Susie King Taylor Community School

I’m on the governing board of Susie King Taylor Community School, and it’s been amazing to watch the progress the school’s made even since I joined in December. It’s a different model for Savannah, and one that I hope works well enough that it pulls the rest of the school system forward.

If you’re a business in Savannah and want to get involved with the school, teachers are always looking for people to come speak to their class, get involved with a lesson, or let a gaggle of young learners come check out businesses and see how things work. If you’ve got money to spare, we gladly accept donations. If you want to help, but don’t know how, you can reach out and get involved.

Of Safety Pins and Paperclips

I’m conflicted about the whole safety pin thing. It’s an easy gesture and I’m afraid that it will provide comfort only to the people who wear it, not to those actually in need of comfort. I’m afraid that the people who wear it will think their work is done because they put on their safety pin, when it should be just the beginning. I’m skeptical because we’ve made these gestures before and not followed through, not finished the work, and we’ve abandoned those in need because our attention spans are short, and there’s always a shiny new cause to support that makes us feel better about ourselves.

I wanted to find out more about its origins and found an article about the Norwegian version – the paperclip.

Like a safety pin, the paperclip works as a symbol because it binds things together. Like the safety pin in the Netherlands, wearing a paperclip became a crime; there was real risk in wearing one.

The thing that struck me from the story was in the “bonus facts” below. The paperclip was just the beginning. Ordered to teach Naziism in school, 12,000 Norwegian teachers went on strike. Many were sent to prison camps. The Nazis realized having kids out of school hurt more than the teachers not promoting their cause, so they relented.

The clergy was ordered to teach obedience to the “leader and the state”. When every bishop and 90% of the clergy in the country resigned, the Nazis again relented.

More than 1,000 Jews were smuggled into Sweden by the resistance.

The Dutch were no slouches either. They carried out repeated demonstrations and non-violent strikes against the deportation of Jews from the Netherlands. No other country had as may strikes and protests as the Dutch – and they faced harsh reprisals from the Nazis each time.

The Dutch had a massive underground press with over 1,100 different titles, some of which are still around and are major papers in the country. They set up underground financing and had a massive social services network that provided financial, medical and other support to the Dutch people.

All of that is to say, they didn’t just wear safety pins and paperclips. They got to work and did what they could, under terrible conditions and at great personal risk.

I like the idea of the safety pin, because it’s meant to be temporary until you actually repair the damage.

I think donating, and setting up a recurring donation, to national non-profits is a great thing to do. The ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign and others will be kept really busy for the next four years, as we can expect the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department to be gutted like it was during the Bush years or worse (probably worse). But, while you’re donating, please look for a local non-profit to donate money and time to.

I’ll elaborate… This election came as a shock to a lot of us who thought we were farther along as a country than we really are. It was easy to call ourselves progressive and cheer on those doing the work from the sidelines, post to social media about the issue of the day, and feel like we’d done something of value. It turns out, no one was listening, and we didn’t change any minds.

Before anyone still reading this post and starts tutting… I accept the results of the election:

  • Two very unpopular people were the two major parties’ nominees for president.
  • One of them got over two million more votes and lost to a man who (this is a partial list) called immigrants racists, criminals and terrorists, called for the banning of an entire religion from the country, denied knowing anything about David Duke or the KKK, openly mocked a disabled reporter, called for protestors to be beaten, has said (and probably done) terrible things about women, and that almost seventy percent of the country feel is unfit to be President.
  • A lot of people stayed home because they couldn’t decide between two people they didn’t trust.

That result is real, and it’s not going to change. Me being sad about it will not change it. Me being angry will not change it. Me trying to decide who’s to blame for the result will not change it. All I can do is decide what I do about it after accepting that I can’t change it.

For me, this is a wake up call. If I sit on the sidelines now, and assume someone else will do the work, I won’t be able to look at myself in the mirror or call myself a progressive.

I could shake my tiny fist at the sky and lament what’s happening in Washington, but that won’t change anything. So, I’ll be watching them, but I’m going to act locally. My neighbors will be affected by the policies enacted in the next four years. Many of them are afraid and a lot of them are already being targeted by hate.

I wasn’t doing nothing before, but that no longer feels like enough.

There are already great non-profits in Savannah working on things I care about: poverty, education, technology literacy. There are probably great non-profits working in your community too. I’m trying to resist the urge to start something new – because that’s alway my first instinct. Starting things is exciting because I can design it from scratch, and I don’t have to understand an existing dynamic – but it’s a waste of time. Starting things is expensive, both in time and resources, and we don’t have enough of either. So, I’ll pick something (or a few things) with the biggest overlap in the Venn diagram of things I care about, things I can help with, and what will have the biggest impact.

Because we won’t make this country a better place by having another comment duel on Facebook, favoriting a tweet, posting a pithy meme, or by standing on the sidelines of democracy or of our communities and watching people do the work. The world has enough cheerleaders and more than enough pundits. The world needs more people to roll up their sleeves and serve; there’s a lot to do.

I don’t think I’ll wear a safety pin on my collar… I’m going to learn how to sew.

For Further Learning… Web Development Style

I sent this list out to yesterday’s RailsBridge students as next steps if the introductory class lit a fire and they want to learn more. And then I realized it’s a pretty good list, so I’ll share it here too!

Local Savannah Things

For Further Learning

Yesterday’s class was great. Lots of teachers in the room and lots of people who had no idea that web development was accessible to “normal” people. It was tons of fun and a great way to shake off a pretty terrible week.

Two Things

Real quick, before my brain falls out of my head.

  • I launched this. It’s still very new and so very not finished, but you can start to get an idea of what it will turn into and how awesome it will be. We’ve got 10x the number of songs that Pandora does, super awesome technology and we’re just getting started. It’s radio, but awesome!
  • I wrote this. It’s about how those of us already living in the future can help those stuck in the present (or in some cases the past). I’m still looking for the right way to say it all, and am looking for help. So, read it and let me know what you think.

There you go. Two things. Enjoy!

What I Did This Weekend: Bugs and Dolphins

[hang2column element=”div” width=”500″]two dolphins, fins peeking out of the water[/hang2column]

My co-worker Mireia has been in Savannah working with us for almost three months. She goes home back to Barcelona in a couple weeks, so we decided it was about time to start cramming in touristy stuff! This weekend, I dragged her all over the low country looking for alligators and dolphins. We were half successful…

On Saturday, we went to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge looking for alligators. Unfortunately, because they’re doing construction, you can’t drive through the refuge like you used to be able to, so we went on a two mile hike through a small part of it. We didn’t see any alligators, but we saw a lot of birds, got bitten by a thousand little bugs and I got a sunburn. Then we went to Johnny Harris for lunch. It’s Savannah’s oldest restaurant, and has been open every day since 1937. Here are the rest of my pictures from Saturday.

[hang2column element=”div” width=”500″]two dolphins, fins peeking out of the water[/hang2column]

On Sunday, Juliet, Mireia and I went on Captain Mike’s Dolphin Tour. It was great! We saw a bunch of dolphins, got some great pictures and had a lot of fun, even though the boat was full of Girl Scouts (they were really well-behaved and not as bad as I thought they’d be). I took 347 pictures – mostly because dolphins are really hard to photograph. So, I put it in sport mode, centered the focus area and took tons of shots. My 18 favorite are also up up on Flickr

After the tour, we went to Gerald’s Pig & Shrimp on Tybee. It’s a food truck with a nice patio, and some of the best BBQ in town. If you’re going to the beach, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s way better than most of the other restaurants on Tybee, the prices are super reasonable and Gerald is a lot of fun to talk to. Plus, their limeade is heavenly.

After all of that, I did laundry and went to bed early. Being a tourist is hard work…

Come Work With ME!

We’re hiring! We’ve got a ton of work to do on an awesome new product and I need help!

What am I looking for? Someone who “gets” working in a startup. You’ve got to understand the pressure involved and time required to launch something and the crazy stupid optimism to believe it will succeed (even if it doesn’t). You’ll be smart, creative and willing to do the right thing even if it seems a little daft at the time.

So, here’s what we’re looking for:

And the best part? We’re right in downtown Savannah above Leopold’s Ice Cream and close to everything happening around the heart of Savannah. We’re fun to work with and are working with some amazing technology. If you’re interested, check out the postings and apply (please)!

I Got a C!

Our CEO came in today and wanted to see me in his office. Now, this doesn’t happen all that often, so I was a little surprised. But, it was good news! Since I’ve been at Music Intelligence Solutions, I’ve been referred to as everything from “Lead Engineer”, to “Lead Technical Architect” to, in rare cases, “CTO”, depending on who I or David (the CEO) was talking to.

Thankfully, all of that title confusion is over, as I’m now officially the CTO of the company!\
I never thought I’d be CTO of anything. The thought never entered my mind until a few years ago when AOL’s CTO left and I e-mailed the COO and asked if he would be replaced. I thought to myself, “Hey, I could be CTO. Wait a minute, I really could be CTO.” And that’s where it started. I had a new goal – be good enough at what I do to some day be CTO of the company. At the time, the goal was to be CTO of AOL, but I’m now glad that didn’t happen. I’m the CTO of the right company at the right time, and it feels pretty damned good.

My job isn’t going to change at all. I’m still lots of other things at the moment – sysadmin, developer, manager, project manager, product manager in a couple cases, etc. But, it’s still a big step to be the CTO of any company, especially one with the potential we have at MIS.

Enough celebrating – I have to get back to work!

Murray Wilson Is Awesome

My pal Murray Wilson does great things – he and AWOL take kids the system doesn’t want and teaches them to take apart, clean and refurbish computers the system doesn’t want – computers that would otherwise go to the landfill.

They then put linux on them and put them out into the community with families that need them. He’s one my absolute favorite people in Savannah (nay, the world) and I’m proud to know him.

The computers will, of course, end up in the landfill eventually, but the “Goon Squad” gives them easily another 2-5 years of life, and the kids learn useful and marketable skills. It’s a win-win, and an amazing program and Murray and AWOL built from the ground up.

If you can spare it, AWOL can always use some help. Every little bit helps, and every kid they help is one that’s not in the juvenile justice system or out on the street by themselves.

Murray is awesome in the best sense of the word.

Building Whuffie – My Slides from Geekend 2009

Max and I had a great time at Geekend, and I had a blast presenting some thoughts on building reputation systems. It was fun partly because I don’t have all the answers yet and there’s a lot way to go before I actually have a system I’m happy with. But, it was great to hear good questions from the audience and consider new stuff.