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Dear Mr. Oberlin: Here’s Your Sign…

February 11th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished…

I've had some fantastic conversations with folks over the last couple of weeks as we collaborated from the perspective of how a network and security professional might map/model/classify various elements of Cloud Computing.

I just spent several hours with folks at ShmooCon (a security conference) winding through the model with my peers getting excellent feedback.  

Prior to that, I've had many people say that the collaboration has yielded a much simpler view on what the Cloud means to them and how to align solutions sets they already have and find gaps with those they don't.

My goal was to share my thinking in a way which helps folks with a similar bent get a grasp on what this means to them.  I'm happy with the results.

And then….one day at Cloud Camp…

However, it seems I chose an unfortunate way of describing what I was doing in calling it a taxonomy/ontology, despite what I still feel is a clear definition of these words as they apply to the work.

I say unfortunate because I came across a post by Steve Oberlin, Cassat's Chief Scientist on his "Cloudology" blog titled "Cloud Burst" that resonates with me as the most acerbic, condescending and pompous contributions to nothingness I have read in a long time.

Steve took 9 paragraphs and 7,814 characters to basically say that he doesn't like people using the words taxonomy or ontology to describe efforts to discuss and model Cloud Computing and that we're all idiots and have provided nothing of use.

The most egregiously offensive comment was one of his last points:

I do think some blame (a mild chastisement) is owed to anyone participating in the cloud taxonomy conversation that is not exercising appropriately-high levels of skepticism and insisting on well-defined and valid standards in their frameworks.  Taxonomies are thought-shaping tools and bad tools make for bad thinking.   One commenter on one of the many blogs echoing/amplifying the taxonomy conversation remarked that some of the diagrams were mere “marketecture” and others warned against special interests warping the framework to suit their own ends.  We should all be such critical thinkers.

What exactly in any of my efforts (since I'm not speaking for anyone else) suggests that in collaborating and opening up the discussion for unfettered review and critique, constitutes anything other than high-levels of skepticism?  The reason I built the model in the first place was because I didn't feel the others accurately conveyed what was relevant and important from my perspective.  I was, gasp!, skeptical. 

We definitely don't want to have discussions that might "shape thought."  That would be dangerous.  Shall we start burning books too?

From the Department of I've Had My Digits Trampled..

So what I extracted from Oberlin's whine is that we are all to be chided because somehow only he possesses the yardstick against which critical thought can be measured?  I loved this bit as he reviewed my contribution:

I might find more constructive criticism to offer, but the dearth of description and discussion of what it really means (beyond the blog’s comments, which were apparently truncated by TypePad) make the diagram something of a Rorschach test.  Anyone discussing it may be revealing more about themselves than what the concepts suggested by the diagram might actually mean.

Interestingly, over 60 other people have stooped low enough to add their criticism and input without me "directing" their interpretation so as not to be constraining, but again, somehow this is a bad thing.

So after sentencing to death all those poor electrons that go into rendering his rant about how the rest of us are pissing into the wind, what did Oberlin do to actually help clarify Cloud Computing?  What wisdom did he impart to set us all straight?  How did he contribute to the community effort — no matter how misdirected we may be — to make sense of all this madness?

Let me be much more concise than the 7,814 characters Oberlin needed and sum it up in 8:


So it is with an appropriate level of reciprocity that I thank him for it accordingly.


P.S. Not to be outdone, William Vanbenepe has decided to bestow upon Oberlin a level of credibility not due to his credentials or his conclusions, but because (and I quote) "...[he] just love[s] sites that don't feel the need to use decorative pictures. His doesn't have a single image file which means that even if he didn't have superb credentials (which he does) he'd get my respect by default."

Yup, we bottom feeders who have to resort to images really are only in it for the decoration. Nice, jackass.

Update: The reason for the strikethrough above — and my public apology here — is that William contacted me and clarified he was not referring to me and my pretty drawings (my words,) although within context it appeared like he was.  I apologize, William and instead of simply deleting it, I am admitting my error, apologizing and hanging it out to dry for all to see.  William is not a jackass. As is readily apparent, I am however. 😉

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  1. February 11th, 2009 at 21:06 | #1

    lol. Perhaps he will respond, and it will wind up being all good. You never know.

  2. February 12th, 2009 at 11:42 | #2

    Nice rant, however I object to your conclusion that I offered "nothing" that might be of value to you.
    The purpose of my article was to a) present summaries of generally-accepted definitions of "taxonomy" and "ontology", to make sure readers and I were on the same page, b) discuss the two currently-circulating cloud taxonomy/ontology proposals and why I think they fall far short of those definitions, and c) suggest that, like other taxonomies, "a genuinely useful cloud taxonomy gets built by first enumerating the fundamental classification principles and defining distinguishing attributes … then by parsing the membership of the cloud domain, adjusting and adding principles and attributes as necessary".
    You either do not understand or choose not to acknowledge that the diagram you have created, while perhaps useful the way the OSI model is useful, is not a taxonomy, nor is it an ontology — at least not according to the definitions of those concepts as I understand them or have seen them defined or used in other contexts. Instead of attacking irrelevant issues like my tone and lack of brevity, I think it would be productive if you either challenged those definitions if you disagree with them (or explained why their misuse is unimportant), re-characterized your effort as something other than a "taxonomy/ontology", or simply started over, this time detailing the classification principles and distinguishing attributes codified in your taxonomy/ontology proposal instead of withholding them for later revelation, so that your readers don't have to guess how to interpret the horizontal and vertical placement, extent, or proximate grouping of the colored boxes in your diagram. If you step back and objectively re-read the comments your readers offered on your diagram, I think you'll see that I was not alone in wondering what underlying organizing principles might be at work.

  3. February 12th, 2009 at 11:59 | #3

    So now you're qualified to define what is of value to me? This just gets better and better…
    Firstly, I don't disagree upon further analysis that perhaps using the words taxonomy or ontology was not the best choice. I looked both words up in the dictionary as I had similar concerns initially, but I didn't see much of an issue, so I used them as others had.
    If I'd simply used the word "model" it might not have drawn your ire, but I'd bet you still wouldn't have contributed, so that doesn't really matter, does it?
    However, your choice of how you decided to point this out, um, sucked donkey balls. I trust that definition is precise enough.
    Secondly, my diagram is not rigidly built upon the OSI model, regardless of the fact that I'm using it to discuss Cloud with the network/security folk. It may look like similar, that's done in order to help bridge the two perspectives. Honestly, I could care less if it's a "taxonomy" or an "ontology." What it does — regardless of your assessment — is help folks who are confused about the Cloud make a little more sense of it. This I can provide empirical evidence of.
    THAT'S ALL THAT MATTERS TO ME. I'm not pawning myself off as some expert on Cloud; in fact, just the opposite.
    The fact that you have the temerity after basically pissing on other people's efforts to suggest that I should not comment on your tone after you did shit all to actually contribute is astounding.
    Further, I incorporated almost all of the changes made by my commentators…if you look at the progression from the first diagram to the last, you'd see that.
    The diagram is almost at the point where I'm going to add the next level of explanation which means aligning to better examples and show alignment to current controls and frameworks…
    You've never met me, never spoken to me and have not contributed with useful comments to the "MODEL," so until you do any of the above, you can expect that I will find it difficult to take your advice and/or criticism seriously.

  4. February 12th, 2009 at 13:48 | #4

    If I boil that down, here's what I heard:
    a) You agree that you've created an OSI-like cloud model, not a taxonomy or ontology.
    b) You are trying to help people make sense of the cloud.
    c) I make you angry.
    The only thing I'd add is a "me, too" on b), otherwise the rest of it works for me.

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