Facebook is free but is costing you.

A few years ago I had a tough time getting my wife to sit down in front of a computer, today I have a tougher time getting her to pay attention to me over it.  Now that is a bit of an exaggeration but she does spend more time online today and at times I have to ask for her attention when she is online.

She is part of the great digital transition.   These are people who really at one time had little or no interest in technology but have been drawn in due to social media.   The result is that we have more people online engaged in sharing of personal information, ideas and raw data.   Information about you is valuable.

Facebook itself is more dangerous because the data is near real time.   Where are you?  How are you feeling ?  What are you doing?  Who are you talking to?  What are you buying?  What are you interested in?  How many kids do you have?  Do you have a pet?  What is important to you?  Who is important to you?

Would you tell strangers this information?  We tell our kids about stranger danger  but what about us?  The more people know about you the more you are at risk but beyond that Facebook is using that information to sell you.

Why is HIPAA important?  The fundamental answer is privacy.   So, I am not supposed to know that you broke your arm in 2002 but I can find out how much you are worth financially or other information that may be more harmful.

Where does Facebook come in?

You are providing information.   I have some friends in the Intelligence community that wouldn’t even sign up for Facebook.  It is “too dangerous” to put information like that out there.  The privacy settings are established between you and other users but that doesn’t have anything to do with the Facebook team themselves.  Facebook is a company that is using your information that you freely provide to make money.   If I came to your door and asked you questions about your personal life what would you be willing to tell me?

Here are some tips taken from the University of Texas at Austin on cyber security concerning Facebook

  • Consider restricting access to your profile. If the site allows it, it’s a good idea to limit access to your profile. Don’t allow strangers to learn everything they can about you. It’s just not safe.
  • Keep your private information private. Never post your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number, full birth date, financial information, or schedule. These will make you vulnerable to identity thieves, scams, burglars, or worse.
  • Choose a screen name that is different from your real name. Avoid using any personal information that would help someone identify or locate you offline.
  • Think twice before posting your photo. Photos can be used to identify you offline. They can also be altered or shared without your knowledge.
  • Don’t post information that makes you vulnerable to a physical attack. Revealing where you plan to meet your friends, your class schedule, or your street address is almost an open invitation for someone to find you. Remember that a photo in front of the Co-op tells strangers you are in Austin, and quite likely at the university.
  • Use your common sense. If you are contacted by a stranger online, find out if any of your established friends know the person, or run an online search on them (after all, you can use these things to your own benefit too!). If you agree to meet them, make it in a public place and invite others to join you.
  • Trust your instincts. If you feel threatened or uncomfortable during an online interaction, don’t continue the dialogue. Report any offensive behavior to the social networking Web site administrators.
  • Be suspicious. Don’t take any information you receive from a new online contact at face value. The Internet makes it easy for people to say or do things they would never say or do in public or in face-to-face interactions. Protecting yourself is the smart thing to do.

Here is an infographic showing some interesting statistics on how companies leverage your information.  

Whatever you choose to share or do concerning social media, please keep in mind that when you are talking to your mother, brother, sister, friend or neighbor that whatever you are telling them you are telling a corporation whose objective is to make money from that information.

Link to another article about you in realtime


Since the CEO of Netflix sent me a letter directly which is also in his blog post I believe I can comment on this here.   Here is my response.

Dear Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO, Netflix,

I am not sure why you sent me a letter today.   You didn’t resolve or change anything for me.   If you want my business I can tell you very clearly how to keep me as a customer.

  1. Don’t fix something that isn’t broken – Put the services back the way they were.
  2. Integrate video games into the mix.
  3. Go back to Sony and beg for forgiveness and get new titles streaming.
  4. If you want me to watch movies through your streaming service stop adding movies put out in 1955.
  5. Don’t tell me what you did and why you did it after the fact.
  6. If you don’t do what I am asking you, I won’t keep your service.
Fundamentally, it boils down to choices.  I can choose to go to Redbox and other places.   I don’t care for Blockbuster but at least I can trust them to maintain their business model as long as they are in business.
Finally,  since I believe that my post won’t matter and for that matter you perceive people like me as not significant be prepared to retire or just take your money and run.   You don’t need a business analyst to tell you that your company and proposed business model (to-be) is pre-destined to fail.  If you did need an analyst to tell you this, consider this a free off the clock warning.
Howie Cohen


There are times for all of us that events occur and we recognize them and put them together because of the relationships or context. I don’t normally blog about these situations for me personally because I feel that it is difficult to accurately and effectively convey the events in meaningful way. In other words I normally write about subject areas that I believe are meaningful for not just me but you. The reason I do this is because when I am reading something I always find myself either aligning to it in some way or not. If I am aligning myself to it, I am seeking the utility of it. What does it mean to me? How can I use this? How will this help me or my friends, family or coworkers?

This year I have been reading a lot about how our minds work. I have some great thinking friends who share my passion for understanding our humanity and how this understanding relates to our day to day personal interactions. The reason I am writing this here and now is because I plan on sharing some of these concepts on this blog. Since I write mostly about technology concepts and I keep my writing fairly generic with the intent of some utility I am letting you know that I resultant writing may vary at this point.

If for some reason any of the areas or ideas that I post offend or strike a chord please understand ahead of time that my intent is not to be confrontational but thought provoking.

I am currently reading a document that intertwines religious concepts and ideas in relation to how the mind works (thanks Dave). I will be writing about this very soon. In the meantime I am posting something that was introduced to me the other day called The Cluetrain Manifesto . I am still in the middle of trying to sort it all out but I think it applies to the ideas and concepts of human to human connectivity and the relationship with technology. As the person who shared this with me instructed, I will pass on the same information. He said ” Read the wiki first, then read the manifesto.” With that I am including the manifesto.

The Cluetrain Manifesto Feedback is welcome.

Why it can’t always be about the Developer

What came first the developer or the requirement?

I work with people who develop software and web services.  I consider them artists.   They come from all walks of life and their canvas is the integrated development environment.   Integrators and project leads can come from this developer community.  Most IT leaders will have some history writing software.   That being said, there are other people involved in IT that aren’t involved directly with writing software or software development.   They don’t have a development history and they haven’t written code.

A lot of people start in IT working as Technicians.  They start with the computer hobby and work their way into repair, get a job resolving hardware and software issues and move up in the organization that way.   Other people get involved in security, they lock down operating systems or understand how systems interact with each other,  no development involved.  There are people that work the switches and routers, people that setup wiring, configure the infrastructure and install operating environments.

Far too often we focus on the Developer.    The Developer role is important and critical but it isn’t the only role.   As an Integrator, I am constantly tackling challenges outside of development.    My suggestion to vendors, software providers, SOA practitioners, Cloud strategists and other industry leaders is to keep in mind the various roles and responsibilities during consideration of IT projects.   If you only focus on the developer, your project will cost more as you attempt to implement.  Other roles to consider.

Team Success Factors

Facilitator Role

The Project Facilitator is the human enabler or glue that bonds the team.  This person should have working knowledge of the project and understand work required or performed by the various team members.

The primary role of the facilitator is to assist the project manager.  The facilitator should be able to “execute decisions” on behalf of the project manager in other words; the facilitator should have the full trust of the project manager.

To be successful, a facilitator must help in some very specific areas.  Every team must have purpose and each project area should have context.  Write a charter or mission statement; keep it and other long-term goals posted in a common area.  In our case the common area would be software forge or something like software forge.  Ensure that each team member has a clear and meaningful role.  Align short term goals to your organization’s mission statement and long-term goals.  Write clear goals that everyone agrees to.  Revise roles and short term goals as projects tasks change.  A facilitator should question assignments that don’t contribute to long-term goals.   The organizations involved in the project should clearly understand the value of the project to their organization individually.

The facilitator also helps define, document and manage the multiple procedures and process methodology employed by the project.  Establish procedures for solving conflicts.  Establish and post in a common area a set of steps for solving problems or carrying out new ideas.  Set and follow agendas for use during meetings.  Use tools such as the defense connect online and telecommunications including defense connect online chat.  Make procedural suggestions.  Listen and respond with empathy.

The facilitator also helps establish and create a culture across the various partners/stakeholders of the project team.  Although the team members are from multiple services, combatant commands and agencies, a facilitator works to bring the team together as a cohesive unit.  The facilitator will listen and respond with empathy and he or she will maintain or enhance self esteem of the team members.  A facilitator helps the team stay focused by keeping them on topic and even facilitating discussions or meetings.  Information is shared through the whole team and transparency is a key enabler for all the stakeholders.  The team members are identified clearly as stakeholders and a facilitator helps them understand how they fit in to the project and what their roles and responsibilities are.  The facilitator includes all team members in decisions updates and problem-solving.

The facilitator keeps all team members involved, maintaining active communication. The facilitator encourages quiet team members to contribute.  In the cases that group decisions are mandatory a facilitator assists in making sure that all stakeholders have their say.  A facilitator encourages the stakeholders to build on each other’s ideas and initiatives, he or she will make sure that the work breakdown and tasking is properly distributed.

The facilitator encourages stakeholder commitment by consistently asking for help in solving problems.  Setting timelines and helping the project manager keep track of the multiple schedules and timelines that may intersect based on stakeholder requirements.  The facilitator may also come to realize individual team talents and ask for specialized skills to be utilized by the project team upon discovery.  The focus on team goals and aligning the timeline(s) is critical and should be stated up front while asking stakeholders to make a commitment to the project.

Most importantly, the facilitator should establish trust not only with the project manager but with each individual stakeholder.  This trust and relationship building is key to creating a successful project.

Essentially patterns of technology and collaboration can be used to approach different problem sets and satisfy operational objectives.  The facilitator’s role is essentially a project mediator on behalf of all stakeholders in the project.

Architect Role

The lead architect is focused on the enterprise.  The Architect works with the team to design and put into practice the collaboration pattern based on the requirements of the client. The role of the lead architect is to make sure that the long term vision of the organization is carried forward in the architectural designs – both operational and system.  The architect knows they have achieved success when the models demonstrate agility through business rules and system services.  This allows the business to adapt to an ever-changing environment without adversely affecting its internal components.


An architect links the business mission, strategy, and processes of an organization to its IT strategy. The architectural models show how the current and future needs of an organization will be met in an efficient, sustainable, agile, and adaptable manner.


The architectures translate business requirements into systems qualities and into repeatable design strategies and patterns that enable those qualities thus providing scalability, availability, non-repudiation, reusability.


The architect assures that all standards, models, designs, and methodologies are followed according to the specific organization, and monitors emerging standards and is able to modify accordingly.


An important characteristic to remember is that the work being done by the architect is ever-present and tangible to senior decision makers. An integral responsibility of the lead architect is the significant amount of time spent communicating and supporting the facilitator, as well as interacting with the stakeholders, both leadership and subject matter experts.


Engineer Role

The engineer is responsible for working with the team and stakeholders to accurately identify the right problem in a complex environment. The engineer sees the problem in context not only of the client’s mission, scope, and objectives, but also that of the stakeholder’s points of view.  The engineer manages schedules, resources, and funds – all limited – around the project’s mission.  Once the problem is known they can work with the Facilitator to communicate the many facets of the problem among the stakeholders and user communities.  The engineer works with the Architect to transition the As-Is models into multiple To-Be designs for the client to consider in an analysis of alternatives.


The primary responsibility of the engineer is to provide technological contributions to the technical teams throughout the application of the pattern process.

They have diverse technical disciplines across people, processes, and tools and are able to identify the most effective technologies to apply to the project. The engineer is able to meld all of the different team efforts into a unified solution to the problem.



Another part of the engineers’ role is working closely with the facilitator and architect to ensure that the work being completed is relevant to the client’s project deliverables, as well as changing the cultural behavior towards the pattern and making the project success a reality. The engineer adheres to the various procedures and policies defined by the project facilitator, and provide guidance to the technical teams keeping within the standards of the procedures and policies defined.