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Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I had an article all ready to write about today, but then decided to save it for tomorrow, and instead write about something completely unrelated: the CIRA AGM. Yes, I went downtown for part of the afternoon to the annual general meeting of the organization that controls the top level domain for Canada. (The .ca domain.)

Ok, so I'll admit, they had good door prizes for people who sat through the whole thing (which I did), and with five chances to win good stuff (which I didn't), I was tempted to go. The free lunch and 1Gb USB key really did make it worth my time. Besides, it seemed like something that could be related to my work with computers. (It wasn't - but I really didn't know that when I decided to go.)

Lunch was somewhat disappointing - they ran out of a lot of food before I got there. That's my biggest complaint. Anyhow....

The AGM itself wasn't really enlightening, though the question period was amusing. The guy who stood up and called CIRA "a bloated bureaucracy" was amusing, and the other guy who insisted the President defend their choice of speaker (who was in the room at the time) really made the question period a hoot. I was laughing pretty hard at the guy who demanded the CIO help him troubleshoot the fact that his domain wasn't appearing in the listings of several search engines.

The more relevant thing was the Keynote speaker - Amber McArthur. For a crowd that held a lot of over-50's type people, an introduction to web 2.0 social networking was probably an eye opener. For anyone who's ever blogged, it was underwhelming - but an interesting social commentary on the management of CIRA.

Putting this in the context of some of the other statements made during the president's address, and the other members of the board, a clear picture starts to emerge: (my paraphrasing)
  • They're a windows only shop, internally, but don't mind using unix for their DNS servers.
  • They've selected Microsoft Exchange as the premier email management and calendaring tool (and blew a lot of money on it this year).
  • They believe they're on the cutting edge of domain registry authorities in the world in terms of technology and transparency.
  • They're extremely proud of their use of Oracle10i (migrated this year).
  • They're proud of their recent decision to use Cognos Business tools. (I've developed for them before... Cognos tools aren't all they're cracked up to be.)
  • One of their biggest achievements this year was to automate password recovery for members! (it was previously a manual process.)

I could go on, but I won't.

Essentially, I don't think they're a bloated bureaucracy, but they're clearly thrilled with the proprietary business model (which is probably not a bad thing, considering their need for 100% uptime) for the software they acquire, but aren't spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to evolve with the internet. They're a perfect model of what a software/internet shop should be in the late 1990's. Do you think they use wiki's in their office environment? How about instant messaging between developers? What about social networking to educate the public on their mandate? Have they ever contributed information to the wikipedia page on CIRA?

If they needed to invite a speaker to introduce them to web 2.0, I highly doubt it. They don't "grok" where the web is going.

That's the irony: The organization in charge of keeping Canada's internet presence in order is clueless as to where the internet is going, and how it's transforming itself through the use of new technology. Common people - if most of your board members have never heard of facebook, how are they going to guide you through the next 10 years of evolution of the web?