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    Before Autumn Adeigbo launched her eponymous eco-fashion brand for professional women, she was a hard-working student at Parsons dreaming of a career as a designer. And like many of her peers, the quickest way she saw to make that dream come true was to get a foot in the industry’s door via an internship.

    For Adeigbo, landing that internship was partly about skill and partly about being in the right place at the right time. “I met Betsey Johnson one night after class on the street right outside Parsons, and she hired me for the position [of production intern].”

    This all happened in the years before the country was plunged into recession, yet Betsey Johnson (like other fashion brands) didn’t pay Adeigbo to work there. “That was just the way things were at the time,” says Adeigbo. “No one working in fashion was paid for internships. If we were lucky, we got school credit,” she says.

    After six months doing basic entry-level tasks for Betsey Johnson, Adeigbo landed a second (unpaid) internship as a stylist’s assistant with Andrea Lieberman: Culture & Reality. (Lieberman is now founder of contemporary fashion label ALC). “With Andrea, I was part of the team that dressed Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani as she did her solo L.A.M.B. album debut, the Pussycat Dolls as their song “Don’t Cha” came out, and many other incredible projects,” Adeigbo recalls. She also earned class credits for those gigs.

    Autumn Adeigbo Spring/Summer 2018 [Photo: courtesy of Autumn Adeigbo ]
    Adeigbo made ends meet at first by living off her student loans while still living in the dorms. But when she scored the internship with Lieberman, Adeigbo was sharing an apartment in Brooklyn with roommates, so she had to get a second job working retail on her days off so she could pay rent. “I worked approximately 24 hours a week, or three eight-hour days,” Adeigbo explains, to supplement the expenses covered by her student loans.

    By the time she’d graduated from Parsons, Adeigbo parlayed that internship into a paid freelance position. However, in fashion, the transition to temp work or freelance, or a low-wage, entry-level job is fairly common, even though the hours are long, and the grueling demands might seem like they were cooked up in a Hollywood screenplay, but are all too real.

    What’s worse is that a 2016 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that less than half (43.9%) of over 9,000 students surveyed who were working with private for-profit companies who didn’t pay them received job offers. Even those who did get paid internships didn’t always get a full-time job. The report reveals that nearly one-third (28%) of those who did have fully paid internships didn’t receive job offers.

    Still, internships are inexorably tied to the career landscape in the U.S. and across the globe. The NACE estimates that there are as many as 300,000 students participating in some form of pre-employment apprenticeship in the U.S. each year. How did they gain such an enduring position, especially given the questionable pay practices and no guarantees of translating to a real job?

    The origin of unpaid internships

    We can thank the ancient cultures. Apprenticeships flourished in Egypt, Greece, and Rome, as well as in Asia thousands of years ago. During medieval times in Europe, a system of apprenticeship was supervised by masters in craft guilds as well as in town governments.

    The apprentices (or their families) would pay the master to let them work alongside and learn their particular craft. During the time a young person would apprentice (sometimes as long as nine years), the master provided room and board. In craft, as in some current industries, those who were bankrolled by family had an advantage, and nepotism was rampant. According to Britannica, “Apprenticeships in some trades came to be highly valued, and a family would have to pay a master a large sum of money for him to enroll their son as an apprentice. Often apprenticeships came to be restricted to the sons or other relatives of masters.”

    The Industrial Revolution is where apprenticeships and the concept of modern internship diverge. Manufacturing required different skills, so apprenticeships were replaced by vocational schooling. Alongside this, job training that coincided with university studies began to be developed.

    The Morrill Act of 1861 (Land Grant Act) provided funds to establish colleges devoted to agriculture and mechanical arts, so the institutions created courses with more practical education. In 1899, the cooperative system of education was proposed at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. The first class in 1906 had 27 students that alternated working at 13 companies and going to school weekly. They were paid 8¢ to 10¢ an hour (that’s around $2.80 an hour today if you factor in inflation).

    The word “intern” itself began in the medical community to refer to a person who studied medicine but didn’t yet have a license to practice. Then in the 1960s, internships like the ones we know today began to gain traction across disciplines. And some very famous people got their careers started during internships. Bill Gates was once a congressional page, and Oprah Winfrey worked at a CBS affiliate during her college years.

    Backlash

    But just because you can get a big break doesn’t mean it’s okay to not get paid for the work you’re doing. A raft of class action lawsuits were leveled at companies such as Conde Nast, Fox Searchlight, Hearst, and others between 2011 and 2013, prompting the courts to take another look at the legality of these working arrangements. Some of these companies quietly settled out of court, and Conde Nast stopped employing interns altogether.

    For its part, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) changed its requirements for classifying interns versus employees last January. Among the seven criteria, the DOL states that there is no expectation of compensation by either the company or the intern. “Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee–and vice versa,” they say. There’s also a tie to education and class credit that is necessary for an internship and “the extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.” Finally, the criteria protect the employer from having to hire the intern by stating, “The intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.”

    Autumn Adeigbo Spring/Summer 2018 [Photo: courtesy of Autumn Adeigbo ]
    Despite these protections for the employer, young people like Autumn Adeigbo maintain that their experience interning–even without earning money–was far more valuable than a paltry paycheck.

    “I’m a fashion designer now, and to this day, my experience working with Betsey Johnson is the only time that I ever worked at a designer’s headquarters,” she says. Betsey Johnson’s showroom was the only time Adeigbo had access to the entire process of a global fashion brand: from inspiration to sourcing, design, pattern making, and production, sales, and publicity. “There is also something to be said for being able to see an icon like Betsey every day, and know that my dream was actually possible to achieve because of her presence,” adds Adeigbo. “You can’t put a price tag on that.”


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    Editor’s Note: This week, Fast Company is launching a new advice column by Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay. Each week Webb will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at dearfounder@fastcompany.com.

    Q. How do I raise seed money but protect myself from someone else stealing my idea? I’m meeting with angel investors and small VCs, and some people want to make introductions to big players in my space. What do I do?

    –Founder of a matchmaking firm now launching an app in the dating space

    Dear Founder,

    Don’t worry about someone stealing your idea. Everyone thinks what they are doing is so important and big and special. But here’s the surprising part: That doesn’t mean other people will want to go do it. Companies and investors are busy and have hundreds of other existing priorities. This is your one priority, so just go do it.

    Amazing things happen when you share your idea. When Marc Benioff started Salesforce, he didn’t initially share his idea with a lot of people, but over lunch, his friend Bobby Yazdani, the founder of Saba Software, encouraged him to, saying that the number-one mistake entrepreneurs make is they hold their ideas too closely to their chest. Marc considered that and shared what he wanted to do. “It’s very good you told me,” Bobby said, and then introduced him to three contractors he had working for him who soon became Marc’s cofounders and helped him build an incredible service and company. Today, Marc has described meeting Parker Harris, one of the original three developers, as ”the luckiest thing in my life.” That’s synchronicity and it happened because Marc articulated his vision and shared it with someone who had experience, understanding, and a desire to help.

    You’ll find way more synchronicity and power in sharing your idea than you will danger.

    In fact, you’ll be more at risk if you are too closed off. It can be a real turnoff to investors if you are too secretive or cagey. We recently met a founder we really liked and we wanted to invest in her startup. We recommended that she meet a contact of ours at a big company who we thought could be helpful. She was afraid he would knock it off and build it on his own, so she refused to meet him. Her worry about being knocked off trumped her curiosity and dedication to build the best service possible, which was concerning to our team. It was such a big deal for us that we decided not to invest–even though we were very excited about what she was building.

    Being too shy about what you are doing is a defensive move, not the offensive move you need to get money and to succeed. VCs are investors, not builders. Get them excited about you and your company, and get them on board so they can share their resources: money, connections, experience, and wisdom.

    Of course, please remember, you don’t have to share everything. You can speak broadly but enough to make sure they are interested. I imagine it’s similar to what you would tell your clients. When you first start dating someone it’s imperative to share who you are, what you do, and what your values are, but you shouldn’t go into detail about your crazy sisters or bring anyone home to meet Mom and Dad on the first date!

    As far as meeting someone who is in your space, do that later. Sharing your idea with investors is one thing, but you will not want to meet potential acquirers until you have traction. Control your own destiny as long as you can. Raise the money you need without going to those who can gobble you up.

    Finally, if someone can steal your idea and do it better, then shame on you. But for now, let’s focus on what you can do if you stay focused on what you uniquely know. If you focus too much on the competition, you lose sight of where you are going. It’s hard to run up the stairs when you are always looking right and left, and for who’s coming up behind you. And, it’s not always as important as you might think.

    Please allow me to share an example. Right when I joined eBay, Microsoft and Dell launched an online auction site called FairMarket. Everyone was very worried about this initiative. Could this be the end of eBay?

    Obviously, we now know how this story ends: FairMarket never became a real threat and eBay wound up buying it a few years later. Had we gotten bogged down in competing against them we would have lost track of what we were doing, changed our strategy to be influenced by theirs, and given them validation in the market they didn’t warrant. It was more powerful to focus on what we wanted. We prioritized what was most important: scalability (we had significant service issues due to our success), trust (we had to make transactions safer for consumers), friction (most of the payments were by check or money order as opposed to PayPal, etc.), and user experience. We also expanded into multiple countries, either via new launches or acquisition. So, while we kept an eye on what the competition was doing, we spent most of our time making our successful service better, safer, easier to use, and more global.

    Remember: You are your most important competition and ultimately your biggest threat. If you don’t build a product or service of relevance, it really doesn’t matter what your competition does. Believe in yourself, stay focused, and go out and create something amazing.

    Maynard Webb is a longtime technology executive, investor, board member, and best-selling author. His most recent book is Dear Founder: Letters of Advice for Anyone Who Owns, Leads, or Wants to Start a Business


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    If you were searching social media at the beginning of the year, you may have seen people posting about their “one word”; the word that summed up their intention for the year and will serve to help them focus on what they want to achieve in the coming year.

    But can one word really help you manifest the things you desire? Certified Life Coach Megan Day says yes. Day spent the end of 2018 helping her small business clients to pick their “one word” through her year-in-review sessions. “Carefully selecting a word of the year helps you to gain clarity about the things you would like to create in your life and the way in which you want to live,” says Day.

    Day guides her clients through selecting the one word that will motivate them through the coming year. “The word that you choose becomes a guidepost. It serves as a guide for your actions, your thoughts, your goals,” she says. This seems like a lot of pressure to place on one little word. Day says the word itself is not what is so powerful, but the time that you take to choose it. Through the process of selecting a word, you come face-to-face with your values and identify the things that will help move you forward to where you want to be.

    If you don’t yet have a word for the year, it’s not too late! Here’s how you can set your word for the rest of the year.

    Reflect upon the previous year

    “The word that you select is not only forward thinking, it also helps to reflect upon the year that has passed and learn from your mistakes and things that didn’t go well,” says Day. When selecting your word, ask yourself what went well in the previous year and what didn’t go as well as you would have liked. Reflect upon any personal growth you’ve had over the past year. Who did you used to be? And who are you now?

    Reviewing your year can help you to highlight the things that are missing in your current life. “Oftentimes, the words that we are drawn to are the words that we intuitively know we lack,” says Day. “Claiming that word helps us take ownership of these shortcomings and come up with an antidote for overcoming them, almost like taking on an alter ego.”

    Make a list then narrow your choices

    Write down as many powerful words as you can, without limiting yourself. Examples of power words may include Confidence, Trust, Delight, Impact.

    Once you have your list of words, go through them again carefully, crossing off all the ones that don’t automatically feel exciting, fulfilling, or energizing to you.

    Once you’ve narrowed down your choices to three words, ask yourself what 10 things you can bring into your life if you live by this word all year long. The one word that feels the most motivating and is the easiest to list 10 things will be your word.

    There’s no wrong word choice

    Choosing your word for the year isn’t a right-or-wrong process, but is entirely personal to you. “It has to elicit a visceral response in you,” says Day. “When a word has the power to move you, it has the power to empower you.” Your word should keep you motivated, give you comfort, and keep you on track when times are challenging. Choosing the same word as a friend or as an influencer you follow online isn’t going to help you step into being your personal best if the word doesn’t speak to you personally.

    Make your word visible

    To help you make decisions throughout the year that are in alignment with the word you choose to serve as your guidepost, make sure to keep your word in a place that is visible. Write it on a sticky note and place it on your monitor or bathroom mirror. Journal on your word, exploring what the word means to you and what your life will be like if you live this word daily. Or take your word one step further and integrate it into a vision board: a visual collage of all the things you want to bring into your life.


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    Internet of Things devices–like smart lightbulbs or ovens or even toilets–are notoriously susceptible to being hacked. But the security problems go much deeper than preventing your average smart toaster from becoming a foot soldier in a botnet army.

    A new report from the security company Gemalto surveyed 950 companies that both make and use IoT technology, and found that 48% of companies that use IoT devices in the workplace don’t have mechanisms in place to detect if any of their devices are hacked or not… even though nearly all respondents believe that security is an important way to win over customers and 65% believe security is a way to differentiate from the competition.

    As the number of connected devices grows–the report states that the industry is on track to see 20 billion IoT devices by 2023–the security of these devices will only become more important. That growing significance is reflected in the percentage of budget companies spend on IoT security, which has increased from 13% in 2017 to 15% today. While budget is increasing, 15% still seems like a laughably small amount to be spending on security in a time when data breaches are in the news every month.

    Meanwhile, 79% of the survey respondents are looking to outside entities–governments–to set and enforce tougher standards for security. The survey found that 95% of business leaders thought there should be regulations for IoT security–a stark contrast to the behavior of many American companies that have long sought to avoid regulation. 59% of these companies are looking for the government to answer the question of who is responsible for security.

    When asked how their organization views IoT security, 24% believe security is simply the foundation for offering new services (which decreased from 32% in 2017), 15% believe it’s a way to improve the customer experience, and another 14% only see it as a way to avoid the cost of failing to protect data and the ensuing damage to a company’s brand. Surprisingly, only 14% believe that providing security is an ethical consideration–though that number has grown more than three times from Gemalto’s last survey in 2017. The increase in emphasis on ethics reveals that businesses are starting to think more about their role when it comes to securing products against hacks as one of moral responsibility, rather than just as a feature.

    As the report concludes, “consumers are clearly not impressed with the efforts of the IoT industry.” 62% of users believe that security needs to get better. After all, it’s 2019. If you can’t build a secure connected product that’s private by design, you really shouldn’t be building a product at all.


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    “American companies are facing a caregiving crisis—they just refuse to acknowledge it,” reads a new report out of Harvard Business School. Though companies may think they are saving money through offering employees lightweight benefits, they are actually taxing themselves, the new report claims.

    Three-quarters of employees surveyed said they provide some sort of care duty for a family member. Nearly all said this responsibility affects their work life.

    “By not offering benefits that employees actually want–and by not encouraging employees to use the benefits they do offer–companies incur millions of dollars of hidden costs due to employee turnover, loss of institutional knowledge, and temporary hiring,” the report, authored by Joseph B. Fuller and Manjari Raman, notes. When workers are overburdened in their personal lives, they can’t give the most to their job. They show up late, they’re sick at work, they leave early, they are not operating at 100%.

    The study comes at a time when companies are increasingly pushing the expense of healthcare onto workers. There’s little incentive for them not to, as I pointed out in a story last year on why employers are no longer covering healthcare costs the way they once did. President Donald Trump is making companies less accountable for covering healthcare expenses thanks to his changes to the Affordable Care Act. Already, companies account for a smaller portion of overall healthcare spending than households or the U.S. government (19.9% for companies, compared to 28% for households and 28.1% for the government, according to the most recent stats from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services).

    The problem with this, of course, is that healthcare is expensive. “The rising costs of healthcare has put pressure on Americans to offset those costs by providing more informal, personal care for older family members,” the study says. If employers want to retain their workers and the intellectual capital they’ve invested in, they have to step in and help.

    Fuller and Raman interviewed roughly 1,500 workers and 300 business owners or human resources professionals across a wide spectrum of occupations. Through their research, they found a misalignment between what employers believe their employees want and what they actually want. While some employers have been offering better paternity leave packages or more flexible work hours in recent years, it’s proving to not be enough. Employees can use the time off, but what they also need are services that assist them with caregiving. That can mean referrals to or subsidies for adult caregiving services or onsite childcare. The survey found 29% of employers offer referrals to caregiving services, but only 8% offer any kind of subsidy for elder care. Less than a quarter provide onsite or nearby childcare services.

    Furthermore, more than half of the employees surveyed didn’t feel supported to work their jobs and attend to the caregiving at home. Harvard’s study shows that 32% of workers have left a job because of caregiving responsibilities. Surprisingly, the majority of those were highly paid men between the ages of 25-35, though the report highlights that women bear the brunt of caregiving responsibilities. It’s also worth noting 50% of people between the ages of 26-35 have left jobs to care for a family member. For those between 18-25, that figure is 27%.

    In the coming years, millennials will only face more pressure to drop out of the workforce as the demands of caring for their aging parents and young children grow. Employers need to provide assistance if they want to remain productive.


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    What would happen to our planet if all the ice in the world melted?

    It’s a terrifying thought that’s on its way to becoming reality, with the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets melting ever more each year. A recent study found that from 1979 to 2017, the rate of melting increased by six times.

    Catastrophic sea level rise is inevitable by the end of this century, and the impact of the rising oceans on coastlines is neatly encapsulated in a striking new typeface by the Berlin-based designer Johan Elmehag.

    [Image: courtesy Johan Elmehag]
    Using data from the website Flood Map and data on sea level rise from National Geographic, Elmehag mapped out how the world’s coastlines would be impacted by melting ice. That map was unrecognizable, the new coasts resembling strange squiggles. While his project had originally been to create a fictitious guide for climate refugees in the year 2100, Elmehag had a surprising reaction when looking at the map.

    “I started to see different letterforms in particularly exposed coastal areas,” Elmehag says. As the As and Js and Ts began to pop out at him, Elmehag began to hunt for every letter on the map, eventually creating an entire typeface, called Coastline, out of the futuristic geography.

    [Image: courtesy Johan Elmehag]
    It’s an entirely unorthodox way of capturing climate data. The letters don’t entirely stand alone, which makes a QR code that is placed next to the letters when using the typeface particularly helpful. Without their context, each letter looks partially shriveled and misshapen, but when you learn that Q is an island archipelago that’s been formed now that parts of northwestern India are underwater, and that F represents how the low land levels in Europe, especially in the Netherlands, will be taken back by the sea, each form takes on a perilous significance. The letter A was created from a bay in northern Italy that once held the city of Venice. The letter T is formed by Egypt’s new river delta, where Alexandria is now under water. U represents the new coastline of Mexico, which is divided in two by water.

    “There are uncountable stories embedded in these letterforms,” Elmehag says. “It’s important to remember that the environment doesn’t care for borders.”

    Elmehag has created a website where you can read more about the different letters and download the typeface to use yourself. If people encounter the typeface, they can use their phone camera to learn more about the typeface and rising sea levels. He’s also created 50 copies of a zine called A-Z:Coast to Coast Shore to Shore that acts as an ABC book, with each page dedicated to a letter, its description, and a corresponding map.

    You can buy the book for $18 here, and download the typeface for free here.


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    Every year, I waste 1,440 minutes. As much as I try to avoid it, come December 31, I’ve sacrificed about 24 hours or three full business days. And that’s just me. If you add my 24 colleagues, my small business is losing 33,000 minutes–or two and a half months of work time–every single year.

    The culprit is conference calls. The exasperation we’ve all experienced with this medium is why videos like “A Conference Call in Real Life” have gone spectacularly viral. You may have also seen that 10-year-old FedEx golf commercial or this regrettably relatable scene from HBO’s Silicon Valley.

    Sometimes, the blame lies with the person on the other end. But other times, you’re the one responsible. Here are seven ways you might be inadvertently ruining conference calls for everyone else.

    1. You’re constantly late

    When you don’t prioritize punctuality, the message you’re broadcasting to others is that your time is more important than their time.

    Take a step back and consider the scenario surrounding a scheduled call. Every attendee has blocked off time from their calendar for this. Maybe some people even left their cubicles to take the call from a quiet conference room. You’ve told these folks you’ll be available at 3 p.m., so when you keep them hanging, you’re breaking a promise.

    Let me put the point this way: Punctuality isn’t only a professional courtesy, it’s also a reflection of your integrity–or lack of. Don’t be that guy who always arrives five minutes late and then interrupts everyone to answer the question, “Who just joined?”

    2. You host the call without an agenda

    As the host of a conference call, one of your chief duties takes place before the call even begins: You need to write an agenda.

    Without an agenda, you’ll inevitably get sidetracked. Chances are, the meeting will take much longer than you expected, and you ‘ll skip or minimize items because you ran out of time.

    3. You don’t tell your attendees who will be at the meeting

    Speaking of agendas, here’s something else that too many overlook: a list of expected attendees. How many times have you been on a call that includes people you don’t know? As a result, when one of these folks speaks, you’re not sure who they are. You scramble to pick up clues.

    It doesn’t need to be that stressful. Indeed, the solution is simple: Use your agenda to identify each attendee pro-actively. Even better: Include their job title. That way, when you ask people to identify themselves before speaking, everyone will have a cheat sheet to reference.

    4. You dial from somewhere noisy

    If you work in an open office or a cubicle, you’re no doubt used to background noise. You may have even learned how to tune it out. (Please teach me.) For the rest of us, such distractions are, well, distracting.

    My advice: Don’t be that person who seems to be dialing in on speakerphone from the middle of Times Square. Don’t be that person who’s clacking away on their keyboard as if they’re pounding pizza dough. Don’t be that person who’s calling from his car in the middle of nowhere, where the cellular connection is as weak as a candle in the wind.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m not without empathy. Life happens, and sometimes you can’t predict interruptions. Just try to minimize it, or invest in a pair of good headphones.

    5. You don’t mute your audio when you’re not talking

    Perhaps the most important button on any phone is the “mute” button. Use it. Master it. And don’t feel bad about it. That said, it’s all too easy to abuse this magical feature, so here are a couple of caveats:

    1. Make sure you’re prepared to unmute when someone asks you a question. There’s nothing worse than asking someone something and then hearing silence.

    2. Some buttons are unclear, so make absolutely, 100% sure you know when you’re on mute and when you’re not.

    Anyone who’s been in business long enough has a favorite story to tell about the poor soul who left himself audibly exposed. Maybe he was using the bathroom; perhaps he was cracking a joke to his coworkers in the room. You probably remember these because you know that it could have been you.

    6. You insist on multitasking

    Here’s a stubborn fact: You can’t multitask. Don’t feel bad: No one can. What I mean by that is you can’t do two things at once as well as you can do each item one at a time.”I’m just checking email,” you may protest. “I’m just crossing things off my to-do list.” Nope: You’re just rude.

    Indeed, one of the most brazenly offensive things you can do is to show someone they don’t have your full attention. So, just as you wouldn’t multitask during an in-person meeting, don’t do it during a phone-based session. Treat your virtual peers with the same respect you’d give them if you were physically face-to-face.

    7. You don’t take the time to test the software

    Finally, we get to one of the most frustrating faux pas of them all. Ten minutes into the call, someone is still fumbling with a technical problem. I’ve seen it all: Slow Wi-Fi, clunky software, slides that don’t sync, PINs that bring you into another party’s call.

    Such issues may be inevitable, but smart hosts know how to prevent them: through the age-old process of preparation. If something is worth taking up the time of a group of people, then it’s definitely worth preparing for.


    Jeff Lotman is the founder and chief executive of Global Icons, a brand-licensing agency. Connect with him on LinkedIn, where he comments daily on business bugbears.


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    Last week, in a rare act of sales-figure specificity, Amazon announced that it has more than 30 million active Fire TV users. That’s up from 25 million users in October, and more than the 27 million users that Roku had bragged about just a few days prior.

    But while Amazon streaming devices such as the Fire TV Stick are a hit, the company has been caught snoozing on turning Fire TV into a platform for more than just its own dongles and boxes. It only started embedding Fire TV software into TVs in 2017–three years later than Roku–and it offers no version of Fire TV for cable and satellite companies, more than 100 of which are using rival Google’s Android TV software in their set-top boxes.

    Naturally, Amazon now wants to rectify the situation as the company tries to sink its hooks into more aspects of consumer’s lives. Sandeep Gupta, Amazon’s vice president of Fire TV product development, told me that Fire TV software will expand to more areas, including additional smart TVs, cable boxes, and possibly even car entertainment systems.

    “The great thing about the Fire TV service is that it’s now very adaptable,” he says. “And because we have such great brand awareness, and such great recognition from customers, we can bring it to all kinds of different products and really have that resonate for the customer.”

    [Photo: courtesy of Amazon]

    Waiting for more Fire TVs

    Gupta admitted that Amazon was late to the smart TV integration trend. Roku started working with smart TV manufacturers such as TCL in 2014, and Google has partnered with Sony and other TV makers from 2015 onward. Amazon’s first Fire TV Edition sets arrived in 2017 with a small number of Westinghouse, Element, and Seiki TVs. Although a bigger partnership with Best Buy followed last year, in which Fire TV became the exclusive operating system for Best Buy’s Insignia brand, Amazon announced no new televisions at the CES trade show last week.

    “You can imagine that it’s timing and sequencing. In general we tend not to do a lot of pre-announcements, but you’ll see a lot more from us this year,” Gupta said. “From [Best Buy’s] perspective, it’s delivered beyond even their expectations, and customer feedback has been great.”

    It’s worth nothing that if Amazon does launch more Fire TV Edition televisions this year, they’ll have to be sold through Best Buy or Amazon itself. The deal between those two retailers currently precludes Amazon from offering Fire TV sets through other retailers such as Target or Walmart.

    “For now, it’s exclusive, because we want to have this deep relationship, but in the future, that could change,” Gupta said.

    Cable boxes and beyond

    Amazon may also have been surprised by rival Google’s success getting Android TV onto cable, satellite, and telco set-top boxes. In December, Google disclosed that stat about it working with more than 100 TV operators around the world, which in turn helped the platform reach “tens of millions” of users. By loading their set-top boxes with Android and giving customers easy access to apps like Netflix and Hulu, traditional TV providers aim to stave off cord-cutting while customizing the interface to emphasize their own services.

    Gupta says Amazon will now be looking at the cable box business as well. “We probably have come a little later to that,” he acknowledges. “We’ve been focused more on our devices, but I do think we’ll continue to expand where we offer our service. Last year of course the focus was on smart TV, and operators are obviously a logical next step in that scenario.”

    Beyond that, Gupta hints at other places where Amazon’s Fire TV software could pop up. He mentions soundbars as a possibility (incidentally, an Android TV-based soundbar from JBL is supposed to ship this spring), and even suggested car entertainment systems as a potential avenue.

    “That could be interesting, right? We have a lot of great Alexa integration with car companies, and they are looking for entertainment options, too,” Gupta said. “I think those are potential things we could do that would be very compelling.”

    [Photo: courtesy of Amazon]

    Bettering the basics

    That’s not to say Amazon is neglecting the hardware side of its business. On Tuesday, it upgraded the remote for its best-selling Fire TV Stick to include TV volume and power buttons, bringing it in line with the company’s Fire TV Stick 4K and Fire TV Cube. Alexa voice control also remains a major focus. Gupta says that more than 1.7 million people have paired their Fire TV device with a separate Echo speaker, and last year’s Fire TV Cube builds those voice controls into the streaming box itself. Amazon even released a DVR for over-the-air broadcast channels called the Fire TV Recast, and that device is integrated with Alexa voice controls as well.

    “We took a lot of big bets last year,” Gupta said. “We moved away from our stick-box metaphor and into whole different areas, and I think it’s really had an impact with our users.”

    Looking ahead, Amazon is trying to solve the same TV problem as everyone else: With so many new and forthcoming sources for streaming video, how do viewers sort through it all? To that end, Amazon wants to introduce more ways to customize the Fire TV interface without making it overly burdensome for users.

    “We’re at looking at different ways to personalize the experience, and those are things we’re looking at and we’re experimenting with,” Gupta said. “I can’t tell you exactly what we may bring, but we recognize that users watch TV in different ways, with different preferences, and we want to figure out the right experience for those users.”

    Amazon is also still working through its impasse with Google, which started blocking the Fire TV’s YouTube app about a year ago. (Google said it was retaliating for Amazon’s refusal to sell certain Google products and to offer a Prime Video app on Google’s Chromecast streamer.) Amazon has since come up with a workaround, using the Fire TV’s built-in web browser to quickly load a YouTube.com bookmark. You can even ask Alexa to search for videos within YouTube. Still, Gupta said the lack of a proper app has created a misconception that Fire TV doesn’t support YouTube at all. There’s also no way for Fire TV users to access YouTube TV, Google’s $40 per month live TV streaming service.

    Gupta said discussions with Google are still ongoing, and pointed to the arrival of Chromecast on Amazon.com last month as a sign of progress.

    “I think we are excited about potentially having these [apps] on board,” Gupta said. “There’s a lot that goes into that, a lot of discussions happen, and I think in general it’s positive, but these things just take time.”


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    This winter, Jeffrey Bigham, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, rented an Airbnb with his family. During the stay he noticed something weird: two white objects hiding in plain sight in the rental’s rooms. It was a security camera, which Bigham found unsettling. “I was shocked, and immediately unplugged them,” he wrote in a blog post yesterday.

    It seems like a pretty blatant invasion of privacy. Bigham admits that the rental property told him there were cameras “at the entrance,” which is not the location of either of the ones he found. And when he reported his findings to Airbnb, the platform said the hosts properly disclosed the camera because of a picture in the listing. The picture shows one of the rooms with the camera. In the foreground is a couch and a TV, along with three oddly placed pictures on the wall in the background. If you squint your eyes and look to the left corner, you can see a white object. It’s not obviously a camera. Yet Bigham says that’s what Airbnb considered proper disclosure.

    I reached out to Airbnb for comment on this and will update if I hear back.

    Bigham’s experience is indicative of a growing problem on Airbnb. More hosts are surreptitiously recording guests–likely as a defense in case crazy stuff happens. Sometimes we hear of egregious examples, where guests were able to get Airbnb’s attention because they discovered a hidden camera in a place like a bathroom. But during these less outrageous situations–which are invasions of privacy, nonetheless–Airbnb users have less recourse.

    “I feel like our experience is in some ways more insidious,” writes Bigham. “If you find a truly hidden camera in your bedroom or bathroom, AirBnB will support you. If you find an undisclosed camera in the private living room, AirBnB will not support you.”

    For now, Bigham can find solace in the fact that he wrote something that’s shedding light on the issue. We’ll see if this saga hurts his Airbnb standing; the host left him a bad review for unplugging the camera.

    You can read Bigham’s full post here.


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    If you have considered giving up coffee for your health, here’s a counterargument: don’t. A new study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition (it’s probably behind the counter at your local newsstand), shows that drinking dark coffee protects your DNA from breaking. Yes, that means I’m immortal now.

    To find these results, they had a brave group of test subjects swap coffee for water for an entire month (their painful contribution to science is appreciated) and then they were asked to drink 500 milliliters of freshly brewed dark=roast coffee per day, while the control group continued to consume water instead. On the last day of each period, their blood was tested to assess the level of DNA damage (strand breakage). The researchers found that the group who was allowed to drink a nice cup of joe had fewer DNA strand breaks compared to the control group.

    This led the scientists to believe that regular consumption of a dark-roast coffee has “a beneficial protective effect on human DNA integrity in both men and women.” Coffee is better than water, according to science. (Please don’t stop drinking water.)

    This isn’t the first study to prove that coffee drinking is good for you (deal with it, tea sippers). In fact, many of the study’s authors have been working on the topic for years, and time and again dark coffee has proven to protect DNA. For instance, there was a study in 2016 documenting health benefits, and another study in 2015, also published in the European Journal of Nutrition, that found that people who drink three cups of dark-roast coffee blend daily had 27% fewer DNA strand breaks in their white blood cells than water drinkers after only a month.

    Lest you think this team of researchers are secret agents of Mr. Coffee, an earlier study, published in the 2011 issue of Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, found that chugging 750 milliliters reduced naturally occurring DNA breakage by one-third, and that reduction continued several hours later.

    In short: The next time someone smugly tells you that they no longer drink coffee for their health, you can equally smugly send them this article.


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    There are few things that bother me more than bad lighting–in the living room, the kitchen, and especially when I’m working at a desk. When I’m drawing, I’m annoyed to no end when shadows obscure my work surface or, worse, the light casts a glare. It makes me irrationally angry. If you’re an artist, a designer, or an armchair dabbler, I’m sure you can relate.

    Enter The Light, a lamp designed for illustrators and designers. According to its inventors, it uses surgeon’s lamp technology to eliminate both shadows and glare from your work area.

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    For obvious reasons, surgeons require full illumination, minimum shadows, and no glare in the eyes. Their lights are designed just for that purpose, using lenses to redirect light at the right angles to create a wide and intense illumination area exclusively focused on the patient, without bathing the entire surgical theater with blinding, irritating light.

    But as you probably know, common desk lamps–like the classic L-1 by Luxo–don’t do that. They usually come with an omnidirectional bulb that is partially blocked by a shade. If you want illumination over a wide area, you have to raise it over your eye level, which produces glare. And if you get it under your eye level, you get a reduced illumination area and hard shadows.

    [Photo: Balmuda]
    That changes with The Light–created by Japanese high-end appliance company Balmuda. The light uses the same Light Emitting Diodes and lenses set at the same angles as the lamps used in surgical theaters. Balmuda’s lamp diffuses the light outward at a wide angle, even while the lamp is under your eye line to avoid any glare. The wide angle diffusion allows for a large illumination area and minimal shadows. These are optimal lighting conditions for any kind of detail work that requires long hours on a desk–like illustration or drafting.

    The design comes with a drawing utensil holder on its base, which also holds the lamps’ dimming control. Practical! But it’ll cost you: The lamp clocks in at $540, significantly more than the Ikea task lamp you’ve had since college, but roughly comparable to the higher-end models you’d find at Design Within Reach.

    Balmuda has other beautiful and equally pricey smart inventions like The Toaster, a $220 compact toaster that can preserve the moisture in your bread as it toasts, and The Pot, a $130 electric kettle designed specifically for pour-over coffee.


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    Citigroup has a problem. On Wednesday, one of the world’s largest banks publicly admitted that its female employees earn 29% less than its male employees globally.

    The bank had ordered a study of its own payment practices, only to realize that it may not like the results. Company-wide, the median raw pay for women globally is 71% of the median for men, and minorities in the company earn 7% less than non-minorities. No wonder that, as Bloomberg notes, Citigroup has seen a drop in black bankers for eight consecutive years.

    “This reiterates the importance of our goals to increase representation of women and U.S. minorities in senior and higher-paying roles at Citi,” Sara Wechter, Citi’s head of human resources, wrote in a blog post.“We know we need a comprehensive approach to our diversity initiatives to make the progress we want to see.”

    It was an unusually blunt self-assessment, but, hey, it’s 2019, and women and minorities are still paid less than their white male counterparts, and that really needs to change. As Fast Company reported last year, if efforts to close the pay gap proceed at the same rate as they have since the 1960s, we won’t see pay parity across the United States until 2059, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. And, sadly, efforts by states like California and Massachusetts to legislate gender-based pay parity are still falling short. In many ways, it is up to companies to pay people equally, regardless of gender or race. It sounds like Citigroup is trying to do that work.

    To kickstart that change, the bank has set a goal to increase representation at the assistant vice president through managing director levels to at least 40% for women globally and 8% for black employees in the U.S. by the end of 2021. Presumably those women and black employees will be paid the same as their white male counterparts.


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    Rihanna has filed a lawsuit against her dad, claiming he and his business partner are misusing her last name for their own business.

    Rihanna, whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty, trademarked her surname for her Fenty Beauty makeup line in 2014. Now she’s claiming in her lawsuit that her father, Ronald Fenty, and his partner, Moses Perkins, created their company, Fenty Entertainment, “in a fraudulent effort to solicit millions of dollars from unsuspecting third parties in exchange for false promise that they were authorized to act on Rihanna’s behalf, and/or that Rihanna would perform at various locations throughout the world.”

    According to the complaint, Fenty and Perkins launched Fenty Entertainment in 2017 and Rihanna’s legal team’s subsequent cease-and-desist orders have been ignored. The lawsuit also alleges that the two accepted deals worth more than $15 million from a production company for her to perform in the U.S. and Latin America without her permission.

    As Rihanna’s attorney states in the complaint, “Simply put, Mr. Fenty, Mr. Perkins and the Company are not presently, nor have they ever been, authorized to exploit Rihanna’s name, her intellectual property or the goodwill associated with her well-known ‘Fenty’ brand, or to solicit any business on her behalf.”

    We reached out to Fenty Entertainment for comment and will update if we hear back.


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    The U.S. government shutdown has stretched on for so long that you may have to reschedule your State of the Union drinking game.

    The national address was originally scheduled to be held on January 29, but because of the shutdown, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has asked the president to reschedule his speech, write it all down in a heartfelt letter, or, you know, let the government reopen.

    “Sadly, given the security concerns, and unless government reopens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has reopened for this address, or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Donald Trump, which Politico obtained.

    As speaker of the house, Pelosi has to issue a formal invitation to the president to come to Congress for the annual speech. After sending the letter, reporters asked Pelosi if she was disinviting him. Pelosi denied it was anything more than a security concern, telling reporters, “He can make it from the Oval Office if he wants.”

    The not-disinvitation comes on the 26th day of the government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, as the president continues to insist that the only spending bill he will approve is one that includes $5 billion in funding for a border wall. Democrats have refused to agree with that demand and, security risk or not, probably don’t want to give the president (another) very public platform to extol the virtues of a wall. For now, polls show that most of the public pins the blame for the shutdown on the president.


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    Between 2014 and 2018, 3.7 million more people started freelancing. Now, thanks to the government shutdown, even more workers are turning to platforms like Fiverr to get project work that will help them pay the bills until they are able to get paid from their full-time jobs again.

    But what types of freelance gigs and side hustles are worth doing? Fundera just released a report that ranked the top 10 gigs based on demand, pay, and client ratings from postings taken from four of the largest freelancer websites–Upwork, Guru, PeoplePerHour, and Simply Hired.

    They are:

    1. Web and software development
    2. Design
    3. Writing
    4. Administrative support
    5. IT
    6. Customer service
    7. Sales
    8. Accounting
    9. Engineering
    10. Data science

    You can see the full results here.


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    The world is filled with strange and wonderful things, both real (see: Maine’s spinning alien ice disk) and fake (see: Thailand’s artificial rain and China’s fake moon). Now you can add to that list an artificial meteor shower set to launch over Japan tonight/tomorrow (ugh, time zones).

    The artificial meteor shower is the creation of the Tokyo-based firm Astro Live Experiences (ALE), the BBC first reported. The company, led by CEO and founder Lena Okajima, works in what it calls the “space entertainment” sector. The artificial meteor shower works similarly to real ones–pellets burn up in the atmosphere, putting on a light show. ALE’s tech makes the most of the disintegration routine by releasing centimeter-sized pellets that dissolve into bright colors as they heat up and break down in the atmosphere. ALE claims their version is an improvement over natural meteor showers as it lasts longer and is brighter, so it can be seen even with city lights polluting the dark sky.

    ALE has spent seven years perfecting its artificial meteor-making device, and it is ready for liftoff. It will hitch a ride on the Japanese space agency’s Epsilon Rocket, as part of a program that gives students and space businesses the chance to test experiments, projects, and products in space.

    The rocket is due to launch at 9:50 a.m. Japan time on Thursday (7:50 p.m. tonight EST) hopefully shooting ALE’s fake meteors into the atmosphere a few minutes after liftoff.


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    If you walk into a neighborhood coffee shop in San Francisco and buy a drink, you’ll probably pay on a Square reader and get your receipt by email. If you walk into the Walgreens next door, you might get a foot-long paper receipt. A new bill in California aims to shift all stores to a default digital version, and raises the question of why we’re still cutting down trees and lacing paper with BPA when the technology exists for an alternative.

    “We started looking into this idea of receipts and whether we should move people towards electronic receipts,” says Phil Ting, a California assemblymember from San Francisco. His staff calculated the amount of paper and water wasted to create receipts that often end up in the trash seconds later, and then learned about the health issues that receipts also pose. “As we did more research, we found out the receipts aren’t just printed with regular inkjet ink, which is recyclable. It’s [coated] with BPA which is not recyclable, and actually toxic.”

    [Illustration: Daniel Salo]

    Bisphenol A, or BPA–the same chemical that was banned in baby bottles and sippy cups in 2012 because of health risks–is still commonly used to coat the paper in cash registers. (The chemical, which reacts and changes color when it’s heated, is a cheap way to print.) Bisphenol S, an alternative that is also used so products can be touted as “BPA-free,” is similarly linked to health risks. Worse, the coating on receipts is found in far greater quantities than it ever was in baby bottles or cans, and easily absorbed into skin.

    “It’s like invisible talcum powder, in that it comes right off onto your hand and goes right through your skin, and it’s taken up rapidly in the blood,” says Frederick vom Saal, an endocrinologist and professor emeritus at the University of Missouri who has studied the chemical for several years. “It’s taken up in women about three times more rapidly than it is in men. That doesn’t mean it’s at innocuous levels in men. It just means the amounts that we see after handling a thermal receipt in women are particularly scary.” (BPA found in the lining of cans and some other products is polymerized, or formed in chains, so it’s less easy for the body to absorb than the form on receipts.)

    [Illustration: Daniel Salo]

    The chemical, which mimics estrogen, is a hormone disruptor, and can increase the risk of miscarriage and affect sperm production, among other problems. Exposure to BPA is also associated with a higher risk of insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. “Everything else being equal, if you’re exposed to elevated levels of BPA, your probability of having that complex of diseases is significantly increased,” says vom Saal.

    For cashiers who handle receipts all day long, the situation is particularly bad (and why you might have noticed some cashiers wearing gloves as they work). But even shoppers are at risk. In one recent study, vom Saal looked at the human impact of a dose of BPA equal to what a casual shopper might experience; the chemical changed the subjects’ insulin production.

    Some alternatives exist. In late 2018, Trader Joe’s announced that it had transitioned from receipts with BPA or BPS to a new type of receipt that uses a coating of ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C. But researchers suggest that even this innocuous-sounding option may still have problems. The bigger question may be why we still need physical receipts at all. Some critics of Ting’s bill have raised the issue of privacy. But anyone who shops online already gets receipts by email, and in the rare cases when a receipt is actually necessary for a return or reimbursement, those emails are often easier to find than paper. Automatic emails could be linked to credit cards; the bill also leaves the option for customers to request a paper receipt.

    [Illustration: Daniel Salo]

    “Everything you buy online, when you go to Amazon or buy anything over the web, none of those receipts are on paper, they’re all emails,” Ting says. “So our habits have already greatly moved in this direction. It makes sense to make the final push. And my incentive was greater once I found out that these receipts aren’t recyclable, are toxic, and aren’t compostable.”

    When receipts end up in recycling bins, they contaminate the rest of the waste stream; vom Saal says that BPA is now also found in recycled paper. Receipts in compost bins can end up later contaminating farms growing our food. In landfills, he says, the chemical can seep into groundwater.

    There’s also the issue of paper: Ting cites a Green America report that found that we use up to 10 million trees and 21 billion gallons of water to produce receipts. But the problem of the chemical coating on receipts, he says, gave him more incentive to work on the problem. He’s hoping that other states follow California’s lead. “If you look at the whole BPA-free movement, it wasn’t that long ago that baby bottles all had BPA,” he says. “California was the first state to really take the lead on that issue today, and now it’s common to see bottles all say they’re BPA-free.”


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    Slack, the beyond-successful work collaboration platform, has launched a new, buttoned-up brand in anticipation of its 2019 IPO. The new work, led by Pentagram, kills off the company’s longstanding hashtag logo. The playful plaid is gone, too. 

    Why rebrand a business that is young, recognizable, and has celebrated a stratospheric growth, becoming an $8 billion company with 8 million daily users since launching in 2013? After the company announced the change today, I talked to Michael Bierut, the Pentagram partner leading the project, to find out. 

    [Images: Slack]
    The new branding includes several big changes. The wordmark has been given sharp edges instead of its old Sharpie scrawl, but it’s still set in lower case, promising that Slack isn’t that grown up–yet! Meanwhile, the Slack octothorpe (a word I’m not going to pretend I knew before five minutes ago that really just means “hash”) has evolved into a four-color pinwheel made up of shapes that Pentagram dubs “droplets” and “lozenges,” which replace the argyle.

    What was wrong with the hashes and plaids? Long story short, the simple-looking hash was exceedingly complicated to execute. “It was . . . extremely easy to get wrong. It was 11 different colors–and if placed on any color other than white, or at the wrong angle (instead of the precisely prescribed 18-degree rotation), or with the colors tweaked wrong, it looked terrible. It pained us,” Slack writes on its blog. And the solutions Slack used to date–which included three vastly different treatments that sometimes included an “S,” or were black and white–lacked the “cohesion” that big, multinational corporations crave.

    As the company plans its IPO, it was also time to start thinking about how the brand would age.

    “Like a lot of logos, in five or so years, it became associated with what you or I think of Slack. But it doesn’t have a 50-year heritage, or even a 10-year heritage,” Bierut says in a phone interview. “It’s a new brand coming into maturity now. If they were ever going to change . . . it was the now-or-never moment.”

    As Bierut puts it, Pentagram tried just about everything, from “just sort of tidying up and getting their current assets organized and more in alignment,” to a series of alternate approaches that went so far as to depict Slack as a game of connect the dots. It’s not entirely apparent from what you see here, but what they ultimately landed on was a symbol of Slack as a network rather than a hashtag.

    “The story we’re trying to associate with it is it feels like pieces coming together to form a whole,” says Bierut. “You get a sense of e pluribus unum a little bit in a way I’d argue you don’t get from two parallel lines crossing two other parallel lines.”

    The distinct pieces of that pinwheel will become multifunctional tools for the brand. The droplet shape can depict a chat bubble or GPS coordinate as necessary; the lozenge will debut unannounced functions, too. Slack’s pinwheel today can do a lot more than its octothorpe could yesterday.

    Various Slack rebrand explorations. [Image: courtesy Pentagram]
    All that logic makes sense. But it also feels like Slack had a defining aesthetic that could have been coaxed into cohesion without ditching much of its brand equity. After all, against all odds, Slack had successfully co-opted the hashtag over its peers–and that symbol was closely associated with the way rooms are defined within the Slack user interface. One could make an argument that Slack’s old brand was both distinctive and tied well to its function. 

    Bierut disagrees on both points.

    I sort of think a hashtag and plaid, as a shape and motif, both kind of arrive pretty much finished. The hashtag is certainly not own-able . . . it came into its own on Twitter,” he says. “The plaid was useful exuberance. Why not have 11 colors? This is fun! But then it becomes a tartan that’s associated with its clan in an immutable sort of way. One thing we were looking for was a fundamental symbol at the center that could be atomized, reconstructed, and generate a lot of things.”

    The rebuilt octothorpe, morphing into various shapes. [Image: courtesy Pentagram]
    In any case, we will all adjust to the new Slack icon on our laptops and smartphones. We will grow beyond the “OMG this looks weird!” shock, as we always do with new brands. Bierut attributes our ability to adapt not to Pentagram’s ingenious use of color, shape, or symbology, but to how quickly omnipresent digital platforms can habituate us to new designs, simply by constant, unrelenting association. It’s impossible not to get used to a logo when you stare at it for eight or more hours a day.

    “What it will symbolize, ultimately, is Slack,” says Bierut of the logo. “Because it’s the doorknob on the door that lets [people] into that world.”


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    The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Domino’s website, used to order food for pickup and delivery, is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    A blind customer first sued the pizza chain in 2016, saying he couldn’t order a pizza through its website or app, since it wasn’t compatible with standard screen reading software. He argued Domino’s should bring the digital ordering tools into compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, standards for making online content accessible to people with disabilities.

    A lower court found that while the ADA did apply to Domino’s online presence, it would be a Constitutional due process violation to order Domino’s to meet the guidelines, since the Justice Department had never finished making rules about how exactly web content should be made accessible.

    The Appeals Court disagreed, saying Domino’s had ample notice of the law’s requirements. The court didn’t rule on whether or not the site and app actually comply with the law or, if not, what the appropriate solution should be, sending those questions back to the lower court.

    Domino’s didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry from Fast Company.

    The decision hinged on Domino’s restaurants as places of “public accommodation” under the law. It’s likely that future rulings will seek to further refine exactly when ADA rules apply to online content and what’s required for sites to come into compliance. A blog post published last summer by the National Retail Federation said such lawsuits were on the rise, with 1,053 filed in the first half of last year compared to 814 in all of 2017, and lamented in “lack of clarity” about how the ADA applies to the modern internet.

    “At one point the Department of Justice attempted to issue guidance for website accessibility,” according to the post. “But the guidance was never finalized, possibly because the DOJ is not granted clear authority under the ADA to promulgate regulations. More recently, the DOJ announced that it would not issue any guidance as part of the Trump administration’s efforts at deregulation.”


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    Has Facebook’s mishandling of it users’ personal information made CEO Mark Zuckerberg a marked man? You might think that judging by the copious amounts of cash Facebook spends to protect his personal safety.

    Big tech companies have to report to the Securities and Exchange Commission how much they spend on security costs. In 2017, the most recent year that a direct comparison was possible, Facebook spent $7.3 million on security for its CEO, reportsWired, and another $2.6 million to protect the company’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg. In contrast, Apple CEO Tim Cook’s public profile is likely as big as Zuckerberg’s, yet Apple pays only $310,000 a year to protect him–a fraction of Zuckerberg’s security costs.

    Many residents of San Francisco know that an SUV with two burly security guys is constantly parked outside Zuckerberg’s residence here. They, or others like them, are on the clock 24/7/365. Visiting the Facebook headquarters, one quickly discovers the imposing presence of security people and procedures.

    So why do Zuckerberg and Sandberg need so much protection? Facebook declined comment on that question, leaving only the company’s statements in SEC filings for a guide. The board of directors says this in a proxy statement from April 2018:

    Because of the high visibility of our company, our compensation & governance committee has authorized an “overall security program” for Mr. Zuckerberg to address safety concerns due to specific threats to his safety arising directly as a result of his position as our founder, Chairman, and CEO. We require these security measures for the company’s benefit because of the importance of Mr. Zuckerberg to Facebook, and we believe that the costs of this overall security program are appropriate and necessary.

    What they don’t write is that Zuckerberg and Sandberg are the very public faces of a company that has lost much of the public’s trust, if not its patronage. The two built a business on harvesting users’ personal data to fuel a massive advertising business, while informing users only about the benefits of the Facebook site. Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the world has learned much about the company’s willingness to use personal data in ways unbeknownst to its users to fuel its “growth at all costs” modus operandi. Facebook also provided the technology platform used by the Russian government to perpetrate what’s likely the largest-scale interference in a political election in the the history of the world.

    This has all come to light in the last couple of years. That’s why it’s interesting to note that the cost of protecting Zuckerberg has gone up dramatically in that time period. Facebook paid “only” $2.6 million in 2013 to protect its CEO. That cash grew to $7.3 million by 2017, and Facebook said last summer it expected Zuckerberg’s protection costs to rise to $10 million this year.

    For perspective, Facebook isn’t the only tech company to pay megabucks to protect executives. Google parent Alphabet paid $600,000 to protect Sundar Pichai in 2017. Amazon spent $1.6 million on Jeff Bezos’s security. Intel spent $1.2 million on former CEO Brian Krzanich.

    That said, Zuckerberg still won’t be in the same league as Donald Trump unless he runs for president. In 2017, Congress put $120 million in the omnibus spending bill for Trump’s security–$60 million for the Secret Service and another $60 million for law enforcement in the towns the president visits.