Paying Privilege Forward

Posted in Social Justice, Tech & Startups

I should start by saying I was hesitant to publish this because, at this moment, it is very important that black voices be heard. But after thinking it over, realized that not speaking up on issues just because I am not as directly impacted is actually a form of white privilege. Being an ally requires being willing to take risks. So this article is a risk. I am sure it will upset some people, but there are things that need to be said and if not me, who? If not now, when?

Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning

– Frederick Douglass

So let me just come out and say it – if you are just now waking up to the racial and class inequities of America, you have been part of the problem and have a debt to pay. Whether you remain part of the problem is up to you. Right now we have all been gifted with an opportunity to learn and improve. Many companies are releasing public statements, far fewer are doing the hard work of seriously re-evaluating their corporate cultures.

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The political science of product roadmapping

Posted in Tech & Startups

One of the trickiest parts of Product Management is roadmapping – figuring out what to build. There are almost as many strategies and approaches to figuring it out as there are product managers!

I’m currently working on roadmapping for a major effort at Rockbot, and so I’ve been thinking a lot about my process and how process shapes results more generally. One things that I’ve realized is that my background as a political scientist – my first career track before I pivoted into tech in my late 20’s – has shaped my approach in some unique ways. I’d like to share some of those in the hope that they may prove useful to others.

At root, Poli Sci is about using the scientific method to understand what people care about and what drives behavior at the scale of societies and cultures. A Product Manager would describe that effort in terms of defining a problem space, identifying pain points, and then finding the right solution to the right pain point. In many ways, the biggest difference is the terminology used and the scale of the problems the two disciplines address. Many of the actual tools are cross applicable or even identical.

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The Toddler: A Prestige class for Pathfinder RPG

Posted in Life
Toddler plays pathfinder

It’s an open secret that I am, to put it delicately, a gigantic nerd. One of the few pastimes that has survived becoming a father is the occasional session of Pathfinder (a D&D-based roleplaying adventure game) that I play with friends. One of the essential tools to maintain sanity is to find humor in the daily chaos of raising tiny humans; and the trail of chaos and destruction my 15 month old son leaves behind would make any fantasy adventurer proud. Heck, some of the stuff he does would be downright useful on a fantasy battlefield!

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The person who Stops

Posted in Life, Social Justice
The person who stops

Let me tell you a true story.

A father goes back to Utah where he grew up to show his three year old daughter the beauty of the high desert. As they are driving, the car breaks down. He goes to call a tow truck but his cell phone has no signal. He’s worried, but is hopeful someone would stop – after all they are in the middle of mormon country where people are famously friendly and the road is far from deserted with a car every 1-5 minutes.

He tries to flag down a car for an hour to get help. Lots of people slow down and look… but then they see a brown man and keep going. No one stops.

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On being Pro-Choice, in deed as well as name

Posted in News and Politics, Social Justice

I’ve been thinking a lot about the wave of recent laws criminalizing abortion. Despite memes from my liberal friends, the divide on this issue is not gender. 60% of women and 57% of men in america are pro-choice – the difference is within the margin of polling error. Meanwhile, many of the most dedicated pro-life activists are female. That includes Kay Ivey, the Governor of Alabama who just signed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country.

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KPI’s for Life: Adding Beauty

Posted in Life, News and Politics, Tech & Startups | Tagged , ,

My son was born almost 11 months ago and is just starting to walk on his own.  Seeing him learn to stand on his own feet and the look of sheer glee on his face as explores his world is  magical.  Watching him and his big sister become more and more themselves is basically the best thing in my world.  I think most parents experience something similar, having kids gives us a chance to see the world through new eyes and experience familiar things for the first time once again. Continue reading

Conquest culture

Posted in Social Justice
Painting of Spanish Conquistadors by Graham Coton

I’ve been thinking about gender and culture a lot lately.  Part of that is my daughter transforming practically overnight from an infant to a walking talking little person with her own ideas and opinions, part of that is the immanent arrival of her little brother, and part of it is the ongoing string of revelations around rape and sexual harassment.  How can I raise my children to make sure that they are neither victims or abusers? Feminist writers have written at length about rape culture, and if you’re not already familiar with the term I would strongly recommend reading up.  As I’ve thought about it over the years though I’ve become more and more convinced that the issue goes much deeper – right to the heart of culture’s like ours that normalize and glorify empire. I call it “conquest culture”. Continue reading

My Daughter is not a princess

Posted in Life, Social Justice

So this last weekend my wife and I hosted a Burn’s Night dinner for a few of our friends.  It was great and we’re planning to make it an annual tradition.  My favorite part of the night was after dinner sitting in a circle drinking whiskey and having everyone recite their favorite poem (sometimes with a little help from google for folks who didn’t have something memorized).  I used to go to poetry events all the time when I was writing and performing more regularly and didn’t realize how much I had missed it.

In any case, later that night I found myself inspired to write something new for the first time in a while. This one popped up in my head half-formed as I was tossing and turning and I just had to get out of bed and write it down, knowing it would be gone by morning if I did not.

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A Close Look At Mobile Ad Fraud

Posted in Tech & Startups | Tagged , ,

I have a new article up on MediaPost looking at the various types of ad fraud in the mobile media space and how brands and their partners can combat them.

Media quality remains a top challenge for digital marketers. With mobile ad spending accounting for 70.3% of total U.S. digital advertising spending, many of the techniques used to perpetuate fraud as well as detect it have migrated from desktop to mobile. Mobile ad fraud comes in several varieties; let’s take a look at several of the most prominent.

Read more at: https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/312740/programmatic-insights-a-close-look-at-mobile-ad-f.html

Tying digital media and actions to in-store behaviors

Posted in Tech & Startups | Tagged , ,

Many brands struggle to prove ROI for their digital media spend. These 3 simple strategies can to tie real-world conversions to digital advertising.

Unlike TV and Radio advertising, digital media offers the possibility of tracking individual ad views to purchases. Many brands have made this leap for their online and in-app purchases, but a much smaller number have taken the next step and started tying digital media to real-world activity – or even realized that it’s possible!

That’s a huge missed opportunity – for modern advertisers being able to accurately link media to sales is an essential step in proving the value of campaigns. There are three main strategies that can be used to do this deterministically. Continue reading

There be Dragons!

Posted in Life

My daughter took her first steps this week and my heart almost exploded.  Being a parent is something I was scared of for a long time but found myself wanting more and more.  I find it’s changed the way I think in all sorts of unexpected ways. – for example I suddenly spend a lot more time thinking about children’s stories. I’ve believed for a long time that the stories we tell each other are one of the most powerful ways we transmit values and a sense of belonging as a culture.

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A Thanksgiving recipe

Posted in Uncategorized
Water is Life

Start with one fresh-baked rant about the inherently imperialistic origins of the “thanksgiving” holiday.

Add a bitter comment about what’s happening right now at Standing Rock under a Democratic president and what that says about how little progress America has made.

Season with notes of despair and impotent rage at the recently concluded election (the whole thing, not just the conclusion).

Add tearful reflections on how movements for change that could make a difference get destroyed over and over again in a political system designed to render the vast majority powerless.

Take the resulting steaming cauldron and cover it in ashes and burning coals until it cooks down into a hard stone weight of grief and despair.

And then bury it, deep under the clay soil, and go sit someplace green with a glass of something potent and watch the wind in the trees.

Breathe.

None of the Above

Posted in News and Politics | Tagged
None of the Above

Bernie Sanders was the first presidential candidate I’ve ever donated to or knocked on doors for and I am proud to say that the CNP platform takes the best of his ideas and expands on them.  Unfortunately, he’s out of the race.

So am I Bernie or Bust?  No.  My refusal to vote for a kleptocrat who ran the State Department as the acquisitions arm of her bogus “charity” in order to enrich herself has nothing to do with Sanders.

Clinton’s foreign policy record is atrocious.  She not only voted for the Iraq war, she lobbied for it and called it a business opportunity.  She deported orphaned Honduran children to a country where they would be executed by a dictatorship that she helped put into power.  She was also the biggest advocate for overthrowing Libya’s government. Declassified emails show her explicitly saying she advocated that war to gain access to Libya’s gold and oil. Libya is now a major ISIS stronghold and the millions of refugees fleeing their homes can thank Clinton.  Republican strategist Steve Schmidt recently said during an interview on MSNBC that “the candidate in the race most like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from a foreign policy perspective is in fact Hillary Clinton, not the Republican nominee.”

The last Clinton administration pushed through NAFTA and permanent normal trade relations with China which together destroyed millions of good-paying working class jobs – the rust belt is rusting because of the Clinton’s.  Further, Bill’s bank deregulation directly led to the housing market collapse that forced millions of Americans out of their homes and wiped out 53% of black America’s wealth.  Hillary’s longstanding support for the TPP (and the fact that she picked a man who voted to fast-track the TPP as her VP after pretending to oppose it due to pressure from Sanders) indicate her administration will be more of the same.

She described opposing gay marriage as a “fundamental bedrock principle… a foundational institution of humanity.”   Even now after switching her public position to fit popular trends she continues to take tens of millions of dollars in donations to the Clinton foundation from countries where being gay carries the death penalty.   She has repeatedly changed positions on major issues after receiving campaign contributions. Don’t take my word for it, ask Elizabeth Warren.  As Obama said, “she’ll say anything and change nothing.”

During the primary she sent spies to infiltrate the Sanders campaign and paid online trolls to make the internet a worse place.  She spent months talking up how much money she was raising for the party, but spent more than 99% of the money on herself. Her allies in the DNC used every dirty trick to tilt the race in her favor.  When they were exposed and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was forced to resign, Hillary hired her onto her campaign the same day.  She’s so brazenly corrupt she doesn’t even attempt to hide it.

So no, I will not vote for Hillary Clinton. Not that my vote matters! California is reliably blue and if the Democrats had nominated a bag of avocados it would get California’s electoral college votes.  Which is of course why they don’t even pretend to care about our issues. Clinton couldn’t even be bothered to keep her promise to debate here!

So what’s the alternative? Trump isn’t even worth considering, he’s a pathological liar, a cheat who makes a regular habit of stiffing the people he does business with, and is such a phenomenally bad business man that he would be wealthier if he had just stuck his inheritance in a market-indexed fund and spent his life golfing with his buddy Bill Clinton.  That’s before you even talk about the fact that he’s built his campaign on white nationalism(1 2 3) and borrows rhetoric from Mussolini.  The man is truly scary.   Fortunately he’s made it clear he doesn’t intend to actually do the job of president and will leave governing to his VP.   Not that Pence is much better!

The fact that one of these two will be America’s next president is proof of how dysfunctional American politics have become.

Unfortunately, no third party can win a US presidential election because the US uses first past the post voting instead of proportional representation (the system used by most other democracies), so the majority either don’t vote or hold their noses and vote for a “lesser evil”.  

Even if a third party for president could win, neither Stein nor Johnson moves the needle for me – Stein talks the talk and I have great respect for her as a dedicated activist for social justice, but her only elected experience is two terms on a city council.  She is very valuable to the larger progressive movement as an activist but bluntly lacks any experience that would qualify her for the presidency.  As a former governor Johnson has experience and his advocacy for civil liberties and against war makes him clearly a lesser evil than Trump or Clinton; but his economic platform is every bit as bad as Clinton at her worst.  I can’t vote for either of them in good conscience.

I will vote on all the local elections where third parties can actually compete and on the ballot initiatives, but as a Californian who cares about the issues there is no candidate for US president I can support.

A bag of Avocados

Posted in News and Politics | Tagged ,

I was working on an article on the US presidential elections for another website earlier today and made an offhand remark that if the Democrats nominated a bag of Avocados for the presidency that California would faithfully line up and vote for it.  And then it hit me – a bag of Avocados would actually be a better nominee than either American party’s candidates.  Here’s 10 reasons you should join me in writing in a bag of avocados on your presidential ballot this fall.  Continue reading

Deep links and Cross-platform targeting

Posted in Tech & Startups | Tagged , , ,

Two new posts up on corporate blogs for my job.  One is a product announcement on our new deeplinking solution:

Announcing: Smart Link

The second is an explanation of how data from that tool is being used along with other data to power our new cross-platform and cross-device targeting technology:

Cross-Device and Cross-Platform Targeting

(Hopefully) interesting stuff if you work in the mobile advertising and media space!

PII, Analytics, and Advertising

Posted in Tech & Startups | Tagged ,

I’ve been thinking about privacy and the inherent conflict between the drive by advertisers to want to know more and the need to respect end users personal information.  I ended up writing two articles about it.  The first is up on the RadiumOne corporate blog and talks about threats to end user Personally Identifiable Information (PII) presented by the growing trend toward integrating mobile analytics tools with programatic media buying solutions and how RadiumOne is addressing that issue.

https://blog.radiumone.com/the-fight-to-keep-personally-identifiable-information-private-on-mobile/

The second post is up on iCrunchData news and goes a bit more into the nuts and bolts of digital media targeting, as well as some of the threats to user data posed by solutions that don’t use the data themselves but store it on behalf of third parties.

http://icrunchdatanews.com/why-modern-advertising-based-contradiction/

Enjoy!

Home

Posted in Fiction

Vedika was tired and angry, but mostly tired. Anger was exhausting. Her husband’s father was infuriating even in the best of times – he belonged firmly to a generation that seemed stubbornly incapable of thinking of women as equals and seemed to regard her dedication to her career as a character flaw. The deafening silence of his judgement for the fact that the apartment she shared with his son was not spotless made it difficult to hear anything else. The old man wasn’t overtly rude of course, but it was clear he believed his son would have been better to marry a nice girl from back home than this half-breed woman with an Indian name and green eyes. She did not want him in her home and she especially did not want him passing on his ideas about a woman’s place in the world to her son, Arvind.

For his part, the old man kept his counsel to himself. He hardly spoke to his son and even less to his daughter in law. Ajay, her husband, sat on the couch with a mound of papers fanned out on the coffee table in front of him. Medical records from India and America both, alongside a pile of insurance papers and another pile of brochures for assisted living facilities.

Pita, I know you value your independence and I don’t want to take that away from you, but after your fall last week we need to make sure you are someplace safe.

Pita had fallen on the steps up to his apartment and lain there for several hours until a young couple coming down had found him and helped him to his apartment. Vedika and Ajay had tried to get him a cell phone several times but he complained that the numbers were too small and refused to carry it or keep it charged. When his landlord had called to tell them about the fall, Ajay had panicked.

The old man was, well, getting old. He had worked hard his whole life and, while he had never managed to amass much money, had paid Ajay’s way through college without a lot of student debt. It had not been a gift – it was a contract, an obligation. Ajay had dreamed of being an artist and drawn constantly as a young man but when he had expressed interest in art college the old man had gone into a rage and burned his sketch books. He had not travelled to this strange land and worked and saved for so long so his son could be a starving artist! Ajay would be an engineer and that was the end of the discussion. There had been tears and words of rage but in the end the old man got his way. The two had hardly spoken since, it was only her husband’s sense of duty that made him insist on the old man moving in. Ajay and Vedika had fought bitterly, she did not want Pita in her home! But they could not afford to put him in one of those assisted care homes. In the end, tears or no, it was as simple as that: Pita could not live alone any longer and there was nowhere else for him to go.

The old man didn’t like it any more than she did, it was obvious. He had always been independent and didn’t see any reason why something as mundane as old age should keep him down. She almost admired him, in spite of herself. Meanwhile, the conversation was getting heated and both men were starting to get louder. She hushed them, it would not do to have the neighbors talking and Arvind was asleep in the next room for his after-school nap.

Pita gave her a look of disdain but lowered his voice and turned to his son: “Ajay, I raised you to be responsible and respect your elders – not bully them!”

I am not bullying anyone, but it is not safe to leave you alone at your age. You took care of me alone for years after mom died. Let me do my duty as a son and take care of you now.

Pita was silent, struggling with the fact that he knew his son was right but could not bear the thought of life as an invalid. The thought of giving up his independence to be a guest in someone else’s house, even his son’s, was unbearable; but there was no way out. He was trapped. His shoulders slumped.

All right son, you win. I will give notice on my apartment this month.

It’s not what I want, I’m not winning anything dad. I’m just trying to be a good son and take care of you.

Fine! What do you want from me? Do you want me to be grateful?

Ajay noted with shock that the old man’s eyes were filling with tears. He tried to embrace him but was rebuffed.

I will be alright, I am not some invalid that needs to be coddled. Just give me time.

Enough

Posted in Fiction | Tagged ,

Jake sighed as he slumped against the steering wheel of his truck and moved back into the lane.  He had moved over to the side to let a motorcycle past because the truck filled the whole lane.  It had been years since he’d been on a bike, the girl who loved to ride on the back of his cruiser when they were dating had mysteriously morphed into a wife who made him sell his bike because she was worried he’d get killed riding it.  At least that meant she wanted him to make it home, right?  Things could be worse.  Some couples burned hot for a few years and then faded but they still lay in bed on Saturday mornings laughing and cuddling like newlyweds.  He smiled, thinking about her eyes looking up at him. Continue reading

Lucky

Posted in Fiction | Tagged , ,

The airstrike rattled the city, everything shook. Dust rattled down from the rafters and somewhere in the basement below an infant cried. Mo sat as still as he could amidst the crush of strangers and tried to focus on breathing. The air was thin, too many lungs sucking oxygen and not enough ventilation. The earth shook again beneath the roar of planes overhead, and the thunder of bombs; aggravating the ringing in his ears.

He had ended up here by sheer good luck, if you could call it that. The university had closed months ago because of the protests and never re-opened. When the military had opened fire on protests in the capital the shock waves went right across the country. Many of the students had joined militias, others fled. Mo headed for the border, he couldn’t muster enough faith to believe in a revolution and the fundamentalists were even worse than the soldiers. On foot it was a long journey and the war overtook him. Continue reading

The do’s and don’ts of online dating, from a newlywed.

Posted in Life | Tagged ,

Almost 2 years ago now I wrote a humorous (well, I thought it was funny…) blog post on taking a data-driven approach to dating.  In that post I promised to write a follow-up if I had success.  Since I got married in July, I guess it’s about time I keep that promise!  So here’s a few things I learned along the way (big thanks to the okcupid data blog and the okc forums on reddit) that might prove useful to others.

For the sake of transparency, these are written for someone who’s looking for a life partner, if you’re just out there to get laid you can disregard most of them. Continue reading

Walled Gardens

Posted in News and Politics, Tech & Startups | Tagged , ,

Yesterday I put up a new post  on how to optimize your mobile app’s URI scheme.  The post is mostly technical but touches on a few important points – notably the fact that the mobile app ecosystem is a fragmented series of walled gardens.  This is in sharp contrast to the free and open web where anyone can add content and anyone can access it.

If you feel the way I do about free speech, feel free to insert your own rant here about the privatization of the (virtual) commons.  This is the digital equivalent of town squares where free speech was legally protected being replaced by malls where a rent a cop will firmly escort you off the premises if you try to do any sort of outreach. Continue reading