People ask, “Were you tortured?” I was not beaten — but consider what it’s like to spend nearly 150 days (3,600 hours) alone in a 10-by-10 room with a bed and chair, a small barred window and no idea what would come next.
The first NBA memory I have dates back to 1991. I was six years old getting my first glimpse of Michael Jordan’s first title winning run against the Lakers. I was visiting my aunt, uncle and cousins in the north of Israel on a Kibbutz, where my aunt had moved twenty years earlier. My family was living in India at the time because my father had been working there since I was four. Other than hockey, which even toddlers learn to love in Canada, I had not been exposed to many of the North American sports I would soon obsess about in my teenage and adult years. My grandparents, who lived in Winnipeg, had made the trip to Israel because it was the only time they could see five of their grandchildren at the same time.
Earlier in the day the entire family had gone to see my middle cousin Ohad star for the Kibbutz basketball team in a small dingy un-air-conditioned gym in the middle of the small community near the Syrian border in Israel. My cousin was a young Israeli basketball phenom (by Kibbutz standards at least) and led the Kibbutz team to victory while finishing the game with the most points. Later that night, grandma, dad, Ohad, my brother Jake and I all cozied up in my aunt’s small living room to watch game 5 of the 1991 NBA finals. Ohad taught me about the legend of Jordan, and I became an NBA enthusiast immediately. The joy I felt that night watching the Chicago Bulls win their first NBA title with three generations of my family was a feeling I will never forget.
In the time that has passed since that night, both my grandparents have passed away. I began to play and avidly watch, not only basketball, but also soccer, hockey, tennis, and football. Although I never turned into an elite athlete, I have become an elite fan. The history of sports, the up and coming field of sports statistics and the joy of continuing to watch amazing athletes and artists practice their craft has filled my life with a pleasure that can be matched by little else.
Perhaps the most important gift sports have provided me is a historical sport life events calendar that I keep in my mind. I remember important events in my life (as I think many other sports fans do) in part by going back to sporting events that I was watching at the same time
I remember listening to the Blue Jays win the World Series on the radio on a drive from Montreal to Ottawa with my family when Joe Carter hit his famous home run in 1993. I remember watching Donavan Bailey win the gold metal for Canada in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. My brother and I watched the race in Austria where I was on my first long trip away from my parents. I was homesick and could not sleep so my brother stayed up with me and watched the race in German on Austrian TV. I remember watching Canada win the hockey gold metal in 2002 and then again in Vancouver in 2010 where I was living at the time. I remember my dad calling me right after the win in 2010, and thinking that he was the only person I really wanted to talk to at the time, because the people I had just watched the game with had not grown up with me and could not understand how much it meant to me. My father was the only person that could understand that when a game means that much to me, I feel relief and not happiness.
I am writing this three days after watching King James, a basketball god and the heir to Michael Jordan’s throne win his second NBA title. I am writing because my father now lives in Spain, and my parent’s arrived in Vancouver to visit my wife and I on Thursday evening at 5pm pacific time, 1 hour before the tip-off of the Spurs-Heat game seven. I write because for probably the first time since 1991, when Jordan won his first title, I watched the final game with my dad. I write because when the Heat and this generations’ Jordan won the title, I saw tears in my dad’s eyes. Those tears had nothing to do with basketball; those tears were there because like me, my dad remembered that twenty years had passed since the last time we watched a finals together. The last time we watched the NBA finals together, he was also with his mother. I realized that my dad had that same sports-life events calendar in his head. He also attached sporting events to family memories. I am writing this because I realized that our first NBA finals experience might have been as important for my dad as it was for me.
By: AJ Hirsch Allen – @ajhirschallen – firstname.lastname@example.org
No, I haven’t smacked my head and suddenly begun to follow basketball, or any other sport for that matter. Instead this is a guest post by my brother on what sounds like amazing game:
One of the best NCAA championship games in history was robbed of a fitting end by John Beilein’s inexplicable coaching decisions. Unfortunately, a game that featured the two greatest college basketball teams in the country, a multitude of Hollywood like pre-game and in-game stories, and some fantastic basketball, was decided by coaching. Louisville’s Rick Patino simply did his job; something Michigan’s John Beilein seemed completely incapable of in Thursday night’s game in Atlanta.
Patino’s decision to bench star player and the tournament’s leading scorer Russ Smith was controversial but his decision to put him back in the game only a minute into the second half shows he knew what he was doing. Patino benched Smith to get a point across: Smith had been playing selfishly. His decision was yet more evidence of Patino’s well-documented close and quirky relationship with his star player. Patino understood how important Smith had been in the teams run through the tournament and how important he would ultimately be in determining the outcome of the championship game.
Patino’s combination of superb coaching and strong relationships with his players were on display throughout the tournament; no more so than when key swingman Kevin Ware went down with what has been described as one of the most gruesome on court basketball injuries ever in Louisville’s elite eight matchup with Duke. The love Patino showed for his players and vice versa following the incident, and the way he used the horrific event to motivate his team to a final four appearance, were evidence of his coaching brilliance.
While Patino’s fiery and fantastic coaching continued through the finals; Michigan’s cheif strategist succumbed to new depths of ineptitude with a series of unbelievable decisions that in my mind add up to the most horrifically coached game in college basketball history.
There were signs of Beilein’s coaching blunders early in the first half but the coaching worsened as the stakes increased. Late in the first half Beilein was forced to put Spike Albrecht in the game following an early second foul on consensus national player of the year award winner, Trey Burke. Albrecht, listed at 5’11 (more likely closer to 5’7), a Rudy Ruettiger look alike who averaged 1.8 points per game during the year, caught fire and put on a first half performance for the ages with 17 points on 6 of 7 shooting.
Obviously, Beilein cannot be faulted for leaving Albrecht in a little past the point at which he had cooled down. But Beilein decided to leave him in for almost an entire half after he had cooled down. Albrecht, a player who had averaged 7.8 minutes per game during the year, was forced to play 28 minutes against one of the best backcourts in the country. Even after Albrecht failed to score in the first 10 minutes of the second half and began to turn over the ball, Beilein stuck with him. Even though there were Michigan starters and bench players who had gotten Michigan to that point and who were waiting on the bench for their chance to shine, Beilein stuck with Albrecht. Albrecht played 15 of 20 minutes in the second half and failed to score while turning the ball over twice.
Beilein’s coaching decisions with respect to Albrecht pale in comparison to the decisions he made concerning player of the tournament candidate Mitch McGary. McGary, a freshman sensation picked up his third foul 6 minutes and 10 seconds into the second half and was swiftly taken out of the game by Beilein. McGary inexplicably re-entered the game about a minute later, only to pick up his fourth foul and exit again. The questionable decision to put McGary back in the game was compounded when, during his subsequent 5-minute absence from the game, four of Louisville’s best players, Smith, Hancock, Dieng and Blackshear remained in the game while in similar foul trouble. To fully appreciate the importance of this absurd decision one has to understand that Michigan only has one scoring big-man; they play four guards and a center (McGary). The only reason Michigan was anywhere close to a national title was the outstanding and improved play of McGary. While McGary was out of the line-up on the bench, and Louisville’s foul troubled stars continued to play, Louisville turned a tie game into a 7-point lead; a lead that ultimately proved insurmountable.
Unfortunately, personnel decisions were only the tip of the iceberg. The play-to-play, x’s and o’s decisions made by Beilein will go down in history for their complete lack of rationality. Beilein seemed unaware of the concept of an offence-defense substitution. After keeping McGary out of the game for the majority of crunch time, when he finally substituted his star offensive center into the game, it was after a Michigan made free-throw, just in time to play some defense and potentially pick up that fifth foul.
As Michigan began to fall behind the coaching decisions only worsened. Beilein seemed unaware that Louisville was not in the bonus with 50 seconds left, down four points. Michigan allowed eleven seconds to run of the clock before fouling Gorgui Dieng, a 65% free-throw shooter. Michigan seemed to think they had made an ingenious coaching decision only to realize Louisville was not in the bonus and rather than Dieng having to make high pressure free-throws, Louisville simply had to take the ball out of bounds before wasting another ten seconds.
With the game slipping away, anything resembling an organized play from Michigan was completely absent. Trey Burke jogged up the court dribbling the ball incessantly with precious few seconds on the clock making sure to throw in three or four fancy crossovers before heaving up a 28 foot three-pointer (the same shot that had bailed Michigan out of poor play calling at the ended of the elite-eight Kansas game). Unfortunately, this time Michigan was down more then three points and the pixy dust that Trey Burke had used to counter his coach’s complete lack of coaching had run out.
In the end, while its unclear whether the better team won, the better coach definitely did, leaving one to imagine what it would have been like to see these two amazing teams coached by equals.
By: AJ Hirsch Allen – @ajhirschallen – email@example.com
To whom it may concern,
Please find below, as discussed, a short piece that represents a happy medium between my girlfriend, Katherine Gittins’, and my views on Montreal’s student protests. I would be curious about yours as well (see comments section below).
Quebec’s student protests were focused on a minor cause and involved poor tactics. The perseverance and passion of Quebec’s students coupled with the heavy handed mistakes of Quebec’s government are, however, gradually prompting recognition of the links between their cause and a broader societal malaise.
I originally thought the “strike” was ridiculous and in many ways continue to view it as irrational. It is hard to reconcile the contradictions of a strike which almost exclusively harms those striking. For example, most students had already paid tuition and will likely have to retake the semester. Their protests have have been poorly targeted and have alienated much of Montreal and Quebec’s populations. Why disrupt a surprisingly effective metro system that is good for the environment and the poor?
The students’ cause, a tuition hike that would maintain Quebec’s universities as Canada’s most accessible, was also low on my lists of political priorities in the face of countless provincial and federal offenses and cuts. Financial and tax reform could provide a more satisfactory response to the tuition increase and would partially fund education on a need or income basis rather than flat subsidies that instead end up subsidizing the rich’s education.
Nevertheless, in spite of their flawed strike, the students have organized a surprisingly powerful and effective protest. They have attracted an incredible amount of domestic and international attention and maintained the media’s focus for months.
From the outset, the protesters mastered the use of symbols. They first cut Montreal’s entire supply of red felt into small squares (their student debt being “carrement dans le rouge”) and are now identified with the color itself. Even nudity is now associated with the protests after thousands flooded the streets wearing only the emperor’s new clothes.
Montreal is the perfect hotbed for such symbolism and such a movement. It rivals Boston for the highest number of students per capita in North America and is the largest city in a province whose latin warmth and progressive activism have regularly resulted in the largest protests in Canada. This is in contrast with the rest of Canada’s political apathy and conservatism.
The Quebec government’s response has added fuel to the protesters’ rage and has resulted in wider support for their cause. La loi 78 forbids spontaneous assembly but has been impossible to enforce. It has been widely condemned for violating Canada and Quebec’s Charters and international human rights law by Quebecois lawyers, Amnesty International and the UN, among others. Mass arrests and cases of police brutality also echo other government overreach in Canada (e.g. G20) and abroad (Egypt, Occupy Wall Street, etc.).
As the government’s responsehas become more draconian and offensive, the strike has morphed from a controversial protest into an increasingly nuanced and broad movement. This is exemplified most recently by cinematic scenes of “casseroles”, individuals and groups walking Montreal’s streets wooden spoon and pan in hand, expressing their views through an almost instantly universally recognized sound.
The power of this movement is that it captures the zeitgeist of the Arab Spring and the 99%, a philosophical parallel made concrete by recent protests of support by red badge-wearing New Yorkers. And it does so in one of the most politically active regions in North America. Quebecers of all generations and backgrounds are seeing their own discontent with the erosion of social welfare systems, universal healthcare and corporate controlled and corrupt governments, reflected in the suppression of the often much more radical students. Whether this movement will result in positive political change or simply a return to divisiveness and separatism remains up to both the protesters and the police, the government and the people.
Kat’s mom responded with the following insightful comments from France:
On 2012-06-03, at 5:49 AM, Francine Lecompte Gittins wrote:
Views from the Europeans are that the point is no longer merely to express disagreement with the government’s decision to increase the tuition fees, but also to resist an unprecedented authoritarian crackdown.
The European’s perception is behind the ruling class’s frenzied response to the strike is their recognition that it represents an implicit challenge to the austerity measures being implemented by governments in the spectrum of politics. Europeans fear that the student strike could become the catalyst for a mass movement of the working class against their drive to place the full burden of the capitalist crisis on working people.
In fact, Europe relates Quebec’s malaise to the Greek and Italian governments which were unable to impose the staggering cuts demanded by international financial markets because of popular opposition. The events in Quebec exemplify this global process. Capitalist governments in the world are responding with state repression to mounting resistance to their class-war program of wage and jobs cuts and the dismantling of social services. They are trampling on democratic rights and criminalizing working-class opposition.
The two vital conclusions being drawn: the working class faces a struggle for political power against the capitalist social order and the defence of democratic rights requires the revolutionary mobilization of the working class.
It is understood that the rising popular movement in Quebec demands not only quality education but a different vision for society … lets hope that a happy medium can be found …
Despite the inherent difficulties it is interesting to live through these tumultuous times.
…or at least that’s Venkatesh Rao’s argument in his recent Forbes.com article, “The Rise of Developeronomics.” His article combines 3 memes that I believe are transforming our economy. They will move the focus of commerce to software and to the individuals that create it.
Rao’s opening paragraphs capture the first meme well, describing the hard time we’re all having with where to put our money these days. He contrasts the current situation with the theory in evolutionary biology that reciprocal altruism and cooperation first appeared as a solution to the food storage problem. Sharing the food you couldn’t eat was a necessity and “the best bank for your excess capital was your friend’s stomach.”
“Unless you are a professional investor (and probably even then), places to store surplus capital today where it will even be safe and/or not depreciate too fast (let alone generate a return) are getting incredibly hard to find. The stock market seems to be a secular, bearish bloodbath. Volatility and unexpected temporary rallies are making short games dangerous. Even staying liquid in dollars seems to have its dangers, due to threats of devaluation and unfamiliar new terms like “quantitative easing” which us average investors are starting to hear for the first time. The Euro isn’t exactly a great alternative at the moment. Investing in gold and similar commodities seems to require a somewhat apocalyptic mindset and decisions about whether or not you want access to the actual metal if things go to hell (which isn’t to say such a mindset isn’t justified at the moment).”
Rao’s solution? Invest in software developers. Every industry needs them and even when the current bubble bursts there’ll still be far more demand than supply. This is how he describes the current developer frenzy:
“In the midst of a thoroughly gloomy labor market, the genuine desperation you see in the software talent wars is almost surreal. Almost every day, I see big companies, little companies, entrepreneurs, wannabe entrepreneurs and even venture capitalists join in the hunt.”
This description is similar to an Economist magazine summary of “The new tech bubble“:
“some start-up firms are dangling multi-million-dollar pay packages in order to tempt star programmers from Google, Microsoft and other big companies. They are chasing scarce skills when the broader technology industry is on a roll.”
I agree with Rao’s description of the current situation as somewhat fantastical but it’s not surprising if one plots the increasing importance of information technology and more specifically software over the past couple decades.
Another Economist article entitled “Another digital gold rush” describes three forces that propel the software revolution forward “First, technological progress has made it much simpler and cheaper to try out myriad bright ideas for online businesses. Second, a new breed of rich investors has been keen to back those ideas. And, third, this boom is much more global than the last one; Chinese internet firms are causing as much excitement as American ones.”
Yet the Economist also characterizes some descriptions of the current upheaval as over the top: “Some excited people have likened this technological upheaval to the Cambrian explosion 500m years ago, when evolution on Earth speeded up in part because the cell had been perfected and standardized.”
The internet or software revolution, at times compared to a Khunian paradigm shift and at a minimum the most significant recent development in human technology, necessitates a rethinking of some economic principles.
In his description of the new role of developers in our economy Rao explicitly dehumanizes and objectifies developers, describing them as the objects of an all-encompassing capitalist game that we are all playing whether we want to or not. One interesting dynamic that he mentions, for instance, is the tendency for software to benefit extremes in company size. Not only are the Googles and Facebooks of the world capitalizing on the increased importance of 1s and 0s but software has also been the primary engine behind the massive decrease in the amount of capital and time required to create a startup, even in other industries. This has resulted in an attraction to the poles where the best entrepreneurs and developers succumb either to the comforts of “gilded-cage workplaces full of gourmet buffets, high-tech nap pods, and daycare facilities” or the freedom and unrealistically slim chance of a windfall at a startup. This latter career choice has become doubly attractive due to the totally overblown publicizing of the relatively few individuals who have gotten rich quick (while I’ve seen many stats on how few startups make it, I’d be curious if proportionally more are making it big since software has done so).
Eric Ries’ book, “The Lean Startup“, perhaps the most popular meme in recent tech startup lore, describes the myriad benefits of small teams focused on fast moving software projects requiring little capital and with massive potential. Applying Toyota’s “lean” methodology to product development including its focus on constant cyclical validation, constant QA and a culture of transparency, this movement has brought significant attention and benefits while reinforcing unrealistic hopes.
One symptom of software’s overwhelming influence about which I was unaware is how early talent war’s are beginning. Apple, Google and others are encouraging students as early as middle school to adopt their technology, doing their best to breed a new generation of iOS or python coders. Just as Google’s investment in Python (one of the three languages the company uses for its work) was in part a strategic bet on the growing talent pool in this under-valued language, so too, my developer-friend Matthew Huebert informs me, PowerSet mined Ruby for young talent.
I think Rao is wrong when he says that this is creating a have/have-not talent divide “that will soon surpass the infamous geopolitical North/South divide in importance” yet he is dead on in noting that it is unprecedented and significant.
Rao cites three reasons for the talent wars:
1. “software development talent is incredibly hard to assess upfront, and its value can be highly situation-dependent, which means intake volumes and intra-industry churn have to be high (since a potential star may not flourish in your environment).”
2. software skills can afford social and economic mobility – the former fad, in my opinion may not endure as long as the latter. Nevertheless I agree with Rao’s statement that “Stock options are simply not as effective in limiting mobility as the power of Russian nobility to whip serfs into immobility once was.”
3. the most important and interesting reason is the third meme I went to discuss, the 10x phenomenon, about which I’d like to learn and write more later. The concept of the 10x engineer is attributed to the now octogenarian software engineer Frederick Brooks, who described why a good programmer is an order of magnitude more productive than an average one (see here for a longer discussion http://www.quora.com/Is-the-concept-of-a-10x-engineer-valid/answer/Tom-Park).
More specifically, Rao explains why the 10x phenomenon applies to software developers in a way that it doesn’t other engineers:
“Other industries turn x’ers into 10xers primarily using software tools (a mechanical engineer equipped with CAD software suddenly becomes a 10x mechanical engineer)… [Yet] the 10x phenomenon, and the [software] industry’s reliance on it, doesn’t seem to get engineered or managed away because the 10xers keep inventing new tools for themselves to stay 10xers.”
While I still don’t completely understand this particularly allegorically interesting paragraph:
“As Alan Kay, a major pioneer of today’s software-eaten planet, pointed out recently, the Internet doesn’t have stop, shut down, or rewind buttons. Once it was turned on, history was essentially rebooted. Software began eating away at the pre-software layers of civilization on the planet, and depositing software-infused layers instead.”
I do find compelling questions about how the internet is changing history. There is no question, software and the internet are dramatically changing how history is being re-written resulting in the medium having a perhaps unparalleled effect on our stories. This relates to what Matt describes as his “random thought” that “software is a very “mental” thing… it changes how we manipulate & categorize the world at a deep level in our minds.” Like him, I too am “very curious about the psychological and sociological consequences of the software revolution.
I do not agree with “David Kirpatrick’s now famous line that every company is now a software company” and think Rao returns to hyperbole when he suggests we will replace the BC/AD distinction with BI/AI (Before Internet/After Internet). Yet I do think this hyperbole is representative of sentiment within the software industry and is perhaps indicative of a problem with its over-exaggerated sense of self-importance. While this narcissism has so far done the software industry well, I worry that it is perhaps the clearest harbinger of a bubble.
The Economist tempers these fears though with the reasonable statement that “irrational exuberance rarely gives way to rational scepticism quickly. So some bets on start-ups now will pay off.” Here the magazine echoes the National Venture Capital Association’s claim that today’s tech firms have robust business models and healthy revenues. It suggests this plus the fact that they are trading at price-earnings multiples “nowhere near as frothy as they were before the last bubble burst in 2000″ should limit excesses in valuing private firms.
I remain a sceptic. I think a middle term bubble is foreseeable and favour the Economist’s portrayal “of signs of irrational exuberance among some investors.” Instead of the indefinite exponential rise or a short term crash foreseen by many I think the software revolution will likely be experienced as a bumpy economic progression for the better.
Matt recently responded to my thoughts on this issue with the following:
“Frothy excitement and narcissistic personalities may be positive signs of a short-term bubble, but are they reason to suspect that the underlying change is weak? Tech is hard for outsiders to understand; I would imagine it difficult for people who do not understand tech deeply to be able to see how much change is coming.”
Spurred in the short term by mobile, social, cloud, platform, apps and data driven advances, we may see significant efficiencies across markets and in societal, environmental and international developmental work.
From new forms of financing, think angel networks and impact investing, to dramatic new uses for internet-based technologies, the latest tech bubble and software more generally will increase standards of living. One brilliant example is Ushahidi’s free, crowd and open sourced software (LGPL) for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping. Other good uses of technology closer to home include open data initiatives from Montreal Ouvert to Open North and Buzz Data to Vote Compass increasing transparency and accountability through technology.
In sum I see software as the latest significant social evolution – a technology that like glasses or the engine have sped human progress and given us new powers. Our current bubble is ironically a sign of software’s long term importance and is the best support for developeronomics.
The abbreviated story of my friend and colleague, Ilan, wrongfully imprisoned in Egypt for allegedly spying for Israel
The original article, published in the Washington Post, can be accessed here.
In Egypt, jailed but not broken
By Ilan Grapel, Published: January 1
Five months in an Egyptian jail gives a person a lot of time to think. When you are not pacing or trying to catch an hour of afternoon sun through the barred window, there are thoughts of home, family, the freedoms Westerners take for granted, what exactly got you into the mess and even why you came to the country that locked you up. Two months after my release, as I watch news of the Egyptian military’s violent suppression of protestsand raids on nongovernmental organizations, I still think of my first hours of arrest, when I was handcuffed and blindfolded.
When I went to Egypt to spend the summer working at a nongovernmental organization that provides legal assistance to asylum seekers from Sudan and Iraq, I was no stranger to the Middle East. I had studied Arabic in Cairo and spent more than two years in the Israel Defense Forces. I hoped that my summer would prove that my Zionist ideals could coexist with support for the right of human migration and sanctuary. I also hoped to convince the Arabs I met that my Zionism did not have to be antithetical to their interests and that we could work together for peace.
But in post-revolutionary Egypt, my attempts to educate and interact with the local population led to my arrest, to solitary confinement and eventually to the threat of five simultaneous life imprisonments for “espionage” and “incitement.”
On previous visits, the friendships I developed overpowered the omnipresent anti-Israel propaganda of the Arab world. Some former adherents of the Muslim Brotherhood actually wished me luck when I left to do reserve duty in Israel. Most Egyptians I met and chatted with over coffee ended our conversations by admitting to holding misconceptions about Israelis. This reinforced my hopes for common ground.
So during the summer I emphasized my Israeli background, even when I entered Egypt as an American. I identified as a Zionist Israeli to all of my Egyptian friends, taught them Hebrew and showed them Israeli movies. In return, I received lessons in Arabic, Islam and Egyptian culture.
Some who do not know me considered my actions peculiar or harmful. But that condemnation only underscores a particular abyss into which the Middle East conflict has descended since once-influential Zionists and Egyptians considered cooperation to be beneficial, as did the early Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann and Dawood Barakat, the former editor of the Egyptian daily al-Ahram.
On June 12, two dozen state security officials barged into my hostel room, handcuffed and blindfolded me, and transported me to their general prosecutor.
People ask, “Were you scared?” I was terrified and confused. Over time I also became angry and lonely. The initial 14 days were the “best” part of my imprisonment because there was at least human interaction. The prosecutor and I bantered about politics, religion and the Middle East conflict. The conversations were jovial, mostly innocuous, save for some random accusations: “Security reports inform us that you were smuggling weapons from Libyan revolutionaries into Egypt,” or my favorite — but perhaps irrelevant — charge: “Ilan, you used your seductive powers to recruit Egyptian women and that is a crime.”
Was my trip reckless or “wrong”? No. Despite the peril, the U.S. government sends Peace Corps volunteers to volatile regions because of the benefit of grass-roots diplomacy. Hasbara, the Hebrew term that refers to efforts to explain the Israeli viewpoint, has much to gain from such a strategy, given the pernicious myths about Israel and Jews prevalent in much of the Arab world.
My hasbara provided a viewpoint that changed the mentalities of former Muslim Brotherhood members, the prosecutor and my guards, whose last words were “Shalom, we hope you forgive us.” Israelis and Arabs can continue to maintain the status quo of mutual avoidance or they can dare to coexist. To those who wrongly held me, I say simply, I forgive you.
The writer is a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen and law student at Emory University. He was held in Egypt from June to late October on charges of spying.
I have been interested in the role of Google, Facebook and Twitter, among others, in exacerbating the echo chamber effect for some time. Every day I read more news stories linked from my Facebook and Twitter feeds and less linked directly from mainstream news sources (NYTimes, GlobeandMail, etc.). The algorithms that Google and Facebook use to tailor my results profoundly affect my perspective on the world yet I know very little about how they work.
I was confronted by one particularly surprising example of the effects of these algorithms when a friend, who was logged into Google, searched simply for Toronto, and one of my tweets mentioning the city was amongst the first hits. Google took into consideration that I was on his contact list and dramatically modified his search results.
There are a multitude of incredible TED talks but I found this widely circulated talk particularly thought-provoking as it raises a number of fundamental problems facing those of us whose news sources are almost exclusively online and dominated by various forms of social media and web searches. In this talk, Eli Pariser describes how every time we click our mouse we are facilitating the shaping of our media-sphere by Google or Facebook through invisible algorithmic editing.
Recently their manipulation has been trending in the wrong direction. As Pariser points out, we are seeing more of what we want to see, more of what’s easy to take in and less of whats good for us, less material that is difficult or challenging. I agree with Pariser’s conclusion that search engines and social media need to code journalistic integrity and civic responsibility into their algorithms, returning more control to us over our perspective, even if this means less personalization.
Interesting responses from China to the death of Steve Jobs.
“One of the most popular postings on Mr. Jobs’s legacy came from scholar Wu Jiaxiang.
‘If Apple is a fruit on a tree, its branches are the freedom to think and create, and its root is constitutional democracy,’ he wrote. ‘An authoritarian nation may be able to build huge projects collectively but will never be able to produce science and technology giants.’
On that, Wang Ran, founder of a boutique investment bank eCapital, added, “And its trunk is a society whose legal system acknowledges the value of intellectual property.’”