Gabriel Krieshok

Friend reading recommendations

While I’m guiltily reading the second book in Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire series (widely accepted as the best post-Return of the Jedi storyline novels), I asked my friends on Facebook what they were reading. Here’s what they had to say…

Simon, an Australian colleague from our teaching days in France:

Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee–A Look Inside North Korea | Jang Jin Sum


Dave, a fellow RPCV from Madagascar:

…award winning, alternate ending to WWII, the axis powers have won the war and taken over north america, where they introduce a totalitarian regime and Japan-Germany-Italy jockey for power in America…great book!

The Man in the High Castle | Philip K. Dick


George, a graduate of the Ford School of Public Policy:

Great but harrowing.


Stephanie from high school in Kansas:

The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York – Deborah Blum


Uncle Tom, of course he has three since he is an accomplished author himself…so before giving you his recommendations I will recommend HIS upcoming novel (to be released in January 2015) from ‘The Hatchery’ trilogy:

The Prey (pre-order!)

OK now his recommendations:

The Monkey Wrench Gang | Edward Abbey

The Homeseman: A Novel | Glendon Swarthout

(Updated-too many books called ‘Way West…’!) The Way West | A.B. Guthrie Jr.

 


Lisa, geek/friend in DC:

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal | Christopher Moore

She also recommends:

City of Thieves: A Novel | David Benioff


Greggory recommnds anything by Sherman Alexie (I agree!)


Aleta, world-traveler and fellow Fordie says that both deserve their recent praise (seconded by Lisa from Peace Corps HQ!):

The Goldfinch: A Novel | Donna Tartt

The Luminaries: A Novel | Eleanor Catton


Emily, fellow Madagascar RPCV returns to the classics:

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea | Jules Verne


Angie, from my days at the University of Kansas, recommends:

Zeno’s Conscience: A Novel | Italo Svevo


Megan, from my days in Michigan, recommends:

It is so very timely which makes it all the more terrifying.

The Stand | Stephen King


Beth, Madagascar RPCV:

All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel | Anthony Doerr

…and…

The Orphan Master’s Son: A Novel | Adam Johnson


Becca, friend from Kansas recommends:

 Ready Player One: A Novel | Ernest Cline


Ted, of School of Information fame:

Battleborn: Stories | Claire Vaye Watkins


My own mother, of course (and Jennifer from SI!):

 The Glass Castle: A Memoir | Jeanette Walls


Nick, of friend-of-friend-but-friend-skipped origins (I actually thought Nick was just calling me ‘brilliant’ as opposed to recommending this series!):

Brilliance | Marcus Sakey


 

Reid, of childhood friendship:

Blood of Tyrants (Temeraire series) | Naomi Novik

…and…

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel | Neil Gaiman

…and…

American Gods | Neil Gaiman


Purdom, of SI fame:

Why Mrs Blake Cried: William Blake and the Sexual Basis of Spiritual Vision


Mike, of KU fame as well:

China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power


And finally from Leslie, another RPCV from Madagascar who is now pursuing a PhD in English literature!

Americanah |  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Phew…who knew that all of my friends read so much!

Links I liked – July 21

  1. Who was the embodiement of evil before Hitler? – this is why Quora can be so awesome.
  2. Open Source Construction Library – Great resource I was checking out the other day
  3. Which country does the most good for the world? — Excellent food for thought.

Coordinating Malaria Awareness Activities across Africa

 

Stomp Map

Throughout the month of April, we saw the largest coordinated effort of activities that PCVs have ever conducted in the fight against malaria in Africa.

With April 25′s World Malaria Day as a hook, PCVs involved with the agency’s Stomping Out Malaria in Africa (Stomp) initiative used the entire month to rally around the cause. By April 30, over 320 Volunteers had reached more than 16 million people across 23 countries in Africa to raise awareness about malaria in their communities.

This massive outreach was achieved through local, grassroots-level activities facilitated by PCVs in the communities they serve. Over the course of the month, they led hundreds of diverse activities ranging from traditional community presentations and performances, to novel approaches like soccer tournaments (complete with malaria info sessions!) and media campaigns.

Volunteers engaged in so many activities that it was hard to keep up with the dizzying amount of information at headquarters. How could we keep track of their efforts to effectively measure their impact and celebrate their success?

Something that began as a proof of concept and transformed into a framework for development was in the way in which maps and real-time data was used both as a motivator and as a public communications tool.

I was asked by our Director of Innovation if there was a way to “map” the activities of the Volunteers at the country level in real time or nearly real time during the month so that anyone could get a sense of the progress and level of activity. The Stomp team was also excited about the use of digital mapping because the tool was a way to inspire friendly competition among participating countries.

Taking what was already happening into account, our idea was that anyone could visit a low-bandwidth page and see a dynamic map of how their particular Stomp country was doing.

For something like this to work, it had to demand as little as possible from the Volunteers themselves. We wanted them to focus on being a Volunteer, not on fiddling with complicated website accounts, interfaces and certainly not on duplicating their efforts into a new data-capturing system.

After some research, I opted to use Google’s own API from the results of the Google Form that Volunteers were already using (with the coordination of an established point-of-contact Volunteer in each country). Using this API method, which was essentially a digital Lego connector, I was able to mold the data format to fit my map. The key to the entire project was in adapting an open-source project that had already done the heavy lifting on the more complicated back-end connectors between the Google API and an external website like ours. This project, Sheetsee, paved the way forward and made what could have been a 300-hour effort into a mere three hours.

The map went through several iterations during April as the Volunteers and Stomping Out Malaria team would come back with thoughts for improving, modifying and adding functionality.

For example, we realized that, although maps are great at turning complex data into something readable, it didn’t quite convey it quickly enough. To achieve this, I simply built in an update so the map would refresh its numbers as the Volunteers updated theirs.

Malaria Sentence

In the end, it was this simple sentence feature that proved to be the most engaging.

This project was a success not only because of the ways it allowed people around the world to see the breadth and depth of Peace Corps Volunteer engaged in malaria prevention, but also for how it demonstrates how a government agency can leverage open-source tools and technology to quickly put useful information into the hands of those who can benefit the most.

I couldn’t be more excited to see what we can do next.

“All our Patent Are Belong To You”

Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.

Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.

When I started out with my first company, Zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them. And maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors. After Zip2, when I realized that receiving a patent really just meant that you bought a lottery ticket to a lawsuit, I avoided them whenever possible.

…We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.

Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers. We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard.

Amazing.

Links I liked – June 9

  1. How different cultures understand time – this is a common theme from expats that are fascinated by the cultures where they are living.
  2. Github adds diff for images – great. Once they do docs, it will be a supercharged version control for everyman.
  3. Transitioning from school to work – article from a fellow School of Information (University of Michigan) grad. Nice.

Dust on the Peace Corps logo

Two of Peace Corps' twitter accounts

Two of Peace Corps’ twitter accounts

I was just looking at these two twitter handles from Peace Corps. I noticed that the logos aren’t identical, and that the primary Peace Corps account has a sheen on it that isn’t present on the Third Goal account.

Well that’s a missed opportunity, as the audience for the Third Goal account is primarily Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Looked at side-by-side, it appears that the sheen on the primary account has been lightly dusted – as if it’s been through the Peace Corps experience out in the field…

I vote these two twitter avatars switch places – for continuity’s sake. :-)

 

Links I liked – June 8

  1. Largest vocabulary in hip hop – every design site should break it down like this.
  2. Resume from Markdown – I guess lining up tab marks in Word is so 2003?
  3. Running 23M queries on World Bank data – digging through sub-par APIs for real data.
  4. Google making Internet satellites – Looks like Loom just got a boost.
  5. PirateBox – DIY anonymous offline file-sharing

How to Measure Anything

The book starts with:

Anything can be measured. If a thing can be observed in any way at all, it lends itself to some type of measurement method. No matter how “fuzzy” the measurement is, it’s still a measurement if it tells you more than you knew before. And those very things most likely to be seen as immeasurable are, virtually always, solved by relatively simple measurement methods.

Awesome. – via How to Measure Anything – Less Wrong.

Links I liked – June 7

  1. Jerry-can server – incredible, I need to dig into this. the PDF.
  2. Oath of office taken on an e-reader – threshold crossed
  3. Mapbox GL – ooooooh. Pretty. No but seriously, this is a great indication as it demonstrations the evolution of Mapbox to a mature and well-designed outcropping of mapping solutions on the Internet.
  4. What’s My Line – Sargent Shriver (video) – an oldy but a goodie. Watch Sargent Shriver on the classic show, “What’s My Line?”

 

ICT for Peacebuilding

Awesome idea.

Hear I pitched a novel idea – the setting up of a Peace Tech Corps, on the lines of the hugely influential and valuable Peace Corps. In addition to the focus on ICTs for peace-building, I submitted that the enterprise could be a South-South exchange, focusing on innovation, knowledge resources and experience of those who lived in, came from and fight against violence, to help others in similar circumstances. In a nod to the compelling iHub concept, I also called for the establishment of tech incubators for peacebuilding.

via The future of technology in peacebuilding: Presentation at MIT Media Lab | ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace).

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© 2014 Gabriel Krieshok

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