Loosing the war while trying to win the battle (part1)

The BBC news today is full of articles about the extend and background to extensive spying the government does on private citizens personal communications such as Facebook, e-mails, phone calls, and so on. As a big data professional as well as a citizen of a democratic country there are a couple of angles worth taking. For one, what does commercially available software look like that gets sold to governments to achieve this sort of thing, and what can it do and how does a big data architecture like that do it. Secondly why is all this going on? Why does a government feel compelled to spy on its own citizens and non citizens.

A Most Peculiar Data moment

A manager of mine 10 years ago came out with “Perception is reality”. It has niggled at me ever since. Perceptions change, so reality changes? would it not be more insightful calling it perception is a reality? If I see a threat to my business, does it make that threat real? Odd – but maybe this story help me (and maybe you) to have a go at re-evaluating business in general.

Meta physical- not real?

from information-management.com

I like to focus on things that are surprising, I am obsessed with context and complexity, and I work day in and day out with people and organisations that face data challenges.  So here goes another odd story.

I had seen an advert for Heinz Large chunky soup (the advert showing large chunks of beef on a spoon) promising a more manly experience than tiny invisible beef remains I made up my mind to try this. The advert had been screened on US TV, but when I saw the soup in a UK supermarket I tried it.

When entities meet

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When did you hear for the first time about in memory systems? Today? Last year? 1982?
For me it was the latter. In 1982 I was invited to work with students at bremen university on developing a new type of computer programmes. We were still working with card readers, where a machine punches holes in cardboard strips to store binary information. The idea was to load data into a more permanent form of memory called EPROM (erasable programable read only memory). The issue was that at that time EPROM was used for permanent data to help a device start up correctly. Operating systems were to follow, but freely dipping in and out of that memory was not great ( as the name ReAd Only Memory indicated.

Analyse this…

No, not the gangster movie, I do mean analytics as in maths and predictions. I am not sure if you noticed, but there is a it of a new buzz around regarding analytics. The last 3 projects I am was working on all ended up spending a lot of money on Analytics to gain more competitve advantage. Our team of analysts has grown from 3 to over 50. So I thought it might be worth noting a few things down on analytics that might be worth a few moments of your time. I’ll quote the CEO of my last multinational to set the questions (If you have seen the filme “Dogma” think of a character not unlike Jay, as in Jay and Silent Bob representing the CEO I have in mind.)

It’s not what you know…

Knowledge Management is a tricky subject and having an aligned Organisational and IT approach is seldom achieved or for that matter profitably implemented. Yet knowledge centric organisations like Software developers (Google, Apple, …), Universities, Consultancies (Accenture), Law enforcement and Intelligence but also banks, pharmaceuticals, in short everyone relies on these KM processes working like clockwork.  Yet very few organisations have successfully tackled this area. My interest in this area has been growing over the last 15 years, and was recently re-challenged by my daughter:

“Can you learn what you want to learn, and how you want to learn it?”

IT up the stove pipe

RANT:

This is just a quick rant. I cannot understand why we are making it so difficult to share. IT people should know better. Things that should be available in general are service based access to master data from any company, serviced based access to any computer service provided and above all service based identity management (including rights distribution and so on). More than that I believe that this is a citizen ship element that should be covered by government capability and services.

Doing IT properly is impossible…

We often sit , maybe waiting for a train, and, short of a good book, we ponder why something isn’t better. Why is my daughter more interested in playing on her new phone then doing her piano practice? Why do mobile phones hang up on you even though the signal is displayed as strong? Why is one train platform tasked with receiving three trains in the next three minutes when the platform next to it is idle for the next 30 minutes?

When you visit organisations that run these infrastructures (lets exclude my daughter’s piano issues for now) we often find that challenges like the above are often attributed to IT. quotes like “The windows mobile operating system was just not designed to do this with so little hardware resources available” or “The damned system sets the priority like that, we have no control over it.”  ie the fault usually ends up at the door step of those that can not defend themselves and IT comes up a lot. But how can this be?

Architecting the dream information castle

Resources are in short supply, people are afaraid to make the wrong decision and that can only mean one thing for IT. Information provisioning is key. I remember back in 1988 we were wondering about EIS (II), the second version of executive information systems that would bring internal and external collected information together to enable executives to make better decisions. Has anything changed?

Who monitors the monitor?

We have all been there. The TV is 2 years old and just before (or after) new year the thing decides to try and desolve itself from all responsibilities. No news, no movies, no drama, no life sports. You might even have taken out the store’s extended warrenty, but the terms and conditions state that a chance of repair has to be exercised (which means that no-one comes for a week to look at the thing, then you wait another week for someone to take it away, and you wait a further 6 weeks for someone to say “you will need a new one”). It’s not what you were led to believe when you paid for the extended warrently. Either way you are left without the TV.

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