Encryption and Privacy – What I’m Using

Texture

[Originally posted on Medium] Can you imagine if an email program shipped today without a “reply all” feature? Or a browser shipping without tabs? It’s a crazy prospect because those things are used so frequently used, to not include them would ensure instant death for this new software. I’ve often complained publicly that privacy and encryption tools aren’t thought to be just as crucial, and expressed some annoyance that developers don’t consider them mandatory. Afterall, if these options were baked in and simple people would use them all the time, right? Or at least much more frequently. Recently a friend threw this back at me and asked if we, all of us, are not to blame for these things having a low priority because we neither use them regularly nor demand their inclusion in our software?

I initially objected to this idea, but the more I thought about it the more it rang true. Saying “it’s too hard to use so I’m not going to bother using it” doesn’t provide any motivation for people to make it easier because hell, people aren’t using them anyway. On the other hand if people used these things regularly and “how hard it is” became a common gripe, then making it easier would suddenly be very attractive. Looking at it this way, maybe we really do only have ourselves to blame that these technologies and assurances aren’t ubiqitus. And when faced with a realization like that, I always feel like I have to at least try.

So I spent a few days looking back over the tools I’ve used in the past, the tools I want to use now and bringing things a bit more up to date. There’s always a balance between convenience and usefulness because I know myself and if something is a pain in the ass I’ll eventually stop using it. So one of my main criteria here is that is has to be easy to use, even if there are a few hoops to jump through in the initial set up stages. I’m a Mac users and do a lot of my work in the browser so I have a preference for tools that “just work.”

As I have these conversations with others from time to time, I thought I’d share what I found and what I implemented so that perhaps others might find something useful in the mix. I don’t pretend to be an expert here and welcome suggestions for improvement. (more…)

Fight yourself, you always win

Me, Myself, and this blog — Sean Bonner @ 3:53 pm

textures

Everyday I tell myself to write and everyday I don’t. Everyday I tell myself to take photos and everyday I don’t.

That’s not entirely true but it feels that way, and I take more photos than I write words but I obsess about writing more than taking photos so there is that. For weeks, months I’ve been in this back and forth thinking about writing and having sparks of ideas but because I can’t see the full idea I give up before I start which I know is the 100% wrong thing to do and I think about that and then I do it anyway. I’m in this particularly awesome headspace of thinking that my work has to be brilliant (not that it should be, but that is obviously is) but at the exact same time thinking it’s complete crap. I don’t even know how to classify that particular brand of crazy but it’s a near perfect balance of massively over inflated ego and crushingly low self esteem. Which results in inaction. And either way, I’m right.

And here I am writing about that – again – rather than the things I want to be writing about. I’d guess that a batch analysis of the archives of this blog, all 15 years of it, would result in far more posts about struggling with writing than actual writing. Blogging about blogging. Writing about writing. It’s useless, and yet I keep doing it. Back in January I told myself that once and for all I was going to put all this behind me and write a book this year. I didn’t restrict myself to what, because while I’m horrified and clueless about writing fiction it’s what I really want to do. But I know how lost I get when I try, and given that I have actually completed some of the non fiction writing I set out to do I wanted to leave that door open to myself. But here we are at the end of June and I have, maybe… 35 words written? If even? I don’t want to count. And they aren’t even complete sentences. Just words.

Part of it is indecision. I realized that this year – it’s something that I fight through it other parts of my life as well but really holds up my writing. I don’t know if I’m making the right choice about what to write. This idea is good, but I like this idea too, but that other idea could be interesting – but would anyone actually want to read that kind of a story? Who cares what other people think, I’m gonna write what I want to read! Which could be this idea, or that one. Or maybe this other one could work too. Well shit, I can’t write about all these things at once, how do I even begin. And then I don’t.

Deadlines tend to work for me. When someone contacts me for a piece in a magazine or whatever and says they need X by next Friday then I nail that no problem. I think if I had an editor screaming at me to finish something I’d probably finish it. Or maybe better yet a group of friends (a writing group?) that were expecting to see something, and I was expecting to see something from them at the same time. I think that would motivate me. Or would it? I don’t even really know. But 20 minutes ago I told myself I had to finish a blog post before I left to go pick up Ripley from preschool, so there you have it.

Introductions: The Art of Curating People

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(I initially published this piece on Medium)

Over the years I’ve often found myself in the situation of knowing two awesome people who didn’t previously know each other, and been lucky enough to put them together and see even more awesomeness result from that new connection. I’ve done this enough that from time to time people have referred to me as a hub that connects a bunch of spokes. I blame my short attention span on the fact that I’ve got a foothold in a number of different networks – technology, art, music, etc… – which helps out here as well. To skip to the point, I like connecting people.

Now I should point out immediately that I don’t just connect anyone and everyone, and this is where the “art of curation” business comes in. I could be mistaken, but I think I have a pretty good sense of what people are doing and where they might click and I take considerable care on who and how I introduce people. You’ll see why that is important in a moment. So of course, in thinking about introducing people, how you do that becomes ultimately important. In this, as with many other things in my life, I think about what I like, what works for me, and then try to apply that outward.

What I like: When someone I know and trust connects me directly to someone else they know and trust, gives context for the introduction (who each of us are, how they know us, why we’re being introducted), and then gets out of the way so that I and my (potential) new friend can chat and see what might come from this. I feel like this is the most natural way to meet someone and interact with them, with the least pressure. The best introductions that have ever been presented to me have happened this way.

What I don’t like: When someone I know puts me in touch with someone, or asks to put me in touch with someone, and then tries to play middle man on all interactions, almost holding the contact for this other person at arms length. Right away I feel pressure to say the right thing, or to jump through someone elses hoops and it becomes very difficult very quickly to interact with this new person. I’ve made a few freinds from this, but more often than not talks never go beyond the initial moderated chats.

What I really, really, really, really don’t like: When someone I may or may not know connects me with someone they may or may not know, gives no context for the introduction and then acts like the three of us are instantly best friends, business partners and possibly lovers. This is awkward on every level, and there’s really no way anyone can walk away from it feeling at all positive. (more…)

Where is my mind

Links & Fun,Networks, Theory, and the Web — Sean Bonner @ 12:59 pm

I’ve been low on motivation and inspiration recently and my creative output has been weak. This is a short term lull I assure you, and I assure me. In the meantime, this is where I spend my time on the internets. as me:

I have a mailing list called Just Another Crowd that I send emails out to from time to time, mostly collected links that I may have posted elsewhere along with some commentary, occasionally more commentary than links. I’m trying to use Path more often too, but that’s really for friends only.

I’m also “behind the curtain” so to speak to various levels on a bunch of projects which you may or may not find interesting:

I have a few other projects that aren’t quite ready for primetime yet. Once they are, I’ll post ‘em.

Sustenance

Me, Myself, and this blog — Sean Bonner @ 12:30 pm

bent

A month ago I took an unannounced, largely unplanned vacation with the family to Caribbean Costa Rica. We were there for a week and had less internet connectivity than we expected, but that was made up for by the over abundance of stomach viruses we picked up. I read a lot of books and wrote down a lot of notes. Getting in the place back to LA a week later I felt invigorated and wondered how I would get anything else done with all the writing I planned to do. I was exploding with ideas, and happy to no longer be exploding in other areas.

That was 3 weeks ago.

I’ve barely written a word.

I feel overwhelmed.

Everytime I sit down thinking now I’m going to write some of this stuff I realize I have other deadlines, something else that someone is waiting on, an ever growing todo list.. Then I get stressed and give up on being creative and try to get something else done. Which I actually do, things are getting done, just not the writing I was so excited to get started on several weeks ago. My notebook is sitting there untouched, scowling at me.

I haven’t been entirely unproductive though. I’ve been playing with datamoshing, databending, glitch inducing, pixlesorting, photosounding and a bunch of other weird graphic beautiful errors. Some of that will find it’s way into cmhhtd stuff, so I am glad to have that outlet and looking forward to what may come from it.

I know I juggle a lot of things, and it’s hard to fit everything in. This one is just annoys me because for the first time in a long time the thing I really want to do I can’t. Or rather, I can’t figure out how to. Just yet anyway. I’m confident that I’ll eventually figure out where all the puzzle pieces go, how they fit together. But in the meantime it sucks. I’ve mentioned starting a writing group to a few people – largely in passing, not in any real actionable invitational way – kind of hoping something like that would guilt me into getting something done, but I don’t even know how something like that would work.

I don’t know why I’m even writing this blog post honestly, I just wanted to see some words fill up the screen to make myself feel better before I go back and fold some laundry and figure out how to hang those sun sails outside to block the early morning rays from being converted into laser heat death by our kitchen window.

I’m holding on

Me, Myself, and this blog,Music — Sean Bonner @ 2:30 pm

I often say that music has been and continues to be incredibly important to me. All of the crucial moments in my life have a soundtrack, either what I was listening to before they happened or what I turned to after the fact to help me get through them. Music has been my rock and my salvation. It’s the only thing I could always count on – no matter what. Lots of people say music is important to them, but without a doubt music changed my life. No, fuck that – music saved my life. I can say with full assurance that if it weren’t for discovering a handful of bands in my early teenage years I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I might not even be here today.

I’d always liked music and as early as 3rd grade I can remember recording songs off the radio with my tape deck so that I could listen to them repeatedly, though admittedly those songs were probably just catchy musically but lacking in substance. Getting a “Weird Al” Yankovich tape for my birthday one year got me listening to lyrics. Before that I think I’d just thought of vocals as another musical element, but trying to understand all the references and jokes “Weird Al” was making made me realize the depth of the content that could be there as well. Discovering Run DMC, Beastie Boys and Public Enemy would take that interest in lyrical content to an entirely new level.

But there was still a disconnect in that those people were rock stars. What they were talking about was obviously important to them, which made it interesting to me. And educational on many levels. But there was always a bit of voyeurism because I could tell from their lyrics and photos that these people were from totally different worlds that I was, and lived very different lives. I didn’t know anything about parties or girls or global politics. I moved around a lot so I didn’t have many close friends and my family didn’t have a lot of money. And as a kid too young to get a job, I had even less. Which is probably why discovering punk rock a few years later was so powerful for me. These people were not rock stars. They didn’t have gold chains, fancy cars, airplanes.. they had jack shit. Just like me. And they often talking about how important friends were, which is something I wanted so much to believe in.

My list of “influential” bands would take days to read though (in fact very early version of my old website had a soundtrack section that listed out just a few of them) but the ones that really grabbed me, changed my world view and pointed my in the right direction is probably three. Three bands. I could easily make that ten. Or twenty without much effort. But if I’m honest about it, really honest about what were the watershed moments, which songs really made a earth shattering difference to me, there’s three of them. Of course that those three existed inside of an ecosystem absolutely bursting with awesomeness helped a lot too.

I’ve written before about trying to kill myself when I was very young, and made references to a whole host of things that kept me mopey and depressed for solid chunk of my childhood. I don’t bring that up to get all emo, but to make the point of just how much impact a few kids in garages out in the world putting words that ment something to them to music, and risking humiliation sent them out into the world could have on me. (more…)

Evil Dead 2013

Recommendations, or not — Sean Bonner @ 1:43 pm

Like anyone with any taste in film I love The Evil Dead. That series is as close to perfect as movie making can be so so many reasons, not the least of which is the obvious fact that the filmmakers (actors included) approach a completely absurd plot as if it’s completely absurd. It works because it’s campy. The horrific gore is kept in check by the humor laced all the way through it. I could watch those films over and over again, enjoy them every time, quote them repeatedly. They are fantastic.

Like anyone with any taste in film when I heard they were going to remake the original Evil Dead I wanted to die before it was released so I wouldn’t have to suffer through seeing yet another classic destroyed by soulless studio execs who have no understanding of what made the original so great and just want to capitalize on an existing brand and a built in fanbase.

And then I started hearing all the whispers. This was not being made by some soulless studio execs who have no understanding of what made the original so great and just want to capitalize on an existing brand and a built in fanbase, but rather the original producers. Both Sam and Bruce were on board with it. It would be faithful to the original. Hell, it might be one of those rare cases where the remake is better (or at least as good) as the original. Could that be true?

I didn’t want to be a jaded fuck and just write it off, even though the trailer was telling me to just write it off. I told myself that maybe that was just the marketing department cutting something together to try and sell it to a different audience who just wanted another boring torture porn flick and would have been just as happy going to see SAW 27 or whatever. I kept telling myself Sam and Bruce say it’s faithful to the original. I kept telling myself to ignore my gut and give it a chance.

So when I heard the other day that a specific screening of the new Evil Dead at Arclight (the best theater ever) would have a personal introduction by Fede Alvarez (director of the new version) I thought, if I’m going to see it this is the time to do that. See what Fede has to say. Keep an open mind. Allow myself to get won over. So I grabbed tickets and went.

I should have trusted by gut.

Fede’s introduction was useless. He could have been introducing 2 hours of static and been more passionate. He didn’t seem to care about the movie, other than saying he made it and that it was really scary. So, right away off to a bad start. It got worse from there.

OK, let’s keep something in mind here: Since Evil Dead came out 30+ years ago in 1981 there have been a lot of movies riffing on the “cabin in the woods” theme. Not the least of which is The Cabin In The Woods. Given how satirical the original is, you can’t remake this film without having some self awareness of how much of a joke the theme is to begin with. Or maybe you can, because that’s what was done here. The things that made the original so great are completely stripped out of this version. There’s nothing funny about the new one. There’s no humor. There’s no soul. It’s a completely run of the mill torture porn movie all the way down to a heavy handed dramatic storyline transparently devised to make you really care about the people, but falling short because it’s so poorly constructed. The “junkie/withdrawal” set up is tossed out the window as soon as they find the book, which makes that entire thing a waste of time.

Now all of this wouldn’t have been so terrible if they had just used the name, a few plot points, and then just made a totally new movie. But instead this is peppered with visual references so you can’t escape the fact they they are shitting all over the genius of the original. I am disappoint.

I don’t know why Sam and Bruce made such a big deal publicly about how “true” this version was, other than to assume they just wanted the paycheck. But that’s a small price to pay for their trust. I certainly won’t believe anything they say about movies again.

And truthfully, I don’t know much my take on this even matters. The theater was filled. People cheered at the gore and blood. They applauded the ever so crappy references to the original – although maybe they did that because they also desperately wanted this to be that, and would jump at any morsel handed to them. I guess time will tell, but I thought it was a piece of crap.

Los Angeles & Tech

Networks, Theory, and the Web — Sean Bonner @ 12:23 am

Last week Tara and I had the pleasure of grabbing lunch with Bryce Roberts while he was in town scoping things out. Today he posted some notes about Los Angeles and it’s tech scene(s) that I wanted to follow up on because, well, you know I have a lot to say on the subject. If you haven’t read that post you should do that now, as what I have to say will make much more sense given that context.

So just a bit of credentials for anyone who stumbles across this and isn’t already familiar with my LA dedication – In 2003 I, along with Jason DeFillippo, launched Blogging.LA which was certainly the first group blog specifically about Los Angeles, and arguably one of the first group blogs about anything. (It’s funny because it’s common place now, but in 2003 finding a blog with more than one author was rare.) That would morph into Metroblogging and I spent a lot of time over the following years talking to VCs about funding for it. In 2006 I along with a few friends put on the first Barcamp in Los Angeles because we knew there was a vibrant and active tech community here that we felt didn’t know about each other. It was a massive success and there would be 6 successive Barcamps over the next 4 years before it got too big and fragmented into several smaller and more manageable events. In 2009 I instigated the opening of the first public hackerspace in LA which 3 years later is world renowned, award winning, nearing 100 members and has events almost every night of the week. Last year, along with Alex & Tara I help build Represent.LA to once again try and solidify, or at least put a face to the LA tech scene.

I also have 213 tattooed on my finger and LA on my foot.

Somewhat related, I spent much of 2010 on the other side of the VC table, working closely with Neoteny Labs – a fund led by Joi Ito and Reid Hoffman – which gave me a considerable amount of insight about how VCs look at companies, locations, and how they approach deals.

That out of the way – I’m really excited that Bryce has taken an interest in LA. As you can see, I’ve been thinking highly of the place for quite some time. The truth is, the people here in LA know how awesome it is. That’s why we’re here. But most people outside of LA have no idea what is going on here. LA has an image problem in that Hollywood has been really good at making up a fictional version of itself and painting that as LA. I guess people outside of LA don’t understand what fiction is, and assume that the LA they see portrayed on TV and in Movies must be real. It’s not. Hell, Hollywood “the place” doesn’t even have anything to do with Hollywood “the industry.” But, that’s beside the point. Point is if you’ve never spent any time in LA chances are your impression and opinion of the place are dead wrong – but the vast majority of people are happily uninformed. So it’s refreshing to see someone take more than a passing interest.

Bryce spends the first part of his report making LA/NYC comparisons. Which neighborhoods match up and things like that. Which places he thinks are similar is up for debate, but that’s hardly the important part. The gem here is the comprehension that LA is not just one thing. Not just one place. But lots – and I mean a lot – of smaller places with their own personalities all nestled up next to each other. Santa Monica is not LA. Venice is not LA. Hollywood is not LA. Downtown LA is not LA. Silver Lake is not LA. Pasadena is not LA. But the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This place is giant and every step in every direction is different. This is a good thing and something you have to understand to begin to understand LA.

He notes that there are some great incubators, not a lot of local funding here. Bingo.

This is an excellent observation. In my time hunting for funding for Metblogs I met with a wide variety of both angels and larger VC funds in town – as well as out of town. Not all, but vast majority of VCs and Angels I met with in LA were aggressive, greedy, and very interested in seeing just how many hoops they could get you to jump through. The term sheets I was offered were outright hostile. I met with a lot of people who liked to talk about how much they invested in the local tech scene to try and take credit for anything and everything happening here. Turns out by “investing in the local tech scene” many of these people meant throwing parties or comparing bank accounts with other local investors who valued cashing checks more than investing them.

Needless to say those were not positive experiences. Years later when working with helpful, excited and positive VCs at Neoteny Labs I’d realize just how bad those other deals had been. When I spoke with VCs out of LA I was repeatedly hit with “there’s nothing happening in LA, you’d need to move closer to us before we could consider investing.” Immediate deal breaker.

LA really needs investors who are supportive of both the growing scene and LA itself. There’s a unique atmosphere here that, if nurtured, could produce some incredibly awesome companies. I have no doubt about that at all. Some of the most creative and driven people I’ve met in my entire life have been in LA.

As for the disconnect between Hollywood (the industry) and the LA tech scene, I agree completely that this relationship is underdeveloped. I think a lot of that blame lies on the shoulders of super conservative business advisors, hired by people and companies with expendable income and charged with doing something/anything with that money except losing it. Which makes investing in tech start ups less than attractive. There’s also the thing – when you are a hammer everything looks like a nail. A lot of people in Hollywood (the industry) think the whole world is struggling to be them. So any intermingling with other industries would really just be showing those folks how Hollywood does it. This is where a lot of the content crossover comes from.

That’s not everyone of course, there are some very smart people in Hollywood that have made moves into technology, but largely this has been driven by one person who really gets it, not an industry that understand it. It’s progress, but it’s slow. I think there will need to be some very noteworthy success stories coming from these partnerships to convince others to get their feet wet. I think this will happen, but it won”t be the result of parties, mixers, or networking events. It’ll be because awesome people working on awesome projects get together and do awesome things.

Hollywood (the industry) has the reputation for seeing on failure as a condemnation of an entire theme. If a movie about earthquakes flops, no studio is going to make another one for long time because it can’t be that the movie just sucked, it has to be that people don’t like that theme. And similarly if a movie about zombies does well, you can expect a hundred more zombie movies any minute now – because it can’t be that it was just a good movie, but that people want that theme. We suffer from the same problem in tech. If a site fails – lets say a local product that raised a mountain of cash before even launching a site – then obviously local isn’t viable. It can’t be that it was jut a crappy idea, or poor implementation – it has to be that the theme is bust. And likewise, if something works, get ready for a million copycats. This quickness to accept or reject an idea is harsh on it’s own, but put the two industries together and you get lot of skepticism. Which is why I think when this happens – and I again, I firmly believe it will – it’ll be individual driven. It’s just a question of who those individual will be.

Bryce says that he “can see LA really stepping into it’s own over the next few years” and I think he’s right. I’ve been championing this place for over 10 years now and while I’ve always really liked what was happening here, what I see happening right now is the most exciting it’s ever been. And if people like Bryce and the folks at OATV (among others who have been here recently) are noticing that too, I think it’s more than just local hope.

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