A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Laptops, the Coast Guard, YouTube oh my!

> There is an interesting piece on BusinessWeek.com (via Slashdot ) that talks about the Dell Battery Recall program and how the blogosphere “kept the heat on the manufacturers to do something about it and helped the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conduct an investigation into the burning batteries.”

As mentioned in the BusinessWeek.com article, the blogosphere’s ability to continue to provide examples and data raised the profile of this issue into something that Dell needed to accept and address openly. Kudos to them for dealing with it as they have – maybe they should take a page out of Apple’s playbook (and Rita’s post )  in regards to positioning and ease of use.

Last night in a fit of insomnia I was scanning Slashdot for the latest and greatest – and I stumbled on a link to this article from the Washington Post. Michael De Kort, a (now ex-) Lockheed Martin engineer working on a project for the U.S. Coast Guard identified “several critical safety and security problems” within the project and tried to bring attention to them by going through the traditional processes for dealing with such issues. According to the article, he went through proper channels to voice his complaint – including “Lockheed Martin ethics investigations, engineering management reviews, quality reviews, propram management reviews” and also working through “the chain to Lockheed Martin corporate legal, to the CEO Bob Stevens, and to the Board of Directors”. He also contacted  the Inspector General’s Office of the Department of Homeland Security which is currently conducting a review and reached out to Representative Peter King (R- NY), Chairman of the Homeland Security Oversight Committee. I highlight the steps he took because it seems that he did what any good employee would do in this situation; use appropriate channels to voice concerns about a project.

What he did next is interesting to me – especially in light of the BusinessWeek article I mentioned at the top of this post. He made a video of his complaint and posted it on YouTube. The original video is below

 

If you cannot watch the video or would rather read a transcript of his video, Slashdot user Pushnell
has helpfully created one.

At 1:09pm this afternoon, his YouTube video has received approximately 41579 views. At 5:15 pm his video had received 47186 views. As of last night the Washington Post was reporting over 8,000 views. As of this afternoon there are over 25 stories about him and his story, and they are on Time.com / CNet.com / CBS news and a host of others. Direct link to my Google News search is here

It seems that his story has legs and e has created a profile on Slashdot to respond to comments about his video.

I wonder what appreciable results his posting on YouTube will bring about. Will it raise the profile of this issue to the point that both Lockheed Martin and the Coast Guard need to publicly address this issue? Will the blogosphere embrace this despite having one central source for this story (his YouTube video) as opposed to the many others found on the Dell Laptop Battery incident (YouTube videos, blog postings from many different users, etc)?

Finally, what does this mean for other whistleblowers in the future? Has he set a precedent for them? Instead of a whistleblower pitching his or her story to the traditional media, will YouTube and the blogosphere be the go to outlets? Mr. De Kort lends a human face to the problem that might otherwise be buried in a lawsuit somewhere and thanks to wonders of the archiveal nature of the Internet (and the series of tubes that make it up) his story will always be found in video or text format regardless of the merit of his story. Currently, he is unemployed, and according to the Washington Post,  Lockheed Martin
said that “the video did not influence the decision to lay off De Kort and that he had had been notified earlier this year that he would be out of a job.” Who knows what the details are surrounding his dismissal, but I wonder if his actions can also get him a new job.


Finally, a hypothetical scenario to ponder that could affect us directly in our day-to-day lives. Are we far off from the days when some anonymous ‘hacker’ will decide to not only highlight the security flaw in an operating system but also provide a screencast showing your average user how to exploit this flaw?

I’m watching this story with interest – leave me your thoughts in the comments below.