An odd stat …

Some time ago, I crafted a presentation called “Disrupt or disappear”, looking at responses to the disruptions of new technology paradigms. I put it on Slideshare, and I more or less forgot it.

Stats mailed by Slideshare just now tell me it got nearly 350 views last year. That’s gratifying. But what’s odd is that around three quarters of those apparently came from Ukraine …

I have no idea why !

Link:
• Disrupt or Disappear, Slideshare by InformationSpan, 27 July 2010

We have changed …

You may have noticed the blog looks different.

I’ve just set up a second WordPress blog. In trying to select a theme for the new one, I inadvertently changed ITasITis. And I couldn’t get back, so I made a new choice.

Hope you like it!

Why I hate the new Google Maps

I finally allowed myself to be pushed into using the new Google Maps instead of the old familiar one.

Here are all the things that I cannot do as easily as previously.

1 – have it open by default with my own location rather than the blanket map of the USA

2 – immediately find my own list of custom maps. It’s an extra click and I have to know that it appears as a drop down from the search bar. Custom maps have become a lot more complicated to create and manage, too, with “layers” and so on. And there’s a different set of marker icons, differently styled from the old ones. So modifying an existing map, such as the one I maintain for Brighton Early Music Festival, won’t be straightforward if I want to maintain consistent styling.

3 – sharing has changed. It used to be simple: create a map, and embed the HTML provided. Now, for example, the Brighton Early Music Festival map doesn’t properly display the venue markers. Never had a problem before. Still working on this one!

4 – “search nearby” was a simple click from the pin marker on the old version. These pin markers have got “smart” which means that if I search for Victoria Coach Station, when I click or hover on the pin what I get is a list of all the coach services which leave from there. If I right click, I get three options: Directions to here; Directions from here; and What’s here, which doesn’t seem to do anything. If I search for Ebury Street (essentially the same location) I get a pin with no smart hover at all. But the marker does not now pop up nearby information, Directions, Save and Search Nearby options.

5 – no accessible help without going out to separate web pages; and even then the instructions don’t make sense. For example, Google says that “Search nearby” is on a drop down you find by clicking the search box. No, it doesn’t. Not in Firefox. It does, though, appear to work in Chrome. I don’t like being pushed to a different browser.

6 – having found Search nearby, I get given (of course) a set of strange, supposedly related, links. Well I suppose this is what Google does. But for me, it gets in the way.

7 – extra panels and drop-downs obscure parts of the map I’m trying to look at

Now all this, and more, is partly the natural response to changing a familiar application. Let’s assume that overall the product is fuller-featured and more flexible than the old version, and its links to the rest of Google’s information are more capable. But software vendors in general are not always good at user-oriented upgrades. Keep the backward compatibility unless there’s a really, really good reason not to. Icon redesigns, and added complexity in the user interface, are not good reasons.

I’m exploring alternatives. Apple’s new map application doesn’t have near the same level of functionality, and older offerings such as Streetmap haven’t really moved on either. But for (UK) route planning, for example, I’m now using either AA or RAC route planner – which still have the simple, straightforward A-to-B interface.

Links:
• Google Maps (new version)
• How to search “nearby” in new Google Maps? Google Forum, 11 Jun 2013
• Google Removes “Search Nearby” Function From Updated Google Maps, contributor to Slashdot, 16 Jan 2014
• Route planners from the AA and RAC
Streetmap (UK)

Link: Heartbleed update

A quick follow up, back from a few days away.

Huffington Post have a recent update which notes that the Open SSL vulnerability applies in major products from Cisco and Juniper Networks. They also repeat what’s becoming the consensus on passwords: change your passwords for services which you know were vulnerable but have now been patched. There’s no point in changing a password which might still be at risk.

They reference the Mashable resource on what’s been patched a,md copy the patchable list: Google (and Gmail), Yahoo (and Yahoo Mail), Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Etsy, GoDaddy, Intuit, USAA, Box, Dropbox, GitHub, IFTTT, Minecraft, OKCupid, SoundCloud and Wunderlist.  A quick look, though, suggests that the Mashable article was a one-off and the list is not being kept updated.

The article also recommends turning off external access to your home network: the sort of capability, for example, that you might use for remote access through LogMeIn, TeamViewer or similar. If you’re not using this kind of facility, disable it. Your firewall should already be holding the line on this.

And check what your Internet provider is doing and the status of your wireless router. Being a BT user. with a BT Home Hub, I tried searching the bt.com website for information on Heartbleed but nothing surfaced. It would be nice to know.

Huffington suggests that, at the moment, public WiFi has to be treated as an unknown quantity since you can’t tell what infrastructure they use or whether it’s been patched. BT again doesn’t have any information on the impact of Heartbleed on BT Wifi (Openzone, as was) but it does say that user details are encrypted when you log in to their service. It’s perhaps ironic that they offer free Cisco VPN software, which you can download when connected to one of their hotspots. I didn’t know this. I’ll take it up for my laptop.

I also have an O2 Wifi locator app on my phone. There’s nothing about security on their website. Anyone with other Wifi-finder apps? Please check their sites and post a comment here about what you find.

Links:
• The Heartbleed Bug Goes Even Deeper Than We Realized – Here’s What You Should Do, Alexis Kleinman, The Huffington Post, 11 Apr 2014
• Security when using BT’s Wi-fi hotspots, BTWifi.com, with link to the Cisco offer
• The Heartbleed Hit List, Mashable, 9 Apr 2014
• What to make of Heartbleed? ITasITis, 4 Apr 2014

Monkey puzzler extraordinary

This is not about IT. But I just have to post a short note, one among very many, responding to the news this morning that the Guardian’s Araucaria, doyen of crossword setters, has died. Maybe it is about IT: John Graham always kept up to date and was as likely to choose technology as classical literature or mediaeval music as the theme for one of his specials. Who else could cause the solver to laugh with delight when the idea behind a complex-seeming clue turned out to be simple, elegant and esoteric? Like many of his legions of followers I shall miss him.

One small bone to pick though with the Guardian’s several obituaries and tributes. Araucaria’s alphabetical jigsaws were indeed one of his most distinctive contributions to the genre. But they had more than 26 clues; the starting point was almost always the one, or two, points in the grid where both an across and a down answer started with the same letter.

Thankyou.

Links:
• Rev John Graham, aka crossword setter Araucaria, dies aged 92: The Guardian, 27 Nov 2013 (online on the 26th). Search for other tributes, and read the responses too.
Araucaria Crosswords (the home page now announces his death)

Business Process Improvement

Working for GlaxoSmithKline IT, after the 2000 merger, developed my familiarity with business process improvement (small letters) and with Six Sigma methods and metrics. I would never call myself an expert. Routine training was to Green Belt level, without taking the qualifying exam, and I don’t have the instincts which make a leading practitioner able to pick the right tools to adopt for any specific need.

But it taught me a lot, which can be applied well beyond IT. First: as a previous CEO used to say, “If you don’t keep score, you’re only practising”. So, to drive and verify and improvement, you need metrics. But pick the right ones, which will show you where you are. Establish your baseline before you start doing anything. Use the metrics to demonstrate the change (you hope!). And when the improved process has reached the status of business-as-usual, you can probably drop the measure. It’s no longer needed.

Second: a saying that was drummed into us. “Don’t tinker!”. Don’t make changes on the basis of “I think …” without the analysis. Don’t over-react to one-off incidents: processes have variability, and some outliers will happen naturally.

And third: develop and demonstrate your own (internal IT) understanding and improvements before you try to work with the rest of the business. IT has, perhaps, an unique overview of what goes on across the company, and is almost always a participant in any business improvement project. So there’s good leverage there: but you have to gain credibility first. It takes a lot to get to the point where, when a business leader asks for an IT development, you can say “Why? What improvement are you driving? Who will own it? How will you measure it?”

Well: tomorrow I’m facilitating a Corporate IT Forum event on Business Process Improvement (BPI). I’m expecting the twin threads of, first, identifying and improving IT’s own processes; and, second, putting that experience and expertise at the service of the business as a whole. Where are the sources of information and analysis?

Gartner have a Leaders Key Initiative on BPI. The overview, as recent as July this year, has a natty graphic showing the BPI practitioner as a juggler (operations, transformation, skills, technology and innovation) under pressure from both business and technology forces. They offer a number of tools for maturity assessment “across IT disciplines” (what about the rest-of-business?); key metrics (that’s IT spending and staffing, not how to measure a process); and best practices across several competencies. It seems, though, towards the end to lapse back into business process management (BPM) not BPI.

There isn’t a lot in the Gartner blogs, but a useful post from Samantha Searle earlier this year challenges us to avoid the word “Process” (unless your business-side colleagues are process engineers or in manufacturing). That kind of gells with the observation that Gartner probably, under the covers, maintain an IT-oriented focus because Process is very present in the key initiative!

Similarly I don’t find a great deal in Forrester specifically around BPI. But there’s a stronger focus on the interplay of IT expertise and whole-business improvement. A recent report, for example, discusses the shift from “a tactical process improvement charter” to a more strategic role across the enterprise. This requires a plan “for optimizing the BPM practice to deliver on new strategic drivers and business objectives”. That sounds more like it.

Interestingly, a search collected a link to Cambridge University which I expected to be to the business school or computer science. But it’s to their internal management services division with a one-page (one-slide, really) graphic and definition of BPI. Take a look. But the Judge Institute of Management Studies does indeed have a Centre for Process Excellence and Innovation, also worth reviewing.

There’s a lot of material you can find by searching. Too much to survey. Assess with care!

Links:
• Business Process Improvement Leaders Key Initiative Overview, Gartner, 25 Jul 2013 (search Gartner for ID:G00251230)
• 10 New Year Resolutions for BPM Practitioners #2: Don’t Mention the “P-word …, Samantha Searle, Gartner blogs, 8 Feb 2013
• Optimize Your Business Process Excellence Program To Meet Shifting Priorities, Clay Richardson, Forrester report, 6 Jun 2013
• Business Process Improvement, University of Cambridge, Management and Information Services Division (undated)
• Centre for Process Excellence and Innovation, Judge Institute, University of Cambridge