Monday, November 12, 2012

Tools & Technology - IT in 2013

Are you looking for a job?  Information Technology (IT) remains one of the leading industries for growth, which translates to new jobs for some, consistently from year to year. According to Computer World’s annual forecast survey, 33% of IT executives interviewed said they are planning to increase their IT head count in the new year (2013). The reason - skilled IT professionals are essential in driving business forward, from communications to applications, project management and technical support, with measurable impacts in productivity, profitability, and the viability of today’s business model.  

The top 5 most hirable IT skills are as follows:

  1. Programming and Application Development
  2. Project Management
  3. Help Desk/IT Support
  4. Security
  5. Business Analytics

According to Computer World’s latest survey, 60% of IT executives plan to add programmers and developers in 2013, with 40% forecasting a need for new project managers, 35% expanding technical support functions, 27% adding security professionals, and 26% hiring IT professionals that can successful analyze the massive data collected.

“UNIX is simple.  It just takes a genius to understand its simplicity.”
– Dennis Ritchie

 “If you think technology can solve your security problems, then you don’t understand the problems and you don’t understand the technology.”
– Bruce Schneier

“The best way to predict the future is to implement it.”
– David Heinemeier Hansson

While LAC Group specializes in information management and not necessarily information technology, IT skills are helping our information specialists, librarians, researchers and the like edge themselves past the competition and are quickly becoming requirements.  View LAC Group's available jobs here.

Blog Reference:
COMPUTERWORLD: 10 Hot IT Skills for 2013, by Mary K. Pratt

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"Work in the 21st century series" - Finding More Satisfaction in Your Work

Finding More Satisfaction in Your Work

The pressures of cash flow, job security, new technology, the ongoing financial crisis, and our rapidly changing marketplace can more than take their toil on today’s professional. How you handle the transition from home to the office and back home again, each day, impacts your performance, how you are perceived by others, and how you see yourself. Whether your full time job is finding work, or you work full time at one job or part time at two, the strategies for increasing your personal health and satisfaction at work are the same. Finding a healthy sustainable 24 x7 balance is the end goal for everyone.

For some reason, as adults, we require our children get adequate sleep each night so they are fresh, invigorated and sharp at school. Yet, we often don’t hold ourselves accountable to the same standard of rest to maintain our edge at work. Sleep is a mandatory precursor for the brain to function at its best, no matter our age. When your body and mind are at rest, your body temperature and heartbeat regulates, your muscles relax and repair, your blood supply increases, hormones are released for growth and development throughout your body, memory consolidation occurs, and your body’s energy is restored. Sleep not only affects how you feel and function, but also how you look. While adult human sleep needs vary, the magic sleep number remains at 8 hours, throughout our lives. 

If you drove your car to work without gas, would you get there? While it may sound like parental advice, perhaps even trivial, skipping meals means your not going to be running at full speed. Simply put, food is your body’s fuel. Finding and maintaining a regiment of good sleep, and eating the proper quantity and quality meals for your body to run at its optimum are the winning strategies of Olympians, professional athletes, and just us plain old professionals.  

Exercise: Body & Brain
It only makes sense to maintain the best health possible for your body, since it is the carrier for your brain, the physical vehicle that enables your brain to function properly and move you forward. In addition, there are a variety of exercises you can do to take your own mental temperature, challenge, analyze, reflect and regulate your work identity, as follows:

  1. Spend a half hour each day completely unplugged – no phones, radios, televisions, or “i-whatever”s. Sometimes your answers are screaming over the noise, but can’t be heard. Miracles and greatness are discovered in the quiet.
  1. Make a tape recording of yourself during a phone call. Pay careful attention to the words you use (I, me), and how you actually sound. What do your spoken and written words really say about you? Our reality if most often a combination how we see ourselves and how the world sees us.
  1. Journaling is nearly a lost art, but its usefulness is not. Keep a personal journal for self analysis, a place to download frustrations in order to clarify and release them, and a place to clearly and concisely document your dreams and goals.  

Blog Reference:

National Sleep Foundation:What Happens When You Sleep

AOL Jobs:5 Surprising Ways toBe Happier at Work, by Ashley Lutz

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Work in the 21st Century - Modern Resumes; Keywords That Match

Most companies, today, now receive job applications and resumes via email and through website applications, and in turn, also process those resumes with various ingest technologies. These technologies are programmed much like a search engine, scanning through volumes of data from the resumes received, in search of the best or closest matches to the actual job opening (and more specifically, description). By understanding this methodology, job seekers should update their resumes to keyword rich resumes, using words that not only match but pop, and get you noticed. Further, it is important to include acronyms (in addition to spelling them out).

Although we’ve all heard this before, it is more important now due to technology - Resumes should be tailored to the specific job you are applying for. In order to determine the right keywords for your resume, first read the job posting, job description, and peruse the company website. Tweak your resume to be sure it includes the employer’s specific terminology, how you can specifically meet their requirements, and the specific skills you possess to do so, and using their words.

Change job titles to match. If the job opening is for a “software engineer”, naturally those applicants that have the title “software engineer” listed within experience are more likely to be considered. If you worked as a “software developer”, but completed the same job duties, be sure to change your previous title to reflect “software engineer” so it is an identical match. 

Include specific keywords in your previous experience that matches the employer’s requirements. If the employer lists multi-tasking as a high priority, be sure your previous job descriptions not only demonstrate your ability to multi-task, but include the actual keywords.   
As in the case with search engines, the websites with the most matching keywords make it to the top of the listing. The same applies to your resume; more matching keywords results in a higher probability of getting your resume in the hands of a live person for real consideration. When your resume includes 20 well-placed keywords, your resume will not only stand up, it will stand out.

For all those unemployed or under-employed, happy job hunting this week - tailor, match, get noticed, and get hired. Join me next week as I cover the ways to be happier and healthier in the work you do.

“This nation, this generation, in this hour has man’s first chance to build a great society, a place where the meaning of man’s life matches the marvels of man’s labor.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

Blog Reference:
CAREEREALISM: Optimizing YourResume, by Don Goodman 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Work in the 21st Century - Professional Development

The Internet and development of social networks has forever changed the job search process. Most companies, like LAC Group, now have a web presence and accept job applications via online application tools. 80% of employers also now search potential job applicants online, and at least 50% make decisions based on what they find. While unemployed and under-employed send resumes by email or snail mail (in the 21st century), they must also be proactive and establish a strong online presence and submit their resume via the tool the organization is using.  In most cases resumes are handled by machine, and only if you have optimized your resume for the digital ingest it will go through, will you increase your chances of being selected for an interview.

A recent survey shows at least 75% of job recruiters are using the LinkedIn business network to research prospects, which matches LAC's experiences. Job seekers must develop a strong online profile with a professional headshot, work history, websites, links and recommendations (online references), and build a meaningful network with past employers, co-workers, and professionals in your industry.

Additionally, Facebook, Twitter, personal websites, and even blogs can be effective (or damming) tools for building an online presence, keeping in mind job recruiters often check these sites to get a better understanding of who you are, what you do, and what you can do. For job seekers, it’s important to keep your online presence, especially within social platforms, as professional as possible. I often liken these platforms to the “business casual” side of individuals.    

LinkedIn and Google offer proactive job matching notifications, along with 100s of other job boards and websites, including The Ladders, Career Builder, and Monster, to name a few.

Join me next week as I cover the modern resume, ways to update and keep your resume fresh and eye-catching.

“In life, as in a football game, the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard.” – Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses, 1900.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Work” - in the 21st Century - JOBS

Jobs in the 21st century, 2012, present.

While knowing “the news”, what is being reported about our workplace, from the “Media”, “Social Media” too, now, (meaning TV and Internet) is important. Let’s face it, if you still don’t earn enough to support yourself, and your family, their news is still wrong... for you

Sometimes our answers are found slowly, in small pieces, or links even. So, included are interesting discoveries about our marketplace of free-enterprise that should, in fact, be large enough for us all…to survive, and as Our Constitution supports in its entirety, “We, the People, shall have the right to secure shelter, clothing, food, supplies…, make a family of our own, find a home, share our talents, contribute; love and live.” I confidently speak on behalf of our team at LAC Group: we are doing our best to help almost 23 million people find their ability to stand on their own again.  No, of course we don't have 23 million jobs to offer, nor are there 23 million in our field.  The point being that we work as if it is on our shoulders.

International Labour Office: Global Employment Trends of 2012 White Paper.

MSN Careers: (Article) Bestbets for jobs in 2012, By Debra Auerbach.

US News, MONEY: 25 BestJobs, (2012).

Simply Hired: SimplySalary (Job Salary Calculator)

During my years of work, in the late 20th-century & now early 21st-century, technological knowledge continues to increase in demand and importance, translates to work always available. And, the one constant, especially in information, is change. Learning new things, trying new tools and evolving are the keys for adapting to those changes. I do find our field fascinating, I suppose that doesn’t hurt either. Ask yourself: Do you love what you do? Sometimes we need to just "do" but you should always be striving to do what you love.

The truth is that adaptation is key. Some times we learn at different speeds, or learn different things at the same time. Just keep learning and growing, adapting, evolving. No deficiency or weakness, just new direction, translates to change. As Dr. Sheldon Cooper eloquently put it, “I don’t like change, they say change is good, but they lied; It isn’t.”   

It appears, from my seat, some drastic changes have been for the better for individuals who may be preparing for something new, something greater than they may have imagined for themselves. Believing in the possibilities does matter, too.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

“Work” - in the 21st Century

With the advent of the Internet and email, followed by the social networking technologies of Facebook and Twitter, and enterprise networks like LinkedIn and Yammer, the one constant all business professionals can depend on is change. As the great financial collapse and recession of 2008 is barely behind us now, and millions still struggle to find work, or adapt to the rapid changes of commerce in America, it seems prudent to dedicate this next series to “work” in the 21st century.

Work satisfaction is minimally connected to salary. Although, for those Americans still without jobs, or currently under-employed, obviously income does matter a great deal. Join me during the next four weeks as I cover - 2012 job trends, salaries and satisfaction; techniques and tooling for professional development in the online marketplace to increase your opportunities to find work or a job period; resume formats and keywords that pop; and, even how to find more satisfaction in the work you do.

“In all of our contracts it is probably the sense of being really needed and wanted that gives us the greatest satisfaction and creates the most lasting bond.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Technology & Tooling “Exploring Alternatives to Emails” Series" - Implementing Yammer

A few weeks ago, I posted this weeks update on Greg Lambert's 3 Geeks and a Law blog, and the last few weeks have been a prequel to our #Yammer implementation.  Next week I will be discussing our 1st quarter - what's working, what's not, etc.

#LAC Group decided to make the bold move to eliminate internal email about June 2011.  Over the course of a year we tested 4 different products, finally settling on Yammer. 

We set out to resolve four key issues:
  1. How do we preserve contributions after an employee has left?  Preserve our corporate knowledge?
  2. How do we protect internal material from being emailed to the wrong party? Or being forwarded by mistake outside the org (we have all had this happen to someone we know…if not ourselves…and know that hitting the “Recall” in outlook only makes the person actually read what you are trying to recall.
  3. How do we cut down on task duplication/trip/quad/etc... what happens when you need something done right away and email 4 people...and they ALL do it.
  4. How do we bring together a team spread across 7 offices and two continents?

Top 5 reasons our staff has found that internal messages on Yammer are better than email:
  1. Yammer is a completely searchable tool that outlives any individual employee (eDiscovery compliant/accessible as well) - preserving content even post departure, rather than ending up in an archived email folder sitting on a DVD on someones shelf. It is a central repository for all messages, which enables continual growth of knowledge vs starting over/mining data (which we all know rarely happens due to time and expense).
  2. Yammer helps organize a conversation to keep track of input and eliminates the need for multiple people to have to do the research/fact finding, etc. Increasing organizational productivity.  Employees are working together to get tasks completed.  While email has tried to address “conversations” it’s simply a roll-up based on subject…and we’ve all lost a message or two that happened to have the same subject.
  3. Yammer can be as easy to use as email...or easier.  And can be faster as well!
  4. Yammer can be private – not everything has to be “public” - having a discussion that should only be amongst certain individuals - using private messages you can limit to one or several people.
  5. Yammer builds a corporate repository that allows us to search to see if we have ever had a discussion on a particular topic, client, situation, employee, etc.

BONUS: Yammer enables a concept I call working publicly.  So many times we want to know what’s going on (as managers) and rather than have to stop an employees productivity to prepare an email (ugh) to update us – we are always updated.  It’s a similar effect to what TR did with their cubicles… brought the height down – working publicly increases collaboration, cooperation, organizational awareness/knowledge and most importantly productivity.

Now to how we did it (short version).  We first ran a very tight test group, making sure that the technology worked, testing the concepts put forward by Yammer's implementation team, etc.  We decided that we would design specific groups and not allow random group creation.  One of the groups is called "Water Cooler" and has strict business discussed here...keep it fun - bring people together...a place to blow off (of course we also have word monitoring set in the system to prevent too much creative license with words...we still have to keep it clean). 

We also put out a corporate mandate that we were transitioning internal communications and assigned our Yammer champions to re-direct to Yammer.  So when people slip, and they do, and send emails, these champions will forward the email to a group on Yammer (each group can receive posts via email as well)...and then respond within Yammer.

We officially launched Yammer June 1st.  Many of those on LAC Group’s Yammer had not actually met each we made photos a must.  Each person was also required to fill out their profile (completely) so that people could get to know one another (and their skills, areas of expertise, etc).  Then it was off to the races.  Within the first few days, one of our staff members in DC asked a question that would have taken them 5-6 hours to research...a staff member in NY (who had never met the person in the DC office...or even knew they existed) answered the question in 3 minutes (had done the same search the week prior).  While this happened by chance, creating/manufacturing a similar exercise during roll out would be advised, as adoption immediately soared. 

When we signed up for yammer, the sales staff told us of their most successful clients where internal email was down by 40-50% - our current stats are internal email is down by 80% (and still going).  Team collaboration is up (significantly).  Teamwork where there wasn't any...and people are getting to know their co-workers, not just across the cube...but across the country.  Duplication of effort (for us this was huge) is down to almost 0%.  Working publicly is working, it’s been a real shift in our corporate culture.
Ending (internal) email isn't easy, but it doesn't have to be hard either.  The key is finding a reason for each individual in the company - if there is a personal gain, there will be adoption. 

Success factors:
  1. Running a solid test group - creating Yammer champions – you have to have believers for any cause.
  2. Setting up the right way - Yammer implementation model of just let people go at it and they'll get it, isn't the right model (IMHO).  Orchestrate success – that’s how to ensure it happens.
  3. Make it fun... and have a champion for that - we have a daily post in our Water Cooler that keeps people going.  Have a stash of gift cards and make up prizes for most collaboration, most helpful this or that.
  4. Consistently push to Yammer - make sure that the team is posting there, vs email.
  5. Have some real "wins" for people - use a carrot - sticks will only get you so far.
  6. Set up email to Yammer aliases to auto-send to yammer from email - helps with adoption…and your employees don’t need to remember the long cryptic email addresses Yammer assigns to the various groups.
  7. Send regular posts on Yammer tips and tricks to help make adoption stick.  Just because we have reduced email by 80% doesn't mean it will stay there.  Have to help back-sliders.  We have a daily tip post that goes in our Yammer 101 group.
  8. Dispel myths about email being faster - set up SMS notifications for groups and individuals, as well using the Yammer app (iPhone, Android, BB, iPad, PC, Mac, etc.) to show speed and ease of use.
  9. Use @mentions and #tags to draw attention to people and organize topics.
  10. Find a success factor for each and every participant - it's got to personally benefit each person, or they won't use it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Technology & Tooling “Exploring Alternatives to Emails” Series Enterprise Networking Technology - Yammer

As COO for LAC Group, I recently went through the exploration process to find new technology to supplement internal email communications and alleviate the current deficiencies highlighted in last week’s post. While “open” social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, have their own perks, and are both tools we currently employ, the setup, organization, management and cooperation from employees, remains somewhat tedious, to date, and neither provide the information exchange function we need within a secure environment.

As I hinted in last week's post, we found one of the newer technologies to be the most promising: #Yammer. Yammer is an enterprise social networking tool that is both private and resides in a secure environment, allowing for company collaboration, file sharing, and knowledge exchange for our team.

How Yammer Works

The Yammer enterprise network technology has given LAC Group the ability to establish an employee intranet with social networking capabilities, exclusive to all of our employees within our electronic mail domain. Employees have access to interact with, share, post and exchange information with other LAC Group employees sharing the same email extension of (or other domains under the corporate umbrella like and

Deficiencies Resolved

LAC Group has hundreds of employees, many of whom work from client sites all over the country and world, employees often don’t know each other on a personal basis much less know the names of all of their co-workers. Email is prohibitive of important information sharing in large organizations like ours, as employees would need to direct messages to a specific co-worker by name, or send a message to a large group distribution group...still not knowing who might see their message. Even then, email communications are still a “closed” two-way exchange of information between those two employees, for the most part.

With Yammer, LAC Group employees are able to post information and updates, ask questions, participate in a group dialog, and more. With Yammer, all employees in our organization can discover and respond more timely, and with the confidence that their communications are secure within our internal business network. As David Sacks of Yammer said, “There’s nothing discoverable about email. It’s either addressed to you or not.”

So far, Yammer is proving to be a valuable option for LAC Group to increase efficiency and knowledge throughout our team worldwide. Librarians in the field especially feel this tool gives them more access to what is going on not only within LAC Group headquarters, and with others like them stationed in the field, but within the library management services industry as a whole.    

Deficiencies Not Resolved

While Yammer addresses internal messaging and collaboration, we still don't have an answer for external client communications.  Currently email is the best we've come up with so far...but that doesn't mean we haven't stopped looking.

 “Stop thinking in terms of limitations and start thinking in terms of possibilities.”  – Terry Josephson

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

“Exploring Alternatives to Emails” Series: Email Deficiencies

In my recent feature in MacWorld Magazine, Stop Using Emails for Everything, I barely scratched the surface of the real drawbacks we face at LAC Group by using email as a primary tool for internal communications. Once you peel back the clutter of unsolicited emails, there is a plethora of information coming into our business through this medium, most of which is disbursed to individuals. While many of the hundreds of emails which enter the mailboxes of our 300 or so employees, are from clients, potential clients and vendors, the vast majority are internal messages which would be useful to LAC Group as a business entity, a whole. It's the new model of what I call "working publicly."

I recently ran across this quote (although I don't know who said it):

"… email is a knowledge cul-de-sac – a dead end for valuable ideas – a graveyard of potential. Email is where corporate IQ kicks back and has a brewski. Email also contributes to corporate amnesia; forgetfulness that costs businesses millions – perhaps billions in repeated mistakes every year.

Email is also wasteful; threads grow with unending off-topic discussions and CC lists expand, eroding productivity in all corners of the enterprise. Indeed, email is a problem but imagine trying to do business without it. 

Even with the massive heat-loss from this antiquated and weak communications model, two things are clear; (i) no one has come up with a better approach that has challenged or displaced email, and (ii) it works pretty well in spite of its shortcomings."
While we don't have a great answer for external communications, the relatively new emergence of private communication platforms, such as Yammer, are taking on internal email communications.

Employees work in silos; this may be further exasperated for those who work for companies like LAC Group who have their clients spread across various client work-sites. This means all mail sent and received from those employees remains in a silo too (not to mention the multiplication factor that happens on attachments, security and lack of staff interaction). 

Today’s email technology, while effective for external communications, does not support internal collaborations and efforts within a master account, necessary for the preservation of data and knowledge. Organizing and sharing the influx of data sent to individual employees  remains a manual function that must be handled by policy and procedure, rather than technology. Although individual email boxes are archived for reference, or emergency, essentially all the value is lost unless data is mined from their received and sent emails.

Addition email deficiencies include:

  • Emails contradictory to your company branding - Every company has at least one example of an email sent to a client that should never have been sent out, improperly branding/representing your business in a different, or unfavorable light. 
  • Emails received, and responded to, internally by more than one party - Providers, vendors and partners often send emails to numerous employees, who in turn, all take time to respond. Not only can the company message be lost, represented improperly, or worse, but, let’s face it, this methodology wastes time and productivity throughout the entire organization.
  • Emails that unnecessarily consume excess space on your servers -  When a large attachment is included in an email distributed to numerous employees, and they all save and/or respond, this creates an exponential growth of that data, (1 MB PDF file x 20 responses = consumption of 20 MB).
  • Blind CCs create passive-aggressive stigma in the workplace While the use of BCC can provide some capability for “working publicly” - the use of this feature does little for internal morale and is still simply a work-around approach.  

As an information & knowledge management executive, I appreciate the magnitude of change that occurred in our business communications with the advent of email. In fact, I still view email as not only necessary but the most revolutionary tool that we've come up with for communicating with clients. Yet, as COO of LAC Group, I would be remiss if I didn’t look long and hard for solutions to the current deficiencies, gaps and dilemmas we experience each day with email, costing us in valuable time and money.

Join me next week as I explore some of the new technology and tooling available to us, in order to find better faster ways for our team to work, to preserve employee contributions even after they have left the company, and most importantly to protect our knowledge base.   

 “In today’s environment, hoarding knowledge ultimately erodes your power. If you know something very important, the way to get power is by actually sharing it.”  – Joseph Badaracco

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

“Exploring Alternatives to Emails” Series - Unsolicited Emails

Unsolicited Emails
 “Email fatigue” occurs when a user ignores a large number of email messages after falling behind in reading and answering them.” – Lawrence Lessig, Harvard University.

While the advent of email has forever changed our business models and methodologies for communication and marketing, the sheer volumes of unsolicited emails have given most of us cause to search for alternatives. In this segment, I will address the different types of unsolicited emails we are inundated with on a continuous basis, the how and why, and more importantly actions you can take to reduce each.  

“Ham” versus “Spam”
Spam, “junk mail”, or unsolicited bulk email (UBE) accounts for 78% of all electronic messages – that’s 229 billion spam messages sent out daily!  These “messages” are not only ubiquitous and unavoidable, but often even dangerous to the health of our computer / devices. These unsolicited bulk “messages” can and often do include links or attachments connecting us to phishing software and malware. Because spammers are able to collect our data from sites we visit, create viruses to harvest our contact lists often undetected, and more, it is virtually impossible to eliminate all spam. Today, the best methodology for defending yourself against spam is to empty the spam folder in your mailbox without opening or responding to the sender. Of course, that's if what is in your spam folder was properly categorized.

Phishing is the attempt to “bait” you in order to obtain personal information from your virtual mailbox, computer and even wallet, most commonly: usernames, passwords, credit card and bank information. Most phishing occurs when we respond to spam “bait” with malicious links or attachments, taking us to a fictional website that prompts for personal information. As a rule of thumb, you should drive to your bank’s website. Phishing has been one of the many online sharks to avoid since 1995; banks and vendors will not send emails soliciting your personal information, as a result.  It is also important to use Tools – Delete Browsing – Delete Phishing Filter Data on a regular basis to ensure no doors have been left open in your mailbox.

Malware, short for malicious software, covers the gamut for codes, scripts, active content and other intrusive and hostile software created by hackers for the purpose of disrupting your computer function or hard drive, to gain access to your computer without your consent, and to obtain your personal information. Malware is most commonly known in the form of: viruses, worms, spyware and adware. The best defense to block these attacks remains anti-virus and anti-malware software, and firewalls. When in doubt, drag and drop to the spam folder, without opening, and empty the folder immediately. Regular scans and diagnostics of your computer are also affective for identifying, quarantining, and eliminating undetected malware and back doors.

Unsolicited Marketing Emails - “Subscriptions”
Just about every business has attempted to use their contact lists for mass marketing via electronic mail, much like snail mail in the 80s and prior. Often these emails account for a large chunk of the messages we consider an annoyance. While dealing with these individually requires times, it usually leads to a resolution. Valid commercial marketers are required to provide you with an unsubscribe button, removing your email address and eliminating future incoming mail. Valid businesses also provide unsubscribe buttons on their websites.

Taking the time to read and respond to the privacy policies of every online retailer, ISP, etc. is a task which is often "clicked through" and ignored. Most collect, distribute and use your address and information, preferences, etc. for advertising purposes. They often have a marketing preferences screen where you can uncheck boxes to remove your email address from their marketing and promotional lists, and their “partner” lists. All businesses are required to provide you with a more definitive option to stop unsolicited marketers, most often referred to as a Customer Proprietary Network Information or CPNI Restriction Request.

“At the bottom, the elimination of spyware and the preservation of privacy for the consumer are critical goals if the Internet is to remain safe and reliable and credible.”  – Cliff Stearns

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

“Exploring Alternatives to Emails” Series - A Brief History

Technology & Tooling
“Exploring Alternatives to Emails” Series

Internet protocols

Application layer
DHCP · DHCPv6 · DoIP · DNS · FTP · HTTP · IMAP · IRC · LDAP · MGCP · NNTP · NTP · POP · RPC · RTP · RTSP · SIP · SMTP · SNMP · SOCKS · SSH · Telnet · TLS/SSL · XMPP · (more) 
Transport layer
TCP · UDP · DCCP · SCTP · RSVP · (more) 
Internet layer
IP ( IPv4 · IPv6 ) · ICMP · ICMPv6 · RIP · OSPF · BGP · ECN · IGMP · IPsec · (more) 
Link layer
ARP/InARP · NDP · Tunnels ( L2TP ) · PPP · Media access control ( Ethernet · DSL · ISDN · FDDI ) · (more)

A Brief History of Electronic Mail (email):

The advent of electronic mail (email) was a critical component for user to user digital communication with the introduction of the global Internet; connecting 2.2 billion users, or 1/3 of the world’s population, today. The first electronic mail system dates back to the 1970s, as part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), the world’s first packet switching network design.    

From circuit switching to packet switching
Throughout the first half of the 20th Century, all communications, both voice and data were handled through circuit switching. Circuit switching is best explained by referencing our early telephone system, where communications were handled by allocating and routing each individual message through a series of designated circuits and connected stations (telephones or computers) stretching between point A and point B; the downside was “designated”. Packet switching revolutionized our communications, allowing both voice and data to be grouped into datagrams, or data packets within a computer network system, transmitting our communications simultaneously from network to network, using a single communications link.

From FTP to SMTP (protocols)
In addition to our migration from circuit switching to packet switching, protocols also improved. The older File Transfer Protocol (FTP) was replaced by the new standard Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) in the early 1980s. The SMTP not only sped up communications, but included more advanced delivery parameters, changing email communications from simple text messages to the look, feel and function of our 3-deminsional snail mail from a virtual post box. All email messages we sent or received had a standard format, including an envelope with identifying data, a header (addressee and subject) and body text. Today, and three decades later, virtually all emails still use the SMTP transfer protocol worldwide.

From text-only to MIME
Early email messages were text-only, traditionally small 7-bit ASCII files of data, much like the text messaging capabilities on our wireless phones. Advanced Internet standards were introduced for email formats expanding their capabilities from text-only messages to Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME). This new standard not only dramatically changed the content format of our emails, but allowed us the capability for attachments, and continues to serve in an important role in our communication protocols over the global Internet. Virtually all digital communications today are transmitted in MIME format, whether an actual email message or something else, keeping our communications across the globe synchronized in a format we can all agree on, access, follow and understand.