Time flies: Micro.blog just turned one. It’s clear that Manton Reece and Jean MacDonald have been hard at work. It’s worth reading about the interesting new developments over the past year. Congrats, all!
Outrider is a new foundation that “believes in the power of an educated, engaged public” to “solve the world’s greatest challenges”.
I only hope their hypothesis is right.
Trump is nothing if not talented at introducing fear and uncertainty into the lives of others. So here’s a short improv for dreamers deferred:
As an aside: the most interesting thread I’ve read about DACA comes from Eric Columbus, a lawyer who helped craft Obama’s original action. It seems that DACA, in its current form as an executive order, probably doesn’t pass constitutional muster.
Trump’s insane saber-rattling at North Korea continues to confirm how little he understands the gravity of the situation. As I said in January, my two greatest fears about Trump are his poisonous efforts to erode trust and his cavalier attitude toward nuclear weapons. You could call me clairvoyant if I hadn’t been stating the obvious. Like Chris Hayes this morning, I’m also in a 25th-amendment kind of mood.
My site now offers JSON Feeds for those playing with the new format. Just to recap, here are all the links:
I finally had some free time to work through my Instapaper backlog. Along the way, I rediscovered three delightful essays that, despite covering different terrain, all feel of a piece:
All three circle around important questions of ethics and culture in the technology community.
Snap’s recent IPO convinces me there’s much more room for “innovation” on shareholder rights. SNAP shares are entirely non-voting and there’s simply no way for the interested public to get their hands on voting shares. That’s bold, but there’s so much more we can do!
For example, let’s IPO a company whose shares actively grant the company voting rights in the shareholder’s future personal decision making. I mean, I bet the whiz-kids at Snapchat haven’t thought of that!
Given how much SNAP shares are worth, it’s pretty clear that shareholder rights aren’t highly valued when the property is hot. I hope someone has the huevos rancheros to push it far.
Marco Arment recently launched an ad network for Overcast, his podcasting app. I’ve always admired Marco’s willingness to experiment with new business models. I suspect (and hope!) that this proves to be a gold mine. I also suspect that, somewhere down the road, it will prove worthwhile for Marco to implement an auction-based pricing model.
First, the President makes these accusations despite not knowing the actual source of these leaks. At least some of the information seems to be coming from his own White House. And nothing that has come to light is the kind of material that only the FBI or NSA would be aware of. Indeed, there is no particular reason to assume that any of these leaks are intelligence community leaks, rather than leaks by current and former White House officials with the knives out for Flynn.
Second, these tweets suggest that the President is more interested in hunting down leakers than in getting to the bottom of extremely serious allegations against his own administration. Whether Trump’s comments represent an intentional deflection or merely reflect misaligned priorities, most people can agree without defending leaking that the leaks are probably not the “real scandal” here.
Finally, and perhaps most worryingly, the President’s statement seems to signal an intention to use the pretense of leak investigations to engage in political retaliation. As Tim Edgar noted yesterday, the President is showing an instinct here that is not all that dissimilar from the events that set Watergate in motion.
I took a moment to play with feedback loops in Ableton Live, something I hadn’t tried before. It was fun, although the result is mostly unmusical noise:
If we choose to believe in a morally diminished America, an America that pursues its narrow selfish interests and no more, we can take that course and see how far it gets us. But if we choose to believe that America is not just a set of borders, but a set of principles, we need to act accordingly. That is the only way we ensure that our founding document, and the principles embedded within, are alive enough, and honorable enough, to be worth fighting for.
I am thrilled you want to make our government better by rolling up your sleeves and doing something. But your approach is all wrong.
His recent post about building apps to call representatives is also worth a careful read.
Hey, neat: the Indie Microblogging Kickstarter surpassed its $80k stretch goal and garnered over 3,000 backers. Manton Reece and Daniel Jalkut discuss the Kickstarter’s impressive success in this week’s Core Intuition Podcast.
The airport protests have faded but the ban remains.
If the president can, without consulting the courts or Congress, banish U.S. lawful permanent residents, then he can do anything. If there is no rule of law for some people, there is no rule of law for anyone. The reason the U.S. is a good place to do business is that, for the last 228 years, it has built a firm foundation on the rule of law. It almost undid that in a weekend. That’s bad for business.
Lawfare is a blog by and for national security legal professionals. It’s therefore a refreshingly sober-minded source of analysis and opinion about the actions of the Trump administration. Benjamin Wittes writes that Trump’s executive order on immigration is an astonishing mix of malevolence and incompetence:
NBC is reporting that the document was not reviewed by DHS, the Justice Department, the State Department, or the Department of Defense, and that National Security Council lawyers were prevented from evaluating it. Moreover, the New York Times writes that Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, the agencies tasked with carrying out the policy, were only given a briefing call while Trump was actually signing the order itself. Yesterday, the Department of Justice gave a “no comment” when asked whether the Office of Legal Counsel had reviewed Trump’s executive orders—including the order at hand. (OLC normally reviews every executive order.)
This order reads to me, frankly, as though it was not reviewed by competent counsel at all.
Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States — aka “The Muslim Ban” — is un-American filth. Or, as David Miliband of the International Rescue Committee recently put it:
It is a repudiation of fundamental American values, an abandonment of the United States’s role as a humanitarian leader.
We’re one week in. It will get worse.
How I’m feeling about Trump’s wall, in the form of a short piano improv:
The first beta of iOS 10.3 has several interesting new features, including automatic conversion to APFS, the ability to respond to customers on the App Store (!), and
SKStoreReviewController, an official API for requesting app reviews. Naturally, Francisco is already on it:
As a political scientist, I am looking ahead to his presidency with great interest, since it will be a fascinating test of how strong American institutions are. Americans believe deeply in the legitimacy of their constitutional system, in large measure because its checks and balances were designed to provide safeguards against tyranny and the excessive concentration of executive power. But that system in many ways has never been challenged by a leader who sets out to undermine its existing norms and rules. So we are embarked in a great natural experiment that will show whether the United States is a nation of laws or a nation of men.
In the past, Fukuyama has advanced the argument that America is a vetocracy, a system of government gridlocked by countless checks and balances. In light of Trump, he sees this vetocracy as a double-edged sword.
YouTube has a couple excellent live performances of Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians. Temple University recently published its own; it’s a beautiful video, worth watching with a nice pair of headphones.
Brutalist Websites reject the “lightness, optimism, and frivolity of today’s web design.” Fair warning: the rabbit hole is deep.
Fast Forward Labs is a machine intelligence research company that issues regular reports on cutting-edge technology. Each report explores a single machine-learning technique in detail, documenting the state of the art, practical applications, and current commercial landscape. Reports are paired with software that demonstrates how to use the technology in practice. Fast Forward’s business model is high-touch: expensive content subscriptions lead to high-value consulting engagements. As a result, their research is prohibitively expensive for individuals. Thankfully, Fast Forward’s blog keeps abreast of all their work.
Generative identities are logo systems whose forms emerge from aesthetic algorithms and vary in response to context or external data. Irene van Nes’ book Dynamic Identities explores many interesting systems, including the Brooklyn Museum’s logo as designed by New York-based consultancy 2x4:
The Indie Microblogging Kickstarter appears to have exceeded all expectations. Manton just added a new $80k stretch goal and a new $500 pledge tier for those with deeper pockets. It’s a worthy effort; if you can, please contribute.
Tiny Spires is a Twitter bot that posts beautiful algorithmically generated castles every few hours. It was created by Amanda Glosson, a professional pixel pusher who runs a couple other cool sites, including Eight By Sixteen, a blog of excellent hand-crafted ultra-low-res images.
It always strikes me as odd when a company claims it’s working on the discovery problem — for music, books, social media follows, or any other content domain. I’m not convinced a single solution exists, or even makes sense. A better company might claim it’s working on yet another vector for discovery.
We’re foragers by nature. I tend to value the albums I’ve collected in large part as a function of the circumstances of their discovery. The more unique the path to discovery, the higher a value I place on them. This is independent of obscurity; I might take a circuitous route to discover a well-known title. If my musical world collapsed down to a single recommendation algorithm, or even a single friend, I imagine I’d ultimately find none of it very interesting.
Thanks, Obama. See also: the annotated NPR fact-check of Obama’s farewell speech.
I’m convinced that there’s never been a better time to build compelling and novel privacy businesses. My recent at-bat may be compelling but it’s not novel; the goal was simply to improve the user experience of a widely deployed security technology. Evolutionary enhancements are valuable and necessary, but I suspect the space is ripe for revolution. One question that seems to be at the tip of our collective tongues is how (and when) to move personal data out of central stores and back to edge devices under our control. There are many verticals where the benefits of such a move appear to be substantial and where there seem to be no fundamental economic or experiential arguments against. But I keep wondering if there’s a deeper horizontal play to be found. I consider it an accident of recent history that today’s personal data typically lives far from home. A business that builds a platform (and hardware?) to enable a privacy-local future might plausibly power an online revolution.
It’s hard to believe ten years have passed since Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone. It was a watershed event for our industry, a moment when several newly mature technologies converged and led to a radically better computing experience. I’ve always thought of Jobs’ announcement as a spiritual successor to Doug Engelbart’s 1968 Mother Of All Demos, which introduced the world to mice, bitmapped displays, window systems, hypertext, and more besides. I find both presentations inspirational and rewatch them regularly.
Post-election, I’ve made a point of reading more diverse political opinion. Some of my favorite new voices include Evan McMullin, who ran as an independent presidential candidate in 2016 and who strikes me as the model of a true patriotic conservative; Lauren Duca, who writes sharply about politics for Teen Vogue (!); and Bess Kalb, a comedy writer who replies to Donald Trump as if she were his overprotective mother.
Ever since Apple Music made its appearance in the default iOS music app, there’s been a Cambrian explosion of indie music players for iOS. The space is an unruly design playground; some designs are elegantly minimal while others are downright alien. It’s fun to see this sort of experimentation in the App Store.
Speaking of independent blogging tools: I just noticed that Desk 3 was released. Desk is a beautifully focused and thoughtful blogging app. I was actually a little worried that it had died the slow death of so many indie apps before it. Instead, it looks like a huge amount of energy went into Desk’s third version. More than that, it looks like John Saddington is building a second blogging app, mnml, that provides an elegant experience for posting to Medium. I count this as two more encouraging data points for the space.
The Indie Microblogging Kickstarter reached its $10k funding goal in under a day. This is an encouraging data point. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about software in this space; it’s nice to see that there’s at least modest demand. I’m curious what would have happened had the goal been more aggressive, say $100k or even $250k. I have a feeling — justified by zero data — that this sort of project can attract contributors with deep pockets and mission-driven zeal.
The political moment feels extremely dark. The two things I fear most are a creeping erosion of trust in government institutions and media outlets, and a newfound disregard for the fearsome terror of nuclear weapons. Trump has done his gleeful best to sow distrust with his infuriating, unsettling, and often literally insane tweets. In a recent post, Brent Simmons captures the depth of anger and fear I (also) feel about Trump’s alarmingly flippant attitude toward our nuclear arsenal.
Typewolf is a great resource for studying the use (and abuse) of typography online. Today, prime mover Jeremiah Shoaf launched his new Flawless Typography Checklist. He describes it as half-typographic-masterclass, half-practical-implementation-checklist. It looks potentially very valuable.
It seems appropriate for my first post of 2017 to be a microblog post about microblogging, a topic that’s near and dear to me. Today, I was excited to contribute to Manton Reece’s Indie Microblogging Kickstarter. I feel that it’s critically important for us to own our voice online. It’s also surprisingly difficult. I’m hopeful that Micro.blog helps tip the scales.
Hard to believe it’s been fifteen years. I don’t think about 9/11 much anymore, but the memory is never truly distant; the day’s clear blue sky is somehow just as clear. Dan Gillmor’s words from 2003 still resonate with me:
The world didn’t unravel to match our worst fears. There’s been some progress, and some steps backwards. We are, as usual, muddling along as a species. We can do better, and somehow I think we ultimately will.
My blog now supports HTTP/2, which in theory may make it faster. Not that it needs to be faster, but hey. Technology.
Fifteen years ago, I was apparently nervous about reaching the quarter century mark. Today? That’s just hilarious! Although I will admit that the whole aging and arrow-of-time thing can be a bit of a drag. Not cool, Stephen Hawking. Not cool.
I’m taking a leave of absence from Twitter. There’s nothing enjoyable about reading a 140-character political opinion, clicking on it to see discussion, and finding racism at every turn. This isn’t coded racism, either, unless you think “gas the jews” and “hang the *****rs” is somehow coded. Such vileness was bubbling long before Donald Trump, but I’m convinced he’s given it renewed focus and legitimacy — not just on Twitter, but in America at large.