The Bots the Thing

Alexis Madrigal’s article yesterday, That time 2 Bots were Talking, and Bank of America Butted In, got me to thinking about operations in the Network Age. As bots become more “life like” and are integrated into the various and sundry aspects of the Internet of Things, will they also be used to defend?

I’ve stated before that the Internet is a field of maneuver as apposed to a fortress to defend. However, there must be defense in maneuvering as well. In Infantry school, we learned to defend our unit in the various aspects of a mission and the various aspect of our unit’s size. A small unit’s defensive tactic will be much different than a larger unit’s, as will its mission parameters, scope, and employment.

Nefarious actors able to infiltrate one’s botnet will be able to filter information flow to create false impressions. I remember a few years ago when a teenager in Florida posted an old story about the crash of a certain airline’s airplane for a school project sending that airline’s stock into the ground. It took a day or two for the forensics to show what actually happened.

Trading on the stock exchanges happens at the speed of electrons now. How is that moderated? How is the information that goes into those trading decisions verified? What are the limit factors? Are there limits? What are the trust factors?

Until we adopt Gene Roddenberry’s model of human/computer operation we will be forever at the mercy of those who can beat our bot to the punch-card line. Decision-making is a human endeavor. 

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Command and Control or Lead and Trust?

Many years ago in business school, I learned of four different types of leaders. Each leadership type was connected with a particular market environment and stage of organizational development. Over the years I’ve practiced and watched others practice leadership and, while styles may vary wildly, these types and their descriptions have held valid.

Expeditionary Leadership: A strong leader in a nascent organization working in a dynamic and uncertain environment. Expeditionary leaders have strong vision and drive and are quick to acknowledge failure and adjust efforts to keep moving toward their goal. They make quick decisions and re-orient themselves to their goal in spite of what may seem insurmountable obstacles. They keep moving forward and, while they may fail, they do not quit.

The Builder: A strong leader in a nascent organization working in a more stable environment and building upon the foundations of the expeditionary leader. Building leaders are thoughtful decision makers striving to solidify and grow their organization and market share.

The Expansionist: The Expansionist leader works in a mature organization in a growing environment and looks for ways to expand the organization in the market place through partnerships and acquisitions. Expansionist leaders are thoughtful leaders looking to bridge establish organizations to new or growing market areas.

The Housekeeper: The Housekeeping leader works in a mature organization in a mature environment and focused on maintaining market share and shareholder returns on investment. Housekeeping leaders are usually careful decision makers, sometimes hesitant, and only looking to keep profit margins respectable.

None of these are mutually exclusive types, but individual personalities and styles tend to lend a person to one type or another.

As organizations mature, they start developing defined communication patterns based on technology and experience. Understand that our Industrial Age communication patterns are based on the most efficient ways to communicate with the technology available. Protocols and practices have grown up around that technology and in most cases have obscured the original need the communication was designed to meet.

Expeditionary leaders do not usually have the time to analyze most decisions and look for people who can #1) help with the decision making process with insight from their piece of the organization and operation, and #2) make decisions on their own that will move the organization toward the goal. Expeditionary organizations are usually made up of teams of expeditionary leaders.

The builders are the ones who begin defining the patterns of communication in an attempt to communicate efficiently and effectively. Both the expeditionary and the builders are leaders who lead and trust.

Lead and trust are verbs.

The expansionist and the housekeeper are more concerned with management as a means of command and control.

Admiral Grace Hopper once said, “You lead people, you manage things.”

In today’s dynamic, networked, global environment we have a leadership gap. Our traditional organizational hierarchy is challenged by the networked organizations that have emerged. The question, are leaders born or made? Is leadership a gift or a talent?

I believe as Gen. Stanley McCrystal does; leadership is a choice.

Watch this:

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Someone you should know

I want to introduce you to someone. He doesn’t know that I’m reposting his post from Facebook, I’ll deal with that later. Unfortunately for most he is unique. He is not the man you want on your team. He’s the man you NEED on your team. He will challenge your thinking because your thinking NEEDS to be challenged. He will challenge your leadership because your leadership NEEDS to be challenged. He is one of the few truly courageous people I have ever met. He believes strongly and stands strongly on his beliefs. This is a man I am astoundingly, amazingly, and humbly proud to call my friend. I want you to meet Terry Welch.


Twenty years ago today, after drinking my way through a couple of years at Kansas State and piddling around back in my hometown for nearly another, I arrived at NTC Great Lakes to begin Navy boot camp. I did return to Kansas State to finish my bachelor’s and added a master’s later, but I must say that, aside from my family, nothing has affected my life as deeply as my choice to join the Navy. Because of the Big Blue Mommy and her Big Green Sister (I’ve worn the Army uniform, too, as a reservist), I learned the skills which became my current career; visited three other continents; flew over a sinking Icelandic ship, hanging from monkey straps, while Air Force PJs slid down to save the crew; wrestled a Guatemalan goat while a veterinarian struggled to vaccinate it; drank Scotch with Navy SEALS from a RIB boat in Macrahanish Bay, with dolphins swimming all around us; watched the northern lights roll above me, while I lay in hot spring water, surrounded by snow; rode in a plane being shot at by an Afghan with a Chinese MANPAD; performed an impromptu rendition of the Beastie Boys’ “Paul Revere” with Polish and Spanish college kids on the streets of Nice, France; watched phosphorescent algae being churned up by the USS Abraham Lincoln, leaving a glowing comet trail in the darkness; sat backstage drinking free beer between Ice-T and Gwen Stefani at Endfest ’96; rode on the top of a van through a massive Herati political rally; drunkenly peed in the Danube with my temporary gang of Budapestians; ate Christmas Eve tamales at midnight with Guatemalan paratrooper students; danced with Filipino transvestites in Chitose, Japan; crossed the Arctic Circle; planted rose bushes in the name of my sons at Camp McGovern, Bosnia-Herzegovina; met some of the best men and women I will ever know (and some of the worst, too); ate rotten shark and washed it down with Brennivin, a thick black liguor the Icelanders (quite appropriately) refer to as svarti dauði (“black death”); ate goat in a room nicknamed the “Rick James Lounge” in Wazi Kwah, Afghanistan; stood on the very spot from which Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria; crashed a party for the US Soccer Team at the home of the American ambassador to Iceland; crossed the English Channel on a ferry filled with French people watching their nation win the World Cup; got invited to the White House to meet (or, at least, shake hands with) President Clinton; and, as the saying goes, so much more. And those are only the things I’ve done. I learned so much more.

When I joined the Navy, it was pretty much out of desperation. I clearly saw the path of my life stretching out before me and thought the Navy, at least, would change that. In the end, I served 13 years (give or take) and was planning on more before finding out my kidneys were deserting me and couldn’t accept my commission. Not everyone had the experiences I’ve had, not everyone left the service with marketable skills, not everyone enjoyed their time in the military and not everyone survived their enlistment or commissioning. Those who died weren’t lost because they failed or were weak or made mistakes, but disappeared as randomly as if they’d been rolling dice to see who would go. They just didn’t make it and it just as easily could have been me. I was lucky, I know that. So this is not a recommendation for military service. This is just, I guess, a commemoration of sorts.

Twenty years ago today, my life changed course, leading me to the place I am now, with two smart, handsome sons, an already precocious two-year-old daughter and my beautiful, inexplicably patient wife, Michelle. I would not be here today without the Navy and I likely would not have seen and done so many amazing things. Kurt Vonnegut wrote in “Deadeye Dick” that his main objection to life was that “It’s too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes.” I’ve made many, though the decisions that turned out to be mistakes seemed simple at the time. I hope you’ll forgive this rambling, self-indulgent wreck of a post, but, by God, it’s worth noting the good decisions sometimes too.

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A holistic approach to cyber security

One of the interesting things I have observed in the development of personal computing, the development of the Internet, and the rise of our technologically connected world, is the change in our language. Particularly the written, now mostly typed, word.

The language we use is indicative of the way we think. One of the strengths of the English language is its adaptability and its specificity. It is hard to tell by listening to most of us, but the English language is one of the most precise of languages. Which makes the changes in usage and thinking all the more telling.

It appears the most common spelling of the term for securing operations in a technologically networked environment is “cybersecurity.” I have an issue with this spelling, vice cyber security or even cyber-security. Cybersecurity as one word belies a thinking that it is a thing into and of itself, a discreet object, rather than a significant aspect of a much larger and more involved process.

At a recent AFCEA Bethesda Breakfast on Cyber Security I listened as the panelists told us about what they’ve accomplished during the past year, and what is on their agenda for the near future. What struck me as a common theme in this discussion was the reference to the reliance on individual members of the organizations to be a part of the solution. Yet, at no time did any of the panelists articulate a plan for training that workforce.

I have written, said, lectured, screamed, in the past that the greatest gap in cyber security today is the gap between the chair and the keyboard.

During the discussions and collaboration involved in developing the Dept. of Defenses Directive-type Memorandum 09-026 The Responsible and Effective Use of Internet-based Capabilities a uniformed military officer complained, “I hear all this talk of ‘Web 2.0’ and ‘Gov 2.0” but when am I going to get my USER 2.0?” My response was: “As soon as you train them.” Sadly, this has still not happened.

Technology is not the problem. Our failure to develop strategies, tactics, techniques, and procedures to adapt our organizations to the new reality is the problem.

Organizations must decide if their approach to cyber space is a fortress to defend or a field of maneuver. How you approach this environment will determine what resources you put toward the effort. If you believe in the fortress approach, your spending will be on firewalls, encryption, and technology that will be in the hands of a select few while the majority of your workforce will carry on with their day-to-day work usually finding ways to subvert your safeguards because your safeguards block their ability to accomplish their day-to-day work. After all, in his or her minds, someone else is responsible for the cyber security. They have never been asked to contribute other than to take the yearly Information Assurance and Operation Security online training which does very little for them except once a year remind them that it is someone else’s responsibility after I watch this video. In an employee’s mind, if it was so important they would give me better training.

Holistically, cyber space is the actions of human beings facilitated by the technological network. Nothing since hard-surfaced Roman roads have changed human behavior like the World Wide Web. Hard-surface Roman roads were a network technology, built by the government and laid out in public, which gave rise to developments that became the strength of what is now described as Western Civilization. Roman citizens were no longer reliant on subsistence farming. They began building communities at the intersections of the technology and purpose. They devised new was of living and diversifying their wealth. They began to live their lives differently.

In this Networked Age, people are finding they can now do things they have never been able to do before. They are finding ways to be more efficient and effective in the things they do. They have access to information in greater variety, greater quantity and at greater speeds than ever before in human history. They are changing the way they live their lives because of the technology that is now in the palm of their hands.

Do they care if their activity puts your system at risk? Yes, I’m sure they do. Or at least they would if they truly understood where the dangers are. Today, it’s someone else’s problem. The IT gatekeeper and engineer are the ones that keep watch and keep the walls strong. If your mental model is a fortress that must be defended.

I believe cyber space is a field of maneuver. Our adversaries and our children see it this way. In basic infantry training I learned team and squad movement tactics. It was each members responsibility to keep your eyes open and be watchful for obstacles and dangers and when one was spotted or even suspected, it was your responsibility to tell someone; a simple, yet very effective tactic. Why is cyber security not trained the same way? Why have we not established reporting systems within our organizations for members to report anomalies?

US-CERT has a central role in the network of cyber space today. An agency of the Dept. of Homeland Security, US-CERT’s web site is undergoing renovation to become more relevant, more user-friendly, and more valuable to US citizens in cyber space. The US Government is reaching out to citizens in cyber space through the National Institute of Science and Technology’s National Initiative on Cyber Education.  These are efforts to help citizens understand and report anomalies and bad behavior that lead to crime in cyber space.

Where are the organizational initiatives that will help train members of the organizations in learning to maneuver in cyber space? Where is our basic cyber infantry training? These are the people who are the edge of our organizations everyday. We need to train, organize, and equip them to better meet our collective needs in this Networked Age.

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On Leadership

Of late, I’ve been in discussions about leadership. Are leaders born or made? Has technology changed the skills needed for good leadership?

What I’ve learned about leadership has come from a long, winding, and sometimes torturous road. Leadership is about communication and decision-making; or judgement. Much I’ve learned first-hand, some by watching others. Something my Dad told me long ago comes to mind. I don’t think he was to first to say it, but he was the first to say it to me. “Good judgment comes from experience; and most experience comes from bad judgement.” I’m constantly honing my ability to learn. If I’m not learning, I’m not living; and many times that made the difference.

One of the things I find interesting is that this Networked Age is showing the fundamental lack of leadership skills by those currently in leadership positions in many organizations. While there are many aspects of good leadership, the skills I think that are essential are vision, communication, and fluid thinking. It is not enough to know how to navigate the road before you; you must also know where you are going and why. A good leader must have vision enough to recognize risk and threats and have courage enough to keep moving toward the goal while adjusting for setbacks and the unexpected.

Good leaders will use whatever technology is available to them to advance their mission. Today’s technological environment increases communication and decision-making when the technology is applied properly. Leadership is communication and decision-making. Decision-making is about observing the situation at hand, orienting yourself to the situation with your mission goal in mind, making a decision on that information and acting on that decision. Acting knowing that your action, your input, will change the dynamic and hopefully that change will be in your favor. If not, then recognizing the change and trajectory, deciding and acting again using what ever technology will enable you to gather information to make better decisions to move closer to your goal in a timely manner.

It is not about the amount of information, but the accuracy and timeliness of relevant information that makes the difference. Knowing what information is relevant and what is not is also a key skill of a leader. Understanding what are your key performance indicators, why they are your key performance indicators, and when to change them is critical. Technology can help if it supports a leader’s KPI and communication with and among the team.

Hangar Flight Alert!

(Hangar flying is a tradition where pilots sit around a hangar and tell stories about flying. For a young pilot this is a target rich learning environment.)

Back in late 1980’s and early 1990’s I was learning to fly airplanes and had the opportunity to look over and into the cockpit of the Soviet Sukhoi SU-27 “Flanker” fighter aircraft. It was sparse and relatively rudimentary especially compared to the US McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle which was parked in the hangar beside it. At the time both aircraft were the height of aeronautical achievement for their respective countries. I also met the first US Air Force Pilot to fly the Flanker. His normal aircraft was the Eagle. He said something to me that I find relevant to this conversation. He said, something to the effect: The SU-27 is an amazing aircraft. Its power and maneuverability are very close to the F-15. I would not want to be in a dog fight with any of these SU-27 pilots I’ve been flying with, they are very, very good. But as long as I can knock them out of the sky 4 miles before they can see me I won’t have to …

Technology that provides responsive communication and relevant, timely, and accurate information plus leadership that inspires the team to remain on task and on target enhances mission accomplishment.

Much I learned about leadership I learned in flight school and basic infantry school. While it is an honor and a privilege and sometimes fun to be in command (or pilot-in-command) not understanding the technology, the mission, the plan, or the controls when the unexpected arises can get you and others killed.

One of my flight instructors told me I had a natural affinity for flying. But I still needed to learn the controls. And just like flying, leadership is a responsibility that can be learned. But, just like flying, when you learn the controls and understand the responsibility, some choose not to continue. Others, while they may be maintaining level flight, do not fully understand the emergency procedures and are heading toward the crash; they just don’t realize it yet.

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SOPA, PIPA and solving the wrong problem

I still don’t understand all I know about the U.S. House of Representatives’ “Stop Online Piracy Act” and the U.S. Senate’s equivalent “Protect IP Act” as they’ve been called. I know they did what many hackers have not been able to do, shut down some major Internet sites.

I do happen to know a little bit about intellectual and artistic property rights, copyright, and the piracy of such. My dad, Tim Holt (thanx Wikipedia) and grandad Jack Holt (again I thank you Wikipedia) were both movie actors from the early days of the motion picture industry. I receive no royalty from their work, however their work continues to enhance the fortune of Ted Turner and Warner Brothers. And good for them. Their work remains alive through cable and DVD and that means a lot to me for moral reasons not monetary. Those were the contracts of the time. The contracts adapted over time and I receive royalties from work I did over twenty years ago through the Screen Actors Guild.

The point I make is that SOPA and PIPA are not designed to address the problem. This problem actually concerns most every business and government entity in some form or fashion, worldwide. I have been saying for probably three years now, the issue is not adapting the Web for your business, it is adapting your business to the Web.

Following the logic of SOPA/PIPA automobile, airplane, boat, and road builders would be liable for prosecution because drug smugglers use their equipment. I understand how someone who warehouses digital material for unlimited distribution could be liable,, but that also shows that the laws are already on the books. But should we arrest the guy laying asphalt because the guy that robbed the bank used his road for the getaway? I think not.

Now, my son Tim, who is a composer and a musician, would love nothing more than for people to find value in his work. Don’t we all? And as a starving grad student any consideration he will greatly appreciate, but stealing it is just not right. And that actually says more about us as a networked society than it does about the pirates or the industry. The transparency of the Networked Age is remarkable. Do you really want to be part of a society that condones stealing? I don’t. Do we need more law to correct those misguided? No. So what is the problem and who is responsible for solving it?

Again I say, we must stop working to adapt the Web to our business and start working to adapt our businesses to the Web. As the Screen Actors Guild did for actors in adapting the motion picture industry to a more fair economic model, it is for the digital media producers to develop ways to protect their investments. The banker doesn’t leave bags of money sitting on the sidewalk for the thief to steal. It is his responsibility to protect his, and others’, investment. Digital property requires digital protection. The technology is there, it is our tactics and procedures that have not kept pace.

Apple has a solution with its iTunes model and Absio has a solution with its Concert software. This is the innovation that creates new tactics and procedures to deal with the new problems of the new digital environment of the Networked Age.

Remember, quit trying to adapt the Web to your business and spend your resources adapting your business for the Web.

That’s what I’m thinking. Alex Howard has a thought provoking piece as does John Tarnoff and his point of value to the marketplace.

Your thoughts?

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Doing our part

Calvin Coolidge once said, “We cannot do everything at once but we can do something at once.”

Ride, donate, or just pass this on to others. It doesn’t matter which. Get involved. Do something.

From my friend Rick Spearman:

Good stories start out with, “So there I was . . .”

So there I was . . . walking into the Pentagon one morning when this big Army NCO passed by me like a man on a mission. As he walked by, I saw the glint of titanium where pants and boots came together. Not in just one leg, but in both.

Being a naturally shy person, I stopped him and asked what happened to his legs. He explained he’d lost both his legs to a roadside bomb in Iraq. We talked a while longer about his work to recover and what he was doing now. I asked him the biggest difference he noticed between the legs the Good Lord had given him and the new ones, and he said, “Well Sir, I notice my feet don’t seem to get as cold.”

Nothing much to do after that but thank him for his service and watch in wonder has he walked away. I did have a passing thought, though, about how great it would be to give a little something back to a guy like that.

Shortly after that, I heard about the Face of America Bike Ride. Face of America is a 110-mile bike ride from Washington DC to Gettysburg, PA that provides the opportunity for able-bodied bike riders to spend time on the road with riders who have been wounded serving the country. This year’s ride is April 27-29, starting at the Pentagon and ending in the middle of Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania.

The ride, created by World T.E.A.M Sports in conjunction with the Walter Reed National Medical Center, gives participants a unique opportunity to honor America’s warfighters who have been wounded, as they set and achieve new goals. I got so much out of this experience last year that I want to make a yearly event out of participating with these great Americans and honoring their service and sacrifice.

This is where I ask you for your support. Last year, with the help of some very generous contributors, I was able to raise more than $3,500 for this great cause. Wounded veterans pay no fees to participate. The rest of us raise funds to support the event and pay all costs for the wounded warriors who ride. This year, I’m asking everyone I know to contribute to this effort by going to my website to make a contribution.

If you don’t have access to the Internet or prefer to send a check payable to “Face of America Bike Ride,” please send to this address:

Face of America Bike Ride 2012
Attn: Rick Spearman
7003 Ferguson Drive
Fredericksburg, VA 22407

This is really much more than a bike ride. It’s an opportunity to share stories and build camaraderie with America’s wounded warriors. It’s a way to honor their service and celebrate the American spirit. I’d appreciate your contributions to this worthy cause and am available to answer any questions you might have at either or 540-287-3256.

Thanks very much, Rick

Since 1987, our organization has created and organized inspiring events worldwide, including the AXA World Ride, Vietnam Challenge, Sea to Shining Sea cross-country rides, Soldiers to the Summit wounded warrior events and expeditions, the Coastal TEAM Challenge, the annual TEAM Challenge in Colorado and several Face of America rides.

World T.E.A.M Sports is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. Support comes primarily from individual and corporate donations and sponsorships.

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