Let’s watch this one unfold

Secure Computing: SmartFilter web URL filtering and reporting

The folks at Boing-Boing — the world’s most popular blog — are a little annoyed that users in the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, and even American elementary schools are being blocked from seeing their site thanks to a web filtering app called SmartFilter from Secure Computing. Apparently a couple naked pix on Boing-Boing earned them the 404 treatment.
Knowing Boing-Boing’s terrier-like penchant for taking up a cause — the Sony rootkit for example — this ought to be fun to watch as Secure Computing gets whaled on by the blogosphere.

Today the folks at Boing-Boing are really stepping it up, pointing out that “Smart”Filter ain’t so smart and even blocks the Declaration of Independence.

I would be that the execs at Secure Computing are only beginning to become aware of the brouhaha.

Boing-Boing even came up with a boycott button — this taken from a public domain photo of Michaelangelo’s David:

Collateral Damage » Blog Archive » Welcome home, as it were

Collateral Damage » Blog Archive » Welcome home, as it were

Constantine von Hoffman, senior editor of the now-departed CMO Magazine has revived his most excellent and hysterical blog Collateral Damage, on a WordPress platform no less, with the wonderful theme “Contempt.”

Part 3 – The Reminscences of Captain Thomas Chatfield posted

In this installment the doughty Captain whales in the “Artic”, survives a couple close calls, and returns to Maui with a scurvy crew.

This marks up through page 37 of the 162-page typescript. The first voyage is over, the Captain is 20-years old, and ready to get married.

Cousin Pete Field suggests breaking out the scanner and getting some illustrations in here, so that will come. Recommendations on a good, high quality flat-bed scanner would be appreciated.

Currier & Ives

Naked Conversations

I plowed through Shel Israel and Robert Scoble’s Naked Conversations on the plane ride down to RTP this morning.

  • If you blog and you have a day job then most of the book is old news.
  • The most useful application of the book is as a gift to your boss.
  • Read the last half for the useful tidbits, especially how blogging freaks out some command-and-control PR and corporate gatekeepers.

This book has to have been a moving target for the authors, something they acknowledge. The landscape is simply churning too fast to capture on paper. Punchline: get blogging and embrace the good old Market-is-a-conversation ideal of Cluetrain.
For anyone in the firing line of being a corporate blogger, it has some good elements of a manifesto.

Scoble & Israel -- TechCrunch Book Signing

Centralization vs. De-Centralization in Global Web Ops

I have never operated in a multilingual web environment, managing the so-called “localization” of content into multiple languages. At IDG, global publishing was handled on a very de-centralized model, with the flagship brands writing in English and then licensing that content to country-based operations who in turn would pay to have the content translated into their local language, adding in local reporting in that same tongue to build a country-specific superset of the original brand.

Decentralization to gain operational agility is a noble cause, and one I support, but in IT enabled business models it can quickly grow a lot of hair, particularly when corporate messaging and brand management come into the picture. Look at CIO.com and compare it to the Polish version, CXO.pl, and you’ll see what I mean. The Polish operation completely rebranded the domain, creating a variant against the CXO brand, using their site as a portal into other c-level titles.

Having just read IBM Redux, an account of the Gerstner turnaround of IBM in the 1990s, one of the biggest issues that Gerstner and his CFO Jerome York had to confront was the extent to which the company’s “Geos” or geographic businesses, had completely gone off on their own, competing internally and raising havoc with the financial and managerial controls across the company.

Pat McGovern, the founder of IDG, says he adopted a very loose, de-centralized structure after returning from a business trip to find a packed inbox, realizing that he was the bottleneck and that he had to loosen his controls so the business could thrive.

Decentralization was, I think, a necessity in the days before ERP and content delivery networks. The one thing that technology cannot remove is the reality of time zones and the complexity of cross-country meeting and calendar coordination. But time-shifted communications — I’m talking fancy talk for email — and voicemail, has all but obviated the need for a decentralized management model.

If the corporate model for a global enterprise is viewed at three levels — worldwide operations at the headquarters level, geographic which encompasses regions: (EMEA, Asia Pacific, etc.) and then country-level — then the importance of a rational command-and-control structure becomes clear. The trick, for a CEO, is, to borrow the phrase from McKinsey’s Dick Foster in Creative Destruction, to “loosen control without losing control.”

I raise this issue of global governance as I enter the early stages of organizing a network of over 70 sites. While there are obvious economic and operational benefits to a centralized hub model, one predicated on a master corporate database, there is less clarity on how to organize centrally while extending local control and translation down to the country level where the expertise resides. Last week I met with Eli Singer, CEO of Web Collage, and he said the notion that translation must be decentralized is misinformed and that cost savings and managerial control can be achieved in a central hub.

I could always follow my brother’s advice, one echoed by an Englishman I met at Ogilvy & Mather last week, and that is what I call “Texan Translation”: wear a ten-gallon hat and yell English very loudly until people understand you. (The Englishman smiled and said in a loud voice: “I SAID, MAY I HAVE A CUP OF TEA?”) All kidding aside, and abject apologies to the world at large for being yet another American mono-linguist, there is no Web esperanto or precedence for English taking over the world of ecommerce any time, ever, soon. Airplanes, ships .. some industries and professions have standardized on English. Not commerce.

Wish I was here


The Harbour Island Tree

Originally uploaded by dchurbuck.

Time was when I could take a week in late February to go
to Harbour Island on Eleuthera and stalk the wily bonefish. This tree is the icon of the island, the backdrop for many a fashion photographer, seen bedecked with lady’s handbags or fly fishermen’s tackle bags.

Nothing compares to an afternoon wading in gin-clear water watching the clouds scud by while peering down at the snow-white bottom for the ghostly shadow of a crusing bonefish.

Content Management — the next wave

There has been a meme developing in recent weeks, started perhaps by Matt McAllister at Yahoo (my former colleague for a brief time at IDG, former web guru at The Industry Standard and InfoWorld) that open-source blogging tools such as this one — WordPress — represents the true future of content management, providing the masses with a very capable tool for rapid web site development, but more importantly, ongoing refreshment and tweaking.

As I look over the content management landscape — an expensive and complex array of products from the enterprise level down to the personal — the old model of HTML development tools, followed by server-side development tools such as the old Vermeer, now Microsoft Front Page seems throughly dead, swept away in large part by what McAllister and his cohort, Chad Dickerson, correctly identified as the death of the page view model. For large organizations, the trend is still towards large enterprise systems such as Stellent, Documentum, Vignette and Interwoven, but creeping into the landscape is not only open-source CMS such as Bricolage and Drupal, but perfectly capable blog environments such as WordPress.

After 18-months of blogging in the WordPress environment, I see no reason not to recommend and deploy it to any layman anxious to get a site up and running quickly and then continuing with it as the preferred environment for ongoing site refreshment.

The old model, of using Dreamweaver, or Hotmetal, HotDog, etc. to craft a page and then FTP it up to a server, was way out of reach of the average user and insured that site development would remain locked away in the temple of the webmaster and producer. Now, with a tool such as WordPress, any user can manipulate CSS, get images and text live, and then easily syndicate it out without a lot of muss and fuss.

So what does this bode for the very expensive, very capable enterprise CMS vendors? Not much of a threat — a small business is not going to commit to a Vignette license and worry about .TCL templates any time soon. But as Google betas a page builder, and the old Geocities model of quick and dirty page building and hosting is transformed, expect to see a widening gulf between the $500,000 work of Interwoven and the $Zero world of open source CMS’s and blog tools.

As I dive into a refresh of my wife’s interior design company’s website — something I pounded together with Microsoft Frontpage three years ago, my temptation is to trash the entire thing and bring it back inside of WordPress, using the page development facility to build the “old” page model and letting her and her partner blog — if that verb applies to their view of the job — updates and images as needed. The main thing is to get me out of the picture as the gatekeeper. Trying to give a layman a tutorial into FTP and anchor tags, let alone CSS and XML is absurd.

So, what inspires this post? Content management is at the heart of my thinking these days — at one level one of the arguably most complex implementations imaginable — using a CMS to insure content standardization and global commerce across 70 countries — and at the other supporting a little interior design business on Cape Cod with two non-techies, low traffic, and a high need for good design and ongoing content refreshes.

There seems to be no middle ground.

[Chris Murray comments on his blog about his experiences with Documentum]