on The Facebook Effect

I decided to read David Kirkpatrick’s book, The Facebook Effect, because I wanted to rationalize my somewhat recent decision to ignore a product that has become one of the most widely used in the world, achieved staggering valuations, etc. So here is my rambling reaction to the book, and my latest thoughts on Facebook in general: There are reasons I want to like Facebook. I love sharing photos, reading opinions, and the little dopamine spritz that comes with any online interaction. Mark Zuckerberg even seems like a decent guy, at the very least a champion of my generation in leadership and business acumen. When I go all the way back to 1984 to compare our lives’ paths, starting with his birthday about 3 weeks before my own, it’s impossible not to be awed. Although we probably took the same spelling lessons in 4th grade, and maybe asked similar questions in …

Continue reading

on the ‘Tubes’

Now that much of the tactile interaction we have with the internet are completely wireless, it’s easy to forget that the ‘Web’ is actually a giant physical network of cables, wires, tunnels, and tubes. Andrew Blum’s book ‘Tubes’ digs into the physical infrastructure that makes up the internet and illuminates the nooks and crannies where all of our Facebook likes and Netflix Queues are speeding around the globe. What was originally a system of cables used to transmit telegrams and connect telephones has morphed into a data network of immense proportion. Massive and monolithic, switching stations and data centers placed at geographically efficient coordinates quietly store and transmit the exponentially growing glut of information that we create and consume every day. This book is the story of the ‘unsung heroes’ who get their hands dirty connecting all the pipes, dredging out the tunnels, and sailing long voyages to lay the …

Continue reading

on the Boston Bombing

A week before the Boston Marathon bombing, I was volunteering at a ten mile race in Washington D.C.  I spent the morning at the finish line of the Cherry Blossom 10 miler, giving medals to the elated finishers of the race. Thousands of people ran the circuit around the Tidal Basin, past the blooming trees, enjoying the Spring sun as it rose over the river.  There was no notion of danger, no way I could conceive of the violence that would rattle a similar event just a week later in a city not too far away. There is no way to prepare for such madness, no avenue of avoidance to strictly follow. Ugliness exists, and it struck Boston.  My deepest condolences go out to those affected by the violence, and my sincerest praise to those who finished the race, and those who helped apprehend the criminals.  As details emerge about …

Continue reading

on my Data Trail

I made a list of every website on which I have an account that requires a password – I got up into the forties and realized that I exist in way too many places on the internet. I tried to imagine what it would be like if 40 physical locations I visited asked me for a password every time I showed up. It would be insane, I would stop going anywhere. My data exists all over the place. There are databases that seem to track everything I do, and most of them are smart enough to predict what I’m going to do next: what songs I’ve listened to the most, and therefore which new releases I will like; how much REM sleep I average every night, what books I read, how much I spend on laundry detergent compared to other people in the United States, how many times I’ve been …

Continue reading

On “Internetese”

A column in the Washington Post today about the language of the web world piqued my interest. I have some frustration with the whimsical nature of the “words” used in the industry. I responded to the columnist, Melissa Bell.  Here’s the conversation that followed: As an English major who ended up working in I.T., nothing frustrates me more than the dozens of completely made-up words I encounter daily.  Trying to complete basic tasks or read a short paper is an effort in discerning intangible, untranslatable words.  Learning anything new about programming requires a linguistic patience that is painful to summon.  It might be a heretic position, but I don’t even like that programming languages are called “languages.” Response: Brian, heretical or not, I’m glad to hear it. I think one of the major challenges in getting a newsroom to go digital is that people who build their careers around words have …

Continue reading