“TNW: What inspired you to start the blog, and why did you pick Tumblr for it?
JQN: It all started with a stray comment that a professor of mine, Pierre Landry, made about how you can use Google Trends to actually see the effects of the Internet being turned off in Xinjiang, a province in China that has a lot of tension between the native, predominantly Muslim population and Chinese authorities. I was familiar with the story about how China basically threw the Internet kill switch over the entire region after riots there in July 2009, but to see it in such stark visual form triggered something inside me. I figured there must be other data out there that could be mined in similar fashion, so I concocted a scheme to test every word in China’s Wikipedia — which contains roughly 700,00 terms — to see which ones might be censored. I consulted an old friend of mine, Adam Saponara, to make sure the idea was feasible, and after he helped me nail the foundation down conceptually, I then locked myself in my room for a weekend, learning just enough Ruby to get by, and tinkered with this computer script until it worked. As for where to put the words I uncovered, Tumblr was a pretty obvious choice. Like most folks, I chose it for the sheer simplicity of use and the social aspect. I’ve used all sorts of other blog and content managers (I was one of those kids who was “blogging” on Geocities before blog was a word) and Tumblr is by far the most fun. Every once in a while I’ll butt up against some sort of limitation that’ll frustrate me, but I guess that’s the beauty, how simple it is.”