Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Smart Work, Cities, Planet

Somebody should write a book about Cisco's pioneering corporate culture -- of all the Cisco employees I know, not a one of them goes to the office M-F, 9-5. More likely, they live hundreds of miles away on their ranch, or near their aging parents, or in some dream location of their choosing. They "come to work," via the Internet and telephone, or via videoconferencing, a technology that Cisco has done so well it deserves to be called telepresence. Employee visits to the mother ship are on an as-needed basis.

You may think I'm being paid from Cisco to write this. Not even close; I'm an enthusiast. I am attending Cisco's Connected Urban Development in Amsterdam completely on my own nickel. Full disclosure: Cisco is a sponsor of certain activities, but the sponsoring organization is not connected to the CUD effort except at the very top of the hierarchy. I WISH I could get more involved in spreading the fact that Cisco's telepresence is a huge leap beyond everything else I've seen, but so far, Cisco has not embraced my advances. So -- full disclosure -- I am hoping Cisco will see this post for what it is, Isenberg sucking up because he believes the technology could actually help take cars off the road in his little corner of Connecticut and a significant number butts out of airplane seats worldwide, and he wants to help. Further disclosure -- there's lots of Cisco technology (e.g., filtering, "managed" network services, etc.) that I wish it'd lose.

Now Cisco has officially launched its first Smart Work Center in Almere, a city near Amsterdam. Smart Work Centers are designed to provide work related services like offices, big-pipe Internet connections, conference rooms, telepresence facilities, child care (hej this is Holland!), food service (and support for all of these) so knowledge workers can come to work without coming to the downtown office. The first tenants at the Almere Smart Work Center are HP, IBM and the city of Amsterdam. Several more smart work centers are under construction around the Netherlands. I am curious to see how the concept actually works, and what we learn from it. I'll be visiting the Almere center later today.

The newspaper says that Cisco plans to charge somewhere around 7800 Euro per year per seat at these centers, about half of what it figures a standard HQ-based office costs. In Almere, it figures it only needs to take 3000 cars off the highway to make a 10% dent in the Almere-Amsterdam rush hour auto traffic. I wish the effort every success.

More soon . . .

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008


OWD in Amsterdam, the video

OneWebDay in Amsterdam 2008 from isen on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008


OneWebDay in Amsterdam

September 22 is OneWebDay around the world, including Amsterdam.

I'll be arriving Amsterdam from the US on September 22 around mid-day, and I'd love to meet any and all Amsterdam netheads to celebrate that afternoon or early evening.

[I'm coming to Amsterdam for Picnic08 and for Cisco's Connected Urban Development meeting.]

I'll be contacting other NL-based netheads and also the folks arriving for Picnic.

It'd be great to get a group together in a nice spot -- with wifi! -- to acknowledge and celebrate the day. If you want to be part of OneWebDay08 shoot me an email. Also, if you can suggest a conducive place to meet, please email me too!

See you next week!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008


U Kentucky shuts off landlines

The University of Kentucky, in Lexington KY, finds that dorm dwellers aren't using plain old telephones anymore, so they're shutting them down. According to, a Web site affiliated with the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper
The move will save the university $840,000; it pays $25 per land line each month . . . The university's 5,600 dorm residents still can request a phone line, but only seven had done so a day after the academic year began Wednesday . . . A UK survey recently found that 98.2 percent of students in dorms own and prefer to use cell phones.
The article fails to mention dorm room Internet communications or facilities, as if cell phones were the only substitute for land lines.

The University of Kentucky action is a long-predicted harbinger.

[Link to article]

[Hat tip to Jim Baller]

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Pic>1kword: Lipstick



Where the Internet meets the Constitution

[This column was never published -- until now. It was to be my regular VON Magazine back-pager. I submitted it on March 20, 2008, but VON Magazine and the Pulvermedia empire crumbled before it was published. I stumbled upon it just now while I was searching for something else . . . and it is as relevant today as it was six months ago, maybe even moreso, given articles like this one. -- David I]

Where the Internet meets the Constitution
by David S. Isenberg, March 20, 2008

The Internet is emerging as a platform for new kinds of democracy. And, simultaneously, the Internet is emerging as a platform for new kinds of spying and, potentially, repression.

We're all getting used to saying what's on our minds on line. We visit Web sites that inform and reinforce our interests. We blog our opinions daily. We post pictures on Flickr and videos on YouTube. We twitter. We AIM. We SMS. We talk.

Meanwhile, an optical splitter is sending a copy of everything we click on, blog, twit, post and say into Room 641A in AT&T's Folsom Street facility in San Francisco. Meanwhile, across the country, at a Verizon Wireless facility in northern Virginia, The Quantico Circuit sends Electronic Serial Numbers, dialed numbers, text messages, web pages and location information to a mysterious third party with "network VCR" that requires that the access controls appropriate for Verizon branch offices are disabled; by coincidence, Quantico is the locus of the U.S. headquarters of the FBI's electronic surveillance efforts.

These two facilities are the ones we know about, thanks to retired AT&T engineer Mark Klein and "certified ethical hacker" and security expert Babak Pasdar. Certainly there are other secret spying operations waiting for their whistle blowers.

Probing Middle Management

When I worked at AT&T, and before that when I was a consultant at telephone company GTE, every few months somebody from the CIA (or another government agency) would visit my Director. The visit would be preceded by whispering among my colleagues, would commence with the closing of my Director's door, and would end with my Director smiling and assuring us that these were Good Guys Who Were Doing Their Job (And I Can't Say Anything More).

In retrospect, I think the government was looking for friendlies inside the phone company, people who had the disposition, position and capability to do a job, "for the country," without involving the hierarchy. I'd bet that they found quite a few such "friendlies."

I had one experience that indicates the potential success of such a modus operandi. I once got a call from a staff member of a U.S. Senator who somehow knew that I -- a lowly Member of Technical Staff -- was working on a project that included a facility in his state. The Senator needed a favor from AT&T. He asked me if I would help. I told my boss; a call from a Senator is a big thing. I don't know who my boss talked to, but the Senator got his favor.

In this case, there wasn't anything that smacked of corruption or illegality; all I'm saying is that things happened a lot faster than they would have if they'd gone through normal channels. I was a bit too skeptical to be classified as a "friendly." Then again, this was an isolated incident, not a systematic program.

The Scary Scenario

It's not too hard to imagine that a government agency with responsibility for electronic surveillance, even when the forms of surveillance are carefully circumscribed, would keep psychological profiles of Director level telco employees that identified their technical capabilities and psychological proclivities so they'd know who to tap when there's an important job to do.

The proclivity to question authority is likely apportioned on a distribution with tails, so it's a reasonable guess that some people will be inclined to do what a Three Letter Agency asks, no matter how bizarre. And we know from the Stanford Prison Experiment, that those who wear a mantle of authority can suspend the norms of conscientious behavior completely.

So far, none of the telco spying -- known or unknown -- has had a noticeable on the freedom of ordinary U.S. citizens. But that's like the guy who jumped off the Empire State Building, who, as he fell past the 68th floor, yelled to the guy in the window, "So far, so good." By this logic, it's just a matter of time before somebody runs the script that identifies the names and addresses of the complainers and objectors.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008


The leading edge of Internet creativity

It is becoming clear that Internet leadership is a shrinking U.S. prerogative. If you're looking for the leading edge of creativity, a very good guess would be Picnic'08, to be held in Amsterdam, NL, September 24-26. It is no accident that Amsterdam is now home to one of the best, fastest, richest-connected fiber optic networks in the world.

The theme of Picnic this year is "Collaborative Creativity." The list of speakers includes friends like Clay Shirky, Ethan Zuckerman and Jeff Jarvis, and also Itay Talgam, who gives a great talk on how conductors communicate with their orchestras. But, more importantly, there's a whole range of speakers who I don't know at all or with whom I only have a passing familiarity -- this is where I learn the most. That's why I'm going!

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