Articles on this Page
- 12/07/18--09:30: _The giant Ocean Cle...
- 12/07/18--21:00: _This is the effecti...
- 12/07/18--22:00: _Google’s Pixe...
- 12/08/18--01:30: _Meet the Tumblr ref...
- 12/09/18--02:37: _4 ways to track the...
- 12/09/18--05:12: _SNL expertly uses J...
- 12/10/18--02:30: _“What if Supe...
- 12/10/18--03:00: _At this new online ...
- 12/10/18--03:00: _I had trouble monot...
- 12/10/18--03:30: _Tumblr’s adul...
- 12/10/18--04:00: _3 things Facebook c...
- 12/10/18--04:00: _NASA’s Voyage...
- 12/10/18--04:15: _New PSA marks the 6...
- 12/10/18--04:24: _It’s official...
- 12/10/18--05:00: _Why dollar stores a...
- 12/10/18--05:15: _Mark Shapiro promot...
- 12/10/18--05:32: _Goodbye, Chevy Volt...
- 12/10/18--06:00: _Don’t make th...
- 12/10/18--06:30: _Netflix expands to ...
- 12/10/18--06:51: _Scathing House Over...
- How a Quick ‘OOC List’ Can Help You Feel More In Control
- 3 Mantras That’ll Help You Grow Through Your Next Failure
- How ‘Open Loops’ Can Lead You To More ‘Aha’ Moments
- 12/09/18--02:37: 4 ways to track the massive Southern snowstorm
- CNN’s winter storm tracker
- National Weather Service radar map
- AccuWeather’s live radar map
- The Weather Channel’s storm tracker
- 12/09/18--05:12: SNL expertly uses Jason Momoa to mock fragile masculinity
- 12/10/18--03:00: At this new online banking platform, customers are the owners
- 12/10/18--03:00: I had trouble monotasking, so I tried “spacewalking”
- How a Quick ‘OOC List’ Can Help You Feel More In Control
- 3 Mantras That’ll Help You Grow Through Your Next Failure
- How ‘Open Loops’ Can Lead You To More ‘Aha’ Moments
- 12/10/18--04:00: 3 things Facebook could do to fix itself (even if it won’t)
- 12/10/18--04:00: NASA’s Voyager 2 probe just entered interstellar space
- 12/10/18--06:00: Don’t make these 4 mistakes when you’re building an online community
- 12/10/18--06:30: Netflix expands to Africa with new original TV series Queen Sono
In the middle of October, a nearly 2,000-foot-long floating device designed to capture plastic trash in the ocean arrived in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, halfway between California and Hawaii. It was the beginning of a first-of-a-kind experiment: Could new technology help remove the 1.8 trillion-plus pieces of plastic that float in the area?
The crew of The Ocean Cleanup, the Netherlands-based nonprofit deploying the device, successfully installed the beta system into a U-shape. The system uses a huge floating pipe, with a “skirt” attached below it, both designed to move with the wind and waves collecting plastic–in theory. In practice, the device hasn’t worked yet.
“The main principle behind the cleanup system is to have a difference in speed between the system and the plastic so that it goes faster than the plastic, and you can collect it,” says Boyan Slat, CEO and founder of The Ocean Cleanup, who first conceived of the device as a teenager and then raised money to make it a reality. “What we see now, however, is that the system is not moving fast enough. There’s multiple hypotheses for that.”
The crew plans to try making the opening of the u-shape wider, so a greater surface area will be exposed to the wind and waves that push it through the water. Widening the span could also help reduce any fishtailing of the ends of the pipe, which engineers also hypothesize might be slowing it down. As soon as the weather allows, the crew plans to remove rigging lines that are currently in place, which may be slowing the system down because of their weight.
If the system can successfully be tweaked offshore, Slat says, it may still be possible to bring the first harvest of ocean plastic back to the West Coast by next spring, on schedule. If the fixes turn out to be more complicated, the crew may need to move the system back into sheltered waters to be able to safely work on it, adding a few months to the process. But Slat says that he is still “highly confident” that the device will work. The system has otherwise worked as planned, forming the expected shape in the water, and not interfering with marine life in the area. “All the major things that we actually foresaw most challenges with, we’ve been able to confirm those [are not problems],” he says. “In principle, the concept isn’t in trouble, it’s really just, How do we speed it up?”
One way to increase the system’s speed could be to add motors to move it, though Slat says that would be a last resort. “The main elegance behind the design is that you don’t need active propulsion, because that would add so much complexity, cost, and maintenance requirements,” he says. He believes that the challenge can be solved in other ways.
The problem of speed didn’t show up in scale model tests or simulations. “It stresses why it’s so important that we’re out there now with a real system, with the real scale, because models are models, and there’s no substitute for reality,” he says. It’s a major problem to solve, though Slat says that it’s “probably the thousandth that we’ve faced” since starting the project, and the fact that the team has overcome many other major challenges gives him confidence.
If it does ultimately work, it will be a critical step for the environment. Even as companies like PepsiCo and Unilever begin to ramp up efforts to cut plastic waste from their own packaging, it will take time to shift away from a system that currently results in at least a garbage truck’s worth of plastic dumped in the ocean every day. Even if that flow of trash stopped immediately, the ocean is already filled with trash, and it’s already killing marine life, like a dead sperm whale that recently washed up in Indonesia with 13 pounds of plastic in its stomach, including 115 plastic cups, 25 plastic bags, and two flip-flops. Much of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Ocean Cleanup team found, is still in larger pieces, which are important to remove before they break into tinier pieces that are more likely to be eaten by fish and other animals. “It’s this problem that’s waiting out there to magnify many times unless we can take it out,” Slat said in an earlier interview with Fast Company.
“Just think positive thoughts.”
As someone with anxiety, I’ve heard that piece of well-intended advice a few times. Or, one of its cousins: “Just don’t think about the negative.” “Can’t you just not think about bad things?”
As a worrier, it all seems a bit counterintuitive. Why would I pretend that everything is going to be all effortless rainbows and sunshine, when I’ve been around the block enough to know that’s rarely the case? But it also gives me optimistic FOMO, leaving me worried (of course)–is everyone positive thinking without me?
The answer: I’m not alone in my negative thinking tendencies. We have over 50,000 thoughts each day, and it’s estimated that 70 to 80% of those thoughts are negative. We’re not wired to be in the “think happy thoughts only” camp.
But it turns out, there’s a middle ground that’s actually better to aim for–one that’s not all “happy thoughts only” but still maintains hope for the best. It’s called realistic optimism–and it’s so powerful, here at Shine we’re renaming Positive Thinking Day (September 13) to Realistic Optimism Day.
Optimism, with a side of realism
Optimism isn’t just a good thing–it’s a necessary thing. It gives us the motivation and confidence we need to go after the things we seek.
But there are two ways to be an optimist: Unrealistic optimists believe good things will just happen–with less focus on their agency. While realistic optimists believe in their power to make good things happen, even through rough conditions.
“Realistic optimists…believe they will succeed, but also believe they have to make success happen—through things like effort, careful planning, persistence, and choosing the right strategies,” Heidi Grant explains in the Harvard Business Review. “They recognize the need for giving serious thought to how they will deal with obstacles. This preparation only increases their confidence in their own ability to get things done.”
Basically, it’s knowing your goal, trusting it can come true, but knowing it’ll happen because of your ability to put in the work and overcome inevitable obstacles. This kind of mindset, Grant explains, is much more beneficial than being an unrealistic optimist. The key difference between the two: With realistic optimism, we believe we can succeed–but we accept that it might be tough. And that belief actually sets us up for more success.
“Believing that the road to success will be rocky leads to greater success because it forces you to take action,” she writes. “People who are confident that they will succeed, and equally confident that success won’t come easily, put in more effort, plan how they’ll deal with problems before they arise, and persist longer in the face of difficulty.”
Becoming a realistic optimist
So, how do you practice realistic optimism IRL? Mara Karpel says it starts with getting intentional about mixing the two perspectives.
“Combine a positive attitude with an honest evaluation of the challenges you may meet along your path,” she writes for Huffington Post.
First: Recognize what you want to accomplish. Is it finishing that presentation? Strengthening your relationship with a friend or partner? Getting the kids to bed on time? Pinpoint what success would look like–and see yourself achieving it. You nailed it. You did the dang thing–just like you knew you could.
But then, as Eminem would say, snap back to reality. Think through what challenges you might meet along the way to that finish line. If you’re a worrier like me, this is probably the easiest part–but be sure those potential challenges are realistic, too. (True story: I’ve spent time imagining my computer spontaneously combusting when I’m working on a big project.)
Once you’ve pinpointed a few obstacles, you might feel a little nervous. But that’s when you bring back your optimism–instead of shooing the challenges away, think about the steps you’d take to overcome them. See yourself taking those steps. See yourself trusting your power to get through.
Then, start making moves.
At its core, what realistic optimism does is help you accept what you can and can’t control. You can’t control that job just appearing, the bus running on time, or the weather going your way on the day of the picnic. But you can control the effort you put into the job hunt. You can control your plan B when the bus doesn’t show up. And you can control your mindset and attitude as you weather the unexpected storm. And you can be optimistic about your ability to handle things, come what may.
While positive thinking comes with the pressure to “think happy thoughts,” I like to think realistic optimism is more “think powerful thoughts.” And to me, that’s much more meaningful and motivating.
More From Shine:
Since their 2011 launch, Chromebooks have been synonymous with low-cost, easily managed laptops that have strong appeal for education. But in 2013, when Google shipped the first Chromebook Pixel–a premium machine with a touchscreen–it became clear that the company was intent on exploring new frontiers for its browser-centric Chrome OS operating system.
Google’s new Pixel Slate tablet, which starts at $599, represents the culmination of those efforts. With its minimalist operating system and minimalist form factor, it’s the best pure web tablet ever made. But the Pixel Slate also offers the wealth of apps in the Google Play Store and accessories such as an optional keyboard and pen, putting it squarely in competition with Microsoft’s Surface and Apple’s iPad Pro. As with those devices, the message is that more is more, at least when you need it to be. However, Google still struggles to meld Chrome OS and Android in a way that feels natural rather than somewhat less than the sum of its operating-system parts.
A dark blue rounded rectangle that’s only 7mm thick, the Pixel Slate is thinner than the Surface Pro, but its 12.3″ screen size and bezels provide the devices with almost identical heights and widths. While the Surface Pro has a full-size USB-A port, a Mini DisplayPort connector, and a magnetic power connector, the Pixel Slate has consolidated all those functions into two USB-C connectors, one on each side. I was able to easily connect and use the new Vinpok Split USB-C touchscreen monitor, although it couldn’t draw enough power from the Pixel and needed to be plugged into the wall. As with iPads, there’s no support for MicroSD storage cards and–like the most recent iPad Pros–no headphone jack. (Google does include a USB-C-to headphone-jack adapter in the box.)
Flanking the screen in landscape orientation are stereo speakers that provide good separation and acceptable volume, through the bass output is no better than you’d expect from such a thin frame. Both the front and rear of the device are equipped with eight-megapixel cameras capable of using Google’s impressive single-camera portrait mode, which pleasingly blurs backgrounds. A connector at the bottom of the device provides connection to Google’s keyboard folio case. And the device’s white recessed power button doubles as an effective fingerprint reader dubbed Pixel Imprint. Unlike the Surface Pro and iPad Pro, the Pixel Slate does not support face unlocking.
As the newest step in Chrome OS’ evolution to a touch-friendly design, the Pixel Slate is a hybrid of Google’s last two mobile computing devices, the Android-based Pixel C slate and the ChromeOS-based Pixelbook convertible.
In the tug-of-war for tablet strategy dominance between Apple and Microsoft that I wrote about recently, the Pixel Slate hews closer to the Surface approach, albeit with a few key differences. Like the Surface, it has access to a desktop-quality browser. In fact, using Chrome on a naked Pixel Slate is a similar experience to running any number of desktop browsers on an unadorned Surface Pro. At the Pixel Slate’s introduction, Google emphasized that it offered a full-powered browser as opposed to the watered-down version of Safari on the iPad or the Chrome version on Android; that said, you can use the Android versions of Firefox or Microsoft Edge on the Pixel Slate if you prefer.
Also like the Surface, the Pixel Slate can switch between a windowed desktop mode and a full-screen/split-screen-like iPad mode when its keyboard is removed or folded flat behind the display. However, while the Surface allows you to choose whether this happens automatically, manually or not at all, it is always automatic on the Pixel Slate.
Google may have more justification for the more aggressive switching. The Surface still suffers from Windows 10’s paucity of touch-optimized apps, but Google Play offers millions of apps that are touch-friendly, if not always well optimized for a tablet’s spacious screen. Chrome OS compatibility with Android apps has advanced significantly since Google first smooshed the two operating systems together in 2016, and I found relatively few Android apps that would not work. Historically, Android apps haven’t adjusted themselves well to a tablet’s landscape orientation; however, that’s less of a problem with the Pixel Slate, since Android apps can run in their own windows in desktop mode.
Indeed, Google cites Chrome OS support for multitasking–among other large-screen optimizations–as one of the reasons why it has shifted to that operating system as its lead tablet OS, deemphasizing pure Android tablets. And though many Android apps can look stretched out when used full-screen or even in a large window on the Pixel Slate, having access to them offers a number of advantages versus working solely in Chrome OS’s web browser. The Android apps for Uber, Instagram, and Venmo, for instance, are full featured; the websites for the same services are not. The Pixel Slate is ideal for social media managers wishing to see how their posts are progressing in various mobile apps while using a web-based management console. And of course, it also opens the Pixel Slate to millions of Android games.
Still, Android apps often feel more like supplemental applets in the Pixel Slate expanse; Google needs to do more to make them first-class citizens in Chrome OS. For example, in Google’s own Gmail and Google Docs apps, I wasn’t able to select text using the Shift key and the left or right arrow keys even though I could using other arrow key combinations; there was no such issue with the equivalent web apps. And Android home-screen widgets, Google’s Gboard keyboard, and custom Android launchers that offer options such as keeping apps alphabetized aren’t available in Chrome OS.
Conversely, now that Chrome OS is running on a touch-first device, Google could make it more finger-friendly–for instance, by making it easier to traverse between tabs by jabbing rather than clicking. Such enhancements would also pay dividends for Chrome on Windows and the iPad as well as touch-enabled Chromebooks.
The keyboard as companion
Given Chrome OS’s lineage as a laptop OS, Google’s $199 backlit keyboard folio is bound to be popular. It’s almost as critical an accessory as the Surface’s keyboard cover (and, like the Surface keyboard, includes a large trackpad). As with Apple’s keyboard folio for the latest iPad Pro, it wraps around the device, with a footprint that extends in the back to provide stability. It also has a signature feature in the ability of its support flap to easily slide up and down the back of the Pixel Slate, resulting in a greater range of angles and more fluid adjustability than Apple’s keyboard folio provides.
The Surface Pro’s kickstand, however, enables that device to be used at an even lower angle to whatever surface it’s on. Also, unlike the last few generations of Surface keyboard covers, the Pixel Slate Keytboard doesn’t let you attach it to the tablet at an angle, for a sloped typing surface. Some users may find the lack of that incline less comfortable, and it certainly resulted in more wobble when trying to use the Pixel Slate on my lap. That said, those with a yen for a more traditional, lap-stable laptop clamshell design might want to consider the G-Type keyboard for the Pixel Slate by Brydge. The accessory maker also supports various iPad and Surface models, but its Pixel Slate keyboard, which connects via Bluetooth, can fold behind the device like a convertible laptop.
Neither the folio nor the Pixel Slate itself offer a magnetic way to anchor Google’s $99 pressure-sensitive Pixelbook Pen. While the latest iPad Pro can even charge the Apple Pencil by snapping it to the device, Google’s stylus uses an old-school AAAA battery.
A whole lot of competition
The Pixel Slate packs a no-compromise browser experience in a package that is no thicker than it need be to support essential connectivity, at a starting price point between that of Apple’s most recent iPad and far below its luxe new iPad Pros.
On the other hand, there are Windows 2-in-1s. The comparably priced Surface Pro offers a more consistent user experience in a windowing environment, but one that comes at the expense of few touch-optimized applications, the need to wrangle software updates, and the girth to accommodate its kickstand and fan. And if you’re going all in on Google’s keyboard folio and pen, you’re also flirting with the price of Samsung’s more streamlined Windows-based Galaxy Book.
The Pixel Slate presages the kind of device Google hopes today’s generations raised on Chromebooks will embrace as they look to upgrade to something that boasts better mobility and panache. Despite its flexible handling of Google Play apps, a recent Android tablet from Samsung or Huawei may be a better option if you’re mostly interested in the Android experience and its wealth of apps.
Judged as a tablet, the Pixel Slate simply isn’t as compelling as when you use it in the far more mature, generally delightful Chrome OS desktop mode. If Google is serious about devices like this, it should encourage web developers to optimize more for touch screens, and Android developers to take better advantage of keyboards and trackpads. But the company has historically struggled to get developers to think about any environment beyond Android smartphones.
For now though, the Pixel Slate’s strongest competition within the Google ecosystem will come from inexpensive convertible Chromebooks. If using Chrome OS with a keyboard is your prevalent scenario–and it probably will be–they’ll accommodate your needs in a far less expensive package.
“The internet is for porn,” goes the song from musical Avenue Q. Since Tumblr announced this week that it will no longer be part of that internet, many users are mounting an exodus to existing networks like still-freewheeling Twitter, as well as efforts to build a new kind of Tumblr–or rather, the kind of Tumblr that Tumblr had been until now.
“There were people sharing their discovery of their sexuality. There were people sharing the journey of themselves going through hard times,” says LolaBohemia, a professional dominatrix from Florida. “This was intimacy. It wasn’t just pornography.”
Though less active on Tumblr now, she tells me she used her blog there as an informal way to communicate with clients. “Those that were interested in getting a session or spending time with me [got] to see me as a human being as I would share art that I liked or I would post my own [art],” she says.
So, all that Tumblr nonsense may finally force me to use my Twitter account. Never used it before, so it may take me some time to figure things out, but hey… hi ????. Here's what i do. pic.twitter.com/uvmSx85Rjl
— Lenka Simeckova (@Lesimeck) December 4, 2018
The platform’s ban on visuals of “adult content, including explicit sexual content and nudity (with some exceptions),” which officially begins on December 17, has already flooded bloggers’ inboxes with automated alerts about suspect images, videos, and GIFs. The gaffes from Tumblr parent company Verizon’s poorly trained computer vision are often hilarious, like mistaking a raw chicken for a human in the raw. But they still aren’t funny for bloggers who are seeing the majority of their content flagged.
In addition to flagging visuals, Tumblr seems to have filtered its searches. Hashtags like BDSM (a catchall including bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism) now return no results at all. No erotica or other text appears either, despite Tumblr’s assurance that the new content rules don’t apply to text posts.
Tumblr acknowledges to me that its image-recognition tech has a lot to learn. There is an appeals process for flagged items, and it’s unclear how much content will ultimately be blocked–although straight-up porn certainly will be. But many adult bloggers get the sense that they are no longer wanted. “There are [sic] no shortage of sites on the internet that feature adult content,” wrote Tumblr CEO Jeff D’Onofrio in a blog post. “We will leave it to them and focus our efforts on creating the most welcoming environment possible for our community.”
Among those sites, “there’s a lot of people planning on moving to Twitter, actually, which is the one mainstream social network that we have that isn’t censored,” says a Tumblr user from Portugal who goes by RiotCinema, and works as a “community organizer and activist for consensual non-monogamy.”
Twitter’s media policy states that “some forms of graphic violence and/or adult content in Tweets marked as containing sensitive media,” are allowed. One crowdsourced Google spreadsheet, “The Tumblr Exodus Lifeboat,” lists over 700 NSFW Tumblrs impacted by the site’s new policy, and alternate places to find the creators. Many are Twitter accounts.
For her part, RiotCinema aspires to build a brand-new home for Tumblr refugees, at a site called TumblrX–an idea hatched in jest in a Twitter conversation. “I wasn’t really expecting to get a response from it,” she says. But she registered the domain and created a Google form for volunteers. Construction by a handful of volunteers is well underway. Although the URL still shows just a blank page, an early mockup I saw looks roughly like a spare version of Tumblr
— Cat Fish (@Katzenfisch24) December 3, 2018
Twitter has, “much more of a like-based community,” says RiotCinema. “Tumblr was a lot about the reblogging and the continuous sharing of content, and that’s what gave its community power in the end.”
She says that about 80% of images on her blog have been flagged. Some do show female nipples or even sex, but many are quite tame, like a photo of a navel or drawings of sexy clothed women.
Should the TumblrX effort succeed, RiotCinema would like it to be as freewheeling as Tumblr had been “for sex workers as well as artists and the community at large of supporters and fans.” Funding for servers, storage, and bandwidth will initially come from donations. If the site grows, it may branch into ads, affiliate marketing, or premium memberships, says RiotCinema, whose day job is doing business development for a startup.
But there are other options if TumblrX doesn’t make it. Lively Twitter discussions have named many sites, including social network upstarts like Foxsake or Pillowfort, the latter a Tumblr-like blogging network that has raised about $60,000 on Kickstarter and is currently in closed beta. Other options are focused around content creators, such as Ello and Newgrounds (which has a big gaming culture component).
Another site, Sharesome, is essentially the Facebook of porn, with folks posting amateur shots and sex workers, like webcam performers, teasing their wares.
And Dreamwidth, which posted a big welcome message to Tumblr users after the new content guidelines were announced, has seen a surge in interest.
“We’ve had about 10 times the new accounts created over the past couple of days as we had the week before,” says Denise Paolucci, the site’s co-owner.
Dreamwidth itself is the product of a previous exodus, about a decade ago, from the community blogging site LiveJournal. “The ownership at the time decided that they were no longer going to allow people to create accounts that were not ad supported,” says Paolucci, who had already left before the changes took effect.
In 2008, she and fellow LiveJournal alum Mark Smith founded Dreamwidth as a user-supported site, with accounts ranging from free basic to $50 per year. Paid tiers expand about a dozen parameters, such as the size of user inboxes and the extent of cross-posting allowed. And they add about two-dozen extra features, such as running polls and Google Analytics.
“Our user base is very, very appreciative of the fact that they are our users and not the product that we’re selling,” says Paolucci. The site has about three and a half million accounts, with about 25,000 active users in the past month.
I sent the Dreamwidth URL to LolaBohemia, who has worked in web design. She was not impressed with the spare, bright-white pages. “At first glance, it’s like, ‘Hum, what am I missing here?’ This isn’t inviting me to do anything,” she says.
I relay the feedback to Paolucci, who bursts out laughing.
“That’s the downside to being a small user-supported company owned by two people,” she says. “We don’t have the kind of resources that a Tumblr will have, either for spending on designers or programmers or UX people or even for [hosting] unlimited images.”
There’s also no support for video, as some Tumblr refugees have complained. But unlike Tumblr, Dreamwidth is largely text-based, with erotica, fan fiction, or whatever else floats your boat. Storage per account is limited to just 500 megabytes. The site still runs on open-source LiveJournal code from the turn of the century.
The upshot, says Paolucci, is that Dreamwidth doesn’t have to please advertisers or venture capitalists by censoring content or trying to reach unrealistic growth targets. The platform allows anything other than what’s prohibited by law (such as child pornography)–including hardcore pornography and hate speech that doesn’t incite violence.
“If somebody is expressing an opinion…and it’s in their own space and they’re not attacking other people with it or harassing other users, then we’re more likely to leave that alone,” she says.
If not enough advertisers or investors will pump money into new adult communities, what about dedicated users? How much Tumblr refugees will be willing to pay for a replacement isn’t clear. Meanwhile, funding adult content from small creators became harder in late 2017, when subscription payment service Patreon explicitly banned sex workers and porn creators.
That helped inspire the founding of yet another upstart site, called KinkRebel, which will host any legal adult content and feature its own built-in payment processing service for subscribers to fund content creators pages. Those creators then pay KinkRebel a 30% processing fee.
The LA-based company aims for a beta launch in January or February, and will start with limited social aspects, like the ability to comment. The cofounder, who gives only the first name Justin, says he would like to expand it to a more Twitter- or Facebook-style environment.
Community is the part that many adult posters from Tumblr are most afraid of losing–including the eclectic variety of a site that isn’t just for adult content. “There’s nothing like Tumblr that encompassed communities that are completely divergent,” says RiotCinema.
While there may be “no shortage of sites on the internet” for porn, the combination of a rich community and the resources for rich media could be hard or impossible to find again. That doesn’t mean that some won’t keep trying.
More than 200,000 people were without power on Sunday as a major winter storm pummeled parts of the Southern United States. The storm is expected to reach from northeast Georgia to northwest South Carolina and central/southern Virginia, the National Weather Service said. “Substantial snowfall accumulations” are expected across the southern Appalachians and the adjacent Piedmont region of North Carolina and south-central Virginia.
Residents caught in the storm are flooding Twitter with images of its wrath under the hashtag #Snowmagedden2018. American Airlines, which has a major hub at North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport, said it would cancel some 1,100 flights on Sunday and another 300 for Monday, according to CNN.
If you’re looking to track the path of this powerful winter storm, I’ve rounded up a few good resources below for real-time updates and infographics.
Jason Momoa, who is both 10-feet tall and 10-feet wide, has almost impossibly shaped eyebrows and a goatee that looks like a tornado of tarantulas. He’s basically an avatar of overblown masculinity, and sometimes he even acts that way in real life, too. So it was an unexpected delight to see how game the former Game of Thrones star was able to puncture his manly persona while hosting this week’s Saturday Night Live.
First, Momoa appeared in a fake General Electric ad for the company’s new Big Boys line of cleaning products targeted toward Tim “The Toolman” Taylor types.
“Times change and these days women are the primary breadwinners in 50% of American homes,” a narrator states up top. “And that means housework … is a man’s job.”
The rest of the sketch finds proud househusband Momoa stoked to do chores that his archetype suggests he would hate. And all because he gets to do them using equipment we’re all programmed to equate with masculinity. GE’s Tom Sawyer-like trick is a smart way to poke fun at the fragility of machismo; the idea here is that a man would have to be lovingly assured that housekeeping is a manly thing in order to be comfortable enough to do it.
The other sketch that puts Momoa’s dominant dude-bro image in the crosshairs was a nod to Revenge of the Nerds.
Day of the Dorks follows an evil fraternity–standing in for Nerds‘Alpha Betas–as they plot revenge against the dorks who’ve been dorking up the campus real good lately. Momoa plays a monosyllabic lug named Beef, clearly modeled after Nerds‘ Ogre (Donald Gibb).
Now, a lot has been said about how poorly Revenge of the Nerds has aged, particularly a scene in which the hero of the film dons a mask to trick his nemesis’s girlfriend into nonconsensual sex (aka rape), and somehow the scene is played for laughs. However, SNL finds another rich vein to mine from that film’s embarrassing outdatedness.
In Day of the Dorks, Momoa’s Beef character sort of proves that Ogre’s obsessive vendetta against the nerds of the film was actually more a sign of mental illness than manliness. He’s not merely threatened by the idea of smart, low-T goofballs encroaching on the sacred space of fraternity row; he’s a clinically unstable person. Or perhaps that whole 1980s patriarchal swamp he crawled out of is what made him that way.
What: The first trailer for BrightBurn, a new take on the superhero genre.
Who: Elizabeth Banks, producer James Gunn, and director David Yarovesky.
Why we care: Even though the DC Universe had a mega-hit with Wonder Woman, and Aquaman looks promising, the company keeps consistently getting its ass handed to them by Marvel. Instead of carefully, patiently planning out its cinematic universe and cultivating visionary directors like Taika Waititi and Ryan Coogler, DC’s approach has mostly just been “let Zack Snyder do whatever, who cares?” Adding to DC’s woes is that the most interesting take on its signature superhero in ages is coming out next year, and it’s not even a DC movie.
The first trailer for BrightBurn has just arrived, and although it’s not officially a Superman movie, it walks viewers through every step of Clark Kent’s origin story before taking a hard left turn. Elizabeth Banks and The Office’s David Denman play two barren would-be parents who can’t believe their luck when a meteor bearing a baby boy crashes in the woods outside of their house. As the boy grows up and begins to notice the range of his powers, he is drawn toward using them for not-so-super purposes. It’s an irresistible premise, shepherded to the screen by producer James Gunn, who knows a thing or two about superhero movies from making the Guardians of the Galaxy unlikely box office champions. (For Marvel, of course.)
Have a look at the trailer below.
In a given year, the biggest banks in the U.S.–Wells Fargo, Citi, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase–rake in billions of dollars in fees that their customers pay to bank with them, and money they have to turn over if they overdraw from one of their accounts. Often, the banks then turn that money around and invest it in fossil fuels; in one of the most well-documented instances of big banks’ questionable investments, Wells Fargo poured money into companies pushing the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
In response to its involvement with the pipeline, Wells Fargo saw many of its customers (including me) pull money from the bank. Divestment is certainly a powerful tool to demonstrate discontent with a major company’s actions, and it’s become more common as online banking tools make it easier to switch accounts. But especially in banking, there are far fewer opportunities for people to people to do the reverse–influencing a company to make more ethically sound investments.
A new online banking platform, Good Money, wants to fill that void. Founded by Gunnar Lovelace, one of the founders of the organic e-commerce site Thrive Market, Good Money aim to put its people and their values at the forefront, Lovelace says.
That starts with a unique feature for a for-profit financial institution: When a new customer signs up with Good Money, they’re given an equity share and become partial owners of the platform. Lovelace says customers may eventually own as much as 70%. Credit unions, nonprofit financial institutions collectively owned and governed by members, have existed since the mid-1800s, and Good Money, Lovelace says, was inspired in part by the cooperative movement that those banks play a part in. As nonprofits, credit unions ultimately serve their members, and return whatever profits they make to them in the form of lower fees and higher savings rates.
Good Money offers its members similar financial perks, like no ATM or overdraft fees. But 50% of the profits it makes, it funnels toward the planet through impact investments and charitable donations. The platform’s customers (who are partial owners) vote on where Good Money will invest its profits, but options will include only sustainable investments, like clean energy or reforestation efforts.
“Money is actually just energy,” Lovelace says. Through the new platform, he wants to capture a portion of that energy, which big banks have been funneling toward questionable goals, and direct it toward improving the long-term sustainability of the planet. Ultimately, he thinks that Good Money will attract customers who want to see similar changes and investments, and their ability to vote on which issues matter most to them will direct how Good Money prioritizes its investments.
“Banking is at the core of so many problems that we face currently, from extractive capitalism, to funding private prisons, to $30 billion in overdraft fees that customers paid to big banks last year,” Lovelace says. He sees the growth and sophistication of digital platforms as a way to make the banking process more transparent and accessible to people that have struggled with the experience of using a big bank. Good Money is a completely online or app-based platform that follows in the footsteps other online financial firms like Aspiration (which also invests in sustainable causes). These banks, which have sprung up in recent years, offer a different type of banking experience with fewer fees–the lack of infrastructure like ATMs and physical branches keeps costs low for customers.
Good Money is raising $30 million with a group of investors including Breyer Capital, Mitch Kapor, and Ken Howery, and customers can begin to sign up for the platform on the website; there are no up-front fees to join. Lovelace is hopeful that the new platform will help its customer-owners feel more empowered within capitalism, and see their money make a more direct and positive impact. In outreach leading up to the launch of the platform, he’s heard positive feedback from people, who “inherently understand that since the financial crisis, most of the people that have done well are bankers and investors.” Transferring ownership of financial products to the people who use them, Lovelace says, is something that makes intuitive sense to people who have felt disenfranchised by traditional big banking. “The system can start to work better when people and the planet are the stakeholders,” he says.
I’ve always prided myself on my ability to multitask.
Writing an email? Sure, I can do it while cooking dinner.
Outlining a story? Definitely, I’ll get it done while I’m in that meeting.
Watching all seasons of The Great British Baking Show? On it–I’ll definitely savor every delish bake while I also talk to my mom on the phone, play with my dog, delete spam emails, and put together a data report.
But multitasking is like hitting the snooze button: It feels productive in the moment, but it actually throws off our productivity.
Studies show that multitasking actually decreases our productivity by as much as 40 percent. Plus: Multitasking sets us up to experience more stress and fatigue.
Most importantly, multitasking is actually a myth. (Gasp!) Our brains are only able to focus on one thing at a time. When we think we’re splitting our focus between multiple things, what we’re really doing is switching tasks and interrupting any sort of flow we may have found.
The fix is simple: We need to monotask–which is the fancy way of saying just do one thing at a time. But it’s easier said than done, especially when we’ve made a habit of trying to do five things at once.
I found myself in this situation after all this research rained on my multitasking parade: I wanted to just do one thing at a time, but I didn’t know how to monitor my task switching ways.
The weird hack that I found helps: “spacewalking” my to-do list.
How to spacewalk your to-do list
You know those dramatic scenes in space movies when an astronaut goes out on a spacewalk to repair the spacecraft, tethering themselves directly in front of what they need to fix?
I’m tethered to the one thing I need to focus on at that moment–whether it’s the meeting happening around me, the email I’m writing, or the proposal I’m working on–and I’m safe from drifting out into space, aka the wide, wide universe of other things I could be working on. It forces me to pick one thing to work on and wear blinders to the rest.
When I’m trying to do multiple things at once? That’s when there’s no tether–and I start drifting off into the abyss of the universe, closer towards the black hole that is my endless to-do list.
I can feel it when it happens: My focus drifts from that email to that Slack message to that text, and, before I know it, I have 10 different tabs open, Instagram up on my phone, and the TV on because why not?
It might sound silly, but the whole “spacewalk” concept helps me do two things: Flag when I’m unfocused and gently tether myself back to the one thing that deserves my attention.
For me, half the battle with getting focused is not being tough on myself when I do get unfocused. The spacewalking visualization puts power back in my hands–I might drift off into to-do list space for a little bit, but I always have the power to steer myself back towards my focus. (Because my spacesuit has jet thrusters, of course.)
Give it a try the next time you find yourself trying to do all the things–but not making much progress on any of the things. Ask yourself: What’s the one thing I want to “tether” to right now? What’s the mission of this spacewalk? Then, work your way through that to-do list one spacewalk at a time.
More From Shine:
The countdown to Tumblr’s porn ban is on, and its adult content filter is working great—that is, if you want to protect innocent children from bowls of fruit, Sesame Street, and men without socks.
Tumblr’s decision to ban adult content on the previously free-range site came in the wake of Apple’s understandable decision to remove Tumblr’s app from the App Store over the presence of child pornography. Tumblr decided that the best way to prevent that from ever happening again was to abruptly announce that it will ban NSFW and adult-oriented content from the platform by December 17.
As the deadline approaches, Tumblr’s flagging-and-filtering technology is already working overtime, flagging all sorts of “explicit” content like this image of a bowl of fruit with teeth, as Hyperallergic pointed out. The image may be NSFL, but it’s just about as SFW as a bowl of fruit with teeth can be. Twitter is full of other examples of Tumblr’s overactive flagging system marking posts as explicit when any human can see that they are not, including this still from the children’s show, Sesame Street.
— JTS 72 (@JTS72) December 6, 2018
The Tumblr community is already fairly ticked off at the company’s sudden about-face on adult content, and some users are working to save such content from oblivion. It’s unclear if Tumblr will adjust its strategy in the wake of these stories about its puritanical auto-detecting algorithm.
We reached out to Tumblr and will update if we hear back.
For his part, Tumblr CEO Jeff D’Onofrio wrote in a blog post, that it knows “there will be mistakes” in the automated flagging system, but that Tumblr is “relying on automated tools to identify adult content and humans to help train and keep our systems in check.” While the system is tinkered with, though, it’s up to all users to remember that fluffy dogs have no place on the new Tumblr.
— Emily | Animator & Illustrator❄️ (@EDAnimation) December 4, 2018
Facebook is in crisis mode, but the company can take major steps to fix itself–and the global community it says it wants to promote. Facebook founder, CEO, and majority shareholder Mark Zuckerberg need not wait for governments to impose regulations. If he and other industry leaders wanted to, they could make meaningful changes fairly quickly.
It wouldn’t be painless, but Facebook in particular is in a world of hurt already, facing criticism for contributing to civil unrest and sectarian turmoil around the world, delayed responses to disinformation campaigns, misleading users about data-handling policies, and efforts to discredit critics–not to mention a budding employee revolt.
Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other social media companies are causing society-wide damage. But they tend to describe the problems as much smaller, resulting from rogue individuals and groups hijacking their systems for nefarious purposes. Our research into how social media can be exploited by manipulative political operatives, conducted with Joan Donovan at the Data & Society research institute, suggests the real problem is much larger than these companies admit.
We believe the roots lie in their extremely profitable advertising systems, which need a major overhaul. We have identified some key changes that these giant powerhouses could make right away. These moves could reduce opportunities for political manipulation and limit the harm to democratic societies around the world.
Users’ minds in the crosshairs
Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other social media companies have built an enormous digital influence machine powered by user tracking, targeting, testing, and automated decision making to make advertising more effective and efficient. While building this supercharged surveillance system, companies have promised users and regulators that targeted advertising is mutually beneficial for both consumers and advertisers.
In this bargain, users are supposed to receive more relevant ads. Facebook, for instance, explains that its “interest-based advertising” serves users who “want to see ads that relate to things they care about.” It’s true that these methods can identify ads that connect with users’ actual interests. But the very same data-driven techniques that tell a surfer about a new board design can also identify strategic points where people are most vulnerable to influence.
In particular, the leading social media advertising systems let political operatives experiment with different ads to see which are the most effective. They can use these tools not only to see if certain issues resonate with particular targets, but also test for fears or prejudices that can be invoked to influence political behavior.
One key way to do this is to make people feel that someone else represents an emotionally charged threat to their identity. In 2016, for instance, Russia-linked operatives bought thousands of Facebook ads targeted to specific audiences suggesting Hillary Clinton had insulted their group’s dignity or threatened their safety. Some ads alleged Clinton espoused disrespect for specific occupations, like coal miners, or racial groups, like African Americans. Others claimed she would confiscate guns or supported radical political movements seeking to overturn familiar ways of life.
Targeting political ads is not unique to online advertising, but the tools of digital ad systems are vastly more powerful than traditional mass media. Advertisers can try out several versions of an ad simultaneously and receive almost instant feedback on which ones most effectively drive specific audiences to share, like, or comment on them. This digital feedback loop helps political operatives refine their tactics, probing for just the right images, words, and emotions to influence very specific subgroups of citizens.
Move fast and fix things
Members of Congress and even some key Silicon Valley figures have begun discussing the need for tighter government oversight and greater accountability in digital advertising. Change need not wait for politics.
Based on our analysis, here are some steps companies could take right away–on their own. These moves may hurt the firms’ finances, but would demonstrate serious and lasting commitment to limiting their platforms’ usefulness in political manipulation campaigns.
As their first move, social media companies could stop allowing their ad services to be used as freewheeling experimental laboratories for examining their users’ psyches. Just as marketers and academic researchers must obtain permission from their test subjects, political advertisers that run online ad experiments could get informed consent in advance from every user who is involved. Companies should ask for users’ consent in specific notifications about ad experiments and not penalize users for opting out by limiting their access to services. We suspect many users would opt out of these tests if given the choice, but in any case this policy would help draw public attention to the hidden manipulation tools that platforms offer to their real customers: the political and commercial advertisers who pay the bills.
Make targeted political advertising transparent
To increase transparency and limit the ability of special interests to secretly influence politics, social media companies could refuse to work with so-called dark money groups. All political advertisers should be required to disclose their major donors in a format users can easily access.
A new policy banning dark money ads would respond to evidence that political operatives have used impersonation and manipulative ad tactics to stir infighting or sow division among coalitions of their adversaries. Impersonation clearly work best when ad sponsors are able to hide their identities and motives. Anonymous ads are also more likely to violate ethical standards simply because no one fears being held responsible for them.
Make platforms more democratic
A more significant change social media companies could make would be to introduce democratic oversight of how they collect and use people’s data.
Facebook’s Zuckerberg recently took an initial step in this direction, announcing that he will create independent review panels to handle users’ appeals against the company’s removal of content it judges inappropriate. He explained that he wanted to ensure “these decisions are made in the best interests of our community and not for commercial reasons.”
Whatever you think about this plan–and it has been greeted with plenty of skepticism–Zuckerberg’s reasoning acknowledges that because social platforms have become so central to democratic life, their own policies and design decisions require democratic accountability.
A more ambitious vision would let independent ethics panels representing diverse communities of users set enforceable policies for ethical political advertising. Similar sorts of groups are common in medicine and are emerging in artificial intelligence, among other fields. The details of how such committees operate will be critical to their success. If these committees are set up in partnership with nonprofit organizations with proven records of advocating for democratic communication and campaign finance transparency, perhaps they could help social media companies earn greater public trust by prioritizing democracy over maximizing their profits.
Matthew Crain is assistant professor of media, journalism and film at Miami University in Ohio. Anthony M. Nadler is associate professor of media and communication studies at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania. This post was originally published on the Conversation.
NASA’s Voyager 2 is probing the space between the stars. For only the second time in recorded history, humans have sent a spacecraft outside the heliosphere, the protected circle of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun, and presumably Matthew McConaughey (ho-yay, Interstellar joke).
The little spacecraft is now 11 billion miles from Earth. Since information takes about 16.5 hours to travel from the spacecraft to Earth–even moving at the speed of light–scientists figured out that the probe crossed the outer edge of the heliosphere on November 5, thereby crossing over into an area of space known as the heliopause, which the NASA press office poetically describes as the place where “the hot solar wind meets the cold, dense interstellar medium.”
Space enthusiasts will remember that Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause in 2012, however Voyager 2’s passage is remarkable because it is outfitted with instruments like a cosmic ray subsystem and a magnetometer that will provide first-of-its-kind observations about the nature of interstellar space. According to NASA, Voyager’s Plasma Science Experiment (PLS), which stopped working on Voyager 1 back in 1980, “uses the electrical current of the plasma to detect the speed, density, temperature, pressure and flux of the solar wind,” giving scientists their first hint of what’s happening inside and now outside the heliosphere.
While the probes have left the heliosphere, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 won’t leave the solar system for some 300 years, as it extends beyond the outer edge of the Oort Cloud, a fact that is being included only because it’s fun to write the word Oort.
After five years, the Hartford Courant newspaper prevailed in the Connecticut Supreme Court for the release of more than 1,000 pages of documents seized in the investigation after Adam Lanza massacred 20 children and six adults on December 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary. The documents include writings by Lanza, in which he described having a “scorn for humanity.”
Also this week, to mark the six-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings, Sandy Hook Promise has unveiled its newest public service announcement (PSA) “Point of View,” aimed at illustrating how often a potential shooter can go unnoticed until it’s too late.
Created with the agency BBDO New York, the new PSA echoes a similar sentiment in the organization’s other award-winning spots, most notably 2016’s “Evan” and last year’s “Tomorrow’s News.” Both the newly released documents and these PSAs remind us of the importance of awareness, observation, and communication. “Evan” and “Tomorrow’s News” have so far amassed more than 3 billion impressions worldwide and received more than 200 awards, including 13 Cannes Lions.
But despite these short films continuing the national dialogue around gun violence prevention, and the billions of views, the frequency and scale of mass shootings since Sandy Hook continue to grow. Watching this new PSA, another POV is that since lawmakers clearly can’t be depended upon to make it tougher for school shootings to happen, the responsibility of prevention instead remains on the shoulders of kids, teachers, and parents.
We’ve known about the downfall of newspapers for quite a while now. But this year the once-dominant industry’s demise hit a new low: Social media has overtaken print newspapers as a place where people find news.
According to new survey data from Pew Research, adults in the U.S. got their news from social media more often than print newspapers in 2018. Last year, the two were nearly tied; the year prior, newspapers had a slight edge.
Still, social media and newspapers are two of the least common ways to find news, when compared to other types of media, according to these numbers. The most popular, sadly, is television. Per the survey, 49% of adults get their headlines from watching CNN or Fox News. Coming in second is news websites (thank you!), with 33%. Then comes radio, which 26% of U.S. adults reportedly still listen to for timely updates. Social media and newspapers round out the list with 20% and 16% respectively.
The rise of social media as a news source isn’t surprising, but it does illustrate a growing potential for spreading misinformation. With more people relying on digital platforms for headlines, it means there’s more room for fake news and its ilk to run amok.
Last week, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sang the praises of taking a silent retreat in Myanmar, a luxury he can easily afford as a multimillionaire. But there’s a huge irony here: The leader of one of the most popular platforms–one known to have been integral in many disinformation campaigns–turned off all his social feeds while in Myanmar, a country where genocide has taken place thanks in part to hateful posts that spread like wildfire on platforms like Facebook.
And now we have Pew’s latest numbers showing that despite situations like Myanmar, social media as a news source is still on the rise. Let’s hope that as more people get their news from these sites, we figure out a way to curb the false stories.
Up until 2015, Haven, Kansas, a town of just over 1,200 people, had one grocery store: the Foodliner, a mom-and-pop store owned by a local, Dough Nech. Around 225 locals a day would cycle through the store, picking up basics like bagged lettuce and chicken.
That changed when a Dollar General opened in Haven in February 2015. Almost immediately, Nech saw a drop in the flow of customers through Foodliner. By last year, they rang up only around 125 people; sales dropped by 40%, he told The Guardian. This August, the Foodliner permanently closed.
Dollar General is the fastest-growing retailer in the U.S. and it, along with its competitors Dollar Tree and Family Dollar (which is owned by Dollar Tree), have made a killing in recent years by expanding into some of the county’s most vulnerable communities: small, rural towns, and urban, predominantly black neighborhoods. When that happens, dollar stores essentially take over the market, making it impossible for independent local retailers, like Foodliner, to thrive. And in doing so, dollar stores essentially ensure that people living in the areas they target will struggle to access healthy food. While affordable, dollar stores rarely offer any food beyond highly processed options, and in areas where it’s already difficult to find produce and fresh options (often called food deserts), they don’t do much to change the status quo.
New research from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit that supports local alternatives to entrenched economic systems, finds that since 2011, the number of dollar stores has grown from 20,000 to nearly 30,000. They outnumber Walmarts and Starbucks, combined. They feed far more people than Whole Foods, the poster-child for healthy grocery stores. ISLR reports that Dollar General and Dollar Tree expect to expand to 50,000 stores in the next several years.
“Although dollar stores sometimes fill a need in places that lack basic retail services, there’s growing evidence that these stores are not merely a byproduct of economic distress. They’re a cause of it,” write ISLR co-authors Marie Donahue and Stacey Mitchell. “In small towns and urban neighborhoods alike, dollar stores are leading full-service grocery stores to close. And their strategy of saturating communities with multiple outlets is making it impossible for new grocers and other local businesses to take root and grow.”
Mitchell and Donahue point particularly to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where more than 50 dollar stores are concentrated in the city’s black neighborhoods to the north, and largely skirt the whiter areas of the city. The north side of the city lacks a full-service grocery store, and dollar stores have sprung up to fill in gaps left by long-standing disinvestment in black neighborhoods, where larger supermarket chains are still hard to find. But ISLR found that the proliferation of dollar stores are not helping the quality of life for residents–people in north Tulsa have a 14-year lower life expectancy than people in the rest of the city, and it’s in part due to access to healthy options.
In both urban neighborhoods and rural areas, when dollar stores start opening, they spell economic trouble. Dollar General and Dollar Tree stores only employ around eight people, and small independent groceries employ an average of 14, according to federal data. David Procter, an expert on community development and director of the Rural Grocery Initiative at Kansas State University, told ISLR that the effects of local stores disappearing are even broader. “The problem is that if the grocery store closes, this impacts the town in a big way. Our research shows grocers are barometers for other businesses in town: as goes the grocery store, so goes other independent businesses in that community.” Additionally, locally owned groceries have a better sense of community needs than large national chains, and would often offer delivery of fresh food to seniors or people with mobility needs who couldn’t easily access stores. Dollar General and Dollar Tree do not.
ISLR spoke with Vanessa Harper-Hall, a lifelong resident of Tulsa’s north side, who ran for a City Council seat in 2016 on a platform of boosting access to healthy food and full-service groceries in the neighborhood. Once she took office, she began to push for a policy that would limit the expansion of dollar stores in north Tulsa, and instead grant priority for local, independent, and full-service groceries. Both the city’s planning commission and the daily newspaper opposed it on the grounds that granting a permit to a rapidly expanding chain is a surer bet than offering space to a new business.
But Harper-Hall stood by the idea, and helped residents launch a protest campaign against a new Dollar General in the neighborhood while continuing to detail the need for healthy food. In April 2018, Harper-Hall’s ordinance passed, and became the first policy of its kind in the U.S.
North Tulsa will soon welcome a new healthy store operated by Honor Capital, a business with an aim to bring fresh, healthy food to underserved areas. The small company operates around 10 stores in a handful of states, and has funding from a community development financial institution, which are specifically geared at supporting beneficial projects in low-income areas. Mesquite, Texas, a town also struggling with food-access issues, reached out to Harper-Hall for advice and ultimately passed a similar ordinance to slow the dollar-store takeover.
Hall also points to initiatives like mobile produce trucks, which can deliver fresh food without the need for brick-and-mortar investment, as another tool to push back against dollar stores’ dominance. And places like Mendocino County, California, have implemented stricter review processes that chain stores must go through in order to be granted a permit.
Ultimately, though, one of the biggest barriers to local stores springing up to challenge dollar chains is funding, ISLR writes. If cities and towns want to ensure that all residents have access to fresh, healthy, food, they need to develop financing structures and partnerships with CDFIs and other nonprofit lenders and foundations to make it economically viable for healthy stores and new local groceries to take root and provide for residents at costs that are competitive with dollar stores. Harper-Hall, having broken down the barrier for getting support for local groceries inked into city codes, says that politicians and leaders in other places shouldn’t hesitate to use Tulsa’s policy as a model. “Having examples [of policies passed by other cities] keeps you as an elected official encouraged that this work is possible, even when you’re up against opposition from the powers that be,” she told ISLR.
As Endeavor continues to expand its reach as a full-service, multimedia conglomerate, it is promoting Mark Shapiro to president. Shapiro has been a key executive at the company ever since Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell’s WME acquired IMG in a $2.3 billion deal back in 2013 and began a massive transformation that saw the pair’s traditional Hollywood talent agency expand into a global entertainment, sports, and events behemoth.
Since then, Endeavor has acquired over 25 companies, including UFC, the Frieze art fairs, Eleague, and Professional Bull Riding. The company has also launched new businesses like Endeavor Content, which finances, sells, and develops film and TV projects, and Endeavor Audio, a full-service podcast studio.
As chief content officer of IMG and then co-president of WME-IMG (as the company was called before it became Endeavor), Shapiro has been focused on developing content strategies for the company’s myriad brands, as well as striking brand and sponsorship deals. As he toldFast Company in 2016 for a feature profile of the company, “We’re in the emotion transportation business. Our job is to move people.”
Discussing UFC, which Endeavor bought for $4 billion in 2016, he said:
Content and business is what I’m looking at. From a marketing perspective, how are we marketing the events to grow our Pay Per View business, to grow Fight Pass [UFC’s OTT service], to bring more attendance to every one of these cities? Whether it’s being staged in Cleveland for the first time like it was this year, or it’s in its usual home of Las Vegas. Then just content. How can we make the telecast better? How can we work with Fox or whomever our partner is to make the telecast better? How can we make our telecast on Fight Pass better? How can we make Fight Pass as a whole better with the programming we can offer around the fights themselves? In totality, we’re looking at the content on both linear and an OTT basis.
Shapiro has also been responsible for unifying IMG’s fashion business; securing a U.S. media rights deal with ESPN for the UFC; developing new formats for IMG’s events portfolio (including the upcoming debut of Frieze LA); and boosting the company’s global marketing business with key acquisitions.
In a statement Emanuel said, “The past four years have marked Endeavor’s most pivotal stage of growth, and Mark has played a critical role in getting us to where we are today. Mark’s leadership, creativity, and drive will help Patrick and me as we continue to scale Endeavor and realize its full potential.”
Speaking at Mipcom in Cannes in October, Emanuel echoed this, saying that with the entertainment industry in flux with a series of mergers and acquisitions, he sees an opportunity for Endeavor. “There’s more acquisitions we want to make,” he said. “With Disney, Comcast, and AT&T having to take 18 months to absorb those acquisitions, we see a pretty robust road map if we were to make some more acquisitions that are interesting to us. We’re looking at stuff right now.”
The Chevy Volt was GM’s entry ticket to the future and post-bankruptcy financial stability, but outside of a fervent fan base, the hybrid electric car never quite caught on with consumers. Now, General Motors is sending the line to that great scrap heap in the sky, the Wall Street Journal reports.
When the car was introduced back in 2010, GM pinned its financial hopes on the plug-in hybrid, but the Volt was expensive to produce, which stuck the consumers with a high purchase price that even Obama-era electric car tax credits couldn’t lower enough. That, paired with skepticism about American cars, made the Volt a hard sell. As more companies enter the electric vehicle marketplace with similar technology–and, you know, with the rise of Tesla–GM apparently gave up hope for the brand. Last month, the automaker announced that it would end production of the Volt by March and put the Detroit factory where it is built on hold while it sorted out its next move.
GM still has electric dreams: As the AP reports, it is fighting to keep the consumer tax credit that can make electric cars, like its $36,000 plug-in Chevy Bolt, more affordable at a time when competition from other electric vehicle makers is heating up.
The headline of this post has been updated to more accurately reflect that the Volt is a hybrid vehicle, and not its first electric car.
Social media has made online communities popular and accessible. Nowadays, it seems easier than ever to start one for fun and profit.
But it’s not. Yes, launching an online community is easy, but building a long-lasting one takes a lot of effort. To increase your chance of success, you have to be aware of several pitfalls. Here are the most common mistakes that I see:
Mistake one: Failing to monetize
Many struggling community builders can’t afford to keep their enterprise afloat because they didn’t think about monetization from the start. How often have you heard “we’re focusing on building the community, and we’ll worry about monetizing later”?
I’ve made that mistake myself. My first venture, Brazen Careerist (now called Brazen Technologies) was a social network that helped young professionals connect. It ultimately floundered, because we didn’t monetize the membership. Eventually, we pivoted to an enterprise SaaS model and became financially successful, but I often wonder if the community aspect of the business would have survived if we’d been willing to charge for membership.
Through my work with The Community Company, I’ve learned how incredibly valuable a highly curated community can be. The thing is, if you can deliver the right resources and connections at the right time, people will pay a premium price. So don’t be afraid to put a price tag on it, and ask your members to pay early on.
Mistake two: Neglecting operational excellence
In a profession where human touch is everything, we often forget about the importance of building a strong operational backbone. I find that many community builders don’t think about systems and processes until they’re overwhelmed with growth. By that time, it’s often already too late. How can a community business expect to train a team and grow up if it doesn’t have a step-by-step playbook to onboard, engage, and retain its members?
I get it, in a fast-paced business world, doing things like documenting your systems can feel like it’s taking you away from growth. You just want to keep hustling and worry about the details later.
But that only leads to regret. At The Community Company, we have an internal team wiki that manages all of our systems and processes and is accessible to everyone on our team. That allows my partner and I to step away and let team members run daily operations so that we can focus on business development.
Mistake three: Thinking about “scale” too early
The flip side of not thinking at all about operational excellence is thinking about “scale” way too early. Your goal should be for a “network effect” to take hold in your community. The value of your product should increase exponentially with each user, and this usually requires a manual process that you can’t scale immediately.
“‘Build it and they will come does not work’,” says Scott Belsky, cofounder of Behance, a highly successful community for creative professionals that Adobe acquired in 2012. “Network effects are hard to achieve and always need to be kicked off in a surprisingly manual fashion. For Behance, we manually built the portfolios for our first 100 members back in 2007. The content needed to look good and be plentiful for others to want to participate, so we needed to do it ourselves.” In other words, you need to focus on building relationships with your constituents to achieve a network effect.
Mistake four: Not growing along with your members
As a community builder, it’s a great feeling to see network effect start to take hold and watch sub-communities form. But it can also be a death sentence for your community if members no longer rely on your platform to make valuable exchanges with one another.
Community members may take the relationships you helped cultivate to, say, a private Facebook group or a competing event. It’s a compliment, but it can be frustrating and threatening if you don’t continue to be the glue that keeps your community together.
The best way to stay “sticky” is to listen closely to the subcultures forming within your community and be a support system for them by bringing them closer together and recruiting additional like-minded people to join their ranks. In the early days of Brazen, we formed subgroups around specific industries, geographic locations, and even non-business activities such as cooking. Giving busy, young professionals a platform to share recipe ideas was an unexpected way to allow our members to connect and keep conversing on our platform.
It takes a lot of time and effort to build a sustainable, strong online community. But when you do it right, you’ll have the enormous satisfaction of knowing that you’re creating something of lasting value for yourself and your members.
Ryan Paugh is the COO of The Community Company, an organization that builds community-driven programs for media companies and global brands. He is also the coauthor of Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships That Matter.
Netflix is stepping up its investment in Africa by launching its first-ever African original series, Queen Sono.
The spy dramedy, which is set in South Africa, will star Quantico actress Pearl Thusi and will debut next year. Thusi announced the news with a tweet on Monday, saying: “It’s going to change the game for every artist on this continent.”
She went on: “Thank you to Netflix for believing in this idea. I cannot wait for every young woman, every woman on this continent and actually this planet to meet Queen Sono. We have worked so hard for this and I cannot wait.”
The show will focus on a complex female character much in the style of other Netflix shows like Jessica Jones and House of Cards. It will be produced by Tamsin Andersson and directed by Kagiso Lediga, the same team behind the Netflix original film Catching Feelings, which is also set in South Africa and stars Thusi.
The move is part of Netflix’s global expansion as it seeks to offset the slowing growth of domestic subscribers. Today, the company operates in more than 190 countries around the world, and 79 million of its 137 million subscribers are from outside the U.S. With a population that favors watching TV shows and movies on smartphones and tablets, South Africa is a key target for Netflix. According to a Nielsen survey that polled more than 30,000 online users in 61 countries, 63% of South Africans use a streaming service and 79% do so at least once a week.
Netflix has been available in South Africa since 2016 and has proven to be a popular option due to its price–about $9.99 a month for a standard package–ease of use, and content offerings. Amazon Prime is also available in the region. It’s estimated that Netflix now has between 300,000 and 400,000 subscribers in South Africa.
In an attempt to boost that growth, the company recently changed its pricing to rands instead of dollars, so that the fee no longer fluctuates based on exchange rates. And it’s adding to the platform’s content offerings. Beyond investing in local productions like Queen Sono, it’s introduced more titles that have proven to be popular with local audiences, such as Girlboss, Mindhunter, and Troy: Fall of a City.
While the massive Marriott data breach is currently hogging the headlines, don’t forget about that other historic data breach–the one at Equifax that affected 148 million consumers. Turns out that hack was “entirely preventable,” and the credit bureau botched its handling of the mammoth incident afterward, according to a final House Oversight Committee report, first reported by Politico.
Hackers accessed Equifax’s database and compromised the credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, and birthdates of 143 million U.S. consumers–and an unspecified number of U.K. and Canadian customers, as well as the names and driver’s license info of some 2.4 million consumers. The breach was announced after a few company executives dumped their stock.
Now after a 14-month investigation, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has issued a scathing 96-page report saying the consumer credit reporting agency aggressively collected consumer data without taking the necessary steps to protect the trove of information. “Equifax… failed to implement an adequate security program to protect this sensitive data. As a result, Equifax allowed one of the largest data breaches in U.S. history. Such a breach was entirely preventable,” the report says.
The report blames the breach on a series of failures, including “a culture of cybersecurity complacency,” outdated technology systems, and Equifax’s failure to patch a “known critical vulnerability.” The committee also noted the company’s failure to take appropriate measures to inform consumers about the breach and their options for protecting their data. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tried to warn Equifax that this wouldn’t end well for them. The report comes as the company still faces a variety of class-action lawsuits over the breach and the FTC is still side-eyeing the company after publicly confirming it is investigating the data breach.
Reached for comment, Equifax spokesman Jacob Hawkins offered the following statement:
“We are deeply disappointed that the Committee chose not to provide us with adequate time to review and respond to a 100-page report consisting of highly technical and important information. During the few hours we were given to conduct a preliminary review we identified significant inaccuracies and disagree with many of the factual findings. Equifax has worked in good faith for nearly 15 months with the Committee to be transparent, cooperative and shed light on our learnings from the incident in order to enrich the cybersecurity community. While we believe that factual errors serve to undermine the content of the report, we are generally supportive of many of the recommendations the Committee laid out for the government and private industry to better protect consumers, and have already made significant strides in many of these areas. Since the incident, Equifax has moved forward, taking meaningful steps to enhance our technology and security programs and will continue to focus on consumers, customers and regaining trust with all stakeholders.”