Finding the “ah ha” moment in an “oh crap” world

Safe to say that these are extremely turbulent times.  The mixture of wars, financial crisis and meta-crisis, election cycles, and a looming global recession have combined to form enough angst and fear that it makes emo seem like Elmo.  And it is in these times that one could easly just pull the covers over your head and go back to bed.  But in doing so, you’d miss some amazing opportunities.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, but I think that the “oh crap” moments are far more inspiring and lead to better, more useful innovations.

  • Oh crap! There’s more information about everything available in ways I cannot even begin to count.  How do I get to the good stuff?
  • Oh crap! To compete, I’ve got to get more out of the bright people working for me.  How do can I take their creative efforts and merge them into our core business?
  • Oh crap! I thought I knew how to start a company but between all of this web 2.0 mumbo-jumbo, VC scare tactics, and the financial crisis, I’m just not sure anymore.  What can I do?

It is a real “ah ha” moment that can break you out of the paralysis that an “oh crap” world so easily create.  These moments come from seemingly unrelated conversations and random thoughts.  These moments come from things like Defrag.

Eric describes Defrag as:

Defrag is the first conference focused solely on the tools and technologies that are leveraging the “social” aspect of software to accelerate the “aha” moment. Defrag is not a version number. Rather it’s a gathering place for the growing community of implementers, users, builders and thinkers that are working on the next wave of software innovation.

What Eric is really doing at Defrag is to build a crucible into which is poured a combination of very smart peopleinnovative vendors, and curious attendees.  Turn up the intellectual heat through meaningful keynotes, panels, and Q&A and “ah ha” moments are forged.  These are moments not to be missed.

Having seen what Dick is cooking up at Sxipper and having just built my chi.mp site, bethu.mp, I am really excited to see what other fascinating stuff is waiting for all of us at Defrag 2008.  Come join the fun and have an “ah ha” moment or two in the midst of this “oh crap” world.

Trip report from the Privacy Symposium

This is a cross-post from Burton Group’s Identity Blog.

BTW, I am moderating a panel at Defrag. If you use “ig1” as a registration code, you get $200 off the registration fee. Hope to see you there!

A few weeks ago I was up in Cambridge at the Privacy Summer Symposium.  Gathered together on Harvard’s campus were a collection of lawyers, activists, government officials, and privacy officers discussing various aspects of privacy.  It was certainly a bit of a change for me to be in a non-tech heavy conference.  Besides hearing people like the chairman of the FTC, William Kovacic, speak, I got to witness the launch of EPIC’s Privacy ’08 campaign.  Further, 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.

Privacy Chernobyl #1 – Targeted Ads

We’ve already seen enough concern over targeted ads to trigger Congressional hearings.  The Energy and Commerce Committee in the House has been asking ISPs and advertising providers to answer questions as to how they track and use clickstream data. Not be left out, the EU has notified the UK that it must respond to an inquiry whether the Phorm system violated EU data privacy laws.  From NebuAd to Phorm to DoubleClick and beyond, targeted ads are getting more and more targeted.  The real concern for Rosen is the downstream use of the collected clickstream data.  For example, my ISP may not directly do anything overly odious with the information about which sites I visit, but if they sell that information, the 2nd and 3rd generation data users may bit a more nefarious.

Privacy Chernobyl #2 – Personally identifiable search term leak

The knowledge of who I am and what I search for can be used in a variety of ways: from serving voyeuristic desires to putting me in a compromising situation.  Without being able to provide the context for the searches, I could be judged by a people like a potential employer, dating service, or insurance provider unfairly, and these judgments can have a real impact on my life.  As YouTube has to disclose data for its court case, I have to imagine there are some people who really don’t want identifiable searches being disclosed into the public record.  As more and more of our web browsing is search driven, the potential impact of this problem will only grow.

Privacy Chernobyl #3 – Unexpected data exposure on Facebook

There are two concerns to this issue.  The first concern is one that Rosen categorized as data exposure in unexpected ways.  I may have tailored my Facebook profile’s privacy settings to what I think strikes a decent balance between my desire to connect to people and maintaining some level of privacy.  But what is unclear is how Facebook application developers are using my data, including clickstream data.  I don’t expect to hear a friend tell me that I “friended” a product whose ad appeared in Facebook for her, and I certainly never want to hear that this has happened.

Continue reading “Trip report from the Privacy Symposium”

I’m going to Defrag… help me figure out what to do when I get there

I am headed to this year’s Defrag conference and I pumped to do so.  I didn’t get to go last year which I really regretted, and Eric hasn’t let me forget that either.

I will be moderating a panel called: Can identity be a filter for information overload?  Eric and I are in search of interesting people and points of view to include on this panel.  

On first blush, to me, this sounds like a discussion of the current state of personalization.  Eric isn’t sold yet on that angle.  I’d be interested to learn if/how personalization is moving from explicit declarations, “I like cake,” to something more implicit, “From examining your read RSS feeds, Computer thinks you like cake.” 

Putting on my enterprise identity hat, I start to wonder if my role and relationship to my employer has a hand in this.  Again, this ought to be an interpretation of pattern and not an explicit assignment.  I am a senior analyst at Burton Group focused on identity and privacy.  I share interests with my team.  Collectively this blob of information (feeds, groups, sites, etc) is likely to be of interest to us.  Further, I am curious how my role and relationship combined with a Google Search Appliance or SharePoint can act as a filter.

Finally, I can’t help but think of the privacy implications here.  Traffic analysis can and will start to reveal my preferences, and there definitely are privacy implications to this. Add extra data to the mix, like location, and the privacy concerns grow quickly.  (I swear there are moments that my iPhone seems eerily like HAL.)  How does industry handle my contradicting desires to filter based on my identity (and here I am including preferences as part of my identity) while not revealing too much about me?  What is too much anyway?  Who gets to decide?

At any rate, if you’ve got some ideas on the matter, please send them to Eric and me – operators are standing by.