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They Live and the secret history of the Mozilla logo

“So that was the time that I somehow convinced a multi-billion dollar corporation to give away the source code to their flagship product and re-brand it using propaganda art by the world's most notorious graffiti artist.”

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Every week, two more newspapers close — and ‘news deserts’ grow larger

“Already, some 2,500 dailies and weeklies have shuttered since 2005; there are fewer than 6,500 left. Every week, two more disappear. And although many digital-only news sites have cropped up around the nation, most communities that lost a local newspaper will not get a print or digital replacement.”

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Cryptocurrency Titan Coinbase Providing “Geo Tracking Data” to ICE

“Coinbase, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States, is selling Immigrations and Customs Enforcement a suite of features used to track and identify cryptocurrency users, according to contract documents shared with The Intercept.”

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W3C to become a public-interest non-profit organization

“We need a structure where we meet at a faster pace the demands of new web capabilities and address the urgent problems of the web. The W3C Team is small, bounded in size, and the Hosted model hinders rapid development and acquisition of skills in new fields.”

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The startupification of education

Something in Anne-Marie Scott’s post about losing her love of what she does struck a chord with me. Not because I’ve lost the love of what I do - on the contrary, I’m lucky enough to have re-found it. But the way she describes the startupification of education sounds very familiar:

Access is a problem of scale at one level and I am committed to working on that but I increasingly hear reductive views of digital learning limited to students navigating personalised pathways through high-end content and teachers interpreting that learning through analytics. This seems devoid of any kind of good relations and community.

The need for high scale is a crater that has been dug in the fabric of civic life.

For a startup to be venture fundable, it must demonstrate that it is scalable: in other words, it can plausibly grow to be a billion dollar company without linearly increasing the size of its team. Or to put it a lot more simply: it has the potential to make exponential profit. Mint money. Make everyone involved incredibly rich.

And many of them have! Google and Facebook rule the world (figuratively speaking). A lot of founders and a lot of investors have become wealthy by turning startups into scalable flywheels. Venture funding isn’t the only way to fund a startup, but it’s certainly the way that’s caught the public’s and the industry’s imagination, and the result is that the notion of scalability has, too.

But not everything has to be scalable; not everything has to be venture scale. There are a lot of public services, technologies in the public interest, and fully-profitable businesses that benefit by not trying to reach scale. Relationships are the building blocks of society; eradicating those in favor of analytics, in education of all places, is counter-productive, to put it charitably.

The thing to understand about scale is that it’s the antithesis of intimacy. It’s possible to build a service that hits 10 people or 10 million people with the same team; it comes down to different design choices. But it’s not possible to build a service that serves those 10 million people with the same richness of understanding that the one for 10 people has the potential to reach. You can’t get to know each person; you can’t build up a real relationship of trust and 1:1 knowledge. The best you can achieve is a kind of rat-maze simulation of intimacy. How can you possibly hope to respond to a learner’s needs in that environment? And if the educational institution isn’t meeting a learner’s needs, that means someone else has to be - meaning that education at scale can only possibly serve learners who are privileged enough to have individual support at home.

It’s also used in public services under the mistaken assumption that running them like businesses will make them more efficient. Public services *aren’t* businesses, by definition. By making the bottom line a key performance indicator, rather than long-term learner outcomes across a range of inclusive lenses, school authorities are incentivized to trade 1:1 quality  off in favor of cost-effectiveness. That’s not how you get to an educated, creative society. And surely that’s the goal?

It’s been a while since I worked in education. The platform I co-founded, Elgg, was originally intended to support the kind of informal learning that happened in hallways and study groups, but remotely. I always said that if I thought it was going to replace or reduce in-person teaching, I’d shut it down tomorrow. I wish more EdTech projects would consider the same approach.

 

Was marveling that we used to have webisodes and everything on TV is a webisode now, and then I realized that webisodes were like 15 years ago and, once again, I'm far older than I think I am.

 

Still isolating

Covid kicked my ass for approximately four and a half days, and it’s still kicking my ass, but now at least I can read more than half a paragraph of text and string something approaching a complete sentence together. I’m still isolating, still contagious, still feeling like someone has come and sucked the energy from my body with a straw in one of the short windows at night when I’ve actually managed to get some sleep, but I feel a great deal more like me than I did. How I feel tomorrow depends greatly on how much sleep I manage to get tonight.

I’m lucky, of course: I have friends who have had narrow escapes from the ICU, and I know plenty of people who have lost loved ones. It’s a privilege to be able to claw my way online and complain about how much it sucks.

In a weird way, it’s been nice to have contemplative time, after a year that has felt like a whirlwind (which followed another year that felt like a whirlwind). It would have been better to have contemplative time where it didn’t feel like my body was disintegrating around me, so that’s a wake-up call that I need to build more solitary, quiet space into my life. That’s when I’m at my most creative, and I would like nothing more than more time doing more creative, self-driven work. I need more time by myself - and really, I haven’t had much of any over the last year or two - so I’ll find a way to make it.

Meanwhile, it turns out that writing this four-paragraph blog post has completely wiped me out. So I’m closing my laptop again and accepting that I’m not going to do anything productive until I’m much more rid of this virus than I am right now. Time for a dumb movie or something, or just some sleep.

 

The Philosophy that Underpins the Right: It's Not What You Think

A notable piece from a venture capital investor: “After the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs. Wade, I was chatting with someone who grew up in another country and hadn’t spent a lot of time in and around American politics. They were trying to understand the inherent contradictions between a theoretically conservative right that expands the government to legislate over personal decisions like the healthcare around a pregnancy.”

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COVID vaccines saved 20M lives in 1st year, scientists say

“The researchers used data from 185 countries to estimate that vaccines prevented 4.2 million COVID-19 deaths in India, 1.9 million in the United States, 1 million in Brazil, 631,000 in France and 507,000 in the United Kingdom.”

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Fox Corp. Loses Bid to Toss Dominion Defamation Lawsuit Over Vote-Rigging Claims

“Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis on Tuesday denied Fox Corp.’s motion to dismiss the suit, saying Dominion Voting Systems had shown that the Murdochs may have been on notice that the conspiracy theory that rigged voting machines tilted the vote was false but let Fox News broadcast it anyway. Dominion cited in its suit a report that Rupert Murdoch spoke with Trump a few days after the election “and informed him that he had lost,” the judge noted.”

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