Tech & the American Crisis

by Om Malik

Actions taken by technology platforms in the wake of Capitol Hill’s events have generated intense debate, especially from within the tech community. But many of the loudest voices have shown little understanding of the nuance of the situation or the historical context of actions taken by various platforms…

…Jillian York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation helpfully explains that Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and others have previously taken similar actions — they just didn’t involve an outgoing U.S. president…

My own opinion is that this collision of politics, society, and technology has been a long time coming…My argument has been that these social platforms are essentially nation-states and require a higher level of social and civic etiquette established and enforced through official policies. When evaluating the performance of Twitter, Facebook, and others on this particular score, the phrase I have often used is “dereliction of duty.”…Today’s companies are responsible and accountable for recognizing the challenges and impact of scale — not just the pursuit of profit…

…Peter Singer…rightly points out that the recent headline-generating steps taken to foster a safer environment — both online and off — are long overdue. “They are not just tech creators or even the equivalent of news-media editors. After years of dodging it, they get that they are running information warzones,” Singer writes. They being social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Singer’s framing of the social platform as a battlefield is particularly important for thinking about the future. In his assessment of the seriousness of the events of last week for The New York Times, Yale professor Timothy Snyder wrote, “Post-truth is pre-fascism.” Whether we participate on the platforms or not, we will all suffer the ultimate cost of lies.

To read the complete article undamaged by my blogulous editing, click the link at Om’s name up top.

A visual reinterpretation of self

By OM MALIK

As someone who lives in the grays, I immensely appreciate a cold rainy weekend in San Francisco. This morning, I made myself a nice cup of tea and sat down on the writing table with my iPad, hoping to spend time reading some articles and catching up on books that have slowly started to pile up on the bed-stand. For some odd reason, I began to look at some of my older photos. I had edited them over the past twelve months.

As I flipped through the gigantic photoshop files, it felt as if I was looking at the work of someone else. I felt assaulted by the colors — even though I had stripped out the extraneous as much as I could. It is not as if I don’t enjoy a beautiful sunset or a glorious sunrise. It is not that I don’t enjoy the pinks, mauve, and gentle oranges over the breaking waves of the Pacific. However, when it comes to the visual interpretation of these same landscapes, I can’t help wrinkling my proverbial nose as if the color was a piece of rotting vegetation?

How did I end up here? Why? I often ask myself.

I always enjoy Om’s musings. Whether the topic is writing about the technical machinery that seems to be cranking full speed in his neck of the prairie…or photography…he’s just about always addressing something of interest to me.

I’m not the dedicated photographer I have been in decades past; but, my interest has never waned. Om’s style and commentary always finds the heart of whatever values he examines.

We are underestimating Zoom


Chris Montgomery/Unsplash

For as long as I can remember, companies have been trying to build and sell elaborate and expensive video conferencing systems with massive screens, near-perfect audio, super high-definition video, and complex networking software layer to make it all work. These were luxury items, geared toward chief executives and their offices.

The arrival of the pandemic forced us all to seek out the simplest product with the least amount of friction. That turned out to be Zoom. And almost overnight, everyone — from late-night television hosts to the presidential candidates — was Zooming.

The prevalence of Zoom has shown us that working from a home office can be better than sitting in traffic for two hours. Even if, at this point, we find ourselves despising Zoom and complaining of persistent Zoom fatigue, we will not be going back to our pre-Zoom ways after the pandemic subsides. Whether Zoom remains the standard or gets overtaken by some upstart, Bill Gates predicts “that over 50% of business travel and over 30% of days in the office will go away.

I love Om’s writing style. It feels like he’s talking directly to me. Even the often cranky tech of blogging software doesn’t get in his way. No harm done, either, when he’s riding the wave of a topic where he is eminently qualified, whether that be the tech industry, software or his gorgeous photography.

Yet Another Monday in Pandemic…by Om Malik


My work desk: iPad Pro w/KeyChron K2 keyboard & Apple TrackPad

On the news, on social media, and in personal communication apps, there seems to seems to be a continuous end-of-the-world vibe. Given that none of us can do much about the way things are going, except self isolating and pay attention to the needs of each others, you get the sense that much of this is misery porn. I can’t help but join writer Dan Samorodinitsky’s plea for “no more coronavirus takes.” What the hell does anyone know? Even the news is just a wash, rinse, and repeat of the same old stuff. Enough already!

For me, today is Day 38 of self-isolation. It is the start of another work week, and I am doing what I would normally do on any given Monday. I get up, go for a walk, come back home, and make a cup of tea before starting in on my list of things I need to do today. I am checking in with some of the founders I work with and figuring out if they need anything. There is a backlog of emails from the weekend, including newsletters that have piled up in my newsletter folder. In many ways, I am going to do exactly what I always do.

My partner Jon Callaghan sent a weekend email to the team, and he shared a slide that posed this question: Who do I want to be during COVID-19? (See Below)

I have emerged from the dark blue zone, and I am now in the growth zone. If anything, after a month of being alone with my thoughts, I have started to make notes about what could possibly be different. I think there is a better-than-good chance that our behaviors change as a result of this pandemic.

In recent days, I have had a series of conversations around the changes with many of my friends, and some shapes have started to emerge. Every time there is a shock to the system, things change — some for better, and some for worse. I am currently creating a ledger and thinking about opportunities, not just for innovation, but for a better humanity.

This dropped into my email box, this morning. A post at Om Malik’s personal website. Professional writer, reflective, subtle photographer – in my mind. A deeply caring human being involved with our species on a global scale. I suggest you spend time wandering through this and other sites he’s part of. He’s a creative voice in more than this; but, it’s how I know him best over the years.

Without context Google’s billion device “Assistant” claim is B.S.


ReBlogged from om.coNick Bilton photo

Google says its “Assistant” (the voice-based query service) is soon going to be on a billion devices –primarily phones, and a majority of them being on the Android phones. There are some obvious questions that the report should have covered. For instance:

  • Are these pre-installed on the OS as part of deals with handset makers or phone companies?
  • What some money involved to get these pre-installed if they were pre-installed?
  • What percentage of these were downloaded by end customers?
  • How many Google Assistant speaker-type devices has the company sold and not just given away as part of some promotion?
  • What is the number of daily active users of the Google Assistant?
  • How is the daily usage trending? Any data? Claiming global active users have grown four times over past one year is utterly meaningless!
  • What countries is the Assitant popular in?
  • And is it GDPR compliant?
  • How does it correlate with Google’s current business model of placing advertising against search results?

In other words, without the relevant context, Google’s claim is no better than old fashion bullshit. For whatever its worth, I find Google Assistant is very good at understanding my accent than Alexa and Siri. They are also much more accurate than those two. Unfortunately, I don’t trust Google to let them into my apartment on a device.

Ditto! I agree.

Traveling to Ladakh – part 2


Om Malik

❝ When I went to sleep last night, I was excited about the prospects of the new day. I had no idea that it would turn out to be one of those red letter days that teach you pretty much everything about life. Now that I think of it, it was a good parable for life, and a reminder of how despite our illusions, we are never really in control.

❝ The day started for me very early – at nearly 3 am. It is — in the words of my friend Liam Casey — the jet lag witching hour, when you lie wide awake in the bed, looking at the roof of the room. In my case, I turned and looked outside.

And what I saw was magical. A sky that was wholly adorned with stars. It was the most beautiful night sky I ever saw. I’ve never seen so many stars ever before. Never in California. Never in Death Valley. Never in Iceland. To be honest, never anywhere. It was simply fantastic. Stars were like the sparkling pearls embroidered with abandon into the black velvet that is the universe…

When Om is traveling, his letters, his posts are as magical as his photography. The talent he expresses with his vision of the world around us is as special and alive as any description or analysis.

Pic of the Day – Calistoga in the rain


Click to enlargeOm Malik

❝ I ended up in Calistoga to celebrate a friend’s birthday. I forgot my backpack at home and as a result am reduced to just one device – my phone. It is interesting to be forced to use a different, wider lens when you are used to a 50 mm lens.

❝ Made with the iPhone7Plus at the Calistoga Ranch, California. Edited with RNI Films app.

Om is living proof that journalists and geeks can both end up doing a damned good job at being human beings. Thoughtful, caring, constructive.

This is from a series of photos noted above – taken with his iPhone as an expedient. But, don’t be surprised by his skill and obvious talent. He’s done notable work with the iPhone as an exercise before.

Click this link through to the photos page of his blog. Click any of the images you like and you will move into the series that snap represents.

Pic of the day – Finding my lens, Om Malik


Click to enlargeOm Malik

My recent visit to Faroe Islands turned out to be life changing in more ways than I had thought. The first break through came on the second night of the trip and it has allowed me to focus on what matters, and why some tools work for some people and some don’t. It has had a remarkable impact on how I make photos. Here is how it happened.

After a long day two, I came back to the hotel and downloaded my photos to the laptop, only to find many of them were unsatisfactory. I had been using the (24mm – equivalent on full frame) 16mm f/1.4 Fuji wide angle lens. Many of the vistas that looked great when standing at the top of the hill, felt so much less inspiring when viewed on the desktop screen. They looked flat and lacked the three dimensional feeling I aspire to in my photos and other creative efforts. I felt discouraged, because of what seemed like white noise. The puffin photos weren’t good either and despite walking to the very edge of the cliff and lying in cold and wet grass for a while to capture the moment. (A handful made the final cut, but frankly I could and should have done better.)

Later in the evening, Dan Rubin, who is one of the instructors at the f8workshops, and I ended up talking about the day’s work and my frustration with the pictures. Dan suggested that perhaps what I like is to shoot is tighter and highly isolated views. He pointed out that I feel so happy with photos I make with my 50mm focal length lens. His suggestion: switch to the f2/50mm full time and use it not only as my general purpose lens but also for travel and landscape photography.

Forget about the wider views and instead focus on composition and strive to find ways to make photos that give the feeling of wide sweeping vistas and vastness, but leave that to a viewer’s imagination. You don’t have to put it all there in order to engage the viewer. And just like that, it all clicked in place.

RTFA to continue this voyage of discovery – or even better, wander over to Om’s site and wander back in time through photos and feelings about his trip to the Faroes.