at Harvard they teach you how to swim at night and at Sewanee they don’t teach you what water is.
— William Faulkner
That’s a bit of a stretcher. Even at Sewanee, I understood that good whiskey can be improved by a little water, and I was never embarrassed to dilute liberally as I burned the midnight oil in the offices of the Purple. Besides, I had rowing practice every morning at 5am, which was generally just three hours after we put the newspaper to bed. I also studied for a couple of summers at St. John’s College, where I paid my way by working as a glorified bartender, and my room in Hamilton Hall was just across St. Giles from The Eagle and Child, where C.S. Lewis and Tolkien and the other Inklings met for small beer and large conversation.
After college I joined The Washington Post as an ad man in the waining days of the three martini lunch. I wasn’t much of a salesman, but I did alright (due mostly to a series of major consolidations in the telecom industry), and I was able to talk my way into business school.
I did my MBA internship in the corporate finance department at Yahoo! where I met Yang and Filo and one of the founders of Flickr. They pointed me in the right direction as I was learning to code. As an English Major, I didn’t think I could do it, but I’m glad I pressed myself because I believe coding is poetry. Or basic literacy, at least.
The joy of collaborating with creative geniuses to build great digital products hooked me, and I never looked back. After B-school, I joined NPR, where I was lucky enough to be the product manager who oversaw the launch of our first mobile website (winner of the 2009 Webby for Mobile News), the NPR News iPhone app (Macworld’s Best App Ever award, 2010), the NPR News Android app, iPad app, and Music iPhone app. I also coded the Mix Your Own Podcast Tool all by myself, which wouldn’t be noteworthy except that it won the 2009 People’s Voice Award for Podcasts and was called “the future…where digital media is moving, especially…news” by The New York Times.
It was about that time that I started getting into machine learning, and I found a small group of people who shared my opinion that broadcast news could be improved with algorithms. The four of us got together and filed a patent on an approach which combined collaborative filtering, classification algorithms, raw popularity, and editorial judgement. But it took the leadership of Kinsey Wilson to turn our little side experiment into NPR One, which is now one of the most exciting developments in broadcast news in the past decade.
Most recently, I’ve joined a team of developers, designers, and data scientists to create a platform for NPR One, and I’m now working with car makers, TV manufacturers, and Silicon Valley heavy-weights to spread public radio all over the digital world. We’re just getting started.
Some other things I do:
- Children’s book: Otis and Thoreau Become Friends
- Slate: NPR Initiates Phase Two of Plan to Become the Pandora of News
- Business Insider: Here’s How Top App Developers Cope With Multiple Platforms
- NPR.org: Life After the Mobile Web: Will Media Ever be the Same?
- WPSU radio interview: Going Mobile
- NPR.org: The Making of the NPR News app and The NPR Android App, A Bazaar Beginning
- DC Mobile Mondays Panel w/Nat. Geo & Discovery