In Eric Ries’ new book, he tells companies to turn every unit into a cash-strapped ‘startup’

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All companies are startups until they aren’t. Many struggle to find their way back, too. It’s not the days of constrained resources or terrible pay or the heart-stopping uncertainty that they’re missing, of course. Instead, the problem is that it’s a lot harder to implement change at an “established” organization, particularly one that’s making money. Yet the smartest companies know change is crucial. As journalist Alan Deutschman wrote a dozen years ago, including in a book of the same title: “Change or die.”

Because that’s easier said than done, CEOs are always seeking out new ideas. Enter the brand-new book of engineer and entrepreneur Eric Ries, whose last tome, The Lean Startup, became an instant best-seller when it was first published in 2011.

In his latest effort, The Startup Way, Ries says the way to stay on top can be traced to two things: treating employees like customers, and treating business units like startups — replete with their own constrained budgets, and even their own boards. Ries offers fairly concrete suggestions regarding how to implement both, too. “A lot of people write manifestos and basically say, ‘Do what I say,’” says Ries. “I try to get away from that. The details matter a lot.”

We caught up with Ries earlier today to learn more about the book, which will be available to buy beginning Tuesday.

TC: You established a name for yourself with The Lean Startup, which basically told founders to get a minimally viable product into the market, then fix it. Can founders still do that in an age where big companies are getting bigger and moving faster to either copy products, or else acquire their teams?

ER:  People said that years ago about Microsoft, too, that it was going to dominate the internet with its monopoly power. Disruption still brings new power players to the fore. But today, because Facebook and Amazon and Google are so good at what they do, startups do need to up their game. There was a time when you had one innovation that you could ride for decades. That’s over. Continuous reinvention is crucial now. Otherwise, you’re toast.

TC: What about the giant financing rounds of today, even at the seed stage — do they signal the death of the so-called lean startup? 

ER: “Lean” never referred to the size of a round. It’s about lean manufacturing and using resources more effectively. Also, huge rounds are really for the privileged few. I’m in Columbus right now, and [local startups] aren’t experiencing the jumbo seed round.

I will say that one commonality that Silicon Valley has with corporate innovation is that we often overfund things, which can be just as lethal as underfunding them.

TC: How did you move from advocating for lean startups to writing this new book? 

ER: When a lot of small early founders heard about the lean startup, they were excited about minimal viable products and about pivoting and learning, but they didn’t pay close attention to more boring parts like management and the need to do continuous innovation. In some cases, as these companies passed 100 employees, or even 1,000, they’d ask me to come help teach lean startups to people who work for them. You go from the person who is making innovation decisions, to supporting entrepreneurs who work for you, and they might not be as good as you or you’d be working for them.

These were my friends and I was happy to help them. At the same time, big companies were asking how they could recapture their innovative DNA and I realized how similar these issues are and thought it was worth exploring.

TC: Obviously, the need to innovate continuously isn’t a new concept. How is your advice to companies different? Is this about pulling in opinions and ideas from a more diverse group of people, either internally or externally?

ER: I’m a big believer in that thesis — diversity. But in this book, I tend to focus on structural changes: who gets promoted, how we make product decisions, the general accountability layer of a company. [In other words] how do you figure out who is doing a good job and who isn’t? Because there’s a lot of B.S. at the higher levels otherwise that distorts the decisions that are made and consequently makes it hard to attract top talent.

TC: Give us some concrete examples. Who in Silicon Valley was doing this wrong and figured it out?

ER: I talk in the book about Twilio and Dropbox and Airbnb; they all had to go through a metamorphosis to empower their internal innovators.

Dropbox, for example, had some failures and was willing to admit that some products didn’t work. Some of its product development was happening internally and some externally, but it doesn’t matter if you plant in the wrong soil. But it has since developed a much better process that looks closer to entrepreneurship.

TC: By doing what differently?

ER: You first have to look at whether you’re treating the people who work for you like entrepreneurs or something different; if you’re expecting your product managers to achieve instantaneous success, that’s not [the standard] to which you were held in the early stages of your company.

Along the same lines, if you aren’t [giving teams] clear, metered funding, how are they going to have that scarcity? It’s that mindset, that hunger, that let’s you say “no,” [to delaying product launches]. [Companies have to fight] that entitlement funding because the more money you have, the less you want to expose yourself to risk.

TC: Interesting idea. How else do you recommend that companies treat their teams like startups?

ER: We also talk about creating a growth board.

Right now, most corporate employees exist in a matrix management structure, reporting to different people and having lots of different managers who have veto power over what they do. But each time a middle manager checks in, he or she exerts a gravitation influence, and most product mangers who I meet with say they spend 50 percent of their time defending their existing budget against middle manager inquiries. That’s a massive tax on most product teams.

So we treat [these units] like a startup and create a board of [say] five execs who they report to infrequently. That way, if any middle manager has a concern, [the head of that unit] can say, “Talk to the board.”  It’s like at [ venture firm] Andreessen Horowitz. It has something like 150 employees [yet] not every person who works there gets to call a portfolio company founder. Not every limited partner who has invested in Andreessen Horowitz gets to call its founders. There are well-defined processes in place so that founders [aren’t fielding calls all day.]

TC: Of course, the downside to that is that VCs often don’t know when things go off the rails at startups. How do you convince executives that they aren’t running that risk by giving these teams so much autonomy?

ER: It only works if you do limited liability experiments. Often asking, “What’s the worst that could happen?” is like a death sentence, but you have to think through the possible downsides to mitigate them. So you only let 100 people buy the product [at the outset] and add in extra provisions and securities to ensure they have a great experience and you’re smart about the liabilities.

TC: Say that works. What happens to the already oft-maligned middle managers of the world? 

ER: There haven’t been any layoffs at the companies I’ve worked with. Companies still have to run their core business; there’s plenty for [middle managers to do] Most are horrifically overworked. Others become reborn as entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial coaches. Intuit and GE have a whole program for coaching and mentoring, and that becomes part of [managers’] job description.

This all culminates in preparing a new org chart, one that treats entrepreneurship like a corporate function that’s owned and managed. Right now, if you ask [many executives], “Who is in charge of the next big innovation,” they’ll sometimes say that everyone is in charge of it. Can you imagine if they said that everyone is in charge of marketing or finance or HR? Entrepreneurship is no different. Someone should have operational responsibility for it.

TC: Do you run into much resistance when you talk with CEOs about empowering employees in this way? It’s easy to imagine that some feel threatened, even as they know their companies need to keep innovating.

ER: What distinguishes really good CEOs is that they care about their legacy, and they’re committed to the long-term health of their organization.

But you’re right. Most CEO are not serious about change because it requires senior managers to change their behavior. You know how corporate bosses can be. This is not always a very welcome method. I’ve been kicked out of plenty of boardrooms.

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Tesla has fired hundreds of employees after performance reviews

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Tesla fired hundreds of employees following what the company said is an annual performance review process, the company told TechCrunch. The news was first reported by The Mercury News.

“Like all companies, Tesla conducts an annual performance review during which a manager and employee discuss the results that were achieved, as well as how those results were achieved, during the performance period,” a Tesla spokesperson said. “This includes both constructive feedback and recognition of top performers with additional compensation and equity awards, as well as promotions in many cases. As with any company, especially one of over 33,000 employees, performance reviews also occasionally result in employee departures. Tesla is continuing to grow and hire new employees around the world.”

The company is not disclosing how many employees were let go as part of the process, though The Mercury News suggests that the number is between 400 and 700 employees.

Tesla will be reporting its earnings in the next few weeks along with a whole suite of other companies. But on the year, Tesla’s stock has continued to see an incredible run, especially following up on its most recent quarterly earnings report. The company said there was a further increase in Model S orders following the Model 3 handover event, prompting an additional amount of enthusiasm for the company.

During that report, Tesla also said it saw 1,800 Model 3 reservations per day following the handover event. But since then there’s been quite a bit of news, including a voluntary recall yesterday of 11,000 Model X vehicles. Earlier this month Tesla said it produced 260 Model 3 vehicles in Q3. CEO Elon Musk has said before that the company is entering “production hell,” a phrase that has been thrown around quite since then.

There’s going to still be a huge ramp-up period for the company for the Model 3. Tesla clearly has an enormous waiting list for the Model 3 and has said it wants to hit a run rate of 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week by end of year, and achieve a 10,000 Model 3 per week clip at some point next year. This quarter, including the Model 3, Tesla produced 25,336 vehicles, the vast majority of which were Model S and X vehicles. The company also hopes to hit a run rate of producing 500,000 vehicles per year by the end of 2018

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Smart cities are boring. Give us responsive cities.

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As an urban technologist, I’m often asked to give an example of a compelling smart city application that real people are using. But to be honest, there really isn’t too much to point to – yet. Cities may be getting smarter, but they haven’t noticeably changed from a user perspective.

It seems like most of the digital advances in cities have been invisible and focused on city operations, rather than on the parts of the city that people can see, touch, and use. Sure, it’s important that city managers can better identify water leaks, or more accurately predict the likelihood of a building failing an inspection, but there isn’t a direct, personal, benefit to city dwellers. So it’s understandable that some people feel like there hasn’t been much progress.

The reason that we, as city dwellers, haven’t been wowed by transformative Smart City applications is that Smart Cities are boring. It’s the same reason people’s faces don’t light up at the thought of a data warehouse (ok, settle down, nerds). Smart Cities are just a means to an end; a step along the road to truly digital cities.

In order to evolve into a city that fully realizes the potential of the internet, delivering real, tangible benefits to its inhabitants, cities will go through three phases: 1) They first need to collect data about their environment, 2) They need to process that data, and finally, 3) They need to take corresponding real-time action. My shorthand is: See, Think, Do.

See – The Instrumented City

For the last couple decades, we’ve been living in an Instrumented City. Sensors upon sensors upon sensors – everything’s got a sensor, from the front door to your office to the bikeshare dock, to the traffic light on the corner. Everything is being quantified, and this is the foundation of any future city developments. In order to change something, you need to first be able to measure it.<

Think – The Smart City

So what do we do with this data? This is where companies like IBM, GE, and AT&T have been focusing their efforts over the past few years. In the Smart City, insights are derived from the data generated in the Instrumented City. This is done using data platforms, algorithms, and data science, and allows us to not only understand what we measured, but also why it matters.

We can start building correlations and causations, creating models to predict and test human behavior, and gaining insights into why things happened and how change might be affected. AI will start to play a larger role in analyzing massive amount of data and developing understanding of what’s happening in the city. But it’s all fairly “back-office” at this point. Think of it as the internet before everyone had email, or web 1.0 sites. Yeah, it’s important and it’s changing how the world works, but why should I care? What can I do?

Do – The Responsive City

Now, this is where things get interesting, when things start to actually happen, and where people will notice and feel the difference. It’s the stage with the most opportunity for development and new products. The Responsive City is one that, as the name suggests, responds to the needs, wants, and desires of its citizens; whether they’re workers, residents, or visitors. All this is done in real time, and it’s active and rich with applications.

Building upon the data generated in the Instrumented City and the insights developed in the Smart City, The Responsive City is like an app layer on top of hardware, data, and base services.

In cities, these apps will be focused on manipulating infrastructure or influencing behavior to dynamically optimize the city for any number of outcomes; safety, convenience, efficiency – but also discovery, joy, community. All of this helps support what makes cities great in the first place – engaged citizens of diverse backgrounds sharing a common space in time.

This all relies on digital, controllable, infrastructure, and that’s coming quickly. Uber and Lyft are examples of connected cars that preposition themselves based on anticipated transportation needs.

Digital screens and dynamic street furniture are early examples of responsive infrastructure as well – with the potential to act like an Augmented Reality layer for the city, these products superimpose real-time information over the streetscape to inform or influence the population, and to help them in any number of ways; citizens can better move through the city, explore all that the city has to offer, and be alerted to emergencies in real time, to take just a few examples.

Cities are ready for this transformation. With digital infrastructure, automation, and machine learning comes the ability to predictively respond to demands and optimize outcomes for millions of people at once.

Today, we have a massive opportunity for city managers, social activists, and entrepreneurs to create new economic opportunities, reshape behaviors, and repurpose our resources to truly redefine the modern city. The infrastructure needed for this revolution is beginning to fall into place, but how do cities ultimately arrive at this final stage of responsiveness?

To pave the way for effective responsive cities, cities need to:

Partner on Resources, Access, and Outcomes

We need to toss out our preconceived notions of what’s possible in cities and start with the desired outcomes. City managers need to identify untapped resources or infrastructure in need of reinvention and then make it easy to partner and collaborate with the private sector. Public-private partnerships ought to be aligned on mutually beneficial outcomes, like universal access to resources for people of all abilities, and not fixate on a particular solution, or prescribed procurements.

Understand Groups of People and Influencing Their Behaviors

A responsive city is reflective of the humans in it. The internet has shown us a glimpse of what’s possible with personalization – recommending videos or products or friends to you. A single person. But city experiences are inherently one-to-many. 50 people look up at a sign, and they experience it together, with 50 different backgrounds and maybe as many individual objectives. This opens up an interesting field of study: understanding groups of people and how they respond to real-time changes in their environment.

Whether it’s something like dynamic road closures for on-demand pedestrian plazas, or directing people with different mobility needs to the fastest route for an event, or helping them discover a new business that just opened; balancing people’s needs with the city’s -in real time- will be an exciting new area for exploration, blending Urban Planning with User Experience Design and Behavioral Science.

Make it Real-Time

Becoming a responsive city isn’t a static objective, it’s a constantly moving target. We need to think past fixed, single-purpose infrastructure and focus on dynamic, real-time digital infrastructure that can change as people and cities change. The focus should be not only staying relevant over years as cities change on the macro scale, but staying relevant from moment to moment, from the morning commute to lunch.

Cloud network servers concepts

 

The internet has changed everything we do – how we live, work, and play, all through access to information, and communication with each other. But it hasn’t always lived up to its transformative potential. We’ve seen it create isolation and siloed groups that breed intolerance.

And cities can be stale and inflexible – designed by people who died long before today’s inhabitants were even born, and where change is measured in decade planning exercises. Cities are rarely representative of the actual people using, working, and living in them.

But now, as the internet makes its way into cities, we have an opportunity to make the internet more human, and cities more dynamic.

We can build true community experiences where people of different cultures and backgrounds and abilities share digital interactions with one another as well as their city. We have the ability to shape our environment and share information in real time to better connect people with each other, and with resources. We have an opportunity to build an inclusive digital urban experience, and that starts with a responsive city.

Featured Image: Prasit photo/Getty Images

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Bringing influencer marketing to small businesses, Unity Influence raises $1 million

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Influencer marketing is the “in” thing right now that all the hip brands are using to stay relevant with their even hipper young audiences.

While it used to be the province of big brands cutting big deals with big influencers, there’s a second or third tier to the influencer market — one that’s more targeted to specific niches — and one that’s been hard for small and medium-sized businesses to crack.

Well, Unity Influence believes it has a low-cost, machine-learning-enabled solution to connect these micro-influencers with the small businesses who want to use their targeted reach for marketing purposes … and open up a new category to the benefits of influencer pitches. And the company just launched from its private beta to take on new customers.

The company, currently working out of offices in South San Francisco and Los Angeles, was founded by Jacobo Lumbreras, who previously worked for the employee assessment service Yoi Corp., and Patrick Ip, who previously ran small and medium-sized business retention for Google’s AdWords business.

The two men are members of the Kairos Society, and first met at StartingBloc, a fellowship and training program for social entrepreneurs.

Both had been mulling how to build an influencer marketing engine that would be more accessible to small businesses… and arguably more successful than the standard AdWords campaigns and Facebook ads that are the typical ways that small businesses drive traffic online.

Despite the lack of transparency or data on the efficacy of influencer marketing, Ip and Lumbreras see an opportunity to expand the existing market and bring some technological efficiency to the process.

That’s not to say there aren’t already companies trying to carve out space. Companies like Nuvi, SocialToaster, Izea, Scrunch, and Babblebox all tout influencer marketing solutions.

Brands spent around $570 million on influencer marketing, according to an eMarketer survey cited by Digiday. The same article broke down some other numbers and found the price range per post for influencers with between 500,000 and 1 million followers falls between $5,000 and $10,000.

What Lumbreras and Ip say they offer is a system that is more automated than their competitors, which the two said act more like traditional advertising agency shops.

Most startups in the influencer advertising world require manual searches for influencers and manual approval of contracts. That creates additional costs and friction in the buying process, that Ip argues Unity alleviates.

“At Google I worked on advertiser retention. And one of the things we wrestled with was high churn with small business customers,” Ip said.

The lesson was to make the process as simple as possible. So the company has users fill out a single form for the business they’re in and the types of audience they want to reach. Unity dos the rest and charges only $200 for a campaign.

“For us, our focus is on what we call micro-influencers,” said Ip. “If you get a big influencer their engagement rate is 2% to 3%. With micro-influencers it’s 6% and for our power users it’s 10% to 12%.”

The influencer marketing world will only gain ground, according to Ip, because organic reach is “getting killed”.

For the company, the categories that are most active right now are food and fitness. Brands in each category are always looking to find new ways to reach an audience and gain that critical first foothold in their market. Often, an influencer endorsement can help.

The argument was strong enough to attract 9 angel investors to back the company, including

“We’re trying to build this third way,” between native advertising and traditional targeting, says Ip. “We’re trying to do human advertising and human content, but do it at internet scale.”

Featured Image: Sonia Martinez / EyeEm/Getty Images

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Apple diversity head Denise Young Smith apologizes for controversial choice of words at summit

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Apple’s Denise Young Smith sent an apology to team members at Apple today over comments she made at the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia.

Last week, while attending a summit in Bogota, I made some comments as part of a conversation on the many factors that contribute to diversity and inclusion….I regret the choice of words I used to make this point,” said Smith in the memo.

As the company’s Vice President of Inclusion and Diversity, Smith has been the tip of Apple’s D&I spear during an era of increasing pressure on big tech companies to improve their inclusiveness. Smith came under fire from diversity advocates and commentators over a specific statement she made during a panel she was on alongside activist DeRay Mckesson and Michael Hastings, which was moderated by Aamna Mohdin of Quartz.

TechCrunch obtained Smith’s email to her team, which reads as follows:

Colleagues,

I have always been proud to work for Apple in large part because of our steadfast commitment to creating an inclusive culture. We are also committed to having the most diverse workforce and our work in this area has never been more important. In fact, I have dedicated my twenty years at Apple to fostering and promoting opportunity and access for women, people of color and the underserved and unheard. 

Last week, while attending a summit in Bogota, I made some comments as part of a conversation on the many factors that contribute to diversity and inclusion. 

I regret the choice of words I used to make this point. I understand why some people took offense. My comments were not representative of how I think about diversity or how Apple sees it. For that, I’m sorry. 

More importantly, I want to assure you Apple’s view and our dedication to diversity has not changed.  

Understanding that diversity includes women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and all underrepresented minorities is at the heart of our work to create an environment that is inclusive of everyone. 

Our commitment at Apple to increasing racial and gender diversity is as strong as it’s ever been. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, but there is much work to be done. I’m continually reminded of the importance of talking about these issues and learning from each other. 

Best,

Denise

The focus of the blowback was a segment of Smith’s panel that came as a follow on discussion related to an earlier question about whether black women were a priority for her in her role. Because a lot of the resulting discussion on the web has been based on snippets of the conversation, I’ll present a chunk of the dialog here, to give more context. I’ll bold the bit that seems to have caused the most controversy.

Aamna Mohdin: I wanted to touch on something that you said, Denise, that it’s not only just about numbers in Silicon Valley, but you’ve taken on a new role in Apple for inclusion and diversity, and a lot of that is going to be about the numbers. And I just kind of wanted to know whether black women is a priority for you in this new role? 

Denise Young Smith: I’ll say this. So first of all, it’s a new role, but it’s not. I’ve been black and a woman for a long time…I have been doing this work, I have been playing this role for a very long time. I have been a first, I’ve been an only, when I was at the same conference that I just referenced, there were numbers and numbers of black women together — successful, professional, astonishing black women, and we were sharing stories and every single one of us could share the same stories about being in a room, in a meeting and someone would assume you were the assistant, the secretary, that you were not the manager, you were not the boss and that your staff person that was three levels below you was your boss. We all shared those stories.

Denise Young Smith: Aamna, you also asked me about my work at Apple, or in particular, who do I focus on? I focus on everyone. Diversity is the human experience. I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color or the women or the LGBT or whatever because that means they’re carrying that around…because that means that we are carrying that around on our foreheads.

And I’ve often told people a story– there can be 12 white blue-eyed blonde men in a room and they are going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation. The issue is representation and mix and bringing all the voices into the room that can contribute to the outcome of any situation. So I focus on everyone, but I also focus on allies and alliances because to DeRay’s point, there’s an incredible amount of power in those who have platforms or those who have the benefit of greater representation to tell the stories of those who do not. So whenever we can accomplish that, then that is a win for everyone. And I think that is something that people, that we all tend to… particularly those who protest things that we are fearful about, we can all win in this story, and so that’s what I try to focus on at Apple.

The phrasing is very poor. On the face of it the meaning is that there really is no need to look beyond any sort of seeming homogeneity within Silicon Valley’s tech workforce (which is mostly white and overwhelmingly male). Instead, the phrase appears to allow for Apple to make diversity and inclusion hiring decisions based solely on diversity of thought. There’s nothing inherently wrong with diverse thinking, but treating it with primary importance eliminates the many benefits of a racial-and-gender-diverse workforce and many see it as, frankly, a complete cop-out in trying to solve a very real problem. 

“Diversity of thought” has long been a lever used by critics of the concept of D&I work to push back against meaningful diversity efforts. Already this week, some critics of the concept of inclusive diversity work (racists, men who believe they are inherently superior, etc) were pointing at Smith’s comments with an air of smugness — likely not her intended effect.

The thrust of Smith’s email is that she realizes the mistake in using this example, and just how damaging it could be to the perception of Apple’s D&I work. Apple’s overall numbers – 9% black, 12% Hispanic, 19% Asian and 56% white, are still poor. The picture gets slightly dimmer yet when you consider that the majority of those non-white employees are in Apple’s retail workforce, and are not employed in technical or leadership positions. Even so, Apple is among the top performers in tech overall — which shows you how rough the situation still is — and is gaining slowly.

Smith has been at Apple a long time, and was promoted first by Steve Jobs to a position leading Retail HR and then again by CEO Tim Cook earlier this year to be the company’s first VP of Diversity and Inclusion. Smith also pioneered Apple’s partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College fund, which supports students enrolled in HBCUs with $40M in funding to foster and hire students coming from these colleges.

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Twitter CEO Dorsey promises more aggressive posting rules

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took to…Twitter today to promise a “more aggressive” stance in its rules and how it enforces them. The tweet storm was based in a response to the #WomenBoycottTwitter protest, as well as work that Dorsey says Twitter has been working ‘intensely’ on over the past few months. Dorsey says that critical decisions were made today in how to go about preventing the rampant and vicious harassment many women, minorities and other users undergo daily on the platform.

“We decided to take a more aggressive stance in our rules and how we enforce them,” Dorsey says. “New rules around: unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups, and tweets that glorifies violence. These changes will start rolling out in the next few weeks. More to share next week.”

We’ll keep in touch with Twitter to see what the rule changes might be. 

Here’s what Jack said on Twitter:

We see voices being silenced on Twitter every day. We’ve been working to counteract this for the past 2 years. We prioritized this in 2016. We updated our policies and increased the size of our teams. It wasn’t enough.

In 2017 we made it our top priority and made a lot of progress. Today we saw voices silencing themselves and voices speaking out because we’re *still* not doing enough.

We’ve been working intensely over the past few months and focused today on making some critical decisions. We decided to take a more aggressive stance in our rules and how we enforce them. New rules around: unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups, and tweets that glorifies violence. These changes will start rolling out in the next few weeks. More to share next week.

The very first response, of course?

This component deals directly with Twitter, but I encourage you to read the whole thing.

But I actually got off easy, then. Most of the master trolls weren’t active on Twitter in 2007. Today, they, along with their friends, fans, followers, and a zoo of anonymous sock puppet accounts are. The time from troll-has-an-idea to troll-mobilizes-brutal-assault has shrunk from weeks to minutes. Twitter, for all its good, is a hate amplifier. Twitter boosts signal power with head-snapping speed and strength. Today, Twitter (and this isn’t a complaint about Twitter, it’s about what Twitter enables) is the troll’s best weapon for attacking you. And by “you”, I mean “you the server of Koolaid.” You who must be stopped.

It begins with simple threats. You know, rape, dismemberment, the usual. It’s a good place to start, those threats, because you might simply vanish once those threats include your family. Mission accomplished. But today, many women online — you women who are far braver than I am — you stick around. And now, since you stuck around through the first wave of threats, you are now a much BIGGER problem. Because the Worst Possible Thing has happened: as a result of those attacks, you are NOW serving Victim-Flavored Koolaid.

And Victim-Flavored Koolaid is the most dangerous substance on earth, apparently. And that just can’t be allowed.

In recent years women of color have become increasingly high value targets for trolls on Twitter, with Leslie Jones leaving briefly after harassment and private images were hurled at her in a veritable digital stoning.

Twitter has talked tough on abuse before, many times, and its failures were well documented in this piece last year by Charlie Warzel. Hopefully Twitter uses a combination of the tools it already has in place to limit hate speech in countries which forbid it by law and new attitudes about what constitutes abuse to actually make some headway this time.

Featured Image: Photographer: Yana Paskova/Bloomberg via Getty Images/Getty Images

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Crunch Report | Steve Wozniak Launches Education Platform

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Steve Wozniak launches a new education platform, “Woz U,” Fandango acquires MovieTickets.com and Baidu plans to make lots of autonomous cars in 2021. All this on Crunch Report. Read More



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pi-top outs a new laptop for budding coders and hardware hackers

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U.K. edtech startup pi-top has a new learn-to-code-and-tinker machine. It’s another modular Raspberry Pi-powered laptop but this time they’ve reduced the number of steps needed to put it together, as well as adding a slider keyboard design so the Qwerty panel can be pulled out to provide access to a rail for mounting and tinkering with electronics.

It’s a neat combination of the original pi-top laptop concept and the lower cost pi-topCeed desktop which has a rail below the screen where add-on electronics can also be attached. (The $150 price-tag on the latter device has made it a popular options for schools and code clubs wanting kit for STEM purposes, according to the startup.)

The new pi-top laptop is pi-top’s most expensive edtech device yet; priced at $319 with a Raspberry Pi 3 (or $284.99 without).

But it comes bundled with what the startup is calling an “inventor’s kit” — essentially a pre-picked selection of electronics components to enable a range of hardware DIY projects. Projects it says can be built using this kit include a music synth and the robot (pictured above).

It also says its software includes step-by-step guides describing “dozens of invention pathways” for tinkering and building stuff using the components in the inventor’s kit.

 

The laptop itself has a 14 inch 1080p LCD color display; comes with an 8GB SD card for storage (and built-in cloud management for additional storage and remote access to data); and battery life that’s slated as good for 8 hours+ use.

As well as tinkerable electronics, the team develops their own OS (called Pi-TopOS Polaris), running on the Raspberry Pi engine powering the hardware, as well as learn to code software and STEM-focused games (such as a Civilization-style MMORPG called CEEDUniverse).

Another UK startup, Kano, plays in a similar space — and has just announced its own learn to code ‘laptop’. However pi-top’s device looks considerably more sophisticated, both in terms of tinkering possibilities and software capabilities. (Though the Kano kit is priced a little cheaper, at $250.)

The pi-top laptop’s bundled software suite not only supports web browsing but the startup says there’s access to a full Microsoft Office compatible work suite. And it touts its learning software suite being the only one so far to be endorsed by the Oxford Cambridge RSA Review Board, chalking up another STEM credential.

Just under a year ago the London-based startup closed a $4.3M Series A funding round to push their STEM platform globally.

They now say their hardware platform is used in more than 1,500 schools around the world — which is up from more than 500 just under a year ago. While the team now ships devices to more than 80 countries.

“pi-top’s mission is to provide powerful, inspiring products that bring science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics to life,” said CEO Jesse Lozano, commenting in a statement. “Our newest-generation of modular laptops helps achieve that goal. Now, anyone from young musicians to scientists to software developers to inventors can explore and create wonderful new projects using the pi-top laptop.

“We’re offering learning beyond the screen and keyboard, enabling wider exploration of computer science and basic electronics, ensuring that young learners have the opportunity to be inspired by a world of STEAM-based learning.”

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CamSoda is updating its streaming network to support language lessons

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Not to be outdone by other streaming media sites, adult site CamSoda [Partially NSFW] is introducing language lessons. That’s right: you can learn all about conjugation, declension and perhaps reproduction from scantily dressed teachers.

CamSoda models requested the service when they found it fun to teach the folks they spoke with online about differences in languages. Further, the users found talking with a native speaker helped with their escapades while traveling. Finally, it was kind of fun.

The service is pretty ad hoc. You select a language and then select a model. The lessons are basic — you won’t be translating Don Quixote from the original Early Modern Spanish — but you can learn how to order a drink and chat up someone at the bar.

The service required some tweaking by CamSoda to allow teachers and students to interact. Because of inherent latencies built into the service’s security system, they had to speed things up considerably to ensure that students could respond to teachers on the fly. I tried the service — I learned a little Romanian — and found it acceptable but a bit laggy. This should be fixed in further iterations.

While some would equate nude language learning with a deleted scene from Idiocracy, I think it’s an interesting addition to the streamer arsenal. While most interaction on CamSoda is fairly straightforward, adding in a little back and forth and discussion could help break cultural barriers and help users see the models as more than just, well, naked people. Sper.

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iOS and Samsung market share now tied in the US

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iOS and Samsung’s U.S. market share is now tied, following growth for Apple’s smartphone OS over the three months ending in August, based on new data from Kantar Wordpanel, which tracks smartphone market share by way of sales data. According to its analysis, iOS is up 3.7 percentage points year-over-year, to achieve 35 percent market share, while Samsung only grew 0.8 points, reaching a 35.2 percent share.

Kantar says that weaker sales through Verizon hurt Samsung, while Apple reached nearly a 50 percent with that carrier — the U.S.’s largest. That’s higher than its share with AT&T, the firm pointed out, which has been a traditional stronghold for the iPhone.

The increased iPhone sales in the U.S. also came one month before the release of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus — interesting to note, given that, sometimes, device sales slump ahead of the expected launch of new hardware.

But it’s also worth pointing out that while Samsung and iOS may now be tied, Android is still far ahead in the U.S., with a 63.2 percent share to iOS’s 35 percent.

That said, iOS is growing elsewhere, too.

iOS posted growth in China, Germany, France and Spain, but dropped in the U.K., where Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and J3 (2016) have been selling well. Overall, iOS market share was up by 1.2 percent in Europe’s five largest markets — only a slight increase due to Samsung’s success in the U.K., and some slowed momentum ahead of the new iPhone announcement.

“Samsung took full advantage of the weeks just before the iPhone 8 and iPhone X were released in Great Britain, with significant promotional activity that helped drive its overall share to a three-year high of 38.4% for the three months ending August 2017,” explained Dominic Sunnebo, Global Business Unit Director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, in a statement.

“More than one in four Galaxy S8 buyers cited a specific promotion as a key purchase influencer, and almost half said that a good deal on the price of the phone was key to their purchase. Both of these metrics experienced a large increase over the last two months of the period,” he added.

Strong iPhone SE sales, however, helped to contribute the slight growth seen in the top European markets.

In urban China, iOS also returned to growth, notes Kantar, growing from 13.4 percent market share last year to 17.7 percent, thanks to iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus sales — the top two bestsellers in urban China.

However, in urban China, Huawei continues to lead with a 31.1 percent share, up 1.5 percentage points year-over-year. BBK Electronics, the owners of the Oppo and Vivo brands, is No. 2, with a 19.7 percent share, up 6.7 percent since last year.

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