Its Official: Pollution and Genetic Modification are Sins!

The Vatican recently made it clear to their Catholic flock that they must beware new sins like pollution:

Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti... [said] "(Within bioethics) there are areas where we absolutely must denounce some violations of the fundamental rights of human nature through experiments and genetic manipulation whose outcome is difficult to predict and control..."

In recent months, Pope Benedict has made several strong appeals for the protection of the environment, saying issues such as climate change had become gravely important for the entire human race.

Not to be left out, the Baptists have also denounced global warming:

Several prominent leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention said Monday that Baptists have a moral responsibility to combat climate change -- a major shift within a denomination that just last year cast doubt on human responsibility for global warming. Forty-six influential members of the Southern Baptist Convention, including three of its past four presidents, criticized their denomination in a statement Monday for being "too timid" in confronting global warming. "Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed," the statement says. "We can do better."

Several Evangelicals in the Midwest are voicing their concerns as well:

Mr. Wallis is writing bestsellers, and prominent evangelical pastors are calling for "creation care" on global warming and galvanizing church members to address Third World poverty and disease.

Interesting news... I wonder who will be more feverishly pro-earth... the religious zealots, or the hippies?

When Software Standards Fail

Its refreshing to see James McGovern blog about when "standards" become a bad idea. I've said numerous times that every enterprise content management standard to date was a bad idea... We have five already. The idea of yet another one makes me groan.

Haven't we learned our lesson yet?

Look... if you bought Stellent because it kicks ass at solving your problem, then no ECM standard would satisfy you. Likewise, if you bought Documentum because it kicks ass at solving your specific problem, a dumbed-down ECM standard would drive you nuts. Interoperability is a great goal... but a standard?

Enterprise Content Management is a marketing buzzword, not a specification. Its not a relational database. Its not an identity management system. Its a mix of software, solutions, and tools that try to help you manage that which -- by definition -- is barely manageable... Everybody does it in different ways, because each focuses on solving a subtlety different problem...

I'm pretty comfortable saying that Documentum and Stellent are the only decent ECM solutions available. Alfresco and Sharepoint are more "point" solutions that grow virally, and cause more content management problems than they solve. Interwoven is ok, if all you care about is one single web site, and you never ever ever care to reuse your content anywhere else. Unfortunately Interwoven's web-centric market space is being continuously attacked by both cheaper and better open source / hosted solutions... so I don't see Interwoven lasting too long.

What about IBM you say? Dear lord, please stop the insanity... Lets set aside the fact that that they believe content management is the same thing as managing scanned paper... and lets just focus on the fact that IBM is a consulting company, not a software company. They have a very strong financial incentive to release very crappy software and charge you hefty consulting fees to make it work. Have you heard stories of IBM projects that cost 10 times more than initially promised, and still didn't work? So have I... If you use any piece of their ECM stack you'll probably become a similar statistic...

Rule of thumb: if you use IBM Global Services, make sure that they never install any software products made by IBM -- even for free -- any you'll probably be happy with the result.

The wild card -- at least for me -- is Open Text. Its rated highly by the analysts, but I've never kicked it around enough to analyze its strengths. However, I have heard stories by at least 4 Stellent employees, where Open Text tried to hire them away at nearly double their Stellent salary... and every single one rejected the offer. That says enough to me...

So, what's all this got to do with ECM standards? Simple... Why bother wasting cycles on an ECM standard, when half the players won't exist by the time the standards are decent? I've said it before and I'll say it again, I doubt a decent standard will be worth creating until 2009.

Now, what about organizations that already own 4 content management systems? Wouldn't a standard help them? Not really, because when you consider market forces, odd are only 2 of the 4 systems would bother to implement the latest buzzword (like JSR170 or JSR283). Do you honestly believe Microsoft will jump on the bandwagon for a Java-centric standard? Keep dreaming. Microsoft uses crap-tacular WebDAV and shows no signs of a desire to change... any standard that excludes .NET and PHP based solutions is doomed from the start.

My money is on lightweight web services, something that's simple and easy to add. A simple standard that misses 20-30% of the functionality is always better than an over-engineered monstrosity. Its better to be approximately correct, than exactly wrong.

You best bet in the short term is to focus on consolidation and findability... if consolidation doesn't make sense for business reasons, then plunk down something like Oracle Secure Enterprise Search, or a Google appliance. That gets you part of the way there... using something like Oracle Universal Records Management gets you even more...

I got a dozen more ideas, but I don't want to turn this into an ad ;-)

The Impending Talent Crunch: Its Worse Than You Think

Lots of people these days are nervous of embarrassing online profiles on Facebook... I've blogged about this before (Take My Privacy, Please!), and mentioned that any company would be idiotic to implement such a "don't hire" policy.

Why? Any company that fires kids for acting like kids is a horrible place to work... and not only that, but they would be totally shooting themselves in the foot. Companies need these kid who are talented with social software, searching, and sharing... otherwise, they will suffer greatly in the upcoming global talent shortage.

60% of new jobs in the 21st century require skills that are currently possessed by 20% of the workforce

That quote is thanks to a YouTube video that Billy Cripe found about hiring trends.

Ever notice how difficult it is to find cheap, competent programmers in India these days? The good ones know their value, and are charging 60% - 80% of what their counterparts in California make. For those prices, you're better off outsourcing to Indiana or Idaho. If you must use global workers, check out Brazil, or Bulgaria... but their cheap rates will only last for a short period of time.

When even China is having labor shortages, something very disruptive is happening... If you want to stay ahead of the curve, embrace new ways to empower your talent, and for the love of god have a strategy to retain talent before its too late.

Want Oracle ECM Training? Join me in Chicago March 18th!

Hey folks... Oracle's a bit short on ECM resources at the moment, so I'll be teaching their ECM Partner Training course -- aka "boot camp" -- for a while. We already had a packed event in Atlanta. The next one is in Chicago, the week of March 18th. You can register for it online via Tesserae.

Yep... that's the day after St Patrick's day. We wisely decided to start at noon on the 18th...

The agenda will be geared mainly for partners who want to get up to speed on what content management is, and how to sell it. The first half day will be an intro to the main ECM products, and installation of the software on your laptops. The second day is all about configuring the core content server (security, metadata, workflows, etc). The third day will be web content management (Site Studio), the ECM roadmap, and some help on positioning and sales. The fourth day will be advanced topics: records management, performance tuning, integrating with app servers, and whatever else I can cram in!

Its a lot of ground to cover... but it will be a thorough overview, plus some deep-dive on the final day.

We're also planning a class in Redwood Shores some time in May... we're still hammering out the details with Oracle. I'll let you know when the date is set.

German Diesels Take The Green Lead Again!

I'm not a huge fan of hybrids, but I'm excited to hear about the new VW diesel hybrid that will get 70 MPG, and will be sold in Europe this year. Its in a Golf frame, but that's just the beginning. They have plans to put it into new Jetta and Audi A3 models, making quite a sporty economy car...

It also meets with all the strict emission standards for vehicles, making it clean enough for even California. Its stomps all over the Prius and the Civic Hybrid on both miles per gallon, and CO2 emission per mile.

I currently drive a 98 Cabrio... one of those convertible VWs. It turned ten this year, and has less than 50,000 miles on it. All that car pooling and cycling to Stellent sure kept the miles down... I'll have to get a new car one of these days, and a diesel hybrid Audi sure would be sweet...

Anybody wanna bet that they'll be available before I hit 60k miles?

From Demo To Demo To Demo To Blog...

I had an odd day today... It started with me taking a small sledgehammer to my kitchen walls...

I'm doing some demolition this week to prepare for a kitchen remodel, and I absolutely love my new hammer. Boy oh boy... its called a FUBAR, and its a wonderful combination of crowbar, sledgehammer, and all-purpose destroyer. I can grab 2x4 wood planks in its toothy maw, and rip 'em straight out of the wall with my bare hands!

I was a little sad when I ran out of wood planks...

Then -- at the crack of noon -- I shook the dust out of my hair, and started a teleconference. I gave a demonstration of how Oracle ECM works to a division of a multi-billion dollar Japanese conglomerate. UCM, IRM, URM, WCM, you name it. They seemed to like it, and hopefully the sales folks can continue the process from here.

Then I went back to demolition... and now I'm blogging about it all.

It suddenly dawned on me that I'm one of those cliches from an MCI commercial about how the internet will change how we work in the future... I'm going to have to send them an irate letter for spying on me.

Right after I check my Technorati rank.

Results-Oriented Process

frustration

The perfect process is a myth... things will inevitably go wrong. Thus, measuring the success of an automated business process is much more than just return on investment... more importantly, success should be measured on how the system can adapt when things fall apart.

Infovark had an interesting story about his experience with an insurance company... they started billing him too much, causing overdraft fees at his bank... and it took them 5 months to get the problem sorted out. Why? Because their business process treated every action as an atomic unit, an nobody looked at the whole...

If the guy in billing could just talk to the guy in customer service, things would be great... but there were 4 separate employees in this process, along with delays, feedback loops, and angry letters... When you have a process with lots of moving parts, bad feedback loops are inevitable. Small delays turn into huge delays, and if nobody has an incentive for full process completion, a fiasco is inevitable.

There's a lot of passion in my industry about breaking down business processes into re-usable "services"... this can mean everything from SOA, to just training an employee to correctly respond to email requests. However, too many people treat services and people like replaceable cogs. This is bad, bad, bad... because it gives everyone tunnel vision.

Treating people like cogs gives them a strong incentive to not care about your business. What if something goes wrong? Well, the cog did its job correctly: it produced the proper outputs given the inputs it had... therefore, why should it care? Let's say 10% of the time, the process fails... a cog is better off working harder on the 90% to get its numbers up, and ignore the rest... Why should cogs care? Suggesting changes just ruffles feathers, and it not like they have the power to change anything outside their domain...

Atomic services need competent owners... that is obvious and commonly implemented. The mystery is why whole business processes -- which are ultimately service orchestrations -- so rarely have owners. It's got to be somebody's responsibility to step in and fix things when anything goes wrong. Hopefully, that somebody has a "bag of tricks" that helps them motivate people, and modify software. It should be somebody who can communicate, is likable, and relatively technical... and naturally somebody with the authority and ability to get things done. And the best people at doing this? The cogs. They know where the pain points are.

Without a whole-process owner, there's no incentive in the system to produce actual results.

I thought such a statement would be flipping obvious... but there's plenty of big giant companies out there who need a reminder.

Oracle ECM: InfoWorld's Best Technology Of 2008

This feels good... Info World has given Oracle's Universal Content Management the 2008 Technology of the Year Award.

I'm especially proud because Michelle was the one who put together the VM Ware image, and spent time making sure all the nifty gizmos were all front-and-center.

It looks like Oracle is starting a new ad campaign around it as well... ECM and the SOA Suite both won 'best' awards from InfoWorld, and the marketing group has decided to milk it a bit. Click on the ad below to see what ran in a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal last week.

Tridion won best web content management solution... but I'm not too worried. The future is in content management is as an infrastructure. Which means flexibility, security, and performance are key. If all you do is solve the easy problems -- like Web 2.0 gadgets -- while ignoring the hard problems, you'll get into trouble. Some say the non-platform players like Interwoven will be absorbed... I say they'll be crushed by a hosted solution, or open source, or both.

Anyway, congrats to the 10gr3 dev team!

Free Samples For Oracle ECM

Oracle recently created a web page for their 'supported' samples and tutorials:

http://www.oracle.com/technology/products/content-management/ucm/samples/index.html

At present it has the following components up for 10gr3:

And a small handful for 7.5:

Notably absent are the blogs and wiki samples for 10gr3... I have older versions at the Bezzotech library, or you can just wait until Oracle updates them, and published them to the above page...

UPDATE: I added the RSS Feeds sample for 7.5 to this list... plus I heard that the Sample Blogs and Sample Wikis might be released in a patch in the near term. Fingers crossed!

Collaborate 2008: Now Cheaper, and With More Me!

If you're thinking of attending IOUG Collaborate to see some Oracle ECM goodness, then you should register by March 13th so you can save $400. Just use the promotion code: EM01 when you register... and save some coin. Maybe rent a clown with the extra cash...

IOUG put together a small ECM landing page, as well as an ECM session guide. I'll be presenting there... although I'm a bit sheepish that they called me President of Bezzotech... I only use that on tax forms. I prefer the title Chief Software Architect.

As an added bonus, you can sign up for one-on-one sessions with some Stellent heavyweights. Frank Radichel (VP R&D for all of Oracle ECM), Andy MacMillan & Roel Stalman (heads of product management), Cliff Cate (head of ECM solution architect group), and yours truly.

Hope to see you there...

Auto Companies Should Finance Solar Panel Installations

Here's a half-baked idea inspired by a Freakonimics commenter: failing industries should help homeowners finance renewable energy.

The logic goes like this:

  1. Ford's business of selling cars has not be profitable for some time...
  2. Ford Credit -- which helps people finance the purchase of For cars -- has been incredibly profitable, so much so that it keeps the rest of the company in business... therefore
  3. Ford is actually in the banking industry. They help ordinary people purchase expensive manufactured equipment, which in turn help benefit the lives of ordinary people. Now,
  4. Alternative energy, such as Solar Panels, home-grow biodiesel, and cogeneration, also benefit lives by reducing the expense of energy for ordinary citizens.
  5. Alternative energy systems require expensive manufactured equipment, which many people cannot afford.
  6. Alternative energy creates a return-on-investment -- less monthly costs on electricity and gasoline -- which offsets the costs of making monthly payments. Therefore,
  7. If Ford got into the business of financing the sale and installation of solar panels, it really wouldn't be much of a shift in how they do business, but could be insanely profitable.

Ford, GM, and Chrysler are all touting how they plan on using alternative energies in the next generation of products... I say, why stop there? Don't integrate solar panels into cars... purchase a solar panel manufacturer, and finance solar panel installations in people's homes! Set up some local biodeisel co-ops... and make your money the way you always did: financing the sale of manufactured equipment. Use your leverage in Washington to get tax credits for people to install solar panels, and make it even cheaper for your customer base.

This initial step will also help the auto manufacturers get to understand the nature of alternative energy... before completely shifting your manufacturing process to create biodiesel cars, make sure there's a market for it. Use your financial influence to create the initial market, profit from it, and finance the rest of the endeavor. Purchase the best companies, learn from them, and make your cars more efficient as well.

To me, that strategy seems much more doable, and much more profitable...

Banks like Ford are the future, not the past... modern banks that focus on hedge funds, derivatives, and sub-prime mortgage financial vehicles are ignoring the sacred purpose of the financial industry: to spur the growth of industry that improves the well-being of the public. If you are a bank that is also into manufacturing (cars and solar panels), services (repair and installation), and perhaps agriculture (for biofuels), you have an edge that few could match. That won't happen overnight, but financing solar panels would be a good start.

Anybody know the CEO of Ford?

Interesting Ad Placement: Obama Leading? Oh My!

I had heard about a new poll which gave Obama a double-digit lead over Clinton... so I went to the site, and was greeted with an interesting ad placement:

They say that Obama's campaign is kind of like a Rorschach inkblot test... different people see different things in him... so I'm curious, what does this ad mean to you?

ECM And Security

It looks like James McGovern is back at it again... criticizing ECM bloggers for not caring enough about security...

I do blog about security a bit... just check my security topic feed for some examples... but I intentionally limit the number of times I do so.

Why? Firstly, my wife thought I was attracting the wrong element with my posts about how Phishers could use anti-spam technology to hack URLs to look like they came from Amazon or Google. That attracted some unwanted attention.

Secondly, I'm keenly aware that the security of the application is secondary to the security of the solution. ECM is one piece of the puzzle... I've been privy to three separate reports from security firms who did penetration tests against Stellent solutions. Two from government agencies, and one from a major financial institution. Of the dozens of holes they found, only one was due to a problem in the core product (now patched)... the rest were problems with the configuration and design choices by the implementation team. I also felt proud that afterwards I tracked down two security holes that three specialist firms failed to find... one esoteric SQL injection vector, and another cross-site scripting attack with improperly-encoded URLs that only worked in IE... because IE was trying to be 'helpful.' Both have been patched for some time...

Thirdly, perhaps because of my disappointment with implementation teams, I've addressed a lot of these security risks and countermeasures in my Stellent book, and my Stellent security presentation from Crescendo 2006... and I find it a bit dull to repeat myself...

I would agree that the OWASP Top Ten are important for everybody to know, but then again, so are the fallacies of distributed computing. If you ignore the former, your solution might not be secure... but if you ignore the latter, your solution won't work at all.

Personally, the I think the OWASP top ten is a bit off... I doubt even Bruce Schneier would put 'cryptography' in the top ten, while leaving out such monsters as input validation, improper UTF8/URL decoding, configuration management, and denial of service. Cross Site Request Forgery is almost exactly the same attack vector as cross site scripting, so calling it out as a separate issue is kind of silly...

Anyway, I restrict myself to one security post per month... so I'm categorizing this as an "Oracle" post so I can sneak in two for February 2008 ;-)

Fox Now Wants Yahoo

Well, that was unexpected...

A few minutes ago, Rupert Murdoch made a bid for Yahoo, to counter the offer made by Microsoft... I covered this last week, as did everybody else... This will, no doubt, make Steve Ballmer throw a chair or two.

Fox News or Microsoft? Huh... I'm torn over which one would be worse...

Yes We Can

I try to keep this blog apolitical, but I've decided to side with Fake Steve Jobs on this one... I support Obama for president. He's the most inspiring politician I've ever seen, and many folks feel the same way:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjXyqcx-mYY

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics ... they will only grow louder and more dissonant ... We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

He's currently winning the race for the democratic nomination, including the last eight primaries in a row. If you need to know more about the man's politics, you can read either of his books (one of which recently won a frigging Grammy) or just check Wikipedia.

Did you know he's a distant relative to both Bush and Cheney? Let the conspiracy theories begin...

Exit Interview From Oracle

I like Oracle... although I never worked directly for them: I worked for Stellent, and left slightly before the takeover... so I can't really comment on what its like to work there. All I know is that they have great software... and no I'm not biased!

Anyway, Emily here does work for Oracle... Or at least she did until recently... She left her job as a consultant, and as part of the resignation process, she was asked to fill out an exit interview web form. After finishing, and clicking the check spelling button, this is the page that was returned:

woah...

My complements to you Oracle consultants... you are indeed a patient breed...

(Hat tip: The Daily WTF)

Microsoft / Yahoo Merger: The Enterprise Search Angle

Jake was chatting about the Microsoft/Yahoo merger, describing how little sense it made. I agreed mostly, until I remembered something Steve Ballmer said about Google in 2006. This was when Google was poaching Microsoft talent:

"Enterprise search is our business, it's our house and Google is not going to take that business."

ummmmm.... what!? I was totally confused... because Microsoft most certainly did NOT own enterprise search. Neither did Google. Nobody did. FAST and Autonomy/Verity had some claim... Oracle had a solution or two... but in reality nobody in the world had a product that satisfactorily solved this problem.

How do I know? Well, I was a content management developer, helping create the most flexible product in that market. If anybody -- and I mean anybody -- had a halfway decent search engine for the whole enterprise, I would know. We evaluated dozens, and all fell short for multiple, multiple, so many reasons. Usually flexibility, security, insufficient context sensitivity, encoding bugs, performance... or perhaps I'm just being hyper-critical. Nevertheless, we integrated with several of them, and made work-arounds for their limitations.

Anyway... considering Microsoft's recent acquisition of FAST, and the purchase of Yahoo, this means one thing to me: Microsoft is finally getting serious about owning enterprise search. With Yahoo, Microsoft also gets Omnifind: a "free" product made by IBM that's specifically designed for enterprise search. Unless this is a desperate move, that's the only sane excuse for spending so many billions of dollars for Yahoo. They're trying to do for enterprise content what Google did for web content... That could easily be a $10 billion market.

Of course, I'm not particularly impressed that they will actually succeed. And even if they did, they would be "forced" to have an open API that allows easy integration with non-Microsoft products... otherwise, they wouldn't really have an enterprise search product, would they?

Either way, by 2010 they might have something interesting to show off...

New Oracle Social Site: oraclecommunity.net

We got yet another Web 2.0 site for networking with Oracle experts: oraclecommunity.net.

Its based on Ning, an open network for creating social software communities. I've created a few Ning communities myself... but never liked any of them enough to do the proper care and feeding ;-)

Check it out if you'd like to interact with web-savvy Oracle experts. Or, if you have a suggestion for Oracle, you should check out mix.oracle.com. You need to be an Oracle customer to join mix, but you get some pretty decent interaction with developers and project managers inside Oracle.

(Hat Tip Jake)

Geek Charity: The F1 Website Challenge

Are you a web geek in Minneapolis? Looking to help out a local charity, and prove that Rails kicks Django's ass, or vice versa? Then you should check out The F1 Overnight Website Challenge.

Its a 24-hour all night race to the finish... you get one hour to meet with a deserving local charity, then 23 hours straight to get their web site up and running. There will even be a break in the middle for a Nintendo Wii challenge... and the team who wins gets an extra hour to finish their site!

So, call up a few buds, and register your team! Trust me: you'll want to have a team that has worked together in the past on stuff like this... The event will be March 1st, 2008.

Plenty of time to brush up on your skills, and exercise your Wii hand ;-)

Update: This March 1st event date is fast approaching, and team registration is now closed... check out the registered web teams and the non-profits that they will help.

The Class Of 2011

Via Boing Boing, I heard about the annual Beloit College Mindset. This is a list of tips they give to their professors, about the mindset of the incoming freshmen... Its filled with tons of stuff to make you giggle and feel old... some of my favorites:

  • What Berlin wall?
  • They never “rolled down” a car window.
  • They never saw Johnny Carson live on television.
  • General Motors has always been working on an electric car.
  • They get much more information from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from the newspaper.
  • MTV has never featured music videos.
  • Most phone calls have never been private.

That last one reminded me of an older post of mine: Take My Privacy, Please, about how kids these days don't care one bit about privacy. Cell phones and reality TV have made voyeurism mainstream... and they don't see the down side.

Feel old, yet?

Recent comments