My Favourite London Bookshops

Among the many things I love about European cities, I am most in thrall of the book culture that can sustain bookshop upon bookstore upon bookseller, each window display beckoning passersby to linger and consider, each store criss-crossed with patrons on the cusp of their next reading adventure.

I recently visited Athens and found an entire district of bookstores, multiple streets behind the Academy and the National Library full of stores and stands selling books of every kind imaginable. I wandered in wonder and only regretted that I don’t read Greek. I don’t read French, either; but in Paris I made a tour of English-language bookstores in the Latin Quarter and was giddy at how much there was to explore even in a second language for the place.

Then there is London. London is my paradise as a book lover. How is it possible for there to be so wonderful bookshops? I am in constant peril of acquiring new books as I wander the city, and I’ve never read so much as I have living here. Here are some of my favourite places across London to indulge in my love of books:

Foyle’s (Charing Cross)
Iconic. Five-story, light-filled shop on Charing Cross Road topped with a friendly, cozy café. I love slowly making my way up the stairs, circling around the central atrium and perusing the recommendations that line the walls. My last purchase from Foyle’s: The Dictionary of Difficult Words, by Jane Solomon.
Waterstones Piccadilly
The largest bookstore in Europe, so they claim, and the flagship store for the Waterstones chain. It is immense. You can get lost in whatever genre of book you desire, the selection is unparalleled. If you’re lucky enough to catch their annual Christmas event, they host dozens of authors throughout the store for book-signing amidst mulled wine, spiced chai, and mince pies. My last purchase from Waterstones Piccadilly: The Story of Art Without Men, by Katy Hessel; Cooking, by Jeremy Lee; Dishoom, by Kavi Thakrar, Naved Nasir, and Shamil Thakrar.

The oldest bookstore in London, founded in 1797. Next door to Waterstones Piccadilly. Rare books, first editions, but also nicely curated display shelves of new releases with handwritten recommendation notes. My last purchase from Hatchard’s: An art double feature, Portrait of a Thief, by Grace D. Li; and I, Mona Lisa, by Natasha Solomons.

Daunt Books (Marylebone)
The original Daunt Books, right off Marylebone High Street in a beautiful space with elegant oak galleries and graceful skylights. Sometimes called a travel bookshop because of the organisation of the books by geography, it encourages a more leisurely, exploratory approach to the literary wares on hand. I love travel-themed reading and am constantly searching for inspiration by place, so this bookstore is like something out of a dream for me. Fun fact: James Daunt who opened Daunt Books is also the executive responsible for helming Waterstones’s turnaround and has recently been tapped to revive Barnes & Nobles in the States. My last purchase from Daunt: SPQR, by Mary Beard, inspired by a recent trip to Italy and seeing the ruins at Pompeii; and A Helping Hand, by Celia Dale. 

London Review Bookshop
A Rosetta’s Stone throw (ha, ha) from the British Museum, a compact but ample bookshop with excellent curation and recommendations, as you might expect for a store opened by a literary magazine devoted to the review of books. One shelf near the entrance is entirely lined with books that have handwritten recommendation notes affixed beneath each. There is an attached cake shop open Tuesday through Saturday.

Word on the WaterYou’ll find this book barge floating along Regent’s Canal near King’s Cross. If you’ve ever been curious what life is like on one of these riverboats, here’s a delightful excuse to step aboard. It’s a little cramped, but what did you expect? My last purchase from Word on the Water: The Hill We Climb, by Amanda Gorman; How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, by Cherie Jones; and The Lying Lives of Adults, by Elena Ferrante.

The Market Bookshop (Seven Dials Market)
Almost too small to dignify the title of “bookshop”, this corner of Seven Dials Market is mostly just additional seating for the overflowing food court, but I like it because it is so on theme: all the books are about London, food, or both! (Though to be honest, if you’re really looking for cookbooks, even the Waterstones in Covent Garden a few minutes away has a much better selection.) My last purchase from The Market Bookshop: Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, by Fuschia Dunlop. 

Bonus, for a day trip to Brighton: The Feminist Bookshop
A few years ago I made a deliberate shift in my reading to focus on books by non-male, non-white, and/or non-straight authors, and I can imagine no shop more fitting for my current reading tastes than this spunky little independent bookstore in Brighton, with its focus on books written by and about women, non-binary and marginalised people. For a tiny shop, it packs quite the punch with a built-in coffeeshop, back patio sitting area, and a curious box of brown paper wrapped books for you to try a “blind date with a book”. My last purchase from The Feminist Bookshop: How To Kill Your Family, by Bella Mackie (from the blind date box).

2022 Booklist

My bookkeeping was spotty this year so I think I’ve left a few reads off the list unintentionally, but here’s most of what I read in 2022! My two absolute favorites of the year in fiction were Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Lessons in Chemistry. On the non-fiction side, I added some history to my reading stack in 2022 (unusual for me) and surprised myself by really enjoying The Guns of August and SPQR. My selection of books was haphazard but I had some mini-themes based on current events in Ukraine, geography and travel to Italy, Egypt, Greece, and France, and the Booker Prize shortlist.

Ratings are based on what resonated with me at the time of reading; sometimes I was just in a funky mood or not feeling a topic, and my rating actually has little to do with the quality of the book. But I stand by my 5-star recommendations.

  1. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  2. Land of Big Numbers, Te-Ping Chen ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  3. My Body, Emily Ratajkowski ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  4. In the Country of Others, Leila Slimani ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  5. Notes on an Execution, Danya Kukafka ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  6. The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  7. Free Food for Millionaires, Min Jin Lee ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  8. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  9. A Burning, Megha Majumdar ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  10. Good Economics for Hard Times, Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  11. Open Water, Calb Azumah Nelson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  12. Before the Coffee Gets Cold, Toshikazu Kawaguchi ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  13. Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain, Lisa Feldman Barrett ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  14. The Last Story of Mina Lee, Nancy Jooyoun Kim ⭐⭐⭐
  15. Black Cake, Charmaine Wilkerson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  16. The King Is Always Above the People, Daniel Alarcón ⭐⭐⭐
  17. Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law, Mary Roach ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  18. The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  19. The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  20. War: How Conflict Shaped Us, Margaret MacMillan ⭐⭐⭐
  21. Grey Bees, Andrey Kurkov ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  22. Bestiary, K-Ming Chang ⭐⭐⭐
  23. The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  24. Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice, Bill Browder ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  25. Strong Female Lead: Lessons from Women in Power, Arwa Mahdawi ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  26. My Year Abroad, Chang-Rae Lee ⭐⭐⭐
  27. How Beautiful We Were, Imbolo Mbue ⭐⭐⭐
  28. The Dinner Guest, Gabriela Ybarra ⭐⭐⭐
  29. Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel ⭐⭐⭐
  30. Violeta, Isabel Allende ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  31. With This Kiss, Carrie Hope Fletcher ⭐⭐
  32. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Marina Lewycka ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  33. The Sleeping Beauties, and Other Stories of Mystery Illness, Suzanne O’Sullivan ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  34. I, Mona Lisa, Natasha Solomons ⭐⭐⭐
  35. Portrait of a Thief, Grace D. Li ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  36. Booth, Karen Joy Fowler ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  37. Daughter of the Moon Goddess, Sue Lynn Tan ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  38. Gold Diggers, Sanjena Sathian ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  39. What My Bones Know, Stephanie Foo ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  40. Swimmer Among the Stars, Kanishk Tharoor ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  41. The Life of an MP, Jess Phillips ⭐⭐⭐
  42. The Swimmers, Julie Otsuka ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  43. The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  44. Elektra, Jennifer Saint ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  45. The Exhibitionist, Charlotte Mendelson ⭐⭐⭐
  46. Beasts of a Little Land, Juhea Kim ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  47. The Burning Chambers, Kate Mosse ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  48. The Book of Form & Emptiness, Ruth Ozeki ⭐⭐⭐
  49. Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir, Kat Chow ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  50. The Summer I Turned Pretty, Jenny Han ⭐⭐⭐
  51. It’s Not Summer Without You, Jenny Han ⭐⭐⭐
  52. We’ll Always Have Summer, Jenny Han ⭐⭐⭐
  53. The Plot, Jean Hanff Korelitz ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  54. The City of Tears, Kate Mosse ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  55. The Wolf Den, Elodie Harper ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  56. Storyland: A New Mythology of Britain, Amy Jeffs ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  57. This Time Tomorrow, Emma Straub ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  58. The Land Where Lemons Grow, Helena Attlee ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  59. Murder by the Seaside, Arthur Conan Doyle, Anthony Berkeley, John Dickson Carr, Gladys Mitchell, Cyril Hare, and more ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  60. The Invisible Circus, Jennifer Egan ⭐⭐⭐
  61. Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, Patrick Radden Keefe ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  62. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, Gabrielle Zevin ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  63. Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, Hal Higdon ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  64. The Family Chao, Lan Samantha Chang ⭐⭐⭐
  65. Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  66. The Library Book, Susan Orlean ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  67. If We Were Villains, M. L. Rio ⭐⭐⭐
  68. Matrix, Lauren Groff ⭐⭐⭐
  69. Lobby Life: Inside Westminster’s Secret Society, Carole Walker ⭐⭐⭐
  70. Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  71. How to Kill Your Family, Bella Mackie ⭐⭐⭐
  72. Heatwave, Victor Jestin ⭐⭐⭐
  73. Sorrow and Bliss, Meg Mason ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  74. The Immortal King Rao, Vauhini Vara ⭐⭐⭐
  75. Carrie Soto Is Back, Taylor Jenkins Reid ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  76. The Marriage Portrait, Maggie O’Farrell ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  77. The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics, Bradley Tusk ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  78. SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, Mary Beard ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  79. Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies, Maddie Mortimer ⭐⭐⭐
  80. I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette McCurdy ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  81. The Rabbit Hutch, Tess Gunty ⭐⭐⭐
  82. All That’s Left Unsaid, Tracey Lien ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  83. Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory, Deena Kastor ⭐⭐
  84. Joan, Katherine J. Chen ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  85. Fleishman Is in Trouble, Taffy Brodesser-Akner ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  86. The Family Outing: A Memoir, Jessi Hempel ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  87. Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery, Christie Aschwanden ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  88. A Helping Hand, Celia Dale ⭐⭐⭐
  89. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, Shehan Karunatilaka ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  90. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins ⭐⭐
  91. Dog Years, Melissa Yancy ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  92. We Show What We Have Learned & Other Stories, Clare Beams ⭐⭐⭐
  93. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Bryn Greenwood ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  94. Who’s Irish?: Stories, Gish Jen ⭐⭐⭐
  95. The Paris Library, Janet Skeslien Charles ⭐⭐⭐
  96. The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro ⭐⭐⭐
  97. Intact: A Defence of the Unmodified Body, Clare Chambers ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  98. Love Marriage, Monica Ali ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  99. Glory, NoViolet Bulawayo ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  100. Small Things Like These, Claire Keegan ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  101. Oh William!, Elizabeth Strout ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  102. The Twyford Code, Janice Hallett ⭐⭐
  103. Death on the Nile, Agatha Christie ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Peloton 100

This week marks a 100 week streak for me on Peloton. I got the bike late February 2020 when news of the coronavirus was starting to make me nervous about jam-packed studio classes, and even though the company is taking a beating in the markets and the press these days, I’m as steadfast a Peloton believer as ever.

In the first lockdown, before we knew how much safer it was to be outdoors, I’d go for 10 to 15 days at a time without stepping outside the flat. I made up for it by bingeing Peloton. I found Facebook groups that organised challenges: weekly group rides, month-by-month checklists to complete, “Tours de Peloton” that string together hours of classes, “Pelofondo” long distance events. On weekends, I’d easily spend 3 to 4 hours on Peloton per day.

When things opened up more, I went for outdoor runs with Peloton. I worked my way through the marathon training program, 4 or 5 runs a week, strength for runners classes mixed in. I got bored when the long runs got up to half marathon distance, but then I switched to music and theme runs and there’s been plenty more in the catalog to keep my interest still.

At some point I discovered the Power Zone Pack and committed to doing the challenges, 6 to 8 weeks at a time, 5 to 6 classes a week. Day to day, it was nice enough to not have to think about what classes I was taking, but over the weeks, the most compelling part of the program was seeing how much stronger I got. My power output is easily 50% more now than when I first got the bike in February 2020. A popular refrain amongst the power zone training crew is: “Trust the process. It works.” For me, as someone who’s never worked with a coach or followed a structured, personalised training plan, it’s been a revelation and very motivating to see how much I can improve, if I care to. (Sometimes I don’t, all I want to do is sweat and listen to some good music, that’s fine too.)

I’m on a strength kick right now with the “#hardCORE on the Floor” calendar, from yet another community-organised Facebook group. There’s a 40 minute stack of strength classes every day, which I’ve been working through religiously. I’ve had to muster a bit more motivation to get through these classes recently, but I always feel enough pride in accomplishment that it keeps me going. I haven’t missed any days in December or January yet.

The last two years have been tough for everyone, in so many ways. Sometimes I wonder what I’ll have to show for all these years of my life claimed by the pandemic. If nothing else, I have a Peloton habit and this investment in my health and fitness.

2021 Booklist

Here are all the books I completed in 2021. Most of them I am rating as four stars because most of them were very good! But I saved the five star ratings for books that were exceptionally well-written, thought-provoking, or compelling (to me).

  1. The Foundling, Stacey Halls ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  2. Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  3. Family Trust, Kathy Wang ⭐⭐⭐
  4. Bravey, Alexi Pappas ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  5. Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  6. Interior Chinatown, Charles Yu ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  7. Life After Life, Kate Atkinson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  8. How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, Jenny Odell ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  9. Humankind: A Hopeful History, Rutger Bregman ⭐⭐⭐
  10. The Mandibles: A Family 2029-2047, Lionel Shriver ⭐⭐⭐
  11. Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism, Mariana Mazzucato ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  12. Luster, Raven Leilani ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  13. The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic, Leigh Bardugo ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  14. Writers & Lovers, Lily King ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  15. Men Who Hate Women, Laura Bates ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  16. Braised Pork, An Yu ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  17. Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  18. All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir of Adoption, Nicole Chung ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  19. All Systems Red, Martha Wells ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  20. Earthlings, Sayaka Murata ⭐⭐⭐
  21. Detransition, Baby, Torrey Peters ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  22. Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  23. Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, Cho Nam-Joo ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  24. Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  25. World of Wonders, Aimee Nezhukumatathil ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  26. Days of Distraction, Alexandra Chang ⭐⭐⭐
  27. 你沒有更好的命運, 任明信 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  28. If I Had Your Face, Frances Cha ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  29. Ghosts, Dolly Alderton ⭐⭐⭐ 
  30. Piranesi, Susanna Clarke ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  31. Transcendent Kingdom, Yaa Gyasi ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  32. Circus of Wonders, Elizabeth MacNeal ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  33. Clap When You Land, Elizabeth Acevedo ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  34. The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, Mariana Enriquez ⭐⭐⭐
  35. Craft in the Real World, Matthew Salesses ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  36. The Lamplighters, Emma Stonex ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  37. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nosrat ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  38. The Ones We’re Meant To Find, Joan He ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  39. How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, Cherie Jones ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  40. Heaven, Mieko Kawakami ⭐⭐⭐ 
  41. Crying in H Mart, Michelle Zauner ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  42. Sex and Vanity, Kevin Kwan ⭐⭐
  43. Thanks for the Feedback, Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  44. The Other Black Girl, Zakiya Dalila Harris ⭐⭐⭐
  45. Vaxxers: The Inside Story of the Oxford Astrazeneca Vaccine and the Race Against the Virus, Sarah Gilbert & Catherine Green ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  46. An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination, Sheera Frenkel & Cecilia Kang ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 
  47. Tsarina: Lover, Mother, Murderer, Ellen Alpsten ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  48. Summerwater, Sarah Moss ⭐⭐⭐
  49. How Do Worms Work?, Guy Barter ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  50. Malibu Rising, Taylor Jenkins Reid ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  51. The Handshake: A Gripping History, Ella Al-Shamahi ⭐⭐⭐
  52. Daisy Jones & The Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  53. The Lying Life of Adults, Elena Ferrante ⭐⭐⭐
  54. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  55. The Confessions of Fannie Langton, Sara Collins ⭐⭐⭐
  56. Entangled Life, Merlin Sheldrake ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  57. Beautiful World, Where Are You, Sally Rooney ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  58. System Error, Rob Reich, Mehran Sahami & Jeremy Weinstein ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  59. Velvet Was the Night, Silvia Moreno Garcia ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  60. Sovietistan: A Journey Through Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, Erika Fatland ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  61. The Cult of We: WeWork and the Great Startup Delusion, Eliot Brown & Maureen Farrell ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  62. Betty, Tiffany McDaniel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  63. One Life, Megan Rapinoe ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  64. Whereabouts, Jhumpa Lahiri ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  65. No One Is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  66. The Promise, Damon Galgut ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  67. A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  68. Garden By the Sea, Mercè Rodoreda ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  69. The Girls, Emma Cline ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  70. Court of Lions, Jane Johnson ⭐⭐⭐
  71. Ariadne, Jennifer Saint ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  72. Blockchain Chicken Farm: And Other Stories of Tech in China’s Countryside, Xiaowei Wang ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  73. Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  74. The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem, Amanda Gorman ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  75. Madame Curie: A Biography, Eve Curie ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  76. My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult ⭐⭐
  77. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, Robin Wall Kimmerer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  78. The Curse of Bigness, Tim Wu ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  79. H Is for Hawk, Helen McDonald ⭐⭐⭐
  80. Intimacies: A Novel, Katie Kitamura ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

We Need to Talk About What It Means to Be ‘White-Adjacent’ in Tech

This post originally appeared on Medium. Co-authored with Ellen Pao.

Asians in tech are now frequently considered so white-adjacent that we are no longer identified as people of color, as if the relative overrepresentation of some East and South Asians with socioeconomic and educational privilege means that the entirety of the AAPI community is no longer subject to issues of racism. But it is that mix of privilege and exclusion that also gives us a unique position from which to advocate for anti-racism and the dismantling of structural and systemic racism.

While Asians comprise 5.7% of the U.S. population, our representation in tech is almost 2.5 times that at 14%; compare that with 0.9% of elected AAPI officials. (Note: Most data do not include numbers for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, who make up 0.2% of the US population, and should be considered part of the AAPI community.)

The list of wealthy and influential Asian tech titans is significant and growing, with increasingly more Asian founder-led and Asian investor-funded companies achieving meteoric success. In the past year alone — as the pandemic moved schools’ whiteboards to Google Classrooms, business offices to Microsoft Teams and Zoom, and grocery shopping to DoorDash and Instacart — their respective Asian American CEOs generated billions in stock market gains in the process. Given technology’s outsized impact on society and our lives, the fact of our outsized representation in the tech industry is not to be understated; we are at least in those meetings where critical decisions are being made that have ramifications all across society.

Yet, despite our privilege and these high-profile examples of success, we also experience significant systemic racism. The oft-cited “bamboo ceiling” describes a real structural disadvantage for Asians in the corporate world. The data shows how much less likely Asians are to make it to the tech executive suite than White and Latinx employees, and than Black employees, too. Less well-known are the cases when tech companies discriminate against Asians in hiring and pay.

We face aggressions on a daily basis as well: We have all been called by the wrong name. We are regularly asked where we are from. We are subjected to racist jokes and comments. We are often excluded from diversity and inclusion efforts. We are stereotyped into specific roles and job functions. We are not expected to speak up or self-advocate and are often punished when we do. Tech products like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are used against us as weapons for anti-Asian hate and harassment. For many Asian immigrants, the feeling of moving to a lower social status in the United States has led to symptoms of depression in adults and loneliness and isolation for their children.

We are also treated as a monolithic group, despite comprising more than 19 groups speaking over 38 languages. Anti-Chinese racism — rooted in harmful lies peddled on tech platforms blaming China for Covid-19 — has sparked a wave of hate crimes against all Asians undifferentiated by ethnicity. But the AAPI experience in America is wide-ranging and the demographic data disproves the model minority myth.

In 2019, only 88% of all Asian Americans 25 years or older had a high school degree compared to 93% of non-Hispanic Whites. A lower percentage of Asians own homes than that of the overall population (59% compared with 64%). In 2014, 18% of New York City residents living in poverty were Asian American; at the same time, 29% of NYC-based Asian Americans were living in poverty, a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group, according to the Urban Institute. And AAPI workers were disproportionately unemployed during the pandemic.

The zero-sum structures in many institutions force competition between communities for limited resources and opportunities.

Source: Washington Center for Equitable Growth

Source: Washington Center for Equitable Growth

It’s that mix of privilege and exclusion that gives us just enough power to speak up but not enough to gain equitable access to opportunities and safety.

Reading in lockdown: My 2020 in books

  1. The Bastard of Istanbul, Elif Shafak ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  2. The Architect’s Apprentice, Elif Shafak ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  3. The Manager’s Path, Camille Fournier ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  4. Dear Girls, Ali Wong ⭐⭐⭐
  5. The Dutch House, Ann Patchett ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  6. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  7. Uncanny Valley, Anna Weiner ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  8. Lab Girl, Hope Jahren ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  9. Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage, Laura Huang ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  10. The Joy of Movement, Kelly McGonigal ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  11. Exhalation, Ted Chiang ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  12. Beloved, Toni Morrison ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  13. The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates ⭐⭐⭐
  14. Dreamland, Sam Quinones ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  15. The Color Purple, Alice Walker ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  16. The Perfect Predator, Steffanie Strathdee and Thomas Patterson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  17. The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  18. Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World, Laura Spinney ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (extra star for relevance to 2020)
  19. Minor Feelings: A Reckoning on Race and the Asian Condition, Cathy Park Hong ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  20. The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern ⭐⭐⭐
  21. Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  22. Weather, Jenny Offill ⭐⭐⭐
  23. Frankissstein, Jeanette Winterson ⭐⭐⭐
  24. Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  25. Exciting Times, Naoise Dolan ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  26. Roar: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life, Dr. Stacy T. Sims ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  27. Also Human: The Inner Lives of Doctors, Caroline Elton ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  28. How Much of These Hills Is Gold, C. Pam Zhang ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  29. The Dollmaker, Nina Allan ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  30. Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  31. Girl, Woman, Other, Bernadine Evaristo ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  32. Winter in Sokcho, Elisa Shua Dusapin ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  33. On Chapel Sands: My Mother and Other Missing Persons, Laura Cumming ⭐⭐⭐
  34. The Map of Knowledge, Violet Moller ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  35. Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire, Akala ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  36. The Disaster Tourist, Yun Ko-eun ⭐⭐⭐
  37. The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  38. Rodham, Curtis Sittenfeld ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  39. The Overstory, Richard Powers ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  40. The Well-Gardened Mind: Rediscovering Nature in the Modern World, Sue Stuart-Smith ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  41. The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  42. The Henna Artist, Alka Joshi ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  43. Breasts and Eggs, Mieko Kawakami ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  44. Fracture, Andrés Neuman ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  45. Burnt Sugar, Avna Doshi ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  46. Minor Detail, Adania Shibli ⭐⭐⭐
  47. Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  48. If I Never Met You, Mhairi McFarlane ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  49. The Glass Hotel, Emily St. John Mandel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  50. The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protest Us from Violence, Gavin de Becker ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  51. Loathe at First Sight, Suzanne Park ⭐⭐⭐
  52. The Man Who Didn’t Call, Rosie Walsh ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  53. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, Elif Shafak ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  54. Azadi, Arundhati Roy ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  55. The Guest List, Rosie Walsh ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  56. Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World, Tom Wright & Bradley Hope ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  57. How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division, Elif Shafak ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  58. Real Life, Brandon Taylor ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  59. Rootbound: Rewilding a Life, Alice Vincent ⭐⭐⭐
  60. The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  61. Skincare: The Ultimate No-Nonsense Guide, Caroline Hirons ⭐⭐⭐
  62. The Lonely City: Adventure in the Art of Being Alone, Olivia Laing ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  63. Life’s Too Short to Go So F*cking Slow, Susan Lacke ⭐⭐⭐
  64. Love After Love, Ingrid Persaud ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  65. Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Caroline Criado Perez ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  66. This Mournable Body, Tsitsi Dangarembga ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  67. The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  68. The Opposite of Loneliness, Marina Keegan ⭐⭐⭐
  69. The New Wilderness, Diane Cook ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  70. The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder ⭐⭐⭐
  71. The Soul of an Octopus, Sy Montgomery ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  72. Self Care, Leigh Stein ⭐⭐⭐
  73. How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  74. Wow, No Thank You, Samantha Irby ⭐⭐
  75. The Shadow King, Maaza Mengiste ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  76. The Girl with the Louding Voice, Abi Daré ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  77. Twilight of Democracy: The Failure of Politics and the Parting of Friends, Anne Applebaum ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  78. The Flat Share, Beth O’Leary ⭐⭐⭐
  79. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  80. The Girl Who Reads on the Métro, Christine Féret-Fleury ⭐⭐⭐
  81. The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris ⭐⭐⭐
  82. The Handsome Monk, Tsering Döndrup ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  83. Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  84. Postcolonial Love Poem, Natalie Diaz ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  85. Milkman, Anna Burns ⭐⭐⭐
I had to buy a bookshelf for all the books I was acquiring in lockdown! Top shelf is not read or only partially read. Bottom three shelves are read. Does not include Kindle reading, obviously.

The terrible task of documenting abuse

This is a cross-post from the Block Party newsletter. 

Some number of years ago, a man who’d first found me from my posts on Quora started messaging me.

Please pardon me for some fuzziness of recall in this account — I could trawl through digital history to find specifics, but I think the emotional truth of the story comes through without them, and as you’ll see, part of the story is the difficulty of experiencing and re-visiting the trauma.

It began innocuously, with a vague, generic professional inquiry in a Quora private message. I didn’t respond. He messaged a few more times. I still didn’t respond; why would I? I didn’t know this person, and increasingly I was nervous to even acknowledge receipt of his messages as things escalated. He became more frenetic, threatening, and sexually explicit, demanding that I call him, meet him. He created accounts on Twitter to harass me, a whack-a-mole game as I’d block them and he’d set up new ones. On Facebook, he wrote deranged status updates about me, set them to public, and paid to promote them. He collected photos of me from the Internet and put them in a Facebook album, again, set to public — for what purpose, I don’t know. With physical threats in the mix, I worried about my safety. My employer was a matter of very public knowledge, the location of our office well-marked on Google Maps and brightly identifiable in real life by the company logo above the lobby doors. I let office security know to watch out for him. My home address was not so stupidly obvious to find, but it would be no difficult task for him to tail me home on my daily commute. I alerted the front desk of my apartment complex as well, though they shrugged off my concerns. For weeks, stretching into months, I lived in fear. Online, I had to keep an eye on all my social accounts as well as his; offline, I was constantly scanning, assessing threat level.

I didn’t know what to do. Someone told me I needed to be on record, at least once, telling him to stop. I carefully composed a Facebook message to that effect, sent it and blocked him. He didn’t stop. Someone else told me I should document everything and file with the police, so there’d be an official record with law enforcement.

So I forced myself through the painful process of documenting everything. Well, not everything; that would have been too much. Just enough to put together a report. And I’d already blocked and reported some of his accounts, which meant I couldn’t access some of the data anymore. For what did remain, the dread of opening those inboxes, clicking through his profiles, viewing the close-up permalink pages for his public posts to grab the URLs, being forced to see and experience the abuse again—it ate at me. I had to settle the emotional turbulence before I could even get started. But it’s not like bracing yourself to jump into the ocean for a swim, where the cold sting of the initial plunge recedes and then it’s fine, you keep moving and it’s fine. The task of collecting evidence of abuse and harassment exacts a psychological toll that only gets worse. It’s a weight on your mental health that only grows heavier. It’s not made any easier by the sheer tedium of the process. I had to screenshot everything; manually track platform, format, timestamp, and permalink metadata (“private Facebook message on <mm-dd-yyyy, hh:mm>, <url>”, “Twitter @reply from @<handle> on <mm-dd-yyyy, hh:mm>, <url>”); rename the files and organise them in folders; compile a timeline of activity in spreadsheet and plain text formats; highlight the most alarming messages; build the narrative for the bored San Francisco Police Department officer who’d show up at my apartment to tell me I was fussing over something that was harmless. “Most likely nothing will happen,” he said. “Let me know if something does.” I wanted to scream in frustration. I didn’t want anything to happen. That was the point. But at least I’d done the job of documenting the abuse in case anyone ever needed to see a paper trail.

This is far from the only example in my own life where I’ve had to take on the terrible task of documenting abuse, though it’s at least distant enough in time that I can suppress my unease in describing it to a public audience. I also have multiple ongoing situations right now; it’s a bit terrifying to even allude to them here, much less discuss them.

One thing that’s marginally better this time around: I get to use new tools that we’re building at Block Party to make the process that little bit easier. Putting aside the minor emotional scarring I get whenever I scan my harassers’ accounts for threats, being able to test our latest watchlist and documentation features has been an absolute delight. The process of adding users and tweets to my Lockout Folder for evidence preservation is buttery smooth—no more Dropbox folders titled “harassment”, stuffed full of tweet screenshots that I have to zoom in and out of when I’m searching for something, no more Notes files listing out permalink after permalink with manually annotated dates and timestamps. Once an account is on my watchlist, Block Party collects future mentions from them and alerts me to their activity. It’s exhausting to have to manage this problem at all, but at least the tools are getting better.

Screenshots of Block Party’s watchlist tab with “Add Tweet” functionality to save evidence and keep an eye on troublesome users.

In the saddest hilarious way, SFPD failed spectacularly at even filing my report. When I first showed the officer everything on my laptop, he tried to scribble down the abusive content on his long yellow legal pad, a futile task when there were dozens and dozens of messages and digital multimedia to log. I offered to email my documentation instead, and he gave me his email address to send it over. The next day, I got his reply: “Sorry, I can’t see the pictures you’ve included, I don’t have Internet on my email.”

I still don’t have the full details on what happened afterwards. From what I gleaned second-hand through private sources, my harasser did in fact have a history of assault in addition to a history of bipolar disorder. There may have been a restraining order at some point. His threats to someone else were serious enough for the police to confront him and force him to check himself into a mental hospital for help. He tried to contact me a couple times afterwards, the most recent after I’d started Block Party. He’d looked me up and seen I was working on solutions for online harassment. He was apologetic, surmising correctly that it was because of him and people like him that I’d chosen to dedicate this next chapter of my career and life to working on this problem. He offered some advice: Create accountability. If I had known there’d be accountability for my actions, he said, I wouldn’t have done those things. That’s the ultimate solution for harassment. Stop people from doing it in the first place.

We’re still a far cry from creating systemic accountability. That’s a hard problem that extends beyond the digital platforms that enable abuse, to a society where laws and law enforcement are rotted with institutional racism and misogyny, fail to protect those most at risk and marginalised, and are hopelessly out of date when it comes to technology. But one small step towards creating that accountability is making it easier to document abuse and show the receipts, and we’ll start there.

Ask Me Anything About Reddit’s Cesspit of Toxicity

[content warning: violence, trauma, harassment]

The irony is not lost on me that I incited a tidal wave of harassment from Reddit’s cesspit of toxicity because I went in there to talk about working on anti-harassment software. It was the perfect case in point for why we’re building what we’re building at Block Party. And all the same, it was a torturous way to re-learn a lesson I’ve already had beaten into my psyche from more than 15 years of online bullying, hate, abuse, and stalking.

I was so foolishly optimistic about how a Reddit AMA might go

When someone first suggested the idea of going on Reddit, I instinctively recoiled from the idea, knowing the site’s reputation — but I ignored my intuition and last week I went in naively optimistic about doing an AMA (“ask me anything”) question and answer session in the subreddit r/IAmA/. I thought it would be a good opportunity to share more about how I came to be working on Block Party and to engage in genuine discourse about the problem of online harassment and our product thinking on how to solve it. Perhaps I would get questions about what I’ve learned from building and running a distributed team, or other lessons from working in Silicon Valley and then leaving for less tech-saturated locales. Or about diversity and inclusion, especially as I just released a course for startup founders. When I announced on Twitter that I would be doing a Reddit AMA, I even got a few good questions there: about COVID and re-opening, collaboration with social media platforms, crowdsourcing of Block Party’s filters.

My reddit AMA “proof”.
My Reddit AMA “proof”, taken before I had any idea what trauma was about to transpire.

The site tagline is “Reddit gives you the best of the internet in one place”. I shudder to think what the worst of it is, Reddit is vile beyond belief

I barely started the AMA on Reddit before the troll brigade arrived. They quickly overtook the page with bad faith “questions”, gotchas, twisted accusations, and insulting and abusive comments. They coordinated to downvote all of my answers into oblivion, as Reddit’s platform hides content that has been excessively downvoted. As I struggled to surface my answers, they taunted me about my alleged silence: “She has no answer because her views are wrong.” “She didn’t answer because she hates asian americans..” It felt like a violent mob had ambushed me and was forcing me to the ground, muzzling me, and violating me. Typically authors will start their AMA, let questions come in for a while, then write answers for an hour, maybe longer if they’re generous. I tried, I really tried, even as I write this now I’m crying as the feeling of trauma resurfaces, for four hours I tried, fighting through the abuse to write candid, thoughtful answers about what we’re working on with Block Party and how we’re trying to solve online harassment, I addressed willful misinterpretations of our privacy policy, questions about filter bubbles and polarization, data or lack thereof on the problem of online harassment, the role of machine learning in content moderation, diversity and inclusion in hiring, diversity and inclusion outside of America, activism, how Asian Americans figure in racial inequity conversations — no matter how hard I tried, it didn’t matter. Even for innocuous content, like the list of books I’m currently reading, I got downvoted into negative territory and an asshat reply saying I wasn’t actually reading those books and I cherry-picked those to be over-the-top. The harassment spilled over into Reddit direct chats, onto Twitter, into waitlist signups for Block Party where people submitted flagrantly racist and other abusive content.

Even worse than the harassment on my AMA itself was Reddit’s infuriating response: blaming me and refusing to take responsibility

Worse than the trauma of the AMA itself, which landed on the Reddit homepage and got up to 4k+ comments, the overwhelming majority of which were toxic and vile, was the response. My god, the response. From Reddit, I got only blame, gaslighting, a refusal to take any responsibility, and a bland declaration that they do not condone harassment on their site. Then they put the onus on me to report any “policy-breaking comments” so they could investigate — yes, because of course it should be the person being targeted with abuse who’s responsible for wading through the vileness to clean it up. One r/IAmA/ moderator went onto Twitter as well to blame me for apparently doing it “wrong”. There were more who told me it wasn’t Reddit’s fault that people just didn’t like my answers. Friends privately reached out to Reddit employees, including some that I know and (used to) regard as friends. A number of these people work in policy and product, areas directly responsible for a situation like this. The responses ranged from a reiteration of putting the blame on me, to silence and refusal to acknowledge the situation, much less express any sympathy. The absolute abdication of accountability has been the most angering part of the whole experience.

None of this is new. Reddit’s problems with harassment have been documented widely for many years. I am no expert on Reddit as I previously steered far clear of it and apart from my mistake last week to do an AMA, will do so in the future; but it is clear that they do not care to make even the most basic fixes to check the metastasis of the hate on their platform.

The sleight of hand Reddit is attempting in order to cast the blame on me is this: An error in how my AMA was posted prevented the pathetically meager anti-harassment protections they do have from kicking in (though all those would have done was prevent my answers from being downvoted into oblivion, it would not have been any defense against the thousands of trolls showing up to post harassing content). The claim is that I didn’t know how to use the site so it’s my fault. To be very clear, though, the error occurred on the platform side. And even if I had made a mistake because Reddit’s usability is so poor and it is a fundamentally user-unfriendly product, ultimately that is still on them. If Redditors pick up on this post and use technical nit-picking to try to discredit me, that only further proves my point. All of this finger-pointing from Reddit company, the official Twitter account, the employees, the moderators, the users, is merely a means of distracting from their own culpability.

Try to follow, if you want. Here’s the “technical issue”: Someone else can schedule an AMA on your behalf, but if so, then it may post from their account, such that the OP does not match your account even if yours is marked correctly as the person conducting the AMA. In this scenario, you have no downvote brigade protections, and even as the AMA author, your answers can be disappeared. You’re shit outta luck, sorry.

I find Reddit’s deflection of the blame enraging. First, my teammate and I did nothing wrong in how we scheduled and conducted the AMA. We filled out all the boxes correctly. She put her username in the box for who was scheduling the AMA, and my username in the box for who was conducting the AMA. If you need any proof of that, my account was flaired correctly as the one doing the AMA. Second, it was never our responsibility to reverse-engineer Reddit’s pathetic anti-harassment protections to understand that there is only one way to avoid the silencing that comes from coordinated downvoting. Third, the true problem is that Reddit’s voting mechanisms have this pernicious silencing effect on people from minority or marginalized communities. This is well known to mods as well as researchers. One sympathetic mod did let me know that this happens elsewhere too: For example, Black scientists in r/science/ getting so downvoted by racists that their posts disappear, even when they were expressly invited to do panel discussions on their areas of expertise. This admission of a pervasive issue leads to the next point: Fourth, it’s not actually that fucking hard to fix this. I am a software engineer who was literally one of the first engineers at Quora, another consumer web scale user-generated content site with answers, comments, voting, and ranking. Guess what, all you need to do to protect an answer from being collapsed is to add a not-collapsible boolean to it. Yes/no. That’s it. If moderators see an answer being inappropriately hidden, someone being unfairly silenced, it is possible, and not just possible but infuriatingly simple, to fix it. (Yes, I know that this is only one small tool that is needed and there are much broader issues, but even so, it seems stupid obvious to me to build this.) I cannot believe the condescension of the multiple responses I got from Reddit team and mods that the situation was “not possible to fix”, “it’s a technical issue”. Fifth, even if somehow the most basic engineering change is impossible to prioritize, help docs and other copy are easy to change. At very least, the scheduling tool should have an aggressive, big, bold warning to AMA participants that the system has this vulnerability.

Online harassment is a form of violence

Online harassment is a form of violence. What I experienced on Reddit was a coordinated, sustained act of violence. And not only did the authorities and responsible parties not stop it, they gaslit and blamed the victim. My own friends, the ones who could do something, merely looked away. They were unable to offer even an acknowledgement of the situation, much less a modicum of sympathy. I am still shaking in anger and disappointment.

If you have never experienced violence in this way, it can be hard to understand how traumatic it is. Nowhere is safe. I know what it’s like to be physically stalked and threatened, to be fearful of my security in the offline world, and that is bad enough. Sometimes I wake up in a panic wondering if I forgot to lock my door, and I still start when I hear unexpected sounds outside my flat. But at least there are places that I can lock myself in and hide away, and I can be with friends who protect me. Online, the same platforms where I get encouragement and solidarity from supporters are the ones where I receive harassment as well. Do you know the feeling when someone makes a remark that bothers you and it sticks, even when you try to shrug it off? It might not even be directed at you, or maybe it is but you know it’s not true, just a throwaway insult, but it keeps running through your head. Imagine that, multiplied by thousands, a mob feeding off its own energy, shouting you down with perverted, nasty things, choking your protests into silence, declaring their freedom of speech. Your supporters might be trying to get through, too, but it’s hard to hear them through the onslaught of abuse. The psychological toll is terrible. I have dealt with online harassment for a long time, but this past week crushed me. I haven’t been able to sleep through the night, despite the Ambien, anti-anxiety medication, CBD, melatonin, essential oils, meditation, anything I could possibly try. My resting heart rate spiked 20% the day of the Reddit AMA and my physiological state remains extremely poor.

I also have to live with the fear and possibility that the online harassment will escalate, that I will have yet more reason to fear for my physical safety. Just in the last few days there have been multiple news stories about people being shot dead, their murderers groomed and goaded on by toxic communities like Reddit’s, a noxious trail of online hate in their wake. People who have the power, influence, and ability to do something need to do it, not perform allyship on social media while disclaiming responsibility for harm directly attributable to their action or, more likely, inaction. I can only hope that they act faster in the future when danger and death is imminent.

Welcome to the life of being a startup founder

I have still not been able to take a break. I am the solo founder of a very early stage startup and things are always go-go-go-go-go.

The latest urgent, p1 TODO for Block Party is one triggered entirely by the Reddit situation. If you hazard a glimpse at the AMA page, there are strenuous objections to our privacy policy, and although it was a standard one that we picked up from our original legal counsel and we do absolutely none of the nefarious things that people accuse us of, they twisted reality so much I felt we should address it. Numerous Redditors even pointed out that I used to work at Facebook as proof that I must be violating user privacy and selling user data — the cruel joke is that I was so put off by what I saw during my Facebook internship that I once wrote an answer on Quora decrying the cavalier disregard for people’s privacy, but my answer got downvoted into the negative by Facebook employees and collapsed. For the past week, I’ve been spending late nights with our current lawyer to draft a new custom privacy policy that makes it clear exactly what we do. For a startup like Block Party, which is at such an early stage and still has so few users, it feels like a waste of investor money, not to mention my time, to be combing over these legal documents, but I want to be clear on our commitment to putting the user first.

If we must grasp at silver linings, I am only more certain of the importance of what we’re working on at Block Party

The Redditors in my AMA perfectly illustrated the very need for “troll management” software, and though we didn’t need it, we did get additional validation for many of Block Party’s product intuitions and directions.

My biggest takeaway is that it’s quite clear platforms will not solve the problem of online harassment. The Reddit company stance has been that it’s not a priority to implement the product or engineering fixes that could turn back the tide on the toxic sludge. This doesn’t leave the moderators with much to work with, even when some good ones do care to try. In the case of my AMA, they were conspicuously absent, and though they very belatedly took some action to lock my AMA thread and do minor cleanup, all it did was leave the thread frozen with pages and pages of bad faith argumentation and misinterpretation and wrongful accusations that you had to scroll through before you could find anything I’d written.

To a further point about content moderation, there is a big difference between what’s not so egregious to be in violation of policy and what makes for reasonable, good faith discussion and a healthy community. Some of the most perverse trolling comes from people who are just clever enough to twist words around in a pseudo-intellectual fashion, with a pretense at being “genuine”, good at toeing the line and knowing how to avoid being removed or banned. As a participant in a community, or simply a guest, I have no interest in engaging with those people. I am interested in civil discourse that brings hard questions, contrary viewpoints, and challenges to my assumptions and thinking, but just because a platform has disallowed the shouting of racist and misogynistic slurs and will sometimes belatedly chastise people for it does not mean it has created a productive space for the interchange of ideas and information.

As for the most toxic, terrible comments on my AMA that were eventually removed, their absence from the thread now does nothing to remedy the damage that has already been wreaked, and the destruction of the evidence is only a setup for more gaslighting. I’ve already been deluged with the hate. I’ve already suffered for it, my mental well-being poisoned. Perhaps after I publish this essay, it will spur the moderators to remove even more of the bad comments. But it will only be worse that everything is gone. Abusers and harassers know this tactic well: Attack, then destroy the evidence. The most wretched of them will come back around to torment further. Even curious bystanders coming by later will not understand the violence and trauma that has happened, instead choosing to doubt the victim, wondering if things were really that bad. I know I’m supposed to document everything, but I cannot sacrifice any more of my mental health to do so.

And we have yet another data point for how pathological it is that platforms put the burden of managing abuse on those targeted by it. Reddit not only makes it so others cannot help you, but if they do try to—as in the case of my teammate helping me to schedule the AMA — you are subject to even worse terrors than if you went at it alone. At least for catching the harassment spillover to Twitter, I had Block Party to filter my @mentions, and my teammate was able to go through everything that collected in my Lockout Folder to block, unmute, or keep muted as appropriate. It was a relief to still be able to use Twitter without letting the trolls keep tearing down my mental health. And though some of those harassers fell back on their usual trick of deleting their Tweets, Block Party is keeping the receipts for me.

A deep thank you to those who gave me support, acknowledgment, and validation through the most traumatic episode of my life

I am grateful to the many people who reached out to offer their support and encouragement, the people who posted indignation and outrage on my behalf, the people who threw me “upvote parties” to try to rescue some of my answers, all these people who cared. I cried, in a good way, to read the messages from people who told me what my work has meant to them, how they have directly benefited from it or been inspired to pursue their careers. I cried, too, when reading the messages from people acknowledging and validating what happened. I needed to hear that I’m not crazy, not overreacting, that none of this is okay, that none of this is my fault. I haven’t been able to respond to every message but to all of you who have sent positivity my way, thank you.

Unfortunately, I have a creeping sense of dread that things are only going to get worse as the brokenness of the Internet becomes more and more overwhelming and the toxicity of the tech industry forces out those who have the heart and integrity to try to make it better. As for myself, I am doing all I can to stay in the fight. I’m doing everything I can to try to make things better, not just for me but for everyone who must endure this almost unbearable heaviness of online existence.