CTO with a bug ... well, you know where

Not only has widespread adoption of this lifesaving application failed to take hold in corporate networks, it is my understanding that many of you have gone so far as to expressly prohibit - prohibit! - the use of WeatherBug in your organizations. How do you sleep at night?

It's not every day that a CTO at a well-known company accuses me of exhibiting callous disregard for human life. In fact, I'm fairly certain that what you're about to read constitutes a first.

I am innocent, of course . . . even though that's what they all say.

But if you buy into this gentleman's reasoning and apply it to the lowercase network world at large, I am by no means the only suspect party: A significant number of you - yes, you, Mr. and Ms. Network Manager - may need to do a little soul-searching about your attitudes toward . . . would you believe, WeatherBug?

The background: A May 30 column here discussed ongoing efforts by WeatherBug to shake its image as a network nuisance and sell corporate America on the idea that this popular weather-monitoring and emergency-alert software is also a valuable business tool. The campaign came to my attention in the spring at Interop in Las Vegas, where WeatherBug had employees glad-handing attendees. The column was more milquetoast than broadside, as it consisted almost entirely of WeatherBug executives making their case and me dutifully recounting it.

But I did note that the company has a difficult sales job ahead, especially among IT types, and added: "They could start with my colleague in Network World's IT department, who when asked for his thoughts about WeatherBug chewed my ear off for 45 minutes. His beef in a nutshell: WeatherBug has no meaningful purpose on a typical business desktop, and, much like any unauthorized application, consumes resources unnecessarily and runs the risk of causing unanticipated trouble."

That assessment apparently was beyond the pale for WeatherBug CTO and founder Christopher Sloop, who fired back with a blog missive. Fair enough, except that Sloop may have gone just a teensy bit overboard.

The headline on his piece: "Dear Network World: What is an employee's life worth?"

My first thought was: "Depends on which employee we're talking about."

But Sloop was clearly in no mood for insouciance. His blog entry begins:

"Let me ask a quick question. Is your life worth 0.003% of your CPU, 10M bytes of RAM and 25 bits per second of bandwidth usage? That is all it will cost your company to install the free version of WeatherBug! 0.003% CPU, 10M bytes of RAM and 25 bits per second of bandwidth to make sure your employees will be quickly alerted in case of a disaster!"

"Clearly Mr. McNamara's IT person is not aware of WeatherBug's ability to alert employees of severe weather, civil emergencies and Homeland Security emergencies. If the technology exists that could save an employee's life and contribute to their safety, why is it not being used on all computer desktops?"

That question brings us back to you folks. After all, I am but a lowly trade-press pundit whose control of desktops begins and ends with the PC in my basement. As for my IT colleague, his ability to save or endanger lives through desktop application management is similarly limited by the fact that Network World is a small company.

However, some of you oversee vast swaths of PCs numbering in the thousands and tens of thousands. Are they all up-to-date with the latest version of WeatherBug? . . . I didn't think so.

And, let's be honest here, it gets worse. Not only has widespread adoption of this lifesaving application failed to take hold in corporate networks, it is my understanding that many of you have gone so far as to expressly prohibit - prohibit! - the use of WeatherBug in your organizations.

How do you sleep at night?

Oh, all right, I suppose I should lighten up on the guy. He's only standing up for his company, and he's a technologist, not a marketer.

But his ham-handed pitch did remind me of those Michelin tire commercials where a cuddly baby nestled inside a radial is supposed to shame parents into whipping out their credit cards.

"Buy our tires, or kiss your baby goodbye" is no way to sell tires . . . or software.

Bugged, too? The address is buzz@nww.com.

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Today's forecast: Tough sell

05/30/05

Dear NetworkWorld, What is an employee’s life worth?

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