I got to moderate a lively conversation at the Asia Society with two heroes of mine, Reshma Saujani and Nina Davuluri. Each has a remarkable personal story, an inspiring record of activism and achievement, and an active commitment to advancing equity and opportunity in science/tech/engineering/math. (There’s so much fantastic programming at the Asia Society — if you live in NYC, you should keep it on your radar screen.)
In honor of the network’s 40th anniversary, here was my first appearance on C-Span, back in 2004. The obscurity and, um, specificity of this event shows the remarkable dedication of C-Span to bring anything and everything in and around Congress right into any American’s living room, no matter how boring. The event was, AFAIK, the very first time "net neutrality" was uttered in public in the US Capitol. Along with Tim Wu, Larry Lessig, Michael Copps, Mark Cooper, and others, we laid out the policy rationale for net neutrality, and argued for FCC action and Congressional legislation to protect the Internet from control by the big carriers. Happily, these ideas went from a handful of network policy nerds to national policy, thanks to an amazingly diverse and effective coalition of activists working hard for more than a decade. The Obama administration implemented a truly groundbreaking set of protections for net neutrality, and the next administration will certainly reinstate them, hopefully in partnership with Congress.
Seems like yesterday, and also 1000 years ago. TIGR was the Technology, Innovation, and Government Reform team on the Obama/Biden transition.
Thanks to the Asia Society for hosting a fantastic evening with Kai-Fu Lee, my former colleague and partner at Google. His new book, AI Superpowers, is genuinely terrific, both in explaining artificial intelligence, its possibilities, pitfalls, and implications for the future, and in laying out the relative strengths and weaknesses of China and the United States in technology and innovation.
Characteristically awesome event at the New America Foundation today. I spoke on “How Can Platforms Fix Online Speech?”, which: not simple. Co-panelists were:
Caroline Sinders, @carolinesinders Product Analyst, Wikimedia Foundation
Whitney Phillips, @wphillips49 Assistant Professor of Literary Studies and Writing, Mercer University Author, This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things Co-author, The Ambivalent Internet
Dipayan Ghosh, @ghoshd7 Public Interest Technology fellow, New America Joan Shorenstein Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School Former Technology & Economic Policy Advisor, The White House Former Privacy & Public Policy Advisor, Facebook
Moderator: April Glaser, @aprilaser Staff writer, Slate
Our part starts around 1’10'“. Other speakers at the event:
REGULATING POLITICAL SPEECH IN THE AGE OF DIGITAL DISINFORMATION
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), @amyklobuchar Chair, Senate Democratic Steering Committee Ranking Member, Rules Committee
Dan Gillmor, @dangillmor Director and co-founder, News Co/Lab at Arizona State University Professor of Practice, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University Author, Mediactive and We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People
Moderator: Cecilia Kang, @ceciliakang National Technology Correspondent, The New York Times
DOES THE INTERNET REQUIRE US TO RETHINK FREE SPEECH?
Rep. Ted W. Lieu (D-Calif.), @reptedlieu Member, House Committees on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs
Jennifer Daskal, @jendaskal Associate Professor of Law, Washington College of Law at American University
Kate Klonick, @klonick Future Tense fellow, New America PhD Candidate, Yale Law School Resident fellow, Information Society Project at Yale Law School
Moderator: Cecilia Kang, @ceciliakang National Technology Correspondent, The New York Times
Really fun session at the Harvard Law bicentennial celebration:
Moderated by Jonathan Zittrain, with fellow panelists Alex Abdo ‘06, senior staff attorney, Knight First Amendment Institute; Cindy Cohn, executive director, Electronic Frontier Foundation; Alexander MacGillivray ‘00, general counsel, Twitter; Matt Olsen ‘88, former director, National Counterterrorism Center; HLS Assistant Professor of Law Daphna Renan; David Sanger, national security correspondent for The New York Times; and Bruce Schneier, security technologist at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.
Moderator: Larry Kramer, President of the Hewlett Foundation
Juniper Downs, Global Head of Public Policy and Government Relations, Youtube
Daphne Keller, Director of Intermediary Liability, Center for Internet & Society, Stanford Law School
Nick Pickles, Senior Public Policy Manager, Twitter
Mike Posner, Director, NYU Stern Center for Business & Human Rights, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Really fun conference, excellent and diverse participants, provocative policy brawls. Hosted by Stanford Law’s Center for Internet & Society.
The panel set-up: “Which countries’ laws and values will govern Internet users’ online behavior, including their free expression rights? In 1996, David G. Post and David R. Johnson wrote that “The rise of the global computer network is destroying the link between geographical location and: (1) the power of local governments to assert control over online behavior; (2) the effects of online behavior on individuals or things; (3) the legitimacy of the efforts of a local sovereign to enforce rules applicable to global phenomena; and (4) the ability of physical location to give notice of which sets of rules apply.” They proposed that national law must be reconciled with self-regulatory processes emerging from the network itself. Twenty years on, what have we learned? How are we reconciling differences in national laws governing speech, and how should we be reconciling them? What are the responsibilities of Internet speakers and platforms when faced with diverging rules about what online content is legal? And do users have relevant legal rights when their speech, or the information they are seeking, is legal in their own country?”
Bertrand de la Chapelle - Co-Founder and Director, Internet & Jurisdiction Project
David Johnson - CEO, argumentz.com; Producer, themoosical.com
David Post - Professor of Law (ret.), Temple University Law School; Contributor, Volokh Conspiracy
Paul Sieminski - General Counsel, Automattic
Nicole Wong - Ex-Obama White House, Twitter, Google
With Michael Posner (Professor, NYU Stern School of Business, Co-Director, Stern Center for Business and Human Rights) and Sarah Labowitz (Co-Director, NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights).
A conversation the most marvelous Nicole Wong, from whom I have learned more than I can measure. We were colleagues in the trenches at Google; and then Nicole succeeded me as Deputy CTO of the US. She is the greatest, and here we were both at SxSW.
[Reposted from Medium.]
It’s tasteless to brag, but I need to set up the Dramatic Twist that comes about halfway through this post. So I beg indulgence.
Here’s the brag: betaworks, my professional home since 2012, has been just killing it (in the positive, non-ironic, Silicon Valley sense) lately. Launching new companies, like Dexter and Scale Model. Shipping new products, like the Poncho iOS app, Instapaper’s Instaparser, and Bloglovin’s Shop app. Growing like crazy, building new things, and winning the confidence of investors, as GIPHY, Digg, and Chartbeat have all done. Reaching profitability, like Bitly. Just plain winning, like DOTS. Getting acquired, like Blend by the music innovator ROLI. Creating a serialized podcast, The Intern. Publishing fascinating data science on everything from the network science of product launches to the effects of media coverage on 2016 election campaigns. And, not least, investing in terrific startups like Anchor, Unmute, Slash, Sochat, Howdy Futurefly, Vrideo, Grape, Gimlet Media, Product Hunt, Parlio, and Medium, just to name a recent few.
The betaworks studio companies I’ve worked on most directly have been shipping new features at a blistering pace: Digg’s upgraded web and mobile interfaces, a Store, Digg Dialogs, and many excellent Originals, Explainers, Roundups, and Digests; Instapaper’s web, iOS and Android updates, notes and highlights, multitasking, picture-in-picture video playback, iPad redesign, InstaRank 2.0, Instaparser, Apple Watch app, speed reading, instant sync, tweet shots, and so on.
And on a personal note, betaworks is awesome. I’ve never been in a better, more enjoyable, more energizing, more functional professional environment. Excellent people, A+ talent, a culture that valorizes building and risk-taking, and a unifying mission to reinvent media.
Now comes the Dramatic Twist: I’m leaving betaworks.
Wut? you may be wondering. What, in light of that shameless set-up, could possibly drag me away from a dream job at betaworks?
As of this week, I’ve joined Medium, where I’ll be leading its content organization, developing new business opportunities, and growing Medium’s NYC presence.
In a sense, it’s a move within the family — betaworks is an investor in Medium, and Ev Williams is an investor in betaworks. But more importantly, John Borthwick and my other betaworks partners gave the move their blessing because they recognized that Medium is an incredible match for me, my interests, and my ambitions, as well as the operating muscles I’ve been working to build over the past few years.
I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of Medium. I’ve been an active Medium user since it first launched and have become increasingly fascinated/obsessed with it. Medium’s become the Internet’s best place for great writing and thoughtful conversation.It’s growing fast, scaling quickly, adding new capabilities briskly, and attracting an unmatched network of creators, thinkers, publishers, and the people who love them.And Medium is committed to things I care about, like freedom of expression, an open Internet, meaningful discourse, and excellence in product and infrastructure.I’ve known Ev Williams since we first worked together at Google, and have long thought it’d be fun to do something more directly with him. As I’ve gotten to know the Medium team, I’ve been hugely impressed with the level and diversity of talent, the sense of common purpose, and the bright culture of the company.
So: Medium. (Woo-hoo!)
Happily, I’ll continue to be affiliated with betaworks as a venture partner, and will continue to serve on the boards of Digg and Chartbeat. I want to say a very heartfelt thank-you to everyone at betaworks, particularly John Borthwick, whose faith, friendship, and mentorship have been invaluable to me, Joshua Auerbach, Sam Mandel, Paul Murphy, Brian Donohue, Gilad Lotan, Suman Deb Roy, Matt Hartman, Peter Rojas, Ana Rosenstein, James Cooper, Dominic Butchello, Maya Prohovnik, Saumya Manohar, jonchin,Lisa Zhang, Nicole Ranucci, Erin Glenn, Kuan Huang, Kyra Reppen, Giordano Contestabil, Mattias Bloglovin', Dan Carlberg, Patrick Moberg, Christian Calderon, Patrick Montague, Peter Margulies, Frank Jania, Aaron Kapor, Christian Rocha, Daniel Ilkovich, Michelle Monteleone, along with the Digg and Instapaper teams and their alumni, and everyone else I’ve had the good fortune to work with across the betaworks studio.
When I first arrived in 2012, betaworks’s website described the organization as “A New Medium Company,” which struck me as both clever and accurate. And it harmonizes well with the full legal name of my new home: A Medium Corporation.
[A cartoon of my family that Cindy won't let me hang on the wall at home.]
Today marks a huge milestone for Digg. Three reasons: First, because we’ve closed a $4 million Series A investment from Digital Garage. Second, because Digg has a new CEO, Gary Liu. Third, because Digg is leaving the betaworks nest and moving into its own office space downtown.
The formal press release is here. I’ll add a little color, spiced with just a dash of sentimentality:
We’re incredibly excited to have Digital Garage as Digg’s leading investor, and as a strategic partner. DG is an Internet-focused operating and investing company based in Tokyo, and has a long history of success partnering with American tech companies(for example, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Path) to enter Japan and other Asian markets. We think the Digg model of [curation + technology] can find sizable and enthusiastic audiences around the world, and we’re thrilled to get to work with Digital Garage in making it happen.
A betaworks partner, I’ve been running Digg as CEO since early 2013. From the initial rapid-fire relaunch, we’ve grown the user base exponentially, launched Digg Reader, Digg Deeper, Digg Video, Digg TV, Digg on iOS and Android, Digg Originals, Digg’s Canvas CMS, Digg native ads, the Digg Store, the Daily Digg and email products, various mobile web UIs, and most, recently, Dialogs.
Through it all, the Digg team has been incredible, and I want to thank them so effusively it’s embarrassing. Digg’s technologists, editors, designers, and business developers have proven to be absurdly talented, committed, and creative. With a very small number of people, our engineers, led by NYC’s best CTO, Mike Young, have built a sprawling and sophisticated technical infrastructure at vast scale with many interlocking components and interfaces, and that works extremely well. Digg sites and apps look and feel terrific thanks to the vision, clarity, and detail-obsession of Justin Van Slembrouck. Our editors, led by the brilliant and exacting Anna Dubenko, range widely and ingeniously across the Internet and through our powerful data tools to find and package the best stories and videos on the Internet. Not a day has gone by that they haven’t brought me (among millions of other users) delightful things I wouldn’t otherwise have discovered, along with actual LOLs from their headlines, kickers, and growing corpus of original pieces. Finally, the business team, newly led by the enormously gifted and energetic Won Kim, has invented a native business model for Digg, scrappily building it from zero to impressive. I’m tempted to name and praise every member of the team individually, but that’d make a loooong post.
Tying these teams all together since March has been COO Gary Liu. Gary and I overlapped at Google, and his career has taken him through startups to Spotify, where he led Spotify Labs and Ad Product Strategy. When we hired him, my hope was that he would prove to be the right next CEO to take the company from Series A to success at global scale. And indeed, I was right. Gary’s been an absolutely fantastic operating leader for the company, gifted at everything from team leadership to monetization strategy to operational execution to finance to product and marketing, and I’m thrilled to hand the reins over to him. Though I’m going to be an active executive chairman of Digg’s board, Gary is the right leader for Digg’s next chapters, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that he’s taken on the challenge.
And so as Digg gets ready to move into its own office in a few weeks, I’m returning to betaworks full-time, to get new initiatives off the ground. And I’m already more than a little wistful, preparing to miss the Digg team that’s been such a wonderful part of my day-to-day life for more than two years. Fortunately, not only do I still get the daily joy of Digg’s homepage, apps, videos, email, etc., but they’re letting me stay in the Digg Slack channel, which never, ever fails to crack me up.
I took part in a really fun Intelligence Squared debate for public radio last night. The resolution was "The U.S. Should Adopt The 'Right To Be Forgotten' Online." My partner was Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain. We opposed the resolution, arguing that the EU's newly-minted "right to be forgotten" is a pernicious form of censorship that buries truth, is prone to abuse, and cannot justly be administered. On the other side were Eric Posner, professor of law at the University of Chicago, and Paul Nemitz, director of fundamental rights and citizenship at the European Commission's Directorate General for Justice & Consumers.
Who won? I'm not too classy to report that Jonathan and I (or, more accurately, the arguments we advanced) won the debate overwhelmingly, as judged by the audience. Go free speech!
This afternoon brought a joyful, awful occasion in the memorial service for Jim Ponichtera, an old friend who died suddenly last week. From the first moment I saw him on stage, a few days after I started my freshman year, I idolized -- and envied -- Jim. He was wildly funny, brilliantly silly, and sharp as a Ginsu knife. His wit was sly and devious, marked by a magical ability to conjure unexpected, pitch-perfect cultural hooks, both high and low. He harbored love of equal depth for John Donne and Scooby-Doo; Cassavetes and ComicCon; Le Bernadin and IHOP. Anyone who knew Jim knew what it was to cry from laughter; it was his singular talent to find the comedy in anything, not least himself, even when he was battling the cancer he ultimately beat.
After college, I hung out with him first occasionally, whenever I found myself in San Francisco, then rarely, then not at all over the past decade. I regret so acutely that long drift. What shone at the memorial service was his most excellent life centered on his much-beloved wife and 11-year-old son, with whom he did everything from Tae Kwon Do and the latest flavor of Super Mario to learning banjo and wearing coordinated, bacon-themed apparel.
If this is how it begins -- the long, slow march of loss and heartache -- it seems unconscionably cruel that it should start with Jim. He was one of the truly good ones. RIP.
This photo, posted by Brook Butterworth, captures Jim as he was when I first got to know him.