Tag Archives: life

Columbia

columbia

I spent the last couple days in a workshop at Columbia University. First time I remember being there, and a nice place. I’ve heard lots of stories from my parents, and it was quite interesting to see those fitted onto a physical location.

The network research community continues to be incredibly smart and exciting to get the opportunity to work with. This sort of workshop always makes me feel like there’s much too much to do, and tons of inspiring projects to work on.

Soto

soto

Had a very nice dinner last night at Soto last night. I’m not exactly sold on the foodie thing, but that doesn’t mean the experience wasn’t enjoyable. Now it’s back to work with a couple looming paper deadlines and a bunch of coding I want to get done for the internship.

New York

New York

I’m living in New York this fall. It has been nice to begin to hit a routine here, although there are still plenty of places to optimize. My only other previous big city experience was in Beijing, and NYC is different in many ways, but has much of the same raw energy and constant bustling that I found there. It’s been particularly interesting to see the different ways that the huge populations show themselves, and how people carve out their own niches.

kindle

Now that I have a non-biking commute I’m excited to start reading more. I’m not sure I buy into the whole good-reads thing that Amazon is pushing on me, but the kindle form factor is nice in that it’s small enough to fit in my back pocket and pull out on the subway.

Also interesting, to setup the device I typed the first three letters of my amazon account ID, and then it logged in. Not sure if there was a race condition where it was checking it’s serial number against amazon’s registration database at the same time, but it was an interesting and vaguely unsettling experience since it has 1-click access to credit card purchases.

Public & Private

I have ended up spending more time than I was expecting over that last few months struggling to figure out where I stand on how much of ones life should be public versus private. I’ve found myself being more private over the last year, somewhat to my dismay, and yet have felt increasingly uncomfortable being more open or publicizing fully what I’m working on. I think more than ever before I foresee my decisions forcing me down a more polarized path than I’ve previously realized.

And yet, the topic that I’ve been privately working on is exactly this issue – building systems for public communication. The core of the issue boils down to the fear that public association with anonymity and privacy issues will lead to increased surveillance and travel restrictions. At the same time, a more fatalistic voice says that I am already easily linked with privacy issues through my digital footprint, and as such I am failing to promote my work without protecting myself from retribution. As such, I am a knowing participant in the “chilling effects” of surveillance, taking fears of travel restrictions and life disruptions as motivations against talking more about privacy and censorship.

This unsettling association around the effects of working on privacy is seemingly pervasive. One indicator is how quickly we attempt to distance ourselves from the vocabulary. Research doesn’t attempt to circumvent censorship, but rather uses “adversary-resilient” protocols to handle “network interference.” I feel like I have unconsciously compensated by working on Code for Seattle, a great, uncontroversial, project supporting civic tech and my local community. Academic papers measuring the behavior of the Internet have been published anonymously presumably due to similar discomfort to what I feel.

My path so far has led me to a ridge that is now falling off precipitously on both sides. To one side is public advocacy of circumvention systems. Down that side are the realizations of the fears above, difficulty traveling, difficulty presenting myself as unbiased, and general polarization. This seems hugely unfortunate: I bear no particular ill will towards the countries I’ve been to, and would love to continue having the ability to travel and define who I am. To the other side is the lure of anonymity, starting over and creating a second identity for sensitive work distanced from ‘me’. Unfortunately, while the lure seems appealing, I believe it is also unachievable. I have seen only a single instance of a ‘successful’ anonymous online persona: that of satoshi, the bitcoin creator.

And so what is left is to continue balancing on that ridge while embracing a diversity of projects so that I can’t be easily labeled. I’m still heading the same direction I set in college and have used to navigate through graduate school: My goal is to make the Internet better.

Finishing College

I am now one final away from being done with college. It’s a strange feeling.

Rather than looking back, it’s more fun to look forwards:
* I need to find a way to spend more time in China, so that the time I’ve spent studying the language can pay off.
* I need to keep working on friend.s, and need to get a publicly available release.
* I need to get deeply involved with people at Google, so that I can be connected to that community.
* I need to stay connected with Tom in the next year so that the transition to Grad. School isn’t awkward.
* I need to keep contacts at HMC, it’s been a great four years and one that isn’t worth forgetting.