Monday, November 24, 2008

poem Contained


Sit amid walling,
the ceiling, the flooring, the
shut and drawn drapery.

This the air you'll breathe,
the humidity your lungs
will, through living, swell.

Like any earthbound
structure, you're set--braced against
the rattling strata.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

imho Natl Chf T Officer????!


Tough times we’re living in. In fact, it’s hard to get through a day now without having the phrase “tough times” hammered into your head by the parrots in the media… with “down economy,” “bad economy,” “slowing economy,” “recessionary times,” “difficult times,” “challenging economic environment,” and a veritable Roget’s treasure chest of other near-synonyms creating a maddening echo-chamber effect.

Technology is proving to be a sort of shock absorber in times like these. What I mean is that it keeps us connected, productive, entertained, and tuned in to our friends, family, and support group---or, helps us to tune into and groove on our own comfy little private world of passions and distractions—even when the news from the wider world is bleak. And when travel options are expensive or unavailable—as they were in the immediate post-9/11 period—or the parcel post is potentially toxic—as it was post-anthrax--information technology helped us continue to carry on a constrained semblance of a normal economy.

Tensile strength is the amount of stress that a connection can bear before it breaks. The availability of so many communication options gives our social sinews more tensile strength than ever. IT makes us a tougher fabric, harder to rend asunder, even under the stresses that come from terrorism, financial panic, mass layoffs, and other nasty facts of life.

Telecommunications is a tendon, a tether, a thick thread that resists twisting and torque, and then springs back into shape. It’s a tissue that binds our community, maintains the integrity and possibility of collective action, the resilience and resolve of common response, even in the harshest circumstances. I still take inspiration from the thought that the initial impetus for the development of the Internet was to create a national network that can survive a nuclear holocaust. Even if that particular hope was too dire, desperate, and na├»ve to survive close scrutiny.

Tell the nation’s technologist-in-chief, if we ever appoint one, to update that vision. Tell that person to forge a new vision of a resilient national backbone, one that can help us weather rough times, and carry us over to boom periods, but remain in place, operational, evolving, and commercially viable through the subsequent economic cycles, with only minimal government oversight or funding. Wait…that vision’s already a reality—it’s the commercial Internet that Sen. Al Gore and others envisioned in the early 90s and which quickly became a worldwide reality.

Today’s Internet is working fine, but can always stand improvement. If we create a national CTO, that person must respect the fact that this network is a global resource, not a US fiefdom. A US national CTO must collaborate and federate with their counterparts in other nations.

Try not to monkey arrogantly and unilaterally with a good thing, which some call cyberspace but is in fact now a key connective thread of the human race.


Monday, November 17, 2008

imho Natl Chf T Officer???


Way over yonder in CIO Insight magazine, Eric Lundquist says we should have a national chief information officer (CIO), not a national CTO.

Maybe I’m dense, but I’ve never fully understood the difference. A CIO is supposedly focused on applications, or, in Lundquist’s words, “business first and technology second.” Whereas a CTO would be, by implication, a business-be-damned technology zealot of the first order.

Or maybe I’m exaggerating slightly. But I’ve met quite a few CTOs in my life and times, and I still haven’t met an irresponsible bit-hugging code-cutting wire-pulling maniac among them. Which is not to say that there aren’t incompetent twits in this line of work, as in all walks of life. But, if there is a practical distinction between CIO and CTO, it isn’t usually in their relative business-savvy. It’s usually that the former is better at working with stakeholders, gaining buy-in, and nailing down the budget, whereas the latter is adept at delivering on any commitments that the former has made. The best C-level tech execs combine both skill sets, or focus on CIO responsibilities and know enough to delegate the CTO responsibilities to the right person. Whoever fulfills these roles, they, in Lundquist’s words, should certainly “know how to get things done.”

Where a national CTO/CIO is concerned, the big issue is what “thing” we the people want them to get done. As I stated in the past few posts, it’s anybody’s guess what specific responsibilities President-elect Obama would invest in any future national CTO that Congress may or may not authorize him to appoint. In Lundquist’s article, I’m glad he mentioned the heretofore fruitless federal effort to focus cybersecurity policy in a single position. “How many cybersecurity czars,” says Lundquist, “have we gone through since 9/11? I count at least three (Amit Yoran, Howard Schmidt, Greg Garcia and I’m sure there have been more) along with long gaps between selections. I think what happened was in the panic to develop national security there was an unwillingness to admit that a national security plan could take years and years to develop as competing agencies, privacy concerns and security processes needed to be considered. A national CTO could face the same difficulties.”

That last sentence is the understatement of the year. You think giving one person responsibility for all federal cybersecurity policy was a ticket to failure? Well, just imagine the insanely overflowing inbox—-cybersecurity and much much more--that will greet the person who tries to take on President Obama’s IT policy agenda, per the all-encompassing sci-tech position paper that his campaign published months ago.

If a federal CTO/CIO does nothing else, they should at least focus on the same core agenda as their counterparts in the private sector: leveraging information assets to improve organizational efficiency, effectiveness, and agility. In other words, the whole business transformation and optimization agenda—where the business we’re speaking of is the “people’s business.” Maybe what we need is a national Chief Transformation Officer.

Which is why I initially thought Al Gore would be a good candidate for the national CTO job—never mind that he would be an even better candidate for Secretary of State. When Gore was Vice President, he headed a “Reinventing Government” effort—essentially, a thankless, possibly futile, effort to prod government agencies to work both smarter and harder. Not that I have anything against government employees, but most of them work for what are essentially monopolies, and many of them have secure, unionized jobs. Good luck asking them to transform themselves when they have absolutely no career-saving need to do so.

If the incoming Democratic administration attempts to revive the “Reinventing Government” initiative, whoever leads it will need to consider the transformative power of the government’s vast IT assets. Will that leader be the presumed national CTO? Will it be Vice President Biden? Should it be?

If we’re going to give someone the thankless job of national CTO, why not hand it to the second-in-command, whose position was once described as not being worth a “pitcher of warm spit.”


Sunday, November 16, 2008

imho Natl Chf T Officer??


Obama has not yet articulated any compelling public interest for creating a national CTO, however that role may be defined.

Furthermore, the president-elect has not addressed the obvious corollary of his proposal: a national CTO would be powerless and ineffectual without statutory authority and a corresponding budget and bureaucracy. To make his vision of a national CTO a reality, Obama would need to propose legislation that would establish a new agency, which would probably absorb the functions of existing agencies.

Of course, we already have just such an agency: the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is under the Department of Commerce and describes itself as “the President's principal adviser on telecommunications and information policy.” Does Obama simply want to give NTIA’s head, the Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, a new job title, “National CTO,” or is he proposing something different? Does he also want to invest this position/agency with additional responsibilities? Does he want to split it from Commerce and reconstitute it as a separate agency? None of this is clear at this point.

That’s not to say making NTIA a separate agency would necessarily be a bad idea (but I have no opinions on the matter, one way or another). Periodically, the U.S. government has created new agencies from the programs formerly held by established bureaucracies, and/or to administer new laws. Sometimes, an overriding national emergency creates an urgent demand for a new regulatory bureaucracy. Excuse me for putting a cynical spin on this, but the Department of Homeland Security will always be the 9/11-reaction agency…just as the Environmental Protection Agency is the “Rachel Carson Silent Spring Earth Day” reaction agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission is the “1929 stock market crash” reaction agency, and the Federal Reserve System is the “Panic of 1907” reaction agency.

OK, I’m oversimplifying, but only slightly. But I’m not sensing any great urgent national call for a CTO-like position. More critical, at this historical juncture, is a totally reconstituted financial regulatory authority to replace the Federal Reserve in the wake of the current meltdown.

If we need any sort of national CTO right now, maybe it should be a Chief Transparency Officer. What do I mean by that? Well, the Obama campaign pledged to “use cutting-edge technologies to ...creat[e] a new level of transparency, accountability and participation for America's citizens.”

What this suggests is a role for business intelligence and performance management technologies in the federal government’s outreach to citizens. What I’m thinking of, and discussed in a recent Forrester blog post, is some sort of online, continuously refreshed scorecard, dashboard, or report that measures how well the government is serving its constitutents, as measured across many key performance indicators. Or, at the very least, such a scorecard might illustrate how well President Obama is living up to his campaign promises or stacking up against, say, the government’s performance under the outgoing President Bush.

Hmmm….a national government transparency scorecard. Only an aggressive push from the incoming president can put this sort of initiative on a legislative fast track. And fresh blood, in the form of a national Chief Transparency Officer from an activist background, would be needed to sell it to a skeptical public and federal bureaucracy.

Yeah, we could give the government scorecard program to the NTIA, but that would bury it deep in the bureaucracy and probably doom it to failure. The Chief Transparency Officer would need to report directly to the president, who should be promoting it as a key component of his efforts to open government to deep scrutiny.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

imho Natl Chf T Officer?


My first reaction when I heard that Obama wanted to create a national “chief technology officer” (CTO) was a tad on the cynical side. I haven’t progressed much beyond that—-yet.

National CTO? A technology czar, so to speak? To do what, exactly? With what mandate? What budget? What bureaucracy? What programs? Which champions and defenders in which committees on Capitol Hill? Which lobbyists fighting for a slot on your agenda so they can report to their customers that they have access to someone who actually has real influence over policy and legislation that matters to them? You’re nothing in Washington if you don’t have any of that.

So what’s to distinguish a National CTO from an impotent, symbolic, figurehead position, such as, say, U.S. Poet Laureate, doing a perpetual roadshow to showcase the best in US tech prowess and innovation?

Is this national CTO’s primary job going to be promoting digital apple pie causes such as the need for everybody to get connected, achieve some basic Internet literacy, or give kids laptops to help them develop into the next generation of geniuses, and so forth?

Or will the national CTO have something slightly meatier to fill their days, such as convening meetings of federal-agency CTOs in order to disseminate government best practices for service-oriented architecture (SOA) and the like?

Or will the national CTO serve as some sort of policy coordinator driving the Obama administration’s attempts to get its IT-related initiatives implemented in legislation?

We definitely need all of those things. But in the same job? Same person? And what person(s) might be suited to any or all of the above? What conceivable reason might, say, a tech billionaire have to accept such a position, which sounds like a politics-intensive job for a longtime inside-Washington policy wonk with a thick skin and the soul of a lobbyist? Where’s the fun? The glamour? The chance to do something innovative?


Thursday, November 13, 2008

personal Quick breather



Birthday’s a good day to take a breather. So I am. Just today.

It’s also a good day to take a quick look back at the year gone by. Especially if, like me , you were born in late autumn, and will be too damn busy in the coming weeks to take another break till Christmas hits, and everybody will be doing their wrap-ups, and it all becomes just too much.

Too much is exactly what I’m avoiding today, which is a Novemberly one all right, outside my window: overcast, chill, rain, bare trees. Feels like home for a transplanted Michigan boy like me. The calm of gray light and soft sofa.

This personal blog is nearing the end of its fourth year. You’ve probably noticed that I’ve slacked off on the tech postings. In case you were wondering, I’ve moved most, but not all, of my tech musings to the Forrester Information and Knowledge Management blog, where I’m one of many. Rather than confuse the industry regarding what Jim Kobielus’ real position is on this or that, I’ve kept my personal blog tech blather to just the marginal, silly, tangential, and self-indulgent—and to re-postings of my Network World columns.

Here, for the record, are links to my Forrester blog posts, from latest to earliest:


November 2008

Obama’s Information Agenda....What is It and Is There A Role for BI?

October 2008

Governance Risk Compliance Agenda....Critical in Turbulent Economy, But Conspicuously Missing from IBM’s IOD Go-To-Market Message

Extreme Affordability at the Data Warehouse? Teradata? Really?

Tactile user-built micro-analytics...OLAP and BI for the next generation...and for the aging Baby Boomer generation

September 2008

Agenda Politics -- Information Shifts The Balance Of Policy And Influence In Any Organization

Oracle Soars Into Petabyte Stratosphere, Puts HP-Powered Grid Storage At The Heart Of Its New High-End DW Appliance

Oracle Virtualizes DBMS And DW Into Amazon's Cloud

Federation Supplements The Data Warehouse - Not Either/Or, Never Was

The New Paradigm Of In-Database Cloud Analytics, And Google’s Role As Catalyst

August 2008

Database Virtualization Could Induce I&KM Vertigo

July 2008

Microsoft Acquiring DATAllegro, Rebooting Data Warehousing Appliance Strategy, And Triggering Industry Consolidation

OLAP's Cube Is Crumbling Around The Edges

June 2008

No posts in June.

May 2008

Analytic Databases Power BI Boom

April 2008

Teradata Goes Appliance, Officially

The Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) — Defined, Refined, Evolving With The Times

CEP For Real-Time BI: Vendor Announcement Events Come In Threes, Apparently

March 2008

Competitive Business Intelligence, Harnessed Through Collaboration And CEP, Harvested Across The Cloud

Oh No, Not Another 2.0 -- Database 2.0? Data Warehousing In The Cloud!

February 2008

Complex Decisions Driven, But Not Overtaken, By Events

Complex Events, Simple Experiences

Complex Event Processing (CEP) For I&KM — Mouthfuls, Morsels, And Meaningful, Manageable, Multifaceted Streams of Real-Time Intelligence

IBM Expands IOD Portfolio, Perhaps To The Bursting Point

January 2008

Data Warehousing Appliances: Growing Bigger Than A Breadbox, Softer Than The Bread

BI's New Frontiers In 2008 And Beyond

Everything That Happens In The Enterprise Software Market Affects BI


I noticed that I’ve published 15 poems on my blog this year. Interesting how those just sprung up, after having put it all on relative hiatus for the past few years. Basically, it all sprung up to have content to stick in my personal blog till I figure out the next thread. If you scroll back over the past 4 years in this blog, I started by riding the news cycle, in terms of offering opinions triggered by stories I read in the IT press. Then, there was a long period where I rode the “me cycle,” in terms of doing long multi-post rambling discussions on whatever tech topics came into my head, or topics I developed in my freelance IT writing jobs, or tech topics that I’d developed positions on previously in my analyst gigs that I still had ideas I needed to share with the world.

This year has seen a bit of all that, plus the poems, which I started developing late in my 30s to have an outlet for stray thoughts and to distract me in the late 90s/early 00s from the sometimes overwhelming task of writing books on workflow, doing my freelance articles, having a full-time job, and having a family.

Someday I’ll publish it all, hopefully, in book form. But mostly, it’s just to amuse. Of the recent ones, I’m particularly fond of “Charles Schulz’s ‘Kids’” (inspired by David Michaelis’ biography of the cartoonist—the first stanza of that poem is a direct rejoinder to a Peanuts cartoon from the mid-60s—look it up); “U.S. Pres. Barry H. ("Rocky") Obama, Jr. (D)” (inspired by an actual sticker on my sliding glass door in back, but written a month before the election, in Seattle, 6:30am, at Pike Place Market, standing on a concrete baluster with Starbucks coffee in hand, looking out over Puget Sound, knowing what’s coming); “Crunchy Analytic” (inspired by Kristina Kerr of Microsoft—hey Kristina, I told you I’d mention you--and composed in my head during dinner with Microsoft during their BI show in Seattle last month); “Wane and Wax” (inspired by a Cocteau Twins song); “Music and Music Accessories” (inspired by a piano player in the lounge at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa during the IBM Cognos analyst summit two months ago); “Talk Toxins” (a yoga breathing/relaxation/disengagement poem that also anticipated the recent panic and has helped me stay centered); “Bill Gates’ ‘Retirement’” (a ten-stanza triple-haiku, like the Schulz piece; it rode both the news cycle and the me cycle; like the Schulz piece, was actually a mediation on marriage, and also on the span of 50 years; like today’s poem, which they both foreshadowed); “Menhir” (for Elizabeth Aliman, my recently departed mother-in-law, and also for Jean Elizabeth Hoff Kobielus, my beloved mother who left this world almost 40 years ago); the Las Vegas poems from early June (especially “Center of Conventions Exhibitions Conferences and Expositions,” because it captures the essential spatial geometry of the huge interior public spaces that have been one of the primary settings for my career since the mid-80s, and which, like airports and business hotels, tend to blur in my dreams into each other).

Because I dream in space. And my mind processes information geometrically, and tangibly. Hence “Crunchy Analytic.”


poem Fifty


i' its blunt
beneficence...has granted
jim...continuance. a finite
analyst can be...parsing

thanks...i'll take the cake
and mind my sun...counting on
candle fifty-one.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

poem U.S. Pres. Barry H. ("Rocky") Obama, Jr. (D)


Red fades from the flag
of my post nine eleven
sticker. One white stripe.

Reds--remember when
they were death, a patriot
was anything but.

On a bluing field.
Behold the latest star. A
black white Hawaiian.