Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at for more up to date info. My main trade is technology strategy, process/project management, and performance optimization consulting, with a focus on enterprise and open source CMS and related technologies. More information. I write periodic long pieces here, shorter stuff goes on twitter or


The FBI wasted $170M on a failed collaborative knowledge sharing application

Okay, this is a whole bunch of subjects near and dear to me. Security, content management, collaborative workflow, information sharing. The FBI’s new collaborative case file system is being scrapped after spending $170 million with a result of less than 10% of the functionality being delivered.

This really bugs me. This kind of project is totally doable, and it could have (nay, should have) been done right. This wasn’t random chance, it wasn’t happenstance. Somebody fucked up bigtime, and somebody else fucked up in writing a check to that first somebody.

Maybe $170 million wasn’t enough to do this right – that’s certainly possible. But there’s no excuse for spending $170 million and getting nothing, or spending $170 million before you figure out that it’s not enough.

(Yes, I’ll put my mouth where their money is. I think I could do better.)

The Schneier Virus is positioned to replicate sanity

Filed under: — adam @ 8:02 pm

Bruce Schneier has taken an advisory role in evaluating the Secure Flight initiative. He can’t talk about it. If it’s badly broken, we’ll probably never know. But at least he’s in there. I actually feel a little safer already.

Should the ignorant be deprived of capabilities about which they don’t know enough to demand?

I think this is really important.

Technology has completely pervaded our society, and the complexity of these systems has increased to the point where important, sometimes critical, distinctions are very easily missed by an inexperienced populace. (Maybe this isn’t a new categorization – I’d welcome references for similar observations.)

This concept comes into play with the DRM debate – content companies are pushing for technological restrictions on copying. The tradeoffs in such restrictions are not understood by the majority of the populace. They just want to buy a TV. They don’t care, or don’t realize up front, that they’re being locked into a platform that may prevent them from watching TV the way they want to (timeshifting, recording, etc…), at some unspecified point in the future.

It struck me that this is exactly the same as the debate about whether VOIP service provides “911 service”. The general public has a very specific idea about what “911 service” means – “if I call, someone will show up and help me”, but they don’t necessarily know anything about how it’s implemented. They don’t know anything about how it’s staffed, how calls are routed, what other assumptions go into provding that kind of service on a 24-hour basis. The various VOIP services seem to offer a wide range of things called “911 service”, and not all of them qualify under the definition above. To be a little fair, this distinction is drawn in the fine print, but not necessarily in terms the average person can understand.

Does my grandmother really understand the distinction between a full-service 911 center and a “Public Safety Answering Point”? Should she have to, in order to get a phone where people will come when she dials 911?

Should the ignorant be deprived of capabilities about which they don’t know enough to demand? Should those who understand the tradeoffs stand by and allow it to happen without speaking up?

I’m not sure what the answer is (I’m thinking about it though), but one thing is clear – the nature of the transactions that people are being called upon to engage in, just to get by on a day-to-day basis, has recently changed drastically. I’m seeing more and more evidence that even the very technologically sophisticated are losing the ability to make these tradeoffs in an educated way.

The Compleat Sculptor Toy Maker’s Symposium

Filed under: — adam @ 2:40 pm

To coincide with this year’s Toyfair, my family’s store is running a symposium on Toy Making. Classes range from free to $35. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about how toys are made, there’s probably something in there for you.

Mention code ADAM05 for a free gift with a purchase!

Pudding cakes

Filed under: — adam @ 1:02 pm

This month’s Fine Cooking, my favorite cooking magazine, has an amazing technique / recipe section on pudding cakes. I made them last night, and they’re just divine. The technique is similar to a very liquid souffle, and results in a slight puffed spongy cake gradually merging into a pool of creamy pudding. The recipe was pretty easy to follow, with no serious danger points. Unfamiliar recipe, prep time about 35 minutes, 30 in the oven, and another 30 to cool before popping them in the fridge.

Definitely follow the suggestion and let them chill overnight. They’re dramatically better cold.

Computerized train service coming to the L line

Filed under: — adam @ 12:52 pm

Elves Of Valinor Warn Of “Critical Security Flaw” In Palantír Browsers

Filed under: — adam @ 12:51 pm


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