The 1994 Annual Conference of the Association for Global Strategic Information
14-16 June 1994
ACCESS: THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF COMPETITOR INTELLIGENCE
Robert D. Steele, President
OPEN SOURCE SOLUTIONS, Inc.
International Public Information Clearinghouse
11005 Langton Arms Court, Oakton, Virginia 22124-1807
Voice: (703) 242-1700 -- Facsimile: (703) 242-1711
Introduction In my keynote presentation today, the first day of this superb conference, I want to both distinguish between, and weave together, the strategic, operational, tactical levels of competitor intelligence. If you don't have a balanced program to integrate all three into your strategic planning, you may still make a profit, but it will not be the optimal profit of which you are capable.
I wish to address three topics with this presentation:
1) Your responsibility, as CEOs and senior executives, for contributing to a national knowledge strategy.
2) Your opportunity, as CEOs and senior executives, to establish a competitive advantage at the operational level.
3) Your opportunity, as CEOs and senior executives, to exploit existing external private sector capabilities to obtain tactical intelligence.
Let me begin with the tactical and conclude with the strategic.
Tactical Exploitation of the Information Archipelago My non-profit clearinghouse specializes in understanding the knowledge terrain of the world--in helping consumers of information understand that there is a vast supermarket of open sources, systems, and services out there. We also have a for-profit starting up to serve as a "virtual" global network of information resources available to corporations and governments on demand. I believe that the pace of knowledge creation is so fast that those who attempt to maintain very expensive in-house research departments, and to collect vast amounts of information "just in case", will find that they fall behind.
The secret is to leverage everyone else's overhead. As I will discuss, there is a vast array of exceptionally good and reliable and relatively inexpensive providers of information, investigative, and intelligence services in the private sector. It merits comment that the market place, where only the fittest survive, ensures that only the best of these capabilities are sustained, while imposing the costs for failure on someone other than yourselves.
We all must maintain a modicum of in-house talent, especially talent skilled at strategic planning, at understanding the corporation's strengths and weaknesses, at dealing with customers--but by and large, when it comes to creating intelligence about the environment, the customer, your suppliers, and your competitors, one must understand that for such challenges, an external specialist is often more competent and more connected than an in-house generalist.
In the age of information the principles of cybernetics rule rather than the principles of physics--mobility and fleetness of foot have replaced mass as the foundation for advantage Knowledge workers, "gold collar" workers, are the core competency which provides sustainable advantage. All the market research in the world is not going to help if your workers are stupid, or badly trained, or unable to rapidly access the knowledge they need to find and keep customers. So from my point of view, tactical intelligence comes from properly training, organizing, and equipping your knowledge workers, complementing their core competency with a virtually unlimited range of external assistance hired when needed.
Before I talk about resources external to the corporation, let me address what I perceive to be three common tactical errors in business intelligence practice:
First, most companies do not properly exploit their existing collection resources. EVERY employee, and especially those employees, however humble their station, who are in direct contact with customers, should have in their position description a requirement to report information, and a process by which to ensure it is effectively entered into the corporations' memory banks. Go back and look at a sampling of your position description. Consider how the insertion of a single paragraph at the beginning, "Duty Number One: Collection and Reporting of Useful Information", might radically increase your ability to exploit an existing human resource base.
Second, most companies do not have in place a proper mechanism for cross-corporate information sharing. One of the reasons Lotus Notes seems to be doing so well is because it is ideally suited to rapidly establishing a minimum-maintenance network of shared files. The old days of compartmented "cogs" of the machine working in harmony without communicating constantly are history. Most of you are probably sensitive to this but have not been aggressive enough about changing your information handling tools to facilitate informal corporate wide communication. Corporate wide electronic mail and an electronic directory of position descriptions and office mission statements would be a good start.
Third, I have the impression that most companies store proprietary information on the same computer system as all their other information, including old market surveys and basic demographic and economic information. This has two negative effects. The first is that the proprietary information is not properly protected. If you do not have your proprietary information on a TEMPESTed system with an internal auditing mechanism which monitors access and downloading or printing, then you are not only vulnerable to calculated theft by an employee, but also to remote reading of your computer screens from across the streets. Major banks are starting to realize that some of these international speculators are not just lucky--they are reading insider information from across the street, or next door. The second negative effect it has is of isolating the company from the external electronic environment, since it is well-known that external electronic links are an invitation to theft by outsiders. You need both--an isolated in-house system for dealing with proprietary information, and free access for your employees to the external electronic world inhabited by your customers and suppliers.
Now let me sketch this external environment which I consider so important to your success. What I call the "information continuum" is the knowledge terrain within which corporations operate:
Private Investigators K-12 Libraries Information Brokers Government Intelligence ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Universities Businesses Media Defense
Figure 1 It consists of our elementary and secondary schools, our universities, our libraries, all businesses and their information repositories, private investigators and information brokers, the media including the trade journal and scientific & technical media, governments down to the state and local level, all defense and law enforcement organizations, and the official and usually secret intelligence communities. I call these the nine sectors of the information continuum.
The good news is that this continuum provides a low-cost, flexible, and responsive "virtual research department" of extraordinary power and value. The bad news is that very few people know how to navigate this terrain, or how to break down the iron curtains between sectors, the bamboo curtains between industries, the plastic curtains between individuals. Simply improving an employee's ability to access your own corporate information is the first stage of the road to corporate health in the age of information. Giving the employee the ability to access other employees, customers, and information through electronic mail is the second stage. The final stage is the creation of a "virtual intelligence community" that is at your service when needed, and not costing you anything when it is not needed.
Now here are some tactical specifics--these are representative examples of capabilities that you should be using today--if you are not, you simply are not getting the best business intelligence possible. The tables which follow, and the explanatory information, are part of a package I prepared for TIME Magazine a couple of week's ago, in support of a planned cover story on "Private Spies". I was concerned because TIME was making the same mistake many corporations do--assuming that private investigators are the core external resource for industrial espionage and competitor intelligence. They are not--not only are they the most expensive, but they are also the most likely to get you fired if they run out of control and get caught doing something really stupid. The three firms I have included in my matrix are the best U.S. firms I have been able to identify. You will need their services on occasion, and these three firms know how to operate without getting you into trouble. I want to stress, however, that reliance on a single provider of information services is no better than having an in-house capability--the greatest returns on your investments in tactical intelligence will come when you have the ability to "mix and match" sources and services from across the entire information continuum, hiring the very best experts on very narrow topics for only as long as needed, but with the assurance that the information they provide is first-hand, in-depth, and not only current, but in fact ahead of the published record.
|INTERNET||Tony Rutkowski Internet Society (703) 648-9888||Brewster Kahle WAIS, Inc. (415) 327-9247||Chris Berendes Internet Navigator (202) 332-2360|
|UNIVERSITIES||Geoffrey Fox Syracuse "InfoMall" (315) 443-1722||U. of Michigan Clearinghouse <firstname.lastname@example.org>||Economic BBS Rice University (313) 764-9366|
|LIBRARIES||Brenda Bailey Uncover Reveal (303) 758-3030||David Bender Special Libraries A. (202) 234-4700||Charles E. Bailey Jr Lib.-Oriented Lists (713) 743-9804|
Figure 2 Tony Rutkowski, Executive Director of the Internet Society, also oversees publication of a professional journal loaded with information about resources on the Internet, and understands better than most the technical issues associated with making global information available to any business.
Brewster Kahle, formerly with Thinking Machines, is the genius that invented the Wide Area Information Server (WAIS), which is now a standard for rapidly searching the entire Internet for weighted (relevancy ranked) full text documents. Brewster can tell you what businesses are doing to take advantage of the Internet, including their collection and search strategies.
Chris Berendes is a Master Inter-naut whose specific expertise is seeking out scientific & technical information of business value from all over the Internet.
One comment on the Internet: it eats people. It is much better to have a single Internet specialist, or to contract out searches, otherwise employees run the risk of either becoming hopelessly lost, or hopelessly addicted to wandering in cyberspace.
Geoffrey Fox is the man behind Syracuse University's "InfoMall". This is a good example of a university recognizing that it can substitute support to business for declining students as a source of revenue. He provides multi-media "intelligence" to businesses.
University of Michigan Clearinghouse for subject-oriented Internet resources is a classic example of graduate students doing something useful for the business community. Among the directories they have prepared are ones for aerospace engineering, government sources of business and economic information, and so on.
Economic Bulletin Board Service operated by the University of Michigan provides a number of useful files including statistical information, press releases from the U.S. Trade Representative, defense conversion information, East European trades leads, and so on.
I am convinced that universities, especially now that they are confronted with declining student populations, have a very important role to play in the provision of practical tactical intelligence support to corporations. Adopt a university, harness the brainpower of their graduate students, and the connectivity and power of their electronic resources.
Brenda Bailey at Uncover Reveal is the tip of the Colorado library association that may put some of the commercial online services out of business. They are using existing library overhead to index and abstract, and then supporting their library services through on-demand faxing of materials for which fees are charged.
Special Libraries Association takes care of the many corporate and academic special libraries, and in essence nurtures a wealth of information that is not mainstream but is very much at the heart of our national competitiveness. They are the private intelligence service for esoteric issues. They have been in existence for over 84 years, and specialize in helping librarians tap into international corporate libraries and other specialty collections.
Library-Oriented Lists on the Internet were put together by Charles E. Bailey, Jr. He is Assistant Director for Systems, University Libraries, University of Houston. He is Co-Editor of Advances in Library Automation and Networking, and Editor-in-Chief of The Public Access Computer Systems review. He understands the role libraries have to play in national competitiveness, and the importance of networking.
|BASIC BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE||David Young Oxford Analytica +(44 865) 244-442||WONG Chiu-Yin Economist Intel Unit (212) 554-0600||Joseph Casitore FIND/SVP (212) 645-4500|
|ADVANCED BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE||Ruth Stanat SIS International (914) 639-1934||Herb Meyer RWI, Inc. (206) 378-3910||Dick Klavens SCIP (215) 896-4859|
|BUSINESS CONSUMERS AND EXPERTS||Tom Sheer Grace Company (407) 362-1934||TELTECH Experts on Demand (612) 829-9000||BEST America Experts on Demand (410) 563-2378|
Figure 3 David Young founded Oxford Analytica, and this is, in my judgement, the finest global intelligence service that is open and private. He was a National Security Council staffer with Kissinger, and decided he could do better than what CIA was providing to the President. He enlisted the Don's of Oxford, and now provides the business community with daily intelligence and special reports that has earned praise from the World Bank and others. This is my hero.
WONG Chiu-Yin runs The Economist Intelligence Unit, based in New York. They provide intelligence reports and special consultations to businesses world-wide, and there is a good reason why they are called an Intelligence Unit.
Joe Casitore is the Vice President for New Business Development at FIND/SVP in New York. This international firm will obtain any published document, including what we call gray literature (documents published in limited numbers by private parties, but not classified or proprietary). FIND/SVP also runs an "ask any question" service that is mainstay of the private intelligence business, and has a strategic research division.
Ruth Stanat represents the best of the new business intelligence breed. She has an international company with correspondents all over, and she does a very fine job of both market research, and forecasting. Together with Herb Meyer and Kirk Tyson in Chicago, Ruth is among the best in the privatization of intelligence. David Young is my hero because he has a network of 750 agents worldwide, and does intelligence every day about every topic; Ruth does research on demand, but I believe she is a great deal more competent and more trustworthy than most private detectives and more globally tuned in than most information brokers. Ruth is also the author of the excellent book The Intelligent Corporation: Creating a Shared Network for Information and Profit.
Herb Meyer is a real example of a "private spy (in the new sense, not the old sense). He was editor of Fortune, then Vice Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, and is now CEO of Real World Intelligence, Inc. He is the author of author of Real World Intelligence: Organized Information for Executives. Herb is a success story, and like me he has translated lessons learned in the classified intelligence community into a competitive advantage in the private sector.
Dick Klavens is the President of the Society of Competitor Intelligence Professionals (SCIP). These are the people around the world whose specific job it is to collect, process, and disseminate corporate intelligence. They are the "in-house" managers of corporate-wide collection plans, cross-business unit intelligence sharing, and--when needed--the hiring of external information brokers, telephone surveyors, and the occasional (rare) private investigator. Their annual symposium, together with AGSI and my own, are "must attend" events for anyone who wishes to be competitive in the information age.(1)
Tom Sheer at the Grace Company has one of the very few well organized corporate intelligence systems I have seen, one which optimizes in-house assets. Tom is the (very special) Assistant to the President.
TELTECH Experts on Demand are part of the business intelligence community, but they can also tell you about their customers. They have 3,000 technical experts on call, and can put a customer in touch with one over the telephone, with the result that "real-time intelligence" is produced when needed.
BEST America is similar to TELTECH, only they have 40,000 experts on line, and specialize in the life sciences. Pharmaceutical companies pay serious money to be able to reach out and tap into very narrow expertise on a moment's notice and with the assurance of total discretion.
I've talked about using your own capabilities better. I want to emphasize the value of external experts. Let me explain why this is important: anything that is printed is by definition out of date. Books are seven to ten years out of date, articles are 7-10 months out of date, and even daily newspapers stories are a few days old. In the age of information, when speed is a factor in competitiveness, you can get ahead of the mainstream by using experts to create information and give it to you before it is published. Any market research which does not commission original thinking and include some telephone surveys with real people is not optimized for advantage. Getting to the best expert on a topic, rather than relying on a generalist searching the literature, is the only way to ensure your research is current.
|PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS||Kroll Associates (New York) (212) 319-0044||Fairfax Group (Washington, D.C.) (703) 207-0600||Parvus-Jerico (USA-Bermuda) (301) 589-4949|
|INFORMATION BROKERS||Reva Basch Aubergine Info. Svc (510) 527-5770||Seena Sharp Sharp Information (310) 379-5179||Helen Burwell B. Enterprises, Inc. (214) 732-0160|
|DIRECTORIES||Olga Staios LEXIS/NEXIS (513) 865-7312||Elizabeth Aversa Inst. for Sci. Info (410) 997-3745||American Business Lists (402) 592-9000|
Figure 4 Kroll Associates (New York) has received favorable publicity as a leader in offering trade secret protection and related business intelligence services. Across the private investigative and "executive services" community, they are the one constant when credible, reliable, international capabilities are discussed.
Fairfax Group (Washington, D.C.) provides a range of services from financial investigations of takeover targets to debugging of offices and handling of ransom negotiations for executives.
Parvus-Jerico (USA-Bermuda) is run by Jerry Burke, former Executive Director of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board in the U.S.A., and does especially well in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Reva Basch. Author/editor of Secrets of the Super Searchers, this lady is widely regarded as the god-mother of online searchers. A founding member of the Association of Independent Information Producers (AIIP), Reva is respected everywhere--she also has a very strong commitment to ethical guidelines, and believes (and proves every day) that the best business intelligence can be acquired legally and ethically at relatively low cost.
Seena Sharp is one of those hard-core New York sharpies transported to California, with a great sense of humor and the ability to do whatever it takes (legally) to get you what you want. She also is one of the founding members of the AIIP.
Helen Burwell is the best organized of the independent information brokers, and publishes the Burwell Directory of Independent Information Brokers. She knows everyone, knows their strengths and their weaknesses. At my suggestion she recently surveyed all independent brokers for their foreign language and foreign database/resident experiences, and her directory now opens windows into the foreign environment.
Information brokers are very special people. Most companies make the mistake of using a single broker, when in fact there is an entire range of brokers who specialize in very specific areas. Helen's directory is the perfect window into this marvelous global community of very talented people.
LEXIS/NEXIS, besides being a good all-around tool for research, is a good way of finding those journalists and professionals who are thinking about and publishing the latest developments in your area of interest. Ms. Olga Staios, Manager for International Accounts, the top person in the entire company responsible for dealing with international CEOs, and she can put you in touch with their best support personnel in Europe.
Institute for Scientific Information publishes the Social Science Citation Index and the Science Citation Index. It also does some very interesting work in citation analysis of emerging scientific & technical directions, and can do special studies on demand.
American Business Lists integrates 4,900 Yellow Page directories and 500 Business White Page directories, adds annual reports and other SEC information, integrates mail surveys and news clippings as well as postal data, and the follows up with a claimed 14 million telephone calls to verify the data. Their service allows selection of records by type of business, yellow page heading, SIC code, employee size or sales volume, geographic area and radius, franchise or brand, newness of business, and other mixes. Output can be provided as magnetic tape, diskettes, 3 x 5 cards, or online.
This concludes my overview on tactical aspects of competitor intelligence as an element of corporate competitiveness.
Operational Concepts, Policies, and Practices
At the operational level, which deals with top-level guidance of over-all corporate efforts, rather than the specific research tasks common to the tactical level, I want to begin by drawing a distinction between capabilities, consumers, and environments--"competitor" intelligence is inadequate and mis-guided as it is generally practiced because it focuses on watching your competition and trying to beat them through mimicry.
-- Understanding your competitor is the least important of your objectives
-- Understanding your future customers and future opportunities is far more important--if you are not leading the pack, you are eating someone else's dust
-- Understanding current and projected environmental realities is the foundation for finding those constantly changing points at which you can buy low and sell dear--the foundation for profit
There are some core concepts at this level which I will briefly discuss before concluding with my strategic overview. More detail about these concepts and the general theory and practice of intelligence is contained in my paper, "ACCESS: Theory and Practice of Intelligence in the Age of Information".(2)
Decision-Support is the only acceptable mission for competitor intelligence. One must carefully distinguish between data, which is the raw text, image, or signal; information, which is collated data of generic interest, such as newspapers or research reports; and intelligence, which is information that has been tailored to support a specific decision by a specific person about a specific topic at a specific time and place.
Collecting Secrets is not difficult if you focus on collecting them before they become secrets. The weakest link, and the cheapest and easiest to exploit, is the grey literature and human infrastructure responsible for doing research just before someone decides to label something proprietary or classified.
Cast a Wide Net. The French steel industry worked very hard at competitor intelligence against other steel industries, and completely overlooked the plastics industry, which was busy developing steel substitutes.
Openness versus Secrecy. The openness paradigm has won. The example of the nuclear industry, based on secrecy and not very progressive, is instructive when compared with the openness of the electronics industry, where competing engineers compare their approaches over coffee.
Just in Time versus Just in Case. Paul Evan Peters, Executive Director of the Coalition for Networked Information, makes the point that in the age of distributed information easily accessible through electronic connectivity, it makes no sense to store volumes of out-of-date information when you can reach out and get exactly what you need in the way of current information on a "just in time" basis.
Diamond versus Linear Paradigm. The old paradigm for information acquisition is the linear model, where the executive goes to the analyst who goes to the collector who goes to the source, and then back up the chain the answer goes. This paradigm is not only too slow, it is not workable when you have a fast-moving topic with lots of nuances that are difficult to communicate to intermediaries. The new paradigm is the diamond paradigm, where the executive talks to the analyst, the collector, and on many occasions the source, in order to ensure there is a timely and accurate meeting of the right minds.
CIO = Corporate Intelligence Officer. The last person you should appoint to the CIO position is the oldest information systems expert. They are technicians and do not have the slightest understanding of corporate strategy and the needs of senior executives for real-time content displayed in meaningful ways. The CIO position should not only be responsible for ensuring that the entire corporation--every employee--servers as a collection network, but also for ensuring that the information in hand is exploited, and that the corporation has the broadest possible network of external collection and processing capabilities on demand.
Information Value: content + context + time. Corporations and banks have a wealth of information that is rotting away unused rather than being bartered or made available to one another as a means of increasing the competitiveness of an industry or a country. If one understands that stripping information of time and context allows it to be bartered without losing a competitive advantage, while gaining additional information in the process, then the way is open to operational-level agreements which will increase an individual firms competitiveness as part of a larger consortium.
Information-Driven Actions are better than mission-driven actions. Many corporations appear to be mired in old organizational practices where a business unit is given a specific series of tasks to accomplish, and is then expected to accomplish those tasks over and over again without reference to the external environment or other elements of the corporation.
Corporate Hive. Every employee is a collector, producer, and consumer of intelligence. Drivers of delivery vehicles, service technicians, those responsible for cold calls on customers, all should receive special training in observation and elicitation, and should have easy to use channels and processes for reporting what they see and hear.
In brief, then, think of your organization as an information network, with each employee being in turn responsible for exploiting those external information networks that they come in contact with--your market research or competitor intelligence shop should be a collection manager and presentation manager, rather than a basic research function--this shop should be your personal tool for mobilizing your entire corporation, and leveraging everyone else's capabilities.
Influencing the Strategic Information Environment
Now, to conclude with comments on your responsibility, as leaders in the private sector, for establishing national knowledge strategies that improve your corporate as well as your national competitiveness.
The reality is that despite the flood of information that is available today, it is badly organized, difficult to access, and of mixed reliability. The "information commons", if you will, has been flooded with sewage to the point that it is difficult if not impossible to graze animals on the commons. Individual corporations cannot be optimally competitive in this environment, but neither can they change this environment by themselves. Concerted action, led by the government but not controlled by the government, is required.
Information Age. We are deep into the Information Age, an era in which information is not only a substitute for time, space, labor, and capital; but also an era in which a small amount of information--the right information delivered to the right person at the right time--can have extraordinary military and economic implications.
Electronic Arms Race. There is an arms race going on in "cyberspace", in the electronic frontier, and the United States of America, as well as many other countries, are not competing....at the same time that a few countries such as France, Sweden, Israel, Japan, Singapore, India, and Taipei are creating "orders of battle"; global entrepreneurs with no national loyalties are making billions through electronic crime; and the Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Korean criminal organizations are making major head-way in building their war-chests for future electronic and common crimes.
National Information Strategy. In the Information Age national power comes from a Nation's "information continuum", from the full integration and mobilization of its universities, libraries, businesses, information brokers, media, government, defense, and intelligence resources. Such a continuum supports national security and national competitiveness only if you have a national information strategy, just as you now have a national security strategy. Not having an information strategy, and an information "order of battle", in this era, would have the same consequences as if we had not had a strategic nuclear and conventional capability during the Cold War.
Four Elements of an Information Strategy. The four elements of a national information strategy are connectivity (such as is now provided by the National Information Infrastructure (NII) initiative); communications & computing security (which does not exist and is our Nation's Achilles Heel); voluntary coordination of research & development across government and private sector lines, and especially information technology research (we now waste roughly $10 billion a year as a Nation in the latter area alone); and content, the orchestration of public access to the vast quantities of substantive information now isolated in the disconnected, insecure, non-interoperable databases of institutions across America.
-- Connectivity is important within a corporation, between corporations in the same industry, between corporations and affiliated universities, and between corporations and every other organization in the international information continuum. If you are not connected to the larger electronic community, this is the same as not having telephones.
-- Communications & Computer Security. We live in a house built over a sinkhole! The vulnerabilities of any national telecommunications infrastructure, or any corporate telecommunications and computing infrastructure are frightening in the extreme. Interruption of services, destructions, degradation, and theft of data are all going on today, and likely to cost unwary corporations a great deal in the years to come. I predict increasing electronic attacks on specific corporations and banks by financially motivated individuals who understand that they can make millions of dollars through the remote theft of insider information, or the destruction of a company coincident with their betting short on that company's stock.
-- Coordination of Research & Development. The amount of waste across government and private sector organizational lines, when it comes to information technology and information handling processes, is extraordinary. My personal estimate is that in the United States of America roughly two billion dollars a year are wasted by many different organizations, each spending ten million or so a year to create the ideal analysts workstation. This is a generic multi-media handling requirement. It should be a common project which seeks to raise the common denominator for desktop services across an industry if not a nation.
-- Content contained in the soft and hard files of the many organizations comprising the national and international information continuum can have a very beneficial effect on competitiveness and prosperity. Financial incentives must be offered by the government to help universities and businesses, among others, transition into an era where distributed information is the norm, rather than the exception. By nurturing distributed centers of excellence in topical and disciplinary areas of common interest, the government can help build an "information army" well suited to protecting the national security and national competitiveness of its homeland.
Competitor Intelligence is mis-named. Business intelligence, if properly understood as decision-support, and if understood to emphasize the environment as well as the consumer, not simply competing business units, is vital to the competitiveness of every corporation.
Every Chief Executive Officer has an opportunity to refine their business intelligence capabilities, first by ensuring that the collection capabilities of their employees are harnessed, and that their employees have access to information available within the corporation; second by ensuring that their operational policies and activities reflect a good understanding of the new principles of business management in the information age; and third, by using their corporate influence to create industry-wide and nation-wide policies and capabilities which increase the robustness of the "information commons"(3) and bring to bear the full power of the national information continuum on behalf of the corporation's competitiveness. 1. 1 SCIP's symposium, including a number of excellent pre-conference tutorials, is generally held each April, and moves from city to city. SCIP is actively expanding its international membership. The OSS symposium, the only symposium in the world where spys, hackers, information brokers, and corporate buyers of information services come together, is held in early November each year, always in Washington, D.C. 2. 2 A copy of this paper is easily obtained at no cost through gopher, wais, or ftp access to my Internet serve, <oss.net>. For instance, from your telnet point, type <gopher gopher.oss.net> or <ftp ftp.oss.net>, select menu listing my papers, and use your communications software's "capture" feature to copy the paper. For a hard copy, mail a check for $10 (U.S.) or $15 (all other countries) to OSS, Inc., 11005 Langton Arms Court, Oakton, Virginia 22124-1807. 3. 3 My friend Lee Felsenstein at the Interval Research Corporation coined the term "information commons" in a brilliant article written several years ago and still of great value. He can be reached at (415) 354-0857, or via electronic mail at <email@example.com>. Interval is billionaire Paul Allen's successful attempt to create a "Xerox Parc" for the 1990's.