Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, Consensus tokens, Russia and AMS systems

tendenci cloud security monitoring

The headline is ridiculous. But I couldn’t make this up in my wildest dreams. Yes, cryptocurrency, blockchain, and association management systems (AMS) are all interconnected. And the primary connection is Russia.

Stay with me for a second, get a cup of coffee, and read on.

First cryptocurrency isn’t a thing. It’s two parts. I try to explain cryptocurrency like this:

  1. BlockChain = Clipboard with a piece of paper. You check stuff in and out until you are out of paper. Some clipboards have more sheets of paper than others.
  2. Scarcity – Scarce object = some mathematically difficult to produce number. Or controlled by an authority like the Private Federal Reserve in the US.

Picture a clip board. And you are checking in and out some token. That token only has value if it delivers value. And the best way to determine that is really a classic economics popularity contest.

Note: This author does a GREAT job of explaining concensus capital: https://medium.com/@tompocock/consensus-capital-part-1-dff72ba39a63

These are not tulips. Blockchain is a tech that will disrupt everything from how we do a Turn-Around at the Olefins units at LyondellBassell, to how BP manages wind farms, to how carfax will be disrupted by a VIN blockchain startup.

What does this have to do with Association Management Systems?

Believe it or not, they are intertwined. So be careful on your selection of crypto for smart contracts. I’d recommend looking at HyperLedger  (https://www.hyperledger.org/) as an alternative to Russian Bank backed by Dmitry Buterin and his son Vitalik’s Ethereum .  ( https://futurism.com/ethereums-founder-struck-a-deal-with-a-russian-bank-to-create-ethereum-russia/ )

Not everyone in the crypto community is fond of Ethereum and Russian owned AMS Wild Apricot, now Personify, even in the crypto community. ( https://medium.com/@rateico_32282/how-much-would-you-sell-your-homeland-the-secret-of-ethereums-success-748f0b763c62 )

 

If you can’t access the code, self host if you want, and export ALL of your data when you want, well, why not? Why does anyone in the NonProfit / NPO / NGO / Association Management space tolerate that in 2018? It is 2018, right?

If you signed up with a company where the deal was “too good to be true”…. um…. ya, think that one through again. They have to pay people, so they are either funded by someone, or they are selling your data.

YOU are part of the problem with InfoWars and Propaganda in the US. (is that too blunt? Nope.) For example: Wild Apricot / Personify.

Wild Apricot, Russia, AMS
25% of American Constituents in Russian Backed Wild Apricot

Ethereum is at least open source ( https://github.com/ethereum ) so you can view the code. With the exception of Tendenci ( https://www.tendenci.com ) and CiviCrm, ( https://civicrm.org/ ) most AMS vendors aren’t open,  not even ones created and financed by Russia and the Chief Apricot ( https://www.linkedin.com/in/chiefapricot/ ), who is also coincidentally the father of Vitalik himself ( https://twitter.com/VitalikButerin ).

On the plus side, after years of joking about it, for once we can legitimately blame Canada and their dual-citizenships.

We’re building a wall with Mexico and allowing Russian company’s interests to mine Uranium ( https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2017/1114/What-s-the-real-story-behind-Hillary-Clinton-Russia-and-uranium ) in the US. And Russian programmers to control 25% (according to the Personify web site https://personifycorp.com/ ) of US Constituents like Washington’s League of Women Voters ( https://leagueofwomenvotersofwashington.wildapricot.org/issues ) .

And then we act surprised that Russia is meddling in our elections and knows know how to target voters.. Baroo?

These are strange times. But yes, Canada? I’m looking at YOU!

And as a reminder, as if y’all needed me to state this again, but we strongly encourage you to use an OPEN SOURCE solution with transparency. If it’s Tendenci, WordPress, Drupal, CiviCRM, Joomla,

Just please stand up for what’s right.

Demand access and transparency.

Tendenci is a movement.

Tendenci is a community committed to open association technology.

Global. Multilingual. Collaborative. Positive. Respectful of your privacy and functional at a level as you would expect from a product approaching 20 years old.

Associations are Powerful – and therefore Targets for Hackers

Associations are very powerful, particularly in America.

Think about it. Your Doctor is approved by the American Medical Association. Your Attorney is approved by the American BAR association. Your Accountant is approved by the American Association of CPAs (certified public accountants).  A person’s license /certifications may be “recognized” by the government, but ultimately it is a group of peers that form the association.

Americans of all ages, all stations of life, and all types of disposition are forever forming associations… In democratic countries knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others.

– Alexis de Tocqueville – Book Two, Chapter V. (source)

This may sound philosophical, and we’ve blogged about this before, but it’s important for associations to remember just how much power they have.  And with power comes great responsibility.

YOUR ASSOCIATION IS A HACKER TARGET

Why? Because it’s logical.

If you were a dictator in a country that had sanctions against it, I dunno, maybe they didn’t allow US Companies to help you drill for your oil reserves and you lacked the technology to do it yourself, wouldn’t it make sense to go after an association of accomplished professionals in that area?

St. Petersburg IP Address Alerts
Security Alerts with  IP addresses (listed as) St. Petersburg Targeting Associations. NOTE: IP Addresses are easy to fake so it could be a false positive.

It sounds horrible, but it is logical in a Machiavellian kind of way.

A story for y’all. I was talking to a client who had a Tendenci Open Source AMS site for a group of students at universities in the liberal arts. He said

nobody is going after English majors“.

“Oh really?” I asked.

Then I asked If any of his students attended X University (really I could have picked any University). He said “yes.” I pointed out that exact University also has extensive Chemistry, Energy and Engineering programs that do cutting edge work.

My point was if you can do spear phishing on a student to get closer to an Engineering Professor with expertise in Directional Drilling, wouldn’t Russia be interested in that? Would North Korea be interested in obtaining information on the latest tech in chemistry? Of course they would.

Those countries might not even be directly doing the hack attempt. But a entrepreneurial hacker knows there is a market for that data. Would Russia buy it? Yes. Would the US buy it? Yes.

My point was simply that if you can infect the computer or phone of one student, any student, then you can get into the network. And then move laterally. You are in.

Again – to the POWER of ASSOCIATIONS:

Americans combine to give fêtes, found seminaries, build churches, distribute books, and send missionaries to the antipodes. Hospitals, prisons, and schools take shape in that way. Finally, if they want to proclaim a truth or propagate some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form an association. In every case, at the head of any new undertaking, where in France you would find the government or in England some territorial magnate, in the United States you are sure to find an association. I have come across several types of association in America of which, I confess, I had not previously the slightest conception, and I have often admired the extreme skill they show in proposing a common object for the exertions of very many and in inducing them voluntarily to pursue it.

– Alexis de Tocqueville – Book Two, Chapter V. (source)

This is not to scare users of any association management software. It is pointing out facts and hopefully increasing awareness among NGO technology professionals, association executives, association leadership and in fact (hopefully) the whole country, that there is a serious vulnerability if not addressed seriously.

Distributed Authoring – Vocal Authors and the Silent Majority in Associations

ExampletendenciauthorspiechartsSome eye candy for those interested in Associations and Organizational dynamics. 

First, I firmly believe that successful online organizations can be identified by looking at three primary characteristics:

  1. Distributed Authoring – humans adding content and the wisdom of crowds
  2. Strong Subgroups – meaning active committees under 150 people typically
  3. Transparency – a level playing field must be in place for all with controls

These were first articulated in "Engaging Your Membership: What Are You Doing and What Should You Be Doing?" and the Distributed Authoring bullet was expanded in "The Concept of Distributed Authoring for Membership Associations ““ Getting Your Association to “Virtualization“.  And of course everything we program in Tendenci is designed to facilitate these three organizational goals.  But at the end of the day it is up to the association to determine the action and policies it will demonstrate.

Some data.  Here is one graphical snapshot from a randomly selected Tendenci client in aggregate.  I changed the numbers a bit, but in a statistically consistent way so the trends are valid.

ExampletendencisitedocumentsaddedalluserThis first graph is almost completely useless.  I am just sharing my initial frustration.  With over 10k users on the site, less than 50 are adding content for others to read. 

I filtered out stuff like editing a profile or registering for an event as those are more data entry in my mind.  Authoring means contributing an article for the newsletter or posting an event on the calendar (again this is subjective and my opinion).

ExampletendencisiteactiveauthorspowerdisOf the members of the sample association adding value to the group as a whole through authoring content, they follow something close to a power curve. 

I did try fitting a logarithmic and an exponential distribution, but the power curve was the closest match despite the divergence as it approaches zero.

This last graph is a pie chart limited to people who actually added content.  Again the data has beenExampletendenciauthorspiecharts changed a bit, but not much, so the trends are consistent with the actual distribution.  Note again that there are two or three super users adding most of the content that is read and absorbed by the entire membership

Specifically the top 5 users are adding almost 85% of the content. 

One possible explanation is that someone is functioning in an administrative role (not the security level but the act of functioning administratively) with others emailing articles and society events to post on the site.  This is likely in my opinion based on observing interactions and I made no effort to correct the data for author versus typist.

Exampletendencitrends_1A possible future post or article should probably look at which articles and events are being read the most.  Something along the lines of what AttentionTrust is interested in as long as it can be done anonymously for the users (nobody likes big brother, especially me!).  Thanks!

Presenting at American Creativity Association International Conference in March 2006

While preparing for an upcoming presentation in March at the American Creativity Association International Conference 2006 I was researching white papers on association and organization trends.  First some information on the speaking engagement for ACA – I am an attendee as well so I am really looking forward to the conference!

American Creativity Association International Conference 2006
Ed Schipul CEO
Schipul – The Web Marketing Company

Wed 22-Mar-06 8:00 AM to Sat 25-Mar-06 5:00 PM

Now for an interesting white paper from Mr. Barkan who I have not met nor read previously, but I found the following short very interesting from a visual communication perspective.  And of course it may be a bit “the sky is falling” but it IS true that many organizations experience a real performance gap as described below:

Strategic Review on Association Development: International Trends, Issues and Options
Mr. Terrance A. Barkan, AGS (Association Global Services) www.agshq.com

Association_rate_of_change_threat <snip pg.6>Associations with their consensus decision-making processes, tend to be following rather than leading organizations in the implementation of new business practices, programs and services.  In contrast, it is within associations that professional development issues, trends, standards and benchmarks are debated, forged and communicated.

When the rate of change of the external environment exceeds the ability of an association to anticipate or react to that change, a gap develops between what the environment demands and what the association can deliver.  It is this disconnect between the rate of change in the environment and the capacity rate of change of the association to adapt that poses a serious threat to the continued relevance of the organization.

Blatant plug disclaimer. It is the closing of this association performance gap that Tendenci represents.  Even if you don’t know what CMS, RSS or Podcasting are; you get them anyway.  That is the power of a cutting edge MMS application sold in the ASP sales model where everybody wins and your organization remains relevant.  The most important aspect is the enabling of distributed authoring for the association members.