A Sampler of My Favorite Lists

Back as the dot-com boom was getting underway, around 1998-1999, I was briefly in conversation with the Garage.com team about joining Jamin Patrick in the new Austin office.

Jamin had a distinguished career as an entrepreneur including as one of the first leaders of the Austin Technology Incubator. We’d also become friendly from living in the same neighborhood and seeing each other at our kids’ swim meets.

The process got as far as me going to Palo Alto to spend a day with the Garage team there, including Guy Kawasaki. A really great group, all around; but, I got cold feet and we went our different ways.

During the process, though, I vividly remember one of the deals that we were looking at seriously, at the time, was a dot-com play that was all about collecting lists of information and then making those lists available for sale. I can’t remember the name of the deal, but I remember that one of the principals was Jim Seymour of PC Magazine fame.

Anyhow, the deal never got off of the ground and now, looking back of course, it all seems a bit far-fetched. But, at the time, being a perpetual list collector myself, it naturally caught my fancy.

As time went on, Delicious and other list keeping and sharing websites arose. And, now, anything I don’t bookmark goes into a bit.ly link and gets tweeted out so that I more-or-less have an eternal set of lists and other unstructured data.

I was just going through some of them the other day and thought I’d share a few of my favorites.

If you are looking for a job, here are a couple of good ones:

If you are seeking lists of business & tech influencers and what they have to say, here are a few to consider:

If data is what you seek, here are a couple of my favorites:

Then, for a few interesting but odd-ball lists, these caught my eye:

Lastly, here’s a bonus list that is really more of a gift to the music curious: every month, Spin magazine provides from 10 to 14 songs for download, free of charge, for your iDevice.  That’s a list anyone can enjoy!

Fish and data

Data is cool. First, its very name is both singular and plural, like sheep or fish. (And don’t get all grammatical on me, you datum-is-singular apologists.) Second, it’s so definitive – something is 57% or it isn’t. Pi is 3.14159-etc. Sure, you can argue about the data gathering, integrity, interpretation and the like. But, at least you are arguing about the objective, rather than the subjective.

But, what I really like about data is what it reveals about all things measured. It’s in that vein that I’ve been picking up a few interesting recent developments about data, measurement, and the public sector.

First, I read a really good write-up about website measurement in the Google Public sector blog. It’s a really nice case example of data analytics 101 for a website. And, just like the writer, I have had that same giddy feeling when reviewing data from a website’s traffic and other stats.

Second, there was a good write-up about the social media side of data gathering and measurement in InformationWeek. It discusses the CIA’s investment in the social media monitoring from Visible Technologies. Good stuff, but not especially unique – you can get listeners, monitoring, and semantic trending built into nGenera’s collaboration server right now.

Third, we just published our 2010 research agenda for nGenera’s Government Insight program and are excited about some of the research vectors we intend to explore. In the major topic area of “Leading in the age of unbounded data,” we expect to cover into listening, massively customized analytics, orchestrating, and methods for reaching beyond stereotypes.

Content may be king, but data is the kingmaker. If you haven’t done so in a while, I recommend you brush up on the latest in data analytics, visualization and simulation. In a world awash in data, the ability to interpret and apply it in real-time will be increasingly a critical success factor differentiating between market leaders and followers, whether they be public or private sector.

Whose file is it anyway?

One of the things that starting out as a computer science major does for you is give you a finer appreciation for just how buggy software is. While massive storage, middleware and caching, ever more sophisticated microprocessors, service-oriented architecture, and the like make things appear a little more reliable, the fact is it’s a miracle all of this stuff works half of the time.
The truth is, when it comes to security, rather than a than a Swiss bank, your average application more closely resembles Swiss cheese in terms of the number of holes by which it may be compromised. Frequently, the path to poking through the holes and compromising an app’s security is through user-level controls (or the lack thereof).
There have been a number of recent examples of these types of security holes in situations as innocuous as document and file management. For example, here’s a good example involving Facebook as documented in an InformationWeek article earlier this year entitled “25 Things Facebook Couldn’t Keep Secret in Court.”


As a senior product manager for Adobe surmised in the article: “At some point in the document’s workflow, it appears that someone added a white rectangle over white text in order to cover it. And that’s what they thought was sufficient to make that content undiscoverable. That’s not the right way to redact content.” No duh, as my teenage son would say.
Clever, but that’s nothing compared to some of the other PDF security holes plugged by Adobe this year. How about having an attacker take over complete control of your computer? In March, CNET wrote about the zero-day Reader vulnerability that Adobe was scrambling to patch. Overall, document and file attacks have become a ripe area for bad guys, with twice as many PDF attacks in July as in all of the first half of 2008.
It’s no surprise. If anyone like me can remember working with Microsoft Office in the mid-1990s, then you probably remember the Concept (sometimes called the Normal.dot macro) virus which was all about exploiting Microsoft Word and Excel files. That was the first time I remember cleaning my PC and installing security software, Norton at the time.
But, our ignorance with what’s in our files and the information they carry is beyond technical. For example, when was the last time you looked at or consciously modified the Properties of your MS-Office file? (Do you even know what or where file properties are?)
Well, the next time you have a moment, take a look at them. If you are running the last version of MS-Office, you can follow the sequence shown in the Scrib’d figures.

One of the things I’ve done for years is to add information to my summary file properties, to designate authorship, copyright, user permissions, and other important elements. Just in case a form document or thought piece for a company of mine somehow gets involved in a dispute.

In the reverse, a mild form of entertainment of mine is to occasionally browse the File Properties of documents that I receive from others – especially when they are from 3rd party service providers.

It’s amazing the little tidbits you can discover, related to document origination, travel history, etc. It’s especially humorous to get a form document from one law firm that the File Properties shows was created at another law firm – it’s happened!

As usual, the answer to whose file is it anyway is: “it’s yours.” That is, if you care about what happens to it and its contents. Therefore, just keep in mind that knowing a little more about files and applications and where they come from can make a difference in protecting your investment in the ideas and information that you share with others.