How America Came To Torture Its Prisoners

I read nearly 140,000 formerly classified docs about America’s abuse of prisoners since 2001. Here is what I learned.

Our highest government officials, up to and including President Bush, broke international and U.S. laws banning torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Worse, they made their subordinates in the military and civilian intelligence services break those laws for them.

Exposure is not why I blog.

Was there some kind of major staff change at @typepad? Email/blog stuff now all SEO this, SEO that. Ugh. Sign me "saddened 9 year customer".

They reply:
@MetaGrrrl We just know that a lot of our users are interested in SEO stuff. Is there a specific issue there that's worrying you?

I react:
.@typepad In the wake of this ("Google Is Working On Making SEO Matter Less") you really don't see the negative connotations of the term SEO & ad-over-content culture?

Just using the term in a tweet prompted auto-following by "social media management" & "network marketing pro" types. Ugh. Not the web I want.

Then Ed chimes in:
RT @vielmetti: @typepad, I'm not producing content, I'm writing.

Getting Closer, Going Later (#SXSW)

I missed morning sessions here at SXSW Interactive today. Partly that was my fault – I set myself up for a bad night's sleep by having caffeine (which I normally don't), drinking at parties and dinner, and reading scary news from Japan – and the spring forward clock switch is always tough, but even in my sleep-deprived state there was a critical moment this morning (8:44am) when I could have rallied, quickly showered, and made it to the first time slot session I wanted to hit.

So why didn't I? I had told my friend doing the session I'd get there, I was excited about the topic, and my first choice for the subsequent time slot was at that same campus.

The problem is that that campus was outside of rallying range.

Unless I paid for a cab it likely would take me about half an hour to get there. With room size now frequently smaller than demand, the risk of arriving late and being unable to get in after a long-range scramble to reach the campus is daunting.

So what would be better?

Instead of spreading out to the Hyatt Regency Austin, over the bridge down on Barton Springs Road, or the seriously distant AT&T campus, I'd rather see 6:30pm sessions at the locations within six blocks of the Brush Park/Hilton/ACC hub.

There are 27 sessions today at the Hyatt campus. If 11am is typical of the number of rooms (and skipping meetup rooms), those sessions could all fit in a 6:30pm slot at ACC, Hilton, Courtyard and Hilton Garden Inn campuses without even needing to stretch out to the Sheraton, Driskill, or Radisson.

I'd like to see SXSW grow in time, not space. Stretching session programming a little bit more into the evening won't cramp people's style in having evening opportunities to connect and have fun. We've had 5pm happy hours competing with last sessions for a long time now and it's worked out fine.

Kobayashi Maru, man.

I love Merlin Mann and Jeff Veen's kickass brains.

The whole episode of Dan Benjamin's The Conversation is very worth watching, but this bit resonated deeply:

Merlin: "There's still companies today where they are feverishly trying to lock down, like not let you get to Gmail and not let you get to any of this stuff, but you've got 3G on your phone! You know? It's there's this shift that – …we usually use this in the sense of talking about media – but the toothpaste is out of the tube with this stuff. … It's not like it used to be like you're describing, Jeff. Like back in the day when if I wanted to do anything with email, I had to go to the office and sit down with Eudora and my Hayes modem and that was a completely different way of thinking about my work than it is today. And I think that you're describing a shift, though, that's a whole constellation, a syndrome of changes that IT in particular is probably having a pretty hard time keeping up with."

Dan: "Well, you know, just the existence – to kind of support what you're saying – just the existence of apps like Gowalla, the existence of the Gowalla/Foursquare mentality, of something like that couldn't have existed the way it does now just a few years ago, let alone a decade ago. And I think people want to be in touch and it's like would a company now, today, a new one, ever be able to do anything but encourage this kind of thing? And when is enough enough?"

Jeff: "Well, I'll tell you, there's another shift as well, and it's not just this 'IT departments trying to exert control', but it's also this notion of how you measure productivity. Right? … In the past corporate productivity measurements were about your butt in a chair for forty hours a week. Right? You know, filing your TPS reports. So that's why you see crazy stuff, like, you know, firewall filters that won't let you go visit Facebook while you're in the office. As opposed to… be more milestone-based, set out your objectives, know what they are, get them done, have a deadline, and then leave me the hell alone. I'll get my work done and that might actually require me connecting with somebody on Facebook to answer a question, or, or whatever! Right?"

Merlin: "Yeah, it's infantilizing!"

Jeff: "It is!"

Merlin: "What's funny to me in this is again another thing from the book, but, like, to me this is a huge pattern is that what is knowledge work at the heart of it? Knowledge work is you hire somebody because they're smart and they either know how to solve a problem you don't know how to solve or they know how to solve it better and more efficiently than you. So they're a part of this value chain where, like I call it the black box career, but you don't need to know everything about MySQL to go hire the guy who's your MySQL admin. You just need to know that that person does a good job with it. …Pragmatic Thinking and Learning, Andy Hunt (one of the Pragmatic Programmer guys), he has this wonderful term, and I really recommend this book for anybody… and the phrase he uses is… that the problem at a lot of companies like you're describing, Jeff, is they're trying to herd racehorses and race sheep. And so, in that instance, you are infantilizing people whose job it is to figure out what their job is. … You know what, just tell me the deadline and the rules. Kobayashi Maru, man. I will figure out how to do this, but, like, get out of my face and stop trying to give me unnecessary rules. In my opinion, that is a failure of management. You look at somebody like Lopp, right? Michael Lopp. You talk to Michael and he will just say 'You know what my job is as a manager? My job is to get out of the way, remove barriers, and then run defense so my people don't get interrupted.' And that is so different from 'You need to be sitting and checking email all day long so I know that you're there.'"

Jeff: "It's about trust, right?"

Merlin: "The lack of trust, absolutely, the lack of trust. And also… when you get to the big company level you end up having… more mortar than brick."