2017-05-07 The Command Line Podcast

This is an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

I talk about the privacy rules repeal at the FCC and the fight starting to shape up again over network neutrality.

You can directly download the MP3 or Ogg Vorbis audio files. You can grab additional formats and audio source files from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

2017-04-23 The Command Line Podcast

This is an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

I share some thoughts on why it is remains important to be engaged as a digital citizen.

You can directly download the MP3 or Ogg Vorbis audio files. You can grab additional formats and audio source files from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Back

A bit over ten months ago I said I needed to take a break. That was a year after I left my job at a think tank. I left that job due to burnout. After a year, I was still feeling burned out, specifically on technology and policy. The very subjects at the heart of this project. Writing and speaking about these subjects is demanding. It is rewarding, too, or I would not have spent a decade on them. But demanding, oh so demanding. Which is why I started The Command Line in the first place, to give myself the opportunity to dig into these topics far more deeply than I had been doing up to that point.

Working at a think tank at first seemed like a dream job. Ever have that feeling? How long did it last? Outside of an astonishing few, the answer is probably some variant of not long enough. I want to say that I learned a lot during my time there. The truth is closer to something like I learned a lot more after I left.

Here is the thing about technology, society and public policy; they are everywhere. Take a dream job and you may lose sight of that. Technologists make choices affected by and affecting policy every hour of the day in every circumstance where software is written, from free/libre/open source to internal corporate systems. As a member of modern society, everything we do is ever more mediated by some form of technology. The topics I hold dear still matter, as of course they would, despite the time I needed to take for myself. I still have so much to learn and to share.

I am in a better place than I was when I wrote about taking a break. I am in a far better place than when I left my think tank job. A lot of what I learned in the past two years has to do with being a better person, in a family, at a job, and hopefully in the world. Most of that time has been focused on the first and then the second. Technology continues to play trickster with this world. I think I am finally ready to return to my desk and my mic, to add my modest contribution to understanding how technology continues to unfold throughout our lives.

What does that mean for this site and the podcast?

To be honest, I am still figuring that out. I have been feeling for a while that I am ready to start things back up. By a while, I mean something like a bit over a month. The trick to starting, or re-starting, a thing is of course to simply do it. I had no grand plan when I started this venture over ten years ago. What was good enough then surely is good enough now. I do have a few specific topics for shows or essays. I am trying to finding a new research and writing rhythm that feels right. I am fortunate to have some long, long time supporters who never left and are happy to see things moving again.

Stay tuned. Or better yet, find me online, let me know what you’d like me to focus on, what questions matter to you. I am still all over the social networks and findable on many other tools, old (like irc, specifically #cmdln on Freenode) and new (like keybase.io.)

And, don’t forget–Hack your world.

Taking a Break

The time has passed to admit that I am burned out on reading and writing about technology and technology policy.

A few weeks ago, I pruned out some of the noisiest feeds in my news reader, especially Hacker News. This week, I found myself muting or unfollowing accounts on Twitter sharing thoughts and stories on these topics. Increasingly my reading, writing and enthusiasm has shifted away.

My podcast has been very hit or miss since about two years ago. Around that time I went went through some heavy stuff. At first I struggled tried to keep up with the writing and recording, though less regularly. I wrote or spoke more to help me in processing what I was experiencing than for any other reason. More recently I have been learning how better to cope and have been finding more spare time, to once again focus on other things. I tried to use that time and attention to keep the podcast going but that met with mixed results. My most recent podcast episode is now several months old.

I started the podcast out of a desire to better understand the various themes I addressed–technology news, technology policy, the practice and profession of programming. The more I read, wrote and talked about these subjects, the more interested I became. I still care about these subjects, just perhaps not to the same depth as I once did. I am not sure a podcast or a blog are the most valuable tools for exploring them right now.

Writing a story, as an essay or a podcast episode, takes a high activation energy and enough enthusiasm to see it through to a relatively finished product. At least for me, that is how it works. My recent track record shows I haven’t found the energy or the will to invest in these outlets. The pruning of my various feeds tells me that I don’t even want to spend as much attention on these subjects right now.

For the foreseeable future, I won’t be updating here regularly. After more than a decade podcasting here and even longer blogging, I think it is time for a long pause. Maybe it will be indefinite, I honestly don’t know yet. I may come back to these projects, I may even post the occasional essay or thought from time to time. It is nice to have a place to do so. I kind of want to keep the door open, for now, but want to be clear that my attention and energies will be invested elsewhere.

Will I still be around the social media sphere? Of course. At this point online sharing in the ways I have been doing is as natural, and in some ways as essential, as breathing. Many of you already know I have had another project going on, Of a Peculiar Character. You can still expect to see my short, weekly off the cuff podcast episodes as part of that site. I am considering what it would mean and take for me to increase my writing volume there too.

I am still reachable through all the means listed on this site. For now you will more likely find me talking about my other passions and focusing on other projects.

A Different Ethos

I attended my first JavaScript conference last year, in May. Over all the experience was great. The talks were interesting, the venue was amazing, the programming was incredible well done, and there was plenty of time to meet and chat with other developers. One moment very early on stands out in my memory, though.

After the opening keynote, I settled in to listen to my first talk. I tweeted about how I felt the speaker was inexpert and hoped their talk would improve with practice. One of the organizers immediately responded, to point out how difficult it can be even for an experienced speaker. They asked that everyone be supportive of the courage it took to give a talk. I back pedaled, emphasizing that I wasn’t trying to be mean spirited. I was defensive, explaining I sincerely believed the speaker would get better with more practice. I was uncomfortable with acting without thought even if I could rationalize my intent. That dissonance was the first I felt when interacting with the current, larger community of JavaScript programmers.

To resolve that dissonance, I could have withdrawn, stuck to my meager rationalization. Mostly informed by some even earlier professional lessons about the value of empathy, I decided to take more care the rest of the weekend. I tried to pay attention to my intentions first then observe my actions closely to be sure they represented those intentions as well as I could manage. That conference experience was the first of many encounters with this community that have taught me some valuable lessons over this past year. Together they seemed to reveal a different sort of ethos from the development communities I came up in. Not everyone in my generation is a fan. You’ll hear or read criticism of tone policing. Often the idea of meritocracy gets brought up, as if some vague notion of inherent merit absolves a person of being aware of how their words and actions affect others.

When I was younger, I was angry. A lot. Angry and if I am honest with myself, entitled. Because I had taught myself everything I knew. I built some considerable software projects with that knowledge. I guess I felt I was owed something, something more than the pay for doing that work. Meritocracy? In my experience I increasingly believe that is just another label for that sense of entitlement.

That realization took some time. I used to think merit was the same thing as hard work. It really isn’t, hard work is hard work. Merit is entirely subjective and judgmental. That may be fine when considering situations where some qualitative basis for additional recognition might be required in a field of people working hard already. The vagueness of merit is a problem where it used to control entry into that field, suggesting that such gatekeeping is done on some objective, rational basis when it really is not.

A younger version of myself would not have agreed. At one time, I would have thought this was just arguing semantics. Clearer merit is an empirical measure. Any attempt to say otherwise is just sour grapes over not passing muster. Worse it is an attempt to dilute the term and how it is put into practice. With the benefit of experience, I realized a few things. First that I am not trying to persuade any one of anything. This distinction is about my own understanding and hence how it informs my own choices and actions. Second is that being clear eyed about what requires analytical reasoning versus emotional intelligence is very important to those choices and their effects on those around me.

I listened to a talk about non-violent communication that really crystallized this for me. This is a way of listening that tries to respect feelings without evaluation or judgment. It is a way of talking based on sharing observations and making active requests based on our own needs. I have been meaning to learn more but the idea that a tool like this can be effective while just being inwardly focused is powerful. It resonates with other things I have learned recently, about how we really cannot truly control anything that happens in our life, at most we can control our reactions. It may sound passive, like abdicating the driver’s seat. Really it is an acknowledgement that the wheels, levers and buttons we can reach from that seat really don’t amount to much. For our mental health and that of those we care about, far better to find ways to be calm, to be happy, and try to really understand the world around us as it is rather than how we would wish it to be.

I continue to learn from this community, mostly through talks by prominent members and interviews on podcasts. The core ethos isn’t always the actual subject but what impresses me is that it almost always seems to be present in some way. I feel pretty fortunate to have stumbled into these opportunities to learn about something so ephemeral yet so critical, especially this late in my career. I am inspired to think very careful about the spaces I have a hand in creating, big and small, and all the things I have read over the years about how to instill and nourish the best sorts of ethos in them.

2016-02-13 The Command Line Podcast

This is an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

This time, I chat about some recent news stories that caught my attention, including:

My other podcast which I mentioned in the intro is The Audio Diary of a Peculiar Character.

You can subscribe to a feed of articles I am reading for more. You can follow my random podcast items on HuffDuffer too.

You can directly download the MP3 or Ogg Vorbis audio files. You can grab additional formats and audio source files from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

2016-01-16 The Command Line Podcast

old-newspaper-350376_1280This is an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

This time, I chat about some recent news stories that caught my attention, including:

You can subscribe to a feed of articles I am reading for more. You can follow my random podcast items on HuffDuffer too.

You can directly download the MP3 or Ogg Vorbis audio files. You can grab additional formats and audio source files from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

2016-01-03 The Command Line Podcast

This is an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

This time, I chat about some recent news stories that caught my attention, including:

You can subscribe to a feed of articles I am reading for more. You can follow my random podcast items on HuffDuffer too.

You can directly download the MP3 or Ogg Vorbis audio files. You can grab additional formats and audio source files from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

2015-12-19 The Command Line Podcast

old-newspaper-350376_1280This is an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

I will be attending SCALE in the latter half of next month if anyone else planning to be there wants to meet up.

I am also thinking about attending this year’s LibrePlanet, in March. Please consider donating to their scholarship fund to help attendees who might not otherwise be able to go to join the event and learn more about Free Software and the community that uses and supports it.

This time, I chat about some recent news stories that caught my attention, including:

You can subscribe to a feed of articles I am reading for more. You can follow my random podcast items on HuffDuffer too.

You can directly download the MP3 or Ogg Vorbis audio files. You can grab additional formats and audio source files from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

2015-12-13 The Command Line Podcast

This is an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

I will be attending SCALE in the latter half of next month if anyone else planning to be there wants to meet up.

This time, I chat about some recent news stories that caught my attention, including:

You can subscribe to a feed of articles I am reading for more. You can follow my random podcast items on HuffDuffer too.

You can directly download the MP3 or Ogg Vorbis audio files. You can grab additional formats and audio source files from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.