Help me Restore the Fourth this Fourth of July

"It's time to draw a line in the sand for what's off-limits in the digital age."

In light of the latest (and ongoing) NSA spying leaks, an early reader of my forthcoming book, Without Their Permission, pointed out an eerily prophetic passage I'd written. It's from the final chapter of WTP, a rallying cry for the open Internet and (among other things) digital privacy rights -- my editor suggested I write a portion as a fictional dystopian graduation speech from the year 2025. And let me be clear, the following is fiction::

Just this morning I found a polite note in my Dropbox from the federal agent who investigated a “suspicious” photo I’d privately stored there from a family vacation. I’d done nothing wrong, of course, but he was just letting me know they had run a quick search. At least he left a note, right? Believe it or not, there was a time when we truly believed our digital storage was as private as our physical storage. Want to enter my home? Sure, get a warrant—same goes for my Dropbox. Those were the days….

These days, of course, the government doesn’t need any due process to read our e-mail or search any of those formerly private messaging services, because they decided that the Fourth Amendment applies only to physical mail.

This is an unacceptable future (and present) for a country with inalienable rights to privacy as secured by our Constitution. I was on CNN and Bloomberg talking about these violations butif SOPA/PIPA was any indication, we need everyone talking about these issues, often.

I'll see many of my fellow New Yorkers at our Restore the Fourth rally this July 4th -- visit the one in your hometown!

America deserves better. Fortunately, she's designed so that we the people can do something about it. Let's get out there and do it.

The Book that Inspired the Birth of reddit

Well, since Without Their Permission doesn't drop until October 1st, the one book you need to read this summer in order to be a better entrepreneur is the book that inspired me and Steve to start reddit: Masters of Doom.

It's about the founding story of id software, the video game company that revolutionized the industry with titles like Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake – not to mention occupied countless hours of my childhood.

Not your typical business book

Steve lent me a copy of this book sometime during our sophomore year and I devoured it. It's a pretty quick read. It's probably not for everyone, because id fanboys will most appreciate all the stories from the earliest days of Carmack and Romero.

Who knew changing the world could be so much fun?

Nevertheless, this book convinced me to consider starting a company. It just seemed like so much damn fun. Granted, we didn't end up starting a gaming company (well, I guess we had 'gamification' before that was a buzzword: karma, leaderboards, awards, etc) but the idea a few friends could get together in a house and start building something the world had never seen before – having a lot of fun in the process -- got me hooked.

Read at least one book this summer, you'll be better for it

Hopefully it'll be as rewarding for you while you spend some time away from the hustle. Even if you don't read Masters of Doom, get away from your inbox and the office this summer. We tend to fetishize hard work more than we should. Yes, it makes a difference, but don't forget about diminishing returns.

7 Awesome (and Unique) Things to Get Dad

Father's Day is coming up here in the US (on June 16) and the internet is full of great, unique gift ideas to let dad know he's awesome.

My dad's birthday also happens to be June 10, so he basically gets one big gift (sorry, dad) every year.

1. Special dinner guest

This year we're having dinner with one of this favorite Washington Redskins thanks to a startup with a less-than-perfect name, Thuzio (props to @davetisch for turning me on to this startup). If your dad's a sports fan and you can bring a few of his friends in on it, this is sure to be a memorable time (just don't ruin the surprise like I did and accidentally CC him on one of the email threads).

2. Meat

As a 'Skins fan, there aren't a lot of things from Texas he'd like, but I've ordered him a brisket from Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, TX. Assuming your dad enjoys eating, there's no shortage of tasty things for him on goldbely from across the USA.

3. Bathroom Surprise

I'm not sure how dad would take this, so I'm not getting him a subscription of "One Wipe Charlies" but you've got to give the company credit for taking the viral-video-marketing approach to the next level. Perhaps your dad is a bit adventurous or has a good sense of humor?

4. 24-7 Internet

My dad can barely use his smartphone (love you, dad!) but if you've got an e-father, consider a pay as you go hotspot like Karma (no connection to reddit, though now that I think about it -- reddit gold is the perfect gift for any occasion).

5. Giant Wall Sticker

I've been so impressed by how Fathead handled their shipping fiasco on /r/NFL that I want to show them some love -- perhaps my dad can use a life-sized Robert Griffin III in his bedroom?

6. Anything You Can Imagine

If you ever need inspiration, there's always /r/shutupandtakemymoney and thisiswhyimbroke.com -- you're welcome.

7. Quality Time (the best!)

Or what if you just don't have the money to spend because your still trying to get ramen-profitable with your first startup? (You know I'm all for that) Just spend time with him -- on the phone, facetime, or ideally in-person-face-time (like he did back in his day!). That's probably all he really wants, anyway.

Getting Things Done > Grade Point Average

Zoinks! Thanks for all the love everyone! By popular demand, I've TeeSprung the quote -- all profits to DonorsChoose.org

We're a generation in debt. I had a world-class education at the University of Virginia. I met my reddit co-founder Steve Huffman there on move-in day. That chance encounter changed both of our lives. I had some awesome professors. There was the fortuitous trip to Waffle House that convinced me I wanted to be an entrepreneur, not a lawyer. I've written the book about internet entrepreneurship I wish I had back then. But my kids won't have the same education I did. And that's a good thing.

A year ago I sat on a panel at the White House* for a room full of deans from universities across the country. We were tasked to talk about entrepreneurship and how to better prepare our nation's undergraduates for an uncertain job market. "A critical skill I see in great entrepreneurs and employees alike is resourcefulness. Resourcefulness doesn't come from case-studies, it comes from doing things." This turned out to be quite the applause line.

Paul Graham says the best founders are "relentlessly resourceful."

I've been thinking about that day in D.C. ever since.

Getting Things Done > Grade Point Average

I'm an employer and I don't really care where you went to school or what your GPA was -- I want to know what you've done. Paid off student loan debt by tutoring computer science in New York? Rock on. Raised $20,000 on kickstarter for a daft punk tribute album? Awesome! Started the 'dear photograph' meme? Splendid! Blogged years worth of eating across the world and now creating food-tour-guides? Now we're cooking with bacon.

This will not be on your course syllabus

What are you passionate about?

Writing code? Awesome. Start launching stuff. Tell your friends, see if any of them are willing to use it. If yes, then you're on to something, if no, figure out why your own friends aren't using it. Or maybe they're just not into doing things, that's cool, but Drew Houston taught me a great quote about that: "You are the average of your 5 closest friends."

(Wish you could write code? Sign up for a CS class -- this is the single-most valuable class you can take. Don't wait for the semester to start, sign up for Codecademy).

Love cats? I do too! What do you know about cats no one else does? Can you start turning that into content? Is it a blog you start with cats that look like Ron Swanson? (OK, nevermind, that's been done). Are you contributing to the discussions on /r/cats?

Fired up about writing? Write about whatever moves you. Does your school newspaper suck? Start your own: TumblrWordpressPosthaven. It's happening right now.

We need more people - especially my fellow Millennials - doing things, learning things.

Don't wait for permission to be awesome.

*It was at this moment I realized I could've also called this post "From Waffle House to White House." Ah well, so it goes.

Phone Calls Are So Broken

I'm declaring a phone call armistice. Why?

When I call you, I’m essentially saying:

“Stop whatever it is you’re doing and pay attention to me right now.”

If you were doing anything creative, anything that involves flow, you’ve now had that interrupted. It could be hours before you get it back.

All for my phone call.

If – on the rare occasion – I’m calling you, I’m going to have a really important (read: time-sensitive) reason. Or we’re going to have scheduled this phone call ahead of time.

Exceptions should be made for close friends and relations, of course, but can we all just agree that we won’t abuse phone calls now that we’ve got countless of other ways to get someone’s attention on their terms?

Bring on the autonomous drones delivering medicine to remote villages, @AirWareUAS

Via WIRED. Awesome stuff, Airware. Proud to be a small part of the process.

What are some more positive examples of where drones are being deployed that people haven’t seen?

We’re involved in research funded by the Gates Foundation that looks at how we can distribute medicines and vaccines in rural Africa in a fairly automated way. Essentially the researchers at looking at creating a spoke and wheel system with drones as the spokes. So from a central distribution point in Africa where there is already an airport, or vehicles that bring medicines and vaccines in, we then distribute the stuff via drones. So that entails a whole collection of UAVs that on regular schedules fly out to these remote villages, drop the package and come back in a very, very autonomous way.