Monday, September 17, 2012



Ok, I didn't actually 'read' this book. I listened to it. Yep, my first audiobook experience, and I'm am still amazed at the guy who read me the book. He rambled on for 11 hours without once making a mistake, taking a sip of water, coughing, clearing his throat, falling asleep, sneezing...nothing. I barely make it through a chapter of Easy Read Level 1 while reading to my daughter at night without a couple of mistakes, a dry cough or two, and on some nights a thirty second nap.

Back to my audio experience: I've been listening to 'talk' radio for years now. I've flipped and flopped between bbcworldservice (for international news with a British twist) and cbcradio (for that Canadian experience). I'm accustomed to listening to informative documentaries while I type away doing 'work'. Listening to WikiLeaks was similar, just on a much bigger scale. Typical radio documentaries are only ten minutes, maybe fifteen at the most. WikiLeaks, by comparison, was 11 hours long! And, it was so good I was disappointed when it ended. Not only because it was interesting, but, because I was not expecting the end to come on disc 8. There are 10 discs in the container. The last two are readings of the appendix! Some appendix eh?!

The story was part Assange biography, part hacker handbook, and part open source manifesto.
If you have not paid any attention to international media in the past few years you may not have heard about all the drama surrounding WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Quick summary: Assange was a computer hacker who wanted to bring more openness to the world. His heroic idea would bring about public information actually being public. No more hidden government memos showing corruptions scandals. No more covered up human rights violations..stuff like that. He ended up creating the 'whistleblowing' website WikiLeaks. Some notable highlights include a trove of reports and videos from both the (second) Iraq war and the Afghanistan war, confirming torture and civilian killings...stuff like that. The peak is when the site gains access to a million US diplomatic memos, letters, reports, etc from all of the US embassies across the world. Most of the reports are just embarrassing stuff, like Diplomats making unflattering remarks about some dictator or some country's president. But, there were also more serious things on security, economies, China...stuff like that.
The book takes a look at everything with a microscope. Right from the beginning we are bombarded with wide ranging fact. Facts about Assange, his childhood, his Mother, his Father, the communities he lived was obvious the writers were very in depth reporters...but, this kind of all encompassing fact gathering mission worked well as the story progressed. Everything about Wikileaks was very complicated. You needed to know a bit about computer hacking culture, how encryption worked, how the US military stored information, a bit about international law, how internet servers worked, the politics of the Iraq war...a huge hodgepodge of things. That is why 11 hours did not seem to be enough time to leave me feeling satisfied that I knew the entire story.
I thought I had a general idea of the Wikileaks scandal from random news reports I'd heard over the past year or two. I knew that Assange was, right now, holed up in the Guatemalan or Ecuadorian embassy in the UK, still fighting extradition charges from the accused rape charges. But, as it turns out, I did not know 1/100th of the story. This book really brought it all together, made the whole Assange and Wikileaks connection make sense. Made the conspiracy theories about the US wanting to extradite Assange and lock him up in Cuba actually believable. After reading this book I feel like an educated world citizen, with a valid opinion on this headlining news story. What a great feeling.

I did really enjoy listening to this book, however, I think it might have been a little easier to follow all the technical explanations and short form codes if I were reading the book. There is a lot of jargon; a lot of explanations on how hackers can use FTP portals and PFP encryption. There were a lot of shortforms used for people, places, file names. It got a bit overwhelming, especially since I was multitasking.


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