Jeff Reifman http://jeffreifman.com Lookahead Consulting, Seattle, Washington Mon, 24 Nov 2014 18:31:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Two People that Made Me a Better Writerhttp://jeffreifman.com/2014/11/22/two-people-made-better-writer/ http://jeffreifman.com/2014/11/22/two-people-made-better-writer/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 17:49:28 +0000 http://jeffreifman.com/?p=4075 If you liked this week’s “‘Amageddon': How Amazon’s culture is taking a toll on Seattle’s future,” there are two people that you may wish to follow, unfortunately, one has passed on and you can only read some of her earlier material. Jeanne Sather Back in 2002, I took a UW Extension course on non-fiction writing taught by journalist Jeanne Sather. She ...

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If you liked this week’s “‘Amageddon': How Amazon’s culture is taking a toll on Seattle’s future,” there are two people that you may wish to follow, unfortunately, one has passed on and you can only read some of her earlier material.

Jeanne Sather

jeanne-satherBack in 2002, I took a UW Extension course on non-fiction writing taught by journalist Jeanne Sather. She taught me how to write well, how to interview, how to pitch and how to get paid. She was tenacious and pushed her students to have backbone. Without Jeanne, I wouldn’t be a published writer. Building skill in my writing has opened up a lot of doors and opportunities for me, and I’m very thankful for her teaching and encouragement.

Jeanne developed breast cancer in 1998 and died in 2013 – that should tell you something about how strong a person she was. In 2003, she wrote about cancer in a cover story for Seattle Weekly, “Running with Fear: Confessions of a breast cancer poster child.” Jeanne hated the hypocrisy of pink cancer promotions and much of the language associated with cancer e.g. “so and so lost their battle with cancer.” For years, she blogged at Assertive Cancer Patient advocating; when I looked today the site was down – at least temporarily. You can see it at the Internet Archive, though I struggled to load recent pages there. She wrote her own obituary which is available at her blog and hopefully will come up again in the archive. You can also read the Seattle Times’ obituary of her.

Chuck Taylor

Chuck’s still alive and will probably be annoyed to be mentioned here (at least on the surface). Jeanne encouraged me to pitch a Microsoft article idea to Chuck at the Seattle Weekly back in 2004. I remember the day we met for coffee to discuss it in person because Google had chosen to launch Gmail with a gigabyte of free storage on April 1st, 2004 – and I thought it might be an April’s Fools joke.

Despite that misjudgment and me being a new writer, Chuck helped mentor me enough to deliver Microsoft’s Sacred Cash Cow, which began a ten year journey reporting on Microsoft’s billion dollar Nevada tax dodge; the impact continues to this day. I also produced two more covers for Chuck and the Weekly that year. Quite a big step for a new writer – I think this shows what great teachers and mentors they are.

Chuck taught me to check all my facts, to back up everything and to be able to definitively explain why I know what I wrote in each and every sentence. It’s an invaluable lesson to a new journalist.

So, thank you Chuck. Chuck’s now at the Everett Herald which has been in the center of some huge stories such as the tragic Marysville shooting and the Oso Mudslide. You can follow Chuck on Twitter @chcktylr.

Personally, I’ve felt this has been a break out year for me as a writer – this past week’s Amazon piece, May’s Too many dudes: Amazon’s growth is ruining Seattle’s dating scene, says single guy and August’s Where are Washington’s K-12 dollars? Just ask Microsoft shareholders – which actually led to protests and Shining Light on Internet Rage, et al.

Teaching and mentoring matters. Thank you Chuck and Jeanne.

 

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Amageddon: Amazon’s Driving Seattle to an Increasingly Obvious Futurehttp://jeffreifman.com/2014/11/19/amageddon-seattles-increasingly-obvious-future/ http://jeffreifman.com/2014/11/19/amageddon-seattles-increasingly-obvious-future/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 03:25:52 +0000 http://jeffreifman.com/?p=4048 GeekWire published my latest “‘Amageddon': How Amazon’s culture is taking a toll on Seattle’s future“. It’s received nearly 10,000 Facebook actions and definitely tapped into unspoken upset in Seattle residents about the company’s growth. Here’s an excerpt: When I arrived in Seattle in 1991, Tim Wistrom’s art playfully epitomized post-apocalyptic Seattle. But increasingly, the city’s likely doom appears much less ...

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Tim Wistrom's Apocalyptic Vision of Seattle

Tim Wistrom’s Apocalyptic Vision of Seattle

GeekWire published my latest “‘Amageddon': How Amazon’s culture is taking a toll on Seattle’s future“. It’s received nearly 10,000 Facebook actions and definitely tapped into unspoken upset in Seattle residents about the company’s growth.

Here’s an excerpt:

When I arrived in Seattle in 1991, Tim Wistrom’s art playfully epitomized post-apocalyptic Seattle. But increasingly, the city’s likely doom appears much less fantastic and closer: an unaffordable traffic-filled metropolis dominated by white males and devoid of independent culture – fueled by Amazon.

In May, I calculated that Amazon’s planned office space would employ five percent of the city of Seattle – but that was before it inked deals to build or lease an additional 1.37 million square feet; it’s now on track to employ 45,000 locally or seven percent of the city.

Columnist Danny Westneat recently wrote that locals are openly asking in jest, “Do you think they’ll let us stay?” Assuming they do, what values do our city’s most populous neighbors share?

During my time at Microsoft during the ’90s, people spoke of “drinking the Microsoft kool aid”. For me, that included turning a blind eye towards Microsoft’s domineering, monopolistic practices; to employees spending their day on the company’s isolated suburban campus, the company couldn’t do much wrong. That changed for me in the years after I left and got psychic distance from the company and ultimately when I reported on the hypocrisy of its executives’ education advocacy in the shadow of its billion dollar Nevada tax dodge.

If Amazon employees are similarly absorbing the values of the company and its founder, Jeff Bezos, just what are those values and what might Seattle look like a decade from now?

Read the full post at Geekwire

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Inconsistent Results with the Twitter APIhttp://jeffreifman.com/2014/11/12/inconsistent-results-twitter-api/ http://jeffreifman.com/2014/11/12/inconsistent-results-twitter-api/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 19:40:47 +0000 http://jeffreifman.com/?p=4039 Getting inconsistent results with the Twitter API? I found this gem in Twitter API documentation: Lastly, there may be times in which the rate limit values that we return are inconsistent, or cases where no headers are returned at all. Perhaps memcache has been reset, or one memcache was busy so the system spoke to a different instance: the values ...

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Getting inconsistent results with the Twitter API? I found this gem in Twitter API documentation:

Lastly, there may be times in which the rate limit values that we return are inconsistent, or cases where no headers are returned at all. Perhaps memcache has been reset, or one memcache was busy so the system spoke to a different instance: the values may be inconsistent now and again. We will make a best effort to maintain consistency, but we will err toward giving an application extra calls if there is an inconsistency.

So, I’m not sure there’s a way to definitively tell if you’ve retrieved a user’s entire timeline history. Or, at least definitively determining that you’ve found their earlier tweet is complicated.

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Microsoft At Workhttp://jeffreifman.com/2014/11/05/microsoft-work/ http://jeffreifman.com/2014/11/05/microsoft-work/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 22:02:47 +0000 http://jeffreifman.com/?p=4025 My first project at Microsoft was to guide the requirements and end user design for fax machines running Windows. One of the challenges was working with very early, expensive, inaccurate touch screen technology circa 1993. You can learn a bit more at Wikipedia. Microsoft At Work: Ricoh IFS77 Intelligent Fax Machine Commercial from Jeff Reifman on Vimeo.

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My first project at Microsoft was to guide the requirements and end user design for fax machines running Windows. One of the challenges was working with very early, expensive, inaccurate touch screen technology circa 1993. You can learn a bit more at Wikipedia.

Microsoft At Work: Ricoh IFS77 Intelligent Fax Machine Commercial from Jeff Reifman on Vimeo.

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Elise Blaha Cripe: How to Start a New Project – World Domination Summithttp://jeffreifman.com/2014/11/03/elise-blaha-cripe-start-new-project-world-domination-summit/ http://jeffreifman.com/2014/11/03/elise-blaha-cripe-start-new-project-world-domination-summit/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 17:35:57 +0000 http://jeffreifman.com/?p=4022 Elise Blaha Cripe gave a great speech at this past July’s World Domination Summit on how to start projects you don’t know how to do. “You just do. You do it before you know the outcome. You start before you know how you’re going to finish. You set the goal before you have the skills to finish it. And you ...

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Elise Blaha Cripe gave a great speech at this past July’s World Domination Summit on how to start projects you don’t know how to do.

“You just do. You do it before you know the outcome. You start before you know how you’re going to finish. You set the goal before you have the skills to finish it. And you get uncomfortable, because that is what pushes you further.”

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Huge WordPress Hosting Promotion at WPEnginehttp://jeffreifman.com/2014/10/30/huge-wordpress-hosting-promotion-wpengine/ http://jeffreifman.com/2014/10/30/huge-wordpress-hosting-promotion-wpengine/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 17:21:08 +0000 http://jeffreifman.com/?p=4008 Visit WPEngine and use the code “WPEWSD14″ at checkout. – expires Friday, Nov. 14, 2014 at midnight GMT. The personal plan is only $40 annually, a fantastic bargain. Consultants can host 10 large sites for $61 monthly or 25 sites for $186 monthly. If you’re a blogger, WPEngine also has one of the best affiliate programs in the business.

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Visit WPEngine and use the code “WPEWSD14″ at checkout. – expires Friday, Nov. 14, 2014 at midnight GMT. The personal plan is only $40 annually, a fantastic bargain. Consultants can host 10 large sites for $61 monthly or 25 sites for $186 monthly.

If you’re a blogger, WPEngine also has one of the best affiliate programs in the business.

wpe-nov14


Huge Promotion at WPEngine

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Followup Q&A to Geekwire Commentary on The Seattle Times and the FBIhttp://jeffreifman.com/2014/10/30/followup-qa-geekwire-commentary-seattle-times-fbi/ http://jeffreifman.com/2014/10/30/followup-qa-geekwire-commentary-seattle-times-fbi/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 03:08:59 +0000 http://jeffreifman.com/?p=4002 I received a handful of good questions and comments in response to my Geekwire commentary: Outrage over FBI’s online tactics highlights knee-jerk Internet culture (also on Slashdot). I made some additional inquiries to Media Spokesperson Ayn Dietrich-Williams at the FBI about these and would like to respond to the most pertinent reader points below. Levi Pulkkinen at Seattle PI also wrote ...

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I received a handful of good questions and comments in response to my Geekwire commentary: Outrage over FBI’s online tactics highlights knee-jerk Internet culture (also on Slashdot). I made some additional inquiries to Media Spokesperson Ayn Dietrich-Williams at the FBI about these and would like to respond to the most pertinent reader points below.

Levi Pulkkinen at Seattle PI also wrote this detailed, informative piece which I recommend. For context, it’s helpful to know this case consisted of an ongoing series of bomb threats, writes Pulkkinen, “His threats had forced Timberline to evacuate daily for nearly two weeks. With police unable to identify him, the FBI fired up the spyware.”

Q: Did the FBI have a warrant?

A. Yes, the court approved a warrant for the FBI to deploy a CIPAV to the suspect’s machine.

Here’s what the FBI said the CIPAV would do (see page 12-13 here):

“cause the activating computer to send network level messages, including the activating computer’s originating IP address and MAC address, other variables, and certain registry-type information … it will conduct a one-time search of the activating computer and capture the information described … after the one time search, the CIPAV will function as a pen register device and record the routing and destination addressing information for electronic communications originating from the activating computer”

Q: If the FBI knew he had a Myspace account and had his MySpace ID (since, after all, they emailed him there), why didn’t they just ask MySpace (and by “ask”, I mean “force them to hand it over with no recourse to question the ‘request'”) to hand over IP address?

A: The FBI did. See page 12 again. The suspect was sophisticated enough to use compromised computers to mask his true IP address.

Q. Was The Seattle Times impersonated?

People were confused by initial tweets about this. While FBI agents in private emails used The Seattle Times AP content as a model, the times itself was not used in the operation in any way. There was no fake Seattle Times website or fake page.

Q. Was there a fake AP website?

A: A webpage was created with a fake AP article.  A link to this page was sent via MySpace email to an account holder claiming responsibility for the bomb threat. The link said “article” and the url did not include any words similar to The Seattle Times or Associated Press. The only way the public would have seen this fake site is if the suspect had shared the link on MySpace or somewhere else.

So, yes, there was a fake website set up for a known bombing suspect to visit.

But, no, there wasn’t really a fake website that the public would likely encounter – though it was possible – specifically if the suspect shared the URL on MySpace.

Q. Did the FBI agent impersonate the media in some other way?

A. The FBI can’t reveal anything else about undercover agent who sent the email or the details of the operation.

Personally, I think it’s most likely that the agent posed as another MySpace user who emailed the article link. I think it’s less likely the agent posed as a journalist.

Q. Does publishing a fake AP blurb on a web page that only a known bomb suspect sees qualify as “impersonating the media”?

A. In my opinion, only in the very slightest way. The PI quotes Seattle Times Editor Kathy Best as saying, “Small as it was, the fake report chips away at the media’s credibility, Best said. Enough chips, and the foundation might crumble.” I think that’s overly alarmist given the facts of this particular case. Journalism is stronger than this. Read more on this point further below.

Geekwire commenter Rick said: “the main issue is that the FBI did not get permission from the AP to use their name. Impersonating someone without letting them know is an ethical no-no, it doesn’t matter how you slice it.”

I disagree. I think this is the kind of smart police work we want to see. I think it’s well understood by the public that catching bad guys requires cleverness and some level of subterfuge. We accept the concept of undercover agent. Would we eliminate all undercover agents purporting to be something they are not?

On Twitter, the ACLU’s Christopher Soghoian and Freedom of the Press’ Trevor Timm posted a few questions and comments.

Q. Does the fact that the FBI kept the judge in the dark about how they planned to deliver their malware change your analysis? The court had no idea the FBI would impersonate the press. The search warrant application doesn’t mention that.

The FBI said that it does not disclose details of its operational or deployment tactics in affidavits for search warrants. While not transparent, this is understandable; lest the bad guys learn their tactics.

My understanding is that the agent must appear before a judge and sign the affidavit in front of them. The judge has an opportunity to ask questions of the agent but there is no public record of the content of this discussion.

So, we don’t know what the judge knew or didn’t know. In the absence of information, even with as much faith as I’ve lost in Congress and the Supreme Court, I generally will give the benefit of the doubt to judges to be smart and responsible.

Soghoian: you won’t find the word “hack” or “exploit browser flaw” in any of the FBI’s malware warrant applications.

On Twitter and in online discourse – people often want to shout their views and convince everybody that they’re right and the other is wrong. It’s really okay for us technologists to have different views and values on issues such as these.

I personally am okay with the government exploiting technology to fight crime. I also understand that transparency can’t always be provided in these circumstances. But, I’m a believer that government should offer as much transparency as it can and a lot more than it does today.

If you want to dive into specifics on which technology exploits are okay and which aren’t – that’s fine – but I was only calling attention to the issues of this case.

Again, the judge would likely have had a chance to question the merits and details of the warrant request.

Soghoian: The type of case doesn’t matter. Impersonating the press, clergy or doctors should be off limits to the government.

Timm: some good points, but i think the main issue is impersonating news orgs not that they were targeting him.

Again, I think it’s okay for us to have differing opinions – and to support making space for  different opinions in our online discussions.

I’m not going to accept black/white thinking on the issues of press, clergy or medical impersonation. I know the damage caused by the CIA using vaccinations as a guise to surveil Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. I’m not sure I’d condemn the tactic in that case. A different tactic might have been better but I don’t think I’m in a place to make a clear judgment. Remember in the Soprano’s when Tony would go to his doctor’s to talk to his mob family to avoid surveillance? I’m not willing to draw a black/white line on this either.

Scott Greenfield tweeted this today in response to Soghoian: “Why binary thinking may be fine for geeks but monumentally bad for humans.” I agree with him here.

I personally think it’s smart, effective government/law enforcement when these tactics are appropriately applied … and I think this particular case showed checks and balances involved (the court warrant), restraint (the operation was escalated after other avenues were exhausted) and it was an appropriate use of technology (it was precisely targeted) to catch a perpetrator of a series of serious threats.

I’ve worked with journalists off and on since 1995. I’ve spent time in a number of newsrooms. I’ve been a three time grantee of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a journalism foundation. I’ve written three cover stories for Seattle Weekly. I care deeply about the fourth estate. I’ve also found that journalists tend to be self-important blowhards (update: this was perhaps too harsh – instead, I’ll say many have a tendency towards self-importance). They’ll call for a ban on government impersonation of themselves and then they’ll go off and write listicles or delay vital information for “news at 11”.

What GeekWire cut from my piece was this paragraph: Anyone that’s followed The Seattle Times over the years knows that it’s hardly a consistent site for journalistic integrity. In 2012, the paper gave more than $75,000 in free advertising to Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna in the guise of marketing its advertising business, it’s editorial page has been a long time critic of the estate tax on behalf of its billionaire publisher and it chose not to report on Microsoft’s billion dollar Nevada tax dodge while making the director of the company’s tax dodging operation a Seattle Times Luminary.

The failures in ethics at The Seattle Times hasn’t managed to destroy journalism in Seattle. Nor has the existence of Fox News. Good journalism cannot be undermined. It wins on its merits. I have complete faith in this.

One person said I was “Astroturfing for the FBI

I contacted the FBI. They didn’t contact me. Just to be super clear, this is called journalism not astroturfing. Here are my past disclosures (sorry, I know they are a bit out of date – but I have no relationship with the agency).

I thought the outrage at the FBI was misplaced and out of scale for what happened in this case. Given the mass unconstitutional blanket NSA data collection that most of us are outraged and fighting against – I think it’s important that we pick and choose our battles carefully and not make mountains out of molehills; lest we be seen as crying wolf.

I think what happened in this case is an example of the precision police work we should be encouraging – the kind of smart tactical work the NSA should be doing instead of its blanket data collection.

 

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