The Algorithmic Shadows All Around Us

I have had my eyes opened enough times to realize that everything in the physical world around me isn’t always what it seems. Something that is a cornerstone of the digital world that is being constructed around us right now. Humans have worked hard to construct the world we want, requiring us to hide, obfuscate, and project shadows over what we don’t want to see in our worlds. Through red lining, and other systematic illnesses people have crafted the view of the world they want, leaving everything else to exist in the shadows, just out of site. Something that is being codified, scaled, and amplified using algorithms, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

When I think about how algorithms are being used to hide complexity, intellectual property, and in some cases useful code, I can’t help think about how we are also using them to hide things we don’t want to see, or things we don’t want others to see in the digital world. The 2016 U.S. election has opened my eyes to how oblivious mainstream America is to the algorithmic influence on their world. When I point out that they don’t see all of their friends posts on Facebook, they admit they have never considered the fact that they don’t see everything from everyone. When I tell someone that their Google search results are not my Google search results, they are confounded, assuming Google provides the same results to everyone. They aren’t even aware that their Netflix choices are constantly tailored based upon their viewing history, as well as what others in their family had watched. People just aren’t conditioned to see how algorithm are being used each day, let along the shadows they cast around us.

My friends and family view my critical Facebook wall posts about the quizzes and memes they participate in as conspiracy theory, and think the ads they see, suggested posts, and results in their timeline is just the way things are. This state of mind allows our reality to algorithmically manipulated, by not just the platforms, but whoever else knows how to pull the right knobs, levers, and control via Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other mainstream platforms. It allows what we like to be fed to us. It allows what we fear most to be fed to us. It allows us to live in a constant state of digital assault, living on an emotional roller coaster that shapes our reality, based upon what those in power desire. Some of these power players want to do us harm, some genuinely think they are benefitting us, and all just want to control and manipulate us in some way. They all want to control what we see, and shape our view of the world to support their narrative of the world around us (them).

This is the magic of algorithms, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other forms of technological magic. They allow us to tell stories that inspire, motivate, or to leave us terrified. The stories of AI curing cancer, are just as controlling as the AI that is coming for your job. The stories the singularity, are just as controlling as the ones about the all knowing surveillance apparatus of the NSA. That AI will be your friend, or it will be your enemy. It will discover exactly the product you were looking for, as well as raise the price magically on the things you depend on. AI will shape how you see the world, both digitally, and physically. The more our lives exist online, the more AI will shape the way we see the real world. That video you saw of the massacre, it was manipulated by AI. Those photos from the protest, those were altered. Even the picture of your best friend has been enhanced, augmented, and you are sitting right next to them.

My biggest concern isn’t the direct obfuscation and augmentation AI and ML will be introducing. It will be the things it erases, censors, and omits. Realizing how unaware mainstream people are about how algorithmically altered their digital experience is, has left me very concerned with them believing this is the way things are, and when things are left out, that they will essentially have not existed (fake news). We won’t see anything that exists within the shadows that algorithms cast. We will only see things that are within the algorithmic spotlight. The things in which those with their hands on the controls, and knowledge of how to move the algorithmic knobs and dials want us to see. Sadly, these often aren’t the things that matter, the things that deserve our attention, these are just the things they want us to buy, focus on, and be distracted by, as other things are going on. I don’t worry about the things algorithms have manipulated, I worry about the shadows they cast, and that we are exclusively looking through a pair of lenses that we have been given, focused on exactly what they want us to be focusing on–which are often the things that keep us divided.

Image Credit: This image has been crafted by the amazing Bryan Mathers, who spends the time talking with me about technology, and manages to extract ideas in a visual form as a result of our chats. If you are interested in extracting any images that you have stuck in your head as I do, I recommend engaging with Bryan in one of his Visual Thinkery sessions–you’ll be glad you did.


The Damage I Have Done Over The Years By Not Wanting To Rock The Boat

I have spent most of my adult life trying to be what I considered a diplomat. When people were too outspoken, or appeared to be overly critical of me and the world around us, I always felt the need to step in and speak up. Why can’t we all just get along? You are being too critical, and never offering solutions. You just don’t get what I am saying, and it is you who have a problem. You really shouldn’t say anything, if you can’t accompany it with a clear solution. Otherwise, you are just being a trouble maker, rabble rouser. I had a whole toolbox for shutting down, pacifying, and keep things calm. If I couldn’t keep things calm, I would raise my voice, becoming intimidating, and most people would fall in line.

I genuinely thought I was making the world a better place. I thought that harmony in my environment meant that things were all good. We could all be in agreement about making change, but when there was disagreement, it wasn’t productive. I failed to see that most of the time it was my ideas people were challenging. I failed to see that often times it was a woman challenging my ideas. I failed to see that there aren’t always simple solutions that can accompany critical opinions. I failed to see that most of the time, the problem was me, and that the requirement there be peace was about me, and rarely ever has to do with the problem, or even finding a solution. I wasn’t being a diplomat. I was being a asshole.

People rocking the boat made me uncomfortable. As a white male I was used a certain level of comfort and easiness, something that is not afforded to everyone. I wasn’t very good at shutting up and listening. I wasn’t very good at letting people have a voice, even when there wasn’t a clear solution. I failed to see that most of the time we are not all in agreement, and we need to find the best path forward, based upon whoever was at the table. I was often forcing my way on people when I shouldn’t be. I was shutting down people who were speaking out against the machine that doesn’t always work in their favor, only to defend the system continuing to work in my favor. I was causing more damage, than I was ever doing good by being this eternal diplomat, and water calmer. I was keeping things working for me, and on behalf of the machine to not work in favor of others.

I am learning to shut the fuck up. I’m learning to listen. I’m learning to see the signs of how the systems works. I’m also seeing more of the damage being inflicted by other white dudes around me. I’m able to see how they shut down conversations, and defend the system that protects them. How white men don’t even realize they are doing it, it is just a reflex. It becomes our default state. Harmony means our position isn’t challenged. Progress means the system keeps working for us. I see how white men throw punches downstream, but rarely upstream. I see how much damage we inflict on a daily basis. I’m horrified. I’m embarrassed. I’m ashamed. I’m sorry I did this for so long, and I promise to keep my mouth shut and let you speak up. I will work to silently support you in what you do, and push back on the mindless armies of white men who behave as I have behaved over the years.


Isolated Development Environments (IDE)

I was captivated by several aspects of this story on the coming software apocalypse. After reading the story, I am learning more about the temporal logic of actions, and how I can apply it as part of my work on algorithmic observability using APIs. Another layer of this story I found interesting was around a hallmark tool in many developer’s life, the integrated development environment (IDE). The IDE is a layer of my API research, and something I’ve been advocating the delivery of API documentation, and other resources to help developers build better applications using the growing number of API resources. In a developers world, many roads lead into our IDEs, and I have been looking to feed the distributed resources that are available out their into the place where we work each day.

This post has me rethinking our IDE reality. I’ve struggled to find the right IDE for my API-driven world, and settled in on Github’s Atom editor, which has been a pretty light-weight IDE (until recently), and allows me to get the basics of what I need done, without too much of the bulk I’ve seen in other environments. I feel like that is evolving with this release, but for now I’m staying put. One of the reasons I believe in APIs so much is that they force us IT and developer folks to pick up our heads from time to time, and work with external actors, whether it is consumers of our APIs, or the providers of the APIs we are consuming. There is more opportunity to bridge us to the real world. The external world. Something us developers and IT groups are so resistant to in our daily lives. APIs don’t open the doors, windows, and blinds all by themselves, but there is a greater chance some sunlight will be let in with them, then without them.

In my IDE it is easy to tune out the world and be alone with my code. My programming language dictionary is there. My library of code snippets are there. It is where I put my blinders on and make the magic happen. Or, this is what I tell myself at least. I rarely have Prose.io, where I write stories, open at the same time I have Atom open, writing code. However, as the API Evangelist, there are times where these worlds do overlap, where I’m looking for some code, or a JSON snippet for use in a story. My storytelling brain, and my coding brain do not often get along, and they tend to not think along the same lines. My storytelling brain wants to speak to people. It wants to listen to stories, and retell them to people. My coding brain wants to be left alone. I cannot be bothered with what others have to say, I have to solve this problem. The code will speak for itself.

Atom is my isolated development environment (IDE), and Prose.io is my inclusive storytelling environment. I do not think about other people in my IDE, and all I do in my storytelling world is think about people. As I was writing this piece I tried to apply an acronym to my inclusive storytelling environment, but I couldn’t. Acronyms are about exclusion, and have no place in describing what I do as a storyteller. All of this is why I consider storytelling the most important tool in an API providers and evangelists toolbox. Without stories about what you are doing, the value delivered, and the human impact being realized, none of this matters. If you can’t articulate why your API matters to other humans, you shouldn’t be doing your API. It might have all made sense in your isolated development environment, but in the real world it will dissolve, dissipate, and become vapor when touched by sunlight.

Isolation is on my mind lately. Rural isolation. Algorithmic isolation. Development environment isolation. Why do we isolate ourselves? How comfortable isolation can be. When someone interrupts me while I’m immersed in my IDE, I react like someone pulled up the blinds and let the sunshine in. It is disorienting. There is a reason for this. There is a danger to this. It is something I’ll keep exploring and thinking about. I’m going to be paying attention more to how I use my IDE, and how it impacts how I engage with people. I’m going to think more about how it railroads me. How it feeds me what I need and keeps me serving my master. Codifying our reality, and increasingly the reality of others through the algorithms we are crafting. Like the inputs and outputs of an algorithm, how are our IDEs determining what gets in and what comes out?


Admittedly Living In A Bubble But Still Claiming To Be So Outrageously Right

A hallmark of conversation I’ve had with some friends and family who are unapologetically trump supporters is their admittance that they live in a bubble. When challenged on some pretty obvious factual inaccuracies in their perspective they frankly admit, “I know I live in a bubble”. Which almost always follows up with, “I like things this way”. Ok. I don’t have problem with people crafting their bubble, and enjoying living in this carefully crafted reality. I do have a problem with folks who reach out of their bubble, and inflict their way of live on those of us who do not choose to live in a bubble, and actually have a fuller picture of what is going on in the world.

I do not know everything, far from it. I do know enough though to understand there are many other voices, and dimensions to many of the current debates on the table, from race, to taxes, and immigration. I do not have all the answers, but I do grasp that not everyone has a seat at the table when decisions are being made that seriously impact all of OUR lives. When you live in a rural area you tend to not see all the other folks who should be at the table, as well as when the resulting decisions impact their life. Your bubble insulates you from the repercussions of having to make decisions from your vantage point, something that feeds into you thinking you have a complete picture. It is one of the reasons you are so confident, if you had a more complete view, you would begin to see how incomplete and uninformed your opinions are, and how many people they hurt.

What frustrates me even more is when you retreat from a discussion into your bubble defense, and I point out multiple aspects of what you are not seeing, and even the puppet strings that are being pulled to get you worked up, you double down on being right, even with all this evidence. I don’t understand how you can make any claim that you are being left behind, and people in Washington or the liberals on the coasts aren’t listening to your needs, when you shut down so many other voices by default, just so you can live in your bubble. Actually, I do understand. It is something called white privilege. You really do believe your voice is more important, even if you are fully aware at how uninformed you are in the same breathe. It shouldn’t matter, you feel that people are talking down to you, when it is you that have placed yourself down into a well of your own creation, where people have to talk down to even have a conversation with you.

You’ll notice that I’m engaging in fewer conversation with you. You’ll notice that I don’t come around anymore. This isn’t because I think I’m better than you, it is because I’ve chosen to live outside of the bubble. I’ve chosen to live in a world where I don’t have all the answers, and I am forced to listen to other people. I’m not a know-it-all, I’m actually fully aware of how little I know, and have chosen to open my mind to learn more. I’m seeking out diverse opinions, no not just “the right”. I am seeking out diverse opinions from people who do not look like me, and do not come from the same background as I came from. This process has made some significantly uncomfortable situations for me, and forced me to question much of what I’ve been taught, and who I think I am. However, it has made me want more. It has made me want to see the world for what it is, not a fabricated bubble that was handed to me in my youth, and has been carefully cultivated to keep everyone “safe”. I’m not living in a bubble, and I’m far from being right.


Our Isolation Insulating Us

I’m thinking about isolation in our world today on a regular basis. I’m thinking about folks who are isolated within the enterprise. Isolated within technological communities. Isolated in our rural communities. An isolated existence that often warms us, and insulates us from negative consequences, but increasingly, especially with the power of the Internet our isolation is being used against us. When Facebook is your only channel to the world, we are handing over a significant amount of power to these platforms, and to the partners, advertisers, and power users who understand how to game the system.

I single out Facebook, because it has the lion share of the bullhorn when it comes to folks isolated in rural communities, who are being used to inflict a scary amount of damage on our world today. However, this platform effect applies to Instagram, Reddit, Twitter, Google, and on, and on. I’m hearing more about the different types of bubbles folks are living in, some are more damaging to others, but all are dependent one, or multiple platform channels as their lifeline. I’m not exempt from this, but I’d say my channels, and networks are more diverse than the norm, and I’m regularly searching out new sources of information outside of specific platforms, on the open web, and in person. I’m constantly cultivating my channels, and pushing what I know into new realms.

This isolation is what has made the targeting capabilities of Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other platforms. In the 1970s Russia couldn’t target NBC, CBS, ABC, and PBS to push propaganda to racist folks in the south, or anti-vaxxers in the pacific northwest. Even with the bullshit that flowed through these channels, there were editorial controls, regulatory limitations that prevented invasions of this kind from happening. Sure, we had to listen to the message of corporations, and the government, but we didn’t have to be targeted with messages from foreign powers looking to divide us, and stir up our deep seated hatred and fears. Many technologists see these algorithmic controls which their platform possess as simply democratization, but with that freedom comes a lot of darkness, and when you unleash that on some very isolated individuals, the outcomes are going to be unpredictable.

I spend a lot of time thinking of my friends back home in rural isolation, and many of them aren’t much different than some of my friends in tech who live in suburbs, and medium sized communities, but also exist on similar information controlled diets, dictated by the channels they subscribe to. Most of these friends are comfortable in their isolation. Believe in subscribing to channels that only reinforce how they feel, and what they know. Broadening their horizon is hard, it is painful, and it would force them to question themselves. It is easier to stay isolated. Insulated from the world around them. Something the Internet is reinforcing at a phenomenal rate. Our information is delivered, our food, our pharmaceuticals, our entertainment. Why would we want to ever change this?


I Have Cut The Cord With The Perpetual Impending Doom

For my entire life I’ve always felt on edge. There is always something about to happen, and it will be bad. It has just been a part of my existence since I was a teenager. It got worse in my 20s, and stabilized into a low level, perpetual doom off on the horizon in my 30s, and 40s. Honestly, I used it to develop my career. Even in good times, I knew that something bad was going to happen just around the corner. So I kept working. Working into the night to make sure I had the skills, knowledge, and financial opportunities t make it through whatever was coming.

The problem is, this feeling produces some pretty crippling anxiety. It also can manifest some pretty shitty situations, something I’ve learn to minimize in my 30s and 40s, but in my 20s it created some pretty holy shit scenarios. When you believe there is doom around the corner, often times you get pretty good and finding doom, creating it, and hanging out with folks who make it happen. I have a laundry list of doomy scenarios from my 20s that would make you cringe–something I’m happy to have been able to evolve beyond.

Even with this world behind me, this feeling of impending doom, even at low levels, pushed me into a steady diet of drinking, and smoking weed to keep anxiety at minimal levels. Eventually this caught up with me. Unable to keep the numbing effects in place, I was forced to address the source of this impending doom, and work through this aspect of my reality until I found some answers. I recently had the realization that this emotional state wasn’t mine, it was handed down to me. It was codified in my reality, to the point where I made it mine. I made it about me. I took it in my own direction. I was recently able to set that aside, and I’ve spent the first two weeks of my adult life with no feeling of doom right around the corner.

I still recognize that I have a significant about of learned behavior, and coping mechanisms developed around my feelings of impending doom. It won’t be something I can completely unwind for some time. This story is part of that unwinding. But, now I know that this wasn’t mine to own. I don’t need to carry this one around with me. There isn’t doom waiting for me right over the horizon. I’ve always known that I can decide my own path, and done a fairly decent job at doing this, even with this weight on my shoulders. Now, I will be able to do a better job of taking care of myself, my health, and my sanity. I’ll be able to have better visibility regarding what is around the corner with the fog of anxiety lifted.

However, I am also left with the question of what to do about the person who gave me this vision of the world. Unfortunately at this point, I don’t think there is much I can do for them. I’m going to continue to focus on continuing to unwind my own shit, and make sure I do the best I can to create the positive future I know that I deserve. I wish everyone could be along for the ride, but sadly, I think there are some people who feel it is their destiny to suffer. To be scared. To always be afraid of what is around the corner, due to one traumatic thing that happened to them a long, long time ago. I wish I could help, but I’ve already carried this alongside you for 25 years, and I’m looking forward to some time without it. I enjoy being able to focus on today, without being worried about tomorrow.


The Meanness In The Current Wave Of Politics

I find myself regularly surprised at the meanness of folks right now. I’d put the lion share of the blame on the tone set by the right wing, but I see it in the middle, and on the left, and find myself struggling to follow some basic rules of kindness and respect. I’m getting to a point as of September 2017 where I’ve regained my composure, and making sure I am as caring and kind in what I say as I possibly can, while still saying what is needed, but I still find myself slipping from time to time. I’m determined to find firm ground to stand on, and maintain a direct message in my storytelling, while still being as respectful and professional as I possibly can.

On election day I slipped into a deep depression, which is something I’m still digging out of–I’d say I’m 90% there. During November 2016 I said some pretty mean things online, and during the holidays I purposely got offline because I didn’t trust myself that I wouldn’t just rant 24/7. In 2017, I’ve found myself regularly ranting, and saying pretty mean things to people on Facebook, Twitter, and on my blog(s). I don’t mind being direct, and speaking truth, but it bothers me when I’m mean. I do not like this aspect of my personality, and want to rise above it. My own mental illness demonstrates for me the out of controle mental illness that exists across the US landscape right now, resulting in folks being down-right mean, nasty, and unable to understand where other folks are coming from.

I’ve generally felt that the conservatives in the US didn’t particularly care for poor folk, people of color, and women. However, I felt that they would often shroud their activities in a thin veil of christian “kindness” historically. I feel like that is gone. I’m seeing people in my life go from generally well meaning folks, to straight up mean and nasty, with no regards for what happens to others, while also screaming that their rights are being stomped up, and feel they are right, right, right. This cranking up of the meanness volume has had a similar effect in the middle and the left, reciprocating, and retaliating with similar types of meanness. I’m trying to avoid this vacuum, while still writing about the topics that matter, without being unfairly judgmental, and hurtful.

I would add that the current wave of very vocal conservatives are mastering a form of reversism that is particularly damaging, and when combined with lack of facts, and abundance of fake news, makes debating online a particularly dangerous and maddening thing. White conservatives feel they are the ones being oppressed, when the facts show otherwise. White conservatives feel sources of information that support their views are facts, while everything else is fake. If they don’t agree with something, it is fake. If platforms and institutions do not give them space to share their hateful messages, it is censorship. Regulations are bad, unless it supports your efforts. Doxxing is good, unless it’s done to you and supports your message. Guns are good. Religion is bad, unless it’s white christianity. The landscape is littered with mines, traps, and sinkholes that will unleash the meanness on you when triggered.

I feel like anger and being mean, just leads to more of the same. I don’t have a problem with debates, and folks speaking up. We should have more of this, but the meanness has reached damaging levels, that will take us at least a generation to recover from, if we ever do. I find myself debating issues of government transparency, and cybersecurity, then quickly devolving into arguments about whether government is needed at all, and whether science is bad, then saying hurtful things because I was being accused of suppressing someone’s opinion regarding whether or not vaccines are causing autism, or the moon landing was staged. I feel my own mental illness being triggered, by the unchecked mental illness of conservatives that I’m talking to. Forcing me to be more mindful of when I open my mouth, and who I am speaking with–limiting the public or even often times private debate I engage in.

There is something that is triggering for me when people are able to wield untruths, delusions, and propaganda. I think this is the purpose. Their toolbox isn’t that robust, so they resort to destabilizing meanness, just short of pulling out a gun. And since most of these discussion are online, where a gun can’t be pulled out, the primary weapon is just to be mean. Defend what you do not know with meanness. Defend being wrong by just responding with meanness. Once a conversation devolves, you can easily be swept up in the conversation, and find yourself doing the same thing. Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter thrive on this, which is why I’m opting to do more of my sharing within my domain, where I find many of the trolls won’t always engage, and if they do, I have more power and control than I do on Facebook or Twitter.

I’m going to focus on the issues at hand, but lean towards being kind and respectful. Not just for the folks I’m engaging with, but for myself. I need it. I don’t feel healthy when I’m being mean, and dwelling on these things. I enjoy thinking deeply, and writing critically, but not being mean and arguing with people. Which sadly means, I can’t always engage with everyone in my life, because some folks are caught in a pretty isolated spiral of meanness to themselves, and folks around them. I wish them the all best, but I have to take care of myself.


The Dangers Of Falling Prey To My Libertarian Upbringing When Applying Technology

A couple years back I was working on publishing a guide to payment APIs, and I had what I thought was an interesting idea for an underground book on digital payments and currencies. I possessed a lot of knowledge around payment related APIs on a variety of platforms, and countries, and had brainstormed some interesting approaches to automation around these systems, and thought it would make for some good knowledge to share with the underground world. Helping folks understand how they can move money around online, and offline, allowing them to evade detection, and basically launder money in this new high tech environment.

I grew up with a heavy libertarian upbringing. I was taught how the government is bad. I was taught how to live off the land, exist off the grid, told not to pay my taxes, and rely on myself to make my world go around. I happen to also grow up on the Oregon and California border in a massive pot growing community–one of the largest on the west coast in 70s and 80s. I spent the first decade of my adult life living and working in the drug trade, growing, distributing, and being immersed in the world of marijuana. I still have an affinity for this world, even though I’ve been out of it for almost 20 years, and still know and love many folks who are still actively living this life.

It seemed ike a good idea to create a manual that would help these folks navigate the world of digital currency, and assist them in taking their cash derived from their illegal crops, and essentially launder it via digital channels, enabling them to live an untraceable, cash flow positive lifestyle. The folks I know in this world are good people, who are just making a living, that just happens to be deemed illegal by our government. As this world moves out of the shadows, many of them are facing competition, regulation, and scrutiny in new and terrifying ways. I wanted to just help them keep their world afloat, and become a little more competitive in this new and changing landscape. I don’t want to hurt anyone, I just want to help. I’m a good guy!

This is my naive, blinders on, 25 year old self speaking. My 45 year old, slowly waking the fuck up, and seeing the bigger picture self, knows what bad would come of this. First, I’ve learned a significant amount about how white supremacists this version of libertarianism that I was steeped in as a child was. After working in the federal government I’ve learned that government isn’t bad, and that it is our only defense against corporations, and the only thing that stands between the poor, and people of color in this world, and the white supremacist machine completely chewing them up. Sure, government isn’t all good, but it isn’t all bad. I just happen to be fed a very dark vision of the world, and was willfully blind to how much damage this way of life causes other poor people, women, and people of color.

In my life I have seen libertarian folk begin growing pot, trafficking in meth, and engage in prostitution, because we all have the right to do what we want, without interference, right? We have the right to ride our motorcycles without helmets–even if the government is who cleans us up off the road. Our hard money shouldn’t be taxed–even though we take full advantage of roads, hospitals, Internet, and other things these taxes pay for. Drugs markets are good, until they destroy our communities, family, and lives. I mean they are just free markets right? I’ve learned a lot in the twenty years I’ve been out of the scene, and I don’t think that all drugs are bad, or all underground markets should be eradicated, but I think we have to open our eyes to the wider damage that occurs in and around these markets, communities, both on and offline.

As I worked a draft of my payments API book I began to think deeply about how this could be used for harm. I had developed ways of turning cash into digital currency using the point of sale systems at Walmart, Target, Dollar Store, and other retail outlets. Then once it was online it could be exchanged as credit, converted into cryptocurrency, or legitimized by selling of digital art, music, podcasts, and other online businesses. I could help my friends establish legitimate businesses that would have products that would be code for purchasing their weed, attending raves and outdoor parties. It was genius. It would totally work. Then I started thinking about the world of meth and how it has devastated so many in my life. I started thinking about prostitution, and sex trafficking, and how this guide to payment APIs could be used to do harm, and protect some very awful people.

I quit working on my guide. My idea was a great one. I’m confident in my ability to deliver it. If I simply kept my free market, I’m white and this won’t affect me, libertarian hat on, it would have been fine. I would have made lots of money, and not seen any of the negative effects. Out of sight, out of mind. I’m white. I’m smart. I’m an individual just making my way through the world, right? However, I would have been giving a very powerful tool to some very bad people who would have hurt women, children, and potentially destroy communities around the country, or even the world. This is the damaging effects of libertarian gone awry. It’s very white. It’s all about having your blinders on. It’s all about ignoring how we are actually all in this together. Whether or not we live out in the woods, or in Los Angeles, or New York City. We aren’t immune from the damage we do, there is a tax on our soul, and it is something will come back to us at some point, in our communities, with our children. Somehow. Some way. It will fuck us.

I am still unpacking much of what I was programmed with in rural Oregon growing up. I’m traveling around the country, and the world thinking deeply about myself. I’m having conversations with all types of people about how they see the world. I’m also seeing how “well meaning”, “smart”, libertarian folks are wielding technology right now without much consideration for the negative side effects. I refuse to continue being complicit in all of this, beyond just being white and benefitting from the machine. I’m going to do whatever I can to reverse the damaging views I’ve held for so long, and if it means me being financially poorer because of it, so be it. I’ve seen enough to know that I’ve been asleep for many years, and that I have a serious amount of waking up to do. I’m just going to do whatever I can, and not writing this book, and sharing this knowledge is a good way to minimize the damage I do as a white person in this world.


I Do Not Distort My Images With Machine Learning Because They Look Better

I have been playing with machine learning since the election. I started a side project I have called algorotoscope, which I started applying texture transfer machine learning algorithms to videos. I don’t have the budget I did around the holidays, so it has been reduced to just photos, but it is something I dedicate regular time to each week. Many of the photos I apply the filters to actually look better than the filtered images, but yet I keep doing it. Not because they look better or worse, but because I want to show how our world is increasingly being distorted with algorithms.

Historically, I often used Noun Project images in my stories, because it reflected the minimalist look of my website. After the 2016 presidential election things changed for me radically. It has been a build over the last several years, but during this election it became clear that we were going to be living in a permanent state of algorithmic distortion from here on out. Now, I am a poor to mediocre photographer, but I love taking photos, and playing with my drone and other video cameras. I enjoy using these photos in my storytelling, but I feel that the algorithmic filters I can apply to them add another dimension to my storytelling.

Most of the time the meaning behind is only something I will understand, but other times I will tell the story behind. Regardless of my approach I feel like algorithmically distorted images go well with my API storytelling. Not only are APIs being used to apply artificial intelligence and machine learning, but they are being used to algorithmically distort almost everything else in our lives, from our Twitter and Facebook walls, to the videos and images we see on Instagram, Snapchat, and Youtube. Even if my algorithmic distortion doesn’t convey the direct meaning I intended with each story I tell, and image I include, I think the regular reminder that algorithmic distortion exists is an important reminder for us all, and something that should be recognizable throughout our online experiences.

One thing that is different with my image texture transfers from the majority of platforms you are seeing is I am using Algorithmia’s Style Thief, which allows me to choose both the source of the filter, as well as the image I’m applying to. This gives me a wider range of which textures I’m transferring, and in my opinion, more control over what meaning gets extracted, transferred, and applied to each images. Also, 98% the images I’m filtering are my own, taken either on my iPhone, my Canon, Drone, or Osmo equipment. I’m slowly working to get my image act together so I can more efficient recall images. I’m also working to build a library of art, propaganda, and other work that I can borrow (steal) the textures from and apply to my work. I’m also working to maintain some level of attribution in this work, allowing me to cite where I derive filters, and recreate distortion that works for me.

Not sure where this is all going, but it is something I’ll keep playing with alongside my regular storytelling. For me, it is a vehicle for pushing my storytelling forward, while also providing a constant reminder for myself, and my readers about how APIs and algorithms are distorting everything we know today. It is something we have to remember, other wise I’m afraid we won’t be able to even tread water in this new environment we’ve created for ourselves.


It Is Not The World, It Is You

There are plenty of people who want to scare you. This is how power works, by keeping you in a perpetual state of fear. From home to Washington DC, many want you scared. They want you scared so you do exactly what they want. They want you scared so they can take everything from you, and take everyone from you, and have you all for themselves. People who have the power are very good at painting the world as a scary place, and using colors that terrify you, so that everything will reflect back all those nightmares from your past.

The world isnt’ out to kill you. It has it’s terrifying moments, but those are being amplified, and echoed to make them much larger than they are. In reality, the world is full of people who would take care of you. Feed you. Give you a place to sleep. Invite you to work in their garden. Share their home. But, only if you let them. If you never visit, and get to know them. You will never know. They will never know. You have to put yourself out there. Make the first step, and overcome your fears. The fears that have been whispered in your ear. The fears that have paralyzed you for most of your life.

I used to be afraid to go out here. I believed all the stories. Everything seemed dark. It was very scary for me to take that first step, and there were plenty of times I felt alone out here. But the more time I spent out here, the bright the colors became, and the more smiles I saw. I realized that the scary faces, and the dark colors were me. It wasn’t the world. It was the way I had been taught to look at the world. Now, everything that was before seems dark, and I see how I became so afraid. I can see my path of fear, fed by everyone around me, who were just as scared, but looking for company.

The world is just a reflection of us. We have never lived in a time where there were so many mirrors reflecting our fears back at us. The Internet is made up of algorithmic mirrors that watch us, study us, and learn our deepest darkest fears, and then push those back on us. This is the new power, that wants us in our bubbles. Afraid. Plugged in. Tuning in. Never leaving our bubble. Terrified of the world, and sure everyone, and everything wants to kill you. Don’t let them scare you. Don’t let them win. Take control and take that first step out into the world. You will see. People are waiting to love you. Take care of you. Embrace you until your fears go away.


Writing Here On The Blog Is The Only Way I Have To Work Through Things

I have found my voice. I thought I had a voice before, but I didn’t. I never said what needed to be said. I never shared my mind. I always kept it to myself. I kept it all in my head with the other voices. I was never taught how to speak. I was never taught how to share. I’ve never been in an environment where I can speak my mind. Writing here on my blog(s) is the only way I know to speak out loud, share what is in my head, and speak truth.

Over the last seven years I have practiced speaking. I found that the more I wrote, the better I feel. If I had an idea, and I didn’t write about it, and hit publish to the blog. It didn’t exist. I was bottling it up, and it may never see the light of day. I would walk around for days, or weeks feeling constipated with my ideas and thoughts, until I wrote them down and hit publish. It isn’t about page views, or anyone reading, it is just about speaking. It is about sharing my mind. It is about going to therapy. Working through my mind, unwinding years of being silent.

These stories aren’t about you. These stories are about me. With each story I publish I feel better. After seven years I have my day to day thoughts, anxiety, and stress dealt with, as long as I was publishing. The problem is I still have the past to deal with. I have a LOT of past to deal with. Now I have the tools to deal with it, but I have to do the work. I have to use my voice. I have to write. Hit publish. Write. Hit publish. I’m thankful I have a voice. I finally have a way to work through my thoughts. My past. I have lost a lot, but at least I have my stories.


I Hitchiked 20 Years To Ask You A Question

You were the only person I had to look up to when it came to programming. We spent days working, talking, and exploring the world of compute, before the Internet ever came along. By the time we got the Internet we were already so high. We still played, explored, but it was in its infancy, and we were so, so lost. We couldn’t even make the keys work within hours of being together, were were in another universe, in a separate space. Out of this world. Out of our minds.

Honestly, I don’t remember being the first one to give it to you, but your wife, and your mother told me at your funeral that I did. They wouldn’t turn me in to the police for what we did. For helping you, when you couldn’t do the work yourself. I still have the smell in my nose. You were my brother. I would do it again. Knowing that I was the first to get you hooked would be my sentence. I would be doing life without you. I can’t ask you questions about programming anymore. I had to figure out all the answers for myself. Doing it all alone.

I’m sorry, Manny. I’m sorry I got you hooked. I wish we could go back to Mt. Rose and do it all over again. I wish we could keep programming. We would rock this Internet world together. We’d own this shit. In the last five years I’ve finally have found a handful of folks who I look up to when it comes to programming and software architecture, but it took me 20 years. It was a long and lonely search. I’ve also found a partner who I can talk to about what happened. I have never shared this story with anyone along the way, I just hit the road. Doing what I needed to do.

In the last year I’ve also found my true voice. It is the first time I’ve been able to talk about you. Last summer was the first story, and this is the second. I think that this is how I will be able to resurrect you. Have you along my side again. Telling the stories that I would want to share with you. Talk to you about what I’m building, and the challenges I’m facing. Ask you the questions which I don’t know the answer to. I remember hitchiking 1,000 miles just so I could ask you a question in person. I just hitchiked 20 years so I can ask you a question. I think I’ll keep visiting. Maybe I’ll remember that day I first got you hooked, and who knows what else I’ll remember along the way.


Stop Thief And Thinking I Am Talking About You

I am constantly reworking and reusing stories that are in my notebook for publishing across my network of sites. While doing my monitoring of the world of technology and how it is impacting our world I am constantly taking notes about a variety of personalities and characters I come across, which I use across my stories to drive home specific points. I’d say that 70% of what I write about is not directly about anyone in the real world, it is a mashup up people I’ve met and read about, rooted in a narrative about how I see the world, and rooted in my experiences. Making some of my stories seem very true, relevant, and timely. When in reality it’s fantasy, based upon reality, driven by my personal story.

The effect of this type of storytelling is that there are a number of people who reach out to me, thinking I’m talking about them. I’d consider this to be a form of “stop thief!” syndrome. Where a police officer yells “stop thief” on the streets, and you stop. What are you? I’m always fascinated by the folks who think I’m talking about them, and even more amazed by the folks who feel they need to reach out to me. I know that many people silently brood about this and do not reach out to me as well. Mission accomplished. If you think I’m talking about you, then yes, I probably am. When in reality, I’m rarely ever talking about a specific person. If I am, I’m referencing them by name. I tend to not beat around the bush.

This is an intentional part of the performance that is Kin Lane, and the API Evangelist. I purposely have developed a pantheon of API characters to reflect all of you. All of us. I purposely make them relatable, recognizable, likeable, and hateable. I add to their personality traits when I can, and develop new characters when I have to. I evolve them based upon my real word conversations, and what I’m reading each day. I keep my characters in sync with the current business and politics of how technology is impacting the world around us. This helps me make my stories more relatable to the level where people think I’m talking about them. Then after I root them in my own experiences, tell stories in my voice, people are usually convinced I’m talking about them. They know me. The characters I’m talking about reflect them, so I must be talking about them.

So, if you are reading anything on Kin Lane or API Evangelist and you think I’m talking about you. I am. Even though I am not. I’m just regularly yelling “stop thief” into the digital crowd to see who stops and turns around. I find it is the best way to get folks to self select, and put themselves into buckets. I find that people rarely are honest about who they are, and what they are up to. In my experience, people respond to stories. This is what makes the whole Facebook ad targeting, media cards, and psychological profiles such a powerful thing. You post a series of stories that fit a range of profiles, then you can target these folks with whatever message you want. I do this with API related things like design, security, privacy, monetization, data ownership, programming language dogma, and other illnesses that plague our sector. I appreciate you reading my work, tuning in, and assisting me in better understanding who you are, and where you stand in all of this.


I Am A Tech Bro

Some of my friends in the tech space tend to get upset at my usage of “tech bro”, when I wield it in negative ways, showcasing some of the illnesses that exist in the space. I wanted to shine a light on my views on the phrase, how I feel about it, and why I wield it like I do. First, I have to state that I am a tech bro. I am one, and see myself as one, although it is not really as a positive thing, but it isn’t something I can’t just shed, or just say that it is good, or magically make it become something positive, even though I tend to view myself and what I do in a positive light.

I am a tech bro because I am male. I am a tech bro because I am white. I am a tech bro because I am a software architect and programmer. I am a tech bro because I have taken venture capital, and I have done startups. I am a tech bro because I have aggressive tendencies. I am a tech bro because I have tendencies to talk over people, including women. I am a tech bro because I tend to respond to swinging dick situations with an equal response. I am a tech bro because there is significant portion of society I do not see because of my privileged position, and because I am generally a pretty clueless dude, despite (and because of) me being very tuned into technology. I am a tech bro because I still get stupidly excited over (some) new technology. I am a tech bro because I still think technology will do good, even though I’ve seen it do a lot of bad things (and that is only what I see). I am a tech bro because when a VC tells me that if I have any interesting startups or ideas that they would be willing to talk more, I still get excited, even though I know better.

Sure, I’m a nice guy too! However, whether I like it or not I am tech bro. When I walk into many government meeting room I’m seen as a tech bro. When I tell a group of women, or people of color what I do for a living, I am seen as a tech bro. I have done some work to try and redeem my tech bro status, pushing back on my fellow tech bros for giving us a bad name, but it will never change the way I’m viewed entirely. It is because we have done a significant amount of damage to many other people’s world. We’ve willfully gone around disruptive people’s world, and whether it was the right or wrong to do in each situation, we are still disrupting. Just because we don’t see all the damage, and are often in denial of it, and it doesn’t make us immune from what we’ve been labeled, and that is has become something negative. I wield the term tech bro in a fight fire with fire sort of way. I know that I personally do not response to many subtle signs, and I miss many cues, so I leverage this phrase because I know if will make some of my friends stop and think, even if it pisses them off. There are a number of friends who are not bothered by my usage at all, as they see nothing wrong it.

At this point I wish I wasn’t a tech bro. I wish I could undo my upbringing and career choices, but I can’t. I have tried to think of other things that I could do for my career, but I am good at what I do. I wish all my fellow tech bros would do more good than harm, but I know that the majority of them will never change, but it doesn’t stop me from pushing back, and trying. If you are still reading my work, and find yourself bothered by my usage of this term, chances are you are my friend. Chances are you think along similar lines to me. I’m not using it in a way to say, “you over there”. I’m using it in a way that says, “hey look at how we are behaving, let’s think about how we can change it”. I don’t think tech bros are all bad, but there is a large portion of our society who do. Let’s think some more about how we can change it, and push back on some of tech bro friends and collaborators and help open their eyes, so that maybe we won’t be seen in such a negative way across the industries we are working to make change in. We are working to make change, right?


White Supremacists Deplatforming Is Only A Slippery Slope Because You ONLY Defend The Worst

I’ve been simmering on the slippery slope argument that is the default out of tech bros when any freedom of speech argument emerges on the landscape lately. As some meaningful deplatforming of white supremacy is occurring, where tech companies are removing the accounts, data, content, and media of white supremacists, we see the predictable wave(s) of slippery slope arguments in response–if you start targeting the free speech of the worst, you are potentially damaging the free speech of everyone.

This is an argument I ignorantly made for many years, taking the messaging I’d heard around me, and parroted it out as requested by the machine around me. From my current vantage point, I can’t help but see this behavior as being in the service of the white dominated machine, and I am just doing my part to defend white supremacy, and working faithfully in service of the machine and the defense it provides me. All of this leaves me thinking: Why can’t we move the line back? Why does deplatforming hate speech from white supremacists a slippery slope?

It is only a slippery slope because us white dudes do not defend anywhere else along the slope. When you have friends of color up and down the slope, which you are defending free speech in the name of, the slope isn’t slippery at all–you have allies, and people you love all along the way. Because you have their back when it comes to free speech each and every day, they have your back. It is the fact that you only spend time defending the worst of the worst at the top, and do not have any friends you are defending regularly along the way, that the slope becomes slippery, and terrifying for you.

Why is the worst free speech white supremacy? What about sexual predators? Are you defending the free speech of sexual predators? To talk online about what they do? No. Because you have drawn the line between being a sexual predators as bad, and white supremacy speech as well, not that bad, because I’m white, or I need to perform for my white community because I need to remain part of what is going on. The worst free speech isn’t white supremacy, you have just made the decision to draw the line there, based upon where you feel comfortable, or do not feel comfortable. The fact that you don’t have any friends of color up and down the slope, is what makes you feel comfortable drawing the line here. The more friends of color you have, the less you will make this argument.

If you are making a slippery slope argument around the deplatforming of white supremacists lately have you thought deeply about why you feel it is a slippery slope? Do you know where you originally got this argument? I do. My racists, gun-toting, libertarian step-father. The current wave of deplatforming is only bad if we aren’t transparent about it, and do not engage in conversation with our platform communities around the deplatforming that is occurring. I think Paypal has done a fine job of making the language precise, and we can do this without it being a slipper slope. I feel that arguments against transparent, communicative, observable technology deplatforming is just in service of the current white dominated machine, which us white bros are programmed from an early age to defend.


An Escalation In The Deplatforming Of Hate

We’ve seen an escalation in the deplatforming of nazi and white supremacists hate groups lately, with companies like GoDaddy, Apple, Twitter, Facebook, Discord, Spotify, Cloudflare, Google, Squarespace, Paypal, Airbnb, GoFundMe, OkCupid, Twilio, SendGrid, Zoho, Reddit, Uber, Kickstarter, WordPress, LinkedIn, MailChimp, EventBrite, SoundCloud, Bumble, Instagram, Namecheap, Discover Financial Services, Visa, and Youtube denying them a place to spread their hate online, and off.

This deplatforming goes beyond just speech and involves hosting, dns, social network, credit cards, payments, fundraising, messaging, SMS, email, dating, music, audio, voice, video, images, newsletters, events, documents, links, comments, transportation, and lodging. Removing the digital components that are allowing hate groups to spread their message online, and radicalize others along the way.

This is not a slippery slope. This is just one adjustment on a single front along numerous frontline skirmishes across the cyber warfare landscape–hit them in the supply chain. I feel that Paypal’s message is pretty straightforward, and doesn’t open up any slippery slopes with, “this includes organizations that advocate racist views, such as the KKK, white supremacist groups or Nazi groups.” Let’s just all adjust our terms of service to reflect this and move on. We will discuss the next situation when it comes along, for now we just want to keep “organizations that advocate racist views, such as the KKK, white supremacist groups or Nazi groups” out of our communities, both on and offline.


The Connection Between My Brain, Fingers, and The Keyboard

I hear a lot of noise about voice as an interface. I don’t doubt that voice enablement will have it’s place, and be used in a variety of situations, I’m just not convinced that it will end be everything everybody is thinking it will be. My feelings on the subject are mostly because of how I see the world, but come to thinking about, all my feelings are this way. Hmmmm? While the API aspects of voice enablement like Alexa are interesting, I seriously doubt that it will become the primary interface for how folks engage with the web, and move too far beyond a novelty, because of the existing deal we’ve established between our brain and the keyboard.

There is an connection the exists between my brain, fingers, and the keyboard. This exists on my laptop, as well as my iPhone and iPad. I’m just not a talker. I just don’t talk on the phone. I make most conversations straight forward and to the point, and enjoy talking with people, not much else. I can’t even take audio notes. As I said, I recognize that this is completely from my perspective, and there are other folks who will adopt a voice enabled way of doing things, and be just find talking to get things done. I just don’t think it will be as many people as we think, and I don’t think it will be practical for much of what we need to get done. We need more connection, privacy, and isolation with our thoughts to accomplish what we need on the Internet each day.

Having a conversation, or verbally giving commands to my computer and devices just doesn’t seem as elegant as typing, with a combination of mouse or finger gestures via a trackpad. I’ve become pretty skilled with generating a pretty significant amount of content via a MacBook keyboard and trackpad. There are plenty of ways to optimize my output in this environment, I just don’t see going voice will bring me any benefits, efficiencies, or even be obtainable in the environment(s) I regularly work. I know many folks are looking to push forward technology, but there are some things I think just work, and will continue to work for sometime. I’ll keep experimenting with new technology that comes out, but I don’t see anything on the horizon that will disrupt the connection that exists between me and the keyboard, doing what I do online each day.


Fake News Is Just The Beginning

in the area of fake news](http://boingboing.net/2017/08/04/fbi-tracked-fake-news.html), but I wanted to explore some of the other fake I’m coming across in my regular monitoring of the news.

We’ve seen folks having an increasing number of conversations with fake accounts, and services working to tackle fake influencers on their platforms. Facebook is working hard to tackle fake ads using AI, and Google is busy running tests to identify fake advertising. Wells Fargo is artfully crafting a fake world where customers get fake bank accounts they never wanted, and receiving fake insurance they don’t know they have. You come across fake photos, fake customers, fake dating, and fake currencies.

Fake news is just one symptom in a fast spreading epidemic. The Internet excels at everything fake. A small portion of world has figured out how to amplify their message with everything fake online. Opposing forces are lining up to assist us with fake literacy, developing courses on how to spot all the fake things, and helping us developer strategies, frameworks, and processes for identifying and dealing with fake news and other aspects of our digital world. Both sides of the coin are gearing up to wage a fake war, with much of it funded by a fundamental component of the web these days–advertising. Google, Twitter, and Facebook are all tailored for this type of behavior, allowing everything fake to morph, evolve, and continuing to make a negative impact online.


Reducing Developers To A Transaction With APIs, Microservices, Serverless, Devops, and the Blockchain

A topic that keeps coming up in discussions with my partner in crime Audrey Watters (@audreywatters) about our podcast is around the future of labor in an API world. I have not written anything about this, which means I’m still in early stages of any research into this area, but it has come up in conversation, and reflected regularly in my monitoring of the API space, I need to begin working through my ideas in this area. A process that helps me better see what is coming down the API pipes, and fill the gaps in what I do not know.

Audrey has long joked about my API world using a simple phrase: “reducing everything to a transaction”. She says it mostly in jest, but other times I feel like she wields it as the Cassandra she channels. I actually bring up the phrase more than she does, because it is something I regularly find myself working in the service of as the API Evangelist. By taking a pro API stance I am actively working to reduce legacy business, institutional, and government processes down and breaking them down into a variety of individual tasks, or if you see things through a commercial lens, transactions.

Microservices
A microservices philosophy is all about breaking down monoliths into small bite size chunks, so they can be transacted independently, scaled, evolved, and deprecated in isolation. Microservices should do one thing, and do it well (no backtalk). Microservices should do what it does as efficiently as possible, with as few dependencies as possible. Microservices are self-contained, self-sufficient, and have everything they need to get the job done under a single definition of a service (a real John Wayne of compute). And of course, everything has an API. Microservices aren’t just about decoupling the technology, they are are about decoupling the business, and the politics of doing business within SMB, SME, enterprises, institutions, and government agencies–the philosophy for reducing everything to a transaction.

Containers
A microservice way of thinking about software that is born in the clouds, a bi-product of virtualization and API-ization of IT resources like storage and compute. In the last decade, as IT services moved from the basement of companies into the cloud, a new approach to delivering the compute, storage, and scalability needed to drive this new microservices way of doing business emerged that was called containers. In 2017 businesses are being containerized. The enterprise monolith is being reduced down to small transactions, putting the technology, business, and politics of each business transaction into a single container, for more efficient development, deployment, scaling, and management. Containers are the vehicle moving the microservices philosophy forward–the virtualized embodiment of reducing everything to a transaction.

Serverless
Alongside a microservice way of life, driven by containerization, is another technological trend (undertow) called serverless. With the entire IT backend being virtualized in the cloud, the notion of the server is disappearing, lightening the load for developers in their quest for containerizing everything, turning the business landscape into microservices, than can be distilled down to a single, simple, executable, scalable function. Serverless is the codified conveyor belt of transactions rolling by each worker on the factory floor. Each slot on a containerized, serverless, microservices factory floor possessing a single script or function, allowing each transaction to be executed, and replicated allowing it to be applied over and over, scaled, and fixed as needed. Serverless is the big metal stamping station along a multidimensional digital factory assembly line.

DevOps
Living in microservices land, with everything neatly in containers, being assembled, developed, and wrenched on by developers, you are increasingly given more (or less) control over the conveyor belt that rolls by you on the factory floor. As a transaction developer you are given the ability to change direction of your conveyor belt, speed things up, apply one or many metal stamp templates, and orchestrate as much, or as little of the transaction supply chain as you can keep up with (meritocracy 5.3.4). Some transaction developers will be closer to the title of architect, understanding larger portions of the transaction supply chain, while most will be specialized, applying one or a handful of transaction templates, with no training or awareness of the bigger picture, simply pulling the Devops knobs and levers within their reach.

Blockchain
Another trend (undertow) that has been building for sometime, that I have managed to ignore as much as I can (until recently) is the blockchain. Blockchain and the emergence of API driven smart contracts has brought the technology front and center for me, making it something i can ignore, as I see signs that each API transaction will soon be put in the blockchain. The blockchain appears to becoming the decentralized (ha!) and encrypted manifestation of what many of us has been calling the API contract for years. I am seeing movements from all the major cloud providers, and lesser known API providers to ensure that all transactions are put into the blockchain, providing a record of everything that flows through API pipes, and has been decoupled, containerized, rendered as serverless, and available for devops orchestration.

Ignorance of Labor
I am not an expert in labor, unions, and markets. Hell, I still haven’t even finished my Marx and Engels Reader. But, I know enough to be able to see that us developers are fucking ourselves right now. Our quest to reduce everything to a transaction, decouple all the things, and containerize and render them serverless makes us the perfect tool(s) for some pretty dark working conditions. Sure, some of us will have the bigger picture, and make a decent living being architects. The rest of us will become digital assembly line workers, stamping, maintaining a handful of services that do one thing and do it well. We will be completely unaware of dependencies, or how things are orchestrated, barely able to stay afloat, pay the bills, leaving us thankful for any transactions sent our way.

Think of this frontline in terms of Amazon Mechanical Turk + API + Microservices + Containers + Serverless + Blockhain. There is a reason young developers make for good soldiers on this front line. Lack of awareness of history. Lack of awareness of labor. Makes great digital factory floor workers, stamping transactions for reuse elsewhere in the digital assembly line process. This model will fit well with current Silicon Valley culture. There will still be enough opportunity in this environment for architects and cybersecurity theater conductors to make money, exploit, and generate wealth. Without the defense of unions, government or institutions, us developers will find ourselves reduced to transactions, stamping out other transactions on the digital assembly line floor.

I know you think your savvy. I used to think this too. Then after having the rug pulled out from under me, and the game changed around me by business partners, investors, and other actors who were playing a game I’m not familiar with, I have become more critical. You can look around the landscape right now and see numerous ways in which power has set its sights on the web, and completely distorting any notion of the web being democratic, open, inclusive, or safe environment. Why do us developers think it will be any different wit us? Oh yeah, privilege.


Randomize IoT Device Username And Password By Default

I am totally hooked on POLITICO’s Morning Cybersecurity email. I’m not an email newsletter guy, but this is government cybersecurity wonky enough to keep me engaged each day. One of the bits that recently grabbed my attention was regarding what should be considered Internet of Things common sense.

New America’s Open Technology Institute argued that IoT device makers should start equipping their products with basic security from the start - including by randomizing each device’s default username and password, making it much harder for hackers to locate and take over poorly configured devices. “The ability to modify login credentials should not be taken as a replacement for the implementation, where possible, of unique passwords for every device sold,” OTI wrote. Also on the common-sense front, OTI said that IoT devices “must be designed in such a way that they can be patched or updated.”

I wish this was the default for ANYTHING we connect to the Internet. I wish that IoT manufacturers would make this the default without the government stepping in. I’m guessing there is more money in selling insecure devices, and defending against them, then actually securing Internet connected devices in the first place. From the number of breaches I’m tracking on each week, I’m guessing business will be good for a small handful of Internet of Things manufacturers in this climate.


The Reliability Of Government Data Over Externally Managed Data Sets

When I worked at the Department of Veterans affairs I was approached by a number of folks, external to the federal government, who wanted to help clean up, work with, and improve public data sets when it came to open data efforts in the federal government. As I was working on specific datasets about veteran facilities, organizations, programs, services, and other datasets that would make a potential impact on a veterans lives I would often suggest publishing CSVs to Github, and solicit the help of the public to validate, and manage data out in the open. Something that was almost always shut down when I brought the topic up within anyone in leadership.

The common stance regarding the public participating in acquiring, managing, and cleaning up data using Github was–NO! The federal government was the authority when it came providing data. It would own the entire process, and would be the only gatekeeper for accessing it. A couple of datasets that came up were the information for suicide assistance, and substance abuse clinic support, which I had on the ground local folks at clinics, and veteran support groups wanting to help. I was told there would be no way I could get approval to help crowdsource the evolution of data sets, that all data would be stored, maintained, and made available via VA servers.

As I waded through a significant number of links that returned 404, as part of my talk about the state of APIs in federal government last week, I’m reminded once again of the reliability of federal government datasets. I’m finding a significant number of APIs, datasets, and supporting documentation go missing. This has me looking for any existing examples of how the federal government can better publish, share, syndicate, and manage data in an interoperable way. Efforts like the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), which “is a common vocabulary that enables efficient information exchange across diverse public and private organizations. NIEM can save time and money by providing consistent, reusable data terms and definitions, and repeatable processes.”

Another aspect of this conversation I’ll be exploring further, is the role Github plays in all this. There are 130+ federal agency Github users / organizations on the platform, and I’d like to see how this usage might contribute to federal agencies being more engaged, and managing the uptime, availability, and reliability of data, code, APIs, and other resources coming out of the federal government. I am looking for any positive examples of federal agencies leveraging external cloud services, and private sector partnership opportunities to make data, content, and other resources more available and reliable for public consumption. Let me know any other angles you’d like to see highlighted as part of my federal government data and API research.


The Bungee Cord Connecting The Cult Of Always Being Ahead To Always Being Left Behind

</p>I sit at a fascinating vantage point of our reality, where my career is centered around highlighting the unrealistic stories that arise around our use of technology, and my personal life is still very much connected with my rural upbringing where I am seeing many side effects of a population that has been “left behind”. I spend my days studying technology and how it is being wielded to influence and control people, while pushing back some guilt, and many frustrations about how this world is impacting my friends and family.

Audrey and I call the umbrella company for Hack Education and API Evangelist, Contrafabulists – the definition for fabulists is, “a person who composes or relates fables. a liar, especially a person who invents elaborate, dishonest stories”. We work to be contra-fabulists for technology. Pushing back on the stories, myths, and outright lies that get told around what is possible with Internet technology. We spend each day trying to understand how technology is being used to mislead and obfuscate much of what is going on across almost every industry, including how our government operates, or more importantly does not operate on behalf of the people. While there is a number of interesting things going on in the world of technology, there are also a number of forces growing in strength, who have less than honorably intention regarding how technology is used.

When it comes to technology we often feel like we are on this fast moving conveyor belt enabled by technology changing everything around us in ways that we’ve never seen before! The world is moving fast! You have to keep up! Or you will be left behind! When you actually step off the conveyor belt, step back on, step back off, and repeat for a number of years, you kind of see that the conveyor belt is just a tech themed amusement park ride that is bullshitting you in almost every area. Don’t get me wrong, the ride is moving, but it is moving in circles, often around a pre-planned paths, with heavy amounts of storytelling and smoke blowing–you know VR, AR, AI. Everything is moving, but much of what we are experiencing is just a carefully crafted theme park experience.

When I return to the personal side of my world, and begin think about make the long trek back home to hang with friends and family, I’m reminded of the rural effects of this theme park ride we’ve put everyone on. When I switch back and forth between these realities the bungee cord tying the two worlds becomes more apparent. The lies about social, artificial intelligence, algorithms, and the all knowing qualities of code on what side, pushing, pulling, confusing, and manipulating those on the other side of the spectrum. You fabricate a grand story of what algorithms and artificial intelligence can do on one side to sell some amazing new advertising services to your customers, and you are messing with people’s realities, feeding them false information on top of of an already information starved diet at the other end–allowing old and new stereotypes, prejudices, and myths to flourish in this magical new world we’ve created for ourselves.

I am working to shine a light into the algorithmic black boxes that are driving much of world, helping distill down the magic of VR, AR, AI, and API into meaningful things that business can actually invest in and depend upon, minimizing the damage of snake oil salesman peddling their warez. While on the other side of my reality I am faced wit having to have discussions about whether wifi is not more damaging than the metropolitan area networks (MAN) wireless technologies that are already around your house, that those shootings in Florida, Paris, and 20 miles down the road from you were real, as well as that Auschwitz place in Germany as well the moon are both actually very, very real things. While miles apart, there is a bungee cord connecting these two worlds, and as some folks are cashing in, others realities are closing in on them and becoming a very, very scary place.

Photo Credits: Alessandro Caproni (pre algorotoscope filter)


Internet Connectivity As A Poster Child For How Markets Work Things Out

I have a number of friends who worship markets, and love to tell me that we should be allowing them to just work things out. They truly believe in the magical powers of markets, that they are great equalizers, and work out all the worlds problems each day. ALL the folks who tell me this are dudes, with 90% being white dudes. From their privileged vantage point, markets are what brings balance and truth to everything–may the best man win. Survival of the fittest. May the best product win, and all that that delusion.

From my vantage point markets work things out for business leaders. Markets do not work things out for people. Markets don’t care about people with disabilities. Markets don’t see education and healthcare any differently than it sees financial products and commodities–it just works to find the most profit it possibly can. Markets work so diligent and blindly towards this goal, it will even do this to its own detriment, while believers think this is just how things should be–the markets decided.

I see Internet connectivity as a great example of markets working things out. We’ve seen consolidation of network connections into the hands of a few cable and telco giants. These market forces are looking to work things out and squeeze every bit of profit out of it’s networks that it can, completely ignoring the opportunities that are available when the networks operate at scale, and freely operate to protect everyone’s benefits. Instead of paying attention to the bigger picture, these Internet gatekeepers are all about squeezing every nickel they can for every bit of bandwidth that is currently being transmitted over the network.

The markets that are working the Internet out do not care if the bits on the network are from a school, a hospital, or you playing an online game and watching videos–it just wants to meter and throttle them. It may care just enough to understand where it can possible charge more because it is a matter of life or death, or it is your child’s education, so you are willing to pay more, but as far as actually equipping our world with quality Internet–it could care less. Cable providers and telco operators are in the profit making business, using the network that drives the Internet, even at the cost of the future–this is how short sighted markets are.

AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast do not care about the United States remaining competitive in a global environment. They care about profits. AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast do not care about folks in rural areas possessing quality broadband to remain competitive with metropolitan areas. They care about profits. In these games, markets may work things out between big companies, deciding who wins and loses, but markets do not work things out for people who live in rural areas, or depend on Internet for education and healthcare. Markets do not work things out for people, they work things out for businesses, and the handful of people who operate these businesses.

So, when you tell me that I should trust that markets will work things out, you are showing me that you do not care about people. Except for those handful of business owners who are hoping you will some day be in the club with. Markets rarely ever work things out for average people, let alone people of color, with disabilities, and beyond. When you tell me about the magic of markets, you are demonstrating to me that you don’t see these layers of society. Which demonstrates your privilege, your lack of empathy for the humans around you, while also demonstrating how truly sad your life must be, because it is lacking in meaningful interactions with a diverse slice of the life we are living on this amazing planet.


Opting In/Out To Sharing Our Data Through Partnerships

I was logging into the Twitter web application for my @apievangelist account, and got a popup about their terms of service changes regarding sharing data with partners. While far from the world of privacy and data ownership I see in my head, it is a step in the right direction.

If you go under your Twitter privacy and safety, then scroll down until you see personalization and data, then click on edit–you will find a section about how they use your data to personalize, and share data with partners. The page just gives you a list of six checkbox you can turn off, or on, one of which let’s you have a say in whether or not Twitter shares your data with select partners. It is an important look into how we need to be seeing people’s digital data, and asking them if it is ok to share with partners.

I’d like to see a full dashboard, with more detail about EVERY way our data is used, and even some revenue share opportunities for users who do opt in. I know I’m crazy, but I think it makes sense if we want healthier online ecosystem. End users need to be included in the conversation. They need to be made aware of the data we track on them, and how we are sharing, selling, or doing anything else with our personal data. It is just the right thing to be doing.

Anyways, I went in and turned off all my settings. I’m not really interested in having Twitter personalize ads, personalize based on your apps, personalize across all your devices, personalize based on the places you’ve been, track where you see Twitter content across the web, or share data through select partnerships without me getting a piece of the action. Sorry I’m running a business here. Tweets are the exhaust from my business performance on the web each day, and it is important to me to retain as much control over my work.

I’m hoping Twitter keeps investing in this area of their settings. Maybe the personalization and data section can expand and even gain a more prominent place in the Twitter settings area. I’m thankful they have given me this settings, and it is something I would like to see from EVERY platform that I use, giving me more awareness and control over how my data is used. Maybe we could also start sharing notes on how to do it, so that we can expect consistent things from the tools we depend on each day–that would be way cool!


I Deleted All My Tweets Before 2017

Continuing the grooming of my digital self, I’ve deleted all my Tweets prior to 2017. These tweets offer almost no beneft to my traffic to my site, or the sales of my content, products, and services. They do contain many things that could be taken out of context, and potentially be used as leverage against me when it comes to potential legal cases, insurance prices, credit decisions, job or project prospects, and many other negative things that I just do not need in my world.

So far I’ve deleted my Gmail, and my Facebook history for anything @kinlane. I’ve also cleaned up my storage units for Amazon S3 and Dropbox, putting anything historical on a local drive, and secondarily on an SD card that is stored in separate location. I’m not deleting my accounts, or taking unrealistic stances with my digital presence, I’m just cleaning up things and keeping my house in order. Having these massive archives out there don’t do me any good, and only really benefit the platforms, and 3rd parties who are looking to enrich their data sets.

This is a practice I’m only applying to my personal accounts. If it is @apievangelist, or another one of my professional productions I am keeping the history in place as it brings benefits to the table, and tends to be more business focused. I’m also not cleaning up my personal blogging on kinlane.com, and my other personal domains, as this archive is within my control to clean up and delete at any time I desire. I consider this practice something I am calling reclaim. It is just the regular practice of maintaining my personal digital presence, assert control over what the web says about me, and limiting potential damage to my online, and offline worlds.

I wish that I had more trust in these service providers, but in the current online climate I just don’t trust that they have my back, and are being honest with me regarding who they are sharing my information with. I also don’t trust the ENTIRE online world these days. There are too many folks looking to troll, incite mayhem, and chaos. With this effort, I am just looking to minimize the surface in which they have access to when it comes to stirring their cyber(in)security pots, and limit any potential damage in my life.

Update: I never shared the tool I used - TweetDeleter. I purposely used this instead of the API, because I wanted others to be able to do it without any coding skills.