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Accessing go links across tailnets

Golinks seem like a small thing but actually might be the thing that pushes me over the edge to running my own tailnet.

I like Will's solution here to running multiple otherwise-conflicting golinks servers.

The whole thing seems powerful and I suppose I should just dive in.

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No, newsrooms don't need to cede control to social media.

A senior man reading a newspaper

In the Washington Post, Taylor Lorenz writes about how influencers creating news content directly on modern social networks are outstripping traditional news sites in popularity:

News consumption hit a tipping point around the globe during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, with more people turning to social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube and Instagram than to websites maintained by traditional news outlets.

[…] “There are no reasonable grounds for expecting that those born in the 2000s will suddenly come to prefer old-fashioned websites, let alone broadcast and print, simply because they grow older,” Reuters Institute Director Rasmus Kleis Nielsen said in the report, which is based on an online survey of roughly 94,000 adults in 46 national markets, including the United States.

The trouble is, of course, that creators and publications who publish directly on social media platforms are putting themselves at the mercy of the business decisions and policy whims of those companies. The history of the internet is packed with stories of publications that fell afoul of algorithmic or business changes at tech companies which earned their trust. The phrase “pivot to video” — an artifact of when Facebook enticed publishers to create more video on its platforms using falsified metrics — will still elicit a wince from newsroom product teams. Even more recently, Twitter’s journey over the last year serves as a potent warning about how platforms can devolve, potentially bringing dependent publications down with them.

But that’s doesn’t mean Taylor or the Reuters Institute report she cites are wrong. There are two key factors at play here: a loss of trust in journalistic institutions in favor of individuals, and a change in expectations around where to find content on the internet.

The loss of trust in institutions has been ongoing for decades, and in some cases is well-earned. It’s also part of a shift in trust from brands to individuals overall. That’s been accelerated by social media in part, but really comes down to human dynamics. Influencers tend to be more representative of audience demographics than news institutions, which still skew older, richer, whiter, and male. They’re more likely to more closely represent the views of younger people. It’s fundamentally easier to trust a real person who is representative of your communities than some faceless organization that represents the more traditional values of the older audience members who are more likely to pay for subscriptions or make a donation.

Fixing the trust gap is not about technology. It means hiring (far) more diverse journalists and managers, surfacing the faces of journalists, and more closely representing the concerns of younger and more diverse communities.

Currently, the website represents the faceless institution while social media represents the human individual. Consider the logo on the masthead, the walls of text, the lack of human presence. That’s not to say that’s what a website has to look like — the web is a blank canvas with infinite possibilities — but that’s what most news websites have chosen to look like today, as holdovers from the newspaper front page as designed in the 1600s. It’s due an overhaul that takes our trust in the individuals behind news into account and puts journalists front and center. News websites have not evolved much, while social media has transformed itself completely over the last decade. There’s a lot of ground to be gained by actually innovating on the website itself.

But then you still have to reach people.

Bloggers, who were widely maligned by journalistic institutions when they surged to brief popularity a few decades ago, spearheaded the flip from institutions to influencers. There has been a minor but influential blogging resurgence, enabled by WordPress, Substack, and Medium; regardless, the form of the blog itself has hardly remained a mainstream force. It’s great for niche news and commentary (consider Stratechery’s hold on the tech industry, for example, or Molly White’s excellent reporting work on crypto) but not necessarily for news designed for a mainstream audience.

Publications tend to try and own their relationships with their audiences by setting up email newsletters: a way to measure engagement and understand who their readers are without having to enter a payment relationship. The trouble is, Gen Z sees email as some archaic technology that they don’t really want to use, preferring social media and instant messaging.

There’s no getting away from the fact that, today, a majority of internet users discover their news through social platforms. They’re hearing about it on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram, where they’re consuming it natively, and a minority is clicking through to publisher websites from the other social networks.

This isn’t a given or a force of nature. It depends on the kind of news (and therefore the characteristics of its target community), and where publishers overall are choosing to post content. I’m aware of one major newsroom that has actually increased social media clickthroughs to its own website over the last year, bucking the trend by at least experimenting with every network from TikTok to Mastodon. Call this strategy “meeting people where they’re at” — and where they’re at is a more fractious social media landscape than it was a year ago. If newsrooms are sticking to the same networks they were publishing to a few years ago, no wonder their clickthroughs are down. The changes in the social media landscape do not, in themselves, need to be a reason to post directly to social media instead of an environment controlled by the publisher: there is no need to cede full control of a publisher’s online presence to another company. A website will outlive every social media platform.

Which isn’t to say that changes to digital strategy don’t need to be made. The article is still the basic unit of journalism, which is a holdover from newspapers: there’s no platform reason why it can’t be more interactive experiences instead (although this clearly would require staffing newsrooms with different skillsets). Those experiences need to be easily shareable on social media, because news sites tend not to be destinations in themselves. SEO, still a big cost center for many newsrooms, is not anywhere near as important as having a thriving social media team that posts, shares, and replies wherever community members can be found. (We’re a quarter century out from The Cluetrain Manifesto and the core message of markets are conversations doesn’t seem to have quite landed yet.)

In other words:

  • Technology changes are not as important as ensuring the newsroom reflects your community editorially and demographically.
  • People are always more trustworthy than brands.
  • Nothing absolves publishers from building community (not “audience”, which implies a one-way relationship), across the social media landscape and beyond.
  • Publishers (through their individual journalists and personalities) should be everywhere their community is.
  • Social media platforms are therefore unavoidable but also not to be trusted.
  • The central importance of the website doesn’t mean that the form and content of the website doesn’t need to evolve.
  • Newsrooms should build their product (their website, apps, direct messaging, social media presences) to directly meet their community’s needs, based on (1) being representative of that community and (2) making active listening and learning a core part of how they work.

Should publishers build community on platforms owned by third parties or publish to a space fully under their control? The answer is an emphatic “yes”: you have to do both. Social media platforms are ephemeral — they are hugely popular but will appear and disappear — while your website is forever. Your digital strategy has to encompass both the near term and the long term.

The internet in 2024 will not work like the internet did in 2019 (and certainly not like the web in 2009 or news publishing in 1969). You can’t keep doing the same stuff and expect it to keep working — particularly if you’re not interrogating why those tactics used to work in the first place. Every publisher needs to think for themselves and find a set of core principles to adhere to instead of a set of core tactics.

“When you are finished changing, you are finished.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

So let’s change.

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Sam Bankman-Fried found guilty on all seven counts

Unsurprising. Which is the word I will also use for his inevitable early release.

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First Committee Approves New Resolution on Lethal Autonomous Weapons, as Speaker Warns ‘An Algorithm Must Not Be in Full Control of Decisions Involving Killing’ | UN Press

"An algorithm must not be in full control of decisions that involve killing or harming humans, Egypt’s representative said after voting in favour of the resolution. The principle of human responsibility and accountability for any use of lethal force must be preserved, regardless of the type of weapons system involved, he added."

Quite a reflection of our times that this is a real concern. And it is.

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We need to focus on the AI harms that already exist

"AI systems falsely classifying individuals as criminal suspects, robots being used for policing, and self-driving cars with faulty pedestrian tracking systems can already put your life in danger. Sadly, we do not need AI systems to have superintelligence for them to have fatal outcomes for individual lives. Existing AI systems that cause demonstrated harms are more dangerous than hypothetical “sentient” AI systems because they are real."

This is it: we can focus on hypothetical futures, but software is causing real harm in the here and now, and attention to science fiction outcomes is drawn away from fixing those harms.

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Last Chance to fix eIDAS

This kind of legislation is fundamentally against the public interest and, I believe, should always be opposed:

"These changes radically expand the capability of EU governments to surveil their citizens by ensuring cryptographic keys under government control can be used to intercept encrypted web traffic across the EU. Any EU member state has the ability to designate cryptographic keys for distribution in web browsers and browsers are forbidden from revoking trust in these keys without government permission."

If this passes, the government of any EU member will have the power to silently intercept and read encrypted web traffic. It undermines the right to privacy and creates a chilling effect for activists and other targeted, vulnerable groups.

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Confessions of a Venture Capital-Backed Startup Founder

"In the past few years, causality inverted: Start-ups and entire markets were manufactured from whole cloth to meet the demand of overcapitalized venture funds searching for a home run."

I am certain I'll found another startup, and I'm certain it will be a revenue-based business that will not be designed to raise investment. Perhaps ironically, in doing so, it may be more valuable as a result.

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Which tech companies are funded may be about to change

A screenshot from Sam Lessin's WTF VC presentation

I’ve been thinking about Sam Lessin’s latest deck about the future of venture capital and its implications about the future of how technology is funded and built. Sam is General Partner at Slow Ventures and partner to Jessica Lessin, founder of tech industry publication The Information.

It’s certainly worth reading if you’re in the industry (although be aware that it’s a DocSend link that requires that you provide your email address to proceed). I don’t always agree with Sam — in particular, he recently wrote a piece about banning TikTok because of pro-Palestinian content that I vehemently disagree with. But there are some claims in this deck that, if true, will be seismic.

He first sets the stage for how VC has turned into a kind of assembly line over the last twenty years:

With clarity and manufactured consistency of what late-stage VCs had to 'roll off the line' to sell to the public market, it became possible for the whole ecosystem to reverse-engineer and standardize the metrics companies needed to be worth at different stages and 'peg' valuations to those stages for intermediate products.

This trend towards startup standardization, measurement, and 'legibility' at all stages allowed the VC factory run way more efficiently and dramatically scale up. It allowed different funds to specialize in different stages of startup production - doing just one step - and passing the goods along for markups.

This is a clear description of the venture capital funding ladder: from pre-seed to seed, then through early equity funding rounds, then to growth rounds, and out into acquisition and the public markets. As Lessin says, individual funds and ecosystems developed around each of these stages. It was like a factory line in a way, but also a bit like a Ponzi scheme: the way early stage investors made money was by later stage investors putting money in.

At each stage, Limited Partners — high net-worth individuals, pension funds, and so on — put a certain amount of their money into a venture capital fund with the expectation that they would see a return within a pre-determined timeframe (often ten years). VCs typically made a 2% management fee and then took 20% of the profit once the fund reached maturity.

The trouble was, most of the companies constructed this way didn’t succeed in the public markets. The model described above worked fairly well for the inward-facing market of investors, and sometimes created services that people used, but it didn’t actually create the value necessary to justify those valuations. This — together with a reformed market landscape in the wake of the pandemic — means that the formulae investors used to calculate valuations are meaningless. There’s no factory-ready set of calculations to use. Every company is different.

Every company was always different, and valuations could never be paint-by-number, but it’s become harder to maintain the appearance of set standards.

Lessin also points out that the factory model also allowed absolutely unscalable non-tech companies to get the tech treatment: direct to consumer products, electric scooters, networks of doctor’s offices, and so on were all VC-funded using the same metrics designed for software, despite not being software at all. These companies didn’t do well at all and trust was eroded.

There are lots of reasons why this happened, which Lessin doesn’t touch on: once limited partners have put money into a fund, the investor needs to deploy capital from that fund on investments within the timing of the fund. These investments have to come from somewhere, and it becomes harder and harder to find the right kind of software deals the more competition there is. In a 0% interest (“ZIRP”) environment that hosted an explosion of VC funds that were all competing for founders, investors often hustled hard to get any deals at all. There were simply more funds than viable software companies to support.

All this and a renewed government interest in enforcing anti-trust rules means that acquisitions (which were how many funds really made their money) have slowed. And because LPs didn’t get their money back from previous funds, they’re not re-investing in new ones. And potential founders aren’t leaving big tech companies, because layoffs and a more uncertain economic environment means they might not get their jobs back if their startups fail.

What Lessin does say — in, for me, the most interesting part of the deck — is that this dynamic is still going on, and is behind the current AI boom. He characterizes investor interest in AI as a somewhat desperate attempt to maintain the venture investing status quo:

But what of generative Al you say! Well, this is what you call wishful thinking... a clear example of a narrative generated out of desperation in the VC community vs. good sense. The Al startup opportunity is largely a mirage of thirsty investors trying to cling to an old way of doing things after similar spun up stories on Metaverse (and yes in its peak froth moment Crypto) didn't play out, and the last narrative around ‘on demand services' mostly crumbled.

It’s an extending / sustaining innovation, Lessin argues: one that allows incumbents (Microsoft, for example) to make higher profits rather than providing opportunities to new players in the marketplace. There are no moats: no way for startups to maintain a lead because there are no network effects and everything is open source. On top of this, the startups are so overpriced because of the concentration in investor activity that they would need to be phenomenally successful to provide a reasonable return. If any of these turn out to be the case, investors in AI startups will not see the returns they’re hoping for.

Remember, this doesn’t mean AI isn’t necessarily useful in itself: it’s simply an argument that it might not be a good fit for new startups or for venture capital investment. Whether a venture is suitable for VC funding is not a value judgment on it in overall. Nonetheless, it’s an enormous statement.

Instead of pursuing the “factory” model of startups that require lots of rounds of funding, Lessin suggests that small investors should put their money into more capital-efficient businesses: small business platforms, communities, and business-to-business platforms with low expenditures. In other words, communities that are built slowly and can be revenue-driven without having to grow to monopoly size. The world where investors can aggressively fund a tech company until its competitors are dead, regardless of its own profitability, is gone.

I see this as largely positive: this is a world where people are more aligned with the services they use, and where revenue rather than exploitation is central. It remains to be seen how accurate it will be for the market at large, but I consider it notable and exciting that investors like Lessin are coming around to thinking along these lines.

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Open Society and Other Funders Launch New Initiative to Ensure AI Advances the Public Interest

This is the kind of AI declaration I prefer.

“As we know from social media, the failure to regulate technological change can lead to harms that range from children’s safety to the erosion of democracy. With AI, the scale and intensity of potential harm is even greater—from racially based ‘risk scoring’ tools that needlessly keep people in prison to deepfake videos that further erode trust in democracy and future harms like economic upheaval and job loss. But if we act now, we can build accountability, promote opportunity, and deliver greater prosperity for all.”

These are all organizations that already do good work; it's good to see them apply pressure on AI companies in the public interest.

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The Bletchley Declaration by Countries Attending the AI Safety Summit, 1-2 November 2023

For me, this paragraph was the takeaway:

"We affirm that, whilst safety must be considered across the AI lifecycle, actors developing frontier AI capabilities, in particular those AI systems which are unusually powerful and potentially harmful, have a particularly strong responsibility for ensuring the safety of these AI systems, including through systems for safety testing, through evaluations, and by other appropriate measures. We encourage all relevant actors to provide context-appropriate transparency and accountability on their plans to measure, monitor and mitigate potentially harmful capabilities and the associated effects that may emerge, in particular to prevent misuse and issues of control, and the amplification of other risks."

In other words, the onus will be on AI developers to police themselves. We will see how that works out in practice.

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Technical Standards Bodies are Regulators

This is an interesting point of view, but I don't think I fully buy it: while these bodies set technical standards, they have no ability to actually enforce.

Consider the situation with Internet Explorer back when it virtually owned the web (and, to a lesser extent, the situation today with Chrome). Standards could be set, directions could be established, but there was no-one to stop Microsoft from going their own way.

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Return To Office is all about power

A laptop open on a table in a cabin in the woods

Expensify’s experiment to use craft coffees and a free cocktail bar to lure employees back to the office failed spectacularly:

If the best office in the entire planet can't compete with the local coffee shop, the tightly-closed Pandora's box of "work from anywhere" has burst open, and will never be resealed. No amount of begging or coercion is going to work in the long run: the businesses that demand it are fighting a losing war of attrition against an infinite universal energy. You heard it here folks: the office is dead.

This isn’t where every company has ended up on this issue. Most large tech companies in particular are demanding a return to the office, for a few reasons.

The first, although not the main reason, is that a lot of very large companies have real estate portfolios that are now sitting mostly-empty, which will drive down prices when leases come up for renewal, in turn jeopardizing the value of commercial real estate holdings. (Boo hoo.)

The second is a belief — more religious than fact-based — that workers are more productive in the office than if they work from home. (Research tends to show the opposite.)

And the third is ostensibly about company culture:

In a 2022 Korn Ferry survey of 15,000 global executives, two-thirds agreed that corporate culture accounts for more than 30% of their company’s market value. Many leaders, the report notes, believe that a strong culture can only be established and maintained “if everyone is — at least some of the time — occupying the same workplace.”

Culture is important — the core issue on most teams — and I’ll come back to that issue. There’s a subtext here, too, about power. The essential flip is between an employer-controlled environment and a worker-controlled environment. In the former, employees can be observed and their behavior influenced. In the latter, not so much.

This balance of power, at least for knowledge workers, is what has flipped forever. Nobody’s willingly going back to an environment of predominant employer control — at least not without significant concessions.

I wrote a flippant post on Mastodon:

You really want to get people back to the office? Forget free cocktails. Think free daycare, six month parental leave, 25 days vacation + holidays, extensive carer benefits for those who need them, the expectation that you’ll stay home and rest rather than work if you’re sick, flexible hours, further help with the enormous cost of living in the cities you operate in.

Oh, and test and require vaccination proof for everyone.

The response was really strong. Americans overwhelmingly responded with, “Yes! And also retrofit offices to have better ventilation.” Europeans, meanwhile, overwhelmingly responded with, “This would actually be an erosion of my rights; aim higher.” — a good reminder that the working conditions Americans are used to are not the norm virtually anywhere else in the world.

The crux of what I was trying to say is that the balance of power has been in favor of employers; working from home has been much-needed freedom for employees (albeit granted by necessity rather than benevolence). It’s still not truly in balance, and the benefits I discussed should be provided regardless of whether a workforce works from home or from the office — but if a full return to office is on the table, worker benefits, rights, and protections should be too.

And that’s the crux of changes to company culture, too. When employers say “culture” they often mean “norms”: when people show up for work, how they dress, notions of professed work ethic, and so on. These are all cultural elements that benefit the office. But there are also “softer” cultural elements that are a hard requirement for functioning well as a community in any context, that are even more important when workers are not in constant contact with each other.

In a remote environment, communication skills, inclusion, empathy, feeling supported, and connectedness all become vital. It’s easy to feel isolated or unsupported when you’re working from your kitchen table and conversations need to be scheduled video calls. It’s easy to not know what’s happening, understand the team’s goals, or not realize that your colleague is having a hard time this week and isn’t able to be fully present. Many of these things were implicit and unspoken when everyone was in the same room. Not addressing them explicitly was already to the detriment of a company’s culture; it was never optional. But now that everyone is distributed, its importance is amplified.

It turns out that very few employers know how to adapt to that.

It’s worth considering ideas of formal and informal communication in work contexts. Everyone knows that the real benefits at work-related conferences aren’t the sessions, but the hallway track: the conversations people informally have on the side. In my early-career work in higher education, I used to argue that learning was dependent on friendship and study groups that are formed at colleges: the informal spaces where people learn and share knowledge together.

Relationships and ambient information are built in workplaces in the same way. Building a company culture is a lot like building any community. Everyone needs to feel supported, through both hard actions (providing inclusive benefits, tools, processes, policies) and soft gestures (trust, openness, vulnerability, transparency, empathy). There need to be spaces for reflection, and there has to be room for being messily human. Everyone has to feel valued because they are valued, both in word and action. And in turn, it turns out that having increased power, agency, connectedness, support, and trust will make them happier and more productive.

There are tools for this, but they’re different tools. I believe strongly in journaling inside a company, for example: a way of modeling transparent communication, quiet reflection, and vulnerability. The best place I’ve seen this work is Medium, which has a private version of its site (called Hatch) run as an intranet for employees. It’s a beautiful space that runs the gamut from engineering specs to personal introductions and introspection. As Marcin Wishary wrote a few years ago:

It’s so good it feels like a perk. It forces us to be thoughtful about our product and about our company. It makes everyone a better writer/explainer/storyteller. It keeps the relevant ideas and thoughts afloat, as they don’t just die in individual mailboxes.

It’s not a surprise that when the then-CTO of Medium moved on, it was to found Range, a sort of operating system for team communication.

These are hundreds of similar ideas — some of them formal tools, some of them informal practices — that can help with building a strong remote team culture. It’s completely possible, if employers can bring themselves to understand that they have to do the work, and to internalize Expensify’s finding that the previous status quo is never coming back.

No matter which way you cut it or which tools you use, remote work does depend on trust in your employees, more devolved power and distributed equity, high transparency, and great, bi-directional communication. If those are challenging to an organization, there just might be deeper problems that need to be addressed.

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That's beautiful!

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Pushing for a lower dev estimate is like negotiating better weather with a meteorologist

I've lived this, and I'd go so far that it's a sure sign of a dysfunctional team: when non-technical leadership pushes for lower estimates based on their own business hopes and doesn't accept the ones given by their in-house experts.

"Pushing for a lower estimate is like negotiating better weather with the meteorologist" covers it nicely.

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Senior web development at ProPublica

ProPublica is hiring a senior web developer.

You’re familiar with ProPublica’s reporting even if you’re not sure about the name. They’re the newsroom that reported on Justice Clarence Thomas’s close relationship with GOP megadonor Harlan Crow; on TurboTax’s misleading practices that coerce low income tax filers into paying for its product; on Illinois schools collaborating with local police to issue tickets for minor misbehavior. It’s won major journalism prizes including the Pulitzer, had an outsize impact on American democracy, and shown the way for non-profit news.

The product team is a small group of creative technologists that provide the website, data, and infrastructure platform for this journalism to be published. It’s a remote team (although applicants must be in the United States) with an option to be in-person in New York City. Go apply here and say I sent you.

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What Palestinians Really Think of Hamas

Palestinians in Gaza are, by and large, not fans of Hamas, and are not aligned with eliminating Israel.

"By and large, Gazans do not share Hamas’s goal of eliminating the state of Israel. When presented with three possible solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (as well as an option to choose “other”), the majority of survey respondents (54 percent) favored the two-state solution outlined in the 1993 Oslo accords."

Of course, they likely also don't favor being bombed to oblivion.

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The Handcrafted Artisanal Web

"The future is returning to an artisanal web, where you cultivate your niches and small communities, where maybe you don’t become a millionaire and a star, but you do feel a sense of belonging, and maybe make enough to get by. I think that’d be okay, honestly."

I think that's more than okay. I'd say it's optimal. Let's get there quickly, please.

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‘The Messenger’ Speed Runs The U.S. Journalism Implosion Cycle Thanks To Incompetent Billionaires And ‘Both Sides’ Clickbait Gibberish

"Like so many rich media executives (see: Politico owner and CEO Mathias Döpfner), Finkelstein’s incapable of seeing most of the fatal flaws in modern U.S. journalism, whether it’s the inherent class, race and gender biases in most newsrooms, the steady erosion of trust caused by feckless “both sides” or “view from nowhere” reporting, or the underlying flaws with the ad-engagement models that now prop up — and violently derail — efforts to educate and inform the public."

This is not wrong. And you could see this implosion coming a mile off. It's just impressive to see it happen so quickly.

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Beyond Checkboxes: Privacy Protections That Work for the Future Generation

I think the conclusions here are the right ones. In particular, ensuring privacy by design is a far better strategy than pushing for informed consent, because the vast majority of people are not informed about the implications of data collection (even without considering Gen-Z's ambient comfort with the idea of being tracked). And DEI in the context of trust and safety is an obvious and hard requirement.

These are not standards the industry will come to voluntarily. Regulation is required in every jurisdiction and eventually as an international agreement. Without international cooperation, it'll be too easy for companies (and governments) to hop jurisdictions and use locales that are convenient for their data collection needs.

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Journaling in private with my friends

I kind of miss having something like a LiveJournal.

If you missed its heyday about twenty years ago, LiveJournal was a private blogging community that led to much of what we know as social media. You could follow your friends, and they could follow you back if they wanted; your posts could be shared with the whole world, just with your friends, or with a subset. Every post could host thriving, threaded discussions. You could theme your journal extensively, making it your own. And while you could post photos and other media, it was unapologetically optimized for long-form text. The fact that the whole codebase was also open sourced, paving the way for Dreamwidth and other downstream communities, didn’t hurt at all. Brad Fitzpatrick, its founder, went on to build a stunning number of important web building blocks.

There’s no other service I’ve found that allows you to write in long-form in a private space that you share with your friends. Instagram might be the closest in some ways: it’s turned into a more interesting, introspective social network than most. But I’m better with words than with pictures, and I miss that quiet, shared reflection.

Public social networks force us to use a different facet of our identities. In a private space with your friends, nobody really cares about your job, and nobody’s hustling to promote whatever it is they’re working on. Twitter nudged social networking into becoming a space for marketing and brands, which is a ball the new Twitter-a-likes have picked up and carried. Much like the characters from The Breakfast Club, each of the new Twitters has its own stereotypical niche: the nerds, the brands, the rich people, the journalists. But they all feel a little bit like people are trying to sell ideas to you all of the time.

Like many people on social media, I’m constantly sharing links to things I’m worried about, or things I’ve written, or things I’m working on. The underlying numbers are important. Is what I’m writing resonating with people? Are people subscribing? There’s an underlying neurosis to it that isn’t very healthy — and it’s this neurosis that also leads to blogging FOMO, where you feel like you have to keep pushing out content otherwise you’ll lose people. I know that influencers (the modern internet’s far better-looking answer to bloggers) also feel this acutely.

Not everything has to be about building a brand or a following. It can just be about reflecting, or sharing something with your friends. Private spaces allow us to be weird, unvarnished, and vulnerable in a way that’s harder for most people if they think the world could be watching. On the public web, everyone is their own little media publisher. In private, we’re just us. The former creates an enforced distance — almost a mask — between writer and reader. The latter is intimacy.

How can we reclaim some of that humanity from our social spaces? Should that even be a goal? I can’t decide, but I do know I miss it. I think what that really means is that I miss when the web felt like it was about making a genuine, reflective connection with other people — and it most often doesn’t anymore.

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Without a Trace: How to Take Your Phone Off the Grid

A really accessible guide to privately using a cellphone.

One thing I think might be missing here: you probably shouldn't use the phone near your home or regular haunts. While not connecting to your home wi-fi is probably smart, cell tower records will still show your most common locations, which can also be used to identify you.

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Bandcamp Editorial Director: “Fuuuuuck Bandcamp United”

This is a complete misunderstanding of the nature and value of unions: they're not just for low-income workers. Unionization can help all workers and make healthier workplaces for everyone.

Even with that aside, this kind of public rhetoric pits a manager directly against his workforce in a way that surely can't be healthy for company culture or morale. A case study in what not to do.

TL;DR: unions are good, actually.

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Leaving Twitter

Interesting to see this comment from Benedict Evans, who is far from an ideological internet participant: his social commentary very often leans conservative, and he was formerly a partner at Andreessen Horowitz.

But enough is enough. Musk's promotion of antisemitic sources and tropes has pushed him off the platform with no plans to return. Others will be watching and will certainly follow.

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POSSE: a better way to post on social networks

Really fun to see indieweb concepts like POSSE gain attention again.

When I built POSSE into Known, I knew it would be a matter of time before API changes cut off access (and it was). These days, in a world made of open source protocols, these restrictions don't exist: my website is syndicated directly to Mastodon, and soon Threads, and nobody can stop me from doing so.

Syndicating to closed platforms is almost pointless because their owners will close the doors once they feel threatened. But open platforms have no doors. You can share your content there in a hundred different ways.

It's truly a social web.

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I'm looking for a new adventure

I’m looking for new adventures! These might be:

  • A full-time position
  • A paid board or advisory position
  • A long-term contract

Maybe there’s a me-shaped hole in your organization! Let’s talk.

What do I do?

I’m an experienced technology leader and strategist with an engineering background.

I’ve spent years working in leadership teams, including:

Alongside this, I also:

  • Taught equitable product design to newsrooms as part of Open Matter and the Newmark School’s Product Immersion for Small Newsrooms
  • Served as the Geek in Residence at the Edinburgh Festivals Innovation Lab
  • Was a senior engineer at Medium, a top 100 website, where I also co-founded the openness circle and co-led workshops into responses to the 2016 election
  • Have been an active member of the indieweb community, advocating for a vibrant, diverse, independent web
  • Open sourced a rubric for making technology decisions

You can learn more about my career background on my LinkedIn profile.

What am I looking for?

I want to work with collaborative, empathetic, inclusive teams that are using technology to make the world better — or are advising mission-driven organizations about their use of technology.

We might be a great fit if:

  • You need someone who can create a product vision and execute on it
  • You’re looking for a leader with a technical background who can create a supportive, productive team culture
  • You’re looking for someone to advise on technology or startup strategy
  • You want to stay on top of technology trends and assess emerging opportunities
  • You need someone to help hire a great technology team
  • You’ve enjoyed my writing here and believe these ideas would be useful in your organization

Or all of the above! I would also strongly consider teaching or research positions.

What am I not looking for?

We’re not a great fit if:

  • You work with the military of any nation
  • You’re primarily looking for a software engineer (although I love coding in the context of the work listed above)
  • You’re an all-male or all-White team

I also only take remote-first positions, although I am willing to travel into the office or to customers from time to time. I can work in the United States without need for a visa or sponsorship.

How can I get in touch?

Email me at to organize a chat. I’m looking forward to meeting you!

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