a reckoning for tech by the humans that work with it

Everybody loves Tech-Fu Fighting. TechReckoning Dispatch V5N3

Hi there,

Let’s start with the latest from TechReckoning: We published more details on the TechReckoning Insiders, our network for technologists active in their professional communities. Sign up there to be notified of our launch – coming soon.

We’re also looking for sponsoring companies who want to get more attention at VMworld and other events this fall by getting the tech community charged up about their cool stuff.

Join Brian Solis this Thursday 10am

How can we be more creative, productive, and happy in a world filled with tech overwhelm? This Thursday, Brian Solis joins the IMC for a discussion at on June 20 at 10am PDT. Brian is an insightful analyst on digital transformation, customer experience, and influencers and he’s been an innovator on social media since the beginning. His new book, Lifescale, which deals with his experiences with burnout, distraction, and living in alignment with your values and purpose. To attend, either (1) sign up here; (2) save this Google Calendar invite; (3) or paste this Zoom link into your own calendar at 10am PDT on Thursday, June 20. Brian is very engaging and attending will keep you from losing the whole hour by loitering on the social media street-corner, wasting time.

Relatedly, a few recent studies on social media, devices, and our brains:

Multitasking rewires your brain so that you have trouble focusing and have less working memory. (The good news is other studies imply you can re-rewire your brain.)

Dropping Facebook makes you happy.

We’ve doubled our digital media usage over 10 years — from < 3 hours/day to over 6 hours/day. The culprit? Phones.

That last statistic is from Mary Meeker’s always eye-opening annual omnibus of internet trends. I’ll also highlight slide 30, where she points out that happy customers and recommendations are the only things that are going to beat increasing customer acquisition costs. Thank your local program managers who work with community, influencers, and advocates. (And raise their budgets.)

Everybody Loves Tech-Fu Fighting

People are fighting over definitions and licensing in Open Source in a world where the value is in the service, not the source code. Here’s some context: DataStax ad the Modern Commercial Open Source Business (Stephen O’Grady @sogrady, RedMonk). Depending on your viewpoint, either OSI is rigid and not keeping up with the times, or VC-backed startups, unable to deal with competition, are sneakily undermining open source principles. Vicky Brasseur (@vmbrasseur) lays out  the latter opinion:

If these companies actually cared about the projects, they would have invested the resources to build stronger communities around them. They would have reached out to Amazon, encouraged them to contribute back to the projects, and helped them to do so.

People are fighting over the concept of a service mesh (e.g., Istio and Linkerd), and the new Service Mesh Initiative launched at KubeCon EU. Again, depending on your viewpoint, either they’re overly complicated and enterprise-y ways for vendors to sell more stuff on top of Kubernetes, or they’re necessary standardization to manage service communication and policy in microservices-based apps.

In short, sounds like any early innovation pattern where the sausage making can get pretty ugly, but on a modern calendar where young developers wonder why the latest thing is not in production already. The service mesh argument mirrors the whole world of Kubernetes – inside the circle, things are moving forward quickly; outside, people are wondering if that huge earth mover is the right tool to level the backyard for some patio pavers.

Side note to product marketers at big companies: if you have 10 different systems with Kubernetes built-in, please start leading with benefits and use cases, not Kubernetes. I swear it’s like we just discovered the Wheel, everybody’s opened up new Wheel Shops, and it’s not until you get inside that you discover if they’re selling a bicycle, truck, sports car, pottery tool, or a carnival game.

People are fighting about the technology industry’s ignorance of decades of research in the social sciences on how technology intersects with culture, behavior, power, and ethics. See the replies to this tweet by Tristan Harris, ex-Googler and Center for Humane Technology co-founder, which started it all. A spicy take by Dan Hon. A great thread about Science and Technology Studieswith some good follow recommendations.

People are not loving the new Dropbox. (Michael Tsai roundup)

People are not loving Uber’s chance of ever being profitable. (Hubert Horan in American Affairs)

More Privacy 💩 from Facebook & Google

I promise this isn’t a Facebook or a privacy newsletter. A great newsletter that does cover Facebook and privacy is The Interface by Casey Newton at the Verge.

But let’s talk about privacy for a sec. You’re not private when you’re in public, says common sense and the courts, but what if every move you make is put into a database via your phone, your license plate, and facial recognition?

Maciej Ceglowski introduces the concept of ‘ambient privacy’:

 Until recently, ambient privacy was a simple fact of life. Recording something for posterity required making special arrangements, and most of our shared experience of the past was filtered through the attenuating haze of human memory. Even police states like East Germany, where one in seven citizens was an informer, were not able to keep tabs on their entire population. Today computers have given us that power. Authoritarian states like China and Saudi Arabia are using this newfound capacity as a tool of social control. Here in the United States, we’re using it to show ads. But the infrastructure of total surveillance is everywhere the same, and everywhere being deployed at scale.

Ambient privacy is not a property of people, or of their data, but of the world around us. Just like you can’t drop out of the oil economy by refusing to drive a car, you can’t opt out of the surveillance economy by forswearing technology (and for many people, that choice is not an option). While there may be worthy reasons to take your life off the grid, the infrastructure will go up around you whether you use it or not.

Because our laws frame privacy as an individual right, we don’t have a mechanism for deciding whether we want to live in a surveillance society.

Companies like Facebook are trying to define privacy very, very narrowly; and to drive US Federal regulation to avoid harsher state regulation. Here is recent court testimony from Facebook basically saying that anything you put on Facebook is fair game to use commercially with its partners, even if you shared it to only a few people:

At one point Chhabria asked, seemingly unable to believe Snyder’s argument himself, “If Facebook promises not to disseminate anything that you send to your hundred friends, and Facebook breaks that promise and disseminates your photographs to a thousand corporations, that would not be a serious privacy invasion?

Snyder didn’t blink: “Facebook does not consider that to be actionable, as a matter of law under California law.”

Just to help you visualize everything that’s being tracked: Google, along with helpfully making putting your flights into your calendar, also catalogs all your purchases via your emailed receipts? They say they don’t use it to serve ads, but I suspect that depends on the meaning of ‘serve’. They’ll certainly share with police if you walked by the scene of a crime, even if you thought you’d turned off Location History on your device. With reports that police are also fudging facial recognition results, it’s worth pausing for a moment to think about future movies made from this mix of nightmare fuel.

Worth A Follow

Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) is one of the smartest people I know on social platforms and how algorithms and society are interacting. She’s a  professor at UNC, author of Twitter and Tear Gas, and writer for the New York Times, Scientific American, and Wired. You know how they say “Nobody could have anticipated the negative consequences of tuning social media algorithms to maximize engagement”? Zeynep and other academics did. All her TED talks are worth checking out; here’s one called We’re building a dystopia just to get people to click on ads. Ditto with her Times columns; her latest is Think You’re Discreet Online? Think Again.

Maciej Ceglowski, quoted above talking about ambient privacy. As @pinboard, his bookmarking company account that’s more about trolling Silicon Valley startups and VCs, he’s also innovating with the intersection of tech and politicsand the realities of how political campaigns deal with security. The latter item seems might be important than we appreciated in previous US election cycles. He’s famous for his long blog essays and talks. (Love both the content of talks and how well they translate to the web.) Like all us modern apes, however, he’s also known to let loose with a Twitter thread, for example on corporate pride and campaign donations, starring Salesforce.

Just Hit Reply

We know that social media can affect our emotions negatively and even make us more lonely, notifications affect our productivity, multitasking affects our focus, late night screen time effects our sleep, and that all these platforms are designed to be as addictive as possible.

Our question this time: What are you doing to mitigate the effects of too much social media and too much time on your devices? Just hit reply and we’ll collate the answers for next time.

Last time I asked, “Most pointless technical argument?” Jim Peluso responds :

All right, so this one is fully my fault and I have to share. I’m a “manager” and I was discussing with a Sr. Engineer about using Let’s Encrypt instead of Thawte. I actually said to this person “no it’s better because we pay for it.” Face to palm, let’s say after that comment, some self reflection and forced CNF counseling we worked it out.

Thanks, Jim! I like paying for things so I know where the value is being exchanged, but in the case of Let’s Encrypt, I’m ok with the concept of sponsorssupporting the greater good. (Of course, that little lock in the browser proves very little about who I’m actually connecting to, but at least my fellow Starbucks patrons can’t snoop as easily on my passwords as I’m entering them into the phishing site.)

Later folks —






This is Volume 5, Number 3 of The TechReckoning Dispatch, a few pounds of technology opinions and halibut acquired directly from a working fishing boat in the harbor. All change starts with self-acceptance. Be kind, rewind — and forward the newsletter.