The Ethics Centre: Injecting artificial intelligence with human empathy

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Proud to see Allan’s latest piece on AI published by The Ethics Centre. Here is the full text or you can read it there:

The great promise of artificial intelligence is efficiency. The finely tuned mechanics of AI will free up societies to explore new, softer skills while industries thrive on automation.

However, if we’ve learned anything from the great promise of the Internet – which was supposed to bring equality by leveling the playing field – it’s clear new technologies can be rife with complications unwittingly introduced by the humans who created them.

The rise of artificial intelligence is exciting, but the drive toward efficiency must not happen without a corresponding push for strong ethics to guide the process. Otherwise, the advancements of AI will be undercut by human fallibility and biases. This is as true for AI’s application in the pursuit of social justice as it is in basic business practices like customer service.

Empathy

The ethical questions surrounding AI have long been the subject of science fiction, but today they are quickly becoming real-world concerns. Human intelligence has a direct relationship to human empathy. If this sensitivity doesn’t translate into artificial intelligence the consequences could be dire. We must examine how humans learn in order to build an ethical education process for AI.

AI is not merely programmed – it is trained like a human. If AI doesn’t learn the right lessons, ethical problems will inevitably arise. We’ve already seen examples, such as the tendency of facial recognition software to misidentify people of colour as criminals.

Biased AI

In the United States, a piece of software called Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (Compas) was used to assess the risk of defendants reoffending and had an impact on their sentencing. Compas was found to be twice as likely to misclassify non-white defendants as higher risk offenders, while white defendants were misclassified as lower risk much more often than non-white defendants. This is a training issue. If AI is predominantly trained in Caucasian faces, it will disadvantage minorities.

This example might seem far removed from us here in Australia but consider the consequences if it were in place here. What if a similar technology was being used at airports for customs checks, or part of a pre-screening process used by recruiters and employment agencies?

“Human intelligence has a direct relationship to human empathy.”

If racism and other forms of discrimination are unintentionally programmed into AI, not only will it mirror many of the failings of analog society, but it could magnify them.

While heightened instances of injustice are obviously unacceptable outcomes for AI, there are additional possibilities that don’t serve our best interests and should be avoided. The foremost example of this is in customer service.

AI vs human customer service

Every business wants the most efficient and productive processes possible but sometimes better is actually worse. Eventually, an AI solution will do a better job at making appointments, answering questions, and handling phone calls. When that time comes, AI might not always be the right solution.

Particularly with more complex matters, humans want to talk to other humans. Not only do they want their problem resolved, but they want to feel like they’ve been heard. They want empathy. This is something AI cannot do.

AI is inevitable. In fact, you’re probably already using it without being aware of it. There is no doubt that the proper application of AI will make us more efficient as a society, but the temptation to rely blindly on AI is unadvisable.

We must be aware of our biases when creating new technologies and do everything in our power to ensure they aren’t baked into algorithms. As more functions are handed over to AI, we must also remember that sometimes there’s no substitute for human-to-human interaction.

After all, we’re only human.

Allan Waddell is founder and Co-CEO of Kablamo, an Australian cloud based tech software company.

The "Odd Couple" - my first year as co-CEO 

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One year ago, I made the biggest move of my career and joined Kablamo as co-CEO.

Not only was shared leadership new to me, but from the outset it was clear Allan and I were very different people.

Allan brings the creativity and technical vision to our team. His insights into areas like artificial intelligence and running Agile at scale are mind blowing, and the right kind of crazy. He can take the esoteric and make it accessible, pushing all of us to think deeper, farther.

My strengths? Let’s just say I leave that kind of creativity to Al. I know how to build and scale businesses, plan and execute strategies, and keep organisations and people happy as they strive for greatness.

Human instinct being what it is, the initial reaction is to push away from this kind of personal difference in a co-CEO model. It can be a scary leap into darkness for both people. The “visionary” can worry that the “manager” mind might over-manage and constrain —becoming an idea killer, a clipper of wings. On the other hand, the manager may worry that the visionary will be impossible to channel in a way that can deliver consistent customer outcomes and meet payroll each week!

Long story short, between my unfamiliarity with this shared approach, and the fact we’re both such polar opposites, I was nervous about what lay ahead.             

While I’ve started with the differences, for the co-CEO model to work there must be some critical similarities – similarities which are values-based, not financial. 

For Allan and I, nurturing a strong values-led culture at Kablamo is a principle neither of us will compromise on. We have rock solid alignment around the type of business we want to build, how we want to treat people and how we want to be treated in return. We’d rather walk away than build a shitty, transactional company and culture filled with uninspired people who are just there for a paycheck.

And this brings me to another critical point: Ego. A healthy confidence and belief is one thing, but for the co-CEO model to work, you need to have right-sized egos that are willing to accept imperfection, share success and to learn from failure. In that sense, it’s not for everyone. Needless to say, trust —and a lot of it— needs to be a big shared value between both leaders.

So, what’s been the result for Allan, myself and the Kablamo team in our first year as co-CEOs? By embracing our differences, Kablamo has grown far beyond what I thought possible when I first agreed to share the CEO role. Our varied skill sets allow us to focus on the areas we excel, which has helped lead to strong organisational growth. 

In fact, 12 months on, it’s clear our differences are one of the biggest benefits of this co-CEO model (in a future post, I plan on digging down into this a bit more).

Not only has our customer base significantly expanded to include some of Australia’s largest media, financial and industrial organisations, we’ve more than tripled our staff numbers to accommodate the demand.

While growth is important, what matters most to Allan and me is Kablamo’s culture. We’ve developed a strong set of values and a vision for our future. We’ve also grown and evolved our leadership group on our mission to become a high performing team. We’ve started our employee benefits program, and launched our giving arm, Kablamo Impact. We want to build a good company, not just a financially successful company.

Underpinning this all is our focus on building a world-beating culture. Our secret sauce is our people. Day-in and day-out, this team is delivering truly transformational digital products and outcomes in some of Australia’s largest and most well-known organisations.

And their hard work is being recognised. Earlier this year, we were named as finalists at AWS’s Partner of the Year awards for Data, Analytics and Machine Learning.

Now with a solid foundation built, and much more confidence in our shared leadership model, this next financial year will be the most exciting in our history… stay tuned.

Even if you’re not ready or convinced by the co-CEO path, consider giving shared leadership a try, if only in a limited way —sometimes going against your human instinct can pay off. 

Read on LinkedIn and connect with Angus f.

Neobanks and the coming disruption?

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Check out the full text of Angus Dorney’s take on Neobanks (originally appeared in The Australian, if you want to read it there click here):

When the internet challenged the global media industry, companies were confronted with a stark choice — innovate or perish. Smart people saw the need to prepare for the digital era, and those that successfully digitised their offering stayed ahead of their disrupters.

Despite the media industry constantly managing financial pressures and shrinking budgets, media leaders were quick to innovate because they had to. They drew from a relatively limited war chest and embraced innovation throughout the organisation. In fact, those that failed to do so endured major business losses, including many that were fatal.

The media companies that survived were acutely aware of the need to innovate and actively sought to do so. From a corporate culture perspective, the entire organisation saw the need for technical and product innovation and it was seized enthusiastically throughout the business.

The wide-scale disruption visited upon the media industry should have served as a warning for other sectors. Yet, some industries failed to learn from the lessons of others.

Increasingly, smart people in financial services are passionately waving their hands as the industry finds itself similarly on the brink of a wave of disruption — in this instance at the rise of neobanks.

A neobank is a branchless financial services provider that operates exclusively with customers on digital interfaces, like mobile devices. Uninhibited by the practices of traditional banking, these upstarts are free to weaponise technology to their advantage, in what is essentially a form of guerilla warfare against the incumbents. Much like AirBnB and Uber shook the hospitality and transportation industries to their core, neobanks are set to challenge the banking sector.

In Australia, among the 2.1 million adults over 18 who are looking to change their main financial institution, about 16 per cent of them indicated in a recent Nielsen study that they’d prefer to use a digital bank. This is a five-percentage point year-over-year increase from a previous Nielsen study.

Since the big banks historically operate outside the start-up mentality, and in some instances have been known to dilute the essence of the start-ups they acquire, it’s important to consider what that might mean at scale.

As new entrants to the market, neobanks could be the catalyst that makes the financial services sector sit up and take innovation seriously. It’s critical that when this happens, executives and other leaders understand that innovation can’t happen in isolation. Like the media organisations who got ahead of their disrupters, innovation must be embraced throughout the entire organisation if it’s to have any chance of success.

The shift is already well underway. Neobanks are on the verge of exploding in the Australian market. A surge in applications for restricted banking licenses have been submitted to the prudential regulator APRA, with the first license going to a start-up called Volt. It was the first time in 28 years that a new bank was created in Australia. Start-ups like Xinja and 86 400 will also be important to monitor.

Despite their position as disrupters, neobanks have their own challenges to overcome. As a player in a heavily regulated industry, they can’t afford to forget the importance of network and data security, and governance. While chasing rapid innovation, some fintechs can concentrate too much on their own product features while deprioritising the development of APIs that will enable them to integrate with other products and service providers (including incumbent players). If not managed correctly, this inability to integrate with other platforms can become a major handbrake to future growth.

On the other hand, most incumbent companies in the financial services sector have been slower to innovate because they haven’t yet been forced to. When they do try and innovate, it is not always an organisational priority and is often an experiment made in isolation, separate from the rest of the business.

The finance industry, however, has an advantage that many media organisations don’t — access to massive war chests of capital, much of it within their own control. Whereas the media industry embraces innovation with comparatively limited resources, financial services have significant levels of capital available to invest. All the ingredients are there for the incumbents to lead the trend toward truly branchless digital banking before the newcomers beat them to it, but the big banks must first find the appetite to do so.

Financial services executives need to monitor the nascent neobanks closely and keep pace with their hunger for innovation. By learning from the media industry, they can get ahead of shaping the inevitable change before it’s too late.

Overcoming Customer Stockholm Syndrome

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Kablamo has been breaking some new ground in Australia, engineering and delivering quality digital products as a service. That shouldn’t be notable in any way, but our customers aren’t used to getting exactly what they want, when they want it. 

Sometimes being a high performer in an industry with a bad reputation can be a burden due to what I call Customer Stockholm Syndrome.

Consultancies have been promising digital transformation for years and have largely failed to deliver – this makes our effectiveness a new experience for many. Kablamo is a digital product engineering company, building beautiful software on top of complex data sets. We consistently deliver exactly what our clients need, on time and on budget.

While this should be a perfect storm for kicking goals and landing clients, we have to be careful to avoid a corporate version of organ rejection.

Organ rejection occurs when transplanted tissue is rejected by the recipient's immune system, destroying the transplanted tissue. Despite incredible work from donors and doctors, the body pushes back against something that’s ultimately good for it, and the results can be tragic.

The stakes might be lower in the corporate world, but the risks are no less real. When your company dramatically outperforms what your customer is used to, they can feel like it’s all too good to be true.

As a reflex, clients may feel compelled to take some ill-advised course of action. In our industry, that might include reverting to old enterprise vendor management practices and policies, to their own detriment and ours.

This could mean inserting additional vendors for ‘competitive tension’, introducing reams of over-prescriptive legal doctrine, or building bespoke insurance and risk-prevention techniques – all of which are either unnecessary or only useful to manage the poor vendor relationships they’re used to.

This isn’t the client’s fault, of course. They’ve been held captive by underperforming service providers for years, a feeling we can all relate to. Just like victims of Stockholm Syndrome, they build coping mechanisms to get them through.

The solution lies in getting the customer to realise that by virtue of your product or service, they’re now free of the underperforming vendors. All this without coming off as pushy, which can itself be a trigger to Customer Stockholm Syndrome.

That said, there’s no simple resolution to this issue. It’s a people problem, and people are the best tool you have to solve it. For Kablamo, our leadership team have built careers in negotiating these scenarios, and we will continue to fight the good fight. Not only for ourselves, but for the future of our clients. 


Amazon Textract - An Early Look

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Last year at AWS re:Invent, Amazon Textract was announced as a next-generation OCR service which not only performs word-based translation, but can also provide form and table value extractions in a way that makes it easy for developers to link into their own services. Today marks its Generally Available release.

Optical character recognition (OCR) has always been a challenging problem to solve. The technology to do this has been around since 1914, yet some companies still employee a human workforce to perform laborious data entry from forms and documents into their corporate systems. Textract aims to automate this problem however it does not currently support handwriting within the documents.

Form and Table Support

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In addition to word and line text extraction, form and table support is something that is rare to OCR technologies and even rarer to have it available as programmatically extractable information. Oddly, paragraph support is not present in the service.

Form information is available in API call responses as a key-value set and table information is available as cell blocks with row / column values and cell spanning information. All values regardless of type include bounding box coordinates (which is shown in the console demo screenshots) and confidence scores.

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Testing The Limits

As with most services, the demo document is the best case scenario so I wanted to test with something unknown to see how well it did, using a document I had readily available. Here’s how it did:

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From the screenshot you can see it did fairly well, though it did have some issues:

  • 90° Rotated Text Not Detected: One of the limitations of the service is that it only supports horizontally aligned text, so the text in this was not found correctly.

  • Multiple ‘X’ checks were not discovered: Though it correctly detected one checkmark (as the text ‘X’), it missed two in the same format immediately above it.

  • Did not detect single-row or single-column tables: In our testing with other documents, tables with a single row or single column were not detected as tables.

Pricing and Availability

Textract is marketed as costing $1.50 per 1000 pages, but it’s important to note that’s only for simple text recognition. If you want to detect table data, that price goes up 10x to $15 per 1000 pages and if you add form data the total becomes $65 per 1000 pages, a 43x increase!

As of today, the service has become generally available in the N. Virginia, Oregon, Ohio and Ireland regions. The service is expected to roll out to all commercial regions gradually as they improve the service.

tl;dr

Amazon Textract is a remarkable step up for OCR technologies. It exceeds competition such as the Google-sponsored Terreract project but costs can jump steeply when adding advanced features such as table and form information extraction.

If you’d like help designing an automated document scanning system, get in touch with us to find out how we can help you plan, design or build your solution.

Algorithms and Arrhythmia: How AI is revolutionising healthcare

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Kablamo’s Allan Waddell recently explored Health and AI for Health Care IT. Here’s the piece or you can read it on their site:

Artificial intelligence (AI), neural networks and machine learning can be ethereal concepts to the average punter, but when applied to the health sector their benefits come into sharp focus.

When technology can save a life, it suddenly becomes meaningful. Magnetic fields and radio waves took on a new meaning with the introduction of the MRI machine, and the same will happen with the application of today’s technologies in the health sector. 

We’re just starting to see the impact AI and image recognition can have on healthcare, but it is poised to be the technology’s biggest contribution to society yet.

Earlier this year, a group of Chinese and US researchers developed a program to automatically diagnose childhood illnesses including meningitis, asthma, gastro and the flu. This AI program works faster and, in some cases, more accurately than doctors.

However, as in the early stages of every new discovery, there are obstacles to navigate. Privacy concerns, investment requirements and regulatory issues are just some of the hurdles that need to be overcome. 

Despite the challenges, there are  potential benefits. Doctors are an invaluable part of society, but they are still human, and misdiagnoses happen. According to research, there are approximately 140,000 cases of diagnostic errors in Australia each year, with 21,000 resulting in serious harm and more than 2,000 resulting in death. 

Modern AI promises to solve this issue through the power of neural networks. Unlike traditional software that only does what it’s told, neural networks can teach themselves new skills with enough training data. By reviewing mammograms with and without cancerous cells, for example, a neural network can learn to identify malignant cells in new mammograms.

In 2016, a research team achieved just this. The Houston-based team built a program that analysed mammograms 30 times faster than a human, and with 99 per cent accuracy. More recently, Maryland researchers used AI to diagnose cervical cancer with 91 per cent accuracy, vastly improving the 69 per cent human success rate. 

These diagnoses were all made without an expensive medical professional, and without the cost of a clinic. 

The upshot is AI could offer better diagnosis, to more people, for less money, in less time, allowing doctors to focus on patients that truly need their care. Not only can technology improve current diagnostic methods, but it can also create new ones; neural networks will eventually identify links between symptoms and illnesses that human researchers would never have found.

Unfortunately, the AI healthcare revolution has a down side, and a price many Australians seem unwilling to pay.

To be effective, neural networks need the training data of many thousands of people in order to learn which symptoms correspond to which diagnoses. In the China/US study, 600,000 Chinese health records were used as training data, a feat possible thanks to the sheer size of the country, as well as China’s less stringent privacy culture.

In Australia, we’re far more protective of our data and cognizant of the implications of sharing too much. 

Privacy aside, there are challenges around getting consistent data, both to teach programs and to feed them for diagnosis. 

Inconsistent standards are used across the private and public sector, even between doctors in the same clinic. While getting clean data is technically possible, it could be a regulatory and administrative nightmare.

Despite the obstacles, AI’s potential benefits to healthcare are not just worth pursuing, they should be a priority. Just as governments are now (rightly) planning for the arrival of self-driving cars, we need to plan for an AI powered healthcare system today.

Standards on access to data need to be agreed upon, along with a transparent and open opt-out process. A standardisation of medical data is also long overdue. More than just setting us up for the benefits of AI, patients would see immediate benefit from more consistent data recording.

It’s a long road between here and a world of automated and accurate AI powered healthcare, but it’s one we should start preparing for today. 

Without this preparation we’ll see more noble but half-baked ideas launched before they’re ready, eroding public trust. It’s a world we can see, but one we can only reach with a clear-eyed vision of the journey ahead.  

Amazon AWS Summit Intel

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Great to be able to share this from the AWS Summit and Paul Migliorini, Amazon Web Services’s ANZ lead (as reported by CRN, read the whole story here).

When asked whether AWS's largest partners like Accenture, Deloitte and DXC were getting in on the machine learning action as well, Migliorini said global systems integrators are investing heavily in those areas, but are working with consultancies of all sizes.

"You're looking at these organisations with really deep specific capabilities… Kablamo, DiUS, and Intellify, these sorts of companies… they're working with these larger integrators as well in that really cohesive way for customers. And I think that's one really nice thing about the evolution of the way the partner ecosystems are working today."

Miglironi wrapped up with his three key messages for the channel, which included his call for partners to challenge AWS harder.

"The first is that success will come from thinking long term about customer success, which means that putting a focus on outcomes, no matter how small project or revenue is, everyone will be rewarded by customers for the long term. So we want our partners together with us to think long term and to put customer outcomes ahead of any other short term game.

Amazon Summit News: Kablamo Named Finalist Partner in ML

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Kablamo is proud to have been named a finalist in Data, Analytics and Machine Learning today. CRN covered the story (read here):

Amazon Web Services has named its top partners for 2018, with Melbourne-based Versent being named best consulting partner for the third year in a row.

The awards were handed out during AWS Partner Summit in Sydney this week, selected by a panel of AWS experts.



Video: Why "Build it and they will come" doesn't always work

Watch Victoria dismiss the Field of Dreams’ “build it and they will come” fallacy when it comes to building great UX, or read her comments below.

Victoria:
I find that the way products are traditionally made is "build it and they will come" approach. So, a few people in IT sit in a corner by themselves, make a product. Then they get a manual 200 pages long, give it to the user and say, "Use it for the next 10 years." And that takes an effect. So, if, if somebody feels like something is forced upon them, they are less likely to use it. They're not sure how it integrates with the process, and it might be flat-out wrong. It might actually incl ... increase the burden on their wellbeing.

Using the process where the user is in the beginning, and getting that journey, and seeing how this product can improve them. And doing that from the beginning, so the user feels like they're involved in the process. They feel like they're contributing to it. So that when it comes out on the other side, they're not only love using the product, they're an advocate for it.

Video: Lessons learned from design done wrong

Watch Victoria and Allan talk about why design can go wrong and how to avoid the pitfalls. Read the transcript below.

Victoria:
One thing I see very frequently is UX happens in the beginning, development happens second. And so you do the interview, you do the research, you do the user stories, you have the design, give it to the developer, you walk away and you work on something else.

Now in real life, things change when they get developed so, you would have the journey and you would have all of the principles imbedded in that however, you would start working on one of features making sure that's up to scratch, having the screens, the-the designs and then passing on data onto development and you don't walk away because what I find, more often than not, the developer goes we can do ninety percent but this ten percent it's not really feasible so we would go oh, right let's rethink this so you can tackle this right there and then so you can come up with a better solution. Sometimes the solution is actually better than what you originally came up with. And so you tackle that there, everything becomes unblocked and you can start working on-, on other things. So you have design check-ins. 

Allan:
Victoria's right. That's exactly like, what happens is-is-is sometimes, you know, th--I think any business where there is silos, you're going to have challenges. Um, if you're not thinking about cross functional and the way make cross functional work. Um, it's very easy to go, 'well, let's just stay in solitude, feel safe and secure and we'll have designers a thing over here and we'll make the best design possible and then we'll have this development over here and the best development possible'. Because cross functional is too hard. If you think cross functional is too hard, you--like you really have not been working in the industry long enough because the idea is if you--you have to make that process work if you want to get the agility and the, and the flexibility that Victoria's described. 

I think any business that is still holding onto um, either ivory towers or the way in each of those disciplines without factoring in the results of the other--of any other discipline, that's when it really falls apart. 

Video: How to improve the user experience

Introducing Freddy, Kablamo’s Dev dog, and watch Allan Waddell and Victoria Adams weigh in on what’s needed to make UX work. Here’s a snippet:

It takes experience to know how to engage customers in the right way. It's not as simple as just putting a wire frame in front of a bunch of people and getting a result. You have to know what your tests are for. You have to know what hypotheses you're validating, specifically, and you have to get those answers and be able to measure that in the right way and then understand those results. It's like saying the difference between data and information. You get a whole bunch of data back, but it doesn't really mean what you think it means unless you thought about that preemptively.

Kablamo Appoints Kirsty Trask To Leadership Team

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Great to see ARN and others cover Kirsty’s arrival at Kablamo as regional manager for Melbourne and a welcome addition to our leadership team. All the better because it’s International Women’s Day. Here’s an excerpt from the story:

Cloud software and product developer Kablamo has appointed Kirsty Trask as its regional manager Melbourne.

Trask joins from call recording services provider Dubber where she was a senior product manager.

In her new role at Kablamo, she will oversee the growth across Victoria, software and product development and also coaching teams within client organisations to "adopt and embrace an Agile culture".

Kablamo co-CEO Angus Dorney said Trask’s experience in managing high-performance teams and track record delivering innovative software-centric solutions made her the perfect fit.

“I didn’t want to hire someone with just ‘go-to-market’ experience, that’s a dime-a-dozen,” Dorney said. “I wanted someone who was more strategic, had experience with software and product strategy, someone who can lead the customer journey from a blank sheet of paper all the way through to taking a new product to market."

Trask is a member of the Australian Computer Society’s Women in Victoria Group, and has also worked to encourage more women to pursue careers in technology as part of Females in Information Technology and Telecommunications (FITT).

Read the full story on ARN here.

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Ten ways to attract and keep the best tech talent (when everyone says it’s impossible)

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There is no question that strong tech talent is scarce, but how come some companies get the lion's share of the best and the brightest? Kablamo is a small but fast-growing cloud application development business and, so far, we seem to have a good formula for attracting and retaining really great technical talent, including some engineers with budding global reputations. How? Here are ten ways for organisations large and small that want to do the same. 

  1. Give them choices, change and challenge: The best technical talent needs to live in an environment of rapid customisation and variability – that’s the way they like it. No single solution is ever the same and you can't do cookie cutter. That means your tech team needs to constantly be able to find unique solutions to unique problems. Give them puzzles, hard puzzles and they will thrive.

  2. Forget the flash: Focus on skills and substance, rather than superficial polish. No one likes the developer who speaks the loudest but doesn’t have anyone understanding them. You want to promote as spirit of humility in that we’re here to look after each other and our customers, and stay committed to achieving the smartest answers – smart doesn’t mean shiny, it means real.

  3. Talk about Humans not Human Resources: Thinking of people as resources to be managed is counter-productive. Don’t have a rigid performance management framework. Don’t do mandatory breakfasts or culture-boosting posters. The traditional idea is building a beautiful office where you have employees who never want to leave from sunrise to, well, sunrise again. That’s old fashioned. Instead, work with a more flexible approach to geographic placement. When you attract the best, you trust and you adapt. And when you’re thinking about building human, rather than transactional relationships, you start to get materially better outcomes. 

  4. The best techs are looking for fast and different: Fewer and fewer top graduates from IT programs want to work for a big enterprise tech consultancies. The best tech talent are avoiding slow-moving enterprises and traditional IT vendors because it means a lack of interesting work. They’re not afraid of hard work, but they thrive when each day is different and things are fast-moving. And they now have more choice than ever.

  5. Count on gravity: Ultimately, we get drawn to the people we’d like to work with. This is especially true of tech talent. Great tech talent flocks together. Being interviewed by an outstanding technical mind, implies a wealth of opportunity in development and ground-breaking work. It’s the learning environment that pulls exceptionally bright minds together to tackle challenges in AI, machine learning, robotics, cloud and more. 

  6. Use real values not phoney corporate talk: Businesses talk a lot about values these days, but don’t even get us started on acronyms which sit on an about us pages gathering cobwebs. Yet actions speak louder than words. Not unlike other leading tech companies, Kablamo has already produced several open source projects. We actually built tech for techies that will never pay us a cent – we did this because the team believed in doing it. This also demonstrates commitment to our global developer community about what we contribute, what we stand for and what world we’re trying to create. The right (read: best) people get this. 

  7. Let them roam free: Top tech talent are mobile and flexible. These girls and guys embrace different communication tools and channels in order to make things happen. They work from home, from the train, or during unusual hours of the night – but they do so on their own terms. Unshackle your workforce. The worst trend is companies requiring a return to work-from-base model. 

  8. Treat them like adults and be transparent: You want your tech team to know the things that matter to the business – in other words, treat them like adults. Humans generally like some level of predictability when it comes to major changes to their work environment. It’s common sense, so we apply that basic knowledge to our business, and remain transparent with our team.

  9. Drive competition hard but leave egos at the door: We do ‘Thunder Dome’ at Kablamo, inspired by the movie Mad Max. Our Thunderdome involves someone throwing in a new idea, and having 20 or so engineers brainstorm, thrash, and debate it over drinks and a good time. It’s run by the engineering team and owned by them. Some of our people spend the weekend coding their own projects. It’s a way of life. So don’t get in its way; encourage it.

  10. Don’t force roles on great people who don’t want them: Some engineers strive to become managers. Some engineers strive to become subject matter experts. The latter approach shouldn’t stop anyone from achieving significant leadership positions on your team. Some individuals want to keep working with tools, follow a technical career path, and avoid the distraction or lack of passion for managing people. Too much to ask for? We tell them they can do that if they want to. A humans-first approach will keep driving both individual careers and your mission forward. 

All You Need To Know About Elasticsearch But Were Afraid To Ask.

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When we find sticking points and technical hurdles that come up again and again for us as developers, we try to channel our frustration into something productive —like actually putting down in words something of use for other developers.

That’s what prompted Kablamo’s Ben Boyter to write 5,000 words plus on elasticsearch. Download it below.

It’s aimed at developers who need to write a search interface which is backed by elasticsearch. If you need to perform basic searches across documents with facets then you’ll definitely want to check it out. (It will not cover the setup or use of tools for elastic such as Kibana.)

Here’s a common scenario . . . The architect has decreed that for your next application you will use elasticsearch to provide a rich search experience. Your Operations/DevOp’s person has spun up some instances with elastic, deployed a cluster or through some other means provided you an elastic search HTTP endpoint. Now what? The team is looking to you to provide some guidance, to get them started and set the direction.

Ben’s pointers should be enough for anyone to get started with elastic, produce a modern search interface and know how to do most things. Anything beyond this should be fairly easy to pick up from the elastic documentation once you have this grounding.

Our Friendly AI Survey

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At Kablamo, we work with artificial intelligence at a pretty high technical level and with often very specific objectives (e.g., archival video management).

Being at the coal face means it sometimes really helps to gather a more general, everyday, "real" world take on how people think of AI and how they think it could change our future.

This survey is about helping us all to understand that perspective a little better (and, hey, it might even be fun).

My Business Talks To Allan --Entrepreneur reveals: ‘Why I hired a co-CEO’

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Kablamo co-CEO and Founder, Allan Waddell, recently appeared in MyBusiness to talk about the experience of going from solo to co-CEO. Full story below or you can read it on MyBusiness

It’s said to be lonely at the top when running a business, but as this business owner explains, appointing a co-CEO can be a beneficial way of positioning the company, and oneself, for growth.

Allan Waddell (pictured, left) founded Kablamo, a cloud software development firm, in May 2017, having previously built and sold another business. And, as he admits, he naturally gravitated towards the actual work of the business more than the running of the business itself, especially managing its finances.

For a mixture of business and personal reasons, he decided not to continue running Kablamo alone. So, mid last year, he took the plunge and appointed a co-CEO, Angus Dorney.

My Business spoke with Mr Waddell to find out why he took this approach, whether it has been worthwhile and what insights he can share from his journey so far.

Why did you decide to take on a co-CEO?

Someone wise once said to me, “You’ll be happiest at work when you are kicking goals doing what you do well”. Having already built and sold another consulting business, I knew what my strengths were, but most importantly I knew where I needed support.

When it comes to the technical, product development and sales sides of the business, I’m completely in my element. But I always knew I’d feel more comfortable if I had someone handling the financial and operations aspects of Kablamo.

That’s what makes Angus such a perfect fit; I come up with the ideas and he executes them.

How long did it take you to make that decision?

In the past, I’ve been bitten by having too much undeserved confidence in my leadership team, so since starting Kablamo, I have been aligning myself with mentors and leaders whom I’d one day think could make the leap from mentor to business partner.

Angus is someone I’ve known and respected for a long time, and we were both considering the opportunity for more than a year.

What fears did you have about the move, and how have/are you allaying those fears?

Leadership, and leader change, makes a team nervous. The Kablamo team is made up of incredibly smart people, but smart people naturally have a great deal of self-awareness, which can go hand in hand with self-doubt.

Bringing highly skilled and experienced oversight can sometimes trigger defensive behaviour and fear. Because of this, I didn’t expect the team to trust a new leader immediately, but with Angus, I already knew he would be a great fit culturally, so I could see trust on the horizon.

Did you hunt more widely for the ideal candidate before making the appointment?

I knew Kablamo would benefit from having someone drive the operational side of the business.

Having known Angus for sometime, he was always at the top of my list to share the helm with me at Kablamo — not only is he a great human being, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone with the wealth of experience he has.

He was a perfect fit, both in terms of his skills and how he fit into Kablamo culturally.

What has having a co-CEO enabled you to do so far that you would have been restricted from by flying solo?

Personally, the biggest benefits of having Angus as co-CEO is that I now have more time and our team has more executive skills.

While leading Kablamo by myself, I was in charge of everything — from business management, HR and sales to account management and operations.

Having Angus oversee the operations and financial side of Kablamo gives me more time to focus on building our vision — both from a business and product standpoint — as well as ensuring our culture is second to none.

What challenges have you faced in terms of decision-making and lines of authority, both from employees, clients and even between yourselves?

I anticipated some teething issues with bringing on a new leader, but the key to making this transition run as smoothly as possible was transparency. I was completely honest and up front with the team about why I was bringing Angus on board, and what responsibilities he would have in the business.

Equally, Angus and I clearly defined between ourselves how we would divide the CEO role.

Of course, at the start there were times when it was difficult to hand over control, but by communicating clearly and frequently, we’ve been able to solidify the relationship. When it comes to clients, Angus is well known and highly respected throughout the industry, so he was embraced almost instantly.

What challenges have arisen specifically because of the co-CEO model?

I won’t lie, the co-CEO model did take some getting used to. While I was leading Kablamo myself, I had the final say in everything and my decisions were largely made without scrutiny. With Angus, I now have eyeballs on me and my decisions, which I never had in the past.

While this was the whole idea of moving to the co-CEO model, the change from autonomy to observation was abrupt.

The key to addressing this, we’ve found, is clear and constant communication — if one of us doesn’t agree with the decision the other has made, we discuss it. We don’t let disagreements or clashes of opinion fester.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about the co-CEO model?

This model isn’t for everyone. If by nature you have counter-dependency issues, this power-sharing model will end your happiness.

There are a few key things to keep in mind if you want to explore the co-CEO model.

The first is to have a prior relationship with whoever you’re considering. If you already know much about how they work and how you each get along, you’ll have a greater insight into how the model will work in practice — without this, you’re basically crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

Second, communication is absolutely critical. I can’t stress this enough. You both need to know exactly where you stand, and the only way to achieve this is to speak with each other frankly and frequently.

Finally, sharing for sharing’s sake will inevitably lead to complications. You must have clearly defined realms of responsibility. There will naturally be some overlap, but if you’re absolutely clear on what parts of the business fall under whose control, then each CEO is empowered to own their part.

How facial recognition can unlock video archive value

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Kablamo’s co-CEO, Angus Dorney, recently spoke to ComputerWorld about how facial recognition and AI can unlock tremendous amounts of value in video archives. Read the full story here. An excerpt is below.

Archive value

The capability also has enterprise applications – particularly for media organisations wanting to find relevant footage or stills in their video archives.

“They have millions of hours of video content and its typically stored in multiple legacy systems, there is no or varying meta-tagging, and the search processes for finding content are extremely old and they’re manual and they cut across multiple systems,” explains Angus Dorney, co-CEO of Sydney and Melbourne-based cloud technology firm Kablamo.

“If you’re a newsmaker in a media organisation or work for a government archive and somebody asks you for a specific piece of footage it’s very difficult and time consuming and expensive to try and find,” he adds.

Kablamo builds solutions that have a “YouTube-like user experience” to find relevant archive footage. Using AWS face and object recognition tools, users simply type in a person or thing “and get a list back of prioritised rankings, where it is, and be able to click and access that example right away,” Dorney – a former Rackspace general manager – says.

The machine learning models behind the capability, over time, can refine and adjust their behaviour, making results more accurate and more useful to users.

“You really have a computer starting to function like a human brain around these things which is incredibly exciting,” Dorney adds.

Importing Custom Findings into AWS Security Hub

Often, organizations have a suite of security products to help maintain their on-premises networks, their cloud networks and to help enforce the best practices they put in place. The AWS Security Hub service was announced at re:Invent 2018 and gives security administrators a centralized view of all of these tools by aggregating their findings in a common format, either within the current account or using a master account.

Though Security Hub is in preview, you can access it in your console now and it comes with out-of-the-box support for AWS services such as GuardDuty, Macie and Inspector as well as from 3rd party providers like Rapid7, Qualys, Splunk, Twistlock and much more.

In addition to the officially supported providers, you can also construct your own providers which will import findings directly into the Security Hub findings dashboard.

Writing a Custom Finding Provider

Troy Hunt created the Have I Been Pwned service which allows you to receive notifications whenever your e-mail address has been detected in a data breach that has been publicly disclosed. In addition to the e-mails, an API is also freely available to query for all breaches a particular identity has been involved in. Here is the template that will regularly poll the API for a number of e-mail addresses and produce findings in the Security Hub findings dashboard: https://github.com/KablamoOSS/Security-Hub-Custom-Provider-Demo

The template creates a Lambda which is triggered periodically by CloudWatch Events. The Lambda then iterates through a list of e-mail addresses and queries the Have I Been Pwned API to determine if any breaches have been detected. If they have, they are included in a batch_import_findings call to import the findings. Findings that are included in subsequent calls which share a common ID, will be updated.

The findings must conform to the AWS Security Findings Format which has optional and mandatory fields, including fields which represent the severity of the finding and finding or resource-specific custom properties. Normally, findings are required to target a specific AWS or 3rd party product, however each account comes with a default product which you can use to import your custom findings with.

Findings shown in the dashboard can be expanded to see the full description and additional detail. Custom Actions can also be created and executed against findings, which triggers a CloudWatch Event so that any supported targets can be executed, such as Lambda or Step Functions.

Once you have findings in the system, you can construct your own Insights which are views give you an overview of findings that match your predefined filters and grouping. The above screenshot shows an overview of the breaches for all Have I Been Pwned findings available.

Gotchas

There are some issues I found when developing for the Security Hub, which are important to note if you plan on developing your own integrations. It should be noted that since the service is still in Preview as of writing this article, these issues may or may not be fixed by the time the service reaches General Availability.

Findings cannot be deleted, but are retained for 90 days

There is currently no functionality to permanently delete a finding, however they have a 90 day retention period after which time the finding will be purged. You can archive findings during this period but unfiltered searches will still return these findings.

Updateable attributes may not update

The AWS Security Findings Format states which attributes can be updated with subsequent import calls, however some of these fields such as “Title” do not seem to update despite successful return codes from the API.

Date formats are sensitive

Though the format specifies any ISO8601-formatted string can be used in its date fields, any value with timezone information is rejected if it is not formatted in Zulu time. Additionally, errors in failed findings are not returned in the response contrary to what the documentation states. You must execute the call with a debugging log level to actually see the error messages.

Fields have undocumented maximum lengths

Also undocumented is that some fields have a maximum length. The “Description” field for example has a maximum length of 1024 characters so you'll need to trim values which are longer than that.

tl;dr

Despite the issues, AWS Security Hub is great offering for organizations looking to build their own SIEM and/or consolidate their findings into a centrally managed account. If you would like to hear more about how your organization might benefit from this new service, get in touch with us to find out more.