The IT Strategy Letter
Doug Kaye, RDS Strategies LLC
May 31, 2004 (Subscribe)

Happy Birthday, IT Conversations!

The IT Strategy Letter, which I began publishing as a weekly newsletter more than two years ago, was conceived as a way for me to communicate my personal strategic thoughts. The newsletter is now barely a monthly, and some of you have asked me why the content no longer includes my own essays. The answer is that I've found a better way to bring you the ideas of top consultants, journalists and analysts who know a whole lot more about their fields than I ever will. Just look at the examples of amazing people below.

Twelve months ago I recorded my first interview with Phil Windley, and since then the archives have swelled to include 113 interviews, discussions and conference presentations. By year end, that number will exceed 250. I've added transcripts for those who prefer reading to listening, introduced RSS feeds, and most recently added features such as Personal Program Queues and SmartBrowse.

In February, I broadcast IT Conversations' first live events, the O'Reilly Digital Democracy Teach-In and Emerging Technology Conference. These were a huge success, so look forward to coverage of more O'Reilly conferences and others. (I'll be announcing a great one in the next few weeks.)

Along the path to achieving my goal of five new shows per week by the end of the year, I've recently added programs organized and produced by others such as Matt Hartley's open-source series starting with evangelist Chris DiBona, and now the fabulous Gillmor Gang, which Steve Gillmor hosts live every Friday.

So join me in wishing IT Conversations a happy first birthday, and keep listening as we work towards our second. For now, here are some of the highlights of the past month on IT Conversations:

Bruce Schneier

This is the one interview I hope everyone will read or hear.

In his lated book, Beyond Fear, security guru Bruce Schneier goes beyond cryptography and network security to challenge our post-9/11 national security practices. Here are some teasers:

  • "We're seeing so much nonsense after 9/11, and so many people are saying things about security, about terrorism that just makes no sense."
  • "Homeland security measures are an enormous waste of money."
  • "If the goal of security is to protect against yesterday's attacks, we're really good at it."
  • "The system didn't fail in the way the designers expected."
  • "Attackers exploit the rarity of failures."
  • "More people are killed every year by pigs than by sharks, which shows you how good we are at evaluating risk."
  • "Did you ever wonder why tweezers were confiscated at security checkpoints, but matches and cigarette lighters--actual combustible materials--were not?...If the tweezers lobby had more power, I'm sure they would have been allowed on board as well."
  • "When the U.S. Government says that security against terrorism is worth curtailing individual civil liberties, it's because the cost of that decision is not borne by those making it."
  • "...people make bad security trade-offs when they're scared."

Read or listen to this terrific interview in which Bruce also says what he thinks of the 9/11 hearings and answers questions from listeners regarding spam and biometrics. This is one of the best.

Ben and Mena Trott - Six Apart

We buy and download software from faceless companies all the time. (Quick: Can you name the authors of the programs on your PC or Mac?) But some companies are as well known for their founders and CEOs as for the products and services they provide. While still a tiny startup, Six Apart is already in this group. Not only has the company carved out a leading position in the nascent niche of blogging tools, its founders, Ben and Mena Trott, have acquired personal reputations among their customers and critics alike. Some say there's a mystique surrounding Six Apart.

Ben and Mena may be the classic examples of founders who succeed because they don't know what they're not supposed to be able to do. Prior to version 3.0, Movable Type was donation-ware and the average contribution was only US$0.38. That's probably not too shabby compared to others, but it wasn't going to support what the team has in mind for the future. Six Apart recently brought in outside funding and members of its board, and the company is changing rapidly.

I sat down with this husband-and-wife team on the eve of the launch of Movable Type 3.0 to find out what's behind Ben and Mena's public image and the company they're building. The couple has been dating since they were 17 years old, and the company name reflects that their birthdays are six days apart. But beyond the tabloid questions, you'll find they're truly passionate about their products, employees, and customer and developer communities.

In this deeply personal interview you'll hear how Ben and Mena have struggled with the challenges of growth from a two-person shop to nearly 30 employees on three continents in just six months. You'll appreciate their angst over charging for MT 3.0 for fear they'll offend their customers. Quite a contrast to those little utilities you download for $29.95 and never use again. (A limited personal-use license of MT 3.0 is still free.) Now they're dealing with the controversy surrounding TypeKey, their hosted identity service for weblog comments. Hasn't Microsoft tried the same thing with Passport? Hear why Ben and Mena think TypeKey is different.

If you've ever had the urge to start your own software company, with or without your spouse or significant other, you'll enjoy listening to or reading this conversation. If you're a TypePad or Movable Type customer, you'll learn a lot about the people behind the code.

The Gillmor Gang -- A New Weekly Series

Steve Gillmor, contributing editor of eWeek, has been around IT long enough to know and/or worked with every top journalist and analyst in the industry. He's pulled together some of the very best as the Gillmor Gang:

Steve Gillmor, contributing editor, eWeek
Doc Searls, senior editor, Linux Journal
Jon Udell, lead analyst, InfoWorld Test Center
Dana Gardner, senior analyst, Yankee Group

Join Steve, the Gang, and a special guest live every Friday at noon Pacific time (3pm Eastern) for this timely discussion of whatever's on the tops of the gang-members minds. If you can't be there Friday, check the archives; I usually manage to post the shows by late Friday night, followed by transcripts of the best shows a few days later.

Steve and I have produced three programs to date, with the following special guests:

Michael Vizard, editor-in-chief, CRN Magazine
Mary Jo Foley, author of Ziff Davis'
Dan Farber, ZDNet Editor

Phil Zimmermann -- PGP

During the 1990s, Phil was the target of a three-year criminal investigation because the US Federal Government held that export restrictions for cryptographic software were violated when his invention, Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), spread all around the world following its publication as freeware. Despite a lack of funding, a staff, or even a company to stand behind him, and despite government persecution, PGP nonetheless, became the most widely used e-mail encryption software in the world.

After the government dropped its case in early 1996, Phil founded PGP Inc., which was acquired the following year by Network Associates where Phil stayed on for three years as a senior fellow. In August 2002, PGP was acquired from Network Associates by a new company called PGP Corporation where Phil now serves as a special advisor and consultant. Phil is also consulting for a number of companies and industry organizations on cryptographic matters and is also a fellow at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society.

In this interview Phil explains how reading a kids' book on secret codes and invisible ink led to a career in cryptography. He explains why he developed PGP and how he obtained a license to use the Diffie-Hellman algorithm even though it was held by a patent cartel at the time.

Phil also talks about the history and future of PHP, tells the odd-bedfellows story of finding himself in agreement with Attorney General John Ashcroft on issues of encryption exports, the solutions to spam, and why he rarely digitally signs his own email messages.

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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©2004 Doug Kaye and RDS Strategies LLC.
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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