Category Archives: personal

Morning in Maine

I’m working on the front porch this morning, sipping from a hot cup of coffee while the rain beats on the roof above, falling in fat, heavy drops along the drip line in front of me. A hundred yards out, a loon quietly paddles by, immune to the rain cascading down all around it, cocking its head when I move too quickly from the door to the sofa along the house’s outer wall.

The sky and bay are nearly the same color of grey this morning. The demarcation between the two is barely visible along the horizon line, called out by the dark shapes of islands crowned with pine trees and ringed with granite and knotted wrack.

It’s these quiet early morning moments in Maine that I tend to remember most when I’m surrounded by people, planes and tumult over the course of the year, immersed not in the sound of thousands of rain drops hitting leaves and weathered shingles but rather machines and men, their voices raised in anger, happiness, frustration and joy on the course of whatever task or journey that day’s course sets before them.

For now, it’s enough to simply be, disappearing into the words of a past interview, drinking deep of the cool, clean air and thinking of an older world that has long ago disappeared into the annals of a quieter age.

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Collecting stories

On his personal blog, New York Times technology journalist Nick Bilton mused about “collecting air” in his travels around the globe. He closes his post with this thought, drawn from a recent conversation on a flight:

The man looked at me and asked, “Do you collect anything?”

At first I didn’t know how to respond, I hadn’t thought about it in some time. And then I instinctively told him that I actually collect stories —about people, or events, or places, or companies, or moments in time. That I collect these stories and keep them as words and photos.

I looked out of the plane window for a while as we zipped above the clouds at 35,000 feet, and then I looked back at the man and said, “I guess you could say I collect air.”

I felt the same instinct over the holidays, when asked to describe what I do or what a day in my life is like now. The photostream I’ve shared to Twitter or Tumblr over the past two weeks offers vignettes of a mobile life:

public Instagram photostream shared to Twitter

My Instagram photostream on Twitter

Those windows on my worlds, reflected as they are in a growing multitude of glowing screens, are a collection that I value much in the same way that a philatelist or numismatist in a previous generation might adore her stamps or her coins. I hope that some of the stories they represent are at least as enduring.

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Make Washington more awesome through microphilanthropy

My friend Jennifer 8. Lee was on NPR’s Marketplace tonight, talking about microphilanthropy at Awesome Foundation. You can listen to her segment on “giving awesomely” over at Marketplace.org,

Full disclosure: I’m a trustee here in DC. We’ve given a lot of great grants over the past year. Just this past month, $1000 went to support CodeNow, a new “startup nonprofit” that focused on closing the digital divide by teaching disadvantaged kids to code. The White House is impressed withCode Now’s work in this area, too.

You can see other awesome ideas in DC that inspired us at the Awesome Foundation blog.

If you have more ideas that would make the Washington area more awesome and think you can make it happen, please apply. We’re all ears.

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Thank you, Steve Jobs

The world has lost one of the rarest of men: someone who not only thought differently but helped create objects that opened all of our eyes too. Tonight, the Associated Press reported that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had passed away. A letter from Apple’s board went online. And then apple.com changed to an iconic, arresting new image. Steve Jobs

Wired.com went black. Google.com linked to apple.com.

Social networks worldwide lit up with tweets and updates about the death of Steve Jobs.

And, at least for a night, the Web itself felt united in its grief.

Jobs told us “how to live before you die” in a 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

While I listened to the speech, I ventured onto a Web absolutely ablaze with sadness, memories, elegies, celebrations and eulogies to Jobs. Following are a few of the voices and perspectives I found.

“Michelle and I are saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Jobs. Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.

By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike. Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.

The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Steve’s wife Laurene, his family, and all those who loved him.”-President Obama.

“Jobs proved the appeal of well-designed intuitive products over the sheer power of tech itself”-Wall Street Journal

Apple transformed “not only product categories … but also entire industries”-John Markoff

“Bill Gates put a computer on every desk. Steve Jobs put one in every pocket, purse, dorm room and bedroom.”-New York Times

“He completely changed how we interact with technology”-Wired

“The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.”-Bill Gates

“Steve Jobs saw the future and brought it to life long before most people could even see the horizon”-Mike Bloomberg

Steve Jobs “realized what we wanted before we understood it ourselves”-Ted Anthony

Jobs’ career merged the ’60s and Silicon Valley “in a way that re-imagined business itself”-Steven Jay Levy. “Steve Jobs’ reality field actually came into being. And we all live in it.”

Think back: “There’s about to be a new delivery vehicle in higher education in America”-Steve Jobs, 1987, C-SPAN.

“May the uncompromising vision of Steve Jobs live on, inspiring others, making them reach further, do better.”-Tim O’Reilly

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do”-Gizmodo

“His ambitions took him, and us, to extraordinary places”-Harry McCracken

Steve Jobs “brought together art, humanities and tech: he was one of a kind”-Laura Sydell

Walt Mossberg wrote about “The Steve Jobs I Knew.”

“Yesterday, I lived on a world with a Steve Jobs in it. Tonight, I don’t.”-Andy Ihnatko

“Every generation has its heroes.”-Om Malik

Jobs embodied “a glorious piece of what it is to be American with all our contradictions”-Alexis Madrigal

Steve Jobs said “don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” I won’t.

He gave us inspiration to write our own melodies, to insist on hearing the songs in our heads voiced to the world, whether that vision was wrought in gleaming glass and aluminum, drawn in fanciful pixels or published, echoing Gutenberg’s first revolution.

Thinking back, my first computer was an Apple II+. In 1985, I wrote a story on it. In 1995, I made my first Web site on a Mac. In 2011, I share my world on an iPhone. 27 years later, I’m making my living on a Macbook Pro and tapping on an iPad.

Thank you, Steve Jobs.

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The Web is what we make of it

I saw a Google Chrome commercial twice tonight that struck a chord with me. The extended version, embedded below, has been online since May.

On the one hand, it’s a slick ad for a search engine giant’s Web browser that features a glowing treatment of a megacelebrity and her happy fans.

On the other, it’s a view into a changed world that still feels very much of the moment, months after its debut. It reminded me that the Internet has fundamentally changed how we can directly connect with the people who inspire us and on another.

There’s something both deeply joyful and poignant seeing Lady Gaga’s fans dance and sing along with her to that particular song.

On a night where I also saw so much pain, anger, fear, cruelty and misunderstanding flow over the same global electronic network of networks, it felt good to be reminded of how much more connected we can be. If we choose, we can reach out and connect to hundreds of other millions of humans, who are both different and fundamentally the same, looking at a growing mobile Web of billions of screens, small, medium and large.

We can see, share and celebrate the best of human nature in real-time or mourn, censor and condemn that which is worst in us. We go online and find ourselves, for good or ill, and leave a Web that is what we make of it.

Every time we log on, we have an opportunity to change how we think or connect with someone else around this pale blue dot.

Thank you for sharing that journey and teaching me something new, every day.

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Japanese ‘Tsunami dog’ reunited with owner after 3 weeks at sea

As a dog owner, I teared up a bit upon watching this.

In these dark days, good stories can be hard to come by. The devastation and loss of life in Japan after last month’s earthquake and tsunami continues to be deeply affecting. This moment offered a welcome positive note.

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Smarter social networking at SMCDC

Tonight, I’ll be moderating a discussion at Porter Novelli DC about what “smarter social networking” means.

Fortunately, posing questions to this particular set of panelists will be much more easier than trying to herd LOLcats.

Some time shortly after 7 PM EST, I’ll start asking Frank Gruber (@FrankGruber), CEO & co-founder of TechCocktail, Shana Glickfield (@dcconcierge), partner at Beekeeper Group, and Shonali Burke (@shonali), principal at Shonali Burke Consulting, what “smarter social networking” means in 2011. We’ll be talking about forming relationships and acting professionally in the context of the Internet. I might even ask about what good “netiquette” means.

I expect to see Federal News Radio Chris anchor Chris Dorobek (@cdorobek) to be there in person to heckle me online, along with the rest of one of the more connected group of people in the District of Columbia. The DC Social Media Club, after all, comes heavily loaded with BlackBerrys, iPhones, iPads and Android devices. Some will even have two of those devices – one official, one not, and will be wired into Facebook, Twitter, email and txt messaging.

This is clearly a group of people that has thought a lot about how to practice “smarter social networking.” As prepared for the discussion last night, I was reminded that the actions that humans take online increasingly are aligned what they do offline.

That’s because the idea of a separate “cyberspace” is on life support. That’s was one conclusion that Clay Shirky brought to a discussion of the recent report by the Pew Internet and Life Project on the social side of the Internet at the State of the Net Conference.

In wired communities, people are increasingly integrating their online lives with their offline actions. As that trend grows with more of humanity coming online, the role of the Internet as a platform for collective action increases. The world has seen some of that power at work in Tunisia and Egypt this winter.

Those connections are not always strongly made, due to the anonymity sections of the Web of 2011 provide. You only have to look at the quality of civil discourse between commentary on YouTube or newspaper comment threads without moderation to see how anonymity can enable the id of humanity to wash over a page. Teachers, freedom fighters, activists, law enforcement, aid workers, insurgents, journalists or criminals can and will use the Internet for different ends. When any tool is put to ugly or evil use, naturally it provokes outrage, concern, regulation or outright bans.

As Stowe Boyd wrote this weekend in his essay on cognition and the Web, however, “throwing away the web because you don’t like what you see is like breaking a mirror because you don’t like your own reflection. It is us we are staring at in that mirror, on the web: and it is us looking out, too.”It is us we are staring at in that mirror, on the web: and it is us looking out, too.”

In this age of radical transparency, it’s becoming harder and harder to hide to hide demonstrated bad character over time. That’s even more true of people who choose to live their lives more publicly on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and where ever else there digital nomadism leads them next.

This isn’t an entirely happy development, as the number of citations of social networking in divorce filings suggest. By the end of the next decade, more people may well be paying money to assure their privacy than to gain more publicity.

In that context, “smarter social networking” in an age of digital transparency may well rely more on good character, better business ethics and placing value in building trusted relationships than faster wireless broadband, the newest smartphone or millions of followers or fans.

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