[00:00:00] Chris: So whether or not they’re actually food is an open question, but they last. And especially the Everything bagels are great.
[00:00:09] Ned: I mean, if I’m going to eat a bagel, it’s generally going to be an Everything bagel.
[00:00:14] Chris: That seems to be where I’ve landed. Although for some reason in for some stupid reason, I decided to get clever. And I got cinnamon raisin garbage.
[00:00:27] Ned: Garbage bagel.
[00:00:28] Chris: The decline was striking.
[00:00:32] Ned: Yeah, that’s been and not just Thomas’bagels. Any bagel brand that I’ve had, generally the only good one is either going to be the Everything bagel that’s almost always the best or some sort of sweet bagel that has, like, 20 £0 of sugar dumped on it in some way.
[00:00:52] Chris: It then becomes dessert.
[00:00:54] Ned: Right. Manhattan bagel has one that’s like a cinnamon roll bagel, and it’s basically like a cinnamon roll on top of a bagel.
[00:01:02] Chris: Nice.
[00:01:03] Ned: Yeah. So it’s less about the bagel in that case and more about just, like, all the cinnamon sugar.
[00:01:09] Chris: I like a nice onion bagel, though. Yeah, because it crosses really well with cream cheese. I guess the flavor profiles interact in the right way for my small monkey brain.
[00:01:23] Ned: The only thing about Everything bagels is I really prefer them with salt on them. And not every place puts salt on their Everything bagel.
[00:01:32] Chris: Duncan, that is a controversial take. You will get into some significant arguments.
[00:01:38] Ned: With people who are clearly wrong.
[00:01:42] Chris: If you weren’t wrong, we wouldn’t be disagreeing.
[00:01:46] Ned: You’re welcome to your opinion. It’s an invalid opinion, but you’re welcome to it. I did not have a bagel for breakfast this fine morning. I choose to go with, and this is very appropriate, my Everything sourdough bread.
[00:02:07] Chris: I keep forgetting you do that.
[00:02:08] Ned: Yes. So when I make the dough, I take Everything bagel seasoning and salt is not required because I put salt in the bread anyway. But I take Everything bagel seasoning and I mix it in with the dough and let it rise and everything with that so it’s good and saturated. And then when you slice the bread, it smells like an Everything bagel and kind of tastes like one.
[00:02:31] Chris: Do you have a sodium addiction? Is this something we need to talk about?
[00:02:36] Ned: I don’t need it to live or.
[00:02:37] Chris: Anything, if that’s what you’re what goes into your Cheerios? Just asking.
[00:02:43] Ned: You’d think that that bowl is full of sugar, but you’d be wrong, sir. Have you ever made that mistake?
[00:02:53] Chris: I’ve done the opposite. One time, I remember we went to Diner, which is basically all of New Jersey is just diners. So in high school, we went to this diner, and I wasn’t super paying attention and poured sugar all over my French fries.
[00:03:11] Ned: Surprisingly good.
[00:03:13] Chris: I mean, I ate them.
[00:03:17] Ned: Okay, so it could not have been were they disco fries? You’re in New Jersey. I feel like that’s a requirement.
[00:03:25] Chris: I want to say yes, but honestly, I don’t remember the French fries with AWS much clarity. After X amount of years has gone by.
[00:03:33] Ned: Sure it wasn’t just the amount of sugar that made you black out for a while? Shall we? Hello, alleged human, and welcome to the Chaos Lever podcast. My name is Ned, and I’m definitely not a robot. I’m a real human person with feelings, dreams, and the ability to stay focused on a task for 196 straight hours. That’s normal, right? I was told that we hustled. Chris so here I am, stamping out 36 500 aluminum valve covers for an 87 Hyundai Elantra every hour for the indefinable future. And the noise canceling on my microphone is amazing. Just because I can, just because I don’t do all that, this kind of sounds crazy. With me is Chris, who’s also here. Hi.
[00:04:33] Chris: So, do you work in a fabricator’s.
[00:04:36] Ned: Office or you know, everybody needs a side hustle.
[00:04:42] Chris: I admire the specificity.
[00:04:46] Ned: Those valve covers wear out. Chris and when they all wear out simultaneously, I will be there to reap the harvest.
[00:04:54] Chris: So I learned a fun thing.
[00:04:56] Ned: Okay.
[00:04:57] Chris: You’ve heard of cars, right?
[00:04:59] Ned: No. That doesn’t mean cars have parts to them. Yeah.
[00:05:03] Chris: And there is a specific part that connects the wheelbase to the frame of the car called a Strut.
[00:05:09] Ned: Okay, I’m following.
[00:05:10] Chris: Apparently, these are important.
[00:05:16] Ned: Yeah. If you want your wheels to know, stay on right.
[00:05:21] Chris: And not fly off into the wilderness. So, I got the car inspected, and they were like I think it was the driver’s side. It was one specific strut. Just one strut. Got it replaced, complained about the price, drove the car away. It was like a brand new car.
[00:05:40] Ned: Oh.
[00:05:41] Chris: The difference was unbelievable.
[00:05:45] Ned: Well, the Strut is where the shock goes, as well.
[00:05:48] Chris: Sure.
[00:05:49] Ned: That’s the thing, too. Yes. So it may have been a combination of both.
[00:05:57] Chris: Sometimes you can always get a little bit paranoid when you take your car to a shop and you’re like, did they really do anything that justified that $496.
[00:06:09] Ned: Maybe.
[00:06:10] Chris: This time, though. No doubt whatsoever. It was amazing.
[00:06:16] Ned: They insist on regularly replacing my brake drums, and I’m like, is that really important? Like, if I just take my foot off the accelerator, it’ll stop eventually, right?
[00:06:29] Chris: Yeah. I mean, especially if you go up on, like, grass or towards a forest. It really depends on how quickly you want to stop.
[00:06:37] Ned: I guess there’s always buildings if you’re in a hurry.
[00:06:42] Chris: I mean, you could slam the car into reverse.
[00:06:47] Ned: Also would work. Well, I don’t have a clutch on this. Well, I should say that I don’t operate the clutch that’s on my car, so I don’t have that option, unfortunately. But in my previous car, I could.
[00:06:59] Chris: Have done that, and it would have gone fine. Yeah.
[00:07:03] Ned: I mean, I would only sort of ruined my clutch.
[00:07:06] Chris: They’re definitely built with those kinds of tolerances in mind.
[00:07:10] Ned: Absolutely. I will say one of the benefits to buying an electric car is that you don’t really need to use the.
[00:07:15] Chris: Brake ever because the what’s it called, the regenerative braking thing happens.
[00:07:21] Ned: And assuming that you have that particular technology enabled, if you take your foot off the accelerator, your car immediately stops slowing down.
[00:07:30] Chris: Starts slowing down. It stops speeding up.
[00:07:34] Ned: Yes. All those things.
[00:07:37] Chris: You know how cars work.
[00:07:39] Ned: No.
[00:07:39] Chris: Do we talk about struts?
[00:07:42] Ned: You got the moves like Jagger.
[00:07:44] Chris: Oh my God.
[00:07:45] Ned: Let’s talk about some tech garbage.
[00:07:48] Chris: Let’s do it.
[00:07:49] Ned: Let’s shout.
[00:07:51] Chris: Let’s talk about a thing that I heard about relatively recently didn’t realize was a defined thing. But the more I thought about it, the more I was like, well, this is definitely the future.
[00:08:05] Ned: Okay. Alright.
[00:08:07] Chris: The concept is called slack ops. And this is not the way that you work by slacking off all the time. It’s actually using the technology called Slack. Sure. Like I said, full disclosure, this is not a new idea. The article that I used as the base of this discussion makes it clear that this kind of customer relation strategy has been around for at least three years. But using slack as the primary method of customer communication is what is becoming mainstream. Now, there are certainly people that are going to argue that slack is not the best way to communicate with customers, but it is a way that is gaining popularity, not least because Slack is generally free and everybody has it now.
[00:08:57] Ned: Sure. Thanks, Pandemic.
[00:09:00] Chris: So, yes, there’s some skepticism, some of it warranted. I mean, seriously, going a little bit back in time, if I grabbed you off the street in like 2006 and said there’s going to be a world eating billion dollar company founded by a guy who wears wooden bow ties and his name Chester fucking Butterfield, you’d probably have me arrested, right?
[00:09:19] Ned: Regardless, I’d probably have you arrested because you’re not wearing anything under that trench coat. Time travel rules and all.
[00:09:27] Chris: My body, my choice. So let’s talk history. And by history, I mean customer relations.
[00:09:34] Ned: Alright?
[00:09:36] Chris: So it’s important to remember that customer relations is hard. It is something that a lot of companies don’t do well and definitely don’t pay enough attention to. For the customer, it’s even worse. The problem that they are having with Product X is a brutal nameless. Vindictive, intentional destroyer. That problem only exists to ruin that customer’s day and is specific and willful. Yes, Bianca? Navy Federal Credit Union had this website outage to make your Thursday as miserable as possible. There were meetings about at least three committees. It was a whole thing. And you’re welcome.
[00:10:19] Ned: We’re all sold cysts, aren’t we?
[00:10:23] Chris: The world doesn’t exist outside of my brain. Prove me wrong. But with all of that agita on the customer side, from the service provider side, it is simply anonymous. Ticket number 392-8392.
[00:10:40] Ned: Indeed. And you know if I can interject here, because I’m going to and you don’t have a choice. As someone who works both retail and help desk. I can say to the person who’s on the front line, you immediately recognize that for the customer complaining to you or the person having the problem, this is the thing that is taking up 100% of their mental faculties at this moment.
[00:11:07] Chris: Right.
[00:11:07] Ned: And it is the most important thing in the world. And what they want you to do is two things. One, recognize that it is in fact a problem. They want recognition, potentially empathy. And two, find a way to fix it. That’s the two things that every complaining customer I ever dealt with wanted was acknowledgment. Yes, I see you have a legitimate problem. You are a valid person in this world. And two, I’m going to fix that shit.
[00:11:37] Chris: Right. And ideally fix it quickly.
[00:11:40] Ned: Yes.
[00:11:41] Chris: And if you think about it, customer service in terms of exactly what you talk about is just a profession where you have to solve people’s problems. And there are a lot of professions like that. I mean, doctors have often been referred to as businesslike or uncaring. And the reason is very simple. If they had an intimate emotional relationship with every single patient, they would have a psychotic break.
[00:12:05] Ned: And some do fair.
[00:12:10] Chris: What’s weird about it though, even though they are businesslike or uncaring, almost every doctor I’ve ever had seemed to me to be exceptionally interested in my wellbeing for about 15 minutes. And I think that’s really what you’re talking about. Whether they’re actually caring or not, it feels right and my health improves. So even if I am anonymous customer number 392-8392 in the hands of a competent technician, that’s not a bad thing. Get in, feel better, get out.
[00:12:42] Ned: Yes.
[00:12:43] Chris: Probably pick up a disease from a four year old in the lobby like you do. So companies that don’t do that well have the exact opposite relationship with their customers. And I’m sure you can think off the top of your head, but I don’t think we really need to impugn companies here. So let’s keep it general and just say this is like Ticketmaster.
[00:13:09] Ned: You’re not wrong. You might describe it as more of an adversarial relationship. I don’t like you, you don’t like me, but you don’t have a choice.
[00:13:19] Chris: So what companies, especially in the It space but I’m going to posit that this is going to become more popular over the next decade or so is routine ways of handling customer relations is changing with the emerging popularity of slack. Meaning it’s an ideal delivery model. So let’s talk about that. Sound good?
[00:13:39] Ned: Sounds great. Let’s do it.
[00:13:41] Chris: Fantastic. So customer complaints, like you said, a customer’s complaint is the most important thing to them at that time. And what they end up doing if they do not get satisfaction is complain. Now, in the modern world, the amounts of complaining that can be done and the ways that it can be done are so much more varied.
[00:14:11] Ned: You do.
[00:14:13] Chris: Our parents grew up when you basically would have to write a letter to the company to complain. Or I guess if you were particularly dramatic you could put something in the newspaper.
[00:14:25] Ned: You could potentially, if you could find a phone number, call it. But it would probably be a long distance.
[00:14:32] Chris: Right, that’s true too. So these days there are other options. There’s glassdoor, there’s yelp, there is of course Twitter for at least the next couple of weeks. The pace with which people complain and the vitriol with which they complain have both been increasing dramatically over the past ten years, which has put a lot of pressure on companies to do a better job solving problems. One bad tweet taken out of context could legitimately make other people not enter into a business relationship with that company.
[00:15:12] Ned: You and I have experience with this, working for a time at a company that also had a separate dedicated data and analytics group and what their main service that they provided was tracking user sentiment across social media and trying to help improve it.
[00:15:28] Chris: Right. And these are significant numbers. So a study by the Harvard Business School a couple years ago found that companies that respond to customer complaints on social media improve their customer satisfaction ratings by an average of 25%.
[00:15:45] Ned: Absolutely.
[00:15:47] Chris: I wrote this and said this sounds like a small number, but that doesn’t sound like a small number. 25 is a significant percentage.
[00:15:54] Ned: It is. And I have found myself among that 25% in the past because if I think about going to the support site of a various company, I’m probably going to have to fill out this really long form and wait God knows how long for a response. Or I can dash off a sloppy tweet adding them and get a response almost immediately. And I did this pretty recently with Samsung support and got a response within five minutes posting the tweet, which is good, it’s better than the website, which I think I still have not heard back from.
[00:16:34] Chris: Yeah. And the website we’ll talk about in a second. But really the biggest thing about that is when you fill out that form you’ve got no idea what happens next. That form could just be deleted completely your ticketmaster. So there are ways that people communicate with clients I’m sorry, with their customers. And the top five even of today are people try to call, people try to go in person, which is adorable. People send an email, people use social media like we just talked about or they use chat bots on the website. So think about all of the companies that suck a customer management like Ticketmaster and which ones that they don’t have out of this list. Because what you want is immediate gratification and what you get from a phone call is exactly that, assuming you don’t call and get a robot. As you go down the list of popularity with customers, it’s further and further away from that immediate response. So that is what Slack Ops is trying to fill the blank on. So a chatbot is fine, and actually there are plenty of bots in Slack. But Slack Ops means you will actually talk to a person.
[00:18:01] Chris: Or maybe it’s similar to a tech queue, but you at least get the immediate response from something or someone so that you don’t think, well, I just filled out that form for absolutely no reason. Also, just as a side point, Microsoft, why is Team still terrible?
[00:18:24] Ned: Wow. Okay. I mean, I have barely used it, so I don’t have a strong opinion on it, but it seems like you might.
[00:18:33] Chris: Did you use it three years ago? Yes, it’s exactly the same.
[00:18:38] Ned: That is sad. I have a sad thing that hurts me.
[00:18:42] Chris: I am just saying if they had done better, maybe this would be called Teams Ops.
[00:18:50] Ned: I’ve heard it called more broadly, chat Ops. I don’t know if that’s the same thing.
[00:18:55] Chris: So I’ve heard that before and I disregarded it because it sounds dumb.
[00:19:00] Ned: That’s fair. Slack ops is better.
[00:19:03] Chris: So really beating around the bush. But the honest truth is Slack Ops is simply definitive communication based on immediate contact with a customer via the Slack platform. You buy product X, you get access to that company’s support channel or whatever the terminology is. I use Slack reluctantly, but I mostly get it right. It’s a series of tubes.
[00:19:31] Ned: Yes. And you stuff those tubes with potato chips.
[00:19:35] Chris: So if there is one person listening that doesn’t actually know what Slack it is just a quick refresher. Slack is a messaging app that allows businesses to communicate with their customers in real time. Slack can be used to send messages, share files, and collaborate on products. It is a great tool for customer relations because it allows businesses to keep track of all their conversations with customers in one place. And I definitely didn’t copy and paste that.
[00:19:59] Ned: Okay?
[00:20:01] Chris: When I started, I didn’t really dig slack. I thought it was stupid. I thought it was silly and expensive and Teams was fine and free.
[00:20:11] Ned: Guess what? Teams isn’t anymore.
[00:20:15] Chris: I may or may not have been influenced in that negativity by the fact that the guy who started Slack is actually called Chester fucking Butterworth, but that might just be me.
[00:20:26] Ned: And the fact that he did in fact wear a wooden bow tie did not help the situation at all. Like, if your name no, I guess you decide. My name is already Tweet. I might as well lean into it. You can change your name.
[00:20:40] Chris: Magazine cover. Was that like a fortune or something?
[00:20:43] Ned: I think so.
[00:20:45] Chris: Anyway, Slack Ops using Slack because customers use Slack so you can communicate with your customers faster. So that’s all they’re trying to do is solve a customer’s problems quickly. Anything that a company can do that advances that goal that is not expensive, important, is going to be considered a net win. Customers who get access usually get a dedicated Slack channel with their vendor of choice, and they can interact immediately with technicians or engineers who are online. And that is the first bonus for customers, really. I guess it’s two bonuses mush together. One is you get immediate gratification. And two, ideally, who you’re talking to is not a help desk person who’s just following a script.
[00:21:35] Ned: Fair enough.
[00:21:37] Chris: So get rid of the middle man and let customers interact directly with the people who have the skill and the ability to solve their problems. Now, you might be thinking to yourself self, what about ticketing? How do we keep track of incidents that are reported via such a simple and silly interface? AWS, Slack, that is a lot of s’s.
[00:21:57] Ned: Yes, it is. I’m all tongue tied, and you would.
[00:22:02] Chris: Be right to ask that question. But slack ops requires more than just Q and a time. It’s also got drum roll, please. Bots.
[00:22:14] Ned: Yay, yay, yay.
[00:22:18] Chris: So infuriatingly. There’s already a bot called Slack bot that’s built into the platform, so I can’t use that term, but what the hell else am I going to call bots on Slack?
[00:22:30] Ned: That’s a valid point.
[00:22:33] Chris: In any event, you can write pretty creative and comprehensive bots on Slack that can do things like automatically open a ticket within service now or some other it SM whenever a customer sends a question to that dedicated Slack channel. So all of the monitoring, all of the tracking that you would do normally if somebody called in or filled out one of those legendary forms, can do that here, too.
[00:23:00] Ned: Okay.
[00:23:01] Chris: The goal is efficiency, simplicity of communication, and making sure that everything works as quickly as possible. And I just want to highlight one company that does this extremely well. They are called cumulo. And Cumulo builds their own file system, have hardware to support it, can run in the cloud. It’s really a platform for sharing data wherever you want to share data. So the product itself is pretty straightforward and pretty cool. So really all they are is a storage vendor. But they have gone out of their way to focus on customer satisfaction in ways that has helped them stand out from the admittedly very crowded storage crowd. Some stats that they rightly brag about on the Slack website itself is an NPS score of over 80 for seven quarters in a row, which is excellent. An increase in engagement via Slack to 88%, and a nearperfect resolution rate for issues that were raised in Slack. And alltime highs consistently reported for agent response time and time to resolution. All of this because they use Slack as a primary way to communicate with clients. So one of the things that Slack Ops does in order to make these types of things possible is since you’re having an immediate conversation, the engineer can ask a follow up question, which the customer can then answer immediately, in some cases by copying and pasting log entries.
[00:24:43] Ned: Yeah. If I think about a typical way that this would have gone down with a form based or email based communication, it would look something like, oh, I got a response via email that they’re asking for some logs and I would then go through whatever hoops they forced me to jump through to submit a file, which is usually going to be difficult and involve Java applets somehow and.
[00:25:05] Chris: Will fail at least twice.
[00:25:06] Ned: At least twice. And then once I’ve collected those logs and sent them back, they will tell me via another message, maybe half an hour, an hour later, that they are looking at the logs and they will get back to me and then maybe tomorrow I’ll get another communication from them. It is not real time, it’s not interactive and it’s not easy.
[00:25:26] Chris: And the thing about it is that actually makes things worse for the customer and for the engineer. Because if you’re an engineer and you have a dedicated 15 minutes to solve a problem, something you’re familiar with, you’ll probably solve it in that 15 minutes. But if it’s a back and forth and you have to get an email and you have to wait a day, you’re not going to remember and you’re going to have to start from scratch again. It makes solving tickets take longer when you have a delay in getting the information you need to understand the problem. And cumulative makes no bones about how important this is with Customer Success manager Mandy Evans stating, quote, without Slack, we wouldn’t be able to build such a strong and trusted relationship with our customers. Now this is where Slack Ops gets interesting for companies like Cumulo in particular. Because not only can a customer raise an issue via the Slack channel, cumulo themselves can preemptively message a customer if they see an issue with a Cumulo device or installation. More on this in a second. Okay, it’s been a second. This is really the next stage.
[00:26:40] Chris: And the most interesting part about Slack Ops is what you can do instead of responding to a customer complaint. But what can you do proactively to support the customers environment? So let’s stick with our Cumulo example. If you have a Cumulo support contract, the device can optionally phone home and the data received will be evaluated by AI. And if there is an issue noticed or predicted, the customer end cumululo will simultaneously be notified in that Slack channel. So this can be something simple as like your file system is 90% full or it could be something more risky like three of your eight hard drives are at risk of failure. Data that is just pulled back to home analyzed across their entire customer base, but then the individual customers themselves get specific notifications with what they can do to solve the problem quickly.
[00:27:40] Ned: What’s interesting is some organizations that I’ve had to lodge a complaint with would have something similar to this in sort of the form of an online chat. So you go to their support site, you pull up an online chat. But that’s something that each organization has to build custom for their website. And to me, the big benefit here is you’re leveraging a platform that already exists. And honestly, you’re probably already using internally anyway.
[00:28:09] Chris: Correct? And the fact that Slack is slowly taking over just about every It environment in the entire world makes these deployments have a logical base of operations. Everybody using slack. Let’s take advantage of Slack to do business things. And that’s where we get to the next step in terms of Slack ops. What if we don’t just do reactive customer management and troubleshooting? What if we make an entire business solely built around the ability to communicate with customers via Slack, with Slack bots and the like? Welcome to slack offs, baby. You just got butterfielded, yo. That sounded awful.
[00:28:58] Ned: Yeah, I didn’t say that I am uncomfortable.
[00:29:03] Chris: So this is the Webbyst 3.0 version of Slack ops. And really, we should introduce it by going all 30 for 30 here, which is a reference you probably don’t get.
[00:29:15] Ned: No.
[00:29:16] Chris: What if I told you that I could create a whole business that only interacted with its customers through Slack? Now, we’re running short on time, so I will just focus on one example category where this makes perfect sense, and that is any kind of managed operations.
[00:29:32] Ned: I can see that.
[00:29:34] Chris: So think about everything we talked about and then apply it in a proactive way from something like monitoring and managing basically everything in your It stack. This doesn’t have to be on prem. In fact, it’s probably better if it’s cloudbased only, which is obviously the other future managed ops companies can get now read only, hopefully. Don’t be dumb, dumb. With your IAM people management ops companies can get access to your environment, analyze it again with some type of tooling system, and then provide daily updates and proactive alerts about status and recommendations. Now, this can be about things like utilization, like maybe up or down. Like, you have IaaS installations that are only running at 5%. You should probably scale them down. You have a number of users who have not logged in for 365 days. Those accounts should be deleted. Stuff like that can be analyzed from a read only perspective. And then the engineers can be notified by Slack. Because Slack is ever present, that means that that company doesn’t have to build Slack. Slack already exists. They just have to build the notifications and fine tune them for what the customer wants or needs.
[00:30:53] Chris: And this is really valuable, especially in the cloud, for cost savings, if for nothing else. The cloud works, as you know, on a utility model, so literally every second counts. So I’ve seen a number of companies come into the space around those two things. One is basic security, best practices. And that’s important because things like Miter and the alerts that come out are ever changing. So if you have a third party company that has expertise in monitoring your environment and they can make recommendations for you to stay secure, that’s a lot easier than you trying to do it yourself in most cases. And the other one is cost management. One of the biggest things that people do in the cloud is waste money. True, it’s endemic to the cloud, and one of the biggest reasons for that, as you know, is that the cloud is confusing sometimes, especially at scale. So if you have a third party company that can look at your environment and say things like, these virtual machines have been running, but they don’t have a network connection to anything else in your environment, we recommend you delete them. Or this server is in the development environment and has been running 24/7 for 30 days.
[00:32:18] Chris: Probably doesn’t need to be that. Should we put it on its power on power off schedule? Little stuff like that adds up and saves companies a lot of money. Having said that, I feel like we should start a company that does this. I don’t think anybody else has thought of this yet.
[00:32:36] Ned: We should not publish this episode then. Everyone that’s listening, you were under NDA now.
[00:32:45] Chris: So that’s pretty much where we stand right now. I think we’re on the precipice of a lot more companies doing a lot more creative things than just the low hanging fruit that we’ve talked about. I don’t necessarily know exactly what that’s going to look like, but like I said, slack is ever present, so I expect this to expand a lot. Oh, and just for the pedantic in the crowd, yes, I know his name isn’t Chester Butterfield, it’s Stewart Butterfield. But be honest with yourself and those that love you. Is that better? Is Stewart better?
[00:33:22] Ned: I don’t know.
[00:33:23] Chris: And also, yes, I recognize that he actually seems like a grounded and thoughtful guy who has a lot of interesting ideas about the future of work. Can I please just make fun of his dumb name without everyone jumping down my throat every 5 seconds? Jeez.
[00:33:36] Ned: Yeah, that is your cross to bear, my friend.
[00:33:39] Chris: Wouldn’t bowtie, Ned.
[00:33:41] Ned: Now that’s a decision that he made on his own.
[00:33:44] Chris: That was a choice.
[00:33:45] Ned: That was a choice that he made.
[00:33:48] Chris: Oh, lightning round, lightning round.
[00:33:52] Ned: Android. OEM, keys leaked. Still not getting an iPhone, Howard? I’m sorry, Chris, I’m just a contrarian at heart. And when people tell me how great something is, oftentimes at great and exhaustive length, I’m primed to run in the other direction. In this case, from the iPhone 3G directly into the arms of Android, where I have comfortably, mostly stayed for the last eleven years. Christ.
[00:34:20] Chris: I said, God, you’re old.
[00:34:21] Ned: Really? Been eleven years? Hold on. Carry the two. Yep, 2011 HTC Thunderbolt. That was my first Android phone. So anyway, turns out that the signing. Keys for many of the biggest Android OEMs have been leaked and in some cases have been leaked for years and are still actively being used by those selfsame OEMs. Samsung in particular continues to use their leaked key to sign application updates for their suite of addons like Bixby and Samsung Pay. Given that Samsung has a 28% market share second only to Apple, that’s bad. Yes, bad. Now how bad? That part is harder to say. According to a story from Arsetchnica, Samsung has been frustratingly opaque about what they are still using the signing key for and what measures they have taken to prevent malicious copycat apps from using those keys. Based on some excellent detail from Michelle Rahman, cohost of the Android show, signing keys are used to prove the provenance of applications for Android. The developer signs the app with the key and Android checks to make sure the key of the update matches the current key of the application. Apps coming to the Google Play Store are routinely scanned and are forced to update their keys on a regular basis, which is a good thing.
[00:35:52] Chris: Yay.
[00:35:53] Ned: However, preloaded apps from the OEM do not go through the same channel and have the added bonus of being able to run as Android system. That’s right, more permissions and less security. There are other controls in place to prevent rogue updates from hitting your Samsung phone, but both Google and Samsung haven’t clarified what those protections are and what users can do to improve their security. The best course of action is to only install Android apps from the Play Store and disable preloaded apps that you don’t use or buy an iPhone. Use Sheep.
[00:36:34] Chris: I thought it was Skynet we were supposed to be afraid of, not the GCP move over Detroit. San Francisco is here to usher in America’s first remote controlled murder bots. My favorite part is where the city council voted to approve this policy, claiming that the state would mandate it regardless. So maybe vote no because this concept is terrifying. The new rule will allow the San Francisco Police Department only in, quote, extreme circumstances and with, quote, the highest levels of approvals to basically send a bulletproof remote controlled machine gun into a situation with a license to kill. Now, on the one hand, I am not opposed to keeping police or anybody safe. Why risk human life when there is an alternative? But on the other hand, I can’t be the only person concerned that the definitions of extreme circumstances and highest levels of approvals feel a little squishy. Police violence against civilians is already, shall we say, a controversial topic. The skepticism thinks that this is not going to write that wrong. In the long term, it will probably be quite the opposite. Now, crucially, the current approval does not permit AI based murder bots yet.
[00:38:10] Chris: Something tells me though, that we’re already halfway down the slippery slope towards other extreme circumstances.
[00:38:21] Ned: Rexpace Fanatically tells you to go away. For those of you who don’t remember, rackspace used to have a slogan of fanatical support. It was a little frightening, honestly. In June of 2020, they changed the company name to Rackspace Technologies and dropped the fanatical slogan in favor of embrace technology empower customers, deliver the future. Whew. Whole lot of full stops in that new slogan. Just like their hosted Exchange product, which stopped on December 2 due to an unnamed issue. As of this writing, Rackspace has not clarified what the inciting incident incident was that caused them to shut down their exchange service for thousands of customers, nor whether there is risk of data loss or leakage. Now, if this is simply a patching issue with their servers, where they shut things down to prevent data loss, it’s not great. But it’s better than the alternative that Rackspace’s hosted. Exchange was hacked using one of many wellknown vulnerabilities on Microsoft Exchange, and data was exfiltrated by unknown adversaries. That’s, as we call in the business, worse for those left in the lurch on a Friday. Good job, Rackspace. They are advising that their users migrate to Microsoft 365 to restore email services and offering free licenses for customers who want to attempt the migration.
[00:39:49] Ned: Rackspace suggests that such a migration should take but a moment, 30 to 60 minutes at the most. Those of us who have actually performed migrations to Exchange online can only shake our heads in confused bewilderment. Even if you are successful in the account migration, rackspace still has all your exchange data, so your users will be migrated into empty mailboxes. I suppose that is one way to get to inbox zero. Obviously, after more than three days of downtime, customers are furious. And this is looking very much like a death knell to Rackspaces already declining profile in the industry. Where once we had Fanatics, we have now only sadness. Maybe they should have implemented slack ops.
[00:40:38] Chris: If you ever want to know how much of a scam something is, just look at the people involved. Exhibit one crypto evidence. Everyone in crypto specifically, and more recently, the jerk off who organized the fire festival. Not a match made in heaven. Billy McFarland. Politely called a rack on tour by some, not by himself, because I guarantee he has no idea what that word actually means. And called a criminal fabulous who wishes he was capable enough to pull off a real Ponzi scheme by everyone else, is finally back from house arrest. And thank goodness. Surely the world will be a better place with Billy in it. Just kidding. He’s a Belend and everything. He pitches his trash evidence, his new intelligencefree initiative called Pyrt, all capital letters and is supposed to be pronounced pirate because Billy is awful. What is pirate, you might ask? Well, in his words, pirate is, quote, a technology I’ve been working on for the past few years called the Vid SaaS r the virtual immersive decentralized reality. Holy hell. So what he’s been working on is nothing. All those words, in that order, mean absolutely nothing. Good talk, Bill. There was more to his chat, but frankly, it’s a little pointless.
[00:42:13] Chris: To summarize further, this is clearly nonsense that no one should pay any attention to, brought to us by a literal felon. In a just world, no one would ever take an adult who still insists on calling themselves Billy seriously ever again. Apologies to Billy Joel. He knows what he did. We live, unfortunately, in this world, where even someone as contemptible as Jeffrey Skilling of Enron fame can get out of prison and immediately start a new business.
[00:42:46] Ned: When someone tells you who they are, believe them.
[00:42:50] Chris: Believe them.
[00:42:52] Ned: Starlink Gen two satellites. Given the green light in hopes of bolstering the diminished bandwidth being experienced by Starlink users, SpaceX has received the go ahead from the FCC to launch the second generation of Starlink satellites into space. The gen Two satellites are far beefier than their gen One counterparts, coming in at 22ft long, and two, £755 versus the previous generation, £573. That’s five times more on board the Gen Two satellites are the new eBAND system to work with next gen ground stations and a goal of building shells at various orbital levels to produce a more robust, lower, latency and higher bandwidth network. Unfortunately, there are two things standing in the way of their space Internet visions. First, the current generation of Falcon rockets are unable to carry enough Gen Two satellites per launch to make the process financially viable. So the gen Two satellites will have to wait until Starship is ready, which is worrisome, since Starship has not yet had a successful flight and the last test launch was back in May. Secondly, Starlink had requested FCC approval for 300 satellites in multiple orbital levels, but the FCC has only granted 7500 satellites at a specific orbit, citing concerns valid concerns, about space debris.
[00:44:18] Ned: If you have a Starlink subscription today, know that better bandwidth and more capacity is on the way. But it might be a minute or a couple of years before you see it.
[00:44:30] Chris: That’s a lot of minutes. AWS reinvent finished on Friday, and there was much rejoicing.
[00:44:38] Ned: Yay yay.
[00:44:41] Chris: So, as is tradition, there were new features and some new services released. But from everything I’ve seen and heard, it frankly does not seem like there was anything superlatively newsworthy. So why am I talking about it? Because it’s late and I’m tired. And the Nedbot 3000 does not like when there are empty shots in this slow blue sorry, reboot. And the Nedbot 3000 does not like it when there are empty slots in the show’s script. Big wins from the event. None small to medium wins, though. I mean, there were some. The biggest one, from a security perspective, is that you can now enable multiple MFA devices for root IAM users. This is a big deal and was definitely necessary. Losing access to that root account is not good. And really, the only question is why on earth did it take this long? Another one that came up was Amazon code Catalyst. I am certain there are tens of thousands of dude vROps who are jacked about this offering. Basically, it seems like a low no code solution to build real infrastructure in AWS without all the annoying difficulty of infrastructure experience or security posture management.
[00:46:05] Chris: Or what will this cost me? Month to month, boring questions and then AWS. Cloud watch. AWS Cloud Watch is a service that really should be better. I honestly, truly, I want it to succeed. You’re AWS. You’re building a management and monitoring solution. How is it that it’s only just now able to monitor across accounts, but still can’t monitor across regions? What the heck is that about? Ned, I’m asking you specifically.
[00:46:44] Ned: They don’t care.
[00:46:46] Chris: It’s probably it. So yeah, not a ton. Seemed fine. Marginal improvement. Small high five.
[00:46:57] Ned: It doesn’t help that Data Dog has been eating their lunch for years, and at some point, AWS is just going.
[00:47:03] Chris: To buy them, most likely for a trillion dollars.
[00:47:07] Ned: Considering how Data Dog was plastered across every single surface and reinvent, yeah, it would just be easy to change that to an AWS logo. And we’re done and dated.
[00:47:19] Chris: Dog is already prohibitively expensive, so it fits in nicely.
[00:47:22] Ned: Just right in that niche. No problem. No notes. Good job, everybody. Thanks for listening or something. I guess you found it worthwhile enough if you made it all the way to the end. So congratulations to your friend. You accomplished something. Now you can sit on hold with Rackspace for the remainder of the day and simply enjoy their soothing hold music. You earned it. You can find me or Chris on Twitter at Ned 1313 and at Heiner 80 respectively, or follow the show at Chaos underscore Lever if that’s the kind of thing you’re into. It’s actually tweeting these days.
[00:47:52] Chris: For now, yay.
[00:47:54] Ned: Show notes are email@example.com if you like reading things. So are the lightning rounds as blog posts, but you shouldn’t read any of that garbage. Podcasts are better in every conceivable way. We’ll be back next week to see what fresh hell is upon us. Tata. For now.
[00:48:11] Chris: So we can admit that Rackspace was ransomware, right?
[00:48:15] Ned: Oh, absolutely.
[00:48:16] Chris: Just between you and me. Yeah, that’s definitely what happened.
[00:48:18] Ned: We’ve definitely stopped recording, so we can just, like, wildly guess at what’s going on. I 100% believe they got ransomwareed and had to shut everything down because all the data was locked.
[00:48:31] Chris: Also, birds aren’t real.
[00:48:35] Ned: I tend to agree. Government spinals tinfoils, whatever.
[00:48:41] Chris: Tin foil birds aren’t real.
Episode: 37 Published: 12/06/2022
Intro and outro music by James Bellavance copyright 2022
Our story starts with a young Chris growing up in the agrarian community of Central New Jersey. Son of an eccentric sheep herder, Chris’ early life was that of toil and misery. When he wasn’t pressing cheese for his father’s failing upscale Fromage emporium, he languished on a meager diet of Dinty Moore and boiled socks. His teenage years introduced new wrinkles in an already beleaguered existence with the arrival of an Atari 2600. While at first it seemed a blessed distraction from milking ornery sheep, Chris fell victim to an obsession with achieving the perfect Pitfall game. Hours spent in the grips of Indiana Jones-esque adventure warped poor Chris’ mind and brought him to the maw of madness. It was at that moment he met our hero, Ned Bellavance, who shepherded him along a path of freedom out of his feverish, vine-filled hellscape. To this day Chris is haunted by visions of alligator jaws snapping shut, but with the help of Ned, he freed himself from the confines of Atari obsession to become a somewhat productive member of society. You can find Chris at coin operated laundromats, lecturing ironing boards for being itinerant. And as the cohost on the Chaos Lever podcast.
Ned is an industry veteran with piercing blue eyes, an indomitable spirit, and the thick hair of someone half his age. He is the founder and sole employee of the ludicrously successful Ned in the Cloud LLC, which has rocked the tech world with its meteoric rise in power and prestige. You can find Ned and his company at the most lavish and exclusive tech events, or at least in theory you could, since you wouldn’t actually be allowed into such hallowed circles. When Ned isn’t sailing on his 500 ft. yacht with Sir Richard Branson or volunteering at a local youth steeplechase charity, you can find him doing charity work of another kind, cohosting the Chaos Lever podcast with Chris Hayner. Really, he’s doing Chris a huge favor by even showing up. You should feel grateful Chris. Oaths of fealty, acts of contrition, and tokens of appreciation may be sent via carrier pigeon to his palatial estate on the Isle of Man.