The Social Web has become a Hostile Web and How We Start Fixing That

Short Form
Scheduled: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 from 3:45 – 4:30pm


There's a bodega across the street from the loft where my partner and I live. To get there, I walk out the door and up to a crosswalk, there's a button that activates warning lights indicating that someone's in the crosswalk which I press, and then cross the busy street. I walk into the market, get a six pack of my favorite IPA, pay cash for it, and return home.

Now, let's go shopping online!

Here's a suggested list of steps for using a browser safely as given by the CTO of a security company. And this list only covers browsing, not shopping.

# Uninstall client-side Java.
# All browser plugins should NOT auto-run, instead configured to "click-to-play."
# Install security and privacy protecting add-ons including Adblock, Disconnect, Ghostery, Collusion, and NoScript.
# this list continues for several more steps...

I'd also suggest installing some software that alerts you to unexpected outgoing requests your computer is making. And all of this before typing anything into the URL bar, or the search box (by the way, did you turn autocomplete off?)

All of those steps are like having to put on body armor, hard hat, safety googles, and goalie pads just to cross the street to my local market.

Worst of all, I have to understand the underpinnings of the web to see why I'd want to take those steps.

Something's gone terribly wrong with the web.


The web is everywhere now, but as a programmer with nearly 20 years experience building web applications, I’m more apprehensive than excited.

We’ve constructed an environment that needs to track everything you read, watch, and say in order to pay for the show, and that’s not a healthy place for a culture to be.

Fortunately there are business models for the web that don’t require intrusive, targeted advertising. The secret to these models is that they don’t try to be the scale of Facebook or Google. These businesses already exist, and are going concerns. And the future of an open, less hostile web is in building on top of these models.

This is not an “advertising is evil, everything must be free” talk. It’s a “the design decisions we’ve made over the past 20 years have some awful consequences, how can we start fixing this?” Well more of a “hey, how do I make the web something I’m willing to pay for” talk.

Speaking experience

I've spoken at technical conferences such as Seybold and WordCamp, and have been a panelist at several World Science Fiction Conventions.


  • Biography

    As an engineer with several years’ experience building the web; I’ve worked on mobile applications, social, virtual worlds, blogging, and security.

    I want to help make the web back into a platform for people, and not just brands.

    I live in an old walnut growers’ warehouse, listen to a lot of power pop and shoegaze, love coffee, and get overly enthusiastic about hockey.