The FCC needs to classify Internet Service Providers as Common Carriers

My comment to the FCC:

The recent proposal to permit Internet service providers to offer tiered services would further undermine the American Internet. Already serivice providers are deliberately degrading service in an effort to extort payments from services such as Netflix and YouTube.

This is something the FCC should correct rather than encourage.

Although the US invented the Internet, we currently stand 22 in the world for broadband speed.

This is something the FCC should seek to correct rather than exacerbate.

The Internet is where people look up the local bus schedule, find out about business hours, apply for work, apply for benefits, and every other manner of daily errand. Americans need realiable Internet service and it should be the business of the FCC to arrange for that, not accommodate an industry that is falling behind its international competitors. The only way to do that is to classify Internet Service Providers as common carriers.

Rethinking Facebook

In light of recent revelations that Facebook manipulated users feeds to see if they could manipulate users moods we all need to rethink Facebook.

There has always been a control freak quality to Facebook that is not present on other social networks. For example, on any other social network users see every feed that they have subscribed to. Not so on Facebook, there an algorithm second guesses users and presents them with what the algorithm thinks they would like. No doubt Facebook is simply trying to induce users to spend more time on Facebook; but it is too arrogant for words.

From a business’s point of view it gets worse. You spend money setting up an attractive Facebook page, filling with interesting information, publicizing the page, and persuading Facebook users to like it. But this is not enough. You have to pay a toll to Facebook to insure that those who have liked your page actually see your feed. Essentially you are building Facebook’s business as much as your own. This is OK as long as the relationship is symbiotic. But this most recent revelation very much calls that into quesiton.

Facebook has no value save that which users give to it. Facebook management does not appear to understand that its users are partners of a kind and need to be treated with respect.

This presents a dilemma for businesses using Facebook as a communications platform. Using Facebook as part of your communications program constitutes an endorsement of a kind. Is it an endorsement that your business should make? Do you want to encourage your customers and partners to spend time on a social network which takes so manipulative view of its users?

Speaking for myself, I have not made up my mind. From the point of view of generating leads and engaging with customers, prospects, and partners, there are clearly better choices than Facebook. It may be wise to turn one’s attention to greener pastures.

Cats rule the Internet

If dogs rule the silver screen and television, cats rule the Internet. I am not sure why this is, but something about the mystery of cats makes them ideally suited to the Internet.

I am not ready to suggest that Presto Vivace clients put cats on their homepage, their videos, and brochures; but I would at least consider it. After all, not so long ago EDS used a labrador retriever in an advertising campaign.

Some unsolicited advice for Vladimir Putin

In this video about Russian government astroturf (It seems that Cenk Uygur does not know the difference between trolls and astroturf), Uygur reports on the Russian government’s efforts to astroturf the comment section on every report about the Ukrainian crisis.

Uygur makes the obvious point that the Russian government’s efforts are rude, crude, and destined to fail. So how should the Russians get their message out? What would be the correct approach to online outreach?

First of all, the Russians are paying a huge price for clamping down on press freedom and suppressing independent bloggers. There are a great many Russians who, while highly critical of Putin, are also critical of right-wing Ukrainian elements. Precisely because these voices are wholly independent of Putin they would have great credibility outside of Russia, and their criticism of American and European support of right wing Ukrainian elements would carry great weight. But since these voices have been suppressed, just when Russia needs them most, they are unavailable. Opening up press and online freedom would be a huge plus in this situation. Yes, many would attack Putin, but they would also attack IMF, World Bank, and Western interference in Ukraine.

The other thing the Russian government needs to do is offer press briefings and other kinds of outreach to publications, including non-traditional ones. A conference call two Twitter personalities, even minor ones, who Tweet about events in Ukraine would be an excellent way to promote the Russian government’s point of view in a way that would be transparent and consequently more effective.

Blogging in a post blogging world

My recent survey of local tech workers confirmed what I have seen elsewhere, we are in a post blogging world. Gone are the days when we all had blogs, read each other’s blogs and linked to them. The commercial news media is more powerful than ever, and social media it’s echo.

So, if that is the case, should you maintain a business blog? Yes. Social media is your virtual store front window. It gives prospects and reporters a chance to view your business in a very low pressure manner. It gives them a preview of what to expect.

Your blog will reinforce your relationship with your present clients as well as offer prospects a chance to judge your expertise and overall approach to problem solving.

Since readers are unlikely to go to your blog, you will have to go to them. That is why you need to use your social media accounts to promote your blog. I recommend Twitter. You may ask, since my survey show that both Facebook and LinkedIn are more popular in the Potomac area, why Twitter? Because Twitter is an open platform. Readers seaching on a keyword within Twitter might find your tweet, click on the link, and read your post. That is less likely with LinkedIn and Facebook, where you will be limited to the people who subscribe to your feed. The other reason to use Twitter to promote your blog is that reporters love Twitter.

In short, you need a blog for the same reason you need a brochure; it is an essential tool of marketing.

Regarding Techmeme

A friend on Facebook informs me that Techmeme is very popular with the Potomac’s public policy community, especially telecommunications and technology policy. So if that is your audience, that is something to keep in mind.

I do not pretend that my survey of local worker’s news sources is scientific; but I do consider it useful, especially in the broad indicators and the shift in results year-to-year.

Washington, DC does not read Techmeme

Once again I have asked my readers where they get their tecnology news, and this year’s survey has some big surprises, the biggest of which was that nobody reads Techmeme. 70% of my respondents said that they did not use any aggregators, but of those that did, nobody looked at Techmeme. This stunned me. I don’t read Techmeme; but I assumed that it is a popular site with local tech workers. Not so, according to my survey. My survey was directed at small business and worker bees. It is possible that had I included venture capitalists in the survey the results would have been different. Even so, I am truly surprised that local software developers are not interested in Techmeme. It is just not a factor on the Potomac.

My sample was overwhelmingly commercial sector (76%) with the rest as civil service (13%) and 9% non-profit. There were no military respondents, although it is possible that some in the commercial sector work on military contracts. One respondent commented that they worked in a creative/digital agency.

Programmers made up 35% of the sample with president/owner making up 22%, independent contractors 17%, project manager/process improvement 13%, web design 9%, and 4% listed themselves as writers. In the comments respondents listed themselves as CEO, human resources, and one freelance/writer. No one listed themselves as sales/marketing.

The most popular sources of news were The Washington Post and Google Tech News, and Federal Computer Week, all with 27% of respondents listing them as their preferred source of technology news. Full response below-

27% respondents:
The Washington Post
Google Tech News
Federal Computer Week

23% respondents:
New York Times
Government Computer News
Wired Magazine
Corporate Web Sites
Corporate News Releases
Google News Alerts

18% respondents:
Washington Business Journal

14% respondents:
Walls Street Journal
Federal Times
MIT Tech Review
The Verge

10% respondents:
USA Today
Government Technology Magazine
Public CIO
Defense News
Washington Technology
Yahoo Tech News
PC Magazine
The Economist
Potomac Tech Wire
PC World
WFED Federal News Radio

5% respondents:
Baltimore Sun
Financial Times
Dr. Dobbs Journal
The Register
CNN Tech
Inc Magazine
Smashing Magazine

Perhaps the most important section is the “other” where respondents volunteer their preferred sources of news. An unprompted response is an indication of serious interest. Respondents named the following sources of news:
Private technical discussion lists, forums, and related blogs. I’m also a beta tester for several major software corporations and get a lot of my information there.
Politico, MacRumors, Twitter, Gizmodo
Public Manager (ASTD), Strategy & Business (Booz)
Apple Insider, Electronista, Gizmodo, MacinTouch, MacNews, MacRumors, MacSurfer’s Headline News, MacWorld, PC Magazine, Railhead Design, RoughlyDrafted Magazine, Slashdot, StorageReview, Thomas Corner, Tidbits, Tom’s Hardware News, TUAs The Unofficial Apple Weblog,
First Round, Fast Company, LinkedIn blogs
Tech crunch, Valleywag, Engadget, Twitter

Blogs are not as popular as they used to be; 33% read no blogs at all. TechCrunch is the most popular blog; 33% respondents indicated it as a source of news. Krebs on Security proved to be the most popular security blog, not surprising as he is local. What did surprise me is that nobody indicated Schneier as a source of security news.

Full response below -

33% respondents:

23% respondents:
Ars Technica

14% respondents:
Coding Horror

9% respondents:
Boing Boing
AIIM Standards Watch
Hacker News (YC)

5% respondents:
Krebs on Security
CMS Watch (Real Story Group)
Joel on Software
Mark Amtower’s Federal Direct
Presto Vivace Blog

The following responses were volunteered:
UIETips and Alertbox
Amy Wohl Blog
NNG Alertbox

I asked respondents for their favorite podcasts and received the following responses:
Podcasts from DICE and UIE
Prairie Home Companion
I pick up shows off
Marc Maron

The overwhelming majority of respondents, 71%, use no aggregators at all. This was a big surprise. The other surprise is that no one reads Techmeme. Aggregators are simply not a good way to reach Potomac area tech workers.

71% respondents:

21% respondents:

13% respondents:
The Federal Contractors Network

8% respondents:

In addition to the prompted responses particpants volunteered Huffington Post (which I would regard as a news organization) and hackernews.

LinkedIn was by far the most popular social network, with 64% of respondents indicating that they used LinkedIn. However, the sample was skewed by my posting the link to the survey in several LinkedIn discussion groups. Even so, LinkedIn delivers a higher rate of engagement than Twitter or Facebook. Full response below:

64% respondents:

48% respondents:

36% respondents:

16% respondents:
Google Plus

8% respondents:

In addition to the prompted responses, the following social networks were volunteered:
Wordpress, GWU, OpenGovHun

Most of the respondents participate in email discussion groups, Northern Virginia Java Users Group was the most popular with 35% of respondents indicating it as a source of news. Given that NoVaJUG was one of the discussion groups where I posted the link to the survey, it’s popularity in this sample is hardly surprising. More significant is the popularity of DC Web Women (18% respondents indicating it as a source of news). This is highly significant as I posted the link to the survey in several discussion groups (indicated with *) but not DC Web Women. So, can we please lose the gender stereotypes about technology? Please? Full responses below -

35% respondents:
*Northern Virginia Java Users Group

24% respondents:

18% respondents:
DC Web Women
*DC Pubs

12% respondents:
CMMi Process Improvement

6% respondents:
The Server Side
Full Disclosure Security Discussion
Word PC

In addition to these groups the following were volunteered by respondents: (volunteered by two different respondents)
Private discussion lists not available to the general public
LinkedIn discussion groups (volunteered by two different respondents)
Content Strategy DC meetup
McEdit Editorial Freelancers Association

Improving search results or corporate power trip?

Tom Foremski reports that Google has once again decided to punish press release services:

Google’s latest algorithm update, Panda 4.0 appears to be punishing sites that host and distribute press releases, by demoting them in its search rankings reports Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land:

since Panda 4.0 hit…, PR Newswire, BusinessWire and PRLog all seem to have lost significant rankings in Google.

Google assumes that simply because something is a press release it cannot be quality content. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am just getting ready to publish my annual reader survey, and once again, corporate news sites and corporate press releases have been named amonng the must popular sources of news. My reader survey consists of the worker bees of Greater Washington technology industry. This is a very sophisticated and skeptical audience, yet they turn to corporate sources for their technology news. Clearly they regard it as a valuable source of news. A search algorithm that punishes press releases will make it more difficult for these readers to find the source of news they trust.

There seems to be this idea that merely because a corporation paid money to put material on the Web it cannot possibly be quality content. Data from years of my annual reader survey suggests otherwise. Google needs to reconsider.

The trouble with acronyms

NSA director forgets name of NSA program, hopes nobody is recording his speech

Answering questions at a cybersecurity symposium Wednesday, U.S. Cyber Command Chief and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers tried to explain his job — but while doing so, he forgot the name of an NSA program.

First, Rogers explained the role of the Information Assurance Directorate, or IAD, the part of the NSA that protects and defends classified systems. But when he got to another program, which goes by the acronym NTOC, he couldn’t quite recall what the all of the letters stood for — until a shout-out from the audience reminded him: the National Threat Operations Center, or more formally, the NSA/CSS Threat Operations Center.

This is why I avoid acronyms wherever possible, and always hyperlink to their definition. Of course you can’t use hyperlinking in a speech, but you can say the full name of a program and then use the acronym as a suffix. Never assume your audience knows what the acronym stands for, this will save you the embarrassment of being caught not remembering what it stands for.