The Thief in the Public Square

Automattic, the owner of both Tumblr and WordPress, admitted that they’re working with AI companies to sell their users’ creations to help train AI models. This site has been on WordPress for a long time, and moved WordPress installations between hosts at least twice.

This is so hard to take. So much of the web trusts WordPress with their work, and Tumblr users trusted it with their communities and art.

I’ve been thinking about how AI using content available on the web, regardless of its license, to train their generative models is different from search engines indexing our content in order to power their search products (and make money by selling ads around those results).

The difference is that search engines are directories, or maps, that take public data and use it to route people back to the source of that data. It’s a symbiotic relationship, where the publisher of that content eventually gets a potential reader/viewer/patron/customer pointed their direction based on a query that person put in the search engine. The original source of that content is still the destination.

Generative AI doesn’t do that. It gives no credit to their “inspirations” and no creator ever gets a new potential patron. Why? Because the original source is now just a signal that creates a mediocre knock-off based on it, and millions of other works, all created by people.

These companies are thieves in the public square, taking the property that others have created, giving them no credit, no way to make a new fan of their work, and producing knockoffs, polluting the world with… uninspired bullshit.

Can the entire world file a class action copyright lawsuit against these companies? How else do we tell them to make their models opt-in instead of opt-out, and make it possible to remove our content from their bottomless pits of copy pasta.

In other news, I need to migrate my blog off of WordPress, and I really don’t want to.


This post is… I don’t know where it’s going to go, but I feel like I need to write my way through it. Let’s see what happens. But before that, I need to cover some history:

  • 1995 – 2008: I worked at AOL, was very involved in church and had small children. I had two major leg injuries: a ruptured ACL and a dislocated ankle that required major surgery.
  • 2008 – 2021: Moved to Savannah. I worked at a series of small startups and a lifestyle company, quit my church, had growing children, and got very involved in the community, serving on at least one governing board pretty much the whole time from The Creative Coast to Susie King Taylor Community School. Also co-founded a non-profit, TechSAV. Oh yeah, I gained close to 100 pounds between 2008 and 2019.
  • 2021 – now: Started working at Gusto, by that point, had already quit all the governing boards, and COVID stopped us from doing all TechSAV events.

It’s now 2023 and I’m still working at Gusto, and loving it. I love having work/life balance finally, and not having to wear all the hats of being a startup CTO.

I’ve been thinking about looking for a board to join, and what to do with all my newfound time, but… for reasons I couldn’t put my finger on, I was dragging my feet. I just don’t want to.

Why? What changed?

I realized that since we moved to Savannah, I’ve been under a huge amount of stress – both externally and internally applied. This is the first time since probably 2000 that I haven’t been a Single Point of Failure for something at work. Balance wasn’t something I could physically do, much less something I had in my life.

Now that I’m finally feeling some relief from the stress, I’ve lost 50 pounds in the last two years, and I’m not done.

I don’t want to join any boards. I don’t want to lead some great new thing.

I want to get healthy.

I finally have some time that’s mine. I’m not on call for the first time in twenty years. People rely on me, but I’m not a Single Point of Failure for anyone’s livelihood (except my own).

It feels selfish to want to spend time on me, but I need to. I don’t want to commit to something else until I feel like I can do it without sacrificing my health, which I still need to improve.

Clarity. It took me a while to get here, but now that I’m here, I’m at peace with it. I’m investing in the opportunity to be here, to be present, to make sure that I can be here and be active for a long time.

A Black History Month Reading List for White Guys by a White Guy

Hello, White Guy here. I was thinking about Black History Month this morning and decided that I’d share my favorite books relevant to exploring and celebrating black history. Because I am, as stated previously, an White Guy, this list isn’t exhaustive, but all of the books in this list expanded my perspective and taught me a lot about American history, the central role enslaved people played in it, and the ripples of slavery that crash into current events.

Do what you want with this list! Not all of these are easy reads. In fact, if you’ve never really thought about black history before, you might want to rage quit all of them in the first chapter. Please don’t.

American history, as we White Guys were taught it, put us right in center of it and made it as comfortable as possible for us. It glossed over the destruction inflicted on other people in order to gain that comfort. Embrace the discomfort. Lean into it. And then ponder it.

Enough preaching, on to the recommendations!

  • Understanding and Dismantling Racism by Joseph Barndt: This book is pretty short, accessible, and speaks directly to a white religious audience. If that was your upbringing, this is a good place to start learning about systemic racism!
  • The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty: If you’re into food, this is a great way to get your history. It’s powerfully written and makes an impact.
  • Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin: Baldwin’s words are fire, and his queer perspective on blackness and whiteness is as important today as it was when he wrote it.
  • The Half Has Never Been Told by Edward E. Baptist: This one is dense, but if you like history, this is meticulously researched, beautifully and brutally told, and really brings home the impact slavery had on not just the South, but the whole development of the country. It’s a must read.
  • Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark: Let’s lighten things up with some fiction! Set in Macon, Georgia during segregation, this is a lot of fun and education.

There you go. Hope you enjoy at least one of them!

Kidnapping isn’t protected speech

Shame on you, Buddy Carter, for celebrating DeSantis’ immoral stunt in your weekly newsletter. How dare you support using the most desperate and helpless among us as pawns in a publicity stunt.

Shame on you. Not just for celebrating it but by misrepresenting the support the people illegally transported, and then abandoned, were given by the community and then the state’s governor.

Buddy failed to mention the fact that the people Florida’s governor kidnapped weren’t even in Florida. They were lured by false promises and lies by someone employed by Florida’s governor outside a shelter in San Antonio.

We can have differences of opinion over immigration policies. Kidnapping people as part of a publicity stunt isn’t legitimate political discourse.

Buddy has lost the plot. He’s not in office to help the first district or represent his constituents. He’s lost in the vortex of partisan games.

I’m tired of being embarrassed by Mr Carter.

Time for him to go. Please, please vote for Wade Herring in November. He’s a good, earnest man and will represent all of the first district with integrity.

Categorized as politics

I’m a single issue voter now

The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade, and Clarence Thomas’s “roadmap” for which freedoms the extremists on the court and their allies will attack next has crystalized something in my mind that has been percolating since Alito’s draft was leaked.

I’m a single issue voter now.

That issue is bodily autonomy and our right to self-determination. The court and conservative extremists are hell-bent on imposing their views on our bodies, and I will not have it.

You will not push my sisters into an alley, or my LGBTQIA+ siblings back in the closet. You will not deny their right to exist as full members of society with the same rights to self-determination as I have as a cishet white guy.

It’s too easy to say “go vote,” but I’m going to. Please vote. Make sure you choose candidates that support our right to determine the right choices for our bodies. I don’t care if you like them. I don’t care if you disagree with them on some other minor issue. This is literally the most important thing in the world because it will dictate how our children and their children will be allowed to exist in the world for the next century (and that’s not hyperbole).

Beyond voting, we need to support organizations already in this fight, join them however we can, and think seriously about running for office. Especially in the South, too many conservatives go unchallenged. It’s time to fight for every seat in every election and turn back the tide of hate and extremist being inflicted on us by a hateful minority.

I’m sorry I didn’t see it sooner.

The Gun is Fear

The shootings in Buffalo and Texas have wrecked me – and I can’t keep watching the same old arguments fly by in screenshotted tweets in Instagram stories.

It’s all so predictable and isn’t going to change anything. And that makes this grief feel worse.

This thought keeps pinging around in my head and it won’t go away. It’s not fully formed yet. But it’s something like this…

America was built on fear – fear that Europe would come and take it from us; as slavery was ending, that all of these people we’d imported and enslaved would rise up and do us in, and then fear of immigrants and the “others”.

So, we built the biggest military in the world. We have the most overly funded police forces in the world. We made rules about who could vote and who could come here, who could marry who, and where they could go.

We wrapped our fear in laws and religion and called it culture.

We have more guns than people and the mere presence of those guns (the facts are irrefutable, but I know that won’t stop you) is why so many thousands of people die by them every year. Just having a gun in your house, yes, even you “responsible” gun owners, makes you many many times more likely to die by gunshot.

Guns take bad moments and turn them into tragedy. Having access to a gun means that at your lowest moments you might not just drink yourself into a stupor or harm yourself, you could kill everyone you love – in a moment.

We take our fear, wrap it in the flag or camo, and call it patriotism. We arm it to the teeth so we never ever have to confront what it’s guarding: our own inability to face our collective fears.

Until we admit that fear drives our actions – that it drives all of our passion and drive around gun culture, it will not change.

The opposite of fear is love. We need to love ourselves, our children and our communities more than we fear them.

Give up the fear, and we’ll give up the guns.

Meh, Humbug

I’ve been feeling pretty blah about the holidays, and I think Josh Marshall gets to the core of it. I’m just tired of COVID, tired of the constant debate, unknowns, the raging of morons, the lack of common sense and shared sacrifice, of not knowing if I’m doing enough to protect myself and my family, and feeling like I’m not doing enough to help.

I’m just tired.

I’m planning on doing a whole lot of mindful nothing during my time off to see if I can kick the meh out.

It’s going to be a lowercase holidays around here. I hope yours are happy and full of rest. We need it.

Write Your Reps

Yesterday, my representative objected to the electors from Georgia based on nothing more than rumors. He continues to support Trump, and well, that’s unacceptable. I wrote him this afternoon. If Buddy Carter is your rep, I think you should let him know how you feel.

Dear Mr. Carter,

Your objection to the electors from Georgia yesterday based on nothing more than rumor and innuendo is an act of sedition. Your continued support for President Trump as he put your life, and everyone else who works at the Capital, at risk yesterday is unacceptable.

You supported an illegal coup. You continue to support a president who has incited violence and lies continually about the results of the election. You help magnify his lies, destroying public trust in our democratic process, our institutions and the Constitution.

Please resign and allow the first district to choose a representative who will uphold their oath of office.


Kevin Lawver

Strong Ties, Weak Ties, No Ties

Doug March sent me this Nieman Lab piece by Ben Collins that asks some good questions, but doesn’t have many answers. I keep thinking of our web of social connections that’s been tattering for a while; I think a lot of peoples’ just completely collapsed during COVID.

Without that web of strong and weak ties (strong = family, close friends; weak = coworkers, acquaintances, neighbors), we’re left to our own devices of what’s “real” and acceptable. If we fall into these bubbles (cauldrons?) of conspiracies and nonsense, there’s no one to pull us out. There’s no reference point back to the “real” world, and we just sink deeper.

And that’s the core of it, I think: loneliness. The world is a very lonely place for a lot of people, and the pandemic has turned that into a crisis. People are looking for a place to belong, and unfortunately, the internet has a WHOLE lot of corners to find it in, and most of them aren’t healthy.

There are a lot of bad actors willing to profit from that loneliness and the anger that comes along with it. It’s time to call them out, and start reclaiming our friends and family from these cauldrons.
I just wish some of those experts mentioned in the piece would tell us how to do it… because I have no idea.