A quick snapshot of political discourse in 2017:
- “Fake News”
- Far Left
- Right-Wing Extremism
It’s no surprise that political discourse is as toxic was as toxic as it was in 2017. Many blame it on one of the items listed above. Those who do wouldn’t be wrong - but they would be over-simplifying. The real culprit behind America’s divided and toxic discourse is this:
The inability to not launch into a knee-jerk jeer or cheer reaction at every single utterance labeled as “news” that gets published online, in print, or on the back of your neighbor’s 1998 honda civic.
Instead, one knee-jerk reaction triggers one thousand more. Millions of personal (and biased) diatribes flood the ether, determined to smash opposing viewpoints. It’s the Gremlins of misinformation - one ill-informed response pops out a trail of misinformed responses behind it.
The Forces Behind Ignorant Discourse
These baseless rants are the result of the cyclic division our country has been undergoing for ages. There are powerful forces driving this conversational unrest and toxicity and each contributes to the fractured state of discourse in America today. Some of the most potent are listed below.
A Radicalized Two-Party System
The extremist factions on both the left and the right have been marinating for centuries. The tips of both these wings aim to oppress the people on the opposing side. These poles are often where misinformation originates and gets passed along the lines through to the center, where it gets stamped as factual information. It’s a game of telephone with the majority of Americans getting the final, mangled message at the end of the line. Since our busy bee culture doesn’t leave much time for people to do their own research, they trust the divided powers that be and take party representatives and mouthpieces at their word. The lack of middle ground - both in political parties and in ideologies - makes rational discourse a struggle for the average person.
FUN FACT: In a psychological study where participants were offered the option to read and answer questions for entry into a raffle pool. If they chose to read about an opinion they agreed with, they had a chance at winning $7 or they could read the opposing viewpoint for a chance to win $10. Of all the participants, 63% chose to stick with the opinion they agreed with.
Blurred Lines Between News & Entertainment
As a result of the two-party telephone system above, misinformation easily makes its way to everyday Americans through every channel and medium available. Add to that the convergence of media and entertainment, and things are as confusing as ever.
It can be difficult to turn on the news or flip through a local paper without knowing for sure whether what you’re digesting is opinion or fact, OpEd or Breaking News. A limited number of voices get unique access to platforms from which they can amplify their narratives. On the other side of the coin, any unfounded opinion can go viral if the right number of people and influencers bite (and share). This dissonance makes drilling down to facts difficult. Storylines and narratives are woven across T.V., social media, radio, and print like rich tapestries, but no one has the time to untangle truth from conjecture.
Combined with the two realities above, social media propagates misinformation at lightning speed. What’s more, it feeds misinformation to younger generations, priming impressionable minds to think a certain way about our political system, political parties, the media, and America as a nation. Aided by the peer pressure behind social media, misinformation is touted as factual headline by those who don’t want to appear out-of-the-know by friends, family, and coworkers. This trickle-down tricked-out news cycle often becomes news itself as lies spread like wildfire and hashtag headlines grip the nation with bold untruths. Just ask any celebrity who’s been killed off on Twitter.
#StopThink Movement: Breathing Facts Into Media Maelstrom
Discourse without facts is as useful as a dog barking at a cat. If we don’t stop and think to consider the facts - and the opposing viewpoints - we are not doing any debate or discussion justice. We’re also not using our heads to facilitate meaningful discourse on important topics.
I don’t believe there’s one right answer to improving the state of political discourse in this country. I do know this: it's not screaming louder and it’s certainly not silence. The only way to course correct is to Stop and Think. The goal should be to contribute opinions grounded in fact. Eliminating bias is nearly impossible and, frankly, unnecessary. What we need instead is a way to sieve the information we take in until we have the granular truth. Then we need to adjust our motives from opposition-smashing to truth-promoting.
This two-part recipe can aid a more fruitful discourse within our nation. By stopping, we can cut down on emotion-driven reactions and instead focus on finding facts. By thinking, we can use the data and tools at our fingertips to gather fact-based and rational information. The result can be conversation geared towards true education rather than slander and mudslinging. When we #StopThink before responding, we have a shot at creating discourse that can make a positive difference - a change that impacts everyone.
If you’re paying attention, you know that a vote on unraveling Net Neutrality is looming with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The proposal up for the vote seeks to reverse the Title II classification of internet providers, replacing it will an old “information service” classification. The former allows the FCC to strictly limit the behavior of internet providers while the latter is limited and weakens consumer protections.
As commission chairman Ajit Pai puts it:
“Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”
Unfortunately, the FCC’s plan will likely actually squash innovation, censor content, and limit access.
Its plan is to toss anti-competitive disputes to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take action against ISPs that violate their published policies. It’s a silly and roundabout way to “handle” ISPs. It does nothing for consumers but give them a front row seat to getting robbed.
Published policies and terms of service offer no consumer protections - but are rife with legalese shielding the companies. They are also fully controlled by each company and apt to change at any moment. A company could simply pen a new set of policies that is more aligned with what it feels like doing that day. So long as it remains “compliant” with its own policies, it doesn’t have to worry about the FTC.
That works out well for ISPs.
What a Rollback Looks Like
This isn’t your local Walmart’s Rollback, unfortunately. If the Net Neutrality protections are rolled back, ISPs will have free reign to charge extra for “premium” websites like Twitter or Facebook. They also have the ability to throttle speeds or even block other sites and apps. ISPs (Comcast, AT&T and Verizon), of course, favor the measure and are asking customers to “just trust us.”
The repeal would essentially enable ISPs to do whatever they please, so long as it is transparent. So if they provide faster streaming to certain websites or apps for a premium, that’s ok. They just can’t hide it.
What’s more, many ISPs also own content distribution platforms. Ending net neutrality gives ISPs the power to prioritize their own platforms. Oligarchy, anyone? The ability to compete for smaller, less powerful entities will disintegrate. ISPs can charge the little guys more for bandwidth, which will ultimately get passed along to customers, along with increased latency and reduced performance.
We’re already seeing this happen in several ways. First, there is the AT&T-Time Warner merger, a bid currently under attack by the Justice Department for raising antitrust issues. If that deal were to proceed, the result would be a telecom & media mammoth. Combining one of the nation’s biggest internet and telephone providers (and television distributor via its acquisition of DirecTV) and the world’s third largest entertainment company would make it nearly impossible for others to compete in that arena.
Then there’s the issue of zero-rating, where ISPs remove data limits for certain platforms/content providers. So customers can consume content from those platforms and it doesn’t count against their data plan. Case-in-point: AT&T practices zero-rating with its own DirecTV. On the flip side, ISPs can use that power to line their pockets by allowing content creators to pay wholesale prices for zero-rated content.
Incumbent giants will continue to accrue power, and the possibility for innovators to break into the market will get smaller and smaller.
How To Take A Stand
The fight isn’t over yet. There are still some things you can do to voice your opinion and take a stand:
- Contact Lawmakers.
- Go to gofccyourself.com. Click on "Express". Comment that you want to keep net neutrality as it is. Click to submit.
- Visit battleforthenet.com (built by Fight for the Future) for a streamlined way to write your representative.
To have an internet tomorrow, we must not burn the internet today. Help put the fire out!
There are some certainties regarding content management that are inarguable:
- Content management strives to navigate the intersection of people, processes, and information.
- The complexity of people, processes, and information continues on an upward trajectory.
- Content management must simplify this complexity.
Additionally, there are some forecasts about how the enterprise will move ahead as it relates to content management. Some of the projected trends include:
- Privacy and security will be at the forefront of content management efforts, with an increase in effort and spending in these areas.
- Regulations and restrictions regarding the cloud and privacy will increase.
- As analytics become more sophisticated and AI and machine learning become intertwined in content management, making laser focused and accurate content suggestions will be a primary focus of content management systems.
How do organizations make sense of the certainties alongside these predictions about the future of content management? Let’s take a look.
Technology at the Convergence of People, Processes, and Information
Technology innovation has a way of disrupting content management and impacting best practices on a regular basis. Currently, we are amidst a user-centric IT era that largely utilizes cloud and mobile to facilitate access and engagement anywhere and anytime. This is being fueled by the Internet of Things, which is propagating massive amounts of new data and expanding the opportunities of content management.
This new norm of virtual and distributed networks makes access easier, but it also presents the challenge of information organization. Unprepared organizations can easily become buried under a barrage of information and processes, stifling their ability to adequately serve customers. Key problems include:
- Too much information
- Poorly organized information
- Silo’d information
- Information leaks
- Privacy and security issues around information
Businesses need to rethink the foundation of their content management systems. With an influx in data comes the need to organize that data into usable information. From there, that information needs to be synthesized into knowledgeable insights. Finding a cost-efficient way to leverage technology in this process is critical.
Technology will be a way to forge past simple information governance and transactional content management. The key will be finding a fluid way to enable knowledge synthesis, engagement, and collaboration that goes beyond the implementation of social tools and analytics add-ons.
Technology as a facilitator of improved privacy and security will need to be a consideration in that fluidity.
Privacy and Security Concerns Amidst New Risk Models
Finding effective and legal ways to manage information in this era of emerging technology has proven to be difficult for businesses big and small alike. The sheer volume of data and information circulating makes risk management a tall order.
Managing information assets and business content from creation to disposal in this environment can almost seem like anarchy as information flows in and out from an endless number of devices and systems. One school of thought posits that the best way to proceed is to prioritize critical content assets and ensure they are controlled, stored, and secured properly. This enables businesses to cut through miscellaneous content and focus on the heart of the matter.
Others think that is a recipe for disaster and that a hierarchy is paramount when it comes to content management and security. Internal teams that do not adhere to existing processes and structures are adding to the silo problem, increasing business risk, and rendering technologies and systems useless. When information is not managed as it was meant to, core processes cannot function as they were meant to. It’s an expensive problem. It also puts the organization at increased risk.
Moving Forward in Content Management
While privacy and security issues are non-negotiable considerations, businesses must also take into account how to use technology to their benefit in content management. This means exploring the various applications of machine learning and AI for intelligent content management.
Revisiting core architecture to facilitate interoperability and seamless exchange of information is where content management of the future lies. As the cloud focused on opening up content to anyone, anywhere at a lower cost, AI and machine learning have the ability to shift core processes and to increase the scalability of existing and emerging platforms. The result will be improved user experience, increased opportunities for collaboration, and more organized content management. It will change the way people work with content and facilitate better, more advanced and faster insights from information.
Open source security doesn’t have to be rocket science. That said, cleaning up the mess after a breach or a hack or another vulnerability is exploited can be more expensive than sending someone to the moon. Ok, that might be a stretch, but the costs can be astronomical no matter which way you look at it.
Since it’s officially National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), now is a good time to discuss the steps companies can take to secure and protect their open source initiatives and projects.
Open source systems are used globally across a number of projects. This popularity also earns open source systems extra attention from hackers, which in turn, causes developers to jack up the security of these systems. That doesn’t make them perfect. In fact, the extensions and add-ons that supplement core code to allow for additional features can make for a sticky security situation.
The silver lining is that many open source organizations (Joomla!, WordPress, Drupal, etc.) are constantly releasing updates to patch, fix, and guard against security vulnerabilities. The rub? Developers must stay on top of these updates or risk a breach.
So how do you stay on top of open source security? Let’s look at the three most popular open source CMSs and explore general security for each.
Understanding Open Source CMS
Joomla, accounting for 6.9% of all websites whose CMS we know, provides greater content and structure flexibility than WordPress, but remains just as intuitive. It’s sweet spot as a CMS is as a community platform, offering strong social networking features that make it ideal for ecommerce and social networking sites.
Joomla’s core is highly secure, but as with any CMS, the weakness lies in system components that haven’t been properly configured.
WordPress is the most popular open source CMS, accounting for about 28% of the internet. It’s a top choice for blog websites since it’s flexible and friendly for non-developers and can be used to create fairly complex sites. This popularity also draws it into the sites of hackers.
The CMS offers WordPress VIP - a paid services offering enhanced security by a dedicated group that executes in-depth code reviews to find vulnerabilities. This group also provides best practices to help developers avoid undue maintenance costs or other major issues.
Where things get shady is with plug-ins and extensions, which account for 56% of known vulnerabilities in WordPress. These entry points are hard to monitor and require frequent updates to protect against bad actors.
Drupal is a developer-friendly CMS that tends to require more expertise to manage. It offers powerful taxonomy, making it ideal for companies that need to be able to organize complex content with tags and categories. This scalability makes it preferential for government sites, which is also a nod to its level of security. That said, it can often be overkill for developers or users who may not need complex data organization.
Securing Open Source CMS
The core step any business owner or developer can make to ensure their site is most secure is to remain up-to-date with the latest updates and security patches. This includes updating any plug-ins, extensions or other components that have released newer versions.
There are some preliminary considerations that go into effectively updating your open source CMS.
You should be sure to have a regular backup schedule. Having regularly scheduled backups ensures that you won’t lose any data during an update. Some CMSs offer memberships that streamline this entire process - from running backups and audits to updating - by automating the process. This paid maintenance option is highly desirable, especially for agencies who may be managing multiple sites. Most updates automatically happen without 24 hours of the newest release.
Also consider backing up your site to a secure off-site location regularly. If your site goes offline or you need to switch hosting providers on the fly, you need to be able to quickly recover your website. It’s a general best practice, especially for businesses like e-commerce sites that rely on the website as a core function of the business.
If you aren’t paying for maintenance updates, you’ll have to keep up with them on your own. It can be helpful to set google alerts or use social sites like Twitter to follow extension and plug-in developers for news on new releases and updates.
Some sites offer the ability to subscribe to safety notices. These CMSs publish safety instructions to their website for new releases or other security-related information. Subscribing keeps you informed of new information relevant to you site’s security.
Restrict Access to Admin Portal
Another step you can take is to see if your administrator portal is accessible to the public. For Joomla, browse to www.mysite.com/administrator to see if it’s accessible. For WordPress, go to www.mysite.com/wp-login.php to check.
Most systems offer a way to restrict access to this page. For Joomla, you can use a secret word. Users must append the secret word to the admin URL to even access the admin login screen. Blocking the login page is an extra barrier to nefarious characters fishing for an easy target to compromise. An additional option is to download Admin Tools Core (or Pro), which automates maintenance, protection, and optimization of your Joomla! site.
A holistic approach to security is the best approach. The bright spot in open source projects is that you essentially have a global team reporting issues and security risks, which can then be addressed quickly and efficiently. This level of transparency that is often cast as a downside actually facilitates a proactive and effective approach to security for the entire open source community.
I have a friend who is the founding partner of a law firm. Business is booming and he decides it’s time to invest in a new website. He’s had a partnership with a marketing group that caters to legal professionals, and they pitched him some ideas on a new site. He took the bait and proceeded down the rabbit hole up until they send over a preview of the site. Having employed the help of an SEO agency for years, he sent the preview to them for a quick review.
The response he received was, well, not what he expected.
“Not even sure where to start. For one, the site-wide footer link to their site with spam anchor text is bleeding SEO value from every page and sending it to them. A little surprised an organization of this caliber would even try that.”
The rest of that email continued to pick apart every piece of sloppy code and injection of new issues into the “nicely packaged” site.
The final point was stark: “Was there even a strategy phase as a part of this rebuild?”
The drama continued to unfold from there. As the conversation between the SEO team and the web agency continued, it became apparent that what the latter had offered was a pre-packed, one-size-fits-all solution that didn’t really have any room for true customization, lacked ability to scale, paralyzed growth, and came with more issues than solutions. From a dollars and cents perspective, it’s ingenious: set up a closed source, bundled-up website with a bow on top, and nickel and dime clients for every single little change that needs to be made. From an ethical and dollars and sense perspective, it’s a nightmare.
From any small-to-medium business owner’s perspective, it’s a warning to be heeded.
Proprietary, closed source solutions and the epidemic of “one size fits all”
The illustration above is not uncommon. In fact, the rate at which these proprietary, closed solutions are multiplying is astounding. You can’t swing a cat cable without hitting a new closed source solution catering to businesses looking for an easy fix. Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace and the like all offer “easy” solutions to build a website using “advanced technology.”
What they don’t advertise is the truth: this type of proprietary “solution” will cripple your ability to build a custom, robust website. What is really offered is permanent paralysis: an inability to manage your content outside of their closed systems, needless dependence on commodity hosting at premium prices, hindrance of flexibility and scalability, and more. All for the low, low price of $5-$25/month. Forever. Or at least until you get hit over the head with some common sense and opt-out of the limiting, dystopian world of closed source web hosting.
Let’s dissect these realities one at a time to get the true sense of what it all means.
Infrastructure & Hosting - With proprietary solutions, you have zero control over infrastructure. Many of the solutions claim to use backup servers and employ disaster recovery systems, but you’ll never know for sure. Also, if you add content on your end that doesn’t get successfully saved to their servers, it can’t be restored. Oops.
Content - You don’t own it, pure and simple. The content is hosted exclusively on their servers. Want to transfer your site content elsewhere? Too bad. The content created using their proprietary editors cannot be exported, embedded or transferred anywhere else. Once you opt-in to the closed source world, it appears you’re there to stay or you’re leaving with nothing.
Flexibility - In many cases, unlimited bandwidth or file storage is non-existent. So some SMBs may get sized out from the start. For those that don’t, there is an easy drag-and-drop functionality to help you build the site you want - fast! Except it’s never easy or fast to build a quality website, and while pre-built templates may offer some guidance, you’re really on your own when it comes to making your site presentable. My dog can probably create a drag and drop website; that doesn’t mean it’s going to look awesome when it’s done.
“But the apps!” you say. What apps? Most of the apps offered through these sites are glorified iframes. Sure, it’s easy, but it also skews your website analytics and present a whole slew of accessibility issues.
Then there’s the technical SEO. Sure, many of these pre-packaged solutions offer bare basics for SEO, but for businesses that really want to get competitive, the options are limited. Dig enough into what you can and can’t do with closed source platforms, and it becomes clear that any businesses where SEO is integral to the long-term marketing strategy should steer clear.
Pricing - Pricing for some of these closed solutions start as low at $4/month. Sounds awesome until you realize that you’ll be hosting random ads on your website with the lower price tiers. The total cost over the long-term of using a closed solution adds up to much more than you would spend on building and hosting a site elsewhere.
Open Source is the New Freedom of Speech
It’s clear there is a trade-off here. Businesses trade ease and convenience for control. Is the real cost worth it? Is opting-in to a closed platform limiting your website’s freedom of speech?
Open source offers a refreshing alternative to proprietary, closed solutions. It enables the creation of both dynamic and static sites without breaking the bank on software licensing and without relinquishing control of your infrastructure, content, and flexibility to a third party.
Unlike proprietary providers, open source increases agility and flexibility, allowing businesses to create custom websites and implement fixes and changes on their schedule and on their budget.
You might be wondering what happened to my lawyer friend. The good news is, he got out before it was too late. The bad news? He had to start from scratch. His initial investment with the legal marketing agency disappeared into thin air. At least he was spared the pain of finding out after it was too late and the site was etched in internet stone.
Cold, hard, closed source internet stone.
*In retrospect, this is not funny at all. No lawyers were harmed in the making of this story.
Open source hosting quickly continues to rise as one of the most popular hosting solutions available. Why? It enables the creation of both dynamic and static sites without breaking the bank on software licensing. There’s an angle for every business type - whether personal, small, medium, or large.
It also goes hand-in-hand with open source content management systems, which are quickly becoming the backbone of digital transformation and an essential tool for the enterprise.
Customer Lifecycle Amidst a Digital Revolution
We’re at a stage where companies and enterprises are reevaluating customer lifecycle marketing through the lens of digital transformation. That envelops every aspect of marketing, from content management to the technology behind it - including hosting. Your brand’s digital experience is tethered like a web across various media and channels - from your website and blogs to apps, social media, and more.
As consumer behavior continues to evolve, a brand’s digital experience must match each step. According to the Adobe 2016 Digital Trends Report, 76% of those surveyed thought “that Marketing had changed more in the past 2 years than in the previous 50.” That’s an eye-opening statistic.
It’s one that smart businesses will look to as a nod toward digital transformation as a competitive opportunity.
Why Open Source is Key to Remaining Competitive
A recent Future of Open Source survey by North Bridge and Black Duck highlights the fact that 90% of respondents say open source improves efficiency, interoperability, and innovation.
Also noted in the study: more than 65% said they leverage open source software (OSS) to speed application development and over 55% said they leverage OSS for product infrastructure.
Among the advantages of open source, ability to customize and fix ranks highly. Again, OSS comes out as a leader in remaining strategic and competitive
Open Source Hosting
Open source hosting is a key component to keeping pace with the digital transformation age as well as effectively managing open source projects. Major hosting providers like Bluehost and SiteGround offer open source web solutions to support businesses actively engaged in open source projects.
Developers dedicated to open source (whether it’s Joomla!, WordPress, or Drupal) value open source hosting for the agility, speed and scalability that helps open source projects soar. The number of developers actively engaged in open source projects is on the rise. Looking back to the Future of Open Source survey, 67% of companies surveyed reported actively encouraging developers to engage in and contribute to open source projects.
Open Source - The Next Frontier
It’s clear that open source isn’t going anywhere...except up. Among the top key insights from the survey, the most prominent is the fact that open source is the architecture of today. It is the foundation for almost all applications, operating systems, cloud computing, databases, big data, and more.
But open source isn’t perfect - and enterprises aren’t, either.
There is plenty of room for improvement, which is where the focus will need to be for businesses to continue to reap the benefits of open source. The survey notes only 1 in 3 companies have a full-time resource dedicated to open source projects. We will need to see more dedicated resources in the open source realm for it to really sustain growth and efficacy.
Companies also need improved ways to handle known open source vulnerabilities. Almost a third of companies from the survey reported having no process in place to identify, track, or remediate known open source vulnerabilities. Given the recent rash of breaches (looking at you, Equifax), we know how that story ends.
We need to serve
My name is Robert Jacobi; over the past 11 years you may have met me attending or presenting at a JoomlaDay, Joomla! World Conference, or J and Beyond. You may have met me advocating for Joomla! at Sunshine PHP, Web Summit, a local meetup, or other industry event. I may have had the honor of serving with you as a teammate on the former Production Leadership and Finance teams. Joomla is part of my personal and professional heart and I am thankful that a project so important to the internet has a community that is equally vital.
One of the questions I am often asked is "what is Open Source Matters (OSM)?" It is a legal and dry description, bureaucratic in nature. OSM on paper is meant to protect the legal interests of the Joomla! project, and manage the financial aspects of the project. But OSM is much less: OSM is a servant, a servant to legal requirements, and a servant to the departments that create, educate, and evangelize the project known as Joomla.
The role of president is to lead in serving. The president must be able to fulfill all legal requirements, be accountable, be transparent, and serve the community. I believe that the president must be able to communicate with the community, advocate for Joomla globally, and serve departments towards specific goals.
We need goals
Without end users, we have no community; without a community, we have no support for Joomla; without Joomla!, we have no need for contributors; without contributors, we do not exist. The overall organization and leadership structure have been overhauled for greater transparency and accountability, and now the OSM board must work together to take the next steps towards furthering these goals:
- Improve financial reporting and budgeting
- Set Departmental and OSM metrics (e.g. increase number of contributors by 5%)
- Identify and plan for intellectual property
- Increase transparency and collaboration
- Aim for Joomla growth in sites, JUGs, etc.
We must set goals to succeed and be accountable for their success. I believe that planning, setting defined goals, and a great team will improve Joomla for all stakeholders.
We need to build
We need to recognize the immense contributions of Joomla community members from the past, but our legacy is not our future. We must encourage, grow, and advocate for new contributors. Technology, users, requirements, and people change. Understanding and managing tomorrow is the challenge and opportunity the OSM board has today.
I believe that we will not always agree, I believe that we come from different points of view, I believe that we have different needs: I believe that at the end of the day we must listen, be patient, acknowledge each other and strive for technology that solves problems today and tomorrow, as well as a community that supports listening, different points of view, addressing a variety of needs, and welcomes each other.
I am honored to be a part of Joomla and through service I believe Joomla has a bright and growing future.