2013-01-29

Higher Ed

Recently, Chuck and I have been discussing the merits of a college education, which are increasingly debatable given the rising cost of such programs and the availability of online learning material.

Here are some links that have turned up in our thread, and afterward:

2013-01-26

Company Values

A poignant quote from Nicholas Carr:
"It might seem kind of strange for a company to build a search engine — a pretty costly undertaking — using criteria that it knows to be debased, to be anything but objective. But to Facebook, it’s business-as-usual. Here’s the difference between Google and Facebook: Larry Page recognized that commercial corruption was a threat to his ideal. For Mark Zuckerberg, commercial corruption is the ideal."
I've always admired Google for having a clearly-articulated mission and set of values since its earliest days. And even if these weren't fully-formed when Larry and Sergey first started hacking on PageRank, the company culture they created was such that values guided their choices.

Facebook, however, started as an adolescent prank, and seems to have bolted on a mission and values much later on, as-needed by outside circumstances.

[via Buzz]

Followup, 2013-01-29: Chuck pointed me to this CNN article about Clay Christiansen, which describes our "capitalist's dilemma" where companies are essentially trapped in a cycle of over-focusing on efficiency innovations, which are great for them in the short term but detrimental in the long term. Instead they should be focusing on "empowering innovations," which create new markets and jobs, and improve the economy for everyone (not just their own balance sheets).

2013-01-19

Yay, Capitalism

High finance is both fascinating and frightening, and thus a quote from Fortune's piece on SurveyMonkey's upcoming financing round caught my eye:
"We generate all this cash and don't have any use for it." —Jimmy Lee, vice chairman J.P. Morgan's investment bank
I'm sure there are plenty of things in the world that could benefit from someone else's excess cash, things that would make the world a better place / feed the hungry / improve the environment / etc. But companies operating without higher principles end up in situations like these. Dave Goldberg should read Let my People Go Surfing.

2013-01-15

RIP, AaronSw

I didn't know Aaron well, but was fortunate enough to hang out with him a few times during his short but brilliant life. Despite his age I always considered him a role model, for his technical prowess as well as his vision, idealism and passion. He didn't just think and talk about how the world could be better, he devoted his life to actually making it better.

One quick, trivial memory I'll share, from the first time we connected — back in ~2005 he posted something on his site about his server's hard drive crashing, so a few of us from blogger-team paypal'd him some $ to buy a new one; he would have been ~19 years old at the time:










A few months later we got to meet him in person, when he visited Google for lunch, and I saw him a couple more times over the years, at conferences and whatnot — throughout I've remained a fan of his writing, causes and code.

To see him in action, watch his Freedom to Connect 2012 talk.

His premature death is an utterly tragic loss for humanity. Rest in peace, Aaron.

(followup: videos from his memorial in SF)

---
Coverage:
Aaron's causes
  • Dan Gillmor: "We can honor Aaron’s life in the best way by doing what he did at his amazing best. We can work to expand an open Net and society, and to make “liberty” a word that means something again."
  • Marcia Hofman: "Let's Fix Draconian Computer Crime Law"
  • Gregory Foster: "I looked into Aaron Greenspan's proposed Operation Asymptote, and I wanted to recommend it as an effective and poetic tribute to Aaron Swartz's memory."