Journalism and Essays
Journalism has only ever been a sideline for me, but a very long-term & consistent one; I wrote a weekly column for TechCrunch for a decade, along with sporadic feature-length pieces elsewhere for 15 years now.
2005 - onwards: Magazine feature writer
- All Aboard the Metaverse: Is the New Digital Frontier Unstoppable? The Walrus, December 2021.
- Ursula Le Guin Taught Me Everything I Knew Was Wrong. The Walrus, January 2018.
- Chatbot Fail. The Walrus, April 2016.
- We're All Going To Be Rich. Reader's Digest, March 2010.
- Free Delivery: birth in the Americas' poorest country. The Walrus, May 2008.
- In the Shadow of Doom. The Walrus, May 2006. About a killer lake in Central Africa.
- Wiring the War Zone. Wired, May 2005. In May 2005, I spent a week in Iraq researching two cipherpunks who travelled there after the war to reconnect the country to the Internet. A 4,000-word expansion of the piece, Blood, Bullets, Bombs and Bandwidth, found a readership on Slashdot.
- May 2020: Magic Leap's $2.6 billion bait and switch.
- Explaining the mystery of Magic Leap's rise and fall: what "The Beast" and "The Cheesehead" were ... and why we didn't get them.
- Apr 2020: GrubHub's pandemic initiatives are predatory and exploitative.
- In which I do the math to show that GrubHub / Seamless are hurting the restaurants they pretend to be trying to support. Days later, San Francisco cracked down on food delivery services.
- Mar 2020: Test and trace with Apple and Google.
- In which I call for Apple and Google to collaborate on privacy-preserving Bluetooth-based contact-tracing, twelve days before they announced they were doing exactly that.
- Feb 2020: What happens if a pandemic hits?
- In which I deliberately bury the lede, a declaration that a pandemic is coming -- one of the earliest such in any publication. I was definitely too optimistic about how Western governments would respond though.
- Nov 2019: The post-exponential era of AI and Moore's Law.
- In which I point out that if current trends continue, we aren't going to see many further AI breakthroughs, because the ones we are seeing are based on unsustainable, hyper-accelerating computing power.
- Feb 2019: The infrastructural humiliation of America.
- In which I note that American infrastructure is a pathetic shambles and a national embarrassment.
- Dec 2018: JIRA is an antipattern.
- A very controversial and widely read piece among software engineers, in which I argue that the widely used JIRA issue-tracking platform should not be used for project planning, and propose an alternative.
- Oct 2018: At what point do we admit that geoengineering is an option?
- In which I argue that we do nobody any favors by pretending the option of artificially cooling the planet (as a response to global warming) does not exist, when it manifestly does.
- May 2018: The crypto alternative.
- In which I imagine the various futures that cryptocurrency enthusiasts' dreams might lead to, and find all but two of them severely wanting.
- May 2018: Personal privacy vs. public security.
- In which I explain how privacy as we know it is different from privacy at scale, and that the latter is, in fact, a crucial aspect of public security.
- Apr 2018: Where have all the pilots gone?
- An attempt to answer that question, and a meditation on dreams of flight.
- Nov 2017: In praise of Tesla's bankruptcy.
- In which I point out that even if Tesla-the-business goes bankrupt, the mission of Tesla-the-company is still likely to succeed, and people should not conflate those two Teslas.
- Oct 2017: After the end of the startup era.
- Another controversial and widely read piece, in which I argue the startup era is ending because the next suite of emerging technologies is far more suited to large, capital-intensive companies.
- Sep 2017: Technology, complexity, anxiety, catastrophe.
- A depiction of how our new ubiquitous interconnectivity is not always good for our souls, written in the second person present tense.
- Aug 2017: Seven things I have learned about writing software.
- The distillation of some insights from one of my other jobs, CTO of a software consultancy.
- Jun 2017: Facebook is broken.
- In which I argue that Facebook is deeply and fundamentally broken because its focus on maximizing engagement leads to destructive second-order effects.
- May 2017: Blockchains are the new Linux, not the new Internet.
- In which I argue that the then-current cryptocurrency boom is using entirely the wrong metaphor and narrative, and propose a superior one.
- Jul 2016: Westphalexit.
- In which I point out that the fundamental way in which our world is partitioned is arbitrary and often senseless, and we shouldn't expect it to continue forever.
- Mar 2016: This war on math is still bullshit.
- In which I argue, yet again, that law enforcement's continual attempts to compromise end-to-end encryption are ignorant, counterproductive, and often in bad faith.
- Jan 2016: Why Bitcoin Matters.
- An attempt to explain why magical Internet money beloved by sociopathic libertarians is, in fact, both crucially important and good for the world.
- Oct 2015: I Do Not Want Your Stupid App.
- In which I channel Dr. Seuss to express what I still believe is a nearly universal form of frustration.
- Feb 2015: Beware The Pretty People.
- In which I lament how tech has become a finishing school for the American upper classes, who take on the trappings of subversiveness while remaining fundamentally conformist.
- Jan 2015: This Industry Is Still Completely Ridiculous.
- In which I continue to celebrate the tech industry's Dadaist, subversive weirdness.
- Oct 2014: You Too May Be A Victim Of Developaralysis.
- In which I try to be funny about a very real problem that software developers everywhere face; the continual profusion of, well, everything.
- Jun 2014: Dear Clients, Please Stop: Ten Ways Founders Sabotage Themselves.
- In which I try to prevent startup founders from making the same old boring mistakes I have seen too many times, in the hopes they will make new and interesting ones.
- Mar 2014: Enter The Blockchain: How Bitcoin Can Turn The Cloud Inside Out.
- In which I realize the decentralizing power of blockchain technology, and try to express how genuinely revolutionary it might become.
- Mar 2014: This Industry Is Completely Ridiculous. Let's Hope It Stays That Way.
- In which I celebrate the tech industry's Dadaist, subversive weirdness, and express hope for its continuation.
- Jan 2014: Such DFW. Very Orwell. So Doge. Wow.
- In which I discuss language on the Internet, and David Foster Wallace, and how both language and the nature of trust online is changing. An especially prescient piece, if I do say so myself.
- Dec 2013: It's A Wonderful Life, For A Few Of Us.
- In which I point out that while Bay Area techies may be living in a new Belle Epoque, more and more of the rest of the world is joining the precariat, and this tension will turn into a backlash against tech.
- Jun 2013: After Your Job Is Gone.
- In which I express concern about automation taking jobs, and call for a universal basic income, long before Andrew Yang.
- Aug 2011: Welcome To The Panopticon.
- In which I argue that facial recognition and other forms of offline tracking are inevitable, making online privacy crucially important, as eventually it may be the only form of privacy we have.
- Jun 2011: This Is Where The Magic Happens.
- Reportage in which I travel to Mombasa, Kenya, to report on the miracle of the physical Internet -- the fiber-optic landing site connecting East Africa to the Internet.
- May 2011: Make.Money.Slow: The Bitcoin Experiment.
- In which I write about Bitcoin for the first time, and am skeptical but also optimistic.
- May 2011: Why The New Guy Can't Code.
- In which I lament, for the first of many times, the many ways in which the tech industry's interview processes are broken, and propose alternatives.
2007 - 2009: Occasional contributor to The Guardian's books blog.
2004 - present: Occasional essayist