"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Falling Behind

I'm falling behind. I think maybe this is a common feeling in the age of popular social media, the sense that your friends and followers are having weightier and more meaningful experiences than you are. Maybe it's my own strain of garden variety FOMO. Or maybe it's that I haven't written a blog post in close of five months. Or both. Some combination of unexpressed thoughts — I have no mouth yet I must scream — and humility at seeing what everyone else is up to these days. People I know and love are getting married, laying in firewood, having family reunions, running for congress, wearing outrageously classy outfits, playing in symphonies, and more.

It's trite to list up all these things, but part of my sense of frisson is that a "like" button doesn't do nearly enough to express how happy I am at these events. It's not FOMO in the sense of keeping up with the Joneses, but in the sense that I really wish I could time-hop between all these difference scenes and contribute something, or at least applaud. It makes me feel sad and weirdly guilty for having my own little private (lovely awesome) weekend getaway, and not being able to share in all this other goodness that's going on.

But again, this is hardly a unique sensation. Actually, feels a lot like this blog post I wrote five years ago about how I felt I was losing my edge, but just a little more mature. Well-aged you might say:

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Free Speech, Terrible Ideas, and The Internet

The other weekend I wrote about the Trump Phenomena, and its connection to social media supplanting traditional media gatekeepers. An old colleague of mine shared it into his network on Facebook, breaking my filter bubble, and resulting in a spirited response from a Trump supporter, which was awesome:

[Outlandish Josh's] devotion to the First Amendment is really ankle deep. He likes free speech as long as the speaker agrees. Everything else, he's ok with suppressing...

What it comes down to is, "We can't rely on the establishment to silence people who don't agree with us anymore, so we'll just have to do it ourselves."

One of the things I appreciate about Trump is that he's forcing the liberal brownshirts to show their true colors.

Liberal Brownshirt! Amazing. It got me thinking about what I really mean by "stick a big fat stake into the heart of some of the most malignant political ideas that stalk the land." More to the point, how does this dialectic thing actually work, and what if anything does it have to do with free speech?

At the same time, there's also some Internet drama I'm casually following around a programming get together called LambdaConf, and whether or not a particular speaker should be invited to speak or not due to the fact that he's a foundational figure for a noxious bloom of reactionary thought known as "The Dark Enlightenment". I'll explain the details later.

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Trump and the Filter Bubble

The phrase "Filter Bubble" was coined by Eli Pariser, founder of MoveOn, the first effective left wing online organization, and a man who knows a bit about how the internet can influence political thought. Pariser was most concerned with the pernicious impacts of systemic personalization (e.g. weighted Google Search results or algorithmic timelines), but I believe what Clay is referring to is the result of Social Media becoming a primary news source.

He's right. The Trump phenomena will be studied and professionalized in the same way the political establishment digested Howard Dean's use of online outreach to build grassroots support and raise small-dollar donations. The benefits of the internet aren't without hazards. This is one of them.

More and more Americans get their news from Facebook and Twitter, a trend that is going to continue to increase. What Trump is exploiting has nothing to do with pernicious personalization algorithms, but rather the fundamental result of what happens when news is curated by social network rather than newspaper editors. Once you're getting your news via what is effectively word of mouth, a few things happen:

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I'm a father! Something I've wanted for a long time, now a glorious, bewildering, exhausting, inspiring reality in the form of a beautiful baby girl.

Baby Jiya

Her name is Jiya — pronounced "Gee-ah", like Gia that trashy Angelina Jolie flick from the '90s — and she was born on February 18th here in San Francisco. She and her mom are healthy and happy as can be, and I'm doing my best learning on the job as a dad.

It's a trip, man. All the clichés are true, which is what makes them cliché. But it's objectively bizarre how such a massively life-shifting event can feel so normal and natural, even as it turns everything upside down. The sleep deprivation is no joke (and I have it relatively easy compared to Rina), but even that quickly just becomes your new reality. It's worth it just to see her smile. Oxytocin is a hell of a drug. Humans are endlessly malleable. And so on. Like I said, all the clichés are true.

Something I didn't expect: I've had a bunch of early life memories resurface. Not of myself at Jiya's age of course, but long-forgotten moments of my sister Brie as an infant, lullabys overheard, scenes of life with a baby up close and personal. Like, flashing back to being bizarrely afraid of that little stump of umbilical cord that hangs around for a while. These are all things I remember, obviously, but I also can't remember the last time I remembered them, if that make sense. Guessing there will be more of this down the line.

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