Archive for December, 2012
Posted by: Eric in Opinion
As we reach the end of the year, my thoughts turn to the passage of time, and its measurement. Do any of us know how to measure? The question may sound facetious, but I want you to contemplate what I am asking. Measurement is a starting point for risk management and business assurance. We make management decisions based on what is measured. But how much effort is expended on measurement, and is the measurement fit for purpose? Perhaps this is a good time of year to reflect on how the human race measure those things that are not easy to measure – like the passage of time – and some lessons from the history of measurement.
Consider the following. All of us know how to read dials. But measurement is not the same as reading a result from a measurement device. I know how to read the hands on my watch. But I have never made a watch. I can read the speedometer in my car. But I have never made a speedometer. I can understand a dashboard report, even if I have no idea about the way data was collected and manipulated to produce that dashboard report. And I can imagine making a tape measure, but I would probably make it by marking off the units of length by comparing it to an existing standard – like another tape measure. So I know some things about measurement, and also some of the limits of my knowledge. Would I know how to measure a property that has never been measured before, when I have no pre-defined tools or standards to help me? This is exactly the challenge faced by business assurance and risk management. We are confronted by the need to measure things that are not easily susceptible to measurement, and for which there is no great history of developing the methods for measurement. We want to measure error rates, and their consequences. We want to measure the probability of uncertain outcomes. We want to measure the costs and benefits associated with those outcomes. Nobody disagrees with those assertions, and they are often repeated. But how often do we discuss and improve the tools and standards used for measurement? Rarely. Too rarely. And lacking the tools, we can fall into a trap, building towers of rational decision-making upon irrational foundations.
I devoted a chapter of our book to the topic of epistemology, the study of what can be known and the limits of knowledge, and how it applies to revenue assurance. At the time, I knew this was a challenge to many. Some were bound to consider it vexatious. Others would take a more convenient approach, and just pretend there are no obstacles to overcome – just delegate measurement to somebody else, in the hopes they solve the problem or else will make up answers to appease their bosses. In hindsight, I should have been put even more effort into dealing with the crux of the epistemological obstacle, which is our ability to measure. It is not enough to identify that we have problems, or even their causes. We also need to know the scale of our problems, in order to decide if it is cost-effective to address those problems.
Consider the following scenario. A consultant wants to puff out their chest and show off their expertise. They are asked about rates of revenue leakage, in order to justify the cost of the services they offer. So they give an answer. What method did they pursue to arrive at their answer? Well, they asked the opinions of others. They reported what their instincts told them to be true. They state that somebody else found something else somewhere else in the past, and so, by analogy, the scale of problems will be similar in the here and the now. Now imagine a scenario where I ask the same consultant to measure time, without the use of a timepiece. The consultant has an instinct for whether one duration was longer or shorter than another. The consultant can ask other people what they thought was the amount of time that elapsed. And, in a crude way, for long enough periods, the consultant will be able to measure time by the movement of the sun, and the passing of days. But that is the limit of what they offer. And what they offer is very crude, and hence not useful for decision-making. We cannot use the consultant’s estimations to manage our daily affairs, and nor can we afford to suffer devastating losses just so we can find out that we are suffering from serious problems. Now imagine I am on a 17th century ship, sailing the oceans, and I want to know where I am. Once again, I ask the modern-day consultant, who has been magically transported back in time and placed upon the deck of this ship. We know that if we can measure the current time and compare this to the time at an independent reference point, we can determine our longitude. But none of us possess a clock. So the consultant does a survey of the sailors on the ship, asking them what they think is the time at Greenwich. He tells me what they said, and what his instincts say. So, in a way, he answered the question. But his answer is less than useless, because it is so likely to be wrong. If we want a proper answer, somebody needs to invent a precise clock that works at sea. And that is no trivial problem. In fact, that particular problem was so difficult that the British government offered an enormous prize to anyone who could make such a clock. As the Greenwich Museum points out, what we take for granted now was an extraordinary challenge back then:
Like squaring the circle or inventing a perpetual motion machine, the phrase ‘finding the longitude’ became a sort of catchphrase for the pursuits of fools and lunatics. Many people believed that the problem simply could not be solved.
The successful inventor needed to devise a practical solution that represented the cutting edge of science and engineering. John Harrison was the man who eventually solved the problem of how to make an accurate maritime clock, and he spent most of his life doing so. Even then, there was resistance to giving him his proper thanks and reward. Harrison had to petition the king to receive his prize!
And therein lies the heart of our problem too. No ship’s crew was going to solve the longitude problem on their own. The solution was produced because a great deal of investment was needed to come up with a solution that benefited many. The same is true of our many metaphorical ships, our telcos, bobbing around on the endless ocean of rough guesses, lacking the tools and standards to measure properly. In other words, the solution to our problem lies in overcoming a very serious obstacle that none are properly incentivized to tackle. Most of the people tackling the problem have entirely the wrong skills. It takes a degree of expertise to conduct a survey, but even the best survey is woefully inadequate for this challenge. And measuring the time and location accurately means resisting all temptation to give the answer we would like to be true. This challenge will not be addressed by opinion and puffed-out chests. It demands science and engineering.
“At the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes – an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may be, and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense.”
Risk management and business assurance pass Sagan’s first test. Any practitioner must be open to the idea that people and their systems are, in general and in aggregate, more fallible than any specific individual believes themselves to be. That is an incredibly counterintuitive idea. Well done to us, for having apprehended the truth. But we fail the second test. Our scrutiny is far from ruthlessly sceptical. When reading through the literature on enterprise risk management, I am permanently reminded that for all the advice and theorizing on display, there is a systemic failure to address the fundamental challenge: how to measure risk. People skip ahead to outlining what to do about it, as if they already had a decent measure. That is like deciding to change course on a ship, without knowing where the ship currently is. Or they spend all their time identifying risks, as if a long laundry list of worries can magically rearrange itself into a prioritized plan of action. That is like reading a map without ever plotting a course. And compared to the literature on enterprise risk management, the literature on business assurance for communications providers is greatly inferior. This should not be a surprise. The former draws upon a vast pool of global resources. The latter draws on a much smaller collective pool of knowledge and talent. At least sailors had a bedrock of truth they could use to calibrate poor guesswork. They would spot land, and find themselves a long way from where they thought they were. Or they would starve at sea. Starving at sea is a non-trivial consequence of inaccurate map-reading and measurement. Perhaps some consultants would improve if they were made to fast for every inaccurate forecast they made, but even this would be an imperfect feedback mechanism. Some of our leakages may never be detected, if we do not look for them, and the nature of uncertainty means it is always debatable how far we can calibrate measurement of future risks based on what has happened in the past.
Many years ago, a few people liked a metaphor I came up with, which was designed to illustrate the essence of our epistemological dilemma. I described leakage as an iceberg, with some above water, and hence visible, and some below water, and hence invisible. We know our knowledge is imperfect, and incomplete. When we measure visible leakage, we are not truly measuring the whole iceberg, because we also expect some of it is hidden from view. Those were the days before I started blogging, and I would routinely include a few slides on the iceberg whenever I did a conference presentation. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, which I suppose means that some people flattered me a lot, not that they had the good grace to mention their source. Such is the wisdom of some consultants – they claim to know a lot, but cannot say where their knowledge comes from. The metaphor of an iceberg floating in the water also leads me to another historical analogy. Many know the story of Archimedes, who had a great insight whilst lying in his bath, exclaimed ‘eureka!’, leapt out and ran down the street naked. Archimedes had discovered a new and precise form of measurement, which worked by calculating the volume of water displaced by a submerged object. It was a moment of genius. And that is what we need, and what I have been waiting for since coining the iceberg metaphor. Guesstimates, instincts and crowd-sourced surveys will never deliver useful results. What we need is a eureka moment, where practical and precise measures will revolutionize decision-making, giving meaning to all the activities that have already been mapped out as coming after proper measurement. Or maybe we need many eureka moments, like John Harrison’s many timekeeping innovations. What we cannot do is to treat the problem as solved just because it is darned inconvenient that the problem has not, in fact, been solved.
Writing that, I feel like my next words should be to share a eureka moment on how to improve measurement. Sadly, words fail me. I have no bold new insight on how to radically improve measurement. Maybe our measures will develop like John Harrison’s timepieces – through many small but important improvements over the course of a lifetime. But perhaps I should forgive myself. For now, my eureka moment is much simpler: to motivate an improvement to our measures, we must begin by consciously recognizing the need to improve. And our next task also becomes plain. We need somebody to offer a great big reward to whoever invents those improvements. Perhaps somebody will step forward to motivate progress in 2013. Either way, as the calendar turns, I wish you a happy new year.
Australian operator Telstra has started to issue refunds after the discovery that its outbound mobile roamers have been overcharged for data services since 2006. The total refund is expected to be approximately AUD30mn (USD31mn). You can read the full story from here.
The overcharging was discovered by an audit within Telstra. A spokesman for the company reportedly said:
Telstra became aware of an issue whereby some customers were charged multiple data session fees due to the way international carriers generate their data usage records. Once we identified the issue, we put immediate steps in place to prevent further multiple charging.
A typical consumer protection rent-a-quote-know-it-all (Elise Davidson of the Australian Communciations Consumer Action Network) responded by saying:
It is surprising that the inaccurate charging was undetected for six years and staggering to think of the number of bills Telstra will have had to review in order to provide refunds to consumer and business customers.
Yes, it is surprising – unless you know how telcos really work. Most consumer protection advocates know as much about telecoms as you would expect a typical media studies/social policy graduate to know. They know what the service providers say publicly, and what they can see from their own bills, but nothing else. That is why the industry has to police itself. No external party is going to do an effective job. When you know how most telcos behave, you realize the real surprise is that Telstra did an audit that was thorough enough to discover this problem. Instead of criticizing Telstra for auditing this area once in 6 years, it should be pointed out that most telcos would never have audited this. In fact, there must be other telcos that have overcharged their customers for the same reason, but who continue to be ignorant of this problem. Note the circumstances of this error: customers are not complaining about the specific issue, Telstra is being paid the amounts it has billed, and the error stemmed from flawed data supplied by other telcos. This is how the error was described:
International carriers send data files to Telstra via a data clearing house for billing, and sometimes the carriers cut long data sessions into segments. The data files passed from the carriers have an indicator for when a data file relates to a part data session or a full data session.
It is understood that some carriers left the indicator for a part data session blank and that was interpreted by Telstra as a full data session, resulting in the data session fee being applied multiple times for a single data session.
Another crucial lesson here is that many of the self-appointed pontiffs of ‘revenue risk management’ would never have found this error, hence contributing to the widespread delusion that revenue risks only relate to frauds and accidental undercharging. Why would the Gadi Solotorevskys of this world have missed this error? Firstly, and most importantly, it does not matter what software you use or how much data you crunch. This kind of error will only be discovered by a human brain… and we all know how the software-worshipers feel about telcos paying good wages to skilled and knowledgeable people who can think outside of the box. Their goal is to put everybody in a box, and then to get rid of everybody, because they’ve progressively automated the box. But the truth is that there are many errors that will never be discovered by simply crunching more and more data, over and over again. Second, software developers like Solotorevsky have a prejudice against audits. They market their tools as an alternative to audits. They say that audits are not ‘proactive’ enough. Rubbish. There is no good reason to present a false choice between software or audit. It is better to have both. Audits demand an open mind. Audits should, on a recurring basis, scrutinize even those areas that have already received a superficial ‘all clear’ from other checks and controls. Audits can reveal all sorts of flaws, including flaws in how people behave and think and flaws in how automated systems work. They even reveal flaws and limitations to the systems purchased to do automated checking and gaps in the controls implemented by the company’s control gurus. A real risk manager loves a good auditor, because a good auditor has the time, skills and opportunity to really examine everything that may go wrong. Good auditors deliver the ultimate validation of whether risk management has succeeded in its task, and they serve as the ultimate guardians that stop real problems from continuing indefinitely.
Nothing trumps smart, dedicated people with the humility to really check that everything works as it should. And sadly, when these guys do their work, they usually get criticized for not doing it sooner, instead of being thanked for doing it well. They get squeezed on all sides: by their doubting bosses who see no benefit in checking for errors and who expect miracles whilst paying the bare minimum, by consumer protection gobsh*tes, by ineffectual regulators, and by avaricious VC-backed tech firms that pretend software is a substitute for human intelligence. Telstra deserve credit, as they take on the hard task of refunding their customers. Six years is a long time, but better late than never. If we listened to some people, then there would be plenty of errors that remain undetected, but would be allowed to go on harming telco businesses, or harming telco customers.
Once again, it is the time to wish you well and to remember the big news stories of the year. So without further ado…
The year started with plenty of bad news. 10% of Chinese internet users had their passwords compromised, whilst the CEO of Teleonto, a minor Indian RA vendor, was on the run from the police.
Meanwhile, another Indian vendor, Connectiva, went bust, though this was not clear at the time because its bosses kept pretending they were still in business. Unpaid and disgruntled Connectiva employees demonstrated the power of the internet to subvert official communication channels (or the lack of communication) by launching their own anonymous blog.
Israeli vendor cVidya went looking for money and possible buyers, but found neither. However, they accidentally revealed that their various claims about revenues and growth simply did not add up. Whilst cVidya’s numbers had been inflated, Lebara Mobile boasted how they had ‘ended revenue leakage’.
The month also delivered some more serious and reliable intellectual property, for those who are interested in that kind of thing. Portuguese vendor WeDo obtained a patent for data gathering technology whilst TRI released their report on business assurance.
Subex, the leading Indian vendor of business assurance, announced a string of new sales whilst continuing to negotiate a restructuring of their FCCB debts; see here. And then, for good measure, they announced yet another multi-million dollar contract. WeDo were upbeat after announcing stable results for the 2011 financial year, but they talked darkly about a challenging market and hinted that intense price competition might drive some of their rivals under; see here. And TEOCO, the Virginia-headquartered vendor that specializes in cost management and analytics, showed where they thought the market was heading. They purchased Schema, a company that specializes in RAN optimization, for an undisclosed price.
In contrast, regulators continued to do what they are best at: nothing. Ofcom, the UK regulator, published an action plan to deal with bill shock. The plan was fine apart from the lack of action.
The sector demonstrated there are diverging attitudes to managing its intellectual property. FICO patented ‘revenue assurance analytics’, adding to a stockpile of related patents they had built up under their old brand of Fair Isaac. Meanwhile, Lionel Griache spoke to talkRA about the decision to open up the source code for his ProactiveRA tool.
Although Connectiva’s bosses continued to pretend they were a going concern, their problems became even more obvious when they sold off their parser code.
WeDo acquired Connectiv Solutions, US providers of cost management and network efficiency tools, with the intention of cross-selling Connectiv’s offerings and getting better traction in the massive US market. At the other end of the scale, Xintec raised EUR900k from seed funding and government schemes. The small Irish company offers RA and FMS solutions targeted at the smaller telcos who have not been well served by the larger vendors. And at the very bottom of the scale, Connectiva (note the ‘a’ on the end of the name) was negotiating a deal to be sold to Mara-Ison, the Dubai-headquartered IT services firm, whilst their bosses were still telling customers that all was fine. The sale was eventually confirmed in a very discreet way, as if Mara-Ison was embarrassed by the deal.
Lovers of big government cheered when Ghana’s regulator announced a CDR audit of the country’s six operators. The audit would determine if the government was receiving all the tax it was entitled to. On the other hand, haters of big government cheered when Nicholas Merrill, tired of government gagging orders and invasions of privacy, proposed to launch an ISP where privacy and cryptography would be so thoroughly built-in that literally nobody would be able to snoop on his customers or found out their details – not even him. For more about Merrill and his Calyx Institute, see here.
As part of the deal to restructure Subex’s FCCBs, Subash Menon, founder of Subex, and Sudeesh Yezhuvath, Subex COO, agreed to forgo their ‘golden goodbye’ payments in the event of leaving the company. Menon also stood down as Chairman, whilst retaining his position as CEO. The results announced for the previous financial year were broadly stable; for more, see here. Meanwhile, WeDo’s purchase of Connectiv appeared to have delivered them a rapid return, after they announced a deal to supply revenue assurance services to ‘one of the largest carriers in the United States’.
Two coincidental reports showed that whistle-blowing is a crucial and cost-effective mechanism to detect and prevent fraud. To find out more about the reports by the The Ethics Resource Center of the USA and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, you can look here. Meanwhile, the US comms regulator, the FCC, looked for evidence of fraud and waste in a program to supply free phones to the poor, and concluded that they could save USD200M by implementing simple controls to tackle abuse.
More good news for WeDo came in the form of successful diversification into the retail sector; they announced new retail sector customers in Russia and the USA. On the other hand, KPMG’s attempts to secure some news coverage backfired because of gratuitous exaggeration. One of their goons said that African utilities are losing 40% to 45% of revenues on average due to improper billing. He failed to mention which of these firms had their accounts audited by KPMG.
Subex announced ‘tough’ results for their Q1, with revenues well down. However, CEO Subash Menon vaguely promised that this was due to the way that revenues were being recognized, and that the numbers would bounce back in later quarters.
Shahid Ishtiaq of Etisalat revealed his second ground-breaking idea for improving the efficiency of revenue assurance. Shahid blogged for talkRA about the in-house development of the CRAWLER tool for cheaply combining assurance data from multiple sources so it can be easily interrogated by an analyst. The idea has since caught the attention of London-based vendor Cartesian, who graciously acknowledged that Shahid inspired their ideas about ‘horizontal assurance’. If you were unaware of Shahid’s first ground-breaking idea, then feel free to ask cVidya’s CTO where he gets his product ideas from. The
self long-serving head of the TM Forum RA group received yet another award from the TM Forum for his long-servitude, but failed to name any individuals that he steals uncredited ideas from voluntarily contribute their telco’s IP to the TM Forum.
August was a good month for gadget-loving readers of talkRA, and also for the publishers of our book. Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers was made available as a Kindle e-book, and it promptly leapt up the Amazon rankings. If you forgot to buy a present for that beloved revenue assurance analyst who brightens up your life, now you can download the book, instead of waiting for the postman.
Subash Menon stepped down as CEO of Subex, only retaining the role of a non-independent director. Industry peers expressed sympathy and admiration for Menon, noting how he had remained charming and personable, even whilst being a tough competitor who built a global market leader from the ground up. Things might have been very different if Subex had walked away from the opportunity to buy Syndesis, a firm that cost far more than the meagre returns that Subex was able to squeeze out from it. Worse still, the FCCBs used to finance the purchase were turned into a noose around Subex’s neck by forex and stock market movements. Menon slipped the noose thanks to a second renegotiation of the FCCB terms, but a downturn in results for Q1 and subsequent quarters finally prompted the departure of the man who gave his name to Subex. Surjeet Singh, former Patni CFO, was rumoured to be Subex’s in-coming boss, and those rumours were subsequently proven true.
The bond between fraud management and security became stronger and stronger over the year, and this was emphasized by the release of the 2012 Lookout Mobile Security Report. The report identified the disturbing prevalence of mobile malware designed to secretly contact premium SMS numbers. Concerns focused on Russia and Eastern Europe, with Lookout finding that 41.6% of Russian devices are infected with malware or spyware. Separate stories reinforced the point, including BBC coverage of disgruntled Russian telco customers, and a large fine for a Russian-owned firm selling dodgy Android software in the UK. Look here for more.
October was silly number season, proving that it is sometimes impossible to exaggerate how bad things really are. It brought vindication for believers in bill shock, consumer advocates who condemn telcos for sloppy errors and giving poor customer service, and those of us who know regulators never get anything done. That vindication came in the form of a bill for 11,721,000,000,000,000 Euros received by an unemployed child minder in France.
However, this was not the most ridiculous number that the telecoms industry generated in October. The buffoons at Global Telecom Business decided to associate Alon Aginsky, cVidya CEO, with the number 95, when they claimed Aginsky is the 95th most powerful person in telecoms. Several thousand telecoms executives would have complained, if they were not busy running much bigger and more profitable companies than Aginsky does.
Not wanting to be overlooked during silly number season, Subex’s new management team made some extraordinary boasts for how much their tools boost productivity. The numbers were extraordinary because they were both large, and incorrectly calculated.
Silly number season was ended with a jolt by the publication of Subex’s Q2 results. Contrary to promises made after the Q1 release, revenues were further down and a large provision was taken for bad debt. The notes also revealed that Subex was disputing a bill for unpaid taxes dating back to 2006.
In a surprise move, a UK government official gave some good and honest advice that people should hear, even though others want to suppress it. Andy Smith, who is a security manager for the UK Cabinet Office, told a conference that it is sensible for internet users to provide false names in order to protect themselves from abuses of their identity. Soon after, UK mobile operator O2 suffered yet another outage, infuriating one anonymous individual who emailed me copy for an excellent guest post explaining why operators must invest more in business continuity. I was happy to oblige.
There was no news in December. Seriously. No news at all. Apart from the lack of news. If you want a list of no-news-so-far stories that I forecast will be news stories in future, then here they are:
- More telcos will merge or co-locate their tech security and fraud management teams in order to deal with the overlapping issues raised by ever more sophisticated cybercrime and malware.
- Huawei has not yet squeezed into the RA and FMS consulting/SI market, but it is only a matter of time before they offer a carbon copy of somebody else’s methodology whilst trying to gain share by driving prices even lower. Huawei will soon do a lot more in this space, if only to protect management face in case ZTE gets any unexpected traction with pushing their RA and FMS lines. However, Huawei will have problems making progress chiefly because they will want to reward their staff less than they could have earned by working for some of the best-paying telcos. As such, they will not be able to fully lever their existing global customer base, and their new assurance offerings will primarily be sold within China.
- Simpler tariffs and the migration of some traditional forms of traffic to internet-enabled substitutes will lower the need for retail-facing telecoms assurance. There will be an uptick in demand for inter-business assurance as content supply and payment chains get more complicated, but this will go unreported because these forms of assurance will be bespoke for each situation and so will defy categorization or automation.
- Concerns about short-term costs and cashflows mean that Subex will not adopt a long-term R&D strategy to rejuvenate their business. They will struggle to find ways to differentiate themselves from competitors like cVidya, meaning they will not improve results in either the short term or long term, and will continue to be caught in the trap of fierce price competition. However, they will maintain a core of profitable long-term relationships with their key customers.
- Big data technology will erode the business case for more specialized and niche deployments of technology in order to scrutinize large volumes of data; for example, revenue assurance systems. However, the erosion is gradual and will go largely unreported.
- WeDo will be the first major vendor of telecoms business assurance that will generate more than half of its revenues by selling assurance products and services to companies outside of the communications sector.
- The changing cost dynamics of technology mean Xintec and other small players will start to compete for projects that previously would have only been pitched to the larger vendors. This, in turn, will encourage the very smallest CSPs to start thinking about open source software for core assurance tasks.
- Even bigger economic trends will start to rebalance the cost advantages of employing staff from developing countries. As Western European telcos continue to slim down their workforce, older practitioners with very significant experience will come on to the market, and they will start to form alliances to counter the divide-and-conquer mentality that will otherwise accelerate price competition for skilled manpower. Some of these alliances may congregate around strong niche brands where the competitive pitch will be based on providing the highest calibre of staff rather than the lowest price.
- Company boards will lack the requisite skills to oversee the handling of increasingly significant cybersecurity risks so they will come under increasing, but vague, political pressure following every new scandal. However, there will not be any meaningful change in the expectations set for corporate boards because legislators and regulators also lack the skills to determine what should be done. Over time, government understanding will rise as a by-product of greatly increased government investment in cybersecurity. Some governments will allow public resources to be helpfully deployed to also assist business, some will try to dictate terms to business under the cover of ‘cooperation’ in the hopes of keeping down the cost to the public purse, and some governments will start instructing private businesses to do things that are neither in the interests of their shareholders or the public at large. The securest nations will be the ones which spend most public money on cyber defence.
- The disruptive influence of the internet will accelerate until it becomes the new status quo for business networking and disseminating information. Business models that rely on attending conferences, advertising in printed journals and other traditional forms of marketing and salesmanship will become secondary to new ways of doing business. Organizations and marketing teams that are rooted in the old forms, like the TM Forum, will deploy a lot of resources to resist or hijack the transition, but this will only be a stay of execution unless they eventually emulate other entities that have dropped the physical side of their business in favour of doing everything through a digital and virtual medium. The transformation will lead to certain kinds of jobs being lost without there being an equal compensating rise of new vacancies.
- Nobody has bought cVidya yet, and nobody will. It is more likely that when the money runs out, we will see a re-run of how cVidya was combined with ECtel, with a merger being brokered between them and another middling Israeli tech firm.
Phew. What a year that was. In 2012, talkRA covered more news than any year previously, and that was despite the fact that much of the news – like Connectiva’s collapse – could not be found in press releases. It comes as no surprise that so much news helped to lift talkRA’s visitor numbers to the highest they have ever been. 2012 was the year I saw talkRA take on a new significance it has never had before. As more and more information goes on-line, and as we all become accustomed to hearing the full uncensored story of events, it became plain that we were not going to hear a single peep about major stories like Connectiva’s demise except through channels like talkRA. It is not good enough for somebody to equate journalism or knowledge sharing with taking a stapler and binding together a series of adverts pushed by companies wanting to sell something. Sometimes the greatest news story occurs where nobody is selling anything, but we still need to know about it, and that will be increasingly true as cybercrime casts an ever darker shadow over our domain. Though 2012 was unprecedented, I expect 2013 is going to be an even more dramatic year for our field. And because of the nature of the unfolding events, I predict there will be only one place to read the full story – and that place is right here.