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- 10/17/18--02:00: _Adobe is doubling d...
- 10/17/18--03:00: _This plug-in create...
- 10/17/18--04:00: _Now you can easily ...
- 10/17/18--04:00: _The Instant Pot of ...
- 10/17/18--04:08: _These high-tech sto...
- 10/17/18--04:28: _The $300 watering c...
- 10/17/18--04:58: _Panera Bread launch...
- 10/17/18--05:00: _We need to start wi...
- 10/17/18--05:00: _What AI could learn...
- 10/17/18--05:09: _The one chart that ...
- 10/17/18--05:59: _Move over, lovers—V...
- 10/17/18--06:00: _Why media people ar...
- 10/17/18--06:15: _Why Aasif Mandvi an...
- 10/17/18--06:30: _Can this superfood ...
- 10/17/18--06:56: _Help Arby’s g...
- 10/17/18--07:13: _Trump moves to exit...
- 10/17/18--07:15: _Trump endorsements ...
- 10/17/18--07:37: _30 Dyson hair dryer...
- 10/17/18--09:27: _Twitter’s Rus...
- 10/17/18--10:53: _MoviePass’ pa...
- 10/17/18--02:00: Adobe is doubling down on voice interfaces
- 10/17/18--03:00: This plug-in creates a “dark mode” version of any website
- 10/17/18--04:00: Now you can easily see exactly what Apple knows about you
- 10/17/18--04:00: The Instant Pot of weed rolls your joints for you
- 10/17/18--04:08: These high-tech storage containers will tell you when food goes bad
- 10/17/18--04:28: The $300 watering can that will be a family heirloom one day
- 10/17/18--04:58: Panera Bread launches new digital video series on food transparency
- 10/17/18--05:00: What AI could learn from nature
- 10/17/18--05:59: Move over, lovers—Virginia is for rockets, too!
- 10/17/18--06:00: Why media people are furious over Facebook’s bad video metrics
- 10/17/18--06:30: Can this superfood company help stop extremism?
- 10/17/18--06:56: Help Arby’s get over its identity crisis by trying the duck
- 10/17/18--07:13: Trump moves to exit 144-year-old postal pact over cheap China mail
- 10/17/18--09:27: Twitter’s Russian troll problem: There’s good news and bad news
- Targeting both sides: Russian trolls targeting U.S. politics took on personas from both the left, including African American activists, and the right, including a white conservative male character using the name “Marlboro Man.” Their primary goal appears to have been to sow discord, rather than promote any particular side, presumably with a goal of weakening the United States. In some cases, they even posted anti-Russian content.
- The Russian trolls were often effective, drawing tens of thousands of retweets on certain posts including from celebrity commentators like conservative Ann Coulter. When Twitter suspended many accounts linked to the group, they continued with other fake activist accounts.
- Twitter’s efforts to take down accounts did help. The second wave of Russian troll accounts, now since taken down, posted much less than the original group. “Twitter’s suspension of over 2,500 Russian troll accounts in late 2017 disrupted the troll operation very significantly by suspending hundreds of its assets at the same time,” according to the report.
- Self-interested: Iran’s trolling was mostly focused on promoting its own interests, including attacking regional rivals like Israel and Saudi Arabia. Some posts also attacked Trump and tried to woo supporters of Bernie Sanders.
- Trolling isn’t easy: The Iranian trolling was less effective than the Russian posts, with most tweets getting limited engagement. This was partially due to posting styles less suited to the medium, according to the report. “Few of the accounts showed distinctive personalities: They largely shared online articles,” according to the report. “As such, they were a poor fit for Twitter, where personal comment tends to resonate more strongly than website shares.” Generally, many troll posts were ineffective, and “their operations were washed away in the firehose of Twitter.”
Voice interfaces are everywhere today–in your house, in your car, and in your phone. However, designing them remains a challenge, since most tools and software are still primarily oriented around visuals.
No longer. At its annual MAX conference this week, Adobe announced it’s now integrating voice prototyping inside of its design software application XD, enabling designers to layer voice experiences right on top of visual interfaces as they build them. It’s a tool that could be used when designing interfaces for devices like the Echo Show, Amazon’s voice-controlled smart screen, or Google’s newly released Hub, as well as in a mobile app that takes advantage of voice.
Instead of having to rely on developers to build voice experiences, designers can test them out beforehand in XD. Voice simply becomes another type of interaction you can add to your prototype. Then, the software uses your computer’s microphone so that you can use voice commands to trigger different actions. The program will even talk back to you so you can get a sense of the entire flow.
Adobe’s move toward embracing voice experiences points to an increased demand among designers for ways to work with this increasingly ubiquitous technology. But it’s not a fix for voice platforms’ continued problems–in particular, their inability to understand anything but the most simple of pre-programmed sentences.
Some people call it Dark Mode, others refer to it as Night Mode. Whatever you call it, dark interfaces are all the rage, from Adobe’s professional software suite to the latest version of macOS and hundreds of iOS apps. Now, a Safari extension called Dark Reader promises to do the same with every single website out there.
Dark or night mode–not to be confused with Apple’s Night Shift, an iOS feature that lowers the temperature of the screen to make it warmer to avoid disturbing your sleeping patterns–reverses the reigning color palette of the web, turning white backgrounds black or dark gray to offer more contrast with buttons, icons, and text. Dark mode proponents say while it won’t reduce eye strain, it provides a more relaxing user experience because it reduces the amount of light your eyes are exposed too: Computer light, especially at the typical cool temperature of LCDs, can allegedly affect your sleep patterns. Some usability people claim that, while black type on white background is more readable than white on black, it fatigues your eyes.
Still, there are no definitive scientific studies about this subject. At the very least, dark mode makes interfaces look sleeker and considerably less annoying than the bright white backgrounds we’re used to. Plus, they save power in very specific cases. For instance, Samsung is turning to the dark side for its own version of Android, called Experience 10, which will benefit its phones’ OLED screens. Since black OLED pixels don’t consume any energy–they’re simply “off”–dark mode actually saves some battery power in these type of phones. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for the LCD screens you’ll find in most laptops and phones.
That means Dark Reader, which is a Chrome, Firefox, or Safari extension, won’t save you any battery power. But it will display any website in a dark mode palette–and crucially, it lets you adjust specific aspects of the display for your needs. That makes it more of a custom design extension that could be useful for accessibility purposes. You can make changed and adjustments on the fly, which could be a major boon for people who have trouble reading typical websites.
If there’s one tech giant that touts its privacy benefits more than any other, it’s Apple. Over the past several years, as other companies have been rocked by controversies relating to how they defend your data, Apple hasn’t just avoided scandal. It’s continued to bring new privacy protections to its customers. I’ve argued that privacy is as important a “product” to the company as the iPhone is.
iOS 12 and MacOS Mojave, released last month, bring a ton of new on-device privacy protections to the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. But instead of calling it a wrap for 2018, Apple is launching an updated privacy site that brings European-like data transparency tools to all users in the U.S.
In May, the European Union’s sweeping new privacy regulations built to protect users and their data went into effect. Called the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, the new rules mandate that technology companies give users more control over how their data is used, improve the safeguards of user data, and give users an easy way to request and access all the data a company has about them.
In Europe, GDPR compliance is the law and any tech company that does not comply can face incredibly high penalties. But the law does nothing to offer Americans enhanced privacy protections and data controls. Which is why Facebook placed 1.5 billion international users on a figurative boat and shipped them to America so they weren’t covered by GDPR rules.
But though American lawmakers haven’t taken the steps to enact GDPR-like legislation on this side of the Atlantic, some tech companies have stepped up and implemented some of the benefits of the legislation over here. Earlier this year, Google, Facebook, and Instagram either rolled out or improved upon tools that allow users to request all the information the companies have about them. Apple introduced a similar data transparency tool for EU users in May, but American users were left out in the cold (though they could email Apple and request their information).
Apple did, however, promise that its new transparency feature would become available to Americans later in the year–and now it’s here.
Seeing your stuff
Apple’s new Data and Privacy tool allows U.S.-based users to see exactly what information Apple holds about them. This includes information like payment details; contacts and calendar events; purchase history through Apple.com, the iTunes Store, the App Store, and the iBooks Store; and more.
To access the new tool, navigate to apple.com/privacy and then click on the “Manage Your Privacy” link in the upper toolbar. On that page, scroll down to the heading “Take charge of your data” and click the “Visit your Data and Privacy page” link. There you will find the new data and privacy portal that you can sign in to to request everything the company holds on you.
Once you submit a request for your data, Apple’s software will run security verification checks to make sure it is, in fact, you requesting your data. Once those checks come back positive, it will email a zip file containing all the data the company holds on you.
What’s remarkable to European users I’ve spoken with who have previously requested their data from Apple is just how little information the company retains compared to other tech giants such as Facebook and Google. Where each of those companies holds tens of gigabytes on the average user, Apple’s equivalent is measured in megabytes.
This speaks to the fact that Apple has very strict data minimization and data use limitation policies for its users in place. And the company can afford these user privacy protections, because its business model–selling hardware–doesn’t rely on amassing troves of data about you such as your browsing history, where you checked in for lunch, or the television shows you like. For other tech companies that operate on advertising models, such information is priceless.
Check out Apple’s redesigned privacy site
While Apple’s initiative to bring greater data transparency to U.S. users is welcome, most people will probably get little benefit from requesting to see the data Apple holds on them–unless you count the sigh of relief when they see how little there is.
But we live in an age where digital privacy is quickly becoming one of the most important issues of this generation. That necessitates that we all do a better job at educating ourselves and our families about the importance of data protection and online privacy.
That’s why I recommend that every Apple customer take the time to check out the company’s new privacy pages. Educating yourself about how your data is collected, what is retained, and the tools you have to manage it will help you make more informed choices about maintaining your privacy in the future. This isn’t something only Apple users should do. Users of Google’s products should inform themselves of their privacy and data policies (which include Android as well), and users of Facebook and Instagram should educate themselves on the same.
Most Apple users I’ve talked to have little knowledge of the scores of privacy and data protections and tools built into the latest iOS and MacOS releases. There are simply too many to cover here, but they’re all thoroughly detailed on Apple’s redesigned privacy pages.
Apple’s privacy work in 2018 isn’t over yet. Next week, CEO Tim Cook will head to Brussels, where he will keynote the 2018 International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners. It’s the first time that a CEO will be a keynote speaker at Europe’s preeminent privacy regulators conference. And just last week, Apple filed a seven-page brief with the Australian Parliament arguing in favor of increasingly strong encryption technologies that further protect user privacy–something the governments of many countries around the world want to weaken.
A few years ago, while reviewing modern coffee gear, I fell in love with a one-touch espresso maker. It wasn’t some little Nespresso concentrate thing, but a serious machine that actually ground the beans, formed them into a puck, and pulled rich, creama-topped shots for me on demand.
It was artisan and automatic at the same time. And in that regard, it reminds me a lot of the $130 Otto by Banana Bros.–a one-touch herb grinder/joint roller for people who prefer to smoke real flowers rather than use vape products like the Pax.
The Otto is like a Cuisinart hand blender crossed with an Amazon Echo. Its design blends right in with modern kitchens, with the aesthetic that many contemporary cannabis companies are embracing over the stoner look. The main body breaks into two pieces, revealing the grinder that you fill with buds. Once loaded, it uses an algorithm and sensors to attenuate its grinding on the fly, ensuring even processing that accommodates for stickiness or seediness. Then the grind trickles down into a paper cone that sits below. When it’s done, you can just twist the top of this cone, and your joint is ready to smoke.
Of course, vape pens with THC concentrates and pre-made edibles will be the easier ways for people to get high in the future–and in fact, those two categories now combine to generate more revenue in the Colorado marijuana industry than herbs do.
But in an industry that talks about varietals, microclimates, and flavor, with a product that can be prepped for consumption so many different ways, it’s easy to see parallels between marijuana and coffee. I imagine there is plenty of room for products like Otto in the market. I will always miss that one-touch espresso maker, even if it was, perhaps, a bit too enabling of this coffee snob’s growing habit.
What if you didn’t have to guess when food or leftovers go bad? What if, like the way you depend on Siri to cook and tell time, your Rubbermaid could essentially solve the puzzle for you?
Silo, a new countertop tech company, just revealed an innovative vacuum-sealing container system that does the work for you. The smart containers not only keep food fresher and longer (by sucking out the air), but it also includes a built-in Alexa that tags and tracks what it’s holding. It offers notifications on when items might spoil, telling owners when to eat their food already. It even has a mobile app to manage your fridge on the go.
Basically, imagine you could simply say “strawberries” and your plasticware automatically knew how many days it could host your produce before it went bad.
The Silo system, which is both dishwasher and microwave safe, ensures that groceries and dinner leftovers last two to five times longer than your average Tupperware. It’s substantial, considering that one-third of all food finds its way to the trash–that’s 1.3 billion tons of food a year–often because people forget about what’s hiding behind the ketchup bottle.
“Let’s face it, nobody remembers what they put in the fridge two weeks ago,” said Silo founder and CEO Tal Lapidot in a press statement. “We know that the only true way to enable you to enjoy your food for longer is if Silo remembers and manages your inventory for you.”
Founded in 2016, Silo was seed-funded by OurCrowd’s AI-focused fund Cognitiv Ventures. The Israeli startup is now taking its revolutionary fridge system to Kickstarter for an early-bird price of $165 (plus shipping), with an expected delivery date of fall 2019. In just one day, the company reached its $80,000 goal with more than 300 backers.
“We wanted to create an experience so simple that you can use it every day and it will fit beautifully into your routine,” says Lapidot. “Silo’s technology provides everyone with the tools and information they need to reduce their food waste with minimal effort.”
“Every part of the can is sourced from master craftspeople, from the body made by fourth-generation Danish metalworkers to the hardwood handle that displays a beautiful grain. The brass body is hand-spun, and its proportions are an outstanding example of symmetry and balanced asymmetry. It’s an object that can be passed down as an heirloom.” —August de los Reyes, director of user experience, Google($300, Mjolk.ca)
Panera Bread is boosting transparency about its products this week, starting with its namesake. The fast casual chain is now disclosing the whole grain content of the breads on its menu. For all breads over 50% whole grain, the company will now label servings of whole grain per slice, roll, or bagel, as well as the whole grain percentage.
Along with the new labeling system is the launch of Food Interrupted, a new, six-episode weekly digital video series that follows leaders in the food industry as they meet a variety of people who have dedicated their lives to changing America’s food system.
Created with Participant Media’s SoulPancake, ACE Content, and the Huffington Post, the series will feature Marcus Samuelsson, Hannah Hart, Sam Talbot, Kevin Curry, Chris Cosentino, and Rainn Wilson, discussing topics like clean ingredients, sugar consumption, animal welfare, and plant-based meals. The first episode is “Grains Interrupted,” featuring chef Samuelsson and farmer Jon Hammond discussing ancient grains and their role in the future of food.
Panera Bread’s vice president of marketing Scott Nelson says this is the company’s first-ever digital content platform of this kind. “Why do beverages have to be super sweet to satisfy? Does whole grain have to be relegated to ‘health food’ stores only? Do animals really require antibiotics every single day? The answer is no,” says Nelson. “In this series, we not only leverage our own brand voice to amplify these issues, but also provide a platform to empower other amazing talent and everyday heroes to shine the light on these issues.”
The goal is to spark dialogue and engagement, and Nelson sees these food issues as a social movement ripe for digital. “This is a way to use our resources and brand voice to reach consumers beyond our four walls,” he says. “We are always going to push for transparency in the food industry. We think that’s what people deserve. We’ve never heard that people want less information.”
I was recently invited to speak at a conference by the World Bank on “Disrupting the Gender Divide” to answer the following questions: Why are women rarely at the core of a company’s strategy when globally, they control nearly two-thirds of the total overall consumer spending?
My hypothesis was circular.
Women are rarely at the core of a company’s strategy because very few women are in leadership positions at these companies. When it comes to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) based companies, the numbers are even worse. There is an abysmally low number of women in these fields, which translates to an abysmally low number of women STEM leaders. There aren’t many women in STEM fields because girls lose interest in STEM fields starting at age eight. Girls begin losing interest in STEM fields starting at age eight because very few companies design products, shows, and technologies with them in mind. Yet companies do this because they don’t see a lot of women leaders in STEM-related organizations.
This so-called “pipeline issue” has resulted in efforts towards getting more women in tech–at the university level, at the careers stage, and in boardrooms. Yet in 25 years the problem has largely stayed the same. I believe that to change the outcome, we need to break the cycle. If we want more girls in the boardroom, we have to start in the playroom.
We need to encourage girls to see technology as fun
As a girl, I was lucky to have parents who actively encouraged my sisters and I to pursue science, math, and technology. When I was about eight, my dad bought us a Commodore 64, a dot-matrix printer, and lessons in software development. When he traveled, he’d bring us back 3.5″ floppies as gifts, including one to make greeting cards. I played with that software for hours–printing out huge cards on our dot-matrix printer: “Welcome Home Mom” (on a regular Tuesday), “Ayah’s Room Here” (on all walls leading up to my bedroom), and anything else I could create.
My eight-year-old self wasn’t motivated by career aspirations–I just saw it as a fun and creative way to express myself. I think that’s where we need to start. We need to create experiences for girls that allow them to build confidence. But there is a caveat: We have to design these with gender-neutrality in mind.
If a fourth grade girl invents a “bot” that waters her plants, she’s much more likely to have the inspiration to seek out learning in STEM and make her invention better. I started littleBits precisely to create more of those experiences. The products that we make–from switches and sensors to motors and programmable chips–are engineered to encourage kids to invent and create something. The real goal, though, is to get them excited about learning more.
The importance of gender-neutral toys
When I started littleBits, one of my goals was to get more girls into STEM. Yet I was (and still am) vehemently opposed to creating gendered products. After all, fun, creativity, and play are not gendered concepts, so why should we design products that are? With this goal in mind, I had to grapple with a more significant question. How could we take every single opportunity to inject gender-neutrality into our process?
I knew that we had to start with designing a product that didn’t look boyish or girly. That meant sweating the small things–down to what some might see as minutia. Our Bits have white circuit boards, which break with traditional circuit board colors (usually green or black) so that it doesn’t get lumped into being a product for boys. They also have bright neon colored connectors that look like candy because all kids (and adults) like candy. In addition, our design team made an effort to make the circuits look beautiful. These choices get more girls to perceive the product as “for them,” yet it’s not off-putting for the boys.
Going a step further, we also made sure that the product’s purpose isn’t gendered. For example, rather than promoting robots and vehicles, we promote flashlights, ferris wheels, bubble blowers, and sibling alarms. Kids get to pick what inspires them, or what problem they are solving: a pesky sibling, a pet feeder, an art project.
Lastly, we knew that we couldn’t ignore the packaging. One reason why a lot of girls don’t gravitate towards STEM is because they don’t see a lot of scientists and mathematicians that look like them. To me, this is the biggest opportunity for change. We are deliberately gender-neutral in the design of our communications and marketing materials, from the kids on the cover, the inventions we select for publicity, as well as the kid inventors we showcase.
We’ve seen great rewards from implementing these measures. Today, 35-40 percent of our customer base is girls–four times the industry average. That result didn’t happen overnight or by accident. We set a goal to do it, we measured it, and we continued to iterate until we found a method that works.
We need to meet girls where they have interests
It’s not enough to get more girls into computer science programs. To change outcomes, we need to start earlier and disrupt the playroom. We need to meet girls where they have interests, but we should be careful to make sure that we don’t design products that drive boys away. Otherwise, the gender stereotype prevails.
I can’t predict how many of our girls will grow up to be tech entrepreneurs and scientists, but I know this for sure–by exposing them to science and technology early on, we’re giving them a message that they belong in this field. And that’s going to have an enormous impact as they grow up and decide what paths to pursue.
Ayah Bdeir is the founder and CEO of littleBits. She has earned countless awards for her work, including acquisition into the MoMA permanent collection, recognition in Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, and Inc. Magazine’s 35 Under 35.
Artificial intelligence research has a lot to learn from nature. My work links biology with computation every day, but recently the rest of the world was reminded of the connection: The 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Frances Arnold together with George Smith and Gregory Winter for developing major breakthroughs that are collectively called “directed evolution.” One of its uses is to improve protein functions, making them better catalysts in biofuel production. Another use is entirely outside chemistry–outside even the traditional life sciences.
That might sound surprising, but many research findings have very broad implications. It’s part of why just about every scientist wonders and hopes not only that maybe they would be selected for a Nobel Prize, but, far more likely, that the winner might be someone they know or have worked with. In the collaborative academic world, this isn’t terribly uncommon: In 2002, I was studying under a scholar who had studied under one of the three co-winners of that year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. This year, it happened again–one of the winners has written a couple of papers with a scholar I have collaborated with.
Beyond satisfying my own vanity, the award reminds me how useful biological concepts are for engineering problems. The best-known example is probably the invention of Velcro hook-and-loop fasteners, inspired by burrs that stuck to a man’s pants while he was walking outdoors. In the Nobel laureates’ work, the natural principle at work is evolution–which is also the approach I use to develop artificial intelligence. My research is based on the idea that evolution led to general intelligence in biological life forms, so that same process could also be used to develop computerized intelligent systems.
When designing AI systems that control virtual cars, for example, you might want safer cars that know how to avoid a wide range of obstacles–other cars, trees, cyclists, and guardrails. My approach would be to evaluate the safety performance of several AI systems. The ones that drive most safely are allowed to reproduce–by being copied into a new generation.
Yet just as nature does not make identical copies of parents, genetic algorithms in computational evolution let mutations and recombinations create variations in the offspring. Selecting and reproducing the safest drivers in each new generation finds and propagates mutations that improve performance. Over many generations, AI systems get better through the same method nature improves upon itself–and the same way the Nobel laureates made better proteins.
In the effort to understand human intelligence, many researchers are working to reverse-engineer the brain, figuring out how it works at all levels. Complex gene networks control the neurons that form the layers of the neocortex that are sitting on top of a highway of connections. These interconnections support communications between the different cortical regions that make up most of our cognitive functions. All of this is integrated into the phenomenon of consciousness.
Deep learning and neural networks are computer-based approaches that attempt to re-create how the brain works–but even they can only achieve the equivalent activity of a clump of brain cells smaller than a sugar cube. There remains an enormous amount to learn about the brain–and that’s before trying to write the intensely complicated software that can emulate all those biological interactions.
Capitalizing on evolution can make systems that seem lifelike and are inherently as open-ended and innovative as natural evolution is. It is also the key methodology used in genetic algorithms and genetic programming. The Nobel Prize committee’s recognition highlights a technology that has evolution at its core. That indirectly justifies my own research approach and the idea that evolution in action is a critical research topic with vast potential.
Arend Hintze is assistant professor of integrative biology and computer science and engineering at Michigan State University This article is republished from the Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
Netflix, as we all know ad nauseum, does not share its viewership data with anyone. Not with creators, not with partners, and certainly not with the investing public or pesky looky-loos like journalists. It’s simply too valuable and must be locked away in the vault but for the precious few shamans who can view it.
When Netflix shares anything besides its subscriber numbers and financials, it’s a special day, indeed. Like Tuesday during its third-quarter earnings report.
Perhaps feeling puckish over its good results, the company’s leaders decided to give everyone a peek at one of their ankles, thrilling Netflix’s hardcore devotees. I am going to show you, too, but unlike Netflix, let me give you advance warning: If you have a heart condition, ask your doctor first if it’s okay to view the graphic from page 5 of Netflix’s shareholder letter, the one that’s designed to show everyone a “good indicator that our shows are breaking out around the planet.”
Okay, here it is:
Netflix won't disclose viewership numbers…but how bout some Instagram follow counts to show just how popular their stars are! pic.twitter.com/QTFQnlPt0B
— John Koblin (@koblin) October 16, 2018
Instagram follower counts!
This is just like when I found out that most “secret sauces” are Thousand Island dressing.
First, short of Twitter followers, there may be no more manipulable figure than Instagram follower totals. In fact, I just opened up a new browser window and started to type “how to buy” and Google autocompleted my query by suggesting “Instagram followers.”
Let’s stipulate for the moment, though, that Instagram follower accounting is sacrosanct, and no one could possibly manipulate this fortress of rectitude. Netflix is suggesting here that there’s a clear causality between it releasing a show or movie featuring an actor and the rising popularity of that actor’s Instagram. It’s also implying that there are no other factors that could possibly be influencing their growth. Like time. Other projects. Being good at Instagram. Being featured on Instagram’s Explore tab. And so forth.
It’s also positing that social-media popularity is, in some way, additional proof that this is why the company continues to grow.
This is not the first time that Netflix has tried to demonstrate its viewership for particular shows and movies with questionable outside metrics. Back in the spring, in a New York Magazine cover story, Ted Sarandos, the company’s creative chief, used IMDb as a yardstick for the success of its shows:
To answer my questions about the relative popularity of shows without actually answering them, Sarandos shows me a chart he’s printed out of the most popular TV shows as ranked by IMDb users. While the accuracy of the site’s ratings has been questioned in the past, Sarandos says IMDb is a “good indicator of what works on Netflix, because it’s a pretty net-savvy, entertainment-centric person that gives feedback. It’s better than Rotten Tomatoes.” The chart lists the top-30 new shows of the 2016–17 TV season. “Fourteen of them are Netflix original shows,” he brags. “Now this is global, so like Riverdale is a CW show [in the States], but it premieres as a Netflix original somewhere else. No one else on this list has more than three shows.”
Later, Sarandos cites IMDb again as evidence for the success of one of Netflix’s original movies, the teen-targeted romantic comedy The Kissing Booth. Sarandos calls it “one of the most-watched movies in the country, and maybe in the world” — but of course he won’t offer me any internal data to back that up. “In [IMDb’s] popularity rankings right now, it’s the No. 4 movie behind Deadpool 2, Avengers: Infinity War, and Solo,” he says. “Jacob Elordi is the male lead. Three weeks ago on the IMDb Star-o-Meter, which is how they rank their popularity, he was No. 25,000. Today he is the No. 1 star in the world. And Joey King, the female lead, went from like No. 17,000 to No. 6. This is a movie that I bet you’d never heard of until I just mentioned it to you.”
The IMDb Star-o-Meter. Seriously. What’s next? Yelp reviews? eBay feedback? Five stars, great seller, would do business with again.
It gets worse: The analysts who cover Netflix are apparently so happy for anything, they’re excited to have this wonderful new metric.
Followers should be FAR more important to talent in Hollywood that Nielsen ratings — followers last beyond your current creative project https://t.co/FuYj86Sap0
— Rich Greenfield (@RichBTIG) October 17, 2018
With all due respect to Greenfield, this is ridiculous. Instagram followers can’t be redeemed for more money the way that actual ratings and box office sales can for the talent who make TV shows and movies.
The current laws requiring disclosure of key data that tells investors how a business is actually performing are woefully minimal. I would love for every company to be required to share far more information than they currently do. But for now, this is the system we have. So Netflix can choose to keep its data to itself. That’s its right. I have no problem with that. But what is insulting and unfortunate is when it puts forth junk data in its place. Do you really think Netflix is running its business based on the IMDb Star-o-Meter and Instagram popularity? If so, then I have a stock to sell you.
In July, New Zealand space startup Rocket Labs announced it was looking for a U.S. location for its new launch site. (You gotta keep Blue Origin and SpaceX on their toes, after all.) The company has now made its selection—Virginia, home of Smithfield Ham.
Specifically, Rocket Labs will let its Electron rockets fly from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. The site will serve as Rocket Lab’s second dedicated launch complex. By design, Launch Complex 2 is well-located to serve U.S. government and commercial missions. As soon as the second site is up and running, Rocket Lab’s expects to be able to run more than 130 missions per year. They will have to share the space, though, which will be a change from their current digs in New Zealand, where they own the world’s only private launch site, Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, where they successfully launched a flying disco ball into space earlier this year.
“Having proven the Electron vehicle with a successful orbital launch this year, we’re thrilled to expand on our ability to provide rapid, reliable, and affordable access to orbit for small satellites,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck in a statement.
For the new space, Rocket Labs will work with Virginia Space, the state’s very own space agency, to construct dedicated pad infrastructure at the site, designed to fit its Electron launch vehicle. It will also develop a Launch Vehicle Integration and Assembly Facility in the Wallops Research Park in the hopes of having four Electron vehicles available.
In April, 2016 Mark Zuckerberg said the following: “We’re entering this new golden age of video . . . I wouldn’t be surprised if you fast-forward five years and most of the content that people see on Facebook and are sharing on a day-to-day basis is video.” A little over a month later, according to a lawsuit, the company would follow up on complaints that it knew about about issues with its video metrics since 2015. Months after that, Facebook finally, very quietly, admitted that it misreported key metrics.
— Jason Kint (@jason_kint) October 17, 2018
Now advertisers are suing over the company allegedly cooking the books and not disclosing this miscalculation. And media people are fuming about this development. Rightfully so: The media industry over the last two-plus years has been punctuated by an awful euphemism known as the “pivot to video.” With traditional digital advertising revenue flatlining, Facebook managed to convince online publishers that video would be the next media goldmine. The company jumped headfirst into the medium–changing its algorithm to favor moving images, while convincing both advertisers and publishers alike that a long-term, video-first strategy would be the answer to their revenue woes.
For advertisers, video was simply another way to reach eyeballs. For publishers, this was something different: Media executives overhauled entire budgets to embrace the new trend and hired new teams to make quick, consumable videos that would theoretically get them more ad revenue. Writer and editor positions were cut, and layoffs ensued. For over a year, new headlines abound about media brands diverting resources into platform-first content. No one really knew what was working in the pivot to video, but they were assured that if they followed the instructions, things would pay off.
Facebook should be in jail, obviously, but let’s not forget about all the smooth-brained media execs who bought into the pivot to video when literally every person who works on the ground in media, or even just uses the internet every day, knew it was complete bullshit.
— Barry Petchesky (@barry) October 17, 2018
All this, it turns out, was allegedly predicated on a miscalculation–inflated metrics that Facebook knew about long before the problem got fixed. The company, according to the lawsuit, adopted a “‘no PR’ strategy” to avoid admitting to this screw-up.
If you missed it: today it was confirmed that Facebook massively & knowingly inflated its video-view statistics, which had the DIRECT consequence of 90% of media orgs firing writers in favor of expensive video producers, who also got fired when it turned out video was worthless https://t.co/WqdAUBIe6L
— Chris Conroy (@dyfl) October 17, 2018
Facebook, for its part, denies that it ever knowingly reported false metrics. I reached out to the company for further comment and will update this post if I hear back.
In 2015, John Herrman wrote for the Awl about various editorial projects that platforms were playing around with, in an attempt to better control centralize the media ecosystem. The idea was to create apps and projects that would blur the line between platform and publisher. Though the move to video was only a whisper then, it was clear that a big change was on the horizon. He wrote:
Publications large and small but especially large spent the last few years in a sort of para-economy, watching their audiences and sometimes revenues explode as the result of informal partnerships with social platforms, which were happy to let these outsiders hustle to adapt all manner of writing and imagery and video to their new contexts. The self-pitying/aggrandizing explanation for the platforms’ annexation of media attention would be that the last few years represent a sort of free-booting period during which media gave Facebook no-strings content in exchange for attention, which was converted into revenue in a system of advertising Facebook was simultaneously intent on destroying.
And indeed Facebook did destroy it. What followed was media companies trying to regain their footing by following the platform’s lead.
It’s news like today’s that highlights the real-world impact of large tech platforms and their dominance over content distribution. While it’s true that the advertising ecosystem was shifting, it’s also true that hundreds of people lost their jobs, and it’s looking more and more like that was due to a business-model whim predicated on faulty metrics.
Advertisers are banding together now–trying to get monetary justice for the alleged damage Facebook caused–but what about those on the publishers’ side? Will they get their jobs back?
When Aasif Mandvi first came on the New York acting scene over two decades ago, he wasn’t exactly bowled over by the opportunities available to him. “As a young brown actor in the mid-’90s, there were really no roles for me,” he tells Fast Company. “I’d go to auditions—and this would be for TV or even commercials, or whatever—and I would often end up playing the stereotypical Indian, head-wobbling, accented caricatures.”
All that changed, of course, after Mandvi found fame and success as a correspondent for The Daily Show, a gig that earned him a loyal following and wide acclaim for his comedic chops and sardonic observations about culture and politics.
But Mandvi considers himself an actor first. He cut his teeth on small stages as a young theater graduate from the University of South Florida. And yet, even when he did get a chance to perform scenes from classic works like, say, Death of a Salesman or Glass Menagerie, he says he the material never felt like it “came from my DNA,” something that set him apart from his white contemporaries. “It just felt like American theater was mostly writing stories about white people,” says Mandvi, who was born in Mumbai and whose family emigrated to the U.S. by way of Britain when he was a teenager.
Frustrated by the lack of stage roles for actors of South Asian descent, Mandvi decided to create his own. In 1998, he wrote and performed a one-man show called Sakina’s Restaurant, which revolves around a New York eatery and the Indian immigrant who comes to work there as a waiter. The show earned Mandvi an Obie Award, and to this day, he still recalls it as the first time he got to play characters that were true to his own lived experiences. (He later felt that same thrill as the lead in the off-Broadway run of Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced, which went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.)
Now hear this
Over the last 20 years, Mandvi says he’s kicked around the idea of remounting Sakina’s Restaurant, but the thought of having to update the story and modernize the references always felt like a chore. Then he was approached by Audible, the Amazon-owned platform known for its vast library of audiobooks and other spoken-word entertainment. The company expressed interest in producing Sakina’s Restaurant as part of its new theater initiative, in which it records and preserves live stage shows at off-Broadway’s Minetta Lane Theater in the West Village.
Kate Navin, Audible’s artistic producer, says the aim of the initiative is to make high-quality theater content accessible to global audiences. “Very often it’s just hard to get to a theater, and we firmly believe it’s some of the greatest work there,” she says. “So it’s about making it available to people beyond the run and available through audio. At the core of so many of these shows is great storytelling, and being able to hear it, you get the full experience.”
For stage creators it’s an enticing deal. Audible puts up the money to produce the work, and uses its vast distribution platform to make it available to anyone with a computer or mobile device. The company declined to say how much it spends on the theater initiative, but Navin, who has a background as a theatrical agent, says Audible is committed to preserving works for the stage at various levels. Last year it announced a $5 million fund to commission works from emerging playwrights. And since it reached its deal with the Minetta Lane Theater earlier this year, it has already produced stage performances by the likes of Billy Crudup, Carey Mulligan, and Patti Smith.
But in Sakina’s Restaurant, Audible is preserving something entirely more timely: a story that humanizes the immigrant experience in the age of Trump. When Mandvi dusted off the script after 20 years, he says he was struck by how urgent the story felt at a time when politicians were debating Muslim bans, and immigrant children were being locked in cages. In that context, he saw the show as an antidote of sorts to the current wave of isolationism and xenophobia coursing through American politics.
“It becomes a piece of political theater without being political at all,” he says. “This was never my intention, but that’s what this play does now in the world today. Just humanizing the immigrant experience in today’s world suddenly became a political act.”
Sakina’s Restaurant began performances earlier this month and runs through November 4. As for updating the ’90s setting and references, Mandvi and Audible decided that wasn’t necessary at all. On the contrary, Mandvi says, the story has aged into a poignant time capsule, a period piece through which audiences can revisit the immigrant experience at what now seems like such a simpler time. “It was pre-9/11 when I did it—pre-internet, pre-Bush,” Mandvi says. “It’s interesting to play it today in a world that’s very different.”
Eight years ago, former Peace Corps volunteer Lisa Curtis had a plan to lift up villages within the West African country of Niger using an ingredient that she discovered while volunteering there. It’s called moringa, a tall leafy plant that’s rich in protein, vitamins A and C, and also calcium and iron.
The plant was wonderfully nutritious yet also delicate, meaning it needed to be washed and ground into a powder, ideally within an hour or two of plucking. It was also resilient–able to grow in poor soil, and the extremely hot, dry climate. Plant enough of it in a local community, she reasoned, and you could create a commodity crop that might uplift the people living there, who could sell it wholesale or to different food product companies in nearby cities.
Curtis never got a chance to test that theory, because she was called back to the U.S. after a terrorist attack happened near the group’s regional office. She did, however, form Kuli Kuli Foods, an energy bar, shot, and powder company. Kuli Kuli is a benefit corporation that supports 18 women-led and family-farm cooperatives in 13 developing countries. And in late August, Curtis’s efforts finally came full circle when the company earned a federal grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a foreign aid agency that focuses on helping countries find homegrown economic ways to fight poverty, in part to battle terrorism.
“The way that we fit into that is because agriculture is the number one employment factor in Niger, meaning it’s a very much an agricultural-based society,” Curtis says. “And when you have people who no longer could make money farming, that’s when they become more susceptible to Boko Haram or AQIM, or any of the other terrorist groups in the region who offer economic stability of a different form.”
MCC doesn’t heavily advertise its national security angle: “MCC grants complement other U.S. and international development programs that not only help poor countries rise out of poverty but also create a more secure and prosperous home front,” notes the group’s website. The organization declined an interview request for this story. Since it began in January 2004, however, MCC publicly states that it has spent $13 billion worldwide on projects that include everything from building better roads and providing communities with clean drinking water to supplying electricity to storefronts.
In Niger, the group is participating in a $437 million compact to improve agricultural and livestock practices through better water availability, and improved paths to market (both literally, and through trade agreements and business regulations).Curtis says the MCC grant is milestone-based. It starts small, with the potential to ladder up to about a half-million dollars in support for the company and partnering groups if it keeps hitting certain benchmarks. Those efforts started in August, when Kuli Kuli earned $30,000 for deeper research on moringa’s market potential, which included a trip to assess national producers. The company has since chosen three groups to work with, one of which employs women from the village of Safo near the city of Maradi, which is where Curtis used to live.
Curtis hopes that each collective will be able to grow and process about 40,000 kilograms annually within a few years–the equivalent of about 88,000 pounds. That would make roughly 8,000 or so energy bars. “Initially it would touch 200 people, and then I think it could get up closer to like 400 if we are operating at real scale,” Curtis says. So far, the company has helped various nonprofits plant more than 1 million moringa trees, supporting 1,000 women in countries including Ghana and Haiti. As in other places, the business effort in Niger will include educating people about the nutritional content of the plant, and how to best prepare it (boiling leaves generally strips away the benefit).
Niger remains a center of volatility in the region. Almost half the country lives in poverty, making it one of the most impoverished countries in the world. It’s surrounded by countries with rising extremist factions, and the U.S. is building a $110 million drone base there. According to the New York Times, about 800 American soldiers are stationed in the country, where the tension can turn deadly: In October 2017, Islamic State militants killed four marines who were on a routine patrol. “MCC’s new partnership with moringa company Kuli Kuli supports private sector-led economic growth in Niger, strengthening stability in a fragile region,” said Ryan Johnson, senior director of MCC’s Office of Strategic Partnerships in a press release when the partnership was announced.
At the same time, the company’s mission has paid off commercially. Last January, eighteen94, Kellogg’s venture fund, led a $4.25 million round of investment. The company has more than doubled revenues this year with products available everywhere from Whole Foods to Amazon and Costco. Since its inception, the company has sourced an estimated $2 million in moringa from growers in partner countries. It expects to process at least 1.3 million pounds next year.
Arby’s is quacking up. First, after over 50 years of serving up roast beef, the fast food chain decided that roast beef wasn’t cool anymore and that it would instead be a sandwich shop. Now, it’s decided that regular old turkey sandwiches aren’t enough and it needs new poultry options. Namely: duck.
That’s right, Arby’s is going to sell quack. Starting on Saturday, October 20, the chain will start serving a seared duck breast sandwich, complete with smoked cherry sauce and crispy onions on “a signature Arby’s bun,” according to Nation’s Restaurant News.
The $6.99 sandwich will only be served at 16 locations across the country in “very limited quantities,” the company said, and those locations were all selected due to their proximity to “waterfowl migration flyways” and duck-hunting areas. Check your local hunting license office for Arby’s managers–or check the list of locations here.
This isn’t the first time that Arby’s has attempted to appeal to fast-food-loving hunting enthusiasts. It launched a limited run of venison burger tied to deer hunting season in 2016 and an elk burger in 2017. As NRN notes, both were wildly popular, too: Supplies of the elk burger sold out in a day, while the venison burger sold out in 15 minutes flat. So if you want a duck burger, be sure to get up at the quack of dawn.
The Trump administration is moving to pull out of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), a 144-year-old international treaty organization that sets rates for sending mail between different countries.
The UPU treaty gives lower mailing rates to poorer countries, including China, which Trump and other critics say has let China flood the U.S. with dirt-cheap electronics and other goods, often sold online for rock-bottom prices with shipping included. About 60% of packages shipped into the U.S. come from China, the New York Times reports.
That lets Chinese vendors unfairly compete with U.S. vendors who have to pay ordinary U.S. shipping rates to get their goods to customers, Trump argued in an August memorandum.
The wave of Chinese shipping has allegedly also helped conceal small mailed packages of synthetic drugs like fentanyl, which are hard to spot in the wave of incoming mail. The current international shipping regime doesn’t do enough to distinguish between letters and packages containing goods that might need inspection by customs, Trump argued in the memorandum.
Trump generally hasn’t been shy about criticizing and rejecting international agreements he feels disadvantage the United States, from NAFTA to NATO. The White House said in a statement that the U.S. State Department would give notice of its intent to pull out of the postal union Wednesday, but the parties involved would still have a year to negotiate before it’s a done deal.
“If negotiations are successful, the administration is prepared to rescind the notice of withdrawal and remain in the UPU,” according to the statement.
Trump isn’t the first to see the possibility for economic mischief in postal rate disparities. Charles Ponzi, the infamous scammer, noticed that it was possibly to buy international postal reply coupons similar to today’s prepaid reply envelopes on the cheap in some countries thanks to UPU rules. Ponzi pitched investors with a plan to buy the coupons where they were cheap and resell them where they were more expensive. In reality, he simply paid participants back with money from later investors, in an early example of the type of scam that now bears his name.
On a rainy night in late September, when President Donald Trump reportedly signaled his support for Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) candidacy for Speaker of the House, he chose the perfect setting for the favor–a private fundraiser for McCarthy and Vice President Mike Pence’s joint fundraising committee at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
McCarthy and Pence’s PAC, Protect the House, spent $154,000 to host the reception and dinner for around 300 guests at the hotel that night. That’s on top of $65,000 that Protect the House has previously spent at that venue and another $7,500 at Trump’s Bedminster golf course–all of which puts money in the pocket of the Pennsylvania Avenue hotel, just a few blocks from the White House. And that directly benefits President Trump, who neither divested from his 77% ownership of the hotel nor put them in a blind trust (as is customary for U.S. presidents) when he took office.
While it’s not clear if Trump’s support and affection for McCarthy stems from his hotel selling more than $200,000 of catering services to the congressman’s committee–McCarthy’s main competitor for the Speaker position is conservative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a Trump ally, whose campaign spent a little more than $3,000 on food and drinks during a fundraiser at the Trump International’s steakhouse last May—the president does have a track record of championing his customers and lavishing praise on his guests and customers. The venue has become a magnet for administration officials, lobbyists, and foreign officials currying favor with the president, as has been reported by Fast Company.
McCarthy isn’t the only political candidate possibly parlaying Trump Organization patronage into President Trump’s approval: The campaigns or affiliated PACs of at least eight candidates for federal or state office have spent funds at a Trump property soon before the president tapped out his coveted tweet of endorsement. Of course, as the leader of the GOP, Trump can be expected to endorse its candidates, though he only reserves his powerful Twitter account (which has 55 million followers) for favored politicos. And though it doesn’t violate campaign finance laws, the pattern does trouble ethics experts.
“This is another example of the problems that arise from President Trump refusing to divest from his businesses,” says Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to holding candidates and government officials accountable. “We don’t know whether the president is endorsing these candidates because he supports their platform and policies or whether his decision to endorse them was influenced by their spending money at the properties he still owns.”
Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an organization involved in two emoluments lawsuits against President Trump, and a former federal corruption prosecutor, also questioned if the president’s endorsements were padding his wallet. “It raises the specter that the president is essentially enriching himself by virtue of his position,” Bookbinder says. “Because if you have other politicians who think they’re more likely to get the president’s support if they spend money at his hotels or his golf courses or his other businesses, they’re more likely to do that and the president makes more money.”
White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters did not respond to an inquiry asking if President Trump considered whether or not a candidate patronized his businesses when deciding to make an endorsement. Similarly, the Trump Organization and the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C. (the location for most of the campaign expenditures) did not reply when asked if any employees ever told a campaign that patronizing a Trump business could put the candidate in President Trump’s good graces.
The campaigns that spent money at a Trump property before receiving an endorsement tweet were reelection efforts for Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisc.); Reps. Tom Reed (R–NY), Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), and political newcomer Republican John James‘s candidacy for U.S. Senate in Michigan.
Also on Oct. 13, Trump endorsed Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), who’s in a tough reelection fight; the Barr-affiliated Building America’s Republican Representation PAC spent $292 at the D.C. hotel a few months earlier. And Trump endorsed McCarthy during his primary race as well, which was after McCarthy’scommittee made its first disbursement at a Trump property.
The campaigns and committees for the seven incumbents made one expenditure each at a Trump property before receiving the endorsement, ranging from $242 to $13,500; James made five separate purchases at Trump’s D.C. hotel (which is not in Michigan), totaling more than $2,500.
Trump has tweeted endorsements for 53 federal, state, and local candidates, meaning 15% of them also double as Trump Organization clients. Those endorsements are incredibly important, considering that there are thousands of candidates running for office in this election. In addition, as of this May, only 59 political groups (candidates and PACs) had spent money at the hotel during Trump’s presidency, meaning that a much higher percentage of candidates who’ve patronized the hotel have been endorsed by Trump compared to the candidates who haven’t spent money at his properties.
Additionally, President Trump endorsed many candidates whose campaigns didn’t patronize his properties but who were supported by unaffiliated PACs that did. For example, while the campaigns for Rep. Kevin Cramer (R–ND) and Missouri attorney general Josh Hawley (R) (who’s running for U.S. Senate) did not spend money at a Trump property, the Peter Norbeck Leadership PAC, which donated to both candidates, spent $3,422 at Trump’s D.C. hotel.
“Obviously somebody spending a hundred thousand dollars or a million dollars may be more susceptible to influence the president than somebody spending a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars,” said Bookbinder. “But the president has also made clear in statements that he’s made that he likes when people patronize his businesses. He think it reflects well on people and he pays attention to that.”
None of the seven campaigns or Barr’s PAC responded to inquiries asking if they spent money at the president’s properties in the hopes of getting in his good graces or receiving an endorsement.
Bookbinder and Fischer don’t think there’s anything illegal about the president touting a candidate who’s patronized his businesses unless there was some other factor. For instance, Bookbinder said if there was an agreement that the endorsement was contingent on spending money at a Trump property and was connected to Trump’s official duties as president.
For this analysis, we cross-referenced President Trump’s tweets containing “endorse” (or variations thereof) with Federal Election Commission and state records of campaign disbursements at Trump hotels and their restaurants since Trump’s inauguration. (Trump endorsed McCarthy in a July tweet, but didn’t use the word “endorse”; Fast Company came across it when looking into the would-be speaker’s relationship with the president.) We also verified expenditures were incurred before the candidate got the Trump seal of approval. For one Trump-endorsed candidate, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) (campaigning for reelection), 2018 campaign finance reports were not available publicly yet (but he is included among the 531 candidates whom Trump has endorsed).
Neither Bookbinder nor Fischer could think of a historical precedent for a U.S. elected official endorsing candidates for office who also patronized his business. “I think that speaks to the uniqueness of the Trump presidency,” Fischer said. “Most elected officials divest from having any properties that could pose a potential conflict of issue, so this is not a recurring issue.”
Bookbinder agreed. “When you have these potential conflicts of the president taking actions that benefit someone who’s bringing business to him, it’s possible that there was no affect based on that and that he made the decisions for the same reasons he always would have,” he said.
“But it’s also possible that he didn’t. There’s really no way for us to know. We shouldn’t have to be asking those questions.”
Dyson is known for products that move air from one place to another: vacuum cleaners, fans, dryers for your hands and hair. So why not enlist Dyson to simulate wind? That’s exactly the idea behind a SoHo pop-up by four-year-old outerwear startup The Arrivals, which creates jackets and coats designed to be fashion-forward but also stand up to the elements.
For years, Fast Company has reported on the decline in brick-and-mortar retail. But we’ve been observing many startups that are taking a stab at creating physical stores—except they’re doing it in much more creative ways than we’ve seen in the past. This pop-up, for instance, resembles an art installation. The space is designed to look futuristic, like a high-tech wind tunnel combined with a bouncy house. Thirty Dyson Supersonic hair dryers have been set up, sending 13 liters of air into the tunnel every second.
This is the third year that The Arrivals has created a pop-up in time for the holiday season, but the startup’s cofounder Jeff Johnson says that he is constantly weighing the benefits of digital versus brick and mortar. The digitally native brand sells the majority of its products through its website, but it has found that these in-person experiences are valuable because they boost sales. But ultimately, the in-store experience is important because it helps shape the brand’s identity and allows customers to literally step into the brand’s world, which creates a memorable experience that will stay with the customer for a long time.
The pop-up just opened on 67 Greene Street in New York, and will remain open until February 2019.
On Wednesday, Twitter released a collection of more than 10 million tweets related to thousands of accounts affiliated with Russia’s Internet Research Agency propaganda outfit, as well as hundreds more troll accounts, including many based in Iran.
The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab took an advance look at the data and released a four-part report on its analysis. Among the lab’s findings:
For now, there’s no reason to think political trolls are going away.
“Identifying future foreign influence operations, and reducing their impact, will demand awareness and resilience from the activist communities targeted, not just the platforms and the open source community,” according to the report.
The New York attorney general’s office has launched an investigation of MoviePass’ parent company, Helios and Matheson, to determine whether the company has misled investors.
According to CNBC, attorney general Barbara Underwood is evoking the Martin Act, New York’s anti-fraud law, against Helios and Matheson under the suspicion that it has been less than transparent about its finances. The probe comes as yet another blow to movie-ticket-subscription service MoviePass, which has stumbled dismally on the path toward profitability.
In August, it was reported that Helios and Matheson lost 97% of its stock value, and MoviePass has since come under hellfire for hiking its prices and making it next to impossible to quit the service altogether.
This investigation just seems like another act in MoviePass’s death spiral before it’s finally laid to rest.