Is retired Admiral John Poindexter (AJP) the best software architect alive today? I think he just might be, and I'm not sure whether to feel warm and fuzzy about that or to be very, very afraid. That's because Poindexter, a convicted felon with a criminal record of lying to Congress, is the federal government's "Uber-Geek." The Nerd in Chief is most responsible for the conception, design, and execution of the Department of Homeland Security's massive technology apparatus -- at least the data mining and analysis piece, the core functionality of the new system. His convictions, I should note, were modified on appeal.
AJP has been working on this stuff for years. And I know that to be a fact. I first met the Admiral in the late 80s — when he was back in civies after Iran-Contra. He was a developer at the time and worked with DESQview/X, a multi-tasking, windowing environment provided by my employer. He showed up at the annual developer's conference one year and joined the company's trade-show crew and other developers on the floor of Network World (might have been InterOp) on at least one occasion that I remember.
I also remember him hanging with Wayne Ratliff and Bob Byers, of dBASE fame, who shared his passion for software design and database architecture. Even then, there were lots of animated conversations around collecting data from disparate sources on multi-platform networks; buffering and caching that information in novel constructs, while providing multi-layer hooks and handles so that external software agents could organize and process the aggregated data to achieve certain, pre-defined goals. Heady stuff at the time. There was a lot going on in the data base developer universe in those days. Brian Russell and Mitch McConnell had finished Clipper 5.0. Ratliff & Byers were collaborating on new stuff and the Admiral was right in the middle of all the action.
John Poindexter was the mind behind the Total Information Access (TIA) system first proposed after 9/11. Congress was so intimidated by the reach and constitutional implications of that model they cut off funding and told the program to go away in 2003. It didn't, of course. Now, TIA has returned on steroids — and has been rebranded as ADVISE - for Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement. Parse that. It makes for some interesting disambiguation. The Christian Science Monitor covered the story.