Current Water Use of California’s 800 Commercial Computer Data Centers

Interesting analysis in the Wall Street Journal of the current water use of California’s 800 commercial computer data centers:

California’s data centers consume 158,000 Olympic sized swimming pools of water per year, or 104,280,000,000 gallons of water per year. That sounds like a lot. Enough, in fact, that one might wonder what else might consume that much water every year.

It turns out that a single day’s supply of newspaper newsprint requires about 300,000,000 gallons of water. Multiply by 365 days per year, producing the US’s annual consumption of newsprint consumes 109,500,000,000 gallons of water per year.

109,500,000,000 gallons per year for US newsprint > 104,280,000,000 gallons for California data centers. Interesting! Of course newsprint consumption is falling due to substitution by online media! And we know online news is a very small % of online use.

So, for a small fraction of the water use by data centers, over time we can likely eliminate nearly all of the water use for newsprint, not to mention reducing the deforestation caused by newsprint production. Less tree use, less water use = environmental win/win! It’s interesting to consider what other current environmental resource uses will be reduced or eliminated by data centers and online media!

Source – Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10


An Idle Musing on Space

Here’s an idle Friday musing. Unlike many of my contemporaries, although I enjoyed space novels and movies as a kid, it didn’t take the same with me. The common science fiction assumption that people would behave differently in space than they do on Earth always struck me as wrong. Which is why I’m delighted but not enamored with space exploration today. There is so much still yet to do here on Earth.

I think we will get a lot more out of making life on Earth better for the 7+ billion people already here than escaping to other planets. Or, more pointedly, it would be a shame if we just repeat the dysfunctions of human existence on Earth, in space. Which is not to imply that I am not thrilled by what explorers like Elon Musk are doing, I would love to visit Mars when I am 80.

Confirming my nerd status, I have happily watched every hour of Star Trek ever made and so: Live long and prosper, Leonard Nimoy.

Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

Powerful Essay by Steven Johnson

A powerful essay written by Steven Johnson, we’re living the dream; we just don’t realize it.

Over the past two decades, what have the US trends been for the following important measures of social health: High school dropout rates, college enrollment, juvenile crime, drunken driving, traffic deaths, infant mortality, life expectancy, per capita gasoline consumption, workplace injuries, air pollution, divorce, male-female wage equality, charitable giving, voter turnout, per capita GDP and teen pregnancy?


The answer for all of them is the same: The trend is positive. Almost all have improved by more than 20% over the past two decades. Many Americans are convinced that ‘half of marriages end in divorce’: which is not the case since the early 80s, they have declined by almost a third.


Even though the world’s population has doubled over the past 50 years, the percentage living in poverty has declined by 50% over that period. Positive trends in our social health are coming from a complex network of forces [vs big-bang tech breakthroughs].


No one takes out a prime-time ad campaign to tout the remarkable decrease in air pollution that we have seen over the past few decades. Curmudgeons, doomsayers, utopians and declinists all have an easier time getting public relations than those who celebrate slow and steady improvement.


In the long run, media bias against incremental progress may be more damaging than any bias the media display toward the left or right. The media are heavily biased toward extreme events and they are slightly biased toward negative events though in their defense, that bias may be a reflection of the human brain’s documented propensity to focus more on negative information.


We underestimate the amount of steady progress that continues around us and we misunderstand where that progress comes from. We should celebrate stories of progress, not to rest on our laurels but so we can inspire the next generation to build on that success.


Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16

Why We Live In The Golden Age Of Journalism

Something I believe that a lot of people I know believe is that, we live in the golden age of journalism as measured by the quality of the top contributors. I’ve collected 238 members of the press I most respect into this Twitter list. It’s a joy to read every day! As I’ve discussed before, the great unexpected side effect of the Internet is that the best journalists have a far broader reach now. I can’t resist singling out some who fall into the category of drop everything I’m doing to read anything they write.

It’s sheer delight to watch the impact and their colleagues at are having: I love being voxsplained! My inner engineer and math nerd marvels at — their quantitative lens adds tremendously to complex real world topics. Finally, it’s really remarkable watching bring back full-on gonzo journalism, including in the world’s most dangerous places.

Over the next 5-10 years, I think we’ll be able to build more tools/systems for reporters like these to maximize their scope and opportunity. The quality of work plus the explosion of journalism entrepreneurship plus the rise of 5 billion smartphones in the world plus new tools/systems equals interesting times!

Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16

The 40 Year Collapse Of Trust In Print News

Something I believe that nobody I know believes: Woodward and Bernstein Watergate coverage precipitated the 40yr collapse of trust in print news. That long slow slide of trust can be seen, among other places, in Gallup polls over the years. After Nixon resigned 40 years ago this weekend, Washington Post Watergate coverage became exemplar for the entire next generation of reporters. The political press became obsessed with unearthing scandal, which metastasized throughout print journalism, gunning for Pulitzer bait.

There are clearly scandals that need to be unearthed, like Watergate, but endless scandal frenzy is exhausting and demoralizing. Particularly when applied indiscriminately across the news landscape, and particularly when extrinsic press motivations are so clear. Irony is we now know Woodward and Bernstein less reported Watergate than had the story fed to them by Mark Felt, a partisan in an internal FBI battle.

I think the 40 year echo effects of Watergate have more to do with the existential crisis of newspapers than anyone would ever admit. As news consumers, the endless barrage of scandal, tragedy, and conflict has real psychological effects. They make the world seem worse than it is.

Followup reading that provokes thought: Avoid News, The Information Diet, You Can’t Not Believe Everything You Read. Also the book “Breaking The News” by is thought provoking and recommended. Last but not least, Steven Pinker on the broad perspective of our era.

Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

Gallup Survey Shows Low Confidence Levels In Large Centralized Institutions

Gallup surveys on confidence in institutions are endlessly interesting.

High-trust US institutions (above or near 50%): Military, small business, police, churches.

Low-trust US institutions: Medical system, Supreme Court, Presidency, public schools, banks.

Almost-no-trust US institutions (<25%): Justice system, newspapers, organized labor, big business, Internet news, TV news, Congress.

The conventional glass-half-empty argument is the terrible erosion of trust and competency in key institutions, decline, and fall of the United States. An alternate glass-half-full argument: Large centralized institutions *shouldn’t* be highly trusted: monopolies/oligopolies let people down. A lack of trust in institutions motivates construction of competitive alternatives better attuned to we the people. Large centralized institutions were 20th century; flexible, responsive, accountable organizations for 21st century.

I don’t think the answers are at all straightforward. But I think this debate is going to inform a lot of the next 30 years of politics. It will be interesting to see how many large centralized institutions can win those arguments starting with such low confidence levels.

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Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

Quirky to Reinvent American Manufacturing and Consumer Products

Equally big news of the day: our company Quirky is spinning out the “Internet of things” platform Wink as standalone company!

Quirky, with its partners including GE and Home Depot, is reinventing American manufacturing of consumer products. Now Wink will provide a standard software layer across all of Quirky’s products plus many others including GE, Honeywell, and Philips.

Quirky partner Home Depot “now sells 600 smart-home products, six times as many as it did two years ago.” The revolution is happening now. Important to note this isn’t just about toys for rich people; it’s about energy conservation, water conservation, security, and safety.

Source: Tweets – 1,2,3,4,5


Udacity Is Opening Up Higher Education To Far More People

We are very proud of portfolio company for going straight after opening up higher education to far more people.

For $200 a month, teach anyone basic programming skills for entry-level position at AT&T as a data analyst, iOS applications designer, etc. Harnessing the web to provide effective schooling to the many young Americans for whom college has become a distant, unaffordable dream. We are trying to widen the pipeline,’ said AT&T’s Charlene Lake. ‘This is designed by business for specific skills needed in business.


Education still offers children from disadvantaged families their best chance at climbing the ladder of success. One reason for enormous payoff from college degree (2x payoff vs 1979) is that too few young Americans ever earn one. Peter Lubbers, who runs MOOC developer training for Google says, ‘We want all the techniques we know about to get out to the market. The ‘NanoDegree’ offers a set of skills that can be clearly applied to a job–a chunk of knowledge and immediate motivation to acquire it.


Could offer a plausible path to young men/women who may not have time, money or skill to make it through 4-year or even 2-year degree. US students in bottom quarter of income distribution: college graduation rates only 9%, from 5% 20 years ago.” Not *nearly* high enough.

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Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

All Viral Content Headlines Are Simply Lies

Posit: All viral content headlines are simply lies.

You WILL believe what happened next.

Six things about X that you ACTUALLY DON’T need to know.

This will NOT change your life.

Something someone said that will NOT leave you speechless.

A person did this thing and it’s NOT weirdly mesmerizing.

The happiest people in the world do NOT actually do this.

However, that playful kitten really is quite cute.

Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8


Two Quick Brendan Eich Stories

Brendan was one of the very first Netscape engineers, joined from Microunity, a famous venture-backed chip startup fiasco at that time. We decided we needed a scripting language for web browsers and web servers. We investigated every option. Brendan said, I can build one.

He single-handedly wrote Livescript (the first version) in three months. He built it into the browser. He created modern web programming and borrowed Java syntax. Sun asked us to embed their new Java into browser; in return we forced them to accept the name “Javascript” for Livescript. They hated that!

At the time, I thought Java would dominate client and Javascript would dominate server; it turned out the reverse happened for 10+ years. Javascript in the browser became BY FAR the most widely used programming language in human history. This is a breathtaking achievement. Beyond amazing.

Years later, after Netscape/AOL and AOL/TimeWarner mergers, Brendan called me to see if I could help free Mozilla into a nonprofit. I called Jim Barksdale who was on the AOL-TW board. With Jim’s help, Mitchell Baker and Brendan successfully established the Mozilla Foundation. This was an unnatural act for a big company and could have easily not happened. Mitchell and Brendan made it happen and redefined the web again.

So, if you like your browser, your Firefox, and/or your Javascript, whatever your political beliefs, you owe Brendan a debt of gratitude. The web would be a sparse and barren place without Brendan’s work. I can’t argue with his decision, but I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Source: Tweets – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12