Friday, October 30, 2009

Cell phone fund raising a new way to help nonprofits

If you have an unwanted cellphone or two and are going to Austin Innotech Thursday, bring them to help Austin Goodwill.
As the publicist for the event, I found the cellphone campaign for a nonprofit program innovative.
While the focus on this campaign is on helping Goodwill, J.C. Otero, the community outreach manager, said his company, Austin-based Sellyourcellular, will work with any non-profit firm to help them recycle phones.
Over 100 million cell phones are replaced, Otero said. On an average day, 350,000 phones are replaced.
If you want to get more information on this program, please contact them at their web site.

The SWAG hall of fame....

While I don't go to many trade shows, I am always amazed at the swag given by vendors to potential customers. As the publicist for the Austin Innotech, I did an early morning tour of the booths at today's trade show. As usual, there are a lot of folks with chocolate, pens and the other goods.
However, there are three or four that should be included in my "SWAG Hall of Fame." The folks at Eaton would get my vote as the best toy to amuse Bentley my daughter's Visla. If you tap the blue ball on the pen, it will light up with a blue disco ball like effect. That kind of simple technology will keep him amused when he comes to visit his grand parents at Thanksgiving.
Another innovative and cost effective promotional item was the distribution of Lucky Charms bowls by New Horizons Computer Learning Center of Austin to their customers. As a lot of people forget breakfast before they go or work at a trade show, this is a pretty effective marketing tool.
Finally, I have a "use stick" from qlikview,com that is part Lego toy and USB data port. Now when I want to back up something like a simple file, I can use it. It's hard to forget an item like this too.
If you are a marketing person with a trade show coming up, I think the best thing to do is to make sure you label your products with your items. For example, if you were as smart at New Horizon to give cereal as a give away, make sure to place a label or business card with each item.

How can you tell you are a dog owner... just woof

When Tina Cannon, the chief executive officer of petsMD, made her presentation at the Austin Innotech Beta Summit today, she asked a crowded room to show her if they were dog owners by barking loudly.
Sure enough, the room filled with barks. And, then without any solicitation, there was a large round of meows.
Cannon's company is similar in scope to webMD in that it allows pet owners to ask questions about their pet's health. Her company was one of six firms.
Other Beta finalists included:
When Tina Cannon, the chief executive officer of petsMD, made her presentation at the Austin Innotech Beta Summit today, she asked a crowded room to show her if they were dog owners by barking loudly.
Sure enough, the room filled with barks. And, then without any solicitation, there was a large round of meows.
Cannon's company is similar in scope to webMD in that it allows pet owners to ask questions about their pet's health. Her company was one of six firms.
Other Beta finalists included:

BuzzStream, a social media company that helps companies build relationships with online influencers;
GameSalad, a game development firm that provides a game development tool for nonprogrammers;
Gelato, an online dating site that had one of my friends who is happily married to comment that if he wasn't married he would use the site;
Infochimps, a web site designed to find any data set in the world;
and Spredfast, a social media campaign platform. If you are a small tech business in San Antonio, please reach out to me if you want to participate in the 2010 San Antonio Beta Summit. Last year, thanks to the help of the San Antonio Greater Chamber of Commerce, we held our first event. It's my hope that the chamber will step up and participate in this event again.

Does SA need an "open tech" program?

His given name is William Hurley, but everyone in Austin knows him as Whurley. And, this tech maverick is a hero of mine.
For the past six months, Whurley and other tech leaders have questioned Austin city government on its web site procurement page. When the city decided to award a web site project to a California company, Whurley and company led the protect movement that got the city to drop the contract.
"I got phone calls from a major contract firm that I was costing them money," he said. However, his disruptive processes have caused the city to rethink its web site strategy and to engage Austin tech leaders to help with a better contract request for proposal.
Yesterday, the Austin Association of Information Technology Professionals presented Whurley their Austin Community Leadership Award at Austin Innotech. Like a true team builder, Whurley accepted the award but called up two to three other team members to share in the recognition.
The city of Austin hasn't awarded its web site, but when it does, it will have a better RFP process.
Here in San Antonio, we could learn from disruptive types like Whurley. For example, I would like to see SATAI, a city and state funded organization, give our tech community an annual report of what they're doing with our tax dollars. And, I would like to see the same kind of input from other civic funded organizations that support tech growth.
I am hoping that this blog will get the executive directors to give me their annual executive report so that I can share it with others. If your organization has nothing to hide, then this is your opportunity to share it with those of us who want to embrace the growth of technology.
In closing, I want to commend SATAI for the work they did in setting up their workshop this week. It's an improvement over the chicken dinner with a senior communications executive from ATT pitching the values of Uverse. But even so, I want to know what is being done with my local and state tax dollars.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I really don't know clouds (computing) at all....

To someone who doesn't work in computers and technology, the term "cloud security" conjures up visions of St. Peter at the pearly gates checking a person's record. Yet, in the tech space, the term "cloud" means the storage of data. According to the folks at, "Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet. These services are broadly divided into three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The name cloud computing was inspired by the cloud symbol that's often used to represent the Internet in flow charts and diagrams."

I recently did an interview for another blog on the topic with Josh Zachry systems security lead, Rackspace, and Jeff Reich, director of cloud security research, the University of Texas at San Antonio, as part of the publicity efforts to get people to attend the upcoming Austin Innotech, Oct. 29 at the Austin Convention Center. Zachry and Reich will speak at 3:30 p.m. on this topic at Innotech Austin on Oct. 29. As I thought people in San Antonio might learn something from this interview, I thought I would share in this blog.

Question: What are the biggest challenges with cloud security?

Zachry: It really depends on the type of cloud offering (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and the way in which a cloud consumer or potential consumer plans to use the offering. Awareness seems to be a big challenge right now for both cloud providers and cloud consumers. Ultimately, cloud computing is a technology platform that does some things well and others not so well. It's important for cloud consumers to make sure they are using
a cloud computing solution appropriately. It's also important for cloud providers to provide the needed information to consumers so they can make the right decisions.

Question: Is there a need for a single standard for cloud security?

Reich: This is a difficult question right now. I don't believe there is a need for a single cloud security standard at this point in time. The reason for this is due to the differences in cloud computing platforms and the ways in which competing providers deliver and service those platforms. I believe that more discussion should focus on data and information that may be exposed within the different platforms (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and guidelines for protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the data in question.

Question: What kind of issues do security professionals need to address to protect a cloud database?

Zachry: It depends on a number of factors. For example, the types of information or data stored in the database (this will drive a number of protection requirements). Also, the authentication solution used (SSL, API, VPN, etc). Again, it really depends on the types of data and information being stored.

Question: Is there anything else we should know about the future of cloud security?

Reich: Cloud computing security will continue to be an important and dynamic topic. Cloud computing promises great capabilities and efficiencies at a reduced price. This naturally compels individual consumers and businesses to leverage cloud computing solutions for needed computing capabilities. What must not be ignored, however, is that cloud computing is prescriptive at this point. It's important that everyone become engaged and learn more about cloud computing capabilities.

OMG..... Has Twitter shortened our words?

With the addition of texting to our life, are we changing our English language? If you believe a research done by college psychology students at the University of Alberta, we're in the process of changing our language.
With only 140 characters available on Twitter and almost the same amount on your cell phone, shortening words to "BTW" for by the way or "OMG" for oh my gosh is almost essential.
According to an article in the Washington Post, the Canadian students surveyed the text messages of 40 students for their research. The group was working on the premise that parents were concerned that students who use what they termed "chatspeak" would become bad spellers or never learn how to write well are unfounded.
According to Connie Varnhagen, the lead psychologist on the study: "Young people can compartmentalize their language. They have language that they use on the playground and then school language. They know how to speak in classrooms without sounding like goofballs."
I agree with Varnhagen that our young people are probably coming up with a dialect of their own. It's still English but it reminds me of a time I ran into two British soldiers in northern Germany in 1985. In their Welsch-Cockney accent, they spoke to me rather rudely while I was in one of their British "tea" rooms in at their military exchange in Minden.
I looked at them, noted the lack of stripes on their sleeves and pointed to the four I had on my shoulder board and told them I was an American sergeant and I didn't believe they would spoke to their noncoms like they just did with me.
They immediately reverted into a more formal form of English and apologized by offering to buy my tea.
Most of our teens can speak in several dialects of their language, especially if their educators re-enforce the use of formal grammar in school. My wife, the high school science teacher, is the type that will rip a student for using "prolly" instead of probably in a paper. Yet, she admits a lot of language teachers are allowing their students to use the new dialect in their writing efforts.
Still, in time, I believe we will see a shift in language. More and more, as we speak in the 140 characters allowed on Twitter or our cell phones, we'll embrace the use of chatspeak.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Finding the right mix between security and social media operations.....

If you own a business that has a lot of young people working for you, it's a good bet that you have:
• Banned the use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools because of security concerns;
• Grudgingly allowed its use because you fear a mutiny at work among the younger rank and file employers;
• Or, buried your head in the sand and done nothing.
With an upcoming presentation "Social Networks and Security: What Your Teenager Likely Won't Tell You," John Dickson, the principal at Denim Group, will help business owners find the middle ground for policies concerning social media.
Dickson will give his presentation at 11 a.m., Oct. 29 as part of Austin Innotech trade show.
As a longtime security professional, Dickson understands the concerns of security manager. "We have a lot of businesses with widely different interpretations, Dickson said.
"However, you can't turn it off either," he added. "With a tailored business goals and policies in place, a company can adopt a social media policy that allows young knowledge workers to use Twitter and Facebook."
Dickson is part of a contingent of security and technology speakers from San Antonio that will present several seminars on information security next week.
Josh Zachry, systems security lead, Rackspace, and Jeff Reich, director of cloud security research, the University of Texas at San Antonio, will speak at 3:30 p.m. on cloud security.
As the publicist for Austin Innotech as well as serving as a member on the Digital Convergence Initiative, I am glad to see San Antonio technology professionals like Dickson, Reich and Zachry demonstrate San Antonio's capacity as a leader in info security.
Yet, we also have other impressive technologies as well. Austin is only an hour to 90-minute drive away. We need more San Antonio leaders to embrace the opportunity to work with Austin's tech and business leadership so that we can become a super tech cluster like Silicon Valley or the North Carolina Research Trianagle.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Will Navin R. Johnson still be excited about this year's white pages?

I had to chuckle when I read David Saleh Rauf's article on ATT decision not to ship the white pages to my home. I had visions of Navin R. Johnson, the Steve Martin character in the classic 1979 film "The Jerk" when he ran out of the gas station with the new phone book screaming "The new telephone books are out. The new telephone books are out."
Now, folks like Navin would be using Facebook to post their mug and personal info. And, that gets me to a second story noting the end of email. From a Wall Street Journal article, it notes that a lot of people are passing over this online mail program for tools like Twitter and LinkedIn. The Wall Street Journal is not the first to report this trend. I saw an interesting YouTube video noting that Boston College was no longer giving their students an email address.
However, I am wondering why ATT is still sending me those yellow pages. Just like looking up Navin online, I am now using search tools to find services. As noted in the article, I'll put the delivered yellow pages into the recycle bin as soon as I get them.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Matt Holliday is not a goat for the St. Louis Cardinals

With two outs and what seemed like a routine line drive to left field, my beloved St. Louis Cardinals were about ready to wrap up their first victory in the National League Divisional Series in Los Angeles.
Then, Murphy's law stepped in. By now, every sports fan has seen left fielder, Matt Holliday, drop the ball. Bolstered by the error, the Dodgers won the game, 3-2. Headlines in the news termed Holliday as a "goat."
What's amazing is how most media and a typical sports fan overlook the contributions of Holliday. Without his play, the Cardinals would have never made the playoffs. National League pitchers would pitch around Albert Pujols until Holliday's arrival. In short, my beloved Cardinals would not have made the post season without him.
The Lords of Statistics note that only four teams have come back from a 2-0 deficit to win a divisional series. Yet, I believe that if any team can overcome a two-game deficit it's the Cardinals.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Apogee Search marketing executive discusses the crossover between search and social media

As the publicist for Austin Innotech, I get to work with some of the sharpest people in the business. One of my jobs is to reach out to the blogosphere to share some of the upcoming programs for our Oct. 29 event. Here's a recent interview with Ian Strain-Seymour, the director of marketing for Apogee Search.

Q: How can social media and search work together?

A: These two can work together in a lot of different ways. You can use
search (both paid and organic) to help people find your presence in social
media channels or to places where your praises are being sung. On the other
hand deep, rich conversations are one of the types of content that search
engines like, so these can play into your brand's shelf space or if links
are included in the content, even drive your organic search performance
through high value links.

Q: Do social media and search ever work against each other?

A: Absolutely. Social Media drives a lot of content, which can cause one of
two issues. Walled gardens, or websites that can't be fully crawled by
search engines, can close off a lot of the great things being said about
your product or company so that they are never found.

The other issue is the noise that all the volume creates. With the volume of
chatter going on, the search engines sometimes have a hard time deciphering
it all, which can cause relatively poor conversation to float to the top.
Things have improved, but it is not uncommon to see search results that
don't help a searcher find the information they were looking for.

Q: What should businesses do now to address their web visibility

A: This is kind of a chicken and egg question, but at the end of the day, I
think that it makes sense to focus on search first. Get your website well
optimized for search engines, then switch focus to developing a community or
your presence in an existing community bas for your product or business.
This requires continuing, ongoing commitment, not just lip service.

Q: Resources are tight these days. Can the same people (either inside a
company or from an agency) work on both?

A: It depends. What does it depend on? It depends on the people doing the
work and the company and products being focused on. In many cases yes,
because search people that only know search are missing a lot of the
picture, and vice versa. In some cases, where either the community is point
of the business or the product and company brands are very large, it make
sense to split thing out. This however requires the team members to work
together closely.


Texas needs to toughen it cycle protection laws

Reading today's front page story about the death of the two cyclists makes me think of my 77-year-old father who is still riding the back roads of Illinois.
About 25 years ago, I was home on leave. My dad and I went to one of his favorite pubs when a young lady came up to him saying that she wanted to meet him and wanted to give him a ride home once when it was cold and rainy.
For my dad, weather only makes the ride a little more interesting.
Yet, incidents like the one Sunday make me believe that our state laws need strength. More importantly, they need enforcement for both cyclists and automobiles.
Just like our police departments ticket drivers for speed and safety violations, they also should ticket both drivers and cyclists for unsafe driving. I agree with the law that a car should give three feet or more when passing a cyclist who is on the right side of the road. Yet, our police should also ticket those cyclists who run yield signs and stop lights.
More importantly, our city should look at adding more bike lanes. There are some new additions in downtown and south San Antonio, but we could use more of them.
The extension of the River Walk on the south side of downtown will also add more bike friendly passages.
Still, even with bike lanes, tougher laws and police enforcement will keep the "Bubbas" and their F-150s from endangering bike riders like my dad from serious injury or death.