Talks That Stick

My best advice would be to speak about something you know. And maybe also to cover your approach to solving a problem and your thinking or process, instead of technical matter.

I’m not sure that people get a ton out of technical talks or that they can really absorb all of the content from any talk, but a great way not to waste someone’s time is to share your experience with them.

I love hear people’s stories, especially those where they faced obstacles and overcame them.

– Julie Ann Horvath, “So You Wanna Give a Talk”

This is absolutely the best advice for giving a talk.

Clearing-space

Starting a school from air goes like this: First, clear a space. A floor of a building. Ten weeks of your time. Fill the space with people. Don’t let the flies get the best of you. Ask all the questions. Build some answers. There you have it.

Editorially has been publishing some excellent posts at STET. This is from the conclusion of Jen Lowe’s post about starting the School for Poetic Computation. You’ll have to read to get the fly thing.

Julie Ann Horvath on Passion Projects

To be honest, I created Passion Projects because I didn’t want to dwell on the negative experiences anymore. I think I got to a point where I was so frustrated with the leadership in this industry. Because I would hear “We should hire more women!!” on almost a daily basis from the same people who kind of refused to respect me as a peer.

Julie Ann Horvath did an interview for Dame, and has put the full transcript up on her blog. It’s a really good read.

If you’re in Los Angeles, you can see Julie speak at Farmhouse Conf on November 2nd.

Whimsica

Andre just posted “How About Some Fucking Whimsy” to his new blog, and I just want to take a second to gush about this post, and Andre in general.

Read the post. It’s short. It has a mention of baby hippos. Here’s a taste:

The only only only thing I think about when building things for people is creating delight. That is all. My job is to create a place that delights people. Whether I am making a bank or a chat room or a place to pay a DMV fee, my site’s #1 job is to delight the user.

Everything Andre makes that I’ve seen feels like a celebration. A celebration of the user. A celebration of being able to do the task at hand. A celebration of the web. I lost my shit over the color of the small link to the CMS he made. The. link. to. a. C. M. S. Andre makes a web I want to live in. It’s a place that feels fun and safe and has room for wonder.

I’m not necessarily the ideal user of a service like MLKSHK; I don’t really save images often, nor do I think to show them to people a lot. I open a tab, lul a little, assume everybody on the internet has seen it already, and close the tab. But I love MLKSHK. I love the name, and the colors, and the piggy bank icon with the squiggly tail, and the smiley face in the logo, and the people, and the copy, and the way it works.

Look at this other thing he made to change the background on his Twitter avatar. Look at it! Look at the icons that show the categories on notes.torrez.org. Notice that notes.torrez.org is separate because cool URIs don’t change. Notice how notes.torrez still works perfectly. And keep looking. Keep noticing.

When everyone else would drag the pizza slicer, Andre is dragging the fucking pizza, because he is a genius.

I could go on. Instead, I’m going to share one of my favorite pieces of whimsica online right now. Tim and Eric’s part from Roger Skateboards’ “Second Hand Stoke”.(The link should skip you in to the right part, but I couldn’t get it to work with the embedded player, so please skip in to 3:15.)

NSA-Proof Encryption Can Save You From The NSA, But It Can’t Save You From Yourself

There are a lot of ludicrous things about Pax Dickinson’s tweets and his “defense” of those tweets. The issues related to sexism and racism in tech, and the compounding issues that arise when we allow people with overt and aggressive biases into positions with hiring power have been covered pretty well already. Clara Jeffery was all over it on Twitter. Amanda Hess has written two posts for Slate. Courtney Stanton hit the nail on the head at Salon. Anil Dash had coffee with him. So, I’m pretty sure I have nothing of value to add to that conversation right now.

However, there was something totally unrelated to the big issue at hand in the follow up post he wrote to get some attention for his Next Big Thing that really bugged me. You know, besides the insulting “I’m a satirist” angle.

Pax is working on:

Glimpse, is an ephemeral photo sharing app with strong NSA-proof encryption. Ironically an app like this may have prevented me from getting in trouble over a 3 and a half year old tweet.

This, in my mind, shows a total lack of comprehension of the problem. What happened to Pax was not a failure of security. These weren’t sensitive documents or communications Pax was trying to keep out of the hands of the public. These were things Pax was proud to share. If we are to believe him, these were funny jokes. He was proud of how funny his jokes were and wanted people to see them, so they could appreciate how funny they were too. He could have made his account private if he wanted to only share them with people he knew or felt reasonably close to. The point of publicly broadcasting your views is to deliver them to people.

As he says at the conclusion of his post,

I’ll also get to keep tweeting the way I want. I hope those of you who understand and get my jokes will be following.

While I am all for secure sharing, (I think people have the right to privacy from eavesdropping and the pilfering of interactions by third parties, government or otherwise) the fact remains that the actions of your intended recipients are out of your hands, and no amount of encryption is going to change that. NSA-proof encryption can save you from the NSA, but it can’t save you from yourself.

I am reminded of people who send hateful and offensive email and are shocked and outraged when the recipient posts them openly. You are entitled to communicate without an outside party aggressively trying to steal that interaction, and you are entitled to behave how you like, but you are not entitled to everyone putting up with your bad behavior. Once you put a document, or photo, or collection of words, in someone else’s hands you are sharing control of that thing to some degree. You may protect that information with contracts and laws, but the fact remains that the recipient has some control over what happens to it.

By default, the intended recipient of a tweet is “anyone/everyone.” It’s not as though Clara Jeffery or anyone else publicizing Dickinson’s tweets was an incredibly motivated adversary working on compromising a digital vault of Dickinson’s private exchanges. She merely went to a publicly available archive of all of his offensive declarations.

By all means, protect your communications from prying eyes. Just remember that you are still responsible for the things you put into the world. And maybe reconsider trusting your security to someone who doesn’t seem to understand that.


Thanks to Karina and Ryan for giving the first draft of this a look and giving me some helpful comments. And thanks to Editorially for making it so easy to have friends review things.

Meritocracy

There is a pervasive idea that people with the worst character imaginable must be tolerated within a company or culture because of some skill they possess. We weigh the harm these people do to those around them — perhaps most significantly, to those not as powerful as them — and determine that pain to be worth less than an individual’s ability to get 1,000 stars on a GitHub repo. Or whatever. This shitty math gets polished up and presented as a proud shit-badge to hang on your name tag or company website: M E R I T O C R A C Y.

“Our Tech Industry Breeds Bigots” by Courtney Stanton (via Buzz Anderson)

Major Blows Dealt to Encrypted Email Services

It’s getting tough(er) to send secure email in America.

The NSA And Its Targets: Lavabit Shuts Down

Lavabit’s official post

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

Encryption E-Mail Company Hushmail Spills to Feds

How Hushmail Works

Silent Circle Shuts Down Email Service

PGP Creator Phil Zimmerman Rarely Uses Email Anymore

When people send me PGP encrypted mail I have to go through a lot of trouble to decrypt it. If it’s coming from a stranger, I’ll say please re-send this in plain text, which probably raises their eyebrows. If I want to send something securely I use Silent Text [Silent Circle’s mobile texting service].

So, the government can apply pressure on mail providers, forbidding them to talk about the particulars, until they have to go out of business or shut down in anticipation of being compromised.