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 Streamdata.io. 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.


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.