"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Thoughts on the DriesNote: Towards Drupal "Contribution Credits"

UPDATE: putting theory into practice, I'm now hiring someone at Pantheon to contribute full time.

Two weeks ago at DrupalCon Amsterdam, Dries Buytaert gave his traditional State of Drupal, or "Driesnote", presentation, outlining his thoughts on scaling open source communities. I thought it was one of his best presentations to-date: addressing a pressing concern within the community with both a philosophical outlook and some specific proposals to start a wider discussion. It's a pressing topic, and I wanted to add my own two cents before my thoughts became too stale.

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What Is To Be Done?

This is a follow-up to my previous post on Gentrification, which received quite a few thoughtful responses. Thanks to everyone for those. I really appreciate the stimulation.

So far I've ducked the question of right and wrong. My mode was one of reflection on my experience of living in places that are changing, being a part of that change. However, the themes of development and displacement have a moral dimension. People naturally go right to this; so why fight it? Let's get into it!

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Elizabeth Warren vs Hillary Clinton in 2016?

An interesting piece by Noam Scheiber in TNR about a potential challenge to Hillary Clinton by Elizabeth Warren for the democratic nomination in 2016. He's absolutely right that "inevitable candidates have a way of becoming 'evitable'", and in drawing deja-vu parallels around Clinton's potential mis-alignment with the base (if not the nation in toto) over how to handle inequality and the finance sector vis-a-vis her positions on national security (esp Iraq) in 2008. It's an interesting read.

He also does a good job of describing how Warren wields her influence, by being willing to violate some of the social norms of Capital Hill in very public settings, for instance asking regulators "when was the last time you took a bank who broke the law to trial?" (to which they had no answer). I am a fan of Warren's rhetoric and style, and pedigree as an antagonist of the neoliberal establishment.

Still, I'm skeptical that Warren will make the run, but Scheiber makes a compelling case that she's motivated enough by her belief in economic policy and what it means for working families that she'd do it even as a long shot. He notes:

Of course, any prediction of a populist revolt against the party’s top brass must grapple with the tendency of such predictions to be wrong. From the Howard Dean campaign in 2004 to the Occupy Movement in 2011, the last decade in Democratic politics has been rife with heady declarations of grassroots rebellion, only to see the insiders assert control each time. Even the one insurgency that did succeed, the Obama campaign, was quickly absorbed into the party establishment, from which Obama was never so far removed in the first place.

But concludes with a quote from an insider:

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Metadata, PRISM, and the Surveillance State

UPDATE Seriously, just go watch this video with the whistleblower who is the source all the below.

I've been tweeting up a storm and got a couple questions along the lines of "what do you think of PRISM?" so I thought I'd sit down and exercise my ability to explain in long-form what I think is going on, and what it means.

The News

Late last week, Glenn Greenwald broke a story at the Guardian about how the NSA — the National Security Agency; the camera-shy and more data/computation driven cousin to the CIA — was collecting phone records for millions of Americans:

National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

Then, the day after the Guardian and the Washington Post published stories based on leaked documents about a program called PRISM which allows the US and UK intelligence services to mine data from popular internet destinations:

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Things are wired up wrong

Started as a tweet, but I can't fit it into 140 characters.

What makes an idea good, or "compelling"? What makes a person expressing an idea worth listening to?

I've been thinking about "Suck On This", the infamous Tom Friedman statement after "the war was over" in Iraq:

(it gets really great towards the end)

Friedman is a bit of a piñata because he makes all kinds of generally innocuous but-still-ridiculous statements, and has a really ridiculous bio photo. He's an architypical gasbag with a perch on some of the most influential forums for "ideas" that the english-speaking world convenes, which is a shame, but I think what he represented in the video above deserves special attention. It's above and beyond simple buffoonery.

As a nation, we have a dysfunctional political culture, and it's in part due to terrible information inputs. Like we say in my game, "garbage in, garbage out": if your inputs are bad, you can't have quality output. The fact that most congressional offices have a TV in the main area playing 24-hour cable news (or, also, that financial institutions play CNBC) is an enormous problem.

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On the Challenge of Becoming Relevant

At the core of my ambition is a hunger to be relevant. This isn't anything special; you can sub out "relevant" for "important" and "important" for "powerful" and everybody wants to rule the world, but I've been thinking about what sort of longer-term career arc I'd like to have, and while I don't ever see myself beating the workahol or ceasing to be an entrepreneur I think it's important to have some notion of what I really want, and to see a way to get that while working at less of a breakneck pace than how I normally roll.

Sustainability is a key for the long haul. Sustainability and fulfillment. In the long run, I'd like to be able to move the world with my words, and have that be more than a hobby.

Specifically, I'd like to develop an independent platform as a pundit to promote and promulgate my own views and Just What Should Be Done in this here 21st Century. That's right, it's simple megalomania.

But seriously, I have had enough exposure to the world of politics to know that opinions matter, and enough experience working with up-and-comers to know that there are millions of hungry minds out there who are looking for something more than what they're currently getting from either the establishment of independent press. I want an audience that's big enough to matter. If at all possible, I'd like it if that were part of how I support myself and my putative family.

Figuring out how to get there from here is no small task. Traditionally if you wanted to be an opinionator of repute, you usually scrapped that together after a successful career in journalism, and/or because some publisher somewhere took a shine to you. In the internet age, the rules are quite a bit different. Here's what I see out there:

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Cultural Trends

I'm generally sensing a positive shift in the zeitgeist. There are three movies out this year about the Beat Generation, one of those clusters of hindsight or nostalgia that can catch impressionable minds. That's a good thing in my book — phalocentric as they may have been, the original hipsters (angel-headed) still have a thing or six to teach young minds about freedom. Not sure what the corresponding equivalent would be lending itself to the liberation of young women, but hopefully it too is on the rise.

Also, there's the Obama inauguration, and somewhat more importantly the fact that his administration successfully won a couple negotiations, which I admit was a surprise. It appears that the slow roll of generational demographics that underpinned his electoral victory may coalesce into some kind of new national consensus. It's still a long shot, and I think anyone putting much hope or trust in this administration from the Left is likely to be disappointed, but at the same time it's hard not to notice momentum.

The "Big Mo" is there culturally, no doubt about it. I think we're going to look back at 2004 as a kind of last hurrah for the hugely successful cultural politics that a generation of conservative activists executed in reaction to civil rights, feminism, Lyndon Johnson and hippies. Call it the Buckley brigade. They were able to push a not-very-popular GW Bush over the top with patriotic rhetoric and an intelligent strategy of linking "traditional marriage" constitutional amendments to drive base turnout.

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Public Interest at the Planetary Scale

I'm always surprised when I meet someone who shares my fuzzy vision of globally networked democracy as the plausibly positive planetary prospectus.

This idea is out there, in the air. People sense kind of intuitively that easy/instant global communication will probably change the way we govern ourselves, but even in the thought bubble of San Francisco it's not something that seems to get a lot of direct attention.

I recently had a couple of run-ins, one with a future-focused magazine curator in SF and another with a Berkeley PhD turned Goldman Sachs wizard in New York. It got me thinking about why it's so surprising to find these types of connections.

Tech people tend to be lower-level in their interests — debating the bits and bytes of different languages, products, techniques and companies — and the business-end of the change we're living tends to get a lot more media attention than the broader social implications. Not surprising given the cultural context we inhabit, but still kind of a shame.

To the extent that "big picture" ideas get much play on the nerd scene, people seemed more taken by the Singularity, the computation-driven quasi-apocalypse. It's a neat sci-fi diversion — an interesting enough Dark Future, good for a pulpy novel or two — but doesn't strike me as imminently practical model for anticipating or piloting the future. Other big-think doomsayers fixate on Peak Oil, or the collapse of the global economy, etc.

While I'm as big a fan as anyone of Red Dawn disaster fantasies, I don't really believe preparation for total societal collapse is a wise use of resources. Human beings always believe the end of the world is coming, and we tend to be wrong. The future will bring change, no doubt, but the operative question (to me) is not "how can we ride this out in a compound?" but rather "how do we get ourselves to a new Golden Age?"

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On The Bubble

One of my beats is inequality. If you read this old blog or you get my tweets, you know I frequently highlight news or analysis about the disparity in wealth and income in the US and elsewhere.

Recently I had cause to look at it from a different perspective than I'd before, from someone worried about all they had slipping away; the "I'm going to leave less to my kids than I had" worry. Led to some halfway interesting thoughts.

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In Which I Contemplate Capital Gains, Aristocracy, and Romney

The other day I tweeted a paraphrase from one of my favorite bloggers Atrios regarding Mitt Romney's tax returns that went something like "the tax rate on any money the pile of cash earns is much lower than it is on the money earned by people who actually work." A couple people asked me to explain this a little more so I thought it would make a good bloggy topic.

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