2016 Update

a ladder filter schematic, for no particular reason

I was pulled in a lot of directions this year and wrote less than in years past, but a few things came together:

  • At the beginning of the year, Apple and the FBI were headed toward a huge legal confrontation over encryption technology that prevented forensic analysis of the iPhone recovered from the San Bernadino shooter. I argued that code structures buried deep in iOS might turn out to be relevant because of the phenomenon of “opinionated software,” a term which is used in the engineering world to describe projects designed around on broad conceptions of how things should be done — in this case, that encryption should be fundamentally impenetrable. Researching this piece was difficult, but very rewarding! I spent several days surrounded by every brief related to the case, rereading them feverishly and trying to identify the points at which the legal language started to intersect with technical jargon. [NY Mag/Select All]
  • The financing procedures of the technology industry impede the elusive “email killer” application, which most likely nobody will try too hard to build so long as proprietary user networks are considered more lucrative than interoperable communication standards. [NY Mag/Select All]
  • Back in March, there was some controversy regarding the “web annotator” service offered by Genius.com, which lets users leave comments on web pages as they browse around the internet. I quickly coded a simple WordPress plugin which would block the tool, but then promptly decided that uploading a plugin to a server was too difficult for most people, so I began looking for an alternate solution that would be easier to implement. While building a JavaScript version that could be added to any page or site by adding one line of HTML, I discovered some strange behaviors which subverted core web browser security features. I disclosed the issues to Genius, who immediately changed their code accordingly, and then I compiled my findings into a feature. [The Verge]
  • The “algorithmic timeline” and other similar attempts to move away from the simple chronological display of tweets could be strategically useful to Twitter in ways they have not yet fully articulated. [VICE/Motherboard]
  • Most music streaming services have terrible metadata attached to the audio — few fields, inconsistent values, no user customization, generally lagging far behind the data capabilities of the tags embedded in downloadable files. I worry that divorcing artistic works from the ability to sort and organize them is short-sighted, and may come back to haunt us eventually. [VICE/Motherboard]

Perhaps in 2017 I should write about something other than technology.