The End of Internet History and the Last Ad

People make bad predictions all the time. Getting them wrong is not the problem, some are bound to be wrong. A source of bad predictions is often inherent to the enterprise; things are unpredictable. In almost any field, chaos reigns over order. In some sense, our economic system in the Western world, capitalism brought on by free enterprise, is designed to maximize this chaos and to reap its benefits. You might even call this innovation. Continue reading “The End of Internet History and the Last Ad”

An internet with an elephant memory

Turns out I always had a penchant for run-on sentences. I have counted over 3 of them in a college application essay I wrote in 2004. It is sitting there, on my Dropbox account, where I moved my “important” documents to from an old Yahoo! email. It’s been there, untouched, seemingly for eternity. Barring a catastrophic event, like Dropbox going out of business or me getting hacked, I suspect it’ll be there for at least 15 more years. Continue reading “An internet with an elephant memory”

Expect more Facebook Drama

Ooff. Another Facebook drama on the wires today. This time, a 2016 memo written by Andrew Bosworth made it way to Buzzfeed. It’s a horrible memo. Boz, as he likes to be called, argues that Facebook’s growth at all costs mentality justifies everything. And by everything, he means everything. Everything Facebook does, the scummy growth tactics, such as the contact importers. But more salaciously, the growth, as defined by connecting more people in more ways, justifies what happens due to the growth. Sorry if you’ve been exposed to bullies, Boz says, or if accidentally facilitated some terrorist plot. Continue reading “Expect more Facebook Drama”

Technology has agency, you just need to know where to look.

A line of reasoning that I just can’t get behind: Everything tech companies do is downstream user behavior, and they, people who lead them, have real no agency.

It makes some sense; consumers are fickle, culture flips on a dime etc. And definitely talking points are there too. “Competition is a click away”, “Mobile address book means switching costs zero”, “We don’t deserve your data, if we mess it up”. It’s all cute, and it makes some intellectual sense. But only the surface.

Continue reading “Technology has agency, you just need to know where to look.”

Privacy in a Connected World

This is a post I wrote in January 2018 for an online magazine, that never got published. I finally got the OK to publish it on my blog, in light of the current Facebook and Cambridge Analytica revelations. Previous posts on those are here and here.

It’s getting hard to suppress a sense of an impending doom. With the latest Equifax hack, the question of data stewardship has been propelled to the mainstream again. There are valid calls to reprimand those responsible, and even shut down the company altogether. After all, if a company whose business is safekeeping information can’t keep the information safe, what other option is there?

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What Facebook did was probably legal. But that’s the problem.

Yesterday I had a quick interview with BBC Newsnight about the recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica debate. In one of my answers, I mentioned that I think what Facebook did was probably legal. The text in the tweet is missing the rest of my answer, but I regardless stand by what I said. As a disclaimer, I am not a lawyer.

Continue reading “What Facebook did was probably legal. But that’s the problem.”

A breach by another name? There is probably more coming. We need to prepare.

Imagine a data scientist working at Facebook. Let’s call her Alice. As part of her assignment, Alice collects a couple hundred thousand Facebook users’ profile, stores on her laptop. The data contains not just what users entered into Facebook, but what Facebook gathered and inferred about them. Alice is excited. Users whose data is being used largely trust Facebook to be good custodians of this data.

But Alice’s boyfriend, Bob, has another idea. He knows that the user data Alice has on her laptop can be sold to some data broker. He’s been unhappy where their relationship has been going anyway, his startup going through down rounds while Facebook stock just keeps going up and up.

Continue reading “A breach by another name? There is probably more coming. We need to prepare.”

Reading things on Twitter hasn’t changed for years. It is time for some new ideas.

I have been using Twitter for a better part of a decade. I have taken somewhat public breaks from it, but for better or worse, it’s become a big part of my life. I’ve met people through it, found jobs and clients through it (though suspiciously never paid for either of it). It’s where I go to ramble, and where I go for cheap laughs, depressing news, and dank memes.

What’s really remarkable about Twitter is how little it has changed over the years. They have added a (rounded) corner here and there, changed likes to hearts, maybe added a feature or two. But the core Twitter experience, a timeline, has been the same. I used to think it’s a good thing, but now I am not so sure. Continue reading “Reading things on Twitter hasn’t changed for years. It is time for some new ideas.”

Books for Software Engineers switching to Technical Product Management

As I’ve decided to switch over from being an software engineer to technical product management, I found my theoretical knowledge lacking. Having worked in software companies big and large, I knew the basics. Agile this, MVP that. I knew how prioritize things, and how to get things out the door. But largely, I was repeating what I’ve seen to have worked. The lack of a mental framework left me unprepared for novel problems where I’d need to make ad-hod decisions. I never failed miserably, but it seemed imminent. Continue reading “Books for Software Engineers switching to Technical Product Management”

Developing Shared Code with Principles

One of the most high-leverage work in a technical organization is building shared libraries or frameworks. A common library, a piece of code that can be used as is, or a framework, a system that codifies certain decisions and allows further work to be built on top, has the opportunity to benefit many people at once. Not only that, they also institutionalize shared knowledge, put knowledge that’s in people’s head in code for future employees. And of course, there are other benefits such as possibly open-sourcing such work, which comes with its set of benefits to hiring and on boarding. Continue reading “Developing Shared Code with Principles”