United Wifi: How Can It Be So Bad?

United-WifiI just flew United non-stop from Seattle to Washington D.C. (Dulles) and back. I realized too late after booking the trip that this was the airline on which I had never successfully connected to their in-air wifi. Since it was a five hour flight, I decided I would bear down this time and finally fix the problem (after all, I’ve worked in the Internet business for over 20 years).

So, on the outbound trip, I literally spent TWO HOURS trying everything I could to get a connection. Absolutely nothing worked. After I gave up in frustration, a helpful flight attendant (who I could tell had spent many hours trying to debug wifi connections for passengers) make the suggestion to forget the United wifi network at the end of the flight.

So I did that and then tried to forget all about the whole experience—too many other things to worry about after missing

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What He Said (about Sovrin)

phil-windley-headshotI joke with Phil Windley that half my blog posts are about his blog posts. But there’s a good reason for that. Phil’s a prolific blogger because he’s a prolific thinker, and there is a very high signal-to-noise ratio in those thoughts. Lately what Phil’s been thinking and blogging about is self-sovereign identity— specifically Sovrin, the new public permissioned ledger for self-sovereign identity that was announced last month at the Ctrl-Shift Personal Information Economy Conference in London. Phil is chair of the Sovrin Foundation Board of Trustees (I am Secretary), and in that leadership role he’s published a series of blog posts that stake out the philosophical, political, technical, and practical underpinnings of self-sovereign identity. Here’s a quick guide to these posts, in chronological order (oldest-to-newest):

Even Just Two Days Can Be a Vacation

“Summer vacation” this year consisted of just two days—the only two days my two sons could free up to take off with my wife and I. There wasn’t even enough time to go out of town, so finally we had a real “staycation”. The first day we did classic Seattle tourist gigs like Waterfall Garden Park, Pioneer Square, the Underground Seattle Tour (a real hoot), the Seattle Center Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit (mind-blowing), and dinner at the Pike Place Market (Shiro’s new place Sushi Kashiba—fantastic). The second day was even more domestic: together we disassembled one of the icons of the boy’s childhood—the treehouse we spent a whole summer building fifteen years ago (but which now had become a full-blown hazard due to a rotting floor). reed-treehouse.png Yes, there were some sad moments—but all of us sweating together on it (it was a record-breaking Seattle afternoon) made it more of a wake than a funeral. And we left the
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Zootopia Is My Happy Place

ZootopiaI don’t think I’ve had such a good time at the movies since Little Miss Sunshine. If you just want to smile—and laugh—and clap—and feel like dancing all over the theatre—don’t miss this. And don’t watch it at home (which you will want to do a thousand times) until you’ve had the full movie theatre experience. As my wife and I were walking out, one of the ushers said, “This movie should be required viewing in America.” To which I said—with a completely straight face, “I can’t believe it only got 98% on Rotten Tomatoes”. It’s a 100.

The Offer Letter of Your Dreams from eShares

eshares-offer-letter-coverIronically, this post has nothing to do with my company going live with eShares online equity management service yesterday. The only connection is that it may be the reason (in some scary way I haven’t figure out yet) that this Medium story from eShares CEO Henry Ward appeared at the top of my Medium news feed later that day. No matter—this post is about the most stunning offer letter you have ever seen. One that is sure to set a new standard across the startup industry. I don’t want to spoil it for you by showing/telling more—it’s a quick read, so just click through and take a glance. You will immediately see why I recommended it. I’m impressed by eShares as a cloud-based equity management tool so far (it’s not perfect—we’ve already caught and reported a few bugs—but it’s 1000x better than handing cap tables and stock certificates the old manual way). But now I’m even more impressed with eShares the
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The Boys in the Boat and the O-Ring Theory of Development

boys-in-the-boatI can’t keep track of the number of times I’ve done a post just to point at one of Phil Windley’s posts. But there’s a good reason: Phil’s a highly discriminating thinker and writer who hits some nails right on the head. This particular nail is actually Phil recommending a 20 minute video on the O-Ring Theory of Production. It’s one of those great explanations of something you may have intuitively sensed before—that great teams can produce results dramatically better than teams only slightly less capable—but now can understand with startling clarity. As society and technology grows increasingly complex, the O-Ring Theory of Production has very important implications. I certainly know it mirrors my own experience of technical teams. As I read it, I had one more revelation of where it applies: eight-oar crew teams. For a spellbindingly good example, I can’t recommend The Boys in the Boat highly enough. Yes, I’m biased: it’s set in Seattle and features
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How to Specify the Email Address to Use in a Google Contacts Group

google-contacts-logoSo how many users do you think are on Gmail now? A quick Google search reveals roughly 500 million (that’s about 1/8th of all email users in the world right now). So how many of them do you think use Google Contacts? Given that it’s Gmail’s default address book, I’d guess 90% plus. So how many do you think use the contact groups feature? Given that it’s the easiest way to email the same group of contacts rather than typing their addresses over and over, I’m guessing at least 25%. That means there’s a good chance that at least 100 million people have this simple problem: if a member of a contact group has more than one email address…how do you specify which email address(es) to use for that contact in that group??? It turns out this is a must-have feature of a contact group. I work in high tech, so maybe my contacts
gmail-contacts-email-example
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Ex Machina: One Very Fine Machine

ex-machina-posterAbout a third of the way into this movie I found myself thinking that film has become such a high art form, attracting so much talent the world over, that either we’re going to run out of ideas or our heads are going to explode. This is the sharpest, tightest, most skillful sci-fi script in memory. And very skillfully executed, like a hall of mirrors constructed by NASA. Add to that performances that are uncanny in their intensity, and the result will live with you for a long, long time. Which was undoubtably writer/director Alex Garland’s goal here. Not just to get under your skin, but inside your mind. And maybe break it open.

Brad Feld on How to Deal with Email After a Long Vacation

brad-feldMy Newsle service spotted this post by Brad Feld about his recommended approach to dealing with missed email: ignore it and re-engage with your email stream afresh upon your return. I completely agree; that’s was the same conclusion I came to after my summer vacation in 2013. Brad ends his post by saying:
I’m always looking for other approaches to try on this, so totally game to hear if you have special magic ones.

This resonates with me because my focus right now is on how the XDI semantic data interchange protocol can give us a new form of messaging that we’ve never had before—something that gives us new and better ways of handling messages that either email or texting give us today. Stay tuned.

Whiplash is the Best Titled Film – and Possibly the Best Film – of 2014

Whiplash_posterWhen I wrote my review of The Imitation Game in January, I said it set the high-water mark for film in 2014. And, when viewed from the perspective of all aspects of filmcraft, it did. But when I finally saw Whiplash the weekend before the Academy Awards, I found myself feeling like I’d just been shot out of a cannon. Every adjective you see on the poster to the left is, in fact, an understatement. “He can’t possibly mean that”, you think. I mean every word of it. See it, and then ask yourself when is the last time you saw a movie that got your blood racing that fast. It’s bloody genius. We will be seeing a LOT more from director Damien Chazelle.

T.Rob on the Samsung AdHub Privacy Policy – Have We Reached a Privacy Waterloo?

iopt-logoOne of my favorite bloggers in the Internet identity/security/privacy/personal data space, T.Rob Wyatt, just posted an expose of what the Samsung privacy policy really means when it comes to using Samsung devices and their integrated AdHub advertising network. I can tell you right now, I’ll never buy a Samsung smart-ANYTHING until that policy is changed. Full stop. If every prospective Samsung customer does the same thing—and tells Samsung this right out loud, like I’m doing right now—then we’d finally see some these policies changing. Because it would finally hit them in the pocketbook.

Selma

Selma_posterIt is very hard, being a white man who was only seven years old at the time, to even think I can appreciate what it was like to cross the Edmund Pettus bridge on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965. But Selma takes you there. Puts you in the shoes and eyes and ears and mostly the voice of Martin Luther King Jr. David Oyelowo is practically a medium channeling that voice—in fact it was stunning to learn that it was not the actual words of Dr. King due to restrictions on the rights (so even greater plaudits to director Ava DuVernay for making them ring so true.) Though the singing of Glory by John Legend and Common at this year’s Academy Awards was the most moving and significant Best Song in memory, it still did not offset the travesty that David Oyelowo was not nominated. What, pray God, was the Academy thinking?

FounderDating Breaks the First Rule of Trust—I Will Never Use This Site

True story: two weeks ago I received an email an entrepreneur I know and respect (who will remain unnamed). It read as follows:
Hi Drummond, I’ve just joined FounderDating (no, it’s NOT romantic) – a handpicked network of entrepreneurs connecting with advisors and other talented entrepreneurs. Can you do me a quick favor by leaving a quick vouch (aka reference) for me as an advisor? Should take 2 minutes.
http://members.founderdating.com/advisor/vouch/63582/ (To prove that you’re the real Drummond, you will be asked to use LinkedIn.) Unlike with some systems, this will help me make much more meaningful connections with potential advisees. Thank you,
[Name Withheld]
Knowing that this entrepreneur was a very discriminating person who chose his words carefully, I considered this a pretty ringing endorsement of this new site. So I went out of my way to provide a vouch for him. The site subsequently contacted me with the following email with the subject line, “VIP Invite”:

Hi Drummond:

We noticed your background and wanted to invite you to be a part of a select group of current FounderDating members that are Advisors on FD:Advisors.

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The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Unsung No More

The_Imitation_Game_posterAs each year closes, I find myself thinking about the “high water mark film”—the movie that did the most in the past year to raise the bar for filmmaking as a whole. This doesn’t mean it will be the Best Picture winner (although it’s almost always at least a nominee). Rather it’s an entirely subjective judgement in my own mind of how much a particular film did to push the cinematic envelope. Last year that film was Gravity. This year, although Interstellar was spectacular in many ways, and will live long in my memory for the power of its message of survival, the high water mark film is The Imitation Game:
  • Benedict Cumberbatch is simply extraordinary. He’s risen to the top of my list of favorite actors and this performance put him over the top. (The Academy Award is gone girl.)
  • The script had me cheering for screenwriter Graham Moore. Yes, it stretched the truth. But it did so with so much elegance and beauty that this artistic license should be granted by the Academy itself.
  • If director Morten Tyldum is not at least nominated by the Academy, I’m boycotting the Oscars. This isn’t just BBC good, this sets a new bar for period dramas where every last detail makes a difference.
And at the center of it all is the sheer brilliance and moral power of Alan Turing. Almost no man alive can fully appreciate the impact he has had on the world we live in today. He’s been one of the great unsung intellectual heros of modern times—and this, finally, is his song.
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The Google Flight Info Trick

When I first stumbled across this, I thought I was the only one who hadn’t heard about it. Now I find myself telling other travelers about it all the time and am consistently surprised that they don’t know it. If you want to see the current departure and arrival time, terminal, and gate for any flight, just type the following into the Google search box:
flight info [airline] [flight-number]

Where [airline] is the name of the airline and [flight-number] is the number of the flight. Example: google-flight-info-search-box-text Here’s an example of what you get back: google-flight-info-search-box It works from any browser on any device and for every airline and flight number I’ve ever tried. Good job, Google.

Interstellar: See It in the Biggest Baddest IMAX Theatre You Can

Interstellar_film_posterChristopher Nolan is quite possibly my favorite living director. Inception soars among any other film in the last decade; as far as I’m concerned, the fact that it was not nominated for Best Director is one of the most damning omissions in Academy history. The Dark Knight Rises, though in a different lane, was equally successful, and did Nolan ever “stick the ending” (his own words). So my expectations for Interstellar were very high. Nolan does not disappoint. While Interstellar does not rival Inception in terms of sheer cinematic virtuosity, or The Dark Knight Rises in terms of dramatic punch, it charts its own new territory on several dimensions:
  • The sound design will take you breath away. Literally. The score itself won’t earn any awards, but I have never experienced sound so carefully and majestically interwoven with the unfolding action and pace of a film. See it for that reason alone, but see it in the best-equipped IMAX theatre you possibly can. (My wife and son and I were fortunate enough to see it in the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in LA, where Christopher Nolan himself had tuned the sound system for showing Interstellar.)
  • The feeling not just of space, but of other worlds in space, has never been so depicted so immersively. Interstellar does for deep space what Gravity did for Earth orbit.
  • The special effects, and specifically the wormhole at the center of the plot, are innovative enough to have actually advanced science. Read the Wired article for more.
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Guardians of the Galaxy

guardians-of-the-galaxy When I first heard our 70+ year old neighbor remark that GOTG was the most entertaining movie she’d she’s seen in years, I knew I had to go. And within the first two minutes I realized why. This is not another Star Wars. Or Star Trek. It takes cheekiness to a new level. But it’s a great level. This new franchise is going to live long and prosper.

Acupuncture for Oso

oso-supportIt’s all but impossible to relate to the scope of the destruction from the mudslide last week outside Oso, only an hour to the north of our house in Seattle. But Bill Wulsin (whose sister Virginia Lee sent me a guest post about Ukraine two weeks ago) just emailed me that he’s been part of the Acupuncture for Oso team that has come together to help the town and the emergency rescue personnel. It’s just one way to help, but that’s how we get through these things. Please find yours.

Her

ImageMy wife was reluctant to see Her because she thought it might simply be a quirky story that had garnered favor with the Hollywood in-crowd. I convinced her to go only after Spike Jonze won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. I was right. In my personal opinion, Spike definitely deserved it because Her is a sci-fi epic poem—a true love story crafted directly from a writer’s hands and heart. You can almost see Spike having a dialog in his writing head with…Her. And Joaquin Phoenix lives the role so completely you can’t get between him and…Her. See it with an open mind and an open heart.

Understanding Ukraine

[At a friend's 60th birthday party last weekend, I met his sister Virginia Lee who had been in the Peace Corps in Ukraine 5 years ago. I asked her about the unfolding situation there, and her answer so enlightened me that I suggested she write it down. She asked me to post it because she didn't have a blog. I was happy to because this is the kind of first-person truth about cultures around the globe that we should be helping each other discover. =Drummond]

Understanding Ukraine

ukrainePeople have been fighting over Ukraine for centuries. As a prime piece of real estate, it is strategically located between the Carpathian Mountains (and Europe) to the west, with the Black Sea (and access to the Mediterranean) to the south—and Russia on its northern & eastern borders. Not to mention that Ukraine has some of the most fertile soil in the world where sunflowers grow six feet high and heirloom tomatoes are the size of grapefruits. Literally, “Ukraine” means “borderland,” which has been the perennially shifting border between east and west, Russia and Europe, however you want to draw the line. The Dnipro (or Dnieper) River flows right down the middle of Ukraine—through the heart of Kyiv actually—essentially separating east and west. To the credit of most Ukrainians, they embrace both cultures and both languages, as if their mother is European and their father is Russian. How can you choose between two parents? In any given Ukrainian city, you will find a Catholic church on one side of the street and an Orthodox church on the other side, with a Jewish synagogue either boarded up or hidden somewhere down the block. So this tug of war between east and west is nothing new. What is new is that the Ukrainians finally have a chance to run their own country without the Lithuanians, Mongolians, Ottoman Turks, Poles or Russians telling them what to do, as has been the case for the past 1000 years. And this is the essence of the recent revolution in Maidan in Kyiv. In Ukrainian, it’s called “Maidan Nezolejnosti” and in English it’s “Independence Square,” which is where everyday Ukrainians have risked their lives to stand for freedom—the kind that we Americans take for granted. I have learned most of this from my Ukrainian friends who I met during my recent Peace Corps service in Ukraine from 2007-09. I am in touch with them regularly, and what frustrates them most about the current situation is how their fight for freedom and independence has been co-opted by the media. To them, the real story is getting rid of Yanukovich, a Mafioso president steeped in corruption who bankrupted their country and ruined their economy. And then the focus shifted to the issue of Russians & Crimeans—a showdown between east and west and a rerun of the same old story, whose most recent version in history was the Cold War. You can’t really blame Putin for seizing this golden opportunity to gain world attention, prove himself as a strong leader to his Russian following—and grab a prime piece of real estate in the process. Having visited Crimea several times during my Peace Corps service, I came away with the distinct impression that Crimea is both beautiful and dangerous, like a Russian hooker, who will not hesitate to betray (and exploit) you if you are not Russian. Regrettably, Ukraine has had to let Crimea go back to her lover. I pray that the rest of the world will be there to help Ukraine heal her broken heart and rebuild her life. And not relive the horrors of Stalin and the Soviet era as well as the WW2 occupation of Hitler—and all the geo-political struggles that have been played out on the battleground of her sacred territory—all in the name of defining that elusive boundary between east and west. Perhaps it is Ukraine’s fate to be that borderland, so please let’s allow her the peace she deserves.