Category Archives: VentureBeat

What Uber tells us about tech startups vs. journalists

We know this much: Uber has a huge public relations problem on its hands.

On Monday, Buzzfeed reported comments made by a senior vice president on Uber’s team, Emil Michael, at a private dinner. Michael’s comments suggested that he felt Uber would be justified in hiring an opposition research team to dig up dirt on journalists, such as Pando Daily’s Sarah Lacy.

Lacy has been pretty vocal in her criticisms of Uber and other representatives of what she rightly calls Silicon Valley’s “asshole culture.” She called out Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick as an example of the kinds of “assholes” who may be abrasive, but also cultivate a culture of abrasiveness, jerkiness, and — in Uber’s case — misogyny. Lacy wrote that she no longer felt safe riding in Uber cars, because the company had done too little to vet its drivers and cultivated a culture that seemed to treat women as sex objects.

So you can imagine that Uber might be feeling a little uncharitable toward Lacy. But digging up dirt on a journalist in order to get even with her — well, that’s just not something most companies would contemplate.

Read the rest on VentureBeat, and find out what this all means for Uber — and for tech journalists and tech PR people.

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.

Listen to Stitcher


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.

 

What to Think, Ep. 13: Resurrecting Prodigy

What to Think, Ep. 13: Resurrecting Prodigy
Image Credit: J. O’Dell / VentureBeat

In this episode, Dylan Tweney and Jordan Novet speak with Benj Edwards, a journalist who is digging up screenshots from the old Prodigy online service. We talk about the challenges and joys of digital archeology.

If you want to know more, check out Edwards’ website about Vintage Computing.

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.
Listen to Stitcher


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!