Paul Ramsey

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Open source geospatial opinions and techniques, seen from the trenches and from far far above...Paul Ramsey
Updated: 2 years 47 weeks ago

Twice as Dirty (and now with more Shame!)

Tue, 2012-01-03 19:41
For all those Americans, who think your political culture is uniquely corrupt or tarnished by money or special interests, I give you, direct from Canada, in all its astroturfing glory, "Ethical Oil".

My favorite part is the donation area, "Please consider making a $5, $10 or $15 donation..." because of course relies "on small donors like you to sustain our grassroots advocacy". They won't take money "from foreign corporations, foundations, governments, or lobbyists", so it's a good thing there's lots of money available from CANADIAN corporations, foundations and lobbyists.

I took the kids to school this morning after reading this and especially this so my tolerance for people who think time-shifted mass murder is ETHICAL is a little lower than usual today.

SVR #2

Fri, 2011-12-16 18:30
Hello, all my dark minions in the consulting industry!!! Have you ever low-bid a contract, knowing that once you got deep into it, the client would be as professionally invested in the success of the project as you, and would carry the can back to management for more funding? Come on, chums, you can be honest with me, didn't we row together at Oxford?

Sadly, our old mates at Oracle got their hands caught in the cookie jar recently. They thought they were building a strategic vendor relationship with Montclair State University. Everyone was friends, all pulling together for success, and then some loser decided to knife them in the back instead of being chums!
"When issues arose during the course of the project, it became clear that MSU's leadership did not adequately understand the technology and the steps necessary to complete the project," [Oracle] stated. "Instead of cooperating with Oracle and resolving issues through discussions and collaboration, MSU's project leadership, motivated by their own agenda and fearful of being blamed for delays, escalated manageable differences into major disputes."Right ho! Instead of "cooperating" and "resolving through discussions and collaboration" (oh! and an extra $15M!) they created a major dispute. Bollocks! It's this kind of unfriendliness and lack of trust that can turn a super strategic friendship and awesome partnership relationship into a garden variety contractual business arrangement, and who wants one of those?!?

And, to add to the betrayal, I guess someone at MSU used to work in the consulting industry (zounds!)
"This is a textbook example of how to file a legal action against a vendor for failure to deliver," said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research, who reviewed the updated complaint on Wednesday.

MSU made some smart moves to protect itself, such as documenting all conversations and interactions with Oracle, and working out an escalation procedure in the event the project ran into problems. It also was wise to use real-life use cases for the demonstrations, Wang added.
I'm glad I live in a jurisdiction where clients and vendors know how to get along.


Fri, 2011-12-16 16:30
I find much to love in the BC CIO's "IM/IT Enablers Strategy v1.5 for Citizens @ the Centre: B.C. Government 2.0" (well, perhaps not the name!) but there is one section that chills me to the core: Strategic Procurement.

At the heart of "strategic procurement" is the "strategic vendor relationship" (SVR), wherein "enhancing the government's relationship with key vendors [emphasis mine] will lead to more agility in responding to new needs, or making full use of emerging technologies". What part of working with "key vendors" enhances government's power in the vendor/customer relationship? Where do market forces come into play?

How will we know which vendors are strategic and which ones are a waste of our time? Will we play golf with them? And those non-strategic vendors, what of them? Do they get to play golf too?

Verily, there is only one place this leads, and the name of the beast is "Master Standing Agreement", or more colloquially, the "[HP|IBM|Accenture] Always Gets a Piece Act". The same actors will be arranged in the marketplace, but the small ones will only get to access work via large ones, who will always get a (the most) lucrative piece.

It's nice that the BC IT bureaucracy is coming to grips with its co-dependent relationship with the big consultancies, but unfortunate that the reaction is to formalize co-dependence as desirable in the master strategic plan.

(Note to readers: I've heard talk of a "vendors solutions center" or something like that floating around, anyone have any links or documents they can share?)

This (and everything else, it seems) reminds me my favourite technology joke, from circa 1995: How many Microsoft engineers does it take to change a lightbulb? None, Bill Gates just declares darkness to be the new standard.

F*ck You. Pay Me.

Thu, 2011-12-15 17:09
I really enjoyed Mike Monteiro's talk, "F*ck you. Pay me." and it curiously fits into my current writing jag: finding value in your "cost centers".

The curse of IT is that it is a cost center, not a profit center. This is true even for an internet company like Amazon — the profit is in selling those damn books not in running the web site (OK, not true anymore, with Amazon Web Services, Amazon is actually monetizing IT directly now, but cut me some slack here).

As a cost center, the only way IT can directly contribute to the bottom line is to reduce costs. And if IT is managed in a silo, separate from line business (or worse, outsourced), things can go seriously sideways. Reduced services and responsiveness from IT can reduce effectiveness or hamstring line business areas that do generate profits. In chemistry terms, IT is not the reactant, it's the catalyst, but it's still critical to generating the reaction!

What does this have to do with Mike's profane little talk? One of his main points is that, in running his creative business, his legal advisor has been absolutely critical. As Mike says (pointing to his lawyer) "this guy makes me money". Well, no, taking the narrow view, the lawyer only ever receives money, he never gives it back. But in the global view, looking at all the money the company didn't lose due to bad contracts, or due to broken customer relationships, or due to misunderstandings of obligation, Mike's lawyer has generated far more value than he has billed out. He's a quiet profit center.

If you treat it right, IT can do that too.

More In House

Wed, 2011-12-14 17:50
Hot on the heels of my post about doing work in house, InfoWorld's Deep End column takes a look at build-vs-buy.
Relying solely on support contracts and generic solutions is a good way to self-limit the agility and performance of any business. In short, more gurus equals less hand-wringing and stress all around.In an era when software is eating the world, information agility is key to competitiveness (or, in government terms, "effective service delivery"), when competitors are investing heavily in brain power, why would any organization dumb itself down?

Do It In House

Wed, 2011-12-07 17:33
This morning, I was struck by this nice write-up about how the Hungarian railway accurately geo-located and inventoried their assets:
The work was done entirely by MAV employees which made it much less expensive than if external contractors would have had to have been used. Overall it is estimated that as a result of using internal resources and a GPS/GLONASS-based approach the project was 16 times more efficient than a traditional survey. And the project generated a lot of pride among MAV employees who carried out the work because it was such a remarkable achievement from a data collection, management and quality perspective.Here's is an incredibly stupid thing for a consultant to say, but nonetheless: if you can do it in house, why wouldn't you? Even if it's a bit of a stretch, your in house resources:

  • have a predictable cost structure
  • already understand your core business
  • have a feel for the historical reasoning behind business processes

New IT infrastructure is strategic almost by definition. Why would you outsource your most important strategic initiatives? If you're anticipating failure, perhaps it's a good idea. But if you succeed, you've just invested in building intellectual capital in a population of people outside your organization. And you've lowered the engagement of your core staff in the future of the organization.

Familiarity breeds contempt, and it's all too common that management is most contemptuous of the people they are most familiar with: their own staff. Hence the lure of the shiny consultant (love me! I'm shiny!).

2012 Code Sprint

Fri, 2011-11-25 17:20
One of the nerdy highlights of my year is the always the annual North American code sprint (previously held in Toronto (2009), New-York (2010) and Montreal (2011)). It started out as a MapServer, C-Tribe kind of thing, but has also had participants from the OpenLayers and GeoServer community too. Basically, if you have an open source geoproject and a team of more than one, the sprint is an excellent opportunity to get face time and serious progress under your belt.

This year, the sprint is on Bainbridge Island near Seattle and the nature of the venue (all inclusive, room, board, meeting space) means pre-registration is de riguer. So if you're coming, please register now.

Federal NDP Leadership Poll

Mon, 2011-11-14 22:25
The Federal NDP is in a leadership race, which means that candidates who have paid their entrance fee have access to the membership list, some 100,000 Canadians like myself. As a political observer and data fiend, who had access to such a list myself only this spring, I love watching to see how people make use of it: do we get the standard policy screed, the informative candidate-is-visiting message, or something more devious... like the below!So, an email arrives stating:Dear Member of NDP,

I would really appreciate your participation in a study we’re currently conducting amongst members of the federal NDP.

I recognize that you’re busy, so this survey is very straightforward and can easily be completed online at your convenience, in about 15 minutes. Please complete the survey before Tuesday November 15th.

All information provided by respondents will be kept strictly confidential and used only for legitimate research purposes. Study sponsors will not have access to your name, address or phone number.

To begin the survey, simply click on the link below. If your email does not support hotlinks, copy and paste the link into your browser.


If you encounter any problems, please contact me at the e-mail address below.

Thank you in advance for participating in our survey.


Agnes Klich
Project Management Team Leader
klich@logitgroup.comThe fact that they have the NDP membership list, and the content of the poll, lead me to believe it is associated with a leadership campaign in some way. But it's been done anonymously. The campaign that has done this both (a) gets the data and (b) pretty much ensures that anyone else trying the same gambit will get a much lower response rate. The poll itself is very long, I wonder how many full responses they get? I also wonder if there will be any blowback for using the list in this way? Based on the content of the poll, which campaign do you think is behind it? If the answer seems obvious, and you think there will be blowback, could the poll in fact be the product of a different campaign? Ain't politics grand?

Update: Just to leave no stone unturned, I asked the researcher who commissioned the study, but the answer is not illuminating:The Logit Group is a Gold Seal Member Agency of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Associaton (MRIA), Canada's governing body for all market research firms. As such, we conform to all regulations related to privacy and confidentiality. In this instance, the organization that provided us with member lists required that the survey be completed in a confidential, or "blind" method (whereby the survey sponsor was not identified at the outset). In return, the responses of individual members (such as yourself) would not be attributed to you specifically when reported back (survey findings would only be provided in aggregate form).

Which language would you prefer to complete this survey in? Dans quelle langue préférez-vous répondre à ce sondage?

  • English / Anglais
  • French / Français

We are interviewing members of the NDP. Are you a member of this party?

  • Yes
  • No

How long have you been a member of the NDP?

  • Less than 1 year
  • 1 to 2 years
  • 2 to 5 years
  • 5 to 10 years
  • 10 to 15 years
  • 15 to 20 years
  • Over 20 years

And in which province do you currently reside?

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
  • Nova Scotia
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
  • Yukon
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nunavut

Are you...

  • Male
  • Female

Were you active for the NDP in the last federal election in May, 2011? (As a candidate, campaign worker, fundraiser, etc.)

  • Yes
  • No

As you may know, a leadership campaign has been scheduled for March 2012. Each member of the NDP will be eligible to cast a vote for their choice of leader.

As far as you know today, are you likely to be voting in this leadership election?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Not Sure / Depends

Thinking about the next federal election, do you think the NDP will win more seats, will win fewer seats or will win the same number of seats as it has currently?

  • Win more seats
  • Win fewer seats
  • Win same number of seats
  • Don't know

How confident are you that with a new leader, the NDP can defeat Stephen Harper in the next federal election and take over government?

  • Very confident
  • Somewhat confident
  • Not very confident
  • Not at all confident

How much do you think the NDP's chances of defeating Stephen Harper depends on who is selected as the new leader?

  • Depends a great deal
  • Depends somewhat
  • Depends a little
  • Does not depend at all

When you think about the federal NDP as a whole, where would you describe yourself in your own political thinking relative to the party?

  • Far to the right
  • Moderately to the right
  • In the centre
  • Moderately to the left
  • Far to the left

Some people say that they would like to know where each of the leadership candidates stand and want them to spell out in detail the policy direction they want to take the party in.

Others say that they don't want the candidates to present detailed policy because the party members and caucus should have a say in the party's future direction after the leadership campaign.

Which of these two points of view best represents your own thinking?

  • Want to know details
  • Party members should decide
  • Don't know / Not sure

Each political party has an establishment: a group of people who have been important to, and actively involved with, the party for some time either provincially, federally or both. What is your impression of the establishment of the NDP? Is it very favourable? Somewhat favourable? Somewhat unfavourable? Very unfavourable?

  • Very favourable
  • Somewhat favourable
  • Somewhat unfavourable
  • Very unfavourable

Do you consider yourself to be a member of the NDP establishment?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't know

There has been some discussion about whether the NDP should at some point discuss a relationship or merger with the Liberal Party and the federal level in order to unite the centre left of the political spectrum. What would be your opinion of a move to discuss such a relationship or merger at some point in time? Would you be strongly in favour? Somewhat in favour? Somewhat against? Strongly against?

  • Strongly in favour
  • Somewhat in favour
  • Somewhat against
  • Strongly against

As you may know, one of the leadership candidates is proposing that wealthier Canadians should pay more in taxes. Would this make it more or less likely that you would support a candidate who proposed this, or would it make no difference in your support?

  • More likely
  • Less likely
  • Makes no difference

One of the policy issues being debated these days is the creation of a carbon tax for individuals and corporations who use hydrocarbon fuels and the use of rewards for those who reduce their carbon usage. Would you be strongly in favour, somewhat in favour, somewhat against or strongly against the NDP supporting the introduction of a carbon tax?

  • Strongly in favour
  • Somewhat in favour
  • Somewhat against
  • Strongly against

Different people have been telling us that they are looking for various things in the next leader.

From your own personal point of view, how important is it that the leader you choose ... (READ EACH OF THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS) ... ? Is it extremely important, very important, somewhat important, not very important or not important at all? (REPEAT FOR EACH STATEMENT)

  • Be closest ideologically to yourself
  • Be able to work with, and appeal to, the members of the party and the electorate in Quebec
  • Be someone who will be able to put together the best possible campaign team
  • Be someone who will provide the party with much the same direction as Jack Layton
  • Be someone who understands the concerns of your province
  • Be someone who will provide the party with a new direction
  • Be able to hold the party together
  • Be a currently elected MP
  • Be impeccably bilingual in English and French
  • Have experience in government
  • Be someone who has been a long term NDP member
  • Be someone who will be able to beat Stephen Harper in a debate
  • Be someone who is able to appeal to those who have traditionally voted NDP
  • Be someone who will have the support of unions
  • Be supported by the establishment of the party
  • Be someone who runs a positive leadership campaign and avoids attacking other leadership candidates
  • Be able to win the next federal election
  • Be someone with a broad base of support in caucus
  • Be someone who is able to appeal to those who have traditionally not voted NDP

Now we would like to ask you to think about the candidates who have declared for the NDP leadership.

What is your impression of ... (READ EACH CANDIDATE'S NAME) ... as a leadership candidate? Is it very favourable? Somewhat favourable? Somewhat unfavourable? Or very unfavourable? (REPEAT FOR EACH CANDIDATE)

  • Thomas Mulcair
  • Robert Chisholm
  • Brian Topp
  • Paul Dewar
  • Nicki Ashton
  • Nathan Cullen
  • Romeo Saganash
  • Martin Singh
  • Peggy Nash

Overall, based upon what you know about these individuals or have heard, where would you put each of these candidates on the political spectrum in relation to the Federal NDP? Far to the right? Somewhat to the right? In the centre? Somewhat to the left? Far to the left?

  • Robert Chisholm
  • Brian Topp
  • Nathan Cullen
  • Thomas Mulcair
  • Paul Dewar
  • Peggy Nash
  • Martin Singh
  • Nicki Ashton
  • Romeo Saganash

Thinking about some of the leadership candidates, in your view, which of them ...

  • Is most likely to win the leadership
  • Will be most supported by the establishment of the party
  • Is running the most positive leadership campaign and not attacking other leadership candidates
  • Will best understands the concerns of your province
  • Is best able to appeal to those who have traditionally voted NDP
  • Will be able to put together the best possible campaign team
  • Will be best able to work with, and appeal to, the members of the party and the electorate in Quebec
  • Will be best able to beat Stephen Harper in a debate
  • Will have the broadest base of support in caucus
  • Will have the support of the unions
  • Is best able to hold the party together
  • Is someone who will best provide the party with much the same direction as Jack Layton
  • Has been the longest term NDP member
  • Is someone who will best provide the party with a new direction
  • Is best able to win the next federal election
  • Is best able to appeal to those who have traditionally not voted NDP
  • Has most experience in government
  • Is closest ideologically to yourself

If the leadership vote was being held today, which of the leadership candidates would you be voting for? (Please select one only.)

  • Nicki Ashton
  • Robert Chisholm
  • Nathan Cullen
  • Paul Dewar
  • Thomas Mulcair
  • Peggy Nash
  • Romeo Saganash
  • Martin Singh
  • Brian Topp
  • Undecided

How likely is it that you will change your mind and support another candidate before election day?

  • Very Likely
  • Somewhat likely
  • Somewhat unlikely
  • Very unlikely

Who would be your second choice for leader?

  • Nicki Ashton
  • Robert Chisholm
  • Nathan Cullen
  • Paul Dewar
  • Thomas Mulcair
  • Peggy Nash
  • Romeo Saganash
  • Martin Singh
  • Brian Topp
  • Undecided

Who would be your third choice for leader?

  • Nicki Ashton
  • Robert Chisholm
  • Nathan Cullen
  • Paul Dewar
  • Thomas Mulcair
  • Peggy Nash
  • Romeo Saganash
  • Martin Singh
  • Brian Topp
  • Undecided

Are there any candidates for leader whom you could never vote for? (Please select all that apply.)

  • Nicki Ashton
  • Robert Chisholm
  • Nathan Cullen
  • Paul Dewar
  • Thomas Mulcair
  • Peggy Nash
  • Romeo Saganash
  • Martin Singh
  • Brian Topp
  • None - Could vote for any of them

Which of the candidates do you think Jack Layton would have wanted to succeed him as leader?

  • Nicki Ashton
  • Robert Chisholm
  • Nathan Cullen
  • Paul Dewar
  • Thomas Mulcair
  • Peggy Nash
  • Romeo Saganash
  • Martin Singh
  • Brian Topp
  • Undecided

Finally, I want to ask you about some of the personalities in the NDP.

If the following personality supported a particular leadership candidate, would that make it more or less likely that you would support that leadership candidate, or would it make no difference as to whom you supported.

  • Joy MacPhail
  • Adrian Dix
  • Lorne Nystrom
  • Daryl Dexter
  • Libby Davies
  • Dwain Lingenfelter
  • Greg Selinger
  • Ed Broadbent
  • Roy Romanow

I would like to ask your reactions to the following statements.

Please tell me whether you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with each of the following.

  • The NDP needs to move away from trade unions to win government.
  • Given how well the NDP did in Quebec in the past election, the next leader of the NDP should be from Quebec.
  • The next leader of the NDP needs to address inequality as a top priority
  • The NDP can win government without becoming Liberals by running as responsible, principled New Democrats
  • I would never vote for a leadership candidate who is not already a Member of Parliament
  • I would never vote for a leadership candidate who has close ties to the labour movement
  • The NDP needs to move closer to the political centre in order to be elected to government
  • It is important that the next NDP leader be a woman
  • I would never vote for a leadership candidate who was not perfectly bilingual

Some people say that the next NDP leader must continue with a positive approach to politics in order to motivate progressive voters to defeat Conservatives.

Others say that the next NDP leader must take a more confrontational approach to Stephen Harper because he needs to be faced down in order to be defeated in the next election.

Which of these statements is closest to your own point of view?

  • Take positive approach
  • Take confrontational approach
  • Don't know

Some people say that the federal NDP has been basically on the right track since Jack Layton was elect ed leader and it should continue with this proven approach under a new leader.

Others say that the NDP has been on the wrong track and won't win government unless the new leader makes fundamental changes to the workings of the party.

Which of these statements is closest to your own point of view?

  • On right track - continue
  • On wrong track - fundamental changes needed
  • Don't know

And finally, a few questions about you...

Which of the following best describes your current marital status...?

  • Single, never married
  • Married / cohabiting
  • Separated / divorced
  • Widowed

Do you, or did you, work in the private or public sector?

  • Private
  • Public
  • Neither

Are you currently, or have you ever been, a member of a union?

  • Yes
  • No

Are you a full-time student?

  • Yes
  • No

How would you describe the community in which you live?

  • Urban
  • Suburban
  • Rural

While I know that most of us would classify ourselves as Canadians first, can you please tell me what your specific ethnic background is?

  • White / Caucasian
  • Black / African Canadian / Caribbean Canadian
  • Hispanic / Latino
  • Asian
  • South Asian
  • Middle Eastern
  • Aboriginal / First Nation

Which of the following categories best reflects your total annual household income before taxes?

  • Less than $25,000
  • $25,000 to $50,000
  • $51,000 to $75,000
  • $76,000 to $99,999
  • $100,000 plus
  • Prefer not to say


Manager, Strategic Management

Sun, 2011-11-13 16:43
Every week, LinkedIn kindly sends me a list of "jobs I might be interested in", which I have to say is an interesting feature, given the data they have to work with. Like the early days of Google advertising, it's fun to see what the algorithm comes up with as "relevant" to me. And this week I got this awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome entry:
Manager, Strategic Management
The Manager, Strategic Management is accountable for leading the development, maintenance and evaluation of corporate planning, performance management, benchmarking, risk management, and reporting programs. The position reports to the Chief Executive Officer of BC Assessment and works directly with the governing Board of Directors to facilitate strategic planning and risk management sessions. The position exercises considerable latitude and independence to oversee and develop a coordinated and consultative corporate plan, risk and performance management culture across BC Assessment. In this role, the position is expected to manage the corporate planning cycle to achieve a top to bottom linking of mandate and vision of operational business activities including the annual and year-over-year alignment of budgets, resource allocation, performance and risk management programs. This position leads a small team, including senior program analysts and a research officer.People I trust tell me BC Assessment has so much money, they really do eat $16 muffins for breakfast, but the existence of the "Manager, Strategic Management" is all the proof I need.