All posts by Dylan

Hundreds of people, including NYC’s former mayor, plan to protest the Met’s production of “Klinghoffer.” Protests! Against an opera — an art form that, for most Americans, is completely dead.

I enjoy opera quite a bit, but I’m used to it trafficking in stories that — while offensively bloody (Lucia di Lammemoor) or shockingly amoral (Carmen) are distant enough in time and space that people just smile and listen along. The fact that this has provoked such outrage, while critics consider it a musical triumph, suggests that there’s still a spark of life there.

This really makes me want to see this production, by the way.

Why I’m using blind auditions to recruit journalists for VentureBeat

Orchestras in the U.S. used to be 95% to 100% male.

But after instituting blind auditions, with the applicants performing their music behind a screen so they can only be heard, not seen, that ratio changed dramatically.

According to one study, the number of women in top orchestras rose from less than 5% to 25% after those orchestras implemented blind auditions starting in the 1970s and 1980s. One quarter to one-half of that change, the study found, is attributable to the blind auditions, which force auditors to focus on what they’re actually hearing, not what they see.

Recently, people have started suggesting that Silicon Valley needs to make a similar change. Startup guru Eric Ries made a similar experiment by removing names, gender, and ethnicity from resumes.

So I thought we’d try an experiment: Conduct blind auditions for job openings at VentureBeat.

We have several openings for ambitious, motivated tech journalists. (Plus we’re looking for a copy editor.)

If you want to apply, fill out our online applicationIt might feel a bit impersonal but this gives us the ability to review all applicants based on the quality of their content — not their name, gender, race/ethnicity, or how well-designed their portfolio site is.

We’ll take all the applications, reformat them from an unreadable Google Spreadsheet into a clean-looking Google Doc (using this handy script), remove the names, and evaluate them that way.

For URLs of published clips, we’ll use Instapaper to reformat the articles into a neutral, readable design and paste them into Google docs, minus their bylines and publication names.

Will this make a difference? I don’t know. Ultimately my goal is to make hiring decisions based on excellence and ability. Anything that lets us focus on the quality of an applicant’s writing and reporting — not his or her background, name, or face — seems like a good start.

Image Credit: afagen, https://www.flickr.com/photos/afagen/5133070639/

How to make Facebook work better for you: Quit the ‘Like’

The “Like” button on Facebook seems harmless enough: It’s an easy way to express your appreciation of something.

But as some people are discovering, that innocuous little like has some unintended consequences.

Wired writer Mat Honan found out what happens when you like every single thing that shows up in your Facebook feed. The results were dramatic: Instead of his friends’ updates, he saw more and more updates from brands and publishers. And, based on what he had liked most recently, Facebook’s algorithm made striking judgements about his political leanings, giving him huge numbers extremely right-wing or extremely left-wing posts. What’s more, all that liking made Honan’s own posts show up far more in his friends’ feeds — distorting their view of the world, too.

But Medium writer Elan Morgan tried the opposite experiment: Not liking anything on Facebook. Instead of pressing like, she wrote a few thoughtful words whenever she felt the need to express appreciation: “What a gorgeous shock of hair” or “Remember how we hid from your grandmother in the gazebo and smoked cigarettes?” The result, as you might guess, is just the opposite of Honan’s experience: Brand messages dwindled away and Facebook became a more relaxed, conversational place for Morgan.

While far from conclusive, these two personal experiments are highly suggestive. Facebook’s algorithm is tuned in a way that makes it respond to likes by giving you more of what it thinks is related — and those suggestions are usually driven by brand marketing. Stop liking things, and Facebook eases off the marketing messages, letting your friends’ updates come to the fore.

“Once I removed the Like function from my own behavior, I almost started to like using Facebook,” Morgan wrote, concluding:

Give the Like a rest and see what happens. Choose to comment with words. Watch how your feed changes. I haven’t used the Like on Facebook since August 1st, and the changes in my feed have been so notably positive that I won’t be liking anything in the foreseeable future.

Not so secretly, I think the humanity and love, the kinder middle grounds not begging for extremes, that many of us have come to believe are diminishing in the world at large are simply being drowned out by an inhuman algorithm, and I think we can bring those socially vital experiences back out into the light.

Would you quit the like? I’m going to try it. If you do, too, please use the comments section below to let me know what happens.

Originally published on VentureBeat.

What to Think, Ep. 14: Talking big data with Hilary Mason

What to Think, Ep. 14: Talking big data with Hilary Mason
Image Credit: J. O’Dell / VentureBeat

In this episode, Dylan Tweney and Jordan Novet catch up with data science maven (and New York tech scene fixture) Hilary Mason about her new startup, Fast Forward Labs, and how it will help companies solve their data science problems.

Read more about Fast Forward Labs on VentureBeat.

And we also tell you what to think about:

Listen below, and subscribe to What to Think on iTunes.

You can also right-click/control-click to download the MP3 of this episode.

Or listen to us on Stitcher – or get the What to Think RSS feed for the podcast player of your choice.

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Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 10.53.56 AMOur upcoming GrowthBeat event — August 5-6 in San Francisco — is exploring the data, apps, and science of successful marketing. Get the scoop here, and grab your tickets before they’re gone!  


If this is the iPhone 6 screen, it’s going to be a nearly indestructible device (video)

If this is the iPhone 6 screen, it’s going to be a nearly indestructible device (video)

Above: The actual iPhone 5 next to the front panel of what may be the iPhone 6.

Image Credit: Marques Brownlee video

Gadget videoblogger Marques Brownlee continues testing a piece of glass he got a couple weeks ago that he believes is the front panel of the upcoming iPhone 6.

We don’t have conclusive proof that this is actually an iPhone 6 screen. But whatever it is, it appears to be a very hard, very flexible, and amazingly engineered material.

In a previous video, Marques attacked the maybe-iPhone-6 screen with keys, a knife blade, and even bent it under his shoe — all to no effect. Whatever this screen is made of, it’s both harder and more flexible than Gorilla Glass.

In this video, Brownlee attacks the panel with garnet and emery sandpaper — both coated with extremely hard minerals.

Based on his tests, Brownlee shows that the iPhone 6 screen he’s testing is not made of pure sapphire, because it gets scratched by garnet sandpaper — and, according to the Mohs Scale of mineral hardness, garnet is softer than sapphire. In fact, he uncovers an Apple patent that refers to a technique for modifying pure sapphire so it’s more resistant to chipping, which would explain the high flexibility of the screen.

But the iPhone 5 Touch ID home button is even harder: It doesn’t get scratched by garnet or by even harder emery sandpaper. Brownlee concludes that the iPhone 5′s home button is made of pure sapphire.

Watch the whole video for a good education on the Mohs Scale of mineral hardness and what it might mean for the iPhone 6 if this is indeed the device’s glass front.

Here are some more videos on the supposed sapphire screen on the iPhone 6.