Social media – must have

backup by Tony Austin
When Your Corporate Social Platform Becomes Mission Critical:
[Via A Journey In Social Media]

Life is full of learning experiences, and we had one yesterday.

A minor patch to our environment exposed underlying database corruption, which resulted in our internal social platform being unavailable for almost a full business day.

The backups? They were corrupt as well.

Thanks to the exceptional effort of everyone involved, nothing significant was really lost.

Sure, there are lessons to be learned on proper support practices for important applications (and our social platform is now one of those), but there are other lessons to be learned as well.

Things happen. While these tools are becoming as mature as email, they still rely on databases that can become corrupted. Chuck details some of the lessons learned. And this is from a company where mission-critical is a well known term. For these tools, it should become used by almost everyone.

#1 — The Impact Was Stunning

Len wrote a great post on “The Air That I Breathe“, and I think that’s a great analogy.

All day long, it was hard for many of us to get business done, simply because the platform wasn’t available. It was pretty much in the same league as “email unavailable”.

So, at what point did this social platform go from “nice to have” to “need to have”? There wasn’t a defined point that I can see, it just kind of snuck up on us.

People were resilient, and adapted — that’s what we all do anyway. But it was a huge impact to a lot of people’s workday, and didn’t do anything to help with establishing confidence around the platform.

When tools become a part of a person’s workflow, removing them has huge effects on productivity. It’s like running out of toilet paper.No one really notices until it hapnes. They can get by with alternatives but no one is very happy.

#2 — At Some Point, Declare Your Social Platform As Mission Critical

We didn’t do that.

As a result, we didn’t get the same operational procedures that EMC’s top-tier applications get. I’m *not* blaming the IT guys — they have a schema as to how they categorize things, and our application wasn’t in the appropriate tier.

Why does that matter? More scrutiny and extra effort is applied to make sure that the application is always available — and usually at significant additional cost.

Some of the investments that top-tier applications get include:

advanced test, dev and staging environment to allow quick roll-back if there’s a problem
snapping off disk copies of your database and running consistency checks before it goes to tape or other backup device
HA failover of servers, storage — or even physical locations!
Maintenance at off-hours, rather than prime time

Well, now we have a case to do elevate the category, so to speak.

And probably a willingness to spend more $$$ to keep this from happening again.

It is sometimes hard to convince the powers that be to put the money and resources into new areas such as this. But it should not be necessary for a meltdown to see the need. There should be a process in place, one that is well-defined, to determine what has moved from “nice to have” to “can’t live without it.”

#3 — Vendors In This Space Will Need To Revisit Their Processes

EMC sells mission-critical hardware and software for a living. We know what top-tier customer support looks like — it’s an integral part of our business.

You never can get good enough at this stuff, trust me.

Now, we’re not blaming anyone here, but I think it’s safe to say that we were exercising our software vendor’s support processes in a very unique and unexpected manner. We had 10,000+ users down, and things were pretty bleak there for a while.

Everyone pitched in and helped once an emergency was declared, but it was pretty clear that it was an immature process, relatively speaking.

If you’re a vendor in this space, and you’re convincing customers that your product is essential to their business, and your customer does what you told them to do and now has their entire company running on your stuff, you’re going to have to start thinking like a mission-critical vendor, and invest appropriately.

Everything breaks now and then — it’s what technology does.

What can’t break are the service and support processes: problem escalation, expert triage, advanced notice of potential problem areas, proactive preventative fixes … the whole ball of wax.

This is one of the worries about the cloud. An organization’s capability is determined by another organizations view of mission critical processes. If a company says it is prepared, it had better be because expectations will not be happy with ‘an accident that could not be foreseen.’

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Collaborate to survive

Collaborative Paper: What to do in the nonprofit sector to offset the economic crash.:
[Via Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media]

Source: Foundation Center Focus on the Financial Crisis

The map image above is an interactive map that displays the distribution of the most recent support by U.S. foundations to aid those affected by the downturn. Drill down to see the details. It’s part of the Foundation Center’s aggregated page of articles, podcasts, data, and resources that Focus on the Financial Crisis. You can updates through RSS. Excellent example of aggregation strategy and really clear and good information design.

This is a nice example of an organization using Web 2.0 tools to help the community in ways that would have been difficult before. And not only can you access the data to study it, but you can get updates via a newsfeed so new information is brought to you.

Marty Kearns has set up a collaborative paper and discussion on a wiki. The paper is called Cascading Failure. Marty is convinced that the answer on how the nonprofit can understand and survive this meltdown is out there in network and has set up a space for us to kick it around.

At this stage, it is clear that nonprofit and advocacy groups are headed for extraordinarily difficult financial times. The cash crunch for the advocacy movement will be as bad as we can imagine and far worse than we can easily manage. We need a plan for how to remain effective. We should all begin to operate with new assumptions.

You can find the paper along with some draft prescriptions for organizations. One the recommendations is:

Invest in Social Capital
. It will be the only growing market in 2009. Look at it as part of your organization: There have always been good reasons to build your social network, but now it is a matter of strategy and applying the techniques of network weaving. You need social capital to help in difficult times. I set up a page to brainstorm some practical tips, strategies, and resources.

There are also some draft recommendations for individuals working within advocacy movements.

So. not only is a draft paper available to all, but individuals and organizations can add their own value to these ideas with online discussions. Thus, novel ideas and innovations are able to rapidly traverse the networks that are created. The increase in the rate of diffusion of creative solutions may just be critical in finding a way out of this mess.

Pools for drugs

pool by seanmcgrath
Goldman’s pool for drug research:
[Via business|bytes|genes|molecules]

And while we are on the subject of blog posts by Derek Lowe, here’s one where he points to news about Goldman Sachs funding a large pharma company and using a “new” business model

(The model involves) a different approach, creating a “research pool” into which pharma companies would place a range of experimental drugs in a single therapeutic area in early-stage phase 1 and 2 trials, where their specialists would work alongside external experts including scientists, chemists and clinical research organizations.

By the time an experimental drug is in Phase I or II trials, little ‘research’ is really being done. It is mostly development, at least with regard to dosing and such, as well as production methods. The failure rate of drugs at this late stage is much lower than during the pre-development stage, which really is what most people would call research.

But the large costs for drug development comes at the clinical trial stages. So it makes sense for Big Pharma to pool resources here to save some money.

That’s a model that I am sure I’ve heard being mentioned somewhere else, although I can’t remember. The concept is one that does appeal to me in general, but is phase 1 or 2 the correct time? A lot of the attrition occurs in pre-clinical work. Isn’t that the best time to share some risk and make some bets? I still like the idea of a company whose task it is to find interesting drug candidates and connect that candidate to pharma, biotech, academic researchers and funding, or a model where there would be a marketplace that early stage candidates could be placed into and companies could form collaborations or bid for the ability to take the drug forward. This isn’t that far removed for those ideas. I think the distribution fosters innovation, but having someone orchestrating the network is also critical otherwise you won’t get anywhere.

Anyhows, will be following this story and see if we can find out more. A quick google search really didn’t shed any additional light.

Pre-development, on the other hand, is something Big Pharma has not been as innovative at. That can be seen in the areas of research seen in many non-profit research institutions and small biotech companies.

In many cases, technology moves out of basic research facilities at universities and research institutions too early, with a very risky economic future. The pressures of raising money often hampers effective investigation of novel approaches, especially today when almost every small company wants to demonstrate a ‘proof of concept’ so it can sell out to a larger company.

Either the technology should be held longer and investigated by non-profit research institutions (and we see this with some of these organizations moving all the way to production methods) or for a similar basic research pool for companies to fund interesting technologies. Luke Timmerman wrote about one such possibility in Boston earlier this year, Enlight.

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Xconomy’s event

On Thursday, Xconomy held an event in Seattle where a panel discussed Vaccines 2.0. It was very interesting and I will wrote up more later. In the meantime, here are some photos:

Well, I spent too much time talking out front and did not get a great seat.
vaccines 2.0
There was a full room here, with some standing room only in the back.

The networking session afterwards lasted well over an hour with people still talking after 9 PM. This was a really nice first event with a potential to bring together quite a wide range of people.

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Innovation life cycle

mushroom by Vik Nanda
Soon it will be time to start over, again:
[Via Scripting News]

Here’s how the tech industry cycle goes.

A new generation of young techies comes along, takes a look at the current stack, finds it too daunting (rightly so) and decides to start over from scratch. They find that they can make things happen that the previous generation couldn’t cause they were so mired in the complexity of the systems they had built. The new systems become popular with “power users” — people who yearn to overcome the limits of the previous generation. It’s exhilirating!

Some of those power users are venture capitalists, they’re hanging around looking for things to invest in, and they pick a few things that look like winners. When I was fresh and dewy, part of the new crop of techies, these people were Mike Markkula who funded Apple, and Ben Rosen who funded Compaq and Lotus. In later generations they were different people, of course.

So the new folks, freshly funded, hire lots of people, young’uns like themselves who are doing it The New Way. They ship some products, and while the users are happy and excited about all the cool new things they can do with the new generation, now that they’re freed of the limits of the previous one, they still want all the features they had come to expect in the old days. No problem! The new companies hire more people and they add all the features of the old generation. Feature wars follow, and the users get bored, and a new generation of techies comes along, takes a look at the current stack, finds it too daunting (rightly so) and decides to start over from scratch.


Dave has been around for quite a while and he is absolutely right about this sort of innovation cycle. Read the entire post. Complexity is what we fight. But the simplifying solutions are usually inherent in the complexities we have created.

Cultures of innovation are capable of traversing this cycle with success. Apple is a good example. They constantly make the complex simple – such as the iPhone. Creating and sustaining a culture of innovation is the best way to survive the coming transitions.

The key is to have management that can adapt. This is where transformational leadership excels. It channels the creative spirit in the individual, who is free to find the solution that works. The difficulty with transactional leadership is that the individual only finds the solution they are told to find.

If the leader is an innovative genius, great. But if not, the entire organization will have difficulties coming up with innovative solutions, especially if the solutions are ones that the leader is not comfortable acknowledging.

It will be interesting to see what the next cycle will bring. Innovation is always exciting but never more so than when the world is in turmoil.

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The science commons

Supporting the Commons: Jesse Dylan and Richard Bookman:
[Via Science Commons]

Today, we are proud to announce the release of Science Commons’ first informational video. The video was directed by renowned director Jesse Dylan, the director of the Emmy- award winning “Yes We Can” Barack Obama campaign video with musical artist from the Black Eyed Peas. The video can also be seen on the front of

“I believe Science Commons represents the true aspiration of the web, and I wanted to tell their story,” Dylan said. “They’ve changed the way we think about exploration and discovery; the important and innovative ideas need to be shared. I believe it’s vital to revolutionizing science in the future. I hope this is just the beginning of our collaboration.”

This video is launched in conjunction with a letter of support from Richard Bookman, the Vice Provost for Research and Executive Dean for Research and Research Training at the University of Miami. Bookman joins a group of esteemed Commons supporters featured in this year’s “Commoner Letter” series, including this year: Eben Moglen of the Software Freedom Law Center and Columbia University, Renata Avila – CC Guatemala Project Lead, and singer/songwriter Jonathan Coulton. More information and an archive of past letters can be found at

In his letter, Bookman writes:

“We need to find ways to make sharing research results and tools easy, trackable, and useable by scientists on a day-to-day basis. Science Commons is working on these problems in a way that few other projects contemplate: they don’t write papers, they release “running code” like contracts for sharing biological materials and open contracts for biological tools like stem cells and genetically modified mice. […]

I support SC/CC because I think it’s the right approach at the right time. It’s vital that we as a community support the organization – the interstitial nature of what gets done at CC makes it harder than many might think to raise money, which can leave the most important work dying for lack of funds.

I hope everyone in the community can dig deep and support CC during this campaign. When you support CC, whether because of the cultural work, or the education work, or the science work, you’re supporting an organization that is much more than contracts and websites and videos. You’re supporting an umbrella organization working around the world that lives and breathes the “some rights reserved” philosophy.”

Our thanks to Jesse Dylan, Professor Bookman, and the broader CC community for their ongoing support. For more information about the campaign, or to show your support, visit Every little bit counts. Help support the Commons.

Science Commons has a very strong role to play in getting scientists to actively develop the web in ways that can benefit everyone, including themselves. In particular, Health Commons is a project that may provide a place for biologists to ‘remix’ their data in profound ways. If we can only get them to think about the Commons in the pursuit of their work.

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INTJ for me also

animal animus by even.
Typealyzer says my blog is INTJ:
[Via Knowledge Jolt with Jack]

Typealyzer says that this blog appears to be of the Myer-Briggs type INTJ.

The analysis indicates that the author of is of the type:

Myers-Briggs is a useful tool for demonstrating that different people have different strategies for solving life’s problems. It is based on Jungian archetypes that, while sometimes simplistic, can offer insights that may be useful. The danger is that people make the analysis definitive, much like some people make genes the final arbiter of all behavior. People are not archetypes and can easily change depending on circumstances.

The truth is that each of us use different parts of the Myer-Briggs types depending on the circumstances. Much like different environments can alter the physical effects of the same genetic sequence, different milieus can alter which MB type we use.

I have taken MB tests several times. What I find interesting is that, for me, there often seems to be only one reasonable answer. I figure everyone feels this way. I am usually an ENFP (Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving).

While ignoring some of the astrological vagueness of the description, it does come pretty close to describing some important traits of mine. But all of us can act in a different fashion of we need to. We can adapt our ‘style’ for the particular venue we find ourselves.

For instance, this blog, when run through Typelyzer, gives an INTJ type. Now this could just be real hokem, but this does come closer to the style I have tried to apply to this site – a little more grounded and focused on specifics.

But care must be given. Daily Kos, the largest progressive political site, comes out as ISTP – the mechanics

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

while RedState, one of the largest conservative, comes out as INTP – the thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are espescially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

I am sure there would be some disagreement in these designations but it sure would make for an interesting discussion.

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Openness for doctors

doctor by bobster1985
Clinic to Reveal All Doctor-Drug Industry Ties on the Web:
[Via Discover Magazine | RSS]

Doctors and drug company money have gone together like peas and carrots …

Researchers in many peer-reviewed journals have had to declare their conflicts of interest for several years now. It will be good to see physicians do the same sort of things.

The Cleveland Clinic is to be commended for this. More openness in pharma/doctor relationships should be useful, eventually.

I expect there may be a a tricky transition period when real education efforts need to take place. Not many doctors can remain ‘clean’ when it comes to drug companies. One example would be free samples. Doctors get these all the time and they have been really useful because we have been able to determine if a type of medication has side effects without having to get an entire prescription.

Often the binders used by different drug companies result in odd skin rashes, etc. So we have used the free samples to narrow down to ones that actually work. Is it a conflict of interest for a doctor to use free samples from a drug company he has a relationship with?

My answer would be no but I would like to know what the relationship was and talk to him about it. Most doctors are not going to go too far down the primrose path with a drug company because there are dangers aplenty.

and details of these interactions would eventually also serve as a check on those doctors who might be tempted to take a long journey down the path.

Magazine covers and social networks

Your Turn: Annie Leibovitz Turns Tina Fey Into New American Sweetheart … Or So She Exclaims:
[Via BAGnewsNotes]


Annie’s going to photograph my soul, right?”

As perhaps the biggest star (after Obama) to emerge out of Campaign ’08, I’m curious about your take on the new Tina Fey Vanity Fair cover. (I’m sure VF was thrilled to have her, by the way, after telegraphing — through a sour grapes set of parody covers — how they missed the boat with Barack.)

The scene is photographed by Annie Leibovitz, known for her commercial mastery in playing to and with the intersection of politics and entertainment. Besides my interest in just about every element on the page, I’m curious — just like Annie’s Vogue LaBron James cover was born out of a World War I propaganda poster — what the historical references and implications of this image are.

And then, what’s with that quote, and the situation of Tina between AL and Maureen Dowd? And exactly where is that flag planted?

What Tina Wants (VF Modo Cover Story)

(image: Annie Leibovitz. Vanity Fair. January 2009)

Most people would see just a cover photo but read the comments from BAGnewsNotes and you will find that this is a remake of a very specific pinup from 1945 called ‘The Winning Combination” by Rolf Armstrong.


Both hold a 48 star flag (a subtle dig at Alaska?). The flags are both flowing from right to left. The angle of the flag pole is almost exactly the same in both. The flag is planted in the Northern Hemisphere in both.

To me, the dead giveaway – notice where the only real color is on both lady’s outfits. They are wearing the same color panties. And the interior lining of their skirt is the same color. Well, Armstrong was a pinup artist. And Leibovitz is obviously recreating his work.

Of course, we are 60 years past 1945, and this cover has to sell magazines, so there is a little more burlesque in the cover pose than in the pinup. But it is very obvious, especially when you include the LeBron James cover (which is a remake of a WWI poster) that Leibovitz is doing a series based on older posters.

So, I would say that Leibovitz is not attempting to get to Fey’s soul with this picture as much as updating America’s past images with newer remixes.

But I never would have been informed about this without having access to the Internet and the many eyes model of information gathering. Only Leibovitz and a select few would probably have known what was going on. But the social connections found on the Internet allow those small few to educate others.

Today, this education is just about a WW2 poster. However, it could just as easily be about the activity of a novel protein or a unique catalyst for generating electricity.

In some technologies, the trivial is expressed first. But the substantial is not far behind.

More APIs for science

Does my sequence have a new homolog?:
[Via business|bytes|genes|molecules]

Crystal structure of PHA-L (Protein Data Bank ... Image via Wikipedia

Here’s an interesting service I discovered during a snoop on the web. PDBalert is a web-based system that alerts users as soon as a pdb structure with homology to a protein of interest becomes available. Users can upload protein sequences of interest and ever Wednesday, when the PDB releases new structures, the service compares sequences to all the new proteins. Simple enough. I suspect many people have their own scripts which do essentially the same.

The thing that jumped out at me was how easy it could be for the PDB to create a service that does the same. You point the service to a source file(s), choose an appropriate algorithm (they could give you some choices), etc. In a perfect world, you could even mash this up with some kind of function prediction engine, etc. The way I see it, more services the better, esp if they can talk to each other. Some day. I still believe there is room in the science space for an API management service which allows developers to build tools upon existing resources like the PDB.

Deepak is absolutely correct. There has to be greater attention to scientific APIs, especially providing users with the abilities to manage these APIs and to perform more complex mashups.

So how about getting a tweet on twitter instead of email, or even have it appear on a Facebook page? Then have it hit pubmed and provide useful papers dealing with the new protein. Why not then directly provide DNA sequence homologies, etc?

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