Manging group knowledge – you aren’t doing it wrong because it can’t be done right

My group at work is supposed to grow fast and there is a real concern that we will fragment and knowledge will be lost. I argue below that this is inevitable and largely unavoidable. But, more to the point, it’s probably not worth avoiding. And when it is worth avoiding? Know that you will need to pay someone on an ongoing basis to fix it. Data does not self organize.
Continue reading Manging group knowledge – you aren’t doing it wrong because it can’t be done right

An open letter to the ACLU

For more years than I can count the ACLU has been the foundation of my giving each year. This year will be different, the ACLU will no longer serve as the foundation of my giving. The purpose of this letter is to explain why. My goal is not to convince you, ACLU, that I'm right, rather it is to help you understand my motivations. To the extent that I represent anyone but myself this insight might be useful in understanding at least some portion of your donor base. Or not, I can't really say. But I felt that the changes I'm making required some sort of explanation.
Continue reading An open letter to the ACLU

A quick overview of the destruction of our most basic liberties and environment

We learn so much drivel in school and via the press that once you do manage to peak behind the curtain and start to understand the truth it can be quite overwhelming to realize how much you you need to un-learn and then really learn. Noam Chomsky has written an excellent article that outlines a few of those historical threads. In this case he looks at the freedoms that were provided by the Magna Carta and how they have been stripped away in America. Along the way he gives a quick history of how Blacks have always been but for a very short period and today still are really slaves in every meaningful sense in America and a few issues of environmental law. If you're interested in learning more at least about the American part of history that you probably weren't taught in school (assuming you went to school in America) I heartily recommend Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States"

Is the United States a Tyranny?

This of course depends on what tyranny means. The general definition is 'the arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power'. To me the key term is 'unrestrained'. In the United States we theoretically have three co-equal branches of government that are supposed to check each other. But those checks appear to have failed. As evidence just take a look at an article published in the Washington Post. What we see there is a well enumerated list of powers that are now held by the Presidency. Powers that explicitly allow for the unrestrained use of power by the President. Continue reading Is the United States a Tyranny?

Debt ceiling nonsense

In understanding the current debt 'crises' one needs to understand that it's all a show. A manufactured crises to enable both sides to push for radical changes that they otherwise didn't believe they could get through.

As FactCheck explains the debt ceiling has been regularly raised 78 times since the 1960s and in fact we have been close to default at least 3 times during the Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies. So there truly is nothing new here.

That doesn't mean, btw, that insanity on both sides couldn't actually result in a default. But if it does it's important to understand that we would be destroying our economy as a result of a manufactured crises that both sides decided to create in order to push their own agendas.

I believe TechCrunch missed the point on Yahoo!

TechCrunch claims that Yahoo!'s handing over data on a Chinese journalist to the Chinese government was, on balance, appropriate behavior. What I believe TechCrunch completely misses the point on is that Yahoo!, of its own free will, made the decision to become a 40% owner of a Chinese company that hosted sensitive personal information within the reach of the Chinese government. That is Yahoo!'s real ethical failure. The fact that the Chinese government used its powers to grab that data was the inevitable outcome of Yahoo!'s actions. I believe Yahoo! should have refused to have involved itself in any situation that would see its users sensitive data stored in a country with such an abysmal human rights record. I personally believe that Yahoo! deserves enormous criticism for its actions and some kind of movement to refuse to do business with Yahoo! until it gets sensitive data out of the hands of the Chinese government seems completely appropriate.

To the folks who read this blog, who are mostly in the on-line services business, this issue isn't just theoretical. Everyday we make decisions that affect the privacy and security of our users. Where do we host our data? What kind of interception facilities do we put in our networks? What kind of logs do we keep? We all have an obligation to act ethically, to use our knowledge to help people, not harm them. When we record more than we need, keep it longer than we need, make it too easy to recover/intercept and store it in the wrong place we fail in our ethical obligations and for that we all need to be held to account.