Tagged: web

on us cyber-defense

I was doing my usual reading through the news thing when I stumbled across an opinion piece by the ex Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell about how we should be preparing the nation’s cyber-defense strategy.

The piece is mostly a fluff-filled call to arms saying that we are woefully behind, but there’s no real reason for it and that really what we need is just the resolve to sit down and draw up some concrete plans and strategy for what it is that we’re going to do. I agree with most of that, but then I stumbled across this gem:

More specifically, we need to reengineer the Internet to make attribution, geolocation, intelligence analysis and impact assessment — who did it, from where, why and what was the result — more manageable.

This really perplexes me, because two paragraphs earlier he was talking about how Hilary Clinton was extolling the virtues of the Internet as a tool for free speech and democracy. Suddenly, when the U.S. needs to defend itself, we need exactly the tools that would make a repressive country best able to shut of the benefits of the Internet as a platform for expression.

It has just further convinced me that by keeping the current group of military and intelligence officials in charge of this, we will constantly be behind in the Internet-age.

Update: (3/2/2010) Wired wrote a story commenting on the same article pulling out the exact same sentence from McConnell’s op-ed. Good to know that I’m not the only one catching these things. They point out that McConnell has been fear mongering about this stuff in order to get bigger U.S. intelligence access to the Internet for years.

on new communication paradigms

In the last 5 years communication has gone from being massively dominated by e-mail, phones, IM and snail mail to nearly doubling the number of ways to communicate.

You can quibble with me about when this stuff actually started changing, but certain the last 5 years has seen a massive liftoff in at least 4 new areas of communication.

  • Social Networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Microblogging (Twitter, Facebook status updates, etc.)
  • Virtual Worlds (World of Warcraft, Second Life, etc.)
  • Video Chat (Skype, Google Talk, etc.)

Each of these seems—at least to me—to be exploring a new set of trade-offs in how we communicate with each other. It’s interesting to stare at them, squint and turn your head sideways to try and see how things are shaping up and what’s going to drop out of it all.

This is especially interesting given the recent demo of Google Wave which claims to be the future of all communication, and while it seems to combine, blur and facilitate a lot of the previously mentioned pieces. It’s not clear to me that this is the correct re-consolidation of communication, though it’s certainly a good first step.

on journalism and newspapers

My mom is a career journalist and I’ve always been interested in journalism, even though the closest I’ve been has been as a graphic artist and IT person for a couple of newspapers. So, when a friend of mine posted a link to this article on the current fate of journalism in this country and and the world with a focus on the newspaper and it’s seemingly imminent demise, I listened up. The article makes a series of very good points and while presenting a lot of cold, hard facts about what’s going on also has an unabashed point about the current world.

From my personal knowledge of what’s going on with the newspapers my mom is associated with, I can say that everything this story talks about is pretty much dead on and it applies to newspapers everywhere from the local weeklies that my mom runs, to the biggest papers in the country as this article points out.

The 3 main points are really this:

  1. Today, newspapers provide the overwhelming majority of original reporting and are the single most important tool for informing the public about anything.
  2. Newspapers are being hit by a perfect storm of rising newsprint costs, falling advertising revenue, decreasing interest in reading anything, and the current economy leading to sharp cuts to exactly the things newspapers do well.
  3. There probably needs to be a replacement for newspaper journalism, but it’s really not clear what that is and how to make it happen.

I’ll just touch on those 3 things, because really you should go read the article.

First, for all the noise being made about “new media” the vast majority of what goes on there is usually a commentary on journalism done in newspapers. Even TV and radio journalism is more often than not picking up on stories first covered in newspapers. This is because traditionally, newspapers have had the most feet on the ground, the most expertise, the most trust and respect and finally the most balls to do what needs to be done in the name of the truth and journalism. The “profitable” sources of news (TV, Internet and radio) may find that it’s much harder to be profitable if you had to field all of your own reporters.

Second, newspapers are seeking to become like the things they’re competing with in the hopes that it will bring readers and profits back. This means abandoning all the things which separated them. Unfortunately this includes nearly all substantive investigative reporting. This essentially commoditizes what newspapers have to offer making it even harder for them to compete.

The way forward is a lot less clear. I’ve spent a bunch of time thinking about it. What exactly made a newspaper? The article seems to believe it was a combination of respect, trust and unified resources with a common, concrete goal to shed light and report the truth. That sounds about right.

The article only hints at another problem which I find personally frustrating which is the increasing suspicion of inserted bias in all forms for journalism. The fact that a huge amount of our news industry is essentially entertainment has tainted all of our news sources and made the average person assume that every article as a position which it’s arguing for.

on web-based personal finance redux

Finally convinced myself that using Mint wasn’t going to kill me or my banking security and signed up only to find out that while it supports monitoring my bank’s checking and savings accounts, it does not support their credit card.

Since about 90% of my transactions happen on that credit card, it makes the service basically useless to me at the moment. I’m not really sure what you can do about it. I’m thinking about calling my bank to complain, but chances are they won’t be able to fix it and I already filed a request for Mint to support it.

Oh well, the service seems really cool and I think it would be immensely helpful, though I wish I could do it with a program running on my computer rather than a web application where I worry about my data. Also, they could use to support https for their basic site just so I knew my session couldn’t be hijacked and I wish they had a legitimate mobile solution rather than relying either SMS or an iPhone app.

Hopefully I can work something out so I can use it, because I think it would really help me look at things and figure out beyond a gut level how I’m spending my money, but as it is, it is missing several critical features to make it useful for my life.

on web-based personal finance

I was chatting with friends and some of them mentioned that they were using sites to keep track of their various information from their banks, frequent flier programs, what they owed the gas company, the electric company and their ISPs. Three people were using mint and one was using yodlee It seemed like a good idea for about a quart of a second until I realized what that meant.

They are centralizing all of their information about accounts, money, credit cards and precisely the things you most fear being stolen while you’re online.

So, on the one hand I think that these services are providing an invaluable tool for me to use in order to figure out how I am spending my money and how I might spend it better and/or differently, but I find that I am unable to partake in what they have to offer.

I’ve been asking myself what would have to be different for me to trust them. There’s the obvious single idea that my bank could just provide the service which wouldn’t require that I trust anyone I don’t already have to, but that’s kind of a cop out. I have a whole other post about the management of personal information in the connected, cloud computing world, though it’s still in an amorphous blob in my head.

As it stands I may still go use one of the two services even though I have all kinds of qualms with them because I really would like to get some more detailed information on where my money is going. Even if I do though, these services can’t automatically figure everything out, like when I go to the grocery store, I’d really like to break my purchase down into food, prepared/frozen food, alcohol, toiletries and the like, which would involve having the itemized receipt which they can’t automatically get at. At least not yet.

Maybe I will just wind up rolling my own based on the Excel spreadsheet I already use to balance my checkbook.

on facebook

I got into a conversation with a friend on the way back from the airport and we were talking about the various social sites we use and wound  up spending most of our time discussing facebook.

He claimed that he found facebook more and more useful over time, while I found facebook less and less useful over time. After chatting for a while I managed to get my displeasure with facebook down to a few things and I think that while they are fixable, facebook is unlikely to fix them.

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