Category Archives: Meaningful Multimedia

Meaningful Multimedia

Why I really like the Snowden Wired cover picture.

I like this picture a lot.

snowden with code(love)

snowden with code(love)


If you’ve missed Wired’s profile on Edward Snowden, go check it out. For some balance, there’s the New Republic’s piece on what went unasked in that interview.

It’s a fascinating look at two NSA whistle-blowers talking about what makes them tick. The writer, James Bamford, writes extensively about security agencies and was himself a whistle-blower of sorts, publishing the first book on the NSA—something that earned him threats of prosecution.

It gets to the larger point of what motivates different individual actors, a fascinating look at the dynamics of the open web.

It has really been new media and the blogosphere that has picked up Snowden’s torch. Mainstream media have often been accommodating. Mainstream politicians have not.

With more Americans now concerned about civil liberties abuses than terrorism, you could say that Snowden’s story is a victory for the open web discussing, and spreading ideas.

The fact that this picture could have been taken owes a lot to how we have come together to discuss the complex issue of security vs privacy.

It is a victory of engineers, teachers, and learners—all of us on the open web faced with the conventional power of talking heads.

So hats off to him. And hats off to all of us for keeping the discussion alive, and reinforcing the importance of an open web.

Meaningful Multimedia

Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint.

IPO with code(love)

IPO with code(love)

Even with how much faster things move in the digital economy, the truth is it takes several years to see an idea through to its full potential.

Don’t lose patience. You’re nowhere close to seeing the end of the line if you’ve only been fighting for a year or two. Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint.

Meaningful Multimedia

Oculus Rift helps terminally ill grandmother see the world once more

A reminder once again of the potential for technology to have a significant positive effect on our lives.

Oculus Rift is used here not for gaming purposes, but to help a terminally ill grandmother experience the great outdoors once more, something she cannot physically do.

Jean-Dominique Bauby, an editor of the French version of ELLE was tragically struck down by a massive stroke. He suffered locked-in syndrome: and had to transmit his experiences through the only organ left of his that could move, his eyes.

He wrote out a book detailing what it felt to be stuck within physical confines that were imposed on him by painstakingly blinking  one letter at a time with an assistant. One of the lines that has haunted me the most is when he asks “Does the cosmos contain keys for opening my diving bell? A currency strong enough to buy my freedom back? We must keep looking.” 

One can’t help but think that if, through some miracle, he had managed to hang on for a few more years, he would have been able to find the keys and currency he was crying out for.

Meaningful Multimedia

Storytelling is Power

A lot of people have differing opinions about who rules the new digital era. Some think it is those with capital (a high proportion of whom are the ones with capital). Some think it will be the engineers who shape and structure logic so that it, tamed, can no longer hurt us.

There are a few voices in the wild who say it is storytellers who rule with them.

There should be more. A good story delivered in the digital realm can now reach hundreds of thousands of people within a day. It can resonate with people from around the world—and pass through physical borders as though they have never existed at all.

Stories can spark dialogue and thought that lead to the world of tomorrow. Stories can start revolutions that change the world of today.

The self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi sparked the Tunisian Revolution and the wider Arab Spring.

Technology was not responsible for the power that singular act of utter defiance conveyed, but with every tweet and status update, the story grew stronger—until regimes that had lasted for decades buckled under the power of storytelling.

In this new digital age, that will become the rule rather than the exception.

Through our online connections, a story becomes chopped up and distributed in a million different ways. It has never been easier to have an opinion, and to share it with complete strangers.

Storytellers have never had to deal with such entropy, but they have also never been so liberated as to express themselves as plainly and as genuinely as they can: and watch the power of the crowd carry their story forward.

We rely on stories to root us to our humanity: our deepest fears and aspirations—to make the future make sense. Engineers will build the future.  Financiers will fund it. Storytellers will define it.

Storytelling is power.

Meaningful Multimedia

Remembering Aaron Swartz

To those of us who aspire to the ideals of the Open Web, Aaron Swartz is a hero. His legacy and his part in the fight against SOPA/PIPA still mark how modern technologists should not only build new technologies, but ensure, to the best of their abilities, that they are not used for nefarious purposes.

Aaron Swartz with code(love)

Aaron Swartz with code(love)

He had a hand in reddit, the Creative Commons, and so much more. Despite the fact that he had enough programming skill to make himself a fortune, he decided a better pursuit was to use  his skills, and the power of the web, to help make the world a better and fairer place.

Aaron Swartz worked hard for what he thought was right, and he constantly sought to learn, and grow—and to help others learn and grow.

His Open Access Manifesto is still widely spread around the web as a call-to-action to those who believe that information should be freer, and that the future of technology, progress, and innovation should tilt more towards cooperation rather than pure competition.

“Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.” –Aaron Swartz, Open Access Manifesto

This video is a good look at his life and legacy, and the promise of what could have been—and what still can be.

More details on the documentary on Aaron Swartz can be found here. There are not too many details, but hopefully the whole film gets released soon.

Meaningful Multimedia

Build innovation on the shoulders of giants.

Build Innovation with code(love)

Build Innovation with code(love)—image from the Houston Chronicle.

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. – Issac Newton

The basis of the PageRank algorithm, the billion-dollar plus bit of mathematics that powers much of Google’s business was developed at Stanford University in 1996 by Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, but the roots of it came much earlier. Some have argued that it was Gabriel Pinski and Francis Narin who first formalized how to go about analyzing the quality of links—in 1976.

They were able to define a set of metrics for ranking the influence of science journals—which was very handy for a mathematical solution for how to rank the influence of individual websites.

Perhaps it is this that led Francis Narin to publish a paper where he noted that 73% of papers cited by US industry patents were based on public research.

The above photo is a highlight of how the iPod was built on public research.  It may be the ideal framework to build innovation.

The best models for creating new world-changing disruption may come from collaboration, and not competition.

It leads one to believe that to build innovation, one must stand on the shoulders of giants. It also leads one to believe that there should always be public support for those research giants, and that the best models for creating new world-changing disruption may come from collaboration, and not competition.

Meaningful Multimedia

This is what winning a revolution looks like.

There is no “winning or losing” a revolution in a few short years.

The Prague Spring was a moment in history where the Cold War seemed to thaw in 1968. Czechoslovakia underwent a period of political liberalisation that included the guarantee of fundamental human and political rights. For six short months, the country was able to breathe in democratic ideas.

It was notoriously crushed by an invasion of the Soviet Union, supported by Warsaw Pact countries such as Poland. Powerless in the face of this hateful violence, the Czechs could only stand in front of the tanks rolling over their country.

Prague-Spring from

Prague-Spring from

They might have been regarded as weak in the stupidest sense of “might makes right”.

But the Czechs found other ways to resist. Milan Kundera wrote his modern-day classic the The Unbearable Lightness of Being, dealing with how ephemeral things like love were accorded so much heaviness despite their often coincidental and fleeting nature. To top it off, he decried the art of totalitarian regimes as “kitsch”: non-genuine just like the people under those regimes were forced to be.

“When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.”
― Milan KunderaThe Unbearable Lightness of Being

His books were banned by the Soviet Union, and he was blacklisted from his homeland.

Jan Palach and Jan Zajíc were 21 years and 19 years old respectively. They self-immolated in protest at the despair of their countrymen.

The sparks of the fires that consumed their youth would eventually resonate with the people. In the almost bloodless Violet Revolution of 1989, dissident Václav Havel became the last president of Czechoslovakia, and the first democratically elected one of the Czech Republic.

Today, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are among the top twenty nations in the world when it comes to press freedom and some of the highest developed nations according to HDI. Many of the Warsaw Pact nations that invaded them have benefited from the same, most notably Poland.

Free press from

Free press from

Was the Spring at the time, at the height of the Cold War, encouraged by external forces? Probably. Did Czechoslovakia have a “tradition” of authoritarianism, much as most European countries do to some degree? Sure. Does any of that matter now? I doubt it.

It may have taken decades, but now both countries are among those who can celebrate creative dissidents such as Kundera, and those who fought to give everything for their compatriots such as Palach, and Zajíc.

The following picture is a memorial for Jan Palach and Jan Zajíc in the centre of Prague.

Palach-Zajic-memorial from Wikimedia

Palach-Zajic-memorial from Wikimedia

This is what “winning” a revolution looks like.