AT&T Blog: Network Security, The Moving Line of Defense

lock-and-key-icon-thumb355812The days of defending the perimeter are over. Look at what happened to a major retailer in late 2013 as an example. Someone posing as a trusted contractor was able to enter the retailer’s network and do all sorts of damage — to the tune of 40 million compromised customers. This attack occurred because the retailer wasn’t looking at insider threats carefully enough. Indeed, the perimeter has become more and more porous, and network defenses based on this traditional barrier are no longer enough to protect an organization’s business interests and objectives

You can read the post on AT&T Networking Exchange blog here.

ITworld: Data artist in residence: Why your data needs an artist’s touch

jerAs more companies hire data scientists, there is a corresponding trend to hire a new kind of employee that some refer to as “data artists,” whose job it is to tell the stories behind the data in the most accessible and revealing ways. And these folks are taking major roles on product management teams, such as Jer Thorp pictured here. In this story for ITWorld today, I talk about what is a data artist and how Microsoft and Google and the New York Times are making good use of them.

Lessons learned from the potato salad guy

ps2I am sure by now you have heard about the Kickstarter project from Zack Brown where he promises to make potato salad. In a bowl. In his kitchen. That’s the project. For this he raised more than $55,000 from nearly seven thousand backers from all over the world, including more than 20 “platinum” sponsors.

The project became big potatoes — it was the fourth most-viewed page on Kickstarter, right behind the Veronica Mars movie and the Pebble watch, with more than four million views. Many of the contributions were small — backers averaged $8 per pledge, compared with a Kickstarter-wide average of $78. Maybe because it was something so goofy, or so simple (the project didn’t have a video intro), or just because it was so incredible. When I was interviewed about crowdfunding for our local TV station a few weeks ago, I mentioned his project on the air.

Brown’s potatoes became a big deal, he got thousands of media mentions that just fed his project even further. What started out as a big joke turned into a serious effort, and now he is talking about starting a foundation and building a humor-oriented website. And Columbus, Ohio, where he is based, is holding a street festival called PotatoStock that will feature food, music, and fun. I would call it a hash bash.

So what can we learn from this meme? Here are a few suggestions.

  • If you want to make something to share with others, maybe you just need ten or 20 or 50 people to get your idea off the ground. That is from one of the conclusions from Kickstarter central, and I think it is a good one. Brown’s original goal was to raise $60, and he quickly passed that.
  • Hyperlocal is best. The Internet is great for spreading the word, surely and he got funds from all over. But Brown’s project picked up a lot of backers from the Columbus area, which is one of his reasons for holding the PotatoStock event. The project is still about one man, one kitchen and his condiments.
  • Sometimes you don’t need that next Big Idea. While there certainly have been some fascinating crowdfunded projects, the simple ideas also have their place. Yes, it would be one thing if Brown was going to take his 55 large and head off to Tahiti, or wherever. But he seems humbled by the experience. Perhaps his foundation can pay it forward and nourish another idea, or add some additional humor into our lives.
  • Humor helps. Under the risks section, Brown is very forthcoming: “It might not be that good. It’s my first potato salad.” His update videos are hilarious, and others have used humor to describe his efforts, all in a goodhearted way. We are surrounded by too much gloom and doom that having some humor helps.

Network World: How Aryaka’s global private network speeds access to Internet apps

arayIf you are trying to improve global access to your applications, you have probably considered one of several solutions: stringing together your own private network, purchasing WAN optimization appliances, or using a managed cloud-based service provider. Figuring out the benefits of each solution isn’t easy and it is hard to test for variations in Internet connectivity, specific applications and other conditions.

But what if a vendor could show you exactly the benefit in a particular use case, so you could understand what they are delivering? I got Aryaka to do just that. You can read my post in Network World today here.

Computerworld: Working together: 3 new team collaboration tools, Glip, Flow, and Slingshot

The concept of how we collaborate is changing. Better tools are being developed that help workgroups put together documents, quickly schedule meetings and chat with each other. Today’s collaboration environment includes tools for text chats, bulletin boards, video conferencing, screen sharing and scheduling meetings. Among these are a number of lightweight products that offer quick and near-real time collaboration. I looked at three of the newcomers: Flow, Glip and Slingshot. (A screen from Flow is pictured above.)

While all have some things in common — all three seek to enable collaboration and can be used either on desktops/laptops or on mobile devices — they all do somewhat different things in the collaboration space.

You can read my review that appeared in Computerworld here.

Playing With Dolls 2.0

a1What do Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace and Bessie Coleman have in common? If you need another hint, how about what these three have in common with Addy, Caroline and Kaya? Still not sure? All of these are names of dolls.

Yes, Curie et al. are also real people, and therein lies the genius of what two young women entrepreneurs are trying to do with a new venture called Miss Possible. They plan on making a line of dolls based on real-life women who have accomplished a lot in the STEM area. The notion is to encourage girls to discover the fun in this technical area by celebrating women of the past who have had ground-breaking roles: Curie in science, Lovelace in computer programming, and Coleman in aviation (she was the first American to receive an international pilot’s license, and the first black woman to barnstorm back in the 1920s).

In order to pull this off, you need more than dolls: you need a backstory for the doll, something that American Girl has known about for some time. If you aren’t familiar with this operation, they have stores in major cities around the country where little girls can go in with their moms and end up spending thousands of dollars on matching outfits for the three of them, accessories, and more. They also are the source of the three other names that I mentioned above. Girls can choose a doll based on her story and costume and take it from there.

Miss Possible is trying to do something not quite so capital-intensive. Their dolls’ backstories are accomplished with a smartphone app where you can conduct science experiments (Mentos and Coke, anyone?), learn more about the doll’s namesake, and provide games that the kids can play. Not to mention use different outfits (Curie comes with a lab coat, of course.) It is very ambitious but such a great idea. I wish my daughter and stepdaughter had something like this back in the day when Barbie and Skipper ruled the nursery.

The backstory of the entrepreneurs is also interesting: both come from STEM-oriented families and both have pursued careers in STEM at the University of Illinois in Urbana, the home of the real Mosaic Web browser and the fictional creator of the HAL 9000 computer, among many other things. They are still at the idea stage and are looking for funding their company through the crowd. And they are smart about their project: everyone who backs their project, at whatever level, will get to vote on the fourth and presumably subsequent dolls selected.

You can read more about what the Miss Possible gals are doing and help fund their IndieGoGo project here. I made my donation, and hope they meet their goals. It is about time our kids had other options to play with dolls.

How to Make the Most of your Data: An Explanation of Visualization

This article was written by Jesse Jacobsen, who is a web content writer at TechnologyAdvice. He covers a variety of topics, including business intelligence, project management, and analytics software. Connect with him on Google+.

Most professionals have used bar graphs and Excel pie charts on present data. At its most basic this is what’s known as data visualization, a growing feature of business intelligence software. However, such charts are often too simplistic to convey complex data sets. That’s where today’s advanced data visualization tools come in. With them, it’s easier than ever to manipulate data sets, visualize trends, and find competitive insight. Let’s look at some of the most useful data visualizations, and show how they can provide better insights into your company’s data.


A streamgraph is a stacked area graph that displays data around a central axis. By assembling the information over a time-based axis, streamgraphs allow users to compare the ebb and flow of different data sets.

1For example, in 2008 the New York Times created an interactive streamgraph that displays the ebb and flow of box office receipts for movies released between 1986 and 2008. It highlights the aesthetic nature of such diagrams, and how they can be used for quickly displaying comparisons.

In addition to being an interesting source for displaying cultural information, streamgraphs can be used to provide business insight. For example, a clothing company sells red, blue, and yellow shirts. By visualizing the daily or weekly sales figures of each shirt, companies can observe how the sales ebb and flow based on the time of day, the day of the week, or even the month. Observations on product popularity can lead to competitive adjustments in inventory ordering, marketing strategy, and even product development.


Treemapping is a method for displaying hierarchical data through space-contained, rectangle graphing. This visualization is typically displayed within a larger rectangle, with the surface area divided into segments that correspond to data points.

2Because data in treemaps can be grouped together based on similarities or relevance, this is a great way to visualize categorical data. The Observatory of Economic Complexity did just that in their treemap displaying products exported by The United States in 2009.

By grouping exports into categories like machines, transportation, and vegetable products, this treemap compares diverse data in a way that’s easy to grasp. Companies with a diverse array of products can use treemaps to provide valuable insight into sales data or to evaluate an organization’s budget in a more accessible way.


Geolocation-based visualization modules display data on, you guessed it, a map. While this sounds like a simple concept, different use cases continually demonstrate how this technology can be manipulated to provide business insight.

3Companies commonly use mapping to display store locations or product availability. Many companies include similar mapping capabilities on their websites, which guide customers to the closest store. Many BI vendors take mapping visualization to the next level by including temporal data. This allows users to view geographic trends over time for further insight into behavioral patterns. For instance, Foursquare displayed the “pulse” of New York by calibrating a map to display how commuters use their “check-ins” over the course of a day.

Temporal mapping can also be useful for businesses. If your company is looking to expand to a new city, for instance, temporal mapping (combined with analytics) can provide valuable insight into where the most receptive audience for your product is.


Network visualization displays the connections of information or systems over time. While network displays can illustrate simple two-way connections, they can also illustrate complex temporal relationships.

4In June, the New York Times created an interactive network visualization that displays how club teams and national teams are connected in the 2014 World Cup. Users can scroll over any information bubble to more clearly see the relationships, including the name of the player that makes the connection.

Network visualization is an effective tool to observe and understand the relational structure of business operations, such as how acquisitions and changes in leadership affected employee retention and division management. Understanding your data through visualization modules can provide you with the information you need to get ahead of the competition.