Where's Ethan?

1/10 - 1/19 - Accra, Ghana at Geekcorps Africa HQ

1/20 - 1/25 - Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

2/6 - New Haven, CT at conference at Yale School of Management

2/7 - Cambridge, MA at Harvard Voices from Africa conference

2/9 - 2/12 - San Diego, CA at O'Reilly ETech

2/19 - 2/22 - Istanbul, Turkey

2/23 - 3/4 - Yangon, Myanmar

Otherwise, probably lurking around Berkshire County, MA.

Some of my projects

My Weblog

XDev - ICT for development group weblog


Homepage for my Global Attention Research

Fun toy for exploring books sales at Amazon

Behold the Power of String - A photo essay about our ger


Ethan Zuckerman
I'm the one on the right

Geekcorps has been my main project for the past three years. It's an international non-profit organization that transfers tech skills from geeks in developed nations to geeks in emerging nations, especially entrepreneurial geeks who are building small businesses. In other words, it's a Peace Corps for geeks. I co-founded the organization in early 2000 with a number of friends who were interested in bridging the gaps between the geek world and the international development world. I now have the pleasure of leading teams of extremely cool people in North Adams, MA, USA; Osu, Accra, Ghana; Dakar, Senegal and Bamako, Mali.

Geekcorps has succeeded several orders of magnitude beyond any reasonable expectation, yielding not only some great e-development success stories, but a cool ad for whiskey and occasional friendly words in the press. In August 2001, we joined forces with the International Executive Service Corps, resulting in an organization the BBC refers to as "Geeks and Geezers". I'm pleased that I'm still firmly in the former camp.

Also worth a visit is geekhalla.org, the ongoing online journal of Geekcorps volunteers serving in Accra. Started by the first volunteers in Ghana in late 2000, the site is now in the hands of volunteer geeks around the world. My favorite posting so far is Shara Karaisic's comparison of geek life in Accra and San Francisco... though Richard's obroni site ("obroni" is Twi for "foreigner" or "white person") runs a close second.

The Berkman Center
My other major affiliation is with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. Berkman is a remarkable institution - it's sometimes described as a "do-tank", a think tank for folks who effect change as well as study phenomena. A number of my favorite people in the world of technology and international development hang their hats there and, as a result, it's a great place to explore activist and research ideas. I'm working on a number of projects there at the moment:

  • Research on the Global Attention Gap - the tendecy of major media outlets to report more thoroughly on rich nations than on poor ones. My current project - Global Attention Profiles - gives graphical portraits of where different media sources are focusing their attention and demonstrates correlations between these distributions and economic and population statistics.
  • DevelopmentForge - DevForge (probably not the final name) is intended to be a repository of software created for use in international development. DevForge will collect open source software from independent developers and from government aid programs which commission this software. DevForge will then work to identify deficiencies in software available and mobilize the global community of open source developers to write code to fill these holes.
  • Human Filtering - After decades of Artifical Intelligence research, it's become clear that certain tasks that are extremely easy for humans to perform are fiendishly difficult for computers to complete. Some of these tasks - image, speech and pattern recognition, text comprehension and analysis - have numerous practical, real-world applications. Human Filtering posits that the best way to solve these problems is not to write better code, but to mobilize people in developing nations to work in parallel with software to solve these tasks.
  • Digital Democracy - Several Berkman fellows, led by Andrew Maclaughlin and Charlie Nesson, will be collaborating this fall on a class on Digital Democracy. The class will attempt to address the question "What happens to goverment in a digital age?" from a number of perspectives. I plan to focus my teaching on the potentials and pitfals of eGovernment in developing nations and on "semantic democracy" - the ability of various different people to have their stories told in a digital age.

This page is hosted on Tripod, for a variety of sentimental reasons. In 1994, I dropped out of graduate school and joined a couple of friends in Williamstown, MA in building one of the first "pure" dot.com companies - Tripod. As the only person on the team who knew HTML, I got to be "tech guy" - outclassed by guys who could program circles around me, I became bizdev guy, legal guy, customer service guy and R&D guy before settling, briefly, on "retired guy".

Contrary to popular belief, Tripod wasn't originally intended to be a webhosting provider or homepage site. In its first incarnation, it was designed to be a collection of content and services for 20-somethings, described as "tools for life". Discovering earlier than most that online content is a tough sell (check out some of our server logs from late 1995 if you don't believe me), we moved into the growing area of user-created content before discovering (again, earlier than most) that fifteen million users a day weren't particularly helpful if they didn't buy anything or click on ads. We sold the company to Lycos in 1999, slightly before money paid for internet companies got way out of hand, but well before selling Internet companies was harder than selling ice in Siberia.

That annoying little popup window at the top of your screen? My fault, at least in part. I designed a vertically-oriented popup window that included navigation tools and an ad for inclusion on webpages at some point in late 1996 or early 1997. It was intended to be less intrusive than inserting an ad into the middle of a user's homepage. I won't claim responsibility (irresponsibility?) for inventing the damned things, and I disclaim any responsibility for cascading popups, popups that move to the top, and those annoying "bot" windows that open different popups every few minutes. Still, the fault is at least in part mine, and I'm sorry. :-)

People and Places
My wife Rachel and I live in Lanesboro, MA, a rural town of about 3,000 in Berkshire County, MA, USA. Rachel is a poet, essayist and one of the founders of a writer's nonprofit called Inkberry. We both work in North Adams, MA, and spend a lot of time in Williamstown, the local college town. It's very beautiful where we are (here's the view from our backyard), though isolated - we're three hours drive from a major city.

The isolation is well tempered by an abundance of terrific people and some very cool organizations. My office is in MassMoCA, the largest contemporary art museum in the US and center of much inspired artistic weirdness. One of our fellow tenants is Eziba, a nifty company that markets handcrafted products from around the world via the web and catalogs. I'm on the board of their equally nifty foundation, which works to help artisans in developing worlds support their communities and families. I'm also on the boards of the Prospect Foundation, an organization that works on technology training and workforce development in the Berksires, and RadioVoodoo, a technology company building cool interactive voice systems for radio stations and other industries.

My love for the Berkshires aside, one of the best aspects of my job is the fact that I frequently get to travel to cool and unusual places. Here are some photos from recent trips to Africa (East and West), Armenia, Mongolia and Jordan.

I'm not actively looking for work, but here's a resume nevertheless.

If you'd like to contact me, email is the best bet. My PGP public key is here. Thanks for visiting.