Speaking Up

Over the past year, I have been so engrossed in building decentralized digital trust infrastructure that I haven’t made a single post on this blog. But this morning, in a newsletter from The Atlantic, I read an editorial by Tom Nichols that struck me as so important that I am republishing it here in its entirety.


I began the morning, as I often do, with a cup of coffee and a discussion with a friend. We were talking about last week’s nuclear warnings from Russian President Vladimir Putin, and while we were on the subject of unhinged threats, I mentioned Donald Trump’s bizarre statement over the weekend that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had a “DEATH WISH,” with a racist slam on McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, added in for good measure.

“Oh, yeah,” my friend said. “I’d forgotten about that.” To be honest, so had I. But when I opened Twitter today, The Bulwark publisher Sarah Longwell’s tweet that “we are still under-reacting to the threat of Trump” jumped out at me. She’s right.

We are also, in a way, underreacting to the war in Ukraine. Our attention, understandably, has become focused on the human drama. But we are losing our grip on the larger story and greater danger: Russia’s dictator is demanding that he be allowed to take whatever he wants, at will and by force. He is now, as both my colleague Anne Applebaum and I have written, at war not only with Ukraine, but with the entire international order. He (like his admirer Trump) is at war with democracy itself.

And somehow, we have all just gotten used to it.

We are inured to these events not because we are callous or uncaring. Rather, people such as Trump and Putin have sent us into a tailspin, a vortex of mad rhetoric and literal violence that has unmoored us from any sense of the moral principles that once guided us, however imperfectly, both at home and abroad. This is “the widening gyre” W. B. Yeats wrote about in 1919, the sense that “anarchy is loosed upon the world” as “things fall apart.”

For many years, I have often felt this way in the course of an ordinary day, when it seems as if I am living in a dystopian alternate universe. A time of hope and progress that began in the late 1980s was somehow derailed, perhaps even before the last chunks of the Berlin Wall’s corpse were being cleared from the Friedrichstrasse. (This was a time, for example, when we started taking people like Ross Perot seriously, which was an early warning sign of our incipient post–Cold War stupor.) Here are some of the many moments in which I have felt that sense of vertigo:

  • In my lifetime, I have seen polio defeated and smallpox eradicated. Now hundreds of thousands of Americans are dead—and still dying—because they refused a lifesaving vaccine as a test of their political loyalty to an ignoramus.
  • After living under the threat of Armageddon, I saw the Soviet flag lowered from the Kremlin and an explosion of freedom across Eastern Europe. An American president then took U.S. strategic forces off high alert and ordered the destruction of thousands of nuclear weapons with the stroke of a pen. Now, each day, I try to estimate the chances that Putin, one of the last orphans of the Soviet system, will spark a nuclear cataclysm in the name of his delusional attempt to turn the clock back 30 years.
  • As a boy in 1974, I delivered the newspaper that announced the resignation of Richard Nixon, who was driven from office in a political drama so wrenching that part of its name—Watergate—has become a suffix in our language for a scandal of any kind. Now the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination is a former president who is a walking Roman candle of racist kookery and unhinged conspiracy theories, who has defied the law with malicious glee, and who has supported mobs that wanted to kill his vice president.

Against all this, how can we not be overwhelmed? We stand in the middle of a flood of horrendous events, shouted down by the outsize voices of people such as Trump and his stooges, enervated and exhausted by the dark threats of dictators such as Putin. It’s just too much, especially when we already have plenty of other responsibilities, including our jobs and taking care of our loved ones. We think we are alone and helpless, because there is nothing to convince us otherwise. How can anyone fight the sense that “the center cannot hold”?

But we are not helpless. The center can hold—because we are the center. We are citizens of a democracy who can refuse to accept the threats of mob bosses, whether in Florida or in Russia. We can and must vote, but that’s not enough. We must also speak out. By temperament, I am not much for public demonstrations, but if that’s your preferred form of expression, then organize and march. The rest of us, however, can act, every day, on a small scale.

Speak up. Do not stay silent when our fellow citizens equivocate and rationalize. Defend what’s right, whether to a friend or a family member. Refuse to laugh along with the flip cynicism that makes a joke of everything. Stay informed so that the stink of a death threat from a former president or the rattle of a nuclear saber from a Russian autocrat does not simply rush past you as if you’ve just driven by a sewage plant.

None of this is easy to do. But we are entering a time of important choices, both at home at the ballot box and abroad on foreign battlefields, and the center—the confident and resolute defense of peace, freedom, and the rule of law—must hold.



Posted in General | 1 Comment

Giving Workona a Second Chance

Workona logo

This is the first post I’ve made in 2 years—for the simple reason that my day job in SSI (the acronym for Self-Sovereign Identity—click the link and read the book if you want to learn more) has been all-consuming (and showing no signs of abating).

So that explains why the last post was a rant about an experience with Lyft. It’s blood-boiling incidents like that which move me past the inertia to actually push out a new post.

This post is similar, but with a different ending. Here’s the story:

For at least four years I had been an inveterate user of The Great Suspender browser extension to help save memory due to the dozens of browser tabs I always had open in Chrome.

Then last March Google remotely blocked The Great Suspender because it had been sold to a malware company.

A friend recommended I try Workona because “it does much more than just suspend tabs—it will transform how you work with your browser”.

I did a little research and found several more such breathless endorsements, so I decided to give Workona a try.

It worked exactly as advertised. Within 30 minutes “my life in a browser” was changed forever. I was never going back. (I won’t go into how Workona works here—just check out the many rave reviews.)

I was hooked enough that after a few weeks I tweeted out a love letter to Workona.

.@WorkonaHQ It is rare that a browser utility stands out enough to merit a direct personal endorsement. But Workona is that good. I read so many reviews saying “it will change the way you use your browser” that I wondered if that could really be true. It was. Within minutes.

When they replied to thank me, I responded.

Honestly, you deserve it. Pretty soon I am going to start wondering, “Am I using Workona inside my browser or am I using my browser inside of Workona?”

End of Act 1.

Act 2 began at about 6PM last Tuesday night when I clicked the “New Version – Upgrade” button that appears in Workona when there’s a new update. As usual, it refreshed in seconds.

Suddenly there was a new icon next to many of my Workona workspaces. I thought, “Cool, I wonder what new feature this is?” I clicked one to find out…

…and up popped a new dialog saying the workspace was now “locked” and the only way to unlock it was to buy a premium subscription (to that point Workona has been completely free).

I went ballistic. This fantastic new tool that had become an integral part of using my browser was suddenly blocking my own work in my own workspaces. I started clicking madly on the links provided in the upgrade dialog to find out who was responsible for this outrage. When I found a Workona contact form, I was almost shouting at the screen as I typed. A sampling:

I am beyond upset that after working with Workona for several months now—whose functionality I love and which I have already recommended to several friends and tweeted about—you suddenly, with NO WARNING—lock all but 5 of my workspaces and hold me hostage to upgrade to free them OR require an SSO connection just to export my own data.

That, my good friends, is highly unethical business behavior.

As you can tell, I was livid.

Thankfully, in the time it took me to go take a short walk and blow off steam, Alex Young at Workona sent me a reply via email.

We’re sorry for the frustration this has caused. To start, you should be able to access all of your existing workspaces if you click the “Open workspace” button when you see the Upgrade modal. We are not locking any users out of their workspaces. 

As for SSO, this is just needed to authenticate you for security purposes. You signed in via SSO, and as a result, that’s how we need to verify you. 

Alex was right. Despite what the upgrade dialog said, the “Open workspace” button that was greyed out (the universal signal that a button is not functional) did in fact work if you clicked it. So I wasn’t locked out of all-but-5 of my workspaces. They had just made it look that way.

End of Act 2.

Act 3 began a few hours later after I finished the work I was under deadline for and finally replied to Alex’s email:

Alex, I appreciate the rapid response to my email. I have no idea if Workona has an automatic timer for when that “upgrade prompt” appears for a user or whether Workona just applied the policy today. (If the latter, I worry that you and the rest of the support staff have been flooded with complaints like mine today.)

Honestly—and feel free to share this within the company—I would have been much more supportive if the whole thing had been messaged differently. For example:

First, an advanced notice could have been made that explained the change in policy—there was NO WARNING whatsoever.

Second, the upgrade could have explained that you can still access the rest of your workspaces, you just have to go through the nag screen.

But the best way to handle it would have been to be upfront from the start and explain that the free version supports up to 5 workspaces and beyond that, you have to subscribe.

That began a dialog in several more rounds of email with Alex where he acknowledged my criticisms and explained the rationale behind the upgrade policy. I particularly appreciated this one:

We did send out an email to all of our users that the change would be happening – are you subscribed to receive our emails? 

As for the rest of your feedback, I have passed this along to our product team. 
Also – a little background regarding our current pricing: We have had to overcome immense technical challenges in the development of what we believe is the world’s best browser work manager.

Work has steadily moved from the desktop to the cloud, and many people do almost all of their most important work in the browser these days. For people that work in the browser, $7 is a good match to the value our app provides, and our pricing survey data backs this up. If you don’t work in the browser, or don’t feel you need a professional/reliable work management system, then we certainly understand that a different solution may be a better fit. We hope this helps you better understand why Workona has the premium pricing it does.

It turns out that Workona had indeed sent out an advance notice (in email, not in their browser extension) of their change in policy in late August. I was on vacation, naturally, so I had missed it.

When I found it and read it—it was perfectly reasonable. And, although I thought $7/mo was a little on the high side for Workona (I use Zoom 6+ hours a day and it’s $15/mo), I really did feel that Workona represented the future of work in the browser.

I was going to wait until the next day to decide about upgrading. But before I went to bed, Alex had assuaged me enough—and most importantly restored my belief in the intent and integrity of Workona as a company—that I went ahead and subscribed for a year.

That was a pretty dramatic turnaround in a single evening. Kudos to Alex for his premium customer service. As I said to him in my final message:

Alex, FYI, I subscribed for the 1 year plan. I want to personally thank you for talking me off the ledge. That’s the kind of customer service that makes or breaks a company IMHO.
I have high hopes for Workona. Keep being awesome.


Today there was another upgrade message from Workona. When I clicked on it, a screen popped up (I had the foresight to take a screenshot) that offered an apology directly to Workona users right there in the browser. It contained a link to this page on the Workona website, the start of which I’ll excerpt here:

An Apology From Our CEO

September 24, 2021

This week, we made some serious missteps while launching Workona’s premium plans. Please allow me to personally apologize and explain exactly what what we’ve done to make it right.

We assumed that a detailed email sent a month ago announcing the changes was enough advance notice for users. Clearly, we were wrong. Your feedback has made it obvious that this was a major mistake. We should have announced this in the product, multiple times. We messed up, and we’re sorry.

Many users were caught off guard by the restrictions of the Free plan and wondered whether Workona was still a good option for them. This was exacerbated by the unclear language we used in our popup, which made them believe they were locked out of their workspaces. This was not the case (and not our intention), but that doesn’t change the damage it did to our users’ trust in Workona.

There’s more. I encourage you to go to the Workona website and read the rest.

I took the time to write this post—my first one in two years—because when you screw up as a company—no matter how big or small—this is how you make it right. You bite the bullet, admit your mistake, and fix it, no matter how much work it takes.

The faster and more transparently you do it, the faster you repair the damage and start restoring faith in your company.

Good job, Workona. (And great job, Alex.) My faith in you has been restored, and I’ll continue to recommend you as a browser work management tool. Keep growing it into something even more amazing.

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Lyft, this really sucks…

I have been a faithful customer of Lyft for the past several years, charging literally thousands of dollars of rides over that time. And then today I order a Lyft that goes to the other side of the building I’m in (a rather confusing Seattle city block), and the driver calls me in the lobby of the building, and I spend 2 minutes trying to figure out where he is, and then I get this message on my phone:

You know, it really burns me. This what they send me as a loyal customer who has been consistently recommending their service for the past two years and who has never before had a no-show.

I’m not saying Lyft drivers shouldn’t be compensated for no-shows. I get that. But the problem is that Lyft (and other massive automated services like it) have no ability to actually understand their customers and their circumstances. For example, to recognize that this was not a “no show” but actually a very frustrated “Your rider can’t find you!” that was already a major hassle for me (on a deadline for another critical appointment), not just the Lyft driver.

And not only does Lyft show any understanding for the problems this caused me—it charges me.

And then to rub salt in the wound the email has a “no_reply” address and Lyft has no one you can actually call and explain this too (which I’d be willing to do even though the value of that time would be 10X the fee they might credit me).

So instead I took the time to write this and tell everyone who reads this just how faceless an action Lyft just took.

The silver lining is that I spent the next two Lyfts after this discussing with my drivers their frustrations with Lyft. And I realized that the opportunity for the next Lyft (or Uber) is growing every day. No matter how great their benefits, the days of having big impersonal centralized platforms in the middle of our relationships are numbered because they are going to be replaced by decentralized and much more personal platforms that simply do it better and cheaper and give a much bigger cut to the drivers that do the real work.

I can’t wait.

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Am I Completely Missing Something or Did AirBNB Map View Just Go Away?

As heads-down as I have been working on SSI (self-sovereign identity) for the past 18 months (that’s why no posts during that period), once again a broken customer experience has provoked me to break that spell (last time it was the %$#@ wifi on United Airlines).

This time it’s AirBNB. It’s not perfect in many ways, but as an alternative to hotel rooms, it’s been a godsend. For both personal and business travel. So it’s become a mainstay of my travel planning. Until the last few times when I’ve gone to find the closest AirBNB listing to a destination (usually a conference site) and…

…no map view of listings. Just a flat table.

I thought I must be missing something, so yesterday I searched high and low on the page and then did some web searches to see what I was missing. But it appears it’s just…


What I did find, however, was postings over the past two years from dozens of AirBNB users asking “what happened to map view?” So apparently it’s not something new.

Have I just been brain-dead this whole time? Not seeing that this most OBVIOUS way of showing listings has gone missing?

Or am I totally missing something in the AirBNB UI?

Posted in Customer Service, General | Tagged | Leave a comment

United Wifi: How Can It Be So Bad?

United-WifiI just flew United non-stop from Seattle to Washington D.C. (Dulles) and back. I realized too late after booking the trip that this was the airline on which I had never successfully connected to their in-air wifi. Since it was a five hour flight, I decided I would bear down this time and finally fix the problem (after all, I’ve worked in the Internet business for over 20 years).

So, on the outbound trip, I literally spent TWO HOURS trying everything I could to get a connection. Absolutely nothing worked. After I gave up in frustration, a helpful flight attendant (who I could tell had spent many hours trying to debug wifi connections for passengers) make the suggestion to forget the United wifi network at the end of the flight.

So I did that and then tried to forget all about the whole experience—too many other things to worry about after missing 5 hours of productive online time during that flight.

Yesterday came the return flight. After we reached 10,000 feet, I dared to try to connect again to see if the flight attendant’s tip worked. And amazingly—it did! For the first time in seven flights, I was able to successfully connect to United wifi. And in fact for the next two hours it was the smoothest and fastest I’d experienced on any airline.

And then…poof! The connection just stopped working. As soon as it happened, my heart sank. Back to United wifi hell. I spent 45 minutes trying every combination again, including completely forgetting the United wifi connection and rebooting my Mac from scratch.

Nothing worked. I even confirmed with the flight attendants that the wifi was still working. It was just my connection. So…

Dear United: in-flight wifi is so important to me that I regret to inform you, despite being a loyal member of your United Mileage Plus program, I will no longer fly your airline until someone credible informs me your wifi finally works.



Posted in Customer Service, General, travel | Tagged , | 2 Comments

What He Said (about Sovrin)

phil-windley-headshotI joke with Phil Windley that half my blog posts are about his blog posts. But there’s a good reason for that. Phil’s a prolific blogger because he’s a prolific thinker, and there is a very high signal-to-noise ratio in those thoughts.

Lately what Phil’s been thinking and blogging about is self-sovereign identity— specifically Sovrin, the new public permissioned ledger for self-sovereign identity that was announced last month at the Ctrl-Shift Personal Information Economy Conference in London.

Phil is chair of the Sovrin Foundation Board of Trustees (I am Secretary), and in that leadership role he’s published a series of blog posts that stake out the philosophical, political, technical, and practical underpinnings of self-sovereign identity. Here’s a quick guide to these posts, in chronological order (oldest-to-newest):

  • Service Integration Via a Distributed Ledger explains how reading and writing claims (provable information about a person) to a distributed ledger can solve some big problems.
  • Governance for Distributed Ledgers explains how permissioned distributed ledgers solve some of the challenges we have seen with non-permissioned blockchains.
  • Decentralization and Distributed Ledgers explains why it is misguided to think that decentralized system that have to be governed aren’t really decentralized.
  • How Sovrin Works explains just that, using a real-world example.
  • When People Can Share Verifiable Attributes, Everything Changes returns to the theme of the first post listed above and explains why this will be the engine driving widespread adoption of self-sovereign identity systems.
  • On Sovereignty is his most recent post that goes straight to the heart of why “self-sovereign identity” does not mean that the individual is in control of everything, but rather that the individual is a peer with equal rights as all other sovereigns (other people, organizations, governments, etc.)

I crave getting more time to blog on these same subjects vs. just being heads down building Sovrin. But until then, all I can say is: “what he said”.

Posted in Blogging, General, Identity, Self-Sovereign Identity, Sovrin | Tagged | Leave a comment

Even Just Two Days Can Be a Vacation

“Summer vacation” this year consisted of just two days—the only two days my two sons could free up to take off with my wife and I. There wasn’t even enough time to go out of town, so finally we had a real “staycation”. The first day we did classic Seattle tourist gigs like Waterfall Garden Park, Pioneer Square, the Underground Seattle Tour (a real hoot), the Seattle Center Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit (mind-blowing), and dinner at the Pike Place Market (Shiro’s new place Sushi Kashiba—fantastic).

The second day was even more domestic: together we disassembled one of the icons of the boy’s childhood—the treehouse we spent a whole summer building fifteen years ago (but which now had become a full-blown hazard due to a rotting floor).


Yes, there were some sad moments—but all of us sweating together on it (it was a record-breaking Seattle afternoon) made it more of a wake than a funeral. And we left the swings (far left of the picture), which were always the most-used part of the whole contraption anyway. Given the size of the beam they are hanging from, those swings should be still be there for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Afterwards, as I lounged in the pool-temperature water of Haller Lake, I didn’t regret for a second that I only had two days of vacation. Rather I marveled at how much beauty, joy, and satisfaction one can soak in from even the briefest breaks from the grindstone. Which is why I make it a habit to blog this as I reminder to myself after every vacation—no matter how short.

Posted in General, vacations | Leave a comment

Zootopia Is My Happy Place

ZootopiaI don’t think I’ve had such a good time at the movies since Little Miss Sunshine. If you just want to smile—and laugh—and clap—and feel like dancing all over the theatre—don’t miss this. And don’t watch it at home (which you will want to do a thousand times) until you’ve had the full movie theatre experience.

As my wife and I were walking out, one of the ushers said, “This movie should be required viewing in America.” To which I said—with a completely straight face, “I can’t believe it only got 98% on Rotten Tomatoes”.

It’s a 100.

Posted in General, Movies | Leave a comment

The Offer Letter of Your Dreams from eShares

eshares-offer-letter-coverIronically, this post has nothing to do with my company going live with eShares online equity management service yesterday. The only connection is that it may be the reason (in some scary way I haven’t figure out yet) that this Medium story from eShares CEO Henry Ward appeared at the top of my Medium news feed later that day.

No matter—this post is about the most stunning offer letter you have ever seen. One that is sure to set a new standard across the startup industry.

I don’t want to spoil it for you by showing/telling more—it’s a quick read, so just click through and take a glance. You will immediately see why I recommended it.

I’m impressed by eShares as a cloud-based equity management tool so far (it’s not perfect—we’ve already caught and reported a few bugs—but it’s 1000x better than handing cap tables and stock certificates the old manual way). But now I’m even more impressed with eShares the company. Keep an eye on these guys.


Posted in General, Recommendations, Startups | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Boys in the Boat and the O-Ring Theory of Development

boys-in-the-boatI can’t keep track of the number of times I’ve done a post just to point at one of Phil Windley’s posts. But there’s a good reason: Phil’s a highly discriminating thinker and writer who hits some nails right on the head.

This particular nail is Phil recommending a 20 minute video on the O-Ring Theory of Production. It’s one of those great explanations of something you may have intuitively sensed before—that great teams can produce results dramatically better than teams only slightly less capable—but now can understand with startling clarity.

As society and technology grows increasingly complex, the O-Ring Theory of Production has important implications. I certainly know it mirrors my own experience of technical teams.

As I read it, I had one more revelation of where it applies: eight-oar crew teams. For a spellbindingly good example, I can’t recommend The Boys in the Boat highly enough. Yes, I’m biased: it’s set in Seattle and features the 1936 University of Washington crew team. But it’s a universal story that is not just true but so superbly wrought than I predict it will make an award-winning film as well (hopefully soon—the Weinstein Company acquired the film rights in 2011).

Posted in books, General, Movies | Leave a comment

How to Specify the Email Address to Use in a Google Contacts Group

google-contacts-logoSo how many users do you think are on Gmail now? A quick Google search reveals roughly 500 million (that’s about 1/8th of all email users in the world right now).

So how many of them do you think use Google Contacts? Given that it’s Gmail’s default address book, I’d guess 90% plus.

So how many do you think use the contact groups feature? Given that it’s the easiest way to email the same group of contacts rather than typing their addresses over and over, I’m guessing at least 25%.

That means there’s a good chance that at least 100 million people have this simple problem: if a member of a contact group has more than one email address…how do you specify which email address(es) to use for that contact in that group???

It turns out this is a must-have feature of a contact group. I work in high tech, so maybe my contacts are an exception, but nearly 100% of them have more than one email address. And it’s very important for me to use the right email address in the right context, or else I run risk of at least sending the email to the wrong inbox and at worst sending my contact a signal that I’m an idiot and don’t respect his/her boundaries.

And what is exquisitely ironic is that almost nothing establishes context better than a contact group. A company board of directors contact group obviously should use a work email address. A book club contact group obviously should use a personal email address. Of course there are exceptions, but that’s the whole point: you must to be able to precisely control which email address to use for each contact group or you might as not use contact groups at all.

Which is exactly why I have NOT used contact groups with Google Contacts for the last five years. They just didn’t support that feature.

Or at least I could not for the life of me find it. I tried searching at least a half-dozen times.

I finally got frustrated enough again tonight to decide that Google MUST have fixed this by now. So I did another search for it. And by god, this time I actually found it. At the bottom of this three year long discussion of the problem on a Google product forum.

Look at the second-to-last entry. It reads:

Ed, they didn’t make it obvious, but it’s there.  Open a contact.  At the top, under the contact’s name, you should see a list of contact groups that the contact belongs to.  To the right of each group’s name, there should be a small triangle.  If you click that triangle, it will give you a list of email addresses for the contact, and allow you to check the address(es) that you want to belong to that particular group.  Make sure you click “Apply” when you’re done.

Here’s a picture to show you exactly how this works:


Now here’s the supreme irony. The entry was dated 2/3/11.

Unbelievable. The fix has been in place for over four years and I was never able to find it.

So how many of those 100 million Google Contacts group users do you think have been able to figure this out?


Postscript: logging into my personal Gmail account tonight, I noticed they have a new UI for Contacts. And guess what? The group member email address selection feature is gone again.

What is Google thinking?

Posted in Addressing, Email, Google, Tips | Tagged , , | 23 Comments

Ex Machina: One Very Fine Machine

ex-machina-posterAbout a third of the way into this movie I found myself thinking that film has become such a high art form, attracting so much talent the world over, that either we’re going to run out of ideas or our heads are going to explode.

This is the sharpest, tightest, most skillful sci-fi script in memory. And very expertly executed, like a hall of mirrors constructed by NASA.

Add to that performances that are uncanny in their intensity, and the result will live with you for a long, long time. Which was undoubtably writer/director Alex Garland’s goal here. Not just to get under your skin, but inside your mind. And maybe break it open.

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Brad Feld on How to Deal with Email After a Long Vacation

brad-feldMy Newsle service spotted this post by Brad Feld about his recommended approach to dealing with missed email: ignore it and re-engage with your email stream afresh upon your return. I completely agree; that’s was the same conclusion I came to after my summer vacation in 2013.

Brad ends his post by saying:

I’m always looking for other approaches to try on this, so totally game to hear if you have special magic ones.

This resonates with me because my focus right now is on how the XDI semantic data interchange protocol can give us a new form of messaging that we’ve never had before—something that gives us new and better ways of handling messages that either email or texting give us today.

Stay tuned.

Posted in Email, Messaging, vacations, XDI | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Whiplash is the Best Titled Film – and Possibly the Best Film – of 2014

Whiplash_posterWhen I wrote my review of The Imitation Game in January, I said it set the high-water mark for film in 2014. And, when viewed from the perspective of all aspects of filmcraft, it did.

But when I finally saw Whiplash the weekend before the Academy Awards, I found myself feeling like I’d just been shot out of a cannon.

Every adjective you see on the poster to the left is, in fact, an understatement. “He can’t possibly mean that”, you think. I mean every word of it. See it, and then ask yourself when is the last time you saw a movie that got your blood racing that fast.

It’s bloody genius. We will be seeing a LOT more from director Damien Chazelle.

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T.Rob on the Samsung AdHub Privacy Policy – Have We Reached a Privacy Waterloo?

iopt-logoOne of my favorite bloggers in the Internet identity/security/privacy/personal data space, T.Rob Wyatt, just posted an expose of what the Samsung privacy policy really means when it comes to using Samsung devices and their integrated AdHub advertising network.

I can tell you right now: I’ll never buy a Samsung smart-ANYTHING until that policy is changed. Full stop.

If every prospective Samsung customer does the same thing—and tells Samsung this right out loud, like I’m doing right now—then we’d finally see some of these policies changing.

Because it would finally hit them in the pocketbook.

Posted in Internet of People, Internet of Things, Privacy, Respect Trust Framework | Tagged , | 2 Comments


Selma_posterIt is very hard, being a white man who was only seven years old at the time, to even think I can appreciate what it was like to cross the Edmund Pettus bridge on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965.

But Selma takes you there. Puts you in the shoes and eyes and ears and mostly the voice of Martin Luther King Jr. David Oyelowo is practically a medium channeling that voice—in fact it was stunning to learn that it was not the actual words of Dr. King due to restrictions on the rights (so even greater plaudits to director Ava DuVernay for making them ring so true.)

Though the singing of Glory by John Legend and Common at this year’s Academy Awards was the most moving and significant Best Song in memory, it still did not offset the travesty that David Oyelowo was not nominated. What, pray God, was the Academy thinking?

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FounderDating Breaks the First Rule of Trust—I Will Never Use This Site

True story: two weeks ago I received an email from an entrepreneur I know and respect (who will remain unnamed). It read as follows:

Hi Drummond,

I’ve just joined FounderDating (no, it’s NOT romantic) – a handpicked network of entrepreneurs connecting with advisors and other talented entrepreneurs. Can you do me a quick favor by leaving a quick vouch (aka reference) for me as an advisor? Should take 2 minutes.

(To prove that you’re the real Drummond, you will be asked to use LinkedIn.)

Unlike with some systems, this will help me make much more meaningful connections with potential advisees.

Thank you,
[Name Withheld]

Knowing that this entrepreneur was a very discriminating person who chose his words carefully, I considered this a ringing endorsement of this new site. So I went out of my way to provide a vouch for him.

The site subsequently contacted me with the following email with the subject line, “VIP Invite”:

Hi Drummond:

We noticed your background and wanted to invite you to be a part of a select group of current FounderDating members that are Advisors on FD:Advisors. It’s an expansion of the FounderDating platform that allows entrepreneurs and advisors to meaningfully connect. Others members on FD:Advisors include, Aaron Batalion (CTO/Cofounder, LivingSocial), Josh Handy (Lead Designer, Method Products), Katherine Woo (Chief Product Officer, Kiva) and Sean Byrnes (Cofounder, Flurry), just to name a few.

It’s an opportunity to showcase your expertise, help awesome entrepreneurs and streamline the advisor requests you already get even if you’re not open to others. There is no upfront time commitment. Just click on the button below and fill in your areas of expertise (the ones you want to advise on). We curate the network, but with this invite you are pre-approved.


Hope to see you online,


Cofounder/CEO, FounderDating

Again, given the enthusiasm of the original note I received from the original entrepreneur—and that I am a student of Internet reputation systems given my work on the Respect Trust Framework and Connect.Me—I decided to go ahead and take the plunge. I filled out a few forms, selected a few interest areas, and then did the obligatory selection of a few people would who might vouch for me—chosen from a list of my LinkedIn contacts, of course.

FounderDating never asked me to write or customize a message to them. But this morning, one of them forwarded the email he received (again, I’m redacting his name to protect the innocent):

Hi [Name-Withheld],

I’ve just joined FounderDating (no, it’s NOT romantic) – a handpicked network of entrepreneurs connecting with advisors and other talented entrepreneurs. Can you do me a quick favor by leaving a quick vouch (aka reference) for me as an advisor? Should take 2 minutes.

(To prove that you’re the real [Name-Withheld], you will be asked to use LinkedIn.)

Unlike with some systems, this will help me make much more meaningful connections with potential advisees.

Thank you,

Ah-ha. I immediately realized that the email I first received was NOT written by the entrepreneur who I thought composed it, but rather forged on his behalf, just like this one was forged on my behalf.

Poof. There went all the trust I will ever have in FounderDating.com. I strongly urge that you do not patronize this site. I will not respond to any email or any vouch request from them again.

P.S. When I went to the site to delete my account (for which they had never given me a credential), I clicked the sign-in button and got this error message:


That’s it. They won’t even give me a way to leave.

Posted in Connect.Me, Customer Service, Entrepreneurs, Reputation, Respect Trust Framework | Tagged | 6 Comments

The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Unsung No More

The_Imitation_Game_posterAs each year closes, I find myself thinking about the “high water mark film”—the movie that did the most in the past year to raise the bar for filmmaking as a whole. This doesn’t mean it will be the Best Picture winner (although it’s almost always at least a nominee). Rather it’s an entirely subjective judgement in my own mind of how much a particular film did to push the cinematic envelope.

Last year that film was Gravity. This year, although Interstellar was spectacular in many ways, and will live long in my memory for the power of its message of survival, the high water mark film is The Imitation Game:

  • Benedict Cumberbatch is simply extraordinary. He’s risen to the top of my list of favorite actors and this performance put him over the top. (The Academy Award is gone girl.)
  • The script had me cheering for screenwriter Graham Moore. Yes, it stretched the truth. But it did so with so much elegance and beauty that this artistic license should be granted by the Academy itself.
  • If director Morten Tyldum is not at least nominated by the Academy, I’m boycotting the Oscars. This isn’t just BBC good, this sets a new bar for period dramas where every last detail makes a difference.

And at the center of it all is the sheer brilliance and moral power of Alan Turing. Almost no man alive can fully appreciate the impact he has had on the world we live in today. He’s been one of the great unsung intellectual heros of modern times—and this, finally, is his song.

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The Google Flight Info Trick

When I first stumbled across this, I thought I was the only one who hadn’t heard about it. Now I find myself telling other travelers about it all the time and am consistently surprised that they don’t know it.

If you want to see the current departure and arrival time, terminal, and gate for any flight, just type the following into the Google search box:

flight info [airline] [flight-number]

Where [airline] is the name of the airline and [flight-number] is the number of the flight. Example:


Here’s an example of what you get back:


It works from any browser on any device and for every airline and flight number I’ve ever tried. Good job, Google.

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Interstellar: See It in the Biggest Baddest IMAX Theatre You Can

Interstellar_film_posterChristopher Nolan is quite possibly my favorite living director. Inception soars among any other film in the last decade; as far as I’m concerned, the fact that it was not nominated for Best Director is one of the most damning omissions in Academy history.

The Dark Knight Rises, though in a different lane, was equally successful, and did Nolan ever “stick the ending” (his own words).

So my expectations for Interstellar were very high.

Nolan does not disappoint. While Interstellar does not rival Inception in terms of sheer cinematic virtuosity, or The Dark Knight Rises in terms of dramatic punch, it charts its own new territory on several dimensions:

  • The sound design will take you breath away. Literally. The score itself won’t earn any awards, but I have never experienced sound so carefully and majestically interwoven with the unfolding action and pace of a film. See it for that reason alone, but see it in the best-equipped IMAX theatre you possibly can. (My wife and son and I were fortunate enough to see it in the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in LA, where Christopher Nolan himself had tuned the sound system for showing Interstellar.)
  • The feeling not just of space, but of other worlds in space, has never been so depicted so immersively. Interstellar does for deep space what Gravity did for Earth orbit.
  • The special effects, and specifically the wormhole at the center of the plot, are innovative enough to have actually advanced science. Read the Wired article for more.

Though the path he takes to get there is sometimes elliptical and tenuous, in the end Nolan’s exploration of the central question—humanity’s existence beyond earth—resonated with me so deeply in the final scenes that afterwards I knew it was one of those films I’d be thinking about on my deathbed (should I be so lucky).

It is hard to ask a film—or a director—for anything more.

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