Intelligence: The Linux Connection

This is interesting, how the move to low cost commodity technology, in this case Linux, has resulted in the potential for far less privacy and data security.

There’s a lot of useful stuff available for the eavesdropping. Email, raw newsfeeds, entertainment broadcasts, government communications and so on. All this is an open secret in the geek world, and governments are trying to get the satellite communications companies to improve their Linux security, encrypt transmissions or, preferably, both. In the meantime, intel agencies so inclined, are wallowing in new data.

[From Intelligence: The Linux Connection]

To 90,000 Twitter Followers in 30 Days

I don’t think this is such a good idea. What it leads to is artificial inflation of followers that disrupts algorithms for determining influence (yeah they are pretty weak right now but constantly improving). It also leads to the most popular profiles benefiting from the law of accelerating returns and that’s not the meritocracy that social networks are supposed to represent.

Last month Twitter quietly launched a new feature that generated a list of suggested users to follow. Most likely as a result of this list, the followers to many Twitter accounts increased exponential over the course of the last month. @LiveEarth, my employer’s twitter account (which is maintained primarily by me), saw a rise in followers from the mid 2,000s to over 90,000 between January 16 and February 22, when, suddenly, the meteoric rise in followers came to a screeching halt.

[From To 90,000 Twitter Followers in 30 Days | netZoo]

The same thing happened in RSS when “feed bundles” and default feeds in applications started distorting subscriber numbers, the result being that the number of subscribers reported for an RSS feed is pretty much a worthless number today.

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At Long Last: A Standard O/S For Cars

Let’s hope this is true. Automobiles are a platform for innovation for technology companies just as is the case with other tech platforms, but far from being open source or even documented, a lot of the inner control logic for automobile electronics has to be reverse engineered.

Standardizing automobile operating systems not only decreases the costs for automakers and improves reliability, but also opens up the market for technology extension and integration by third party developers.

Toyota, Hitachi, Nissan, Honda, Denso, Toshiba, Panasonic, and other Japanese automakers and electrical machinery manufacturers are joining forces to develop a common software infrastructure for automobile electronic control systems by year-end, the Nikkei says. Seventy-three firms will take part in the efforts to standardize software specifications; and an additional fifty or so companies plan to adopt the standardized software.

[From At Long Last: A Standard O/S For Cars | The Truth About Cars]

Hearst Threatens to Shut Down Chronicle

Lose $50m a year and still not profitable… sounds more like a startup than a 143 year old newspaper.

In a posted statement, Hearst said if the savings cannot be accomplished “quickly” the company will seek a buyer, and if none comes forward, it will close the Chronicle. The Chronicle lost more than $50 million in 2008 and is on a pace to lose more than that this year, Hearst said.

[From Hearst seeks changes at Chronicle]

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Thank You Chris Shipley

Today it was announced that my good friend Matt Marshall is taking over the executive producer position for the DEMO conference.

We all owe Chris Shipley a debt of gratitude for producing on of the best emerging technology events for the last 13 years. She has been tireless in her efforts and year over year she exposed exciting new companies in a format that valued substance over spin.

The audience played a big role in this, as anyone who has presented at DEMO will tell you, they could quickly humble very smart people who failed to hit the mark. Chris played a large role in this as well, ensuring that the audience didn’t just include anyone who bought a ticket but rather had a diverse collection of participants who brought real energy to the conference.

The fact remains that while many conferences and events feature emerging startups, the measuring stick that they stand against is the one set by DEMO.

Chris is a fantastically sincere and genuinely nice person who always remembers your name and has a warm smile to greet you, I have enjoyed every opportunity I have had to meet her and look forward to what she will do next.

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The Comical Lives Up to It’s Name

Hey what’s a few errors, right… I mean except for the numbers, why they took TARP money, how they used it, and misreporting the stability of Wells, he got everything else right.

Jon Carroll’s column Wednesday on Wells Fargo & Co. contained several inaccuracies: — The column reported that Wells lost $255 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008. In fact, the company reported a loss of $2.83 billion. — The column suggested that Wells Fargo received $25 billion from the federal government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, because it was in financial distress. In fact, in every quarter of the year before receiving the TARP money, Wells reported a profit. Its fourth-quarter loss was related primarily to bad assets it took on as part of the purchase of Wachovia Corp., a distressed bank. Several media reports have noted that Wells did not ask for TARP money and accepted it only at the insistence of the federal government, which wanted major banks to receive an infusion of capital designed to stimulate lending. — Further, the column suggested that Wells had used TARP money to buy Wachovia. In fact, Wells announced its plan to purchase Wachovia on Oct. 3, 2008 – and the decisions on TARP funds were not made until Oct. 13, 2008. Wells has said that no TARP funds were used for the purchase, which closed Dec. 31, 2008. (2/12)

[From Corrections Policy — SFGate, news and information for the San Francisco Bay Area.]

Step up to the Trough

Want to see what cities all around the country are salivating to spend your taxpayer money on once the spendulus bill is signed into law? My favorite is the Boulder, CO request for $6m to convert 60 hybrid vehicles to plugins… zero jobs created and at a cost of $100,000 per car.

StimulusWatch.org was built to help the new administration keep its pledge to invest stimulus money smartly, and to hold public officials to account for the taxpayer money they spend. We do this by allowing you, citizens around the country with local knowledge about the proposed “shovel-ready” projects in your city, to find, discuss and rate those projects.

[From Stimulus Watch: Keeping an Eye on Economic Recovery Spending]

Lincoln’s Birthday

Lot’s of commentary about Abraham Lincoln today in light of President Obama’s election. One of my favorite retrospectives of Lincoln is this video because it has great images of Lincoln’s time and the story told is accurate on many levels which reminds us all that leadership is not about popularity but about conviction of purpose and putting what is best for the country above all else. Put aside the the fact that this was produced during the election campaign and has obvious campaign overtones because this fact does not detract from the substance of the story told.

Lincoln, along with Harry Truman, was deeply unpopular during his presidency, which is best remembered as tumultuous and bloody. History now references Lincoln along with the Founding Fathers as being the most consequential of leaders in the nation’s history, and for good reason for were it not for his presidency we would not likely have a united United States of America.

You have to consider that not 80 years before the Civil War the people of the colonies declared most definitively that the states create the federal government and here we were a mere couple of generations later putting that to the test. Many reasonable people could logically argue that if states wanted to break away and form their own government then they were simply adhering to the principles of the Founding Fathers. This is ultimately what the Civil War was about, not slavery although freedom as represented in the Bill of Rights formed his foundation, and Lincoln alone seemed to recognize this; his stance on the rights of states was deeply unpopular in the north as well as, obviously, in the south.

Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was motivated by this as well as many of Lincoln’s actions of the time, including a declaration of martial law in Maryland and imprisonment of pro-secession leaders of the time, extraordinary measures taken in time of war under questionable Constitutional authority.

At Gettysburg in 1863 Lincoln had this to say in his brief dedication of the military cemetery on the battlefield where 50,000 Americans gave up their lives just 4 months earlier:

“It is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God shall have a new birth of freedom; and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth,”

Lincoln very deliberately used the word “nation” as opposed to the commonly referenced term “union” to describe the country and by referencing 1776 as the birthdate for the country (“four score and seven years ago” with a score being 20 years, which from 1863 would be 1776) instead of the ratification of the Constitution in 1789. What Lincoln did was to reframe the debate about what is a country to one of values instead of the legal framework and as a result we persevered as a country instead of withering as a result of fracturing bonds.

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Techrigy SM2 – Social Media Monitoring

Early last year Rochester, NY based Techrigy launched SM2. Dubbed a social media monitoring service, SM2 is representative of a growing class of services that are going beyond Google Alert type filters to a comprehensive monitoring solution that aggregates content from a virtually unlimited number of network sources.

As an aside, Google News Alerts has really gone to shit in recent months to the point that it can’t be relied on for serious monitoring requirements, there is simply too much noise in the alerts and no ability to fine tune outside of keyword selection. This is opening up a whole new category of services for startups and existing vendors to fill… which is not to suggest that Google News Alerts created the market but rather the visibility they provided is a boost for everyone else.

What is interesting about SM2 is the underlying social media warehouse, which currently houses 1.2 billion conversation records from multiple sources along with approximately 35 pieces of metadata attached to each conversation. The ability to aggregate conversation data and then extend it with proprietary metadata is what makes it valuable.

The fact that Techrigy is collecting data from multiple sources is not special, although this is not to suggest it is easy. APIs and RSS feeds are broadly available that enable applications to harvest user generated content from social networks off all kinds and whatever is left over can be scraped as a worst case method. Gnip is an example of a data service that is built around the premise of aggregating social network data and wholesaling it. Again I come back to the data extensions, like profile and sentiment analysis, being the key ingredient for turning data into information that can be acted on.

SM2 is not a database of information, it is a brand monitoring solution with a workflow driven user interface that takes a keyword filtering approach for identifying actionable content and then running through a workflow approach for prioritizing high yield tasks for attention. The number of reports and dashboards is a little overwhelming at first, but it’s laid out in a way that makes everything very navigable, which flattens out the learning curve. There are even a few nice extras, like the ability to monitor wikipedia pages, that makes SM2 nicely rounded out.

I’ve looked at a lot of analytics solutions over the years and the point about a workflow is really important because that is the component that takes information and turns it into action. People don’t need more information, they need targeted information that they can act on and measure the results.

There are many social media monitoring applications that have emerged in recent years, which is no surprise given the attention that brands are putting on social media channels. I’m starting to see some targeting of these services to specific segments of the market, and SM2 is no exception here being targeted to PR agencies versus Radian6, which is more aligned to the needs to an advertising agency.

SM2 is available on a month-to-month subscription basis (several plans are available) and from what I saw it appears that you can get up and running in a matter of hours.

An open question remains regarding overall performance and latency of data (how much time elapses from publishing to notification) but from what I saw it appears that SM2 is a good solution for PR agencies and in house groups that are monitoring a wide range of content sources and attempting to engage a subset of conversations.