The IT Strategy Letter
Doug Kaye, RDS Strategies LLC
April 4, 2004 (Subscribe)

Daylight Savings Time -- Let the Grilling Begin!

As a California native (ignoring for a moment those 13 years in New York City) I used to be immune to the change of seasons. But increasingly I find my mood shifting sometime around the equinoxes. Daylight savings time is a reminder to come out of hibernation for those of us with decks, grills, allergies that begin in February, heatwaves in March, and daffodils that have long since died while those in New York have barely poked through the snow.

And it's time for another IT Strategy Letter.

Like the February before, my March was filled with producing new content for IT Conversations and enhancing the site's functionality. Some of you already subscribe to the announcements of new IT Conversations -- if you don't, you really should :-) -- so I won't merely duplicate the announcements here. Instead I'll use this forum to bring you my personal perspective on the past month's programs.

If I had to recommend just one program from the past month, it would be a toss-up between my interview with Dan Geer and the recordings by me and others of Lawrence Lessig's latest book, Free Culture. Dan and Larry are both big-idea people who put a great deal of thought into what they say and choose their words carefully. Well worth listening to or reading.

Dan Geer

Already well known for his leaderhsip of the Kerberos and X WIndows projects at MIT, Dan gained new attention last year when he co-authored a terrific paper, Cyber Insecurity, suggesting the security risks posed by the monoculture caused by Microsoft's dominance of the software industry. Drawing from his experience as a bio-statistician, Dan made the case that vendor diversity, just as in the genetic diversity of species, is necessary to ensure the quality and security of our computer systems.

More recently Dan has been speaking on the topic of another white paper entitled The Shrinking Perimeter -- Making the Case for Data Level Risk Management in which he suggests that "as we try protecting assets at the file-object level, access control will prove to be unscalable." The solution, Dan says, is the introduction of accountability -- tracking objects, not people. It's a fascinating topic, sure to give you plenty to think about.

Lawrence Lessig

Larry published his latest book, Free Culture, both in traditional hardcopy and as a free download (PDF) under a Creative Commons license. Barely a week ago, AKMA wondered if anyone wanted to record a chapter. 48 hours later, most of the book was available as MP3 downloads. I recorded Chapter One: Creators, which Glenn Reynolds described in Slate/MSNBC " good as anything I had ever heard on Books-on-tape." It was one of those lost weekends for AKMA, me and others, but most important is the content of Larry's book. Buy it, download it or listen to it. Scott Matthews has compiled a convenient archive. (I also interviewed AKMA and Larry briefly last Monday.)

Weekly Check-Ins

At the end of February I began an experiment, weekly Check-Ins containing short interviews with popular bloggers, journalists and others. I've produced six such shows to date including conversations with:

Doc Searls, Linux Journal
Ed Cone. Baseline Magazine
Marc Canter
David Weinberger, his new Harvard fellowship
Chris Pirillo, Lockergnome & RSS
Elizabeth Spiers, New York Magazine
Phil Windley, Ask Phil
Rich Miller, SCO v. Linux
Robert Scoble, Microsoft
Dann Sheridan, DARPA Grand Challenge
Dan Gillmor, San Jose Mercury News
Steve Gillmor, eWeek
Mary Jo Foley,
Bram Cohen, BitTorrent
Andrew Grumet, RSS & TiVo
Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture
AKMA, Recording Larry's book
Simon Carless,

Those are in addition to the usual IT Conversations in-depth interviews. No wonder I felt tired in March!

Chris Pirillo: Controversial?

After the short Check-In with Chris Pirillo, I cornered him for an in-depth interview. Those of you who have listened to at least a few IT Conversations know that I try to get to know the people behind the technology. That's no problem with Chris, who doesn't hesitate to tell you what's on his mind. We talked about his background and the genesis of and Gnomedex, essentially a geekfest with an open bar that runs fours days and costs only $99.

But I wasn't prepared for the polarized response to this interview. Chris has thousands of fans, which accounts for the high number of listens and reads and the high ratings we received for this interview. But it also generated more negative comments in email than any other interview I've produced to date. Some listeners were offended by the bare-chested magazine cover parody image I reproduced in the announcement email. Others have just always found Chris annoying, even in his stints on radio and television. Based on the ratings I'd say he has more admirers than critics, but I was caught off-guard by the controversy that seems to follow him.

Yes, We Have Sports!

Last month also saw IT Conversations' first live coverage of a sporting event. (I never thought I'd be writing that!) With help from Dann Sheridan and Soren Ragsdale, both armed with cell phones, we streamed twelve hours of live coverage of the DARPA Grand Challenge 2004 in southern California.

Okay, so none of the unmanned vehicles completed even 5% of the 142-mile course. It was still cool. As it turned out, we were the only independent continuous live coverage of the event, and once the word got out among the participants and fans more than 250 listeners learned about us over the course of the day through word-of-mouth and a few blogs. Some sent email from as far away as Germany and Latvia. Live events are always fun, and this was no exception.

The Softech Series

Ten years ago I was on the Board of Directors of a group called Softech here in Marin County, California. Last week IT Conversations began on-demand coverage of selected Softech events with this presentation by Ann Winblad of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. Softech is typical of the dozens of regional organizations such as SDForum that host monthly events with excellent speakers. I'm trying to contact these groups (worldwide) and offer to process and host the audio of their best sessions. If you know of such a group, please let me know. At the very least, watch for more great Softech content.

Philip Greenspun

Just yesterday I posted an interview I did in early March with Philip Greenspun, author of Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing, an inspiration to many programmers writing server-side code on Unix/Linux platforms. This is another great one I hope you'll read or listen to. Philip describes the evolution of his attitudes towards software engineering as manifested in Philip and Alex's Guide and his latest book, Software Engineering for Internet Applications, for a course at MIT where "the goal of the course is that the student finishes knowing how to build by him or herself." (That must be one heck of a semester!)

Oh, and by the way, Philip also built, which receives 10 million hits/day from 400,000 unique visitors each month, and co-founded and ran ArsDigita, a now-defunct website development shop using many of the tools Philip and his associates developed previously. You won't want to miss the story of how the venture capitalists to whom Philip relinquished control of this $20 million profitable company ran it into the ground. There are lessons there for any budding (or experienced) entrepreneur.

The IT Conversations Upgrades

I've had great feedback on the up-front and behind-the-scenes improvements to IT Conversations. Most notably, I redesigned the site visually and through the extensive use of CSS. I also enhanced the usability by improving the organization and shortening many of the clickthrough paths. Throughout the month I've made many small changes (as recently as Friday night) in response to visitor feedback. Please keep those suggestions coming; even with thousands of listeners and readers, every little comment carries a lot of weight.

Until sometime in February, the site included a discussion forum link for every edition of IT Conversations. I was underwhelmed with the activity, so I turned off the forum links and added trackbacks to the per-show detail pages. Trackbacks, familiar to many bloggers, are like comments except that what you write resides on your website not ours. An excerpt and a link from your comment gets posted to our site so that visitors get a taste of what you have to say and a way to read the full version on your site. In less than a week, IT Conversations had far more trackbacks than the site ever had entries on the forums.

I even broke down and bought G4 iBook to see how Macintosh experienced the site. Immediately I found and fixed one problem. (Why didn't you folks complain earlier? I can't believe you suffered so long without someone finally speaking up.) As an aside, I have to admit that OS X v10.3 Panther is quite cool. The iBook has already earned a place as my preferred notebook, replacing my aging but much lighter Sony Vaio Picturebook.

At the very beginning of March the IT Conversations studio went pure digital with the addition of a Telos Two ISDN digital hybrid as the interface to the phone lines. There isn't a talk-radio station anywhere in the world that now has a better system than ours, and many of you have commented upon the improved audio from most callers. The path for telephone-caller audio is entirely digital from the telco to the final mix. The only analog audio originates from the studio microphone.


And finally, thanks for all your words of praise for IT Conversations. Keep them (and the complaints) coming!

Loosely Coupled--Now Available as a PDF (at a 63% Discount)


  • Entire book: US$14.95
  • Major parts (4 total): US$5.95 each
  • Individual chapters (21 total): US$1.95 each

As an alternative to the hardcopy edition, you can now download my latest book in PDF format at a substantial discount using PayPal or BitPass. From the time you purchase the eBook version, you have 7 days during which you can download the content up to 10 times. The PDF files can be printed, but the text cannot be copied or modified. Review of the Week:

"This book provides an excellent explanation of why companies should be looking at Web services. It approaches the topic with an honest and straightforward description of the problem space Web services are targeted to address and the characteristics/short comings of those technologies as they exist today and as they are expected to evolve. Perfect for IT decision makers who are evaluating how/where Web services fit in their corporate IT strategy."

--James Snell, IBM, author Programming Web Services with SOAP
(Read more reviews.)

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The IT Strategy Letter is published weekly by RDS Strategies LLC. Much -- but not all -- of the content is published earlier in Doug Kaye's weblogs.


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"...essential reading for anyone seeking to deploy this technology."

--John Hagel, III,
management consultant
and author of
"Out of the Box"


Read More Reviews of Loosely Coupled