Notes from the field: Voyage to nowhere yields tips

Notes from the field: Voyage to nowhere yields tips

I got back at Rose for trying to blackmail me into taking her on vacation. Last week, I got to take a cruise on the Queen Elizabeth II, while she was stuck at home in San Francisco.

The cruise was with 500 CIOs from financial services companies - and I sincerely hope this voyage to nowhere does not become a metaphor for the careers of IT people in this industry.

It's interesting to note that with start-up companies such as E*Trade gaining momentum on the Web, the pressure on IT to become more customer-focused is immense. But at least one IT department has found an interesting way to contribute to the bottom line. The IT folks at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter oversee six financial investments in six start-up companies that the IT people at the financial services company feel are key technology.

The first of the companies to go public will be Persistence Software this June, barring any last-minute acquisition of the company.

Meanwhile, whilst sipping tea aboard the venerable ocean liner, one wag related that we will soon all have our own butlers via the Web. Horizon Foods is working with Symbol and a start-up company called E-Butler to make picking up prepared foods at the supermarket a snap. Using a barcode reader, people will be able to scan the food in their refrigerators, and then relay that data back to the supermarket over the Web. Then when you stop by the supermarket on the way home from work, all you have to do is pick up your dinner.

My one request for this service is that the company is scrupulous about security: after all, I wouldn't want everyone to find out how much vodka I buy on Rose's behalf. And elsewhere on the Web, security continues to be a thorny problem.

For example,, an online portal for women, needs to close up a security hole with its postcard service. One reader passed on a URL to me this week that gives you a listing of e-mail addresses of everyone who sent a postcard, everyone who received a postcard and the type of card.

My victory over Rose was short-lived: she's now swapped her Mexico brochures for the one from Carnival Cruises.

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