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A Look to the Future

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It’s incredible how much life can be compressed into just a few dozen hours, isn’t it? Since I last posted, I have resigned, been fired from, and successfully rejoined Pied Piper. And while this whirlwind meant I used up my “tears budget” a bit earlier than usual this month, it also reminded me of how lucky I am to work for Richard Hendricks, a true technological visionary. In that forward-looking spirit, I thought I’d share my letter to my 40-year-old self. I revise this missive to the future each time I begin a new professional venture, but with any luck, I will have this job — and this letter — until the day I die. Enjoy, dear readers, and take care!

Lordy, lordy, look who’s forty!

Who would have thought Donald Dunn would make it to forty-years-old? After swimming through the piranha-infested waters of the Amazon, running with the bulls in Pamplona, finding love in Paris — and losing it in Malta —you’ve seen big things, Donald.

Your life has been a checkered quilt, and some of its patches have been rougher than others. But whether a coarse swatch best forgotten or a velvet one to be cherished for all time, they have stitched together the man you’ve become. A man who sees adversity as opportunity, melancholy as but a brief minor key in life’s longer song. Not to mention, you threw one hell of a fortieth birthday bash on that yacht. Good on you, Donald!

You can be hard on yourself, but it is the lofty bar you’ve set that makes you such an exemplary friend, spouse, and father. To think, you were worried about raising one little scamp, and now triplets! It seems the chemical traces in that shipping container all those years ago didn’t cause lasting medical damage, after all. Four is a nice round number for a brood, too, and you should be glad that you went with the maroon minivan. It was the right choice.

Donald, you’ve kept so many of the promises you made to yourself. To give all of your heart, mind, and physical well being to each and every company to which you’ve pledged your faith. To treat each friendship like a hummingbird: vibrant, yet delicate. And, of course, to always wear your retainer at night to protect against stress-related grinding. Your teeth are the sparkling Christmas lights for your face, Donald, and they must shine year-round!

You are a star shooting across the Great Plains, a manta ray swimming in the sundrenched, shallow waters of the Caribbean, a single hair that raises on the back of a child’s neck after he hears his first violin solo. Never forget that you are truly something, Donald. You are tougher than anyone I have ever met, but also a gentle soul that never ceases to give first, and ask questions later.

Looking back on your life, you wish you could tell your younger self to relax, and sure, have that second glass of sparkling cider. Your soul has always been older than your body, and one day they’ll have a name for that condition. In the meantime, savor your youth and this, your fortieth birthday (give or take, depending on which of those certificates was actually legitimate). Next up: nifty fifty!

You’re the best, Donald. Richard is proud of you.

Love always,

Jared

A Thicket of Thorns

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Hello, readers. My apologies if this post lacks my usual pluck, but it has been a trying week. The boys at the home and I used to play a game called “Rose and Thorn,” ranking the highs and lows of our day, and, well, these past few have been a thicket of thorns.

 

First, Erlich announced that he would be journeying to Tibet, and I’m confident he did not research the necessary vaccinations before departing. So there’s that to worry about. Second, we attended Hooli-Con, which was a ticker tape parade of disillusionment.

 

My singular purpose there was to promote our Space Saver app, and I toted Pied Piper banners, caps, and foam fingers — all the usual showstoppers — to do so. You can imagine my disappointment when I saw our booth was located in the middle of the row, granted only a sad folding table and chairs like a recent divorcé’s dining room. No matter, I thought. I’ll forge ahead. I’ll hand out pamphlets with the zeal of a pilot during the Blitz.

 

My brief moment of optimism ended when I overheard some unnerving discussion back at the booth. I put on my noise-cancelling headphones, but even Terry Gross couldn’t calm my nerves. I closed my eyes, Uncle Jerry’s words echoing in my mind.

 

If I had to pick one “thorn,” though, I suppose it would be witnessing a hero succumb to the worst of his impulses, prioritizing a childish prank to temporarily salve a wounded ego over the security of his colleagues. Watching the violent sparking of several HooliPhones wasn’t ideal, either, but I have to say this confrontation with moral fallibility was the low point for me, personally.

 

Anyway, I’m off to search for a “rose”! I’ve almost earned enough PeaceFare points to host a virtual food drive, and that will feel good.

Brrrr!

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Greetings, friends, and to my fellow Californians, I hope you’re bundled up! A cold snap has hit the Golden State, and we here at the hostel have each been combating the chill in our own ways. I took my trusty pea coat from my Vassar days out of mothballs, Dinesh has been coding in mittens, and Jian-Yang has been absconding with neighbors’ newspapers to burn in the fireplace.

While at first the weather just seemed like a chance to brew my stovetop cider for the gents, it brought a butterfly effect of consequences that led to a massive Azure hosting bill. The others were quick to blame this all on “Richard’s curse,” but I worked long enough in a New Orleans Wicca shop to know that was nonsense. No, all we needed was another customer.

VR wunderkind Keenan Feldspar seemed like the answer. We were the preacher’s daughter, and Keenan was coaxing us onto the back of his motorcycle, promising to take us wherever we wanted to go. We even flirted with the idea of acquisition, but, as you may have guessed from the latest Hooli-Con ad, Keenan just gave his spare helmet to Jack Barker. The two are probably riding be-goggled and barefoot across the Hooli campus now.

Although Richard is surely disappointed, I think my beige sweater helped him to stomach the news. (His stomach has already had a difficult few days.) I only wish the unflattering knit could have comforted Erlich in time, who reacted to Keenan’s betrayal by burning his beloved palapa to the ground. All that’s left now are its charred shadows and the outdoor kimono Erlich so loved to wear beneath it.

Fear not, though, dear readers! I can see in Richard’s eye — and by the return of his restless leg syndrome — that he’s already thawing from these icy days, looking ahead.

Fight on, Pied Piper!

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Have you heard? Our new app Space Saver has cracked the Top Five Hundred rankings! I went to the Hooli App Store, clicked the Utilities tab, selected sub-group mobile, selected sub-group storage, kept scrolling down to number 499, and there was our name in lights! Yet no sooner had I prepared to blast the Joan Baez and toast our success than we were hit with some bad news.

First, there was Richard’s osteopenia diagnosis. I purchased chocolate-flavored Viactiv Calcium Soft Chews to show him bone density maintenance can be fun and cool, but still, I know he was shaken. Second, there was Stu Burke. This patent troll spotted Space Saver, an ingenue fresh off the bus from Iowa about to catch her big break, and he pounced. Luckily, our Richard was armed with justice and, some minor financial casualties aside, Pied Piper prevailed!

While Richard was on the front lines of patent litigation, I was fighting my own war on the homefront — me, a mildly-scoliotic David, against Microsoft Azure, a corporate Goliath. How could I get them to reduce our cloud storage rate? Well, as Anna sings in The King and I: “Make believe you’re brave, and the trick will take you far.” So, I became Ed Chambers.

Ed was everything I wasn’t: suave, confident, able to stomach hard liquor and dessert wines. While I always stay on the line after a customer service call to rate my interaction, Ed just hung up ‘cause he had a disco to get to.’ And while my dreams are a labyrinthine theater of repressed memories, Ed’s were just a cheerful replay of his favorite Super Bowl halftime shows.

It was a thrilling foray, but in the end, Ed’s brashness was his undoing. He had to be let go. Farewell, EC — we may be back to the core Pied Piper team, but you and your colorful exit interview won’t soon be forgotten.

 

Problem 1:

Single Points of Failure

Libraries are vulnerable to losing their collection because all of their books are contained at a single location. Say, for instance, that there was a fire, or a flood, or a vandal defaced John James Audubon’s masterpiece Birds of America by giving all the Warblers human genitalia. Even worse, if the vandal recruited bird haters from other neighborhoods and got ahold of all the copies of the book in existence, it could be lost crude doodles forever. It would be a tragedy on par with the destruction of the Library of Alexandria.

The Problem

Because Birds of America is centralized in one public location, it’s susceptible to permanent deletion. The same goes for content on the Internet — storing all your family photos on a single account in a cloud service? They could all be wiped away if someone hacked your account or corrupted the host servers.

The Solution

Our solution: In our decentralized library, we would duplicate and distribute multiple copies of Birds of America to your neighbors — if you need a copy, you would just go to your neighbor’s house. As our Pipernet town of mobile devices grows, so do the number of neighbors who might have a copy of your book. And the more potential copies there are available, the more secure the book is.

That’s what our new internet will allow you to do too: spread your personal files on devices across the world, so they’re completely safe from bad actors manipulating or deleting them.

Takeaways

All copies of your files in a well-known, hackable location = RISKY!

Files copied and distributed to multiple locations = SAFE!

Problem 2:

No Privacy

In order to check out books, you must have a library card — an ID that links back to your real world identity. That library card reveals all the books you’ve ever checked out, where you returned them, and whether they were returned on time.

The Problem

The tech titans collect data profiles on us too, and theirs are far more comprehensive. They amass thousands of personal data points by tracking our activities in both the online and physical worlds.

Users don’t own or control their own data, so it can be used against them. Take, for instance, Richard’s lawyer Pete Monahan, who had his probation revoked when the state retrieved his library records. Which was… probably a good idea. But for this metaphor’s purposes: bad that they can access that information!

On the web, our data profile is far more detailed, the laws around privacy even looser, and more freedoms are at stake. For example, what if Hooli sold your search data to an insurance company who then denied you coverage because you’ve HooliSearch-ed “kindest Palo Alto based Cardiologist” a few too many times?

The Solution

Replace library cards with anonymous identification cards which are impossible to connect to your real world identity. Instead of using a library card (linked to your name, address, etc.) to check out books, you would swipe a nondescript card (containing no personal details). Your activity would be tracked to keep the system stable, but your identity would not be siphoned and sold. I, for example, would no longer check out books as "Donald Dunn," but rather the nom de guerre "h3w0vbk37vpm."

That’s what our new internet will allow you to do too: use its apps and services without compromising your privacy.

Takeaways

Trading your identity and data for online services = RISKY!

Using services anonymously so nobody can target you = SAFE!

Problem 3:

Censorship and Manipulation

Because a town’s library is run by a small group of administrators, they could theoretically decide what books are available to its people. They could even decide to ban Birds of America, depriving young birders of Audubon’s elegant illustrations, pored over page by page under a government-issued blanket after lights out, giving you hope that even a slender-framed, shivering boy could grow to be as majestic as a Hooded Merganser.

The Problem

On the internet, multinational corporations can screen content, or even “adapt” their services to fit the local government’s requests. In both libraries and on the Web, we’re susceptible to data being censored or manipulated by intermediaries.

The Solution

A peer-to-peer lending system backed up by a fully public ledger, allowing you to send and receive books freely to anybody in the world without worrying about censorship or interference. Want to add Catcher in the Rye, Fahrenheit 451, or your controversial essay on Audubon’s coloring techniques? No problem, even if the town surrounded you with pitchforks to ban them, these vital texts would be available to share neighbor to neighbor, impossible to delete.

That’s what our new internet will allow you to do too: exchange messages and files directly with their intended receiver, disperse ideas and information free from threats of censorship.

Takeaways

Pushing all transactions through a central authority = OPPRESSIVE!

Establishing a peer to peer exchange system based on an immutable public ledger = FREE!

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