In this episode, we have a conversation with Mallory Knodel, the CTO of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit organization that advocates for human rights and social justice in the digital age.
Mallory shares her fascinating journey from working in homeless shelters and teaching physics in New York to becoming a public interest technologist who engages in global internet governance and policy.
She explains what “multi-stakeholderism” means and why it is important for the future of the internet, as well as how she balances her technical expertise with her passion for social issues.
Mallory is a hacker and a warrior who uses technology as a tool for transformative change. Tune in to hear her inspiring story and insights.
Just because you know something very well, you might be very smart, doesn't mean you can explain it to other people.
Acknowledging that is sort of the first step to helping people to understand it.
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Machines made this, mistakes and all...
[00:00:00] Chris: Hello, and welcome to the Impostor Syndrome Network podcast, where everyone belongs, especially those of you who think you don't. My name is Chris Grundeman, and I'm here with our cybersecurity maven, Zoe Rose. Heya! This is the Mallory Nodal episode, and I think you're going to love it.
[00:00:25] Chris: Mallory integrates a human rights, people centered approach to communications and technology work for social justice movements. She's a public interest technologist advocating both in policy and technical spaces for right to information, free expression, privacy. Right to protest and civic space, equality and inclusion online and offline.
[00:00:48] Chris: In other words, I think she's a hacker and a warrior and we're really happy to have her on the show.
[00:00:53] Chris: Hey Mallory, welcome. Would you like to introduce yourself a bit further to the Impostor Syndrome Network?
[00:01:01] Mallory: Hey, hi everybody. Uh, yeah, thanks so much for inviting me. Yeah, so I work, um, in my day job at the Center for Democracy and Technology here in Washington, D. C.
[00:01:10] Mallory: But I've been working for non profit organizations since... It's hard to count, maybe 2007 or so is where I would sort of begin this career. And yeah, I mean, ever since and till this day, I really am driven by the sort of more social justice or people centric issues around technology. But I think one of the things that may be different from a lot of the colleagues I have and have had.
[00:01:38] Mallory: In that policy space is that I have a technical background and then it's also the thing that makes me different from my technical colleagues who I've also known for a long time through various tech community spaces that I am. Fundamentally driven by people centric issues. So I sit in the middle of a couple of different, really interesting spaces.
[00:01:59] Mallory: And so I, I usually find myself kind of fitting in everywhere, but also nowhere at the same time.
[00:02:04] Chris: Nice. Yeah. I'm fascinated by intersectionality myself. So we'll, we'll dive right in there soon. And the way I want to start actually, as well, I think that, uh, or I don't think actually that Zoe, nor I have met you before.
[00:02:16] Chris: We do all seem to share some values, and you and I have definitely swam in some similar waters, so to speak, and due to that, I understand your Fediverse tagline, which reads multi stakeholder vibes since 2008. However, I suspect that some of our listeners and quite a few folks across the technology landscape May not be familiar with that term.
[00:02:39] Chris: And no, I'm not saying that everyone in technology is old and don't know what a vibe is. I actually, well, that might be true. Uh, what I'm talking about is the multi stakeholderism bit. So maybe you can explain what that word means in terms of the work you do.
[00:02:54] Mallory: Yeah, I just came from a meeting about this. So it's fresh in my mind.
[00:02:58] Mallory: There's this interesting concept of how to govern the internet, which is different than anything we've ever done before. And by we, I mean, humanity. It's a thing that is global. It's a one thing. It's not many things. And it requires an enormous amount of cooperation and interoperability, and it's not entirely within economics or market dynamics.
[00:03:23] Mallory: It sits somewhere in all these spaces at once. It's a very complicated system as much as it is a complicated technology. And so multi stakeholderism is an approach to governing this such that it isn't just states. Thanks. like talking about this in terms of economics, trades, geopolitical power. So the stakeholders then, since it implies there are multiple ones, are states, but also private sector, which is short, I mean, companies basically, and academia, we need smart scientists running experiments in the room, civil society, which is nonprofits, internet, international governance organizations, You know, and then lastly, the technical community is also considered a stakeholder group under the United Nations framework and technical community is maybe a slightly controversial, uh, stakeholder group, but it simply means like the ISTAR organizations.
[00:04:20] Mallory: I mean, this idea that you have not just one place or entity either that governs the entire internet, you have many, you have places like the DNS governance happening at ICANN. I could just go on and on with all these different acronyms, but I don't want to do that. I'm just going to suffice to say for now that there are a multitude of different spaces and those spaces are sort of considered the technical community.
[00:04:45] Mallory: So multi stakeholderism means that we all sort of get a seat at the table. We all have important perspectives. And that it should not, the internet in particular, should not be governed by just top down states working together, but that we all sort of have a stake.
[00:05:02] Zoe: Yeah, no, it makes sense. I think, I think a lot of people don't quite understand what the internet is and how it works.
[00:05:08] Zoe: Which is kind of ironic because your book is literally called How the Internet Really Works. So, that works out well. Um, but um, I think with that a lot of people get confused as to you can't just, you know, you can't just call the police and say Oh, this person was very naughty online. It doesn't work that way, right?
[00:05:26] Zoe: It's, it's nice to see people actually actively working in that space and figuring out what is the most effective way to, you know, make it a safe place for everybody to actually achieve what they need. I am curious. It is a very different career path. Um, very interesting. I've worked with people that are in a similar career to you, but not.
[00:05:47] Zoe: I've not worked in that space. So I'm curious how you got there. Like if we were to go all the way back, maybe what was your first job where you realized this is the direction I want to go in?
[00:06:00] Mallory: Yeah, I think it has been a lot of different weaving in and out of my interests and my skills that have gotten me here.
[00:06:08] Mallory: And it wasn't always easy to reconcile what I wanted to do in my. spare time versus what I could get a job doing. But I've tried very hard to do that. So when I was at university and I had, I'd been getting a degree in physics and math and I did, uh, programming for the research I was doing, although I think I've only taken one computer science class in my entire educational history.
[00:06:34] Mallory: I was really trying to figure out how to do that. And also the work I did. In my spare time or to basically make my way through school because it was expensive and I didn't have a lot of support from my folks. Um, I worked in homeless shelters and worked in basically as a social worker. So those two were, were miles apart, but I did kind of get closer when I accepted a job to teach high school physics in New York city that felt like it was very close to people.
[00:07:06] Mallory: I was working with people all day. I liked young people. Teenagers are amazing. And I was, Still teaching science and then I got my master's degree in education from City College, which turned out to be enormously helpful. Becoming an educated, trained educator really has helped me in my career now because I can, I can think about how to explain difficult technical concepts.
[00:07:30] Mallory: especially to adult learners. Like, andagogy is a little different than pedagogy, but it's all thinking about how the learner thinks. So that comes later, like when I write the book, and when I work in sort of digital security trainings, that built a foundation for me to do that. But being in New York, maybe Chris, as you'll know, since you lived there once, I mean, it's really busy.
[00:07:50] Mallory: It's a really busy place. I was, I couldn't sit still while I was teaching high school physics. I was also running as a co owner, a feminist anarchist bookstore on the Lower East Side, you know, in the spare time you have being a high school teacher. But that was a really cool experience because I did it for several years and we would always have, it was like a place to organize, right?
[00:08:13] Mallory: It was a place where, um, movements, Would start with organizations would form protests would be discussed. It was just like a community hub. And so when I was looking to leave teaching and looking for what was next for me, I was able to sort of take my pick of cool stuff that I had seen it at the bookstore pass through.
[00:08:38] Mallory: And there was one group in particular that really caught my eye. Also because I'd met some of them at a nearby squat on the Lower East Side called ABC No Rio. Um, the name of the bookstore is Blue Stockings Bookstore, by the way, and it's still there. It's just in a different location. You should go check it out, but was the sort of, yeah, the, the hacker culture that was coming up around, and this was like 2007.
[00:09:00] Mallory: And I in particular wanted to work with this group called May 1st People Link. They were building websites for movements and back in a time when, you know, folks It's really, didn't have that yet. Like you might be a nonprofit, but you probably hadn't yet had a website by then. The other thing I'd been really involved in was Indymedia for folks that don't know that that was quite an important political movement as much as it was about media and technology to really democratize news where you could go to an Indymedia website.
[00:09:32] Mallory: They were also localized. So there was like Indymedia in New York, which still produces the independent. Newspaper. It's a print publication. A lot of big major cities had indie media that were either radio shows or online websites, and that sort of thing, it was like web 2.0 before that was a thing where you could go on a site and you could upload your video of a protest or your event that was upcoming, that sort of thing.
[00:09:53] Mallory: And so all those sort of started converging for me. And so I really just kind of got into this tech stuff because I had some training in science and I didn't have a lot of. Fear, I guess, of we need to make a website, like I'll figure out how to do that, or we need to start a podcast, I don't know what that is, but I'm going to find out that sort of approach.
[00:10:15] Mallory: And so it just kind of got going from there. I did that for a very long time. And I thought that was the peak, right? I thought, you know, helping social movements. To have a presence on the internet is like my calling, no? But then I, the more, the political space also changed at that same time, where the internet stopped being like a special place, or like a medium that would transport your message from one place to another, and it became ubiquitous in everything you do.
[00:10:47] Mallory: And so the non profit groups and the grassroots movement groups that I was working with didn't just need to be online, they needed to understand how the internet was changing the world. And so my job went from building websites to like doing actual programming for nonprofits that needed to stay engaged.
[00:11:07] Mallory: You know, I went then to the Association for Progressive Communications, which is a nonprofit founded in the late 80s to do this work. Almost all the people are in the Global South. It was really awesome to work there. And they were convinced from the beginning. So I learned a lot from them that, you know, the internet and that's technology is very political and the, the way that it's deployed, who owns it, how it's used, how it's governed are all going to have massive consequences on the social fabric and on the way humanity progresses and on capitalism, all these things.
[00:11:44] Mallory: And so that, that's been the transition as I went from just building the tech for good to thinking about the big picture of how tech fits in To the way our society works,
[00:11:56] Chris: that's really, really interesting. It's a wild, I mean, obviously there's a lot of, a lot, a lot of points that are a lot of things to unpack, but just, I think, you know, for me, the underlying theme of, you know, again, you know, kind of essentially not, not to reduce it too far, but like kind of fighting for human rights and making sure that everyone who wants one has a voice and how that bumped up against technology over the last few decades, right?
[00:12:18] Chris: It just kind of almost. Almost inevitably had to become merged because of the changes that, you know, the internet and then that type of communication has had on the world. And you were right there kind of riding along as it happened, which is which is pretty wild. But that's very cool. Do you see and I want to get back to kind of more your journey in your career too, but I'm really interested in your thoughts on this because you spend all day kind of immersed in it.
[00:12:43] Chris: One of the big disappointments for me because I had a, you know, orthogonal, but similar kind of introduction to technology and things like that. And I really, really got enamored by the Internet and the idea of the Internet pretty early on. And one of the reasons is I see it as almost telepathy, right?
[00:13:01] Chris: It's this global communications medium on a scale we've never really under, you know, had anything close to this before. If you go back, even what, I mean, I don't know, 150 years ago, if you wanted to send a letter to someone on a different continent, you were talking about months of delay and maybe it got lost, you know, whereas now I can communicate with almost anyone on the planet.
[00:13:21] Chris: There's still a big chunk of folks that aren't connected, but, you know, you know, the majority have some kind of internet connection and I can connect with them. I can connect to almost all of the world's information. And so, you know, seeing this as this kind of global library where. Not only could I check out any of the books I wanted, but I could contribute back.
[00:13:39] Chris: I could comment. I can, I can write in the margins. I can, I can highlight stuff. I can, I can send it back up into the, you know, kind of global dialogue is, is, is pretty wild. But then I was fairly disappointed as kind of, you know, I guess really advertising kind of took over the web, right? So the internet, I think, had this great promise.
[00:13:58] Chris: And we've seen instead that, you know, just collecting of data from users in order to sell them things has become kind of the dominant modality, I guess. And I wonder if you've seen that also, or, or maybe you're kind of seeing this parallel track where, where the politics is more active than the commercial side.
[00:14:15] Chris: Or I don't know. Right. I mean, do you think there's a loaded question? Do you, do you think, you know, the internet and the web are going in. A good direction or is there a lot of corralling needed to kind of get us back on track or were we ever on track? I guess. I don't know.
[00:14:29] Mallory: Yeah. So I, I take a wide view.
[00:14:31] Mallory: Folks will, who have read, you know, Marsh McLuhan will consider these points, but even more importantly, the book about communications and empire was really formative. And my thinking about this, it is, it is not, we shouldn't be terribly surprised that the Internet has been driven by commerce. Or it's been driven by capital.
[00:14:55] Mallory: It's been driven by geopolitical power. However, the internet continues to be driven in those directions. I think it won't work out well for the one global resilient, interoperable internet. So while those things might have started it, I think we have to figure out ways of preserving it for other reasons.
[00:15:19] Mallory: I, I'm going to go a little bit deeper because I think you talked about, you mentioned web advertising. It also disappoints me. I think the internet being used to sell me wool socks in the wintertime is like a travesty. I don't think we need targeted advertising. I think it's a waste of innovation. And, and frankly, we sacrifice so much just to have that, just the commercial aspect of being able to buy things online is just not, I feel like what any of us think all of our brain power needs to be about yet.
[00:15:51] Mallory: That is the, you know, data driven ways of ginning up more commerce and economy is really the crux of the Internet right now. And it's really disappointing We do have other things to worry about. We have global health, for example, to worry about. That's like a massive project now. We really need to put some effort into that.
[00:16:11] Mallory: Like global trade is actually really suffering. We're seeing things like even shipping not really working reliably anymore. Countries can't come to trade agreements, um, reliably anymore. There's a lot of geopolitical friction where there didn't used to be. At the same time, you have states increasingly trying to control their borders.
[00:16:34] Mallory: It's increasingly trying to control the information flows in and out of and within their borders. Like it's a, it's a sort of stark regression away from liberal politics and a way that I think startles a lot of people. And probably the reason for that isn't the internet for once. It's not the internet's fault.
[00:16:52] Mallory: It's probably the fault of. You know, capitalism gone beyond like post neoliberal capitalism gone awry, but the internet might suffer for that. If we don't anymore have reasons why we need to be able to talk around the world anytime between anyone, like you're saying, the sort of magical ability to have all of these global conversations that wrap around the world at lightning speed.
[00:17:19] Mallory: If we no longer have reasons to work in that way as one sort of. You know, humanity, like one social project, then I'm not sure the internet needs to be around in its current form. And that's a little worrying. That's a lot. And I think we do need to turn our attention away from sort of short commercial game towards some of these more altruistic reasons why we need the internet and why we should continue to cooperate.
[00:17:47] Mallory: And I think it's things like, you know, Space health trade. There's bigger things at stake. But a lot of the people I will say in my particular line of work, we do talk a lot about human rights. We talk about social justice to some degree. We're not necessarily talking about those other issues. I think we we do need to sort of expand a little bit The issue space in which we work, because that is, I think, where a lot of these high level conversations will start going.
[00:18:16] Chris: Yeah, I mean, I think we align on a lot of things there. And, you know, not to just be stealing taglines all day, but I think your tagline on LinkedIn is just transformative technology for social justice. And you started to talk about that a little bit. And obviously, you've talked a little bit about kind of the path that led you here and how you're thinking about this space in some ways.
[00:18:34] Chris: It might be interesting, I think, to dive a little bit deeper into what your actual, like, day to day looks like, right? Because one of the things we try to do on the show, obviously, is highlight different careers in technology that folks could go into. And I think, you know, you're here, at least today, representing a really unique aspect of technology that we haven't talked about much before.
[00:18:53] Chris: Um, this idea of, of really using technology for good and really focusing on the human side of it and just having technology as an enabler to what you're trying to do, which is enable humans to be better, I think. Thank you. So, you know, as a CTO at the Center for Democracy and Technology, maybe, maybe we focus there.
[00:19:08] Chris: I know you also have some, some board positions, advisory positions, but it might be interesting to get a glimpse into what the day to day looks like for you.
[00:19:15] Mallory: For sure. So yeah, the CBT, we don't build technology, so I'm not the CTO of any one particular group of products, but we do as a nonprofit organization, hire technologists.
[00:19:27] Mallory: So we hire lawyers. Because we work on policy, mostly in Washington, D. C. and Brussels. But we do have some folks who are expert in international affairs and things. And then the technologists are here because our tech policy advocacy needs to be grounded in reality. We need experts who understand the technology so that when we come up with arguments, when we are interfacing with other experts in legal fields and elsewhere, that we have that underpinning, that we actually are under, we're, we're deeply in touch with the limitations, the promises, the ways things work in the internet, but also data driven methods, AI.
[00:20:06] Mallory: Cyber security. That's your thing. So my job then at CBT is to kind of convene those folks. Although I don't supervise them directly, I prefer them to be directly in their issue area. So we have a cyber security expert who works on elections. We have an AI expert who works on civic technology and privacy and data.
[00:20:24] Mallory: I mean, that's sort of the best model, I think, is that you have the technologists working directly with the policy people around the issue rather than centering the technology. Thank you. Now the exception, of course, is my team, so I have a team that is just called OpenInternet. It is... You know, internet for internet's sake, the most internetty internetness that can be is a good thing.
[00:20:45] Mallory: Um, so we don't have necessarily a specific issue area. You listed a lot when you were introducing me. There's a ton of different concerns from both the human rights and the social justice perspective that we try to keep in mind as we work on keeping the internet open. But really what it means is me and my colleague, Nick Doty, go to standards bodies.
[00:21:06] Mallory: And we talk about these issues. So it's kind of the flip side of what the rest of my colleagues do, where they're going to policy spaces, they're talking to lawmakers, other folks about the technology and social issues. We're kind of going into the technical community and talking about the social issues in the technology.
[00:21:25] Mallory: So it's a bit of a flipped theory of change. I've been doing this now since 2014, attending technical standards bodies. Various kinds. Again, like, it's just a long list of acronyms. I don't know if we need to go there, but the day to day really means, you know, I'm engaged as much as I can on specifications development.
[00:21:46] Mallory: So, where documents are being written, specifications are being discussed, design considerations, and I really treat these, you know, human rights concerns or other things as considerations. That's what they are, right? It may not mean that we're there arguing a very strong corner. But it may mean that we are able to bring, you know, certain kinds of issues that maybe the engineers haven't yet thought of because they're working for a tech company and those constraints aren't at front of mind.
[00:22:17] Chris: Yeah, there's something we've talked about as I worked within the IETF for a while, the Internet Engineering Task Force, which I assume is probably one of these, one of these acronym groups that might be in your mix there. And there's definitely this tendency for engineers to try to figure out how to do something often before they decide whether or not it should be done at all.
[00:22:36] Mallory: That's a really good point. It's very difficult to come in at the end. And say, this is a problem. We should stop doing this because companies and multiple companies, governments, everybody has certain got gotten behind this new technology and to then have civil society or various advocates just wake up, realize it and now push back.
[00:22:59] Mallory: It's super difficult. So this is an attempt to get and get ahead of some of the issues to understand what's happening many years. In advance because, you know, things being discussed in the IEEE, for example, around hardware, don't make it to consumer shelves until seven years from the discussion being open.
[00:23:17] Mallory: So we're really trying to do that. It's, it's, it's not always just watchdogging. It is active participation at its best. And so, yeah, we, we do that at the IETF. We, Nick spends his time at the World Wide Web Consortium. I'm on the Internet Architecture Board as well. Again, like I don't want to list off the acronyms, but if it's got anything to do with global internet governance and has a consequence for the internet, I've been to one of those meetings and, and I've worked on some of those documents.
[00:23:46] Mallory: Yeah.
[00:23:46] Zoe: Fair enough. Fair enough. I, I personally, I work in security, so I always. Highlight the value of diversity and how important different perspectives are. And you touched on that already about how, uh, and Chris mentioned how, you know, a developer might create something, but not think, well, should we be doing this or should, are we doing this in the best way possible?
[00:24:06] Zoe: But I am curious because. Working in security, sometimes I get a little bit demotivated by the speed of change. And I imagine you probably see that in your career as well is, especially when you're working with big bodies and working with governments as well, is how do you stay motivated and maybe stay positive?
[00:24:26] Zoe: In that kind of career where it might feel almost quite overwhelming. And sometimes you're talking out into the world and it's not really responding back to you.
[00:24:38] Mallory: I totally identify with what you're saying, Zoe. It can be really tough. And I wouldn't want folks to get the impression that I'm one of the only people doing this.
[00:24:48] Mallory: That's not true. There's actually a group of folks who sort of live in this space with me. Either they're coming from non profits. Or academic backgrounds. They're spending their time in technical spaces talking about social justice issues. They're spending their time in policy spaces talking about technology.
[00:25:06] Mallory: And so I think it's important to build sort of a community of practice. Something that I do, or this is what I call what I do within CDT, which is we bring the technologists together, we do need a space where sure, we might have different technical backgrounds, we might be working on different issues, but we need a space to kind of talk things through, you know, science minded folks, we need to bounce ideas off of one another and really kind of understand on a different cognitive level, how some of this stuff works.
[00:25:39] Mallory: That sometimes means reading 10 white papers and all of the footnotes in those white papers for like an entire week. Um, sometimes it means, you know, getting together your smartest friends in a signal group or in a zoom chat or something and hashing things out. So I do that in CDT and then I also do that in a sort of larger community of public interest technologists that are engaged in the similar spaces.
[00:26:01] Mallory: So that helps keep me sane. I mean. We certainly have a lot more diversity in that group than there is in the rest of the technical community. So that helps as well. I feel a little bit more at home. It's a little bit more easy. You have sort of, we have a culture of a lot of different perspectives. That feed into the same kinds of issues and those being welcomed and seen as competent and, you know, adding to the debate and solving these hard problems.
[00:26:25] Mallory: And that is not unfortunately always reflected in the larger spaces in which we're working.
[00:26:30] Chris: That's interesting. Yeah. As you talk about that and kind of the importance of, you know, the folks that are doing similar work, right? Combining social justice with technology and then creating community within those groups.
[00:26:40] Chris: One, for your own sanity. But also I'm sure for effect as well. We, we talked recently to, uh, Frank Martin, who works in the email space. He's a post, he was a postmaster for LinkedIn for quite a while. And he talked about the idea that, you know, many of these company to company relationships are actually person to person relationships, right?
[00:27:00] Chris: And so if you're getting spam from some organization, you can either shut down all their email and figure out who's going to call and complain about it. Or you could have built that relationship ahead of time so you know who to call and say, Hey, what's going on over there? You know, and and Zoe, I think, commented that's very similar in the security space.
[00:27:18] Chris: I know it's also works in the routing space and interconnection that these personal relationships are a lot of what makes this all work. I think while there are these big bodies that are that are doing a lot of this governance, I wonder if that's also true in kind of the social justice space. If there are these personal connections kind of weaving behind the scenes that's helping to Actually move things forward.
[00:27:38] Mallory: Absolutely. I think where I at some point stopped off in my career for a while was doing digital security trainings and guidance for folks at risk communities at risk. Either it was, you know, journalists dissidents that was really important work. Um, of course, it's really high stakes. You know, if you're telling folks how to be safe online and there may be at risk from government repression or so on, you better make sure your advice is good.
[00:28:07] Mallory: And so that raises the bar. And so that network also goes into effect there, too, where you're able to share information, but without it being like, wide open. That, that's a sort of really precious. Aspect of where I work and in some ways that is how I tied into other projects like so while myself, I don't actively build any tech tools.
[00:28:33] Mallory: I'm on the board for one. I advise a fund that funds a lot of these tools. That is that work is really, really important. And I would say, Um, These days thinking a lot about how to bring those groups that have really interesting constraints, really particular communities that they have in mind when they build these tools, low, low funding, low capacity, all that stuff into the larger spaces where I work so they can also build connections across the board.
[00:29:03] Mallory: I think it's important that, you know, big tech companies that have these in groups, these informal networks of people also think about how they can include. Some of these more marginalized tools and communities that would really benefit from being part of that inner circle. So it's something that I'm hoping to do more at the IETF and Internet Architecture Board is raising up some of these important questions like being able to circumvent censorship, being able to be anonymous or private online.
[00:29:34] Mallory: There's a lot of different things that kind of are on the margins of the work that happens at the global technical level, but aren't really front and center, figuring out ways to get those folks in the room so we can start building more relationships around these things.
[00:29:50] Zoe: Yeah, definitely. One thing you mentioned earlier about how valuable that formal training you had about education and how to actually do that properly, essentially.
[00:30:00] Zoe: I don't know how to say it without using education multiple times. But, um, how it made a difference in your career. And I was curious about what your advice might be for somebody that is actually struggling to get information shared and have people actually care about it and, and understand what they're trying to present, because it seems like you have quite a bit of experience there from a variety of different people you've spoken to.
[00:30:25] Mallory: Yeah, I guess the first step is just to acknowledge that it's a really particular kind of work to explain things well. It isn't, it doesn't come naturally just because you know something very well, you might be very smart. doesn't mean you can explain it to other people. And acknowledging that is sort of the first step to helping it.
[00:30:42] Mallory: Right. I think in the technical community where I work, I am around a lot of people who know how to explain concepts well, because they're in this global forum where they're trying to talk to each other about something. It doesn't always go smoothly, but you can tell that that's a skill people develop over time.
[00:30:57] Mallory: So like public speaking is one way of getting good at it. I do think, like, actually engaging in education as a, as an instructor can be really valuable. A lot of universities. offer adjunct positions for one or two classes here and there. If people want to go at it, I highly recommend it. It's, there's no way to learn your subject matter better than to try to teach it to other people.
[00:31:20] Mallory: You can certainly, uh, take courses on antagogy or pedagogy for science in particular. The one thing I liked about getting a science specific education degree Was that it focused on models, like the way that we don't come to subject matter with a blank slate. We actually come to new subject matter almost with the entirely wrong concepts.
[00:31:43] Mallory: And so you have to take those wrong concepts and morph them into the correct ones. It's actually really challenging. But the most interesting example that I encountered in my studies was moon phases. You know, talk to an adult about how they think the moon works in the phases of the moon and they are Absolutely, totally wrong every time, you know, but since things like this right and when you're trying to talk about the internet There's all kinds of mythology around how the internet works There's all kinds of misconceptions about the different parts and how they piece together And so, yeah, writing it down in a sort of educative style also was a really great exercise for me and myself figuring out what is the real core idea of, of these models.
[00:32:31] Mallory: And it also helps me as I think about how they're going to evolve, right? There's a lot of proposals, or there's a lot of belief that, oh, these. Protocols are so old. I mean, my God, 30 years IP, you know, it's actually, it's impressive that we have protocols that are so old and it isn't about doing something entirely new.
[00:32:50] Mallory: There may be good reasons why. Those protocols, the way they were designed the first time has given us the Internet we have today. It's maybe more about how they evolve carefully. And so, you know, I'm sort of going a bit far from your question now, but I'm just talking about how even if folks don't see themselves as having a role in doing education.
[00:33:11] Mallory: Education and being careful about how you create metaphors or conceptual models around what you're doing and what you're talking about can actually help you yourself in the ways that you are engineering things. So it's it's worth everyone doing it like you.
[00:33:27] Chris: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. I mean, definitely.
[00:33:29] Chris: I found, I mean, two things. There's a bunch of research around education these days that shows that like testing or self testing or, you know, is actually More effective than just like drilling, right? Like, like reading the answer over and over again, doesn't help you as much as like asking yourself the question and coming up with the answer on yourself.
[00:33:44] Chris: And also I have found a hundred percent that whenever I go to teach something, I realize I do not understand it anywhere near as completely as I thought I did. Even just trying to say it out loud, uh, is a pretty interesting exercise for sure.
[00:33:56] Chris: Unfortunately, we have used up pretty much all of our time for today.
[00:34:01] Chris: Mallory, do you have any, any, we've talked about a lot of projects you're working on, but any specific projects or specific causes that you'd like to highlight for the imposter syndrome network before we close out?
[00:34:09] Mallory: I would just like to say that there's a lot of really interesting projects and tools that a lot of people are using these days that have come out of some of the communities I'm talking about.
[00:34:21] Mallory: So Four is one of them. Signal is another. There are all kinds of, like, I think things are now more popular, but for a long time, it was like shoestring and bubblegum to make some of these products that were Not products, but make some of these technologies that were specifically aimed at certain kinds of at risk communities that are now becoming more popular.
[00:34:42] Mallory: And I just want to give a shout to those folks really grinding because they're doing a lot. And like I said, they have really interesting constraints and they have no corporate backing. So, you know,
[00:34:53] Chris: if anything, the opposite is people fighting against it. Right?
[00:34:56] Mallory: Exactly. Yeah, it's really, it can be really precarious at times.
[00:35:00] Mallory: And so the open technology fund is one, but there's also like digital defenders partnership, which also does some funding. Increasingly, there's the Sovereign tech fund out of Germany now. So the funding space is growing, which is essential to these tools because again, they are not corporate.
[00:35:16] Chris: Awesome .
[00:35:16] Chris: That's really good. I like all those pointers for sure. We'll also in the show notes, we'll have a link to your book, how the internet really works and illustrated guide to protocols, privacy, censorship, and governance. You contributed to anyway. I think that's great. I know for me, as I was talking about a little earlier, right.
[00:35:32] Chris: When I first kind of caught the internet bug and really got excited about what the internet was as a, as a thing, you know, not, you know, beyond technology and beyond institutions, just as this kind of thing that it is, I started trying to figure out what it actually was. Which is harder than it sounds, especially if you start talking about the institutions that are involved, the multi stakeholder model, even the technology itself and just how that works and how a network of networks is built by, by multiple corporations cooperating and it's pretty wild stuff.
[00:35:55] Chris: So definitely a pointer to that and Mallory, I can't thank you enough for sharing your story with the imposter syndrome network. I only wish we had some more time and thank you to all of our listeners for your attention and your support. We know that your time and attention are your most valuable assets, and we really, really appreciate you choosing to spend them with us.
[00:36:13] Chris: If you found this episode insightful, interesting, or even entertaining, please consider paying it forward by letting others know about this show and the great guests we have on. One last thing before we close out, Mallory, I am curious. Amongst all of this and all the things you've done so far, what would you say is the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career so far?
[00:36:33] Mallory: No, I think it's actually not technology related, which is not surprising. It's that people matter a lot. This actually kind of talks a bit to your last question, which is I've been doing this work now since 2007, which, if we do the numbers on that, is a significant amount of time I'm just realizing. And the people that I've worked with all along the way are still around.
[00:36:56] Mallory: We're still doing this work, and I expect that we will continue to do so. And I once got some advice. So I guess this is actually not my advice. This is something someone else told me that it is important to remember that you will encounter your colleagues for the rest of your career. And so it's important to build relationships with them and to work together.
[00:37:18] Mallory: So we might go our different ways and work in various organizations, governments. It's companies, but at the end of the day, it's really nice to have a whole catalog of folks that you can call up if you have a question about something or you want to do some good work together. So that's been really helpful.
[00:37:34] Mallory: And that's why I think I've been able to cover so many different topics over the years and work in so many interesting spaces is I've just kept in touch with as many of those
[00:37:45] Chris: Here, here. I think that's a fantastic advice no matter where it came from. We will be back next week.