My update to the Berkman Community

Hey! I’m a Berkman/RSM fellow this year, and also still an affiliate. They asked for a mid-year check in email to the community. It took a while. I figure, why not share it here? This is a verbatim copy of what I wrote, modolus some formatting differences.

Hey friends! My, how time flies.

As a reminder — I’m Sahar. This is my life story. This is what I’m up to now (in a more personal way). Mainly I run Integrity Institute. I was a fellow in 20-21, an affiliate since, and now I’m also an RSM fellow.

🧱 Work projects and success
  • I’m running Integrity Institute.
    • We are a think tank on how to fix the social internet, powered by our members: tech professionals who have experience on teams like: integrity, trust and safety, anti abuse, responsible design, content or behavior moderation, and so on.
  • We’ve moved from 2 co-founders and 1 staff to 2 co-founders and 5 full-time staff.
  • The recent chatter around “tech exodus” and “how do we integrate these people into civil society” is a thing we pretty much called 2 years ago. Now a big challenge is finding the funders who be delighted to realize we exist and that we are already doing the work they wish was happening. (Do you have advice on that?)
  • People tell me that we’re the luckiest nonprofit in the world and we’re doing great! I guess I have high standards for what we could be doing. It’s an important moment.
  • I like finding ways we can partner. We have in abundance: actual workers who fix social media for a living. First-hand knowledge. We also have in abundance: organizations, governments, journalists trying to talk to us. We do not have in abundance: staff time, general operating support, a moment to breathe.
👋 Personal projects:
  • I’m getting married! 
  • I still run this blog, and I still make mixtapes. I’m behind on mixtapes, I would love your suggestions of great music to put on mixtapes to send to my boo
  • For fun, I still matchmake people in a romance, housing, or jobs way. Feel free to follow along or join.
  • I moved to Brooklyn! I’m in Crown Heights and would like to be part of more local (and niche) communities
🐫 Specific work examples in case you like that sort of thing
💬 Thinking projects

I’m trying to spend time writing and thinking out loud again. Things I’m trying to find the time to finally write:

  • The case for hiring integrity workers (to do integrity work or “normal” product work)
  • This work is not (or should not be) a cost center. (It’s about long-term retention and product quality!)
  • The macroeconomics of social platforms: thinking about supply, demand, and distribution for content
  • Using “integrity thinking” (incentives, supply/demand, etc) to diagnose governance failures in social media
  • More about how the answer is design and behavior moderation. “Content moderation” is a bad metaphor
  • The retweet/share/forward button is bad.
  • How to think about ranking and recommendation systems (“algorithms”). The answer is: 1. this is actually simple. 2. here’s a fun metaphor involving crazed chef robots. 3. Just look at a/b test results
  • Social media companies are actually weak and easily bullied. Even as the platforms they own are powerful and important. This is a bad thing.

It could be fun to take my ideas/bullets that could be blog posts or op-eds, and work with others to turn them into more fleshed out papers or something. Let’s think and write together. I also know that Zahra Stardust and I need to finish cowriting our thing together.

🥰 Hooray for BKC people

I want to shout out the staff and community members of BKC. It’s been delightful spending time with you, including over the last semester.

This includes pretty much all staff at RSM, my fellow fellows at RSM, and the staff at BKC. Mentioning everyone would be a fool’s errand, but some recent connections and shout-outs:

  • I had a lovely time getting to know Biella Coleman at Bruce Schneier’s party a few weeks ago
  • Tom Zick and I met as BKC fellows, stayed friends in Boston, and now I just invited her to my wedding!
  • Rebecca Rinkevitch and Sue Hendrickson and I keep running into each other at conferences! Including one where Micaela Mantegna was there
  • I met, separately, Marissa Gerchick and Joe Bak-Coleman for 1-1 hanging out time in Brooklyn lately, and I hope soon the 3 of us plus Nate Lubin can hang out altogether.
  • Kathryn Hymes met Marissa and I for the best cocktails in brooklyn the other day.
  • Susan Benesch and I had a few deep conversations. And Elodie advised my staff on how to understand the conference landscape.
  • Joanne Cheung and I had a lovely long conversation in an oddly cavernous and loud restaurant at Union Square Manhattan.

If you’ve gotten all the way this far down the email, wow! Hooray. Please accept this cookie. 🍪

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