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Read “The Circle” and opt out!

Is it – as a committed social media aficionado – applicable to call for an opt out of it all? It is, once you’ve read “The Circle”, the 2013 fictional novel by author Dave Eggers.

Eggers portraits a powerful internet company making money through advertising (links to Google or Facebook are purely accidental, of course). Mae Holland is a tech worker and in her second job after having graduated she’s given an opportunity at The Circle – an opportunity which most tech workers these days desperately seek for. Mae got support from her college roommate Annie who had already made it to the group of the 40 most senior managers in the company, directly reporting to the founders – “Three Wise Men”: Tom Stenton, Eamon Bailey and Ty Gospodinov. While the first two actively involve themselves in the company’s endeavours, Ty works on new developments mostly secluded in the background.

Mae starts in Customer Experience and works herself up the chain by overcommitting to objectives and seemingly easily (but in truth with great personal effort and sacrifice) following the increasingly demanding involvement not only in her work duties but also all virtual and physical social interaction with fellow colleagues. She not-falls-in-love with one nerdy Circler she has sex with, whom she somehow admires for his technological development of a system protecting children from violence; she commences to desperately long for encounters with another Circler, who becomes increasingly mysterious as the company develops itself more and more towards total transparency.

Eggers, the author, does not keep the reader long from his message: One of the first major announcements of one of the Wise, Eamon Bailey, is a development called “SeeChange” – an extremely low-cost, top-quality A/V camera, capable of running on battery for about 2 years and streaming its crystal clear 4k images via satellite onto the SeeChange platform. Anyone can install cameras anywhere, they are barely noticed and everybody can logon to SeeChange with their unique – very personal and real – identity, their “TruYou”.

Rings a bell? Well, this is only the starting point into a rollercoaster of more awesomely cool technology tools, all aggregated through “TruYou” and made available to everyone anytime.

Dave Eggers is brilliantly creating a staggering balance between technological blessings and their benefit for employees, communities and the people as a whole on the one hand and the increasing sacrifice individuals could be demanded to make on the other hand in order to leverage that technological advance. This is – in short – the utter embarrassing red line throughout the whole book from the very first page until the closing line.

Of course, “The Circle” addresses the time we spend in social media, the way we communicate with each other (personally and virtually), the blessings and the threats that a modern, technology-based life bears. While reading, I was constantly torn between appreciating the sketched development (note: this isn’t science fiction, this is just the next step in a logical advance that we’re facing) and detesting the commitment it would demand from the ones making real use of it. Being into like two thirds of it and swallowing the book’s lines in nightly sessions, my only remaining questions was this: Will Eggers eventually manage to destroy my thorough belief in the two main importances of modern social media involved life and communication:

  • Utter transparency: I want to always know – or: be able to know – who does what with my data
  • And utter free will: I want to always be allowed to opt out, if I want to

I will not disclose the answer – I’d be “spoiling”. BUT – if you haven’t done so far, I recommend: Read “The Circle”. And then consider carefully, where and what to opt in or opt out of. It remains important.

circlebig

P.S.: There’ll be a movie comin’ this year, starring Tom Hanks as Eamon Bailey. Don’t read the articles on it, as they all contain spoilers on one important turn of the story!

 

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#IoT in perspective

This morning, a twitter post by EMC caught my attention – not the article, but the image used to promote it (it’s the feature image of this post now): “30 billion devices expected to be connected and used in 2020”.

Gartner – in a news from about a year ago – had put it more reservedly: 25B devices in 2015 (maybe they’ve changed their estimates already).

Anyway: What strikes me is the permanent rise of this figure. It seems that each month the prognosis on the number of connected devices is increased by 10% (which means that by the end of March we’ll face a claim of 40B by 2020). BTW: Claiming figures for 2020 neglects the fact that the devices claimed to be connected by 2015 would already produce an estimate of 7.3 Zettabyte of data. If this little spot (barely visible) 1Terabyte was your 1 Terabyte harddisc then the following would mimic 1 Exabyte. Take this field of 1TB harddiscs, multiply it by 1024 once more and you got 1(!) Zettabyte. 7,3 times the amount is the estimate of things data production of this very year, you’re reading this.

1Exabyte

I do not think that many can handle even this amount of data. But let us just put the number of things connected into

Perspective

If any of those 30 billion device is estimated to have a width of 1 cm and we line them up 1 by 1 in a row, we’d have a line of 300,000 (3-hundred-thousand) kilometers of length. 7.5 times around the earth. Or:

  • nearly all roads of the UK (400k km) covered with devices
  • 3 times the road network of Austria (100k km)
  • 5% of the road network of the US (6,341,421 km according to OECD figures)

Ridiculous, isn’t it? Let’s try something else:

The current estimate of population in the world (according to wikipedia) is 7.3 billion (nice coincidence: 1 TB of data per 1 living person at the moment) with an annual estimated growth rate of 1.1%. That makes a world population of 7.71 billion in 2020 or (taken EMC’s image from the beginning) 3.89 devices per person.

Assuming that Africa and maybe 50% of Asia and South America might not be that strongly equipped with devices by this time, we can estimate that some 4 billion people will be handling those 30 billion devices (don’t blame the assumptions, just feel the numbers). 30 billion devices per the estimated Internet-of-Things population computes to around 7 devices per capita. Realistic?

Well – just to be sure: An average car – today – has some 20 sensors (fuel level, engine temperature, speedometer, throttle position, tire-pressure, blind spot detector, … just to name a few). To assume that those will not be connected devices in future would be pretty naiv. 3 inhabitants per 1 car? I think this number is overestimated – so no worries: The figure is accurate and realistic (maybe to low even).

However,

The point here is:

“Connected device” means that those little gadgets are constantly talking to something. This “something” is software; software which must be built to connect and integrate those devices with a larger IT ecosystem (see my “Digital” whitepaper for a rough IoT reference architecture). Who has already thought about the amount of communication (not data – communication) happening from these devices. Constantly. On a high pace. Expected to be resilient at all times. And real-time.

And even IF the amount of devices and their communication would be spread over multiple device integration solutions, which integration layer solution would be capable of connecting multiple stakeholder systems across enterprises to make the assumed amount of data useable for businesses.

Who has built – or is building – an integration layer offering these vast capabilities? If you know one, let me know, please … and do post its capability figures into the comment!

 

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Android is a scary platform

Significant Other is asking me in 12-hour intervals: “Which state are we in: Like, dislike, hate?” Kids are showing me handling best practice and useful apps. Any time and again you’d hear me cursing or smiling in joy – I’ve switched from a Windows Phone to Android!

Why? Well … 2 reasons, mainly: (1) my mobile provider doesn’t really support WP too well and (2) I wanted to know what Android is on to these days.

To begin with: I may have made a mistake by not choosing the Android-native Nexus; reason: I missed the SD card slot. Secondly, I stumbled across a review of OnePlus just a few days too late (that would’ve been interesting, too). So, eventually I ended up with a Samsung Galaxy S5 which after boot instantly updated to Lollipop (5.0) – without flaw.

Hardware

The device is a 2.5GHz/2GB hardware with 16GB of internal memory (I added my 16G SD card holding all Windows Phone data – no prob here, either). First impressions in short:

  • solidly built hardware
  • nice display
  • very (very!) good camera with a lot of parameter possibilities (and HDR, of course)
  • LTE (fast and stable enough)
  • download booster combining WiFi and 4G for increased bandwidth (even faster, notably)
  • and a ton of apps from the beginning

Major annoyance: Some really strange and not at all useful native Samsung Apps (yes, I was warned that I won’t like that – took me a bit to wipe or disable and exchange them by their Android-native relatives but in the end I was fine).

Customization

You know that typical Android look-and-feel, right?

Homescreen overview

Homescreen overview

Turns out that Samsung had of course added their own launcher (TouchWiz) deeply into the OS – it isn’t too bad a feature; however, I’d have loved more to get what the OS manufacturer had in mind. Now, there’s no way really to get rid of TouchWiz w/o rooting the device; but there’s even some more annoyances …

I don’t have a screenshot of my old WP available (there’s lot’s of examples to be found anyway); however, the main flaw of Android’s way of presenting a home screen – with whatever launcher one eventually uses – is that it still remains “unstructured” in a way. Unless one develops a very own logic of grouping, ordering into folders and one’s personal homescreen sequence, it gets nothing short from searching anytime one wakens the phone. Also, the default setting is that every new app is automatically added to the homescreen – somewhere (obviously to the first free space). Where would one seek for this setting? Application Manager? Display Settings? No. It’s inside the Play Store app … well …

With WP I really honestly liked the tiled main screen and the instantly logical way of displaying installed apps. And recently they even added some visual customization capabilities – just enough to add personality to the screen. The openness of Android clearly has its drawback: There’s just too many places to change settings, customize appearance or control behaviour … and that continues …

Social and Comms

Why a smartpone if not for social media. Kids are teaching us how to use technology and social media really smart (think, we’ve discussed that many times before). One is well-off with Android in that respect.

Social media apps on Android

Social media apps on Android

I only even installed the obvious (as you can see above). There’s far more social media supporters to be found in Play Store – I didn’t have much time to test’em, yet. The ones I did try are doing their duty in a stable manner and I hardly miss any feature (just maybe that switching twitter accounts is much more convenient by just doing a swipe from the top in WP – in Android one has to go to the menu, select accounts and then choose the one to use).

One more on social (and communication): Every – emphasizing: every – social and comms app is by far faster in Android than their respective relative in WP (applies especially to WhatsApp and Messenger). And I’m still wondering why, indeed …

Mail & Calendar

To be blunt open: So far, this is an utter nightmare on Android!

While with WP7 the calendar was – to be honest – pretty ridiculous, the WP8 calendar (solidly redesigned) really offered some useful and perfectly helpful features. The Samsung Android phone – to begin with – comes with their own S-Planner application. Totally counterintuitive look-and-feel. Far too much information on one screen. … I instantly switched to another cal app I found pre-installed (probably the native Android calendar), just to discover that it is not much of a bummer, either. And — I was unable to discover any possibility to show upcoming meetings on the lock screen (also in this respect WP Notification Center is well ahead).

It gets worse with eMail (yes, I am still using that – sometimes ;)): I cannot remember whether there was a Samsung-owned eMail app (if there was, I probably got rid of it immediately). One of the very first eMail experiences one gets with a Google device is Google’s own GMail app. I was prepared for that. I never really liked Google’s way of categorization instead of a real folder structure. Anyway … the thing I really needed was a way to present my Exchange mailboxes – either in one place or as separate mail accounts within the system. I went with the built-in eMail app,

  • added all accounts,
  • discovered that I cannot change the order
  • discovered that I cannot change the mail account colour either
  • and finally realized that the app – depending on its daily mood – crashes within one particular mailbox (but not always the same one) or the “combined view” (which as such is pretty useful, but not when crashing).

So, this was no way to go. After finding out by fellow victims who already took time to complain online, that there isn’t really a way to solve that other than changing the mail client, I am now in the process of evaluating myriads of different clients (the advantage of Android’s developer openness pays off) and may share experiences in another post – let’s see. So far, I go with a thing called MailWise for Exchange/Office365 accounts and GMX Mail for POP accounts.

Android eMail apps as shown in the home screen folder

Android eMail apps as shown in the home screen folder

One more word re customization: With eMail and calendar – as a matter of fact – every single app ads its own notification scheme. Every one. And in eMail – for some weird reason – one even has to configure notification for every single account. I could possibly alter the notification tone for every mail account I am managing within the respective mail app. And this applies to A-N-Y mail app tested so far. One would end up with myriads of different rings, pops, knocks and melodies — wonder which brain is able to remember all those different assignments …

Apps

One major drawback of WP is their utterly limited app ecosystem. It gets better overtime – step by step, but still there is a lot of things one cannot do with WP that any other platform offers. I would love to urge Microsoft to invest heavily into overcoming that disadvantage of their OS; my take is, that they’d actually have to offer coding the WP app for free to any important vendor or services in order to increase acceptance of their phones.

The only problem with the Android app ecosystem really is that there’s so many to choose from – for every single area. So far, there’s only one useful app from my former WP times which I dearly miss on Android: CarRadar – an app that combines multiple “Cloud Car” (car sharing) offerings within one UI (including reservation). Other than that, there’s simply no shortage of features anymore. Meanwhile, I got 5 screens full of icons – which doesn’t necessarily mean that I search less and find more more quickly; it only means: it’s there. And sometimes I feel like: Less is more (though, not as few as on WP).

Data and how to control it

So, after having customized the basics to my needs (pretty awkward to spend some 2+ usage weeks and still not feeling fully under control of features), my utmost concern – as always – is: What happens to my data? Now, one knows, of course, that Microsoft spends much more thought on transparency than Google ever will. There is, however, a great big disclaimer whenever one commences using another Google service; it’s essentially an outtake of the full privacy policy:

  • we collect usage data, location data, logging data, …
  • we use it for presenting you with appropriate ads
  • we even combine data to improve your experience
  • bla bla bla

Nothing new under the sun. If one opts into using a Google device, one has to be prepared for that.

However, what one may not be prepared to is the utter nightmare that comes when wanting to get into control of all that again. With so many different apps, so many different places for settings, so many different parameters, a totally non-unified user experience (as a price for developer openness), … it gets really hard to find out all possible settings in all those many apps for controlling how those deal with data.

Here’s just some examples of what I discovered – intentionally or by accident – during the first 2 weeks of using the new phone:

  • Every new folder created and potentially filled with pictures gets grabbed by the Android photo backup feature asking whether to backup data within that folder to your Google account – there is no way of getting to the parameterization of backup other than when it pops up (as far as I could find out by now)
  • When an eMail is deleted from one of the accounts, MailWise still shows the deleted eMail as part of a conversation; the eMail object is nowhere to be found as such – it just shows in MailWise, hence must be somewhere (btw: I didn’t find a way of deleting one piece of a multi-mail conversation thread in MailWise – anyone able to help here? – please comment)
  • Everyone – by now – should know about Google’s aim to track your ways; if not -> read this!

However, by far the most weird moment was when suddenly out of nothing the (pretty newly developed) Google Photo Assistant popped up on my phone, telling me that it had discovered some images which seemingly combine well into a new banner photo (and it showed it to me):

Technology-Panorama from Ars Electronica Center Linz

Technology-Panorama from Ars Electronica Center Linz, auto-developed from 4 separate pics by Google Photo Assistant (no post work)

I never told Photo to act respectively; I even – thought to have – disabled all autonomy of Google Photo (knowing its still algorithmic weakness); nevertheless, it did its (Google-defined) duty and started suggesting things … simply utterly “scary” in a way …

Conclusion

“Which state are we in: Like, dislike, hate?” – Not “hate”, i’d say; “like” not either, though. I consider myself an advocate of transparency. I solidly believe that the way into the digital age is paved by a seriously vast data highway. We should know what flows there. We should be aware of our part in it. Microsoft is – to my believe – doing well with their OS in supporting the user to maintain control of what the device is doing; Android is missing out here. Totally. As a pay-off to flexibility and feature richness.

In a research document from earlier this year, IDC shows phone OS market share as follows:

IDC: Smartphone OS Market Share 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012 Chart

Source: IDC Smartphone OS Market Share – Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker

 

If this is really true, WP is severely undervalued in my opinion. WP – to me – is by far the most logical, most transparent and most user friendly phone OS (I should maybe mention that for a customer project I am also testing an iPhone 5S at the moment; I just didn’t want to mingle experiences into this post).

Android is more flexible and simply offers a whole world of options – drawback being that you need far more time to dig into them all.

According to the report above, we are seeing a total of 260 million Android devices in use worldwide. I would dearly love to see all those users spend enough time to understand their device and especially understand its usage of data provided by them – and how to control it.

 

{feature image source: wctechblog.com}

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3 Gründe, warum es egal ist, was in den facebook AGBs steht

Da war er wieder – der 2-3 mal jährliche Aufschrei der Online-Gemeinde über die AGBs eines Sozialen Netzwerks. Nicht irgendeines Sozialen Netzwerks: DES Sozialen Netzwerks.

Facebook hatte seine “Allgemeinen Nutzungsbedingungen” wieder einmal überarbeitet und ich stolperte unvermeidbar über den diesbezüglichen Artikel der ORF futurezone (es gab bestimmt noch weitere).

Kurz darauf überschlugen sich Kritiker und Kalmierer und warfen sich gegenseitig vor, den falschen Umgang mit der nackten Tatsache der Änderung zu pflegen (erfrischend dabei lediglich jene facebook (sic!) Posts, die dazu aufforderten, irgendetwas auf das persönliche Profil zu stellen, um dadurch den neuen AGBs zu widersprechen; mein unerreichter Favorit dabei: das Einhorn – ich bin sicher, auch dazu gibt’s ein paar “Gläubige”).

Letztendlich bleibt jedoch ohnehin von solchem Aufruhr nichts übrig – und das ist auch gut so. Weil es nämlich vollkommen wurscht ist, was in den facebook AGBs steht. Und zwar aus folgenden simplen Gründen:

1. Die Welt ist Werbung!

So ist das nun mal. Was immer wir tun (falsch: was immer wir schon immer taten) wurde und wird dazu benutzt, dass Unternehmen versuchen, uns zu sagen, was wir in Zukunft tun, kaufen, benutzen, buchen, … leben sollen. Schauen Sie sich einfach nur die Evolution von Werbung (vom Plakat, über die Radio-Information, zum Fernsehspot, zwei-, drei-, viermal pro Tag, vor und nach Sendungen, inmitten des Films, nun vor dem youtube-Video, … usw.) an: Unternehmen und Medien versuchen, in gegenseitigem Kreativwettlauf an immer noch mehr Möglichkeiten zu kommen, uns mit ihrer “Information” zu überschütten. Neuerdings bekomme ich vor jedem youtube-Video den Spot eines SharePoint Migrationstools zu sehen (womit habe ich mich wohl in letzter Zeit online beschäftigt).

Und ehrlich gestanden frage ich mich: Was ist so falsch daran? Wenn ich ein Hotelzimmer in Madrid buchen möchte, besuche ich mal kurz booking.com, suche ausgiebig danach und warte dann, bis mir booking.com was günstiges vorschlägt. War ich dann dort und es war gut, schreib ich mir die eMail-Adresse auf und booking.com sieht mich für diese Stadt nie wieder. Werbung kann so einfach ausgeblendet und gleichzeitig zielführend genutzt werden. Daher ist allein dieser Grund genug, die facebook AGB Änderung zu ignorieren, wenn es – wie die futurezone einleitend feststellt – doch nur darum geht, zielgerichtetere Werbung zu ermöglichen.

2. Welches Recht zählt wirklich?

Schon mal genauer in die AGBs reingeschaut? Hier nochmal der Link dazu. Wenn man nach dem Gerichtsstand sucht, findet man da:

“You will resolve any claim, cause of action or dispute (claim) you have with us arising out of or relating to this Statement or Facebook exclusively in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California or a state court located in San Mateo County, and you agree to submit to the personal jurisdiction of such courts for the purpose of litigating all such claims. The laws of the State of California will govern this Statement, as well as any claim that might arise between you and us, without regard to conflict of law provisions.”

Na dann! Auf in die Staaten. Gehen wir uns beschweren, was uns facebook da antut.

Verstehen Sie mich richtig, bitte: Die Sammelklage des österr. Jusstudenten, Max Schrems, beispielsweise finde ich im Grunde richtig und sogar notwendig. Leider gerät der ursprünglich auslösende Moment für dieses Vorgehen ein wenig in Vergessenheit: Begonnen hatte dieser Fall ja mit dem Versuch, alle gesammelten Daten von facebook zu erhalten; ich halte es für ein Grundrecht jedes Menschen auf dieser Welt, detailliert erfahren zu können, was wo über einen selbst gespeichert ist (vgl. auch meine Transparenz-Forderung im “Citizenfour”-Artikel).

Ich halte es natürlich auch für ein Grundrecht, selbst entscheiden zu können, welche persönlichen Daten verwendet werden – und genau deshalb sind die AGBs von facebook genau genommen Makulatur, denn (last not least):

3. Ich entscheide selbst, was ich wie nutze!

facebook zwingt mich in keiner Weise, facebook zu nutzen. facebook zwingt mich nicht einmal, facebook auf eine bestimmte Art und Weise zu nutzen. facebook bietet mir Möglichkeiten. Möglichkeiten zur Kommunikation, zur Information, … ja: zu Eigenwerbung. Ich kann das Medium ja auch selbst dazu nutzen, für etwas, das mir ein Anliegen ist, Werbung zu machen. Das geht so weit, dass ich gegen Einwurf kleiner Münzen die Datenmaschine “facebook” selbst für meine Zwecke gebrauchen kann: Zielgerichtet wird facebook dann meine Statusmeldungen und Seiten-Aktualisierungen in den “Newsfeed” meiner Freunde platzieren, um sie auf mein Anliegen aufmerksam zu machen. Perfekt. Genau so wünsche ich mir das.

Wenn ich bestimmte Informationen sehen möchte, werde ich bestimmte Dinge, Themen, Inhalte, Schlüsselwörter im Netz publizieren. Wenn ich für ein bestimmtes Thema nicht gefunden oder damit identifiziert werden möchte, werde ich zu diesem Thema einfach die Klappe halten.

Der Punkt ist doch der:

Unser unbändiges Mitteilungsbedürfnis und unsere unbändige Neugierde spielen uns bei der Nutzung von Online-Medien einen bösen Streich: Denn heutige Technologien ermöglichen halt einfach ein Mehr an Zielgenauigkeit, als es der guten alten Fernsehwerbung im spannendsten Moment des Hauptabendfilms möglich war – sie erlauben es dem Informationsanbieter einfach, seine Information exakter passend zu platzieren.

Das Argument einiger lautstarker Kritiker der neuen facebook-AGBs, man könne sich der Nutzung von facebook ja heutzutage gar nicht mehr entziehen, ist schlichter, wenig differenzierender Blödsinn. Es mag stimmen, dass Schulen, Vereine und andere menschliche “Netzwerke” das Medium “facebook” als einzige Kommunikations-Plattform nutzen und man daher zur Teilnahme an dieser Kommunikation an einem facebook-Benutzerprofil nicht vorbei kommt. Die Inhalte dieses Profils – allerdings – bestimme ich dann selbst. Und ich kann die Inhalte durchaus auf den Zweck meines Dabei-Seins beschränken.

Und abgesehen davon: Suchen Sie auch machmal im Internet nach Dingen, Themen, Inhalten oder bestimmten Schlüsselwörtern? Und was zeigt die Suchmaschine ihrer Wahl dann gleich zu oberst an?

Es ist halt einfach zu einfach, die Verantwortung für meine eigenen Handlungen (Mitteilungen, Suchanfragen, Bilder oder Videos, …) den AGBs eines Unternehmens zu übertragen, das sich die hochgradig effektive Nutzung dieser meiner “Handlungen” zum eigenen Geschäftszweck gemacht hat.

 

{feature image “Digital Footprint” via Flickr/Creative Commons}

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#CITIZENFOUR – a film by Laura Poitras

Thanx to rolfgeneratedcontent, I decided for one of my meanwhile (unfortunately) rare visits to the cinema and watched CITIZENFOUR, the documentary film by Laura Poitras outlining the chronology of events leading to the disclosure of some of the biggest spying endeavours of western governments (no, this is not only on the US, indeed).

The film is great work! It offers a glimpse of the vastness of data collected by programs like PRISM or TEMPORA, how security agencies engaged with big telecommunication providers in order to simply intercept lines, communications, traffic, … on the very source of transmission instead of at its origin – the persons involved.

Technology of these interceptions isn’t really rocket science (except, of course, for the decryption intelligence that those national security agencies posses just by their exceptionally high budgets – brain power is venal, either).

However, the question I keep pondering since having watched this documentary film is: What’s really the revelation? Not only of the film but of Ed Snowden’s work as such? Don’t get me wrong! I won’t argue for dropping human rights and personal privacy laws. Not at all. Neither will I say that the collection and structured analysis of data from millions of people against whom there’s no legal suspicion has any rightful legal basis. No. What I do, though, want to query is all those post-Snowden arguments against Cloud vendors and Service providers which state that no data can be given off-premise anymore for the reason of all the various programs that Snowden “whistleblowed” on.

Let me give you three simple considerations why I think that Snowden may have shaken us up (as awareness was so low prior to his revelations) but has not really disclosed the unknown:

  1. In a talk in 2013, Dr. Gerd Polli, ex head of the Austrian National Security, in essence stated that National Security Agencies always throughout the years head the possibilities, the money and the brain power to not only be ahead but supersede by far any technological intelligence within any non-governmental endeavour. Not only where they able to create respective programs but additionally have governments and businesses been their best-paying customers to receive espionage services; over decades. So the fact as such is far less new than – e.g. – Cloud Computing as a disruptive technology.
  2. Last year, facebook claimed 2.23 billion active users. All of them disclosing information about their current, their future, their past position, their activities, the people they surround themselves with, … Even though facebook – in my humble opinion – does a good job in allowing people to keep a respective level of privacy, it still lets through quite a bit even when I’m not connected to someone. Very useful information for anyone intending to stalk out the little extra of me.
  3. Anytime in the past – long before 9/11 and long before the capabilities of Cloud and Social services – could I have been observed by governmental institutions just because I may have been mistakenly judged to have illegal objectives of some kind. In the quest of identifying truly dangerous characters in a society it is highly unfortunate that sometimes legally acting people become victims. I’m by no means claiming this to be a good thing. And I believe, it is everyone’s responsibility to help clearing up wrong accusations and even more is it the core responsibility of governmental executives to treat observation and investigation cases with ever more care. However, fact remains – such things happen, also did they happen in the past.

My claim here is: This isn’t new. This isn’t a revelation. This isn’t a disclosure of the unknown. And this is by no means a reasoning why any kind of online services should be considered less secure than they have ever been before.

Remains the utterly hardest question: What can – what should – be done about it? Nothing? Abandon those programs? Let them Agencies act freely ever on just upon their will?

There’s no right answer to that, I believe. And I will always appreciate the aim of governments to reduce the danger of the next silly poacher causing a human life in the name of some religious interpretation …

I do think, the only rightful answer for acting and living within the fact of ubiquitous observation and data collection is two-folded:

  • Every single person has to act transparently, openly and humanly in a manner which obeys the laws, rules and regulations of his society for the benefit of a calm and secure life of everyone.
  • And every company – especially but by no means only telcos, security agencies and/or service providers – have to be fully transparent about every – literally: EACH and EVERY – interception of information running through their lines, services, …, their business.

I as a citizen have a right to know what is known about me by whom. And that includes Security Agencies to the full extent. In that, Ed Snowden’s revelations indeed serve the greater purpose of making a change to how governmental security treated privacy so far – and in that, they do need to be continued.

 

{ feature image from www.thehollywoodnews.com }

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The Big Data Evolution (updated)

In 1969 (the year I was born), an 8″ floppy disc by IBM was able to capture 80 KB (or 80 * 1024 = 81.920 byte). Only IBM could write to it; for “normal” people it was read-only.

In 1976, an 5,25″ single-side floppy disc could store 110 KB (112.640 byte); in 1984 it had made it to double-side and high-density with the famous capacity of 1.200 KB (or 1.228.800 byte).

The 3,5″ double-density classic appeared in the same year. Unforgettable its epic storage capacity of 720k (or 737.280 bytes). It took until 1987 for the high-density brother to come up with 1.440 KB (1.474.560 byte). MS DOS needed 3 of those floppy discs. My Amiga computer back then still worked with DD types of 880k and all of my private data in 1990 when I seriously started to program fitted onto only 1 of those little HD wonders.

I do not really recall the tape drive era; however I recall that guy responsible for source control in our projects in the office back then who could watch flying sheets of paper in Windows Explorer for hours when he backuped our VSS database (probably onto 2,4 GB – 2.516.582.400 byte – Sony tape).

More or less at the same time I discovered the tremendiously brilliant invention of the IoMega Zip Drive, bought a 100MB (104.857.600 byte) type of it and was utterly happy to be able to do backups of not only all of my private data but also all of my source code of one project onto just one disc.

And just when I had purchased the second Zip Drive for a – then – reasonable price in order to be able to carry data between home and office without carrying a drive, our company had ordered the first CD RW writer – an epic piece made by — ? not sure ? — Plextor, I think. What I however do remember clearly is an audio CD project which I did in that time, using the utterly famous “Feurio!“. For an 8th grade school class I sampled English songs with strong lyrics like “Free Electric Band” or “Me and Bobby McGee” for their English lesson and as a school’s-out present. I think I destroyed like 20 raw discs before getting 13 working ones 😉

It was 1997++ and there were the 74 and the 80 minute CD-RWs. 74 equalled to around 640 MB (671.088.640 byte) and 80 equalled to 700 MB which by “overburning” could be extended to 730 MB (765.460.480 byte) sometimes – involving the risk that the target drive couldn’t read it anymore.

It was in those years that I started backing up my data onto disc around once a year (incl. some transfer of some very old projects from the early 90ies) and the backups captured from 1995 until 2010 hold 159.666 files or 40,3 GB (43.363.611.776 byte) of data – which is

  • 57 times the 80 minute CD
  • 414 times my Zip Drive
  • 28.408 times the 3,5″ HD
  • and 529.341 times the 8″ floppy disc

Which is still a ridicolously little amount of data compared to a 59,- EUR 1TB (1.099.511.627.776 byte) external HDD or my 800,- EUR 4-bay 6 TB Raid-5 NAS (6.597.069.766.656 byte).

One Windows Azure Storage Account has a limited capacity of 200 TB (219.902.325.555.200 byte) – which obviously is still quite small compared to the overall data storage capacity of all Azure data centers worldwide. And facebook is reported to hold the equivalent of over 100 PB (112.589.990.684.262.400 byte) of data while its more than a billion users utilize 7 PB of foto storage each and every month only.

Which means, that in 45 years time the storage used by a private person for private reasons has increased by a factor of more than 96 billion!

I just do hope this isn’t all food and cat pics.


Update:

I’ve just purchased a MiniSD for my mobile. 16GB at the size of a fingernail (0,3″ roughly or 5,7% the size of a 5,25″ floppy disk). It cost EUR 7,70. I digged out the price of a 5,25″ double-side high-density; according to my records that was about EUR 0,17 back in 1995. Which equals a price drop per Gigabyte by more than 99% throughout those years … Gives an interesting twist to the quote “this is worth nothing anymore” …

 

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The “Next Big Thing” series wrap-up: How to rule them all?

What is it that remains for the 8th and last issue of the “Next Big Thing” blog post series: To “rule them all” (all the forces, disruptive challenges and game changing innovations) and keep services connected, operating, integrated, … to deliver value to the business.

A bit ago, I came upon Jonathan Murray’s concept of the Composable Enterprise – a paradigm which essentially preaches fully decoupled infrastructure and application as services for company IT. Whether the Composable Enterprise is an entire new approach or just a pin-pointed translation of what is essential to businesses mastering digital transformation challenges is all the same.

The importance lies with the core concepts of what Jonathan’s paradigm preaches. These are to

  • decouple the infrastructure
  • make data a service
  • decompose applications
  • and automate everything

Decouple the Infrastructure.

Rewind into my own application development and delivery times during the 1990ies and the 00-years: When we were ready to launch a new business application we would – as part of the rollout process – inform IT of resources (servers, databases, connections, interface configurations) needed to run the thing. Today, large IT ecosystems sometimes still function that way, making them a slow and heavy-weight inhibitor of business agility. The change to incorporate here is two-folded: On the one hand infra responsibles must understand that they need to deliver on scale, time, demand, … of their business customers (which includes more uniform, more agile and more flexible – in terms of sourcing – delivery mechanisms). And on the other hand, application architects need to understand that it is not anymore their architecture that defines IT needs but in turn their architecture needs to adapt to and adopt agile IT infrastructure resources from wherever they may be sourced. By following that pattern, CIOs will enable their IT landscapes to leverage not only more cloud-like infrastructure sourcing on-premise (thereby enabling private clouds) but also will they become capable of ubiquitously using ubiquitous resources following hybrid sourcing models.

Make Data a Service.

This isn’t about BigData-like services, really. It might be (in the long run). But this is essentially about where the properties and information of IT – of applications and services – really is located. Rewind again. This time only for like 1 or 2 years. The second last delivery framework, that me and my team of gorgeous cloud aficionados created, was still built around a central source of information – essentially a master data database. This simply was the logical framework architecture approach back then. Even only a few months – when admittedly me and my then team (another awesome one) already knew that information needs to lie within the service – it was still less complex (hence: quicker) to construct our framework around such a central source of (service) wisdom. What the Composable Enterprise, though, rightly preaches is a complete shift of where information resides. Every single service, which offers its capabilities to the IT world around it, needs to provide a well-defined, easy to consume, transparently reachable interface to query and store any information relevant to the consumption of the service. Applications or other services using that service simply engage via that interface – not only to leverage the service’s capabilities but even more to store and retrieve data and information relevant to the service and the interaction with it. And there is no central database. In essence there is no database at all. There is no need for any. When services inherently know what they manage, need and provide, all db-centric architecture for the sole benefit of the db as such becomes void.

Decompose Applications.

The aforementioned leads one way into the decomposition pattern. More important, however, is to spend more thorough thinking about what a single business related activity – a business process – really needs in terms of application support. And in turn, what the applications providing this support to the business precisely need to be capable of. Decomposing Applications means to identify useful service entities which follow the above patterns, offer certain functionality in an atom kind-of way via well-defined interfaces (APIs) to the outside world and thereby create an application landscape which delivers on scale, time, demand, … just by being composed through service orchestration in the right – the needed – way. This is the end of huge monolithic ERP systems, which claim to offer all that a business needs (you just needed to customize them rightly). This is the commencing of light-weight services which rapidly adopt to changing underlying infrastructures and can be consumed not only for the benefit of the business owning them but – through orchestration –form whole new business process support systems for cross-company integration along new digitalized business models.

Automate Everything.

So, eventually we’ve ended at the heart of how to breath life into an IT which supports businesses in their digital transformation challenge.

Let me talk you into one final example emphasizing the importance of facing all these disruptive challenges openly: An Austrian bank of high reputation (and respectful success in the market) gave a talk at the Pioneers about how they discovered that they are actually not a good bank anymore, how they discovered that – in some years’ time – they’d not be able to live up to the market challenges and customers’ demands anymore. What they discovered was simply, that within some years they would lose customers just because of their inability to offer a user experience integrated with the mobile and social demands of today’s generations. What they did in turn was to found a development hub within their IT unit, solely focussing on creating a new app-based ecosystem around their offerings in order to deliver an innovative, modern, digital experience to their bank account holders.

Some time prior to the Pioneers, I had received a text that “my” bank (yes, I am one of their customers) now offers a currency exchange app through which I can simply order the amount of currency needed and would receive a confirmation once it’s ready to be handed to me in the nearest branch office. And some days past the Pioneers I received an eMail that a new “virtual bank servant” would be ready as an app in the net to serve all my account-related needs. Needless to say that a few moments later I was in and that the experience was just perfect even though they follow an “early validation” policy with their new developments, accepting possible errors and flaws for the benefit of reduced time to market and more accurate customer feedback.

Now, for a moment imagine just a few of the important patterns behind this approach:

  • System maintenance and keeping-the-lights-on IT management
  • Flexible scaling of infrastructures
  • Core banking applications and services delivering the relevant information to the customer facing apps
  • App deployment on a regular – maybe a daily – basis
  • Integration of third-party service information
  • Data and information collection and aggregation for the benefit of enhanced customer behaviour insight
  • Provision of information to social platforms (to influence customer decisions)
  • Monitoring and dashboards (customer-facing as well as internally to business and IT leaders)
  • Risk mitigation
  • … (I could probably go on for hours)

All of the above capabilities can – and shall – be automated to a certain, a great extent. And this is precisely what the “automate everything” pattern is about.

Conclusion

There is a huge business shift going on. Software, back in the 80ies and 90ies was a driver for growth, had its downturn in and post the .com age and now enters an era of being ubiquitously demanded.

Through the innovative possibilities by combining existing mobile, social and data technologies, through the merge of physical and digital worlds and through the tremendously rapid invention of new thing-based daily-life support, businesses of all kind will face the need for software – even if they had not felt that need so far.

The Composable Enterprise – or whatever one wants to call a paradigm of loosely coupled services being orchestrated through well-defined transparently consumable interfaces – is a way for businesses to accommodate this challenge more rapidly. Automating daily routine – like e.g. the aforementioned tasks – will be key to enterprises which want to stay on the edge of innovation within these fast changing times.

Most importantly, though, is to stay focussed within the blurring worlds of things, humans and businesses. To keep the focus on innovation not for the benefit of innovation as such but for the benefit of growing the business behind.

Innovation Architects will be the business angels of tomorrow – navigating their stakeholders through an ongoing revolution and supporting or driving the right decisions for implementing and orchestrating services in a business-focussed way.

 

{the feature image of this last “The Next Big Thing” series post shows a design by New Jersey and New York-based architects and designers Patricia Sabater, Christopher Booth and Aditya Chauan: The Sky Cloud Skyscraper – found on evolo.us/architecture}

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The “Next Big Thing” series: #BigData

{this is No. 2 of the “Next Big Thing” blog post series, which discusses the revolution to come through ongoing innovation in IT and the challenges involved with’em}

 

When working to compose a definition of what BigData really is, I discovered a good blogpost by CloudVane from earlier this year. CloudVane nicely outlines why BigData as such is essentially a concept – not a technology or a pattern or an architecture. The term BigData summarizes the

  • legal
  • social
  • technology
  • application and
  • business

dimension of the fact that through applications being consumed from the internet, through us being constantly connected, through us sharing loads of content with our social worlds, … a vast amount of information is generated and needs to be managed and efficiently used.

To begin with, the main challenge of the BigData concept was not technology but businesses’ complete lack of vision what to do with all the information gathered. Technology stacks and architecture weren’t a problem for long – though they have matured over time either, of course. However, the biggest concern of businesses was (and sometimes still is) how to use that vast amount of data they suddenly became the master of. Hence, a solid BigData strategy of a certain business does not only need to have a clear understanding of how to collect and master data technically but rather to create a vision of what to derive from it and how to add business value through it.

Clearly, technology does have a role in it. And IT leaders must back business strategists by striving for mastery of the evolving BigData ecosystems within their IT landscape. Besides becoming specialists of newly introduced BigData and Analytics technology (Hadoop, Hive, Pig, Spark, …), this specifically means to have an orchestration story ready, that enables an enterprise’s legacy IT to integrate with all those new services introduced through new data strategies. Automation and orchestration architecture therefore will become a core role within the IT organization in order to support businesses in their striving for data insight and value.

 

{No. 3 of this blog post series is about a social revolution to come}

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The Next Big Thing (the even looonger End of the Cloud)

With the Pioneers still in the back of my mind, with all the startups’ ideas presented there, with predictions of like 40 billion connected “things” by 2020 (Source: Gartner) and all those many buzzwords around in these areas I am even more convinced that “The Cloud” as a discussable topic – as a matter that needs any kind of consideration whatsoever – is really at its end.

In case you read the writeup of one of my keynotes, you may recall the red line through it which stated a mere end to the early concepts of Cloud Computing as those concepts have so much matured and so deeply entered businesses and the internet as such, that we can securely claim Cloud to be ubiquitous: It is just there. Just as the Internet has been for years now.

So, what’s next? BigData? Social Revolution? Mobile Everywhere? All of that and any combination?

Here comes a series of posts discussing these topics and beyond. It will offer some clarifying definitions and delineations.

The first parts will cover what’s to expect by the bond of data and analytics, mobility and social media. In the second half it will discuss the huge transformation challenges involved with the digitalization of business. The conclusive part is about how IT has to change in order to support businesses rightly in these challenging and ever-changing times.

 

So let’s begin with

The Nexus of Forces

Nexus of Forces

The Nexus of Forces from another perspective

 

I like this paradigm that was originally postulated by Gartner some time ago (I read it first in the “Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2014”). It describes the bonding of Cloud Computing with BigData, Social and Mobile.

Personally – unsurprisingly – I would disagree with Gartner to see “Cloud” as one of the 4 forces; rather my claim would be that Cloud Computing is the underlying basis to everything else. Why? Because any of those ecosystems which are to support the other 3 forces (mobile, social, data) builds inherently along the 5 essential characteristics of Cloud which still define whether a particular service is within or out of the definition:

  • On demand self-service: make things available when they’re needed
  • Broad network access: ensure delivery of the service through ubiquitous networking on high bandwidth
  • Resource pooling: Manage resources consumed by the service efficiently for sharing between service tenants
  • Rapid elasticity: Enable the service to scale up and down based on the demand of consumers
  • Measured: Offer utmost transparency about what service consumers have been using over time match it clearly and transparently with what they’re charged.

Hence, when now continuing to discuss the Nexus of Forces, I will keep it with the three of them and will not query The Cloud’s role in it (sic! “It’s the End of the Cloud as we know it” ;))

 

{No. 2 of this series discusses definition and challenges related to data and analytics}

 

Update: feature image added (found at http://forcelinkpr.net/?p=9612)

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