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“It’s extremely dangerous to follow the advice of successful people. Those successful people often don’t even know why they are successful. Luck may have been part of it. And even if they did know, how do you know their recipe for success is applicable to you?”
— Wise words from the founder of Finnish game company Supercell
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.
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 application. It 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.
I wrote this post about the Amazon Fire phone yesterday morning.
At the time I wrote it, I didn’t yet know what the phone was called or any of its exact details — that came later in the day, with Amazon’s official unveiling. But, thanks to excellent reporting by VB writer Mark Sullivan and solid context from the rest of the VB team, I was able to put together a pretty good picture of what it would likely mean.
Why does a company that started as a bookseller, evolved into an e-commerce giant, and has seen some success selling Android tablets think that it can take on the ruthless market of smartphones?
What we have, in Amazon’s Fire phone, is a first draft of a smartphone from a company that has all the advantages of an Apple or a Google — and then some.
Amazon, in my opinion, is one of the few companies with a “full stack” of technology to back up a consumer electronics business: cloud services, software, an app store, content. In addition, it has an enormously efficient retail operation and it has credit card details for millions of consumers, making its phone a powerful potential digital wallet.
What we didn’t know is the extent to which Amazon would try to use its product knowledge — via its “Firefly” image recognition feature — to insert a wedge between its customers and the retail outlets they usually frequent. Imagine standing in the aisle at Walgreens, picking up a bottle of Excedrin, and pointing your phone at it. The phone recognizes the bottle, gives you details on what it contains — perhaps more than you can easily get from the label — and offers to ship you the bottle for substantially less. Because it has text recognition capabilities, the phone knows exactly what price Walgreens is selling it for, so Amazon can always undercut that price.
So far, nobody seems excited enough about this phone to actually buy it. But this is just the first version. I will say this, I’m getting a little scared of Amazon.
I’d like to hear what you think!
Some more coverage of the Amazon Fire phone from VB’s team:
In other news, I went to Paris last week to learn about the French tech economy. (I had some pretty good meals too.) What I saw was substantially different from what I expected. Here are some of the highlights: