Please, everyone, let’s listen to a voice of reason like Walt Mossberg.
I’ve read the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs. I’m waiting on a copy of Becoming Steve Jobs from the library. And I’ve been reading the disagreements over how Steve Jobs has been portrayed (Medium, NYTimes, Daring Fireball). All the fighting and PR seems to me to have gotten out of hand.
Steven Levy with Medium hits home:
In the long run, though, I believe that the disagreements about Jobs’s personality will have diminishing importance as future students of technology and culture seek to understand what Steve Jobs actually did, and how he did it.
Steven is right on, but it’s only a small point in a bigger article about the “war over Steve Jobs”.
The benefit of these biographies of Steve Jobs is learning about Steve’s mindset. He questioned every assumption in every project and made sure they aligned with a bigger vision. That’s what we need to remember about Steve Jobs. That’s what we need to focus on.
Do you want to change the world like Steve Jobs? I don’t think you need to read a book. Just be crazy:
The problem with the new, open source, social media platforms?
They (typically) don’t run on basic php/mysql web servers. Plain and simple.
These new, open source, social media platforms I’m talking about include diaspora* (explanation here), MediaGoblin (explanation here), and pump.io (explanation here). Each of these require server resources above the standard shared server. Thus, the cost is to high for your average user. Typical shared hosting costs anywhere from $5 to $10 per month. Typical virtual private hosting (the next step up and able to run these platforms) costs anywhere from $15 to $25 per month. That’s a big difference for your average hobbyist. Like myself.
Sure, you can find pods or installs of this software to use. But part of the need for these platforms is that you can host and own your content. And there’s no guarantee of ownership when you’re using someone else’s install and someone else’s server. If I wanted someone else to host and manage my content, I’d upload my pictures to flickr or Google+.
I’ll compare to the WordPress content management system (on which this site is built).
WordPress has a huge user base. WordPress powers 23% of the web. Nearly a quarter of all websites run on the open source WordPress software. It’s not all self-hosted, like this site. Much of it is run on wordpress.com, an install of the WordPress software maintained by Automattic. But for most everyone else, it is self-hosted and runs on cheap, shared hosting.
And this is why I think WordPress is so popular. Cheap, shared hosting.
Cheap, shared hosting that any hobbyist can afford. That any business can afford. That any non-profit can afford. That any government can afford.
So here’s a shoutout to everyone working on the likes of diaspora* and MediaGoblin (and many others, and all the future open source platforms). Design it to work on cheap, shared hosting and on php/mysql. This combination powers most of the web. And it allows us hobbyists to run your software. I really want to use it and tinker with it and contribute to the code and contribute back to the communities around them.
But I can’t on my shared hosting plan.
Edward Snowden’s lawyer, a look at the disturbing treatment of whistleblowers. On working with Snowden:
The secrecy of Radack’s work with Snowden requires two laptops beside each other: one standard Windows, and another running an encryption setup that she asks me not to describe in detail. There’s no Wi-Fi anywhere in the office; it’s too hard to secure. “I joke that I use drug dealer tactics,” she says. That means burner phones, paying in cash, meeting in person. “It’s a terrible way to work as an attorney, but you have to.”
On Jesselyn Radack’s own privacy:
Leaving the house in the morning, she spotted a black van idling on the street outside. She walked up to its window and asked the men inside if they needed anything. They said they were there for her neighbor, but were stumped when she asked for the neighbor’s name. “It’s about intimidation,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if they’re surveilling you all the time, as long as you think they might be.”
And on Radack’s own treatment as a whistleblower:
One day, she got a call from her office telling her agents were gearing up to arrest her that night. The tip turned out to be wrong but it took a toll, sending her into a panic and aggravating her MS [multiple sclerosis]. Her pregnancy miscarried that night.
Scary. And shocking. Great work by The Verge.
Following up on my last post about Elon Musk, I’ve got another quote from the same article in Wired I want to share:
The problem is that at a lot of big companies, process becomes a substitute for thinking. You’re encouraged to behave like a little gear in a complex machine. Frankly, it allows you to keep people who aren’t that smart, who aren’t that creative.
This is one of the reasons startups can innovate so much. How do we get government to this point? In some situations, having a process is good. But I’ve seen it get to the point where employees don’t question anything – they just follow the process.
Wired magazine is running a great series on Icons to celebrate their 20 year anniversary.
For November, they profiled Elon Musk, an entrepreneur associated with Tesla Motors, PayPal, and SpaceX. This quote really stuck out to me; he was talking specifically about building space rockets here, but I think we all see this:
So, yeah, there’s a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering.
It’s sad, but that’s completely applicable to government. We have to create a culture in government that accepts risk and failure as a consequence of constantly improving.
I’ve got another quote from the same article I’ll post later.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed spoke at the POLITICO Pro Transportation launch event recently. I found Mayor Reed’s talk interesting, especially since recently Governing magazine published a piece on the five biggest infrastructure projects that might not get finished. I mentioned it at the time, but pointing out the ten biggest projects and that half of those might not get finished is extremely discouraging. We need these projects, and we can’t get them done. And one of the biggest (Denver FasTracks) is right here in Denver.
One of the five biggest projects (and I’m sure it isn’t the only one) might be finished later than 2030. Does anyone realize that we are spending money and we don’t what the need will be twenty years or more in the future? We need light rail, water and sewer improvements, transportation improvements, today. Who knows what we will need in twenty or thirty years? That’s why I keyed on Mayor Reed’s talk.
Mayor Reed had this to say about the need for infrastructure projects and the failure to get them finished (12:30 into the video, emphasis mine):
I don’t have a problem with our ability to compete with the Chinese. I do have a problem with us sticking our head in the sand. Other people are making infrastructure decisions so much faster, getting them done, and getting them built out. We have the same capacity to do it. We have a will problem in the United States of America. We know how to figure out the financing, we have political leaders certainly at the local level and at the state level who understand that this is critical and we’re watching our country decay.
Our country has an incredible need for infrastructure improvements right now. Our infrastructure is in decay. And we desperately need to put people to work. Yet we can’t even find the will to get the most important problems fixed this decade (or the next).
That’s why I’m discouraged.
In our last interview, [Former US Senator Evan] Bayh complained of the poor opinion the public had of him and his [Senate] colleagues. “They look at us like we’re worse than used-car salesmen.” Yes. They do. And this is why.
Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, from his post The sad, hypocritical retirement of Evan Bayh.
This is what I love about Android: the customization and the community.
Here I’m running a customized Honeycomb theme (here) for a community built ROM (Liberty, here) that runs on the open source Android operating system on the Motorola Droid 2. I’ve customized it with icons, a different launcher (LauncherPlus Pro), and a weather/time widget from an HTC version of Android. I’ve completely customized the look (and functionality) of the home screen.
Community ROMs (versions of Android, basically) introduce new and great features, while fixing bugs. I don’t have to worry about not getting an updated version of Android software on my Droid 2, because I know that other community members will release ROMs with the features.
And if I don’t like something, I can fix it on my own. That’s open source.
Can you do any of this on your iPhone/iPad?
I am incredibly sad to hear any public servant speak these words, much less a member of the House of Commons.