Posts from rants

The Free And Open Internet

I realize that publications need to have a business model to stay afloat. And the past month has seen a number of online publications (and offline publications) layoff a large number of employees. So it isn’t even clear that all of these hard paywalls, soft paywalls, and advertising based models are going to make the online publishing business work.

But the cost of all of this business model exploration and extraction is a continued degradation of the clean and fluid user experience that made the early free and open Internet so compelling.

A few days ago I saw a link on my phone that said “John Dingell’s Last Words For America.” I thought it was worth reading what a lifelong public servant had to say on his deathbed. So I clicked on the link and got this:

I never got to read what a lifelong public servant’s last words for America were. Sure I could have purchased a subscription to the Washington Post, but I don’t believe opinion pieces should be behind a paywall and I certainly don’t believe that something like Dingell’s last words should be behind a paywall. So I’m not going to reward the Washington Post for bad behavior with my money.

The truth is Dingell’s family should never have asked the Washington Post to publish his last words. Even the Washington Post’s owner Jeff Bezos knew to publish his words that he wanted everyone to read on an open platform like Medium.

The mainstream publications, like Washington Post, have ceded their role as the public square to places like Twitter and Medium that remain open and free.

That further limits their relevance. In search of a business model they cede the very thing that made them what they once were.

So what is my point? That paywalls are bad? No, I think subscriptions have their place in the publishing business. But the way paywalls are implemented today stinks. Some content should never ever be put behind one. And paywalls should federate, like the early ATMs did, so that joining one means joining them all.

That won’t get us all the way back to the free and open Internet that sucked us all in twenty plus years ago, but it will get us a lot closer to it.


Feature Friday: Muting People On Twitter

I think Mute is one of the most underused features on Twitter, second only to Unfollow. I went on a bit of a rant about this on Twitter last week.


Here is how you mute someone on Twitter:

My friend Lock has a great Twitter, but when he watches the hated Red Sox and the Patriots, I just can’t take it. So I need to mute him. Here is how you do that on the web.

  • Go to the profile and click on the little gear (settings) next to the Following button


  • Then you get this dropdown list. Select the Mute option.


  • Then you get this mute button next to the follow button on that person’s profile


  • Which you can toggle on and off from now on


If you follow people on Twitter that you just need to turn off every now and then set up the mute option and use it when necessary. It makes Twitter such a better experience.


Video Of The Week: Hating On People

I’m not a celebrity by any means, but I get hated on in public every so often.

It doesn’t feel good to be honest.

I really like what Jimmy Kimmel did here to highlight the issue


Pet Peeve: You Guys

Over the past few years, a phrase I often hear uttered in business has come to bother me a lot – “you guys”.

I hear it said in all hands meetings, I read it on blogs and other communication channels between a company and its employees, I hear it in small group conversations.

I hear both women and men say it, so it is not necessarily a sexist thing.

But to me “guys” means men. And so I think this phase is reinforcing a societal bias in the tech business against women.

This past saturday I attended a recruiting session for young women to attend The Academy For Software Engineering.

afse girls

As I stood in the back and watched these young women talk about their career aspirations, I thought that we have a good shot at making the tech sector non gender biased in the coming years. And I am excited about.

So I have consciously attempted to strike the phrase “you guys” from my vocabulary unless I am, in fact, talking to a group that is all male.


Calendar Invite Spam

This is going to be a rant. If you aren't interested, hit the back button now.

I am increasingly being spammed in my calendar. People invite me to things I have no interest in attending by spamming my calendar. And because email is already a challenge to keep up with, I often don't see the email notifications of those calendar spams and they stay in my calendar and the folks I work with on my calendar see them and get confused.

I don't know about all of you, but my online/mobile calendar is sacred. It's my schedule and a number of folks including me and the Gotham Gal work carefully on it to make it accurate, clean, and well organized.

When stuff pops into it that nobody knows anything about, it's a nuisance and not just to me but a bunch of people.

But it gets worse. Last week I got a calendar spam that said "Reply" and the message was "reply to my email now". Now some folks might think that is funny but I did not. First of all, I am not obligated to reply to any unsolicited email. I try like hell to do as best I can with all of those inbound emails, but I've been clear many times here and elsewhere that I can't and won't get to all of them. The idea that someone is using my calendar to get a message to me is annoying and upsetting. And they did themselves no good because all they did was piss me off royally.

So here is a request. If you want me to attend something, please send me an email. We will process that request through any number of ways, including a direct reply from me. If a time and place is agreed upon via email, we will then accept a calendar invite. Otherwise, they are unwanted spam that helps nobody.

I do the same thing with others. I would never and don't send calendar invites without first clearing them via email. I think that's basic decency in action.


Award Shows

So they did The Crunchies yesterday. It got me thinking about award shows. I am not a fan of any process that selects a best of anything that doesn't involve the parties getting out on a court or field and battling it out. But clearly award shows are a big deal and people love going to them, watching them, and winning them.

And what exactly is the point of selecting the best of any of these things? The best movie? Was it really the best? The best social media company? Was it really the best? The best book? Was it really the best?

Why can't we celebrate the diversity of the work, the many efforts that were made, and all the amazing things that got created in the past year. But instead we focus on the one single very best one. As if there were just one.


Don't Believe Everything You Read

I read most everything written online about the sectors and the companies we invest in. I know the truth about many of these stories. And I am constantly shocked about how wrong the media gets it. I am not going to call out any specific journalist or story but I would simply advise folks to take everything they read with a big grain of salt. 

I would be particularly cautious when the subject of the story does not make themselves available for the journalist. The journalist can get pissed and take swipes.

It's important to stay abreast of what's going on. I am not saying don't read the stories. I am simply saying that you should not take them as gospel. Treat them for what they are; a mix of facts, gossip, and fantasy. The fantasy quotient is particularly high these days, for some reason.

And the publication standing behind the journalist doesn't seem to matter a bit. Techcrunch can be really good, and it can be really bad. The NY Times can be really good, and it can be really bad. I have read pure fantasy in both.

I often wish I could write the truth. But the truth is often told to me in strict confidence. So I can't and won't. The media's job is to find out the truth and print it. I am glad we have a media in society whose job is to do this. I'm just shocked at how often the truth is missing and fantasy is told in its place.