed on
corporations and their
principal and responsible

Thursday, June 01, 2006

review The Naked Corporation: How the Age of Transparency Will Revolutionize Business, by Don Tapscott and David Ticoll, Authors of Digital Capital


Found content: check the subject line….not found so much as requested as freebie from lady handing out the books at Informatica World 2006 last week in San Francisco….had time on the flight back home to read this one…thank god for air traffic control delays….underlined a lot of stuff…wrote comments in the margin…totally defaced it in the act of commenting on it….something I rarely do with books

My take:

Cut to the chase: I can’t process long texts until I’ve zeroed in on the thesis statement, and then passed once at high speed through the outline, and then through a chapter-by-chapter eyeballing of the pages to see if the author has done at least a perfunctory job of substantiating the thesis.

Tapscott and Ticoll put their thesis statement—actually, a full thesis paragraph—two-thirds of the way into the introduction. Here it is:

“Corporations that are open perform better. Transparency is a new form of power, which pays off when harnessed. Rather than to be feared, transparency is becoming central to business success. Rather than to be unwillingly stripped, smart firms are choosing to be open. Over time, what we call ‘open enterprises’—firms that operate with candor, integrity, and engagement—are most likely to survive and thrive.”

Boil that down to its essence. What the authors set up is the following core argument:

Transparency is directly correlated with performance.

Then the reader has to slog through almost two dozen pages of text to get to the authors’ definition of their core concept:

“Transparency…we define as the accessibility of information to stakeholders of institutions, regarding matters that affect their interests.”

So there you have it. There is no further breakdown of how to operationalize the various metrics of transparency so that organizations can be measured, scored, and rated, in terms of comparative levels of transparency. Instead, the authors reserve the right to use the term as an all-purpose praise word for companies of whose practices they approve.

Now, then, I skittered through the next 300 or so pages to find any primary quantitative research that supports their thesis that increasing stakeholder access to information that affects their interests contributes to superior business performance.

I didn’t find it, and that wasn’t simply from inattention due to lack of sleep. I didn’t even see the most basic research regarding how going public—the most obvious form of “transparency,” as regards regularly divulging reams of financial and operational data to the public—correlates to corporate performance.

Do companies perform better when they transition from private to public, and does their performance deteriorate when they decide to go private again? Sure, there are lots of other ways to operationalize the term “transparency,” but this is the most accessible and easiest to do the number crunch on.

Are the oldest companies (the ones that have “survived and thrived”) also the most transparent? Is their longevity due entirely or in large part to their transparency? No mention of this.

I didn’t even see any basic data on how Sarbanes-Oxley compliance—another loose metric of transparency—contributes to performance. All I see, at various points in the discussion, are tallies of the cost of complying with SarbOx.

What I found was plenty of anecdotal evidence drawn from the authors’ consulting work with large US corporations, primarily in high-tech, and primarily describing the dire legal consequences of public companies not being as transparent as they want you to believe. In other words, the punitive consequences of lying, deception, fraud, stonewalling, manipulation, and bad-faith bargaining. That’s not exactly the positive spin—“transparency is becoming central to business success”—promised in the thesis. Instead, the book is permeated by the “you’ll go to jail” post-Enron hardball lesson.

Part of the problem with the book’s anecdotal evidence is that it’s not in the form of structured case studies. Instead, the authors provide, chapter after chapter, a verbal scattergram of bulletized factoids on particular companies’ transparency successes and failures. This unstructured approach to their topic makes it difficult for the reader to tie these details to any coherent thesis.

Another part of the problem is that the authors use the terms “transparency,” “openness,” “accountability,” “social responsibility,” “corporate ethics,” “corporate integrity,” and “good governance” interchangeably, and blur the distinctions among them. For example, here’s evidence that the authors cite as to the success of British Telecom’s “transparency” commitment: “In the area of the environment, for example, the company has scores of programs that demonstrate its commitment to ecosensitivity, including details such as prohibiting advertising on pay phones that are located in areas of outstanding natural beauty, national parks, open countryside, or World Heritage sites.” Ummm…all of that is well and good, but how does it evidence “accessibility of information to stakeholders of institutions, regarding matters that affect their interests”? And how does it translate into better corporate performance from the standpoint of the most critical stakeholders: shareholders and employees?

And the authors are too quick to buy into the sort of kneejerk “we’re good citizens” public-relations boilerplate that corporations everywhere churn out night and day. Here’s the sentence immediately following the one that I just quoted, re BT: “With respect to supplier relationships, the company pledges to ensure that all dealings with suppliers—from and consultation to recognition and payment—are conducted in accordance with the principles of fair and ethical trading.” I don’t deny that BT is committed to all this, but it would have been more interesting to see if a reputable, qualified third-party had audited and attested to the company’s performance on this and other “good citizenship” metrics.

None of this is truly “transparency” in any meaningful sense of the word. BT is simply pledging not to dirty the environment or lie to its business partners. It would be “transparency” if BT had also pledged to provide stakeholders with ongoing access to a broader, deeper set of financial, operational, engineering, and product data of interest to them. In other words, if BT had pledged to expand stakeholder access to its business intelligence (BI), business activity management (BAM), business performance management (BPM), and other analytics and reporting tools. And if BT had pledged to expanding its B2B collaboration environment and activities with stakeholders, so as to engage them more directly and continuously in operations, at all levels in company.

All of which BT may be doing. But I can’t tell from Tapscott and Ticoll’s book. There are a lot of interesting ideas and discussions in the book, but none that directly and systematically develop the thesis.