Tag Archives: tech


I have a Kindle. I’ve spent a lot of time saying this sheepishly — it’s Amazon, it’s proprietary, DRM is bad, etc, etc. It was a very thoughtful gift from my parents, taking into account things like my travel schedule, preference for traveling lighter, love of reading, and small apartment.

I wanted to share some observations from my experience owning a Kindle.

I don’t like to read for school on it. I really markup the papers I read for school, underlining things, notes in the margins, flipping back and forth between pages, cross-referencing things. (Note: My greatest grad school investment has probably been getting a solid printer.) The Kindle doesn’t work well for this.

I don’t like buying ebooks. I don’t inherently mind buying ebooks in general. I own some. I don’t want to pay $15 for a DRMed ebook though. It feels too much like renting a book. I find organizing ebooks tedious, while organizing my physical books joyful. I’ve bought ebooks from non-Amazon sites, taken advantage of Tor.com’s Book of the Month Club, and some other things.

I love borrowing ebooks. Borrowing ebooks from the library is the absolute best. I love it. It’s convenient, I have a huge range of books I can read, and between my phone and the Kindle, I can get one or add it to a To Read queue the moment I think about it, rather than forgetting on-and-off for months.

It connects me to my parents. Because the Kindle is connected to my parents’ Amazon account, I get to see what they read. It’s like a little social network with just my family. We have similar tastes in books (for some part anyway), and it’s cool to also get some recommendations when I’m in a rush or on the train and don’t have time to actually ask for them.

In a lot of ways my Kindle is an extension of the public library system. It allows me to connect with it (and the books I want to read). It feels very scifi to me — having a personal device that connects to this seemingly endless public store of cool stuff.


We, in the US, are starting to  talk more widely about the dangers posed by Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This is great!

IoT devices are by and large terrible. They’re truly horrendous. They can be nice in a lot of ways — I enjoy controlling the music in the kitchen from my phone — but they normalize the situation where we trade our privacy and data for convenience. This is not just true of obvious surveillance technologies, though it is especially true for them and I want to talk about those.

Most of the conversation I have seen about surveillance IoT — like Ring doorbells and home surveillance devices — is focused on the insecurity of it. Major news outlets covered when a girl was harassed by someone hacking into a Ring camera her parents installed into her bedroom.

Ignoring how creepy it is that her parents decided to install a camera in her bedroom, this story is disturbing because it’s about someone violating the sanctity of what should be a safe space for a family and, moreso, for a child. This is posed as a security issue affecting an individual.

We need to shift the conversation in two ways:

1) No amount of security will make these kind of devices safe;


2) This is not just about the individual — these types of surveillance put communities at risk.

I think the latter is the more important point, and something I want to focus on. The conversation should not just be about the security risk of someone breaking into my home surveillance. Instead it should focus on how, for example, surveillance systems are putting your neighbors at risk, especially as these systems are being co-opted by law enforcement and faulty facial recognition tech is being used.

We should talk about how victims of domestic violence and stalking can be monitored and tracked more easily by their abusers.

I believe strongly that the people making decisions, designing, building, and selling these technologies have a responsibility to the people who purchase them as well as those who come in contact with them. I view broadening the conversations beyond the “unhackability” of devices as a necessary next step.




Subtitled: All My Heroes Are Women Because I Can’t Trust Men Not to Rape

I was at LibrePlanet in March when I realized that all my free software heroes are women. I am lucky among people from traditionally marginalized demographics: the people I respect the most in my field all look kind of like me.

A number of people I know are currently coping with the news that one of their heroes is a rapist.(1) Their reaction has, in its own way, been inspiring. They aren’t hiding from it, denying it or turning victims into liars as people have done countless other instances of sexual assault around the world. They aren’t abandoning the fight for digital rights, nor are they trying to separate the works from the individual, using philosophical and technological success as an excuse for horrible, horrible actions. My community is facing something difficult head on, accepting a harsh truth.

Heroes are important to us because we can share them with others. They inspire us and drive us and help us understand who we are, how we fit into our causes, how our causes fit into the world. My heroes give me hope that the world can be a better place and that I can be a part of it.

The world of digital rights has lost a hero. We have lost a hero who showed us he never deserved to be one in the first place.

We need new heroes. We need better heroes. We need heroes we can trust people who are good as well as driven and passionate and wildly unrepentant in their works. We need people whose ideals extend beyond their single cause, who truly live their values.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t want to be heroes. It takes a certain amount of egotism to not only share your own work, but to declare that your philosophies are so correct that everyone else should adopt them as well. Especially in front of a room of people (or the internet). However, the requirement of ego also puts some in positions where they believe they are entitled to things–including the bodies of others, regardless of consent.

This is true across disciplines–musical, academic, political, literary, business–my friends continue to find themselves disappointed when they learn that their heroes are rapists. These are men who use power, coercion, and even violence, taking advantage of their status and the respect given to them to violate, harm, and damage others in pursuit of their own personal and sexual satisfaction.

My heroes don’t do that.

Yes, I do know that women rape. I know that women rape women, and women rape men. I know that women take advantage of their positions. I know that men suffer as well. But, that does not in any way make my point less relevant. Significantly more men do this than women. As an absolute value and per capita.

I beseech my community to find new heroes. Find better heroes. Find people you can trust in not just their single cause, but their whole selves. Find people who are good. Find people you can be proud to admire. Find people who inspire you and who you can use to inspire others. If our heroes fail us, we need to let them go and replace them with people who deserve us.

Admire the strength of character that drove Chelsea Manning’s selfless actions. Acquaint yourself with the activism and powerful language of Cade Crockford and Evan Greer. Meet Shari Steele and her decades of devotion to extending our human rights to digital spaces. Look at the work and advocacy of Deb Bryant, Cindy Cohn, Sue Gardner, Leslie Hawthorn, Deb Nicholson, Allison Randall, Rainey Reitman, Karen Sandler, Runa Sandvik, Megan Smith, Parisa Tabriz, Yan Zhu, Marina Zhurakhinskaya, and so so so many others I can’t name them all.(2)

Let’s support their works and voices. Let’s be inspired.

(1) At first I thought I should say “allegedly” or “has been accused of” or something, but then decided against it. Take my claims at whatever value you want.

(2) Okay, here are some really awesome men too: Chris Webber, Matthew Garrett, MC McGrath, Ned Batchelder, Stefano Zacchiroli


I was asked: I’m a little confused about what you mean, are you saying you can only feel comfortable looking up to women because you can’t trust men?  

I thought about this for a while and realized that while there are men I look up to–John Darnielle and Chad Matheny are two of my music idols–I don’t feel as though I, in good conscious, tell anyone to look at a man as a hero unless I am actually confident in them not being rapists or abusers–which translates to “Unless I actually know and trust them.”