Posts from July 22, 2004

Vlogging (not flogging) the convention

Vlogging (not flogging) the convention

: Lost Remote’s Steve Safran will be video-blogging the Democratic convention.

9/11 in HTML

9/11 in HTML

: Jason Kottke performs a great service, putting the summary of the 9/11 Commission report online in HTML, with permalinks to individual sections. Thank you, Jason.

On CNN tonight: How we’ve changed since 9/11

On CNN tonight: How we’ve changed since 9/11

: I might be on CNN with Aaron Brown tonight (standing caveat: that can change) to talk about how we have changed since 9/11 because the 9/11 Commission report is being issued today (and because I was there).

I think it’s a great way to handle the story of the release of the 9/11 Commission report today: pulling back to get beyond the sniping and even the nitty-gritty lessons to examine what this all has meant to us as a nation.

I’m telling you this so you can add in what you think in the comment. I’ll start thinking out loud here at the same time. A start:

: Fear: The other night, I went to a focus group and heard a woman say that since 9/11, she checks CNN constantly “to make sure there’s not breaking news.” That hit me hard: We’re afraid. When something big happens, it’s going to be bad. It could affect us personally. Let no one tell you that America thinks it’s invicible (not that we ever truly did); we know our mortality now, we can measure our vulnerability and give it a color code.

: Unity: I hope we have not squandered the unity that 9/11 afforded us; I fear we may have but I won’t say it’s too late to regain it. This is why I had such problems with the way the 9/11 Commission comported itself much of the time — looking for blame, finding enemies within — and that is why I certainly had a problem with Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11, finding the enemy atop. This is about us vs. them and we are not the them, damnit.

: Political shifts: On an individual level, I do believe that 9/11 grayed the blacks and whites of politics for many Americans. I certainly see that in blogs, where I find many kindred spirits. I was a liberal pacifist. Now I’m a liberal hawk. I was against Bush and still am quite unlikely to vote for him, yet I refuse to get caught up in the Mooreish conspiracy theories about the other side in politics. On a national level, I’m not so sure. We’re still being portrayed as red-state-vs.-blue at every border. I’ve argued (on CNN, so I won’t repeat myself) that we’re really not a nation divided but a nation undecided. But this is all up for debate.

: Anger: I’m certainly angrier, aren’t you? When I hear the news yesterday that the bastards have captured more hostages and that the head of an American was found in one of their refrigerators, bile rises. It’s all so damned senseless and uncivilized and criminal and, yes, evil. On one of the 9/11 anniversaries, I gave what could be argued was an unChristian sermon in my Congregational church saying that I could not forgive or forget. I just can’t.

: Family: We all hear people say this and I believe it in my own life and the lives of people around me: Family matters more since 9/11. I told you long ago that ever since that night, when I was lucky enough to return home, my children have said “I love you” whenever I leave them. They still do.

: Priorities: We also all heard people say that this would change their priorities in life. Apart from some rich folks who were lucky enough to quit their jobs and go find roses to smell, I don’t think 9/11 changed our individual priorities. Life still happens.

: Patriotism: I never would have worn a flag on my lapel or my bumper. I do now. Bastards tried to kill me just because I am an American so I’ll shout my Americanism.

: Isolation: Are we more isolated in the world? Sure, we are. Some are trying to kill us, others say they hate us, others won’t support us. And what is — and what should be — the American reponse? F’ em. Or at least that’s my response.

: Health: My own health has suffered but that has been because of inhaling the dust of destruction. But because of that, I read stories about the many ways 9/11 had an impact on the health of Americans, from depression to sleep disorders.

I have to run now. Will be back in a bit. But please do leave your thoughts in the comments — thoughts, contributions, not arguments with each other, please.

: UPDATE: Talking with the CNN producer just now, I was reminded of what Bill Clinton said when he introduced the Hunting of the President movie: that “in every hinge point in history we have a fight like we have now…. We will debate as we move to a new concensus about what it means to be an American in a 21st Century world.” That is what is happening now: America is changed. The world is changed. We are all trying to figure out what that means and fight it out as part of that process. It’s not over yet. We’re still digesting the change.

: In the comments, Terry Heaton says:

On the downside, I think our obsession with assigning blame has been heightened. It has translated into a self-serving acrimony that is close to being institutionalized

A programmer’s society replaces a lawyer’s society

A programmer’s society replaces a lawyer’s society

: Many of my contemporaries went to law school not to be lawyers but to learn the discipline of the craft and use it in their professions and lives. Before my time, people got classical educations instead. In the next generation, I think people will learn programming instead — and that will have a subtle but deep effect on society.

That occurred to me this morning as I dropped my son off at computer camp. He’s eagerly learning C++ now and he is already a PHP jockey. But he says he doesn’t want to program for a living (though he still has many years to decide). Still, he likes the discipline and logic and impact of programming. Many of his contemporaries are doing the same these days; we all know lots of “former programmers,” eh?

So I wondered what impact that will have on how the society thinks.

As a friend of mine — a law-trained businessman — said the other day, he comes to management as a process of questioning (read: interrogation): He keeps asking his people questions until they and he know what to do. The ex-lawyer across the table said she approaches business looking for what can go wrong and getting every contingency in writing.

Lawyers are necessarily a suspicious breed. They live by rules. They think in terms of us vs. them. They think contention. They argue for sport. They always think they can appeal to a higher authority. They aim for victory. They are patient.

All those traits have an impact on American society — many or most of them not good. The fact that lawyers run government is at the root of many of government’s problems: Government has become all about arguing, little about serving.

But now imagine if former programmers start rising to the heights of American business and government and cultural life.

Programmers are logical. They believe in cause and effect. They believe any problem can be solved if you just find the cause. When they do battle, it’s with a mistake, not a person. They live in the details. They believe in openness and transparency. They also believe in following rules but the rules of reality — what a machine can and can’t do — over the rules man made up. They believe in planning. They, too, are patient. What else?

The impact of former programmers on society will likely be good. Maybe they will help us operate more transparently. Maybe they will help us focus on solutions rather than problems.

: UPDATE: Rick Klau, a nonpracticing lawyer himself, posts a great and nicely feathered response to this post making lots of good points — more than I made — among them:

But I think the more important point is the underlying goal of law: to maintain the status quo, to be predictable. Programming, on the other hand, is built on a culture of innovation

Blog to book to blog

Blog to book to blog

: Dan Gillmor’s book about all this, We the Media, now has a blog.