76% Organic

76-percent-organic.jpg

The back does explain that it’s 76% organic petite sirah, and 24% non-organic grapes. I just thought it was a pretty funny thing to put on the front label, and wonder which consumers are going to be more likely to buy it, knowing that it’s 76% organic.

Poker Faced?

poker-cheat.jpgIn “An Unstoppable Force Meets…” Haseeb writes about “we have just witnessed a monumental event in the history of online poker – the entrance of Isildur into our world of online poker.” Huh? Really? The post is jargon packed, and I’m not a poker player, but apparently this Isildur character has slaughtered all the best online players in the world by being “hyperaggro:”

About a week later I was sitting at tables without any action when Isildur showed up at one of my 25/50 NL tables. I was bored and willing to play anything, so when he offered to play 6 tables (although usually I max out at 4), I decided to take him up on his offer and play a serious NLHE HU match for the first time in a long while. As the match progressed, all of what I’d heard about him being hyperaggro and barrelly checked out, but as I watched the lines he took to bluff, valuebet, and the way he reacted to my betting patterns, he seemed uncannily perceptive. Nevertheless, within the first hour or so I had won about 30k and was feeling pretty confident. He sat out on all of the tables and I assumed that the match was over and was about to check out. But about a minute later he said “brb,” and so I decided to wait for him and continue the match.

One idea, seems obvious to me, is that Isildur is collaborating with the servers to know what everyone’s cards are. Maybe the server operators are involved, maybe not.

Either way, the post is an entertaining read.

Untitled photo by allfangs and elbows

Happy Banned Books Week!

banned-books.jpgQuoting Michael Zimmer:

[Yesterday was] the start of Banned Books Week 2009, the 28th annual celebration of the freedom to choose what we read, as well as the freedom to select from a full array of possibilities.

Hundreds of books are challenged in schools and libraries in the United States each year. Here’s a great map of challenges from 2007-2009, although I’m sure it under-represents the nature of the problem, as most challenges are never reported. (Note the West Bend library controversy is marked on the map.)

According to the American Library Association, there were 513 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2008.

I’m somewhat surprised by how many bluenoses dots there are in the northeast. Does anyone know of a good tutorial that would help me to re-map the data against population?

Make the Smart Choice: Ignore This Label

smart-choices-bad-for-you.jpg

He said the criteria used by the Smart Choices™ Program™ were seriously flawed, allowing less healthy products, like sweet cereals and heavily salted packaged meals, to win its seal of approval. “It’s a blatant failure of this system and it makes it, I’m afraid, not credible,” Mr. Willett said.

[…]
Eileen T. Kennedy, president of the Smart Choices™ board and the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, said the program’s criteria were based on government dietary guidelines and widely accepted nutritional standards.

She said the program was also influenced by research into consumer behavior. That research showed that, while shoppers wanted more information, they did not want to hear negative messages or feel their choices were being dictated to them.
“The checkmark means the food item is a ‘better for you’ product, as opposed to having an x on it saying ‘Don’t eat this,’ ” Dr. Kennedy said. “Consumers are smart enough to deduce that if it doesn’t have the checkmark, by implication it’s not a ‘better for you’ product. They want to have a choice. They don’t want to be told ‘You must do this.’ ” (“For Your Health, Froot Loops™“)

Yes, every single one of these is a better choice than a petri dish full of salmonella. Guaranteed, or your money back.

I’ve added ™ marks where I think the New York Times™ should have included them.

Via JWZ.

We Live In Public, The Movie

One of the best ways to upset someone who cares about privacy is to trot out the “nothing to hide, nothing to worry about” line. It upsets me on two levels. First because it’s so very wrong, and second, because it’s hard to refute in a short quip.

I think what I like most about “We Live In Public” is how it shows how well that nothing to hide idea screws with people’s lives. The movie is the story of Josh Harris and some bizzare experiments he ran, including putting 100 people under constant surveillance and interrogation in “Quiet,” a bunker under New York City with free flowing drugs. After that screwed a lot of people up, Josh and his girlfriend decided to “live in public” on the web. Roughly quoting “after a fight, we’d both run to see who the people watching thought had won it.” In many ways, it was unpleasant to watch, in the way any view of dystopia is.

we-live-in-public.jpg

The movie was one of my favorite parts of the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium, and not just because it was the end and I got to kick back with a beer while we watched. It was my favorite because we talk a lot about privacy in very technical ways: what it means, how to protect it. We talk less about the why or the communication of it. The movie was pretty impactful for a lot of us. One of the best, and perhaps most post-modern was having a Skype conversation with the director, Ondi Timoner, after the screening. (Another member of the household stopped by, said hi, and covered the camera. And sorry about the butt-in-camera, Ondi, we had the beer near the laptop running Skype.)

Ondi-Timoner on Skype.jpg

In the future, we’re inspired to have more art at the conference, and I’d encourage all of you to see We Live in Public. It’s currently in limited engagements [Updated with links]:

8/28 – IFC Center, NYC
9/4 – Brattle, Cambridge
9/25 – NuArt, Los Angles
10/2 – Roxie – San Fransisco, CA
10/9 – Alamo Draft House – Austin, TX
10/16 – Music Box – Chicago
11/13 – Landmark Varsity – Seattle

You can also follow @onditimoner on Twitter, read the blog about the movie, or get in touch with her by Skype..no, just kidding. I think she deserves some privacy.

Television, Explained

So I’m not sure if Michael Pollan’s “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch” is supposed to be a movie review, but it’s definitely worth reading if you think about what you eat. I really like this line:

The historical drift of cooking programs — from a genuine interest in producing food yourself to the spectacle of merely consuming it — surely owes a lot to the decline of cooking in our culture, but it also has something to do with the gravitational field that eventually overtakes anything in television’s orbit. It’s no accident that Julia Child appeared on public television — or educational television, as it used to be called. On a commercial network, a program that actually inspired viewers to get off the couch and spend an hour cooking a meal would be a commercial disaster, for it would mean they were turning off the television to do something else.

Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

Anyway, enjoy the blog, and please comment!

Off to the Moscone Center

Every year around this time, thousands of people converge on the Moscone Center in San Francisco for RSA. I had never given much thought to who Moscone was–some local politician I figured.


I first heard about Harvey Milk in the context of the Dead Kennedys cover of I Fought The Law:

The law don’t mean shit if you’ve got the right friends
That’s how this country’s run
Twinkies are the best friend I’ve ever had
I fought the law
And I won


I blew George and Harvey’s brains out with my six-gun
I fought the law and I won

I learned about Harvey Milk, but didn’t really remember George. I learned who he was from Milk, the movie.

When you hear someone talking about the absolute catastrophe that getting hacked might be, put it in context of human life. Most hacking incidents are annoying, some have real financial impact, and some few have the potential to do real and irreparable harm.

So as we go to the Moscone Center, remember the murders committed by an authorized entrant into city hall. When you hear someone talking about the absolute catastrophe that getting hacked might be, put it in context, and remember George Moscone and Harvey Milk.

Double-take Department, Madoff Division

The Daily Beast has a fascinating article that is a tell-all from a Madoff employee. I blinked as I read:

The employee learned the salaries of his colleagues when he secretly obtained a document listing them. “A senior computer programmer would make $350,000, where in most comparable firms they would be getting $200,000 to $250,000….”

Senior programmers getting a quarter-mil in “comparable firms”? Comparable in what way? Other multi-billion Ponzi schemes that stole from rich suckers and charities alike? Is this another thing to be angry at AIG for? (Cue rimshot.)

I know it’s a tell-all, but tell more, tell more. Another intriguing morsel can be found in:

The employee was part of a trading group, which was able to break a security code that he says led them to a site that was supposed to be seen only by the Madoff family. It showed the profits and losses of the legitimate businesses.

The group broke the code? The person broke the code? And do tell more. Perhaps the author, Lucinda Franks, has some more details for us. Or maybe she’s saving them for a second Pulitzer.

Understanding Users

Paul Graham has a great article in “Startups in 13 Sentences:”

Having gotten it down to 13 sentences, I asked myself which I’d choose if I could only keep one.

Understand your users. That’s the key. The essential task in a startup is to create wealth; the dimension of wealth you have most control over is how much you improve users’ lives; and the hardest part of that is knowing what to make for them. Once you know what to make, it’s mere effort to make it, and most decent hackers are capable of that.

Then in “Geeks and Anti-Geeks,” Adam Barr writes:

You notice this if you listen to the chatter before a meeting. Half the time people are talking about World of Warcraft; those are the geeks. The other half they are talking about pinot noir; those are the anti-geeks. In either case, the group then proceeds to discuss a pattern-based approach to refactoring your C# class design in order to increase cohesion and leverage mock objects to achieve high code coverage while minimizing your unit test execution time.

The reason this matters is because Microsoft has recently been pushing engineers to realize that they are not the customer, the customers are not geeks, and therefore engineers can’t design properly for our customers. What I think happens, however, is that the anti-geeks hear this and think, “They’re not talking about me; I know that those beer-swilling geeks don’t understand the customer, but I’m a cultured sort, not a geek–I’m just like our customers!” And so they go out and design software for themselves…and of course they mess it up…because our customers may not spend their spare time playing Dungeons & Dragons, but neither do they spend it tramping across the Burgess Shale.

So I don’t disagree with Mr. Barr, but I do want to expand a little. The fundamental job of the program manager is to understand the market, come up with a solution that will delight the customer, sell that vision to the team, create and drive the product to shipping to those customers. The market only matters in understanding if a product is worth building, and in helping to shape our understanding of the customer by understanding their economic context.

I don’t think I’m anything like most of my customers. Those customers are first and foremost, 35,000 or so software engineers inside of Microsoft, second, security experts helping them or reviewing their work, and third, software engineers at other vendors who build on our platform. I’m most like the second set, but they’re a distant second, and (as several of them will tell you) I have a tendency to reject their first attempt at getting a feature out of hand, because our previous tools were so expert-centric.

More importantly, I don’t need to be like our customers to delight them. I am nothing like a professional chef, but I am frequently delighted by them. What I need to do is actively listen to those customers, and fairly and effectively advocate for their attitudes and words to my team.

As I was working on this Joel Spolsky posted “How to be a program manager,” which covers some similar ideas.

Who Watches the FUD Watcher?

In this week’s CSO Online, Bill Brenner writes about the recent breaks at Kaspersky Labs and F-Secure. You can tell his opinion from the title alone, “Security Vendor Breach Fallout Justified” in his ironically named “FUD watch” column.

Brenner watched the FUD as he spreads it. He moans histrionically,

When security is your company’s business, even the smallest breach is worthy of scorn. If you can’t keep the bad guys out of your own database, how can customers reasonably expect that you’ll keep theirs safe?

Oh, please. Spare us the gotcha. Let me toss something back at Brenner. In the quote above, he says, “theirs” but probably meant to say “them.” The antecedant of “theirs” is database, and Kaspersky isn’t strictly a database security company, but an anti-virus company. “Them” is a much better turn of phrase, and I hope what he meant to say. How can we possibly trust CSO Online as a supplier of security knowledge when they can’t even compose a simple paragraph? And how can we even trust your own tagline:

Senior Editor Bill Brenner scours the Internet in search of FUD – overhyped security threats that ultimately have little impact on a CSO’s daily routine. The goal: help security decision makers separate the hot air from genuine action items.

Why is FUD Watch creating the very sort FUD they claim to watch? Who watches the FUD watchers? I do, I suppose.

Is my criticism unfair and picayune? Yup.

People make mistakes, even Kaspersky and F-Seecure. And heck, even CSO Online. I forgive you.

Brenner came very close to writing the article that should have been written. If even the likes of Kaspersky and F-Secure fall victim to stupid things like SQL injection, what does that say about the state of web programming tools? How can mere mortals be safe if they can’t?

The drama about these breaks is FUD. It shows that no one is immune. It shows that merely being good at what you do isn’t good enough. It means that people need to test, verify, buy Adam’s book, read it, and act on it.

The correct lesson is not schadenfreude, but humility. There but for the grace of God, go all of us.

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Tweeting

Chris Hoff pointed to an interesting blog post from Peter Shankman. Someone* tweeted “True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say ‘I would die if I had to live here!'”

Well it turns out that…

Not only did an employee find it, they were totally offended by it and responded to the agency person. The kicker is that they copied the FedEx Coporate Vice President, Vice President, Directors and all management of FedEx’s communication department AND the chain of command at (his employer).

Now, the twit who tweeted was clearly a twit, having mixed business and personal in a way that offended a major client. But let’s step back.

First, it’s important to remember that we all have personal lives, and it’s a good thing to be able to separate them from our work lives. If you work in IT and want to blog about gardening, no one is going to confuse things. Where it gets a little grey is when we’re deeply enthused about our work. I blog under my real name about topics that impact my employer. Not all–there are posts that haven’t seen the light of day because they’re too close. Sometimes, I cover work here when I’m really excited about it. My co-workers at Microsoft and my colleagues at Waggener Edstrom also understand that Emergent Chaos is separate, and have never asked me to post anything here.

Second, I think it’s important to generate a zone of professionalism where we it is seen as reasonable for seasoned professionals to comment on things which impact their employers without a presumption that they speak for their employer. This is not without challenges. If we’re naive about it, we create a zone of shills where people are paid to speak for their employers, and lie. At the same time, there are people with a degree of experience, maturity, and wisdom where you want them to be free to speak. Similarly, Microsoft’s willingness to accept my continued posting here without a lot of oversight made me happier in accepting their job. There are lots of companies which would have said “no way.”

Third, I think you need to telegraph where difference is. Here, it’s very clear that we speak for the President of the United States, not our employers. When I mention Microsoft, I try to be clear, although in reviewing posts, I seem to have fallen down a little. A post like “SDL Announcements” is pretty clearly me speaking about work:

I’m in Barcelona, where my employer has made three announcements about our Security Development Lifecycle, which you can read about here…I’m most excited about the public availability of the SDL Threat Modeling Tool. I’ve been working on this for the last 18 months…

(Speaking of clear, not all of the posts in the category are by me.)

The title is of course, a reference to the classic work of sociology, in which Goffman explains that we all present different facets of ourselves in different contexts. In blurring these contexts, services like Twitter and Facebook present a serious challenge to how we conceptualize and present ourselves.

Ridiculing the Ridiculous: Terrorist Tweets

A group of soldiers with the US Army’s 304th Military Intelligence Battalion have managed to top previous military research on terrorist use of World of Warcraft.

Realizing that mentioning the word “terrorist” can allow researchers to acquire funding to play the popular MMOG, they turned attention to the popular, if architecturally unscalable micro-blogging system, Twitter.

Surpassing the threat-analysis skill of super-spy Chad Feldheimer from the recent documentary “Burn After Reading,” they mention not only the threat of “socialists,” “communists,” and “anarchists,” in using Twitter to “communicate with each other and to send messages to broader audiences,” but the wider and more up-to-date threats from “religious communities,” “atheists,” “political enthusiasts,” “human rights groups,” “vegetarians,” and last but not least, “hacktivists.” They notably left out delinquent teenagers, so one presumes they don’t use systems like Twitter.

The Military Intelligence group also discovered that people can use GPS in phones like the Nokia 6210 and Nokia Maps to know where they are. This could let terrorists who want to illegally cross a border know where that border is, or to know that a certain large triangular stone thing is the Pyramid of Cheops (category: Attraction).

The report’s cutting edge thinking also discusses how terrorists could use voice-changing software such as AV Voice Changer Diamond to make prank phone calls and effectively hide under an abaya.

The full report, marked “For Official Use Only,” can be found here. It also redacts with a dark gray splash of ink the email address of sarah.e.womer@ugov.gov, from whom you can get a copy of the report if you do not have access to INTELINK, Cryptome, or the Federation of American Scientists.

I think the report speaks for itself. I just can’t make this stuff up, apart from the bit about hiding under an abaya.

Monsieur Vuitton, I’m ready for my closeup!

This is the window of a Louis Vuitton store. I found it tremendously striking, and so took some pictures.

fashionable cameras.jpg

Setting aside the direct message of “everyone will look at this bag,” I thought what’s interesting is the technological replacement of self with avatar. As if the designer is saying “we no longer want to be seen, but we want to be observed and captured at a distance. What matters is not that we (or the bag) is beautiful, but that we are observed and recorded. We leave our mark on the world, or at least on a disk somewhere, recording our fabulousness.

On second thought, maybe I’m not ready for that close-up.

Help fund historic computers at Bletchley Park

transport for London.jpg

Bletchley Park, the site in the UK where WWII code-breaking was done, has a computing museum. The showpiece of that museum is Colossus, one of world’s first computers. (If you pick the right set of adjectives, you can say “first.” Those adjectives are apparently, “electronic” and “programmable.”) It has been rebuilt over the last fourteen years by a dedicated team, who have managed to figure out how it was constructed despite all the plans and actual machines having been dismantled.

Of course, keeping such things running requires cash, and Bletchley Park has been scrambling for it for years now. The BBC reports that IBM and PGP have started a consortium of high-tech companies to help fund the museum, starting with £57,000 (which appears to be what the exchange rate is on $100,000). PGP has also set up a web page for contributions through PayPal at http://www.pgp.com/stationx, and if you contribute at least £25 (these days actually less than $50), you get a limited-edition t-shirt complete with a cryptographic message on it.

An interesting facet of the news is that Bletchley Park is a British site and the companies starting this funding initiative are each American companies. Additionally, while PGP is an encryption company and thus has a connection to Bletchley Park as a codebreaking organization, one of the major points that PGP and IBM are making is that Bletchley Park is indeed a birthplace (if not the birthplace) of computing in general.

This is an interesting viewpoint, particularly if you consider the connection of Alan Turing himself. Turing’s impact on computing in general is more than his specific contributions to computers — he was a mathematician far more than an engineer. He was involved in designing Colossus, but the real credit goes to Tommy Flowers, who actually built the thing.

If we look at the history of computing, an interesting thing seems to have happened. The Allies built Colossus during the war, and then when the war ended agreed to forget about it. The Colossi were all smashed, but many people involved went elsewhere and took what they learned from Colossus to make all the early computers that seemed to have names that end in “-IAC.”

(A major exception is the work of Konrad Zuse, who not only built mechanical programmable computers before these electronic ones, but some early electronic ones, as well.)

This outgrowth from Colossus also seems to include the work that turned IBM from being a company that primarily made punched cards and typewriters to one that made computers. It is thus nice to see IBM the computing giant pointing to Colossus and Bletchley as a piece of history worth saving along with the cryptographers at PGP. It is their history, too.

I think this dual parentage makes Bletchley Park doubly worth saving. The information economy has computers and information security at its core, and Colossus sits at the origins of both. Please join us in helping save the history of the information society.

No Privacy Chernobyls

Over at the Burton Identity and Privacy Strategies blog, there’s a post from Ian Glazer, “Trip report from the Privacy Symposium,” in which he repeats claims from Jeff Rosen:

I got to hear Jeffery Rosen share his thoughts on potential privacy “Chernobyls,” events and trends that will fundamentally alter our privacy in the next 3 to 10 years.

I don’t believe it, and haven’t believed it in a long time. As I said in 2006, There Will Be No Privacy Chernobyl. There’s too much habituation, too much disempowerment, and too diffuse an impact of any given issue.

I’d love to have to eat those words. Rosen suggests five issues:

  1. Targeted ads
  2. Search term links
  3. Facebook
  4. The Star Wars kid
  5. Ubiquitous surveillance

Do you see any of these rising to the level of Chernobyl? Where you could stop the average person on the street in most of the developed world, ask a simple question, and not get a blank stare?