Curiouser and curiouser!

 29 June 2004

12:42:27 AM     : STES weblog launched

Today we launched the STES weblog.  In the coming weeks we hope this will be a great resource for learning about the event and the excellent group who will be leading our sessions.

12:33:29 AM     : Getting creative: five social tools to give you an edge!

Tomorrow I'm speaking at the Gurteen Knowledge Conference.  My topic is:

Getting Creative: Five social tools to give you an edge!
My aim is to establish the link between creativity and social networks, and then to show how tools like blogs, wikis, instant messaging and topics can be combined to help build a culture of creativity.

This is only my second speaking engagement.  Wish me luck!

 27 June 2004

12:54:10 AM     : Matts got a new iPAQ

With grateful thanks to my Dad I have once again joined the PDA owning classes. I am the proud owner of an HP iPAQ 4350. It's a lovely little thing - nice colour screen, wireless, bluetooth, and an extremely usable keyboard (which i am using to write this piece).

ActiveSync is still horrible but at least I can do it wireless so it's fast. The terminal services client is quite neat and Pocket IE works well enough.

I haven't got any bluetooth devices to play with so i haven't been able to test that much. I did browse bluetooth on the tube a couple of times and found lots of phones though :-:)

Lots left to learn about this little gadget...

 26 June 2004

4:01:33 PM     : "I'm a tenth level vice president!"

Al Gore, the president who never was, appeared twice in my favourite TV show Futurama so I have a soft spot for him.  Apparently he's also talking a lot of sense.  I'm quoting from an article by Thomas J.DiLorenzo about a recent Gore speech at the Georgetown University Law Center ("Democracy Itself is in Grave Danger," June 24, 2004):

For example, he posed the rhetorical question of what George Washington would think of the fact that "our current president claims the unilateral right to arrest and imprison American citizens indefinitely without giving them the right to see a lawyer or inform their families of their whereabouts, and without the necessity of even charging them with any crime"?

What would Washington think, asked Gore, of our president’s contention that he can "label any citizen an ‘unlawful enemy combatant’ and that will be sufficient to justify taking away that citizen’s liberty – even for the rest of his life, if the president chooses. And there is no appeal"?

"What would Thomas Jefferson think," said Gore, "of the curious and discredited argument from our Justice Department that the president may authorize what plainly amounts to the torture of prisoners. . .?"

What would Benjamin Franklin think, Vice President Gore rhetorically asked, "of President Bush’s assertion that he has the inherent power – even without a declaration of war by the Congress – to launch an invasion of any nation on Earth, at any time he chooses, for any reason he wishes . . ."?

"How long would it take James Madison to dispose of our current president’s recent claim, in Department of Justice legal opinions, that he is no longer subject to the rule of law so long as he is acting in his role as Commander in Chief?" asked Gore.

As Vice President Gore explained, "President Bush has been attempting to conflate his commander-in-chief role and his head of government role to maximize . . . power . . ."

President Bush has "declared that our nation is now in a permanent state of war," Gore pointed out, "which he says justifies his reinterpretation of the Constitution in ways that increase his personal power at the expense of Congress, the courts, and every individual citizen."

The president’s lawyers, Gore further noted, have "concluded that the president, whenever he is acting in his role as commander in chief, is above and immune from the rule of law."

When I think of all the American's I have known the actions of President Bush & his administration do seem "bizarre and un-American."  My American friends, you can do better.  I hope you agree in November.

 23 June 2004

7:47:38 PM     : Electronic patient records... fileshare anyone?

How safe is your medical record?. Decide for yourselves, says IT supremo By Lucy Sherriff . [The Register]

Richard Granger, director general of the National Programme for IT, was speaking today about the introduction of electronic patient records.  He was, obviously, quick to sound the benefits (and there are many) but a little more coy about how this information will be secured.  His response:
"The system is NOT secure at the moment," he said. "There is lots of private personal information flowing around by phone, by post, by fax, and even by post-it note. Electronic records will be more secure, and more accurate."
Whilst it is true that the current system is not terribly secure it is probably protected by it's lack of centrality which makes systematic abuse more difficult.  Besides, as El Reg points out, replacing one insecure system with another, more expensive, insecure system isn't an example of great thinking.

For someone with the responsibility (and salary) of DG of the National Programme for IT I think Mr Granger should have better answers on a key question like this. After all it's hardly the first time it's come up!

10:17:53 AM     : A long ramble about law & terrorism

My thoughts this morning were triggered by a piece about the dissolution of attorney-client privilege in the US.

Faced with the threat of being declared uncooperative, KPMG announced that it would pay its employees legal fees only if they waived the attorney-client privilege and "cooperated" with the investigation. Invariably, "cooperation" requires self-incrimination and negotiation of a guilty plea. By making it impossible for a defendant to defend, the government never has to have a real case.

I think I've said before that I don't trust my government. It's not that I think the government is actively hostile towards me, but that I think it has no regard for my life, liberty, or prosperity whilst persuing its own agenda. The state, as an entity, is becoming more important than the individuals it's supposed to serve. I think that the way my government has acquiesced to America's actions in Guantanamo Bay clearly demonstrates that.

There may be trouble ahead
But while there's moonlight and music and love and romance
Let's face the music and dance

So what is my fear? My fear is to wake up one day in a fascist country. Fascism places the state foremost. The country does not serve the citizen; the citizen serves the country. Fascism does not recognize the idea of the independence of the common man. Now I am not suggesting that the US or UK is a fascist country now or that it's just around the corner. What I am suggesting is that the legal system is a good barometer for detecting this sort of change and I see stormy weather ahead.

In the last 12 months I've read a lot about how the American legal system is, and has been, deteriorating. About the ways that "Department of Justice" (sic) with the complicity of the rest of the government has made the USA into a prosecutors paradise. A prime example is the use of the RICO legislation.  Passed in the 1970 the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act was intended to destroy the Mafia. And for about a decade it was used for that purpose. However by the 1990's prosecutors were using RICO against individuals, businesses, political protest groups, and terrorist organizations. Because so-called Mafiosos were considered to be murderous and ruthless, RICO was created to be equally ruthless. Those accused under RICO could find their assets seized and be unable to pay for their defence. Used this way RICO is the prosecutorial equivalent of the Hydrogen bomb.

There may be teardrops to shed
So while there's moonlight and music and love and romance
Let's face the music and dance

What concerns me is how, in both the US and the UK, the "War on Terror" is being used to hand more power, with less accountability, to the state. "The law is too soft" is the constant refrain from government ministers seeking new, and ever more draconian, powers. Powers which, sooner or later, get pointed at the rest of us. Meanwhile the state continues to act in a way that seems almost calculated to extend the threat of terrorism forever. But anyone who suggests that terrorism is the new communism (i.e. the most direct way of funnelling money to people in the arms industry) must, of course, be parnaoid.

I think there needs to ba full debate about what it means to be a citizen in our society. A debate which spells out the freedoms and protections we enjoy and attempts to understand how those can be balanced with the responsibilites we bear. That includes responsibility for the actions of the state. I believe that a sane outcome would be a re-establishment of fairness in law and a severe curtailment of the power of the state to meddle in the affairs of others.  Maybe if we poked less sticks in their hives, we would annoy less hornets.

 18 June 2004

7:21:31 PM     : I don't believe it!

Blaggers lift 60 CCTV cameras. 'Seriously sophisticated' security system goes walkies By Lester Haines . [The Register]

Priceless :-)   [As well as a warning to us all about believing our own propaganda]

2:54:18 PM     : STES writeup on Social Software Weblog

Social Tools for Enterprises Symposium in London.

I was IM chatting with Matt Mower recently and he reminded me that the Social Tools for Enterprises Symposium (STES) is coming up very soon (Monday, July 12, 2004) and so I promised that I would blog a reminder.

Yesterday in my ‘tip’ jar I received another reminder from ‘Allan’ to blog about the STES and so here is an endorsement in Allan’s words:

stes_banner Matt Mower has just announced an Early Bird Discount for people who register before July 1, 2004. The agenda with speakers is available on the Symposium web site and it looks like it will be a cracking event. “Top thought leaders and expert practitioners from the business, consulting and academic worlds will introduce social tools in the context of how they can be used within large organisations and demonstrate the positive changes they can effect.” Register now.

If you will be in or around London in the July 12th timeframe—this is a NOT TO BE MISSED event!

The presenters include:

  • Stowe Boyd—Ready for the Enterprise?
  • Euan Semple—Working In A Wired World
  • Marc Eisenstadt—Knowledge Workers: Maps, Enhanced Presence, Instant Messaging
  • Phil Wolff—Understanding the Payback: A workshop to create Aha! Moments
  • David Gurteen—Social Software Cafe

Don’t forget to register before July 1, 2004 to catch the early bird discount. (:=

[The Social Software Weblog]

Great write up, thanks Judith, and thanks for making the Social Software Weblog such a great resource (just compiling the meta list is a job in itself!)

You've also highlighted a snafu on my part.  Lee Bryant doesn't appear on the programme (although he is on the Wiki).  I'm fixing that up (with apologies to Lee for any confusion caused.)

Over the next couple of days I'll be adding more in-depth on the programme.  We've got some great sessions planned and I want everyone to know about it!

2:42:16 PM     : Casting some light on backroom deals

Another example of how our security establishment (including NASA) is riven by sweetheart backroom deals with companies run by former employees. No security "transformation" is possible without ending this process. Elon isn't the only person worried about this.

Someone who worries about this is Elon Musk, a co-founder of PayPal, a highly successful online-payments firm, who has also founded SpaceX, which builds cheap launch vehicles for satellites. He criticises the space agency for recently awarding, without an open tender, a $227m contract for launch services to Kistler Aerospace, of Kirkland, Washington, which last year filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and, says Mr Musk, is packed with ex-NASA staff. “What sort of signal does that send to the marketplace?” he asks. So indignant is Mr Musk at what he calls this “backroom” deal that he is looking at the possibility of buying Kistler to get his hands on the NASA contract, which he believes he can fulfil at a much lower cost. If America’s spirit of free enterprise can be harnessed to exploring space while also relieving the burden on taxpayers of NASA’s extravagance, so much the better. [John Robb's Weblog]

What a fantastic story!  Go Elon!

 17 June 2004

11:29:57 PM     : STES promos

We're still looking for ways to promote the Social Tools for Enterprises Symposium being held here in London on July 12th.  Allan has been great setting up Google AdWords and now we're offering an early bird discount for those who register by July 1st!

11:04:17 PM     : All formats lead to Rome (and back again)

I'm doing some work with Rome which is an ambitious open source Java RSS toolkit by Alejandro Abdelnur, Patrick Chanezon, and Elaine Chien of Sun.

Rome does not attempt to be all things to all men, choosing (correctly imo) to concentrate on providing low-level feed parsing & generation services.  It can read & write RSS in all it's flavours 0.9x, 1.0, 2.0 as well as Atom 0.3.  It can also convert feeds between formats and provide an abstract syndication feed layer over them.  Crucially they have good support for modular extension & I am bashing out an ENT 1.0 module which I'll contribute back to the project.

It's still alpha but already looks impressively useable.  Good stuff.

10:26:31 PM     : Cybaea star over STES

Was chatting with Allan Engelhardt of Cybaea in #kmtalk about promoting the Social Tools for Enterprises Symposium and he not only had the great idea of registering some Google Adwords but went ahead and paid to do it.  You're a gentleman and a scholar sir!  Many thanks.

 15 June 2004

4:51:22 PM     : Lock up your journalists

Reporters in chains. Under Homeland Security orders, journalists from England, Sweden, Holland and other friendly countries are being detained at U.S. airports, strip-searched and deported. []

"Most countries that require special visas for journalists tend to be totalitarian states." said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

As I read Elena Lappin's story I found myself becoming very angry at the way she was treated both personally and in a more abstract sense. I would say that, if this was a report about how UK immigration had behaved, I would feel disgusted right now.

Though my experience was far removed from the images of real torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, it was also, as one American friend put it, "conceptually related", at distant ends of the same continuum and dictated by a disregard for the humanity of those deemed "in the wrong". American bloggers and journalists would later see my experience as reflecting the current malaise in the country. Dennis Roddy wrote in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Our enemies are now more important to us than our friends ... Much of the obsession with homeland security seems to turn on the idea of the world infecting the US."

For all of us hostile aliens I guess this puts the whole "blogging as journalism" debate in a new light doesn't it?

These would have been comforting thoughts the following morning when I was driven back (in handcuffs, of course) to the communal detention room at LAX, and spent hours waiting, without food, while the guards munched enormous breakfasts and slurped hot morning drinks (detainees are not allowed tea or coffee). I incurred the wrath of the boss when I insisted on edible food. "I'm in charge in here. Do you know who you are? Do you know where you are? This isn't a hotel," he screamed.
The Salon piece ends with a good question:
The other unanswered question is: Whose idea was it to crack down on the supposed menace of invading foreign media hordes. "The Bush administration doesn't like the press?" Goldberg asked rhetorically. "That's the best I can come up with, frankly. They've been reluctant for almost four years now to give information out to the press. They don't deal with the press on a level playing field. They've made life hard on other civil liberties. I can't imagine them bending over backward to help the press."

11:41:30 AM     : OSGi plugin framework


OSGi is a standard lightweight API for plugin framework (useful for building microkernels) with a bias toward the needs of network devices. Recently it gained some momentum when the Eclipse team replaced their original plugin mechanism with OSGi (actually, they paved over it rather than replace).

First full version of Oscar, an implementation of OSGi, was released yesterday. Also checkout OSGi bundle repository and this nice tutorial of how OSGi can be used.

[Don Park's Daily Habit]

I'm still pondering the many ways of implementing systems at the moment including inversion of control containers (like Pico and Hivemind).  OSGi (& maybe when it is developed Gravity) look interesting also.

 14 June 2004

1:24:27 PM     : Rolling up your bookmarks

I really like Furl. It allows me to create a searchable clipping library from articles I find using RSS (which for major media publications is usually just headlines +). One more item for inclusion in my personal digital dashboard. [John Robb's Weblog]

This appears to be a prettier version of and another in a long line of bookmarking services.  I've been using for a bit and I'm not convinced of the usefulness of the service to me.  I'll try Furl as well although, at first glance, it doesn't offer anything over (except possibly a less annoying name).

11:10:02 AM     : No suffering necessary

Rubens is best known these days for painting fat women and cherubs, which is accurate but leaves out his greatest talent, which was for dynamic composition and the use of color. You can see this most clearly in the little preparatory cartoons and sketches he did for his major paintings, creating an entire little world with just a few brushstrokes. Three hundred years before Marvel comics, Rubens was throwing around jumbles of bodies in contorted, muscly poses, all painted with a beautiful feel for color, and he got his pictures effortlessly right on the first try. He can be excused the occasional superheavyweight Venus or an excessive use of cherubim.  [Idle Words]

10:56:26 AM     : Another sad step on the bad patents journey

Smart TODO Patent.

Automatic handling of TODO comments in source code is something Eclipse has been doing for a while now but Microsoft has been granted a patent the feature. The patent was filed on March 6, 2000. I forget when Eclipse had the smart TODO feature.

[Don Park's Daily Habit]

There has been some talk of this in the Intellij IDEA groups with some people claiming that Delphi had the feature long before 2000.  I've never used Delphi so I can't comment.

10:50:18 AM     : Why is Korean cuisine so spoon-centric?

Korea, A Nation of Spoons.

I think Korean food is wonderful. After all, I have eaten it all my life and I still eat it three meals a day (thanks to my wonderful wife). But what I haven't noticed until recently is how Korean cuisine is uniquely 'spoon-centric'. Other countries use spoons as well, but they are usually brought out only when there is a need (i.e. soup). In Korea, spoon is the primary utensil.

As long as I could remember, I had a spoon and chopstick with my name on them. By that, I don't mean my name was inscribed on them, but I could recognize my utensils by the shape, color, feel, and sometimes smell (well, I was a little paranoid when I was little). With every Korean meal, my spoon and chopsticks were laid side-by-side like a couple married for life. Which is the male? The spoon, of course. It's masculine and uncompromising where chopsticks are feminine and versatile.

Why is Korean cuisine so spoon-centric? Because a proper Korean meal comes with a bowl of rice and a bowl of soup for each person. The spoon is used for both the rice and the soup. The chopstick is used mainly for the side-dishes where, in China or Japan, chopstick is used for practically everything. Also, there is usually a shared soup in the center for which spoons come in handy. These center-soup is usually served piping hot and has a name that ends with either Tang or Jhigae (i.e. Maewoon-Tang or Kimchi-Jhigae).

Hmm. This post made me hungry.

[Don Park's Daily Habit]

Makes me want to visit one of the Korean restaurants in London.

10:15:50 AM     : iTunes: no thank you

Apple readies European iTunes launch. Excitement reaches fever pitch By John Oates . [The Register]

I think there is something wrong with the system when an olympic standard consumer such as myself says "no thanks."  However I appear to be out of step with the market who either don't realise, don't care, or, don't agree that they're being screwed.

9:18:36 AM     : Thinking about knowledge patterns

Back to patterns. Denham Grey has written an blog entry on using patterns as part of knowledge management. To quote: Need to capture experience and expertise?, introduce new ideas into your organization?, want a template to document rationale and good practice?, wish to... [Column Two]
I got into software design patterns in 1995, not long after the keystone was laid (sadly my copy vanished into the aether, switching jobs, in '01), whilst working on some thorny problems in my undergraduate thesis. The patterns (like abstract factory, bridge, and strategy) were a revelation. I became an instant convert and, later, a preacher.

What was so intriguing was that these early patterns were compelling solutions to real problems which I actually found myself facing at the time. But, as time went by, I realised that the more important aspect was the pattern language. That, through the patterns, we advanced a way of thinking about problems which elevated the level of discussion and permitted higher reasoning to take place. This strays into the realm of Alexander and is akin to the difference between regular Geomag and Geomag with panels!

The patterns industry took off, like all good magic bullets, with a bang. Many books were written (Amazons lists 109455 matches for 'design patterns' and they can't all be about knitting) and soon they were everywhere. I just wish I'd written my book back when I first thought of it . There was even something of a backlash.

The idea of design patterns in Knowledge Management doesn't seem to have taken off yet. There is something of the design pattern in the notion of best practices. However I think this falls short of the mark in that it doesn't lead to the creation of new language constructs. Possibly Snowden's worst practices are closer to anti-patterns which are another interesting idea.

This sets me thinking...

8:11:54 AM     : Two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch

And is voting something to be desired, when the choice is between Tweedledum and Tweedledee? I am an old man, yet I cannot recall an election when anything of importance hinged on the election of candidate A over candidate B. The trend toward ever larger, more tyrannical government proceeds smoothly, regardless of elections. And why should that be surprising? Government is a big business, probably the biggest. Is it going to throw up for grabs its important executive positions every few years? Does any business operate that way? The drug store on the corner does not allow strangers to pick its top management positions bi-annually. If it were forced to do so, it would obviously offer, as candidates, good "company men" who could be trusted to continue running things in the old familiar way. Anything else would be madness. Recall the elections in the Soviet Union, when 90% of the people voted. A triumph of democracy!
[Dr. Paul Hein]

 10 June 2004

8:32:26 PM     : Worlds greatest democracy

The text of the White House legal finding (PDF -- WSJ) that agreements against torture don't apply to the US. [John Robb's Weblog]

That's the worlds greatest democracy for you folks!

8:19:36 PM     : Some good questions

I got a 70. [ via diveintomark ] Mark got a 77 on the Life Assessment Quiz, while I got a 70. I don't quite understand this, as I can imagine this conversation taking place only a few years ago:

Mark: David Crosby! You're my role model!
David Crosby: You mean I'm your favourite musician?
Mark: You're a musician?

Okay, I kid. A little. And you probably know that I stole that scene from The Simpsons.

My strongest area was "relationships"; my weakest is "money".

Give the test a try, and try to make a game plan based on the results.
[The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century]


 09 June 2004

12:21:27 PM     : Tracking ENT support

I've just made a minor change to the ENT 1.0 spec to add an implementations section. Obviously I've listed K-Collector as the first implementation would like to gather together references to anyone who has supported the format in some way. So, if you know of any software or service which is supporting, or working on supporting, ENT please let me know so that I can add it to the spec document.

Update: Phil Peasons Internet Topic Exchange, of course!

10:38:39 AM     : Innovation in the UK

I've been looking at the site for Demo 2005.  It's been on my mind to wonder whether there is room for such an event here in the UK.  The US seems well served with this kind of stuff.  Are we interested?

 08 June 2004

1:24:14 PM     : Social Tools for Enterprises Symposium in London

Now that we have the agenda sorted I am happy to announce the 1st, London,

Social Tools for Enterprises Symposium

which Evectors is organising ably supported by KM Cluster and a group of the usual suspects (see the Wiki for details). We think this is a great opportunity to start showing people that social tools (both people tools and software tools) are ready for prime time and deliver bottom line benefits to enterprises.

The event will be held on Monday 12th July at the Bloomsbury Square Training Centre. We've got a great list of people leading sessions which we hope will be a bit different to the usual chalk & talk conference fare. We really want a conversation to emerge from this event which will help to enlighten people interested in social tools but unsure how to put them to best use in their own contexts.

So we have:
Paolo and I will also be there.

I think it has the potential to be a great event and a great day I hope that you will come and join us. Please tell all your friends!

 03 June 2004

4:59:29 PM     : Low-tech virus

A Poor Man's Computer Virus.

Certainly shows a better sense of humor than the average virus. Wonder how many recipients will follow the instructions?

A Poor Man's Computer Virus.

I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. It cracked me up though - today in my Inbox:

Hi, I am a Portuguese virus, but because of the poor technology and lack of money in my country I am not able to do anything with your computer. So, please be kind and delete an important file on your system and then forward me to other users. Thank you.

[ - Scott Hanselman's Weblog]
[McGee's Musings]

LOL.  I needed a laugh today, thanks Jim.

4:25:26 PM     : Classic comedy

Treat yourself to a classic episode of I'm Sorry I haven't a clue from the BBC!  I recommend using the Real Alternative player.