IT Related


Got an email today, as one does.

 I’ll just cut and paste it here.
If you work in software and you haven’t donated to Bletchley Park then you really ought to.
I bought the signed hardback, but then I think Sue is cool.  She knows:  Computer Science, WWII coding,  and Stephen Fry.

Hello there!

(Firstly thank you so much if you have already supported my book, you are wonderful :))

If you know me, you probably know that I’ve been involved with Bletchley Park for some years now. In 2003 I went there for a BCS meeting and fell in love with the place. In 2008 I started a campaign to help raise awareness of the amazing contribution of the site and the more than ten thousand young people that worked there during WW2.

In 2008 Bletchley Park was in financial difficulty. I wanted to raise awareness and gain support for the people that worked there and make sure that Bletchley Park would be there for my children and their children to visit, to help them appreciate the tremendous war effort and the contribution that it has made to us enjoying the peace we live in today. The work carried out there has been said to have shortened the war by approximately 2 years, saving millions of lives.

Fast forward four years and things are looking much rosier for Bletchley Park thank goodness, they have received funding from various sources including the Foreign Office just last week.

Lots of people have suggested over the last couple of years that I write up what happened as a book, and I’m delighted to announce that I have found a fabulous publisher called Unbound to help me do that.

I’ll be telling the story of the campaign that I started and also the amazing campaigns previous to that, during one of which the only way to save the Park was to get the trees listed. Crazy!

So, please sign up to buy my book, I get to see the names of everyone who buys, so don’t think you can get away with pretending you have bought it ;))

..and please do encourage your networks to buy the book too, someone said to me just the other day that they thought that raising awareness of Bletchley Park has also raised the profile of women and computer science in the UK, how cool is that?

Thanks for your support, the campaign that I started would not have worked if it weren’t for the thousands of people that got involved and played their part.

Here’s the link, please have a look and pledge your support, remember, I’ll be checking the names of supporters….

My book is currently funded to 76% (in just 4 days) but we still need another 24% to make it happen…

10% of all profits from the book will go to Bletchley Park.

Take care and see you soon,

Sue

 

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Very similar to the post from yesterday on my Gartner blog.

Those of you that read my last post will know that I spent the first day of my vacation at the Hockenheimring, doing an advanced driving course and track day.  I got to drive a very fancy chariot, an M3 E92. It has 420 horsepower.  It was an experience, but I have no plans to give up my day job and take on Sebastian Vettel.

Back to the M3.

It has a very fancy double clutch gearbox with Drivelogic.  It is an automatic and a manual.  It changes gear in milliseconds, depending on the aggression setting on the Drivelogic.

It has electronic damper suspension. (EDC)

It has Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)

It has variable servotronic steering support

And lots of other clever stuff

In the hands of a total amateur, these three letter acronyms stop you from fishtailing into the wall.  The default mode for all these settings is on. In order to override them, you need to know to hold down button A for 10 seconds and then press button B.  It then warns you that you have switched off the clever computer and it emails your friends and family your last will and testament.

Now Facebook is in trouble with another German Organization, the Hamburg Datenschutzbeauftrager, according to the Deutsche Welle. English Article here.  The Data Protection Commissioner,  Johanes Casper, had this to say.

A legal assessment by our office came to the conclusion that [Facebook’s] face recognition violates European and German law because Facebook is providing its users with contradictory and misleading information,” he added.

“A normal user doesn’t know how to delete the biometric data. And besides, we have demanded that biometric data be stored with the subject’s express consent. At first [any company] has to ask if the user wants their data stored or not. Facebook just gives them the possibly to opt-out. If you don’t opt-out, you’re not consenting.”

Facebook has a long history of confounding us all with their privacy settings, and it looks like the folks in Hamburg have had enough. Face recognition is the privacy equivalent of 420 horsepower without traction control. Facebook is about as far away from Privacy by Design as one can imagine.

I think I will do a what the M3 can teach ERP vendors post, but that will need to wait till I’m back at work.

(cross posted from my Gartner blog)

April is the cruelest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

While I’m somewhat uneasy about the impact of  the iPad and Kindle on books and literature generally  because of the intellectual property control that it gives the device maker, I’m rather impressed with the implications that it has for poetry (thanks Lia for the link).

Watch this video from the Guardian about Elliot’s Wasteland. It is simply delightful.  Congratulations to Faber for doing this.  It is doing things with poems that weren’t possible before.

For the enterprise software vendors reading this, doing the stuff you do on the desktop or the laptop on the iPad doesn’t really impress anyone, it merely illuminates the gap between yesterday and tomorrow. Do something that you couldn’t do before.  Surprise and delight. Innovate rather than replicate.

update: credit due to touchpress.com as well as Faber.

My regular reader(s) will probably know that I’m a fan of the Guardian newspaper and its on-line efforts.  It does a fine job with data, both in terms of sourcing it and visualizing it. Have a look at the website and data blog here.   I’ve also ranted about the need for more numeracy in HR on a number of occasions. This post will be more of the same.

Leading newspapers are making  effective use of visualization today. As an  example,  the US treasury bond ownership graphic is far more impactful than a simple listing.

It goes deeper than just a nice graph though, at a recent lecture at Leeds Trinity College,  Guardian Data Blog editor Simon Rogers presented with Tim Berners-Lee about data journalism.

Data journalism involves visualising or scrutinising often complex amounts of statistical information.

TBL had this to say.

"Journalists need to be data-savvy. It used to be that you would get stories by chatting to people in bars, and it still might be that you’ll do it that way some times.

"But now it’s also going to be about poring over data and equipping yourself with the tools to analyse it and picking out what’s interesting. And keeping it in perspective, helping people out by really seeing where it all fits together, and what’s going on in the country."

It seems to me that most professions could do with a solid dose of data visualization and the accompanying scrutiny. I’m not talking here about expensive tools, but about the love of data, and the joy of finding stuff out, getting stuck into the numbers.

I’ve given a couple of lectures on HR topics, and I’ve been hammering home on the analytics topic, but I think next time, I’ll bring some more data visualization to the party. I strongly believe that we need to see more focus on data visualization across all areas of business, but the HR department needs serious help.

I was pleased to read that Google came up with its 8 rules of management.  At first sight they  seem a typical list that one would find in any airport management book, but they are rooted in an empirical study.  Google has built its business on analysing data, so it is  not surprising that they decided to root around in their own HR data.   I do wish more HR departments would fall in love with data.

I think it is possible to be “people-centric” and “data driven” at the same time. Using numbers  to inform decisions and drive buy in isn’t treasonable.

Note: This is my personal view.

Andrew McAfee has come out quite strongly against  wikileaks and Assange’s principles and motives  in particular.  We disagree.

However, like Andrew, I’m a fan of computer and political history and I often use ancient quotes to make an argument. This post will be no different, and I may ramble a bit.

Andrew  quotes Babbage,

I’ll outsource my answer to the legendary Victorian computer pioneer Charles Babbage: “On two occasions I have been asked, ‘Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?’ I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.”

I suggest that in the case of wikileaks, the issue is not that the wrong figures are put into the machine, but the opposite.  The right figures are in the machine.  For the last few decades we have been slowly swimming in the ever warmer pond of  a censored and spin filled press and controlled information. 

Wikileaks exposes a whole lot of truths. Many banal, even trivial, but many not.  Look at the collateral murder video.  Any democratically minded person reading of  US pressure on the Spanish government  to disrupt the investigation in the death of the journalist should surely see the merits in exposing this sort of  behaviour? what about the spying on the UN? The list goes on.

I’ll also quote Babbage in response.

Those from whose pocket the salary is drawn, and by whose appointment the officer was made, have always a right to discuss the merits of their officers, and their modes of exercising the duties they are paid to perform.

Governments work for the people, not the other way around.

As I said last week I see little wrong with Assange’s goals for wikileaks,  I saw little in his paper or his various  interviews that I fundamentally disagree with.  I saw nothing that called for a violent overthrow of governments.  Andrew’s  “name calling without name calling” is wide of the mark.

I don’t want to join in the name-calling that’s flourished in the wake of Cablegate. It is fair, though, to point out that labels exist for people who want to bring about non-democratic regime change to duly elected governments. And it seems fair and fitting to apply those labels to Assange, based on his own words.

I  found Assange’s position in TIME magazine and other interviews  echoing Kennedy’s  the very word secrecy is repugnant in a free and open society rather closely. He states in the TIME article:

We don’t have targets, other than organizations that use secrecy to conceal unjust behavior .

He goes on say.

one is to reform in such a way that they can be proud of their endeavors, and proud to display them to the public. Or the other is to lock down internally and to balkanize, and as a result, of course, cease to be as efficient as they were. To me, that is a very good outcome, because organizations can either be efficient, open and honest, or they can be closed, conspiratorial and inefficient.

What is so treasonable in that statement?

When discussing companies in a Forbes interview Assange  said

Would you call yourself a free market proponent?

Absolutely. I have mixed attitudes towards capitalism, but I love markets. Having lived and worked in many countries, I can see the tremendous vibrancy in, say, the Malaysian telecom sector compared to U.S. sector. In the U.S. everything is vertically integrated and sewn up, so you don’t have a free market. In Malaysia, you have a broad spectrum of players, and you can see the benefits for all as a result.

….

It’s not correct to put me in any one philosophical or economic camp, because I’ve learned from many. But one is American libertarianism, market libertarianism. So as far as markets are concerned I’m a libertarian, but I have enough expertise in politics and history to understand that a free market ends up as monopoly unless you force them to be free.

WikiLeaks is designed to make capitalism more free and ethical.

 

Of the American politicians, Ron Paul is closest to Kennedy’s fine words thus far. 

State secrecy is anathema to a free society. Why exactly should Americans be prevented from knowing what their government is doing in their name? In a free society we are supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, however, we are in big trouble. The truth is that our foreign spying, meddling and outright military intervention in the post-World War 2 era has made us less secure, not more, and we have lost countless lives and spent trillions of dollars for our trouble. Too often it’s the official government lies that have given us endless and illegal wars resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths and casualties.

Despite what is claimed, the information that has been so far released, though classified, has caused no known harm to any individual, but it has caused plenty of embarrassment to our government. Losing our grip on our empire is not welcomed by the neoconservatives in charge.

Thomas Jefferson had it right when he advised ‘Let the eyes of vigilance never be closed.’

Watch his speech in the house here.

Ellsberg, of the Pentagon Papers,  thinks so too.

The US government has used the power of transparency and openness in the past. Reagan, when talking about the cold war, said:

"Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders."   He also said,“The Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the David of the microchip.”  I’m not labelling America totalitarian, but let me now rely on Roosevelt to make my point.

Zunguzungu links Assange to Roosevelt’s arguments of 100 years ago.  I think he is right.

Roosevelt realized a hundred years ago that “Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people,” and it was true, then too, that “To destroy this invisible government, to befoul this unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of statesmanship.” Assange is trying to shit all over this unholy alliance in ways that the later and more radical Roosevelt would likely have commended.

 Henry Porter in the Guardian takes us back to 1771, and brings up the fascinating parallel of John Wilkes. It is relevant here.

Nothing is new. In 1771, that great lover of liberty, John Wilkes, and a number of printers challenged the law that prohibited the reporting of Parliamentary debates and speeches, kept secret because those in power argued that the information was too sensitive and would disrupt the life of the country if made public. Using the arcane laws of the City of London, Alderman Wilkes arranged for the interception of the Parliamentary messengers sent to arrest the printers who had published debates, and in doing so successfully blocked Parliament. By 1774, a contemporary was able to write: "The debates in both houses have been constantly printed in the London papers." From that moment, the freedom of the press was born.

It took a libertine to prove that information enriched the functioning of British society, a brave maverick who was constantly moving house – and sometimes country – to avoid arrest; whose epic sexual adventures had been used by the authorities as a means of entrapping and imprisoning him. The London mob came out in his favour and, supplemented by shopkeepers and members of the gentry on horseback, finally persuaded the establishment of the time to accept that publication was inevitable. And the kingdom did not fall.

Porter also notes

I limit myself to saying that we have been here before with John Wilkes; and the reason for this is that authorities the world over and through history react the same way when there is a challenge to a monopoly of information.

Porter’s whole article is worth reading. But here are some other gems.

I have lost count of the politicians and opinion formers of an authoritarian bent warning of the dreadful damage done by the WikiLeaks dump of diplomatic cables, and in the very next breath dismissing the content as frivolous tittle-tattle. To seek simultaneous advantage from opposing arguments is not a new gambit, but to be wrong in both is quite an achievement.

Never mind the self-serving politicians who waffle on about the need for diplomatic confidentiality when they themselves order the bugging of diplomats and hacking of diplomatic communications. What is astonishing is the number of journalists out there who argue that it is better not to know these things, that the world is safer if the public is kept in ignorance. In their swooning infatuation with practically any power elite that comes to hand, some writers for the Murdoch press and Telegraph titles argue in essence for the Chinese or Russian models of deceit and obscurantism. They advocate the continued infantilising of the public.

 

Is Wikileaks perfect?, no, but it breaks the monopoly of information that governments and large corporations have over us all.  This is no bad thing.  We can read stuff as adults and make up our own minds.  Whether it is Assange’s wikilinks, or future  alternatives, we now have  mechanisms for inspecting the sausage factory of statecraft. 

The Swedish documentary is well worth watching, it gives a better insight into the goals and foibles of Assange and his colleagues than anything else I have seen or read.

Clay Shirky picks up on the publishers in Amsterdam in the 16th Century

We celebrate the printers of 16th century Amsterdam for making it impossible for the Catholic Church to constrain the output of the printing press to Church-approved books*, a challenge that helped usher in, among other things, the decentralization of scientific inquiry and the spread of politically seditious writings advocating democracy.

This intellectual and political victory didn’t, however, mean that the printing press was then free of all constraints. Over time, a set of legal limitations around printing rose up, including restrictions on libel, the publication of trade secrets, and sedition. I don’t agree with all of these laws, but they were at least produced by some legal process.

He is spot on.

Shirky makes a strong argument that any attempt to control wikileaks must be done within the law. To go beyond it would give ammunition to more overtly un-democratic countries. 

The key, though, is that democracies have a process for creating such restrictions, and as a citizen it sickens me to see the US trying to take shortcuts. The leaders of Myanmar and Belarus, or Thailand and Russia, can now rightly say to us “You went after Wikileaks’ domain name, their hosting provider, and even denied your citizens the ability to register protest through donations, all without a warrant and all targeting overseas entities, simply because you decided you don’t like the site. If that’s the way governments get to behave, we can live with that.”

Over the long haul, we will need new checks and balances for newly increased transparency — Wikileaks shouldn’t be able to operate as a law unto itself anymore than the US should be able to. In the short haul, though, Wikileaks is our Amsterdam. Whatever restrictions we eventually end up enacting, we need to keep Wikileaks alive today, while we work through the process democracies always go through to react to change. If it’s OK for a democracy to just decide to run someone off the internet for doing something they wouldn’t prosecute a newspaper for doing, the idea of an internet that further democratizes the public sphere will have taken a mortal blow.

In 4 years, there hasn’t been any evidence of wikileaks leading to the death of innocent parties.  Long may that continue.

This story is bigger than wikileaks though, and as one of the web’s great sages says.

So now the internet exists, does it mean no one can keep a secret any more? No. It’s just like in the good old days before the internet: if you want to keep something secret, try not telling anyone.

The internet is designed to share.

Shylock:
Most learned judge, a sentence! Come prepare!

Portia:
Tarry a little, there is something else.
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are "a pound of flesh."

The Merchant of Venice

(painting by Alexandre Canbanel. The Merchant of Venice)

The jury has decided.  SAP owes Oracle 1.3 Billion dollars.  I’ll leave others to speculate on whether SAP appeals, if is a fair sum,  or whether there will be other legal ramifications.  

Watching it all has been fun. Good theatre, with some dramatic performance and and even more dramatic absence.  Tabloid stuff.

  1. The amount, while breaking records  for  copyright infringement,  will not impact SAP’s ability to do business.  It has plenty of cash, and there is a serendipitous symmetry with the recent 1,5 billion dollar credit facility.  While it could slow down share buybacks, I doubt that it will have a real impact on its development or marketing spend. It would be wrong for SAP to shrink into cost cutting mode to fund this, but I don’t think they will anyway. 
  2. The case illustrates the hyper-competitive and ruthless nature of the industry.  Neither firm emerges Persil white from the process.  I’m not sure that it will really make a difference to how CIO’s view SAP or Oracle. Most CIO’s know that this is a pretty ruthless and aggressive business.  Oracle’s field will have a bit of fun in the sales cycle with this, but I doubt it will really impact business.
  3. Most software executives and developers have minimal understanding of copyright law and its implications.  Coming out of this, I’d hope that software developers think a little bit more about intellectual property and IT law generally. This would be a good thing.  I’d like to see software companies funding more IT law research and studies, but then I’m biased.
  4. Software companies using intellectual property to beat each other up in court isn’t new, but this judgment will encourage more of the same.
  5. The judgment was not about the legality of third party maintenance.  The SAP-Oracle case and Rimini Street –Oracle case will be quite different.  I don’t think we should conflate them.  The SAP-Oracle case was good entertainment, but it was just about damages. In the long run the Rimini Street case is more important for the whole industry.  I ‘m not assuming that just because SAP admitted that TomorrowNow was toxic, all third party maintenance is somehow tainted. 

These are my musings, rather than a formal Gartner position.

(Okay, the heading was from Romeo and Juliet, and the quote from Merchant of Venice)

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