What's up with Russia's internet

and why it matters

There are several ways the internet as we know it today could end.

It could end with an established capitalist panopticon that monitors what we’re doing and adds a tally to our social credit score, which in turn affects our actual credit score. It could end by well-meaning legislation wringing the rest of the creativity out of the internet. It could end by being completely overtaken by millions of versions of Baby Shark. Or, it could end with the government taking control of the internet and strangling the life out of it. 

Although Edward Snowden highlighted the problems behind of US government surveillance, the main problem with today’s American internet is surveillance capitalism - the collection of logs

The main problem with Russia’s internet is that the Russian government is trying to turn off the connection to the outside world. And, if it succeeds, other countries will want to follow its blueprint.

That this is happening in countries like China is old news - the Great Firewall of China has been present since almost the beginning of the internet in China in the late 1990s. But Russia’s internet censorship has only really started in earnest over the past couple years, in direct response to domestic unrest and unease in relations with both the United States and Europe. 

Given how much flack Russia has caught in the American press over the past couple years, combined with the history of animosity between the two countries during the Cold War, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the countries’ internets have always been at cross-purposes, too. 

But the story of the Russian internet is very much intertwined with the history of the American internet, and I think this is really important to keep in mind as we read today’s American press, full of criticism of Russian hackers and bots. 

It’s only lately that the two have diverged. 

In the late 1980s, an acid-dropping hippie from Oregon opened up the Soviet Union

Joel Schatz was working as an energy advisor to the governor of Oregon. He found the Reagan administration’s approach to the U.S.S.R. alarming. Schatz had Russian-born grandparents and resented the way the Cold War kept people of the two empires isolated from one another. So Schatz and his wife Diane decided to raise funds to travel to the U.S.S.R. as “citizen scouts.” They left in late August 1983.

In the Soviet Union, he met Joseph Goldin, who also had a knack for hustle.

Amazingly, both of the men pushed through the bureaucracy to allow a video link from the United States to the Soviet Union. 

They started first with video chats, 

Schatz has hooked all this up to two direct connections between Moscow and Pittsburgh—copper wires strung across land and sea. (Newly installed trans-Atlantic fiber-optic cables had not yet gone online.) Moscow telephones still operated on tsarist-era, un-insulated, copper wires. Schatz and the technicians in Moscow connected their computers to this copper-based technology with alligator clips.

Soon they were linking all kinds of small groups across the Cold War divide: maternity ward nurses and doctors, members of Alcoholics Anonymous. Diane Schatz, an artist herself, linked up cartoonists. 

Then he moved on to establishing SovAmTeleport (with the help of funding by George Soros, who was at the time supporting dissidents in the almost-former Soviet Union), the first international telecommunications venture. 

Thus, the Russian internet was brought to life by an American. 

The software running newsgroups also came from America. Unix was smuggled into Russia by scientists who translated parts of it into Cyrillic and adapted it for the Soviet Union’s ancient computers, creating the operating system DEMOS

In 1990, programmers from Moscow’s Kurchatov Institute (Russia's leading nuclear energy research and development institution) managed to access the internet, register their domain (*su) and quietly, without trumpeting their presence, sign up to a number of Usenet groups. A couple of weeks later Vadim Antonov, the first Soviet internet user, posted a joke about socialism, capitalism and communism in a meat queue, a ubiquitous phenomenon of the time. It was a decisive moment for Muscovites. . 

Ironically, many of the first users of what began to be called RuNet were Russian-speaking faculty and students at American universities, since the internet was already available there and you had to have good English to browse it. There was no Cyrillic available yet - that came later.)

I was amazed to learn all of this from a fantastic Russian-language documentary that came out recently called Холивар - Holywar, or the slang for the flame-filled discussions in the early days of RuNet. The English subtitles on the documentary series are excellent, so I recommend checking it out

As with the American internet, the Russian internet’s early days were full of whimsy, fun, experimentation, and lots and lots of piracy. Many of the things the early Russian internet did mimicked America, because that’s where all the innovation was. Rambler and Yandex, the first search engines, were based on Yahoo and MSN Search. Yandex still functions as today’s Google in Russia and has diversified into areas like taxis, traffic, food delivery, and much more. Vkontakte, a Facebook copycat site run by Pavel Durov (we’ll get to him later), was also founded around this time. 

The Russian internet market was highly dependent both financially and for inspiration from American companies. Much of Russian internet slang and computer terminology - such as holywar - comes directly from the English. 

At first, the Russian government didn’t care for and didn’t understand the internet. Its users were less than 5% of the population, mostly university staff and kids of oligarchs who could afford it, amidst a country that was economically devastated and socially crippled by the fall of communism. The early days of RuNet (right around when Elon Musk was in the country) were free and weird. 

Putin during his first term had no interest in the internet - he’d never even used it and viewed it as something strange and grotesque. The next president, Medvedev, had no real power other than as a government mouthpiece, but he liked looking cool. He embraced American technology by opening a Twitter account while at the Twitter office in San Francisco. His was the first in the Russian government. (Of course, a parody account was created right away.) 

Then, it became clear to Russian politicians (as it recently has in America) that the internet could be used for political manipulation. In 2012, Russia experienced mass protests after what many called a flawed election (with the word flawed doing a lot of work here). First came the Internet blacklist law, which sought to create a blocked list of sites that, among other things, contained pornography, hosted drug ads, or included ‘extremist ideas’, with the ability for the government to expand the blacklist at any time. 

As of today, the blocklist is alarmingly huge (and you can take a look at all of it on GitHub, which was also blocked, and unblocked, in 2014):

Roskomnadzor maintains a real-time authoritative blocklist and passes laws that require ISPs to block content. Currently the blocklist contains 170,000 domains, 1,681,000 IPs, and 39 subnets. It has around 10 times more websites than Citizen Lab’s curated blocklist from all countries combined. Even with a list of such scale, our measurements show that ISPs are successful at blocking.

Then, the power and influence of Roskomnadzor (RKN), the Russian federal government authority responsible for implementing the blocklist, grew. In 2016, the Duma (Russian parliament) passed the Yarovaya law, which require telecom operators to record and store texts, phone calls, and the associated metadata for three years. 

This year, Russia cracked down on VPNs, which Russians have been using to circumvent the ever-increasing level of censorship. RKN approached VPNs and also asked them to ban the same websites that Russia does. VPNs, who are not under Russian jurisdiction, fought back.

In 2018, the government tried to block access to Telegram, Russia’s favorite messaging platform, run by Pavel Durov. He had previously created VKontakte, and got in trouble with politicians who wanted him to take down pages of opposition candidates. He declined to do so. In 2014, he refused to hand over data of Ukranian protesters, and refused to block the page of Alexei Navalny, the figurehead of the Russian opposition. As a result, he was ousted as the CEO of the company, and left Russia. He is currently a citizen of Saint Kitts and Nevis, a citizenship which he obtained through “donating $250,000 to the country's Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation, and secured US$300 million in cash within Swiss banks.” All of this is just the surface-level stuff from Wikipedia, by the way.

After all of THAT, he founded Telegram, a messaging service based in Berlin which works very much like Whatsapp, except it’s not owned by Facebook and does not decrypt your messages. 

Telegram became extremely popular in Russia, both for private chats and for subscribing to channels full of news, jokes, and much more. As an aside, Telegram is my personal favorite messaging service. It’s fast, easy, works well, and also because it’s really done the concept of stickers well - where else can you find a pack of Mark Lizardberg stickers? 

Governments hate Telegram because they can never bring it down and they can’t decrypt it (yet). Such was the case in Hong Kong a couple weeks ago. Such was the case when RKN demanded that Telegram hand over its encryption keys in 2018 so that it could look at the messages of six numbers it claimed were sending crime-related messages. Telegram refused, and RKN tried to block Telegram in Russia, with tried being the operative key word. 

If all of this sounds bleak, it is. But there is a ray of hope because RKN is incompetent. For an agency meant to police the blocklists of a country of 150 million, the agency employs 3,000 people, not many of which are actually technically capable. In trying to block Telegram IPs, RKN  took down its own website and half of the rest of the Russian internet. Telegram stayed up. The Russian internet, all still sending memes on Telegram, had a field day with this. 

Durov took a picture of himself shirtless. in the Emirates. (Weird flex, but ok.)

My favorite movie is “300”. The story about 300 Spartans fighting to protect the freedom of their compatriots will inspire people thousands of years from now.

P. S. News from the front: Russian authorities have blocked 18 million IP addresses to ban Telegram, but the app remains accessible for Russians. Thank you for all the support and love 🇷🇺 #digitalresistance #putinshirtlesschallenge
April 19, 2018

Things are a little less funny today. In spite of the common threads of connections between the Russian and American internet, the atmosphere between Russia and the United States is as tense as ever.

In 2016, I wrote,

Often when I listen to the news from Russia, I wonder why I am trying to teach my daughter a language and culture she will have no access to. Because it’s very clear to me that Russia is closing to the West.

I don’t mean that it is going to impose sanctions on Western goods, that it is going to make it harder for Russians to vacation abroad, or that it is going to isolate itself politically, all of which it has already done.

I mean that Putin’s Russia is going to become a country that is impossible for Russians to leave, and for foreigners to enter. It is going to become a country that runs on a sanitized, censored Russian internet, and literature and culture that focus on the glory days of czarist Russia and the accomplishments of the Soviet Union. 

Several things have happened recently that indicate the continuation of a downward trend.

First and most important, the law that went into motion on November 1 creating a sovereign Russian internet that can be closed off from the rest of the Internet in the dubious case of a “cyberattack on national interests.”

The new law obliges internet service providers to route incoming international traffic through internet exchange points (IXPs) based in Russia, ensuring the centralised operation of the internet in a crisis situation. It also obliges service providers to install special devices which would assist Roskomnadzor, the state's communications watchdog, to block undesirable internet traffic. These would send data to a central monitoring facility which could examine such traffic in real time using DPI (deep packet inspection), a method considered far more effective than blocking distinct IP addresses. The bill also calls for the creation of a domestic version of the domain name system (DNS) or the phonebook of the internet, given that in the event of an internet cutoff, Russian service providers would be unable to connect to foreign DNS servers. 

For now, this internet is being called Чебурнет, Cheburnet, after Cheburashka, a cute and completely helpless bear-like children’s Soviet cartoon character. But it might not be that toothless; it’s already gone into effect in some places in the Urals if RKN is to be believed. And blocking select communication channels is already a common practice in areas like Ingushetia, where the government completely turned off phone and access to Twitter and Facebook in response to protests. 

Second, as RuNet users are being targeted by their own government, American companies are more and more antagonistic towards Russia. Several weeks ago, there was a huge kerfuffle when GitLab (which makes much of its work transparent and public) decided to hold offers that were already out to potential employees in Russia for specific security-related roles at Gitlab.com due to security concerns expressed by customers. 

As of a couple days ago, they clarified it a bit, to say that they would continue to hire from Russia, except for these roles: 

this internal decision would only affect a few specific job roles for future hires that require administrator access to servers hosting sensitive customer-specific GitLab.com data to do their jobs.

But to me this speaks to a larger trend of American companies turning away from anything that can possibly touch Russian servers.  Russian companies are also turning inwards, partly at the request of the Russian government: Yandex has been asked to change its corporate structure to disengage from foreign ownership. 

Finally, what’s whipping all of this into a frenzy is the American media, which has been focusing on Russia as a source of contention since the 2016 election, creating lots of negative sentiment for Russians both in Russia and the United States who have nothing to do with the government. 

So this is where we are now: a Russian internet that was founded with optimism and collaboration between people who wanted to see the world get along is slowly, ominously closing to the outside world (which, at the same time, is turning its back on Russia). 

All of this is worrying not only for Russians and those watching Russia from the sidelines, but for the world as a whole. If Russia closes itself off and is able to control its own internet, what’s to stop other countries from doing the same? Turkey, for example, would sure love to get its hands on the blueprint that Russia started.

And, what’s to stop another Cold War, maybe this time known as the Cyber Cold War, or perhaps Cold War 2: Electric Boogaloo.

At the beginning of Холивар,  the interviewers asked Joel Schatz what he thought of the fact that, now that all borders were open, people were fighting and even angrier at each other than ever. 

“Maybe it’s just human nature,” he said, and sighed. 

Art: To Russia, With Asses and Others, Chagall, 1919

(Vicki’s note: Thank you to Normcore reader Natalia for the story idea! I’ve been ruminating about this issue for some time and she gave me the nudge. Have story ideas for Normcore? Submit them here.)

What I’m reading lately

  1. ICYMI, I wrote a piece for Stack Overflow last week on the end of life of Python 2 and why a lot of companies won’t move to Python 3:

  2. Facial recognition protesters in Washington, DC

  3. What to do if you’re working on an ethically questionable machine learning project

  4. Formal foundations of serverless

  5. Weird internet careers:

  6. Why are so many capital cities in South America in the mountains?” “Pirates”

About the Newsletter

This newsletter is about issues in tech that I’m not seeing covered in the media or blogs and want to read about. It goes out once a week to free subscribers, and once more to paid subscribers. If you like this newsletter, forward it to friends!

Select previous free Normcore editions:
I spent $1 billion and all I got was this Rubik’s cube· Die Gedanken sind frei · Neural nets are just people· Le tweet, c’est moi· The curse of being big on the internet· How do you like THAT, Elon Musk?·Do we need tech management books?
Select previous paid Normcore editions:
Imgur is bad now · Eric Schmidt and the great revolving door· No photos please · Deep thoughts of Cal Newport

About the Author:

I’m a data scientist in Philadelphia. Most of my free time is spent wrangling a preschooler and an infant, reading, and writing bad tweets. I also have longer opinions on things. Find out more here or follow me on Twitter.

Open thread: Is whistleblowing ever ok?

Yesterday’s post about Snowden seemed be controversial (although I didn’t intend for it to be.)

So now I’m curious: if you take him as a personality out of the equation, do you think it’s ever ok to leak information about what you suspect are super shady activities, either as an employee of the government, or of a corporation?

Are there conditions that make it justified? What would “super shady” mean for you? As I was writing this post, I came across this news item about Google employees fired for whistleblowing recently as well - additional food for thought.

As always, looking forward to a good discussion!

Previous open threads:

View 13 comments →

Edward Snowden and our great cross-hatch

What do we do when a revelation is larger than us?

A couple of housekeeping items before today’s post:

  1. Thank you to Ben for this beautiful logo! Do you like it? I really do. I think it embodies the spirit of Normcore really well.

  2. Substack is fantastic for being ephemeral but that’s also one of its flaws. I added an archive of previous Normcore editions at the bottom of the newsletter for reference. Good/bad?

  3. People are sending me lots of excellent story ideas. I’m starting to have a hard time keeping track of them, so I’ve set up a Google form to collect them. Please share if you have any!

Ok, on with today’s program!

I consider Edward Snowden to be one of several people who have fundamentally changed the way I view the modern internet. I look to him for guidance in today’s insane, phantasmagorical new internet world, so I was very excited to read his memoir, Permanent Record, which came out a few weeks ago.

It starts with a bang.

(Even if he did collaborate with novelist Joshua Cohen, having watched Snowden speak and read other things he’s written, I ultimately believe most of the book was written by him. )

It’s impossible not to be drawn into his story.

What I find interesting about the narrative is that it’s so similar to what many of us have felt about the internet over the past twenty years, if we’ve been around long enough to see its various phases: first, complete enamorment, followed by anxiety, and then disillusion. At least, this was the path for me.

Snowden describes his early days on the internet,

Internet access, and the emergence of the Web, was my generation’s big bang or Precambrian explosion. It irrevocably altered the course of my life, as it did the lives of everyone. From the age of twelve or so, I tried to spend my every waking moment online. Whenever I couldn’t, I was busy planning my next session. The Internet was my sanctuary; the Web became my jungle gym, my treehouse, my fortress, my classroom without walls.

“As the millennium approached, the online world would become increasingly centralized and consolidated, with both governments and businesses accelerating their attempts to intervene in what had always been a fundamentally peer-to-peer relationship. But for one brief and beautiful stretch of time—a stretch that, fortunately for me, coincided almost exactly with my adolescence—the Internet was mostly made of, by, and for the people. Its purpose was to enlighten, not to monetize, and it was administered more by a provisional cluster of perpetually shifting collective norms than by exploitative, globally enforceable terms of service agreements. To this day, I consider the 1990s online to have been the most pleasant and successful anarchy I’ve ever experienced.”

Eventually, Snowden grew up, started working for the government, and discovered that it was collecting much more information than any of us realized.

The combination of deduplication and constant improvements in storage technology allowed the agency to store intelligence data for progressively longer periods of time. Just over the course of my career, the agency’s goal went from being able to store intelligence for days, to weeks, to months, to five years or more after its collection. By the time of this book’s publication, the agency might already be able to store it for decades. The NSA’s conventional wisdom was that there was no point in collecting anything unless they could store it until it was useful, and there was no way to predict when exactly that would be. This rationalization was fuel for the agency’s ultimate dream, which is permanency—to store all of the files it has ever collected or produced for perpetuity, and so create a perfect memory. The permanent record.


PRISM enabled the NSA to routinely collect data from Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google, Facebook, Paltalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple, including email, photos, video and audio chats, Web-browsing content, search engine queries, and all other data stored on their clouds, transforming the companies into witting coconspirators. Upstream collection, meanwhile, was arguably even more invasive. It enabled the routine capturing of data directly from private-sector Internet infrastructure—the switches and routers that shunt Internet traffic worldwide, via the satellites in orbit and the high-capacity fiber-optic cables that run under the ocean. This collection was managed by the NSA’s Special Sources Operations unit, which built secret wiretapping equipment and embedded it inside the corporate facilities of obliging Internet service providers around the world. Together, PRISM (collection from the servers of service providers) and upstream collection (direct collection from Internet infrastructure) ensured that the world’s information, both stored and in transit, was surveillable.

It was this realization, when he was asked to put together a presentation on NSA operations against China, that started him down the path that would eventually lead to him becoming a whistleblower.

But there were certain aspects of what I was reading that disturbed me. I was reminded of what is perhaps the fundamental rule of technological progress: if something can be done, it probably will be done, and possibly already has been. There was simply no way for America to have so much information about what the Chinese were doing without having done some of the very same things itself, and I had the sneaking sense while I was looking through all this China material that I was looking at a mirror and seeing a reflection of America. What China was doing publicly to its own citizens, America might be—could be—doing secretly to the world.

And although you should hate me for it, I have to say that at the time I tamped down my unease. Indeed, I did my best to ignore it. The distinctions were still fairly clear to me. China’s Great Firewall was domestically censorious and repressive, intended to keep its citizens in and America out in the most chilling and demonstrative way, while the American systems were invisible and purely defensive.

But in the sleepless days after that sleepless night, some dim suspicion still stirred in my mind. Long after I gave my China briefing, I couldn’t help but keep digging around.

In the summer of 2013, he copied classified documents detailing the scope of the NSA’s programs, and left for Hong Kong to meet journalists that would write up the documents for international publications. (If you only read one part of the book, it should be the chapter called “Read-Write-Execute”, which reads almost like a thriller and details his well-planned data copying strategy as well as his escape.)

I had a similar experience. When I was growing up, the internet my was pathway to finding people like me, as I wrote in a piece about discovering Star Wars when I was young,

1997 was still the dog days of dial-up, and, being that I was an only child and my parents were usually busy,  I was constantly on it, trying to max out the time before I got kicked off AOL to the phone ringing.

I discovered that there was a whole culture, an ecosystem associated with people trying to extend the Star Wars universe as much as I hadn’t wanted it to end. I discovered there were novels, fan fiction, whole sites dedicated to trivia. I printed reams and reams of paper references, jokes, fan photos with hundreds of pages of color ink. I taped them up all on my walls with removable tape.

The internet, as I first knew it, was a playground, a learning experience, a way to connect with all of my friends, and to learn from strangers.

My path was nowhere near as radical, but the more I used the internet, the more I began to realize it was using me. I felt now that its power was something to be afraid of. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this happened, but it was probably after my Gmail was hacked in 2009. When I saw the hacker logged into my account, using my Gchat (remember Gchat? RIP) to talk to his friends and order cell phones, I realized that the corner of the internet that I thought was mine, was really wide open to everyone else.

Around 2011, I started working in tech, and was thrown deep into the back-end of logging, user behavior analysis and web apps. Once I understood how information traveled across networks and was then used by the companies collecting it, I couldn’t unsee it.

I developed anxiety about Facebook:

Not only do you never know what your privacy status is (I just assume everything I post is public), but, more to the point, it sucks you in.

When Snowden became disillusioned, he sacrificed his career ($120k a year working a low-impact job as a SharePoint admin in Hawaii - although to be honest, if I had to admin SharePoint, I might take some drastic actions, too), his love life, and his family to reveal the depth of the government’s collections.

His revelations at the time were a second turning point on the internet for me. Even though I still had a little faith left, once I read what he had seen, my understanding of the internet as a secure, safe space was completely gone. At the time, I wrote,

It’s hard to say what it was about PRISM that drastically changed me.

On some level, I knew that the government had at least some knowledge of a lot of data about me. It’s obvious they have social security, medical, traffic information, income, and flight itineraries. It’s obvious that them having this level of information has drastically changed the lives of people who have accidentally found themselves on no-fly lists.

On another level, I’m fully conscious that what I do online goes to companies’ analytics departments and, from this blog to the public. At work, everything goes through work.  I treat myself accordingly. But it’s terrifying to me, absolutely terrifying, that PRISM can tie this up with my Facebook status, my searches, and, the scariest of all, my emails and chat logs, which are, I think, as close you can get inside a person’s mind in the digital age.

I’ve been thinking about all this stuff ever since, and I haven’t been able to stop.

To be honest, I was hoping that, in the book, he would have some sort of magical solution for this enormous problem that he uncovered.

Snowden said,

If mass surveillance was, by definition, a constant presence in daily life, then I wanted the dangers it posed, and the damage it had already done, to be a constant presence too. Through my disclosures to the press, I wanted to make this system known, its existence a fact that my country, and the world, could not ignore. In the years since 2013, awareness has grown, both in scope and subtlety. But in this social media age, we have always to remind ourselves: awareness alone is not enough.

But what were we supposed to do? In 2017, after writing about what Facebook collected in detail, I stopped posting there. I started using Duck Duck Go. I covered my computer camera with a sticker. I started using VPN.

Was any of this enough? In the book, Snowden makes a nod to GDPR, and talks about the importance of encryption. But, if Apple, Google, and Facebook are hosting NSA servers, can we, as individuals, really do anything about it?

The way I personally have been dealing with all of the things he talks about in the book is through cross-hatching. In “It’s Only a Joke, Comrade”, a book I’ve written about before, the author talks about the idea of cross-hatching: living with two very disparate realities at the same time by keeping them separate in your mind so you don’t get cognitive dissonance. Not unlike doublethink, but not specifically related to politics. In the case of the book, the author was talking about die-hard communists who loved the idea of the Soviet Union, and at the same time had to live through the atrocities of Stalinism and somehow deal with both realities.

In today’s world, it means that I cover my computer camera with a sticker and yet carry with me almost at all times a cell phone that can record my every move.

It means that I have stopped posting pictures of my kids online in public, but they’re still uploaded to Google Photos, which nicely organizes them, and uploads them directly to the cloud, through the NSA.

(Snowden writes, “One thing you come to understand very quickly while using XKEYSCORE is that nearly everyone in the world who’s online has at least two things in common: they have all watched porn at one time or another, and they all store photos and videos of their family. This was true for virtually everyone of every gender, ethnicity, race, and age—from the meanest terrorist to the nicest senior citizen, who might be the meanest terrorist’s grandparent, or parent, or cousin.”)

It means that I can explicitly refuse to leave an online footprint, yet I’ll go to a friend’s house and they have Alexa.

On the one hand, I use end-to-end encryption when I send pictures or private messages. On the other, does it matter? And if you use technology like Tor, you’re actually more likely to be targeted by the government.

On the one hand, GDPR, CCPA, and other forms of legislation are on the rise. On the other, are they effective?

If even experts like Snowden and Schneier are saying it’s almost impossible to opt out, what can those of us who are not at that level even do?

I’m sorry to end this post on such a negative note, but reading Snowden’s book and remembering his revelations and his enormous struggle for the truth, only to end up stranded in a country where he spends some of his time figuring out how to hide from dashcams truly has left me with more of the same questions rather than answers.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read the book. I think everyone should, and I think that it should also be taught in schools. Because it’s important. Because digital privacy now impacts all of us, across borders, whether we like it, or not. And because maybe it will keep more of us up at night, too, and maybe that’s what will lead to some solutions.

Art: Gustave Courbet, The Desperate Man, 1843

What I’m reading lately:

  1. Bumble goes from being mostly owned by Andrey Andreev to…Blackstone

  2. Maternity clothes suck (can confirm)

  3. This is the first open-source metadata catalog I’ve seen out there

  4. Horrifying next-level Amazon.

  5. Speaking of privacy

  6. Judgmental Greta watches all

About the Newsletter

This newsletter is about issues in tech that I’m not seeing covered in the media or blogs and want to read about. It goes out once a week to free subscribers, and once more to paid subscribers. If you like this newsletter, forward it to friends!

Select previous free Normcore editions:
I spent $1 billion and all I got was this Rubik’s cube · Die Gedanken sind frei · Neural nets are just people · Le tweet, c’est moi · The curse of being big on the internet · How do you like THAT, Elon Musk? · Do we need tech management books?
Select previous paid Normcore editions:
Imgur is bad now · Eric Schmidt and the great revolving door · No photos please · Deep thoughts of Cal Newport

About the Author:

I’m a data scientist in Philadelphia. Most of my free time is spent wrangling a preschooler and an infant, reading, and writing bad tweets. I also have longer opinions on things. Find out more here or follow me on Twitter.

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