The Bankwatch

Tracking the consumer evolution of financial services

Posts Tagged ‘information

Everyone’s internet is different


Steve Rubel sums up his observations from the always insightful Le Web conference in Paris this week. His second observation caught my attention and reflects how both I and my friends see the web.

Three Observations from Le Web

Second, nowadays no two people see the same Internet. This was a key point that Facebook made, saying that we increasingly discover online content not just by algorithms but via the "lens of friends." Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd brought this to life through rich, moving stories. Google’s Marissa Mayer went a step further saying that the future of news is a "personalized news stream." This trend has major implications for marketers and PR pros who are accustomed to reaching everyone the same way – it’s simply not possible anymore.

It may seem obvious but it is also subtle. The net is not a series of ‘web pages’. Rather it is a stream of information that is viewed by people just as conversations are ‘heard’. What I hear is not what you hear. Online information comes to you as you design your experience. We all use variations of email, facebook, twitter, rss, and a host of other services to obtain knowledge.

Written by Colin Henderson

December 13, 2009 at 04:32

Posted in Uncategorized

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A Sure Sign that we are at a Turning Point in Mobility and Use of Internet


I noticed an ad on CNN this afternoon, that really shows the gap that lies between old business and new business. The topic here is personal use of technology – how individual managers and executives use it. This reflects personal,and therefore institutional effectiveness. It reflects the difference in things happening over days, versus over months.

The ad was for GotoMyPC that “allows you to access your PC from anywhere in the word”. Its a funny ad that begins with a travelling executive who realises the information he needs is on his PC back at the home office, so he sends some carrier pigeons back to get his PC, and they forget the keyboard. Funny stuff, but there is much larger message here.

An no, the message is not get a laptop. That is a personal preference, and offers an interim solution, but does little for sharing the information, nor deal with hard drive crashes, or ensuring you have the latest version of the information. No this is a message about the ‘cloud’ and having the security of knowledge that you could be handed a blank brand new laptop today, and be up and running with everything you require in hours. That is security.

I have the good fortune to watch how developers use technology (new world) and compare it to the way bankers use it (old world). In both cases, the need is to share and co-operate on information. For developers the information is comprised of a large code base(s) and supporting requirement information. For business executives it comprises things like data, analysis, presentations, and plans.

First lets look at how this works and assume away from home office scenario:

Bank Executive preparing for a HQ meeting tomorrow:

  • opens laptop – can’t access hotel wireless network because of hardware security constraints on laptop. Eventually hooks up using ethernet cable although this forces him to sit on the uncomfortable chair, because the wire is too short
  • once online emails colleagues in different time zone to get the latest powerpoint after he realises his version on hard drive is probably not up to date. Also seeking the latest sales data because all he has is the end of August and now it is October. He has checked into SharePoint but it turns out the latest files uploaded are not the ones he assumed would be there and now he is freaking out.

Developer preparing to present to client tomorrow:

  • opens laptop, while in the comfortable seat, signs in (to laptop) and accesses wireless network. Hardware access security limitations not required because …
  • … he logs into github on the web (secure code repository) using SSH (secure keys) security through a secure tunnel. (incidentally, it is immaterial whether the developer logs in with Windows, Linux or Mac – same result – the consistency is at the code and network level, not the personal hardware level)
  • he pulls down the latest code base updated by developers from multiple locations, safe in the knowledge he has the latest version, and works on tomorrows presentation. Download is fast because it a series of text (xml data) which is not assembled into anything meaningful until on the laptop. Contrast with the bank experience that downloads actual large powerpoints, complete with large images etc.

Lets look at what happened there and the opportunity for business. In the case of the developer, the information base is completely abstracted from the individuals who manage it. Security is maintained through different access levels at github. The control lies in github. Different access levels in github provide some people access to send changes to git, while all can view. Not all can submit (“commit” in git language) those changes.

For the Bank executive it is all as good as he is at last minute changes, and in the hope that folks back in the other time zone get his last minute requests and whether he can integrate whatever he gets.

What is going on here? Well there are a few things at different levels:

  1. bank security is managed by licking down hardware and information. Hardware is locked down to become practically unusable, and often having the ‘smart’ executives use their personal gmail accounts to manage information exchanges (who will admit that method of keeping data in a handy cloud environment for access?)
  2. developer security assumes ant device could access the information, and security is managed by secure key exchanges and digital certificates.

Which of the above is the more secure? Which is more efficient? This is a fundamental question for bank CIO’s. It will turn out that 2) is the more secure, and also cheaper, but …. and I can hear this now … if it is cheaper how can it be more secure?

Relevance to Bankwatch:
Back to GoToMYPC. I hate to pick on them, and if fact they are providing a valuable service that circumvents many of the bank executives problems, but does not solve the intrinsic problem of securely sharing information.

The Github solution solves access, solves version control, and solves information management control. What if someone took the Github example and build a git for information, ie presentations, spreadsheets, documents, data access? Sorry SharePoint but from the moment you insist on proprietary Silverlight to enter you fail. Access must be open to alternative operating systems to access.

2009-10-04-154534_1024x768_scrot

A github type solution that retains latest and previous versions ‘in the cloud’ yet still secure would be powerful. Github is not an afterthought, but part of the development process. Developers create on their own desktop, then save to git as they progress. This two step process allows for efficiency of a local desktop but retention of latest information in the cloud.

There has to be a way to shift banks into this type of environment, rather than the current method employed by most that offers security by making it well nigh impossible to do anything.

The challenge for banks and information security suppliers is to do what developers did … go back to the fundamental needs of executives and managers, which at some level is not at all different than developers and revisit the strategy. Yes this will mean throwing out investment in expensive infrastrucuture but if the alternative is better, faster, efficient, and saves money then the opportunity of sunk licence costs is immaterial. Perhaps it is time to move beyond personal pride and seek a better world for all.

Thoughts and experiences of bankers welcome, and feel free to be anonymous on this, if you need to protect the innocent 🙂

Written by Colin Henderson

October 4, 2009 at 15:06

Collaboration (1) vs Beaurocracy (0) | Wikipedia & CIA Factbook example


Here is a striking example of the power of collaborative ‘wisdom of crowds’ approach to information preparation, versus traditional top down beaurocratic approach.

I was reading the Obama speech in Ghana, and his references to the current and previous governments, including Jerry Rawlings which rang a history bell for me, so thought I would read up.  First off I checked what used to be my old favourite the CIA factbook, and it has not been updated since sometime before Dec 2008 [note highlight].

On the other hand a quick visit to Wikipedia had more than enough detail being up to date, including information about Obamas trip dd 10th July in the footnotes.  I copied one section from the history area below, and highlighted the notes about the recent election in 2009, something the CIA has not figured out yet apparently.

The efficiency and effectivness of the Wikipedia approach compared to the old style management and approval processes is stark.  [Incidentally, surely the CIA beaurocracy would at least update their site for the countries that their boss is visting?]

In fairness to the CIA it is probably impossible to maintain an up to date encyclopedia type site such as the FactBook within the constraints and context of their mandate.  To open the CIA up to a Wikipedia approach would not make any sense.  I only use this example to display that collaborative and engagement of the broader network wins every time for information dissemination.

CIA Factbook – Ghana

Formed from the merger of the British colony of the Gold Coast and the Togoland trust territory, Ghana in 1957 became the first sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to gain its independence. Ghana endured a long series of coups before Lt. Jerry RAWLINGS took power in 1981 and banned political parties. After approving a new constitution and restoring multiparty politics in 1992, RAWLINGS won presidential elections in 1992 and 1996, but was constitutionally prevented from running for a third term in 2000. John KUFUOR succeeded him and was reelected in 2004. Kufuor is constitutionally barred from running for a third term in upcoming Presidential elections, which are scheduled for December 2008.

Wikipedia – Ghana

Rawlings soon negotiated a structural adjustment plan with the International Monetary Fund and changed many old radical economic policies; the economy began to recover. A new constitution restoring multi-party politics was promulgated in 1992, and Rawlings was elected as president then and again in 1996 to serve a second term. The Constitution of 1992 prohibited him from running for a third term, so his party, the National Democratic Congress, chose his Vice President, John Atta Mills, to run against the opposition parties. Winning the 2000 elections, John Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party was sworn into office as President in January 2001, and beat Mills again in 2004; thus, also serving two terms as President. In 2009, John Atta Mills took office as president with a difference of about 40,000 votes (0.46%) [23] between his party, the National Democratic Congress, and the New Patriotic Party, marking the second time that power had been transferred from one legitimately elected leader to another, and securing Ghana’s status as a stable democracy.[24]

Written by Colin Henderson

July 11, 2009 at 16:28

State Department official, Jared Cohen, e-mailed Twitter – delay scheduled maintenance


This has little directly to do with banking per se, but it has a lot to do with information seeking, gathering, and the seismic shifts in how transparency of otherwise opaque bodies can be nullified by the internet tools available.  It is also just plain fascinating, and something all strategists should watch and try to understand.

Whether this was innocent or otherwise, it appears to be a fact that it happened hence the significance.  Also read here for discussion and note the ‘informed’ comments.  One cannot help but think that there is something deliberate to all this, and even that Twitter may be an unwitting accomplice.

[If this is the same guy, Cohen is actively engaged at State in Middle Eastern affairs, and published this “Iran’s Young Opposition: Youth in Post-Revolutionary Iran”.]

With a hint to Twitter, Washington taps into a new force in diplomacy | NY Times

Yet on Monday afternoon, a 27-year-old State Department official, Jared Cohen, e-mailed the social-networking site Twitter with an unusual request: delay scheduled maintenance of its global network, which would have cut off service while Iranians were using Twitter to swap information and inform the outside world about the mushrooming protests around Tehran.

The request, made to a Twitter co-founder, Jack Dorsey, is yet another new-media milestone: the recognition by the United States government that an Internet blogging service that did not exist four years ago has the potential to change history in an ancient Islamic country.

“This was just a call to say: ‘It appears Twitter is playing an important role at a crucial time in Iran. Could you keep it going?’ ” said P.J. Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs.

update: Whose views are being managed and by whom? (Washington Post)

“Twitter’s impact inside Iran is zero,” said Mehdi Yahyanejad, manager of a Farsi-language news site based in Los Angeles. “Here, there is lots of buzz, but once you look . . . you see most of it are Americans tweeting among themselves.

Written by Colin Henderson

June 17, 2009 at 11:36

Reset time


Its obvious we all have the  “too much information but its all good stuff” problem.

It has been driving me crazy and I have tried:

  1. lables and categories in my RSS reader (Google Reader)
  2. watching other sources such as twitter, friendfeed, newsgator, feeddemon
  3. integration tools within gmail using greasemonkey scripts
  4. adding to Google Reader so that I would use the built in search (never happened)
  5. others too many to mention

Bottom line.  If your target is to source and mine information incremental improvements fail, at least for me.  Adding to existing sources just adds to the problem of more data and information.

Then I attended a talk with a colleague and friend Thursday given by Gong Szeto (amazing talk by the way – looking forward to his book) which made me realise its too easy to miss the larger picture.  Gong was talking about stuff and concepts that were not that new, but were not showing up in my Google Reader today.  I realised that I get the majority of daily news that I happen to need from other news subscriptions that I follow daily, but am missing the “bleeding edge” stuff.

So today I deleted everything from my Google Reader … empty.  Then I installed a few that I could remember were important.  I am up to 14 feeds so far.  I had 397 before.  My new target is to stay within 25 feeds.   If i see new ones, then others have to go.  If those 25 produce 1 or 2 decent posts daily then that would be obvoiusly enough to keep me going if I were to read them all.

Today feels good.

Anyhow thats my latest strategy.  I am curious to hear how others deal with information, especially in the financial space.

Written by Colin Henderson

May 9, 2009 at 16:48

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