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- 06/22/18--03:00: _Here’s how to...
- 06/22/18--03:24: _Science fiction ico...
- 06/22/18--04:00: _Rebecca Minkoff on ...
- 06/22/18--04:00: _How to go above and...
- 06/22/18--04:30: _Did Big Tech just h...
- 06/22/18--05:00: _Retailers can’...
- 06/22/18--05:05: _The military has be...
- 06/22/18--05:12: _The Supreme Court j...
- 06/22/18--05:55: _Cryptocurrency flai...
- 06/22/18--06:30: _This charity shirt ...
- 06/22/18--07:00: _People with disabil...
- 06/22/18--12:03: _AT&T’s Ti...
- 06/22/18--12:10: _Apple admits MacBoo...
- 06/22/18--12:39: _Netflix fires C-lev...
- 06/22/18--23:00: _Coming soon to citi...
- 06/23/18--01:00: _Five ways consumer ...
- 06/23/18--17:00: _The case against te...
- 06/23/18--22:00: _Everyone suffers wh...
- 06/24/18--05:30: _These Red Hen resta...
- 06/24/18--06:05: _BET Awards 2018 liv...
- 06/22/18--03:00: Here’s how to negotiate your salary over email
- 06/22/18--03:24: Science fiction icon Octavia Butler is honored with a Google Doodle
- 06/22/18--04:00: Rebecca Minkoff on creating a brand and workplace for modern women
- 06/22/18--04:00: How to go above and beyond at work without being a pushover
- How to realistically deal when nobody listens to you at work
- One super easy way to make a great new impression at your new job
- The question smart people ask when they’re confused about an assignment
- 06/22/18--04:30: Did Big Tech just help kill New York’s revenge porn bill?
- 06/22/18--05:00: Retailers can’t out-Amazon Amazon, but they can change the rules
- 06/22/18--05:55: Cryptocurrency flail: Litecoin price continues to slump
- 06/22/18--06:30: This charity shirt sends the opposite message of Melania’s jacket
- 06/22/18--07:00: People with disabilities are still twice as likely to be unemployed
- 06/22/18--12:03: AT&T’s Time Warner deal and net neutrality’s end gave us WatchTV
- 06/22/18--12:10: Apple admits MacBook keyboard flaws, promises free fixes
- 06/22/18--12:39: Netflix fires C-level exec for using racial slurs
- 06/22/18--23:00: Coming soon to cities: one transit app to rule them all
- 06/23/18--01:00: Five ways consumer brands can become more queer-friendly
- Use gender-neutral language. It can take some practice, but once you get used to it, this semantic shift is easy to maintain, and your trans, genderqueer, and non-binary customers will appreciate it. For example, instead of saying “she” or “he,” use pronouns like “they” or “them.” Similarly, when responding to customer service inquiries or emails, don’t assume the customer’s gender. Before automatically responding with honorifics like “Mr.” or “Ms.” or “sir” or “ma’am,” ask yourself if you’re certain they fit the person you’re speaking with (or better yet, scrap them entirely).
- Don’t assume your customers are heterosexual or even in relationships. Especially around holidays like Valentine’s Day or Christmas, brands tend to use language that assumes everyone belongs to a straight, nuclear family. But many of your customers may be gay or non-binary or even asexual. Don’t assume your female customers automatically have husbands and boyfriends or that your male customers don’t. Words like “spouse” and “partner” are always suitable if you’re unsure.
- Keep talking about LGBTQ issues outside of June. During Pride month, every brand is proud to wave its rainbow flags for all to see, but what about the other 11 months? Your queer customers don’t disappear on July 1st. Show that your investment in the community goes beyond the bare minimum by being inclusive all year round.
- Use more diverse models, especially on the axes of sexuality and gender expression. Your brand imagery is your calling card. The photos you use to market your brand and its products and services are more effective than any press release when it comes to showing what your company values and who it’s trying to market to. No matter what you’re selling, chances are that images of human beings will feature in your marketing campaigns in some form or another. So think about what they should look like. Be willing to show same-sex couples in your advertisements (even when the message isn’t about a LGBTQ-focused product or initiative!) or ads featuring non-binary, trans, or genderqueer people.
- If you sell things that people wear, offer fit notes for a range of bodies. This is crucial for apparel or footwear retailers. And while it’s certainly the most time-intensive suggestion on this list, it’s also the one that stands to make the biggest impact on customers. A good example of a company that does this is Bluestockings Boutique, one of the first lingerie e-tailers for the LGBTQ community (in full disclosure, I’m friends with its founder), which offers fit notes for trans-feminine people on items like underwear. It’s neatly incorporated onto the site alongside other information on size and fit.
- 06/23/18--17:00: The case against teaching kids to be polite to Alexa
- 06/23/18--22:00: Everyone suffers when you apologize for asking questions
- Sling TV: Dish’s streaming service includes BET in various packages, including its lifestyle add-on. Find it here.
- DirecTV Now: This AT&T-owned service offers BET in its “live a little” package for $35 a month. It’s also currently offering a one-week free trial. Find it here.
- Philo TV: This lesser-known service offers Viacom networks including BET. It’s also offering a free trial. Find it here.
- BET live online: If you have credentials from a cable or satellite TV company, you can access BET live on its website and watch the awards on your computer. Find it here.
- BET Now apps: The network offers mobile apps for iOS and Android. Unfortunately, you’ll need a pay-TV login for these options, too.
First, congratulations. You’ve received an offer! Now, the more difficult news: The job search process isn’t quite over yet. It’s time to think over the offer, compare it with your other options, and most importantly: negotiate.
If you’ve just received a job offer, especially if it was over email, crafting a quick message is a way to strike while the iron is hot for a salary negotiation. To get the inside scoop on getting top dollar through an email negotiation, we reached out to Lewis C. Lin, CEO of Impact Interview, an executive coaching practice that provides interview coaching for job seekers.
As a general matter, Lin advises, “It’s best to keep your salary negotiation emails polite, professional, and direct. You want to demonstrate that you are thoughtful and organized, and you want to respect your supervisor’s time.” He also recommends striking a tone of thankfulness for the opportunity you’ve been given, and avoiding taking a pushy or entitled tone.
As to the specifics–here’s exactly how to respond to the offer you’ve received:
Step 1: Thank the employer for the offer
The hiring manager needs to know that you’re genuinely excited and grateful to take this offer. The language most appropriate to use in this part email is phrases about working together. You are excited about working together at this company. You are also looking forward to working together to find a salary and benefits package that is suitable for both of you. You can even restate the offer in the terms they put it, using a sentence like “I am very grateful for your offer of [salary], but . . . ”
Step 2: State your counteroffer
The number you state in the email is the jumping-off point for negotiations, and not necessarily the number you expect will ultimately be offered to you. For this part of the email, Lin recommends striking a tone that is “respectful, polite, and professional,” adding that “it’s also important to remember that the majority of employers expect that job applications will negotiate starting salary.” Lin advises using the following phrases to help keep that respectful and professional tone while getting your point across, as well as some to avoid:
“Is there any wiggle room?”
“If it’s not too sensitive, do you mind if I ask you what the salary range is for this role?”
“Can we discuss the other components of the compensation plan?”
“How willing are you to . . . ”
“I will not accept anything less than X”
“I need a higher salary to pay my bills”
Step 3: Back yourself up
The number you ask for doesn’t mean much if you can’t back it up with research and justification. In fact, research is one of the most important things you can do in order to make your salary negotiation a success. Tools like Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth can help you get a sense of what the average salary range is for someone with your experience, in your industry, in your city. Always try to cite your sources, especially if you’re relying on numerical information to backup your ask. “Candidates often forget to explain the reasons why they want or deserve a higher salary,” says Lin. “Researchers have found that negotiators that include a reason why they deserve something are more than 20% effective than those who don’t.”
Lin recommends using the following template as a jumping-off point for your salary negotiation email. According to Lin, this template is ideal because it’s brief and to the point, which fits the needs of busy recruiters and hiring managers, along with being polite, clear, and direct.
Dear Hiring Manager,
Thank you for offering me the position. I am excited about the opportunity, and I can’t wait to start.
For starting salary, I am looking for something closer to [insert specific number]. The reason why is [specific reason].
Is there wiggle room?
Remember, this is a jumping-off point, and further negotiations may come later. But by putting in the work of research now, and distilling your ask into short, sweet terms, you are well on your way to getting the top-dollar salary that you are asking for.
Octavia Butler is one of the best science fiction writers of all time, and the first science fiction author to win the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. She also happens to be one of the very few women and very few African Americans to rise to the top of the genre. To mark what would have been her 71st birthday, Google is honoring her with a Doodle.
Butler won two Nebula awards and two Hugo awards in her career, which are the most prestigious prizes in science fiction. Stories like Bloodchild (1984) and the Parable series (1993-1998) painted parallels to slavery and questioned gender norms, while set in post-apocalyptic futures (or in the case of Kindred, a horrifying past). She earned a spot in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2010.
Butler died in 2006, but her family released a statement to coincide with the release of the Google Doodle, noting their “immense pride” in Butler’s legacy:
“Her spirit of generosity and compassion compelled her to support the disenfranchised. She sought to speak truth to power, challenge prevailing notions and stereotypes, and empower people striving for better lives. Although we miss her, we celebrate the rich life she led and its magnitude in meaning.”
They also noted that “as long as we speak her name, she lives”—and Butler’s name will undoubtedly be spoken for years to come as her prescient work continues to earn new fans. Ava DuVernay, who recently became the first African-American woman to direct a $100 million dollar-grossing film with A Wrinkle In Time, is adapting Butler’s book Dawn into a television series.
Earlier this week at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, Rebecca Minkoff appeared on a Girls Lounge panel with Sophia Amoruso, Dee Poku-Spalding, and Berlin Cameron president Jennifer DaSilva to discuss how millennials and Gen Z are setting new demands for the future of work. DaSilva says the discussion came out of a study Berlin Cameron had done with The Harris Poll and The Female Quotient to understand what millennials think about workplace culture and what they need. “What we found was they wanted collaboration, the freedom and acceptance to bring their whole selves to work, and they wanted compassion, an environment where they can be vulnerable,” says DaSilva.
I caught up with Minkoff afterwards to chat about the new demands of younger employees, how it relates to engaging young consumers, and why her new podcast relates to both.
Fast Company: What are some of the most significant differences between traditional business practices and what Gen Z and millennial women want when it comes to work and their employers?
Rebecca Minkoff: “I think the model most businesses are set up on is an old one. It’s the 9-to-6, these are the rules, don’t bring your personal baggage to work–and we find that doesn’t work for us. How do we balance things so we get productivity, but people feel they’re getting the balance they need between work and personal lives? So many more people want more than a job to just pay the bills. They want to be fulfilled. I’m not perfect in doing it, but I strive to create an environment where they’re as fulfilled as possible.”
FC: You’ve built a strong consumer base among Gen Z and millennial women. How does the way you communicate with your fans and consumers relate to how you communicate with your employees?
RM:“The way we listen to our consumers is the same way we have to listen to our employees. Some people have been surprised at how democratic we are, and I feel like we have to be. We’re bringing in a new position, and we’re having all the people who will be reporting to that position meet that candidate. It’s not just my brother and I deciding; it’s asking them what kind of person they want to report to. We want people to feel like they have a voice and it’s valued.”
FC: Jennifer DaSilva said that data supporting your RM Superwomen platform revealed that 76% of Gen Z girls and 81% of millennial women feel that when they see a woman in a leadership position, they feel like they could be a leader as well. Speaking of which, I hear you’re working on a new podcast?
RM: Yes, I have 11 interviews to do when I get back. It’s all different types of women. I think the overarching theme is: I don’t want to ask the typical questions a lot of women get asked. I don’t want to ask, “How did you get started? What’s your favorite style tip?” It’s going to be about the women who inspired them, how they inspire others. One of my main questions will be what do I not know about you that you want people to know? We never get asked a question like that.
I think we’re always trying to extend our Superwomen platform. We have Facebook, Instagram, fireside chats, but I also wanted to give people something to listen to on their commute.
Remember when you were in high school and were assigned those obnoxious group projects? Well, I was the girl who you crossed your fingers and hoped would be assigned to your team.
I’d come swooping in with my detailed timeline, my color-coded binder, and my already thorough background research and ensure that you had to do almost no work of your own. I’d rather have total control and do most of the project myself–which meant the rest of my team could sit back and soak in the glory of an easily earned good grade.
That attitude followed me well into adulthood, and I’d often excuse that tendency as a positive trait. I’m being a team player, I’d think to myself. This just proves that I’m a real go-getter. I’m a “get things done” kind of girl and people appreciate it.
But, it didn’t take me long to realize something: There’s a pencil-thin line between taking initiative and simply being taken advantage of. Your desire to knock things out of the park makes it easy for your colleagues to not pull their own weight.
Are you currently stuck in this situation yourself? Well, my fellow doormat, allow me to elaborate on some hard-won dos and don’ts that have helped me position myself as someone with initiative–without being a total pushover.
Do offer your help
Your coworker is stuck on their portion of a project and wants your guidance in getting over that hurdle. They know that you have the expertise to help them get that figured out.
You can absolutely be a team player and offer your advice. There’s no need to turn that person away with a curt, “Do your own job” type of response (unless you’re really aiming to make some new enemies in the office).
But don’t just take over
Remember, there’s a big difference between helping someone figure out the best way forward and taking charge and just doing the entire thing for them.
It all goes back to the classic “teach a man to fish” proverb. Make sure you show your team member your process, so that they’re empowered to do that on their own in the future.
Would it be faster for you to just handle it yourself? Probably. But that also means you’re putting yourself in a position to always be the one to have to handle that task.
Do your best work for your team
You pride yourself on your top-notch work–and that’s a great thing.
Not wanting to be taken advantage of shouldn’t mean having to lower your own standards and churn out lower-quality results, just so you don’t make yourself look like an easy target to the rest of your group.
But don’t repeatedly cover for others
While it’s fine (and even encouraged!) to help your colleagues improve upon their own work from time to time, that doesn’t mean you should repeatedly step in to cover for other people’s shortcomings.
If your coworkers are starting to get a little lax about a shared project and are only doing half of what was expected from them or are turning things in late, get your portion done to the very best of your ability–and then resist the urge to charge in and clean up their messes.
When your boss or another department is wondering why a certain piece is missing or totally lackluster? Well, you held up your end of the bargain. It’s up to your team member to explain why his own portion isn’t completed.
Do make expectations clear
Your team isn’t full of a bunch of mind readers. And if you’ve already set the precedent that you’ll be the one to grab the reins and get everything handled, that can be a tough reputation to shake.
That’s why you need to focus on being a little assertive and making expectations for shared work painfully clear. Everything from timelines to roles to individual action items should be obvious to your team members, so there’s no doubt about who’s responsible for what–and when it needs to be completed by.
But don’t volunteer to do it all
You’ve mapped out all of the different tasks that need to be handled in order to complete that team-wide project. You ask your group who’d like to take the lead on what, and you’re met with nothing but the chirp of crickets.
Resist the temptation to jump up and volunteer to handle an unfair load of work. Choose a reasonable amount of tasks for yourself, and then remind your team that the rest of them need to be covered.
If you continue to shoulder all of the burden yourself, your colleagues will never feel the need to add some of those assignments to their own plates.
I can totally understand the urge to be the always-dependable overachiever of the group (believe me, I’ve stood in those shoes for the majority of my life).
However, always being the one to get things done–regardless of the contributions of the rest of your team–also puts you in a position to repeatedly be taken advantage of.
Keep these dos and don’ts in mind the next time you’re working with your team, and you’ll still be able to take initiative and produce work you’re proud of–without magically transforming that group project into a one-person show.
More from The Muse:
New York’s state legislature was working on passing a law that would have made so-called revenge porn a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. But the bill was just effectively killed, and now its supporters are blaming Google.
The bill would not only have made the nonconsensual dissemination of sexually explicit images a misdemeanor, but it would have also helped victims sue web platforms for failing to remove the offending images. It’s that last part that appears to have lured Google and web-hosting sites into the fray. According to the New York Post, the Internet Association—the self-proclaimed “voice of the internet economy” and a lobbying group that works on behalf of Google, Amazon, and many other tech giants—lobbied hard against the bill. What the Post calls its “11th hour campaign” led the state Senate to take no action on the bill before leaving for summer recess, effectively killing the legislation until next year.
The bill had already passed the Assembly, and New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, had pledged to sign it, which is why advocates for its passing are understandably frustrated by the loss. “Big Tech, especially Google, created the revenge porn problem,” attorney Carrie Goldberg, who led the lobbying efforts for the bill, told the Post. “And now, just as we were about to enable victims to demand removal of their most intimate material from the internet via this law, Google renews its abuse.”
Neither Google nor the Internet Association would comment on the record, but both say they are not opposed to revenge porn legislation, and no one wants revenge porn on their websites. “Internet Association and our member companies share the goals of New York State policymakers who want to rid the internet of non-consensual sexual imagery,” John Olsen, Internet Association Director, Northeast Region, said in a statement. “We already work to prevent bad actors from using platforms to engage in this terrible activity. We will continue working with lawmakers who are committed to solving this problem.”
A rep for the Internet Association said that the group has not opposed other states’ efforts to enact revenge porn legislation, such as the bill that was passed in Rhode Island recently.
As for Google, the search giant already has an established process for requesting that explicit photos shared without content be removed from Google search results. However, it cannot remove images from the websites where they are hosted.
It’s not just internet entities that were opposed to New York’s bill. The New York Civil Liberties Union had concerns about how such a law would be enforced. The organization released a statement saying that the bill, as written, would fail court challenges and could end up “tossing teens in jail for exercising bad judgment and poor impulse control at the intersection of sex and technology.”
I work in marketing, which means I’m always trying to sell you something. It’s a tough business, made even more so by the fact that people react negatively to persuasion. Worse yet, for many consumer brands and retailers, “marketing” entails various forms of data tracking, another practice that (if we’ve learned anything from Facebook’s recent travails) isn’t exactly popular among ordinary consumers.
But it’s no surprise that retailers are turning to it anyways. When it comes to marketing and selling goods in the digital age, Amazon now determines the rules of engagement, including for physical retailers. Analysts estimate that Amazon generated over $1 billion in sales on its best day last year, an achievement made possible largely because the tech behemoth collects and analyzes vast quantities of data on customers’ shopping history, then funnels those insights into its sales and marketing operations. As a result, many smaller retailers (brick-and-mortar, digital, and hybrids alike) are following suit, rushing to collect their own data on customers in order to compete.
The problem is, most can’t possibly win against Amazon by playing the e-commerce giant’s game. To survive (and thrive) in a marketplace where price and convenience rein supreme, retailers of all stripes need to provide something that Amazon can’t: high-quality, human-touch customer service.
Now brick-and-mortar stores are tracking you, too
You might not realize just how much your favorite “local” store is tracking your behavior. Those rewards cards that grant you freebies or a discount once you spend over a certain amount? That’s data tracking right there. Many such retailers link your credit card information to proprietary databases that store your purchase history, location, and more. Over time, they can accrue a remarkably complete picture of your shopping habits. Stores use these insights to craft targeted advertising and special offers to lure you back in, and they analyze your purchases in hundreds of different ways.
Physical stores track you in even less conspicuous ways, too. IBM’s “Presence Zones” system uses location-based sensors to pinpoint shopper locations inside stores, recording where people linger and browse, and which areas they ignore. The company is also pushing an opt-in plan that would allow retailers to serve targeted ads to shoppers based on where they’ve previously spent their time inside stores. (In fact, IBM has been pretty open about this practice; the company commissioned a sponsored piece in the Atlantic describing its data-driven retail practices.) Apple has a similar program involving its iBeacon devices, which can send push notifications through compatible apps to shoppers’ phones.
Stores are also using facial recognition to profile customers as they shop, deploying sales staff to different departments based on customers’ age and gender, CNBC has reported. Retailers claim that they don’t connect these data to personal information, but consumers might be forgiven for hearing echoes of ad-targeting practices that landed Facebook in hot water even before the Cambridge Analytica scandal boiled over. Indeed, privacy researcher Safiya Noble points out in her book Algorithms of Oppression that this type of surveillance can, and in many cases does, create data that leads to racial profiling and discrimination.
Data can’t replace customer service
From retailers’ point of view, the logic here is straightforward: The more they know about your shopping habits, the better they can predict your behavior and make connections between your offline and online purchasing patterns. The problem is many retailers–and not even Amazon–have figured out how to use all this information effectively. For example, if you buy a vacuum cleaner on Amazon, you’ll probably continue to see ads for vacuum cleaners for the next few days, even though you now have absolutely no need for one.
But for smaller retailers scrambling to embrace a data-driven marketing landscape, the ecosystem’s shortcomings actually represent an opportunity. Wherever the digital network of cookies and data-scraping algorithms come up short, that’s where savvier retailers can jump in to provide the missing component that even a customer-obsessed tech giant like Amazon can’t always deliver seamlessly: real-life customer service. A salesperson can read your body language, negotiate with you on price and features, and use their personal experience to guide you to a purchasing decision. Alexa still can’t do that, no matter how attentive it seems.
The same goes for digital retailers: Paying real humans to respond to customer complaints on Twitter or by email is far more effective than funneling online shoppers to a chatbot. Making these analog investments may seem counterintuitive now; many e-commerce companies have pushed data as the future of shopping, and a huge market for buying and selling that data has grown up around the industry.
But human behavior is messy and complex, and even the simplest transactions can’t be boiled down to having the right profile for a customer. It’s also easy for companies to become data-dependent, convinced that algorithms will solve their sales problems as long as they feed them enough. That’s one of those hypothetical computing problems that one day might be proven true, but chances are it’s not going to happen for a very long time–particularly not when legions of customers are pushing for more data privacy, not less of it. In the meantime, dependence on data may lead retailers to make more wrong maneuvers than right ones.
For all the panic in the retail sector about Amazon replacing traditional sales, I don’t see the person-to-person experience going away anytime soon. With a few exceptions, people like leaving the house. They like the experience of shopping, discovery, and interacting with each other. No matter how advanced the online experience becomes, or how deep the discounts become with Amazon Prime (whose annual subscription rate is rising, by the way), there are still things that a human being can do better. The fact is that humans are irrational creatures, and trying to pin down and predict their behavior is, at best, a fool’s errand. Or Amazon’s, anyway.
A month ago, Politicoreported on a federal study conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry that the White House and EPA head Scott Pruitt tried to suppress. The study looked into nationwide water contamination–and government officials feared its release would set off a “public relations nightmare.”
This week, the report finally saw the light of day and, according to The New Republic, it’s not pretty. It focuses on perfluoroalkyls (PFAS), which are commonly used throughout the country–“from carpets and frying pan coatings to military firefighting foams.” PFAS are not safe for consumption and present a huge public health risk. Those who have come into contact with them claim to have had numerous health problems–including “spinal defects, thyroid problems, and hypertension.”
This new report does the deepest dive yet into the impact of PFAS and finds that they present even more of a health risk than originally thought. Even worse: Military personnel are at a greater risk of coming into contact with PFAS, given that the chemicals are used in firefighting foams.The New Republic writes: “Those foams have leached into the groundwater at the bases, and often the drinking water supply. Nearly three million Americans get their drinking water from Department of Defense systems.”
The EPA has told these military bases that their drinking water was safe and they had nothing to worry about. This report calls that notion significantly into questions. TNR goes on:
Military personnel often live on bases with their families, so those drinking contaminated water can include pregnant women and children—two populations especially vulnerable to PFAS. And these compounds can remain in the body for six to ten years.
So for months, the government had a report that said military families were likely coming into contact with a toxic chemical, and they fought to delay this information from coming out. Now we know, but it’s still unclear how people are trying to fix the problem.
You can read the full report here.
The Supreme Court ruled Friday that the government cannot monitor people’s movements for weeks or months by tracking the location of their mobile phones without a warrant.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four typically liberal justices in a ruling in Carpenter v. United States that could have broad implications for privacy rights in the digital age, where technology is putting decades-old rules on data privacy to the test.
In the past, Roberts has referred to the clash between privacy and technology as “the real challenge for the next 50 years” as courts grapple with the importance of letting law enforcement take advantage of technological advances to do their jobs while balancing the privacy rights of individuals. That clash was evident in today’s ruling.
The narrow decision should not affect traditional surveillance techniques and tools, but instead limit warrantless cellphone tracking. The case arose from the government’s use of cellphone records to arrest a man accused of a series of armed robberies in 2010 and 2011. Law enforcement obtained the records under the Stored Communications Act of 1986, which allows phone companies to turn over records if they have “reasonable grounds,” which is a far lower standard than a court-approved warrant. The decision still allows for warrantless cell-tower location information searches in emergencies and for national-security purposes.
The court’s dissenters strongly disagreed with the majority, saying the ruling could impede the work of law enforcement. Privacy advocates had warned that collecting cellphone location data could be a slippery slope—one that leads to collecting email and text messages, social media posts, browsing histories, and even data from the internet of things.
Prosecutors seek phone-location information from telecom companies in tens of thousands of cases each year, and this ruling could have a broad impact on that. How the ruling will be interpreted by lower courts—and by cellphone companies that sell real-time location data to third parties—is still yet to be determined.
The cryptocurrency Litecoin hit a seven-month low today, dipping to $84.39. According to Coindesk, the coin dropped by more than 13% over the last week, and is seeing its lowest market capitalization since December.
Litecoin was making headlines last year, when its price saw a huge surge in December. In a matter of days, the price jumped from a little less than $100 to nearly $340. Earlier this year, reports surfaced that criminals preferred using Litecoin to bitcoin. Since its initial spike, the price has fallen rapidly, with a few surges in the winter and spring. Now it seems to be in more of a free fall.
Other cryptocurrencies are also seeing some troubles. Ethereum and bitcoin have all seen huge drops, along with other coins as well. According to Coindesk, this is due to a risk-averse cryptocurrency market, which is only going to look worse as prospects continue to sour.
What: A shirt that shows how much you care.
Who:Upworthy and Good.
Why we care: The other day, I wrote about the concept of virtue-signaling. It’s something that people tend to accuse their ideological opposites of doing when loudly denouncing some form of injustice. Those who use the term tend to be incapable of empathy themselves and so assume anyone else’s empathetic gesture must be feigned. On Friday morning, Upworthy and Good teamed up to give folks a chance to make an empathetic gesture through fashion. It’s basically Virtue Signal: The Shirt, and it’s inspired by Melania Trump’s recent gesture of apathy.
As you likely recall, the First Lady traveled to the Southern border on Thursday wearing a $39 Zara jacket that read “I really don’t care, do you?” Although Melania’s spokeswoman denied there was any meaning to the jacket, her husband, the actual president, tweeted that the jacket referred to the Fake News Media, an all-purpose insult for any publication that employs fact-checkers. Whatever the jacket was intended to mean is irrelevant. As is the certainty that people like then-game show host Donald Trump would have crucified Michelle Obama for making such a poor fashion choice in a similar situation. What does matter is that Upworthy and Good have repurposed the jacket’s slogan into a shirt that reads “I really do care, don’t you?” and all proceeds from the shirt go to the charity United We Dream, an organization that fights for immigrant rights. And that my friends, is how you turn apathy lemons into empathy lemonade.
Have a look at the shirt below.
The folks at @Upworthy and @good’s Public Service Apparel Co. made an “I really do care. Don’t u?” shirt. All proceeds they make will be donated to @UNITEDWEDREAM. #IReallyDoCarehttps://t.co/55xYPFPCMnpic.twitter.com/opzvYEWgUr
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) June 22, 2018
People with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed when compared with the general population, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate is around 9% compared to 4%, respectively.
But that only reflects the number of people actively seeking jobs, not those who have stopped looking for work or work part-time. Overall, 19% of workers with disabilities gained full-time employment in 2017, while 32% worked part-time.
The more troubling statistic is that relative progress for those who want to work compared those who are finding work seems to have stalled when compared to the gains made among people without disabilities. In 2010, the unemployment rate for the former group hovered around 15% while it was about 9% for the latter. While a strong economy has boosted employment for both groups, the disparity between both camps has widened a bit from 2016, when it was approximately 10% and 5%, respectively.
According to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report, those numbers don’t change much as people get older, or attain higher levels of education. They do however shift along racial lines, with African Americans and Hispanics being hired even less often than their white or Asian counterparts.
The data doesn’t dive into the underlying cause behind this, but its tough to rule out obvious discrimination. Many employers ask applicants to disclose if they require any special workplace accommodations. Shifting employer thinking and then reaching out to people who’ve become disenfranchised with the entire process will be it’s own challenge: As a recent report about the employability of people with criminal records makes clear, hiring non-traditional employees may very well be a new route to finding talent, especially as the pool of available employees gets more shallow.
For now, many of those who want to work are taking a more entrepreneurial track: “Persons with a disability were also more likely to be self-employed than their counterparts with no disability,” the report notes. Turns out, people with disabilities are nearly twice as likely to do that, too. The rate is 11% compared to 6%, respectively.
At least one major nonprofit has thought about how to build a new kind of job market for some of those in need. Communication Service for the Deaf now runs a social venture to grow deaf-owned and deaf-run companies. “While I am certainly encouraged by some advancements being made, today’s report and others like it in no way give a complete picture,” says CSD’s CEO Christopher Soukup in an email to Fast Company. “Deaf people and people with disabilities continue to face massive economic suppression and employment remains central to solving this. The bottom line is that today’s employers are simply missing out on an untapped and very talented labor pool. Now, more than ever, it is time to recognize that disability is diversity.”
The Time Warner premium video bundled into new “unlimited” wireless plans from the media giant’s new owner, AT&T, will be zero-rated, or streamed without impacting a subscriber’s monthly data allowance. CNN, TBS, TCM, and other channels from WarnerMedia (the former Time Warner) are part of WatchTV, AT&T’s new skinny video streaming service. Offering 30+ channels, it’s $15 a month as a standalone offering but is bundled into AT&T’s new $80-per-month “Unlimited &More Premium” and $70 “Unlimited &More” plans.
AT&T announced WatchTV one day after lawmakers in California, under intense lobbying from AT&T, removed rules prohibiting zero-rating from what was to be the “gold standard” in state-level network neutrality laws.
What is zero-rating? ISPs sell the broadband pipe that delivers the entire internet’s worth of content to consumers. Increasingly ISPs own not only the pipe but some of the content too. Using “zero-rating” ISPs can give their own content an advantage over other content by making it not count against the user’s monthly data allotment.
AT&T lobbyists worked feverishly for months to kill or water down California’s network neutrality bill after it was introduced earlier this year. The bill passed the California Senate. But in a strange behind-closed-doors move late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, members of the California Assembly removed key provisions in the bill, including the one prohibiting the kind of zero-rating AT&T is using.
AT&T’s press release for WatchTV suggested that data caps would not apply to WatchTV but didn’t say so directly. “If you’re on an AT&T postpaid or eligible prepaid data plan, streaming the WatchTV app over the AT&T wireless network will not count against your allotted data,” an AT&T spokeswoman confirmed to Fast Company Friday.
Some analysts have told me AT&T is using zero-rating to “weaponize” the content the company acquired when it bought Time Warner. The pricing tactic gives subscribers some good reasons for staying tuned to the WatchTV service rather than competing services such as Hulu or Netflix that would deplete their data allowance. This stands in contrast to T-Mobile’s “Binge On” plans, which helped popularize zero-rated video in the U.S. but apply it to major services that T-Mobile doesn’t own, such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.
“The weaponization is basically the effort to put content that is not owned by AT&T under the data cap while zero-rating things that are owned or affiliated with AT&T,” said EFF attorney Ernesto Falcon in an email to Fast Company. “Without net neutrality, they can do a lot more than just zero-rate–they can prioritize the data from their networks and degrade the traffic from alternative sources of media.”
Lobbying pays off
The annoucement of WatchTV provides tangible evidence that for AT&T, the Time Warner deal and network neutrality were closely related issues and the two most important policy issues for the company in the Trump era. Without the freedom to zero-rate the Time Warner video assets, Time Warner would have been worth far less than the $85.4 billion AT&T paid. In its quest to influence these key issues, AT&T even went so far as to retain the sketchy personal attorney of Donald Trump himself, Michael Cohen.
Whatever it did, and however many lawyers were involved, AT&T won big in the end. The FCC, under the leadership of ex-Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai, ignored public opinion and used questionable data to justify its dismantling of the network neutrality rules in 2015’s Open Internet Order. The Trump FTC, holding that a coupling of AT&T and Time Warner would give AT&T too much control of the media market and harm consumers, sued in federal court to block the deal, but the court green-lit the merger on June 12. AT&T completed the acquisition three days later.
When California nearly passed a net neutrality bill that would have filled the regulatory vacuum left by Pai’s FCC, AT&T marshaled its considerable influence in the state and convinced lawmakers to neuter the bill. Originally, it would have prohibited just the kind of zero-rating the telecom giant had in mind for the premium video content it just got with its Time Warner buy.
Chalk another one up for the Steve Jobs Must Be Rolling In His Grave files.
Today, 9to5Mac reports, Apple acknowledged a series of quality-control problems with the keyboards on nine different models of MacBooks and MacBook Pros, and offered either free fixes or refunds for previous repair work. The models affected will be covered for four years from time of purchase.
In general, the issues–which many users have reportedly complained about since the introduction of the thin butterfly-design keyboards three years ago–involve keys that feel sticky and/or unresponsive. Earlier this month, 9to5Mac had reported on three separate class-action lawsuits related to the keyboard problems.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings sent an all-company memo Friday afternoon alerting employees that he’s fired chief communications officer Jonathan Friedland for using the N-word as a descriptive term on two occasions.
According to The Wrap, the memo detailed two separate incidents a few days apart in which Friedland had used the racially insensitive word in the context of discussing racial insensitivity–both incidents of which were said to be hurtful to employees who were present. “I’ve made a decision to let [Frieldand] go,” Hastings wrote in the memo. “Jonathan contributed greatly in many areas, but his descriptive use of the N-word on at least two occasions at work showed unacceptably low racial awareness and sensitivity, and is not in line with our values as a company.”
Frieldand was said to be in charge of publicity for Netflix’s original content.
Fast Company has reached out to Netflix for comment and will update this story with its response.
If someone living in Logan Square, the hip Chicago neighborhood in the northwest side of the city, wants to head out to the suburb of Naperville one day to pay a visit to her family without taking a car, she has a multi-step journey ahead of her. She could get on the Chicago L’s Blue Line, which would deposit her downtown, where she could either walk 15 minutes or catch a bus to Union Station. Or, if she felt like it, she could hop on Divvy, the city’s bike share system and ride all the way to the station. Still, she’d have to buy a separate ticket for the commuter rail line out to the suburbs.
It’s far from an impossible trip, but juggling multiple transit services requires paying for multiple passes and having a working understanding of the timing of everything: If this passenger wanted to time her L trip and bus transfer to put her at Union Station right when her train out to Naperville was getting ready to depart, she’d have to know exactly when to leave home in order to make that happen.
Cubic Transportation Systems, a company that’s working with the Chicago Transit Authority, as well as Transport for London and the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York, has developed an app that would essentially do all that for her.
On this new app, which will roll out in Chicago–as well as Boston, Los Angeles, and New York City–in the coming months, a user can access a mobile version of every local transit operator’s ticketing service. In Chicago, that might be Ventra–which works with the L and the city’s bus network–alongside Metra, the commuter rail operator. In New York, passengers could access digitized Metrocards, which pay for the subways and buses, as well as mobile commuter rail tickets, and Boston’s would work similarly. In Los Angeles, the city’s 26 different services are all supported.
Below the different mobile passes, a passenger could enter their location and see a snapshot of all the available transit options near to them. A down-to-the-second tracker will let her know when the next bus or subway will arrive at the nearest station, and Cubic is also integrating with local bikeshare systems to map nearby docking stations and how many bikes are available (soon, people will also be able to pay for bikeshare on the app).
App users can also add favorites, if they tend to use certain lines or transit systems more than others, says Robert Sprogis, Cubic’s global director of product for mobile.
The app, called Cubic Mobile for Travelers, encapsulates a lot of the energy around streamlining and re-prioritizing public or car-free transportation for users. Uber, for instance, recently announced that it will be displaying public-transit data on its app as well as integrating with some bikeshare options, and other apps, like Transit, which displays public-transportation departure times, also is beginning to incorporate bikeshare. However, Cubic takes it a step further by incorporating mobile payments and ticketing–often a sticking point in multi-modal journey planning.
For local bus and subway systems, which often use swipe cards and turnstiles to collect payments, the Cubic app acts as something as a mobile ticketing kiosk. Users can either save their credit card info on the app or connect with existing mobile payment options like Apple Pay to purchase one-time transit passes or top up their multi-use passes. “If you drop down below a certain value on your card, you have the option to set up automatic payments to refill it,” Sprogis says.
How commuter rail tickets are managed on the app is slightly different. Often, rail services require that passengers purchase and display a visual ticket that conductors then check for on board. For that, app users can purchase a ticket in the app, which pops up as a full-screen image, whose background slowly and subtly shifts color. “The whole purpose of that is to eliminate fraud–it proves I haven’t just taken a screen grab of another ticket or photoshopped one,” Sprogis says.
The Chicago Ventra app, which Cubic also developed and launched in 2015 as something of a pilot for this new app, essentially does all of this already, and according to Mike Gwinn, CTA’s director of revenue and fare systems, has been very popular, but it will be replaced with the new Cubic platform in the coming months to offer more capabilities.
While Chicago has been an important testing ground for the technology, “this app is designed to have global capabilities,” Sprogis says. While it will look different in each region that incorporates it–the local transit authorities all give input on the specific designs of the app–it will essentially have the same function wherever it is deployed. That does not mean, however, that if you live in Los Angeles and travel to Chicago, you can use the same app for both cities–for now, Sprogis says, each city will have a unique apps that all must be downloaded separately
Because the app aggregates and streamlines payments for all transit taken along a single journey, there are obvious implications for fare adjustments according to income or other indicators. But Sprogis emphasizes that the respective transit authorities that Cubic is partnering with are the ones who ultimately decide if they will use the system to implement fare-capping or other equity measures.
Matt Cole, VP of Cubic Transportation Systems, is hopeful that they will, and he also has another overarching hope for the rollout of this new app: That it begins to shift urban dwellers away from private car dependency and back onto transit systems. “There’s just not enough space for everyone to travel in low-occupancy vehicles,” he says. By designing an app that takes the scramble of organizing different payment methods and the gamble of guessing bus and train arrival times out of the equation, he hopes that soon transit will feel as seamless as hopping in a car.
Pride started as a radical protest in New York City to assert the dignity, humanity, and equality of LGBTQ people. Since then, however, it’s been commodified–especially by brands–as a monthlong festival that gives companies a chance to appear inclusive and diverse each June, simply by decking their storefronts and websites in rainbow flags and shouting “Happy Pride.”
Those tactics don’t always resonate with queer consumers who, after all, are queer 12 months a year. There’s value in dedicating a month to raising social consciousness, but there’s even more value (including the kind you can see on a balance sheet) to meaningfully representing the significant chunk of the population that’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, and asexual. As the beauty industry, for example, is finally coming around to discover, it just doesn’t make business sense to ignore them. Indeed, market researchers have found that LGBT households spend more than non-LGBT households and estimate queer American’s combined spending power at some $965 billion.
Inclusivity isn’t always queer (but should be)
Nevertheless, LGBTQ people remain consistently marginalized across many consumer industries, including in my own, lingerie. All the “body positivity” marketing we’ve been seeing from fashion and beauty retailers so far hasn’t translated into greater LGBTQ inclusion. Not only are brands that are explicitly queer-focused brands largely absent from major trade shows and industry publications, they’re also rarely sold in boutiques or department stores. There’s a kind of enforced invisibility at work here, one implying that queer people don’t exist or at least don’t buy lingerie. Yet the success of companies like Chromat and TomboyX indicate the exact opposite is true. LGBTQ customers not only exist, but brands that welcome and encourage their patronage go on to thrive.
It’s not just a business matter, though. When historically marginalized people see themselves represented in mainstream imagery–in lookbooks, editorials, on a company’s website, and so on–it validates and acknowledges their existence, a sign that they are worth being noticed and catered to. We know that representation when it comes to size and skin color matters. Why should gender identity and sexuality be any different?
Still, for brands that are new to inclusivity, expanding their horizons can seem daunting. What does being LGBTQ-inclusive look like? And what changes can brands make for the long-term? For those wondering how to get started, here are three small recommendations that are easy for companies to incorporate into their branding, marketing, and work culture, plus two bigger suggestions that may take a bit longer to implement. But all are worthwhile to make everyone feel more welcome.
Three easy changes . . .
. . . And two bigger ones
Becoming a more LGBTQ-friendly consumer brand isn’t impossible, and you don’t need to get it right overnight. Queer people will be paying attention long after Pride month ends. We aren’t going anywhere.
Cora Harrington is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular intimate apparel blog The Lingerie Addict and author of the forthcoming book In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. Follow her on Twitter at @lingerie_addict.
Should children be polite to virtual assistants?
It’s a simple question. And for most parents and child development experts, the answer is simple, too: Yes, of course they should. Nobody wants to hear children rudely barking orders at, or verbally abusing, an adult voice.
But teaching kids to say “please” and “thank you” to Alexa and Google Assistant may have unintended consequences and raise other questions that aren’t so simple.
Millions of parents have suddenly been forced to grapple with this new parental conundrum. Already, 20 percent of U.S. households have some kind of smart speaker, according to comScore. And Juniper Research says that percentage will rise to 55% within four years.
Today’s toddlers are the first generation to grow up without any memory of the world before ubiquitous artificial intelligence devices in homes. Parents are justifiably concerned about how these gadgets affect their children. One concern is manners. According to the U.K. research organization Childwise, children almost never say “please” or “thank you” to virtual assistant appliances (unlike adults, who often do).
Parents aren’t happy. But at least two companies are trying to help: Amazon and Google.
In April, Amazon introduced a politeness feature for its Alexa virtual assistant, along with a colorful line of Echo Dot devices just for kids. The manners feature, called Magic Word, is part of FreeTime, a wider range of child-specific features and content. It’s designed to encourage children to say “please” and “thank you” when speaking to Alexa assistant. After consulting outside child development experts, Amazon decided on positive reinforcement, with no “penalty” when a child is rude. For example, when a child says “please” in a request, Alexa might respond with “Thanks for asking so nicely.” Alexa replies to “Thank you” with “You’re welcome” or something similar. But if a child doesn’t say “please” or “thank you,” there’s no consequence.
An Amazon spokesperson told me that parents had requested help with reinforcing polite speech when their kids talk to Alexa. The company says it’s “still super early days” with the Magic Word feature, and expects to make future improvements based on customer feedback.
At its I/O conference in May, Google introduced something similar for its Google Home product, as well as some third-party smart speakers that support Google Assistant. Google’s politeness feature–part of Family Link, a bundle of kid-friendly capabilities–is called Pretty Please. Like Magic Word, Pretty Please uses positive reinforcement and reciprocal niceties to encourage manners in children. But Pretty Please goes further, giving parents the option to counter impolite demands with the phrase “Say the magic word!”
Pretty Please is optional and configurable and has to be turned on by parents for each specific child, whom the Assistant identifies using voice recognition technology. It will be rolled out over the summer, according to Google, which did not respond to my request for input on this article.
Both Amazon and Google are doing it right, according to Sheryl Berlin Brahnam, a professor in Missouri State University’s Management and Information Technology department. She has no problem with parents asking their children to be polite when talking with conversational agents, to say “thank you” and “please” when appropriate. And it’s “absolutely essential that agents reply in kind,” she adds. “All speaking beings should exhibit good manners; it makes for pleasant and friendly exchanges.”
However, while Brahnam finds subtle nudges toward politeness acceptable, she believes that it’s wrong for virtual assistants to “enforce polite behavior by being overly manipulative or by being punitive in any way whatsoever.”
Which brings us to an earlier attempt at using AI to enforce manners. Toy giant Mattel planned AI etiquette features for its short-lived kids’ virtual assistant, called Aristotle. Introduced a year and a half ago, the smart speaker would read bedtime stories, soothe crying babies at night, and teach toddlers basics such as the alphabet. To enforce manners, Aristotle would refuse to go along with children’s requests unless they said “please.”
A petition organized by the nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood pressured Mattel into canceling the product, based on concern about the infringement of children’s privacy and also over the outsourcing of some parental care to an information appliance.
These initiatives from Amazon, Google, and Mattel were designed to help parents teach children good manners. But in the process, what are children learning about their relationship to intelligent machines?
The courtesy conundrum
What is the purpose of manners and etiquette, anyway? A passage on the Child Development Institute website outlines why it’s important to teach manners to children. “Good manners convey a sense of respect for the sensibilities of other people,” it reads. When you say ‘thank you,’ you’re taking the time to make the other person feel appreciated. Saying ‘please’ respects a person’s right not to do what you’ve asked.”
By extending these human social norms to software and cloud services, are we teaching children that machines have sensibilities to be considered the same way we consider human feelings? Being polite to a piece of technology may suggest that AI assistants are capable of feeling appreciated or unappreciated; that machines have rights; and that one of these rights is the right to refuse our requests.
In teaching children to treat machines like people, we may also be treating people like machines. Telling kids to say “please” and “thank you” to software, knowing that no feelings are involved, could be construed to be telling them to to run their courtesy routines automatically regardless of meaning, effect, or purpose.
That’s not the intent, of course. Parents want to teach the habit of good manners, so that when children do interact with other people, they’ll be polite. But this teaching is applied irrationally and unevenly.
For example, parents also want their kids to be polite when writing to people, and will insist that they do so. Yet there’s no demand by parents to make kids say “please” and “thank you” when searching on Google–or when typing a request or query to Google Assistant on a smartphone app.
Parents presumably aren’t bothered when their child types “tell me the weather” in the Google Assistant app. But when a kid says those exact words out loud to Google Home, the rules seem to be different. These queries are interacting with the exact same servers and databases, yet the spoken words demands etiquette in ways the written words do not.
People, including children, speak to objects all the time. A child struggling to open a jar of peanut butter might say: “Come on, open!” Parents are unlikely to insist on a “please” or “thank you.” Yet that jar of peanut butter is exactly as sentient as Alexa, and has the same degree of feelings, the same amount of authority and is deserving of the same level of respect or deference. In both cases, the child is speaking, and so presumably habits of speech are being formed.
The difference, of course, is that Alexa can simulate or fake human thought and speech. Peanut butter cannot. And Alexa is listening.
So what happens when virtual assistant appliances start watching as well? The next generation of smart speakers and other assistant appliances, such as Amazon’s Echo Show, have cameras and screens.
Will parents request additional features that encourage children to mind manners that can be seen, rather than heard? When children are alone in a room with a smart speaker, for example, will parents want that appliance to insist on being politely greeted when the child enters the room? Will virtual assistants badger kids to keep their elbows off the table, chew with their mouths shut, and to not rudely point at the smart speaker?
When future virtual assistants gain preemptive action, and, say, remind a child that she has a karate class in an hour, will the parents–or the assistant itself–insist that the child respond? “Emma! Alexa is talking to you!”
If the answer to these questions is no, then why the double standard with spoken manners? And if the answer is yes, then what kind of world are we creating?
Politeness features aim to help kids learn good manners. But the unintended consequences might be to teach kids that intelligent machines are more or less the same as people, or even that they’re authority figures that should legitimately scrutinize human behavior. From infancy, children could get used to the idea that AI can refuse to comply with instructions unless human behavior is judged acceptable by the machines.
We may be accidentally creating a lifelong intuition in children that software has feelings that can be hurt, that it’s an intelligent being to be respected–or even an authority to be obeyed.
Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, flatly told me: “I recommend that parents not utilize the politeness features.” He wonders: “What are the implications of children forming friendships with, and imbuing human characteristics into, a machine [built by companies] whose business models are all about creating dependence?”
“We don’t want children to view Alexa as a friend or having human characteristics and forming attachments that will make forming skepticism later on more difficult,” Golin adds.
Teaching more than manners
The world is changing. And parents need to prepare kids for the world they’ll actually live in. We need to teach them the old things, like good manners, and the new things, like the truth about AI.
“Being able to identify what makes humans different than machines is going to be a very important skill as AI devices infiltrate more and more aspects of our lives,” Golin says.
For starters, kids need to learn that Amazon Echos and Google Homes do not fit in the same category as mom and dad, but in the same category as TVs and toasters.
This parental challenge is part of a much larger one: preparing kids to cope with a world of digital illusions–the fake, the phony, and the virtual. Today’s toddlers will grow up in a world of deepfake videos, computer-generated Instagram personalities, holographic celebrities and virtual reality.
Preparing kids for the future means more than mere manners. It means teaching them to appreciate the difference between real human people and mere machines designed to create the illusion of humanity.
Kids need to learn that other people want and deserve our politeness and courtesy. And that appliances don’t.
I was teaching a class recently when somebody raised his hand to ask a question. After I answered it, then he asked a follow-up, which I responded to as well. Both times, he apologized for asking those questions, despite my assurances that questions are important.
How often do bosses and managers issue these reminders? “There are no stupid questions!” “Please ask as many questions as you need!” “I’m always on hand to answer questions.” Yet when people take advantage of these invitations, they often do so apologetically: “I’m sorry, just wanted to ask . . .” “Sorry, but I’m wondering whether . . .”
So let’s get one thing straight: You should never apologize for asking questions. It doesn’t just reflect badly on you, it can weigh down everyone else on your team. Here’s why.
It hampers collective intelligence
The questions that typically get asked in meetings (or any group setting) are meant to get clarity on a difficult concept. One of the most dangerous limitations in any organization is what psychologists refer to as the “illusion of explanatory depth,” which simply means that people tend to overestimate how well they understand things when they hear others explain them. It’s typically only when someone tries to explain a concept to themselves, and comes up short, that they realize the gaps in their own knowledge.
When you apologize for seeking clarification, you reinforce the illusion of explanatory depth that others is the room are likely to be under. “Sounds like Katja doesn’t get it, but I do,” some of your coworkers may falsely tell themselves. Others will be silently grateful for your question but discouraged from asking their own the next time they need to. Ideally, your question provides an opportunity for everyone else to recognize and fill the gaps in their knowledge, but you risk cutting off that opportunity by prefacing it with, “Sorry!”
But ultimately, even if you are the only one in the room with this question, your understanding still matters, because you can’t use knowledge that you don’t have to solve future problems.
It conceals the faulty assumptions behind proposed solutions
A second crucial type of question tries to uncover the assumptions behind a recommendation or instruction. A suggestion for a given course of action may seem quite reasonable on the surface until you start to think about how to implement it. Getting insight into navigating these operational details matters a lot, but by apologizing before asking this type of question, you risk making yourself seem like the impediment (“Ugh, if only Peter weren’t such a naysayer!”) rather than the idea you’re questioning.
Few suggestions are categorically great–bound to work under any circumstances. Often, the success or failure of a given course of action depends on a lot of different factors, and only when you delve into its underlying assumptions can you start to weigh those contingencies. (This is particularly true when you have a better grasp of the details than the person leading the meeting or throwing out proposed solutions.)
It makes it harder to chase the same goals
It’s natural to worry that your question might sound disruptive, and risk slowing down a conversation that could move smoothly ahead if only you didn’t interrupt. It’s one reason why people avoid asking questions, even when they and everyone else would benefit from the answer.
Ample research on so-called “goal contagion,” though, suggests that people automatically adopt goals that they see others pursuing. In other words, your questions will free others to ask their own–all of which are likely to be geared toward achieving a shared objective. But if you apologize for asking your question, you send the message that asking questions is actually the wrong thing to be doing, which in turn can limit the team’s ability to pull together in pursuit of the same goal.
Ultimately, the worst way to learn anything new is to have someone lecture at you. Information washes over you, and you’ll only remember a small amount of it. The more you actively engage with material, the more likely you are to learn it. When an entire room is full of people asking questions–unapologetically–the odds go up that something valuable will come of their pooled efforts.
Imagine this scenario for a moment: You own a restaurant called the Red Hen, you’re minding your own business, and you wake up one day to a torrent of vicious online rants directed against your establishment—not because of something it did, but because it happens to share the same name of an unaffiliated restaurant embroiled in controversy.
That was the situation for no less than three businesses this weekend after the owner of The Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave, an incident that Sanders later escalated by tweeting about it to the whole world.
In Washington, D.C., a Red Hen restaurant has been trying to convince swarms of online haters that they have the wrong establishment, going so far as to tweet out a screenshot containing the definition of the word “unaffiliated.”
It’s not a franchise. That’s what unaffiliated means. pic.twitter.com/jVBArm8Kvp
— The Red Hen (@RedHenDC) June 24, 2018
Over in Swedesboro, New Jersey, a Red Hen restaurant there wrote a similar message in a Facebook post that only seemed to stoke people’s anger. “Kindly check your facts before you erroneously defame an innocent business on Facebook in an attempt to destroy their business where they welcome all, irrespective of their race, religion, views or opinions,” the business wrote.
Meanwhile, a Red Hen restaurant in Connecticut seems to have removed its Facebook page altogether, while posting on its Google page that it also has no affiliation with the Virginia restaurant at the center of the controversy.
Online mistaken identity is not a new problem, of course, but it seems to have taken on greater urgency in the age of Trump, where disinformation is the status quo and the volume of our online discourse goes from 0 to 11 in an instant. Indeed, one would think that a response like “you have the wrong restaurant” would be enough to placate those who are out for blood—but alas.
In the case of the D.C. Red Hen, some tweeters simply refused to believe the two were unaffiliated, while others faulted the restaurant for its “cowardly” effort to distance itself from an incident it had no part in. The Facebook post for the New Jersey-based Red Hen has attracted more than 600 comments, with many respondents arguing among themselves about the merits of asking Sanders to leave—again, something this particular restaurant did not do.
All of this is exacerbated by the fact that the infrastructure of online reviews—on websites like Facebook and Yelp—seems to have no adequate system for preventing online mobs from trashing the pages of these unaffiliated restaurants with one-star rants. Maybe the best thing to do is hold your breath until it’s over, but it’s sad that it’s come to this.
Raise a glass to the perpetuity of awards season, because the BET Awards are happening tonight at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles. Viacom-owned BET Networks will broadcast the event, with red carpet coverage beginning at 6 p.m. ET (3 p.m. Los Angeles time). Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx will host the ceremony, which is set to begin at 8 p.m. ET.
The awards honor a broad range of talent, genres, and topics, including music, movies, music videos, and sports. DJ Khaled tops the list of nominees with a total of six, including a Video of the Year nod for “Wild Thoughts,” with Rihanna and Bryson Tiller. Other nominees include Beyoncé for Best Female R&B/Pop Artist, Bruno Mars for Best Male R&B/Pop Artist, Tiffany Haddish for Best Actress, and Chadwick Boseman for Best Actor. You can find the full list of nominees here.
If you’re a cord cutter looking to stream the awards online without cable, your options are limited, as Viacom-owned networks are noticeably absent from some of the top streaming services. I’ve rounded up a few of the best choices for watching BET online below: