Dec 232013


Again I agree with Clarissa, one of my favourite bloggers:

It is shocking that this completely idiotic piece on LinkedIn [“All Linked Up with Nowhere to Go,” by Amy Friedman] has been declared one of the best pieces of business journalism in 2013. These days, the way to get hits, likes, pageviews and awards is by declaring that everything sucks, any effort or activity is useless, and the best thing one can do is to avoid even trying to do anything. Except read defeatist, wallowing articles, of course.

Several friends and colleagues of mine have found excellent, exciting new gigs via LinkedIn. Its discussion groups have been absolutely vital to me as a teacher of digital and social media. And it was via LinkedIn that I became reacquainted with the woman who has become the love of my life.

Dec 202013

Our friends at Sophos have issued their Security Threat Report 2014.  The entire report is necessary, sometimes grim reading. Here are two “trends to watch”:

Attacks on corporate and personal data in the cloud: As businesses increasingly rely on various cloud services for managing their customer data, internal project plans and financial assets, we expect to see an emergence of attacks targeting endpoints, mobile devices and credentials as means to gaining access to corporate or personal clouds.

It’s hard to predict what form future attacks will take—but we can imagine ransomware taking hostage not just your local documents, but any type of cloud-hosted data. These attacks may not require data encryption and could take the form of blackmail—threats of going public with your confidential data. Strong password and cloud data access policies are more important than ever. Your security is only as good as your weakest point, in many cases your Windows endpoint and your users’ awareness.

Undermining hardware, infrastructure and software at the core: The revelations throughout 2013 of government agency spying and backdoors (not only by governments, but also commercial organizations) showed the world that broad-scale compromise of the core infrastructure we all operate on is not only possible, but happening. We’ll need to re-evaluate technologies and trusted parties. The discoveries so far likely only scratch the surface and we can expect to see many more of these stories in 2014. Most enterprises won’t have the resources or skills to go digging for backdoors. But it would be wise to closely monitor the work of security researchers and media outlets for new revelations.

On this latter trend, the wonderful editorial cartoonist Tom Tomorrow was prophetic. The cartoon below is from 1994:


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Dec 202013

It’s hard for me to re-read KPMG‘s October report “BC Junior Mining at a Crossroads,” commissioned by the BC Securities Commission, without feeling not just loss but what will be lost. The report’s findings echo the lamentations of my friends and former colleagues who run or rely on public companies in the natural resources sector: This is the worst downturn ever; there is almost no money to be had; the senior mining firms have abandoned the junior companies, as have younger investors.


The report’s language is succinct:

– Less money is currently being put into exploration or the necessary studies needed to move a project forward (for financing or development). Much of the funding raised is survival capital, i.e., being used to keep the company operational until such times as the market returns.

– As stock prices have dropped significantly and the market appetite for Juniors has lessened, it has become increasingly difficult and less attractive to raise funds through public offerings. The dilution factor is a major concern of most of the Juniors, as they do not see the upside of
significant dilution of ownership.

– There was some sentiment amongst the Juniors that until the Seniors show consecutive quarters of profits without further write-downs of “toxic” assets on their balance sheets, junior mining company projects will not be of interest to the Seniors. Until stock prices rise and investment returns to the Seniors, Juniors will continue to have a problem raising money.

– The competition for investment capital has become more intense, and Juniors stand to be less competitive than many sectors because of their risky nature and the longer term required for return on investment, if any.

– As a result, many Juniors have chosen to go into a survival mode instead, until the markets become more favourable and interested in mineral exploration investments. However survival is still not cheap. Maintaining a listing and other administrative requirements can cost from $75,000 to $150,000 per year, depending on the circumstances of the company. Many Juniors only have $100,000 in cash available and will only be able to survive another year or so.

When these Juniors disappear, their management, geologists, geophysicists, and technicians will need to find new lines of work. So will their corporate communications and investor relations officers.

Indeed, these latter are often the first to go when funding’s gone. At least these people, though, have skills and experience that transfer relatively easily across sectors of service and commerce – from retail to not-for profits, from education to government – and across lines on a map.

Whither the geophysicists and their high-end colleagues?

I don’t fear for their economic survival; they are super-smart and resilient folk; they will make it, somehow, but elsewhere, away from Canada’s once exalted mining industry. My fear is that they won’t come back when the Junior market does, however many years that this will take.

And then who will mentor BCIT’s newly minted geotechnicians and UBC’s young geologists, guiding them in the field, fostering their laboratory acumen, keeping them safe, and supporting them with continual education and feedback? How will this new generation fare when their mentors are elsewhere?

(photo of Granville Street, Vancouver, by Bob Basil)

Dec 192013


In North America it is Canada’s decided, tenacious commonweal that sets it apart. We look after one another more often than not, and less out of zeal than out of habit and good sense.

A city’s public library is a testament to its commonweal.

I was delighted but not surprised, then, when I read that Vancouver’s public library had been named the world’s best city library (tied with the Bibliothèques Montréal), ranking very high in digital / social media resources as well as in physical spaces, collections, and services.

The library has a good twitter feed.

Dec 062013

When teaching oral communications to my students, I don’t feel comfortable critiquing those who speak in “uptalk,” that habit of ending sentences with a rising inflection so that declarative sentences sometimes seem to sound like questions. To me that would be like asking people to change their maritime or southern accents: snobby and obnoxious.

At any rate, the folk at Language Log are on the case. It turns out that research has shown “uptalkers” up their talk earlier and higher in sentences when they are asking questions than when they are making statements.

That is, a good listener should be able to de-code uptalkers’ tones successfully.

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