Here’s a quick, biased history of my adult life.
I’ve been writing a lot of letters to old friends lately. That’s necessitated a lot of “here’s what I’ve been up to since we last talked” conversation. It could be useful to have that in one place: linkable, searchable, updateable. See also: Now.
In 2011, I graduated college. I loved both the undergraduate experience, and Brandeis University specifically, so I didn’t want to leave. I stayed an extra year to pick up a master’s degree in computer science. I did it in a strange way: taking an intense course in app development and game design in the summer, auditing courses in the fall, and finishing my degree in 2012.
Between graduation and the start of the program, however, I went on an epic road trip with Sarah, James, Rek, and Zuzana.
Occupy Wall Street kicked off in 2011, and I happened to be in DC for a few conferences in late September/early October. I stayed an extra two weeks and had a small role in founding Occupy K Street.
In 2012, I graduated my master’s degree. I was building lots of apps for fun, and asked Rootscamp if I could make them an unofficial app for the conference. That turned official, and then into a contract, and later into an “apps for organizing” startup with Adam Hughes, Chris Stathis, and Alice Chuang.
We moved our headquarters to Connecticut, and learned a lot in an incubator, before winding it down.
In 2013, Aaron died. I got angry, and moved to Springfield, Missouri to join Zack Exley at the Wikimedia Fundraising team. I built the infrastructure for the A/B testing team better refine how Wikipedia asks you for money, some stats to figure out when to stop a test, and an internal web app to view the results. I moved back to Rochester, NY, then Manhattan.
My time in Springfield was important. It was so different than my life up till then! I was in a truly christian-dominated space. There were more “jews for jesus” (read: Christian) synagogues there than actual jewish places of worship (there was only 1, and you needed a friend with a car to take you). I learned a lot about life in truly christian-dominated spaces, made a bunch of friends I’d normally never meet, and met people of very different lives than mine. I think about my time there a lot.
In Rochester, I made friends with local, erudite anarchist communists. I made friends with Metro Justice, Rochester Red and Black, and started a little blog called People Powered Rochester.
In 2014, I moved to Oakland to take care of Joshua Kahn’s geckos. For a couple, glorious weeks, I lived with Jay Carmona, Becca Rast, and Jonathan Matthew Smucker. It was amazing. Then I moved in with Bhavik Lathia, also in Oakland, also wonderful.
I went on many dates, and eventually wound up my time at Wikipedia (The ED was leaving, Zack was leaving, and my project felt complete). I started mentoring heavily at Startingbloc. I was confused: why, if I had done all those cool things, did I feel so unfulfilled?
I spent about 8 months traveling around the country, trying out different lives like you try on a hat, doing different projects for 2 weeks 2 months. (Touring hackerspaces around the country, housing justice organizing, cofounding a startup, helping run Zephyr Teachout’s gubernatorial race, hanging out with the homeless, tumblr diaries, a romance back in Rochester, living with Charles Lenchner for a bit, some online campaigning, etc).
In 2015, I decided it was time for a job again. I joined a 100-person startup as their first Data Scientist. I moved to Brooklyn with Lydia Bowers, and then Manhattan / Murray Hill in a studio, 5 minutes from work.
My sister Shelly moved to New York for a fancy job on Broadway, and so she lived with me for a while. It was really nice. We never could agree on what to watch on television, so we compromised on old favorites from childhood like Winnie the Pooh.
I went on lots of dates. James Cersonsky stopped by quite often. I left the startup. I romanced a brilliant artist. I spent 6 months thinking about what I wanted from life, how society worked, mentored even harder at StartingBloc, wrote some code for Bernie, and enjoyed life. I even got an acting reel! Facebook gave me a call — and I decided I’d work there next: but not until I took a few more months off.
In 2016, I moved to Palo Alto. I had some time before starting work, so I spent a lot of time helping friends get jobs. I moved into a hacker house that was kind of a scam, but made great connections with my housemates. I biked to work (for 45 minutes each way!) every day via a state park. Later in the year, I moved to San Francisco. I reconnected with Elise Liu, and made friends with Adam Reis and Mek Karpeles.
I started work. I was scared at first, but by the end of the year I found my confidence. It was a fun, innocent time. Yes, came into the company determined to remember that it was an “it” or a “they”, not a “we” or an “us”. At the same time, here I was, working at a respected company with amazing perks and a sense of optimism.
Trump won the election. The mood was black. I founded Oh Damn, Now What to be an organization for tech-ish friends of mine to radicalize and organize.
In 2017, I moved into what became Serapeum with Mek, Drew Winget, and Jessy Diamondman. It changed my life. Oh Damn Now What turned into a book club, and lived on for most of the year. I got closer to Bend the Arc and became a Jeremiah Fellow. I hired Sasha Silberberg as my dating coach. I moved to the civic team at Facebook.
The Civic team was amazing. A little island of essentially a mission-driven nonprofit within a larger corporate structure. We had an amazing culture and did pro-social, fun work like registering more voters than anyone else in america, and building tools to help people look up and contact their elected officials. Then Cambridge Analytica hit, and we spun up a team to tackle election integrity. We built the first ever tools for that, in the Alabama special election. That’s where I met George Berry, got close to Monica Lee, Bogdan State, and other amazing friends.
At the very end of 2017, Sarah and I kicked off our romance at a Hannukah party at her parent’s house in Rochester. (We were both visiting from different coasts). I started rock climbing with my roommates and loved it.
In 2018, Serapeum moved to a new house. Jessy left us, and we gained Ariel Liu. I switched from data engineering to software engineering at work. Our team and scope ballooned in size.
With James Barnes and other friends, we built the first and second election integrity war rooms to monitor and protect the US midterms and Brazilian presidential election. It was intense.
Sarah and I became a solid item by February. She stayed with me over the summer, and I visited her in Philly as often as I could. Serapeum moved again to a new, more permanent home — 24th street.
In 2019, I made some moves. I started working closely with Matt Wilde. I decided to move to greater Boston to live with Sarah, who was going to start the Climenko Fellowship at Harvard Law. For a little while, my sister Talie lived with me at Serapeum while Mek and Ariel temporarily moved to Atlanta.
I moved to Somerville. I started working on Presto. It was amazing to work on a heavy-duty, infrastructural piece of open source software.
The news got worse. I left Facebook. It was a hard decision.
In 2020, I learned how to recover from workism and get back in touch with what I wanted from life. That project went well, but was cut short by the need to dive into the 2020 election. I became the engineering lead for OpenLabs, and, among other things, helped build the engineering infrastructure for notably cheaper, faster, and more accurate poling and A/B testing for the election. Then we shared the results of that polling and testing generously.
In other news: Covid happened. Sarah and I stayed happy together. I started writing more. I started my time at Berkman.
In 2021, I founded the Integrity Institute. This was a big deal. I published my big thinkpiece in MIT Tech Review, which led to a great podcast. The founding of the Institute led to other big press moments. I was on the cover of the Brandeis Alumni magazine. It was a big year. I helped kick ICE out of Massachusetts, but that honestly didn’t involve much work for me.
It was also a year of some personal re-calibration. Sarah was working very hard on her career. I was stuck indoors a lot. Founding the institute took pretty much the entire year — so many group calls and 1-1 chats, so much stress, cajoling, etc. We also moved apartments — one floor higher. Mek, Ariel, and Drew spent 2-3 weeks with us over the summer, as did George a little while later. I visited DC and my cousin Robert in Charlottesville for 2 weeks.
Now, it is 2022, You can see what I’m up to lately here, on my now page.