Stuff I Wrote: June 2018

Somehow, 2018 is half over, which means it’s time for another URL dump. Here are five articles and three podcast episodes I worked on that were released in June. These include my first ever post for enterprise.nxt, some primers for business writers, some posts for techies, and podcasts for people watching Cobra Kai (cohosted by the amazing Melanie Gale). Enjoy the sunshine, and we’ll catch you next month.

Medical Device Security: Hacking Prevention Measures (enterprise.nxt) With so many lives at stake, computer scientists and healthcare IT pros are motivated to develop strategies that keep patients safe from medical device hackers. They’re making progress.

What Journalists Need to Know About Password Managers (Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism) Despite its relatively low rate of adoption, there’s still a big market for password management software, and there’s no shortage of companies wanting to throw their hat into the ring.

What You Should Know About GDPR (Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism) Even with the clear warnings and affirmative consent required by GDPR, companies that collect large swaths of data from users are responsible for securing that data, particularly if it is being retained and/or sold to third parties.

Eraser Project Admin Garrett Trant on How the Longtime Secure Deletion Tool Lets Windows Users Wipe Files From Hard Disk Drives (Hosting Advice) When people put computer files in the trash bin or erase them from their hard disk drives, they’re still recoverable to computer forensics specialists. Eraser helps Windows users working with sensitive data wipe files completely so they’re unrecoverable.

Genedata: Advanced Software Solutions Help Biopharmaceutical Companies Automate Complex Processes and Streamline Workflows (Hosting Advice) Genedata helps transform large volumes of data into important scientific discoveries by providing time-saving software, consulting services, cloud hosting, and operational IT support help companies increase the speed with which they work. By automating complex experimental processes, the company also helps researchers identify dead ends early in the R&D process, saving biopharmaceutical organizations millions of dollars.

Podcasts

Facebook Gave Select Companies Access to User Data–Even After It Was Supposed To Have Been Cut Off Interview with Cyrus Farivar, Senior Tech Policy Reporter at Ars Technica

Karate Chop: Daniel LaRusso Needs Therapy (Cobra Kai Episode 2 Recap)

In this recap, we discussed swim parties, inhaler tossing, fish sticks, and picking fights in other people’s dojos.

Karate Chop: Adults Go Home (Cobra Kai Episode 3 Recap)

In this episode recap, we discuss Johnny’s recruitment strategy, Samantha’s high school dance, Spygate, and Miguel’s karate #fail.

 

Stuff I Wrote: May 2018

megaphone vector

Luckily, May wasn’t as hot in Phoenix as I thought it would be, but… HOW IS IT June already? I’m working on some big projects right now I hope to announce sometime in the late summer or fall, but for now, here are eight articles I wrote and two podcasts I made. (One of them is about Cobra Kai!)

Why is it OK For Cell Phone Companies to Sell Your Data to Third Parties? (Slate/Future Tense)
We shouldn’t be complacent about this.

Questions to Ask When Covering Health Care and Artificial Intelligence (Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business Journalism) 
Things like algorithms and computer learning are changing health care. There are major implications for the increased use of medical technology and a number of questions reporters should keep in mind.

Researching Fraudulent Organizations in Health Care (Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business Journalism)
Investigative writer Charles Piller and Christopher Robinson, professor of law and University of Arizona associate dean for research and innovation, spoke about the science of genetic testing at the Association of Health Care Journalists health journalism conference in Phoenix. The panel offered a blueprint for uncovering and reporting on fraudulent organizations

How to Enhance Your Golf Game (Experience Life)
Expert advice for improving your golf game while also preventing overuse injuries.

BitPay’s Secure, Open-Source Approach Enables Businesses and Developers to Leverage Bitcoin Payments and Find New Revenue (Hosting Advice)

Agriya Helps Entrepreneurs Dream Big and Work Fast When Recreating Popular Programs and Launching New Businesses (Hosting Advice)

Venngage Takes the Heavy Lifting Out of Infographic Creation Through Classic Templates and A Smart Recommendation Engine (Hosting Advice)

Inky Protects Businesses From Phishing Attacks By Mixing Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Computer Vision Algorithms  (Hosting Advice)

Podcasts

Melanie Gale and I started a podcast about Cobra Kai called The Karate Chop! Episode 1 is a recap of Episode 1: Warm Beer and Bad Pizza.

Call Detail Record Surveillance Triples with Robyn Greene on the Monday Morning Dumpster Dive!

Stuff I Wrote: April 2018

Happy May! The jacaranda trees are blooming, and here in Phoenix, we’re also preparing for triple digit weather. This month’s batch of posts have a little something for everyone.

Game, Set, Match (Experience Life) Learn how to maximize your potential on the tennis court with tips from two pros.

Reporter’s Briefing: Explaining Cryptocurrency (Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business Journalism) A primer for journalists looking to cover Bitcoin, blockchain, and cryptocurrency.

Can Software Eliminate Hiring Bias?  (Medium/Built to Adapt) How machine learning can help companies become more diverse.

In addition to these posts, I wrote a market guide for Freelance Success‘s weekly newsletter. FLX is a fantastic resource for established, professional non-fiction writers.

Oh, and I was on television! How To Erase Yourself From Search Engines wasn’t a piece I wrote, but rather a news segment on ABC 15 that I was interviewed for, along with some Facebook Live videos, including this one.

I also signed an open letter on the importance of security research, and against efforts to chill or intimidate researchers, alongside over fifty experts and expert advocates. We believe that “computer and network security research, white-hat hacking, and vulnerability disclosure are legal, legitimate, and needed now more than ever to understand flaws in the information systems that increasingly pervade our lives.”

Much in the same vein, our one podcast in April was about Keeper Security dropping a lawsuit against a tech reporter.

Stuff I Wrote: December through March 2018

March is the new January! Or should I say, late April? I’ve gotten behind on sharing posts I’ve written and podcasts I’ve hosted, but the good news is that you can get caught up all at once.

Security News

A Practical Guide to Microchip Implants (Ars Technica) An estimated 50 to 100k folks have implants; how do the benefits compare to the risks?

Hackers Are So Fed Up With Twitter Bots, They’re Hunting Them Down Themselves (The Intercept) As Twitter ramps up its efforts against fake accounts, researchers are devising algorithms to distinguish humans from bots in their spare time. You can also read this article in Portuguese!

Too Many People Are Still Using ‘Password’ as a Password (Motherboard) ‘Starwars’ was another popular and bad choice for passwords last year.

What Are Data Brokers, And Why Are They Scooping Up Information About You? (Motherboard) These sites you haven’t heard of are sharing boatloads of data about you.

Here’s a Long List of Data Broker Sites and How to Opt Out of Them (Motherboard) How to get off of people search sites like Pipl, Spokeo, and WhitePages.

Textbook

Business Writing: A Content Marketing Approach (StuKent Publishing) is now out and available for professors. I have a webinar on that same landing page.

Miscellaneous

The Potential Downside of Unlimited PTO and Vacations (Dice Insights) Unlimited PTO or vacation sounds pretty fantastic, but the reality is that such perks come with some potential loopholes that can affect you in big ways.

Breaking Into DevOps Engineering (Dice Insights) DevOps boils down to a collection of technical and cultural practices that allow organizations to build products at a more efficient clip. Here’s how to break into the segment.

Taste and Nutrition Test: Food Bars (Performance Menu, paywalled) I took a look at some popular nutrition bars, and analyzed their macronutrient content, calories, ingredients, flavor, cost, etc.

Mr. Robot Redux

I wrote up our tweet chats for the penultimate episode and the finale of Mr. Robot’s third season. on Motherboard.

Podcasts

I hosted or cohosted five podcast episodes:

Trump Dumps Formal Trans Ban

Federal Reserve Cracks Down on Wells Fargo, DOJ’s Rachel Brand Resigns

EPA Suspends Alaska Mining Proposal on Pristine Watershed

Twitter Releases New Information on the Extent of Russian Election Influence

New Tax Bill Revealed; Dissenting GOP Senator Flips Vote

Interviews

I was quoted in The Outline’s Bribes for Blogs: How Brands Secretly Buy Their Way Into Forbes, Fast Company, and HuffPost Stories, an investigative piece on unscrupulous marketing practices.

I was interviewed on WOSU’s Tech Tuesday: Hackers vs. Twitter Bots.

My 2017 Year In Review

Each December, I take a brief pause to look back at the entire year: what went well, what went poorly, and what my goals are moving forward. Inspired by Chris Guillebeau, I’ve posted an annual review in 20102011201320142015, and 2016. Although these feel a little self-indulgent, I always get feedback from people who found my annual review helpful or were even inspired to do their own. And so the tradition continues.

This year’s annual review has actually been the first one where I’ve really struggled with what to include and what not to include. A lot of it is deeply personal, or enough so that I’m hesitant to broadcast it. Some of it includes details I’d rather not delve into just yet, because I’m switching things up a bit next year and want to write about it after I’ve spent some time actually doing it and can compare my intent and thoughts with the actual results. That said, I’ll share what I feel comfortable with, divided by my core desired feelings for the year (playful, vibrant, and creative).

Playful

Playful is more of an attitude than anything, and I chose this word in large part to focus on maintaining a serious of playfulness when appropriate instead of taking things unnecessarily seriously. But when I think of play, I think of traveling and events. I did a LOT of traveling in 2017. Chicago, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, San Diego… I went to Portland for a great trip and an amazing wedding. I went to my high school reunion in Philadelphia. I did some fun trips closer to home, too–hiking in Sedona, a boat ride around Saguaro Lake with my in-laws, and a lot of touristy adventures when my brother visited during Thanksgiving. We had some conferences in Phoenix this year, too–CactusCon, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and the Southwest Conference of Botanical Medicine. I also did a few sporadic speaking gigs in town this year. I spoke about logical fallacies at Nerd Nite 29 in my favorite arcade bar, spoke about hacking tools in Mr. Robot at a Phoenix Linux User Group meeting, and spoke about data brokers at a local CryptoParty I helped organize. Beyond travel and conferences and talks, I did a lot of puzzle hunts and got invited to more than my fair share of parties. I also enjoyed the volunteer work I did this year for the Overnight Website Challenge and for Feed My Starving Children. It’s always nice to give back a little when you can.

The less playful part of my year was filled with a few random one-off annoyances, most of which were easily remedied by reading online reviews and switching providers. It’s so easy to get stagnant and stay with the devil you know, but finding a vet you like, a doctor you like, a gym you like, a coworking space you like, etc. is worth the time and inconvenience of going through that process. In general, I spend a lot of time reading online reviews and pay special attention to the negative ones and also how businesses respond. To pay it forward, I’ve been trying to leave online reviews for businesses I have both good and bad experiences with to help other people with their choices. Every once in a while, some dude will call the cops on you for leaving an honest review, but luckily, it’s still legally protected speech.

Keeping things playful is not always easy when things are falling apart around you. This year has been as polarized as ever politically, leading to many misunderstandings and a lot of drama that didn’t necessarily need to happen. It seems like just watching the news this past year has been overwhelmingly traumatic, and without going into details, I’ve had a few of my own bad experiences to add to the mix. They’ve all been dealt with appropriately (and handled quite well, I might add), but I’m really ready to put this year behind me.

Vibrant

It’s stereotypical to set big, audacious health goals at the beginning of the year and lose track of those shortly thereafter. My year was a bit strange in that I was laser-focused on fitness for part of the year but wasn’t getting as much meaningful work done, and then the opposite was true for the latter part of the year.

I started the year out really positive about my fitness since I’d had a fabulous last half of 2016. Not only did I get stronger (and leaner), but I finally got in shape for Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which I’d been hoping to get back into once I found a way to do so while avoiding injuries (and fitting back into my old gis). Unfortunately, my 2017 fitness quest wasn’t as fruitful. The first obstacle was when I became aware that the coach I was working with was unable to program appropriate volume for me once I started grappling again, and didn’t adequately respond to feedback. I tried switching coaches but he, too, had difficulty coming up with programming for me since I didn’t want to choose between several goals—overall health and wellness, being in shape for my sport, and losing around 15 lbs. It’s always disappointing when fitness professionals are going through the motions, and even more so when you are paying top dollar for the privilege, so by the time my contract ran out, choosing not to renew was a no-brainer. Instead, I joined a box gym near my house and spent the bulk of my health/fitness budget on grappling. For a while, I was training regularly—probably overtraining, to be honest, with as many as 5-6 classes a week between two gyms.

I did not do as much jiu-jitsu as I’d hoped to in 2017, but I had a lot of fun with it in the beginning of the year, getting to train in the mornings Ares/Nava BJJ, some sessions at DMA Athletic Club, and even going to a fun seminar in Vegas right before Def Con. I did 102 jiu-jitsu classes all year, but only 10 of those since August. A lot of this had to do with huge projects and overzealous deadlines, which is not a cycle I want to sustain.

I was not as consistent at the end of the year while writing an online textbook along with the rest of my workload. My work schedule is inconsistent, so consistency in the gym has always been a challenge (and crazy Phoenix traffic doesn’t help-I try to do all of my training in the AM, which isn’t always possible). There were days when I got up, immediately started working on my laptop, barely ate anything, and went to bed 16 hours later without so much as having taken a shower. I think these crunch times were necessary for some of the projects I was completing, but I’m looking into ways to cut back on extraneous activities so I can get my work done and prioritize health, fitness and self-care. Now that the book is wrapped up, I think things will be easier. There’s a trend in the health and fitness industry to spew (false) positivity, and at the same time people constantly struggle with fitness, rebound on diets, deal with injuries (fingers!), etc. and so I think honesty is really important.

My strength and conditioning work was a little more consistent than my grappling, but also petered off as I got slammed with projects for work. One thing that helped was joining a gym right around the corner, which may not be super fancy but is excuse-proof. Not getting what you need or are paying top dollar for can be frustrating, but I think is important to remember in the world of fitness is that if something’s not working for whatever reason, you’re not married to it and it’s okay to switch things up! It’s easy to just wait it out month after month, but if your programs are half-copied or it’s apparent that your coaches are either unable to write a program for someone with your goals or just don’t feel like trying, it’s okay to try something else that might work!

I have plans in place next year both to help me to keep my workload down to a manageable level so I have plenty of time to train, and working with an amazing coach who I’ve known for years that’ll help me take things to the next level. He has a different strategy and approach that I resonate with, and is far more flexible. I’ll be able to share a lot more this time next year!

Creative

I wanted to feel creative at work this year instead of falling into the trap of going through the motions. I’m pleased to say that work went phenomenally well this year. I’ve already extensively detailed this year’s greatest hits, so I won’t rehash my favorite 12 projects from 2017 except to say that I’m thrilled with them. I’m also really happy with many projects that didn’t make the list (in part because they were not bylined or haven’t been published yet). It’s always pretty interesting because I spend most of the year thinking about how I suck and don’t get anything done, but always have a lot to show for myself come December. I am equally thrilled that I was able to maintain my same income level even with all of the projects I dropped.

My unintentional theme for 2017 seems to have been replacing things that just weren’t working with ones that were, which is also true in my professional life. There were some great working relationships that evolved to the point where it didn’t make sense for us to collaborate anymore. Beyond that, I also spent a large chunk of the year replacing toxic or stagnant client relationships with vibrant, healthy new ones. That’s probably why I don’t have the same complaints about poor client behavior that I shared in 2016. I continued podcasting this year and did 21 episodes, including 7 with a brand new cohost, Trevor Hultner. (The podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts for those of you who want to subscribe to it on iTunes.) I think it’s pretty evident from the episodes how great our chemistry is, due in no small part to our shared ideals, and to Trevor being a podcasting pro. The seven episodes we worked on together were downloaded 15,421 times in just two and a half months. We’ll be doing some crowdfunding in 2018, so stay tuned for that.

The only thing that really went badly workwise this year is being owed $2600 from Consumers Digest. This is particularly ironic given that the publication claims to assist people in becoming smarter consumers and avoiding unethical or corrupt behavior–the very type of behavior which they themselves exhibit. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one in this boat—an additional five writers are owed a combined total of more than $17,000, and those are just the ones I know about. I’d heard some warnings about the magazine after I’d signed a contract; the mistake I made was to honor my agreement and hope for the best. Now I just have to wait for my case to work through the court system.

Another part of creativity for me is having a great environment from which to work. Like just about everyone else, I decided to try to organize my home using the Kon Mari method. (Who doesn’t want to tidy their home once and never have to do it again?) I got through all of my clothes and completely rearranged my closet and dresser. I got through my books, getting tons of cash and credit at various used bookstores. My books all fit on my shelves now instead of all over the floor, which is nice. But when it got time to go through papers, I got a little stuck. Her approach involves putting everything you own in one room and sorting through it, which is difficult when all of your papers don’t fit in one room. I definitely still want to get through it, but am trying to figure out how to approach it. After papers are kimono (miscellaneous items) followed by sentimental items, and I hope to get through them all by the end of next year.

Last but not least, community gardening is one outlet for my creativity. Our garden sadly closed early this year, but we have a new plot now and are getting ready to plant soon (since we live in Phoenix, where you can grow year-round).

Overall

I’d say I made good headway into my goals in 2017, but didn’t quite get as far as I would’ve liked. It’s like if I set out to solve 10 puzzles, but only solved five or six of them. Maybe my expectations were a tad unrealistic. Maybe I tried to make unworkable things work a bit too long. In 2018, I’m working on finishing the rest of those puzzles, but mostly I want to emphasize balance and deep rest. I give lip service to self-care, but find myself thinking I should just be able to push through. I do push myself incredibly hard and just want to allow myself to hit the pause button now and again. I want to focus on feeling nourished with the same intensity and determination that I focus on my writing.

I feel very hopeful for 2018 and can’t wait to share what happens next. Happy New Year!

2017’s Greatest Hits: My Top 10 Posts of the Year

This year, I wrote about 60 articles or blog posts for 17 different sites or publications, along with 21 podcast episodes and a variety of other projects. Most of the projects are behind the scenes or not ready to announce, and iTunes users interested in Friday news dumps can subscribe to the podcast, but here’s a list of the top 10 posts I wrote!

10. Porn Sites Should Be Using This Basic Security Feature (Motherboard)

“Your network traffic may actually implicate you in activity in that regime that is considered outright illegal.” I kicked off the year with an article about porn, but it wasn’t really about porn at all.

9. How to Help 55 Million People Out of Food Deserts (Yes! Magazine)

Programs provide easier access to fresh, healthful foods to low-income neighbors. This post is about food deserts and non-profits working to eradicate them.

8. Hunting (Software) Bugs for Fun and Profit (Dice)

In a bid to lock down their infrastructure and eliminate any bug that pops up, some companies have begun crowdsourcing their security. This piece is about bug bounties.

7. Hacker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: The Future Is Cyberwar (Vocativ)

We’ve seen data theft, energy grid hacks, and Stuxnet, but not open cyberwar — yet. I wrote about what it might look like if we did.

6. Why You Should Get a Job in Blockchain (Dice)

Although experienced blockchain developers are in demand and command large salaries, the technology underlying blockchain is still in its infancy. 2017 would not be complete without an article about the digital asset platform.

5. Cartoonist in Hell (Folks)

Drawing comics for a living isn’t all fun and games, says Evan Dorkin. Especially when you’re living with chronic pain. I interviewed my favorite cartoonist, who I last interviewed for the zine I wrote in high school back in 1996 or something.

4. Hit App Sarahah Quietly Uploads Your Email Address (The Intercept)

A security researcher with the firm Bishop Fox caught the app uploading emails and phone numbers right after it first launched. The feedback app said this was for a “find your friends” feature that wasn’t even working.

3. Street-Level Surveillance (EFF)

I wrote a series of reports, in collaboration with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to shine light on the advanced surveillance technologies that law enforcement agencies routinely deploy in our communities… including face recognition, drones/UAVs, cell-site simulators/IMSI catchers, body-worn cameras, and automated license plate readers.

2. A Roundtable of Hackers Dissect ‘Mr. Robot’ (Motherboard)

In this ten-part series, I got some of the smartest hackers I know in a Keybase chatroom to discuss the tech on Mr. Robot after every episode. I linked to the post discussing the finale, but you can find all of these post-show recaps on Motherboard.

1. Staggering Variety of Clandestine Trackers Found in Popular Android Apps (The Intercept)

Researchers built a custom platform to root out trackers in mobile apps. They discovered 44 different varieties in 300 apps downloaded by billions of people. My favorite 2017 project was covering the proliferation of clandestine tracking software found on popular Android apps, as discovered by French nonprofit Exodus Privacy & confirmed by researchers at Yale Privacy Lab.

8 Years of Freelancing: 8 Things I’ve Learned

Today, I’m celebrating my eighth year of freelancing with cupcakes at The Department, a beautiful 16,000 square foot collaborative workspace in downtown Phoenix. For the past four years, I’ve written a blog post with tips, whining, or reflections. (Here’s 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.) So grab a drink and celebrate with me if you’re interested in another round of musings.

You may not need that anchor client.

When I teach courses to new freelancers, or give advice over coffee, I always recommend finding either an anchor client or a part-time job to assure that rent and bills are paid. This helps people avoid the trap of pitching out of desperation or accepting underpaying work. That said, I’ve spent years keeping anchor clients that weren’t ideal out of fear, and when those relationships inevitably ended, I was always able to replace the work. Anchor clients are great for stability, and there are a lot of benefits to having a relationship that doesn’t involve learning a new CMS every month. But if scope creep, boredom, forced positivity, unnecessary meetings, or even unfulfilling work leave you drained, sometimes cutting the cord can be a good thing. It also means you’ll be more agile and able to jump on breaking news almost immediately. I am somewhat risk-averse and wouldn’t trade my ongoing client relationships for the world, but knowing that anchor clients aren’t necessary and not clinging to problematic client relationships has helped me develop more freedom.

It’s okay to just hang out and socialize at conferences.

When I first started freelancing, I’d get up super early to make sure to hit the morning sessions whenever I went to a conference. I’d spend hours figuring out the best tracks, take diligent notes, and sometimes try to sell recaps or summaries. I still judge people who party all night and miss all of the next day’s sessions when there are amazing investigative reporters and industry experts they could be learning from. I still think there’s nothing like soaking up the energy at an in-person panel. But I’ve relaxed my stance a bit over the years. There’s not a lot of time to schmooze with colleagues if you work from home, and I’ve honestly learned just as much partying at hacker conferences as I have taking detailed notes in overcrowded conference rooms. A lot of those talks are available on video a week later, anyway.

You may never feel like you’ve “made it.” 

I’ve noticed that no matter what my accomplishments are, I can’t help but feel a little confused when people come to me with amazing projects or stories they want me to break. I have a list of other journalists they could’ve gone to instead. I also get really surprised when people look at me like I’m successful, even though I know that by some external metrics, I am. Being comfortable with the fact that my own view of myself may not align with other people’s, and that the truth is probably somewhere between the two, has helped me navigate this. Just know that a certain byline doesn’t mean people will actually talk to you online or invite you to their parties.

Critics can be your friends.

I used to wonder why people didn’t have anything better to do with their time than blowing up my inbox with minute critiques (which more often than not are mere opinions or end up being inaccurate). Even though sorting through these can be time-consuming and annoying, recognizing that some people think being published makes one authoritative has helped me respond more compassionately. I’ve also learned a lot from concerns and even (gasp!) reading the comments, and it’s helped me improve my writing. No love for trolls, and a lot of PR concerns about so-called “errors” are best ignored, but being thick-skinned and open-minded is definitely beneficial.

Coaching helps.

I used to have what can only be described as an addiction to online courses and communities, even though my ROI was very low. But at the end of last year, I had an in-person annual review and strategy session with Pam Slim, and it has guided my work, mindset, goals, and decisionmaking for all of this year. I just scheduled another session at the end of this year.

Editors are gold (the good ones, anyway)

I started writing back in middle school, for my marching band newsletter and my school paper and a family newsletter and a Star Trek fan club newsletter called the Excalibur Press and my own zines, Apple Crumb, Starlight and Live Beat. I remember reading comic books and zines during free reading time and an unapproving English teacher asking me why I couldn’t ever read something “real.” I was attracted to the raw honesty and creativity in zines like Cometbus, Sanity Sux, Girl Germs, Teenage Gang Debs and  in comics like Hate, Eightball, Action Girl, Milk & Cheese, Dork, and Optic Nerve… for the same reason I was attracted to K Records bands like Bratmobile and Bikini Kill and Kicking Giant. I don’t like zines as much as I used to because I feel like some of them could use a little bit of polish. I may just be old and curmudgeonly but I feel like the d.i.y. ethic used to be about becoming the media instead of waiting for approval and acceptance from stodgy establishmentarians. Nowadays, it sometimes seems like people like to put out subpar work out of laziness and call it d.i.y. as an excuse. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle. Too much editing can take the teeth out of good writing. Some editors do little more than adding errors and requiring unnecessary busywork. But not enough editing can lead to work that’s unclear, incomplete, or just not as good as it could be…. and good editors can really make your writing sing. Finding good editors isn’t easy, and I consider myself incredibly lucky that I get to work with so many of them.

Make friends with other journalists and industry experts.

I don’t know what I would do without my friends. I can bounce ideas off of them, give somewhat objective feedback on their challenges, get assistance in rewriting emails so they don’t make people cry, share contacts and intel, and just chat about everything from new tunes to industry news. If you find yourself increasingly isolated, reaching out to others can make your world seem larger.

There are definitely pros and cons.

Freelancing definitely has its perks. The ability to work remotely and set your own schedule. The opportunity to look into whatever you think is interesting at the moment. Experts who can answer your pressing questions just a phone call away. The ability to shine light on injustice to help create a better world. The chance to teach people something that may help them with their lives. Being able provide levity and entertainment in a polarized, toxic world. Getting people to look closer and think deeper. Avoiding unnecessary meetings, if that’s what you want. But freelancing has its downsides. It can be incredibly frustrating, sleazy publications sometimes screw you over, and extroverts like me may miss watercooler talk and getting invited to office parties. There’s really no paid time off, and you have to manage your own retirement savings and health insurance. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of taking full-time work if the opportunity is right, but don’t miss all of the drawbacks of full-time employment either. It’s definitely worth assessing and reassessing to see what’s best for you.

Stuff I Wrote: November 2017

Happy December! I’m writing this roundup post from The Department, where I’m celebrating my eighth year of freelancing, so I’ll be writing about that soon. But first, here’s a roundup of some projects and articles of mine that were published this month, as well as links to three podcasts I co-produced and cohosted along with Trevor Hultner.

Street-Level Surveillance (Electronic Frontier Foundation) I’m thrilled to share this project, which I wrote in collaboration with EFF. It has been in the works for months. It’s a series on modern surveillance tools used by law enforcement, including automated license plate readers, body-worn cameras, cell-site simulators (also known as IMSI catchers, also known as stingrays), drones (also known as unmanned aerial vehicles), and facial recognition. The site also has some information on tattoo recognition, resources for criminal defense attorneys, and more.

 

Staggering Variety of Clandestine Trackers Found in Popular Android Apps (The Intercept) Weather, flashlight, rideshare, and dating apps, among others, are infested with dozens of trackers collecting vast amounts of information, researchers found. Exodus Privacy and Yale Privacy Lab wrote about 44 different varieties found in 300 apps downloaded by billions of people. Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing went into a little more detail about how these trackers are almost certainly in iOS apps, too, and the  legal issues that make this difficult to confirm.

Mr. Robot post-show discussions (Motherboard). If you’ve been following this amazing dystopian suspense thriller, you may also want to geek out on some commentary from a bunch of hackers and journalists. Here’s our post-show chats on Episode 4 Metadata, Episode 5: Runtime Error, Episode 6: Kill Process, and Episode 7: Fredrick & Tanya. (Psst: Episode 8: Don’t Delete Me is also up, but technically posted in December.)

Your fitness questions, answered (Experience Life): I interviewed some experts on what to do with your legs during pull-ups, whether you should lock your elbows or not during upper-body exercises, and why you yawn while you exercise.

Podcasts

This month we looked into a representative who not only assaulted a journalist but also lied to the police about it, the resignation of Puerto Rico’s emergency management director, and the very fishy murder of a Baltimore detective

 

 

Stuff I Wrote: October 2017

Happy November! I’m putting together this content roundup from beautiful Portland, Oregon, where I’ve been enjoying the fall colors and the rain. As always, I’ve been working on a lot of projects that I can’t post about yet, usually because they’re either ghostwritten or not completed. That said, here are a few things I’ve been working on.

  • Big Ass Data Broker Opt-Out List is a quick guide I put together for a cryptoparty in Phoenix, meant to assist people in getting their home addresses and phone numbers off of the web. To make it easier, I characterized opt-out methods with emoji. ☠ 🎫 📞 📠 📫 💰 To find a cryptoparty near you, check out https://www.cryptoparty.in/parties/upcoming.
  • The new season of Mr. Robot is in full swing, and I’ve been discussing the hacks with a group of amazing people. Our chat has moved from Forbes to Motherboard, which is really exciting for fans of the fabulous site, as well as people who object to ad blocker blockers or bad interfaces. Check out our discussions of the premier, Powers Saver Mode, Episode 2: Undo, or Episode 3: Legacy.
  • My biggest news for this month is that I have a fantastic new podcast cohost, Trevor Hultner. This also means that you can download our podcast on Apple Podcasts in addition to either of our Soundcloud accounts. I did attach three episodes below, on the birth control mandate rollback, executive order changes to military recall procedures, and warrantless surveillance. Enjoy!

Stuff I Wrote: September 2017

Why You Should Get a Job in Blockchain (Dice Insights)

Hunting (Software) Bugs For Fun and Profit (Dice Insights)

Under Siege: How To Protect Your Digital Privacy (Consumers Digest, but this is the archived version because they owe a lot of writers a lot of money)

What Closing the Loop of Health Data Means (Built to Adapt/Medium)