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Findings in a new report released by Verto Analytics: 222 million U.S. Facebook users tend to spend 14 hours per month in the company’s app. (That’s 335,000 years worth of time, by the way.) Google reaches 228 million U.S. users, but they spend a little less than four hours a month using the company’s services. Add in the company’s video giant YouTube, which captures about five hours of its users’ attention monthly, and Google still only has a little less than nine — five hours less. Which means in a user-and-time chart, Facebook is all by itself. This matters mostly because in a world of free services in which we — the great device-using unwashed — are the product, and ad dollars drive innovation and competition, reach times engagement equals revenue. In short: Attention winners become financial winners.
Accidental entrepreneurs stumble sometimes into what turns out to be a most wonderful venture. Take, for example, computer animator Sydney Padua. One day in 2009 she drew a web comic illustrating the life of Ada Lovelace. It was at the suggestion of her friend Suw Charman-Anderson, organizer of Ada Lovelace Day, a celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The comic was an accident—she was not a comic artist and had (reluctantly) moved years before into computer animation and creating giant monsters for the movies.
Padua was “hazily aware” of who Lovelace was, so she checked Wikipedia and found out how Charles Babbage “only just failed to invent the computer” and how “the daughter of Lord Byron [later Lady Lovelace] wrote imaginary programs for this imaginary computer.” She didn’t like how their lives ended (Lovelace died at thirty-six, Babbage never realized his dream of a steam-powered calculating machine), so she added a couple of drawings at the end of her web comic, “imagining for them another, better, more thrilling comic-book universe to live on in” where they use Babbage’s Analytical Engine to fight crimes.
She woke up the next day to find herself “mildly click-worthy” on the Internet, now known as someone who was going to draw a web comic about the adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. “Almost everybody had failed to realize that my alternative-universe ending was a joke,” she writes.
The joke has turned into a series of web comics, a loyal following on the web, an iOS app, and now, a book. In The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, Padua expands on her previous tales of the crime-fighting and problem-solving duo and adds numerous footnotes, endnotes, and documentary evidence she had unearthed in her extensive research.
At the book talk I attended a couple of weeks ago, Padua said that “the comic is an excuse for me to do research on Babbage and Lovelace” and that in the course of her research, she fell in love with her protagonists. Her talk made it clear that she also fell in love with doing research, reading primary documents and secondary sources in the British Library, and searching the web (specifically, Google Books and Archive.org) for any mention of Lovelace and Babbage.
Given Google’s obsession with indexing and delivering any word ever written, amateur scholars like Padua can unearth new facts in publications that professional scholars will never think of looking up because they have no direct bearing on the subject matter. A case in point is the article Padua found in The Southern Review (published in Baltimore, Maryland, and later Richmond, Virginia, between 1867 and 1879) which contains an account of a conversation between Babbage and an American visitor, including Babbage’s high opinion of Lovelace, not to be found elsewhere.
She has also consulted secondary sources, but she does not always accept their take on primary sources. In a footnote to an endnote, Padua mentions that some scholars quibble with written testimony by an acquaintance of Babbage that Babbage said he knew Ada when she was a child. Padua asks “why would they lie?” and adds “This is why I’m not a scholar.”
Lucky for us. Instead of a dry scholarly book on Babbage and Lovelace (not that there is anything wrong with that), we got two books for the price of one: A most entertaining graphic novel infused with Padua’s imagination, humor, and art and an impeccably researched and witty introduction to the lives and times of Lovelace and Babbage. The art is informed by research and the research is made accessible by art. Finding out that no one has ever produced a complete visualization of the Analytical Engine, Padua spent many hours on what she wanted to see: “A drawing of a colossal five-meter-high cogwheel computer to gawp at.”
As such, the book (or the two books in one) has a unique educational value in our times. It serves as an engaging introduction for young adults to what must be perceived by them as an alternative universe: Victorian England. No battery-operated Analytical Engine in your pocket then, to say nothing about the limited horizons for mathematically-inclined women.
Padua connects with today’s young people—and highlights what a galaxy far, far away was London of the first half of the 19th century—by making sporadic illusions to our current reality. For example, when Ada encounters for the first time Babbage’s Difference Engine and thinks “this must be twittered” only to realize that she is holding a fan, not a smartphone, in her hand, and that there is “a gaping hole in my life of which I was hitherto unaware.”
In addition, The Thrilling Adventures teaches a valuable lesson: Wikipedia should serve only as the first step in a long journey to satisfy your curiosity. A lot of fun can be had by reading primary sources, especially when you are curious about the past, an essential prelude for understanding the present and making informed guesses about the future.
Anyone should relish—and emulate—Padua’s excitement about uncovering yet another historical anecdote that leads to yet another illustration cum dialogue and, of course, a footnote. As when she reacts to a paper in The Journal for the History of Astronomy which clarifies to her why Babbage has refused a knighthood: “Never has an academic paper been fallen upon with more grateful cries from a cartoonist in the history of the world.”
I believe Padua’s passion for her subjects and for historical accuracy supported by meticulous research will infect many girls and boys and get them interested in computing, history, or both. The Thrilling Adventures should serve as a teacher’s aide in classrooms everywhere.
In the aforementioned article in The Southern Review, Babbage praised Lovelace’s “mathematical powers” and her deep understanding of his Analytical Engine, but also said she was “utterly unimaginative.” To tease her “matter-of-fact mind,” he used to tell her “extraordinary stories.”
Babbage used the word “unimaginative” to describe someone who believed in science, facts, the real world, not in ghost stories (or whatever genre of stories he employed to tease her). But this was then, as it is now, a very narrow definition of imagination. Lovelace’s powerful imagination allowed her to see beyond Babbage’s calculating machine how modern computers manipulate information and she understood imagination to be an integral part, not an antidote, to scientific inquiry. She wrote: “What is imagination? It is the Combining faculty. It brings together things, facts, ideas, conceptions, in new, original, endless, ever-varying combinations… It is that which penetrates into the unseen worlds around us, the worlds of Science.”
A scientist must have a passion for empirical evidence but also must have imagination to see beyond the facts. In The Thrilling Adventures, Padua shows herself to be a graphic artist with a scientific bent, possessing an admirable talent for drawing a new world and possessed by the need to find out why. I think this accidental entrepreneur has found her true calling.
Originally published on Forbes.com
The 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report, released in April by Verizon, estimated that there were 2,122 confirmed data breaches in 2014, generating $400 million in losses. This week we learned that one attack that was not included in this count happened in June 2014, targeting CareFirst BlueCross Blue Shield, serving 3.4 million customers in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. CareFirst only recently discovered the breach—names, birthdates, and email addresses of 1.1. million members—after putting in place new security measures.
In April, hackers redirected traffic from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ research website to rogue pages. In its notice to users, the St. Louis Fed warned them that they may have been exposed to “phishing, malware and access to user names and passwords.” And Australian telecoms group Telstra said hackers gained access to the network of its Asian subsidiary Pacnet, and that it “was made aware of the breach” when its purchase of Pacnet was finalized on April 16.
To prevent the continuing loss of money, reputation, and customers, companies must make stopping cybercrime a team effort, internally and externally. Collaboration is the essence of preventing data breaches and responding to them effectively.
I came to this conclusion after listening to a presentation by Jason Malo, a Research Director in CEB TowerGroup’s Retail Banking practice, at the 2015 CEB Financial Services Technology Summit. Malo pointed out that security should not be considered only the job responsibility of the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). On-going collaboration across multiple internal teams and their leaders is crucial.
While the CISO plays a leadership role in discovery, mitigation and analysis of a data breach and is in charge of management and monitoring across all business lines, other teams and their respective leaders should be involved in a variety of roles in different stages of a response to a data breach. These include the CIO and CTO providing technical support and the Chief Compliance Officer, the communications team, and line of business executives taking a lead role in the disclosure stage and in enabling customers.
The last stage of the response to a data breach—empowering customers—is also the first step towards preventing more data breaches in the future. Collaborating with your customers, like collaborating internally, is crucial for minimizing the impact of a data breach and lessening the probability of being hacked again.
Malo suggests that contrary to the trend towards a “frictionless” customer experience—the idea that fraud should be detected and corrected without customer involvement—it is better to empower customers. This includes customers who are looking to take a more active role in protecting their data and those that need to be nudged to do so.
The response to a data breach should be honest, prompt, compassionate, informative, and interactive. Answering the question “what should I do?” the interactive part of the response should include a menu of security options, recognizing that different customers have different risk-sensitivity profiles.
In his presentation, Malo pointed out to an Associated Press–GfK Poll that found that consumers do little in response to a breach—only 41% checked their credit reports, 31% changed passwords for online retailers, 18% signed up for credit monitoring. But he also pointed out that consumers are typically not being offered adequate tools to manage their data.
Companies should invest more in educating their customers (and potential customers) in security best-practices and what to do in case of a data breach, even before one occurs. Collaborating with customers, making sure they make it more difficult for criminals to steal their data if and when a breach occurs, is an important investment in the company’s reputation and customer relations.
It’s not getting easier and it may get much more serious, with the potential to severely impact business performance. A recent Ponemon Institute Survey found that 83 percent of companies in the Financial Services sector and 44 percent of Retail firms experienced more than 50 attacks per month. Earlier this year, Juniper Research estimated that the annual cost incurred from malicious data breaches worldwide will exceed $2 trillion in 2019. Juniper noted that this is 2.2% of the IMF’s forecast for global GDP that year. They also noted that US breaches account for over 90% of the global cost of data breaches. Even if the US will account for “only” 80% of the global cost in 2019, the impact on the US economy will be $1.6 trillion. Given that the IMF’s forecast for US GDP in 2019 is $21 trillion, we could see the cost of data breaches reaching 7.6% of the US economy over the next four years.
Originally published on Forbes.com