May 15, 2017

Audm

For the past several months, I’ve been complementing my podcast regimen with narrated long-form journalism via an excellent new service called Audm.

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January 27, 2014

Does Privacy Matter?

A few years ago, I made a tool called Collusion in an attempt to better understand how websites I’d never even heard of were tracking my adventures across the Internet.

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November 4, 2013

How Colorblindness Blinds Us

When will we (finally) become a colorblind society? The pursuit of colorblindness makes people impatient. With courage, we should respond: Hopefully never.

— Michelle Alexander

In her excellent book The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander makes an argument that the notion of colorblindness is a deeply flawed principle that has proved catastrophic for African Americans in the post-civil rights era.

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February 11, 2012

The Role of Performance in Online Life

In Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together, the author writes: Brad says, only half jokingly, that he worries about getting "confused" between what he "composes" for his online life and who he "really" is. Not yet confirmed in his identity, it makes him anxious to post things about himself that he doesn't really know are true. It burdens him that the things he says online affect how people treat him in the real. ... Read more

July 7, 2011

Collusion

I’ve been reading Eli Pariser’s book The Filter Bubble and was fascinated by his description of how data collection companies operate. Independently of that, David Ascher suggested that I add a feature to the Hackasaurus goggles which helps learners understand how cookies and tracking works. I actually didn’t know a lot about tracking myself, so I whipped up a Firefox add-on called Collusion to help me visualize it better. The results were a little unsettling. ... Read more

June 25, 2011

Moving At Internet Speed

In his book Program or be Programmed, Douglas Rushkoff writes: For most of us, the announcement of the next great "iThing" provokes not eagerness but anxiety: Is this something else we will have to pay for and learn to use? Do we even have a choice? At Mozilla, we talk a lot about user choice, but one choice we have a hard time giving our users is whether to upgrade to the latest version of our software. ... Read more

September 15, 2010

Good Customers

Here’s something I read in a blog post by Esther Dyson, where she describes a visit to Russia in which she was asked for advice on how to spur innovation in the country: In fact, I started my discussion with Russia's government leaders by talking about my experiences as chair of NASA's Innovation and Technology advisory committee. The issue, I said, was not really about funding technology innovation; it is how to create a culture that rewards thoughtful innovation and considers mistakes the price of learning. ... Read more

August 29, 2010

My First CrisisCamp

On Friday I attended CrisisCamp Silicon Valley. I didn’t really know what to expect, since I was unfamiliar with the nascent field of internet-facilitated crisis response and was unable to find a high-level overview of how people—both techies and non-techies—can really make an impact. The Bird's Eye View As I understand it, this is the big picture of internet-facilitated crisis response: People on the ground in a disaster are told, through various channels, to report what they're seeing to the public through a variety of media: SMS, Twitter, Facebook, whatever's easiest and most understandable for them. ... Read more

May 30, 2010

Ethnography, Usability, and Community

Context offers fodder for innovation. Hidden in the physical work space, in the users' words, and in the tools they use are the beautiful gems of knowledge that can create revolutionary, breakthrough products or simply fix existing, broken products. —Jon Kolko, Thoughts on Interaction Design I’ve been talking with my colleague Jinghua Zhang, the project lead for Mozilla’s Test Pilot program, about the usefulness of ethnography and qualitative research in user interface design, and it seems like something that could both strengthen Mozilla’s community and help make our products easier to use. ... Read more

May 26, 2010

On The Webbyness of an Installable Web App

I’ve heard some talk lately, primarily from Henri Sivonen, regarding whether Google’s notion of an Installable Web App is “webby”. I am not sure exactly what webby means, but if I had to guess, it would involve the kinds of qualities that Mitchell Baker and Mark Surman believe make the web better: more transparent, participatory, decentralized, and hackable. Though I’m not fully sold on these newfangled apps, I can think of three ways that they could make the web better. ... Read more

© Atul Varma 2017