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                    Archive for Aug 2002


                    Web Analysis Tools and Web Site Effectiveness

                    This blog from Krzysztof Kowalczyk's Weblog caught my eye because I've recently been looking for log analysis tools. I've been out of that market for a while and was surprised by how little has changed. In the past I used log analysis software and I wasn't impressed. Two leading free tools (Analog and Webalizer) are doing industrial-strength but very uninspired job. They are old and busted. They are Ford Ts. They don't go beyond producing basic stats and occasional graphs. (note: I haven't used commercial tools, maybe they're much better). I felt that it could be done better, that we
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                    Hacking on My Mind

                    In the kind of serendipitous juxtaposition (whew!) that only happens in a news aggregator, I ran across this article on the local Salt Lake City chapter of 2600 by Dave Fletcher and right next to it was this little piece about NBC not being willing to interview someone who'd broken into their system. The insecurity of computers and networks is downright scary. While I may not condone some other their activities, the local 2600 chapter does appear to be quite well organized and they approach what they do with almost an academic flavor: regular meetings where papers are presented and
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                    Web Services in California Government

                    Michael Clark, who works for California's Department of Social Services wrote me with a wonderful story of using XML to link multiple government systems. I quote him here with permission: XML is one of those concept technologies that I find many have trouble putting into action. I can, after all, pass data any way I like. It will probably be smaller and of course we know it will be proprietary and ultimately either fail outright or die after lengthy fits of pain (usually the programming staff). I do use XML structures as often as possible and look for emerging XML
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                    UVSC Talk on the Dark Side

                    I'm speaking to the UVSC Computer Science Department this afternoon. My talk is entitle "What I've Learned on the Dark Side." The idea for the talk is that Computer Scientists (like me) often view "IT" as that icky stuff that business people do. The truth is that its a $1.5T (yes, trillion) enterprise globally and that it CS doesn't pay attention, they're going to find themselves marginalized.
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                    Credit Card Fees and eGovernment

                    Yesterday's Deseret News ran an article on credit card fees for online services: Are you one of the Utahns who were a little upset when you found out you had to pay a $3.50 "special fee" to register your car online this past year? Nearly 213,000 people coughed up the special fee -- a total of an extra $745,500 Utahns had to pay -- from August 2001 to July 2002 to renew registrations on cars, trucks, snowmobiles, trailers and boats... Three quarters of a million is a significant chunk of change. The article quotes the Governor and I on the
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                    Book Review: Strategies for Web Hosting and Managed Services by Doug Kaye

                    I've just finished going through Doug Kaye's book on web hosting. Doug describes the web hosting options available and describes strategies for outsourcing, risk management, modeling traffic, and other issues. This is the most complete collection of information about hosting I've ever seen. The information in the book is a great start for someone looking at a hosting effort that's too large to just turn over to a shared hosting service. This book stops short of getting into what it takes to design, build and operate a multi-tiered transaction oriented web application like eBay or Amazon. That is kind of
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                    Utah.gov Email

                    About a year ago, I wrote a paper about using the utah.gov URL for state business instead of the state.ut.us domain. State agencies took this to heart and I'm happy to say that most state web sites now sport the utah.gov domain and we're building brand with some advertising and things like the messages you hear while you're on hold. Another thing I asked was that employees adopt utah.gov as their email domain. Previously each department (or division) used a different domain for email. We set up a translator service and about 4000 people signed up for a utah.gov email. Eventually
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                    Open Source for E-Government Conference

                    I'm speaking at the Open Source for E-Government conference in Washington D.C. on Oct 17th-18th. infoDev, the Cyberspace Policy Institute of The George Washington University, and the UNDP are the sponsors.
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                    National States Geographic Information Council

                    GIS systems play an important role in government IT at all levels. Utah's group is among the best int he nation. I've been asked to speak at the annual meeting of the National States Geographic Information Council on Sept. 10th at 2pm. I'm going to give them an XML message. That may not be what they had in mind, but its what I think is important that they hear.
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                    Ogasawara's Open Source in Government Website

                    Todd Ogasawara has put together a blog on open source software in government. Todd made a presentation at OSCON on a project he'd done in the State of Hawaii using open source.
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                    Bug Tracking

                    Joe Leary on his blog says: As part of the State Portal project we need a bug tracking system. A quick search of the internet provided a reference to a free bug tracking package that seems simple to install and use. I'd recommend Bugzilla. My experience in this area is that you want a very good bug tracking system that will scale well. Since we'll want to expand the use of any successful project to other areas and projects, we should use something that can go the distance. Bugzilla will do that.
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                    The Correct Use of SOAP

                    In an article entitled "Web Services: Is it CORBA Redux?" Gordon Van Huizen writes: Similarly, Web services installations will require a scalable software infrastructure that offers directory services, SOAP routing, service management and pluggable security across the enterprise. Enterprises that fail to plan for this will not be able to fulfill the promise of Web services as its adoption grows. I like this quote, but its not actually the main point of the article. The main point is (let me put this simply): Message-based SOAP: good RPC-style SOAP: bad While I agree and happen to have a good feel for
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                    Weblog Guidelines

                    Ray Ozzie has published a set of weblog guidelines for employees. We don't have some of the concerns he mentions (like SEC issues), but much of it is directly applicable. I've stayed away from anything this specific, but I don't see anything here that is too onerous. The one issue I do have is this: Ozzie's guidelines are very clear that all weblogs are treated as private by an employee who does not represent the company. I think that's entirely reasonable for public weblogs. There need to be official spokespeople. However, in a more inwardly focusing weblog, the product manager for a
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                    Blogs for Students

                    Scot Hacker is trying to find the right blog for students in a course he's teaching. Regular readers will recognize that as a concern I've had as well. I've always had my students keep lab notebooks and I used a blog for my course last year. This year, I want the lab notebooks online as blogs. Since the course already uses Slashcode, the journal feature is a natural tool to consider. There are even RSS feeds of journals, a key requirement. I think that some students will be taken by blogging, however, and want a more robust tool than the Slashcode
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                    Blogging and Categorization

                    This short article in Business 2.0 references our experiment with blogs here in Utah and questions the effectiveness of using a search appliance like the one from Google to turn them into a useful knowledge base. While I'm inclined to agree in theory that categorization is probably better than raw search (that's why I use categories on my blog), I think that this argument is analogous to the Yahoo! vs. Excite (or Altavista or Infoseek) debates of a few years ago. If you remember, Yahoo!'s claim to fame was human categorization of web sites into topics while the others relied
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                    Governor's Remarks at IT Commission

                    As I mentioned, the Governor appeared at the IT Commission last Thursday and spoke about his IT plan. The Deseret News had a brief story about his remarks and my followup.
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                    IT Commission

                    We had a meeting of the IT Commission yesterday afternoon. The Governor came and discussed his plan for IT and his desire that we find a way to "increase our velocity." After he left, I filled in some of the details. The Commission staff had prepared a long list of "possible concerns" regarding the new plan and advised that we "go slow." The Commission is a creature of the legislature and has an important roll in the policy, legislative, and funding side of IT. I'd find it more useful if they were forthcoming with positive suggestions and encouragement instead of
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                    Digging Ideas Out of People's Heads

                    Dave McNamee is doing a good job on his weblog of narrating his work and keeping his co-workers updated about where his head is at on any given day. Good work Dave! I worry sometimes about the public expression of information that should be kept confidential, but I worry more about the exponentially worse problem of keeping confidential that which should be publicly expressed. I can think of ways to solve the first problem, but I can't dig ideas out of people's heads. They must be expressed to be used.
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                    Web Services a Mirage?

                    In Migrating to Web Services, Roger Costello says: How far along is the industry in achieving the Web services vision? Here's my take on it: The Web services vision is a mirage at the present. If you jump on it today you will loose. The only thing that's real today is XML. Use it. I agree with this. My paper on Enabling Web Services is aimed squarely at how to use XML today so that an organization can use web services later. Roger is more conservative than I am with respect to some of the emerging standards. For example, he
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                    Graduate Students and Tuition

                    Dave Fletcher comments on the Utah Legislatures fixation on out of state graduate students: Marginal Cost of Goods. The Utah legislature's executive appropriations committee spent a lot of time yesterday talking about the cost associated with tuition waivers for graduate students at Utah's two research institutions (University of Utah and Utah State University). These graduate students, most of whom are teaching assistants or research assistants are granted in-state tuition. Legislators are concerned that the State is paying too much to support out-of-state students. He continues with some good comments on the marginal cost of admitting new students. My take is
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                    Hacking Radio Stats

                    I was poking around in the Radio rankings and noticed something peculiar. If you look at this ranking, you'll notice that there are about 100 referers from a business opportunity site. However, when you go to that site, the weblog in the ranking isn't mentioned or linked anywhere. Turns out there's a bit of javascript in each page on the bizop site that loads the count GIF from radio.xmlstoragesystem.com. I'm not sure I see the point. There are better ways to track webg site usage for non-Radio web sites, so that can't be it. And I'm not sure what good
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                    XML Schemas vs. DTDs and Other Issues

                    John Gotze in Gotzeblogged writes: The most interesting document on this I've read for a long while (and I've been reading a lot) is Phil Windley's Enabling Web Services. I must follow up more in details, because there are lots of good points, but also a few places where I disagree: DTDs? No, use XML Schemas, I'd say. WSIL? Hmmm. Maybe, but we (government) need to engage in UDDI too. I think using XML Schema instead of DTDs is probably the right choice. I'll update the paper. In particular the XML Schema language gives you the power of a context sensative grammar rather
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                    Pleasant Surprise

                    As I've mentioned here before, I have traditionally had my students keep a written lab notebook of all the actions they take as they set up and administer their machines. This year, I'd like to have them keep their notebooks online in a blog. That enables me to keep up with what their writing in an aggregator rather than everyone passing bulky written notebooks around. I've got a few options: Have the students use Radio. Pros: its easy Cons: it costs money and they won't necessarily have there own windows box to run it on (the lab machines will be
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                    Candidate's Weblog

                    Tara Grubb is a candidate for U.S. Congress, North Carolina, District 6. (from her weblog). I think its interesting to see a weblog from a candidate. I'm not familiar with the District 6 race in NC, so I don't know if Ms. Grubb is a viable candidate or not, but a weblog is a nice personable way to get the word out. Now, a real weblog by a sitting politician is something else of interest. I'm not aware of any. Politicians, for good reason, take public positions very carefully and with much advice from people they trust.
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                    Apache Gains Ground

                    The latest Netcraft survey shows Apache gaining substantial share against Microsoft's web server. As you can see in the graph, iPlanet and others are sinking into oblivion. We have quite a few instances of Microsoft's web server running and it causes most of our web-based security problems. Like everyone else, apparently, we've been replacing it. Our state de facto standard is for iPlanet, but Apache is on the emerging standards list and I've been encouraging its use in the State whenever I can. I've been an Apache user since it was first released. Like any piece of widely deployed software, it has had some security
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                    Tiered Support Model at ITS

                    Today ITS announced their Tiered Support Model (this link is on the state intranet). What they've developed is a localized implementation of the tiered support model described in this paper. The primary goals of ITS, in altering its organizational structure and processes, are: putting into practice a consistent, customer-focused process for assisting customers; tracking every issue and request--and performing trends--in order to improve the quality of our products, services and processes; eliminating reoccurring issues by identifying and resolving the "root cause" of each issue; improving response and resolution times; and, developing a knowledge base as a resource in providing prompt, accurate
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                    Newest Member of the Utah.gov Blogroll

                    Shellie Faraday's Radio Weblog is the newest blog by a Utah State IT employee. Shellie works at the Department of Health. In case you haven't recently visited any of the other Utah.gov blogroll sites (see list on the left), there is some interesting material being generated.
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                    Digital State Results

                    Government Technology Magazine reports on the results of Part II of the Digital State survey. I reported those numbers earlier here. There's a quote that I think is very relevant to what we're doing: Kent Lassman, director of the Digital Policy Network and a research fellow of The Progress & Freedom Foundation, noted the rapidity of change in this particular arena. "With nearly half of the top-10 states improving their ranks from last year, double-digit climbs up the rankings by three states and five newcomers to the top-10 rankings, this category shows how an initial adoption of technology is not
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                    Chasm Bridge Web Services Summit

                    I'll be speaking at the Chasm Bridge Summit on web services on October 15th.
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                    Of All the Stupid...

                    Yesterday I wrote about IM Bots. A pretty cool idea. Today I see in this Internet World article that ActiveBuddy has won a patent on the idea. I'm not a rabid anti-patent kind of guy, but this one seems pretty wimpy. There's plenty of prior art (like this Eliza IRC bot from June 1999). But whats more, small companies rarely win by having a patent. That's for IBM and other large companies who can employ hundreds of corporate attorneys. Even there most of them primarily use their patents defensively rather than offensively. The best way for a company like ActiveBuddy to win
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                    Smoke Jumping

                    Business 2.0 has an article about Tech's Most Valuable Temp. The article is about the Feld Group, an enterprise computing consulting firm started by Charlie Feld. They're responsible for the tech turn around at Delta Airlines. For over a year now, I've marveled at how I could go to the Delta web site and change my seat assignment, call into the customer service line right away, and have them be able to see the change I just made. That's how its supposed to work. According to this article, the integration goes deeper than that. I find myself agreeing with Feld a lot. For
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                    Why this is Fun

                    One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about being the CIO for a state government is the sheer breadth of what a government does. As an example, I just found out we have a program (and web site) devoted to wind power in Utah by reading Dave Fletcher's blog.
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                    Unintended Consequences

                    One of my favorite sayings is that I love when good things happen and I don't have to be involved. I don't think its original with me, its an expression that anyone who manages anything has thought at one time or another. Web services are like that. In this article on Loosely Coupled, Phil Wainewright talks about the Bookwatch Plus service and what makes it all possible: namely services offered by five different companies, people or groups who didn't know beforehand that their service would be used to create this book watch service. Tim Oreilly writes: "Innovation will come from
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                    People are the Key in Technology

                    In an article in the Atlantic Monthly called Homeland Insecurity, Charles Mann quotes Bruce Schneier thusly: "The trick is to remember that technology can't save you," Schneier says. "We know this in our own lives. We realize that there's no magic anti-burglary dust we can sprinkle on our cars to prevent them from being stolen. We know that car alarms don't offer much protection. The Club at best makes burglars steal the car next to you. For real safety we park on nice streets where people notice if somebody smashes the window. Or we park in garages, where somebody watches the
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                    IM Bots

                    Rick Gee turned me on to this. There was a story today on NPR about bots that interact with people over IM. If you go to Active Buddy, you can interact with some of their bots. They are essentially Eliza programs with a better database, or at least that's what it seems. eBay apparently uses one for FAQs. All in all, a pretty clever use of IM, in my book. A few questions: Does anyone know if there's a IM interface to Ask Jeeves? I couldn't find one on their site. Seem like a natural. I don't see (with a
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                    Reorganizing IT

                    Last week (before I went on vacation), Governor Leavitt announced a restructuring of IT in Utah State government. The change was covered by the local press (The SL Tribune covered it as well, but has a stupid policy of only allowing access to the last week's issues without paying a fee). This change is designed to increase our capacity to create cross agency eGovernment applications as well as to strengthen the enterprise view of IT. My life has suddenly gotten a lot busier as I work to implement this plan. Its clear from the Governor's letter that he expects business line managers to
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                    Do It Yourself DSL

                    An article from Business 2.0 about a small town who got fed up waiting for the telcos to offer broadband in their community: Oppedahl and about a dozen of his neighbors bought it last year for approximately $5,000. Then they scooped up cable modems, routers, and other equipment (usually for pennies on the dollar on eBay) and spent the past 10 months setting up the first subscriber-owned DSL co-op in America. While it all might seem unremarkable to outsiders -- it serves 12 homes at average DSL data speeds -- it does offer a compelling script for rural towns that
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                    Utah Wins EPA eGovernment Grant

                    Utah was amoung 44 states that got a grant (about $400K) to work with EPA in developing the National Environmental Information Exchange Network. The Exchange Network is a joint project for sharing environmental data between EPA, states, and other partners over the Internet. This is a component of the Federal eGovernment initiative. Utah has been a participant in a pilot project for the last year that showed the benefit and feasibility of this larger project.
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                    Utah.gov Blogroll Keeps on Rolling

                    Al Sherwood, on my staff, is keeping a blog and it looks like it will be interesting. One of the biggest questions in my mind is will this prove to be a valuable way for me to keep up with what my direct reports are working on and thinking about. I'm hoping it will.
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                    Enabling Web Services

                    I've completed a paper on Enabling Web Services which takes my earlier principles, cleans them up, and wraps some explaination around them along with pointers to other resources. This will appear in this month's Capitol Connections newsletter.
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                    Another Addition to the Utah.gov Blogroll

                    Wade Billings is the newest member of the Utah.gov blogroll.
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                    Network World Article on Blogging

                    I was interviewed for this article on blogging and using it in large organizations a few weeks ago. Most of the interest was generated by my offer to pay for blogging software for the first 100 State IT workers to start one.
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                    I'm Getting Arrested

                    On Wednesday afternoon, I'm getting arrested. This is one of those ugly little situation where they actually haul you out of your office with handcuffs on and embarrass you in front of your friends. Fortunately, its for a good cause. I'm being arrested by the Muscular Dystrophy Association and held for $2000 bail. If you're a vendor (or anyone else who doesn't want to see me rot in prison) and you're willing to help me raise my bail, please let me know. I'm beginning to think I'll just have to serve my time.
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                    Enterprise Desktop Management

                    On his weblog, Ray Ozzie says: In terms of building software that people actually use, I strictly prioritize my platform investments and always have based upon "where the users are". No religion. Obviously that means Windows first. But we didn't know what to make of the Linux phenomenon when we were building Groove, so we covered our bases by funding a company (Macadamian) to enhance Wine so that Groove would run. We eventually gave up: nobody gave a hoot about Linux on the desktop. Regarding the Mac, two factoids - take them for what you will: a) the top personal request
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                    New Utah.gov Blog

                    Dave Willis, IT Director for the Dept. of Commerce, is the newest member of the utah.gov blogroll.
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                    Vacation

                    I'm going on vacation. Don't expect to see much here until next week.
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                    An Open Source Challenge with Linux?

                    I've been thinking of giving myself an open source challenge and trying to work for a week with just open source software. I think its possible, but not easy, so the question is---how hard is it? I won't let my work suffer because of it and I don't have a lot of extra time to be configuring things and loading them up. So, with that in mind, I repartitioned my laptop and installed Redhat Linux 7.3 (Valhalla) on it yesterday. I've been a long time FreeBSD user (built a whole company on it), but have used Linux in my class
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                    Fighting SPAM in Utah

                    The Salt Lake Tribune reports: A Sandy law firm, Nelson Snuffer Dahle & Poulsen, has filed 58 complaints in 3rd District Court on behalf of Utah residents who received unsolicited e-mail advertisements from a variety of companies. This is allowed under a new Utah law sponsored by Rep. Patrice Arent. I have to admit, as we were reviewing that law, I wondered if anyone was really going to do anything with it. I'm glad to see that someone is using it to fight back.
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                    Part II of the Digital State Survey

                    Utah received a #3 ranking in the Electronic Commerce & Business Regulation category of the Center for Digital Government's annual Digital State Survey. This is up from a #8 ranking last year in the same category. The departments of Tax and Commerce have been leaders in this area. We placed 22nd in Management and Administration and didn't place in the top 25 in Digital Democracy. This is only part II of a four part survey that culminates in an overall ranking. Normally Utah does pretty well overall, finishing 7th last year.
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                    EarthViewer

                    One of the facts of life for a state CIO is that much of the information you deal with has latlong coordinates associated with it (all the other records have social security numbers). While I was in Colorado this week, I had an opportunity to spend a few hours talking with John Gage, the Chief Scientist at Sun. John showed me a piece of software called EarthViewer. If you like maps, even a little, you'll love this program. The program uses Keyhole satellite data to give you a view or anywhere on earth. The software allows you to fly over the
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