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Year: 2017

Tech and the Rise of the Beta Male

Tech and the Rise of the Beta Male

Facebook has been having to issue a fair number of apologies lately. Nothing new here: Facebook’s Ad Scandal Isn’t a ‘Fail,’ It’s a Feature, says Zeynep Tufekci in the New York Times. “What does it take to advertise on Facebook to people who openly call themselves “Jew haters” and want to know “how to burn Jews”? About $10 and 15 minutes, according to what the investigative nonprofit ProPublica recently uncovered.”

Apologies were issued, but let’s do the math. “The Zuckerberg principle of management is push to the extreme, see what you can get away with, and then apologize and try to shift attention elsewhere. It has apologized for Beacon, psychological testing, faulty ad sale metrics, India strategy that smacked of colonialism. I think you get the point,” writes Om Malik. “Being open and transparent is not part of its DNA. This combination of secrecy, microtargeting and addiction to growth at any cost is the real challenge. The company’s entire strategy is based on targeting, monetizing and advertising.”

Nor was the latest bout of anti-Semitic advertising the first or only one. Lest we forget, Videos (posted to Facebook) teach would-be Palestinian attackers ‘how to stab’ a Jew, showing detailed instructional guidance on how to stab Israelis, methods for maximum bodily damage, and ways to create deadly weapons to carry out attacks. Read More...

Universal Basic Income and the Question No One Asks

Universal Basic Income and the Question No One Asks

At no other time in the history of the world has so much wealth been concentrated in the hands of so few – and amassed in so short amount of time. More worrisome still is the amount of power and global reach of those few, especially considering that their basic stock in trade is surveillance (Former Facebook executive says Google, Facebook are ‘surveillance states’ and risk more regulation).

Social Capital CEO Chamath Palihapitiya, the aforementioned Facebook executive, is more bullish on Amazon, as, in his opinion, the online retailer has more competition than Google and Facebook. Um, did he not take into consideration Alexa, or the fact that Amazon Web Services is now authorized to host the US Department of Defense’s most sensitive data, including top secret Pentagon and NSA information.

Ok, this story hit the press the day after his prognostications were published, but we’re sure that this was known in circles prior to the announcement, what to speak of the fact that Alexa has been used as a witness in a murder trial, so how is Amazon not part of the surveillance state? Read More...

The Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader Edition

The Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader Edition

It’s September, summer vacations are over, school is back in session. It’s the month that traditionally marks ‘back to the grind’ time.

The New York Times had an interesting opinion piece by Dan Lyons, entitled In Silicon Valley, Working 9 to 5 Is for Losers.

To refresh your memories, Lyons, formerly of Hubspot, authored Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble. Read More...

The Life Hack Edition

The Life Hack Edition

According to Life Hacks, most of the problems in your life are due to two things: you either act without thinking, or you think without acting.

Sometimes the best thing is to walk away and come back to the problem later, once you’ve had a chance to clear your head.

The solar eclipse was last week – the first one in that stretched across the continental US in nearly four decades – and quite a few Americans stopped to watch. The Solar Eclipse Cost the U.S. Economy a Huge Amount of Money, said Vanity Fair. Some nearly $700 million, in fact, and never mind the Atlantic Monthly nonsense. Read More...

How to Kill Competition: The Tech Uberlord Handbook

How to Kill Competition: The Tech Uberlord Handbook

Considering James Damore’s memo and the information that has come out since then (Women say they quit Google because of racial discrimination: ‘I was invisible’), last week was not a good one for the tech uberlords.

We won’t get into the politics, but several of the big tech players, including Cloudflare, GoDaddy Inc., Google, Facebook, Twitter, GoFundMe, Spotify and Airbnb decided to threaten freedom of expression online by blocking and/or otherwise not doing business with so-called white supremacists. Not all so-called hate groups, mind you, or groups that might otherwise be a danger to, say, children et al (Facebook Refuses to Remove Flagged Child Pornography, ISIS Videos).

Says the Wall Street Journal (Tech Censorship of White Supremacists Draws Criticism From Within Industry: The moves by tech companies like Cloudflare have been chided for threatening freedom of expression online), “The debate intensified over whether the growing number of tech companies that blocked white supremacists and a neo-Nazi website on the internet have gone too far, as a prominent privacy group questioned the power a few corporations have to censor.” Read More...

The Things We Think and Do Not Say: James Damore and that Jerry Maguire Moment

The Things We Think and Do Not Say: James Damore and that Jerry Maguire Moment

Think Bigger

Think Bigger

We hear startup proposals from entrepreneurs – many of whom are Millenials and this is not a swipe at Millenials at all, not to worry – and oftimes their ideas include a social good component. We have nothing against social good – au contraire – and often, no matter what the full platform/pain-point solution, the entrepreneur tends to focus on the social good component. Often to the exclusion of all else, or they may bring it up five to ten minutes into the investor pitch.

Things To Remember:

  1. You’re there at the pitch to get money/funding from the investors
  2. The investors are about money, too – they have LPs to answer to
  3. No matter how worthy your social good angle, bottom line: consumers are selfish – what’s the value add to them, besides the fact that, say, you want to educate every single person in the world? Nice – how does your laundry detergent help me (and we mean the royal/inclusive ‘me’ here) to completely remove all stains (if that’s what you’re offering) at a price point that’s going to inspire me to give up my current laundry detergent. Nice that it’s also going to completely reverse the effects of water pollution and you also have a social good angle – you want to contribute 50% of the profits to help educate the world, but at, say, $200 for a box of detergent, no matter how good your overall intentions, that’s a non starter.
  4. Investors have the attention span of a gnat, with all due respect to our investor friends out there. It’s not that they’re necessarily ADHD: they’ve been there/done that/heard it all before/burned the tee shirt: they want to know about your product, not your conscience. Being able to pay back their LPs – with nice returns – that’s what helps them sleep at night. Too.

Get to the point, throw in the social good angle later, if you need to, or to roughly cite Jerry Maguire, it’s you lost me at ‘hello.’

Same with your customers. Read More...

When the Numbers Don’t Add Up, Everything Counts

When the Numbers Don’t Add Up, Everything Counts

Should America’s Tech Giants Be Broken Up?, Bloomberg asks. Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook may be contributing to the U.S. economy’s most persistent ailments.

The word ‘anti-trust’ has been brought up frequently as of late, and in the age of online, it’s not simply about the detriment to consumers. In this age of globalization – and the tech behemoths, including Amazon, Google and Facebook, do have an undeniable global reach – it’s also about destabilizing the world economy. After just two decades, Jeff Bezos is on the brink of displacing Bill Gates as the world’s wealthiest person.

While we’re well aware of the fact that things tend to happen more quickly in internet time, at this juncture in our history, it’s not about the time, it’s about the repercussions. Read More...

The Titans of Tech Went to Sun Valley and All They Brought Me Was this Lousy Hashtag

The Titans of Tech Went to Sun Valley and All They Brought Me Was this Lousy Hashtag

The tech oligarchs gathered in Sun Valley for most of the past week, and besides a few arrival photo opportunities, there was pretty much a media blackout. Or, at least the media was allowed only in certain places at certain times.

They arrived primarily in private jets, despite the fact that they’re the ones who most often sound the alarm when it comes to global warming.

Despite the tight security, most of them also arrived with personal armed guards, if not veritable private armies, despite the fact that they’re supposedly anti-guns. Read More...

Silicon Valley Sexism and the Word No One Mentions

Silicon Valley Sexism and the Word No One Mentions

The big story du jour in tech is the sexual harassment allegations made against several venture capitalists. You’ve all no doubt seen the New York Times piece (Women in Tech Speak Frankly on Culture of Harassment – complete with photo that might easily be as appropriate on a ‘Babes of Silicon Valley’ calendar. Seriously?). The fact that Silicon Valley’s bro culture is pervasive and ingrained is not news. The fact that inappropriate sexual behavior goes on and has been going on for some time now, unacknowledged and/or unreported, is not news, either. This time around, there are marquee names involved and women who came forward and named names. That’s news. To the point where it has upended funds – co-founder and partner Jason Caldbeck is out at Binary Capital and Dave McClure is no longer the face of 500Startups.

Masters of the Universe

While it’s important to shine a light on illegal/immoral behavior such as sexual harassment and assault, proposed ‘solutions’ such as LinkedIn founder turned VC Reid Hoffman’s suggested ‘#Decency Pledge’ (The Human Rights of Women Entrepreneurs) may be good for grabbing media attention, but it’s going to take more than a trending hashtag to change things. Hoffman also suggests an industry wide HR function. Do you think that at least one or two people in the firms where these men worked were unaware of what was going on? Do you think that these men didn’t realize that their actions were outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior? But they’re the investors. The guys who pull the (purse) strings. They’re masters of the universe, evidently with more money than common sense, and the world is their playground – one in which they feel entitled to grab whatever distraction happens to be in front of them, because it’s been an allowed code of conduct in the Valley for quite some time now, and this is just a blip on the radar. After all, the ageism issue has been addressed several times, and that’s now been resolved, right?

Did anyone else notice that the word ‘misogyny’ was never once mentioned in any of the articles reporting on this issue? We certainly know that the word is in the vocabulary of the New York Times as well as the tech press.

The Other Diversity Problem

Silicon Valley has changed and it may well be that we’re witnessing the sunset of its glory days. There was a time when Silicon Valley was about science, R&D and actual game changing – and world-changing – technology and innovation. The land that once boasted rolling vineyards proved to be a fertile ground for invention, giving the world microprocessors and modems, computers and cell phones. With the age of social, it’s devolved into algorithms designed to biased opinions or better track user/consumer behavior in order to serve you more ‘relevant’ ads, or technologies capable of tracking users, no matter where they are on the web and whether or not they were actively engaged with that company’s technology at that moment. Yahoo was the first search engine, putting the early web into some context, and it was egalitarian. Now we have Google and Facebook, hydras with tentacles that suck up all of your information, and everything in their path, creating veritable walled gardens in a space that was meant to be open and decentralized. Innovation has given way to a culture of more, more, more. Is the predatory behavior that has evolved really any wonder? It has become part of the Silicon Valley DNA. Read More...

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