Words matter, or the latest from the National Institute of Standards and Technology on problematic security terms

(Alternate title: Why totem pole blackmail is so left field.)

I want to revisit a topic I last addressed in December, in a post entitled “Words matter, or the latest from the Security Industry Association on problematic security terms.”

If you recall, that post mentioned the realization in the technology community that certain long-standing industry terms were no longer acceptable to many technologists. My post cited the Security Industry Association’s recommendations for eliminating language bias, such as replacing the term “slave” (as in master/slave) with the term “secondary” or “responder.” The post also mentions other entities, such as Amazon and Microsoft, who are themselves trying to come up with more inclusive terms.

Now in this particular case, I’m not that bent out of shape over the fact that multiple entities are coming up with multiple standards for inclusive language. (As you know, I feel differently about the plethora of standards for vaccine certificates.) I’ll grant that there might be a bit of confusion when one entity refers to a blocklist, another a block list, and a third a deny list (various replacements for the old term “blacklist”), but the use of different terms won’t necessarily put you on a deny list (or whatever) to enter an airport.

Well, one other party has weighed in on the inclusive language debate – not to set its own standards, but to suggest how its employees should participate in general standards discussions.

That entity is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). I’ve mentioned NIST before in other contexts. But NIST just announced its contribution to the inclusive language discussion.

Our choice of language — what we say and how we say it — can have unanticipated effects on our audience, potentially conveying messages other than those we intend. In an effort to help writers express ideas in language that is both clear and welcoming to all readers, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released new guidance on effective wording in technical standards.

The point about “unanticipated effects” is an interesting point. Those of us who have been in tech for a while have an understanding of what the term “blacklist” means, but what of the new person who sees the term for the first time?

So, since NIST employees participate in technical standards bodies, it is now publicly sharing its internal guidance as NISTIR 8366, Guidance for NIST Staff on Using Inclusive Language in Documentary Standards. This document is available in PDF form at https://doi.org/10.6028/NIST.IR.8366.

It’s important to note that this document is NOT a standard, and some parts of this “guidance” document aren’t even guidance. For example, section 4.1 begins as follows:

The following is taken from the ‘Inclusive Language’ section of the April 2021 version of the NIST Technical Series Publications Author Instructions. It is not official NIST guidance and will be updated periodically based on user feedback.

The need to periodically update is because any type of guidance regarding inclusive language will change over time. (It will also change according to culture, but since NIST is a United States government agency, its guidance in this particular case is focused on U.S. technologists.)

The major contribution of the NIST guidance is to explain WHY inclusive language is desirable. In addition to noting the “unanticipated effects” of our choice of language, NIST documents five key benefits of inclusive language.

1. avoids false assumptions and permits more precise wording,

2. conveys respect to those who listen or read,

3. maintains neutrality, avoiding unpleasant emotions or connotations brought on by more divisive language (e.g., the term ‘elderly’ may have different connotations based on the age of an employee),

4. removes colloquialisms that are exclusive or usually not well understood by all (e.g., drink the Kool-Aid), and

5. enables all to feel included in the topic discussed.

Let me comment on item 4 above. I don’t know how many people know that the term “drink the Kool-Aid” originated after the Guyana murders of Congressman Dan Ryan and others, and the subsequent mass suicides of People’s Temple members, including leader Jim Jones.

Rev. Jim Jones at an anti-eviction rally Sunday, January 16, 1977 in front of the International Hotel, Kearny and Jackson Streets, San Francisco. By Nancy Wong – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=91003548

They committed suicide by drinking a cyanide-laced drink which may or may not have been Kool-Aid. The entire history (not for the squeamish) can be found here. But even in 2012, many people didn’t know that history, so why use the colloquialism?

So that’s the guidance. But for those keeping score on specific terms, the current guidance document mentions the a number of suggestions, either from NIST or other entities. I’m going to concentrate on three terms that I haven’t mentioned previously.

  • Change “blackmail” to “extortion.”
  • Change “way out in left field” to “made very inaccurate measurements.” (Not only do some people not understand baseball terminology, but the concepts of “left” and “right” are sometimes inapplicable to the situation that is under discussion.)
  • Change “too low on the primary totem pole” to “low priority.” (This is also concise.)

So these discussions continue, sometimes with controversy, sometimes without. But all technologists should be aware that the discussions are occurring.

The REAL ID deadline has been extended…again

Three days ago, I read a news item on LinkedIn that stated that the REAL ID deadline might be extended.

I reacted.

My response is a one-word response: “AGAIN?”

I admit to a bit of frustration. For years, some states resisted REAL ID because of federalism concerns. (When MorphoTrak was briefly trying to win driver’s license contracts by competing against our sibling MorphoTrust, I remember one state RFP that explicitly stated that the state would NOT comply with the REAL ID mandate.)

Finally, after hemming and hawing, all of the states agreed to become REAL ID compliant (15 years after the original mandate). Then, as people rushed to get REAL IDs, #covid19 hit and the driver’s license offices closed.

The offices are now open, but some people STILL haven’t gotten REAL ID.

Prediction: if the deadline is extended to 2022, significant numbers of people won’t have REAL IDs by 2022.

Well, I will never get the chance to see if my prediction was accurate, because in the end, the REAL ID deadline was NOT extended to 2022.

It was extended to 2023, according to sources. (As I write this, the DHS website has not yet been updated.)

The Department of Homeland Security will delay the requirement for air travelers to have a Real ID-compliant form of identification, pushing it back 19 months, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday.

The deadline was supposed to be Oct. 1, but it’s now being postponed until May 3, 2023. 

Here’s the rationale that Secretary Mayorkas provided.

“Extending the Real ID full enforcement deadline will give states needed time to reopen their driver’s licensing operations and ensure their residents can obtain a Real ID-compliant license or identification card.”

Of course, since may people object to REAL ID on principle, it could be extended again and again for ANOTHER fifteen-plus years and people STILL won’t get it.

There is a draft proposal (from GIPHT and CDISC) for vaccine certificate interoperability, but will the players pay attention?

I’ve gone on ad nauseum about the plethora of vaccine certificate options that are being developed by public and private entities.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all of these different options were able to talk to each other, so that my existing blue certificate would talk to systems that require the orange certificate or the red certificate?

Two organizations are pursuing this dream of interoperability.

The Global Information for Public Health Transformation (GIPHT) initiative of the Learning Health Community has collaborated with CDISC to develop a minimum set of key data elements for documenting vaccinations. The goal of the collaboration is to achieve multinational agreement around one global core data standard that will enable the success of vaccine credentialing applications and secure sharing of essential information for uses such as safe travel.

The organizations have published a draft standard for public review. This draft attempts to define the minimum key data elements, and draws upon the work of several different organizations.

The set of common data elements proposed has been based upon recommendations made available by the European eHealth Network as referenced by the European Commission in announcing their plans for a Green Certificate to facilitate travel by Europeans among EU countries. This set of common data elements has also been informed through U.S. CDC. The elements have been aligned with standards from HL7, CDISC and ISO (standards development organizations), where applicable.

Of course, we have to ask the question: why listen to GIPHT and CDISC? Well, these two organizations claim a previous success, as noted in their press release.

“CDISC developed and published a COVID-19 data standard in less than a month by leveraging existing global clinical research standards, including those for vaccinesvirology and Ebola,” stated Rhonda Facile, Vice President of Partnerships and Development, CDISC.

However, there is one significant difference between exchanging COVID-19 data and exchanging vaccine certificate data. The former is an exchange of medical data which is of primary interest to health professionals. The latter has much greater ramifications, since it can potentially affect border crossings, travel in general, and access to facilities such as casinos, sports stadiums, and concert venues.

Is it even possible to develop a vaccine certificate interoperability standard that satisfies the foreign affairs and transportation ministries of multiple countries, the major airlines and airports, the casino operators, the major sports leagues, AND Taylor Swift?

LOS ANGELES – MARCH 14: Guest arrives for the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards on March 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Glenn Francis/Pacific Pro Digital Photography). By Toglenn (Glenn Francis) – This file has been extracted from another file: Taylor Swift 2 – 2019 by Glenn Francis.jpg, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=81523364

(We know Ms. Swift’s views on facial recognition, but as far as I know she has not expressed her views on vaccine certificates.)

And if it is possible, will all of these parties agree that GIPHT and CDISC are the ones to develop the standard?

Case studies: a win-win

I just found out that Bredemarket will be getting more case study work, which I’m looking forward to because case studies can often be enjoyable.

No, not that type of case! By Michael Kammerer (Rob Gyp) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37604962

While case studies can take a variety of forms, my primary experience with case studies is when a customer explains how a vendor’s solution helped to solve a customer problem. While customers may sometimes want to avoid direct endorsements of a vendor products, a customer can truthfully state how a vendor product helped the customer solve the problem.

If I can use an example that predates my consulting career, I was once involved in a case study in which a law enforcement agency talked about a particular product for law enforcement customers.

  • This type of customer is all too happy to talk about something that keeps the bad people off the streets, since the case study lets the citizens know that the law enforcement agency is taking steps to protect the citizens.
  • And of course the product vendor is all too happy to be associated with this, since it provides a vivid demonstration of how the product works.

A win-win for both customer and vendor, both of whom can look like heroes with the proper case study.

Whenever constructing a case study that features a law enforcement agency or anyone else, it’s important to remember that the vendor’s solution is not the COMPLETE solution to whatever problem is solved in the case study. Again returning to the law enforcement example, the most amazing product gizmo is completely worthless unless a trained person actually applies the gizmo, and knows when to apply the gizmo. And most criminal cases are not solved with a single gizmo, but with multiple gizmos…and a lot of hard work from the law enforcement agency that brings everything together to solve the crime.

Of course, case studies aren’t restricted to law enforcement customers and software products. You can construct a case study out of anything. They can be medical (“Case Study: A Patient with Asthma, Covid-19 Pneumonia and Cytokine Release Syndrome Treated with Corticosteroids and Tocilizumab”), service-related (Direct Travel’s case study of a consumer goods manufacturer), or even relate to adult toys (SEO Design Chicago’s case study for a client who had to overcome advertising challenges due to Google restrictions on sensitive content).

Anyway, I’m looking forward to more case study work…in the biometric, secure document, or technology areas. (I’m not going to cure COVID with novelty items.) In the work I’m about to do, I’ll get to learn about the vendor, and about the vendor’s customer, and how they worked together to solve a particular problem. My part in the process is to help the vendor communicate the story, while emphasizing the benefits that the vendor’s product can provide to customers.

(If you’re interested in understanding benefits, and the difference between benefits and features, take a look at this Hubspot article.)

While brings us to the shameless plug (you knew this was coming after my last post): if you need assistance in coming up with the words for a case study, contact me. I can help with the initial ideas, participate in customer interviews to get information, and draft the words of the case study itself. Bredemarket’s collaborative process ensures that the final written product communicates the client’s desired message. For case studies, this includes mutual agreement on the objective and the outline, and client reviews of the draft iterations of the case study until the final text is delivered.

And even if you don’t use me, business leaders should be thinking about how case studies can help their business, and which of their customers would be willing to participate in a case study…for mutual benefit.

Are you responding to the DHS RFI, “Minimum Standards for Driver’s Licenses and Identification Cards Acceptable by Federal Agencies for Official Purposes; Mobile Driver’s Licenses”?

I already posted about this Request for Information (RFI) on LinkedIn and Facebook, but I wanted to highlight the details of the Department of Homeland Security’s recent request (see PDF or text version).

The RFI delves into a number of questions about treating mobile (i.e. smartphone) driver’s licenses as REAL ID-compliant. The RFI itself states:

DHS invites comments on any aspect of this RFI, and welcomes any additional comments and information that would promote an understanding of the broader implications of acceptance of mobile or digital driver’s licenses by Federal agencies for official purposes. This includes comments relating to the economic, privacy, security, environmental, energy, or federalism impacts that might result from a future rulemaking based on input received as a result of this RFI. In addition, DHS includes specific questions in this RFI immediately following the discussion of the relevant issues.

The RFI can be responded to by any member of the general public, although it is expected that the majority of responses will come from mobile driver’s license vendors and various interest groups. And trust me, there is a wide range of interest groups that are interested in this topic, and in the broader topic of REAL ID in general. Federalism itself is a popular topic when discussing REAL ID.

(Although personally, I believe that if the Federal Government is controlling air travel, and if the Federal Government is…obviously…controlling Federal facilities, then the Federal Government can implement rule-making regarding access. Needless to say, since all 50 states and several territories have adopted REAL ID, the decision has been made.)

While respondents can conceivably talk about anything in their responses, DHS (as noted above) has 15 specific questions to which it is seeking information (see section IV beginning on page 20325). Some are general, such as general questions about security, and some are more specific, such as question 4, which specifically focuses on DHS adoption of requirements derived from “Industry Standard ISO/IEC 18013–5: Communication Interfaces Between mDL Device and Federal Agency, and Federal Agency and DMV.”

Responses to the RFI must be submitted by June 18, and are submitted electronically. (Read the Commenter’s Checklist, and note that DHS prefers that respondents address all 15 questions.) I’m sure that a number of companies and organizations are already starting to think about their responses.

Shameless plug: if you need assistance in managing, organizing, writing, or checking your response, contact me. As some of you already know, I have extensive experience in responding to RFIs, RFPs, and similar documents, and have been helping multiple companies with such responses under my Bredemarket consultancy.

Learning from the losses

From my years in proposals, and from my time working to secure contracts for Bredemarket, I’ve had a lot of experience with win/loss situations. Often we compete for things, and we usually either win the things, or lose them.

But sometimes things are a little more complex. Take the example of my first three Bredemarket opportunities. At the time I wasn’t trying to win independent consulting contracts; I was trying to secure full-time employment. I’ve told the story before, but here’s a brief version of the story as a set of win/loss experiences.

CompanyDid I get the job?Did I get a consulting contract?
Company #1No, I wasn’t trying to get a job with this company. The head of the company approached me for consulting work.Yes, I got a consulting contract. (Actually multiple contracts.)
Company #2No, I didn’t get the job. Yes, I got a consulting contract.
Company #3No, I didn’t get the job.No, I didn’t get a consulting contract. (Yet.)
Three companies, no jobs, two consulting contracts. Did I win, or did I lose?

In terms of job offers, I got exactly zero job offers from these three companies. But I did get consulting contracts from two of the companies. So as a true marketing professional, I will officially declare a 67% win rate, unless I want to round it up even further and declare a 70% win rate.

But throughout my experiences, I’ve found that I’ve learned a lot from the losses. I’ve told a number of stories in this regard, but today I’m going to share a story that I haven’t shared publicly until now. So gather round while I tell my story. (No pranking.)

Photograph of sculpture “The Storyteller”, featuring Ken Kesey, in Eugene, Oregon. By Original work: Pete HelzerDepiction: Jonesey95 – own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48410264

Once I was competing for an opportunity to market two products for a firm. The two products competed in markets that were outside my identity (biometrics / secure documents) comfort zone, so I had to do some cramming to learn about the products and their markets. As I crammed, I discovered three “opportunities to excel,” or what some people refer to as “challenges.” Or “land mines.”

  1. Who? First, the two products had come to the firm by way of acquisitions, so the market was confused about not only the names of the products, but the name of the company that was now offering the products. Market confusion is never good.
  2. Um…who? Second, if you looked at the markets for these two products, this firm’s offerings weren’t widely known to some people. In my competitive research, I was checking a lot of sites that listed leading players in the two markets, and this firm’s offerings weren’t always listed. Market apathy is never good.
  3. What? Third, the markets themselves were somewhat complex and ill-defined. The markets had a number of sub-markets, and some competitor products would concentrate on some sub-markets, while others would concentrate on others. It was cumbersome to compare these two products and evaluate the competitors and sort-of competitors. Market complexity is never good.

Anyway, despite my cramming sessions on these two products and their respective markets, I did not win the opportunity to market these two products for the firm. Someone else got that opportunity. (I never even got to show off my cramming knowledge, which is probably just as well.)

So now I can sit back and watch how the winner will take advantage of these opportunities to excel. Since the firm now has someone who can market these two products, I expect that we will all hear more about them soon.

But what did I personally learn from this experience?

  1. First, I learned that it’s possible to extrapolate from your own experience to analyze new opportunities. (Actually, I already knew that, but it was good to have a reminder.)
  2. Second, I learned a lot about these two markets, these two products, and their competitors. I won’t share this here, but maybe I’ll have an opportunity to share it some day. (If I can remember the results of my cramming exercises.)
  3. Third, I was reminded (yet again) that a loss can sometimes be a win. After all, I got a blog post out of the experience.

POSTSCRIPT

Fourth…as I was trying to find a good illustration for “cramming” for this post (as you can see, I didn’t), I discovered an alternate term for cramming: swotting.

Marketers know that the acronym SWOT can also refer to Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.

By Syassine – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31368987

SWOT analysis is a technique to size up a product, a market, or a company.

Ironically, I didn’t perform any SWOTting while I was swotting.

How many vaccine certificates (not health passports) will citizens in Africa and elsewhere need to do anything?

This is a follow-up to my April 9 post, with a slight correction. I need to stop using the term “health passport,” and should instead use the term “vaccine certificate.” So starting now I’m doing that. Although I still think passports are cool, even if vaccine certificates aren’t passports.

An Ottoman passport (passavant) issued to Russian subject dated July 24, 1900. By FurkanYalcin3 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27699398

It’s also a follow-up to my February 16 post, which noted that there are a whole bunch of health pa- I mean vaccine certificates that are being marketed by various companies and organizations.

In addition to Clear’s Health Pass, there are a myriad of other options, including AOKpassCommonPass, IATA Travel Pass, IBM Digital Health Pass, the Mvine-iProov solutionScan2Fly from AirAsia, VaccineGuard from Guardtime, VeriFLY from Daon, the Vaccination Credential Initiative, and probably some others that I missed.

Obviously it takes a while to solve such issues, so you can’t expect that all of this would be resolved by April.

And you’re right.

As Chris Burt of FindBiometrics recently noted, the whole vaccine certificate issue was recently discussed by a panel at an ID4Africa webinar. Now even if you haven’t heard of the organization ID4Africa, you can reasonably conclude that the organization is in favor of…IDs for Africa.

And even they are a bit skittish about vaccine passports, at least for now.

Questions around how these digital health certificates should work, where and whether they should be used, and what can be done to mitigate the risks associated with them remain, and were explored by an international panel of experts representing major global organizations convened by ID4Africa. They found that too much remains unknown to inform final decisions…

The panel warned against rushing headlong into adoption of vaccine certificates without a better understanding of what they were, how they would work, and how individual information would be protected. And there are major questions all over the “how they would work” question, including the long-standing question of how vaccine certificates would be interoperable.

It quickly emerged that while several groups represented are working on similar projects, there are some key differences in goals.

The WHO is building specification which are intended to create digital records not for crossing borders or proving health status to any third party, but merely for continuity of care. Its working group also includes ICAO, IATA, and ISO, each of which have their own applications in mind for digital health credentials.

See the list above.

And even if you just look at the WHO’s project, it’s still not finalized. The present timeframe calls for a version 1.0 of its specification by the end of June, but timelines sometimes slip.

Chris Burt details many other issues in his article, but for purposes of my post, it’s relevant to say that it will be months if not years before we will see any sort of interoperability between vaccine certificates.

Should engineers rule the world?

TL;DR – No, but.

But for the rest of you who want to consider the question for a couple of minutes…

Life is messy. It’s easy to look around and find examples of ways in which people do things incorrectly. “If only people did things rationally,” you might think to yourself, “these problems would be avoided.” So some desire rational solutions, such as those that could be provided if engineers ruled the world.

Engineers conferring on prototype design, 1954. By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-23805-1665 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5349654

In 2016, Global Construction Review asked the question “Should engineers rule the world?” But before I look at the possible answers to that question, let me share a couple of anecdotal stories.

Years and years ago, I worked for company that prided itself on being run by engineers, and having an engineering mindset. For this company, that meant that it exerted great effort to design technically superior solutions. Since I am not an engineer, I was therefore able to observe from the sidelines as the company designed and (after some time) released a product that was a technical marvel. There was only one problem: the product was so expensive that no one would buy it.

That same company had designed another technically superior product, but this one was priced reasonably enough that people throughout the world would buy it…except in the United States. There were established competitors in the United States, and it would take a great effort to displace them. From my vantage point in the US, I asked the product people an apparently simple question: why should US customers choose our company’s product rather than the competitors’ products? Apparently my question “did not compute” with the product people, because I never got an answer to my question. I guess they expected the US customers to be dazzled by our product’s obvious superiority or something.

Now that I’ve gotten those two anecdotal stories out of the way, let’s return to Global Construction Review’s question: “Should engineers rule the world?” The article begins by citing an example in which application of engineering principles at the outset could have prevented a catastrophe later on.

Take the Syrian civil war, for instance. In a paper published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Colin P. Kelley and co-authors proposed that a record-breaking drought in northeastern Syria between 2007 and 2010 caused the sudden migration of 1.5 million poor farmers into cities, setting the scene for the widespread unrest that erupted into outright revolt in early 2011.

The thinking, of course, is that if the drought had been minimized or averted through the timely application of scientific principles, the migration would not have happened, and the resulting unrest would not have happened.

So the question about engineers ruling the world was posed to several thinkers, beginning with Tim Chapman, described as the leader of an infrastructure group. Chapman began by observing that politicians concentrate too much on the short term, while some others concentrate too much on the long term.

Engineers are able to bridge this gap. A world run by engineers would be more planned, more strategic, more organised.

But Chapman wasn’t willing to hand the engineers the keys to everything. While he wanted them at the table, he noticed one drawback that engineers need to overcome.

But engineers also need to change, too, if they are to sell their answers to a sceptical world. They need to be better story-tellers who bring society along with them, rather than trying to impose solutions.

Some of the other people interviewed in the article echoed the thought that engineers should be at the table, but no one was willing to let them be the sole arbiters of what is best.

Oddly enough, or perhaps not so oddly, there was one word that I was unable to find in the article.

That word was “listen.”

It’s fine for engineers to be able to tell the story of why a solution should be adopted, but it’s also necessary for engineers to be able to listen to the people who may or may not benefit from the solution. Perhaps the proposed solution is too expensive (see my first anecdotal example), or perhaps existing solutions are perfectly fine (see my second anecdotal example). Or perhaps the solution goes against a group’s most important cultural values; while foreigners are often baffled by Americans’ resistance to government dictates, the fact remains that American history has influenced us to resist such dictates.

So while engineers should be heard, they shouldn’t rule the world.

Marketers should rule the world.

Am I right?

How many health passports will convention attendees need to revisit Las Vegas?

Two years ago, this picture wouldn’t look strange to me. Now it looks unusual.

I took this picture on the morning of April 5, 2017. I had just flown from Ontario, California to Las Vegas, Nevada to attend the ISC West show for a day, and would fly home that evening.

The idea of gathering thousands of businesspeople together in Las Vegas for a day obviously wasn’t unusual in 2017. While many think of Las Vegas as a playground, a lot of work goes on there also, and Las Vegas has superb facilities to host conventions and trade shows. So superb, in fact, that Oracle announced in late 2019 that it was moving its annual Oracle OpenWorld conference from San Francisco (up the road from Oracle’s headquarters) to Las Vegas.

But then 2020 happened.

One month after Oracle started planning for the Las Vegas debut of Oracle OpenWorld, the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show took place in Las Vegas. Unbeknownst to the 170,000 attendees at that show, they were unknowingly spreading a new illness, COVID-19. They did this by doing things that people always did at trade shows, including standing next to each other, shaking hands, and (in business-appropriate situations) embracing each other.

Of course, the CES attendees didn’t know that they were spreading coronavirus, and wouldn’t know this for a few months until after they had returned home to Santa Clara County, California and to other places all around the world. By the time that CES had been identified as a super spreader event, Las Vegas convention activities were already shutting down. The 2020 version of ISC West had already been postponed from March to July, was then re-postponed from July to October, and would eventually be cancelled entirely. Oracle OpenWorld’s September debut in Las Vegas was similarly cancelled. As other companies cancelled their Las Vegas conferences, the city went into a tailspin. (Anecdotally, one of my in-laws is a Teamster who works trade shows in Las Vegas and was directly affected by this.)

Today, one year after the economies of Las Vegas and other cities shut down, we in the United States are optimistically hoping that we have turned a corner. But it’s possible that we will not completely return to the way things were before 2020.

For example, before attending a convention in Las Vegas in the future, you might need to present a physical or digital “health passport” indicating a negative COVID-19 test and/or a COVID-19 vaccination. While governments may be reluctant to impose such requirements on private businesses, private businesses may choose to impose such requirements on themselves – in part, to reduce liability risk. After all, a convention organizer doesn’t want attendees to get sick at their conventions.

As I noted almost two months ago, there are a number of health passport options that are either available or being developed. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a bad thing for reasons that I noted in February:

In addition to Clear’s Health Pass, there are a myriad of other options, including AOKpassCommonPass, IATA Travel Pass, IBM Digital Health Pass, the Mvine-iProov solutionScan2Fly from AirAsia, VaccineGuard from Guardtime, VeriFLY from Daon, the Vaccination Credential Initiative, and probably some others that I missed….

But the wealth of health passports IS a problem if you’re a business. Imagine being at an airport gate and asking a traveler for a Clear Health Pass, and getting an angry reply from the traveler that he already has a VeriFLY pass and that the airline is infringing upon the traveler’s First and Second Amendment rights by demanding some other pass.

When I wrote this I wasn’t even thinking about convention attendance. In a worst-case scenario, Jane Conventioneer may need one health pass to board her flight, another health pass to enter her hotel, and a third health pass to get into the convention itself.

This could potentially be messier than I thought.

Revisiting my unintentional viral tweet, and revisiting my mini-goal for April

You’ll recall that on March 31, a tweet of mine (from my “amateur” Twitter account) unexpectedly went viral.

Within 15 hours, the tweet had over 48,000 impressions and over 1,000 engagements.

Things have hit a plateau since then—the good times weren’t going to last forever on this one, after all—and the tweet currently (1:34 pm PDT Tuesday April 6) has the following statistics:

  • Impressions: 68,721
  • Total engagements: 1,470
  • Likes: 1,009
  • Detail expands: 302
  • Profile clicks: 116
  • Retweets: 32
  • Replies: 11

But that’s not the important part.

As I noted in my prior post, the TRUE challenge is to create meaningful content on my “professional” Twitter account @jebredcal. Specifically, I challenged myself to have an April tweet with 212 or more impressions and 10 or more engagements.

How am I doing? Not there yet. My top tweet in April so far has 167 impressions, 3 engagements, and unquantifiable value add (specifically, my statement that “[t]he standard is ‘currently going through the adoption process'”).

Hmm…perhaps Elena Salazar can help me. After all, she’s written a post about writing highly engaging tweets. And she specifically used the word “engaging” rather than “impressionable,” so you can see she’s interested in results.

I’m not going to reproduce the whole post, of course, and I’m already doing one of the things that she mentioned – after all, my unintentional viral tweet would not have gone viral if it hadn’t been a reply to Greg Kelly.

One of her suggestions in her post was to “have fun.” As long-time readers of this blog will appreciate, that particular suggestion resonated with me, since it’s one of my goals for 2021. Salazar notes that human connections are prized more than ever. (Provided that you’re not faking your humanity, I guess.)

Salazar also had two suggestions on the timing of tweets. No, she wasn’t talking about tweeting on Mondays at precisely 8:22 am. (These suggestions never did much for me anyway. Bredemarket’s target geographical market is the entire United States, from Maine to Alaska and Hawaii, and there’s no ideal time that appeals to everyone in that geographical market.)

Bredemarket’s geographic market, according to Google. https://g.page/bredemarket

What Salazar WAS discussing was participating in timed Twitter chats, and tweeting during live events. While I’ve engaged in the latter at times (most notably during the years that I regularly attended Oracle OpenWorld), I have rarely participated in timed Twitter chats that were not connected to an event. Here’s some of what Salazar said at the time (August 2019, before the world changed) about Twitter chats:

I personally try to attend 2-3 Twitter chats per week.

Tip: Some of my favorite digital marketing chats are #CMworld (Tuesdays at 9am PT), #SEMrushchat (Wednesdays at 8am PT), #Adweekchat (Wednesdays at 11am PT) and #TwitterSmarter (Thursdays at 10am PT). 

Checking the Twittersphere, #CMWorld (CM = content marketing) still seems to be a thing (I missed it by a few hours this week), as do #SEMrushchat (tomorrow), #Adweekchat (also tomorrow), and #TwitterSmarter (Thursdays, although it may go on at all times like #MarketingTwitter).

Of course, these hashtags are general and not specific to identity or even technology, but maybe I’ll try to drop in on one or two new Twitter chats this month.

(Note to self: tag Elena Salazar on the tweet that links to this post.)