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Everything in our world will soon be technology-mediated. @anildash offers some wisdom on how we can make these changes in a net-positive way. Recommended.


When Pong played Humans

3 min read

It was a blistering July day in Las Vegas, with temps hitting 109.  Inside the SIGGRAPH 91 convention hall Yello's Rubberbandman looped on the speakers. On each chair: a red/green paddle.

I was a student volunteer, stamping the finest hands in Computer Graphics.  Those hands (and my own) each controlled those paddles.  Then 5000 people looked up and saw a Pong Game appear on the screen.

And then..  the machine started playing us.

In response to visual stimuli we changed the color of our paddle.  The ball moved left, then right.  The crowd shouting "red red red", "green!" and cheering as the game played on.

The rules of the game and the feedback loops directed our actions.  It was a complex adaptive system with emergent behavior.

And luckily there is some footage of this moment.  Watch this excerpt from "Machines of Loving Grace" that talks about this moment in history:

Loren Carpenter Experiment at SIGGRAPH '91 from Zachary Murray on Vimeo.

Loren Carpenter cofounded Pixar.  Check out the TurboGopher appearance at the 5:00 minute mark.

Today the simple pong game is now the multilayered technological environment we interact with on a daily basis. Instead of red/green paddles with 1 bit of data we carry phones that generate a wealth more.  These devices also provide the aural/visual and haptic stimuli.    With that our collective actions power all kinds of "games" today:

  • Aggregated location data and movement speed generates traffic data in maps.
  • Aggregated search queries and click data deliver better search results.
  • Aggregated likes, views and interactions with content power trending data and even news and politics.

As technologists we need to remember that by controlling the game, we are indirectly controlling the players.  The choices we allow (and forbid) define the behavior.  The game "plays" the player.  And often the only way to be free is to not play at all.

Except that is if maybe, just maybe, the people start playing a different game than the one we designed.  In the giddy demonstration it was assumed that people wanted to win at Pong.  But we didn't play long enough for abuse or scheming.  It would have only taken a few people to cross over to sabotage the other side, or for trolls to have changed the outcome.

Finally this level of power and control demands great responsibility.  The only thing worse than control used for malicious purposes is control wielded without thought, without thinking of the consequences.  So the next time you're designing a product think about the whole system and all the inputs and ask "who's really in control?".

h/t to the General Intellect Unit podcast and their Machines of Loving Grace episode for reminding me of this unsung moment in history.


Scrobbling for @resonatecoop is now available thanks to the efforts of Malachi Soord @inversechi


Heard a CashCall radio ad to refinance and “buy the bitcoin dip”. Shades of 1999 when our WaMu loan officer told us to invest our down payment...


Highly recommended talk by @aparrish that illustrates principles of The Law of Requisite Variety and the Good Regulator Theorem.


brb checking my memcached commits on github.

I also think there's a future for a Branding Agency specializing in vulnerability names. We're no longer content with CVEs any more.


Friday update for @resonatecoop. I discovered the esteemed electronica duo @Coldcut has their catalog there. Nine listens means I now own "Quality Control" and other tracks.


Here's my first friday update for @resonatecoop. With 9 listens I now own 'Doll' by @feralfive off the excellent Man Cat Doll Machine EP.


As a long time @matrixdotorg supporter I'm very happy with this new funding that provides long term viability.


Investing in a better Internet: Resonate, a music coop

4 min read

Do you want a better internet?  One that balances the needs of creators and consumers?  A more democratic internet?  I do.  That's why I'm investing in a music coop: Resonate.

Stream to Own

I've been a member-owner of Resonate for a while, and listen every day.  It provides an eclectic mix similar to a high quality college radio station.  At first glance Resonate is a streaming service like Soundcloud or Spotify.  But dig deeper and the you'll find major differences:

  • You only pay for what you listen to.
  • Each listen debits your balance a small amount.
  • On the 9th listen you own the track. 

This tiered pricing model incentivizes discovery.  Owning actual tracks helps fans develop deeper ties to the music they love.

Stream to Own Model and Graph 

And I own more than just tracks.  My member share means that I own a portion of Resonate, I can vote on how the business is operated and at the end of the year I can share in the profits.

Over the past year Resonate has added more content, more features, and most importably a sustainable organization where fans, musicians, employees and labels can work together towards common goals.   This is the kind of “cooperative internet” that I always imagined would emerge back in the pre-web era.


“Purpose above Profits”


"Purpose above Profits" was the slogan at REI as I shopped for the holidays.  It’s a reminder that the REI is a Member Cooperative.  With my $20 lifetime membership I get dividends based on my purchases while supporting outdoor and environmental causes.  In 2016 REI gave back 70% of profits.

This is but one example of how Coops can offer sustainable services for the communities they serve.  Growing up I had electric power from an Coop.  When I lived in Switzerland there’s a huge retail chain literally named “Coop”.  I currently use and support my Credit Union.

Overall Coop businesses are more sustainable, and are oriented to the long term interests of their member-owners.

But the growth of the Internet and the Web bypassed the cooperative model.  This despite the fact that open source and much of the shared internet infrastructure are structured like coops.  It wasn't until 2014 that the concept of Platform Cooperative was coined.   The rise of pseudo-"sharing" platforms like Uber and AirBnB and the rise of decentralized technologies like blockchains were two key reasons that many now embrace the concept.


Early Stage Capital

But a problem emerges, how do you bootstrap a Cooperative where there are significant barriers to entry?  That’s where Supporter Shares come in.  Anyone can invest in these shares.  Each year the co-op sets aside 10% of profits and issues dividends to Supporter Share owners.

Resonate Voting Diagram

But remember that Supporter Shares don't get you extra voting power.  A cooperative is still one-person, one-vote.  The upside is that there are no leveraged buyouts, no dual share structures or non-voting shares.


The Future Internet

The Internet I want is a democratic one where creators, consumers, supporters and employees can work together towards common, sustainable goals.  By using and investing in Resonate I hope to advance those goals.  Liz Pelly captured the sentiment in "Protest Platforms" that "Resonate is particularly interesting for the way it advocates for broad decentralization of data, power, and money in music".

The Resonate Project Map details where the project is going and the plan to achieve it.  I’ll admit that the content catalog is small, (but growing!) and the technology is very beta (but improving!).  I still use and enjoy it every day.

I hope that you'll consider joining the coop as a member owner and see for yourself.  If you want to accelerate this type of work consider purchasing Supporter Shares.

And finally, I hope that you'll consider supporting a new generation of online platforms that include the same kind of values that Resonate promotes.  All while listening to and supporting the artists we love.


Moving your Google +1s to Pinboard

2 min read

So the +1 button on the web is riding off into the sunset.  But you can still make good use of the data that you've collected over the years via Google Takeout!  I like to keep my bookmarks in Pinboard, so here's how I did it and you can too.


1. Visit in your browser.  You'll see something like this:

2. Click Select None, then click on the checkmark next to +1s.

3. Scroll to the bottom and click Next

4. The next screen has some choices for file format.  Change if you want, but the defaults should be fine and will email you a link to a zip file you can download.

5. You'll receive an email with a link to the zip file.  Expand the file and you'll find something like this:


Import to Pinboard

Now that you have the +1s.html file you can import it to Pinboard.  (Or other sites that support the Netscape Bookmark file format)

1. Pinboard 'tags' imports with the name of the file.  I wanted to use the tag 'plusone' so I renamed my file from +1s.html to plusones.html

2. Next visit the Pinboard settings page, then click import (or just click on this link)  You'll see something like this:

3. Click on the Choose File button, select your html file (in my case plusones.html) and click upload.

4. After a little bit of time Pinboard will have your imported bookmarks!  You can then view all of them based on the tag (plusones).  Click on the tag and you can browse/clean them up. Woohoo!


Other Places

Once you have the exported bookmark html file you can also import to other products.

Contact me if you have more.  I'll add them here!



Challenge: Redesign classic games for DAU and ARPU metrics. I'll start: Monopoly - do not pass go for 24 hours unless you buy these gems.


The Mail Must Go Through - Decentralized Customer Service

1 min read

Some kudos to the US Postal Service.  I sent Express Mail to a PO Box for Saturday delivery.  Saturday comes and  I realize that the post office is only open from 8 to 10:30, but delivery is only guaranteed by 3pm.  Oops.

So I look up the Post Office and notice that a local number is available.  With skepticism I called the local number.  3 rings later I'm talking to a small-town Postmaster.  She knows the recipient, takes the tracking number and promises to call back.  15 minutes later she has found out where it was and promised to receive it after hours and deliver it.

Shocked I ask her what can I do to thank you.  Her response is simple - "The mail must go through!".


Typo of the day -- MEATADATA