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Can developers dictate how their software is used?

The political leanings of the Silicon Valley are no secret, a strange brew considering the Silicon Valley resembles the era of the robber barons like JD Rockefeller and JP Morgan. Rampant capitalism making instant billionaires has thus far co-existed with rabid supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has said billionaires should not exist.

But lately, the progressive attitudes of the Valley and tech industry in general are coming into conflict, with the loudest recent incident coming last September when a software engineer pulled a personal project down from GitHub after he learned it was being used by the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The developer, Seth Vargo, cited the ICE’s “inhumane treatment, denial of basic human rights, and detaining children in cages” as the reason for taking down his project, known as Chef Sugar, a Ruby library for simplifying the use of Chef, a platform for server configuration management. Varga developed the library while he worked at Chef, and the library was later integrated into Chef’s platform.

The company restored it to the service, with Chef CEO Barry Crist noting the removal of the software had impacted “production systems for a number of our customers.” Crist went on to say he did not think it was appropriate, practical, or within Chef’s mission to decide which U.S. agencies it should or should not do business with. 

The resulting blowback saw Microsoft, which owns GitHub, and GitHub itself under

The political leanings of the Silicon Valley are no secret, a strange brew considering the Silicon Valley resembles the era of the robber barons like JD Rockefeller and JP Morgan. Rampant capitalism making instant billionaires has thus far co-existed with rabid supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has said billionaires should not exist.

But lately, the progressive attitudes of the Valley and tech industry in general are coming into conflict, with the loudest recent incident coming last September when a software engineer pulled a personal project down from GitHub after he learned it was being used by the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The developer, Seth Vargo, cited the ICE’s “inhumane treatment, denial of basic human rights, and detaining children in cages” as the reason for taking down his project, known as Chef Sugar, a Ruby library for simplifying the use of Chef, a platform for server configuration management. Varga developed the library while he worked at Chef, and the library was later integrated into Chef’s platform.

The company restored it to the service, with Chef CEO Barry Crist noting the removal of the software had impacted “production systems for a number of our customers.” Crist went on to say he did not think it was appropriate, practical, or within Chef’s mission to decide which U.S. agencies it should or should not do business with. 

The resulting blowback saw Microsoft, which owns GitHub, and GitHub itself under pressure not to work with the government. Microsoft employees also staged a revolt over the company’s work with the Department of Defense (DoD) over the military’s use of the HoloLens headset. Google employees have also revolted against their company bidding for the $10 billion DoD JEDI contract and forced it to drop out of the bidding.

Whose software is it anyway?

The issue comes down to software ownership vs. customer dependence. Stephen O’Grady, principal analyst with IT research firm Redmonk, notes there are two issues at play here: Do you have an obligation to your customers to support products in a predictable way? And can you deny the right to a particular product or products for a particular customer?

“The answer to the first question, in my opinion, is yes. Particularly for enterprise buyers, the assurance that investments made will be supported over time rather than unpredictably abandoned is huge. It’s part of the basis, in fact, for the old adage that you don’t get fired for buying IBM: the company has a reputation for standing behind the products it sells for long periods of time, making investments in them safe,” O’Grady said.

As for the second question, that’s more complicated, but he still says yes. “In general, companies try not to discriminate against certain types of buyers, both because it goes against the business interests of maximizing revenue, but also because it’s a difficult practice to manage both in terms of legal liability and the public relations appearance and precedent,” he added.

Shayne Sherman, CEO of TechLoris, a PC maintenance and repair site, says ultimately, it is the developer’s prerogative to decide whether or not they want to keep their app on the market.

“It doesn’t matter whether or not others have become invested or dependent on the program. Companies go under all the time and to expect that there should be consequences for no longer providing their services would be unrealistic. The same would be true if a developer deliberately chose to no longer offer their program,” he said.

[ Related article: The many overlaps of politics and technology ]

He added that there is no moral obligation on the developer to continue to offer their program, however, there might be legal obligations. “If the developer sold the distribution rights, the developer might no longer have a say in whether or not they can close an app. Open source would suggest the app is not under such legal obligations. The main issue would likely be if others had access to the original source code for the app, meaning someone else could potential redistribute this app without legal repercussions,” he said.

Akshay “Ax” Sharma, a security researcher at Sonatype and IDG Influencer, said things depend on the license used. “Once you release under a copyleft license, you have already released partial rights to work. How do you take it back? [Essentially,] you forfeit your own right to say I want it back once I released it under an open-source license,” he said.

Copyleft licenses, used in many open-source licenses, are meant to be freer and more permissive than standard copyrights. Those who download the software are within their rights to modify and release their own version so long as they make the code available and include the copyleft license with the code.

Vargo’s move “essentially makes [copyleft] no different from copyright. One of the criticisms of copyright was content creators get to control the culture,” he said. “When I read these articles, it was like, ok you partially waived your right to your work, and then you did not like how that work was used, so you want to reclaim that right even though you’ve already waived it.”

[ Related article: Is open source the transformative solution for activism? ]

Potential blowback for open source?

The question then becomes what does this do for open-source software’s image. This type of activity is unthinkable coming from Microsoft, Oracle or SAP, but will enterprises be reluctant to use a product from a small development house if the developer gets woke?

Rick Stafford, professor public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, said he understands the ethical dilemma for a developer to want their product to be used and then it gets used in a way they don’t agree with. But what if a new administration comes along and uses the product in a way you agree with?

“If you set the precedent that it can be withdrawn and disrupted, the next administration might say I’m not going to use that again. I’m gonna go elsewhere because I’m not going to go back to the people who withdrew the code. There is too much risk there,” he said.

“You could in essence blackmail people,” he added. “That’s the problem with this. It flies in the face of what open source was supposed to be about. It’s like making a promise. Open source is saying OK you can use this, then say you can’t? Open source is a promise in a sense.”

Stafford said he believes the industry has to work it out on its own because otherwise it falls to the government for a legislative solution, and we all know how that usually goes. Poorly. “If there is to be a law, the industry should play the first role and say let’s work this out among ourselves. We’re not going to get elected officials to figure this all out,” he said.

O’Grady said it can raise questions, certainly, but doesn’t believe it’s a systemic concern for buyers at present. “It’s at least in theory of no greater concern than for proprietary software, because once the code has been published under an open-source license, it can be legally used according to the terms of that license in perpetuity,” he said.

Sharma has discussed the Chef incident with peers and said the reaction was “very polarized” and it came down to personal ethics and morals. “Some colleagues said this is open-source software, why is he pulling back, but others said they don’t like the purpose it was used for. Most sided with developer, but I also saw the backlash about how this impacts open source in general,” he said.

So for now, it seems there is no negative reaction to Vargo’s actions, but if it happens a few more times the mood could turn negative, and trust is not easily regained.



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Galaxy users, take note: Samsung’s probably selling your data

Relying on Google services, as most of us Android-carrying primates do, comes with a certain tradeoff. It’s no big secret or anything: Google makes its money by selling ads, which are more effective when they’re catered to our interests — the subjects we tend to search about, the things we buy (when Google knows about ’em, at least), and often even the places we go with our location-enabled phones in tow (and/or in toe, for the monkeys among us).

That’s all par for the course, as I frequently say — part of the deal we all accept when we use Google services. That’s what makes it possible for Google to give us top-notch apps for free, and it’s also what opens the door to certain advanced features that wouldn’t be possible without that information’s presence.

What you might not realize, though, is that if you’re using an Android phone whose manufacturer makes significant modifications to the operating system or the system-level apps around it — any phone other than a Google-made Pixel or a Google-associated Android One device, really — there’s a decent chance the creator of your phone is adding its own layer of complexity into that arrangement. And even though Google itself doesn’t ever share your data with anyone, the company that creates your phone might be using its position to double-dip and directly profit off the same personal info you assume is protected.

That certainly seems to be the case with Samsung. In addition to making a hefty chunk of change from selling you hardware, Samsung appears to have quietly created an intricate system for collecting different types of data from people who own its phones and then generating extra revenue by selling that data to third parties — or sometimes using the data to power its own self-run ad network. That has the potential to be disconcerting for anyone and particularly red-flag-raising for businesses and enterprises, where information protection is an especially pressing priority.

For all the times I’ve complained about the complexity and confusion created by Samsung’s insistence on gunking up Galaxy phones with redundant versions of Google services, it never occurred to me that part of the reason it was doing that was to dip into user data and turn it into a secondary stream of income. It wasn’t until the crew from XDA Developers noticed a newly present setting in the Samsung Pay app the other day, in fact, that such a notion crossed my mind.

Samsung, as XDA discovered, recently added a toggle into its Pay app’s settings called “Do not sell.” If you find it and activate it — and no, it isn’t activated by default — then and only then, your payment-related data “can be locked away from Samsung Pay partners.”

Samsung Privacy (1) JR

Samsung does warn you that some of its Pay features won’t work if you flip that switch, though it isn’t immediately clear which specific elements of the app it’s referring to.

Samsung Privacy (2) JR

This switch’s addition seems to be tied to a new set of privacy regulations enacted by the state of California: the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, which went into effect at the start of this year — on the same day that Samsung’s privacy policy was updated. It’s not clear if the same Samsung Pay “Do Not Sell” option is being provided to Galaxy device owners outside of the U.S., but what is clear is that Samsung didn’t seem to provide this option to anyone — or make it at all clear that it was apparently selling payment-related data to third parties — before this point.

And digging deeper into the company’s privacy policy, it seems this isn’t the only place where such data dipping practices are being employed. As part of the policy’s “California Consumer Privacy Statement” — again, making the disclosure specifically to California residents, as now required by law — Samsung says:

We may allow certain third parties (such as advertising partners) to collect your personal information. You have the right to opt out of this disclosure of your information.

It also warns California-dwellers that prior to the CCPA’s passage, it “may have” sold several specific categories of alarming-to-the-IT-department info, including:

Identifiers such as a unique personal identifier (such as a device identifier; cookies, beacons, pixel tags, mobile ad identifiers and similar technology; other forms of persistent or probabilistic identifiers), online identifier, and internet protocol address

Commercial information, including records of products or services purchased, obtained, or considered, and other purchasing or consuming histories or tendencies

Internet and other electronic network activity information, including, but not limited to, browsing history, search history, and information regarding your interaction with websites, applications, or advertisements

Inferences drawn from any of the information identified above to create a profile about you reflecting your preferences, characteristics, psychological trends, predispositions, behavior, attitudes, intelligence, abilities, and aptitudes.

Yikes. And that’s barely scratching the surface. The company notes that it also may have “disclosed” even more personal info to “vendors” for “a business purpose” — everything from your name, address, and phone number to your signature, bank account number, credit card number, purchase history, browsing history, search history, geolocation data, and once again that lovely-sounding collection of “inferences drawn” from all that info.

I wish it ended there, but the more you dig, the more unsettling stuff you uncover. The privacy page for Samsung’s Customization Service — something that’s integrated all throughout Galaxy devices’ software and the Samsung-branded apps associated with it — collects much of the same device-specific sorts of information. It taps into data about what apps you use on your device along with what music you play on the phone, what websites you visit, what searches you make, and where and when you’re taking pictures. It also relies on Samsung-made apps like the company’s custom Calendar and Internet (browser) utilities to analyze your data from those domains.

And then it uses all that info to “display customized advertisements about products and services that may be of interest to you,” among other things. It reserves the right to “collect, analyze, and share information” in order to provide you with “advertising and direct marketing communications about products and services offered by Samsung and third parties that are tailored to your interests.”

Speaking of ads, there’s a whole other can of worms about that.

But wait: Isn’t all of this already happening with Google, anyway? That’s a valid question. And the answer is: not really. First, and most crucially, Google never sells your data or shares it with any third parties, even when said info is used to help determine what ads you see around the web via Google’s ad networks. That’s where the Samsung thing gets especially icky-feeling and potentially concerning, if you ask me — in the selling of information to other companies.

But beyond that, Google’s use of data for ad personalization is a well-known, core part of its business at this point. Love it or hate it, Google’s incredibly up-front about what type of data it’s collecting and how exactly it’s using it. The company’s got entire websites devoted to that subject, with plain-English, non-legalese breakdowns. And it makes it possible to see exactly what information is being stored about you and to opt out of any form of data-driven activity you want — including the entire ad personalization system — with the understanding, of course, that doing so will affect what features are available to you in certain associated areas.

Samsung’s use of customer data, in contrast, feels slightly sneaky. Sure, you might’ve clicked through some sprawling terms of service screen when you first set up your phone — who can remember? — but the company certainly isn’t going out of its way to make sure you understand and can control exactly what it’s doing with your data. And the fact that its Android-integrated apps effectively give it access to your data from the underlying Google services — like your calendar details, for instance — make it tough not to see those apps in a completely different light, given the realization of what Samsung reserves the right to do with that data.

I reached out to Samsung on Monday to see if the company could provide any further context or comment about any of this. I’ll update this page if I receive any additional information.

Ultimately, though, it boils down to this: With Android or any Google services, you’re accepting the arrangement with Google and entrusting Google to keep your data safe. That’s the company’s entire business, and presumably, you believe it can do a reasonably decent job of protecting your personal and/or work-connected information, even if it does use parts of that info for ad personalization.

When you add Samsung’s software into the equation, you’re creating a secondary layer that sits on top of that — and consequently doubles the number of companies with access to your info and the responsibility to guard it. (Also, one of those companies is openly claiming the right to pass some of your data on further as it sees fit, in addition to using it for its own secondary system of ad serving.) You’re doubling your exposure, in other words, or more than doubling it once you factor in the third-party sharing.

When we talk about Android and privacy — just like when we talk about Android and software support or Android and overall user experience — it’s worth remembering that two very different realities exist: the one Google creates and provides via its own Android phones and the one other companies adapt to their own priorities and business interests. If you opt to venture outside of Google’s jurisdiction and into another galaxy, it’s critical to keep that distinction in mind and take it upon yourself to seek out and disable any secondary layers that you don’t want in your mobile-tech equation.

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[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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What Does 5G Mean for Web Designers?


As we head into 2020, everyone is talking about 5G. The newest generation of mobile connectivity has some exciting things to offer, including reduced latency, improved connections, and faster speeds. By 2025, experts predict that 5G will have reached 1.4 billion devices worldwide.

However, 5G isn’t just set to have an impact on mobile browsing. Changes in mobile connectivity will have an impact on web design too.

As a web designer, it’s up to you to consider how the latest connectivity tools will impact the way users browse the web. Additionally, you may find that you have more space to explore the advantages of using larger content (like 4K video) within a client’s website.

Here’s how you can prepare for the fifth generation of mobile browsing.

 

5G: What’s All The Excitement About?

Before you can understand how 5G is going to transform your web design process, you’ll need to gain a better understanding of the technology overall.

5G is the fifth generation of mobile technology. It promises faster data upload and download speeds, more stable connections, and wider coverage overall. Compared to 4G, 5G can deliver speeds 10 to 20 times faster in real-world conditions. That means that users can load pages and files in a fraction of a second.

5G was created to handle the growing volume of data in the current environment. As video and music streaming increases, existing spectrum bands are increasingly congested. People are struggling to get the connectivity that they need. With 5G, we can create a more efficient mobile internet.

5G isn’t just about speed though. One of the biggest benefits of this new technology is the fact that it can offer dramatically reduced latency. In other words, there’s minimal time delay between a website sending information to a phone, and that data arriving where it needs to be. That’s even true for a site like this that’s full of rich content.

salus

It’s the lack of latency that could potentially transform each web design strategy through incredible user flow.

 

What Does 5G Mean for Website Design?

So, how will 5G impact the way that you design client websites?

The most obvious changes come from the increased data transfer speeds (lower latency).

When you don’t have to worry about lag on a website disrupting the user experience, you can experiment with a lot more content. Introducing complex visual elements to your site becomes simpler.

david_william_baum

We’re not just talking about image-heavy sites either, things like that already exist. Designers often use 4G image optimization technology like IMGIX to ensure that those websites work well on a smartphone and other mobile devices. Alternatively, 5G’s capabilities will see websites taking greater advantage of video. Not just any video, 4K content. While 4K video has been around on the web for a while, it hasn’t been used much by web designers. That’s because the loading times are often astronomical – particularly on mobile connections.

However, 5G could see 4K becoming a much more common feature. You could embed it into the background of your site or introduce it instead of a hero image.

Let’s take a closer look at how 5G could permit web designers to create some truly unique and impressive designs for their clients.

1. Videos Will Stream Faster

As mentioned above, one of the main ways that 5G will affect web design is that it will allow videos to stream much faster.

Experts predict that 5G wireless technology will be anywhere between 10 and 100 times faster than what we have right now. It could even be more reliable than running the cable directly into your home.

For web designers, this means that the opportunities are practically endless.

There’s no limit to what you could do with video, from immersive background content to videos on the home page of a site that highlights a product or service.

While designers can set videos not to play automatically to accommodate those with slower connection speeds, the opportunity will be there to deliver rich content immediately to visitors. Check out the background images for Kuhl & Han, for instance, and imagine how amazing they could be with 5G:

kuhl_han

2. Stronger Mobile Experiences

Mobile responsivity is already crucial to frictionless UX.

Today’s consumers are spending much more time on their smartphones. That means that designers need to think carefully about how websites are accessed on the go.

However, when 5G becomes more commonplace, there will be even more demand for stronger mobile experiences. You’ll need to think about how you can adapt your website to show up seamlessly whether your audience is using a set of smart glasses or just their phone.

The good news is that 5G should ensure that there doesn’t need to be as much of a gap between the experiences that people get on a desktop and those available on their mobile devices.

Designers should be able to create a consistent UX for customers wherever they are in the age of 5G.

3. Virtual and Augmented Reality

Finally, VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) have already begun to gain traction in recent years. Designers have begun to experiment with tools that allow them to place 3D videos into websites, or AR apps into product pages.

With an augmented reality app on a website, you could allow visitors to place piece of furniture in the environment of their living room or bedroom. This means that more customers can see what an investment will look like before they buy.

With virtual reality in the future, customers may even be able to step into a scene on your website and walk through a room decorated with your products.

Up until now, AR and VR have mostly been used by app developers to deliver more exciting gaming experiences. However, with 5G on the horizon, there’s nothing to stop web designers from creating immersive user experiences on a website too.

5G’s enhanced speed and reduced latency will open the door to unlimited new experiences. Users could even scan a QR code using a company’s website and unbox an item when they’re in-store with the app on their phone.

 

What to Remember When Designing for 5G

The arrival of 5G could bring a lot of exciting opportunities to today’s web designers. However, it’s important to remember that there are some challenges to overcome too.

For instance, the first thing that web designers need to know is that not all of the users visiting a website will have 5G right away. Although mobile operators are planning on delivering more 5G connections in 2020 and beyond – there’s a long way to go before it’s mainstream.

The technology is still in the early stages and will be available in only the biggest cities and towns, to begin with. Once the towers have been built to send out 5G signals, cell phones need to adapt and create the right chips to handle these new lightning-fast capabilities.

Carriers are still working on perfecting the systems that they’ll use to capture higher speeds and use them properly. There are even concerns about the health aspects of 5G, and whether exposure to a new frequency is bad for us in the long-term.

Once locations have begun to embrace 5G properly, and mobile developers have rolled out the right tech, you’ll also need to wait for customers to buy new phones. The new connections won’t work with old 4G enabled devices.

That means that we’re likely to have a combination of 5G and 4G users accessing the same website designs for a long time before 5G becomes wide-spread.

 

Getting Ready for 5G

While it’s essential for web designers to understand and adapt to the new potential that 5G has to offer, that doesn’t mean catering exclusively to 5G. Remember: There are parts of the world in which 3G is not only standard, but relatively new. Focusing too much on this new technology will put any user that isn’t capable of accessing those speeds at a serious disadvantage.

Instead, you’ll deliver better experiences overall if you still focus the majority of your efforts on 4G and typical connections for a while. Explore the opportunities that 5G has to offer and consider implementing more things like 4k videos and VR experiences over time.

However, as you introduce web design elements intended for 5G users remember to make them optional. Don’t start videos playing automatically, or make it impossible to browse a website unless you have access to AR.

We’ll be living in a world of hybrid connectivity for a while…



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Time waits for no code

This pilot fish working for a large aerospace and defense contractor finds the time reporting onerous, and the reason is not a badge of honor for the company. It had gotten into a bit of trouble for telling employees to add cost overruns from fixed-price contracts to cost-plus contracts.

Since the government doesn’t like being bilked, the company had to refund a lot of money and implement new time-tracking and -reporting procedures.

Codes had to be looked up, and fish can easily spend more than a quarter of an hour per day just entering his time. Since the reporting is done in increments of 15 minutes, he asks what the charge code is for entering time. Too soon. No one appreciated the humor.

Some time after that, there is an edict: Don’t report unpaid overtime. Employees have learned that all their time has to be accounted for, so they’re entering extra hours that they worked but didn’t get paid for. That made HR and legal nervous, and thus the crackdown.

Unwanted side effect: Everyone wanted staff to do their work during that unpaid overtime, so it wouldn’t be charged to their contract.

Sharky would love for you to take some time to send me your true tales of IT life at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Feeling revenue squeeze, Mozilla lays off 70

Mozilla, maker of Firefox, last week laid off 70 employees, about 7% of its paid workforce, according to a report by TechCrunch.

“You may recall that we expected to be earning revenue in 2019 and 2020 from new subscription products as well as higher revenue from sources outside of search,” wrote Mozilla Foundation chairman Mitchell Baker, in an internal memo acquired by TechCrunch. “This did not happen.”

Baker noted that the final lay-off tally “may be slightly larger” because of ongoing discussions in the U.K. and France. Mozilla employs more than 1,000 people, the organization said two months ago.

“Our 2019 plan underestimated how long it would take to build and ship new, revenue-generating products,” Baker explained in the memo. “Given that, and all we learned in 2019 about the pace of innovation, we decided to take a more conservative approach to projecting our revenue for 2020.”

Later the same day, Baker issued a public statement that acknowledged the layoffs. “We’ve had to make some difficult choices which led to the elimination of roles at Mozilla which we announced internally today,” she said there.

Mozilla has long been on a mission to develop new sources of revenue – historically it has generated the bulk of its income from deals that place specific search engines as the default in Firefox – but stepped up those efforts starting in 2018 and continued them last year. It experimented with a paid VPN (virtual private network), built the Lockwise password manager and tied it to the Monitor notification service, and created the Send file-sharing service. All, and probably more, would be packaged as a premier service for Firefox users, who would be pitched to pay an annual subscription fee.

However, an expected subscription failed to materialize in 2019.

Creating new products – whether those already previewed or ones yet unknown to the public – was so important to Mozilla that when it came to deciding whether to continue funding those efforts or reduce employee head count, Mozilla chose the latter. “Mozilla’s future depends on us excelling at our current work and developing new offerings to expand our impact,” Baker wrote in the internal memo.

Under current plans, Mozilla has set aside $43 million in a so-called “innovation fund” to pay for building new products that can generate new revenue.

Mozilla had hinted at tough times ahead when late last year it issued its 2018 financial statement, the latest data made public. In that income-and-revenue report, Mozilla said 2018 revenue had declined by nearly 20% compared to the year prior: the $451 million in overall revenue for 2018 was $111 million less than in 2017. And for the first time, Mozilla’s 2018 expenses outweighed income during the year.

About 87% of Mozilla’s 2018 revenue came from its search deals; just 1% was generated by subscriptions and advertising, according to the organization.

Baker’s comments – notably that contrary to expectations, non-search revenue had not increased – suggested that 2019’s financial numbers weren’t any rosier, and that expenses may have again exceeded income. (Mozilla won’t publicly report its 2019 financials until late this year.) “We also agreed to a principle of living within our means, of not spending more than we earn for the foreseeable future,” Baker told Mozilla employees in her memo.

Looming over all of the talk of revenue, new products and living within one’s means, of course, is the nearly uninterrupted decline of Firefox’s user share. During 2019, Firefox shed share – as measured by analytics vendor Net Applications – that represented a decline of about 13%. Among the five major browsers, only Opera lost a larger portion of its user share last year.

At the end of 2019, Firefox accounted for only 8.4% of global browser activity by Net Applications’ measurements.

But that 8%-and-change share still represented millions. According to Mozilla’s public data report, Firefox had 253 million users in December (its MAU, or Monthly Average Users metric, was 253,216,440 on Dec. 19, 2019). If Mozilla convinced just 2% of that number (approximately 5 million users) to subscribe to a $5 per month service (or $60 annually), the organization would generate $303.8 million each year (as gross, not net). No wonder Mozilla has staked out services for a revenue boost.

“Mozilla has a strong line of sight on future revenue generation from our core business,” contended Baker in her public statement. She used that same line in her internal memo to the troops but added this: “We are taking a more conservative approach to our finances. This will enable us to pivot as needed to respond to market threats to Internet health, and champion user privacy and agency.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Don’t worry about CurveBall just yet — get your Citrix systems patched

Hey, admins! It’s been an exciting week, eh?

Most of you have been inundated with requests — demands — that you patch all of your systems immediately to protect them from the highly publicized CVE-2020-0601 Crypt32.dll security hole, known as “Chain Of Fools” or “CurveBall.” 

While you were scrambling to comply with the NSA’s unique advertising, abetted by almost every security expert on the planet, a funny thing happened. There are no in-the-wild exploits for the ol’ CurveBall. But there are lots and lots of Citrix ADC and Citrix Gateway systems under attack, using a security hole announced in December called CVE-2019-19781. 

It’s so bad that @Random_Robbie said in a tweet early this morning that nearly all of the top malicious scans this morning detected by GreyNoise.io are trying to crack into Citrix (formerly NetScaler) Gateway systems.

According to @0XDUDE Victor Gevers, as of early Monday morning, “14,180 [servers] are still vulnerable. There are sensitive networks unpatched out there. With only a few volunteers we are trying to help (remotely) these organizations that are behind or stuck in the mitigation process.”

William Ballenthin and Josh Madeley at FireEye have discovered a novel piece of malware called NOTROBIN that takes over compromised Citrix systems then leaves a back door for future exploits:

Upon gaining access to a vulnerable NetScaler device, this actor cleans up known malware and deploys NOTROBIN to block subsequent exploitation attempts! But all is not as it seems, as NOTROBIN maintains backdoor access for those who know a secret passphrase. FireEye believes that this actor may be quietly collecting access to NetScaler devices for a subsequent campaign.

Citrix itself posted some manual workarounds on Dec. 19, but it didn’t get around to issuing  fixes for some of their products until Sunday:

Permanent fixes for ADC versions 11.1 and 12.0 are available as downloads here and here.

These fixes also apply to Citrix ADC and Citrix Gateway Virtual Appliances (VPX) hosted on any of ESX, Hyper-V, KVM, XenServer, Azure, AWS, GCP or on a Citrix ADC Service Delivery Appliance (SDX). SVM on SDX does not need to be updated.

It is necessary to upgrade all Citrix ADC and Citrix Gateway 11.1 instances (MPX or VPX) to build 11.1.63.15 to install the security vulnerability fixes. It is necessary to upgrade all Citrix ADC and Citrix Gateway 12.0 instances (MPX or VPX) to build 12.0.63.13 to install the security vulnerability fixes. 

If you’re using ADC version 12.1, 13, or 10.5, or the SW-WAN WANOP package, you get to wait until the end of this week.

All of this has led the Dutch National Cyber Security Centrum to issue a startling recommendation:

If you have not applied the mitigating measures of Citrix or only after 9 January 2020, you can reasonably assume that your system has been compromised due to the public exploits becoming known. The NCSC recommends at least drawing up a recovery plan as explained in the section “Possible compromise” in this message.

Yes, they’re saying that if you’re running any of the affected Citrix products, and you didn’t apply manual blocks until after Jan. 9, you should assume that your systems are compromised.

Meanwhile, poster wruttscheidt on the Citrix discussion forums has some pointed (and unanswered) questions for Citrix management.

While your users clamored for a fix to a non-existent threat, many of you had your networks pwned.

I continue to recommend that you hold off installing the January Patch Tuesday patches. Some problems have cropped up, and it’s still too early to tell if anything major is lurking. Get your Citrix house in order, and wait for this month’s highly publicized patches to ferment.

Join us for the straight scoop on AskWoody.com.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Tim Cook keeps promising new health features, probably for Apple Watch

The digital health sector should think deeply about what happens next as Apple CEO  Tim Cook has again spoken out about his company’s focus on wellness technologies.

Prevention is good for business

Cook talked up Apple’s plans for digital health with IDA Ireland CEO Martin Shanahan. His focus is very much on prevention, above cure – perhaps reflecting the depth of research and the huge burden of proof required before new technologies can truly be declared lifesaving.

“I think you can take that simple idea of having preventive things and find many more areas where technology intersects healthcare, and I think all of our lives would probably be better off for it,” said Cook.

He’s basically arguing that technology can be developed that can provide early warnings of big health problems, empowering people to take better care of themselves.

Can wearables make you well?

His argument is being picked up on by health practitioners worldwide, particularly as millions succumb to relatively preventable conditions such as obesity or diabetes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that diseases such as these, cancer and heart disease together account for around 70% of deaths worldwide. Air pollution, drug resistance and global pandemics such as flu are among the biggest problems. Mental health issues are also becoming endemic.

While Cook wasn’t specific in his promises, he did say:

“Most of the money in healthcare goes to the cases that weren’t identified early enough. It will take some time, but things that we are doing now – that I’m not going to talk about today – those give me a lot of cause for hope.”

Reading between the lines of what Cook said, it seems clear that when it comes to preventative health Apple is focused on Apple Watch. That’s as big a hint as we’re going to get about the company’s digital health product development.

Apple Watch: exploring digital health frontiers

We can already guess this means the company is developing new health sensors, new activity sensors and enhancements to its already life-saving heart monitoring tools.

When it comes to software, Apple will certainly be looking to develop health-focused machine-learning systems capable of monitoring how we live – and offering up useful advice to help people stay well. That’s effectively the kind of thing Activity already does, with the addition of new tools likely developed using the company’s digital health research solutions.

It remains to be seen whether anything more comes of Apple’s investment in primary care clinics for its employees, though it is likely company employees already contribute test results for its research teams. Apple’s swimming Activity tech used extensive data from real swimmers, after all.

It is important to note that many of America’s larger corporations are bringing elements of employee health provision in house, so perhaps nothing will become of the investment. Earlier reports said the company has hired designers tasked with implementing programs to prevent disease and promote health behavior.

That’s even before you consider the potential for more sophisticated Apple-developed health solutions.

What’s happening in the industry?

Some recent headlines may help explain the kind of digital health opportunities that are already available for Apple and others to explore through wearable devices such as Apple Watch:

  • The Lancet recently reported on a study that showed real-time flu prediction may be possible using wearable heart rate and sleep tracking devices.
  • Research is also taking place that uses digital devices and sensors to help monitor and manage some mental health diseases.
  • Caspar Health, a provider of a digital patient aftercare that enables patients to manage their own care remotely recently pulled in $5.3m in Series A funding.
  • Stanford Medicine’s 2020 Health Trends report confirms the data gathered by smartphone apps and wearables “more often than not” provides “clinically valuable” information.

It seems logical to think Apple might explore any of these sectors. Each one relates strongly to Cook’s hints about “preventive” care. While there is no evidence at all that Apple is involved in any of the industry research that is taking place, Cook’s statements make it clear the company is definitely watching the space. In the future, if an Apple Watch can detect it, and Apple’s software can analyze the information it picks up, the company will probably make something from it.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Time-Machine Tuesday: That’s really escalating the problem

Pilot fish gets a help desk call from a user who says he’s bringing his laptop to IT to fix a problem he’s having with printing.

No problem, fish says, we handle that kind of issue all the time.

But the rest of the day passes without the user appearing.

Next morning, user’s boss does show up at the IT department with the laptop, and explains that the user is out sick.

But the laptop clearly has more than printing problems. The display is dangling by a cable, the keyboard is unusable, and the machine is pretty much trashed.

“Turns out the user was bringing the laptop to the IT office,” says fish. “But while crossing between buildings, he was unlucky enough to walk under a large falling icicle, which not only seriously injured the user but sent the laptop flying.

“His boss was still sure we could ‘just put it back together.’”

Stay safe inside and send Sharky your true tales of IT life at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Is your Gmail inbox setup slowing you down?

An inbox is an inbox — right?

You’d certainly think so. After all, how many ways could there possibly be to view email?

The answer, as it turns out, is quite a few — especially when it comes to Gmail. It’s easy to overlook or forget, but Google’s email service now offers the choice of five distinct inbox arrangements. And within each of those setups lie even more options for fine-tuning and customizing how your email reaches you.

We’re talking about more than just basic themes here, too: These are completely different ways to experience email, each with its own unique set of characteristics and advantages. And finding the right arrangement for your own personal style of working can make a world of difference in your ability to manage email efficiently — and keep your brain from suffering an inbox-induced meltdown.

Join me for a tour of the possibilities, and get ready to reinvent your inbox to match the way you prefer to work.

(I’ll focus on the specifics of the Gmail website interface here, by the way — what you see when using the service on a desktop computer — but the same basic concepts of each inbox arrangement apply to Gmail’s mobile apps as well. The main difference is simply that in that environment, tabs or sections are accessible via a menu icon within the app instead of being permanently present as part of the main inbox screen.)

Gmail inbox #1: Default — a.k.a. the tabbed inbox

  • In five words: Email sorted and organized, automatically
  • Activate it by: Hovering your mouse over “Inbox” in Gmail’s left-of-screen menu, clicking the downward-facing arrow at the right of that line, and selecting “Default” from the list that appears
  • Use it if: You want your incoming messages to be separated into purposeful category-driven sections
  • Avoid it if: You prefer to see all of your incoming mail in a single list — or you don’t trust Google’s algorithms to sort your messages properly

What Gmail’s Default inbox is all about

The standard Gmail inbox arrangement — and the one you’re probably already using — is the thrillingly named Default setup. It’s better described as a tabbed inbox, though, because it’s designed to separate your inbox into as many as five categories that exist in a series of tabs across the top of your screen.

01 gmail default inbox JR Raphael/IDG

Gmail’s Default inbox automatically sorts your mail into tab-based categories. (Click any image in this story to enlarge it.)

By default, Gmail’s Default arrangement gives you five tabs:

  • Primary, which is meant to house important emails and those that are personally addressed to you
  • Social, which is intended for automated messages sent from social media websites
  • Promotions, where all sorts of marketing emails are collected
  • Updates, which tends to include everything from bills and statements to confirmations and notices
  • Forums, where messages from mailing lists and other online groups are placed

Google’s virtual genies analyze all incoming messages and automatically attempt to place them into the appropriate tab, but the real value of the tabbed setup comes when you start to customize it and claim control.

How to make the Default inbox work for you

First, think about which tabs you really want. I, for example, don’t get a lot of social-media-related emails — certainly none I care to see. So I disabled the Social tab entirely, which causes my inbox to be tidier and any emails that would’ve landed in the Social tab to be rerouted to the next most appropriate place.

To disable any tab with the Gmail Default setup, click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the screen, select “Configure inbox,” and then uncheck the box next to the tab you don’t want.

Next, think about how you could make the tabs you are using work better for you. Maybe you want to have all of the newsletters you’ve subscribed to show up in your Primary tab, where you’re likely to see ’em, instead of getting routed into the Forums tab, where they might not catch your eye. Or maybe you don’t really use the Forums tab for anything special and want to repurpose it as a place for customer feedback sent through a form on your website — or for articles you save into your inbox for later reading.

No matter the specifics, all you’ve gotta do is teach Google to do your bidding. The simplest way is to recategorize a representative email by dragging and dropping it into another tab on the Gmail website. When you do that, you’ll see a box pop up in the lower-left corner of the screen prompting you to categorize all future emails from that sender in the same way.

02 gmail default inbox change category JR Raphael/IDG

When you drag a message from one tab to another, Gmail will prompt you to treat that as a permanent rule.

Click “Yes,” and there ya have it: Those messages will always land where you want ’em from now on.

If you need to get more advanced and direct emails into a certain tab based on a factor other than their sender — be it a word or phrase in their subject line, the presence of certain text in their body, or even the email address to which they were sent — just create a Gmail filter to handle it. It’s easier than you’d think and doesn’t take long at all to accomplish; you can find step-by-step instructions in my separate Gmail filters guide.

Gmail inbox #2: Priority Inbox

  • In five words: Sorted email with custom parameters
  • Activate it by: Hovering your mouse over “Inbox” in Gmail’s left-of-screen menu, clicking the downward-facing arrow at the right of that line, and selecting “Priority Inbox” from the list that appears
  • Use it if: You like the idea of separating your mail out into different sections but want more control over how it’s done — and want all the sections to appear within a single untabbed screen
  • Avoid it if: You prefer to see all of your incoming mail in a single list — or you want the more advanced and granular style of sorting provided by the Default inbox arrangement

What Gmail’s Priority Inbox is all about

Priority Inbox is Google’s precursor to the tabbed inbox interface and something plenty of email aficionados still swear by. Like the tabbed interface, Priority Inbox sorts your email into multiple sections — but instead of the sections existing as tabs, they take up the full width of your screen and are stacked on top of each other. And instead of the sections representing specific categories of messages, they’re a mix of broad importance designations and divisions driven by your own message-marking actions.

03 gmail priority inbox JR Raphael/IDG

Priority Inbox sorts messages into full-width, horizontally stacked sections.

Specifically, Priority Inbox gives you up to four configurable sections — any combination of:

  • Important emails, as determined by Google’s message-analyzing algorithms
  • Unread emails, meaning those you have yet to open
  • Starred emails, either by your own manual clicking of the star icon or by a filter you create to add a star based on a message’s qualities
  • Labels — any label you’ve created that you want displayed as part of your inbox
  • Everything else, in which all emails within your inbox that don’t fit into any other section are displayed

By default, Priority Inbox puts emails that are both important and unread into its first section, emails that are starred into its second section, and everything else into its third section — but the real beauty of this arrangement is just how much you can bend it and customize it to your will.

How to make Priority Inbox work for you

The key to making Priority Inbox effective is figuring out which sections make the most sense for your personal organization style. Maybe you don’t find Gmail’s marking of which emails are or aren’t important to be particularly useful, for instance, and you’d rather have your first section be devoted only to unread messages, regardless of their importance status.

Maybe you filter work-related emails into a special “Work” label and want to have that appear first and foremost in your inbox, above everything else. Or maybe you have a “VIP Client” label that you want to include somewhere in the mix so that messages with that designation stand out and grab your attention.

To experiment with different configurations, click the gear icon in Gmail’s upper-right corner, select “Settings,” and then click the “Inbox” tab at the top of the screen. From there, click the “Options” box next to any inbox section to specify what you want that section to be.

Experimenting with different Priority Inbox configurations requires you to go a little deeper into Gmail’s settings than tweaking the Default inbox configuration does. Click the gear icon in Gmail’s upper-right corner, select “Settings,” and then click the “Inbox” tab at the top of the screen. From there, click the “Options” box next to any inbox section to specify what you want that section to be. Click “More options” to access your own custom labels as well as Gmail’s default ones.

04 gmail priority inbox sections JR Raphael/IDG

You can fully customize each Priority Inbox section.

Gmail inbox #3: Important First

  • In five words: Two sections — important, everything else
  • Activate it by: Hovering your mouse over “Inbox” in Gmail’s left-of-screen menu, clicking the downward-facing arrow at the right of that line, and selecting “Important First” from the list that appears
  • Use it if: You really like Gmail’s importance markers and want to rely on them and them alone to separate your mail into sections
  • Avoid it if: You aren’t entirely confident in Gmail’s ability to interpret importance or you want your inbox organized by anything other than that one factor

What Gmail’s Important First is all about

The aptly named Important First style is really quite simple, as all it does it separate your incoming messages into two horizontally stacked groups: those that Gmail and its all-knowing algorithms determine to be important and those that they don’t.

The messages that are deemed important exist in one section at the top of the screen, while those that aren’t reside in a separate section beneath it.

05 gmail important first inbox JR Raphael/IDG

The Important First inbox style shows two simple sections: messages Gmail has deemed to be important and those it has not.

So what makes a message “important,” you might wonder? Good question, gumshoe. According to Google, Gmail uses a variety of signals to interpret importance, including:

  • Whom you email and how often you email them
  • Which emails you open and reply to
  • What keywords are present in emails that you actually read
  • Which emails you tend to star, archive, or delete

There’s really not much more to it than that.

Gmail inbox #4: Unread First

  • In five words: Unread messages separated at top
  • Activate it by: Hovering your mouse over “Inbox” in Gmail’s left-of-screen menu, clicking the downward-facing arrow at the right of that line, and selecting “Unread First” from the list that appears
  • Use it if: You want a super-simple inbox that emphasizes unread mail and doesn’t do any sorting or separating beyond that
  • Avoid it if: You want any other more advanced form of inbox sorting and organization

What Gmail’s Unread First is all about

Similar to Important First, Unread First splits your inbox into two horizontal sections — but here, instead of using Gmail’s assessment of a message’s importance to determine its placement, the system shows any messages you haven’t yet opened in the first section and any messages you have opened (but haven’t archived) in the second.

06 gmail unread first inbox JR Raphael/IDG

With Unread First, any emails you haven’t opened are shown most prominently.

And that’s about it.

Gmail inbox #5: Starred First

  • In five words: Starred messages get shown first
  • Activate it by: Hovering your mouse over “Inbox” in Gmail’s left-of-screen menu, clicking the downward-facing arrow at the right of that line, and selecting “Starred First” from the list that appears
  • Use it if: You rely heavily on Gmail’s starring system for organization and want that to be the sole factor that organizes your inbox
  • Avoid it if: You want any other more advanced form of inbox sorting and organization

What Gmail’s Starred First is all about

Any guesses where this is going? Yup, you got it: Following the same trend as the last two Gmail inbox options, Starred First splits your inbox into two horizontal sections — in this case, showing any messages you’ve starred first and then any messages you haven’t starred beneath that.

07 gmail starred first inbox JR Raphael/IDG

The Starred First inbox style relies on your own marking of messages for emphasis.

If simplicity is your goal and you rely on starring to mark particularly pressing missives, this no-frills setup could be just the thing for you.

Got all that? Good. Now decide which approach is worthy of your adoption, then learn how to use Gmail labels to tame your inbox even further — or, if you’re feeling especially ambitious, explore a next-level batch-delivery option that could seriously step up your email efficiency.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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How to avoid collaboration burnout

Collaboration tools are pervasive in the enterprise, but less so are practices for smartly managing the flow of information created in them, according to researchers and tech leaders who find these tools often lead to overload and burnout.

Anyone adding a new workplace chat app, for instance, could pick from dozens of options, and that’s part of the problem. They’re powerful tools for working across teams, time zones and distance. But the volume and velocity of the demands created, and the diversity of channels employees are expected to constantly monitor are wearing people out, said Rob Cross, a professor of global leadership at Babson College. 

[ Related: 14 Microsoft Teams apps to help you work smarter ]

“Collaborative overload feels good right up until it doesn’t, Cross said. “You’re the king of the world. These drivers that you have personally taken on – accomplishment or status or helping – are being met right up until burnout. And then it’s really hard to get out because of the demands you put on yourself.”

Cross says he has interviewed dozens of successful business leaders who often say they’re stretched too thin across multiple apps for chat, email and meetings. 

“You’re hearing stories that they’re overwhelmed,” Cross said. “They’re managing across nine of these platforms: Slack or Teams channels, IM, video, work management systems, gratitude recognition systems.”

[ Related: How to combine project management and collaboration ]

Cross said the problem is especially noticeable in high-performing managers.  

“These may ultimately be great tools, but all these technologies that are presumably making things faster are not really doing that,” Cross said. “Especially for managers who are all in on their careers, where people are counting on them. Nobody’s addressing the tax that’s being placed on people. There’s no chief collaborative overload officer. It always falls to the individual to figure it out, ‘How do I create some semblance of work and life?’”

“Collaboration app fatigue is real,” says Sébastien Ricard, CEO at LumApps. “It’s no

 

Collaboration tools are pervasive in the enterprise, but less so are practices for smartly managing the flow of information created in them, according to researchers and tech leaders who find these tools often lead to overload and burnout.

Anyone adding a new workplace chat app, for instance, could pick from dozens of options, and that’s part of the problem. They’re powerful tools for working across teams, time zones and distance. But the volume and velocity of the demands created, and the diversity of channels employees are expected to constantly monitor are wearing people out, said Rob Cross, a professor of global leadership at Babson College. 

[ Related: 14 Microsoft Teams apps to help you work smarter ]

“Collaborative overload feels good right up until it doesn’t, Cross said. “You’re the king of the world. These drivers that you have personally taken on – accomplishment or status or helping – are being met right up until burnout. And then it’s really hard to get out because of the demands you put on yourself.”

Cross says he has interviewed dozens of successful business leaders who often say they’re stretched too thin across multiple apps for chat, email and meetings. 

“You’re hearing stories that they’re overwhelmed,” Cross said. “They’re managing across nine of these platforms: Slack or Teams channels, IM, video, work management systems, gratitude recognition systems.”

[ Related: How to combine project management and collaboration ]

Cross said the problem is especially noticeable in high-performing managers.  

“These may ultimately be great tools, but all these technologies that are presumably making things faster are not really doing that,” Cross said. “Especially for managers who are all in on their careers, where people are counting on them. Nobody’s addressing the tax that’s being placed on people. There’s no chief collaborative overload officer. It always falls to the individual to figure it out, ‘How do I create some semblance of work and life?’”

“Collaboration app fatigue is real,” says Sébastien Ricard, CEO at LumApps. “It’s no surprise that more choice leads to higher levels of stress. This has been studied by consumer behavior specialists. It’s no different in the workplace. Employees today are more reachable than ever, which sets expectations that they have to respond to every communication right away.”

Tim Mulron, CEO at Teaming, said he sees an over reliance on collaboration tools that’s sometimes coupled with a lack of direction. 

“Ensuring that the mission of the team is clear, that the priorities are understood and we have agreement on how we operate eliminates a lot of unnecessary asynchronous communication,” Mulron said. “While it’s important that colleagues feel free to share, maintaining safe spaces is key to facilitating team engagement and team performance. Virtual collaboration tools should be used in moderation, like everything else. Just because you can message a colleague at 4 a.m., it doesn’t mean you should.”

[ Related: 4 tips for picking the right collaboration suite  ]

Cross’ research found that collaboration takes up about 85 percent of a manager’s time, about twice what was required in the previous decade. He says another issue that exacerbates the problem is an increasing interdependence between teams of all kinds.

“Throw in time zones and globalization, that’s a big deal in terms of the way in which we have to collaborate more globally,” Cross said. “The interdependence of work has gone up as well, the complexity of what people are producing, whether it’s a car, drug, a consulting project or a financial transaction. There are more and more specialties that have to collaborate to produce these products. It’s really a whole slew of these things that’s not going away.”

Mike Hicks, vice president of marketing and strategy at Igloo Software, said he sees overloaded employees and leadership teams, who are either missing important messages or getting more than they can be expected to handle. “Neither scenario is ideal,” Hicks says, “and it leads to low employee engagement, and decreased productivity, which are both keys signs of virtual collaboration burnout.”

Signs of collaboration burnout

One likely indicator of overload is when collaboration and consensus are tied at the hip, and paralyze the decision-making process. “It’s great that collaboration tools give a voice to everyone, but someone still needs to decide when enough dialogue is enough,” Mulron said. ”Collaboration tools are only as good as the teams who use them and the norms they’ve defined about getting work done and how they make decisions. Productivity is a trailing indicator of good business decisions – decisions being the operative word.”

Cross worries that collaboration burnout can be hard to spot because it builds over time rather than, as some might expect, in a series of surges.

“Over months or years, people just work a little harder,” Cross says, “a little deeper into the night and they eventually hit a threshold where they can’t keep up. They start to stress. Their creativity goes down and their negative reactions go up. You see people not fully engaged in meetings and you have to wonder how much coordination is actually happening, when you see them racing in and out of things and not executing. It can be a big deal.”

Some organizations are attempting to bring agile practices to address the problem. But Cross said they often find that the actual bottleneck in productivity occurs not from the tools themselves, but where a handful of connected employees are handling a disproportionate number of demands. And that still occurs after creating new workstreams. “You end up taking people out of existing workstreams and then putting them somewhere else,” he said. “But their old connections keep coming to them – they still have to get answers to keep things going. It creates significant overload in the system around some of your best players. How do you systematically shift those demands? What we find is that it’s much more about managing yourself than it is about the technology.”

Solutions to avoid burnout

Cross said most organizations aren’t taking stock of the types of demands being put on workers through collaboration tools and no one is tracking the amount of time spent using them. 

“The really important thing is that it’s invisible as across organizations,” he said, “and until we get better at kind of seeing, OK, if we adapt Slack or Teams or Cisco’s product or whatever, what’s the actual impact on that pattern of connectivity and is it driving the results we want? Or is it having unintended consequences?”

The most effective collaborators Cross speaks with apply time management techniques that fit their work style to keep from being constantly distracted by collaboration. “Technology can help a little bit, but it’s not a technical issue. It’s more of a cultural and work management solution.”

Some people get email out of the way first thing in the morning, he says, while others focus on reflective work first then block out 30-minute segments for email. They’ll accept meeting invites but insist on a hard stop at half an hour rather than an hour. And they make sure meetings are focused, with agendas circulated beforehand and an email after to recap and establish next steps. 

“They proactively shape their roles,” Cross said, “so that they don’t have people kind of continually pushing them back into collaborative demand.”



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