Tag Archives: power

Power and Lust

I’ve spent a few days attaching solid-wall insulating lining-paper to the walls of my home office. To stop me climbing up said walls and hopefully to drown out most of the swearing, I’ve been listening to the ‘Business Shift’ podcasts by Megan Murray and Euan Semple. I started with #19 after seeing @Euan tweet about it, then listened to #6 on “Power”, largely because I feel a recent victim of its abuse. Since then, I’ve gone back to the beginning and forward, so far, to #10 “Security”.

Megan and Euan are interested in some of my many obsessions and we seem to share similar values but they come at everything from a slightly different angle, which is always interesting. Listening quickly to several podcasts, recorded over months, allows you to see recurring themes: change, corporate culture, process, networks, complexity, infinite shades of gr(e/a)y (including ball-gags), relationships, anarchism, agility and “IT”.

Their distrust of ‘IT’ is very similar to my distrust of ‘Management’ and they blame it for exactly the same things I blame managers. I see IT from below, where well-meaning and knowledgeable techies propose great ideas that get watered down and corrupted by ‘IT Management’ who feel the need to simplify everything, and then blame the resultant crass decisions on other managers ‘in the business’ (I’ve never quite understood why IT isn’t .) Where I hear “the business won’t pay for it”, I guess Megan and Euan are told, “IT say we can’t do that.” A quick comparison with science and politicians is alarming.

I’ve finally been pushed over the edge into responding by the suggestion that information ‘Security’ is an IT issue. I spent a year of my life telling IT managers that they may own the ‘Technology’ but that the ‘Information’ belonged to the business; that IT controls were only an answer after you had helped the business identify information resources and analysed value and risk. My attempt to change culture was countered by making my post redundant, centralising IT Security and appointing someone who didn’t want to mess with the borders of power. I’m sure my customers were told that I’d wasted a year but now they’d bought in someone who knew what he was doing and they got a single desk-top with automatically updating anti-virus software and fire-walls, whether we needed it or not.

Megan and Murray talk around the way in which the world of work is being ‘Shift’ed by Internet-enabled networks of (hopefully) intelligent humans. A world where people in the business who are trying to do useful things can connect directly to people who have expert knowledge of the tools they need, bypassing the layers of power-hungry or frightened people who corrupt the signal to further their own selfish interests.

You should have a listen and decide whether you want to take back the world from the people who think they own it http://business-shift.com/. I particularly recommend http://business-shift.com/podcast/2013/4/25/shift-episode-006

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With Great Power Comes Great Exploitability

Between Christmas and New Year I saw Wolf Hall & Bring Up The Bodies at the RSC’s Swan Theatre. They tell a tale of how low men will sink, initially in pursuit of power, then to hang on to it and finally, just to survive. I’m sure Samsung, Google, Apple and Microsoft are not Henry VIII but I noted that the only thing the powerful are afraid of is the opinion of ‘the people’. When they lie to us, even to themselves, someone needs to point it out to them. Perhaps their souls might still be saved.

Allow me to take a break from the tale I began in my most recent blog entry, to give a real world example of why open standards matter, while it’s fresh in my mind.

I have a ‘Smart TV’ made by Samsung (which they no longer support.) I have a Samsung Galaxy S phone (2 actually, because Samsung no longer support them either, so ‘normals’ buy a new phone.) I have boxen, in various states of decrepitude, running Linux and I have occasional access to Apple OS X, Windows 7 laptops and a Google Nexus 7. They all connect over a wireless router from O2 and a Wireless Access Point from Netgear. They are not part of the problem.

It should be easy to play content from any of the intelligent devices on any of the display devices. Blindly moving bit-streams over distance is what The Internet was designed for. There is a device discovery protocol called UPnP and a wireless streaming protocol called DLNA that were defined for this. I’m sure you will be amazed to know that it isn’t easy. While AllShare on my Galaxy S plays nicely with it’s cousin the Samsung TV, the software isn’t available for the newer Android on the Nexus 7, nor even on the latest Samsung phones. Neither have Samsung made their AllShare software available for Linux (now renamed ‘Samsung Link’ to reduce irony levels.) Odd, as I thought Google said Android was ‘open’ and Android is built on Linux.

Apple want me dependent on the company iTunes store. Microsoft would like me using MediaServer to ‘keep me’ committed to Windows. Samsung wanted me to use AllShare/Link and Google now want me locked in to Chromecast, so ‘all my database are belong to them’.

I’d like life to be easy. I think most of us would. Apple will sell me easy. Google and Microsoft will sell a close approximation, and cheaper. I suspect Samsung will change their definition of easy every 6 months because clearly everyone should upgrade all their electronic equipment annually. I’m not willing to play this game of ‘1984’ bred with excessive consumption. I suspect DLNA underlies all these ‘products’ and they can be made to work together but an electric fence is still oppressive, even if you only believe it to be turned on.

I want freedom and privacy and I’ve accepted that I’ll soon have to pay for that. If we are in a new services market then I want it to be fair, transparent and competitive. Private protocols should not be used to lock us in walled gardens, however shiny the handles on the shovels.