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.


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

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

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

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

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


Isolated Development Environments (IDE)

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

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

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

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

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


The Meanness In The Current Wave Of Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


An Escalation In The Deplatforming Of Hate

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

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

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


The Connection Between My Brain, Fingers, and The Keyboard

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

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

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


Fake News Is Just The Beginning

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Randomize IoT Device Username And Password By Default

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

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

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


The Reliability Of Government Data Over Externally Managed Data Sets

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Opting In/Out To Sharing Our Data Through Partnerships

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

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

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

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

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


I Deleted All My Tweets Before 2017

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

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

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

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

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


Showing What Algorithmic Influence On Markets Leaves Out

I’ve been playing with different ways of visualizing the impact that algorithms are making on our lives. How they are being used to distort the immigration debate, and how the current administration is being influenced and p0wned by Russian propaganda. I find shedding light on how algorithms are directly influencing a variety of conversations using machine learning a fun pastime. I’m also interested in finding ways to shine a light on what gets filtered out, omitted, censored, or completely forgotten by algorithms, and their authors.

One of my latest filters I’ve trained using TensorFlow is called “Feed the People”. It is an early 20th century Soviet propaganda poster that I do not know much history behind, but I feel provides a compelling point, while also providing an attractive and usable color palette and textures–I will have to do more research on the back story. I took this propaganda poster and trained a TensorFlow machine learning model for about 24 hours on an AWS EC2 GPU instance, which cost me about $18.00 for the entire process–leaving me with a ML model I can apply to any image.

Once I had my trained machine learning model I applied to a handful of images, including one I took of the economist Adam Smith statue in Edinburgh, Scotland–which interestingly was commissioned by the Adam Smith Institute (ASI), a neoliberal (formerly libertarian) think tank and lobbying group based in the United Kingdom, named after Adam Smith, a Scottish moral philosopher and classical economist in 2003. Taking the essence of the “feed the people” propaganda and algorithmically transferring it an image of the famous economist from the 18th century that was installed on the city streets by a neoliberal think tank in 2003.

I’m super fascinated by how algorithms influence markets, from high speed trading, all the way to how stories about markets are spread on Facebook by investors, and libertarian and neoliberal influencers. Algorithms are being used to distort, contort, p0wn, influence and create new markets. I am continuing to trying to understand how propaganda and ideology is influencing these algorithms, but more importantly highlighting the conversations, and people that are ultimately left behind in the cracks as algorithms continue to consume our digital and physical worlds, and disrupt everything along the way.


I Flushed The Last 9 Years Of My Facebook Profile

I flushed the the last 9 years of my Facebook profile over the last couple of days. Instead of deleting my account, I just cleaned up everything except what I have posted in 2017. In the future I will make it a yearly ritual to flush the previous year of my Facebook profile–something including an altar, candles, and Mark Zuckerberg picture. After watching the last nine years flash by before my eyes, slowly over the last 4 days–I feel confident that I’m not going to need ANY of this social media diarrhea.

This work is part of a larger effort to go through all layers of my digital self and clean house. I recently delete all but the last year of my Gmail, and deleted my central MySQL database, which has been up for the last decade in some instance. Of course, I have downloaded my Facebook archive, and created backups of my Gmail and MySQL databases–which I zip up and store locally on SD cards. Along the way I managed to also cleaned up my Amazon S3 storage which has been up since 2006, and stored what I wanted to keep from their on the same SD cards.

Why am I doing this? I am just just asserting control over my digital self. Gmail and Facebook provide an unprecedented look into our lives–my life. I’m thankful (sometimes) for the tools they provide, but I’m not convinced that they need to possess this intimiate look into my life for an entire decade. I’m not naive enough to think they don’t have some sort of backup, cache, or at least some sort of algorithm trained on my data. But asserting control, and cleaning it up makes me feel like I am a little more in control of my digital self in a time where I feel like I’m increasingly losing control of who I am it this surveillance economy.

I did not manually clean up my Facebook profile manually. I could have automated it using the Facebook API, but I wanted to use a tool that would be available for my readers to use. I’m following the lead of my partner in crime Audrey Watters, who is using F___book Post Manager to delete her network. I took many hours to delete some years, but I just tackled it year by year going back from 2016 until 2007, until it had done its job. I had to rerun it couple times to get some more stragglers, and there are still a handful of things that won’t go away no matter what–not sure what is going on here. However, the majority of my Facebook profile has now been removed, except for anything in 2017.

When you clean up your digital profile this scale, you always think twice about it–what if I need something in here at some point? However, once you are done, this feeling fades away, and you realize you will almost never need any of it, and the one or two items you do, will end up being just fine. Somewhere along the way we were convinced that all of this matters. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter at all, it just doesn’t matter as much as we’ve convinced ourselves that it does, and we do not need a record of everything that has gone on in the past at this scale. We don’t.

Having the last decade of my Facebook doesn’t benefit me. It benefits Facebook. It benefits Facebook partners and advertisers. They want us to think it benefits us, but rarely will it actually serve us better ads, or surface that amazing news article or video. However, the chances that someone will be targeting you, surveilling you, or use a piece of your Facebook out of context to negatively impact your life is pretty great. In this modern digital world we’ve created for ourselves, the more companies and governments have on our behavior, the bigger target we will become–for advertising, surveilling, and p0wning.

I didn’t want to delete my Facebook profile. I like keeping my network, because I enjoy sharing news I curate, and publishing the stories I write here. I also like staying in tune with my friends or families lives on Facebook. However, all of this has an expiration date, which I’ve identified as 1 year. The last year of my life is all I need on there. Once it rolls over a year, I archive it, and move on. Facebook has already aggregated the data, and trained their ML models. Keeping all this data does me no good, and just allows application integrations, advertisers, and other digital actors to look into my life, as well as my past. MY past.

I’m going to move on to Twitter next, cleaning it up just like I have done with my Facebook. I’ll continue to work through all of my personal accounts in this way. I won’t be doing this to any of my business accounts, or my personal blogs, because I see more value in keeping a history of my business activity out there, and happy to maintain a more personal view of my world that gets published within my own domain. As I learn more about my digital self, and develop a deeper awareness of the digital bits of mine that are floating around out there–the more I want to take control, curate, clean, and assert control over these bits. They are mine. It is me.


I Deleted My MySQL Database

I just deleted my primary MySQL database. Of course, I backed up everything, but it is the first time since 2011 I’ve cleaned up my entire database backend to the point where I could delete the entire instance (with confidence). I was motivated to do this mostly because I couldn’t downsize the AWS RDS instance to a smaller instance due to a variety of constraints. The situation gave me the opportunity to clean house, and rethink my next moves.

Instead of setting up a new MySQL instance, I went with the new MySQL compatible Amazon Aurora. I setup a smaller instance that was more affordable, and I was able to easily import the database backups I had made in my previous setup, but now I had a cleaner, more modern Amazon Aurora situation. Which as Amazon claims, “provides up to five times better performance than MySQL with the security, availability, and reliability of a commercial database at one tenth the cost”. Time will tell…

I like cleaning up my database and migrating to a new solution, even if the solution is still with the same provider. It helps me think through things, shed unnecessary databases, tables, and hopefully costs. Everywhere I’ve worked, and within all the businesses I have owned the database is always the hardest thing to manage, and migrate. I want that to be a thing of the past. Now that I have things cleaned up, I’m going to keep my databases small, modular, and using standardized solutions that top tier providers support. This means I can migrate my data wherever I need to, and wherever it makes sense to my business.

Another thing that has also allowed me to migrate my data in this way is that I have offloaded a significant portion of the data I manage, which drives my public research to Google Sheets. This approach helps me simplify, and modularize my data, again using a common tool (spreadsheet / CSV), but in a way that I can easily collaborate with others, and publish to Jekyll and GIthub using YAML. This shift in my world is all about helping me reduce the bulk on the backend of my business, and making sure I spread out my business data, content, and algorithms across a variety of solutions. While making sure all the services I use have APIs that allow me to automate, orchestrate, and of course migrate my data whenever I need to.


I Deleted All But The Last Six Months Of My Gmail

I continuing my effort to take control over my data, and digital presence and the next target on my list is Gmail. I have been using Gmail heavily since early 2007, and the application contained a significant amount of my data in its archives. I didn’t need any tools to delete my email, as Gmail provides some easy “select all” options for folders, which easily allows me to delete from inbox, archives, and anywhere else.

I’m not fooling myself to think that Google has some index of my history, or that they’ve already enriched their machine learning models using my data, but cleaning up my past feels good, and is something I will be repeating every six months. Before I got started, I downloaded my archive using Google Takeout, which I’ve put in a backup location for possible future reference.

What was difficult for me is getting over the notion that somehow I needed access to my Gmail history. I can count on both hands the number of times I’ve had to search the archives for anything historically important, and in all of the situations I would have been fine if I did not find what I was looking for. The stories we’ve told ourselves about needing this history is powerful, and something that is very difficult to overcome–I do not know where this has originated, but is something I’ll explore further in future stories.

When I copied the downloaded Gmail archive to my backup location I saw the Outlook .pst files for 2000 through 2006, before I switched to Google–something I have never cracked open. I question the need to even keep these archives–what the hell am I going to do with them? I’m going through each of the other digital services that I use and will be setting up a similar strategy for cleaning up my history and archives on each platform. As I do this work I keep having concerns about the algorithms not treating me the same, my ranking and scoring taking a dive, and other worries. These are all concerns that are made up, and are in place to protect platforms interests, and really have nothing to do with me, except to ensure that I keep giving away my data, and the digital exhaust from my daily work.


Tightly Coupled To Our Mobile Phones

I had ditched my phone last year after being with AT&T for just shy of 20 years. Not having a phone made me realize how much you need a phone number to exist online these days. Facebook, Twitter, Google, all needed me to have a phone number which I can verify from time to time, to keep my accounts active.

In addition to just needing it for an account, I also need it regularly to secure my world via two-factor authentication. Sometimes I need it for SMS, but mostly I just need the authenticator app–both requiring at least having the mobile device in my presence. I’m not very tightly coupled with my phone, but it feels like it increasingly like it is always coupled to me.

I’m guessing that if it isn’t our mobile phones, in the future there will always be at least one device we will be required to have as part of our identity, and be helping us secure both our physical and digital worlds. It isn’t something I enjoy but like pretty everyone else, it is not a cord I am going to be able to cut anytime soon.


Patents As A Measure Of Individual Success

I read a lot of patents as part of my work as the API Evangelist, and I tend to stalk and tune into the social media accounts of some of the authors. I have noticed that some of them work at large companies, and are counting each patent they file and are announcing each one like it is a badge of honor. I’m fascinated by this. Each company’s approach to showcasing or downplaying their patent portfolio tells a lot about the company, something that I feel trickles down to each individual author.

The theater of showcasing the number of patents is fascinating to me. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, just something I think is worthy of more discussion in the modern age. I don’t showcase the number of patents I have filed because 1) I don’t have any patents 2) I cannot afford to file any patents 3) I don’t showcase my ideas, I showcase things I do and the stories I tell. Ok, maybe a patent is a story right? A story about what is possible, that you’ve paid a fee to file with the government, and convinced them that the story is true? I’m just trying to get at the thinking behind this theater production, and why some folks feel that it is a badge of honor.

The biggest differentiator here for me is that I cannot afford to file patents. It is a rich man’s game. Is this why people showcase? To declare they are part of the elite? Even if I could afford to file one patent, I definitely cannot afford to file many patents, and I cannot ever afford to litigate and defend a patent in a court of law. Making patents completely useless to me, even if I wanted to legally define my stories and ideas like this. Another thing that I notice is that there are no individuals filing patents, it is always an individual filing on behalf of a large company who has the money to file, and to litigate on behalf of the patent portfolio, which for me diminishes the individual merit of showcasing–look ma, I got a new patent (for my company)!!

A patent feels like one of those carrots that get dangled in front of individuals to get them to perform while on the hamster wheel. You get told in high school and college by your mentors that the number of patents you have is a badge of honor. However, you never get told that it is your organization that owns the portfolio, and made aware of the closed door dealings or litigation that will occur around your patent portfolio. IDK, it could be that I’m naive and uneducated about the wider world of patents, and how revenue is generated from patent portfolios–it won’t be the first time I’ve spouted off about something I don’t get, nor will it be the last. I write to understand.

Ultimately I think patents are a rich person game, and how a significant amount of ideas are locked up and made part of larger flows of power, or rendered a non-threat. It isn’t a game I’m part of because I don’t operate at that level, which is why it is foreign to me. I’ve never heard someone tell me that they respect someone for their patent portfolio, or that they were an author on a patent. I think patents are one of those legacy stories that used to have meaning and purpose in the industrial world, and long ago became the game of rich folks, while also becoming pretty distorted in the translation from the physical to the digital. It is a game people still showcase as a badge of honor because of mythical stories they have heard those in power tell–they have little to do with your own success or the value of your ideas.

For me, I measure my success based on the stories I tell about my ideas, and the stories others retell about my ideas. I also measure my success based upon the number of my ideas that become real, and are part of everyday practice in an industry, even if I do not receive royalty checks, or able to litigate and make deals based upon my idea portfolio…but, this is just me. I’m an oddball like that.


In The Future Our Current Views Of Personal Data Will Be Shocking

The way we view personal data in this early Internet age will continue to change and evolve, until one day we are looking back at this period and find we are shocked regarding how we didn’t see people’s digital bits as their own, and something we should respect and protect the privacy and security of.

Right now my private, network shared, or even public posts are widely viewed as a commodity, something the platform operator, and other companies have every right to buy, sell, mine, extract, and generally do as they wish. Very few startups see these posts as my personal thoughts, they simply see the opportunity for generating value and revenue as part of their interests. Sure, there are exceptions, but this is the general view of personal data in this Internet age.

We are barely 20 years into the web being mainstream, and barely over five years into mobile phones being mainstream. We are only beginning to enter even more immersions of Internet in our lives via our cars, televisions, appliances, and much more. We are only getting going when it comes to generating and understanding personal data, and the impacts of technology on our privacy, security, and overall human well-being. What is going on right now will not stay the norm, and we are already seeing signs of pushback from humans regarding ownership of their data, as well as our privacy and security.

While technology companies and their investors seem all powerful right now, and many humans seem oblivious to what is going, the landscape is shifting, and I’m confident that humans will prevail, and there will be pushback that begins helping us all define our digital self, and reclaiming the privacy and security we are entitled to. When we look back on this period in 50 years we will not look favorably on companies and government agencies who exploited human’s personal data. We will see the frenzy over big data generation, accumulation, and treating it like a commodity, over something that belongs to a human as deeply troubling.

Which side of history are you going to be on?


I Have To Comply With DJI Update Or My Drone Will Be Crippled

I received this email from DJI about my drone this weekend, telling me about an upcoming update this week where I will be forced to comply with an update that is designed to limit where I can operate my drone. It is a pretty interesting look at the future of this Internet of Things beast we’ve unleashed.

Dear Customers,

DJI will soon introduce a new application activation process for international customers. This new step, to take effect at the end of this week, ensures you will use the correct set of geospatial information and flight functions for your aircraft, as determined by your geographical location and user profile. All existing flight safety limitations, such as geofencing boundaries and altitude limits, remain the same.

Even if you have registered when activating your aircraft upon purchase, you will have to log in once when you update the new version of DJI GO or GO 4 App. If you have forgotten your password since your initial login, you can reset it using a function within the DJI GO and DJI GO 4 apps.

You will need a data connection to the Internet for your smartphone or tablet when you log in, in order to verify the account information and activate the updated software or firmware. If this activation process is not performed, the aircraft will not have access to the correct geospatial information and flight functions for that region, and its operations will be restricted if you update the upcoming firmware: Live camera streaming will be disabled, and flight will be limited to a 50-meter (164-foot) radius up to 30 meters (98 feet) high.

The feature applies to all aircraft (except standalone A3 and N3) that have been upgraded to the latest firmware or when using future versions of the DJI GO and GO 4 apps.

DJI encourages pilots to always follow applicable laws and regulations in the countries where they operate, and provides information about these regulations on its FlySafe website at flysafe.dji.com.

Sincerely,

Your DJI Team

I find it really fascinating that if you do not comply with the update your device will be limited in where it can operate, and taking away some features. That “this new step, to take effect at the end of this week, ensures you will use the correct set of geospatial information and flight functions for your aircraft, as determined by your geographical location and user profile.”

This email provides us with a look at the future, where all our devices are connected to the Internet, and if we don’t comply with all updates, and forward motion, the objects in our lives can be turned off, or limited in what they can do.


The Oil Industry Waking Up To Data Being The New Oil

When you hang out in startup circles you hear the phrase, “data is the new oil” a lot. Getting rights to the mining and extracting, and generating revenue from data is big business, and VC, Hedge Funds, and even government are getting in on the game. Whether it is gathered from private or public sectors, or in your living room and pocket, everyone wants access to data.

One sign that this discussion is reaching new levels, is that the oil industry is talking about data being the new oil. That is right. I’m increasingly coming across stories about big data and the revenue opportunities derived from data when it comes to IoT, social, and many other trending sectors. The big oil supply chain has access to a lot of data to support its efforts, as well as generated from the exhaust of daily oil production to consumption–the opportunity is real man!

To entrepreneurs this shift is exciting I’m sure. To me, it’s troubling. Wall Street turning their sites to the data opportunity, and hedge funds getting in on the game worried me, but big oil being interested an even greater sign that things are reaching some extreme levels. It is one thing to use data is the new oil as a skeuomorph to find investment in your startup, or acquire new customers. It is another thing for the folks behind big oil to be paying attention–these are the same people who like to start wars to get at what they want.

Anyways, it is just one of many troubling signs emerging across the landscape. Many of my readers will dismiss as meaningless, but these discussions are just signs of an overall illness around how we see data, privacy, and security. Remember when we’d topple dictators to get at oil resources in the world? Well, welcome to the new world where you topple democracies if you have access to the right data resources.


Liquid To Filter Out The Future On My Blogs

I created a little hack on my Jekyll-driven websites to allow me to publish a week’s worth of posts (or more) ahead of time. I’ve been scheduling these publishing using my homebrew CMS, but I recently ditched it for Siteleaf, and one of the things that were not possible with the CMS was scheduling–so I needed a hack.

I wanted to be able to just publish at least a weeks worth of blog posts, but then just trickle them out somehow using Jekyll, and avoid using the CMS layer. I got to work publishing a couple of “future” posts and tightening up any holes where the future might leak out into the present–specifically the blog and RSS/Atom listings.

First I set a variable to tell me what the date and time were for any given moment:

Then I translated the publish date for each post into the same format as my definition for now (seconds):

Then you just check to make sure each blog post that is being displayed using Liquid is truly from the past:

Voila, a filter for the future on my blog listing page, and the RSS or Atom feeds. After this, I published a schedule.xml feed which showed all my blog posts, even for the future. I use this to schedule Tweets, and other social media posts for my blogs throughout the week–allowing my social media management tooling to see into the future when it comes to my blogs.

It is a hack for achieving a blog schedule, but it works. It allows me to schedule my world days or weeks ahead, and stay focused on project work. One of the reasons I abandoned my homegrown CMS is I wanted to be forced to find solutions within the cracks of a variety of SaaS tooling, using feeds and APIs. I feel like these approaches are going to be more valuable to my readers, as I can’t expect everyone to deploy a custom solution like I was doing.