👓 For now, our own | Music for Deck Chairs

Read For now, our own by Kate Bowles (Music for Deckchairs)

Over the last week I’ve been skirting a significant conversation begun by Maha Bali (“I don’t own my domain, I rent it“) and continued by Audrey Watters (“A domain of ones own in a post-ownership society“). Never far away is Andrew Rikard’s Edsurge post “Do I own my domain if you grade it?”

The question for me is how the idea of “own” works as a metaphor. It’s complicated enough as it is: my own, to own, owned, owned. We own our mistakes, we own our work, we own our politics, and none of this is quite like the way we own our homes—which for most of our working lives means some version of renting, in a funhouse world in which access to credit, like debt itself, has become an asset.

Conceptually, home ownership makes an ironic pass at all this, promising dominion over property that is actually quite a temporary thing in geohistorical time. Home ownership offers a misleading sense of permanence in relation to our provisional space in the world. A home that’s owned is always haunted by both its past and future. Far from sheltering us against the churn of things, it’s a daily reminder that we’re not here for long.

An interesting piece about ownership and the web.

I’ll try to say more about these ideas which have been swirling about the #EdTech space for a bit, but I thought I’d outline a few bits before I forget them.

  • 9/10 of the law is about ownership
  • Commons is an interesting framework, but perhaps is an outmoded concept given that the majority of ownership is now either private, corporate, or governmental. Commons is now generally part of governmental ownership now rather than the older versions of what commons used to be. We need some oversight, management, and support for the governmental portion now. Perhaps Hacker’s book has something interesting to add here.
  • No one is taking the next step to say that either government or educational institutions should be footing the entirety of the bill for marginalized students. Why? Again Hacker et al may have something interesting to say here.
  • The analogy of ownership to things like houses is fine, but it’s still only that, an analogy to help people more easily think about an abstract idea about which they’ve not got direct knowledge. What about the lack of “ownership” we get from “free” services like Twitter and Facebook? Recall the example of an editorialist saying roughly that we (rich, privileged Americans) shouldn’t leave Facebook because it will potentially damage service to third world groups which then wouldn’t have anything. (include citation). What does all this look like 10 years hence when more people have direct knowledge and we no longer need the “house” ownership model?
  • What could be added to the discussion at the IndieWeb’s longevity page?
  • Considerations of evolving complexity and mashups found in examples like When Ideas Have Sex.
  • Considerations from Why Information Grows (C. Hidalgo) and the creation of value in links as well as the evolution towards larger knowledge entities.
  • The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed. The same could also still be said about the Industrial Revolution which is still slowly coming to rural third world countries. Recall that it was only until the early 1900’s that the vast majority of people in the world were subsistence farmers.
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👓 Does Donald Trump write his own tweets? Sometimes | The Boston Globe

Read Does Donald Trump write his own tweets? Sometimes (The Boston Globe)
It’s not always Trump tapping out a tweet, even when it sounds like his voice.

I wonder how complicated/in-depth the applied information theory is behind the Twitter bot described here?

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Acquired The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World by Simon WinchesterSimon Winchester (Harper)

The revered New York Times bestselling author traces the development of technology from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age to explore the single component crucial to advancement—precision—in a superb history that is both an homage and a warning for our future.

The rise of manufacturing could not have happened without an attention to precision. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in eighteenth-century England, standards of measurement were established, giving way to the development of machine tools—machines that make machines. Eventually, the application of precision tools and methods resulted in the creation and mass production of items from guns and glass to mirrors, lenses, and cameras—and eventually gave way to further breakthroughs, including gene splicing, microchips, and the Hadron Collider.

Simon Winchester takes us back to origins of the Industrial Age, to England where he introduces the scientific minds that helped usher in modern production: John Wilkinson, Henry Maudslay, Joseph Bramah, Jesse Ramsden, and Joseph Whitworth. It was Thomas Jefferson who later exported their discoveries to the fledgling United States, setting the nation on its course to become a manufacturing titan. Winchester moves forward through time, to today’s cutting-edge developments occurring around the world, from America to Western Europe to Asia.

As he introduces the minds and methods that have changed the modern world, Winchester explores fundamental questions. Why is precision important? What are the different tools we use to measure it? Who has invented and perfected it? Has the pursuit of the ultra-precise in so many facets of human life blinded us to other things of equal value, such as an appreciation for the age-old traditions of craftsmanship, art, and high culture? Are we missing something that reflects the world as it is, rather than the world as we think we would wish it to be? And can the precise and the natural co-exist in society?

One of my favorite all-time writers and somehow I had missed any news about its pending release and hadn’t seen it despite having just been to the bookstore. What a fantastic surprise!

Received as the most perfect gift. Originally purchased at Vroman’s.

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👓 Electric Scooter Charger Culture Is Out of Control | The Atlantic

Read Electric Scooter Charger Culture Is Out of Control (The Atlantic)
“Bird hunting” has become a pastime and a side hustle for teens and young professionals, but for some it’s a cutthroat business.
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🔖 An Introduction to APIs | Zapier

Bookmarked An Introduction to APIs by Brian Cooksey (Zapier)
APIs (application programming interfaces) are a big part of the web. In 2013 there were over 10,000 APIs published by companies for open consumption 1. That is quadruple the number available in 2010 2. With so many companies investing in this new area of business, possessing a working understanding of APIs becomes increasingly relevant to careers in the software industry. Through this course, we hope to give you that knowledge by building up from the very basics. In this chapter, we start by looking at some fundamental concepts around APIs. We define what an API is, where it lives, and give a high level picture of how one is used.

I found this downloadable e-book a while back at Zapier’s resource page, which has some other interesting things, but this overview and layout of APIs seemed fairly simple but powerful for folks interested in the topic.

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👓 Save Barnes & Noble! | New York Times

Read Opinion | Save Barnes & Noble! by David LeonhardtDavid Leonhardt (nytimes.com)
It’s in trouble. And Washington’s flawed antitrust policy is a big reason.

There are some squirrel-ly things that Amazon is managing to get away with, and they’re not all necessarily good.

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👓 The Web We Need to Give Students | BRIGHT Magazine

Read The Web We Need to Give Students by Audrey Watters (BRIGHT Magazine)
“Giving students their own digital domain is a radical act. It gives them the ability to work on the Web and with the Web.”

Not sure how this surfaced into my feeds again today, but interesting to see it pop up. I’m also noticing that Audrey smartly posted a copy to her own site after it appeared in Bright.

In this article, she touches on some reasons why it’s important for students to have their own domain, but many of these ideas and arguments also work well for almost anyone. It’s interesting to see how similar the philosophy she describes here dovetails with that of the IndieWeb.

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👓 Gmail’s biggest redesign is now live | The Verge

Read Gmail’s biggest redesign is now live by Vlad Savov (The Verge)
Snoozing, nudging, hover actions, and a new sidebar — it’s a mobile app on the web!

I’ve been using gmail for about 2 years now and am curious to see what this delivers though I do have to admit I’m itching to going back to my old methods of owning may own email and data.

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👓 Jensen Harris tweetstorm about startup hiring on Twitter

Read When you're leaving a big company to interview at a startup, there are some hidden questions you might not know to ask. by Jensen Harris (Twitter)
When you're leaving a big company to interview at a startup, there are some hidden questions you might not know to ask. Not all startup jobs are created equal; without the right info, you could make a bad choice. Here are 4 questions you should ask in a startup interview loop:

1) How much money does the company have in the bank?

OK, yes: this sounds super crass... an embarrassingly direct question. But it is also incredibly crucial, because without this info, you have no idea what kind of situation you are potentially walking into. You would never ask this question at a megacorp because, well, the answer is usually "infinite money." The cash position of a public company is also usually freely available. Besides, you probably wouldn't be talking to someone who could give you a direct answer anyway!

But at a startup, everything is impacted by money. For example:
* How free is the company to build towards its vision?
* How likely is the leadership to make desperate/rash decisions?
* Will you have access to the resources you need to do a good job?

There are lots of less-gosh ways to ask this question, like: "how strong is the company's financial position?" And be prepared, the answer might sound more like "here's what % of our Series B is still in the bank" or "here's how many more months of runway we have." These are ok! But by not asking, you have no idea what you are signing up for. And if a founder/senior member of the team isn't willing to give you *some sort of answer here*, that is a big red flag. They may be hiding something you won't find out about until you start work.

2) Tell me about a time the founders disagreed. What happened?

In any startup with multiple founders (most of them!) the founder working relationship can make or break the company. If it is wonderful, the company may thrive whereas if it is toxic, nothing can save it. Notice the phrasing of the question. As a candidate, just like as an interviewer, you must practice behavioral interviewing. Don't ask "how do the founders handle disagreement?" Any smart person can answer that well: “They talk, hear each other's perspectives, and work it out!” Instead ask the question the behavioral way: "Tell me about a time..." This forces the answer to be specific and real. Founders always have some disagreement; if they own that and show they know how to handle it, it is a powerful positive signal about the company. Note: Be especially wary if you are interviewing with a founder and they repeatedly answer your specific questions about this by taking the topic back into the abstract. This could show that they are not transparent, not self-aware, deceitful, or all three.

3) What is the role of the company’s board of directors?

I'll be honest. During the 16 years I worked at Microsoft, I am not sure I could have named anyone on the board. Bill Gates? The Netflix guy? It just wasn't in any way germane to the day-to-day of working there. In a startup, however, the company's relationship with its board could have a huge impact on whether you want to work there. If you are talking to a founder or senior exec, look for words of alignment and respect. Not snark or # or "ugh, the board, don't get me started.” If interviewing with a more junior employee, a great answer might well be "No idea, I’ve only seen them in the office once.” A board that is out of the way operationally, helping behind-the-scenes but not interfering, is a good sign that there's a healthy relationship there. Fun story: I once interviewed for a senior job at a tech startup. I went with the CEO to meet the board for a last round of interviews. The first board member got me into a room and started with: "Hi! FYI. you can't tell him, but we are firing the CEO." AWKWARD. Um, kthxbye.

4) Tell me about the changes you’ve experienced at the company over the last year.

A big company is pretty much the same year after year. Working there in 2017 is the same as working there in 2018. The best startups, on the other hand, are growing, changing, strengthening. The single best way to predict the future is by analyzing the past. And so by asking your interviewer not "where do you expect to be in a year" but "what have you experienced in the last year", you get a window into what the actual the pace of growth is at the company. A great, thoughtful answer about the ways the company is growing is a huge plus. A positive is often: "wow, I can't believe how much we've done/grown/changed/built when I think about it."

A worrisome answer is "honestly, it's about the same." When startups stagnate, they die. Hear the stories about what the last 12 months were like, and use that to gauge whether it would be an exciting place to spend your next few years. Companies that are thoughtfully growing employ people with a strong growth mindset, creating an amazing place to learn and build. Last thing: Don't be afraid to ask these things. You have the right to ask direct questions in your interview. As a founder, I relish being able to share info about our company. If you get vague answers/hostility, especially from senior people, this is a bad sign. Run away!

Startup interviews require you to probe differently than megacorp interviews. This is a good thing! What you learn will help you find the place that's a strong match for you.

Be prepared to ask the right questions, and you'll be one step closer to landing your dream startup job.

via:

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👓 H5P Test-Drive | Jo Kehoe

Read H5P Test-Drive by Jo Kehoe (jokehoe.ca)
I’m test-driving H5P – an open HTML5 content creator that promises many things! And for the most part, it delivers. I tried out a few of the 20 plus content types that they have available here. I’ll continue to add to this as time goes on. Since it’s currently October, there is a pumpkin-spice flavoured theme to these examples (love it or hate it!).

Some interesting edtech tools here. They remind me somewhat of the type of formats and layouts made possible by the Post Kinds Plugin for WordPress, but geared toward academia. I could see things like these being useful little blocks within the upcoming Gutenberg interface.

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👓 12 Things Everyone Should Understand About Tech | Anil Dash

Read 12 Things Everyone Should Understand About Tech by Anil Dash (Anil Dash)
Tech is more important than ever, deeply affecting culture, politics and society. Given all the time we spend with our gadgets and apps, it’s essential to understand the principles that determine how tech affects our lives.

One of the more important things I’ve read in the past month. This short article should be required reading for every lawmaker in the land (and everyone else for that matter). Thanks Anil!

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On the topic of RSS audio feeds for The Gillmor Gang

Some suggestions for extracting audio only podcast-friendly feeds for one of my favorite shows.

I’ll start off with the fact that I’m a big fan of The Gillmore Gang and recommend it to anyone who is interested in the very bleeding edge of the overlap of technology and media. I’ve been listening almost since the beginning, and feel that digging back into their archives is a fantastic learning experience even for the well-informed. Most older episodes stand up well to the test of time.

The Problem

In the Doc Soup episode of The Gillmor Gang on 5/13/17–right at the very end–Steve Gillmor reiterated, “This isn’t a podcast. This was a podcast. It will always be a podcast, but streaming is where it’s at, and that’s what we’re doing right now.” As such, apparently Tech Crunch (or Steve for that matter) doesn’t think it’s worthwhile to have any sort of subscribe-able feed for those who prefer to listen to a time shifted version of the show. (Ironically in nearly every other episode they talk about the brilliance of the Apple TV, which is–guess what?–a highly dedicated time shifting viewing/listening device.) I suppose that their use of an old, but modified TV test pattern hiding in the og:image metadata on their webpages is all-too-apropos.

It’s been several years (around the time of the Leo Incident?) since The Gillmor Gang has reliably published an audio version, a fact I find painful and frustrating as I’m sure many others do as well. At least once or twice a year, I spend an hour or so searching around to find one, generally to no avail. While watching it live and participating in the live chat may be nice, I typically can’t manage the time slot, so I’m stuck trying to find time to watch the video versions on Tech Crunch. Sadly, looking at four or more old, wrinkly, white men (Steve himself has cautioned, “cover your eyes, it’ll be okay…” without admitting it could certainly use some diversity) for an hour or more isn’t my bailiwick. Having video as the primary modality for this show is rarely useful. To me, it’s the ideas within the discussion which are worthwhile, so I only need a much lower bandwidth .mp3 audio file to be able to listen. And so sadly, the one thing this over-technologized show (thanks again TriCaster!) actually needs from a production perspective is a simple .mp3 (RSS, Atom, JSON feed, or h-feed) podcast feed!

Solutions

In recent batches of searching, I have come across a few useful resources for those who want simple, sweet audio out of the show, so I’m going to document them here.

First, some benevolent soul has been archiving audio copies of the show to The Internet Archive for a while. They can be found here (sorted by upload date): https://archive.org/search.php?query=subject%3A%22Gillmor+Gang%22&sort=-publicdate

In addition to this, one might also use other search methods, but this should give one most of the needed weekly content. Sadly IA doesn’t provide a useful feed out…

To create a feed quickly, one can create a free Huffduffer account. (This is one of my favorite tools in the world by the way.) They’ve got a useful bookmarklet tool that allows you to visit pages and save audio files and metadata about them to your account. Further, they provide multiple immediate means of subscribing to your saves as feeds! Thus you can pick and choose which Gillmor Gang episodes (or any other audio files on the web for that matter) you’d like to put into your feed. Then subscribe in your favorite podcatcher and go.

For those who’d like to skip a step, Huffduffer also provides iTunes and a variety of other podcatcher specific feeds for content aggregated in other people’s accounts or even via tags on the service. (You can subscribe to what your friends are listening to!) Thus you can search for Gillmor Gang and BOOM! There are quick and easy links right there in the sidebar for you to subscribe to your heart’s content! (Caveat: you might have to filter out a few duplicates or some unrelated content, but this is the small price you’ll pay for huge convenience.)

My last potential suggestion might be useful to some, but is (currently) so time-delayed it’s likely not as useful. For a while, I’ve been making “Listen” posts to my website of things I listen to around the web. I’ve discovered that the way I do it, which involves transcluding the original audio files so the original host sees and gets the traffic, provides a subscribe-able faux-cast of content. You can use this RSS feed to capture the episodes I’ve been listening to lately. Note that I’m way behind right now and don’t always listen to episodes in chronological order, so it’s not as reliable a method for the more avid fan. Of course now that I’ve got some reasonable solutions… I’ll likely catch up quickly and we’re off to the races again.

Naturally none of this chicanery would be necessary if the group of producers and editors of the show would take five minutes to create and host their own version. Apparently they have the freedom and flexibility to not have to worry about clicks and advertising (which I completely appreciate, by the way) to need to capture the other half of the audience they’re surely missing by not offering an easy-to-find audio feed. But I’m dead certain they’ve got the time, ability, and resources to easily do this, which makes it painful to see that they don’t. Perhaps one day they will, but I wouldn’t bet the house on it.

I’ve made requests and been holding my breath for years, but the best I’ve done so far is to turn blue and fall off my chair.

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👓 WebAuthn: A Developer’s Guide to What’s on the Horizon | Okta Developer

Read WebAuthn: A Developer's Guide to What's on the Horizon by Aaron Parecki (developer.okta.com)
WebAuthn (the Web Authentication API) allows browsers to make use of hardware authenticators such as the Yubikey or a mobile phone's biometrics like a thumbprint reader or facial recognition.

I’ve been interested to see Aaron’s opinion of this when I saw it come across my radar the other day. Glad to have a simple overview of it’s functionality now, particularly from someone who’s literally written the book on authentication.

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IndieWeb Journalism in the Wild

Some tidbits I really appreciate about John Naughton's website

I noticed a few days ago that professor and writer John Naughton not only has his own website but that he’s posting both his own content to it as well as (excerpted) content he’s writing for other journalistic outlets, lately in his case for The Guardian. This is awesome for so many reasons. The primary reason is that I can follow him via his own site and get not only his personally posted content, which informs his longer pieces, but I don’t need to follow him in multiple locations to get the “firehose” of everything he’s writing and thinking about. While The Guardian and The Observer are great, perhaps I don’t want to filter through multiple hundreds of articles to find his particular content or potentially risk missing it?  What if he was writing for 5 or more other outlets? Then I’d need to delve in deeper still and carry a multitude of subscriptions and their attendant notifications to get something that should rightly emanate from one location–him! While he may not be posting his status updates or Tweets to his own website first–as I do–I’m at least able to get the best and richest of his content in one place. Additionally, the way he’s got things set up, The Guardian and others are still getting the clicks (for advertising sake) while I still get the simple notifications I’d like to have so I’m not missing what he writes.

His site certainly provides an interesting example of either POSSE or PESOS in the wild, particularly from an IndieWeb for Journalism or even an IndieWeb for Education perspective. I suspect his article posts occur on the particular outlet first and he’s excerpting them with a link to that “original”. (Example: A post on his site with a link to a copy on The Guardian.) I’m not sure whether he’s (ideally) physically archiving the full post there on his site (and hiding it privately as both a personal and professional portfolio of sorts) or if they’re all there on the respective pages, but just hidden behind the “read more” button he’s providing. I will note that his WordPress install is giving a rel=”canonical link to itself rather than the version at The Guardian, which also has a rel=”canonical” link on it. I’m curious to take a look at how Google indexes and ranks the two pages as a result.

In any case, this is a generally brilliant set up for any researcher, professor, journalist, or other stripe of writer for providing online content, particularly when they may be writing for a multitude of outlets.

I’ll also note that I appreciate the ways in which it seems he’s using his website almost as a commonplace book. This provides further depth into his ideas and thoughts to see what sources are informing and underlying his other writing.

Alas, if only the rest of the world used the web this way…

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