New Unsplash account for photography

I’m trying to take more pictures with my mirrorless camera, especially when I travel or walk around the city. I’ve always been a big fan of Unsplash, which curates high-res user-submitted photography and releases “packs” of images completely free to the public domain. So for now, I’ll be releasing some of my favorite shots to the public domain and hosting them there.

Seaside cliffs in Point Arena

How AOL kept its free disk campaign to itself

AOL’s “carpet-bombing” free disk campaign in the 90s and 2000s worked incredibly well. But the woman responsible for it, Jan Brandt, wouldn’t let anyone acknowledge that, for fear of encouraging copycats. And while she didn’t speak much to the press at the time, she let loose in an interview with the Internet History Podcast in 2014. (Side note: I’ve been listening non-stop to episodes of this show, and they’re amazing.)

This is my favorite anecdote from her interview, where she explains how nervous she was that AOL’s competitors would follow their strategy.


I say I wake up every morning worried that I’m going to see Prodigy or CompuServe using the disks the way that we’re using them. That I’m going to see it stuck onto the front of a magazine, or that I’m going to see it in the mail.

And the thing that was really interesting about that point, and one of the reasons—you know, I gave very few interviews. In fact, it’s noted somewhere that I really wouldn’t talk to the press at that point, and the reason I wouldn’t—and I would never have talked to them then the way that I’m talking to you about it now—is because I felt like I was sitting there with the secret sauce, and everyone was going to want to know what were the responses? What were the costs? And I wasn’t going to tell them. So I didn’t think I’d make for a good story.

But Ted Leonsis was once on a panel with someone from CompuServe. And the guy from CompuServe, I don’t remember who it was at the time, said to Ted, “You guys are crazy, and the person running marketing has got to be a nutcase with the amount of money that you’re spending on these disks.”

Ted comes back and reports this to me, and I said, “Next time someone says that, agree that I’m a dumb broad, and that you’ve been trying to get me fired from the company for a long time and you haven’t been able to figure out why you haven’t been able to do that.” And the reason for that, really, is that I couldn’t believe that they weren’t trying it! And it’s because they were making a really common, frightfully common mistake about not understanding the economics of the business.

Listen to the whole episode and, really, the whole podcast.

You wouldn’t reimplement an API

I’ve been attending (and livetweeting) the Oracle v. Google jury trial for the last two weeks, and have had a lot of conversations and made a lot of jokes about it. One joke that went surprisingly well was an image I made and tweeted without context:

In fact, the picture got enough retweets and replies that I decided to make stickers. And t-shirts. And each of those things have gotten more attention than I expected. It’s been really exciting! I don’t have a distribution plan for the stickers besides handing them out in person (and self-addressed stamped envelopes to me at EFF), but there will be more than 300 t-shirts out there in the world. That blows my Alice & Bob design out of the water.

All this for being a pretty esoteric design. For one thing, the API reimplementation issue being litigated in Oracle is pretty arcane. For another, it relies on an anti-piracy reference that’s a decade-plus old at this point.

The shirts will be donezo Monday evening—if anybody wants to print their own, here are the high-res source files you can send to a printer or put on a screen yourself. (The first one is white on transparent, so you have to change the background to see it.) I’d love to see your take on it!

Stanford’s cactus garden and Stone River

I spent Friday and Saturday at Shift CTRL, a great academic conference in Stanford. There was a little more free time to explore the campus than on previous times I’ve been down there, because I had a bike and was by myself. Fortunately, I got tips to visit the cactus garden and the Stone River sculpture, both of which I recommend very highly as quiet, beautiful, contemplative spaces. Some pictures below.

Choochoobot in Source’s #botweek

I wrote about some of the things I learned from @choochoobot’s development (and popularity) for Source for its annual #botweek. It’s a little strange writing about programming projects, because I still feel very inexperienced, but I think there are some easy lessons to pull out here.

People do not behave rationally around emoji. A large and growing group of people love them more than anybody should love a font, and a small and shrinking set of people think they signal the end of polite interpersonal communication. In any case, that split has fueled the reaction to this bot, and it’s something to keep in mind: when crafting the “tone” of your tweets, you can choose to make them fun, and make people like seeing them.

Much more where that came from over at Source, and I’m hoping to do more @choochoobot work this weekend.