Saturday, August 31, 2002

Chicago Get-together?

Klogging in Chicago. I’ll be in Chicago for a conference in early October and I’m very interested in meeting knowledge-focused webloggers in the area. [Blunt Force Trauma]

Terry – there’s a bunch of us. Jenny, Jim, Eric, Mike, me and others I’m sure I’m forgetting. We keep promising each other a get-together – maybe this is our excuse?

Friday, August 30, 2002

Knowledge Is Not a Zero Sum Game

From Blunt Force Trauma comes this great post about KM:

Share More, Get More
Knowledge isn’t like money, when you give it away you don’t have less. Ron Lusk points us to a wiki page on knowledge sharing started by Denham Grey. Denham is out there, often on the way, far, celestial event horizon of knowledge management, but he comes up with some excellent stuff. This page is a great resource with case studies, strategy papers, essays and fruitful links on every aspect of knowledge sharing.

KnowledgeSharing. Wanted to bring this page (last updated a few days ago) back to mind for all of us.
Asking WIIIFM before you share defeats the objective, you are starting off on the wrong foot. In the same vein, asking you to enter a password protected space with the aim of sharing should send up the warning signals. If your CEO comes back from a KM conference and sets up Lotus Notes with complex access privileges you should question if they have really got the message. Is giving in the knowledge economy just being naive? How about the groupware vendor that sells tools, but sponsors no work on understanding collaboration, group processes or conducts no ethnographic research? Do you believe they have collaboration at heart or are they just selling more software? [Ron Lusk’s Radio Weblog]

Community isn't built - it's grown

Just found another good marketing blog, POELog. This post is relevant on a number of fronts, and is certainly interesting in the context of the k-log conversation that’s been ongoing: Design for Community: An Interview with Derek M. Powazek – Some great nuggets of wisdom about community, web design and core truths about developing and running a web-based business. Here’s a few of the highlights:

  • Web communities happen when users are given tools to use their voice in a public and immediate way, forming intimate relationships over time.
  • The biggest misconception is that community can be built at all. It can’t. What you can do is build an environment that is conducive to social interaction. If people adopt it and make it their home, they’ll call it a community for you. Community isn’t built—it’s grown.
  • The clear winners [in building online communities] are places like Amazon and eBay. Now, these aren’t the community ideals. Let’s face it, they’re both about buying and selling at their core. But where other web stores failed, they succeed. In both cases, it’s because they designed their sites around the strengths of the Internet: social connections.
  • The thing to remember is, the Internet is a big place, and there is indeed a community out there for everyone. But your community doesn’t have to include everyone. The idea is to find the people who care about your product, service, or niche, and make a place just for them.
    (via Net Marketing). [POELog]
  • Thursday, August 29, 2002

    Updated About Page

    I updated the about this site page, incorporating changes with liveTopics and activeRenderer, and removing info about items that were no longer on the site. Request: if you’re new to this site, take a look at the page and tell me if you can figure out what’s going on. Since many people hitting this site aren’t necessarily familiar with weblogs, I want to make sure that this is clear to non-bloggers. (That said, I’m interested in any opinions on the subject – so if you do know blogs and think I’ve missed something, let me know.)


    CRM - Product or Strategy?

    I gave a presentation last week at LawNet, and my co-presenter was Peter Lamb, IT Direcor at a customer of ours in Toronto. They’ve been ridiculously successful with the product – they report 96% of the lawyers using the system regularly, and senior management sees it as critical to their overall success.

    Peter made a number of outstanding points. In no particular order:

    • Lawyers don’t have to participate in the CRM product to participate in the CRM strategy.
    • When Peter asked for a show of hands for how many had a CRM system already, about half (40 or so people) raised their hands. When asked how many had a CRM strategy, only two hands remained up.
    • Less than 1/3 of the people in the room knew of a written firm busienss strategy. (Several others said one existed, but that it was a verbal strategy. To which Peter replied: what good is it if it’s not written down?)

    It’s always encouraging to see customers share their successes. His firm has worked very hard to make InterAction successful – but to their credit, they’re also very willing to share the details of how they got there.

    Blog On!

    Blog On!

    by Rick Klau

    (A version of this article was originally published in the April, 2002 ABA Law Practice Management Magazine.)

    If I told you I had my own Web page, you’d probably cringe. Personal Web pages are the antithesis of the mantra in Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” No, they won’t. They have stayed away from personal pages — in droves.

    So it comes as a small shock that a variation on the personal Web page phenomenon has become an enormous craze. There is an even bigger surprise. The sites are, by and large, great. These new sites are known as blogs, which is short for weblogs.

    What’s It All About?

    A blog is like a personal journal, where the site owner keeps a collection of links, writings, observations and other comments. There are hundreds of thousands of individuals maintaining blogs today - and they aren't all college sophomores bragging about the latest concert they attended. Bloggers are truly a cross-section of the online community. And yes, I have a blog.

    [As a sidenote, here’s the William Safire part of the column: blog is a noun (“Visit my blog”), a verb (“I blogged half of’s headlines today”) and a proper noun (“She’s been a Blogger for years”).]

    What makes blogs so different from personal Web pages? Blogs have a purpose. They exist to share thoughts, observations and opinions, instead of lists of useless links for friends or, worse, annoying pictures of the family. Blogs are focused on writing — often brief, informal comments with helpful links to other sites (most often other blogs or news sites). And the technology behind blogs makes them easy to update and maintain.

    I found out about blogs by accident. While researching something called Reed’s Law, I came to the blog of John Robb. John, president of the company Userland and a former Internet analyst for Forrester Research, was also interested in Reed’s Law and had written about it just a few weeks before — which is why Google led me to his blog. I found dozens of quick posts there — all interesting, current and focused on technology and business. I bookmarked the site, and two days later I was back at it — this time because of a link from yet another site discussing a different topic. The fact that different searches on different days pointed me to the same source spoke to the power of a well-maintained blog. I was hooked.

    So You Want to Be a Blogger

    With hundreds of thousands of Bloggers on the Net, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are a number of options if you want to start your own blog. Here is a summary of some of the more popular options. Credited by many for bringing blogging to the masses,, at, makes it simple to create, host and maintain your blog. Once at the site, pick a username and password, click on Create a Blog, and you’re off. If you already have a Web site, or space on a Web server, you can simply ftp your blog to that existing location. Otherwise, you can create a free account on’s partner site, You have control over the site’s appearance, using templates that apply to all the pages in your blog.

    Creating a new entry is easy. Type your post into the Edit field, click on Post & Publish, and your new content is now online. is free. However, the Blogger Pro premium service provides faster servers, increased functionality and other benefits for $35 per year.

    The advantages to are that it is purely Web-based, the interface is exceedingly simple and it is free. The chief disadvantage is that there is no software installed on your machine. That means if you’re a mobile user, you’re limited to posting when you’re online.

    Movable Type. Movable Type, at, is software that consists of scripts that you install on your Web server. So you’ll need to be comfortable installing and configuring Web server software. If you’re not, the good folks at Movable Type will do it for you for a small fee. While the software itself is free, the company requests a donation (and future versions with increased functionality will likely be fee-based).

    Conceptually, Movable Type is similar to the model. Movable Type, though, offers more for those who can do their own programming. And it offers more control over the presentation of the content.

    Userland Radio 8. This brings us to Userland, at, John Robb’s company. Userland makes the high-end weblogging software application, Radio. Packed with sophisticated features, Radio gives users complete control over page layout, text formatting and posts archiving. Radio is a terrific program that lets you set up a blog in minutes. But its real power is its ability to support creation of Web services. Radio turns your desktop into a publishing service — publishing not just your blog posts but also other applications that you might be running on your desktop. This feature is likely beyond the scope of what first-time users will want. But it’s a glimpse into the future of distributed, Web-based computing. That alone makes it worth a look.

    Radio is the most fully featured option in blogging. The downside? The blog lives on your desktop, so if you use multiple computers, managing the blog can be more difficult (not impossible, but it requires some additional administration).

    It’s an Outlet with Archiving and Promotional Merits

    Once I started poking around the blog world, I decided to give it a try. This seemed a great outlet for my day-to-day observations on technology and law. In the three months since I started my blog, I’ve also found it is a great tool for capturing sites and news for my future reference. That alone is tremendously valuable. From a promotional standpoint, it hasn’t been bad either. Now that Google has picked up the site, I get five to ten visitors a day who visit solely based on the content that is captured in my blog’s archives.

    You can visit my blog at Let me know what you think — and send me a link if you start your own blog!

    (Note: My next column will look at how firms can take the concept of weblogging and use it to create a kind of knowledge management effort.)


    Wanna Get Published?

    The ABA Law Practice Management Magazine is running a “Reader Letters” page for the October issue. If you want to get a letter in to them responding to either of my two articles about weblogs (here and here), e-mail me no later than tomorrow morning. I’ll forward them on to the editor.

    Stick a Fork in SatireWire

    Too bad. The site responsible for many of those e-mails that were too funny to have been written by your friend’s friend? Most of them came from SatireWire. Some of my favorites:

    And as far as I’m concerned, the all-time best:

    The site’s creator and sole contributor is calling it quits. And no, it’s apparently not a joke.

    K-Logs in Action

    Klog examples.

    Dylan Tweney says. In Business 2.0, Dylan Tweney says a weblog is a “ quick-and-dirty, easy-to-use knowledge management system.”   [Scripting News]

    Some good, quick examples of klogs in action including Traction at Verizon and Radio in the state of Utah. [McGee’s Musings]

    Let’s not forget that one of Traction’s investors is In-Q-Tel, the V.C. arm of the CIA. And CIA is a happy customer by all accounts.

    Software Licensing - a Programmer Needs Help!

    Matt Mower, author of liveTopics, is struggling with how to license what he’s written. My excitement over liveTopics grows the more I think about how it adds value to my blog (that value is purely internal – it makes it easier for me to “remember” things I’ve written about, and to see the threads of various posts). As a result, I have a vested interest in seeing Matt do the right thing with this so he can continue to develop a great product. If there are any copyright lawyers reading this blog (and my referer logs indicate that at least a few of you are coming from well-known IP firms), would you drop Matt a line and help him out?

    Wednesday, August 28, 2002

    Dan Bricklin on Blogs in Business

    Dan Bricklin (co-creator of VisiCalc, founder of Trellix) posted a great piece a couple weeks ago about the growing importance of blogs in the business world. He focused specifically on the importance of blogs in small businesses. Two quotes stand out:

    It is important to understand that the purpose of a blog is not always to get the largest and widest readership possible. The purpose is usually to communicate with interested individuals. Even in business, the number of those individuals may be very few, but the impact of the communications can have economic impact far beyond its cost.

    As blogging moves more and more into the mainstream, it will eventually be surprising when you don’t use a blog. [emphasis mine] [Dan Bricklin’s Log]

    The full text of his post is here.

    Howard Dean for President?

    The first time I read about Bill Clinton, I was living in France and it was in the Lexington column in The Economist. It was about a dark horse candidate, someone who was willing to be a bit different in an effort to establish an independent voice early in the campaign for the presidency.

    I wonder if I’ll remember this article in the same vein. Read what one British journalist has to say about Vermont’s governor Howard Dean:

    Possibly Howard Dean’s greatest virtue is that he can speak. He has a voice. It is orderly, clear and unagonised. It says if you want an alternative that is truer than Bush to the great American dream of standing for a better world, here he is. There are worse beginnings for a candidacy.

    Blogs in Academic Research

    I asked this morning for a way to automatically add paragraph numbers to blog posts. Why? Thanks to an e-mail from reader Edward Chiu, I realized that there’s really no way for researchers to adequately cite to blogs. This is a big deal in the legal world, and I imagine it would have applicability in broader academia as well. If I write a law review article, I need to tell the reader where I got a fact/opinion/etc. In order to do so, the norm is to simply identify the publication, the author, etc. and the page number.

    But with electronic writing, you don’t have page numbers. And in the legal profession, there is a strong push to identify “pin-point” cites. If you have a long post with dozens of paragraphs, it’s hard for someone to identify the source of the particular assertion.

    When I started the first law journal to publish exclusively online back in 1994 (the Richmond Journal of Law & Technology), we had to deal with this. Fortunately, we got the citation bible (The Bluebook, edited by the Harvard, Columbia, Yale and Penn Law Review editors) to adopt a standard citation convention for online publications. More details are here:

    Our answer was not unique – courts had been doing this in some jurisdictions – but it was easily translatable to the online world. All writing has paragraph numbers (even if there’s just one) – and if you can direct someone to the precise paragraph number, they’re more likely going to be able to identify the source of the assertion you’re citing. (To see this in action, see for example this article in the current issue of JOLT.)

    I think if there were a way to automatically add paragraph numbers to posts, it would make it easier for anyone citing to blogs. This would eliminate one potential barrier to acceptance in academic research, and go just a bit further to legitimizing blogs as a communication medium. Even though blogs are in some way time-sensitive, it’s not hard to imagine something on a blog being useful down the road in a research setting. (In fact, I think blogs may be invaluable as a way of capturing background information on subjects that may not make it into more traditional, formal publications. But that’s a different subject.)

    There’s some stuff that needs to happen under the hood as well. Instead of providing hypertext anchosrs to the individual post, you’d want to tie the anchor to the post and to the paragraph. That wouldn’t be hard – just something to contemplate as we build it.

    Unfortunately, I can define the spec but don’t know the first thing about programming in Radio. Ideally, this would be supported in other blog platforms like Blogger and Movable Type. I’d love to work with someone on this. Anyone else have thoughts on the usefulness or necessity of this?

    Naperville Last Fling 2002

    If you live in Chicago-land and like music, Naperville is the place to be this weekend. Friday night – David Crosby. Saturday – Blues Traveler. Sunday – Sponge, Seven Mary Three, Spin Doctors and Gin Blossoms. Monday – Sonia Dada.

    Oh yeah – tickets are $5 (Monday’s free). Visit the Last Fling web site for more details.

    Naperville rocks. Literally! (And if you’re going, let me know and we’ll see you there.)

    We’re going to miss Blues Traveler Saturday night because a group of us are going to Ravinia to see Bonnie Raitt and Lyle Lovett.

    Paragraph Numbering Macro

    Does anyone out there know how to create a Radio macro that will automatically number paragraphs? (I would like each post to include paragraph numbers; they wouldn’t be sequential.) If you do, drop me a line.

    Tuesday, August 27, 2002

    Meeting bloggers

    John Robb reports on the difference of meeting someone through their blog:

    … The difference with people that have weblogs is:

    1) We don’t have to exchange business cards.  They know where I am located on the Internet.  I know where they are located on the Internet.   My personal weblog has spam-free e-mail, and a link to instant messaging.   There is a link to a bio page that provides some detail on who I am and what I have done.

    2) By reading the weblog of the person I am about to meet with, I already know a lot about that person. Most importantly: I know how they think through reading their writings. There is probably no better way to supercharge a meeting than to read the weblog of the person you are about to meet with. It provides a strong basis of understanding necessary for high order interaction.

    3) I can write up the results of the meeting on my weblog and share it with a wider audience.  That provides feedback to the person you met with and shares the insight developed in the meeting with a wider audience.

    I really didn’t expect weblogs to change the way I met with people. This was a surprise. [John Robb’s Weblog]

    Monday, August 26, 2002

    Five Minute Legislation

    Without a doubt, Ernie has got to be one of the top two or three Swedish-Colombian lawyer bloggers on the Internet living in New Orleans (rim-shot).

    Check out his post on Five Minute Legislation. Says Ernie: “The current system produces many convoluted laws that clearly don’t work and cause enormous confusion, so how much worse could it be if  the congressional term only lasted five minutes?   If nothing else, the official record of the proceedings would be short, and easy to read.  Read up on Ernie’s proposed five minute laws here.

    Weblogs are Critical to KM Success

    Jim McGee’s post “Making people smarter isn’t the point“ got me thinking about a couple parallel threads going on in a number of blogs in the past week:

    1. Phil Windley points out that he has trouble pulling ideas out of people’s heads, and I respond that you wouldn’t always know which ideas to pull.

    2. Matt Mower and Lilia Efimova discuss the discrepancy between smart people and good teachers.

    3. Jim McGee responds to Matt and Lilia’s posts that people who learn are getting smarter. He further suggests that smarter people = healthier organizations, and finally concludes tha the market will reward healthier organizations.

    From this, I get a couple interesting deductions:

    • Organizations should want their employees to get smarter. Smarter in this context means that they know more than they did the day before; it’s not necessary that their knowledge be tied to their job. An employee who is learning is one who is challenged and engaged – and someone fitting that description is more likely to contribute to the organization’s success.

    • Employees learn by getting exposed to others in the organization. Simply knowing what others are doing – what problems they ran into, what they did about them – can go a long way to helping them see issues in a different light.

    • Management’s role is to encourage people to capture what they know – without making a distinction between information that’s valuable and not valuable. Common sense should dictate whether the information should get captured or not.

    • Employees can and should act as their own editor – to identify people who help them learn. These filters will be dynamic, but the goal is to simply identify people who can shed light on a particular topic.

    • To be successful over the long haul, employees must be recognized for their contributions.

    Finally, why I think weblogs are a key piece of the puzzle:

    • Simple capturing of text. It’s easy for anyone who participates to quickly jot down a few notes and instantly share them with others.

    • Weblog applications facilitate distribution of information – not just on the web, but also in XML for easy aggregation in applications like Radio‘s aggregator, AmphetaDesk, NewsIsFree, FeedReader, and others.

    • Complementary pieces of web technology – referral logs, statistics trackers, TrackBack – make it easy to see possible connections between related threads. In this way, individuals can make connections to related information – and possibly synthesize that into knowledge.

    • Weblogs reduce the clutter in a user’s inbox.

    A few months ago we had an interesting dialogue about measurement. One important challenge left unresolved in this discussion is measurement. How do you measure the individual’s contribution to the system? How do you measure the success of the initiative? Jim suggests that the ultimate measurement is reflected in the marketplace. I think there is some merit in this, but it’s hardly the only measurement. (And Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma suggests that occasionally, healthy companies die from listening to customers. But that’s a separate discussion.)

    For me, much of this comes back to executive leadership. Little of what’s described above will happen at a grass-roots level. If an individual isn’t rewarded for what they do, there’s little to no incentive to go out of their way to do it. If, on the other hand, a CEO makes it clear that the organization is committed to learning (both as a noun and a verb, by the way) – then a culture can grow around that. Executives must lead by example – not commandment. And CEOs need some evidence that this commitment will be rewarded in the marketplace – which brings us back to measurement.

    In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins wrote that the truly great CEOs aren’t the rock star types. They’re the ones who quietly work in the background to make others smarter. They promote the organization, take credit for the failures and point the finger when there are successes. At the end of the day, that’s what a good teacher does – and what learning is all about.

    With their focus on distribution of information, identification of individual contributions, and sharing of credit, weblogs may very well be critical to the long-term success of any KM effort.

    In a World...

    Thanks to Jason Kottke for pointing this out:

    Comedian is coming to a theater near you. The trailer is a riot.

    Site update: more topics added

    I have grown to really like liveTopics. Converting from Radio’s categories to liveTopics has been cumbersome (as it matures, I imagine Matt might offer a conversion utility), but worth it. You can now browse a topical outline of all posts on this site here; it is now complete for July and August. I will periodically go back and add past months as well.

    Even if you’re not very interested in sharing your topics (you can keep them entirely private), I’ve found they’re a great way for keeping track of past posts. When I want to pull up a post I made in the past, I just need to open the allTopics.opml file on my desktop and can immediately see when I made the post (and link to it from the file).

    Of course, the advantages to your readers – if you’re interested in giving people an easy-to-navigate road-map to your posts – are big as well. In all, liveTopics is a great tool.

    Sunday, August 25, 2002

    Corporate Blog Policy

    Ray Ozzie (co-founder of Lotus Notes, and currently behind the promising Groove) has encouraged his employees to use weblogs for KM, knowledge sharing, and – let’s face it – PR. I’m behind him on all three counts. He asked Groove’s counsel to come up with a corporate policy on blogs for employees. The resulting policy is here; it’s well worth a read.

    He asks:

    Perhaps we can learn from one another: are there any other companies that have done similar things?  Can you provide links or stories?

    My meeting with IT went well on Friday. I think we’re going to do a pilot in-house with a half-dozen to a dozen people. I’m helping IT set up the Radio Community Server and the individuals who we will hand-pick – we’re going to pair the launch of the k-log with th re-launch of the Intranet. The IT guy behind the Intranet was intrigued by the notion of letting everyone in the company contribute. From his perspective, it just meant that the “editors” would have to do less work.

    Though I hadn’t thought of it, that’s as compelling a reason to look into corporate blogs as any. And Groove’s policy should help give us some guidance about what we’ll tell our folks to do and avoid. If we come up with any twists on the concept, I’ll post them here.

    Saturday, August 24, 2002

    Signs of Intelligent Life in D.C. The Transportation Security Agency may stop asking ridiculous questions about your bags:

    “All passengers do not pose equal security threats,” Wascom said. “Why should we continue to ask these simple questions of everyone? We should be focusing on people who are higher security risks.”

    I have a suggestion. For whatever reason, I think I’m the magnet. People sitting next to me tend to be a bit odd. Whether they’re a threat to the plane, they’re certainly a threat to me getting anything productive done on the plane. So if it’s threats they’re looking for, maybe that’s a place to start.

    Just trying to do my part.

    Friday, August 23, 2002

    Gnomedex Stream Now Available

    Gnomedex is LIVE right now in Des Moines, Iowa – but thanks to the fine folks at PlayStream, we can bring you a real-time audio feed of the event (no matter where you live in the world)! Listen in Windows Media format live, with multiple archive formats available for download following the show, including QuickTime, MP3, MPEG, Shockwave Flash, and WMA.
    The stream goes live at 11AM CST! To start listening to our presentations, sign up here.
    It’s just $20 for the entire weekend of speeches, which includes all of the following: Steve Gibson from, Rob Rosenberger from, Leo Laporte from TechTV, Ed Ross & Terry Swiers from PC Talent, Beth Goza from Microsoft, Phil “Pud” Kaplan from F’ed Company, Mark Thompson from AnalogX, Evan Williams from, and Doc Searls of Cluetrain Manifesto fame. Not only can you listen to the LIVE stream right now, but you can download the audio to your hard drive when all is said and done. Again, all of this for just $20! Since you couldn’t come to our conference, we wanted to offer you the next best thing. You can support the event from the comfort of your own home (or office). Click here to start streaming the sounds coming from the Gnomedex floor! [Gnomedex e-mail]

    This event sounds like a good one; might be some good presentations worth catching on the stream.

    Radio as an Intranet

    I’m meeting later on today with one of our IT guys to try and pitch Radio as the preferred method of contributing content to our soon-to-be-re-released (!) intranet. We are a software company, but like most software companies I’ve been a part of, internal technology is not often a focus. We concentrate on technology for our customers – in development, Q&A, support – but rarely spend much time thinking about how technology can help us improve our own business, our own jobs.

    I hope to change that. To that end, I’m open to any suggestions. Anyone have any words of wisdom in explaining the merits of blogs for internal knowledge sharing? (I’m familiar with John Robb’s group at Yahoo.) Mostly, I want to hear from folks who’ve explained blogs to newbies – and earned their endorsement.

    Update: I posted earlier this week about Radio’s “Categories” feature. Their most useful characteristic is that you can create a separate template for the category – completely changing the look and feel of the weblog page. I helped Ernie do this a few weeks ago (he’ll start using Radio to maintain the news page for his law firm shortly – except that visitors will just see a page that looks like the rest of the firm web site), and I took about twenty minutes this morning to mock up what an intranet page might look like for us. I took the HTML from our web site, deleted some of the content and added two Radio macros – one to insert the body text (which renders each blog post) and the other which draws the blog calendar (an archive of past posts).

    If you’re publishing the page to a different server, you simply need to create a separate “upstream.xml“ file – which tells Radio to send your content to a server other than your blog’s server. As a result, I expect that I will be able to post to my company’s intranet (via ftp) using Radio categories. Radio will handle the formatting, linking, and uploading of the posts. I hope this helps “sell” the idea internally.

    Thursday, August 22, 2002

    The Innovation Cycle

    From Adam Curry’s weblog, a great review of a book about the history of the telephone. He equates the challenges faced by Bell to the weblog challenge. I think it’s broader than that, but the similarities in economic climate, business challenges, etc. are absolutely intriguing:

    I’ve been reading the History of the telephone, as written in 1910 by Herberst Casson. It has been very refreshing to read how hard it was for Bell to get anyone to notice, look ar listen to his new device. In fact, it wasn’t until he sent a ‘news story’ at a distance of 16 miles, that he received the attention he needed: the press. Seems they only react when their own business affected.

    So much of this story is analogous to weblogs. Their invention, mis(understanding) and application all pretty much went through the same stages. Here’s one you’ll recognize:
    “There were hundreds of shrewd capitalists in American cities in 1876, looking with sharp eyes in all directions for business chances; but not one of them came to Bell with an offer to buy his patent. Not one came running for a State contract. And neither did any legislature, or city council, come forward to the task of giving the people a cheap and efficient telephone service.”
    It gets better: “ ……it was a most unpropitious time for the setting afloat of a new enterprise. It was a period of turmoil and suspicion. What with the Jay Cooke failure, the Hayes-Tilden deadlock, and the bursting of a hundred railroad bubbles, there was very little in the news of the day to encourage investors.” [Adam Curry: Adam Curry’s Weblog]

    Wednesday, August 21, 2002

    Blogs as KM - One State's Efforts

    Digging Ideas Out of People’s Heads.

    Dave McNamee is doing a good job on his weblog of narrating his work and keeping his co-workers updated about where his head is at on any given day.  Good work Dave!

    I worry sometimes about the public expression of information that should be kept confidential, but I worry more about the exponentially worse problem of keeping confidential that which should be publicly expressed.  I can think of ways to solve the first problem, but I can’t dig ideas out of people’s heads.  They must be expressed to be used. [Windley’s Enterprise Computing Weblog]

    Phil Windley is the CIO for the state of Utah. His post above is consistent with what I said earlier today about needing to be able to explain something before you can share it. But it goes deeper…

    If taken in an organizational context, successful KM depends in part on people sharing the right information. And because different individuals have different skill sets and different experiences, it’s unlikely that one individual would know what another would find valuable. This compounds Phil’s comments: not only can’t you dig ideas out of people’s heads, but you wouldn’t necessarily know which ones you would want to pull. (Which I guess means knowledge isn’t like pornography: you wouldn’t know it when you saw it.)

    One of the advantages to blogs is that they make it easy to simply jot down some thoughts. You don’t need to give too much thought to what is valuable and what isn’t – not only wouldn’t you know, but value to one individual is worthless to another. The key is to ensure a simple, reliable way for capturing the ad hoc thoughts. Blogs make capturing this info about as simple as it can be.

    Of course, you’ll still run into the traditional challenges in any sharing oriented technology endeavor – cultural issues, lack of processes to implement/support the initiative, etc. But addressing the infrastructure problem lets the organization triangulate on the culture and people issues. With someone like Phil actively encouraging organizational blogging, that helps establish strong executive buy-in. On top of that, Phil’s doing a good job of highlighting individuals throughout the state who are blogging. See here, here and here for examples. That helps highlight individual contributions – which addresses the people/culture challenges.

    Phil’s not only a good commentator, he’s a good case study. I look forward to reading on the ongoing experiences in Utah – the right pieces are in place.

    NYTimes: A Nation of Bloggers...

    A Nation of Bloggers and Googling by E-Mail. The number of Weblogs now tops a half-million, by most estimates. So it’s no surprise that some bloggers, as the writers of these link-filled, diarylike sites are known, are carving some order out of chaos. By Pamela Licalzi O’connell. [New York Times: Technology]

    Nothing earth-shattering in this piece, but it’s good to see good coverage in major media about the increasing ubiquity of weblogs. Additional note: why don’t more newspapers actually link to sites they mention? (Kudos to the NY Times for doing so.)

    CRM Failure Rates - Don't Believe the Hype

    I’m giving a presentation tomorrow at LawNet’s Annual Conference about the challenges of getting professional buy-in to a CRM system. I’m using this article from last fall’s InfoWorld as a counterpoint to the oft-repeated failure rates of CRM implementations. Since my audience is mostly IT Directors/CIOs, it seemed particularly appropriate:

    META GROUP REPORTS that a staggering 55 percent to 75 percent of all CRM projects fail to meet their objectives. Clearly it is just the latest in a long line of overhyped technologies.

    Or is it? On average, about 70 percent of all IT- related projects fail to meet their objectives, so CRM’s failure rate — along with the appalling 70-percent failure rate for ERP implementation projects and the shockingly high 70-percent failure rate experienced by those implementing SCM ( supply-chain management) — is about as distressing as a 70-percent failure rate for a hitter in baseball.

    Which is to say this is actually good news. Any manager in baseball would be thrilled to have a team batting average of.300, and if CRM and SCM projects are succeeding as well or better than traditional IT projects, it is remarkable. Why? CRM and SCM aren’t like traditional IT projects. They’re the next stage in an ongoing shift in the role of IT — from solution to enabler. [emphasis mine]

    I’ll post the slides after the presentation.


    Freebird!. NPR‘s All Things Considered considered the guy who shouts Freebird!. [The Peanut Gallery]

    I’d been meaning to blog this, since I heard about 2/3 of it last week on NPR. It’s a great story – one I’ve recounted to a few friends already. Listen for the music that fades in towards the end – it’s one of those wonderful, small stories that sneaks up on you. I’m looking forward to listening to the whole thing.

    Tuesday, August 20, 2002

    liveTopics and Categorization

    Ernie asked me what the big deal was with liveTopics. In explaining it to him, I figured out why I was excited about it. (Interesting lesson for KM - you can’t share what you don’t know, and you don’t know something until you can explain it.)

    liveTopics makes it easier for me to add meta data to my posts. This alone is useful – because context around content is critical for others to benefit from it. But liveTopics closes the loop by automatically creating an outline of all posts to my blog, sorted by topic. The result is a far better navigation tool for my blog – because it increases the likelihood that anyone interested in a particular item ( myself included) will be able to find it quickly.

    The outline contains the item title as well as any other topics associated with the item. That alone gives the reader context – this is a post that’s about liveTopics. But if you only really want to know about liveTopics as a KM tool, then only follow links to posts that also contain “KM” associated with them.

    For Radio users, there are some critical advantages (as I see it, your mileage may vary) to liveTopics:

    • No duplication of content. If I posted one item to three categories, it created three copies of that item. This always bothered me – not only does it create duplication at Google, but it also means that multiple people could link to the same item but use different URLs. Tracking inbound links (and thereby creating some map of who’s reading what) is difficult when the content is duplicated. Besides – I work for a CRM company, and we’re pretty religious about single instance of a record… categories just rubbed me the wrong way.

    • Categories should route content. Using preferences files in Radio, Radio can easily take care of posting to multiple sites. But categories create duplication (see above) and can bury relationships among related blog entries. liveTopics, by contrast, highlights those connections and makes it easy to drill down into more “related” topics.

    • Cross-referencing becomes easier. I had used a categories macro to highlight what categories were included in a post, but your ability to browse by category was limited to the calendar. If you posted only periodically to a category, you forced users to adopt a non-standard navigation scheme in order to find your content. (Translation: it required additional effort, therefore it was less likely that they would actually dig deep enough to find anything of value .)

    • Less rigidity in categorization. By the nature of the categories implementation in Radio, you are effectively reduced to a fairly rigid list of categories to post to. Yes, it’s possible to create new categories – but as a practical matter, Radio really wants to limit you to pre-existing categories. liveTopics allows you to create topics on the fly – just type in any word and liveTopics will associate the post with that new topic.

    I’ve already updated all of August’s posts by removing category information and replacing categories with liveTopics. I’m very impressed with Matt Mower – extremely speedy replies and even better patience with me as I got my legs under me. There are still some rough edges, and Matt’s already identified some things that will get further work. Rest assured, however, that liveTopics is big. If there were any doubt that Radio could really serve as a powerful KM platform, liveTopics goes a long way to erasing that doubt completely.

    Hackers Beg Boring People to Stop Using Encryption

    San Jose, Calif. ( — In an unusual worldwide appeal, the International Brotherhood of Computer Hackers today asked particularly boring people to please stop encrypting their emails.

    … [P]eople should only encrypt if they are going to send information such as passwords, credit card numbers, blueprints for an unreleased product, or confidential sales figures. Barring that, he advised, “at least give us something revealing, like you slept with your boss’s wife, or his Airedale.” (more…)

    Blogging Ecosystem

    This is an interesting alternative to MIT’s BlogDex – they’re trying to do different things but both ultimately reveal quite a bit about the connections between various weblogs. By looking at inbound and outbound links, the Blogging Ecosystem tries to evaluate most linked, most links, etc.

    I’m not sure what we learn about this yet, but I like the use of easily-retrievable data to try and identify patterns. Yet another step on the path to blogging as KM.

    Monday, August 19, 2002

    liveTopics Google Jazz

    One of the things I really enjoy is learning completely new technology by just trying to make it work. (This is what Dave calls “bootstrapping”.) I’m not a programmer, but I can meddle just enough to learn as I go.

    I have a feeling I’ll be doing a lot of exploring with liveTopics. After seeing an explanation of how Marc Barrot added a new macro to his weblog, I added the same template – the result being that you can now see “related” reading for each post I make to this site. (Note: after seeing the initial results, I’m a little disappointed in Google’s ability to relate items in its collection to these posts. But that’s Google’s issue.) This is a great example of how complementary technologies (Radio, activeRenderer, liveTopics) can combine to present a powerful knowledge sharing and distribution platform.

    Ask yourself this: two years ago, would you have thought it even remotely possible that a desktop application could automatically publish and archive web content, seemlessly integrate API-level calls to the world’s most popular search engine, separate presentation from content – all for $40? Radio has some rough edges, but to see this kind of stuff in action is exciting.

    As I write this, I’m in the midst of a conference where vendors are selling comparable systems for much more money. What separates them from Radio at this point more than anything else is domain expertise. The vendors here know their market (and their users) far better than Userland does. As a result, things that are important in the legal market – security models ( including ethical wall security), document profiling, document management, meta data, Outlook integration, etc. – get the most attention. But the difference between Radio as a content management platform and many of the high-end portal platform players is one of degree, not magnitude.

    Question: is there an opportunity for someone to take Radio as a development platform and build new applications? I’m completely ignorant of Frontier and Manila, but I think that’s what they are. I’ll have to learn more about them.

    Playing with liveTopics

    Just downloaded liveTopics, an interesting extension of Radio that adds potentially valuable meta data to weblog posts. This is a tool developed by Matt Mower, and represents an important “next step” for Radio as a KM tool.

    From Matt’s site:

    Topics are used on your weblog to provide cross-reference links to related items and can also show what you are and have been talking about in your postings. Cross-referencing is further enhanced by the ability to publish a Table of Contents (ToC) for your weblog (note the ToC uses the excellent activeRenderer by Marc Barrot). The two-level ToC liveTopics creates shows all the topics used in your weblog. Under each topic is a chronological list of each posts associated with the topic. In turn, under each post is listed the other topics associated with that post. This is a powerful addition to your weblog and greatly enhances it’s navigability.

    Here’s what I love. Marc Barrot builds activeRenderer, a great UI enhancement to Radio. Matt takes that and builds on it to extend the UI by creating new ways of navigating through weblog content and adding meta data to boot. I haven’t learned all the ins and outs yet, but I think this is big.

    Stay tuned.

    Sunday, August 18, 2002

    Checking in from Boca Raton

    Just got in to Boca Raton, site of this year’s LawNet Annual Conference. It’s probably the most valuable IT conference focused exclusively on the legal profession: strong educational bent, every vendor that’s focused on the market is here, high attendance.

    I’m speaking tomorrow at our SIG (LawNet members organize “special interest groups” around leading applications; there is a SIG devoted to InterAction) and then again on Thursday. Thursday’s topic is “Don’t Touch My Data: Getting Professionals to Buy Into CRM Systems.” Given that the audience is largely IT directors, I’ll be interested to see what the interest level is in a session that’s primarily focused on the “soft” issues related to long-term success (people, process, culture) and not the “hard issues” (technology, implementation, architecture).

    Posts may be light over the next few days; these conferences tend to be 24×7 affairs.

    For those of you that are wondering: yes, Boca is about the worst place to hold a conference in August. It was 88 degrees when we landed. At 11:30pm. (That this is marginally better than last year’s location – Palm Springs – is small consolation.)

    Thursday, August 15, 2002

    Benchmarking KM in US and UK Law Firms

    Stuart Kay, in today’s LLRX, publishes an outstanding article titled Benchmarking KM in US and UK Law Firms. The entire article is worth reading, but this comparison between US and UK firms is spot on:

    Technology is less of a driver in the UK than it is in the US, and more of an enabler. Because UK firms have been sharing knowledge more effectively for longer than firms in the US, they initially developed more labour intensive, manual systems for doing so (ie prior to the availability of suitable technology). This means that knowledge systems in UK firms tend to be of high quality and to have high added value. Concepts of how technology can be utilised or squeezed to get ‘more bang for your pound’ for knowledge systems are also therefore more sophisticated in some UK firms.

    UK firms are more accepting of the labour intensive, manual filtering, classification and dissemination of knowledge in order to ensure that knowledge which is shared is of high value (as opposed to the indiscriminate or automatic dissemination of all information). The business culture and processes for doing this are well established. What is being sought by UK firms is ways of improving these processes and making them more efficient by the optimal use of technology. It is recognised by UK firms that currently there is no technology that will eliminate human input if quality in knowledge systems is to be retained. [emphasis mine] []

    Stuart is the Knowledge Manager at Gilbert + Tobin, a 200+ lawyer law firm based in Sydney, Australia. (Odd synchronicity - multiple articles about KM in Australian law firms inside of a couple hours, eh?) This article is the most solid overview I’ve seen of what is going on the US and UK markets. Though he includes a caveat that his survey sample is too small and can’t be conclusive with respect to either market, I can say that my experience (I’ve probably met with 100+ large US law firms in the past 18 months, and 30 or so large UK law firms in the same time frame) is entirely consistent with Stuart’s.

    One thing Stuart doesn’t mention is what gave rise to these fundamental differences. I think a lot of it goes back to compensation. If you pay people primarily based on the business that they individually generate, they’re far less likely to see any value in sharing. If, on the other hand, you compensate people on their overall contribution to the firm – and measure contributions on more than just revenue – sharing starts to look a lot more attractive.

    Furthermore, firms that invoice clients based on how long it takes them to do something have absolutely no incentive to do that thing faster.

    Building your business on inefficiency is like dating Angelina Jolie. At some level, you’ve got to know that she’ll bleed you dry.

    More on KM in Law Firms - Australia Style

    For me, the key graph in Lucinda Schmidt’s piece in BRW is this:

    [Consultant Graham] Seldon says law firms went through a similar change about five years ago, when marketing began to be taken seriously. “Initially, they just saw marketing as events, brochures and Web sites,” he says. “Then it became more strategic, and moved into client development and business development.”

    In other words, the key link between marketing and KM in a law firm is CRM.


    By the way, wouldn’t it have been nice for the piece to actually identify the 16 “big law firms in Australia, the UK and US” that the consultants surveyed? Without knowing that, it’s hard to put any of the conclusions into context: much is known about Brobeck’s successes (and subsequent craters) in California, Freshfields and Clifford Chance in the UK, Davis Polk in NYC. But what if the consultants talked to other firms?

    I guess asking an article about KM to actually share knowledge might be pushing my luck.

    KM for Lawyers - An Australian Perspective

    KM for lawyers.
    Lucinda Schmidt has written an article for BRW on Law’s new tools. This looks at the use of intranets in law firms, as well as the impact of knowledge management more broadly. To quote:

    Knowledge management is not a new idea for law firms; they have used sophisticated precedents databases and libraries for years. What is new is the growing push for acceptance of knowledge management as an integral part of the way a law firm runs its business, rather than as an isolated administrative function.

    And another good quote:
    “It is not just about getting the document right or collecting all the information. That is under control. Now they realise there is so much more. It is fine to have really good precedents, but for proper knowledge management you need cultural change towards sharing ideas and knowledge.”

    At the end of the article, there is also an interesting summary of a recent survey of 16 big law firms on their implementation of KM.
    [Thanks to Intranet Focus Blog] [Column Two]

    Snopes: The TV Series

    A Snopes TV show would be a big hit.

    The intro teaser is here; a sample bit debunking the famous 602P Internet Tax Bill is here. My TiVo’s waiting…

    Can TiVo Go Prime Time?

    Great study in this month’s Fast Company about TiVo’s attempts to create a sustainable business model. What’s most valuable in the article is the dissection of TiVo’s efforts at shifting its business plan in response to changing market conditions.

    I’ve had TiVo for just over 18 months, and am definitely one of the “rabid fans” the FC article talks about. What I didn’t know was the behind-the-scenes stuff going on to make the company a long-term success.

    Wednesday, August 14, 2002

    Follow-up to Directory Browsing with Radio

    A couple people have written in about my directory browsing post earlier today. Some thoughts:

    Rogers Cadenhead reports that “The Python Community Server, the open source clone of the Radio Community Server at, turns off directory browsing by default.”

    If you put index.txt in your “gems” folder, nothing will happen. This is because the “gems” folder disables a function in Radio called “rendering” – by which Radio transforms a simple text file into an HTML file and then uploads it to your web site. The gems folder is for any files you specifically want Radio to leave alone… so we need to create an HTML file called index.html that we can save in the gems folder. I’ve created one – download gems_index.txt (right-click, select “save as”) and save it into your gems folder. Rename it index.html (in the gems folder), change the URL from to your blog URL, and Radio will take care of the rest.

    By the way – rendering is a little-known feature in Radio. Create a folder in the “www” folder in Radio. Save a text file in there, wait a few seconds, then go to your web site. You’ll have a file formatted with your site template – containing the text from the text file. Play with it a bit – it’s a great way to save e-mails to the web, create static files for your web site (it’s how I created the about page for this site), and other easy ways to add HTML pages to your site without thinking about it.

    Software Without People: No Ones, Just Zeros

    Phil Windley: People are the Key in Technology.

    In an article in the Atlantic Monthly called Homeland Insecurity, Charles Mann quotes Bruce Schneier thusly:

    “The trick is to remember that technology can’t save you,” Schneier says. “We know this in our own lives. We realize that there’s no magic anti-burglary dust we can sprinkle on our cars to prevent them from being stolen. We know that car alarms don’t offer much protection. The Club at best makes burglars steal the car next to you. For real safety we park on nice streets where people notice if somebody smashes the window. Or we park in garages, where somebody watches the car. In both cases people are the essential security element. You always build the system around people.”

    The article is a great read and offers numerous insights into the problem with most homeland security proposals, but I was struck by the strong and pervasive belief, expressed in the article, that technology won’t solve these problems.  [Windley’s Enterprise Computing Weblog]

    I attended the 1995 Computers, Freedom & Privacy conference hosted by Stanford University ( miraculously, the materials are gone from Stanford’s site but are still available thanks to Tim May, one of the founding members of Cypherpunks, got up and declared before a packed house that his job was not to make anyone’s data secure. His job, he figured, was to make bribing the cleaning service more cost-effective than trying to hack in. (The article Tim submitted as a companion to his presentation is also available through

    Today, I had a long chat with an analyst at the Gartner Group. We talked about the oft-quoted Gartner statistic that 55% of all CRM deployments fail. Her comment was that unfortunately, none of the press that reported on that statistic (more on that tomorrow) bothered to let the other shoe drop from the same Gartner report: that the failures were far more likely a result of people, processes and culture than they were of the technology.

    The thread connecting all of this – Schneier, May, the Gartner analyst – is that technology will never be a panacea. Software can be perfectly suited to the task and still come up short. In the end, the users must be committed to its success.

    A picture named tgv.jpgSoftware’s not a free ride. Could be a brisk trip on a TGV, might be a ride on a razor scooter. Or it could be face plant while walking in the park.

    (But of course I’d say this. I’m a vendor, after all.)

    Law Firm Networks Compete With the Big Boys

    Lawyer Marketing – now this is an interesting idea.  Axiom Legal is a company that acts as an agent for lawyers, referring them cases.  If the client engages the lawyer Axiom runs the billing and provides some basic support services, and retains a percentage of the billing.  Apparently, according to my source, Axiom has generated some well-known clients; I won’t mention the names of the clients, but they are industry leaders that anyone would recognize.  Obviously, Axiom is most attractive to small firms, and solo- practitioners, but lurking in its method may be the seeds of wider acceptance.  You never know.  Some people thought Charles Schwab was going off the deep end when he established a discount brokerage business.  Hmmmm. [Ernie the Attorney]

    I like the idea. A lot. But I get worried when a site talks about client service when it has just one “news” item from the past twelve months. (Kudos to fellow blawger Martin Schwimmer for being the lonely news-worthy contributor.)

    Axiom isn’t the only company trying to change the legal profession business model. For another take, check out Meritas (formerly Commercial Law Affiliates). There was a pretty good article about them in last week’s Legal Intelligencer (Philadelphia’s legal news pub). Check this out:

    Meritas has one member in many major commercial centers in the world (they check in at over 200 law firms worldwide today). Each firm commits to certain standards – calls get returned within 24 hours, lawyers speak English, and so on. Firms tend to be mid-size – 50 lawyers or so is about average.

    Here’s where it gets interesting: firms are subject to peer review. If the Minneapolis firm refers one of its clients to a firm in Jakarta, and the client isn’t happy with the Jakarta firm, the Minneapolis firm is expected to note that in its post-engagement form. Get dinged too often, and you’re out.

    Individual firms benefit because they get “ownership” of their region. As long as they do good work, they stay in. They also benefit because they can appear larger to their clients – how many 50 lawyer firms could routinely staff a matter 6,000 miles away in less than 24 hours?

    Whether Meritas actually accomplishes its ultimate goal – of walking, talking and looking like the largest law firm in the world by centralizing administration and operations between member firms – remains to be seen. I doubt it will, primarily because it will require an extraordinary leap of faith among hundreds of firms who don’t fit the mold for risk- takers. But that’s ultimately beside the point: Meritas is already succeeding because it offers its members critical advantages in a marketplace increasingly dominated by large, multi-national players.

    I did a bit of consulting for Meritas back when they were CLA and provided some technology advice to them. But technology improvements so far (as far as I’m aware) have consisted of moving from blast faxes to e-mail distribution lists, and moving off of an old Mac network at headquarters and getting modern PCs. Now… wouldn’t Meritas be a prime candidate for a distributed k-log initiative? John – call me. :)

    Google Renders Search Engines Obsolete

    Chris Smith reports in:

    KM – google mentality
    You don’t even notice it happening. But one day your hooked. That single textbox with the silly name is an awesome primary source. It’s amazing how effective it is. When I’m looking for an coding answer I used to go to MSDN. But in the past year the fact that Google does a better job at indexing Microsoft’s site than Microsoft had become hilariously obvious. I love this. [How do you know that?]

    Chris is right. I noticed the other day that when looking for a Hilton hotel in a city I’m traveling to, I no longer use Hilton’s web site. Too clunky – at least three screens before I get to the hotel. Without fail, I can just go to Google (or even better, use the toolbar) and type in Hilton (city name). Less than a second later, I have my answer.

    Ask yourself this: how often is Google wrong?

    Top Ten, Baby...

    It’s official. Search for Rick at Google… Sports writers Rick Telander or Rick Reilly? Nope. Texas Governor Rick Perry? Rick Lazio? Ricky Nelson?

    All pretenders.

    Of course, I’ve got a ways to go before I can claim #3 like Ernie can…

    Galen Rowell, RIP

    A picture named rowell.jpgOn breaks in college and law school, I worked at The Nature Company. During my lunch hour, I would almost always grab a Galen Rowell book – my favorite by far was The Yosemite. Yosemite has long been one of my favorite places on earth, and the book – Galen Rowell’s photos coupled with John Muir’s writing – is a rare perfect mix of prose and photos. (Be sure to visit his gallery’s site at Mountain Light for more images.)

    On Sunday, Rowell and his wife died in a plane crash in California. Phil Wolff has a nice collection of memories in Rowell’s honor.

    Wherever he may be, I’m sure Galen is capturing one-of-a-kind images for many to share. He will be missed.

    Prevent Directory Browsing in Radio

    I think this should be an option built in to Radio, but it’s relatively easy for you to do on your own. Here’s the issue: Radio is a web content management system – when you add content to Radio, it automatically uploads that content to your website. For many users, their web site is hosted at ( Others, like me, host it at their own domain.) Radio maintains its content in a hierarchical folder structure. But relatively savvy individuals can type in your URL and add folders they want to “snoop” on – and Radio doesn’t prevent this.

    There’s an easy way to do this: drop a text file into any folder you want to restrict access to. The text file is just a couple lines, and it includes a meta refresh command that forces the browser to load a new page. Here’s my file – save it as index.txt, and drop it into any folder other than your “www” folder.

    To try this out, try going to someone’s Radio weblog and adding /categories after the URL. You’ll now see all the categories they’ve set up. This isn’t necessarily snooping, but there may be some private categories they’ve posted. (There are other examples, but hopefully you get the idea.) If you’re the individual maintaining the blog in Radio, adding this text file to the folder will automatically redirect the browser to your site’s home page.

    Memo to Userland: I’d like this to be an option in the application itself. If I disable directory browsing, Radio should automatically drop this text file into any folder it creates.

    ACLU Launches TIPS Site

    ACLU Launches TIPS Watch Web Site, ACLU – “The ACLU needs your help today to defeat this massive invasion of personal privacy before it can take root!” In a related article, see “A Site to Despise Untrained Spies,” [LLRX Newstand]

    Anyone who is interested in my post a few weeks back about Ashcroft’s Operation TIPS will be interested to check out the above link.

    I missed noting this last week, but an important development is that DoJ announced last week that they’re significantly scaling back TIPS to now ask only transportation workers (dock workers, truckers) to rat on “ suspsicious people”. I suppose I could say folks at Justice were abandoning the plan like rats on a sinking ship, but that would be too easy, wouldn’t it?

    Monday, August 12, 2002

    Converting to CSS

    After experiencing some frustration with the time it takes pages to load on this site (for those who are interested, it seems to primarily be a function of the complex nested tables that make up the underlying HTML), I’m going to try to learn enough CSS to redo this site without using tables. Any suggestions or tips are much appreciated; so far I’ve found a number of useful tutorials and examples:

    Thanks in advance for any help…

    Friday, August 9, 2002

    Primes in P

    Prof. Manindra Agarwal and two of his students, Nitin Saxena and Neeraj Kayal (both BTech from CSE/IITK who have just joined as Ph.D. students), have discovered a polynomial time deterministic algorithm to test if an input number is prime or not. Lots of people over (literally!) centuries have been looking for a polynomial time test for primality, and this result is a major breakthrough, likened by some to the P-time solution to Linear Programming announced in the 70s. [Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur]

    Though this breakthrough doesn’t have any short-term impact (current methods for discovering prime numbers are faster), it appears to be foolproof. This is important because many current security mechanisms (i.e., encryption) depend on prime numbers to remain difficult (if not impossible) to crack. Problems with current methods of picking prime numbers are that the larger the numbers get, the harder it is to know for certain that the number is a prime. Assuming that Agarwal’s discovery will lead to others who can improve upon it, this bodes well for future cryptographers (which will necessarily benefit anyone relying on secure communications).

    Fun in the Sun with Attila the Hun

    Dan Quayl(e)What comes to mind when I mention these names? William Buckley, Dan Quayle, Ken Starr, and Tom Delay.

    Did you say cruise? I thought so!

    Click if you dare…

    CEOs and CIOs - an Imperfect Union

    Great article from Strategy + Business, Booz Allen’s in-house publication: CEO vs. CIO: Can This Marriage Be Saved? It focuses on the unfortunate tension between many CEOs and their CIOs. Some relevant quotes:

    The problem is that most CEOs are interested in technology only to the extent that it adds value to the organization. To them, CIOs are experts only in technology and service delivery. Some other executive — the CFO, a business unit head, a sales manager, for example — has to point the CEO in the right direction before computers, networks, BlackBerrys, PDAs, mobile databases, and any other technology become integrated with the strategic direction of the corporation.

    CIOs should be defining technological initiatives in terms the business understands — speeding products to market, enabling growth, and reading costs and risks. If CIOs adopted that kind of approach, top management might be inspired to take them more seriously as partners in developing the company’s strategic direction.

    When CEOs and CIOs treat each other as if they’re from different planets, companies are potentially deprived of an essential component of any business plan: the ability to link the latest technology smartly and innovatively to the company’s strategic priorities.

    At most companies, CIOs are not public faces and usually aren’t complaining about it. They may eagerly speak at a technical conference arguing an engineering point relating to a wireless network they’re installing, but we can’t recall the last time a CIO appeared on a quarterly earnings analyst call to describe how the just-completed customer relations telecommunications system will impact revenue and profits in the coming year.

    Also interesting is the final page of the article – which identifies the four roles of the CIO. While I don’t disagree with the authors (in fact, I think this should be required reading for any company contemplating hiring a CIO), implicit in the statement is something that I think should be explicit: the CEO must be capable of letting the CIO function in these roles. The roles? Strategist, Business Advisor, IT Executive, Architect.

    The Business Blog

    Give them credit for trying: Optimize Magazine, a new title in the InformationWeek empire, has launched “The Business Blog“. Unfortunately it looks like they’re updating weekly, and not exactly in the easiest format to make it useful. (Another minor nit, though it’s too early to tell: the URL appears to point to issue-specific entries, which means that each blog entry will actually be tied to the paper printing of the magazine. Whatever happened to one, unique URL that we can monitor on a regular basis?)

    I’d like to see more business strategy discussions out there. People who focus less on the raw technology and more on the application of the technology to real business needs. I read Phil Wolff’s posts regularly, John Robb, and a handful of others – but who else is out there?

    Blogging and Social Interactions

    A great catch by Phil Wolff about the social characteristics of web logs:

    Blogging Alone.

    Stephen Dulaney applies Indicators of Social Capital to Web Logs.

    1. Levels of giving (blog ecossystem) reflects people’s propensity to give to others when they themselves may not directly benefit. The economy of giving links.
    2. Participation and engagement (What we do when we blog Meg Hourihan) gauge of people’s involvement in a range of groups and associations, both formal and informal. Ray Ozzie adds a nice contribution to “Why we Blog
    3. Reciprocity within the community (everybodyblogit) is the measure to which people can rely on their community to help in times of need. How to Start a Weblog ( For Professinal Journalists)
    4. Generalized trust that people have in other individuals and groups, and how safe they feel in their daily interactions with others.
    5. Trust towards public officials and institutions or the measure of people’s confidence in the institutions of society.
    6. Social Norms (Lessig) the rules, belief, morals and habits that regulate behaviour.
    7. Attitudinal variables (blogtree) important to social capital or individuals’ belief about themselves, their place, and their tolerance of others, levels of acceptance, motivations and sense of connectedness.
    8. Confidence in the continuation of social and political relationships for the future.

    This list is from the work titled Framework for the measurment of Social Capital in New Zealand which was prepared by Anne Spellerberg and assisted by the social capital programme team. page 16 of the (link to pdf found here)

    Do these apply to an Intranet klogging cluster?

    I’m sure they do, with a few differences.

    1. More klogger than blogger. Kloggers are also members of the large, amorphous population of blogspace. As people are socialized first into a local klogspace, this outside affiliation may be lessened.

    2. Colleagues first.Second, you define your focus of attention by your work more than your passions and curiousity. Your formal affilliations (your chain of command, your team, your stakeholders) and informal ones (your office network, ad hoc teams) fill your days, and your klogs.

    3. Work cultures. Social capital within an enterprise is strongly flavored by personality, policy, institutional memory (institutional rumor?), regional culture, and occupational culture.

    4. Personal fences. Do you keep your social circles apart? Many people take care about mixing work, family, friends, politics, and faith. Do you want your bondage master, your bowling team, and your quality circle to know about each other through you? when people at work see your personal blogs, how does that affect your working relationships? This visibility biases what people write.

    5. Intellectual property. Work is more a Free Agent Nation than ever. Portability of knowledge and experience is a career asset. Most employers claim that everything employees write using company IT gear is the employer’s property. This creates a conflict of interest.

    [aka community] [a klog apart]

    Terahertz Lasers

    Terahertz lasers
    Lasers now work at new wavelengths
    Aug 8th 2002 [ Science & Technology]

    Enough progress on this front will dramatically expand the market for wireless communications. Lots of hurdles though – not least of which is getting the lasers to be stable at room temperature. But breakthroughs in medical imaging are almost certain to follow, after which wireless communication (at much longer distances) will open up.

    How to Grow a Software Company

    And, as I opined last year, I am skeptical that funding ( from VCs, Microsoft, or anyone else) is a key limiting factor influencing the amount of software innovation. Right up until 1994 or so, VC funding for software was nearly impossible to get. It was in this austere environment that TCP/ IP, SMTP, NNTP, and HTTP were created.  This was the genesis of “The Web”.  Then, for the next ten years, the market was saturated with “stupid money”. And I argue that innovation stalled during that time period. Certainly the reach of the web expanded, but increasingly the practicioners abandoned fundamentals and chased after politicians, get-rich-quick schemes, and “the next big thing”.

    Good ideas don’t need crazy money to grow.  Especially good software ideas.  [Better Living Through Software]

    Good thoughts from a Microsoft program manager. The company where I’m at, Interface Software, took an initial investment from our founder more than five years ago. All growth since then (500%+ revenue growth) has been from revenues, and we’re profitable. Probably best of all, we didn’t have anyone forcing us to go public in 1999 or 2000. Instead, we have a healthy company that grew over 40% in a year when the overall CRM market was down more than 15%.

    I think the current VC market is healthy – companies that confused “burn rate” with “revenues” have gone away. And I like the idea above – good ideas don’t need crazy money to grow. I’ll take leadership, focus and flexibility any day of the week.

    Thursday, August 8, 2002

    Strange Rumblings in the Middle East

    What does this mean?

    - Iraq is the tactical pivot
    - Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot
    - Egypt the prize

    Read Jack Shafer’s article at Slate to learn more. It raises important questions:

    • Why was this goof invited to present to the Pentagon?
    • Is anyone (gasp) taking him seriously?
    • Is he open to some basic PowerPoint tips and tricks?

    So much to learn…

    Wednesday, August 7, 2002

    America's Most Wanted

    TIPS is being run by “America’s Most Wanted” [bOing bOing]

    I’m having trouble believing that this is true, but by all measures it sure seems to be. According to this article at Salon, callers to the Operation TIPS hotline are routed to America’s Most Wanted.

    Guess Ashcroft was right after all – there really won’t be a new database. But I’m not sure I’m comforted by the fact that Fox is in any way involved in this crusade.

    Tuesday, August 6, 2002

    Sharing: It's a Good Thing

    Joy nails it.

    P.S.: Joy, can you please, please please fix your RSS feed? I’ve missed you!