Category: Technology

Dispute ‘Evolution’ – Managing disputes in the social media age

A depressing annual event happened this past Saturday (as it does twice a year) – a football (the European kind) match in which I hope both teams lose by a large margin. Liverpool played (and were victorious) over Manchester City in the English Premier League in a fiery, controversy-filled game. I’d say congratulations but I don’t have the heart to do it. I love Manchester United like a sibling, a sibling that has had a rough few years – a bad breakup, a number of years wandering looking for themselves desperately searching for an identity and, finally, starting again. My ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ sibling. A big win for Liverpool, but an otherwise typical match in the Premier League.

Monday’s events changed that narrative; we’ve moved from dispute resolution to dispute evolution.

International teams have come together for World Cup Qualifying fixtures over the next two weeks and, with them, the English team came together. Enter two English players that played in the Liverpool – Manchester City fixture – Raheem Sterling, an offensive superstar entering the prime of his career at Manchester City (and a former Liverpool player) and Joe Gomez, a developing defender on the fringes of the England squad looking to cement a place in the international arena. Stories abound on the true facts of their altercation – stemming from the hostility on Saturday – the event became public, got hold of by the English press, and, as a result, had to be dealt with publicly by Gareth Southgate, the England Manager.

People have always bad mouthed their former employers, ripped past colleagues, threatened (or, in the most extreme cases, taken) legal or physical action. We all know that social media has changed the speed and reach that these actions can have exponentially. Fights – physical or otherwise – are common in all sports teams but rarely, if ever, get reported. Media covering the team face repercussions if word gets out. Players, even with social media, rarely comment publicly. The incident passes, teammates moved forward – liking each other or not – together. The team ‘code’ is respected.

What is most interesting – and educational, in a sense – was the response by the leadership inside the FA (the corporate structure of the England team) and the dressing room to this issue.

Southgate threw out the code altogether. Details started to leak – seemingly intentionally – on the altercation, immediate aftermath, reconciliation and sanctions enforced. The star player was reportedly at fault. Sterling ‘attempted to choke’ Gomez and had to be separated. Sterling then left camp expecting to be suspended. Jordan Henderson, the English captain, brought them together. They reconciled. Sterling returned to camp. The player didn’t pick up a ‘mysterious flu’ or ‘injury in training’ to be quietly punished and no one hid Sterling’s departure. The Manager announced a one-game suspension publicly and took questions after, attempting to walk the line of explicitly disciplining a player while both maintaining respect of authority and discipline in the dressing room and trying to maintain harmony and trust in the dressing room by airing team business outside of it.

This should strike fear – and opportunity – in the minds of all leaders. Social media is the quintessential double-edged sword. Companies – for many very good reasons – are losing their implied code of silence. Obviously, criminal and discriminatory issues must be brought to light; that should have been and must be the case. The difficulty is that less toxic, more mundane issues – conflict between colleagues on direction of a business, social disagreements outside of work, and disputes over recognition or commissions – are often brought to light as well. As expectations of a public shaming and response to issues on social media seem to grow, leaders must be disciplined in walking that line. Social media is a marketing tool for businesses and should remain so. It is not, however, a company’s opportunity to defend itself in the court of public opinion. Working to address issues is. Restaurant and hotel reviews are a great example – restaurants that dispute with public comments never win. Unless you’re apologizing on behalf of the business for a public, significant wrong, the customer is always right online. Your social media should be restricted to the ‘good’, ‘new’ and ‘voice’ of your brand. This is not to say that negative reviews, customer experiences or disputes should not be addressed; the opposite is true. It is a customer’s right to comment or complain publicly. We give them the avenue to do so. Wherever possible – and non-criminal, however – these should be in confidence between affected parties.

Time will tell whether Southgate was correct. It’s inconceivable that he raise and publicize all minor team disputes—he’ll be explaining himself on a daily basis. This wasn’t a ‘Don Cherry’ sized problem. He’s been on the receiving end of racism rather than the one perpetrating it. Sterling has responded maturely from the cruel press coverage he’s been subjected to by the English media in his career. He has no track record and worked extremely hard to prove doubters wrong.

Even so, Southgate felt compelled to respond to the metaphorical restaurant review. We’ll see if he emerges unscathed.

Data Security by Process Design: The Next Step for IT and IP Protection

I was sitting next to a HoneyBadger Bitcoin employee on a plane a few months ago – he was moving forward their kiosk deployment across Canada and I was half asleep heading home from Seattle – and finally got an answer to a question I’d been wondering for a long time: How do those ‘in the know’ secure their wallet numbers and passwords when everything is hackable?

His answer: pen, paper, safety deposit box. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but that certainly wasn’t it.

Yup. Still a thing. (Getty Images)

That message, in context with last week’s news that QuadrigaCX has now forever lost access to ‘cold wallets’ worth over $160 million – and the record $865 million dollars worth of coins stolen from exchanges around the world in 2018 alone, now makes a little more sense.

Pen, paper, safety deposit box indeed.

Electronic thieves have innovated. Clever phishing emails, fake websites and spoofed email addresses (many of you have seen them I’m sure) have taken over the ‘<insert foreign country here> prince’ emails. Faked wiring instructions from colleagues, fraudulent CRA phone calls and mysterious banking password verifications all seek to get through the IT infrastructure we’ve set up to protect ourselves with verified credentials. You don’t need a hack when you can convince targets to bring you behind the ‘silicon’ curtain – or avoid it altogether. Even blockchain security can’t prevent a compromised user from making changes to secure data.

A ‘Londoning’ Scam – One of the originals. When in doubt, call the hotel directly. Their confusion will be real. That, and your friend is really back in town but just doesn’t want to listen to your story about your dog. That happens.

Unlike an IT hack – a failure of your infrastructure to withstand attack – we are countering a new and different threat: a digital version of the failure of checks and balances that plague many businesses. Growth – especially in small, founder-led businesses – doesn’t often permit the vigilance of enforcement required to prevent financial ‘leakages’ (to use my colleague Salima’s favorite term). Founders need to sell, sell and sell again. Even with expense trackers like Expensify and small business back-office apps like (the rather brilliant, Edmonton-based Jobber), there remains gaps in our ability to provide the requisite checks and balances that will keep our money safe from phantom bills or instructions.

We <3 you, M-Files

Our solution – the best solution (though we may be biased) – is to fill the gap between costs and approvals by cementing your checks and balances digitally. A strong document management system (we use MFiles – it does this seamlessly) can build processes that manage file interactions – necessitating approvals, ensuring completeness, and protect against versioning errors – that mirror the numerous processes you already use to operate your business. We will also evaluate your processes with you to ensure that those that we are recreating accomplish the security tasks they are meant to.

That said, with or without us, I would implore you to protect your critical processes. Create a strict, two-stage process – both verbal and electronic – on how wire transfers, cheques over a certain amount, payment orders and confirmations, how users’ passwords get changed and updated and the digital permissions required for your employees access secure data. Ensure that passwords are changed at the very least biannually (the more the better, but people absolutely hate this I recognize). And, most importantly, keep a data trail – in some way – of these processes. The more automated and unbiased the better.

And, though it still amazes me that this is still important, ensure that mission critical server, administrator or data vault passwords are written by hand, on pen and paper, and put in a secure area somewhere. Digital records can be hacked. Pen and paper still cannot. QuadrigaCX showed the vulnerability of concentrating this knowledge in a single person. You may not be comfortable providing this information to multiple people.

The mighty, hacker-proof pen (according to Wikipedia)

The world may be changing but pen, paper and a good safety deposit box still have their uses after all.

Data in the Sharing Economy

Business has a new, annoying buzz word to go along with ‘synergies’, ‘disruption’, ‘productize’ and ‘jargon’. (If you haven’t had enough, venture over to Forbes’ list here to make your stomach churn further. Never have I hated clickbait so much). We all use them and it becomes increasingly painful to hear.

The ‘Gig Economy’ has become ubiquitous amongst MBAs and millennials, variously defined as the empowerment of underutilized supply, the biggest threat in the hotel/taxicab/power company/cable/restaurant/communications business and the latest, best ‘side hustle’ for people to make a bit more money. We might have predicted it (though, of course, hindsight allows us to have predicted anything, really). Economic theory posits that supply and demand will always tending towards equilibrium regardless of market pressures one way or another. Our vast supply of ‘things’ – cars, homes, hours in a day – that drive the gig economy can now be maximized to the very last minute and dollar.

Our data is no different. The information gleaned from our data has made Google rich, newspapers poor, people amused by the ‘People who purchased this item also purchased …’ section on Amazon and nerds (myself included) to search vast electromagnetic radiation records to search for extraterrestrial life with SETI. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is case in point; every data point in a vast sea of knowledge can be used for profit whether we realize it or not. We didn’t know our Facebook friends could indicate so much of our political preferences, but once someone had the data they found a way to use it. For predictive data analysis, maintaining institutional knowledge across generations or microtargeting for promotions, every data point tells a story, every time. Data – in every business – is now our most valuable IP, conceivably worth millions more than the innovations that created it.

Every business collects data, be it on sheets of paper, floppy disks, CDs or in cloud storage. Our customer history, level of purchasing, payment turnaround, revenue turnover, consulting or service hours and more. There is no corporate ‘Marie Kondo’ to cleanse us of our data lust – we collect and keep everything.

We now know the power this corporate data has. We can predict our clients’ future purchasing decisions, understand which SKUs to purchase and terminate and figure out which client or vendor gives us the greatest return on time or money invested. And every business has it.

We generally let this gold stay in the ground, though. It sits in a warehouse, or a basement, or a garage and degrades. That data can be worth thousands, feeding future growth and getting us back in touch with our best clients. Evidence surrounds us. Immense value can be generated from the throwaway details sitting in banker’s boxes and our unsearchable scanned records. We blame expense, time, manpower and ‘more important things’ to ignore it.

This is no longer reason enough – or true enough – to let our data go to waste.

We at Consentia use AI, exceptionally efficient staff and ‘smart’ hardware to sort, read and enter the precise data you want automatically (and discard that which you don’t), process and verify documents for completeness, meta-tag your information and securely deposit it in your document management system, data vault, accounting system, cloud storage or on floppy disks in large cardboard boxes (if you so chose – for some reason). Whatever you need to digitize, however you want to present it and at a price and schedule that meets your needs (without blowing your budgets).

The gig economy has taught us to take every skill, asset, or piece of knowledge we have – driving our cities, taking tourists to the sites and sounds of our homes, selling power to our utility grids from solar panels amongst others – and derive the maximum value out of it. Our data is no different. It’s time to make it work.

Originally posted on the Consentia.com website –https://consentia.com/2019/01/15/data-in-the-sharing-economy/

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