Poetic Justice

During my time covering the Avery Doninger case, I’ve often pondered better ways of this being handled. Avery Doninger is the high school student who was barred from running for class office after she wrote a blog post at home critical of the school administration, using the word Douchebag and encouraging parents to call the school, when the school administration cancelled, or if you want to parse words the administration’s way, postponed yet again, a battle of the bands known as JamFest.

I don’t know the details of why Jamfest was repeatedly cancelled and rescheduled, but it seems that there should have been a better process. I do know that Avery could have used better language when she encouraged the citizens of the town to get engaged in the issue, and I believe that Avery has learned that herself. I believe that the school administration could have made much better choices in how to take the incident and turn it into a teachable moment instead of a Federal lawsuit.

Now, Principal Karissa Niehoff is being punished for errors that she has made. On May 31st, Principal Niehoff sent an email to Mike Morris concerning details of the case. The email appears to have violated policies of the Board of Education and the Professional Code of Conduct of the State of Connecticut.for School Administrators. As a result, Ms. Niehoff has been asked to write a formal letter of apology to the Avery and her family, has been placed on administrative leave without pay for two days, and has been asked to attend a workshop on the Family Educational Right and Privacy Act. In addition, Ms. Niehoff will be asked to develop at least one goal for the 2008-2009 school year that will show her understanding of the seriousness of this. Perhaps she should start a blog about this and post ideas on how school administrators can better address these issues in a digital age online. Others have suggested that poetic justice would call for her not being allowed to speak at this year’s graduation ceremony.

I applaud the new Superintendent, Alan Beitman, in his efforts to take the situation and make it an educational experience for all involved. I also appreciate the difficulties that a case like this presents. It is difficult to be constrained by advice from lawyers as well as professional responsibility from speaking out when you feel that only the other side is being heard. Yet my interest in the Doninger case has brought me in touch with representatives of other school districts. I have been impressed with the professionalism with which other school administrators address complicated situations, situations much more complicated than the Doninger case.

The age of instant, persistent searchable communications places many new challenges that Ms. Doninger, Ms Niehoff and all of us need to think long and hard about. My interactions with Ms. Doninger leads me to believe that she has learned much about our rights and responsibilities in a digital age. Let us hope that Ms. Niehoff will have similar learning opportunities and will be able to make good use of them.

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High points and Low points of the Technology Management Conference, Day 2

One of the bigger disappointments of the Technology Management Conference was Don Tapscott’s keynote speech Wednesday morning. Tapscott is co-author of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. I really looked forward to hearing some profound reflections on how Wikinomics relates to the financial services industry. Unfortunately, the session was scheduled to start at 8 AM, and because of a collection of transportation issues, I just could not make it into New York from New Haven in time to hear what Mr. Tapscott had to say. I hope he did say something profound and enlightening and that others will write about it.

The most exciting high point of the show was talking with Michael Warner, CEO and Founder of Quantum 4D. Quantum 4D provides a data visualization tool using 3D models, that shift as a time series is played through it, dependent on the perspective of the viewer. It is still in an early stage and there were lots of things that I wish it had. For example, you load data into Quantum 4D in batches, instead of Quantum 4D connecting up to real time data feeds. Their presentation layer looks good, and they talk about the ability of users to collaborate in the three dimensional space that the data creates. We talked about taking the presentation object and incorporating it into other systems. Being the Second Life fan that I am, I suggested finding ways of presenting their model in Second Life so people could collaborate in a virtual world to work with the data. There was some resistance to this idea due to some of the bad press that Second Life has received.

We talked about using QWAQ as a collaboration tools and about looking at integration with other collaboration tools. We talked about pricing models and about different companies creating their own data spaces that they could share on a free or subscription basis. This was definitely the hottest software I saw there. My sense is that it is something that only innovators and visionaries are likely to get right now, and the challenge will be to see how it develops, scales, gets documented, builds its community, and on and on, before it becomes the tool of choice by early adopters and the early majority.

After seeing such an interesting and compelling presentation, I was wondering what the Open Source Update panel had to say. The panel was made up of luminaries, Roger Burkhardt, CEO and President of Ingres, Randy Hergett, director of engineering for Open Source at Hewlett-Packard, Roger Levy, SVP and General Manager of Open Platform Solutions for Novell, Marcus Rex, CTO of The Linux Foundation, and Michael Tiemann, VP of Open Source Affairs at Red Hat. Unfortunately, it was too much like so many other panels, where the moderator asked lots of questions and didn’t really provide an opportunity to let these people shine. I left the panel without having heard anything new or interesting.

The final highpoint was the marketing effort of FTEN. They describe themselves as “an independent non-broker dealer application service provider (ASP) that offers these sophisticated solutions to Clearing Firms, Broker Dealers, Prime Brokers, Hedge Funds and Proprietary Traders.” They boast about their access, speed and control. Their swag was little stuffed pig toys with wings. They had women dressed as pigs with wings at their booth and they even gave away helium balloons to members of the press to try and get reporters to their booth. I didn’t find anything particularly exciting or innovative about their platform, but I do have to compliment them as having what seemed to be the most sought after and talked about swag.

Today is the final day of the Technology Management Conference. I’m working up in Connecticut today and won’t make it in. However, I was glad about what I did get to see, as well as the chance to connect with many old friends at the show and look forward to next year’s SIFMA Technology and Management Conference and Exhibition.

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Wordless Wednesday

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Unstructured Data

Just about every year, I find a key theme from the Technology Management Conference (TMC), and this year’s theme seems to be unstructured data. Other years, compliance seems to be an issue, such as the year after Sarbanes Oxley took effect. Another year seemed to be about phone turrets, but that might have been because I was in the market for phone turrets that year.

So, I’m not sure if it is because I am attending TMC this year, in part as a blogger, or if it is just that much more prominent, but unstructured data turned out to be a key part of my discussions.

When I picked up my press credentials, there was a press release from Firstrain announcing the FirstRain Blog Monitor. The press release talked about the proprietary FirstRain MarketScore Algorithm “to conintually analyze and identify the most impactful blogs from the hundreds of thousands across the broad web”.

Penny Herscher, president and CEO of FirstRain was quoted as saying, “Blogs are where many of the most intriguing questions, trends and ideas first come to light”. The press release ended with a pointer to Penny’s blog.

NewsEdge was also on the first floor of the show. They are a news searching tool that has been around for several years. They do not current crawl blogs as part of their real time news, but they do have the ability search blogs and they hope to add blog crawling by the end of the year.

At the other end of the spectrum was NewsWare. They do not track blogs because “blogs don’t factcheck” a spokesperson for the company said.

Not far away from NewsEdge and NewsWare was Dow Jones Newsfeeds. They were touting their Solutions for Algorithmic and Quantitative Trading. In essence Dow Jones is taking key reports and providing elementized newsfeeds that are especially interesting to algorithm traders. I keep hearing good stuff about their feeds and it was my first chance to get details. They do not include information from blogs in their elementized news feeds, however they make extensive use of it in other products, such as Factiva.

In addition, the Dow Jones representative spoke about “Generate”, a Boston based firm that Dow Jones recently acquired which dynamically tracks information on around 4.7 million executives, ties it together with other news data to provide a solution something like what you would expect from a businessman’s mashup of Google and LinkedIn.

All of this led to a particularly interesting company, JackBe. JackBe provides an ‘Enterprise Mashup Platform’, that gathers information from many platforms on the web and within the enterprise so that it can be presented as a widget that a company can use internally or externally. They have done work in other businesses and are starting to explore providing their technology to the financial services sector. They were the most interesting tool I found on the first day of TMC for structuring unstructured data. It will be interesting to see what day two brings.

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