John Budlong Ottman Jr. is a Big Red Buzzard and proud of it. ‘Big Red’ is the official mascot of Denison University, recognized by American Scientist magazine as a national leader in undergraduate research, and the buzzard is the unofficial image as buzzard hawks are constantly circling the grounds. Some say it is because the landscape lends well to buzzard hawk habitat and some say it is because of the mountain of compost piled behind the school headquarters. Opinions change depending on which way the wind is blowing. In many ways John’s life began when he graduated from Denison in 1980, as that was where he would meet his future wife and mother of his children. It can also be the place where his life could end because as of today there are still 300 vacancies in the on-campus cemetery.
I caught John Ottman as he was waiting for an Uber in between meetings at some rustic bar drinking a Mott the Lesser and staring at his cell phone. I’ll never be certain but for the first 10 minutes I think he thought I was someone else as he rarely glanced away from the screen. To first listen to him speak one might ask themselves, ‘how did this surfer accomplish so much?’ but the more he speaks the clearer it becomes he is the smartest one in the room. At least smarter than the guy who was table dancing, taking off his shirt and singing ‘Peggy O’ loudly, who looked oddly familiar. With his considerate demeanor and bushy eyebrows, John Ottman seems like one of the nicest people you could ever want to meet.
Q: Most fathers build tree houses or soapbox derby racers with their sons, you and yours are changing the face of the social media landscape. Are you trying to make the rest of us look bad?
JO: “We have a vacation place in Maine, and one summer I built an awesome tree house for the kids. It was quite something, I thought. The kids climbed up and said, ‘Nice tree house Dad,’ and never really ever went back again. So, this time with Minds, they are out in front."
John Ottman had a life before Minds being a man of peculiar stock with some large shoes to fill. John Sr. served to Captain in United States Army Air Force (1943-1946) and was a member New York Society Security Analysts. Having a Bachelors at Yale University, doing his postgraduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and finally getting his Master of Business Administration at Harvard, John Ottman Sr. was an apparent genius. So, it would be no surprise than John Jr. would shred his own path through the information age to eventually help create a platform for millions of channels that continues to grow 10% monthly.
Q: Every channel created owes its life to you making you the metaphoric Grandfather of Minds. What is that like and since we are all your children is there a schedule for who gets to use the beach house?
JO: “I am not a grandfather, yet! But, the Minds community does feel like a family to me. There is huge energy. Everyone on the team, and especially me, feels that energy, and feeds on it. It keeps us going especially during the rough spots, and we are grateful. When you first build it, you are not certain they will come. Now, it is quite humbling, really.”
The energy that Minds is building has sent ripples throughout the internet with many popular content creators having already made the great migration early. With the massive demonetization of many YouTube accounts, not to mention the likes of Twitter, Patreon and facebook suspending accounts at whim, there was no safe space saved for free speech. Still, setting up something as revolutionary as Minds is never as simple as it sounds. Between juggling the laws of the host and satellite countries where they want to do business, Minds also must be comfortable with making some interesting bedfellows.
Q: Because of your free-speech policies, the Minds social network attracts some great talent and incredible content creators. It also attracts bigoted, racist, Islamophobic, pedophile, homophobes, trying to use the site to coordinate more than panty raids. With the rise of the nanny state and mas-hysteria around hate-speech legislation, how do you think the Rangers are looking for this October?
JO: “Again, I have to use another great quote, this one from the author Evelyn Beatrice Hall: 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.' We are not left or right here, but Minds will lead in the fight for freedom. The political divide strategy of Antifa, white supremacy and Nazism disgusts me and those behind the assault are a disgrace to our great country. Nothing would make me happier than for Minds to bring unity to America through freedom and liberty.”
JO: “Re the RANGERS... slam dunk to go all the way this year. Lundqvist will make it happen before he retires.”
If Minds wants to be made available to people in certain countries they will have to abide by the laws of those countries if they want their information accessible on those countries servers. The chances of Minds being made available in Iran is slim but not out of the question. If Minds could find a way for users to access content via torrent or user access to cloud services they might be able to circumvent the laws of other countries but so long as Minds operates in the US they will have to abide by US law regarding what they can broadcast on the platform.
Q: Can we collectively buy a sovereign Island on which to house Minds servers and why isn’t this being crowdfunded right now?
JO: “One thing at a time my good man, but we do feel urgency in this regard. Probably clever technology will solve this problem versus a sovereign island. We think about this a lot.”
The executives certainly have a lot on their minds. Taking on the juggernauts of Google and facebook is no task for the faint of heart and the landscape continues to be blanketed with the bloated corpses of those who have tried. In the wake of overwhelming censorship data is gold, but managing the amount of data it takes to operate a worldwide internet phenomenon is herculean. If anyone is capable of it it’s the man who literally wrote the book on data security with ‘Save the Database, Save the World.’
Q: You’ve already been a big deal in the information industry having a stellar career with Oracle, and IBM, even Captaining your own company, Application Security, through the database wars. You could be spending your days surfing, skiing, watching professional football and hockey, spending time with your family or out hiking with your dogs. Instead, you decided it was a good thing to spend your free time engaging in what essentially amounts to dealing with over a million bratty teenagers constantly asking for a raise in their allowance. Why?
JO: “A young man's vision, and I have never been more inspired.”
That inspiration from a vision shared by now millions of channels is fostering more than a social network; the drive from that fuel is drawing the vision of worldwide free speech quickly toward us from a distant horizon. Western civilization has much we take for granted and the ability to speak our minds is among the most precious. When there is no option for discussion there is no understanding, which is why there could be no better logo for the platform than the light bulb. Everywhere Minds is available, anyone can let their light shine to fight the increasing darkness of group-think and propaganda. In a world where ideas are dangerous, the Minds social network is a loaded weapon.
Q: Are you worried that there will come a day when Al Gore will kick you off his Internet?
JO: “I keep searching for leadership in Washington regarding the Internet, and so far there is none. In this day and age it is unacceptable for a political leader to be ignorant on technology and the Internet.”
Time for Bigby’s Big 3, the same 3 questions I ask every one with the good sense or lack thereof to appear on this channel. These questions were created by top scientitions to uncover every hidden aspect of a person’s personality.
Q: What is your secret guilty pleasure?
JO: “Mini Dove Bars”
Q: If you could kill one person, present or historic, without consequences who would it be?
JO: “Only in defense of family or country.”
Q: When will the government disclose that Jerry Garcia was in fact an emissary from an alien race deported back to his home world for exposing the idea of time travel using frequency and vibration?
JO: “Not till they ‘wake up and find out that we are the eyes of the world.’"
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