CIO Symmetry

A SearchCIO Small Business blog


September 25, 2008  8:29 PM

Are we all too busy?



Posted by: Kristen Caretta
Best Practices, CIO, Hacking, Midmarket CIO, Security

Do your users pay attention to dialog box pop-ups? If you’re thinking, “yes, of course,” read on.

A recent study by members of the psychology department at North Carolina State University shows most people do not pay any attention to these dialog boxes – even when presented with information indicating potential malware.

The authors created four fake dialog boxes – one of them was indistinguishable from standard Windows dialog systems. From subtle (moving the mouse over the “OK” button would cause the cursor to turn to a hand — typical of browser control) to blatant (alternating between black text and a white background to white text on a black background), the dialog boxes should have been a tip-off to users that something wasn’t right.

The study was conducted by loading a series of medical websites to a panel of 42 college students, who were told to watch the sites and expect questions to follow. The fake dialog boxes were loaded randomly and the responses of the users were tracked. The response time showed the users did not spend any time evaluating the fakes. During the follow-up questions, students found “any dialog box a distraction from their assigned task; nearly half said that all they cared about was getting rid of these dialogs.”

Is there just no time for “dialog box speed bumps?” With the quick-answer Web-search service ChaCha growing in popularity, are we all too busy to even search for answers on the Web? Wasn’t that the point of the Web in the first place – a place to access information from all over the globe?

Are your users too busy to pay attention? Should you rethink the use of dialog boxes and consider another venue for that information?

September 19, 2008  1:47 PM

Microsoft reclaims ‘I’m a PC’; ditches Gates/Seinfield



Posted by: Kristen Caretta
CIO, Microsoft, Microsoft Windows, Midmarket CIO

As quickly as they started, the Microsoft/Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates ads have ended. Phew.

The nonsensical ads left viewers scratching their heads and Seinfeld with quite a heavy pocket. The comedian reportedly earned $10 million for the commercials in Microsoft’s attempt to connect with its target audience.

But who is Microsoft’s target audience? It may not be the twentysomethings … but choosing 54-year-old Seinfeld as the funny man may be meant to attract the “thirty- and fortysomething business community” Marc Ippolito, president of Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing, told Computerworld.com. The Wall Street Journal reported Microsoft turned down Will Farrell and Chris Rock because it didn’t want to seem like it was catering too much to the younger market.

Well, maybe Gates doing the robot will gain audience appeal and Vista will get another shot – if the robot’s not dead yet, Vista certainly can’t be either.

In an interview with Computerworld.com, Microsoft spokesman Frank X. Shaw confirmed the plan to have “two teaser ads” (no — the weird Seinfeld/Gates ads weren’t cancelled, this was all planned). The next leg of Microsoft’s attempt at revitalizing the slogan “I’m a PC” includes celebrities (Eva Longoria and Pharell Williams among them) as the company works overtime to overcome the stigma Apple attached to being a PC.

What won’t you have to see again? Seinfeld asking Gates for a Microsoft product that makes computers “moist and chewy like cake.”[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/rIjNJZpRtj8" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


September 18, 2008  3:02 PM

The Wall Street Journal embraces Web 2.0



Posted by: Kristen Caretta
CIO, Midmarket CIO, Web 2.0

The Wall Street Journal launched a redesigned site Tuesday featuring Web 2.0 – but you have to pay to be a member.

Web 2.0, the user-generated content explosion, has changed the Internet. Social networking sites, blogs and wikis are everywhere, allowing users to create their own spaces and connect with people across the globe. Few social networking sites, however, charge a fee. I certainly would not have joined Facebook (at least initially) if I had to sign up for a paid subscription. But then again, the only purpose Facebook serves me is a social one. Once you start examining your professional social networking options – the cost may be worth it.

For a CIO looking to make contacts and be privy to a host of subscription-only media, WSJ.com may be the way to go.

The paid subscription includes some enticing extras. The self-guided tour (albeit a bit campy — inviting you to “stop by and discover” with “more content to uncover”) provides brief descriptions of the new site additions.

Overall, the redesign boasts an updated look and feel with enhanced story pages (video, audio and interactive graphics), news highlights (which can also be managed as a direct feed to Facebook, My Space, your desktop or even your blog), subscriber-exclusive content, a member community, Mobile Reader (a service for your BlackBerry so you can access your account on the go) and Journal Women (featuring women in business, politics, science, the arts and the world).

There is certainly a lot going on in the new and improved WSJ.com – and a lot of mixed reviews surrounding it.

On one side, some reviewers found the paid subscription to be a deterrent to new readers. Being blocked behind a pay wall could discourage casual browsers and they might look for news elsewhere. On the other side, satisfied reviewers were drawn to the exclusivity factor – developing contacts within, what some have referred to as, an elite group.

Do CIOs see the benefits of paid social networking subscriptions when so many of them are offered for free? Or has The Wall Street Journal missed the Web 2.0 boat?


September 16, 2008  9:00 PM

LinkedIn to cash in, but at what cost to you?



Posted by: Kristen Caretta
CIO, Midmarket CIO

LinkedIn, a social networking site for business professionals, has been in such high demand amongst advertisers that it will be launching its own advertising network. What made LinkedIn such a sought-after site? The registered users.

According to LinkedIn’s June 2008 demographic data, the site’s registered users seem to be an advertiser’s dream. The data claims that the average household income of its members is $110,000, 49% are business decision makers and the average age is 41.

Facebook, another popular social networking site, has 90 million active users (who have returned to the site in the last 30 days) and is the second-most-trafficked PHP site in the world, according to the site. Facebook ads are targeted to users based on their preferences, status (employment, marital, etc.) and general information (age, gender, etc.). But Facebook began as a college networking site back in 2004 that was extended to high schools, and then later to the general population. That’s a lot of users, but the users can be just about anyone – not necessarily decision makers, the employed or people interested in spending money.

OK, so maybe comparing LinkedIn to Facebook is an apples-to-oranges comparison.

In LinkedIn’s claim to have “a younger, more affluent, more influential and harder-to-find audience than the leading business sites” it included statistics for Forbes.com and BusinessWeek.com. For Forbes.com users, the average household income is $93,896, 38% are decision makers and the average age is 47. BusinessWeek.com users average a household income of $95,668, 42% are decision makers and the average age is 48.

With such a desirable audience, LinkedIn’s ad network could be raking in the dough – but what does this mean for the users? Well, whenever someone visits LinkedIn, a cookie will be placed on his or her browser identifying the user as a LinkedIn member when he or she visits partner sites. Opting out is possible, but unless you’re familiar with the changes, would anyone even know to opt out?

In 2007 when Facebook announced it would open user profiles to search engines, traffic to the Facebook privacy page spiked. But since then, traffic to the page has been relatively flat. Obviously, people care about their privacy – but they may be unaware of what they can do.

For CIOs (and any business professional, for that matter), being part of a social networking site like LinkedIn is beneficial. LinkedIn boasts 24 million users representing 150 industries around the world. With such an expansive network of people to connect to, you’re able to make connections, see where people have moved in their careers and even market yourself for a new job or position. But is being sold as a “desirable audience” a fair trade? Is privacy becoming more of a privilege on the Web, as opposed to a right?


September 12, 2008  1:25 PM

Are CIOs finding Apple’s sex-appeal, appealing?



Posted by: Kristen Caretta
CIO, Microsoft Windows, Mobile

How important is it, as a CIO, to have a fashion-accessory phone? What about if said phone is sexy – unlike some of the more boring models?

Windows Mobile is boring. According to Mikael Nerde, head of the accessory and developer program for Sony Ericsson, “Win Mobile has so many great functions, but it just looks really, really boring.”

Efficient and well-known, but boring nonetheless. Just look at how Apple represents Windows in the Mac commercials – pocket-protector clad, bumbling, nervous Windows up against a younger, more confident Mac.

What is the Apple appeal? Apple showed the world it’s entirely possible to be smart and sexy with their “sexed up smartphone”—the iPhone. What makes the iPhone such a hit? A Handango Inc.- sponsored panel discussion decided it’s a “mixture of Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ marketing ‘mojo,’ the success of its App Store, integrated functionality and more.”

Smart, sexy and functional? Sounds great. But is sexiness necessary for those using their phone primarily for business purposes?

Well, for the mobile competitors, sexiness is necessary. That is, if they want to compete with the “one to beat” iPhone in the mobile world.

Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) introduced a new member to the BlackBerry family – the BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220. Available later in the year, the “not just for business users” model is smaller, more stylish and still retains the features you would expect in a BlackBerry.

Sprint Nextel Corp. is also releasing new phones later this year. Three of the five new consumer phones will have a new user interface called Sprint One Click. One Click is similar to Apple’s carousel functionality; it allows users to drop the icons of commonly-used applications on their home screen for one-click access.

OK so Win Mobile is boring and Apple is sexy – but do CIOs really care about how sexy their mobile device is? I don’t know, you tell me.

All in all, it seems mobile phones are bringing sexy back – and using the iPhone as a benchmark.


September 11, 2008  6:09 PM

Weekly wrap-up



Posted by: The Weave
CIO, Midmarket CIO, Weekly Wrap-Up

What we did this week:

Suggested CIOs have a little mercy on their overworked security experts and data architects.

Imagined a world without microsoft.

Wondered why on earth CIOs would take themselves out of disaster recovery planning.

Seriously, get on that whole disaster recovery thing. The planning takes longer than you think.

You can’t really stop the government from hacking your phones. But you can try to stop everyone else.


September 11, 2008  6:01 PM

In a world without Microsoft…



Posted by: The Weave
CIO, Microsoft, Midmarket CIO

Earlier this week on searchCIO-Midmarket.com I wrote about IBM’s pitch (with partners) for a “Microsoft-free desktop.”

It seems a little far-fetched. Then again, we got an email yesterday from an IT director outlining how he very much is trying this, albeit not necessarily using IBM.

All said, it got us to thinking here: What if Microsoft never existed? You know, like in It’s A Wonderful Life. How would the world be different?

A few ideas (thank you to Colin Steele at SearchITChannel.com for pitching in here):

Steve Ballmer would be a used-car salesman.

Justin Long wouldn’t be famous (thank God).

Redmond, Wash., would be best known as the bicycle capital of the Northwest.

South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut would be missing its best joke. We won’t link to it here (it’s pretty violent, for a cartoon), but it has to do with Windows and there’s this cool little video site called YouTube.…

Antitrust would still be most synonymous with Standard Oil.

Failures (who think they are actually geniuses) wouldn’t say things like “Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard.”

We wouldn’t have Xbox. (Wait. So what?)

No lame “hot male” jokes.

Oh, who am I kidding? We’d probably all be out of a job.


September 9, 2008  8:01 PM

Google steps up to preserve the nuances of American history



Posted by: The Weave
CIO, DataManagement, Google, Midmarket CIO, MSM

I used to write for newspapers. Which is a bit like saying I was a telegraph operator, in that both jobs carry a certain romanticism linked to their glory years and are widely considered irrelevant today.

As Nelson on The Simpsons once pointed out: “Ha ha. Your medium is dying.”

But as news gathering shifts to a more affordable, more equitable and more easily distributed medium, a part of me worries people don’t realize the value of newspapers – that is, the value of physical newspapers that have already been printed.

I recognize that a huge part of master data management is about knowing what not to keep. I also recognize the “Big Brother” fears that come with the Internet’s relentless cataloging of information.

But, anecdotally, this country is losing its history. Like I said, I’ve worked in newspapers. I can personally assure you that community papers – arguably the most important newspapers, historically speaking – are not properly cataloging and safeguarding their physical archives.

Once something is gone – it’s gone. Which says a lot about being sure your IT department has a comprehensive and clear data storage scheme.

So thank-freaking-God for Google on this one. In its quest to index all of the world’s information, the decade-old behemoth has started to scan and catalog newspaper archives.

Admittedly, newspapers, especially those written by 21-year-olds in small Vermont towns with little editor oversight (here’s looking at me) are often wrong or not completely informed. And much of the information becomes seemingly irrelevant by the next morning.

But you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone, and you often don’t know what you need until you need it.

Imagine, for a moment, that your governor or potential vice president came up in a small town that largely escaped blog watchers and the city pages of the major metro papers. Wouldn’t it be great to have universal, uninterrupted access to the pages of the local weekly, allowing anyone in the world to dig into this person’s public history?

And, as The New York Times article points out, obituaries, birth announcements, wedding announcements and the like are invaluable when tracking family lineage – a tedious task under any circumstances.

Certainly, piecemeal cataloging is occurring. An otherwise dismissible trend story I once wrote about vandalism to city property has been sourced on the Wikipedia entry for “street sign theft,” for example.

But that’s just one story. I would be thrilled if I could use Google to access images of everything I’ve ever written. (Not everyone would be so excited — I covered crime and criminal courts and printed the names of alleged criminal offenders daily.)

Again, I know for a fact that some small newspapers in this country are one building fire away from losing their entire archive. Sure, most small papers have an extra set of microfilm stored away in a second location. Still … things go neglected and missing. That would be a travesty.

Google stands to make money here, of course, but our nation will benefit by having the folks in Mountain View contract to preserve our history free of charge.


September 8, 2008  4:19 PM

MSM Monday Round-up



Posted by: The Weave
CIO, Midmarket CIO, Weekly Wrap-Up

Happy Monday. Here’s some stuff:

The Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates Microsoft commercial is out.

The New York Times has a nice look at what Google has grown into as the company hits its 10-year anniversary.

In other news, cable and Internet providers seek to become the robber barons of the 21st century. Comcast seeks to overturn a completely reasonable FCC ruling. And phone companies don’t see why they should have to follow completely reasonable reporting rules.


September 5, 2008  3:29 PM

Don’t ignore internal security (and don’t write passwords on Post-it’s)



Posted by: Kristen Caretta
CIO

Last year 8% of the IT budget went towards security. This year? 10%.

Khalid Kark, principal analyst at Forrester Research, Inc., presented security statistics at Forrester’s Security Forum 2008. For the past four years, CIOs said security was their top priority and despite the economy, three out of four said they would continue to spend ten percent of their IT budget on security. But how much of the budget is allotted for security against internal threats? Have we forgotten about the situation in San Francisco? Administrators were locked out of the system by one of their own — a top IT guy. And according to Forrester, the majority of security breaches involve internal employees.

Knowing that, I suppose I should have been prepared for the results of Cyber-Ark’s new survey. After polling 300 security professionals, the Cyber-Ark results claimed that 88% of IT administrators would steal valuable and sensitive company information if they were fired tomorrow. This isn’t like Jerry Maguire snagging the company goldfish on the way out – this is valuable company information! I’d like to know what’s going on to protect against that.

The Cyber-Ark survey also showed that “a quarter of the companies polled admitted to suffering from internal sabotage and security fraud in their workplace. One third said they believe industrial espionage and data leakage is occurring within their company.” Cyber-Ark CEO, Udi Mokady did offer some protection advice, suggesting securing privileged passwords, changing them often and managing them. And even though Cyber-Ark sells products that do just that (a teeny bit of a marketing pitch?) the results are difficult to ignore.

It’s not just malicious acts that threaten your companies security – employees who lose their laptop (or have it stolen from an office and then replaced…) also pose a security threat. IT sloppiness is also dangerous. The survey showed a third of the most powerful passwords are still being put on post-it notes. No comment necessary.

So how can you increase your security? Kark says it’s important to embrace change when it comes to security. He also provided three points to live by: have an open mind, educate yourself on new technologies and developments and utilize this education to solve the problems of today. Just because you updated your security system last year, don’t assume you’re as protected as you’d like to be today. As technologies change, so do the threats against them.

On a lighter note, Dr. Gary McGraw, CTO of Cigital, talked to us about software exploitation and EULAs (end user licence agreements). Apparently, the EULA you accept to access Microsoft’s Frontpage, disallows negative comments about Microsoft to be posted. Just a little tid-bit of information for you.


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