"The structural forces oppressing the most marginalized Saudis in the streets and prisons, it turns out, do not wither in the presence of a 4G data connection. The most popular Saudi accounts on Twitter aren’t bold young entrepreneurs challenging the social order; they’re hardline preachers who tell those young people that they should be put to death if they lay with someone of the same sex. The people who want to punish sinners don’t end their pursuit of heresy once they log on. In fact, Saudi Arabia shows how easily the tools tech entrepreneurs imagine will liberate the world can be bent to the service of oppression of the vulnerable." Felix Biederman in Deadspin: Your App Isn't Helping the People of Saudi Arabia
Seeker.com: "Two Star Trek 'Tricorders' Have Made It to the Final Round of XPRIZE. This week, Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE officials announced that two teams of finalists have made it to the last round of the competition, having designed tricorder-style medical devices that are actually pretty space-age in look and function. Weighing in at less that five pounds each, the devices can diagnose and interpret 13 different health conditions within minutes, while continuously monitoring five different vital sign metrics." [more inside]
“The world is turning into this giant Skinner box for the self, The experience that is being designed for in banking or health care is the same as in Candy Crush. It’s about looping people into these flows of incentive and reward. Your coffee at Starbucks, your education software, your credit card, the meds you need for your diabetes. Every consumer interface is becoming like a slot machine.”
Today, someone or something sent a "test" email to NHS staff. Unfortunately to rather a lot of NHS staff - between 850,000 and 1.2 million. A few of whom sent reply-all responses. Chaos ensued, though it is unclear whether bananas were involved.
Engineers Create The First Dust-Sized Wireless Sensors That Can Be Implanted Into The Human Body. Relevant paper here.
ARM Holdings, the British microprocessor design company whose designs are in almost all mobile devices, is being acquired by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank for £24.3bn. [more inside]
interviewing.io is a platform where people can practice technical interviewing anonymously and find jobs based on their interview performance. Women historically haven’t performed as well as men—specifically, men were getting advanced to the next round 1.4 times more often than women, and had a 20% higher average technical score from interviewers. In an attempt to erase this difference, interviewing.io added voice modulation to their online interviews.
"Autism is seen like some sort of mental superpower where we can see math in the air. In my experience, this isn’t really the case." - Dispelling some myths about the autistic wunderkind programmer. Also: Why you might not want to get TOO excited about autism employment initiatives. Autism FAQ
Ten-year-old Eva writes a blog in French about things she does – such as triathlons – and learns – like the symbolism behind hopscotch (Le jeu de la marelle in French). She also writes about programming her fully open-source Thymio robot. She ran into some difficulty coding it, however, and with a usage goal in mind, she applied to the Paris Summer Innovation Fellowship, alongside urban designers, data scientists and hardware specialists. Her application was accepted. [more inside]
Airbnb has been accused of discrimination, as Black travelers find it difficult to book reservations under the popular hosting startup. To book on Airbnb, renters must provide real names and photographs. They have taken to Twitter to share their complaints under #AirbnbWhileBlack. Two tech startups try to address this problem with services called Noirbnb and Noirebnb. They might join forces and rename their company to Innclusive, which will connect welcoming hosts with travelers of color. Do you wish this service wasn't necessary in the first place?
Performers have had it with your shit: your phone is getting locked up.
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How to Raise the Next Mark Zuckerberg, 5 Signs Your Child Has What it Takes to be a Tech Entrepreneur, featuring advice such as "Teach children to work like a startup" from the former, and "[Your child is] obsessed with money" from the latter. [more inside]
At the Facebook F8 conference, Mark Zuckerberg announced that businesses would build chatbots on the Messenger platform, bringing the already strong hype around chatbots to a fever pitch. Chatbots, some argue, are the solution for all our problems. But are chatbots really the solution for everything? Or is it just an attempt to have a "next big thing" in order to generate more cash? [more inside]
Uncanny Valley. "Morale is down.. We are making plenty of money, but the office is teeming with salespeople: well-groomed social animals with good posture and dress shoes, men who chuckle and smooth their hair back when they can’t connect to our VPN. Their corner of the office is loud; their desks are scattered with freebies from other start-ups, stickers and koozies and flash drives. We escape for drinks and fret about our company culture. “Our culture is dying,” we say gravely, apocalyptic prophets all. “What should we do about the culture?”"
"Techies is a portrait project focused on sharing stories of tech employees in Silicon Valley. We cover subjects who tend to be underrepresented in the greater tech narrative. This includes (but is not limited to) women, people of color, folks over 50, LGBT, working parents, disabled, etc." [more inside]
If you're just waking up, you might not have noticed that Gmail rolled out Google Mic Drop overnight. This service adds a button to Gmail which allows you to "mic drop" out of a thread, complete with an appropriate Minion gif. Unfortunately it looks like Google didn't exactly think this through and may have lost some people their jobs. Google have since apologised and pulled the joke, a few hours after going live.
Kim-Mai Cutler: Nothing Like This Has Ever Happened Before - "San Francisco Bay Area poverty rates in all nine counties have increased in the last economic cycle, even with the Facebook and Twitter IPOs and private tech boom. The main transfer mechanism is land and housing costs, as rising rents and evictions push service and other low-wage workers to the brink. [Henry] George's solution was a single land tax that would replace all other government revenue sources. If an owner wanted to develop their property to make it more useful or productive, George argued that they should have the right to keep the value from those efforts. But increases in the value of underlying land were created by — and ultimately belonged to — the public at large." (previously: 1,2,3) [more inside]
The SFMTA is weighing an appeal that would dismantle the private commuter shuttle program, after the program was approved last November. Yesterday the board approved changes that would keep the program going for another year. [more inside]
Thousands of iPhone 6 users claim they have been left holding almost worthless phones because Apple’s latest operating system permanently disables the handset if it detects that a repair has been carried out by a non-Apple technician.
A Colleague Drank My Breast Milk And Other Wall Street Tales I kept the conversation light. I shared a funny story about my first day on Wall Street, when I opened up a pizza box to find condoms instead of pepperoni slices. Unwrapped. I was “the new girl,” and the guys just wanted to see me blush. I did blush, and I lived. “It’s not that bad anymore,” I said with a laugh. [more inside]
25 years ago, Paul M. Romer's oft-cited article: "Endogenous Technological Change" (pdf) was published in The Journal of Political Economy. In it, he tried to explain how technological progress and knowledge creation affected the dynamics of growth. Romer’s model (pdf) became the "primary engine that fueled a decade-long re-examination of long-term growth in economics." This past October, Dr. Romer posted 7 follow-up blog entries to his historic paper, in order to 'revisit the basics,' starting with: Nonrival Goods After 25 Years. [more inside]
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve seen the scooter before. It’s sort of a phenomenon.... It’s been on the Tonight Show, and showed up at the NBA Finals. Every time anyone uploads a video or picture of this scooter, the commenters all want to know two things: What’s that called, and where can I buy it? That’s where it gets weird.Wired digs into the world of generic segways without handlebars, often called hoverboards, while NPR's Planet Money comes to a similar conclusion, and actually digs inside one of the two-wheeled machines (bonus: not their take-apart, but someone else's), both finding the Hovertrax Kickstarter and related video from 2013.
"Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, said he planned to take two months of paternity leave after his daughter is born this year, amid a debate about work-life balance at technology companies." (NYT)
The Slow Demise of a Unicorn Everybody knows how the first tech boom went bust. But this time around, something's different. More than 100 tech start-ups are currently valued at more than $1 billion dollars, if you go by what VCs and other early investors have paid to buy ownership stakes. Unlike in the early 2000s, very few of today's unicorns have gone public, so there's no way to know what the market really thinks they're worth. Lately though, it seems like the hype train may be coming of the rails. So what happens to those companies now? The New York Times profiles Living Social to find out.
"We all know tech is excluding most people from participating. But one group is actually over represented. And we’ve been conspicuously silent." Metafilter's own Anil Dash asserts that "Asian American men who work in tech are benefitting from tech’s systematic exclusion of women and non-Asian minorities" and gives some recommendations about what they should do about it.
Amazon has posted (on Medium, natch) an aggressive response to the “everyone at Amazon is miserable but also paid well but also crying all the time” story in the New York Times [Previously]. This story and its aftermath represent a bit of a trap, particularly in discussions on Twitter: If you think the original story contained both valuable information and flaws, your default position is to go to bat for the Times; if you read this story as a portrait of a tough workplace written to cast it in the worst possible light, but acknowledge that it contained some worrying anecdotes, then your tendency will be to defend Amazon.
But these too reveal themselves as proxy positions. It’s not story versus story, or publication versus tech company. It’s media versus tech. [more inside]
But these too reveal themselves as proxy positions. It’s not story versus story, or publication versus tech company. It’s media versus tech. [more inside]
Bros Funding Bros: What's Wrong with Venture Capital. "What really matters is that we are in the midst of a technological renaissance that will be much farther reaching than any of us can predict if we invest correctly. Our generation has an opportunity, in our lifetime, to put a massive dent in human suffering and make trillions of dollars in return. ... We need a wake up call on Sand Hill Road. We need to recapture our potential and open the doors." [more inside]
"Hi, my name is Isis. I’m a full-stack engineer at OneLogin." When self-described introvert nerd Isis Anchalee agreed to appear in a "hastily planned and executed" ad campaign for her employers, she didn't expect the internet to decide she couldn't possibly be an engineer based on her looks. She was a model, some said. No "real" engineer would make such a "come-hither" face, some said. It was a transparent attempt to sex up the tech world, some said. Those marketers really screwed this one up, some said. [more inside]
Hacking the digital and social system: Voja Antonić on being a microcomputer enthusiast in Yugoslavia (via Hack A Day)
As the demand for tech labor grows, ambitious teenagers are flooding into San Francisco. There’s no official tally of the number of teens who work in tech, but Fontenot estimates that there are as many as a hundred recent high school dropouts working on startups in the city. Some were too distracted by programming projects and weekend hackathons to go to class. Others couldn’t pay for college and questioned why they should go into debt when there is easy money to be made. Still others had already launched successful apps or businesses and didn’t see why they should wait at home for their lives to start. In Facebook groups for young technologists, they saw an alternative: teens lounging in sunny Dolores Park (dolo, as they call it), teens leasing expansive South of Market office space, teens throwing parties whenever they want. And so they moved to San Francisco, many of them landing in houses like Mission Control. -- The Real Teens of Silicon Valley: Inside the almost-adult lives of the industry’s newest recruits
Bitcoin is unsustainable Bitcoin's power usage per transaction isn't remotely sustainable as a wholesale replacement for the conventional financial system. [more inside]
"Who wrote this amazing, mysterious book satirizing tech startup culture?" "A mysterious little book called Iterating Grace is floating around San Francisco right now. At least a dozen people have received the book in the mail—or in my case, by secret hand-delivery to my house. (Which is a little creepy.) The artifact itself consists of a 2,001-word story interspersed with hand-drawn recreations of tweets by venture capitalists and startup people like Chris Sacca, Paul Graham, Brad Feld, Sam Altman, and others. The story’s lead character, Koons Crooks, goes on a spiritual quest by contemplating the social media feeds emanating from the startup world. It leads him to a Bolivian volcano and a chillingly hilarious final act with some cans of cat food, a DIY conference badge, and a pack of vicuñas (which are sort of like llamas)."
"But the problem runs much deeper, because Silicon Valley’s amorality problem arises from the implicit and explicit narrative of progress companies use for marketing and that people use to find meaning in their work. By accepting this narrative of progress uncritically, imagining that technological change equals historic human betterment, many in Silicon Valley excuse themselves from moral reflection. Put simply, the progress narrative short-circuits moral reflection on the consequences of new technologies."
Get ready to have your insides disrupted by SmartPipe, the Venmo of pipes! (adult swim, 11:01)
"But the expansion of gaming generally is the expansion of slot machines specifically — the modern casino typically earns 70 to 80 percent of its revenue from slots, a stratospheric rise from the 1970s when slots comprised 50 percent or less. New York, the latest state to introduce gaming, doesn’t even allow table games, and Pennsylvania, now the third-largest gaming state in the country after Nevada and New Jersey, only later allowed table games in an amendment to its legislation. And increasingly, the psychological and technical systems originally built for slot machines — including reward schedules and tracking systems — have found admirers in Silicon Valley."
Love is the only motivating force, and while love can motivate some pretty awful things, it’s nonetheless impossible to do any good without it. I have no love left for my job or career. Tim Chevalier on tech as a coping mechanism and a place of toxicity and moral stagnation.
...And Crafted The Best Seed Portfolio Ever
But his track record is also flecked with broken friendships and hard feelings. While he keeps a relatively low media profile–this story marks the first time he’s cooperating for a major story–his big mouth, incessant name-dropping and blunt elbows cause eyes to roll. “He’s got a bit of a hero complex,” says a peer who knows him well. “He’s an amazing investor, but that’s not enough–he has to do this heroic stuff.” At Google he crashed every meeting he could and then wouldn’t shut up. Twitter eventually had to pass a rule, driven in part by Sacca, barring nonemployees from showing up at all-staff meetings. He and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, once close friends, now barely speak, despite Sacca’s major stake in the company.