Monday, July 31, 2006

imho 4GW Fourth Generation Warfare


Found content:">

My take:

I've been mulling the Middle East these days just like everybody else. I don't want to believe that it's an insoluble blood feud, but that's how it definitely appears. Don't you want to believe that there's a peaceful happy solution for every nasty nexus of human conflict?

I meandered to this "4GW" topic after seieng this mysterious new phrase in a Phil Windley post quotin somebody named Tom Barnett. So I Googled it and found a two-year-old definition by a certain John Robb. Now I'm bloggin my impromptu thoughts on it. Just because. Trying to distract my mind from a tech article that I'm committed to write but am just not ready yet to start composing.

First off, I don't buy Robb/Windley/Barnett's notion that so-caled 4GW (fourth-generation warfare) is anything new. Let's go straight to Robb's definition: "Fourth generation--ad hoc warriors and moral conflict." That, of course, defines guerrilla warfare and the associated ideological assault on established power. And those dual techniques have been used for a long time in many conflicts, such as our own American Revolutionary War (ad-hoc warriors: the scraggly amateur-citizen-army-militias that Gen. Washington tried to assemble into a semblance of a professional fighting force; moral conflict: the Declaration of Independence that Mr. Jefferson et al. proclaimed at the same time to justify their right to take up arms to sunder the bond from Great Britain). And plenty of communist revolutoins of the 20th century were assembled from ad-hoc fighters who were schooled to proselytize the moral/ideological cause known as Marxism.

Second, I found the following statement from Barnett (quoted approvingly by Windley) to be chauvinistic and naive: "There is a profound reason why we're rich and powerful and connected and the enemy is none of those things. Terrorism is a strategy of the weak, and it earns them only what the powerful decide they no longer want...[T]here are no lasting 4GW victories. Yes, sometimes conflicts are won, but what is really achieved? Look at Cuba or Nicaragua or Palestine--or best yet--Vietnam or China? All these 4GW 'victors' got was amazing bloody disconnectedness, and--when they got smart--then they came back crawling to the system, the nets, the rules, the 'decadence.'"

All of this is just a rehash of the time-honored nonsense that our enemies are "bums," "losers," and "cowards" if they don't use whatever fighting tactics we would prefer they use (so that we can easily defend against them). so, if I understand correctly, Barnett et al. are arguing that terrorists (i.e., guerrilla warriors) are losers, that they're now and forever disconnected from each other, and that further acts of terrorism simply contribute to their ongoing estrangement and eventual doom.

Oddly, as examples of disconnected losers, they cite Cuba, Vietnam, and China (the current governments of which took power in part through the effectiveness of their guerrilla tactics). It's bizarre to single out those particular countries, considering the strength and stability of each of their governments (whether or not you agree with their forms of government, you have to admit that they are holding power and connecting internally quite effectively).

If terrorism is a strategy of the weak, and, for example, you classify the 1968 Tet Offensive as terrorism, and you note the historical truth that the Tet Offensive broke the American public's will to continue backing the South Vietnamese against the stronger-willed northerners, then doesn't that undermine your argument against the ultimate effectiveness of terrorism? When exactly did we the "powerful" (USA and South Vietnam) decide that "weak" North Vietnam's terrorism had "earn[ed] them only what [we had] decide[d] [we] no longer want[ed]: i.e., unchallenged dominion over the entire northern and southern regions of Vietnam?

Terrorism, clearly, is not necessarily just a strategy of the ineffectual, forever-disconnected weakling. It has often been a recruiting and morale-building (hence, connection-building) strategy under which weaklings demonstrate their boldness, resourcefulness, and determination to their kindred and to their enemies. The terrorists have their networks, and we, their targets, have ours. They'll keep on attacking our nets both to weaken them and to recruit/build/strengthen their own. We, the established powers, have more transparently public networks, so we make easier targets than the terrorists and their invisible nets.

We're talking death and destruction here, let's not kid ourselves. So I'm profoundly uncomfortable with the bloodlust implicit in the following statement of Barnett's, which Windley once again quotes approvingly: "Our nets are our strengths. They will attack and we will grow more resilient. Bush was right: Bring it on. Speed the killing. Flush the losers. Extend the nets. Be resilient."

At worst, that's outright insanity--a prescription for Armageddon and mutually assured destruction. At best, it's chest-beating naive hyper-optimism of the whack-a-mole variety. What do you do if the "losers" are everywhere, attacking a civilian society in which they're intimately embedded? You don't quell an insurgency by daring the insurgents to rip apart the everyday fabric of people's normal lives. That produces pure mortal terror of the most destructive variety, of the sort that the Israelis and Iraqis are facing every day now. A hellish existence where every car or truck that passes on the street might be carrying the bomb that ends it all.

Robb has an interesting comment about how a "4GW" conflict can be "won": "Victory in 4GW warfar is won in the moral sphere. The aim of 4GW is to destroy the moral bonds that allow the organic whole to exist--cohesion."

Cohesion. Cohesive bonds. Cohesive bonds in the organic moral sphere. Excuse e for getting all mushy on you, but that sounds like religion, or, if that's too sensitive a word (given that much of the Middle East nastiness is motivated by dueling notions of whose take on religion is superior), let's just say "spirituality" in general or, getting super-wimpy, ""compassion" and "tolerance." In the immortal words of Nick Lowe, "what's so funny about peace, love, and understanding?"

But that's still religion, when you come right down to it. Unfortunately, in the broader scheme of human relations, religion hasn't always been the cohesive force its promoters want you to believe. It's often an abrasive, sometimes a corrosive, occasionally a toxic, inflammatory, and explosive reagent in a chronically charged environment.

Yeah, I go to church and put money in the collection basket, but I'm not expecting any real return on my investment. I pray too, but I'm not expecting the almighty to hit the "reply" button.

There must be another type of soul force we haven't tried yet.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

note Gomorrah

Every last little
human difference will
be prosecuted
without end. Amen.

note Parade Magazine

this or that born-elsewhere
enjoyed great early success and
once seemingly had

and/or the pop music
by the tail
until the bloom
fell from the rose
they fell from favor and/or
something self-inflicted laid them low
and put them on the brink of
something spiritual
helped them find themselves
inner peace
whatever it was
redeemed them
delivering some recent
unexpected hit
of commercial resurrection
which brought them back into our
collective affections
and captured our interest
in some small way
so that we can now
confidently publish their declaration
of life
in fresh perspective
on the mend
and chastened by adversity
rededicated to some new modicum of
let us here now present
their inspiring story
as told
in their very own words
to our top interviewer
dotson rader
who met them in a restaurant
in lower manhattan and
carefully edited a
long tape-recorded lunch
into an
easy reading
thousand words
fit for calm
perusal over
juice and cheerios

Monday, July 24, 2006

fyi Do politics and identity management mix?


Found content:

My take:

Dave Kearns writes a great column. This one had all the promise of an even greater column than usual, based on that enticing headline. The intersection between IdM and partisan politics? George W. Bush’s position on SAML? Does Bush or anybody else in Washington politics have even the dimmest awareness or concern for such techno-plumbing?

Nope. Just a discussion of the organizational politics that accompanies a federated IdM, in terms of who controls which authoritative repositories of information under which circumstances. Turf wars. Politics in the usual coalition trench warfare of business life.

Nevertheless. This particular column has a critical IdM insight which, though not mind-blowingly original, put me in mind of something else. Says Kearns: “Turf wars are especially abundant when dealing with identity issues. After all, most identity information is simply data. Although it's organized around particular identifiers it's still simply data. The problem is we're trying to present a unified view of that data that crosses departmental, organizational and jurisdictional lines.”

Of course. IdM is a subdiscipline of master data management (MDM). Sez me, per my recent Current Analysis advisory report on SOA and MDM: “Lacking ubiquitous SOA-based MDM, enterprises cannot achieve the vision of a ‘single version of the truth’ that permeates all business transactions. In a well-architected SOA-based MDM environment, users know they can rely on information that is maintained in their company’s reference data stores—no matter how many repositories there are or where they reside. This is because all that precious content has been transported, consolidated, cleansed, and secured in keeping with official corporate policies, and by a common set of official corporate DM services. As long as the MDM infrastructure (and the broader SOA) enforces a common set of policies across the data-governance life cycle, master data can be reused over and over with high assurance that it is current and accurate.”

IdM is MDM in the governance of identity data (and, usually, employee data, to enable authentication, authorization, etc.). MDM comes in many varieties, based on the sorts of master reference data that’s being controlled. Customer data integration (CDI) is one type of MDM. Product information management (PIM) is another. Supplier information management is yet another.

In the world of MDM, there’s the distinction between “physical MDM” (i.e., a “data warehouse” (DW) a single master governance repository of some data set) vs. “virtual MDM” (i.e., enterprise information integration (EII) based on distributed repositories of master reference data and the need for federated governance/query/update across them).

That’s exactly equivalent to the IdM distinction between master directories (i.e., identity warehouses) and multimaster directories (i.e., identity federations).

To sum up: Identity isn’t just data. It’s master reference data. Control over that data, in an identity MDM environment, is inevitably political. In federated MDM, all the ownership turf wars apply full force.

Just wanted to point that out.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

imho The Long Tail


Found content:

My take:

Visually, the “long tail” graph resembles a fading signal, asymptotically tapering into nothingness, but still faintly perceptible against the background din of the cosmos.

Essentially, these articles state that the long tail of niche market segments--aggregated through Amazon, eBay, iTunes, etc.--is wagging the big dog of Internet commerce. Per Wikipedia:

  • The long tail is the colloquial name for a long-known feature of statistical distributions (Zipf, Power laws, Pareto distributions and/or general Lévy distributions ). The feature is also known as ‘heavy tails’, ‘power-law tails’ or ‘Pareto tails’….In these distributions a high-frequency or high-amplitude population is followed by a low-frequency or low-amplitude population which gradually ‘tails off’. In many cases the infrequent or low-amplitude events—the long tail, represented here by the yellow portion of the graph—can cumulatively outnumber or outweigh the initial portion of the graph, such that in aggregate they comprise the majority.”

In economic terms, e-commerce vendors can profit from serving all niche markets if:

  • the aggregate demand for all niche-appeal items is persistent, ubiquitous, and substantial
  • the marginal cost of producing, marketing, stocking, selling, and distributing niche-appeal items is near zero
  • the availability of niche-appeal items is at a par with mass-appeal items, through consolidation into master catalogs, search engines, and so forth

All of which has come to pass through the Web.

From the niche-dwelling consumer’s point of view, it’s all about vendors providing an effectively infinite catalog that ranges across all niches and back to the beginnings of recorded time (or 1995, whichever came first).

From the niche-dwelling producer’s point of view, it’s all about connecting with a market, even if it means doing onesie-twosie, break-even transactions on long-discontinued merchandise. Just to connect. And move product. And persist in somebody’s collection somewhere for some reason. Even if it means that, by settling into the “long tail,” our work shall ever more be tagged as “unpopular” or “not for everybody.”

Though, as the “long tail” illustrates, the “popular” is “not for everybody” either. Most of the popular stuff will eventually slide down the tail toward niche status, sometimes over the course of a generation. Or seemingly overnight (as when an obscenely and expensively promoted bow-wow of a Hollywood sequel blockbuster plunges in the box office in its second and third weeks of exposure).

Slipping ever further toward the indistinguishable media soup of yesterday's product, the heat death of surfeit-swamped oblivion that awaits even the biggest productions.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

fyi Bill Gates embraces open source process


Found content:

My take:

Huh? “Gates and his wife Melinda talked about bringing scientists together around a table and generating ideas about solving problems, without worries about money or who owns the ideas…Concentrate on the problem, on the solution. Network freely.” And Gates equates that—some vague definition of scientist-driven collaboration—with open source software?

First off, this is a very naïve of concept of the scientific process. Scientists are as competitive as any business people. In fact, sometimes it seems that the only things scientists worry about are “money” (getting grant dollar to underwrite their research) and “who owns the ideas” (getting due credit for being the first to discover and publish some important new finding). Scientists are not egoless altruists.

Second, this is a very biased view of the business process, a process that is usually driven by the need to solve problems and in which people network as freely as the situation demands. The business world is as solution-driven as the academic world—perhaps more so—given the fact that business people can be sacked for failure to produce, whereas many researchers are tenured faculty who can piddle around for years on minutiae without having to produce much in the way of concrete accomplishments.

Third, this is a wonk-driven vision of economic development, as if pure brainpower pooled around virtual and physical conference tables will solve the world’s problems. Lots of smart people everywhere have been worrying and working on these problems for so long. Scientists aren’t necessarily any smarter in matters of economic development, program management, and cross-cultural outreach than anybody else. Same goes for IT folks. These are what will make all the differences in producing actual results that improve people’s lives.

Everybody’s getting so enamored of Bill and Warren’s big beneficent bankroll, as if pure money has some sort of messianic power. It’s one thing to subsidize projects that promise to improve health and education around the planet. It’s quite another to follow through with delivery, implementation, and results. Let’s not think that we can simply parachute in with nifty new thirdworld-targeted technologies and magically improve lives. Will the Gates Foundation maintain a permanent staff of overseers in every nation on earth to make sure that its money is not sunk into wasteful NGOs, siphoned off by corrupt governments, and squandered in ill-conceived projects? How many of Gates’ own projects within Microsoft have failed, or underwhelmed, even when he was closely supervising them?

Precisely how will the Gates Foundation succeed where the IMF, World Bank, UNESCO, Peace Corps, etc have failed to make much of dent in world poverty?

It’s good that deserving health and education projects now have another well-heeled funding source. It’s also good that Bill Gates is devoting his life to managing that source. But he’ll quickly realize he’s dispensing a very limited supply of salve in a world teeming with open sores.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Poem Vacation


Try a violent green,
an overgrown isle
in the stream of sand
I’ll dream isn’t there.