TLDR: Bank of America is a horrible business and it should be ashamed by how bad it is.
Two weeks ago, I suddenly received emails informing me that my Bank of America account was overdrawn. Confused, I logged onto my online banking account to discover that all my money (more than $3,400) had disappeared from both my saving and checking accounts. Not only were the balances stripped clean, I had outstanding fees and my checking account had gone negative as a result. My heart sank and my first thought was that my personal computer had been compromised somehow. What actually happened turned out to be in some ways worse and this is the story of how I found myself in an absurdist bureaucratic nightmare straight out of the movie Brazil. Best of all, it’s almost entirely Bank of America’s fault. This is the story of how I pieced it all together.
First published in The Stanford Daily.
Startups are often thought of as a risky business. We imagine founders to be fierce visionaries who can see a better future and are willing to bet on their personal success to realize it. They tread the thin line between genius and delusion and their ventures are constantly on the verge of utter failure right up to the moment they cross an invisible threshold and achieve the fabled “hockey stick” growth — the supposed mark of a scalable technology business. Then, at long last, comes the vindication and adulation. The risky bet pays off.
A few weeks ago, I was cruising the Reddit procrastination superhighway when I stumbled upon Legoizer, a web application to convert uploaded images to a mosaic constructed out of LEGO bricks. It’s such a simple and beautiful idea that I was surprised to find out that it took some long for someone to finally build it. After playing around with it, I decided that I really wanted to recreate the Great Wave off Kanagawa in LEGO. But before I do that, there were a few limitations of Legoizer I had to overcome.
Therefore, I set out to create my own LEGO mosaic generator with the options I need. The result, Image to Brick, can be seen at www.tobrick.com.
I regret paying for The Transhumanist Wager on Kindle. It has worse writing than a Dan Brown novel and its handling of the philosophical discussion is no more insightful than if you threw a bunch of words like “artificial intelligence” and “cryonics” into a bag, let a monkey pick them out at random, and then edit for some (but not all) grammar. After seeing the writer Zoltan Istvan going onto TechCrunch to peddle his book in the comment section (writing in third person), I wonder how many of the 5-star Amazon reviews are amazed by the book because they have literally never read a real science fiction novel in their lives, how many of them are the writer’s alter egos, and how many of them are really minimum wage workers in some third-world country paid to sell a poor repackaged version of Atlas Shrugged.
Google, the company who conquered the Internet by making a business out of giving things away for free, decided to drop its Google Reader service a few months ago. The official reason was “declining use”, but the subsequent Internet outcry suggests that Reader had a healthy user base. Internet has-beens AOL and Digg saw a golden opportunity to bring their brands back into relevance and immediately began working on replacements for Google Reader. We are now three days away from the demise of our beloved RSS reader, and I had the opportunity to try out the beta versions of both companies’ offerings.
MOOC, or massive open online course, is a hot topic these days. There is a great deal of excitement over what some see as the future of higher education, and for good reasons. It is a new yet familiar chapter of the Internet’s crusade against the old, the inefficient, and the undeserved monopolies of the pre-digital economy.
We see in the music industry that digital technology tilts the balance of power towards the consumer. Pink Floyd’s former manager Peter Jenner attacks the debundling of music albums as turning “a £10 product, the album, into a £1.60 product, the two singles that are worth buying.” Yet, from the consumers’ perspective, there is no good argument for why we should be forced to pay for the other ten songs we don’t like.
In a similar fashion, MOOCs threaten to debundle higher education. A kid in India today can take a Stanford course on cryptography on Coursera without having to move to Palo Alto and fork out sixty grand a year in tuition. Sure, she doesn’t get to enjoy the green grass and palm trees, but then again, why should she be forced to pay for the whole package if all she wants is the knowledge?
It seems that if greater access to education is good (and it is), then we should embrace MOOCs. So why are they not universally loved? I have a couple of thoughts on this question.
This is a D3.js interactive data visualization I made for CS 448B in Fall 2012. It was the last time Professor Jeffrey Heer taught the class before he left Stanford.