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I work and write at the intersection of technology, media, and society.

I've been a startup founder, mission-driven VC, engineer, and product lead. Right now I'm Chief Technology Officer at The 19th.

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We're throwing a free event on tech, justice, and economic mobility - and you're invited. It takes place online and in-person in Chicago from May 18-20. It's free to attend. This is a save-the-date announcement - but trust me, you'll want to meet our speakers.

· Statuses


How Loneliness Reshapes the Brain

“The problem with loneliness seems to be that it biases our thinking. In behavioral studies, lonely people picked up on negative social signals, such as images of rejection, within 120 milliseconds — twice as quickly as people with satisfying relationships and in less than half the time it takes to blink. Lonely people also preferred to stand farther away from strangers, trusted others less and disliked physical touch.”

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Here’s the full analysis of newly uncovered genetic data on COVID’s origins

“The full analysis provides additional compelling evidence that the pandemic coronavirus made its leap to humans through a natural spillover, with a wild animal at the market acting as an intermediate host between the virus's natural reservoir in horseshoe bats and humans.”

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Iraqi journalist who threw shoes at George W. Bush says his only regret is he "only had two shoes"

“Al-Zaidi says he didn't throw his shoes in a moment of uncontrolled anger, but that he had actually been waiting for just such an opportunity since the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion. He said Bush had suggested that the Iraqi people would welcome U.S. forces with flowers, which left him looking for an adequate reply.”

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Women are less likely to buy electric vehicles than men. Here's why.

“Given the current legislative and judicial situation in our country and my home state of Texas, as a LGBT woman it could be important for me to drive hundreds of miles without even stopping for gasoline, much less a charging station that might not be available.”

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To All the Novels I Never Published

“William Faulkner wrote two failed novels (his words) before he famously gave up writing for other people and began to write just for himself. The books he wrote after that volta are the ones that students still read for classes around the world.”

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Scientists deliver ‘final warning’ on climate crisis: act now or it’s too late

“The comprehensive review of human knowledge of the climate crisis took hundreds of scientists eight years to compile and runs to thousands of pages, but boiled down to one message: act now, or it will be too late.”

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Starting to get cold VC outreach from funds I've never heard of who allegedly want to invest in the organization I work for, which is a non-profit newsroom that is wholly unsuitable for venture capital investment. So, uh, how's the VC market doing, guys?

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Press conference statement: Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive

“The Internet is failing us. The Internet Archive has tried, along with hundreds of other libraries, to do something about it. A ruling in this case ironically can help all libraries, or it can hurt.”

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Meta's lack of vision

A man holding a pair of binoculars with the Facebook logo in each lens. It's a subtle metaphor for Meta's vision. Get it?

Axios reports that Facebook - sorry, Meta - is putting the metaverse on the back burner:

This week the firm announced a massive second round of layoffs. It recently killed off its Portal platform. And CEO Mark Zuckerberg, while not disavowing his metaverse dream, sounds more eager to talk about AI.

[…] “Our single largest investment is in advancing AI and building it into every one of our products,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Our leading work building the metaverse and shaping the next generation of computing platforms also remains central to defining the future of social connection.”

My working model for Facebook’s growth is that it is closely tied to the growth of the internet: as more and more people came online, Facebook was there to help them connect with each other. When the internet was new, there wasn’t much in the way of nuanced mainstream criticism of it as a platform. People were excited to connect and share and a minority thought it was the devil. There wasn’t much in-between.

These days, though, most people are already online. The internet isn’t new or exciting: it’s a utility that just about everybody has. Correspondingly, the ways society interacts with and on the internet have become more nuanced and thoughtful, just as the ways in which people have interacted with any media have always evolved.

Meta isn’t that thoughtful or nuanced a company, and this change in how the internet works in the context of most people’s lives has laid this lack of vision bare. The concept of the metaverse was driven by the hype over web3. Now that crypto has become less popular, many of the same people are excited about AI. In turn, AI will face a downturn, and they’ll be on to the next thing. This is expected and normal for the kinds of cash-driven charlatans who have swarmed Silicon Valley since venture capital rose to prominence, but it’s more surprising for the leadership of a multi-billion-dollar company. I’d expect it to have more vision, and it just doesn’t.

To be a little charitable to it, perhaps Meta is subject to the same kinds of winds that led to its layoffs. We know that layoffs aren’t helpful or profitable, but we also know that shareholders want to see them if other companies are doing them. So it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that shareholders may also see other companies pivot to web3 or AI and want Meta to do it too. A strong enough vision - something that carries shareholders and employees alike along - could counteract these expectations, but in the absence of that, the company is flotsam and jetsam to the hype cycle.

Meta didn’t invent social networking, and it didn’t invent the best social networking platform. It was in the right place at the right time, and was smart enough to buy Instagram when mobile internet was in its relative infancy. I’m sure it can be profitable off the base of those platforms for a long time to come. But at the same time, it’s not clear to me that lightning can strike twice for it without major leadership changes. Not when its strategy seems to be “throw shit at the wall”, and certainly not when the shit it’s throwing is the same shit everyone else is throwing.

I’ve been publicly critical of the company for 19 years now, but I want to make clear that there are lots of very talented people who work for it. Running a platform at this sort of scale requires a unique set of technology chops; it also requires all kinds of social and legislative infrastructure that other tech companies can barely even imagine. It’s not like it’s easy. And that’s how it found itself facilitating a genocide. Every single one of those people deserves stronger leadership. The internet does too: whether we like it or not, Meta has a leading role in how the internet develops, and it has not risen to that challenge. Over time, that will become clearer and clearer. It will be interesting to see what happens to it in the long term.


Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

· Posts


The Iraq War Began 20 Years Ago Today. Phil Donahue's MSNBC Show Was One Of The First Casualties

“The story I heard was that Welch had called to complain after he had been playing golf with some buddies and they began asking why MSNBC had some "anti-war kooks" on the air. I was never able to officially confirm the story, but the fact MSNBC employees believed it is an indication of the pressure they felt to conform to the national narrative.” Conforming to a “national narrative” is exactly what journalism should not be doing.

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Antisemitic tweets soared on Twitter after Musk took over, study finds

““We’re seeing a sustained volume of antisemitic hate speech on the platform following the takeover,” said Jacob Davey, who leads research and policy on the far-right and hate movements at ISD.”

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Why L.A. podcast firm Maximum Fun is going employee-owned

“On Monday, Thorn — who has co-owned Maximum Fun with his wife since it was incorporated 2011 — announced his company would become a workers cooperative, a novel business model in the podcast industry, but one that has been tried by many small businesses including bakeries and pizza places. The ownership will be shared equally by at least 16 people, including Thorn, the company said.”

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Decentralized Social Media Rises as Twitter Melts Down

““You basically lose your entire social graph to go [to another social network], which is a super high wall,” says Tim Chambers, Principal and Co-Founder of Dewey Digital and administrator of the Mastodon server “However, when things become sufficiently chaotic on platforms as Twitter is seeing now, that is a force strong enough to incite such migrations.””

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Why the Press Failed on Iraq

“As the Bush administration began making its case for invading Iraq, too many Washington journalists, caught up in the patriotic fervor after 9/11, let the government’s story go unchallenged.”

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War and peace

Revisiting my grandfather’s obituary:

‌But this is not Sidney’s first obituary. In May 1945 when he returned home from a four-month internment as a POW in Hitler’s Germany, the twenty-year old Sidney was surprised to find that his hometown Pennsylvania newspaper had published an account of his death at the hand of German troops during the Battle of the Bulge in December of the previous year. Considering that some 75,000 American soldiers did perish during that battle, that Sidney was in fact on the front lines, and that the German soldiers were reportedly under orders to take no prisoners, this was not an irrational conclusion; however, it turned out to be an erroneous one. Sidney was one of the lucky few who were captured, shipped to Germany and survived starvation, disease and Allied bombing of the prison camps until being liberated by General Patton’s army.

‌[…] Sidney’s father David Monas had first emigrated to the United States from Ukraine in 1913, primarily to avoid conscription in the Tsar’s army. David found work in a clothing factory, where he caught the attention of early union organizers due to his ability to communicate in Yiddish, Russian, and English. Following the 1917 revolution in Russia, David and his brother Harry traveled the long way via Japan and Siberia back to Ukraine, arriving in the midst of the Russian Civil War. David was promptly elected to the local soviet; but when the notoriously anti-Semitic White Army began to close in on their region, David, Harry and David’s new wife Eva emigrated/escaped once again to the United States. After an unsuccessful attempt to run a paint business in Brooklyn, David had a long and successful career as a union organizer and ultimately General Manager of the Pennsylvania Joint Board of the Amalgamated Shirt Workers.

I’ve been very lucky to live in a time of relative peace: going to war is not something I’ve ever had to worry about. I hope our child experiences the same. I hope every child, one day, can experience the same.

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Anti-Racist Starter Pack

A list of anti-racist books, articles, documentaries, podcasts, and interviews.

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Negativity drives online news consumption

“The tendency for individuals to attend to negative news reflects something foundational about human cognition—that humans preferentially attend to negative stimuli across many domains.”

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The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank hit women- and minority-owned start-ups the hardest

“Silicon Valley Bank was one of the few that would give venture-backed start-ups led by women, people of color and LGBTQ+ people a line of credit. After the bank’s collapse, they are now being hit the hardest.”

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Believe it or not, the Amish are loving electric bikes

“It’s a lot quicker to jump on your bike and go into town than it is to bring your horse into the barn, harness it to the buggy, and go. It’s a lot quicker and you travel faster too.”

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No, my Japanese American parents were not 'interned' during WWII. They were incarcerated

“In a historic decision aimed at accuracy and reconciliation, the Los Angeles Times announced Thursday that it would drop the use of “internment” in most cases to describe the mass incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.” Let’s call them what they were: concentration camps.

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Bandcamp Employees Unionize for Fairer Conditions

““Many of us work at Bandcamp because we agree with the values the company upholds for artists: fair pay, transparent policies, and using the company’s social power to uplift marginalized communities,” says Cami Ramirez-Arau, who has worked as a Support Specialist at Bandcamp for two years. “We have organized a union to ensure that Bandcamp treats their workers with these same values.””

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Fox News discourse

At this point I’m not sure how helpful it is to be publicly outraged over Fox News. There’s the catharsis of it, sure, but I’m increasingly of the mind that we shouldn’t give it oxygen.

Lately it’s been their redefinition of the word “woke” and, this week, the ludicrous idea that Silicon Valley Bank imploded because of DEI initiatives. It’s also been the revelation, through leaks related to their voting machines lawsuit, that they don’t mean what they say and privately hate Donald Trump. These people are unprincipled charlatans who prey on their audience, but we know that; we’ve always known that.

And maybe it’s worth saying, again and again, because we don’t want anyone to forget that basic truth. I don’t want to argue for letting them get away with it. But they also are getting away with it, and in some ways I think the better solution is to do our own thing and show and tell that it’s better.

We’re all imperfect. Over the last year, I’ve been more imperfect than most. But all of us, however imperfect, can stand up and craft our own message - not just in response to Fox News or bigotry, but in a future-facing way that paints the future we actually want to live in. I think that’s powerful, and crucially, will change more minds.

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Best printer 2023: just buy this Brother laser printer everyone has, it’s fine

“Here’s the best printer in 2023: the Brother laser printer that everyone has. Stop thinking about it and just buy one. It will be fine!”

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The more services incorporate GPT, the more input boxes on the web get fed through OpenAI's servers, and the more it becomes both a single point of failure and an obvious way to capture data from across the web.

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