Review: Beyond Transparency – Open Data and the Future of Civic Innovation

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Brett Goldstein and Lauren Dyson (editors)

4.0 out of 5 stars Superb on Open Data, Missing Important Context And Index, July 6, 2014

This is a superb collection of individual very short contributions. Absolutely worth reading and strongly recommended for purchase and sharing.

Some take-aways:

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Jul 6

Review: Analytics in a Big Data World – The Essential Guide to Data Science and Its Applications

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Bart Baesens

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Overview of Analytic Applications — Focused on Consumer, Contains Math, May 22, 2014

Bottom line up front: a superb book and a truly great overview that is easily understandable to me except for the fraction of the book that is math.

Right away I like the structure of the book in relation to analytics. Use Amazon’s Inside the Book feature to see that structure. I also appreciate the clarity and integrity demonstrated by the author in touching on major obstacles to big data analytics, among which are past biases in policy and collection and the absence of critical values needed to test NEW hypotheses. The author is brutal in a low key manner (which is to say, very professional) in evaluating the different types of data streams and the problems with each of them. Getting the raw data is a challenge — cleaning that data is a greater challenge — making sense of swiss cheese data with a host of underlying intellectual cancers is the greatest challenge of all.

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May 27

Review (Guest): Intelligence for Earth – Clarity, Diversity, Integrity & Sustainability

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5.0 out of 5.0 Stars One visionary’s way out of the Corporate Feudalism/International Conflict trap

By Herbert L Calhoun on April 1, 2014

In this book, the author, drawing extensively on his intelligence and military background, has cleanly written an easy to follow book, that outlines a careful course of action for developing a new kind of global information sharing infrastructure. To be headquartered at the UN, this new infrastructure would make it possible for every organization (and through them, everyone) on the globe to share open-source intelligence equally as a free public resource. If it is successful, this new global brain could transform our world from its current insecurity-driven and corrupt corporate dominated lose-lose, economic and conflict trap, into a much revived win-win strategy for bottom-up collective survival in a peaceful and sustainable world economy.

At least that is the theoretical hope and vision. On paper, and in principle, it is a stunningly sexy and attractive vision, one that, should it prove operationally testable and feasible, could indeed have the important side benefit and advantage of creating new bottom-up wealth, energizing the world economy and easing world tensions by reducing mistrust and fear back down to the noise level.

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Apr 21

Review: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

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Ben Horowitz

5.0 out of 5 stars ABSORBING – Requires Open Mind, March 16, 2014

I generally read all the reviews before writing my own, in part to see if anyone has already covered the ground the way I like to, with a summary evaluative review. There are only two reviews before mine that I consider world-class, please do read them if you have the time. I refer to the reviews by Mercenary Trader and Scott S. Bell, I salute both of them for providing substance useful to all.

This is not a comprehensive book in that it is a very personal perspective, brings together many specific snapshots, but never addresses “root” in relation to how the team went from great idea to source code to buzz to market share. As I read the book I thought often about a book I read in the 1980′s, still a classic, Tracey Kidder’s The Soul of A New Machine.

I would say this book is an absolutly priceless gem for the “hard knocks” at the CEO level perspective, and should be combined with any of several alternatives on start-ups such as Matt Blumberg’s Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business, + Website, and, forthcoming, Peter Thiel of PayPal’s Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.

I’ve built two companies, both failures in that I never made the leap from one man with an obession to a movement (OSS.Net, Inc. and Earth Intelligence Network, a 501c3) and what I did not see in this book, or any other book I have found, is the roadmap for getting from a big idea to big marketshare. That book remains to be written, and it could be that it should be written by Marc Andressen and a team. Jim Clark’s Netscape Time: The Making of the Billion-Dollar Start-Up That Took on Microsoft is a fine but dated (1999) start but we need something now tailored to the Internet of Things (what everyone else is thinking about) and free individual access to and ability to leverage all information in all languages all the time (what I have been thinking about since 1986 — visit Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog to learn more). I am also reminded of Michael Lewis’s The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story.

All this by way of saying that you have no business reading or buying this book if you are expecting a holistic 360 degree soup to nuts outline of how to zero to Mach 2. The greatest value of this book for me was in learning that it is possible to keep flying when you lose power and both wings fall off at the same time.

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Mar 16

Worth a Look: Beyond Transparency – Open Data and the Future of Civic Innovation

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Jan 23

Review: Stratagem: Deception and Surprise in War

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Barton Whaley

5.0 out of 5 stars Pioneeding, Deep, Essential, Needs 21st Century Follow-Up September 5, 2013

I borrowed this book from another officer, and have been quite delighted to spend time with it.

This is a much older book than most realize (1969) and its examples and case studies stop with the Six-Day War in 1967 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. It is certain a book that is worthy of being brought up to date through to the varied wars of the 21st Century; it is also a book that would merit a deeper look at the ethics, efficacy, and frequent perversion of deception operations, by which I mean both the mission and the mind-set creep from focused deception to what has been called “Strategic Communication,” or lies so broad and deep we believe them ourselves and want everyone else to believe them also. Apart from being dated, this is the books more important oversight – it does not offer the reader a balanced appraisal of when transparency, truth, and trust are a better investment than pervasive and pernicious deception of one’s own public, global leaders, and global publics. The latter may be asking too much, I will soften it by strongly endorsing this book as a reader for war colleges around the world, with my own monographs (free online) from the U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute (SSI), as the counterfoil.

Now for the good of this book, this is considerable. This book merits vastly more attention than it has been getting, in part because the US marketplace is dumbed down and drugged up, and the US military still has a “hey-diddle-diddle up the middle mind-set.” “Keep it simple” is often actually “keep it stupid.” In that context, this book could be used to teach both ethics and nuanced thinking at the war colleges. The book offers – and the author points out this is the least visible part of the book – “an original exercise in methodology – a method designed to unmask deception when it is present.”

The author’s introduction to the 2007 reprint is BRILLIANT. I can do no better and therefore I keep the book at five stars and suggest that the introduction, and my extractive summary of the book provided here at Amazon, be used as handouts across the war colleges.

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Sep 6

Review: The Media Ecosystem — What Ecology Can Teach Us About Responsible Media Practice

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Antonio Lopez

5.0 out of 5 stars A unique and timely integrative overview with many original insights, August 22, 2013

I received this book as a gift, and am glad that I did as I normally would not have noticed it, bought it, or reviewed it. I hope my review will inspire others to buy the book, and if not, provide a summary of some of the highlights that I consider quite timely, original, and useful.

This is a manifesto of sorts, on CRITICAL INFORMATION, or stated another way, on public decision-support needs and the urgency of restoring both integrity (tell the truth) and holistic soundness (report on everything, and on the cause and effect cost and consequences of everything in relation to everything). Of course modern media fails this test, and the author should be credited with providing a manifesto and high-level handbook of how we might proceed.

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Aug 22

Review: Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategy for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism

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Ion Mihai Pacepa and Ronald J. Rychlak

3.0 out of 5 stars Walks, Talks, and Smells Like a CIA Publication, July 13, 2013

This book is being touted by Radio Liberty, a CIA subsidiary, and everything about it reeks of a CIA disinformation operation.

First, though, an acknowledgement. The Soviets, working largely through their more gifted satellite nations (Romania was not one of them, Romania belonged to the Pope and the CIA), did do disinformation, and very well. There is no finer book on this subject than that by Ladislav Bittman, THE DECEPTION GAME.

This book is an entirely different matter.

01 It’s author is a known Vatican “fellow traveler” if not an agent of influence under discipline.

02 It’s author walks, talks, dresses like, and gives off every appearance of being a CIA bureaucrat. While we believe him to be legitimate in so far as his past occupation (read his Wikipedia profile) — this guy appears to be one of CIA’s “light” non-official cover officers.

03 The book’s argument, that all of the USA’s present troubles stem from a successful Soviet-era disinformation, is idiocy at best, outright lies and fabrication and deliberate disinformation at worst. Every other non-fiction book I have read and reviewed here at Amazon generally contradicts this book. The USA went in search of enemies, and created them. The Cold War was a creation of CIA and Lockheed and military flag officers all too eager to profit from war and push the edge of financial fraud.

On balance I do not recommend this book — CIA is already a waste of the taxpayer’s funds — but recommend instead the book by Bittman and the nine books listed below.

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Jul 13

Review (Guest): Surveillance or Security?: The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies

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Susan Landau

5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive text on the topic July 8, 2011

Ben Rothke

Surveillance or Security?: The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies is a hard book to categorize. It is not about security, but it deals extensively with it. It is not a law book, but legal topics are pervasive throughout the book. It is not a telecommunications book, but extensively details telco issues. Ultimately, the book is a most important overview of security and privacy and the nature of surveillance in current times.

Surveillance or Security? is one of the most pragmatic books on the topic is that the author never once uses the term Big Brother. Far too many books on privacy and surveillance are filled with hysteria and hyperbole and the threat of an Orwellian society. This book sticks to the raw facts and details the current state, that of insecure and porous networks around a surveillance society.

In this densely packed work, Susan Landau, a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University details the myriad layers around surveillance, national security, information security and privacy. Landau writes that her concern is not about legally authorized law enforcement and nationally security wiretapping; rather about the security risks of building surveillance into communications infrastructures.

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Apr 30

Review (Guest): The Squandered Computer: Evaluating the Business Alignment of Information Technologies

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Paul Strassmann

5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves careful study–a powerful message about technology March 4, 1999

By Lou Agosta (lagosta@21stcentury.net)

The main targets for Paul Strassmann’s unmasking of misconceptions about the business use of computers include the Gartner Group, advocates of Best Practices, and that mouth piece of computing vendors, the computing trade press (e.g., CIO Magazine). While not a particularly angry polemic, Strassmann is all the more devastating for his understated, simple, and straight-forward marshaling of basic facts.

The Gartner group is making a fortune telling executives in various industries what per cent of revenue for a particular vertical industry should be spent on their firms computing function in order to remain profitable. For example, insurance spends a relatively high per cent of revenue, whereas manufacturing is less. Retail is in the middle. In industry after industry, Strassmann demonstrates there is no correlation in spending on computers and profitability. None.

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Mar 22