Assembly!

I’m super excited to share that I am part of the 2019 cohort of Assembly.

First – the shout-outs.

  • Thank you to Leo Gomez for letting me know about the fellowship and encouraging me to apply.
  • Thank you to Henriette Cramer for the inspiring collegiality around algorithmic and product bias work while I was at Spotify, and for continuing to lead and do such great work in this space.
  • Thank you the D&I and Impact communities at Spotify, and the two amazing women that lead these – Isa Notermans and Kerry Steib – for giving me the space to experiment and learn.

Assembly is a collaboration of the MIT Media Lab and the Berkman Klein Center. The program gathers technologists, managers, policymakers, and other professionals to confront emerging problems related to the ethics and governance of artificial intelligence.

The program runs for fourteen weeks, including a two week ideation process, and a twelve week collaborative development period, when the cohort works in small teams to build implementable projects.

What will I be doing in this program? In my application I wrote:

I thrive in spaces where I can step into new and emerging challenges. As a curious learner and empathic organizer I investigate issues from many sides, then bring new and under-explored considerations to a conversation. Ideally, my work helps move complex problems into solution spaces. As a product manager, project manager and facilitator I enjoy helping define the vision and engaging in the iterative work of building and tracking prototypes. With an Assembly team, I believe my skills would help facilitate, organize, and move the team to action. I would also help the team create a shareable vision for external stakeholders.

I’m really excited to continue digging into the work I’ve done around Inclusive Product Development, Content Moderation, and of course the opportunity to work towards social justice via my chosen profession.

I’m beyond excited to be participating in this program and process, and will share out as often and as much as I can!

Inclusive Product Managers

[Repost from Medium]

My first post started to tease out the idea of “inclusive product development” — the idea that product development can incorporate radical empathy for users in ways that extend beyond personas, and get to the core understanding of how groups of users may use (or be unable to use) your product.

Today, I’ll continue with a brief description of me, as noted in that first post. I’ll keep it brief, because, to be honest, straight white cis men take up too much time & space on the internet already, and while it’s helpful to understand how I got here, I’m not aiming to be the subject of any of these articles.

In short — I spent the first ~6 years of my professional life listening to the stories of others as I engaged in community & labor union organizing all over the USA. I was exposed to a broad set of brave and caring people. I have spent the past ~14 years in tech, primarily in product, and have had the opportunity to work on a global scale, requiring me to continue to think beyond my own experience.

I like to think that my three most important and useful skills as a product person are active listening, care, and empathy. Especially in regards to “inclusive product development”. Why? We’ll explore this in future posts.

Speaking of future posts, beyond articulating more specifics of what Inclusive Product Development is, there are some industries I’m looking forward to exploring in future posts, and how these might incorporate inclusive product ideas.

  • Ride sharing services
  • Short term home rental services
  • Media companies

Again — if you’ve got ideas for industries or companies that are doing inclusive product well or poorly, please let me know.

Let’s talk “inclusive product development”!

[Repost from my new Medium]

I’m a community builder, a product manager, an organizer, a do-er, a listener. And, I’m new to using Medium as a place to broadcast my thoughts.

I’ll tell you more about myself as we go.

Right now — let me tell you why I’m here.

I’m here to discuss Inclusive Product Development. What it is, why it matters, who is doing it now, who should be doing it, and more.

At it’s core — inclusive product development basically means thinking about who can use your product, who wants to use your product, and being aware and proactive in your product development processes to ensure that diversity, equity, inclusion, and cultural specificity and appropriateness are considerations visible and represented in the final product.

I’m building up examples of this work — and will be providing some analysis and thoughts of these examples in future posts.

If you’ve got an example of how this work is done, or is blatantly not done — I’d love for you to share it so that we can discuss it.

p.s. — I’ve been sitting on this draft for a while, but given the passing of Aretha Franklin today, this is the message required to get off my ass and use whatever I’ve got to push this world closer to justice. Rest In Power to the Queen of Soul!

A Change Is Gonna Come by Aretha Franklin
https://open.spotify.com/track/4jeEaCq9omzcX5cOFKhT5O?si=pCIZpEDlRtSFSs7HhZXxng

Trump Years Survival Plan (a draft)

DRAFT!! I’m continuing to add to this post as the days go on… 

As a way for me to channel my rage against the election into something a bit more useful, I’m starting this as a draft of how I’ll survive. If you choose to read this, or follow some of these steps, great. I welcome company on this journey.

Also – I intend to not only survive, but THRIVE – and as part of this thriving I’ll be active in my resistance and my building work. How?

  1. Step out of the echo chamber
  2. Engage with community
  3. Organize “the” white people around you
  4. Avoid purity, seek common ground
  5. Step outside of the comfort zone, and be willing to take risks.

IF you like polished writers, this one has a nice set of their own tips.

  1. Echo Chamber

Turn off your social media. Turn on long form content. Turn on conversations in real life. Put the fucking phone DOWN.

Start to develop, or sign up to, visions. Find visionaries, and embrace visions of alternate futures. Our future, as we are currently tracking, will kill us all.

There are plenty of smart people writing at places like the NYTimes, Guardian, WashingtonPost, Atlantic, Slate, Vox, etc. However… they (and likely you if you’re reading this) are part of a coastal elite. And, as such, are probably writing from within the echo chamber.

More on the echo chamber here.

For those moments when you have to “social media” spend your time reading stuff like the stuff that Shaun King posts or articles (like this).

Why should you turn off the Echo Chamber?

What is the Echo Chamber?

Facebook is for sure the echo chamber. The whole game there on FB is to keep you engaged for long period of time so they can sell you ads. Advertisers like to find “user segments” and like to buy ads against clearly defined groups of users. So – if Facebook can figure out who is like you (ie – who spends money like you, who thinks like you, etc etc) then they can more easily package you up and sell your eyeball attention off to advertisers. Serving you stories and things from friends who believe / act / think / buy like you definitely serves Facebook’s need$, but doesn’t serve the needs of democracy.

Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, all that. That’s all the echo chamber. Same as Facebook pretty much, but they just haven’t been able to monetize their users in the same way as Facebook (other than Instagram, which is owned by Facebook).

2. Community Engagement

 

3. Organize the White People

Why? See the chart below of who voted for whom in the 2016 Presidential Election.

cwyzzrnukaa6y3k

And it’s “the white people” to reference the othering that Trump engaged in when talking about various communities of color.

4. Avoid Purity, Seek Common Ground

5. Take Risks

If we fail in this century, it is because we are too timid.
If we lose our way in America, it is because we are too complacent.

– from The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks by Terry Tempest Williams

Some risks are easy to take – like calling our elected officials to let them know how we feel – that we support them standing up the OrangeBully (for example). This specific risk is basically just the risk of “wasting” a few minutes. It’s also really effective.

Another risk? Uproot yourself and move. Not to Canada or Europe. But to a Swing State. Michigan. North Carolina. Ohio. Pennsylvania. Arizona. Wisconsin. Move there and organize your new neighbors.

And another risk? Direct Action. Whatever form that takes. When I think of my grandfather, who took a MAJOR risk which landed him in forced labor camps for almost 4 years of his life… I feel pretty damn complacent. He took a stand against war, against imperialism, and for peace. If he did that, I can certainly stand up in some bigger ways than phone calls and letters.

 

 


Reading List

Above, I advocate turning off the echochamber. And. There have been some interesting thought provoking things flying across the intertubes.

Some of these:
Or just go listen to some Leonard Cohen and drink some whiskey….
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Taste of India

I’m just back from my first visit to India – and it was a quick great whirlwind.

First off – saying “my first visit to India” is only slightly less ridiculous than saying “trip to Africa”. India is a country of 1.2B+ people, 29 states, 7 union territories, 22 “scheduled” (or “official”) languages, and as a result is definitely not a unified experience or place.

I was in Delhi for a few days. Delhi itself is a city of cities (including New Delhi), and is home to ~17M+ people. Specifically, I was staying in Gurgaon, one of the “new” cities within Delhi. I had a few short expeditions into other parts of Delhi as well.

This post is basically to give my family a link to photos with some context, not much more than that. Enjoy it (or don’t) for what it is.

Day 1 (linked to photos) – I arrived, checked into the hotel, had an awesome lunch, and headed to Old Delhi to meet a colleague. We checked out the Jama Masjid (a really cool old Mosque), wandered through a mazy bazar, grabbed a rickshaw (aka “tuk tuk”) and ended the day like colonialists, drinking a gin & tonic at the Imperial Hotel. Some video.

Day 2 – We had some team meetings in the morning, and then a colleague and I headed to get a SIM card for a phone we had to test out various local services. What we had hoped/expected would be a simple task turned into a ridiculous (but fun) little adventure around Gurgaon. Apparently one can’t get a SIM anymore without a passport & local address – neither of which we had. After a lovely time bumping reggaeton in a rickshaw driven by “Jaq” all around Gurgaon (including having to stop to get my photo taken at a photo stall, copy my drivers license, and change a flat tire), we got a SIM which was to become active in a “few days”. Ha. Good times. We retired to the hotel to explore, have a pool side drink, and a team dinner out with some local contacts. Some video.

Day 3 – All day meetings with local contacts – our worst smog day yet – and dinner & drinks with local contacts including a too-sweet-Negroni and a SouthAfricanAmerican beer.

Day 4 – We spent the morning working as a team at the hotel with a few short meetings. Then we headed out for streetfood lunch and tourist time in Hauz Khas, a cool area of town built (in an unplanned, chaotic way) around an old fort / castle / school / tomb. Wild parrots & peacocks & peahens were all around (look closely at the photos you may see one). It was super interesting to be around buildings built in the 1200/1300s and have them just be part of the everyday life of people. Some video.

On Saturday, before I left I got hipped to a great book about India – Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India’s Geography by Sanjeev Sanyal. I grabbed it at the airport – great plane read on the way home!

Some general notes. We were staying a ridiculously lovely hotel, though at a great price. Hotel had yoga every morning, which I took advantage of – heavy on the breathing & chanting – so a nice change of pace from US ashtanga stuff. The smog was also horrible. Dangerous horrible.

I did a little fun project for Elena, taking one of her little toys on the adventure with me. See that adventure here.

Black & White Grammys

I wasn’t the only one noticing the lack of black faces on stage being given awards, while black faces were the larger number of performers on the evening.

Some coverage of the Grammys that says it better than I can. Starting off with a juicy quote in relation to Kanye up-staging Beck.

This:

Rap is being parceled off and sold for scraps (see: 808 drums in country songs, Iggy Azealia, Macklemore, twerking classes, and the overarching effort to homogenize Hip Hop while demonizing its community of origin) and Rock N’ Roll in its original (read: blackest) form is what we’ve come to call R&B (even though Sam Smith and Adele singing R&B is called “Pop” by labels and radio heads alike).

from Boston.com

And these:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/02/the-two-grammys/385156/

http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/02/05/grammys-highlight-fears-possible-whitewashed-hip-hop-dystopia/tJgbK5ayMmSUkyjfqHBRGN/story.html

http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/beyonce-history-grammy-awards-racism/

http://www.thefader.com/2014/12/12/10-reasons-the-grammys-are-as-white-as-you-think-they-are

But Beautiful

I’m settling in to read “But Beautiful” again. Alli gave this to me last year for my birthday, I started it (and loved it), but didn’t make it through. Here goes take two, as birthday rolls around again.

Since it is so intimately tied to music, I wanted to listen as well – either as I read, or in between readings. And now since I have motivation to create some Spotify playlists, I thought I’d do so. I am not the first to do this.

This guy (Jason Boog) made a short playlist.

This guy (Thorsten Funke) made a longer playlist, of all the songs mentioned in the book – it’s pretty great.

I am going to make at least 1, maybe 2.

The first is a collaborative playlist so anyone can help me find this stuff – I’m taking the “Select Discography” section of the book and going to try and add as many of the albums that appear there that are also on Spotify. I’m not checking labels, so if some of this stuff is now Public Domain there may be non-original labels getting the spins, but … that’s for my retirement I guess.

The second playlist would be the “best of” that discography, so will, by defintion, be rather personal.

Anyway, a fun project to go along with a great read.