Wednesday, August 21, 2013

NSA: The Good, the Bad and the Necessary

As a long time computer geek having stature amongst my friends as the techie within our group, I often get pinged for opinions about everything from which smart phone to buy to how much memory people require.  Occasionally, I get the highly contentious questions too like "Should the USA put Eric Snowden in jail for life?".  Some even advocate harsher measures for Snowden.  I saw this cartoon today which made me want to write a bit more about this subject.

For those of you not in the know, Eric Snowden  is an American computer specialist who worked for the CIA and the NSA and recently leaked details of several top-secret United States and British government mass surveillance programs to the press.  I cannot speak for him but if I was faced with the knowledge he had, I might recognize that the general public might believe they have a right to know.   Coming to this decision, Eric Snowden made a lot of very secret information available to the press.   The full details on his actions are available here.   His motive, while noble and an earnest attempt to do what he perceived as good, have to be understood in context of the good that comes out of fact we have systems like this in place.  One only has to look back as recently as April 15 of this year to see that such systems may provide an immense benefit to society as well.

For the record, I am a Libertarian.  I don't want anyone to think I am fine with a government that can randomly start spying on me and fishing for data to see if I match any profiles that might be deemed anti-social.  I do see the advantages of such systems however when fast decisions have to be made following an incident like the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15th, that we have the data and connections to other data to quickly bring the culprits to justice.   Within moments of identifying the first bomber, these systems can correlate magnitudes of data and find those people connected to Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.  The graph-like relationship to many of the people they interacted with has likely been the subject of great  discussions in various government offices.   What types of questions would have law enforcement tried to comprehend on that day?

- was the bomber(s) alone or are they acting is an alliance with some larger group?
- if they are part of a larger group or movement, who else is in that group(s)?
- are there any other event(s) planned for the near future?
- if there are, which one of the people they have been in contact with is likely to perform it?
- who else has read the same articles on the online Al-quida magazine as the brother?
- etc...

Knowing the answers to these questions allowed the police and other officials to understand who was involved, where to find them, who else they talked to and more.  Quite simply stated, the faster these questions can be answered, the greater the public knows they are not at risk (or potentially know if they are at risk).

Now comes the big question.  At what point do you trade some of you personal rights to privacy to be able to bring a swift end to things like the Boston bombings?

Each and every person will probably have their own answer.  To me, I just wanted to write this blog post to illustrate that the question of personal privacy is not as black and white and some make it.   I encourage each reader to ponder the right to personal privacy balanced with the need to share information to avoid events like 9/11 and Boston.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tesla Scores Again

Tesla Motors is a company we are following here at Technoracle.  Partly we are interested in many of the advanced systems being developed and their potential for standards work on things like battery replacement stations but we are also car enthusiasts and Tesla's just keep amazing us.

Tesla now has something new to be proud of.  In addition to having several enviable performance stats (the Tesla S model can be delivered with over 400 Horsepower), independent testing by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has awarded the company a 5-star safety rating, not just overall, but in every subcategory.

While its five-star score across the board has been attained by other vehicles, the ratings given to Tesla's Model S in individual categories are higher than any other vehicle.

One of our dreams is to start up a new venture and be the first to have a battery replacement station in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Decision Management - the Last Frontier of Enterprise Architecture

Last week I wrapped up an immense 18 month consulting gig on a very large enterprise project in the field of renewable energy.  During the course of the project I was privileged to be able to work with some of the world's top scientists and policy/decision makers around clean and renewable energy.   We worked earnestly since March 2012 on this project and if all goes according to plan, it will have a very positive effect in at least two places that will benefit the people on this planet.

The first place is the actual energy self sufficiency with clean and renewable energy options.   If successful, the project will lead to an increased efficiency in the geothermal energy prospecting workflow, increasing the accuracy of predicting critical aspects like heat-flow as well as providing geothermal prospectors with the data they need to make decisions on whether or not to proceed to develop a commercial energy conversion station.    Up until now, most of this data has been help in disparate data systems, in non-standardized dat formats and not even cataloged properly.  The result was not only were prospectors not getting data, they were not even aware of the fact the data existed.

In order to determine if a particular site is viable for commercial production, a myriad of information items needs to be present from well Bottom Hole temperature (BHT), heat-flow, material composition, thermal-dynamic properties of various compounds, pressure, permeability, depth, surface land use, legal status of land, existing leases, development permit availability, access, proximity to electrical grid, proximity to points of usage etc. and more.  Even physical assets like drill core samples provide value within this process.  To understand it in more detail, please take a read of this publication I co-authored for Stanford's geothermal energy workshop earlier this year at

All of this data and a variety of surrounding processes all feed data into a decision process.  The end result of the that process is a DECISION!  That decision, along with the data that carries the context in which the decision was made, encapsulates a vast array of knowledge.  That knowledge is power that has the capability to change the future of our planet by reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions!

The second end result of our 18 month involvement is the emergence of a new platform for decision making.  While working with many of the smartest minds in their respective fields, we made the simplest of observations that has lead to the launch of a new platform.   The epiphany was that we are only 40 years after production of the first personal computers, less than10 year since the first smart phone, around 5 years after the development of the first tablets there is a simply truth.

           "Despite decades of technological improvements, 
               no one has any more knowledge of why or how 
      specific decisions were made than they did a century ago!"

Quite simply, we all make decisions, but often neglect to recall why we made when of document the criteria and context around it.  During our early days working on the above project, we were asked to review where a project was.  We knew what decisions had been made, some of them we knew how supported the decisions and even when but in almost every case, there was no archive trail about why. All the knowledge and value in the conversations leading up to making the decisions were lost.   That turns out to be a huge amount of knowledge in most cases.

Prior to the engagement, we (my colleagues and friends Moshe Silverstein and Matt MacKenzie) has been building a management platform around making complex decisions.  The insights this and other projects gave us have allowed us to fine tune the core platform engine and build peripheral technologies like forms engines and more around the platform.   The platform (Teamwise) is now open for the public to try out for 30 days as a free trial at

So why would you use Teamwise?

Have you ever felt like you are drowning in email?  If you are, it is possible that a lot of it is caused by the fact you are involved in many decisions and that there is a clack of clarity around each decision process.  Many of us (myself one of the worst culprits), send out emails by "replying to all" to share our great ideas.  Why are we sharing our ideas?  It is likely we are trying to influence an outcome.  That is a decision process and Teamwise forces it's users to focus the decision process in a way that structures the process much more efficiently.  

Do you attend meetings you feel you provided no value at?  this is possibly caused by someone else including you in a decision process that has not been properly framed or structured.  Teamwise forces the decision manager to take responsibility and assign roles to each person involved in the decision.  Teamwise uses DACI/RACI, two industry standard models that streamline the decision process.  Teamwise is the first commercially available software to support RACI and DACI.  It is not important for you to understand why or what they are, just know that Teamwise helps alleviate the symptoms stated above.

Are you using forms to enforce compliance with regulations?  Each instance of this is literally a decision process.  Everytime you administer a test to check for compliancy, you are in face making a decision that YOU are responsible for in most cases.  Teamwise allows you to capture why you made the decision you did and why it was the right decision.  Here is a simple flowchart we are working on for one of our enterprise customers.

In the case above, the decision process driver needs to keep hundreds of his contacts regularly starting the decision processes by themselves.  This lower his workload substantially during the days while actually ensuring a high percentage of his customers are adhering to the proper decision process themselves (as opposed to manual initialization).  In addition, Teamwise also pre-populates many of the form fields saving each participant a lot of work each and every month.

Teamwise is a clear winner here as it lowers costs, ensures better compliance with regulations and keeps accurate records of why decisions were made, hence protecting all involved.

These are just three situations where you would want to use Teamwise.  Anywhere you are making decisions, Teamwise can help.  Give it a try today and tell them "Duane sent you".