I received an email from Google...

by Graham Email

...after I wrote to them commending them for their stance on resisting the demand for data from the US Government. Of course, that was before the news broke that they have agreed to facilitate blocking of web site content inside China...
Here is the reply I received, followed by my original email:

Hi Graham,

Thank you for your note about the United States Justice Department's
request for Google's aggregated search data. Google is not a party to the
lawsuit in question, and we believe this demand for information
overreaches. We participated in lengthy discussions with the Justice
Department to try to resolve this issue, but were not able to. We intend
to resist their motion vigorously.

The Google Team

Original Message Follows:
From: graham@grahamshevlin.com
Subject: Google search database information
Date: Thu, 19 Jan 2006 15:39:09 -0000

I am writing to you to inform you that I have just read about the attempt
by the Federal Government to obtain Google search records.
I am pleased that Google is fighting the demand to turn over search
records. This demand is nothing more than a non-targetted "fishing
expedition" for so-far-undisclosed reasons. Complying in any way with this
demand will not only undermine Google's privacy policy; it would probably
be undermining the personal protections in the current U.S. Constitution.

I do have to make one point clear. If Google does comply with any part of
this demand, I will have no choice but to sever my relationship with you.
I will not utilize any Google-related services if that is practicable and
in my overall personal interests. This is an issue of crucial personal
importance to me, and societal importance to the United States. No elected
government should have the right to collect data on the private activities
of its citizens without having to show probable cause.
Please feel free to use any part of this response within Google to
emphasize that your consumers support your current policy towards
unreasonable data mining demands.


Graham Shevlin

Google vs. the US Government

by Graham Email

Link: http://www.siliconbeat.com/entries/2006/01/18/googles_privacy_fight_with_the_government.html

Google is currently embroiled in a legal dispute with the US Government over a demand that it hand over large amounts of search engine usage data. The government has shown no probable cause requiring the access of this data. The demand is apparently connected to an investigation into pornography and child pornography.
This is just what I feared the current US Administration would start doing, based on their extraordinarily sweeping claims of executive privilege in other areas, following the implementation of the Patriot Act (which will, one day, be seen as one of the most appallingly Orwellian pieces of legislation in US history).
I have sent an email to Google informing them that I support their refusal to turn over this information to the US Government. This is nothing more than a "fishing expedition", with no attempt being made to target data for individuals based on probable cause. The US Government will not explain what it intends to do with the data, and since I do not trust this administration, based on their track record of making policies based on defective information and then refusing to admit culpability, I do not want any of my personal information being made available.
I also informed Google that if they comply with any part of this demand, I will stop using all Google-related services wherever I encounter them, and where I have a choice in the matter.
Richard Veryard has pointed out on his blog that the information request made by the US Government could be satisfied easily by the creation of specific narrow-scope services that would retrieve only specific targetted information when required. He is correct that this would be a significantly better outcome than the current sweeping request. However, the fundamental privacy and due process issues remain.
Privacy protection has reached a crucial juncture in the USA. No government should have the right to engage in these kind of broad-ranging, unexplained, surreptitious data collection activities in peacetime (and I would remind readers that constitutionally the USA is not at war with anybody right now).

The Top 10 lies of corporate America

by Graham Email

...lifted from somebody commenting in Guy Kawaasaki's blog:

Top 10 Lies of Corporate America

1. Our employees are our greatest asset. (Until we can replace them with cheaper ones, offshoring that is).
2. We reward loyalty (Ha! You are but an old liability, with retirement benefits. Must destroy now).
3. HR is your friend. (HR is your mortal enemy, career-killer sandtraps, always be wary).
4. Teamwork, Mutual Respect, Trust, Empowerment, Risk Taking, Sense of Urgency, Commitment, Customer Satisfaction and Continuous Improvement. (Those are but slogans. Don't be so stupid as to actually honor our company values).
5. We are Family. Management and co-workers are your friends. (Just wait until a promotion is on the line, or a reorg happens).
6. Education and Skills are important. (The only skill that really matters is making your boss look good).
7. Our good financial performance. (Legal Fiction. Bad can be Good, Good can be bad. Bad is Good, Good is Bad, Bad is Good if said conditions are met. Good is Bad if said conditions are met. Never is Bad bad, nor Good good).
8. Honor our Company Mission Statement. (What, are you a fool? Every company has a hidden agenda, like the Company Values, it's all Marketing).
9. Feedback is welcomed. Our HR Employee survey wants to know your honest opinion, so as to better improve conditions. (Only from select prior-appointed people, and then it has to follow the agreed upon strategy. To quote the Clash, "You have the right to free speech as long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it").
10. FMLA. Work and Family balance. Great place to work for single Moms. (Dare try it and you are gone. Dontcha know it's just marketing? You stupid or something?).

The top 10 lies of entrepreneurs...

by Graham Email

Here's an interesting posting about Innovation...

by Graham Email

Link: http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/01/the_art_of_inno.html

...and buried in the comments is this little gem:

The Top Ten Lies Of Business Gurus

1. I'm successful because I'm brilliant. Never mind that I sold a money-losing piece of crap to a dot-com at the height of the internet madness. You should listen to me for my brilliant insights.

2. I'm not ‘successful’ because I happened to be in the right place at the right time. No sirree, that had nothing to do with my success.

3. If you follow my advice, you’ll be successful too! Just wait till the next irrational exuberant thing comes along.

4. I never “drank the punch” during the dot-com era. I always told everyone that the dot-com bubble was going to burst.

5. Just give me your money and I’ll show you how to raise more. Honest.

6. Oh, I know at least THREE companies that are doing what you are doing. If not, I’ll tell them your ideas so they can get started.

7. You don’t need a direct revenue model. Just aggregate eyeballs and you’ll find a way to make money.

8. I STRUGGLED to make myself a success. Never mind my wealthy parents and Ivy League education.

9. You have to have BALANCE in your life. That’s why I divorced my old wife and took up with a young hottie after I sold my company.

10. I so successful I don’t need to work. That’s why I fly all over the country charging business wannabes $1000 to attend my seminars.

Posted by: Stupid Guy | January 10, 2006 at 04:04 PM

Article in praise of procrastination...

by Graham Email

Link: http://www.paulgraham.com/procrastination.html

...in which Paul Graham explains how procrastination (at least for small stuff) may simply be a reflection of the fact that people like to work on significant stuff...

Tributes to Peter Drucker

by Graham Email

Link: http://www.christiansarkar.com/2005/11/best_drucker_obituary_ft.htm

Peter Drucker, the doyen of management thinkers and writers, died in November at the ripe old age of 95. He was active up until the last days of his life, constantly probing at the answers to fundamental questions of corporate leadership ans stewardship.
One of the interesting phenomena in corporate leadership is how many leaders selectively take parts of the philosophies from leaders and thinkers, while ignoring the parts that are, ahem, inconvenient. Drucker was not opposed to outsourcing as a concept; however, he was also on record as insisting that corporations must see people as resources and assets, not costs. However, it is clear that this is exactly how many corporations see their workforces these days; as costs to be managed and controlled, rather than talents and individuals to be nurtured. Of course, they don't mind shipping jobs elsewhere for short-term financial reasons. The fact that this destroys the whole idea that people are your most important asset appears to either not impinge on their thought processes (in which case they are stupid) or has impinged and they are discounting it (in which case they are stupid and they think that their workforce is stupid).
Here is a link to an excellent obituary for Peter Drucker.

Interesting Thoughts about Internet 2.0...

by Graham Email

Some notes about I.T. software delivery commoditization

by Graham Email

I lost any significant sustained interest in the detail of software coding after 1988, when I discovered IEF. I determined at that time that higher-order modelling was the direction the I.T. industry should follow.
Well, here we are in 2005, and higher-order modelling has still not been properly embraced by this industry, which is a matter of some frustration to me. However, it is my belief that any US-based software developer who does not learn to rise a level of abstraction when providing solutions is living on borrowed time, except for a few niche areas. Here is a posting that I wrote on my employer's internal blog about this topic, after a meeting with one of the corporation's thought leaders:

Commoditization and offshoring of 3GL (i.e. coding-level) software delivery activities based mostly on cost is well under way. India is the current de facto world leader, but China will overtake India over the next 10-20 years as China gears up, and as India's costs rise. This will force the Indian 3GL developers up the abstraction scale to where they wil begin to play in (and possibly dominate) the application assembly space. In the meantime, US and Europe-based software developers will need to move up one or two levels of abstraction or risk fnding their job sent overseas, without them being attached to it any more...
The name of the game if you are a US or Europe-based software developer is to rise one or more levels of abstraction. Roles that should be considered are Business Analyst (which requires the acquisition of news skills such as conceptualization and abstraction), Architect (also requiring conceptualization and abstraction), User Experience and User Interface design (which, by virtue of requiring face-to-face contact with customers, is not amenable to offshoring), and Project Management (yes, I know this is a swear-word to many software developers, but not all authority figures are the devil incarnate).

The Pro-Am Revolution

by Graham Email

...is a phenomenom written about (in several different contexts) by Paul Miller.
Basically, this points out that in a number of fields (astronomy and open source software being 2 examples), progress is now being made by groups of dedicated amateurs working to professional standards, rather than exclusively by professionals and academics.
Paul Miller's thinking goes beyond this - he has written a numnber of interesting papers for Demos.
One Pro-Am example that springs to mind which I am involved in is the experimental aviation community, where many planes are built to better-than-professional standards, and where Burt Rutan (heard of him?) started out designing planes for that community before (as he put it recently) "we all grew up and got day jobs".

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