Tuesday, October 27, 2020
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Governor Northam Signs Executive Order Establishing Virginia STEM Education Commission 

From Gov. Ralph Northam's office: Governor Northam Signs Executive Order Establishing Virginia STEM Education Commission  RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today signed Executive Order Thirty-Six, establishing the Virginia...

Letter to Lt. Governor Ralph Northam from Innovators for Virginia

At a recent gathering of technology business leaders in Fairfax County, this letter was shared with Ralph Northam and the audience. Northam agreed with...

Technology’s role in contemporary America’s generation gap


If "today's young" are indeed more optimistic about the future of the U.S. relative to older generations of Americans, how can we explain this sentiment in the midst of one of America's harshest economic periods?  

The answer may just be in technology and the control that so many among todays young feel they can exert over their own lives and even the lives of others, even those in different countries.  

Today's technology has not only brought millions of Americans closer together, today's technology has also bequeathed a world to today's young that is customizable and far reaching.

Take smart phones as an example. Most smart phones come with customizable software that allow each user to include what is most important to them like celebrity news, political updates, movie reviews, and much else.

Each smart phone also comes with social media "apps" that connect each smart phone to a large world of ever increasing social media networks. If there is an important vote coming up on, say an environmental regulation, I can send an instant message to hundreds of my friends, asking them to contact their legislators in support of such and such an environmental regulation. As a result, the pressure exerted by this one message (that can mushroom into thousands, if not millions, of additional messages) could mean the difference between its passage or its failure. Imagine the sense of power felt by some of these folks when their issue wins!  

Why I Really Left Diaspora*

I just saw the posting from [Diaspora co-founders Daniel Grippi, Ilya Zhitomirskiy, and Max Maxwell Salzberg] with their explanation of why I left.  I hadn't planned to post anything more about it than what I had already said.  But I was pretty upset when I read their account, a little bit because what they wrote is a blatant lie, but mostly because their description makes me sound like some power-grabbing impulsive whack job, and I may be many things but I'm not greedy, I'm not power hungry, and I really don't think I'm an impulsive whack job.  

The truth of the matter is that I have worked for Diaspora* for the past year-and-a-half without every receiving a single dollar in compensation.  I wasn't doing it for the money -- I was doing it solely because I believe in the idea, and it was fun for me for a very long time.  And then, it wasn't fun any more.  I learned relatively recently that the business was not being managed the way I thought it should have been.  So I wrote to the board and said that either they needed to find new leadership -- me or somebody else -- or I wouldn't be able to continue to be involved.  So they offered me the position of President and CEO (still unpaid, of course, since we don't have a lot of extra money), and I accepted.  And I did write some messages referring to myself as President and CEO because I had been told I was.  And then I found out that, although the offer had been made, no legal changes had occurred to that effect.  When I insisted that they change my legal status, the board told me they were reconsidering the offer and wanted to negotiate some more.  So at that point, I put my foot down and said things either had to change immediately, or I was going to resign as President and CEO and leave Diaspora entirely.  As you all know, they decided to let me go.  And so I went.

This is the last message I will send on this topic, no matter what other ridiculous statements about me may be released, including that I'm secretly part of the Stanford Puerto Rican mafia, that I have a hideout in my basement where Mark Zuckerberg and I plan world domination, that I was named after Yosemite National Park, or that I ever contacted Dan, Ilya, Max, and Rafi for any reason other than I thought their idea was a great one, and I thought a little band of 19- and 20-year-olds could use a little business mentoring to make it all happen.  

I will also try to remember what it felt like when I was 23-years-old and somebody criticized or ditched me, and my feelings got hurt.  I'm sure I probably also reacted in a way that was less than impressive.  And I'm sure 10 years from now when they are my age they will look back on their behavior and be a little bit embarrassed or ashamed of it all.  But then again, isn't embarrassing yourself the entire point of your early 20s anyway?  :)

Ultimately, I'm just happy to be out and to return to my pre-Diaspora life of Stanford and @Liberationtech, and I wish everybody still involved in Diaspora the best.  

That is all.


Broadband.gov – Testing Connection Speeds

The FCC has recently rolled out an ambitious plan to dramatically improve broadband access and speed across the country.  One of the primary goals that should get everyone's attention is to achieve "actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits" for 100 million+ homes.  And the key word "affordable" is repeated in almost every goal.   The entire National Broadband Plan can be found at http://www.broadband.gov.  There are a lot of good ideas in there.

But this post isn't about the plan in general, just a specific aspect - the viewing and collection of download speed data.   Under the heading of Consumer Broadband Test on the site you can test your current internet connection speed.  The stated purpose:

The purpose of the Consumer Broadband Test (Beta) is to give consumers additional information about the quality of their broadband connections and to create awareness about the importance of broadband quality in accessing content and services over the internet. Additionally, the FCC may use data collected from the Consumer Broadband Test (Beta), along with submitted street address, to analyze broadband quality and availability on a geographic basis across the United States.

I highly encourage everyone to participate (at least give it one try) for two reasons:

1. It'll give you some information about your download speeds.  It probably won't come as a big surprise, but to see some actual numbers against what you're paying your internet provider for could be eye opening.  

2. If you're not paranoid about the government (yes, they do ask for your location) spying on you, this will give the FCC valuable information to help them move the National Plan along.

Wait, there's more...

If you have an iPhone or an Android based smart phone you can do the same test for them from anywhere.  

For kicks I downloaded the iPhone version and so far it's told me that AT&T isn't doing a great job in the D.C. area.  Check out some data points from random tests I've done the past two weeks (all speeds in Mbps):


Compared to Chicago (where I had a chance to test briefly last weekend).


Uploads weren't great in the Windy City, but the two download data points smoked the average I'm getting around D.C.

Not ground breaking (yet), but overall this is an ambitious and potentially awesome plan and I recommend everyone at least check it out.  And participate with the data collection if you can.