Marking 70 years of eavesdropping in Canada

Bill Robinson has penned a nice essay Marking 70 years of eavesdropping in Canada. The essay gives the background of Canada’s signals intelligence unit, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) which just marked its 70th anniversary (on Sept. 1st.)

The original unit was the peacetime version of the Joint Discrimination Unit called the CBNRC (Communications Branch of the National Research Council). I can’t help wondering what was meant by “discrimination”?

Unable to read the Soviets’ most secret messages, the UKUSA allies resorted to plain-language (unencrypted) communications and traffic analysis, the study of the external features of messages such as sender, recipient, length, date and time of transmission—what today we call metadata. By compiling, sifting, and fusing a myriad of apparently unimportant facts from the huge volume of low-level Soviet civilian and military communications, it was possible to learn a great deal about the USSR’s armed forces, the Soviet economy, and other developments behind the Iron Curtain without breaking Soviet codes. Plain language and traffic analysis remained key sources of intelligence on the Soviet Bloc for much of the Cold War.

Robinson is particularly interesting on “The birth of metadata collection” as the Soviets frustrated developed encryption that couldn’t be broken.

Robinson is also the author of one of the best blogs on Canadian Signals Intelligence activities Lux Ex Umbra. He posts long thoughtful discussions like this one on Does CSE comply with the law?

Social Marketing wisdom from the cartoonist

I just discovered Hugh MacLeod and in the course of browsing his cartoons stumbled on this gem:

Somewhere along the line I figured out the easiest products to market are objects with “Sociability” baked-in. Products that allow people to have “conversations” with other folk. Seth Godin calls this quality “remarkablilty”.

For example: A street beggar holding out an ordinary paper cup cup won’t start a conversation. A street beggar holding out a Starbucks cup will. I know this to be true, because it happened to me and a friend the other day, as we were walking down the street and a guy asked us for some spare change. Afterwards, as we were commenting about the rather sad paradox of a homeless guy plying his trade with a “luxury” coffee cup, my friend said, “Starbucks should be paying that guy.”

Actually, my friend is wrong. Starbuck’s doesn’t need to be paying the homeless guy. Because Starbucks created a social object out of a paper cup, the homeless guy does their marketing for free, whether he knows it or not.

Although I suspect he does. I suspect somewhere along the line the poor chap figured out that holding out a Starbucks cup gets him more attention [and spare change] than an ordinary cup. And suddenly we’re seeing social reciprocity between a homeless person and a large corporation, without money ever changing hands. Whatever your views are on the plight of homeless people, this is “Indirect Marketing” at its finest.

This, along with a recently read post by Doc Searl, leaves me wistfully wondering why I never hear this kind of talk from the marketing people I know. Not that I want to encourange any of them to think up new ways to exploit the homeless.

YEP: PDF Broswer

Screen of YepYep is the best new software I’ve come across in a while. Yep is to PDFs on your Mac as iPhoto is to images and iTunes is to music – a well designed tool for managing large collections of PDFs. Yep can automatically load PDFs from your hard drive, search across them, tag them and let you assign tags with which to organize them. It also lets you move them around (something I wish iPhoto did) and export them to other viewers, e-mail and print.

Thanks to Shawn for pointing me to this.

Reporter’s Notebook: Highlights from the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association

Historian Arrested for JaywalkingAccording to Reporter’s Notebook: Highlights from the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association a lifetime member of the AHA was knocked down and arrested for jaywalking in Atlanta. Others were stopped and warned.

No one seems to be suggesting this was a move to intimidate historians. This AP story suggests the policeman was not on duty but was hired by the Hilton Hotel to “direct pedestrians to use crosswalks”. Is it normal for hotels hosting conferences to hire off-duty police to discourage jaywalking?

I’m Back

Well I’m back from vacation. We (the family) went to the South of France, Barcelona, and Italy. Lots of pictures – so many I may never download them 🙂

Rifkin: Deep Play

In a column in today’s Globe and Mail, Doug Saunders critiqued Jeremy Rifkin for ignoring the hidden immigrant labour upon which a European life of “deep play” is built. Intrigued, I went looking for what “deep play” is, and here is an interview that defines it, Claiming Our Primary Role in Our Society and Global Economy; An Interview with Jeremy Rifkin. Deep play is all the meaningful activities we engage in from art, religion to culture. It’s what we work to make time for? Is it play? Is it deep?
Continue reading Rifkin: Deep Play

I’m Back

Dear readers, I’m back from vacation. In order to entertain you, I personally visited a number of sites of interest around new media and communications technology in Eastern Canada. The beaches of PEI had nothing to do with the research expedition!