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    Facebook reported sky-high profits today despite a number of rotating scandals related to data privacy, fake news, and faulty metrics.

    The social network reported earnings per share of $1.76, compared to a consensus estimate of $1.47 cited by CNBC. However, revenue was slightly lower than expected, topping off at $13.73 billion, compared to estimates of $13.78 billion.

    User growth also took a hit: Daily active users were expected to reach 1.51 billion, while monthly active users were expected to reach 2.29 billion. But those numbers were both lower than expected, at 1.49 billion and 2.27 billion, respectively.

    Nevertheless, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a note to investors today that more than 2 billion people use one of Facebook’s services—including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger—every day. “We’re building the best services for private messaging and stories, and there are huge opportunities ahead in video and commerce as well,” Zuckerberg said.

    Facebook has been the focus of several controversies over the last year, including revelations about data misuse by Cambridge Analytica, outrage over Zuckerberg’s apparent defense of Holocaust denial, mayhem and violence caused by misinformation on the platform, advertiser backlash over faulty video metrics, and a massive data hack that exposed the personal information of about 29 million users.

    Those scandals, along with Zuckerberg’s previous warnings about decreased user engagement, had already wiped away huge gains for the company. Before today’s report, shares of Facebook were trading at lows not seen since mid-2017.

    But investors must have liked what they saw this afternoon, as shares perked up a bit in after-hours trading after a slight dip. We’ll have to wait and see if the good feelings last.

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    Flight cancellations are one of the biggest bummers (outside of racism, misogyny, homophobia, ageism, and news of the Clueless reboot, of course). They put a damper on your vacation, and make your return home even more frustrating. The only thing that can help is seamless rebooking, which is where Freebird comes in. Freebird is an app-based service that alerts travelers when their flight is disrupted and offers them alternative flights in 30 seconds or less. Even more importantly, it pays for new tickets, making the process as painless as a flight cancellation can be. Now, TechCrunch reports that the service has raised an $8 million Series A to expand its business.

    Currently, Freebird, which isn’t travel insurance but acts a bit like it, costs $19 for a one-way trip or $34 for round-trip, and is only available for domestic travel. If your flight goes smoothly, which it normally does, Freebird keeps your money. If there is a flight disruption, it rebooks you ASAP. The Series A round was led by American Express Ventures with support from Citi Ventures, which makes sense, because Freebird is reportedly in discussions with both of them to include its services in their corporate card travel benefits. Since its founding in 2015, TechCrunch reports, Freebird has raised a total of $16.5 million in funding.

    Freebird is not the only app in the flight-cancellation space. AirHelp lets passengers check eligibility for compensation for delayed or canceled flights in real time, without even leaving the airport, boarding gate, or even the plane itself. Service automatically detects flight disruptions and looks for compensation, and also tries to save you money at hotels by rebooking when lower fares become available. They have a partnership with Kayak to streamline the delay or cancellation compensation process.

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    The new reality of Hollywood–the rich are getting richer while everyone else struggles–was underscored in an article in Variety about how a new California state law is driving up stars’ salaries on TV shows. The law, which went into effect this year, bars employers from asking potential hires what their previous salaries were, instead forcing them to come up with a salary based on their value and merit.

    The shift is making a huge impact in television, where the long-standing process of determining someone’s fee was through the so-called quote system, whereby people were paid based on their quote, or what they had previously received. 

    The good news is that there is now more pay equity for certain demographics, including women and people of color, according to Grace Wu, executive VP of casting for NBC. Because there have historically been fewer roles for those categories and therefore fewer available data, salaries were not subject to the same competitive price wars among studios and producers. The new law, she told Variety, “has helped people that have been marginalized in the past.”

    But overall equity in pay remains challenged by the bigger shift underway in Hollywood: the talent arms’ race that’s being driven by deep-pocketed tech companies like Netflix, Amazon, and now Apple and Facebook. As each builds up its original programming efforts and contributes to the TV bonanza otherwise known as Peak TV, they are wooing TV show runners, producers, and actors to their rosters with ever-escalating paydays. Over the last year, Netflix has shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars to make deals with top show runners Shonda Rhimes (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy), Kenya Barris (Black-ish), and Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story).

    As for actors, Variety reports that Apple is paying Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston about $1.1 million each per episode for their upcoming morning TV show dramedy. Amazon is paying Javier Bardem $1.2 million per episode for Amblin TV’s mini series about 16th-century explorer Hernán Cortés. And Julia Roberts is making $600,000 an episode for the new Amazon show Homecoming. 

    Fast Company recently reported that as TV budgets are driven up by these price wars, non-A-list talent is being squeezed. With less money available for names that aren’t on the top of the call sheet, producers are becoming more creative about how to make numbers work. Actors have accused Netflix of not making them series regulars–where the pay is much higher than being a daily or weekly player–despite the fact that they have appeared in the bulk of a season’s episodes. As a result, the entire Hollywood ecosystem is being affected and the so-called middle class–writers, character actors, and directors–is crumbling.

    “Hollywood has bifurcated completely,” one literary manager told Fast Company. “The rich are getting richer. What seems like an endless supply of money is really for the premium people.”

    To wit, Variety included paydays for Hollywood’s finest, which only reinforces this point: 

    —Kelly Clarkson: $560,000/episode for NBC’s The Voice

    —Kevin Hart: $500,000/episode for CBS’s TKO

    —Dwayne Johnson: $450,000/episode for NBC’s Titan Games

    —John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, and Sara Gilbert: $375,000/episode for ABC’s The Conners

    —Drew Barrymore and James Cordon: $350,000/episode for CBS’s World’s Best

    —Alec Baldwin: $300,000/episode for ABC’s Alec Baldwin Show

    —Candace Bergen: $250,000/episode for the new Murphy Brown on CBS

    —Sarah Silverman: $225,000/episode for Hulu’s I Love You, America

    —Jennifer Garner: $150,000/episode for HBO’s Camping

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    Apple announced a long-awaited redesign of its popular–but aging–MacBook Air today at a press event in Brooklyn. The new Air is likely to satisfy most of the anxieties of those who were worried that the company would fail to address the product’s major shortcomings.

    The MacBook Air is a bit of an antique. The original version was released way back in 2008, and a major update arrived in 2010. It’s felt a little like a dead laptop walking since at least 2015, when Apple introduced a new thin-and-light MacBook with a high-resolution Retina screen. Apple has given the 2010-vintage Air regular spec bumps over the years, but never added a Retina display. Some thought the company would just fold the Air into the non-Pro MacBook model and be done with it.

    Despite everything, people still love their Airs. “IT departments and budget conscious purchasers have been buying the MacBook Air for many years despite the technology being out of date,” said Bradley Chambers in a recent piece for 9to5Mac. Chambers is a Chattanooga-based IT manager who buys and manages computers for a private school. “Let’s hope they announce something on 10/30; I hope it’s a funeral for the MacBook Air.”

    Nope. The Air has a new lease on life. And with the upgrade Apple did squarely address the old version’s main problems.

    The old Air’s display was a 13.3-inch relic with 1,440-by-900 screen resolution. The new Air has a new Retina display at 2560 by 1600 pixels. The old Air had a wide aluminum bezel around its screen; the new one dispenses with that and extends the display outward toward the edge of the body. The new Air’s display is still 13.3 inches, and the case retains its trademark wedge shape, but the body is smaller–17% smaller by volume–and it weighs 2.75 pounds, a quarter pound lighter than the previous Air.

    The old Air had a slower fifth-generation Intel Core i5 processor, but the new Air’s upgrade to an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor should make browsing the web, playing video, opening apps, or managing photos quite a bit zippier.

    The new model also has a newly designed keyboard (with a Touch ID button but no Touch Bar), a much larger trackpad, improved stereo sound, and Apple’s dedicated T2 security chip.

    The old Air had a couple of old USB-A ports, a slot for removable storage, and a MagSafe 2 connector for power. The new model has two USB-C ports, which can be used for power or peripherals.

    The dongle conundrum

    Much of the world’s tech still uses USB-A, and some Air fans will complain about the new Air’s USB-C ports. “As a photographer I’m really hoping to keep the SD slot, hell even keep a USB-A or two,” one 9to5Mac commenter said. “It would be Apple’s entry level laptop so it could keep some ‘legacy’ ports.”

    It’s true that new Air owners will need to buy a dongle or USB-C cable even to perform a simple tasks such as plugging in an iPhone for charging or syncing. But at least the new Air has two USB-C ports. The non-Pro MacBook only has one USB-C port, so you can’t power the machine and use a peripheral at the same time without buying an adapter.

    That 2015 MacBook was Apple’s first USB-C device, so fretting over the need for adapters and new cables is getting to be an old complaint. “I doubt anybody expected something different on ports … as there should be consistency,” says Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi. “Given USB-C was added to the [new iPad Pro], I do not see how they could have done otherwise.”

    “Given the upgrades, I think people will be pretty happy,” she adds.

    Still, today’s announcement does leave some lingering questions about the Air’s identity and its real role in Apple’s product portfolio. When the original Air debuted almost 11 years ago, its defining feature was how little of it there was–remember Steve Jobs whisking it out of a manila envelope during Apple’s launch event at Macworld Expo? “At one point, I thought [the MacBook Air brand promise] spoke more to the form factor being so thin and light,” said IDC analyst Linn Huang in an email. “Yet, at $100 more for the base models, the MacBook is both thinner and lighter.”

    The Air’s modus operandi may have shifted over the years. Compared to the MacBook Pro, Huang says, it’s less about the sort of high-end components that power users crave. He points out that there are many people who like the Apple brand or ecosystem, have iPhones or iPads, and just want a MacBook at an accessible price. “I think over the years, that is what the Air brand has started to stand for–the most accessible MacBook for the swaths of iPhone and iPad owners.”

    The new 128 GB MacBook Air sells for $1,199–$200 more than the previous Air model–while the 256 GB model sells for $1,399. That’s not an unprecedented price for a MacBook Air: When the previous 13″ model was introduced in 2010, it started at $1,299. But Apple still wants to cater to people who want a mobile Mac but aren’t about to pay $1,199. Its machine for those folks? The old-school Air, which remains on the market at $999.

    9to5Mac’s Chambers, the guy who’d called for the MacBook Air’s demise, thinks that many businesses will still buy the aging $999 model for as long as it’s available. But he’s impressed by the new Air. “The new laptop is exactly what I’d hope Apple would build,” he says. “The addition of the Retina screen makes it the go-to laptop in the Apple lineup. My only complaint is that the default storage option is still 128 GB.”

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    The most productive people are early risers. You should learn to eliminate procrastination. Stress is terrible for productivity.

    You’ve probably come across many of these statements in productivity articles (some of which were probably in Fast Company). But as psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman and time management expert Laura Vanderkam told the audience at the Fast Company Innovation Festival, some of the most commonly cited productivity principles are not always correct. Or they are true, but there’s more to the statement. For example, Vanderkam says that while research might show morning people do better in tests as kids and get better jobs as adults, it’s not because they are naturally more productive, it’s because the world is set up to reward them.

    [Photo: Samir Abady for Fast Company]
    In a bonus live episode of Secrets of The Most Productive People, my cohost Kate Davis and I speak to Vanderkam and Kaufman about some of the most common productivity myths and where they come from. You can find the episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, StitcherSpotify, RadioPublic, or wherever you get your podcasts. Please stay subscribed as we’ll be back for season two with more productivity-related content in early 2019.

    To help us make this podcast even better, please fill out a short survey here. Participants will have a chance to win a $50 gift card.

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    Storms have been hammering Italy for the last three days, causing unprecedented destruction and even taking a few lives. According to the BBC, at least 11 people have died as a result of the storm–thousands of others are directly impacted. Over 70% of Venice is currently underwater.

    People in the lagoon city are trying to deal with the water damage, while wading through over knee-high water. Pictures and videos are spreading over the internet of tourists and locals walking through the flooded streets–some even trying to conduct business as usual.

    Meanwhile, other regions are dealing with other frightening prospects. For instance, some towns encountered landslides due to the storms; one woman died as a result. Another coastal town, Terracina, was hit by two tornadoes.

    According to the Guardian, the weather is expected to let up today, which will hopefully help the floodwater recede. Still, the damage will surely be shocking. Venice’s St. Mark’s Basilica, a 1,000-year-old cathedral with mosaic flooring, has been totally covered in water. “It is becoming ever more difficult for us and indeed could become impossible for us to repair the damage, especially in an age of climate change,” said Carlo Tesserin, the church’s chief administrator, to the Guardian. He believes the water damage may have caused the famous landmark to age at least 20 years.

    According to, Venice’s mayor said that the city has been trying to put in new underwater barriers that would have better protected it from a storm like this. The project has been hampered by budget woes and political corruption. Perhaps this week’s destruction will help move the project along to prevent further tragedy.

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    It takes years of practice for a pianist to become skilled enough to improvise, hitting the ivories in a way that is both instantaneous and something a listener would want to bop their head to. Now, even the most tone-deaf among us can take a whack at it with the help of an AI system called Piano Genie.

    The team behind Piano Genie trained a neural network on a dataset made up of about 1,400 pieces of piano performances from an international youth competition. The system learned what notes typically follow one another, much like your phone’s predictive texting tries to guess what you want to write next.

    Chris Donahue, a PhD student at UC San Diego and an intern at Google’s Magenta project, where he was one of the researchers that worked on Piano Genie, says some inspiration came from Guitar Hero, the video game that lets players bang on a plastic guitar’s buttons, following the notes displayed on the screen.

    RELATED: Watch this sonic inventor jam with a band of homemade robots

    In the spirit of Guitar Hero‘s simplified guitar “playing,” they reduced the standard number of 88 keys on a piano into just eight buttons to keep it manageable for non-musicians. (A web demo can be played with here, and a video of what it looks like when an actual piano player tries it can be watched on YouTube.)

    Most AI-created art is nonsensical or derivative, like this screenplay or this Harry Potter chapter. Humans still need to be in the loop for something that is traditionally entertaining to come out of AI models. Fortunately, music researchers have been working on AI-assisted products since the 1980s. That work has spawned tools like Logic, which uses AI to create drum patterns and another Google Magenta project called NSynth Super that relies on neural networks to combine instruments and create new sounds.

    RELATED: Go inside Moog’s new polyphonic synthesizer

    Other AI music projects like Amper and Flow need some configuring before popping out a completed (but still configurable) piece of music. Piano Genie is ready to go after loading and improvises note by note, learning from the player as they go. And every time a user refreshes the demo site, the neural net behind the system is reset and starts creating anew.

    “A nice property of these generative systems is they can surprise you,” Donahue says.

    Donahue says the team, which also includes DeepMind’s Sander Dieleman and Google’s Ian Simon, are looking into similar technology that could be useful for other musicians. There is no compilation of guitar-playing samples that match the quality of the piano competition dataset, so the more immediate goal is to grow Piano Genie’s musical knowledge. Training the system to consider aspects like chord progression and scales would create a sophisticated tool that could let even novice musicians jam with more experienced players.

    Even though Piano Genie is geared toward novices, it hasn’t reduced the enjoyment of playing for Donahue, who has played piano for 20 years.

    “It’s fun to wail on it,” he says.

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    We live in a depressingly materialist society. So why not defer the existential pain of our culture’s ever-increasing vapidity/demise and cash in? Every day, it seems, there’s a new holiday made up by some brand or public relations company. National cookie day! National hot dog day! National bean day! The list goes on.

    But today is a realer holiday than these others: It’s Halloween. You know, the day where you’re either a child dressed up in a costume and collecting candy from strangers or an adult dressed up in a costume questioning some or all of your life choices.

    But even if this isn’t a fake holiday, that isn’t stopping the brands. Oh no, they want in. They always want in. In fact, many are having specials just for today, because that’s how capitalism works (spooky scary). If you want some free, or discounted, or just weird food today (and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t?), here are some of the places you can go to for Halloween deals.

    • Chipotle: The Tex-Mex fast-casual restaurant that has been working tirelessly to get you to forget about its myriad health scares is having a “BOORITO” promo. If you go to a location in costume, you can get a burrito, bowl, salad, or tacos for just $4. And perhaps the goblin getup can scare away the E. coli too.
    • Applebee’s: The self-proclaimed “eating good in the neighborhood” restaurant has been having a drink deal all month. Where have you been?? In honor of both Halloween–as well as the chain’s love of sickeningly sweet alcoholic beverages–it has been offering $1 zombie cocktails. Today is your last day, so drink up–and be sure to note where the closest bathroom is.
    • Krispy Kreme: If you just go to the beloved donut shop today in costume, you get a free donut. Why not.
    • 7-Eleven: This one requires more than just showing up in costume, so bear with me. If you download the 7Reward app you can get a two-for-one pizza deal. But you have to order it between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. today. What does this have to do with Halloween? I don’t know!
    • IHOP: After failing to make everyone buy burgers, the pancake chain is trying to gin up more interest. Today, if you’re 12 or under, you can go to the restaurant and get a free “scary face pancake” between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
    • Burger King: This isn’t a deal, but the fast-food chain is offering a special sandwich called the Nightmare King. It has fried chicken, grilled beef, bacon, cheese, and is housed in two disturbingly green buns. If green bread is what you’re craving, for some reason, then by all means run don’t walk to your closest BK.
    • Starbucks: If unicorn Frappuccinos weren’t scary enough, now the coffee brand has a “Witch’s Brew” drink that is orange creme flavored and has weird decorations on it. Yummy. Supplies are limited so go quick.

    There are surely dozens more deals out there, but I’ll end the list here. If you’ve eaten a couple 7-11 pizzas and a donut and beef/chicken sandwich, and then washed it down with a few Applebee’s cocktails, do you really need anything more? Perhaps just your stomach pumped.

    Happy Halloween!

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    The courier and delivery giant has announced that it is ending its program that offers discounts for business members of the National Rifle Association, reports Reuters. The cessation of the program comes just days after America’s latest mass shooting, where a gunman killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

    However, FedEx says the Pittsburgh synagogue isn’t the reason its NRA discount program is ending. Instead, the company says the NRA did not bring in enough business to merit its own deal. Earlier this year, FedEx came under fire for not ending its NRA deal after the Parkland shooting when other companies such as Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Enterprise cut ties with the group. FedEx now says its NRA deal will come to an end on November 4.

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    All politics is local, goes the saying. But in technology hub San Francisco, local politics have sparked national debate among the billionaire leaders of global business empires.

    The issue is a November ballot initiative, called Proposition C, that would raise between $250 and $300 million per year to fund homeless and housing assistance programs in the rapidly gentrifying city–roughly doubling what the city currently spends. San Francisco has thousands of homeless residents, and prohibitively high rents and home prices that make it hard for them to find (and stay in) housing. So activists are going to the city’s wealthiest companies to help solve the problem, proposing a tax averaging 0.5% on gross receipts of over $50 million per year.

    Those companies that would be affected, though, include some of the biggest personalities in technology: The grandiose co-CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff, and confoundingly circumspect CEO of both Twitter and Square, Jack Dorsey. When Benioff came out in favor of Prop C and Dorsey stood up to oppose it, a local politics dispute over taxes became a celebrity death match that goes well beyond one local proposition and into a much broader conversation about the role these successful companies–and billionaire CEOs–have to play in how our country is governed.

    “Proposition C is a referendum on the role of business in our communities and, by extension, our country,” wrote Benioff, with characteristic bravura, in a New York Times op-ed. And he put a lot of money behind his words.

    Benioff (net worth $4.9 billion, according to Forbes) has so far donated $2 million to the Yes on C campaign, while Salesforce itself has put up another $5.05 million to defend it against lesser donations from opponents including Dorsey (net worth $3.1 billion) and Stripe CEO Patrick Collison (net worth $1 billion).

    The companies, personalities, communities, and social crises wrapped into Proposition C guaranteed that it would grow from a local squabble to a referendum on the soul of big tech, and even the nation.

    Here are three reasons why.

    The Bay Area symbolizes everything that’s wrong with modern capitalism

    The U.S. economy is booming–with both GDP growth and the official unemployment rate between 3% and 4%. But many Americans are struggling, working multiple low-wage jobs to continue living in, or even near, ever-pricier cities. The backbeat to the Prop C struggle has been the weeks-long chanting and drumming of thousands of striking Marriott hotel workers across San Francisco and other cities, carrying signs that read, “One Job Should Be Enough.”

    Hotel workers are striking across San Francisco and other major U.S. cities. [Photo: Sean Captain]
    At the other extreme, San Francisco trails only New York and Hong Kong for the highest number of billionaire residents (at 74). And a flood of wealthy tech industry workers, with average earnings of $142,000 per year, makes the city increasingly unaffordable for nearly everyone who isn’t in tech or finance. San Francisco is the number-six U.S. city for income inequality, according to the Brookings Institution, with by far the highest average income for its richest 5%–just over half a million dollars.

    Related: Across Silicon Valley, cities may tax big tech to help struggling renters

    At the same time, the city’s last biennial homeless survey, from 2017, puts the count at 7,499–by manually tallying up people in shelters and on the streets on a given night. But advocates reckon the total could be more than double that, based on the number of people using city services for the homeless.

    Whatever the exact number of homeless, it doesn’t seem to have budged much in recent years. Opponents of Prop C, noting that the homeless count hasn’t gone down, say that policies have failed, and that more money shouldn’t be thrown at the problem. Proponents, noting that the number hasn’t gone up, despite a growing income gap, counter that policies have been working and just need more funding. Homeless services have gotten many people off the street, but newly homeless people have taken their place.

    Regardless whether funding, oversight, or both are insufficient, the level of care certainly is. Shelters are short about 1,000 beds every night. And daily encounters with homeless encampments, street drug use, and sometimes threatening homeless residents make clear to all San Franciscans that mental healthcare is not keeping up.

    Nor can it without first getting people housed, says Samantha Lew of the Coalition on Homelessness, who’s serving as manager for the Prop C campaign. “Think about not having [healthy] sleep for weeks on end, also not having a roof over your head, being exposed to violence, whether that’s verbal, physical, sexual violence, particularly for women,” she says. “Even if you didn’t have a mental health condition before, you are under so much stress and trauma that you will almost surely develop one.”

    [Photo: DianeBentleyRaymond/iStock]
    Prop C aims to fund 1,000 new homeless shelter spots, reducing the wait time to zero. It would expand mental health services so that everyone judged to be in need of care gets it immediately. And it would expand public restroom and sanitation services in the city where even the streets outside blue-chip tech companies often reek of severe body odor and human poop.

    Over half of Prop C’s revenue goes to preventing homelessness–funding affordable housing construction and maintenance or rent subsidies, for instance. That resonates in one of the country’s most-expensive cities, where just a studio apartment averages nearly $2,500 per month.

    Prop C paints as the villains companies and CEOs people already dislike

    The most visible opponent is Twitter CEO and cofounder Jack Dorsey, who has donated $125,000 to the No on Prop C campaign. Contempt for Twitter unites Americans. Nationally, liberals condemn the flowering of racist, chauvinist, and disruptive foreign-troll accounts. Conservatives, up to President Trump, condemn what they call a bias against right-wing voices and opinions.

    Locally, San Franciscans grumble about the multiyear payroll tax holiday that the city granted Twitter (and others) to locate its headquarters in the Mid-Market Street neighborhood. It created high-paid jobs that fuel gentrification, without doing much for local businesses–including the new restaurants and markets that opened up in the hopes of a neighborhood renewal. Tech employees stick to their companies’ cafeterias for lunch (which some local politicians have flirted with banning) or hightail it out of the neighborhood after work for the hipper parts of town.

    Dorsey is less worried about the tax hit to Twitter than to his other company, Square. Because it would be taxed on total income, which mostly goes straight to Visa, MasterCard, and other payment services that Square acts as a conduit for, Dorsey reckons this would require Square to pay twice as much per year (about $20 million) as Benioff’s much-larger Salesforce.

    But the details of tax assessment don’t grab headlines. Resistance by a billionaire recipient of taxpayer largesse to tossing a few million dollars at a desperate situation does–especially after all U.S. corporations just got a massive tax cut. The ongoing smackdown with Benioff on–what else, Twitter–also makes great entertainment.

    Fewer people are likely to have a negative opinion–or any opinion–about Salesforce as about Twitter. A maker of cloud-based customer relationship management software hardly compares to the social network where Beyoncé drops new songs and Kanye goes to crazy town. And Benioff projects an image of himself as a philanthropist (giving mightily to local charities) and of Salesforce as the corporate citizen of San Francisco–what Kodak once was to Rochester. The extra $10 million in taxes that Prop C will cost is a small sum toward these goals.

    Dorsey deserves credit for honestly explaining his financial objections. Neighboring payments company Stripe, on the other hand, which has donated $420,000 to the No campaign, basically says: leave the problem to the mayor–who happens to oppose Prop C. No on C donations have also flowed from other financial firms, such as Charles Schwab, which has given $100,000, and Visa, which has given $225,000. (Other big donations include $150,000 from Y Combinator cofounder Paul Graham and $100,000 from Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital.)

    Lyft, which has donated $100,000, objects for similar reasons as Square and Stripe–since it’s a low-margin business. Lyft may be seen as the less-evil alternative to Uber, but gig-economy vendors–critiqued for offering low wages and no benefits to the very struggling Americans getting hammered by the income gap–don’t enjoy much sympathy, either.

    The culture was primed for a fight with big tech

    Rampant privacy breaches, social media election manipulation, controversial projects for both the U.S. and Chinese governments, and a growing litany of sexual assault and discrimination claims. Silicon Valley is at the nadir of public opinion–on both the left and the right.

    In recent years, especially since 2016, an infrastructure of opposition to big tech has emerged. It’s often lead from within, by disgruntled employees organizing in groups such as the Tech Workers Coalition, the TechEquity Collaborative, and the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

    In the past year, for instance, Google employee protests shut down the company’s contract with the Pentagon’s artificial intelligence initiative, Project Maven, and derailed its ambitions to pursue a potential $10 billion contact for a Pentagon cloud-computing project called JEDI. They also helped expose the harassment, including sexual harassment, of minority and female employees going back years.

    Employees from Microsoft, as well as Salesforce, have protested their companies’ involvement with the U.S. military and Homeland Security. Some of the same tech worker activists that allied with Marc Benioff on Prop C oppose him on the company’s contract with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

    Tech workers like Evan Owski (center) are central to the Prop C campaign. [Photo: Sean Captain]
    Activist tech workers and the DSA (which is booming in the Bay Area) have spearheaded support for Prop C–mobilizing to gather the 28,000 signatures to put it on the ballot (three times the amount needed), manning phone banks, mounting protests. And since the opposition from tech companies has become clear, they’ve been fliering outside corporate offices to gain support from employees of Lyft, Stripe, and Square, in opposition to their CEOs.

    Related: How tech workers became activists, leading a resistance movement that is shaking up Silicon Valley

    Workers from Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Hustle, Stripe, and other companies–some veterans of past tech worker protests–have donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Yes on C campaign. The bulk of it came from LinkedIn engineer Evan Owski, who’s been working on homelessness issues for a year and a half through a local DSA working group. At a small tech worker rally for Prop C in early October, Owski drew a line through all the protest issues.

    Prop C proponents handing out flyers to employees of companies that oppose the measure, such as Square. [Photo: Sean Captain]
    “We want to see our company’s shuttle drivers and contract workers paid fairly. We want to see an end to sexual harassment and an end to the gender and racial pay gap,” he said. “We want our companies to stop doing business with agencies that are locking up and abusing immigrants, and we want our companies to stop spending against measures that will create housing and improve our city.”

    Increasingly unpopular with the public and challenged by activists inside and out, tech companies are under an ethical microscope. Any one issue is judged in context of all the others. And every battle becomes an existential one.

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    As soon as you become a grown-up, you need to start making decisions about things. Should I rent this apartment even though it might be beyond my means? Am I ready to become a father? Is it appropriate to wear basketball shorts in public anymore? Some choices are easy and some are pretty tough, but it’s all on you.

    It was only a matter of time before the anxiety of all this crept into my life and started wreaking havoc. Life gets difficult at some point for everyone; you can’t get away with playing Lego with your little brother in your parents’ basement forever. It happens sooner than later for some, but we all end up dealing with it. Hell, I woke up in a panicked state this morning for absolutely no discernible reason. I honestly can’t articulate what I’m worried about, but I know it’s something, and it’s not making me happy. (And it’s definitely not making my wife happy either, because now she has to deal with my moody ass.) Maybe there’s some old, horrific fear still bouncing around in the back of my head without me even realizing.

    “I’ve always loved the tangible manifestation of death as a character,” Contino writes. [Image: © 2018 Jon Contino/courtesy Abrams]

    I can easily pinpoint key moments in my life that have been absolutely terrifying. Like, so terrifying you suddenly need to buy a new pair of pants. But here’s the thing: I’m still here and I’m talking about it, so clearly it wasn’t that bad.

    Daniel Trocchio is a tattoo artist working in Brooklyn whose work I first saw over a decade ago. This guy has some absolutely killer stuff. There’s this one piece I discovered during a gallery show he was featured in that I became obsessed with. It was this super dark reaper image, and beneath it, Trocchio had lettered: “Nine-tenths of your life I’ll strangle from you, the last tenth will make you strong.” At the time, I was broke as hell, so there was no way I could afford to buy a print. The best I could do to remember the piece was sneakily shoot a crappy, pixelated photo of it with my flip-phone camera.

    A few years later I was getting tattooed at a shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, called Three Kings when I happened to find out Trocchio worked there. I immediately ran downstairs to his station, asked him about the piece, and set up an appointment, and I got it permanently etched into my skin as soon as he was available. Much better than a flip-phone jpeg. Never has anything so perfectly fit the mantra I long ago learned to live by.

    Past Lives, 2015. “A haunted goodnight” bandana from the book’s section on secret societies. [Image: © 2018 Jon Contino/courtesy Abrams]

    On many occasions, I’ve sat down with business owners struggling to make decisions over the design treatment of their brand. In typical Jon Contino overly dramatic fashion, I like to say: “We’re all going to die, so let’s do something awesome.” I mean, I have no intent on harming the client, but at some point, Father Time is going to do his job and take us all out. I’ve seen what it looks like to be on the brink of death, and there’s no amount of copy revisions or new sketches that will change that. We all have a desire to build something, and I’ve made it my mission to help people explore that.

    If you’ve ever decided to create, you know the work comes from deep down inside. It’s something you feel needs to be introduced to the universe for some reason. Maybe it’s the greatest thing ever or maybe it’s total garbage–but the minute we second-guess our ideas is the instant our gift of creativity dies. The moment we throw away hesitation and face our fears of failure and uncertainty, the real-life magic happens–innovation happens.

    The greatest ideas never come from a person in a comfortable emotional state. They come from torment and frustration and complete and total anxiety. You have to be completely irrational to summon the creativity you were born with.

    [Image: © 2018 Jon Contino/courtesy Abrams]

    Sometimes it’s hard to talk about this kind of thing because art and design aren’t life or death. There are so many atrocities happening every second in every corner of the world that making a creative decision feels pretty low on the ladder of global significance. And yet, for those of us lucky enough to be able to live safely and work toward making something, we still have fears every single day. We still have to face bad news or cope with shitty luck and have reasons we don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. But if you can embrace fear and welcome the hard decisions that come with it, then it can become the catalyst to greatness.

    This is an excerpt from the new book Brand by Hand by Jon Contino, published by Abrams. You can buy a copy here.

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    Jason Stein and Alyson Warshaw, who built Laundry Service and Cycle Media into award-winning, digital-forward creative shops, earning accolades along the way as among the most innovative in the ad and media worlds, are announcing the details of their next act today: Stein’s.

    No, it’s not a delicatessen. Or as the picture on the website depicts, an old-world department store.

    Stein’s is a hybrid of a venture-capital firm, private equity, and a family office, with a focus predominantly on investing in emerging companies that can benefit from Stein’s expertise in using the modern tools of brand, media, and technology to grow their businesses. “This is what I’ve been doing for 10 years,” says Jason Stein, who mysteriously revealed that something called Stein’s would be his next venture when he and Warshaw left the companies he’d founded last July. After doing significant work for everyone from Nike to Beats by Dre and then landing a deal with ESPN to help the sport media giant connect on social media, now they’ll have meaningful ownership stakes in the companies they’re building.

    Along with the company unveiling, Stein’s is also announcing three investments: the cult mens’ fashion brand Ovadia & Sons, favored by the likes of Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar; Front Office Sports, which is a growing digital trade publication for the sports business; and Transmit.Live, a live streaming technology platform that works with brands such as the NFL. (Stein says he has closed several other deals and is in talks with a dozen more companies.)

    It is not an accident that the first three Stein’s companies both defy easy characterization and neatly fit into the pillars that Stein and his portfolio companies believe are the building blocks for success these days.

    “To be a consumer brand today, you need to be able to speak three languages: retail, tech, and media,” says Neal Kusnetz, president of Ovadia & Sons, who met Stein in the course of taking this job this past summer. “Jason has a clear point of view on the future, and he’s an experienced CEO who knows what it takes to build a business.” When asked what he expects Stein’s to do for Ovadia, Kusnetz says, “Most brands are challenged to tell their own story, and retail is increasingly being driven by content. Stein’s is on the cutting edge, if not the bleeding edge, of digital content and marketing.”

    Whereas Kusnetz is an experienced fashion executive who built menswear brand Robert Graham over 15 years, Adam White of Front Office is 24 and this is the only real job he’s ever had. He sees Stein as a mentor. The two met on Twitter and became friends texting about sneakers and the like before becoming partners. “[Stein’s] is looking for good businesses and isn’t chasing growth at all costs,” White says. “He wants us to grow smartly.” Front Office will now move from Miami to New York, hire its first full-time staff, expand into events, and build out franchises like its Rising 25 list of emerging sports business execs. “He’s setting me up for success.”

    Stein’s is part of an emerging trend in the investment world of proven winners entering the field with boutique firms that combine operational expertise with something that can’t quite be contained by the traditional definitions of venture capital (growth above all), private equity (cash flow above all), or a holding company. This past summer, three media veterans–including Betsy Morgan, former head of both Huffington Post and Blaze Media–formed Magnet Companies to pursue investments in consumer brands. Then there’s Chamath Palihapitiya, whose Social Capital is committed to solving knotty societal problems over a long time horizon (his unconventional approach has led to a number of departures at his firm).

    All of these folks see new opportunity in bringing a measure of what’s worked for Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway to realms where they have the kind of passion that Buffett has for Dairy Queen and Coca-Cola.

    “Media and product are converging,” Stein says. “We’re building the infrastructure of the future.”

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    As the cannabis industry continues to go more mainstream, entrepreneurs are on the lookout for the next niche market. Edibles have been done every which way, CBD-infused lotions and body care products are now touted by the likes of Kathy Ireland and Meryl Streep, and even “King of Instagram” Dan Bilzerian has a vape line.

    So, what remains?

    “Consuming CBD through oils, gummies, or tinctures isn’t ideal for daily life,” explains Benjamin Witte,  founder of Recess, a CBD and “adaptogen-infused” sparkling water company. “There was a massive opportunity to bring CBD and adaptogens to new product formats, primarily functional beverages.”

    CBD oil (or cannabidiol), unlike THC, does not contain any psychoactive properties. The extract has been used for years for anything from arthritis pain management to anxiety relief and insomnia cure.

    Recess, which comes in fun fruity flavors like peach and pomegranate citrus, contains 10 milligrams of the cannabis extract known for reducing stress and inducing a Zen-like feeling. Basically, it’s a more relaxing version of La Croix, if your seltzer habit ran you $4.99 per can. It even arrives in beautifully designed pastel hues that fit right alongside your Pamplemousse in the fridge.

    Related:People love Kathy Ireland’s curtains. Will they buy her cannabis products?

    Much like its name, Recess is all about taking a break during one’s day to reset and rebalance with CBD, to “help us adapt to stress, and focus,” says Witte via email. “It’s what we wish that 2 p.m. coffee would do for us.”

    [Photo: courtesy of Recess]
    The new company is not the only one of its kind, but its herbal focus will likely draw the health and wellness set that has embraced the trend. Dirty Lemon, a functional beverage brand that’s become an Instagram sensation, combines fruit juices with CBD for a “mild euphoria.” A Dirty Lemon rep reports that its first production run of 12,000 bottles sold out in just two days in June. Since the launch of its CBD line, the company acquired more new customers than any other product to date, with new customer growth 60% higher than any other product launch.

    Several breweries, including Lagunitas and Blue Moon creator Keith Villa, have also announced weed-based beverages. In August, Constellation Brands (Svedka vodka, Corona) invested $4 billion in cannabis producer Canopy Growth, less than a year after taking a 10%  stake to develop a line of nonalcoholic, cannabis-infused drinks.

    Even Coca Cola reportedly wants in.

    “Explosive source of revenue”

    “I think a lot of both the emerging and established food and beverage companies see CBD as a potentially explosive source of revenue as the next great functional ingredient,” explains Jeff Klineman, editor-in-chief of, “while THC’s strengths are largely viewed through a recreational lens.”

    While CBD seems the more obvious choice for wider consumer consumption, other brands see greater potential in the dispensary market, where THC accounts for 90% of all sales. (THC, otherwise known as tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical compound in cannabis responsible for getting one high.)

    The THC beverage market is predicted to grow, says Kleinman, but the sector has its challenges. These companies need to adequately tweak and communicate the level of concentration in each bottle, as well as attest to some sort of consistency across the market–similar to alcoholic “proof,” only for psychoactive components. Currently, the average shopper has no idea what consumption of a 12-ounce can means in terms of how “euphoric” or relaxed they’ll feel.

    “Intensity is one barrier,” says Kleinman. “The other issues are less format-driven and more environmental–how will the regulatory side impact consumption patterns? How about retail? Can these products be served in a bar? In a cannabis-only bar? These questions will have a lot of influence over the final predominant format for product usage.”

    This past summer, Eric Schnell of Beyond Brands cofounded Mood33, a sparkling spiked tonic that retails for $8. A little more luxe than its competitors, the “better-for-you” line combines sophisticated flavors like green tea, dried lemon peel, and rose hibiscus flowers. There are three distinct flavors centered around moods (Joy, Passion, and Calm), each with varying degrees of both THC and CBD.

    [Photo: courtesy of Mood33]
    The low-sugar concoctions are only 33 calories, with taste mostly derived from herbal and fruit extracts. Via the terpenes found in cannabis, they promise “your own personal aromatherapy session” in each bottle.

    Schnell previously founded Steaz, the first USDA organic-certified sparkling tea brand that was sold in 2016. (More recently, he cofounded Good Catch, the vegan seafood company dubbed the “Impossible Burger of tuna.”)

    The entrepreneur sees the dispensary market adopting trends surging in the general beverage market—most notably, a shift away from sugary drinks and high-calorie brands. Tea, for example, grew faster than soda in the last year.

    Eric Schnell (left) with cofounder Michael Christopher (right) [Photo: courtesy of Mood33]
    As cannabis gains legality in more states, Schnell believes more Americans will favor smoke-free alternatives. It will become a mainstream product, and seeing that consumers now prefer healthier ingredients (and are willing to pay for them), why not combine the two together for a functional beverage?

    “We’re [targeting] that natural, organic, foodie, fun-loving consumer,” says Schnell, noting cannabis’s reputation for natural stress relief and pain management. “We inspired by a lot of the natural beverage movement.”

    With Americans more stressed than ever before, Schnell envisions a not-too-distant future in which social occasions seek alternative refreshments. Switching from caffeine products to alcohol isn’t always the most seamless of handoffs, and in many ways, indicative of the modern work lifestyle. Mood 33 is betting on Americans opting for a cannabis can in lieu of a Coors, or maybe even shaking up the family barbecue.

    “Not everyone wants to dedicate themselves to a hangover, or maybe they’re driving,” says Schnell. And while edibles might take an hour or two to kick in, beverages take considerably less time. “So that’s the other benefit.”

    Related:These cannabis industry innovators are growing a billion dollar industry

    Some analysts predict alcohol might not always be the go-to social hour drink. As beer and booze categories plateau, companies look to less saturated sectors with growth potential. “We definitely see taking away from [the alcohol] market share,” stresses Schnell. “And obviously the [prescription] painkiller marketplace that’s worth hundreds of billions of dollars.”

    [Photo: courtesy of Recess]

    Cannabis all day, every day

    CBD-infused Recess envisions people sipping their cannabis throughout the day, like at work or while sorting laundry, says Witte. “It’s amazing at home, after work, to take the edge off, at the park, or the beach to relax and read a book,” he says.

    Recess plans to partner with offices, cafes, coffee shops, and fast casual restaurants, in addition to natural grocery stores this year. The first market, unsurprisingly, is New York, “where people are the most stressed and wired and need it most,” says Witte.

    Mood33, meanwhile, is rolling out in 4,000 dispensaries in California (where recreational pot became legal in January), starting in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. The company includes several industry alums, including Errol Schweizer (former Whole Foods VP of grocery), Mark Edwards (MillerCoors former digital director), and Jeremy Adams (GT’s Living Foods former head of marketing).

    [Photo: courtesy of Mood33]
    The team at Mood33 is intent on packaging and marketing a product that could rebrand cannabis from this “plant in a plastic baggie,” says Schnell, to something stores would display on grocery store shelves—or consumers would leave on their kitchen table. That means highlighting the various ways one can enjoy a beverage throughout their day, not just during social hours, but for wellness, and perhaps to spur creativity.

    “We want to really help elevate the industry and destigmatize the plant,” says Schnell. With low doses and a plethora of tastes, it could transition fans away from smoking habits. ” We see [it appealing to] your modern working professional, the stay-at-home mom [who drinks] Chardonnay, but has to wake up early every morning.”

    Related:Coke may be planning cannabis drinks, but don’t expect to catch a buzz

    Kleinman notes that while product development is exploding, there aren’t as many brands taking up space on grocery shelves. Retailers remain wary of the budding market, which has yet to iron out how to navigate varying state regulations. There’s also the compounded issue of effectively communicating both the functionality and benefits of cannabis in a bottle. It could be viewed as the next coffee or alcohol, or rather, the next functional additive, like ginseng or turmeric.

    “Right now, there are a lot of claims that CBD can solve everything from headaches to depression; the industry has to set expectations right and meet those expectations, or else they will really limit the size of the market,” says Kleinman. “And beyond that, they can’t be harmful, and there have to be clean sources and clear dosing information. That’s not easily achieved, but there’s a lot of money in both the CBD and THC businesses if brands and companies do it properly.”

    That’s what this new crop of startups are working toward, and believe is attainable. And not in the next 10 years, but in the next year or two. Schnell has high hopes: “We may really be the next kombucha in a way.”

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  • 10/31/18--00:04: Halloween by the numbers
  • Halloween is upon us once again. And it’s not just a night for ghosts and goblins and tricks or treats, but it’s a night worth billions of dollars to businesses across the country. Here are some stats about Halloween showing that the best treat is all that cash going into companies’ bank accounts:

    • According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, total spending for Halloween is expected to reach $9 billion this year.
    • That’s down just a smidge from 2017’s Halloween spending at $9.1 billion.
    • 175 million Americans are planning to take part in Halloween festivities this year.
    • Each of those people is planning to spend an average of $86.79 on Halloween. That’s up from last year’s $86.13 per person.
    • $3.2 billion will be spent on costumes.
    • $2.7 billion on Halloween decorations.
    • $2.6 billion on candy.
    • $400 million on Halloween greeting cards.
    • For costumes and other Halloween supplies, 45% of shoppers will visit discount stores while 35% will go to a specialty Halloween store or costume store.

    Other stats:

    • 3.8 million children plan to dress as their favorite princess character.
    • 2.5 million children plan to dress as their favorite superhero.
    • 1.9 million children plan to dress as their favorite Star Wars characters.
    • 48% of adults who celebrate Halloween in some way plans to dress up, with witch, vampire, and zombie being their top three costumes of choice.
    • And pets can’t escape their owner’s love of Halloween either: 18% of adults who celebrate Halloween plan to dress their pets up, with pumpkin, hot dog, and bumblebee being their top three costumes of choice.

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    We can all agree: Open plan offices are the scourge of 21st-century office life. As anyone who’s worked in one knows, open plans are noisy and distracting as hell, and recent studies have even proven that they decrease personal interactions (and increase emails), sap productivity levels, and even promote sexism in subtle, overlooked ways. Yet, unsurprisingly, the open plan is an undeniably cost and space-efficient way for companies to cram more desks and workers into limited spaces and meet the bottom line–which means they’re not likely to go away anytime soon.

    Absence, as they say, makes the heart grow fonder. So while you dream about returning to the cubicle you once scorned, the internet has delivered some hilarious, questionably effective DIY hacks to surviving an open plan office in the meantime. The open plan office isn’t an overblown hot topic in the media, it’s something that thousands of real people endure on the regular, across industries.

    Case in point: A Redditor recently asked the online community for suggestions on how to endure their open plan office. On the fire thread that resulted, Redditors amassed hundreds of suggestions for surviving another day in the bullpen. It’s a telling glimpse at how real people are reckoning with this flawed design paradigm–ranging from simple hacks to jokey behavior we wouldn’t necessarily condone.

    Buy a “busy light” or rearview mirror

    Many commenters endorsed using a variant of a color-coded “busy light” to indicate when you’re head down, focused on a task, or in a meeting.

    Wearing Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones is another sensible and popular suggestion, though sustained wear could cause irreparable hearing damage over time; the white noise of a retro mechanical keyboard, for some, was preferred. Other commenters lamented the dilemma of not being able to see who’s approaching from behind. One common solution? A mirror stuck to your monitor.

    [Photo: littlehenrabi/iStock]

    Build your own wall, or “stop showering”

    But for lots of people, blocking out the sound of loud coworkers isn’t enough. Annoying the hell out of them, apparently, doubles as a top line of offense. “Stop showering. People will keep their distance,” one user jokes, while others suggest cramming your station with obnoxious decorations and tchotchkes, or loading up on beans and stinky-breath foods.

    Those diversionary tactics might keep meddlesome coworkers or micromanaging supervisors at bay (at the potential cost of your own hygiene), but they weren’t passive-aggressive enough for other commenters, who suggest decking out your workstation with signage, a numbered-ticket dispenser, and barriers made of clear tape. One commenter recounted a colleague who erected a giant cardboard door over their desk–but a pet gate or doggie door, others opined, would have been a better bet.

    Ultimately, some people change jobs entirely

    Decamping to a call booth or conference room is another common strategy, though its viability is short-lived–you can’t be that guy forever. At the end of the day, many commenters cited an open plan office as a dealbreaker for quitting or even accepting a new job offer.

    Not that we needed the internet to tell us this, but open plan offices are clearly a poor product of design that could stand to be disrupted and reinvented–yet again. Until then, opt for that WFH perk and keep your sanity.

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    Going on a job interview is really about answering a series of questions. While many of the questions revolve around what you’ve done and what you can do, some questions are designed to operate on another level, says James Pyle, coauthor of Control the Conversation: How to Charm, Deflect, and Defend Your Position Through Any Line of Questioning.

    “Your resume is a ticket to ride; it gets you in the door,” he says. “That information qualifies you to find out more. Other questions are designed to find out how you do what you do, and how you’ve done in the past. It’s more than just the experience you have in the field.”

    Most questions will have one of three main types of motivation, and each one requires a different response, says Pyle, a former U.S. Army human intelligence training instructor who taught Department of Defense interrogators and debriefers how to ask questions.

    1. Belonging questions

    The first motivation is to form a connection; the interviewer wants to see if you’re compatible. Pyle says this usually is done with four types of questions.

    The first is a non-pertinent question not related to the task at hand. It’s often considered an icebreaker, and it includes chatting over a common interest, such as the weather or travel. When possible, Pyle suggests using this type of question to segue to a work-related topic. For example, if you’re asked, “Is it still raining outside?” You might answer, “No, and that gave me a chance to spend time walking around your campus. How long have you been at this location?”

    The second type is one that involves quid pro quo. The asker lets you in on a “secret,” hoping you’ll open up and share something sensitive, too. “This is the type of technique that spies and interrogators use,” says Pyle. “Do not respond in kind if the information is sensitive or personal. Control slips away from you quickly if you reveal something private or confidential.”

    Another way an interviewer checks for belonging is by asking for your opinion rather than fact. Pyle cautions against offering an extreme opinion, which can make you vulnerable.

    And the fourth type of belonging question is about the choices you’ve made. This question starts with “why,” and is used to get you to explain your decision-making process. For example, “Why did you go to the University of Colorado?” You can reveal important information about your logic, agenda, or concerns, but Pyle says be careful not to divulge details that aren’t related to the goal of the meeting, which could derail the conversation.

    2. Esteem questions

    The second type of motivation is finding out how your presence and contributions could build the interviewer’s self-esteem. This is often done by asking you about your accomplishment and shortcomings—the, “What are your strengths?” or “What are your weaknesses?” question. Your answer helps the interviewer determine if hiring you will make them look good, says Pyle.

    Esteem questions are a way to determine trust, but don’t embellish too much in an attempt to sell yourself. “Exaggerating accomplishments, bypassing shortcomings, overpromising results—these are traps people create for themselves,” says Pyle. “They raise suspicions and have the opposite effect of what was intended.”

    3. Self-actualization questions

    The final motivation behind questions is when someone is looking for legacy or affiliation. If you’re asked, “Who inspires you?” or “Who has been your greatest teacher?” the interviewer wants to know that you’re headed in the same direction with the same goals.

    Answering this question can involve research or asking questions in response to get more information. “Get clarity on how the person defines legacy,” says Pyle. “And what kind of people he wants to be associated with.”

    Self-actualization isn’t as common a motivation as the other two. While you don’t want to pretend to be someone you’re not, sharing similar goals and responding in a way that demonstrates your connection can be valuable.

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    Thomas Jefferson imagined a nation of independent, self-reliant Americans who plowed their own fields and created their own destinies. And for a long time, that’s exactly what they did.

    In 1860, as much as 80% of the workforce was self-employed, according to historian Steven Gillon. From then on, things started changing, and quite dramatically. By 1900, the number of self-employed had fallen to 50%; by 1977, it fell to 7%.

    Fast-forward 41 years and Americans are redefining the American Dream for the 21st century. Sure, we’ve ditched the farms, fields, and plows for co-working spaces, Wi-Fi, and laptops. But we’ve kept the perseverance, self-reliance, and freedom to chart our own futures.

    Consider the results of a new study, Freelancing in America 2018. Commissioned by my company Upwork and the Freelancers Union for the fifth consecutive year, it reveals Americans’ increasing preference to work where they want, when they want, and on the work of their choosing. Simply put, despite a years-long economic boom that has created more full-time, 9-to-5 jobs than available workers, more and more Americans are choosing the lifestyle of independence that comes with freelancing.

    Here are four important insights about the new way millions of people are working:

    [Photo: luciano de sa/Unsplash]

    Freelancing has gone mainstream

    Over the last five years–despite a tightening labor market offering them more full-time jobs–Americans have increasingly chosen to freelance. Between 2014 and 2018, 3.7 million more people started freelancing. To put that in perspective, that’s the equivalent of the entire population of Connecticut. All told, according to FIA’s results, there are now 56.7 million American freelancers. And this year 61% of freelancers said they’ve chosen to work this way versus working in staff jobs more by necessity, an eight-percentage point increase since 2014.

    When one out of every three American workers freelances, as the study reveals, I think it’s fair to say this way of working is now mainstream.

    [Photo: Annie Sprat/Unsplash]

    What is driving people to freelance? Quality of life.

    While the study found that freelancers and non-freelancers both prioritize lifestyle over earnings, freelancers are the ones actually getting the lifestyle they want. Full-time freelancers are 21 percentage points more likely to say their work allows them to live the lifestyle they want (84% of freelancers say this versus 63% of non-freelancers). In fact, they’re so passionate about the lifestyle independent work affords them that half of freelancers said they wouldn’t take a 9-to-5 job no matter how much money they were offered.

    And for some freelancers, a traditional job wouldn’t be an option. A new insight from this year’s study is that freelancing also provides opportunities to those who otherwise might not be able to work: 42% of freelancers agree that freelancing gives them the flexibility they need because they are unable to work for a traditional employer ​because of personal circumstances (health issues, childcare needs, etc.)​.

    [Photo: Annie Sprat/Unsplash]

    Technology is empowering freelancing

    Part of the reason freelancing is so liberating is that it typically happens remotely. The growing popularity of collaborative software tools, like Slack, Dropbox, and Google Docs, has made working remotely a lot easier than ever before.

    And it’s now easier to find clients. The study found that 3 in 4 freelancers said that technology has made it easier to find freelance work. Sixty-four percent of freelancers found work online, up 21 points since 2014. And the percentage of work freelancers obtained online increased for 67% of freelancers this year.

    Because online talent platforms are reducing the costs of finding talent, they’re not only giving freelancers more work but also growing economies. Consider a report from the McKinsey Global Institute, which finds that by 2025 these online marketplaces “could add $2.7 trillion to global GDP, and begin to ameliorate many of the persistent problems in the world’s labor markets.”

    [Photo: Annie Sprat/Unsplash]

    Millennials are the future–of freelancing, too

    Millennials are now the largest demographic in the American workforce, and they’re increasingly deciding to freelance: 42% of 18-to-34-year-olds now freelance, up from 38% in 2014.

    There are no crystal balls, but a good way to assess the future is to look at the people inheriting it. Millennials want more freedom to decide when they work and where. Freelancing offers both.

    And, as millennials continue to grow in number as a share of the workforce, it’s clear that another Jeffersonian ideal–the pursuit of happiness–is growing in importance as well. Many of those choosing to work differently today are doing so to get back to basics and closer to the lives they want. In order to achieve that, people need the flexibility to define their lives on their terms. And the people most likely to have this freedom are freelancers–“free” is quite literally in the word.

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    The Facebook CEO received the summons from parliamentary committees in both countries today, reports TechCrunch. Both the U.K. and Canadian parliamentary committees want Mark Zuckerberg to answer questions about Facebook and the Cambridge Anylitca data scandal from earlier this year as well as to discuss how online disinformation campaigns are affecting democracies.

    In a letter sent to Zuckerberg announcing the summons, the chairs of the U.K.’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) committee and the Canadian Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy, and Ethics (SCAIPE) wrote that the special joint parliamentary hearing will take place at the U.K.’s Westminster Parliament on November 27:

    “This will be led by ourselves but a number of other parliaments are likely to be represented. No such joint hearing has ever been held. Given your self-declared objective to ‘fix’ Facebook, and to prevent the platform’s malign use in world affairs and democratic process, we would like to give you the chance to appear at this hearing.”

    Both committees will be issuing final reports about their investigation into online disinformation in December, based partly on Zuckerberg’s testimony.

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    Sure, it’s fun to coast down the city streets, wind sweeping through your hair, on a small electric scooter. But it’s not so cool when the transportation device catches on fire. Last night, Lime admitted that a few of its scooters may have had a defect that could have caused them to go up in flames.

    The company claims no Lime users were hurt as a result of this manufacturing issue. “At no time were riders or members of the public put at risk,” the company wrote in a blog post.

    According to the Washington Post, who was investigating this issue and presented its findings to Lime, the fire department had been called to a Lake Tahoe manufacturing facility last August after a scooter caught on fire. There had reportedly been other occasions when employees felt the devices were unsafe. The company says it has recalled 2,000 devices–it adds that only a small fraction of those were at risk.

    The problem, Lime says in its post, came from one of the batteries the company used in earlier scooter models; “in several isolated instances, a manufacturing defect could result in the battery smoldering or, in some cases, catching fire.” Anonymous employees told the Post that they are worried the company is ignoring safety risks to keep up with its rapid growth plans.

    Though those older batteries are no longer being used, Lime says it’s also looking into another potential hazard. The company explains that it has “recently received an unconfirmed report that another Segway Ninebot scooter model may also be vulnerable to battery failure, which we are currently investigating.” It didn’t go into the details about what this vulnerability could be. The company says that it’s ensuring these batteries are safe by having them only charged in their own facilities for the time being. Additionally, the company is implementing a new diagnostic testing program.

    Lime has been rapidly expanding, including new international markets like Vienna and Israel. It’s raised over $467 million to date–and is a large component of the new scooter transportation trend sweeping across the world. Still, these new startups–which include Lime, Bird, Skip, and others–haven’t been without critics. Reports of out-of-control teens terrorizing sidewalks atop an electronic scooter have frightened many a neighborhood. Other safety and privacy concernshave been presented, which the companies reportedly have tried to ignore.

    This recall, along with the Post’s reporting, brings into question the issue of the devices themselves being potentially hazardous–and not just the people riding them.

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