There’s been a lot of concern about Facebook recently.  Beyond changes in aesthetic design – which alone can cause mass protest from its users – Facebook has also implemented significant feature changes that, to many, cause significant privacy concerns.  I will only say that I am also concerned – not to the point of deleting my account (yet), but enough to make me think more carefully about my exposure on that service.

“The cloud” is a big buzz word nowadays.  Like their physical brethren, digital clouds can take a variety of shapes.  The form getting the most attention is the Google and Facebook-type clouds.  You upload your information to computers controlled by Google, and Google provides the browser interface to interact with that information.  You create a Facebook profile, write on the walls of your friends, make comments on photos — all of this information is stored on Facebook’s computers, and they provide you with a web-based interface to manipulate it.

But really, the Internet itself is a cloud.  Whenever you visit any website, you are downloading a copy of a file that is hosted on someone else’s computer.  It may be a computer owned by a corporation, it may be a computer rented by someone in a datacenter, or it may be a computer sitting under a college kid’s desk.  For this website, I pay about $80 a year to buy space from a computer host based somewhere in Utah.  I uploaded the WordPress blogging software to that space, and I access it remotely to create new posts and edit the blog design.  No company owns my space, or my content.  I do.

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One downside of choosing to go to William & Mary is that I’ll have to leave California, a place that I’ve come to really love.  I think (and hope) that I’ll end up here again after law school, and hopefully during the intervening summers as well.   That said, a cross-country move gives me the opportunity to take a cross-country road trip – an opportunity I am not hesitating to seize.

My mom is planning to do half the trip with me, and our first stop will be in San Diego where my brother will have just taken up residence as an ensign in the Navy.  After that we’re considering a push to Silver City, NM to visit some family. Next stop: San Antonio, where I’ll crash with Taylor and Katherine while my mom flies home to Birmingham.  From Texas I’ll go on to Baton Rouge, and then make the relatively easy jaunt up to Birmingham.

Phase one of the trip being complete, I’ll organize my life and relax a little with my parents before making the two day trek to Williamsburg, via Greenville or Charlotte.   All said, I’ll hopefully only have to spend one night in a hotel, which ain’t too bad.

P.S. Check out embedded Earth view in the map above. Sweet!

Twitter just released Blackbird Pie, an (oddly named) tool that makes it easy to generate embeddable tweets.  Testing here:

Josh Ritter’s new album ( ain’t bad, but to me Historical Conquests ( blows it away.less than a minute ago via Echofon

Hm, good start, but needs improvement. I like that it carries over my profile background. The code itself is ridiculously long, though, and because it’s HTML-based it picks up all of my blog’s CSS formatting (thus the weird yellow highlighting). I guess I could dive into my stylesheet and try to figure out what’s going on, but that’s a hurdle I’m just not willing to jump over. I’d prefer a simpler (Flash?) implementation. I also think the layout could be economized even more to save space. I’d much prefer the sleeker implementation shown here.

After much deliberation over many months and miles, I have finally made a decision: I will be a proud member of the Class of 2013 (!) at William & Mary’s Marshall-Wythe School of Law.  I couldn’t go wrong with the choices I had, but W&M just… feels right.  It feels right the same way Davidson felt right in 2003, and every student, faculty member, and alum I’ve spoken with talks about W&M the same way my friends and I talk about Davidson.  It is, in short, a very special place.

I have also accepted a fellowship with the law school’s Center for Legal and Court Technology.  Among other things, I will be working with the CLCT’s website (which, I think you’ll agree, needs a major overhaul).  I will likely serve in an editorial capacity, helping to get the word out about its various projects and accomplishments.  Once I am up to speed, I want to look into launching the CLCT’s voice into the social networking world, where it can join the real-time conversation with its peer organizations.  In addition to my first-year academics, it should be a lot of fun to continue some hands-on project work at the same time.

It sure will be tough to leave a dream job at Google at the end of July, but I am also excited to get back into full-time academics and continue my professional development.  Moving across the country (literally) from San Francisco to tiny Williamsburg will also be tough, but I know this is the right move at the right time for me.

More details to come!

Yesterday, Google launched the Government Requests tool.  The site shows the number of requests for user data and content removals that Google received from governments worldwide, from July through December 2009.  Chief Legal Officer David Drummond explains our motivation here (and also published an op-ed in the Washington Post on the subject), but the gist is best summarized in this simple sentence:

“We believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship.”

This is an important moment not only for Google, but also for our users and the rest of the industry.  I am proud to have helped gather much of the data for this project, and I look forward to seeing other organizations follow our lead.