How the world works

Last month, my good friend Andrew Leonard launched How the World Works (RSS feed), a blog that (in Salon’s words) “aims to bite off small pieces of the big story, while at the same time engaging with the vast complexity of the Internet’s multi-threaded dialogue on the global economy.” The “how the world works” concept debuted with Andrew’s “The World in an iPod” piece in which Andrew literally cracks open an iPod and follows the pieces and parts throughout the global economy. This isn’t just “cool” reporting about the innards of the iPod — globalization is inarguably the story of our times. The “How the World Works” blog picks up where that left off with posts about taking back the word “globalization” (favorite quote: “I’m sure I am not the only person who has a kind of sick fascination with melting icecaps”) and the Camu Camu plant as an illustration of the concept of “bio-piracy” (I wasn’t aware of the Camu Camu plant or the idea of “bio-piracy”. . . until now). I am so subscribed.

I owe Andrew a lot, both personally and professionally (he edited the one and only story I ever wrote for Salon, “The American Way of Snacks,” about a gigantic convenience store convention in Orlando I attended — it’s all 100% true, I tell you!) When I was at Salon leading a team that was implementing open source software all over the place, Andrew’s writing served as a philosophical backdrop for the actual in-the-trenches work we were doing. While I was settling into my first few months at Salon, Andrew was busy interviewing the people who were leading the charge for the software my team was rolling out: Larry Wall (Perl), Richard Stallman (all the GNU stuff), Eric Allman (sendmail), and Eric Raymond (well, no particular software, but “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” was important philosophically). I’m pretty sure that Andrew’s story about Apache (on a general interest web site in 1997!) first piqued my interest in Salon. And there’s this story about Linux that ran literally as I was packing my bags for Salon and California (I arrived the following week). And there’s a lot more open source stuff where that came from.

I found an old SFGate story (no longer available on, but still at the Internet Archive) that put it this way:

Along with Salon’s managing editor Scott Rosenberg, Leonard is responsible for creating what is possibly the world’s first technoculture think-tank, where engineers work alongside writers to make high technology useful and elegant, complicated but accessible. And Leonard’s advocacy of free, open source software gives this think tank its moral imperative.

That quote is probably a tad too breathless (nothing like slim budgets to nudge you towards the “moral imperative” of Linux), but the spirit is on target. Salon was actually running Windows NT with the absolutely dreadful Netscape 3.5 web server (yuck) when I arrived in the summer of ’98, and the tiny tech team needed all the inspiration we could muster to turn that around (and we did, as talked about on Slashdot, PC World, and Webmonkey). It was pretty easy to keep our spirits high when we could depend on Andrew to give us a break from our own hacking and regale us with the tales of his latest interviews.

I’m looking forward to more great stuff from Andrew — welcome to the blogosphere, my friend!

Bonus link: Andrew’s fine reporting on a condom patent lawsuit is definitely worth a read if you missed it the first time around.

2 thoughts on “How the world works

  1. I’d be a lot more interested in Andrew’s writing if he offered more than a one-liner in his RSS feed. I’m not sure I have found time to click through once so far, and I may delete the feed before I get to it.

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