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Vegas, baby! Iron Chef Black Hat

Draft posted August 14. Substantially revised August 17.

The second of a two-part series on the Black Hat USA 2008 security conference.

Image of Caeser's Palace from Black Hat site

Back when we lived in San Francisco in the 1990s, we were huge fans of Fuji TV’s Iron Chef, then shown with subtitles on a local cable station. When local chef Ron Siegel repeated his winning “lobster confront” menu at Charles Nob Hill, word got leaked to the Iron Chef mailing list and we managed to get seats … wow! And I’ll never forget the time that Bobby Flay in his exuberance jumped on the sushi board; so of course when I was at Caesar’s I had to have lunch at his Mesa Grill.

Iron Chef is also a good lens to looking at Black Hat from the perspective of the consulting I’m doing for San Francisco-based startup Coverity. This gives a completely different picture of the conference than the political and front-page-news of Vegas Baby! Black Hat, glitter, and pwnies. It’s just as interesting though, thanks in no small part to Fortify’s Iron Chef Black Hat.

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Make desire more important than fear: “Change the Way You See Yourself (Through Asset-Based Thinking)”

cover for CTWYSEKathy Cramer and Hank Wasiak’s new book is out, a gorgeous and well-focused follow-on to their Change the Way You See Everything, one of the Microsoft Ad Astra project’s signature giveaways.* In May 2007, we did an amazing two-day workshop with Kathy, Hank and his colleagues from the Concept Farm, and folks from Extreme Arts and Sciences and Telstar oriented around the “Hero’s Journey” archetypal narrative as a metaphor for innovation. We also steadily refined a series of Asset-Based Thinking workshops involving customer-focused brainstorming and problem-solving. So it’s safe to say I’m a fan.

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It’s over. Isn’t it? Microsoft/Yahoo, continued

a killer klown“It’s over. Isn’t it?”

– the end of Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Act 1 ended with a temporary resolution: Microsoft deciding not to “go hostile” and instead withdrawing their offer to buy Yahoo! After a brief intermission, Bill Gates’ announcement of Live Search Cashback is bang-up start to Act 2, featuring guest star Carl Icahn, with the finale already scheduled at Yahoo’s repeatedly-postponed shareholder’s meeting … grab some popcorn!

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Allies in the blogosphere

There’s so much to write about for Angry Black Woman’s Carnival of Allies that it’s hard to know where to start. At first I thought of focusing on “why the usual excuses are not good enough.” As the month of April went on, though, with brownfemipower’s and Blackamazon’s final statements, the growing list of women of color bloggers rejecting the term “feminism”, prof bw’s call for a Seal Press girlcott, open letters to white feminists from Jessica Hoffman and Ico … I realized that after all that, if anybody is still clinging to the usual excuses, it’s almost certainly beyond my power to reach them.

So I started working on an essay building on the discussion in places like Melissa McEwan et al’s We write letters on Shakesville, Chris Clarke’s Is a humane online politics possible, and Theriomorph’s An ally 101 thread. not currently publicly available

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Strategy, security, and static analysis: what’s next for me

Fourteen years ago today was my last day at Digital Equipment Corporation before leaving to work on the technology today became PREfix and the company I started with a few friends that became Intrinsa, so it seems especially appropriate to post about this today …

coverity logoI’m delighted to announce that I’m starting a part-time strategy consulting gig working with San Francisco-based software engineering startup Coverity. My initial focus will be exploring possibilities in the security space, and I’ll be using techniques like community-driven strategy and design, asset-based thinking, and social network analysis. So it’s a very natural followup to each of my last three professional incarnations: static analysis architect, computer security researcher, and grassroots strategist.

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My new bio-in-progress, 2.0

It’s amusingly difficult for me to write professional biographies, especially for print publications. Not only do I have a hard time reducing my career to the paragraph you’re usually allowed, at some level it feels like it forces me to reify my identity. Nonetheless, it has to be done; right now, I’m on the hook for bios both for the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy program committee and an upcoming book chapter on computer science as a social science.

So here’s a stab at it … feedback, please!

Update, 3/27: revised substantially after great feedback. Original version in the comments. Thanks all!  Additional minor edits on 3/29.

Jon Pincus’ current professional projects include Tales from the Net (a book on social networks co-authored with Deborah Pierce), starting a strategy consulting practice, and blogging at Liminal States and elsewhere. Previous work includes leading the Ad Astra project as General Manger for Strategy Development in Microsoft’s Online Services Group; creating the static analysis tools PREfix and PREfast (now available in Visual Studio) at his startup Intrinsa and then at Microsoft Research; security planning with the Windows Security Push and XPSP2 task forces; and the National Academies/CSTB panel “Sufficient Evidence?” His primary research interests relate to recasting the field of computer science as a social science. In addition to the applications of this lens to security discussed here, other social science approaches embodied in Ad Astra and the earlier Project Fabulous include asset-based thinking, narratology, cognitive diversity, intersectionality, philosophy of technoscience, oppression theory, and hot pink beanbag chairs.

(Note: that’s the version for the computer security paper; the other one will have slight differences in the last sentence.)

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When I’m right, I’m right: Geraldine Ferraro and “The day after”

Geraldine FerraroThe Obama campaign’s response to Geraldine Ferraro’s attack perfectly illustrates several things I talked about last week in The day after. Campaign strategist David Axelrod emphasizes the pattern:

Axelrod said Ferraro’s comments were part of a “pattern” of negative attacks aimed at Obama. He pointed to Clinton’s former New Hampshire co-chairman Bill Shaheen, who questioned whether Obama ever sold drugs; supporter Rober Johnsen, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, who raised the specter of Obama’s past drug use; and Clinton’s own “unwillingness” to “definitively” shoot down rumors that Obama was Muslim in an interview this month.

[All of these, and others, are documented on the Clinton attacks Obama wiki. See, I knew it would be important :-) ]

Susan Rice brings up a variant of the “reject and denounce” standard:

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The day after: a work in progress on “narrative through the lens of strategy

A few teasers:

With aid of what they describe as “the kitchen sink,” the Clinton campaign came out tactically slightly ahead: somewhere between four and ten delegates out of the 370 in play. Kudos to them. Even so, yesterday’s results are almost exactly what the Obama campaign had projected a month ago, a likely +3 or +4 over projections in Texas balanced by a likely -2 or -3 in Ohio. The Obama campaign continues to have a huge cushion: 120 pledged delegates over their early-February projections. With less time for a Clinton turnaround, Obama’s strategic advantage has grown … guess they were prepared for the kitchen sink, or something like it.

The Clinton campaign’s potential role in the Obama-in-Somali-garb photo will call attention to the earlier “Obama is a Muslim” email from Clinton staffers, the series of racially charged attacks documented on the Clinton attacks Obama wiki and elsewhere, and the Clinton campaign’s earlier “playing along” with Drudge. At the same time, the “denounce and reject” standard she proposed in the debate will get continued attention thanks to McCain and Lieberman’s welcoming of virulently anti-Catholic anti-LGBT anti-New Orleans anti-Palestinian (and anti-so-much-more) John Hagee’s support. How many volunteers, staffers, supporters will the Clinton campaign “denounce”? How many contributions will they reject?

From a strategy perspective, the Clinton campaign in desperation threw everything they could into March 4. (You can only align with Drudge, Limbaugh, O’Reilly and McCain so many times before voters and superdelegates start to ask whether this is good for the party — and there aren’t a lot of other friendly foreign governments they can call on these days.) At the cost of substantially damaging their campaign as well as their individual reputations, they managed to claw their way to an inconsequential and Pyrrhic “victory”. Mathematically, they’re now very close to elimination. Not a good result for the Clintons at all.

So, while it’s not over and anything can happen, once all the hard work is done and the votes are counted, I predict that March 4 will be seen as the day that the voters in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont — and the grassroots volunteers for Obama all around the country and the world — virtually assured Barack Obama’s nomination as Democratic party’s candidate for President of the United States of America.

Read on for the full essay. Feedback and discussion welcome!

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Microsoft/Yahoo! roundup

Note: this thread summarizes what others are thinking, and my reactions. My opinion on the potential acquisition is here — and along with many others’, on MiniMSFT.

Andy Borowitz has the biggest news: Obama to buy Yahoo! Other than that …

Microsoft has been fined a record €899 million ($1.4 billion) for defying the EU’s sanctions, which brings the total over the last few years to €1.68 billion ($2.5 billion). This is for past actions; Neelie Kroes, the Competition Commissioner, after noting that Microsoft was the first company that had ever defied the sanctions, then goes on to add that she hopes “that today’s decision closes a dark chapter in Microsoft’s record of non-compliance with the Commission’s March 2004 decision,” she added. Microsoft’s response is basically “we hope so too”, and affirming that as of October 2007 they believe they were in compliance.

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Yahoo!!!! (was Yahoo!?!?!): Why, after further reflection, I think Microsoft’s offer for Yahoo! is a brilliant strategic move

Plunking down $44.6 billion, or whatever the number turns out to be, for “change” and “social software” sends a huge message — although bizarrely enough a lot of Microsoft employees, on MiniMSFT and internal email discussion lists like Litebulb, have managed not to hear it.

It’s been several weeks since Microsoft’s unsolicited offer for Yahoo. My initial reaction was that while high-risk, it’s a good deal for Microsoft. Since then, on further reflection … I think it’s a brilliant move on Microsoft’s part — whether or not the deal goes through. And despite all the coverage around the web, I haven’t seen anybody discuss a couple of the most important strategic issues. So I thought I’d take a stab at it.

Update, 2/27: Press roundup (with some commentary) in a new thread; a meditation on cool in a comment. Also, MiniMSFT’s new thread Because the last acquisition went so well links back here, without comment, under Other perspectives. There’s plenty of discussion over there, and I’m crossposting some of my responses here as well.

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“Eight business technology trends to watch”, from the McKinsey Quarterly

James M. Manyika, Roger P. Roberts, and Kara L. Sprague have a good short article in the most recent McKinsey Quarterly (free registration required*). The categories include managing relationships (for example, “extracting more value out of interactions” and “using consumers as innovators”, managing capital and assets, and leveraging information in new ways. Clearly written, and solid references. I worked a lot with Kara (and a little bit with Roger) on some of the early Ad Astra projects a year or two ago and so for me it’s doubly nice to see these broader perspectives.

The dividing lines between some of these aren’t quite clear: does the discussion of TopCoder belong under “distributed cocreation”, “tapping worldwide talent”, or a generalization of “using consumers as innovators”? And applying similar ideas within a corporation starts to relate to the discussions of innovation under “using more science as innovation”. Similarly Hippel’s Democratizing Innovation and Florida’s Creative Class work span multiple trends. A different way of looking at it though is that artificiality of the distinctions highlights both the linkages between the trends they identify, and the importance of viewing them holistically: the combination of the trends opens up even more interesting possibilities.

* Update, 1/15/2008: for those who don’t want to register and expose yourself to Mckinseyesque spam [no, I don't want a premium subscription, thank you very much] Pierre De Vries excerpts the categories and references on Deep Freeze 9.

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