My White Male Spreadsheet

I’ve been in search of analogy to help me work through and articulate some of self-reflection I’ve been doing since the election, and I’ve arrived at a spreadsheet analogy that is pretty dumb as fuck, but honestly I think that is one of the things that makes it work for me, and represents my condition fairly well. The spreadsheet represents my world view. What I see in the world, and reflects all the information I have access to, the calculations I need to make on a regular basis, and the visualizations I have available to me.

This white male spreadsheet represents my default mode of operation, kind of like the trusty spreadsheet used to operate a small business, but this one operates my reality. This is my spreadsheet, but for this analogy to work everyone must have a spreadsheet which they operate from. Everyone would have different columns, and information available to them, with different calculations they have to make on a regular basis. Other white men will actually operate from almost the exact same spreadsheet, with women, people of color, and different nationalities have their own variations, or entirely different versions of a spreadsheet to work from. Now, I hesitate defining other people’s world as a spreadsheet, but for western white people, I think it actually works pretty well.

Growing up, my spreadsheet was pretty basic, with a limited number of columns, and information available. As I grew older and gained more experience new columns would appear, but my spreadsheet was very much crafted by my family and the world around me. I didn’t have any notion of the hidden columns, just that as I grew up, new columns would magically appear, and soon I learned if I traveled and expanded my reality other new columns would sometimes appear. However, if I stayed in my white world, and operate within my male reality, columns pretty much stayed as they were. My spreadsheet was mostly known knowns, with a handful of known unknowns appearing from time to time. My spreadsheet was pretty dialed in. Comfortable. Allowing me to operate in the world. It almost seems that if I stayed around other people with the similar spreadsheet configuration things were ok. Nothing seemed out of place. Everything was normal.

Nobody ever told me there were hidden columns in the spreadsheet. Once I begun spending more time outside of my comfort zone, beyond where all spreadsheets were the same, and started looking over the shoulder of my partners spreadsheet, and other friends, I started noticing they had different columns, or entirely different spreadsheets. I had never noticed the male harassment column until I started watching my partners spreadsheet on a regular basis. I never really considered the calculations she had to make walking home from the bar after a conference, or how she would receive entirely different responses for exact same criticism about technology. I could say something and nobody would feel the need to tell me I was wrong, but if she said the same thing, 20 dudes would come out of the woodwork to let her know how out of line she was. She had a bunch of columns in her spreadsheet that I had never seen before.

I got curious. What else is going on? What are columns, calculations, and visualizations existed? Then I began learning about other columns, like the red line column for my black friends, which dictated where they could buy a house. The whole other set of calculations they had to make when it came to what they could or couldn’t do in public. Governing how they could behave in stores, the workplace, and on the streets. My spreadsheet had very little in common with my black friend’s spreadsheet, no matter how nice of a person I thought I was, and how completely NOT racist I might consider myself. I was able to operate by a completely different set of rules, and was privileged enough to have access to a whole bunch of columns and information that weren’t available to my friends. Many of the columns in my spreadsheet seemed linked together with other people in my white people network, giving me access to things I had always taken for granted, and just assumed everyone else had access to.

Once I noticed things were different, I got freaked out. However, this quickly turned into curiosity regarding what other differences existed out there. I began inquiring about my latino friend’s spreadsheet, and those of my LGBTQ friends. Wait, white gay men have different spreadsheets than other transgender folks? Not all black people have the same spreadsheets? All of sudden I realize there are all these blind spots in my spreadsheet–hidden columns that were right beneath the surface. I realized nobody had ever showed me this feature. I seemed to have higher levels of privelege when it comes to access to unhide columns in my spreadsheet, over what some of my other friends have access to. There seemed to be some higher level platform level control, that dictates who gets access to what, and what information is available in our spreadsheets.

When I tried explaining that there are hidden columns to some friends and family I’m made to feel like I’m crazy. There are no hidden columns! Quit gaslighting us! I know that we exist and operate in this spreadsheet with a limited set of columns, and known calculations, but THERE IS NO HIDDEN COLUMNS!!! There is no convincing folks that there is more to all this. They almost seem afraid and scared to have the conversation. The possibility of having to possibility acknowledge this and live in a reality where there might be more columns, the ability to hide and unhide columns, and that some other force might be controlling and limiting who gets access to what is just not possible, and I should just shut the hell up. We’ve operated using this spreadsheet for years just fine! Why change anything now? Don’t mess with the formulas we have in place. Don’t add any outside information. Don’t disrupt any of the visualizations that have been built. We don’t care if the spreadsheet is being controlled, surveilled, and orchestrated from up on high. Just don’t mess with it.

I’ve been thinking about this analogy for about six months now, and I haven’t been able to shake it. It seems silly to use a spreadsheet as an analogy for something so serious, but honestly it is stiff, corporate, and white enough to just work. It is analogy that many of the people I’m secretly targeting with this story will understand. Not that they’ll possess enough self-reflection to understand what I’m talking about, but I still think it might have some effect. If nothing else, it is helping me think through all of this, and allowing me to think about how I can keep unhiding columns in my spreadsheet. As I walk through Harlem each day, and today as I leave Baltimore, I am using it to think through my reality, and what information I have available to me, and the calculations I have to make as a white man each day. This analogy, and this storytelling is helping me think about who I am, where I come from, and who I want to be. Who I want to have in my life, and the change I want to see in the world.

Demonstrating How Your Guns Are About Keeping You Isolated And Are Not About Keeping You (Us) Safe.

I’m seeing a regular meme on my Facebook from my rural friends the last couple of weeks. The meme is all about defending their second amendment beliefs, and showcasing that their right to freely assemble militias and staying armed is what keeps the government at a distance, and from intruding on their rights. The meme includes the drone shot of the Bundy stand-off in Nevada being used as the image, showcasing the usual lack of ability by these folks to look at the bigger picture–firmly believing that having guns is the only thing that is keeping the government back, and protecting their rights.

If that was all black, Mexican, or muslim group, would those guns would have kept the U.S. government from responding with force? You don’t think there might actually be other things going on here that are keeping the feds from bombing the hell out of this group? Maybe race? Maybe shared ideology? IDK, several other things beyond just those guns. I’m pretty sure if it was a bunch of armed muslims, the guns wouldn’t be doing very much. Demonstrating once again, how guns are used to isolated, divide, and restrict freedoms, more than they are actually about protecting our freedoms. The only reason y’all haven’t thought about why this a white thing, it is because you don’t have any friends of color to tell you your way of life doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I don’t have ANY friends of color on Facebook saying that militias are a good idea–not one. Only my poor white friends, in rural areas are posting these memes.

In that picture, those guns are keeping these people isolated, divided from how policy gets made. Did guns stop them from shutting down the Bundy situation in Oregon? No. It all comes down to calculating the aftermath of these situations and after Waco, and Ruby Ridge, which has left the FBI is a little more calculating about use of force. The primary reason the federal government didn’t squash the uprising in Nevada was that the backlash of bombing the shit out of a bunch of white conservatives would have been too great. Period. The overfunded military that these conservatives blindly continue to pay taxes to support, while simultaneously taking up arms against, won’t hesitate for one moment sending in a drone, bomb, or other measure to get the job done.

You go ahead and keep waving your guns. Remaining in isolation and thinking you are free. Your guns and militias are more about keeping you isolated and able to get riled up regarding a handful of hot button issues, than they will ever be about defending your rights against the government. Meanwhile, the rest of us will actually be working to change policy, influencing popular opinion, and investing in programs that help feed people, protect workers rights that keep us employed with a living wage, and trying to give health care to people. But yes, yes, you are free, your guns are what is making your life better, and without it you’d be killed instantly by the brown people over that want your stuff, or the government who is just looking to take everything you have around each corner.

The only thing protecting you at this point is your race, and shared ideology. Once you lose this, your guns aren’t going to do much for you. You flashing a photo of the Bundy situation isn’t meant to scare away the federal government–I guarantee they aren’t scared of you. It is meant to send a signal to all the brown people, helping reenforce your position within the system, and defend the racial lines that keep you safe from prosecution, and the government just using a drone to lob a bomb into your militia. Guns don’t stop the U.S. government from invading other countries, or putting down uprising in this country, when it thinks it can get away with it publicly afterwards. Consider the MOVE bombing in 1985 in Philadelphia:

Impressive standoff photo eh? Oh, and why is it that we have gun laws in California? Because a bunch of liberals live there? No it is because a bunch of black folk decide it would be good to have a militia, when there was a republican governor.

You just keep showcasing your ability to miss the big picture, and convince yourself that your guns are what is keeping you safe. It truly is all you got. You’ve allowed yourself to become so isolated, so information starved and ineffective in how policy and laws get made in this country, you’ve given the green light for all your freedoms being taken away. You’ve traded freedom for your 2nd amendment, and have made yourself a data point to rile up every two and four years when you are conveniently needed to shift votes. Nice work! #Murica

On The Obama Did The EXACT Same Thing Argument

I wasn’t going to write about this topic, as I see it as an obstructionist argument, and not one that focuses on solving the problem we face with social media. However, I was directly targeted with the argument by someone I know, and after thinking on it for several days, I couldn’t shake it–so I need to write about it. Otherwise I won’t be able to move on.

The argument is that people who didn’t question Obama’s election team for usage of social media, and are now solely questioning it because their team lost, are untrustworthy–making the argument that Obama did the exact same things as Trump, and this is purely a choosing sides discussion around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. With an emphasis on Obama having done the EXACT same thing as Trump, which is the element of this that has stuck with me, and I am unable to shake.

I guess we start with the fundamentals. The Trump team hired a 3rd party data team, outside of the normal RNC data operations, to target and influence voters. This team acquired data on some 50 million voters from a university researcher who had developed a social survey application which 270 users downloaded, but then was able to acquire the remaining data from friends of those users through the Facebook API. This researcher then violated the Facebook, terms of service in giving Cambridge Analytica the data, in which they used for micro-targeting of users with the Trump administrations message, in an effort to help them win the election.

Ok, so did Obama do the EXACT same thing in the 2012 election? Did they acquire social data to micro-target users, in hopes of influencing the election? Yes. Did they illegally acquire the data? No evidence points to the situation. Did they go outside of the RNC data operations? No evidence says so. Did they send comparable messages, use similar targeting tactics as the Trump campaign’s representatives? Fuck no. So yes, if you are willing to ignore many details, you can stick with your claim that the Obama administration did the EXACT same thing as the Trump administration by using social media to micro-target users during a campaign. This willful ignorance of how different of a situation we ourselves in right now, is particularly what I find so unacceptable about this argument, and the time we live in.

You see, fundamentally, 2012 and 2016 are not EXACTLY the same. Even if you did the exact same behavior, they are two different time periods. With so many data breaches in between, and with the stakes being much higher now. When we look at the targeting tactics and messaging of Obama v Trump campaigns, and how they used their social data–you will find very little being EXACTLY the same. That is, unless you are willing to ignore so much–which is the root of our illness. This is what makes this argument so dangerous, is that not only is it obstructionist, and prevents us from addressing the problem, it willfully ignores clear differences that many on “the other side” are so willing to pretend aren’t happening. Things that do not make these situations anywhere close to be similar, let alone EXACTLY the same.

Despite “the right” feeling like the brown man was coming for their guns, Christmas, and shove healthcare down their throats, the Obama election targeting message wasn’t threatening anyone, it was pushing for progress. Trump’s message to these Facebook users was all about targeting on race, gender, class, and all the hot button issues. Obama, targeted on the same data points, you say? Yes, I’m sure they did. There is that willful omission of reality again, he wasn’t inciting people to hurt you, exclude you, deport you, and isolate you based upon those data points. Obama was looking to deliver a nuance message around those data points, and Trump was looking to dive, incite, and separate on those data points–hardly, EXACTLY the same message. You don’t agree, well them I guess you don’t have any friends of color, or meaningful queer folk in your life–a lonely, isolated existence.

You know how I know the messages are different? In 2012, I was speaking to my family. While the topics around big government, 2nd amendment, healthcare, and other topics were uncomfortable, we were speaking. In 2016, the conversations were around Mexicans coming for their jobs and infiltrating with gangs, the Muslim people coming to kills us, the community college mass shooting down the street being false flag, queers and drug dealers should die, and how the jews running the deep state had rigged the election. We aren’t speaking anymore. I’d say the messaging this round deviated from being EXACTLY the same. I guess, unless none of these issues impact you, or anyone you care about in your circle. To me, nothing feels EXACTLY the same.

While I was speaking out against the usage of social media data in 2012, I know that my view of this practice is MUCH different in 2018, than it was in 2012. After being involved in the OPM, and Equifax breaches, I see data differently. After having my friends of color tell me how terrified they are, my latino friends all but disappear, and my queer friends worry their adoptions and marriages won’t be recognized, and someone I care about deeply begin to identify as queer face hatred–2018, feels anything but EXACTLY the same than 2012. Even if we were doing the EXACTLY same things in 2012 (which we weren’t), the stakes are higher, and more people are waking up. Sure, there is a lot of my teaming going on, but I’m guessing this is part of the game, and I’d point out that one of the team’s tactics have significantly shifted recently, throwing away most of their values for one last chance to be in power, and again, willfully being blind to the damage that is being done to other humans, and their friends.

After 2012, I was concerned for the state of things. After 2016, I will never be the same again. One thing I’m sure of, is that things are not EXACTLY the same between these events. My world has changed, and how the web, and social media plays a role, looks NOTHING like it did in 2012.

Your Guns Keep You Properly Controlled

As friends of mine mobilize in NYC, DC, and other cities as part of March For Our Lives, I sit at home working on a variety of public data policy projects, contemplating the roles each of play in how change occurs around us. As some of my friends mobilize, others are doubling down with their rhetoric around the 2nd amendment, and demonstrating how controlled they are by not just their guns, but the people who control policy by leveraging the gun debate. Demonstrating that their guns are more about control, than they’ll ever be about freedom.

While letting pass numerous opportunities to participate in shaping how government and our society works, gun believers cling to a possibility that they will need their guns to respond to an overreaching government. Despite never having had the need to rise up in their lifetimes, or their grandparents, they still hold true to this belief. Even with the knowledge that when government does come knocking at the door, that they most likely won’t come out with guns a blazing, they still hold true to this belief. Despite endlessly funding a military with weapons that out “gun” their weapons, and a demanding respect for this military, they still hold to true to their belief that they’ll need their guns to defend them against said military–never acknowledging this contradiction.

Gun ownership will keep folks from ever leaving their hometown, flying on airplanes, and participating in a meaningful way in marches, debates, and public service. Despite evidence of change being made generation after generation by marching, and crafting public policy in government, they still believe that having a gun is the most meaningful action they can make. Never seeing how their dedication to the guns, and this way of life actually prevents them from getting out in the world and participating. They’d rather remain an armchair activist and pundits, telling people in a world they never visit how they should live, and that their way of taking action will never result in any change–despite having no event(s) to point to in their life where their guns has resulted in meaningful change in how the world works.

The gun debate is all about control. It is all about keeping people believing it is the only power they have within their reach. When it is really about keeping them out of the way of how actual policy is made, and actual change occurs in the world, and having a gun be “the only” power they have within their reach. Name the last meaningful thing that changed at the hand of gun? Now name the last meaningful thing that changed because of marching, protesting, and influencing public policy and laws? If it comes to the point where we have to actually take up arms against our government, we have to acknowledge that they have planes, drones, bombs, and other things we do not. Then we have to also acknowledge that we have NEVER had to do this, all while numerous opportunities to vote, march, protest, and submit ourselves to public service have gone by. Once you recognize this, you’ll see that your guns are more about keeping you under control, than they are ever about truly being in the service of freedom. Keep on staying out of the fight, oiling your gun, because you are never going to need it–you’ve let all your freedoms go, just to own your gun.

Helping Folks Make Sense Of The Algorithmic Distortions All Around Us

I know that few people understand what it is that I do as the API Evangelist, or see the Internet-connected world as I do. While I’m not trying to influence people to see things as I do, I do want to help them see some of the algorithmic automation, distortion, and noise that is all around us. I do this through my storytelling, my photography, and any other possible means. Its tough to get people’s attention over the noise, especially when you sound like the parents in Charlie Brown, wah wahing on about the technology they depend on each day, but makes almost no sense to them when it comes to seeing the profound effect it is having on their lives.

I’m always looking for analogies that help people understand how pervasive algorithms are, and how they are shaping everything in our daily lives. This is why I distort the photos I use in my storytelling with machine learning. I’m always working to find movie references like Neo poking at the Matrix around him with his finger, or maybe like glacial run-off in a meadow, or the undertow at the beach. Algorithms are right under our feet, at our fingertips, profiling us, assessing us, routing, directing, and influencing us at every turn. So much so, we don’t notice, and when people talk about the influence platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and others have on us, we just do not see it.

Algorithms are being used to understand everything we do, so that the platforms and applications we have on our computers and mobile phone can sell advertising that targets us. These mechanisms have been hijacked by a select few of savvy actors, to manipulate folks beyond just commercial objectives, but because they are in alignment with these platforms business models, they have been embraced. Savvy technologist have learned they can manipulate people into buying their products, shifting markets, influence elections, and much more. Through the algorithmic assault and manipulation of individuals online, and specifically people who are pretty unaware that any of this manipulation is occurring. Completely unaware of the degree they are being profiled, influenced, and manipulated–invisible, algorithmic puppet strings.

First Amendment Distortions Let’s take a regularly recurring conversation I see on my Facebook, regarding the Facebook algorithms, APIs, and the first amendment. I see many folks chiming in regarding Facebook’s move to censor, or lack of moves to censor, fake news and extremism on the platform. That this would be a slippery slope when it comes to the 1st amendment. No, no it wouldn’t. As a business, Facebook isn’t beholden to the first amendment, but it exemplifies the dangerous place we find ourselves in with algorithmic influence and manipulation. Taken from Wikipedia:

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or to petition for a governmental redress of grievances.

The first amendment does focus on restricting companies like Facebook when it comes to free speech. However, this doesn’t stop the conversation from occurring on Facebook, and being framed like it is an actual debate. Making it a very rich, and fertile ground for algorithmic, API driven distortion.

Algorithmic Profiling First, if you are participating in this conversation you’ve been profiled, and targeted. You have shared and commented on conversations related to 1st amendment, and most likely because of where you live, your levels of education, and working status, you been identified for manipulation on this subject. Identifying that you probably have long forgotten your 7th grade social studies class, and haven’t refreshed your knowledge of the constitution or the amendments in many years. An opportunity to further manipulate, shift your opinion on this subject, and many others.

Algorithmic Automation Now that you are targeted as having specific beliefs, and fit a certain demographic, you will be targeted with advertising, articles, trends, and comments that reinforce your beliefs. The articles you see are automatically written, published, and syndicated by “bots” or scripts that bring them to life. They are trending because of automated networks of “bots” or fake accounts that only purpose are to vote up, spread, and syndicate content. Trends are only trends in your view because of algorithmic targeting and automation. Throw in a flurry of comments that either support your views, or harass you because of your dissent, and you are easily nudged and kept in line. I mean, so many other “people” feel this way, it must be the truth.

Repeat & Repeat & Repeat After you see enough articles on your timeline, and conversations that your friends are having about this first amendment overreach by Facebook with their algorithmic changes–it becomes truth. It becomes “many different perspectives” on the first amendment. These many perspectives drown out any reasonable thoughts you might have had on the subject. The facts of your 7th grade class become distant memories, while the immediate algorithmic distortion becomes the truth. Hell yeah, Facebook is stomping on our first amendment rights! Hell yeah, this is a slippery slope! Next they are going to go after our 2nd amendment rights! Filter out real stories and facts about gun ownership, and other truths.

This becomes the normal view in our Facebook bubbles, and then gets reinforced when we head over to Youtube, or Google anything via search. When we check our Twitter accounts, the stories there back up this reality too! Often with zero awareness regarding the ad network, and behavioral targeting game that is happening. How the videos, images, articles, and trends I’m seeing are all gamed, and target my belief system. Working to keep us on an isolated journey, while simultaneously thinking we have done the hard work to find the truth. Despite everything we see being algorithmic profiled, filtered, and automated to manipulate me. If we don’t see the algorithms or ad networks, we will never see what is happening. If we don’t know what an API is, we will never see how scripted my world has become. It is just reality.

Take the topic of the first amendment, and apply to net neutrality. Tax reform. Stock markets. Banking regulations. Apply it to the list of topics you either care about, or feel you have a grasp on. That the videos, audio, images, and articles you’ve tuned into are all tailored to influence you. Not everyone wants to influence you as part of some deep state plot. Most just want to get you to buy their product, service, and ideology. It just happens though that a very dangerous minority have seen how exploitable you are. They’ve targeted you, and have figured out how to pull the puppet strings. This isn’t just a left or right thing. This is a digital and market driven thing. This is about keeping you in your bubble. This is amount artificially amplifying the things that scare you, frustrate you, and keep you from leaving your bubble. This is to keep you ignorant of the bigger picture. Resist. Get offline. Read Books. Talk to people. Don’t trust anyone online.

It Is A Slippery Slope

I hear the “its a slippery slope” argument quite regularly when it comes to my work around algorithmic observability, censorship, filtering, and deplatforming, as applied to platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, and others. It is a common middle of the road way for usually white people to respond when you bring up the censorship, filtering, and deplatforming of the worst of the worst forms of speech you find online. Anytime you bring up any proposed solutions, or even just looking to tell a simple story about the problem, you’ll have waves of mainstream folks up in your timeline letting you know that this is a slippery slope.

Usually these conversation start out with a first amendment declaration. If Facebook or Twitter starts to filter, censor, or deplatform, we are violating people’s first amendment right to free speech. No, no we are not. Platforms are not government, and free speech doesn’t apply. Businesses can refuse the right to do business with folks, unless you start doing based upon religion, race, and other dimensions, you are probably on safe ground. Platforms do not have to uphold your right to free speech within their place of business. The first amendment applies to government, not the technology platforms that are increasingly becoming the public commons (YET).

Next, things alway go towards pointing out things being a slippery slope. Yes, yes, they are. But pointing out things are a slippery slope is a meaningless, lazy, armchair, obstructionist argument. Should conversations always occur on flat, firm ground? We never would climb any steep slope that might be slippery? Yes, one thing could lead to another, but if we actually have a constructive discussion about what is happening, maybe we can prevent anything else from sliding down the hill. Suppression of someone being racist, doesn’t always equally mean now sensible opinions around racial justice, or other challenges we face will be censored. Why pretend like these things are a given? It seems like you are preventing discussion and meaningful change with this line of questioning.

I find the slippery slope argument tends to exist as a defense mechanism from those who stand to benefit from racism, sexism, and these systemic illnesses existing. At least, having been programmed to defend this line, because of the communities they live in. I’ve seen people of color, and women defend this line, and get in the way of meaningful discussion and change, because their own survival in their communities depends on publicly performing in this way. These people rarely ever pull a slippery slope in other sides of the slippery slopes that occur around social justice issues. Change is too uncomfortable, they’d rather keep things as they are, and stick to defending the slopes that will impact them the most.

I think about all the slippery slopes I’ve had to walk to get where I’m at. To see the change I’ve wanted to see in the world. I’m perfectly willing to navigate a slippery slope or two to better understand the landscape, and see where the lines actually are. I’m willing to go up and down the mountain, and traverse side to side in even dangerous conditions, if it means a better understanding of where I would like to live. Politics and social justice issues rarely are worked out on flat ground, and I’m more than willing to strap on the proper equipment to make sure I can safely have discussions around privacy, security, surveillance, censorship, filtering, deplatforming, and observability at the platform level. If you aren’t, I’m guessing that you are part of the problem, I perceive you as being in the way.

Reliably Operating Kin Lane Each Day

I’d say that 1/3 of the time I’m firing on all cylinders, and cranking shit out as the API Evangelist. 1/3 of the time I’m pushing forward, getting work done, but not operating at 100% capacity. then 1/3 of the time I’m not operating in any reliable or predictable manner. I’m still functional these days. Most of the time. These are the days where the wrong email, Twitter troll, or other hiccup can spin me out for a day, or more. These are the days that words don’t just come. They have to be pulled out, extracted, and published. I wish I could schedule these days, and control when they happen, and how often they occur. I can’t.

On the good days, I can produce. The words flow. It makes sense. Everything I’ve learned about APIs is stacked up, and ready to be put down. It all works as expected, actually better than expected. My mind tends to know exactly where to go, what is needed, and where I should be pushing the boundaries. Just sit me down, get out of my way, and I’ll produce content, code, and continue to paint the big picture of the API landscape without much effort.

On the normal days, I can still produce. I tend to work from the flood of ideas in my notebook that were entered on the good days. I tend to not have many new ideas on these days, I’m just chugging away fleshing things out, doing the research, and fluffing up the work I have already set into motion. There is always plenty of maintenance and administrative work to get done on these days, allowing me to keep the train moving forward along the tracks.

On the off days, there is no predicting anything. Sometimes I can maintain. Read a book to start off the day, struggle my way through writing a few blog posts. However, the words come hard. They don’t roll off the fingertips. I make more mistakes. I reverse simple concepts, and I think they are correct. My brain is moving faster than my fingers can keep up with, and rarely ever in a single direction. I just can’t guarantee reliable operation of Kin Lane on these days, despite what the expectations are of me from my partners, and the public.

People tend to benchmark what I do based upon the good days. I’m smart. I crank out great content. Which, unless you know me already, becomes pretty disconcerting when you are expecting something from me, and engaging with me on an off day. You expected one type of response, and a set of results, and you got something else. For the most part, I try to go radio silent these days, as it is a better response than the frustration, incomprehensible, fragmented Kin Lane you will learn about in this environment. Restricting access and engagement is the best defense mechanism I have at the moment–it seems to work.

If I have an in-person engagement on an off day, I can almost always turn on the API Evangelist persona and deliver as required, in minimal bursts. Afterwards I have to quickly slink away, disappear and regroup, but I can usually deliver as promised. However, if I’m digitally present, I can’t always guarantee normal output and responses, which means I tend to stay off email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and virtual calls. It just isn’t worth it. For me, or for others. I can’t guarantee the level of engagement, smart replies, and not saying something that adds no value to the conversation. I’m better off checking out, even with the consequences of cancelling a meeting, being slow to reply, and other cumulative damage.

Understanding my condition is essential to me getting the results that that I do. I know when to squeeze things out all along the roller coaster ride. It is a more successful model than others I’ve tried in the past. It just means assessing where I’m at on the spectrum, and mapping out the day, or the week, based upon this assessment. It won’t always mean the reliable operation of Kin Lane from day to day, but it will mean a reliable production schedule from week to week, and month to month–not always from day to day. I know it’s not always the easiest to deal with, but in the long term, most people will benefit from the results.

I Wish I Could Show You How Scared You Are With Your Guns

I wish I could show you just how scared you are with your guns. I’m not just some liberal projecting my uninformed views on you. I am you. I was you. I’ve owned several 9MM pistols, a .357 and .38 revolvers, several .22 rifles, two SKS rifles, multiple shotguns, a .54 caliber black powder rifle, several other random pistols, and even a fully automatic beast I can’t recall what it was. I love shooting guns. I have always enjoyed playing with them. I have also lost friends to them. I have also almost went to jail for a very long time for crossing state lines with them. I’m not ignorant about guns.

I have slept with a gun beside my bed like you. I have carried a pistol on my hip like you. I have had a shotgun in the closet of the RV. I know people who have guns buried in the woods around their property. Have boxes and boxes of ammunition within reach. I spent the first half of my life immersed in gun culture, living, breathing, and absorbing it. Only now am I realizing just how scared we all are / were. Programmed from an early age that you will need a gun to defend yourself against the government, the home invasion, and those people over there. Its in the water, your blood. It is everywhere. There is no escaping it. It is just the way it is.

However, once you do escape this reality, and spend time with other people in the world you begin to see just how afraid we all are / were. How guns keep us afraid. Reminding us regularly to be afraid. It becomes the only power you have within your reach. Nothing else in your life you can control, but you have your gun(s). You won’t travel because you can’t bring your gun(s) with you, and you have so many, someone will steal them from you if you leave home. Your home has never been invaded, but goddam you will keep making it known you have guns to protect your family from one, sincerely believing it is why you haven’t had an invasion–never realizing there might actually be other factors. Your fear, and your guns own you, you don’t own them. It is why you still don’t feel safe even with so many of them. More than you could ever use–it will never be enough.

You hold your hand over your heart. You salute. Demanding respect for law enforcement and the military, while simultaneously stockpiling weapons to kill them when they come to take them. Never seeing the association. The disconnect. It is the fear. It has you in its grip. I refuse to live like that anymore. It’s not living. It’s not freedom. It’s a self-constructed prison, where you willfully lock yourself away. You refuse to live, to explore, all because of a future that will never come. A home invasion that haunts your dreams. A government coup that is the stuff of your fantasies. I wish I could show you how scared you are with your guns. How isolated they make you. How they allow you to be be manipulated and controlled. But, I’m guessing deep down, you probably already know all of this, and prefer keeping things just as they are.

Your Strong Belief In Technology Is Directly Related To Your Lack of Belief In Humans

I’m regularly surprised by people’s blind belief in technology. As a technologist who is regularly pretty critical about how we are wielding ur tools, I get a lot of people who passionately defend technology, even if the face of clear stumbling, shortcomings, and failure. People really, really, really, really, really, really want technology to be the solution. They really believe it will democratize everything. Connect all of us. Improve our lives equally. Even with evidence being presented to the contrary, they keep believing, defending, and moving forward with the same blind technological strategy and belief system.

Why do we belief so blindly in technology? Why are we so willing to ignore any evidence that maybe technology isn’t always the most sensible path forward? Why do we get so defensive when someone challenges are current state of being? Personally, assessing the people I engage with in this area, people’s strong belief in technology is directly related, and proportional to their lack of belief in humans. Which is also the reason why you see men really take to, believe in, and defend technology–in many situations, it is all we have. Living a pretty emotionally isolated reality, we are nurtured by our code, gadgets, and connectivity we’ve found online–something we’ve denied ourselves offline through perpetuating a pretty toxic masculine reality.

We just don’t trust human beings. In our self-centered reality, most humans are out to get us, take what we have, or at the very least, let us down. We’ve been sold a pull ourselves up by our bootstrap form of individualism that creates an extremely rich environment for technology to take root. We are so alone, that digital signals seem soothing. Technology and the Internet has become an amazing tool for delivering within our belief system making us more than willing to ignore the damage it does in the world we do not see, and refuse to see. Sure, technology won’t bring clean water to Flint Michigan, or help poor people actually navigate the educational system, but it will allow us to dream big, get rich, and feel good in our isolated bubbles.

I find my friends that live in these bubbles. Separated by geography, ideology, or class, are often the most passionate defenders of technology. It is their life line. It will save them from actually having the pain of having to get to know the poor people in their town, and have to ride the public transit system with their likes. It will allow them to be distracted by possible futures that will never happen, and ignore the realities immediately around them. Knowing, experiencing, understanding, and believing in humans, and acknowledging the human condition is a lot of work, and it is much easier to just offset that with a blind belief in technology, and listening to what it whispers in our ear. It is much easier. Much more comforting. Which is why we’ll defend it at all costs.

Mistaking My Power of Denial for Work Ethic

I have always been proud of my work ethic. I can work hard. I can endure a lot. Success in my career demonstrates this. I don’t have a high school diploma or college degree, and yet I make a good living, I am self-employed, doing exactly what interests me, and in pretty high demand within my industry. It all seems directly related to my work ethic. However, as I spend time unpacking my journey this year, I realized that what I see as work ethic is actually much, much more complex.

I can historically work 12+ hour days. It has always been my dumb self-employed joke: “Being a small business owner is great, because you only have to work half days–you just have to decide which 12 hours you are going to work.” While most of the last 20 years of my career has been working in a digital world, prior to that I worked construction, rock work, landscaping, and cutting firewood. In both situations I can usually go the distance and pull all nighters to release a product, or work sun up to sun down to make sure I get two cords of wood cut. I’ve always believed it was my work ethic that allowed me to push on through, but now that I reassess much of my earlier live(s), I realize a significant portion of it is driven by my incredible powers of denial.

One of the reasons I can work so long and hard is that I can also disconnect from the impact this work has on others around me. And as I’ve learned over the last couple of years, a profound ability to be in denial about the impact this work has on me. I was trained from early on to not acknowledge the bullshit going on around me, do not discuss your feelings, and just move forward at all cost. Ignoring the toll on yourself, and those around you. You get so good at doing this you do not realize that you are negatively impacting anyone, and it becomes just a positive–you are getting the work done. (#winning) It takes work ethic to be able to have this kind of stick to it right? That is what they tell us. That is often what we all believe. All in the name of getting the work done.

Ultimately, I’m not sure I will ever be able to unwind fully what is done. I enjoy my work. I’ve sufficiently run off most friends and family along the way. Even with this realization it isn’t like I can reverse course and change who I am completely. I love what I do for a living, and I don’t see 12 hour work days as a bad thing, when you enjoy what you do. I’m an introvert, so being social really doesn’t bring any value to the table for me. I guess my primary motivation in unpacking this is to ensure I take care of myself, and I take care of those I love most within my circle. I’ll maintain my “work ethic” as it stands, but I’ll at least be able to see it for what it really is now. Being more honest about who I am, and how I do what I do.

Doing It All By Myself

Learning about someone I know going through a divorce currently, has pushed me to do some fresh thinking about my own divorce. I’ve done a good job moving on after a good decade of healing, but hearing about recent goings on, and being in a healthy mode where I want to process, and work through my baggage, it feels like a good time to take a fresh look at things. It will be 10 years this year since my divorce, with my daughter turning 18 (she was 8 when I divorced), it feels like a good distance to take pause, look back, and see how I am (actually) doing.

After thinking through, and reliving many of the details of my divorce, I’d say I’m mostly in a good position. I’ve worked through all of the pain over the years, and after sufficiently taking another look at it all, I don’t find any surprising emotions hiding in the closet. However, one thing I did find that surprised me, and was something I had never realized before, was that I did my divorce all by myself. Not one single family member, or friend came to check in on me, ask how I was, or offer any financial, emotional, or other help. I did have a friend at the time I was working and living with, but he pretty quickly abandoned me when things got weird, right at the beginning, making it not something I can mark down as “help”.

I am not looking back at this to get retribution, or make people feel like shit. I’m acknowledging it for my own benefit. To work through, and set aside things. I think I deserve a pat on the back, but also I need to loosen the load on my shoulders, realize that I made it, and possibly offer some assistance to my friend who is going through the same thing right now. Divorce was one of the loneliest experiences I have ever gone through in my life. After dropping off my daughter on Sunday nights had always triggered heavy bouts of drinking, and a strong desire to go back to using drugs. I remember one night when I got back to the town where I lived, and discovered that a band was playing at my local pub, my receipt the next morning stated I had drank 18 pints of beer. 18 pints of beer. Damn. That is some fucking pain.

If I ask anyone in my family, or circle of Oregon friends what my apartment in Bend, Oregon looked like–none of them will have an answer. My one sister did come when I paid her and a friend to drive up and go to a concert in Portland with me, but nobody else will be able to describe the house I lived in for almost two years. I can still tell you every single detail of looking out the windows. What it felt like to lay in bed at night and in the morning. What it felt like to be in there all by myself. It was one of the hardest times of my life, and let me tell you, I’ve been through some difficult patches. However, I can look back now and confidently say that I did it, and I did it on my own, all by myself. For better or for worse. I made it through it, maintained the relationship with my daughter, and kept my career on track.

I’m needing to publish this to help me shift my mental state. My friend who is going through it right now will need help. I have a friendly, but firm, “he’ll get through it” position in my head. Not really feeling compelled to reach out and speak to him. This isn’t healthy. I should reach out and offer help, but I realized that one side effect of my experience is that I just don’t feel the need to say or do anything for him. I guess feeling like I had done it, and somehow that he can too. Which is bullshit. Sure, I did it all by myself, but it doesn’t mean that EVERYONE should have to. Because I was programmed by people around me to live in denial, not be overly caring or compassionate shouldn’t be paid forward. We all need help. Divorce is hard on everyone. I need to be in a state where I can reach out and help.

When They Are Only Focused on Selling Their Warez To Schools All They Hear Is Criticism

I wanted to craft a standard post, with a dedicated URL, that I can use as a response to people in my partner in crime, Audrey Watters (@audreywatters) timeline. I have several of these types of posts, preventing me from having to get into lengthy Twitter exchanges with her anti-fan club, and allowing me to just respond with a single URL, complete with a full explanation of my situation.

This post is for all those people who say that all she does is be critical of people in ed-tech. Which demonstrates for me, their simple view of education technology, lack of actually reading her work, and shows their narrow focus on selling to the sector. I’ve seen hundreds of folks step up to shame her for being critical. Stating that the startup entrepeneurs, teachers, and school administrators are all well meaning, and just want to improve schools for our children. How dare she be endlessly critical, and just downright mean to all of them. She is the bad one, they are just trying to innovate in a broken system, and make things better.

This position shows they haven’t read her work. Over the last eight years, she has provided plenty of constructive, and even positive insight on education, learning, and yes, even technology. The problem is they are so narrowly focused on selling to schools, and justifying their belief in technology, they aren’t even remotely focused on the education and learning part. So they don’t read, hear, and absorb the suggestions regading how they can better serve the kids in these areas. It is something they don’t realize because they have convinced themselves that selling technology to schools equals good, thus they are doing good, and the actual learning and education part just magically happens when good people with good thoughts are present, and sprinkled with technology dust.

In my experience most people are mostly unable to question their belief in technology. Historically, I have had many waves of belief in technology which have proved misplaced. One signal I have developed to help me understand when my emotions are out of place is that if I get hot and bothered when I receive criticism, I probably should check myself. If my belief in technology cannot endure criticism (constructive or not), then I am probably not on firm ground with my beliefs–resolute in what I’m doing. It is something I’ve had to work on and train myself to see and understand, and a skill I find to be non-existent, or at least underdeveloped in many mainstream technoogists, and a condition that is easily avoided when you wrap your technoogical efforts in a mission, and wrap it in a shroud of “doing good”.

I spend each day listening to Audrey talk about education. She is very critical. Which our kids deserve. The bar should be very high. Her number one priority is education and learning. Her number two priority is the technology we employ in the classroom. I know that her critics feel she is critical and negative by default, but this belief is more about their position, than it is about hers. They are too focused on their marketplace of ideas, products, and services in the education space. They might believe they are about learning and education, but their priorities are often times technology first, and learning and education second. From this position, all they hear is negative blah, blah, blah. Making these concerns more about them, than they are about here, but then again, you can really see that in other wording they use regarding “respecting” her work or not, that there is an additional layer of this conversation–putting outspoken women in their place.

I Normally Respect Your Work and the Many Ways In Which Men Attack

I’ve learned a lot from my partner in crime Audrey Watters. Not just directly from her, but indirectly from watching the way people engage with her. I’ve learned a lot about my own behavior, and how I have been programmed as a white male by watching other men engage with her–mostly via Twitter, but also in person. As I have the time, I like to break down what I’m learning on my blog to help reprogram myself, and shift how I behave, and treat others around me.

One common approach I see men try to engage with Audrey involves the opening line, “I normally respect your work”. No, no you didn’t. If you ever respected her work, you wouldn’t lead with that. You are attacking her. Period. You are taking her down, and immediately attempting to strip her of any respect, while still being “nice”, because of some bullshit code of white niceness you’ve developed over the years. If you ever respected her work, you’d let it stand on its own. You wouldn’t open a “conversation” with an attack, and I’m guessing an attack you rarely ever target other men with, saving them only for those special sexist moments where you put women in their place.

Regardless of what she has published, if you had any sort of sincere, intelligent argument, you wouldn’t even need to come at her. You’d simply write it in your notebook, journal, or maybe publish it to your blog, or Twitter as she has. You wouldn’t need to “come at her”, and challenge her ideas in her timeline, or comments (if they existed). The mere fact you feel compelled to let her know how you feel, demonstrates your lack of substance. You are just being a dude. It has nothing to do with the subject matter. You are just putting a woman in her place, and it is all about you, and has nothing to do with her, or her work.

I saw two separate men do this to her in the last couple days. Same line. Same approach. I see it so often, it has become routine for me, and has become a lesson for me in how not to act. Learning from these lessons has showed me the value of being confident in who I am, strong in my storytelling, and silent in the face of this activity. I gain nothing from engaging these men. I don’t need to be seen as right. It doesn’t make me stronger to defend my girlfriend. I have no obligation to show these ass clowns the door. I guarantee they would never say these things to her face, they only have this “strength” on Twitter. It is up to them to find their own doorway. I am going to focus on defining my own path, and improving myself, and supporting her work.

There are many injustices I come across on a daily basis. I rarely feel the need anymore to inject my opinion on these injustices in other people’s timelines. All I ever do is write down my thoughts and feelings in my notebook, and publish via my blog if necessary, and share via my timelines. If people want to tune in and learn from them, great! If they want to share their views via their blog and their timelines, great! We can subscribe, tune-in, learn from each other, and even disagree. However, if we are in the business of shutting others down, attacking them, stripping them of respect as an opening line, we should be looking in the mirror. Asking ourselves, is all this worth it? Or are we just feeding the social media engine with our hate, unchecked emotion, and baggage. Something we should just be working on ourselves, and not feeding the beast–it is what they want.

Facebook, Medium, And Staying The Course Within Your Own Domain

I have been evangelizing my skepticism around the promise of any 3rd party social media or content platforms for years. I’ve been at this game long enough that I’ve seen may platforms come and go, and I just don’t trust any of them anymore. I just finished reading a couple stories about Facebook telling publishers tough shit, when it comes to the promises they made to them about the Facebook network effect. I was also just looking for one of my more long form posts to syndicate to Medium, where I cautiously repost relevant stories there to reach a wider audience. Making it a great time to talk about how we should all be investing in our own domains, while also sensibly taking advantage of the network effects that other 3rd party platforms bring to the table.

Facebook has never really been a big traffic driver for me, so I never really drank their publisher kool-aid. However, I have had regular waves of folks telling me how bad my website looked, and that they’d read it more if I only published to Medium. There were probably 2-3 of these zombies a month back in the early days of Medium, but is something that has all but disappeared now the promise of the platform has faded. The majority of my traffic comes from Google, after that it is Twitter, and LinkedIn. Paying attention to the value of 3rd party channels when it comes to distribution of my work is important, but it always plays second fiddle to making sure my work gets done, and published within my own domain. ALWAYS!

We all want more traffic, readers, and hopefully revenue around our work. It is always tempting to think the grass is greener on another platform. However, we should never lose sight of the importance of owning, operating, and cultivating our own domain. There will always be new platforms who come along and prey upon our desire for more traffic, and the magical network effects they will bring, but it will NEVER be worth abandoning our own domain. Platforms come and go, pivot, shift courses, and rarely will think of you as more than just a data point. Nobody will ever care as much about your content, data, and audience as you do, and I’m hoping folks are starting to learn their lesson after the whole Facebook bullshit.

We should always play with new platforms. However, we should never adopt one that doesn’t have an API, allowing us to syndicate there, and remove our data when we see fit. You should also avoid using platforms that don’t let you setup a subdomain, keeping your presence there within your domain, maintaining the lion share of the value for yourself. Otherwise you are just working on someone else’s farm for free, and as a small business, we can’t allow this to happen–no matter what the promises are. As the nature of work changes in this digital world we’ve created for ourselves, possessing and maintaining control over your domain will continue to play a significant role in whether we are doing well, or are just sharecropping on someone else’s platform. We won’t ever be able to maintain 100% control over all of our data and content, or always reach the exposure levels we always will desire, but staying the course within our own domain, will ensure we can stay ahead of the game, and hopefully stay afloat.

Reading a Book is The Answer

I’ve been doing a whole lot of soul searching the last two years. Unwinding my mental and physical health issues, as well as addressing much of my legacy baggage that has fallen out of the closet during the election of 2016, and continued to pile on the floor throughout 2017. I’m working my way through a lifetime of delusion, denial, and pushing things into my closet, resulting in this moment where I really couldn’t ignore things any longer and have decided to roll up sleeves and get to work on this backlog.

One seemingly minor aspect of my reality that I wanted to work amidst all this was the lack of an ability to regularly read books. It seems like a pretty minor luxury in my reality, but as I began unpacking why I’m not reading, it has become pretty clear that it is anything but a minor thing, and something that is the answer to a number of issues that negatively impact my reality. It wasn’t just about reading books, it is actually about my overall mental health, education, and awareness which are all cornerstones of my existence and well being. Not being able to read books regularly, was much more than just about the books, it was about a healthy and happy Kin–the further I got away from books, the more I found myself hopelessly lost, confused, and angry.

There has been a couple times in my life where I happily digested books on a regular basis, but since about 2003, I really haven’t been in a place where I could do this. I have every excuse in the book (pun intended). Too tired. Can’t afford books. Can’t focus. I read online. Work. Kids. Travel. I had a seemingly endless number of reasons why I couldn’t successfully sit down and finish a book. Every time I made up an excuse I knew that I was full of shit, but I had convinced myself that it just wasn’t a priority, and everything else was always more important. Reading books was a luxury I just couldn’t afford anymore in my busy, modern, Internet dominated adult life.

After moving to New York I have worked hard to read more. I’m still not as successful as I’d like to be, as work still seems to get in the way, but I’ve read more books since being here than I’ve read in the last decade. I try to start my day reading, and take breaks to read whenever I can throughout the day. I’m also reading physical books. While I have Kindle on my iPad, I just don’t have the same relationship with reading on my devices, as I have with reading books. Getting off the digital device(s) and reading an actual book has an entirely different impact on my reality. I still do a lot of reading on my computer (blog feeds, white papers, etc.), but it just isn’t the same–I need the book in my hand.

The more I read, the easier it is for me to read. My eyes and arms don’t get tired. I find myself less distracted, and able to read for a longer period of time. I find myself wanting to read more. My busy brain finds peace in reading, as well as thinking about what I’m reading, and what I have read, over the very noisy chatter of my API research, and the online world I’m exposed to via social media and the web. The best part is that my brain is also better off when I’m not reading, having a much larger effect on my mental health and well being, beyond just the time I’m sitting down enjoying a good book. I’m not even touching on the knowledge gained from reading, just the effects of being engaged with a book, instead of my computer, iPad, or iPhone.

I’m not a huge fiction fan. I enjoy mostly non-fiction. However, I do enjoy a good thriller or science fiction novel from time to time. While not all the books I’ve read this year have left their mark in this way, two books have profoundly changed my perspective this year. One of them was the History of White Trash by Nancy Isenberg, and the other was Bunk, by Kevin Young. I found both of these books enlightening when it came to our history, specifically regarding race, at a time where I really, really, needed some answers in this area. They are both long reads, but I barely even noticed, as I found myself connecting the dots in a way that helped me work through my rural baggage, and upbringing, in a way that merged well with my renewal for a love of reading in the era of Trump.

Reading a book is the answer for a lot of what troubles me. When I’ve had to much screen time–read a book! When I’m tired from work and want to turn on the TV–read a book. When I’m frustrated with the current state of things in this country–read a book. When I can’t shut down the voices in my head because I’m spinning out about something–read a book. I’m going to get my library card at the NY Public Library this week, and I am super excited for what that means. We are currently building an extensive collection of books in our new apartment, but I’m very happy to be living in a city where I can take advantage of such a treasured resource, and lose myself regularly in a good book.

The Privilege of Alternate Reality and Facts

<p</p>I hear a lot of talk about folks looking to bridge the left with the right in this country. Trying to find common ground. Listen. Don’t be so angry, and hostile to folks on the right. While I agree with these concepts, on the ground I just don’t think they are always practical in the current environment. While this might work with the first layer of conservatives who walk the party line, are generally in denial because of white privilege, but might find themselves troubled by what is going on, I’m don’t see this approach working deeper into the depths of the current right wing reality.

While privilege allows us to ignore all the shadows of the society we’ve created for ourselves. We don’t have to see the realities neighborhoods that are majority inhabited by people of color, let alone really understand the difference between El Salvador, Haiti, or a country in Africa–they are just poor brown people who live in the shadows we don’t see. However the current conservative realm has constructed even more elaborate set of alternate realities that allow them to ignore obvious facts, and dismiss anything they don’t agree with as fake, or as a conspiracy. This new elaborate alternate reality is often constructed and reenforced by the web, and this new virtual reality we exist in.

I can’t sit down and listen to lies built upon historic anti-semantic realities, applied to our entire economy, and used as blame for anything that seems related to government or big business. I can’t listen to arguments that the moon landing didn’t happen, or that the holocaust didn’t happen. I can’t be patient and listen to belief that the mass shooting right down the street was orchestrated by the government to justify taking our guns. The privilege to be able to sit in an armchair and spin any ol reality, then demand that it is the accepted version is truth isn’t going to be fixed by a willingness to sit down and bridge our party differences. I am sorry, these aren’t differences in economic theories. This is mental illness, isolation, and information starvation, and is only something healthcare and education can fix.

This isn’t being left behind. This is choosing to be left behind. They have chosen not to fly because of airport scanners. They have identified every danger in the world, and convinced themselves they are all coming for them, and the entire world is a hostile place, except for the reality they live in. This is right. You all are wrong. It isn’t just a carefully crafted white reality, it is a carefully crafted delusional white reality designed to hide insecurity, pain, suffering, and deep racism that has no chance of ever being challenged. You are so privileged, you get to make up reality, and never face scrutiny, or have to leave your world to prove anything–everyone is expected to come to you.

How can we ever expect to actually ever face this white patriarchal machine we’ve put in place, if white folks, especially men are allowed privilege to do whatever they want? Continue to create their own reality. Unchecked. Every time I process this reality, I come back to the fact that my time is better spent continuing to invest other ways that will benefit folks in their communities. I reckon I’m privileged that I can move to the city, ignore where I came from, and invest my energy in this way. However I feel it is a more sensible reality. One that is based in fact. Out in the world. Addressing my pain. My mental illness. Seeking to never stop learning, educating myself, and investing in a shared reality, not just the one that speaks to my privileged reality.

Maximizing The Value From My API Evangelist Work In 2018

Several times over the course of doing API Evangelist I’ve found myself financially broke. I have done pretty good at making a living over the last eight years, but along the way shit has just happened. The number reason I fall short in the bank account is that people don’t pay their bills. The second reason, is that I do way too much for free, and people extract value from me and my work, and do not give back. I’ve learned just how much the technology sector is designed to support people falling into this trap by encouraging you to be open, which is primarily so that someone can capture the value, often times without attribution, or recognition.

The is the default mode of operation for many companies in the API space to extract as much value as they can, and give as little back as they possibly can. I have companies who will never tweet out one of my stories, unless I write about them. There are people who will ask me to talk to a VC on behalf of their company, and kick nothing in return when they receive millions in funding. I will regularly write about a company and their technology, and never get even a mention on their blog, in their newsletter, or mentioned and thanked via Twitter. I can go on, and on, about the ways in which the current system is setup for extracting value, and giving nothing back–the tech sector is engineered to mine value wherever it can find it.

I’m still committed to publishing openly on my blog, but in 2018 you’ll see me pull back significantly in my support of other companies through linking, tweeting, and referencing as part of my API research. I’m going to remove most company references in my final API research guides, and just reference the solutions, and open source tools they bring to the table. Unless I’m directly getting sponsored, or have other partner arrangement with a company, you probably won’t see them linked to, or specifically featured in any my long form work. It sounds like selling out at first, but after eight years of giving, giving, and giving, and getting nothing back–I am over it. I’d rather stick around, than be giving it all away for free.

This journey to get to this place has been difficult for me. I’ve been a big believer in open data, open APIs, and open source. However, I also have seen how much these things get exploited by startups, tech giants, and just individual opportunists. You won’t find me pushing for completely open APIs anymore. Sure, if you make it hard for me to test drive, then I might bitch a little, or more likely just move on. However, I’m not going to be in the business of telling any individual or other entity that they should be making their valuable resources available online to everyone for free. I may try and make a compelling argument for why someone might want to, and still make some of my resources available for free, but this will be in special cases, and not be the default mode of operation anymore.

In 2018, you want a reference to your company in my final research–let’s find a way to work together. If you want to talk with me on the phone, my consulting time is billed in 15 minute increments. You want a link on my website to your products and services, we should have some sort of existing partner arrangement, otherwise you will be reduced to a light mention. Want me tweeting out your story, it better be damn good, and offer value to me and my readers. You just won’t find me giving away the exhaust from my hard work for nothing anymore. I’m sorry. I know many folks still depend on my work to understand what is going on–you should still be able to do this via my blog. If there is one of my guides or white papers you want to have access, but can’t afford–just ask me. I’m pulling back to ensure I stick around in coming years, not to screw folks over. I am just trying to minimize getting screwed over myself by giving away too much. Thanks for understanding.

White, Male, And Convincing Myself I Am Doing Good With Technology

I’m winding down the mission focus of API Evangelist in 2017. Since 2010, I’ve had this mission to help the “normals” understand the importance and value of APIs. In 2017, I realized how this mission was more about me, than it was ever about anyone else. I don’t doubt that along the way I’ve helped inspire, and educate folks about APIs and what they can do, but looking back over seven years of my work I’m seeing much more damage done, than any positive impact.

As I step back from my own delusion, and look at the wider tech sector, and this “doing good” affliction that seems to infect mostly white men pushing technology across a variety of sectors, I’m beginning to ask a lot more questions regarding my own behavior. Why do I feel the need to push our technology on others? Why do I feel like we are doing good while doing this? It is a curious condition I would like to understand more, and I will spend more time understanding why I did this, and thinking deeply about why other technologists insist on having a mission, and that we are “doing good”?

The other blaring example of this mission syndrome that I see on a regular basis is through the lens of my partner in crime’s Hack Education world. Education technology is infested with white men who insist that they have a mission, and are doing good. It almost seems that the more nefarious their technology, the more insistent they are about having a mission. Many of these men have no experience or evidence that they understand anything about actually helping human beings learn, but demand their technology is all about making the world a better place.

WTF is wrong with us? What is it about technology whispering in our ear that makes us feel this way? I hate the parallels drawn between technology and drug addiction, but as a former hard drug user and dealer, all of this smells suspiciously like the world of drugs. I remember actively thinking and selling folks on the concept “you gotta have this, it will expand your mind, and make you a better human”. Pushing substances on folks. Of course, all while making money along the way. I believed what I was doing was for the greater good, and honestly is an experience that is giving me the tools I am using to unpack my techno-delusions.

One symptom that you can see play out, that demonstrates the problem that us technologically driven men have, is what happens when you challenge us. Try taking on a bitcoin enthusiast, GraphQL specialist, machine learning and artificial intelligence evangelist, and big data analysis expert on their outreach efforts and beliefs. Many respond passionately, if not aggressively. A sure sign of addiction in my experience. I’ve found myself doing this when it comes to APIs, but more often I’m fending off other folks passionately aggressive sales pitch of why I need what they got. “You just don’t understand man, it is the shit!”

Technology is a trip. Web technology is a delusion-ally virtual trip. It really seems to have many of us by the balls (pun intended), and working us like a puppet. I still perform this act on a daily basis via API Evangelist. Why? Because it makes me money! Of course, I’m always working to minimize the bullshit. Something I’m continuing to do by eliminating the mission driven rhetoric, but I just can’t quit API Evangelist. I’ve assumed this persona, and can’t seem to shake it. As I keep working to understand the beast I’ve created, I will continue to tell the story here on the blog.

Internet And Energy Promises From Tech Giants In Puerto Rico

I’ve been taking a look at some of the promises made by technology companies over the last couple months when it came to helping make sure Puerto Rico has access to power and Internet. After Hurrican Maria hit the island, the tech and telco giants quickly moved into help make sure the island recovered.

There is a flood of Internet coverage about the amazing work the tech giants were doing, but just a handful of articles providing information about what was being done on the ground.

Another area you’ve seen a lot of chatter about, is Elon Musk and Tesla Solar stepping in to help with restoring power, using their solar panel and battery power solutions. I can’t find any official stories, but Elon is pretty prolific on Twitter and Instagram.

There doesn’t seem to be much follow-up to the first couple of waves of press, and as the disaster continues to fade in our memories (obvious not Puerto Ricans), it looks like the details of what happened (or didn’t) is fading as well.

I’m sending some emails, and doing some more research into the subject. If you have any core stories, contact people, or facts about what is really happening on the ground when it comes to Internet and Power, and specifically the promises made by these giants, I’d love to hear from you.

Photo Credit: The photo is from my friend Robert Read who went to Puerto Rico recently to see what is happening first hand.

I Will Never Be The Same After Last Year

Last year was very difficult for me. Not career-wise. I’m doing what I want to be doing. What I need to be doing. Mentally it was brutally exhausting, and painfully eye-opening. I’m open to having my mind expanded, and shown new things, but to be show so much fear, racism, misogyny, and mental illness at the national level, all the way down to the cracks and crevices of my childhood, rocked me to my core. I feel like I have entered into a new stage of growing up, not just in age, but as a human being.

I will never be the same after last year. I know many folks think it was all business usual, but you are missing so very much. Some of it I was missing as well, so I can’t hold it against you, but some of it cannot be excused–ever. We will never be the same. The shit is broken. Maybe it always was. Either way, I can’t play the game anymore. No more denial. I don’t want to miss any more, I want to see it all–keep my eyes wide open, even if it hurts.

I can’t come home and not talk about all of it anymore. I can’t pretend. Put on my poker face, and shield you from everything in my head. I spent years coming home, leaving the darkness on the road. Spraying the blood out of the pickup truck bed before I drove up the driveway. So that you wouldn’t know. If I come home now, I’m going to bring it all home with me. I’m going to show you what the 1970s and 1980s created. Honestly, I don’t think you can handle it. We will never be the same after last year.

I’m not sad anymore. I’m enraged. I’m focused. With everything out in the open, its all too big to leave the city with, and venture out into the sticks. I’m going to stay here and do the work that needs to be done. There is no deep end. I have the integrity required. I have the follow-through. I have what it takes. I’m not messing around anymore, playing the game, and pretending. 2017 felt like I aged a decade. I will never be the same after last year.

How Do I Work With Municipal Public Data Without Being A Neoliberal Asshole?

I’m doing a significant amount of research into the big picture of public data through my new partnership with I am going through all my research around open and public data, as well as my research our city, county, state, and federal government data efforts. I’m assessing my hangover from the Web 2.0 open data wave I believed in so heavily, as well as my own participation in the tech invasion of Washington D.C. as a Presidential Innovation Fellow. As I do this work, I’m painting a picture of the transit data landscape, which Google dominates as part of their Google Maps work, and reading a story in the New York Times called City of the Future? Humans, Not Technology, Are the Challenge in Toronto. Phew!!

I keep putting this work down and questioning what the fuck I am doing. Then when I pick it back up, I keep asking myself how I can possibly do this work without being a neoliberal asshole. Seriously. I’m not joking. I’m no longer in denial what a tool I’ve been for the neoliberal agenda over the last decade+ of my career, and how damaging the open / public data movement(s) have been on communities, and the people that live in them. On the surface, the open data movement seems positive. However, seven years I have begun to see the wreckage of open data movements, where open means “open for business”, with no regards to the stewards of the data being successful, people’s privacy, or the sustainability of the agencies and organizations where the data originates. As long as startups, and tech giants can get at the data, then the open data promise has been fulfilled–leaving a pretty sad landscape of half-assed open data portals that are out of date, un-maintained, and not really not very usable.

While there are plenty of examples out there, right now Google Maps is the best example on my workbench. I find city and after city data source that is barely maintained, with all roads leading to Google Maps. All data within Google Maps for a city is mined, extracted, and delivered with 99.9% of the value going to Google. There is almost no investment back in the communities where Google Maps provides information about. Transit, road, construction, business, and even end-user data is all harvested, with almost no awareness by municipal leaders, or any sign of Google giving back, and reinvesting in these communities in any way, beyond ensuring everyone is using the Google stack of applications. Google Maps platform, applications, and API is a neoliberal wet dream when it comes to public data value extraction.

There are many other examples of this out there from municipal 311 programs operating exclusively on Twitter, state 511 programs buying data back from Waze (also Google), and political campaigns relying on their Facebook presence to get the word out, and act as their “web page”. Amidst all of this, I struggle with the fact that I am asking largely unaware municipal organizations to open up data, and publish APIs. Why? Just so they can be mined? The current way of doing things doesn’t give anything back. We expect those APIs and downloads to be free, even if we are building commercial applications, and have the resources of tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Facebook. We see endless examples of these tech giants expecting that cities give away tax breaks, land, as well as their valuable public data. Why the hell do I want to be an ambassador for this neoliberal bullshit? I don’t.

Which brings me back to my original question? How do I work with municipal public data without being a neoliberal asshole? I’m seriously looking for answers, and trying to ask myself this question at every step. I want to keep empowering cities, and their citizens to open up valuable data, to better deliver meaningful applications at the local level. But, I don’t want to do it, if it is just going to open them up for exploitation, mining, and the other shady things startups and tech giants are so good at these days. This is just one of many aspects of doing business with public data I’m considering as I do this research. I’m looking to ask the hard questions, and get better at equipping people on the ground within communities with the tools they need to protect their most valuable assets in a digital era–public and personal data. I’ll be asking this question on a regular basis, to ensure I’m not falling for many of the delusions that have trapped me around open data and APIs in previous years.

No Big Resolutions, Just Ready To Work

As I enter the first business day of 2018 I realize I have written anything wrapping up 2017, or made any resolutions or predictions for 2018. I think this reflects where I stand in 2018. Last year I was a mess. I was pissed. I was sad. I was frustrated with where our country is headed. This year I’m on much solid ground, but I don’t feel like doing any grand standing regarding 2017, or getting all hopeful and optimistic about 2018. I’m just ready.

This year I will do a lot of consulting, reading, and writing. I’ll still be very opinionated on my blogs, but you’ll find me being a lot less ranty, as I’m on much surer footing. I dealt with a huge amount of my baggage in 2017, cleaning my closets of my rural mental illness roots, and dumping it in the trash. While there is still much work to do, I feel like I’m on the most solid ground I’ve been in years, and I’m ready to get to work.

I don’t think 2018 will be easy. We have a ton of work ahead. You’ll find me in D.C. on a regular basis, traveling internationally to Europe a little more frequently, and hunkering down, reading and writing in up-town New York. I doubt you’ll find me on the west coast much. I’m avoiding the shiny startup world, and the laid back west coast way of doing things, and immersing myself in my work. I’ll see you online, and if we are lucky our paths will cross on a meaningful project or two.

Let’s do this 2018.

Overcoming Those Small Town Voices In My Head

As I was preparing to head to Nebraska last week to conduct a three day API workshop for Mutual of Omaha, I began having some of the usual doubts in my head about whether or not I had what it took to deliver at an organization of this size. Thinking about flying to Omaha for a week to consult within a company who was baked into my childhood triggered all kinds of voices in my head. Their architecture team and I had hammered out a robust outline for the three day workshop in a Google Doc over the previous weeks, so I knew what I was in for, but for some reasons the voices of doubt in my head were louder and stronger than they usually are.

I remember hiking through the woods to my grandparents house to watch Mutal of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom when I was a kid. I knew it would be on the TV at my grandparents house, something I couldn’t count on at home. I can’t say I’ve ever had Mutual of Omaha insurance in my adult life, but the brand is baked into my consciousness, giving the small town voices in my head something to anchor in as they work overtime to sew doubt in my mind. Over the weekend, as I prepared for the week ahead, the voices were getting louder, letting me know in real-time I wouldn’t have what it took to deliver at this scale. You just aren’t good enough to be doing this. You just aren’t smart enough. There is no way you have what it takes.

You don’t have the follow-through or the integrity. Just give up!

In the end, the week went fine. I spent three days at the white board in a room of 10-30 people, learning about their legacy infastructure, their plans for the future, and sharing what I’ve learned from a thirty year technology career, and seven years of studying the API space. At the end of our session, the group wrote everything they learned on a sprawling white board, listing the details of the knowledge I brought to the table, and crafting a strategy for how’d they’d report to management the value of our engagement. I’m now working on a follow-up report from my perspective, which I will be submitting along with an invoice for my time spent in Nebraska. The small town voices in my head were wrong. I had delivered.

That was last week. This week I began my Monday morning on a two-hour call with the IRS team in charge of internal API strategy, walking through their plan for delivering APIs at scale internally, providing reassurance where I could, and adding new details when relevant. After getting off the call I’m reminded by my partner in crime that I know my shit. I’ve worked really, really, really hard to stay top of my game. I have studied the API space, and invested countless hours to make sure I can do that at ANY scale. Despite all this hard work the small town voices in my head always seem to creep in at the worst possible moments, but I just need to remember that I do have the follow through, and the integrity to deliver at this scope–don’t you ever forget it.

Keeping My Thoughts Out Of Peoples Timeline And In My Domain

I’ve learned a lot about being a white dude from my girlfriend, and I’ve learned a lot by watching her Twitter timeline, and people’s interaction with her. I learned the other day that I cannot hate on other white dudes, because I am whiter, and “dudier” than most. Ok. Thanks for that lesson. I have a dedicated column in my Tweetdeck for keeping an eye on the waves of white dudes who love to talk shit to my girlfriend. I don’t engage them by default, because a) many of them are bots, and b) the bottom feeders are rarely even worth a response, and rarely does any good come out of it. Even though I do not find value in actually engaging with her hater base, I learn a lot from watching the way they operate, and assessing how I behave, and would like to NOT behave.

The first thing I really notice, is that the need to respond to someone’s storytelling on Twitter, especially in ed-tech, is a very white, male thing. I could pull a listing of the Twitter profiles from Audrey’s timeline, do a sentiment analysis on their tone, and create a 99% white dude misogynistic timeline parade. First, if you think I can’t bash white dudes, because I’m a white dude, your a special kind of stupid, and can fuck off. Second, if this reality offends you, your part of the problem. Third, it is uniquely white dude to think that people want to hear your opinion, and that your opinion matters so much. Oh, of course you also think it is right. #WhiteDude

Trust me. I have a lot of opinions as a white dude. Some are good. Most are really dumb. Most should never ever see the light of day. I have a lot of things I almost respond on Twitter with, but because I have a hard rule about responding emotionally on Twitter, I rarely do. I’ve started writing these thoughts down in a notepad file, then if they are still relevant after a day or two, I add to my story notebook, and begin fleshing them out. Then my ideas go through another aging period, while sitting in my notebook. Not everything that gets into my storytelling notebook will ever see the light of day, because they don’t make the cut. However, if I’m able to stretch something into 300 to 600 words, and transform them into something I wouldn’t be embarrassed to say to someone in person, I’ll publish it to one of my many blogs.

Once my idea reaches my blog it probably has been scrubbed of any personalities. Sometimes I’ll point out specific companies or individuals, but mostly I’m looking to work through, and convey a specific thought. I don’t need cookies, or even dialogue with the person who sparked the idea. I don’t need recognition that I’m right. I don’t feel better when someone is aware of how I feel. I don’t need to inject myself into someone’s Twitter timeline, especially if they do not know me. If someone gives shit, they either already know me, or they’ll subscribe to one of my channels and be introduced to my blog post(s). And if they really, really, really give a shit they will read my post.

I’ve really worked hard on this part of my white male personality. I’m learning to listen. I’m learning to shut the fuck up. I’m learning to write down my thoughts. Let them simmer, and mature. I’m learning to stay out of people’s timeline, and publish all of my thoughts to my blog. Then I will share to my timeline, and if people follow me, and care about what I have to say, they can tune in. People are welcome to respond inline on social media, or via comments on my blog. I don’t hold everyone to the same standard I hold myself, however I do wish some people would. Honestly, I would rather hear your fully baked idea on your blog, than your half baked one on Twitter, or Disqus. I can’t change everyone’s behavior, but I can change mine. I can be more aware, and shift how I impact the digital world around me.

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.