As a matter of course, I have historically existed in a place near Tom Hanks on Castaway on the spectrum of social media postings. An occasional message in a bottle, and that’s it. I have never been on or had an account on Facebook or Twitter, and I only opened a LinkedIn account after close associates requested me to do so repeatedly after I began teaching at the University. I always behaved in this manner, and the current political environment and its attendant social media have only reinforced this idea of a general refrain from comment or interaction.
My students don’t understand how I can simultaneously be an engineer and a programmer and so disconnected from social media. The truth of the matter is that for years I have freeloaded off my wife’s and daughters’ social media accounts, and as far as professional matters go, I have operated in a technological field where there are very few people and all of those of us know or know of each other. The same is true of my best friend, Hal Tolley, who is bluntly the best full-stack programmer I know. As I used to say defiantly, if you don’t know me, it means you’re not in my area. That perspective all changed with the ULISSES Project.
Inspiration from the Provost
In particular, as I struggled with the necessity of having a blog and with the question of what to even write in it, I met someone new that changed my perspective dramatically. That person is Dan Reed, the Provost of the University of Utah and one of the nation’s top computer scientists. it was no small feat landing Dan here at the University of Utah and I personally believe that Dan has the promise of being one of the most important Provosts since Fred Terman, a man widely regarded as the Father of Silicon Valley. Dan is not only the former head of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications when Andreessen et al. created Mosaic, effectively ushering the Internet Age, but he is also the former head of Microsoft’s Extreme Computing Group.
In preparing to meet Dan, I did my usual background research of reading his academic papers and other articles. It was in the course of preparing for our meeting that I came across Dan’s Blog. While I don’t follow any blogs, podcasts, or social influencers on YouTube, I immediately viewed Dan’s blog as something different. It was not blatant commercialization, self-promotion, or fabricated news that one typically encounters. Instead, it was funny, engaging, and above all, informative. Before I knew it, I found myself years into the history of the blog. When I finally met Dan, my assessment was that the blog gave me a much better feel for him and what he was all about than his CV or papers. Life moves fast and is only getting faster, and social media helps us convey ideas and their evolution.
Life at 8,000 feet is like a Desert Island
So I live on the top of a mountain at 8,000 feet. It’s difficult in the Winter, but it is isolated and I like it. We have neighbors that I can see, but not hear. I also find that the distance and altitude not only give me peace, but perspective, but it’s becoming obvious that my self directed isolation is coming to an end.
I used to travel to Salt Lake City twice a week, now it’s five days a week. Likewise, I used to travel to New York and London (my big annual trips) once a year, but I’m not only finding those trips increasing in frequency, but I’m also going out to other places like Silicon Valley more often. In short, things are combining to end my isolation. It was because of these realizations that I made a New Year’s resolution that during 2020 I would blog on the ULISSES Project website every week relating views on our projects and what we are doing.
While I aspire to write as well as Dan, please be patient as this is my first foray into social media as I leave the engaging conversations with Wilson to begin communicating with the world.