Category Archives: email

What is in an URL?

I changed my primary Uniform Resource Locator, URL, to a name more fitting for the next phase of my life. Of course I am also trying to move past my Higher Education Technology focus. This change is not really worthy of a post, however, the experience surrounding the purchase and implementation of a new URL did capture my interest. I have wanted to switch for a while but I had not been struck by a name that seemed appropriate. But I have been referring to my blog in the sub title as “The Adventure Continues” and I have drifted around that theme with a number of posts. So I took the next step, checked WHOIS and voila, the name I wanted was available and affordable. I have always gravitated to the .org top level domain because I equate .org with non-commercial and I have no interest in monetizing my blog. For the most part, my blog is my archive of my adventures, so the Adventure Continues with a new blog name and URL.

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Image Credit Computerworld

Do you remember when the URL was everything. URL squatters tried to grab up all potentially lucrative names that at that time would typically precede .com or maybe .net. Of course today you can create about any top level domain but us old timers still feel a connection to the early pioneers. The other day I was in a meeting with students reviewing a proposal which had an URL printed in the documentation as a reference. I told the students that they could paste the url into their browser to review the site. One student giggled and said that she could not remember ever hearing someone refer to a web address as an URL. OK, that surprised me a bit. But really that was validation that the URL does not carry that much weight anymore. Content is king because search engines are all powerful.

I reflect upon this because of the emphasis my domain name provider tried to place on the importance of privacy for my domain name registration. They wanted to charge me $8 per year to make my whois registration private. If you have no idea what I am talking about open a terminal session and type “whois adventurecontinues.org”. I have owned URLs from the very early Internet days, back when the URL dictated whether anyone would find your site or not. Public whois registration information was important to validate the integrity of the site and of course let people know who they might need to buy the URL from in case it was highly desired. Unfortunately this is valuable identity information which today is considered an invitation to sell you something, primarily all sorts of help with monetizing your website. Since purchasing my new URL I have received 100+ emails offering me every conceivable service I might ever need to optimize my website. Luckily all of those emails end up in my Spam folder (thank you Google). I suppose I could have avoided those emails ending up in my Spam folder if I had paid GoDaddy an extra $8 per year. Maybe I should pay Google the $8 for making it easy to delete them all “Delete all spam messages now (messages that have been in Spam more than 30 days will be automatically deleted)”.

I can rationalize this decision to brave the dangerous world of public notification but then again, it will create further issues. I have always been good at protecting the distribution of my phone number and to a certain extent my home address, but this information is readily available via the WHOIS lookup. Oh well, I think I will take the risk. After all Life is just one Big Adventure.

Clarification for our biggest Cloud concerns

I just got back from our annual Fall NWACC Conference held in Portland, OR. NWACC, Northwest Academic Computing Consortium, is a organization run by the IT leaders from most of the mid to large colleges and universities in the Northwest. We tried something different as is common for us, we invited our legal councils to attend and the focus of discussions centered around the common legal issues facing IT services in Higher Education. A big thank you to Tracy Mitrano, Director of IT Policy and of Computer Policy and Law Program, Cornell University, who helped put this all together.

The sessions dealing with Cloud services and more specifically legal implications that could be related to the outsourcing of services to Google were of great interest since we have recently moved all of our email to gmail. Steve McDonald, General Counsel, Rhode Island School of Design and Joe Storch, Associate Counsel, Office of University Counsel, SUNY System Administration, provided excellent insight for this issue. My major takeaway was that E-Discover is what you make of it. Yes there may be a situation down the road where you may not be able to provide historical documents that may be asked of you, but that is all. You are only required to provide what you can based on your business processes. In fact that has never been an issue for me, there is no reason to institutionally provide an email archiving solution.

The real elephant in the room is the issue of FERPA compliance if Google mines your data. I am not an expert on FERPA regulations, however, it has never appeared overly complicated. FERPA was designed to protect the student’s education records and status as a student. So I am still intrigued by why many institutions work so hard to show that there is a direct correlation to how Google’s data mining of our email could ever translate into a FERPA violation. Google is willing to promise that their process of data mining would never translate into such a violation. But they will not nor should they be required to eliminate all data mining, that is why their service exists.  So I am perplexed as to why so much legal energy has been spent on trying to force Google to comply with this request. FERPA issues generally go back to people issues, so I will focus on those real risks. Plus, offering my institution the incredible value of the finest unified communication solution that money does not have to buy is far more important.

I appreciated the talk on Risk Assessment given by Tracy Futhey, Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer; Duke University, which helped me evaluate this Google outsourcing into my acceptable risk context. As I mentioned the value of the overall Google toolset justifies the decision. I now have greater control over these collaboration tools because of the commitment to tie it together under our email/account structure. I believe that by not offering this service I was actually promoting more risk because of the large number of faculty, staff and students who were using the same services with their personal Google accounts. My greater concerns are now for which Google services to allow and the education guidelines to provide for how to use them. Do these institutions working on the justification to move to the Cloud for email realize that by the time they solve all of their legal fears they will need to deal with the next battle that looms (Facebook email).

iPad’s Filling System

I have been meaning to write this Post for a few days now. There are enough people around here with iPads that it has become obvious that the iPad is the desired note taking device for meetings. I also believe it is a great use for the iPad. My previous note taking strategy has revolved around various paper notebooks that allowed me to maintain a certain level of archiving. I do realize that managing all of the meeting notes is about to get out of control. Of course I could just let the list grow and use the Search option to hopefully find a meeting or scroll through them all. But why mess with that when the iPad has a perfectly adequate filling system thanks to their primary email export option. Of course email the notes to myself and file them. Makes even more sense now that we are about to migrate to Google to realize 7 gig of email storage. The brilliance of simplicity or is it a partnership with Google?

Google Wave Luxury Suite for Email

While reading the Google Wave Blog specifically some articles about XMPP a comment caused me to reflect on Google Wave as a preferred email environment because there may actually be a strategy for managing SPAM. Google Wave could be a lot of things depending on how you want to use it, but it definitely is a better email client. It is better because at a minimum it is email, but that is where it starts. The problem with email is that it is generally the de-facto front door of personal communication, and anyone can come to the front door. Now Google Wave could use email as the receptionist and then allow Waves to be used as incredibly flexible email collaborations without the SPAM annoyance. We have had other tools that fit this email as the receptionist model, but none that match so closely with our preferred email contact list. Take the SAP Gravity demo as an example. An email starts out as a question and ends up as a full business process collaborative analysis. I can definitely see a day when email from our important contacts typically kicks over into a Google Wave environment.

Unified Messaging

I recently went to an interactive presentation on Unified Messaging hosted at a nearby university and delivered by a major email appliance vendor. I was partially interested in products that would be pitched, but mostly I wanted to see how traditional Unified Messaging was going to compete against free Google. Actually I am investigating whether it is a good idea to take that next step with Google.

Well, I learned a lot. I learned that Google is in another category because they actually provide today’s Unified Messaging. It used to be Voice, Fax and Email combined in a single digital message delivery system and the challenge was with mobile devices. I realized things haven’t changed a whole lot with this vendor when I mentioned the importance of coordinating Blogs, Wiki’s, conferencing, IM, Twits, along with the older mediums and the vendor dodged the opportunity and confirmed that they were not into Cloud Computing. In fact the main value point that they tried to push was a more effective way to respond to E-Discovery requests, actually the presentation felt a lot like Washington politician’s pitching the politics of fear.

I have held off from turning over Identity information to Google with the justification that it is better that I know where our communication data resides. And I did not want to have to explain what data harvesting meant to my constituents. But my greatest need is for an Identity Management System to provide a more flexible way to allow my users to collaborate. My Active Directory groups are never going to take me there. I’m talking about ID grouping where the user is in control, like why FaceBook is so successful. And I don’t have $ and Sys Admins to throw at the problem. That is why I may finally go to the Google side.