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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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benwerd

benwerd

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19thnews.org

 

Tech's Elite Hates Labor

“I believe that a worryingly large amount of the most powerful people in technology have seen the growth of workers’ rights as a symptom of a broken market.”

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Fediverse Funding Opportunities

“At the moment, there’s funding for a handful of micro-grants (non-profit) or micro-investments (for-profit) up to ~$30k each. If your project needs greater funding, please submit it anyway; things can (and probably will) change quickly, and your proposal will help make the case for larger allocations to the fediverse.”

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Blame the CEO for Tech Layoffs at Google, Facebook, Salesforce, Amazon

“Any executive who participates in decision-making that leads to hundreds or thousands of people losing their jobs should be the one leading them out the door. Pichai and other tech CEOs shouldn't be making $280 million a year or even $1 million a year — they should be fired for poorly managing some of the largest companies in the world.”

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Big Tech is using layoffs to crush worker power

“Workers in an industry that had long been famously union-agnostic at best had been forming bonds, organizing and developing solidarity. Layoffs of this scale and suddenness can be a blow to that process. […] If there’s one thing that firing people in a large-scale and seemingly random way accomplishes, it’s instilling a sense of precarity, even fear, in those who remain.”

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The ‘Enshittification’ of TikTok

“This is enshittification: Surpluses are first directed to users; then, once they're locked in, surpluses go to suppliers; then once they're locked in, the surplus is handed to shareholders and the platform becomes a useless pile of shit. From mobile app stores to Steam, from Facebook to Twitter, this is the enshittification lifecycle.”

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I’m Now a Full-Time Professional Open Source Maintainer

“Long term, I want this model to grow beyond me and become a known professional path. This experiment is both easier and harder for me than it will be for those after me: easier because I have an extensive personal network and the financial means to safely take risks; harder because it’s uncharted territory for both me and the clients and because there’s a lack of legal, administrative, and marketing tools. I hope that as things progress the barriers will lower, making the model accessible to more and more people.” Inspiring!

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ShotSpotter Employees Not Only Have The Power To Alter Gunshot Reports, But Do It Nearly 10% Of The Time

“ShotSpotter’s human techs don’t just alter reports to distinguish things like a car’s backfiring from a suspected criminal’s gun firing. They also alter determinations and gunshot locations to better serve the needs of law enforcement agencies that interact with them.”

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Instagram's co-founders are mounting a comeback

“TikTok’s innovation was to show you stuff using only algorithmic predictions, regardless of who your friends are or who you followed. It soon became the most downloaded app in the world. Artifact represents an effort to do the same thing, but for text.” Potentially an interesting app, based on an interesting insight.

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Women, minorities lose ground in tech layoffs

“The technology industry has long struggled to recruit a diverse workforce, but the recent spate of cuts by Silicon Valley companies has hit women particularly hard, according to recently published analyses of demographic data from the layoffs. Women and some minorities were particularly vulnerable to layoffs because they were newer to their jobs and occupied roles that companies were less interested in retaining, experts said.”

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Permission Slip

“It’s no secret that a huge number of companies are collecting, buying and selling data about us. Find out what information they collect, and take action to help protect yourself.” An app by Consumer Reports that checks to see which businesses hold data about you - and then helps you to remove it. Great stuff.

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U.S. sues Google for allegedly breaking antitrust laws with its ad business

“"For 15 years, Google has pursued a course of anticompetitive conduct that has allowed it to halt the rise of rival technologies, manipulate auction mechanics, to insulate itself from competition, and force advertisers and publishers to use its tools," said Attorney General Merrick Garland at a press conference announcing the lawsuit.”

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Warning: Do not “other” me because of my age

“But I hate this new attention lavished on aging. Why? Because it “others” me. It puts me in a separate category from the rest of the world, and that is not how I think, feel, act, or want to be seen. All of a sudden I am not smart, pretty, successful, talented, or part of the family. I am “old.” I am somebody’s responsibility. I have to be told when to stop driving, and my checkbook can be taken away. I am a candidate for Senior Living (banishment to a place full of other old people).”

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Tapbot shuts down Tweetbot as it pivots to Mastodon

“Now that Twitter has confirmed it's banning third-party clients, some of the most prominent alternatives are going away. Tapbots has shut down work on Tweetbot, one of the more popular iOS apps, as Twitter rendered it non-functional "in a blink of an eye." The developer is instead pivoting to Ivory, an app for the open social platform Mastodon. While it's limited to an invitation-only test for now, Tapbots hopes to make the software "better than Tweetbot ever could be.”” Likewise, Mastodon will be better than Twitter ever could be.

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U.S. No Fly List Left on Unprotected Airline Server

“Analysis of the server resulted in the discovery of a text file named “NoFly.csv,” a reference to the subset of individuals in the Terrorist Screening Database who have been barred from air travel due to having suspected or known ties to terrorist organizations.”

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‘Passion economy’ platforms cut costs in tech downturn

““People are making choices,” said Rebecca McGrath, an internet analyst at Mintel. “Unless you’re very loyal to a creator, that’ll be one of the obvious things to drop.””

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Tesla video promoting self-driving was staged, engineer testifies

“A 2016 video that Tesla used to promote its self-driving technology was staged to show capabilities like stopping at a red light and accelerating at a green light that the system did not have, according to testimony by a senior engineer.” They’re fun cars to drive, but don’t let them drive themselves.

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Medium embraces Mastodon

“Today, Medium is launching a Mastodon instance at me.dm to help our authors, publications and readers find a home in the fediverse. Mastodon is an emerging force for good in social media and we are excited to join this community.” Hell yeah.

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The Effects of Online Content Moderation: Evidence from President Trump's Account Deletion

“The toxicity of tweets sent by Trump followers relative to a representative sample of US Twitter users dropped by around 25% after the account deletion. Second, this effect is larger for pro-Trump tweets and Republican users. Third, Trump's suspension reduced the total number of tweets, suggesting a drop in engagement. Fourth, we find effects on individuals who did not follow Trump directly but followed somebody that did, suggesting network spillovers.”

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The Intercept Obtains Surveillance Footage of Tesla Crash on Bay Bridge

“These semi-autonomous systems are playing the same sort of trick as ChatGPT: they offer a convincing but shallow impression of a competent driverless car without any broader context to fall back on.”

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Apache® Appropriation

“We urge The Apache® Software Foundation to take the necessary steps needed to express the ally-ship they promote so deeply on their website, to act in accordance with their own code of conduct, to “be careful in the words that [they] choose”, and change their name.” +1.

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San Francisco Police Are Using Driverless Cars as Mobile Surveillance Cameras

“Law enforcement agencies already have access to automated license plate readers, geofence warrants, Ring Doorbell footage, as well as the ability to purchase location data. This practice will extend the reach of an already pervasive web of surveillance.”

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Seattle schools sue tech giants over social media harm

“[The lawsuit] blames [social media giants] for worsening mental health and behavioral disorders including anxiety, depression, disordered eating and cyberbullying; making it more difficult to educate students; and forcing schools to take steps such as hiring additional mental health professionals, developing lesson plans about the effects of social media, and providing additional training to teachers.”

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‘Office Space’ Inspired Engineer’s Theft Scheme, Police Say

“A software engineer siphoned more than $300,000 from his employer by introducing what prosecutors called a “series of malicious software edits” that wired money into his personal account. If the scheme sounds like the plot of “Office Space,” that’s because the authorities said it was partly inspired by the movie.”

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Bring back personal blogging

“In the beginning, there were blogs, and they were the original social web. We built community. We found our people. We wrote personally. We wrote frequently. We self-policed, and we linked to each other so that newbies could discover new and good blogs. I want to go back there.” Me too - and this piece also seems tailored for bloggers to share.

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Poor and diverse areas of Seattle and Portland offered slower and more expensive internet

“Seattle had the worst disparities among cities examined in the Pacific Northwest. About half of its lower-income areas were offered slow internet, compared with just 19% of upper-income areas. Addresses in neighborhoods with more residents of color were also offered slow internet more frequently: 32.8% of them, compared to 18.7% of areas with more white residents.”

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