Privacy

Earlier this month I had the chance to speak to 3rd year law students about technical issues around privacy. My contribution to the class was to point out the impossibilities and the rough edges around rules and laws that perhaps are not well thought through or well understood by those who create the laws.

The Right to be Forgotten in the EU being a good example where the search engines are required to take down search results, but the underlying content on the web pages is not necessarily changed at all. And, while this applied to search engines, it didn’t seem to apply to corporate search engines or ‘paper archives’ like newspapers.

Encryption debates in the EU and worldwide are other examples where it is possible that secure, encrypted communications will be outlawed for everyone and as such, the good guys, corporations, families, etc. will lose secure communication while the bad guys will just resort to open-source alternatives. The bad guys will still encrypt but the good guys will have it taken away. Flawed thinking.

Privacy of meta data in all the apps we use on our smart phones will be another battle ahead. As we move around town with our smart phones we record, share and broadcast:

your location, your search habits, who you call, who calls you, who you IM with, perhaps what you buy, what you look at, what you listen to, how fast you are driving, if you are home or not, perhaps your Wi-Fi credentials, what you are looking for, who your friends are, who you associate with, where you work and live, where you are taking pictures and perhaps with whom, dining choices (loyalty cards), what you are reading, where you exercise, how fast you can run, your heart rate, calories consumed, food choices, arrival and departure times, stocks you are interested in, things you needed to be reminded about, favorite sports teams, shopping lists, music preferences, weight, blood pressure, perhaps your family connections…

This data is being stored all over ‘the cloud’ on computer systems using who knows what security practices. Good luck getting all of that forgotten.

These are going to be strange years ahead where technology is tracking more about us, encryption is getting better on some services, hacking is exposing more data and the world is in conflict (as it always has been) between nations, groups and individuals.

I don’t know where this is all going to end up.

Vaccination

I read years ago that if enough computers in an organization have anti-virus software installed, then the chance of a really bad virus outbreak in the organization is greatly diminished just by the fact that the virus won’t enough hosts to spread to inside the organization.

An article about this very point caught my eye this week and I wanted to share it here and elsewhere. The article says:

The success of his vaccine (it resulted in the virtual eradication of polio in the U.S.) was due to a phenomenon called (sic) Herd Immunity. In short, as more people were vaccinated against the virus, it had less and less places to spread, and that meant less places to spread from, until finally the disease was eliminated.

IT shops need to invest it technology solutions to prevent, detect and eradicate malware. At the same time, organizations must continually educate their employees about risk and vulnerabilities that can be minimized with good behavior, good decision making and discipline. A service like phisme.com can help with the later.

Both are needed.

Getting Better at Getting Better

Wonderful article over in the New Yorker called, Better All The Time. I saw it in the context of getting better at running which someone had referenced in that regard. However, it applies to work, to running, to most things. We need to think about getting better at getting better.

I’ve started running and I’m planning to run a marathon in a few months which is something inconceivable to me just a few years or even months ago. Now I’m running several times a week and recently did a 15 mile run with my running partner which is the longest run I’ve ever done. Now I’m running half marathon lengths just to train for the marathon!

All of this running has started me thinking about how do I become a better runner who can not just complete a marathon, but actually enjoy it and finish it in a strong, heads up fashion? There are lots of web sites and training plans and tools to help one prepare for this, but what is interesting to me is the idea of deciding to get better and then doing the research and taking the steps to get better. When exactly should I drink water, or consume some energy (Gu)?

We need to do the same in our IT shops and in all our organizations.

  1. We need to measure results, times, costs, efforts, etc. in our processes. Not in a needless fashion or dumb fashion, but measure the right things.
  2. Ask the people who are doing the work how to do things better. They are doing the work so ask them what are their obstacles and what is slowing them down. Likely they know how to help get things done better and faster.
  3. Don’t be arrogant and assume the way you are doing is the right way. Keep asking questions. Ask your vendors what ways they’ve seen things done better? Be open to all good ideas.
  4. Keep looking, even when you do find an improvement because there is another one behind it.

I’ve been learning when to hydrate, when to consume Gu, when to drink Powerade and I’ve discovered I’ve been taking these things in the wrong order and not enough. I’ve also learned different training methods than I had not heard of before. I think these things will help me get better and improve my ability to be successful at the marathon.

We need to be thinking this way in our IT shops.

Lots of Data

I’ve had the chance in the last 2 months to spend extended amounts of time with some key IT infrastructure and application companies. In all three meetings, I’ve heard the repeated theme that the amount of data being collected, stored and analyzed is increasing and there is no sign of it slowing down.

One well known company indicated that they were collecting a huge amount of data from their latest product in operation and they are just now trying to separate the signal from the noise. They are collecting data from a huge number of sensors and they are trying to identify the key input variables. But the important point to me is that they are collecting huge amounts of data.

Another person said that all of us will be saving more and more data and we’ll need to ‘keep buying disk drives.’ Given where I work that is a good thing.

Another well known network infrastructure company talked about the amount of data moving through their networks every day and the numbers are just staggering. Many petabytes per day.

Everyone is talking about Big Data now and the Internet of Things were sensors are exploding in count.

Storage which might have been a boring subject is no longer boring.

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Busy

Sorry, been gone for a while. Well, I’ve been here but I’ve been gone.

I posted a link on LinkedIn and tweeted an HBR article that said for you to Please Stop Complaining About How Busy You Are which got lots of likes and comments. So I won’t tell you how busy I’ve been.

Met with my staff this past week for two days.  Could have spent 5 days and still had as much not covered as covered. Lots going on and lots of IT opportunities these days inside organizations. It is opportunities you know. Not problems.

Hope you are well. More soon.

Mark

Complexity Creep

I used to think that simplicity of mobile applications and smart phones was the future for applications. The simple buttons and simple processes behind most applications make them very popular as a way to get things done. They had to be simple because there was little real estate on a screen to make it complex.

However, I’m starting to think the mobile phones (smartphones) are creeping(racing? soaring?) further up the complexity ramp. The screen content might be simple, but applications have settings scattered (notifications, sounds, in the app settings and under settings settings) and the platform has settings (notifications, power, network, roaming, sounds, etc.)

My iPhone 5 running iOS 6 (and the prior platform) has become more complex.

  • To minimize power consumption, or stretch a low battery further, you’ve still got to go turn off bluetooth, locations services, Wi-Fi and maybe data services on the cellular settings page. There isn’t one place to go. I wrote about this ages ago and it seems Apple could really simplify this with one page/tool that allows you to power up and down key services from one place. Android does this better.
  • International data roaming has the ‘data roaming’ setting which can be turned off, but the Cellular Data button still allows update to come through. I noticed this while in Spain last month.
  • Siri takes some setup including identifying relatives and key contacts. It is not clear how to do this.
  • If you have more than one mail box, there are complexities around outbound mail to specific which mail system to use. I keep getting that wrong and sending personal email on my business account and the reverse.
  • iTunes Match and syncing. Not understood by most mortals.
  • I’m delighted that notifications are in one place, now every app wants to make sounds to get our attention. If I add a new app, I need to go change its notification settings to turn off sounds.
  • Passbook is great, but you seem to have to have each app post whatever on the passbook page. Boarding passes from United or AA need to be moved there from the United or AA app instead of just appearing there.
  • Read this hysterical rant about iMessage and group messaging here. You’ve got to read it. You can’t unsubscribe from large group messages!

These wonderful, simple tools are creeping up the complexity curve just like we’ve seen with Excel and Word and Powerpoint in the past.

Is this just inevitable?

And trying to smartly manage your account with your wireless vendor is another challenge. I was considering moving to their shared plan where the family smart phones would share a common pool of data and I’d save money in the process by giving up unlimited on 3 of our phones. They have a worksheet to calculate how much data you need to ‘buy’ but instead of taking your usage patterns for the last 6 months, it asked you to list out your devices and enter how much each one needs. Hello? They already have our usage! Why can’t just recommend a level? Dumb and complicated.

Get the right information to the right people at the right time

A really great post over at e2open about what CIOs should be focused on at work. I’ve thought about it a lot since reading this yesterday. The only thing I might add is that CIOs should also be focused on keeping information out of the wrong people’s hands. Get information to the right people and keep it from the wrong people. Is it that simple?

What do you think?