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    When workers finish their work retrofitting a 1920s-era house near Harvard’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the house will look essentially the same as it did before from the outside–but it will run on almost no energy.

    The renovation of the former single-family home, now the headquarters of the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities, is an attempt by the HouseZero project to demonstrate that it’s relatively easy to transform ordinary houses to eliminate their carbon footprint. Homeowners might think that making their homes more efficient will require huge renovation costs for little energy (and cash) savings. This project is hoping to prove otherwise, and be a model for other projects to emulate.

     

    “What we chose to do is use existing ideas and technologies, put them all together, and see what we can do and push and reach goals that no one has reached before in terms of retrofits.” [Image: Snøhetta]
    After a few years of intensive research–including reading hundreds of studies–on what was possible, the HouseZero team landed on several goals. After the redesign, developed with the architecture firm Snøhetta, the house should no longer need electric light during the day. The tiny amount of electricity used can be provided by rooftop solar panels. Instead of a standard system for heating and cooling, the house will use ventilation and tweaks to the design to stay comfortable passively; on the coldest days, a geothermal system will provide extra support. The house will also produce zero carbon emissions–including emissions from the “embodied” energy in the materials used in the new construction.

    All of this is going to be accomplished using existing technology that homeowners can purchase now. “We could have done something that’s futuristic,” says Ali Malkawi, professor of architectural technology at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, director of the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities, and the founder of the HouseZero project. “But what we chose to do is use existing ideas and technologies, put them all together, and see what we can do and push and reach goals that no one has reached before in terms of retrofits.” (One small, separate section of the building will test a more advanced design that could go even further.)

    The building is in a historic district, which added another layer of difficulty to the design. The appearance from the outside had to stay essentially the same, though the renovation has enlarged the windows slightly to let in daylight–no one should have to switch on a light until the sun goes down.

    “The building by itself knows its need for ventilation, and it adjusts itself and opens up in relation to occupant health. If there’s a need for ventilating the building, it will automatically open the windows.” [Photo: Snøhetta/Plompmozes]
    The windows are also key to making the building comfortable without traditional heating or air conditioning. Using sensors that monitor humidity, temperature, and air quality, the windows will automatically open and close throughout the day and night, using algorithms to predict what actions it needs to take to keep the building warm or cool the next day.

    “If you want to open the window yourself, you can,” says Malkawi. “But at the same time, the building by itself knows its need for ventilation, and it adjusts itself and opens up in relation to occupant health. If there’s a need for ventilating the building, it will automatically open the windows.”

    Since adding mass to a wooden building can help it retain heat in the winter and stay cool in the summer, the redesign includes new concrete floor slabs to increase mass. A solar vent draws air up from the basement to help keep the building ventilated. The new windows, which are triple-glazed, are tightly sealed, so when they are closed, they also help keep the temperature comfortable. In extreme weather–during a deep freeze in February, for example–the building can use heat from a new geothermal heat pump installed beside the house.

    The building is in a historic district, which added another layer of difficulty to the design: The appearance from outside had to stay essentially the same. [Photo: Snøhetta/Plompmozes]
    Solar panels on the roof will generate enough electricity to offset the little that is used to power computers and other equipment, as well as offset the energy used in the materials in the retrofit, so the building has no carbon footprint.

    The building’s performance will be measured through a network of sensors and studied so the results can be shared with homeowners who want to do the same thing or use some of the ideas. “If a homeowner wants to see the importance of the geothermal, we’ll be able to quantify that and they’ll be able to use that portion only if they don’t want to use the ultra-efficiency that we have,” says Malkawi.

    Though the researchers haven’t quantified the costs yet for homeowners (or how quickly those costs could be offset by savings on energy bills), they plan to share the the full budget of the retrofit. The HouseZero project will be more complicated than a project at a typical home because it’s also converting the space to work well as an office and lab; Malkawi says that cost for homeowners should be affordable. “This can be done in a relatively inexpensive fashion,” he says.

    For homeowners, making similar retrofits would save money–collectively, U.S. property owners spend more than $230 billion a year heating, cooling, and powering homes. The retrofits could also curb a major source of climate pollution. While it’s easier to make newly built houses ultra-efficient, most homes in the U.S. already exist–and buildings account for nearly 40% of carbon emissions in the country, more than any other sector.


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    In Sweden there’s a constitutional right they call allemansrätten. It’s a national concept of “freedom to roam” that allows anyone the right to access, walk, cycle, or camp on any land (the only exceptions being private residences, as well as gardens and lands under cultivation). To get the rest of the world to try it out, they just listed the entire country on Airbnb.

    It appears that Sweden’s tourism is in the throes of a marketing contest. Last year the Swedish Tourist Association with agency Ingo created “The Swedish Number,” that allowed anyone, anywhere in the world, to dial in and be connected to a random Swede to chat about the country. Now Visit Sweden (the country’s global marketing department) working with agency Forsman & Bodenfors, is getting its own brand buzz with the help of Airbnb.

    There are nine different “listings,” ranging from a rustic forest retreat in Varmland on the country’s west coast, to cliffs with panoramic ocean views close to Skuleskogen National Park.

    According to Visit Sweden, it’s the first partnership of its kind with Airbnb, and, as gimmicks go, let’s hope there isn’t a rush of copycats. That said, it’s easy to imagine Airbnb jumping head first into allowing more tourism marketing like this the chance to target us directly from within the platform–for a price of course.

    In this case, Jenny Kaiser, president of Visit Sweden’s US office, says the arrangement between Visit Sweden and Airbnb wasn’t a paid placement. “As the initiative is a pure branding campaign for Sweden as a destination, the partnership is strategic for both parties and no payment has been done from/to either side,” Kaiser says.


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    Facebook has had a huge impact on our lives: The company essentially owns a large part of the world’s social media user base with its products from Facebook itself, to Instagram, to WhatsApp playing an integral part in how we communicate with our family and friends and interact with brands, media, and public figures.

    Given how much the company’s products influence our social media, and now, real-world lives, it’s no wonder why Facebook is one of the most coveted places to intern with year after year.  Which means that competition for a Facebook internship is fierce. We spoke with Utkarsh Sharma, a final year student at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, to find out how he got an internship with the company and what advice he gives for people who hope to land one there too. His internship went so well, Facebook offered him a full-time job as a software engineer after he graduates this year.

    On His Internship Role At Facebook

    My internship at Facebook London was in the summer of 2016 when I was 22 years old. It was a 12-week internship from May to August. I was a software engineering intern at Facebook, and was a member of an ads team based in the London office. The team works on building the infrastructure behind one of the ads products, which aims to allow small and medium local businesses to reach local audiences, and also allows larger retailers with multiple locations to use the local awareness aspect.

    On How He Found Out About The Facebook Internship

    I had heard about Facebook internships during the second year of university. What made it stick in my mind was how amazingly people spoke of it, and how upon subsequent googling, I ended up reading about it as being one of the best internships in the tech world. Being an electrical engineering major with an interest in coding, the position of a software engineering intern was the most natural choice for me.

    I applied for the internship in my fourth year of studies (I’m in a five-year dual degree program). I very nearly did not apply for the Facebook internship because I didn’t believe that I would get it. However, when a college senior who works at Facebook encouraged me to apply for the internship, I decided to take the plunge and give it my best.

    On The Interview Process With Facebook

    A few days after I was referred, I received an email from a recruiter with a link for an automated online coding test. After I passed the test, I had multiple phone interviews. The interviews are held one at a time, with the next ones generally scheduled condition to performance in the previous interviews. This adds to the nervousness as each interview becomes very important, and the opportunity to redeem oneself in the future interviews might not present itself.

    I actually wasn’t that nervous because at the time of my interviews with Facebook I already had another offer at company where I wanted to intern. I think this helped, as it reduced the performance pressure on me.

    On The Qualities That Helped Him Score A Facebook Internship

    Why I got the internship is a question I doubt I ever will be able to perfectly answer. I like to think it as a right mixture of hard work and luck. While being good at algorithms and data structures is a prerequisite, it is by no means the complete story. There are a lot of factors that go into someone getting hired at Facebook, including technical ability and a passion for the mission.

    One of the factors which I feel helped me greatly was that I naturally tend to speak a lot, and so I was good at explaining my thought process while coding. This allowed the interviewer to have a good view at my thought process, and thus allowed them to build a better judgment on my skills.

    On The Average Workday Of A Facebook Intern

    One of the most empowering aspects of working as an intern at Facebook was that you were treated at par with a new full-time employee. I got to decide the way I wanted to handle my tasks. Facebook places a lot of trust in their interns.

    My average day at the company was a mixture of a few sessions of coding and reviewing other people’s code, meetings, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and infinite breaks involving the snack areas and the foosball tables.

    On Some Of His Best Experiences As A Facebook Intern

    One of the highlights was the Facebook summer hackathon. Hackathons are events where people code for a fixed period of time to make anything they want to. Hackathons are an integral part of the culture of Facebook and some of the best features of today are the result of past hackathons.

    Facebook organized the hackathon inside a bowling arena in the O2 stadium of London. Demoing a project at the end of the hackathon that I and a fellow intern made after 11 hours of hacking away was icing on the cake for me. The amount of praise it received followed by it now being used as an internal tool is more than what I could’ve asked for.

    Another set of events tailored for the interns were the Q&As. Throughout the internship, there were these were hour-long sessions where interns got to ask questions and listen to some of the most prominent people of Facebook, including even Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg. These Q&As were great experiences, with no question being deemed as off limits.

    On the purely fun side of things, the Facebook summer party towards the end of my internship was carnival themed and a lot of fun and lasted for over 12 hours.

    On Whether Facebook Could Improve Its Internship Experience

    The internship was a perfect experience, with a healthy mix of work with fun with a lot of surprises sprinkled on top. They took care of every single thing imaginable; housing, travel, local transportation, food, and visa.  My team was very supportive towards me, and I worked on real problems, which made an actual impact. I had one of the best summers of my life, and I can’t imagine it being any better.

    On The Lasting Benefits Of A Facebook Internship

    It would not be an overstatement to say that the Facebook internship changed my life. On the second last day of my internship, my team manager called me in a meeting and let me know that Facebook would be glad to have me back as a full-time employee. A year or two ago, this was a possibility that I would have considered only in my wildest dreams. The summer was a great learning experience for me, and I picked up skills which I wouldn’t have working on my own.

    On What Others Could Do To Land An Internship At Facebook

    Everyone’s case is different and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all advice that will work. I’d say that there’s more to coding and software engineering in general than sitting in front of a screen and mashing out code. There a lot of other skills such as working in a team that are equally important. Also, doing side projects or writing code for your own pleasure is a great and fulfilling way to learn.


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    This story reflects the views of this author, but not necessarily the editorial position of Fast Company.

    Until recently, IBM was one of the first and biggest proponents of remote work. But no longer. In March, the company began directing thousands of employees to work from set locations or else look for another job, an ultimatum it extended more widely last week. The move is an alarming policy reversal that neither current trends nor recent history suggest is wise.

    History Isn’t On IBM’s Side

    IBM’s curtailment of remote work echoes Yahoo’s reversal more than four yeas ago, when CEO Marissa Mayer began requiring workers to come back to a traditional office so they could start “physically being together,” as then-HR chief Jackie Reses put it at the time.

    To all appearances, all that physical togetherness hasn’t worked out so well. After weathering a firestorm, Yahoo initially stood by the policy change. But in the years that followed, it failed to regain its position as a leading internet company, suffered a series of devastating hacks, and finally agreed last year to sell itself to Verizon for about $4.4 billion–far less than the $100 billion market cap it had had at its peak.

    Like Mayer in 2013, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty is under pressure to turn her company around. And like Yahoo, IBM claims that the policy change is meant to improve collaboration and accelerate innovation.

    It won’t work. Attempting to force workers back to IBM offices is a terrible idea for at least three reasons.

    Why Mandatory Office Work Will Backfire

    First, IBM will diminish the quality of its team. As much as 40% of the company’s workforce was already remote as of a decade ago, so it’s easy to see the new mandate as a way to trim staff without having to actually make layoffs. But if IBM is trying to get rid of people it deems extraneous, it’s pretty short-sighted. In all likelihood, what happened to Yahoo will also happen to IBM: The best talent will easily find new jobs with companies that are more open to remote work.

    Not only do flexible work arrangements top job seekers’ lists of priorities, but making successful hires depends much more on relevant skills than on physical location. So if, months from now, IBM points to the number of employees choosing to relocate in order to keep their jobs as evidence of success, don’t buy it. Many will do just that because they have no other options, while the most high-performing, in-demand talent flies the coop. In the end, IBM will reduce the quality of its workforce while its competitors reap the benefits.

    Second, requiring employees to work in an office will hurt productivity, not improve it. In a study published in Harvard Business Review in 2014, remote workers proved both more productive and more loyal than their peers onsite. In fact, IBM’s recent policy switch goes against its own research. In both a 2014 white paper by IBM’s Smarter Workplace Institute and in a conference panel the company hosted just weeks ago, its own experts suggested that remote workers tend to be happier, less stressed, more productive, more engaged with their jobs and teams, and believe that their companies are more innovative as a result of flexible work arrangements.

    Third, this is the wrong thing to do and the wrong time to do it–not only for the company but for the U.S. economy. A big employer like IBM, which employs over 380,000 people worldwide, has a social responsibility it simply can’t overlook. At a time when smaller cities and rural areas are struggling, it’s backward-looking for a major corporation–especially one with such deep experience in remote work–to implement a policy that could take jobs away from regions that need them most. By demanding its employees flock to IBM’s urban headquarters, the company isn’t just sapping everyplace else of highly skilled talent, it’s also contributing to depopulating the communities where those remote workers live, and depressing local economies as a result.

    There’s a sad irony to that. Thanks to the technologies and pioneering examples of many tech companies–including Microsoft, Google, Apple, and, yes, IBM itself–work is now far less time- and location-dependent than ever before. That means companies now have the ability to conceive of themselves as “results-only work environments,” where what really matters is what someone produces, not how many hours they work or where they sit in order to do it. Some, like the automation platform Zapier, are even offering bonuses to employees so they can move away to places where the cost of living is lower. Meanwhile, IBM will keep selling cloud-based software and services that support an “anytime, anywhere workforce” it’s no longer a part of. Good luck making that sales pitch.

    Flexible work isn’t just the future of work–it’s already here. Forcing people back into offices is like handing them all paper time cards and telling them to start punching in and out. It’s not just retrograde and absurd, it’s also a surefire way to lose the best people you’ve got already and to turn away tomorrow’s top hires. Just ask Yahoo.


    Stephane Kasriel is the chief executive of Upwork, where he built and led a distributed team of more than 300 engineers located around the world as SVP of engineering before becoming CEO. Stephane holds an MBA from INSEAD, an MSc in computer science from Stanford, and a BS from École Polytechnique in France. Follow him on Twitter at @skasriel.


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    Fancy Bear may have stumbled in the French election but they’re still wreaking havoc across Western Europe. And despite the failure of what many suspect was their attempt to disrupt the victory of Emmanuel Macron’s political campaign, the infamous Russian hackers haven’t yet adapted their tactics, say cybersecurity experts.

    In France, Fancy Bear was suspected of hacking Macron’s email account, presumably in an attempt to boost right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen. The hack led to a massive dump of leaked documents just days before this month’s election, but it proved ineffective due to French resistance to fake news and social media and to the Macron campaign’s effective counterattack–reportedly setting up its own fake sites and accounts to confuse the hackers.

    But the group continues to pursue digital attacks across the world, in an effort to steal sensitive information and promote Russian interests through leak-based propaganda campaigns, experts say.

    “A lot of their activity goes pretty unnoticed in the West, because a lot of it focuses on Eastern Europe and Central Asia,” says John Hultquist, director of cyber-espionage analysis at security firm FireEye. The group has targeted political figures in Montenegro, for instance, as the Balkan country–once part of Soviet-aligned Yugoslavia–moves to join NATO.

    “Obviously that has repercussions for Russian influence in the area,” says Hultquist.

    Fancy Bear has also been active in Germany, hacking computers of the country’s parliament in 2015 and subsequently attacking Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party and reportedly sending phishing emails to affiliated political research organization earlier this year. Die Zeit, a respected German newspaper, warned earlier this month that “it is quite possible that emails from the chancellor will soon appear during the election campaign” leading up to a vote in September that will determine whether Merkel’s party continues to control the legislature. The group hasn’t been spotted to the same extent in the U.K., where elections are slated for June 8, though security firm SecureWorks reported earlier this year that Fancy Bear penetrated a network belonging an unnamed television network in the country in 2015 and 2016.

    Part of the reason for Fancy Bear’s relentlessness is due to the perception that their attacks go unpunished. Though the hackers suspected of hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email accounts inarguably impacted the election, leading to the victory of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s preferred candidate, they’ve paid a relatively small price for the attacks, says Chris Finan, cofounder and CEO of security startup Manifold Technology and a former White House cybersecurity advisor. “What consequences have the Russians paid for what they did in 2016? Hardly anything: a few new sanctions.”

    Fancy Bear, also dubbed APT-28 and Pawn Storm by various analysts, doesn’t focus only on the headline-grabbing, politically charged leak campaigns that typically make the news, he says. The group also pursues regular digital espionage campaigns against a variety of military, diplomatic, and government targets, looking for information of value to Russian intelligence that might never be released to the public.

    “It seems like it never stops,” says Brian Bartholomew, a senior security research at Kaspersky Lab, the security firm. “They’re always targeting ministries, countries in particular that border the western side of Russia, the former [Soviet] republics, things like that.”

    The group has continued at a rapid pace in recent months, often registering dozens of internet domains seemingly designed for phishing attacks in a single day, working with registrars known not to be particularly cooperative with law enforcement and paying for the addresses with bitcoin. And there’s no sign that the group has slowed down or changed tactics since the recent elections, he says.

    “It seems like they’re not letting up,” he says.

    The hacking group is believed to buy so-called zero-day exploits, previously undisclosed flaws in operating systems and other software that serve as openings for hackers, on the black market, using them to gain access to sensitive systems. The exploits are typically expensive, but Fancy Bear apparently has the resources to buy them “almost at will,” says Bartholomew.

    “At one point we saw them drop two or three zero-days in the same month, which is just unprecedented,” he says.

    But the group can often gain access to sensitive information through less technical means, simply setting up targeted phishing pages designed to mimic legitimate login pages. Rather than exploit complex software flaws, they simply trick victims into entering their usernames and passwords, unwillingly giving the hackers access to their files.

    “A lot of people were surprised that this nefarious Russian operation would use such simplistic methods, but that’s actually the hallmark of a good actor, is they will save the best tools they have and keep them on the shelf while using the easiest method possible,” says Hultquist.

    It’s tough to ensure everyone in a large organization like a government agency or political party never clicks on a trick email. “Even an individual who is familiar with phishing can fall victim to a meticulously crafted email,” says John Shier, a senior security expert at Sophos.

    In the past, the group has adopted false personas for its propaganda campaigns, presumably to hide its ties to Russia. Democratic National Committee leaks were attributed to Guccifer 2.0, a purported Romanian hacker who, researchers found, couldn’t speak much Romanian and didn’t seem that connected to the attacks. Other U.S. document dumps have been made available through a site called DC Leaks, believed to be Fancy Bear masquerading as a pro-transparency group, and the group is alleged to have set up similar fronts in the Ukraine and the Middle East.

    But when Macron’s campaign saw gigabytes of data leaked in the last days of the election through a site called EMLeaks, believed by experts to be another likely Fancy Bear front, the campaign quickly responded to minimize the damage, saying campaign workers had detected the phishing attacks and fed the hackers phony documents. The public and French media reactions were mostly dismissive, something that may continue as the world gets increasingly accustomed to the group’s tactics, says Hultquist.

    “They’re going to start dealing with a more challenging public that could take a look at their handiwork and only see Russian influence rather than whatever they hope to accomplish,” he says. “I think they’re going to have go back to the drawing board a little bit, but I’m also certain they have more tricks up their sleeve.”


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    In Pakistan, Nighat Dad helps other young women fight online harassment. In France, Romain Lacombe is building tools to help people track air pollution. In Somalia, Abdigani Diriye–who fled the country as a child during civil war, and later returned–is helping grow the local tech scene. In the U.S., Mike Gil is studying how fish communicate, and what those interactions mean for the future of coral reefs.

    On the surface, they have little in common. But they’re all part of the new class of 21 newly announced TEDGlobal Fellows, who will speak at the TEDGlobal conference in Tanzania this August, and whose talks may eventually be seen by millions of people. Through the program, they’ll also be connected to professional coaching and mentoring and will have the opportunity to work with other fellows and build a network that could lead to more investment and support for their work.

    TedGlobal Fellow Nighat Dad helps other young women in Pakistan fight online harassment. [Photo: courtesy TED]
    In deciding which of the thousands of applicants lands these spots, the TED fellows program looks for remarkable achievement mixed with strong character.

    Though many fellows work in technology or design or science, others are artists or journalists. One member of the new class is a standup comedian from Zimbabwe. The program has no limitations on field of work. “We’re looking for people from literally any field of endeavor who are doing something interesting,” says Tom Rielly, director of the TED Fellows program. “The secret of the TED stage forever has been heterogeneity.”

    Mike Gil is studying how fish communicate, and what those interactions mean for the future of coral reefs. [Photo: courtesy TED]
    When the next round of applications opens on July 18, TED expects more than 3,000 applicants for 20 spots. The key, Rielly says, isn’t sharing a list of past awards or a polished presentation. It’s authenticity, a fresh approach to a problem–like a program that helps wrongfully imprisoned people in Uganda attend law school online–and a desire to collaborate with other fellows.

    “There’s one particular genetic signature we’re looking for and that’s collaboration,” Rielly says. “We want people who like to collaborate with other people, especially those different from themselves. Because magic can result when that happens.”

    Ayah Bdeir, the founder of LittleBits (a company that makes electronic building blocks to help kids invent) and a previous fellow, worked with neuroscientist Greg Gage, another fellow, to create a new module for LittleBits. Two other fellows, a human rights activist and an artist, created a new nonprofit to commission art about social change. A conservation biologist used technology made by other fellows–called BRCK, it provides internet access in remote locations–on his 1,700-kilometer expedition across the Okavango Delta. (Before the TED Fellows program launched in 2009, the founders of BRCK met when they were invited to a 2007 TEDGlobal conference in Tanzania as part of a group of 100 young innovators; they also founded the crowdsourcing tool Ushahidi.)

    Abdigani Diriye–who fled his native Somalia as a child during civil war, and later returned–is helping grow the local tech scene in the country. [Photo: courtesy TED]
    While each class of fellows aims for geographic diversity, the new class is particularly focused on Africa. The class includes a Congolese cofounder of a nonprofit for young urban refugees, a Ugandan journalist working undercover in the Middle East to tell the stories of migrant workers, and fellows from seven other African countries. TED wanted to recreate some of the experience of the group of young innovators who were invited to attend TEDGlobal in Africa a decade ago.

    “It was magic because all these people had started to know one another over the internet, but they’d never met,” says Rielly. “All this energy was liberated in these young people when they finally got together, and all these organizations started from there.”

    View the full list of TEDGlobal 2017 Fellows.


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    Remember that photo of Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o sitting front row at a Miu Miu fashion show that someone later captioned “Rihanna looks like she scams rich white men and [Lupita] is the computer smart best friend that helps plan the [scams]”?

    That movie is actually happening: Netflix recently acquired the rights to the project during the Cannes Film Festival.

    What could have easily been another case of a golden idea lost in the ephemerality of the internet is really going down as stated: Rihanna and Nyong’o in a buddy comedy with Ava DuVernay directing and Insecure‘s Issa Rae writing the script.

    Can we all just take a minute and marvel at this staggering display of black girl magic?

    When the 2014 image of Rihanna and Nyong’o resurfaced earlier this year, it tipped off a back-and-forth among the women involved that had all of Twitter wondering, “my god–what if?”

    Not to mar this glorious occasion with legalities, but the question now is who will get credit for the idea? Technically, a public social media post doesn’t necessarily count as intellectual property. That said, untangling exactly who captioned the photo is dicey territory given the internet’s propensity to copy, slightly edit, and paste. Variations of this caption have been floating around, but from the looks of the Twitter conversation among Rihanna, Nyong’o, DuVernay and Rae, a Twitter user by the name of @1800SADGAL can be traced as a credible source.

    Regardless, whoever is responsible for bringing this concept to light deserves some sort of producer credit.

    You did good, internet–you did real good.


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    Find yourself regularly burning the midnight oil or getting into the office extra early just to get your work done? Then you might be wondering if a career change is in order, if only so you can get more sleep.

    A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be able to help you with the job hunt. CDC researchers recently ranked how professions fare when it comes to getting enough sleep, based on how many hours of shut-eye workers across 22 occupational groups reported getting in a 24-hour period.


    Related:Why Six Hours Of Sleep Is As Bad As None At All


    The CDC considers more than seven hours a night to be a sufficient amount of sleep to maintain a healthy lifestyle, while seven or less is considered “short sleep duration” (that is, not enough!). Overall, the CDC found that nearly 37% of working adults report not getting enough sleep.

    Workers in the following five fields, however, seem to be clocking enough of that much-needed rest.

    Professions That Get Sufficient Sleep

    1. Farming, fishing, and forestry: agricultural, hunters and fishers, forestry and conservation workers
    2. Education, training, and library: librarians, teachers, archivists
    3. Community and social services: counselors, religious workers, social workers
    4. Life, physical, and social science: scientists and science technicians
    5. Computer and mathematical: computer specialists, mathematical science jobs

    And if you’re one of those people who can’t function on less than seven hours of sleep, you might want avoid these five fields altogether.


    Related:How Tech Companies Are Waking Up The Sleep Industry


    Professions That Don’t Get Enough Sleep

    1. Production: printing workers, woodworkers, plant operators
    2. Health care support: nursing aides; occupational and physical therapists
    3. Health care practitioners and technical: health technologists and technicians
    4. Food preparation and serving-related: cooks, servers
    5. Protective services: firefighters, law enforcement officers

    Of course, we all can’t be counselors, conservation workers, and computer specialists, so maybe the takeaway here is simply: Do what you can to get more sleep. If a person who averaged less than six hours of sleep began resting for six to seven hours a day, the researchers estimate that $226 billion would be added to the U.S. economy.

    On top of that, getting a good night’s rest also decreases your chances of serious health issues like depression, anxiety, diabetes, and obesity, according to the CDC.

    Still convinced that you need to pull all-nighters and down energy drinks to succeed at work? Think again. Here’s a look at the science behind how your sleep regimen can either help or hurt your career.


    This article originally appeared on LearnVest and is reprinted with permission.


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    Since Donald Trump began to gain prominence in last year’s election cycle, how to cover candidates and vouch for basic facts began to shift rapidly. Cut to Trump’s win and the subsequent cascade of scandals, and whatever existent media rulebook before the most unconventional president in history has undergone major revisions–including at The Onion.

    Like comedians and late-night hosts, the team at The Onion found itself in the precarious position of satirizing a reality where not only truth is exponentially stranger than fiction, but damning headlines surrounding Trump’s administration break on a near-daily basis. The Onion‘s answer: just leak everything.

    “The Trump Documents” is a WikiLeaks-style deluge of 117 satirical White House memos, emails, and audio clips concerning Trump and his staff that’s been in the works since Trump’s inauguration.

    “We were feeling like it was a constant race to keep up with satirizing him–it’s difficult not because he’s a hard person to satirize but because there’s just so much to satirize about him,” says Cole Bolton, editor-in-chief of The Onion. “So instead of just doing these quick hits about this scandal or this person in his inner circle, we wanted to take a big swipe that was more comprehensive, and we hit on the idea of document leaks because it seems like a very Zeitgeist-y way that major news stories are being broken nowadays.”

    Bolton says there’s a possibility of adding to “The Trump Documents” in the future, but for the time being, it will exist as is, foremost as a new format for The Onion‘s brand of satire, as well as an extensive companion to the site’s daily coverage.

    “The most surprising thing about it was that he won the election, but after that, we knew what we could expect in the way he behaved and that the revelations that came to light during the campaign were probably not going to stop. But being unsurprised by that doesn’t make us any less tired by it,” Bolton says. “What we were looking for in ‘The Trump Documents’ was to take that big swing because it felt like we were staring down the barrel of four years of just an incredible amount of satire we’d have to write and it felt like this was a great way to do that.”


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    As someone whose skin is so pale it veers into blue, I funnel an absurd amount of money into the sunscreen industry each year, starting right around now. It’s an expense, so I tend to grab whatever’s cheapest; if I’m lucky, there’s a buy one, get one 50% off deal at the drugstore.

    But my thrifty approach may, according to the 2017 Guide to Sunscreens just released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), be setting me up for a host of unpleasant and costly health problems down the line. Around three-quarters of products on the market fail to actually protect skin from the sun; some actually exacerbate the skin’s sensitivity to damaging rays. Many others contain ingredients that you don’t want to be rubbing on your skin.

    This is the 11th year of the EWG’s sunscreen guide, and since its inception, the industry has been slow to change. When we wrote about the 2010 guide, just 8% of the 500 products the EWG tested passed muster in terms of sunburn and UV protection. Now, they’ve tested over 1,500, and found that just 215 beach and sport sunscreens–around 14%–will satisfactorily shield your skin.

    “You look at an SPF 100 product and that implies a certain level of protection, but it actually sends a very misleading message.” [Photo: weerapatkiatdumrong/iStock]
    The problem is lack of regulation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says Sonya Lunder, EWG senior analyst and lead scientist on the 2017 Guide to Sunscreens, “has indicated that they have concerns about the efficacy of the products on the market,” and while the agency passed some industry regulations in 2011–the term “sunblock,” for instance, was outlawed–it has yet to pass more stringent guidelines.

    One of the main fallouts from this lack of oversight is sunscreens labeled with an SPF–sunburn protection factor–of well over 50, sometimes as high as 100. Theoretically, Lunder says, an SPF of 100 means that you could stay out in the sun 100 times longer than you would under unmodified circumstances. “But this is probably my biggest beef with the sunscreen industry,” Lunder tells Fast Company. “You look at an SPF 100 product and that implies a certain level of protection, but it actually sends a very misleading message.”

    SPF values are determined by applying a thick layer of sunscreen to the skin, and assessing the severity of the burn that develops after masochistic volunteers are exposed to lights of varying intensity in a lab. Not only do these conditions not mimic real-life scenarios, but they also produce scattershot results: When Proctor & Gamble tested a competitor’s SPF 100 product, they found the protection ranged from SPF 37 and SPF 75. The numbers are more like a strong marketing ploy: People flock to high-SPF products because they think they can apply them once and forget about them, Lunder says. But cheap sunscreens contain ingredients that break down in the sun and wash off in wind and water, and people neglect to reapply or throw on a shirt because they think the SPF 100 has them covered. “So they end up spending more time in the sun and getting more UV exposure,” Lunder says.

    Among adult Americans, rates of skin cancer have tripled since the 1970s. [Photo: dimid_86/iStock]
    And even should someone walk away from a day at the beach with no sunburn, having adequately reapplied a high-SPF product, that’s no guarantee that they’re protecting against melanoma, Lunder says. Among adult Americans, rates of skin cancer have tripled since the 1970s, from 7.9 per 100,000 people in 1975 to 25.2 per 100,000 in 2014. Severe sunburns and exposure to UV radiation are two of the key risk factors of melanoma, and Lunder says one of the crucial mistakes people make when choosing sunscreens is thinking that protecting against sunburn alone–as in, gravitating toward high SPF bottles–will also block all UV rays.

    While high SPF sunscreens can shield people from UVB rays, which cause sunburn, they do next to nothing to protect against UVA rays, which are used in tanning beds and while they don’t cause burns, can heighten the risk of melanoma later in life. The damage from UVA rays is much more subtle, and often doesn’t immediately show on the skin. However, UVA exposure adds up throughout a person’s life without proper protection, which Lunder says is only offered through mineral-based sunscreens containing either zinc oxide or avobenzone, neither of which break down in the sun.

    The issue with mineral-based products, Lunder says, is they often, when applied, tint the skin white, and don’t have the cosmetic appeal of breezy sprays (which are largely ineffective because they fail to coat the skin) or SPF-tinged moisturizers. The latter, though, are especially dangerous because they contain additions like oxybenzone and the Vitamin A-based retinyl palmitate, which are included for anti-aging benefits, but heighten the skin’s sensitivity to UV rays and may speed the development of tumors.

    When sunscreens advertise “broad spectrum” protection, they’re claiming that they protect against both UVA and UVB rays, Lunder says. But UVA and UVB protection do not harmonize, and because the FDA caps the number of active ingredients in a product, high SPF sunscreens–which are geared toward protecting against UVB rays–leave very little room for anti-UVA ingredients like zinc oxide and avobenzone. Regulations in Europe, Lunder says, mandate a more even balance between UVA and UVB protection, so while the SPF numbers may be lower across the pond, the “broad spectrum” claims are more valid.

    So how might beachgoers, preparing to shake off the drab, rainy cloak of spring, navigate the sunscreen aisle before heading to the shore? The EWG makes it easy, with a list of tips: Steer clear of products labeled with SPFs higher than 50; avoid sprays, which can’t be applied as thickly, avoid oxybenzone and Vitamin A, and check out this handy list of EWG-approved products. And when in doubt, always bring a shirt and hat.


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    Before Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa started Warby Parker with their fellow cofounders Jeff Raider and Andy Hunt, they felt the way a lot of new grads do: extremely well-educated in a narrow range of really specific things.

    “Three of us had management consulting and finance backgrounds, and the other came from a nonprofit,” Gilboa told Northeastern University’s graduate-degree recipients in a commencement address with Blumenthal earlier this month. “If you wanted a team to build a fancy Excel model or put together a slick PowerPoint presentation, we were your guys. If you wanted to create an A-team to disrupt the $100-billion optical industry, we were most certainly not it.”

    Highly specialized skills can feel like an albatross when you’re just entering the workforce, especially right now, when so many recent grads are taking jobs for which they’re overqualified. But as Gilboa and Blumenthal see it, it wasn’t the details of their education that secured Warby Parker’s success. Looking back, they’ve learned a few lessons that might go farther than any MBA or technical degree can take you–particularly in fields you’re totally unfamiliar with.

    Here are three of them in Blumenthal and Gilboa’s own words, excerpted from their Northwestern address and lightly edited.

    1. Presume Positive Intent

    Neil Blumenthal: It’s human nature to assume the worst. Avoid doing so. Have enough confidence in yourself that when someone suggests a new idea or takes action without telling you first, don’t get defensive. You can’t gain trust if you don’t give it away first. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be skeptical at times–but trust first, then verify. If you can’t presume positive intent, then you’re hanging out with the wrong crowd.

    Dave Gilboa: Our lack of industry experience made us joyfully naive. It enabled us to get excited about an opportunity without being scared off by its complexity. Our lack of knowledge fostered a beginner’s mind-set that forced us to ask basic questions about every aspect of our business: How can we dramatically bring down the price of glasses? Are there nontraditional ways we can enable customers to try on our frames? How many lens options do we need?

    While industry insiders scoffed, every day we learned more, got smarter and applied that learning. But you don’t need to start a business or work at a startup to be entrepreneurial. You just need to commit to getting better every day.

    2. Speed-Walk, Don’t Cliff-Dive

    NB: Instead of dropping out of school to pursue [our startup] idea, we used our time in graduate school to systematically de-risk every element of the business. We spent a year and a half putting together a brand architecture, building a business plan, coming up with a name, and determining at what price we should sell our product. In fact, one of our professors refused to invest in our business because he thought if we were truly committed we would have dropped out.

    But committing to something doesn’t mean jumping out of a plane without a parachute.

    Speed-walking is constantly moving forward by taking deliberate step after deliberate step. You’re moving quickly but never feel out of control. You can speed-walk a lot longer than you can run. We’ve found that you’re more likely to get to your destination if you dream big but fail small. You came here with big ambitions, and now you graduate with an obligation to fulfill them. Any journey worth taking will involve a million scary decisions.

    Conquer fear by minimizing risk, not eliminating it. Take baby steps rather than giant leaps. If you feel like you’re standing at the edge of a cliff, take a step back and break that decision down into a handful of smaller decisions. Those smaller steps and decisions might enable you to find a different path down the mountain.


    Related:Setting Big Goals Might Be Preventing You From Actually Achieving Anything


    3. Treat Others The Way They Want To Be Treated

    DG: Whatever path you take, you will encounter people of all different backgrounds and life experiences. Our entrepreneurial journey, and truly all journeys, are enriched through exposure to a variety of perspectives, some familiar and some new. Seek to understand different points of view and preferences. This is one of our core values at Warby Parker. Initially it was treat others the way we wanted to be treated.

    But people are complex and different, and it’s much more powerful to be empathetic, truly understanding the individual you’re interacting with in order to cater to their wants and needs. Practice empathy and be grateful.

    NB: The beauty of kindness is that it is both a means and an end. Our success is entirely the result of the goodwill of our classmates, professors, and former coworkers who encouraged us while providing critical feedback and introductions. Kindness enables success while being the success we seek: a kind world. Let us all be proliferators of kindness.

    DG: We have a quote on the wall in our office by the novelist Henry James: “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

    If you’re not sure where to begin, start with a simple question. Ask yourself, “What can I do to make someone’s life better?” In our case, the answer was as simple as bringing down the price of a pair of glasses. But you will each find your own answer to this question.

    That’s where things get interesting.


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    If you’re perusing Airbnb offerings in San Francisco, you might notice something new: reservation booking through Resy. Last November, Airbnb announced it would be integrating Resy’s reservation booking into its Trips platform, but this is the first time we’ve seen it inside the app.

    Under the “For You” section among sake tastings and loft-style concerts is a new section cooly titled “Popular tables in SF.” Clicking on that icon will serve up a bevy of local spots to dine at–and within each restaurant profile, an opportunity to book a reservation.

    “We’re currently testing the technical side of this partnership with a small group of restaurants in San Francisco. If you’re in San Francisco, or searching for San Francisco in our recently updated ‘For You’ tab, you may see an option to discover–and book a table–at a San Francisco hot spot, all without leaving the Airbnb app,” says company spokesman Tim Rathschmidt. It’s unclear how large the test currently is or when it will roll out more widely. But the big idea here is that Airbnb is looking to expand into more concierge-like services on its platform.

    Reservation booking on Airbnb in San Francisco. [Image: courtesy of Airbnb]
    Airbnb has deep interest in expanding its platform beyond bookings. At a March luncheon inside the New York Stock Exchange, CEO Brian Chesky said he expects that by 2021 most revenue will come from offerings like experiences and other new products rather than homes. In the last year the company has acquired Canadian Luxury Retreats, launched Experiences, led a $13 million investment in Resy, and entertained the idea of dabbling in flights. It’s also angling more toward offerings that can be used by both tourists and locals.

    The Resy integration is the first time Airbnb has teamed up with a third party inside of its own app.


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    The ranks of freelancers are growing. An October 2016 report by Upwork and Freelancers Union puts the number of independent workers at 55 million–a whopping 35% of the workforce.

    But the same things that make freelancing an attractive career option–flexibility, income opportunity, and even job security–lead to some drawbacks. The report found that among full-time freelancers, the second biggest concern behind being paid a fair rate was unpredictable income.

    One way to stabilize revenue ebbs and flows and reduce the effort needed to line up new business is to form long-lasting relationships with clients who regularly hire you, says tax expert and preparer Eva Rosenberg, the TaxMama, who has had some of her clients for more than 30 years. “My problem is getting them to leave me,” she quips.

    Independent contractors who keep clients for years or even decades operate differently from others who have more churn, she says. She and other freelancers with long-term clients weighed in on how to develop these relationships.

    Prospect For Fit

    When Leah McCloskey, owner of LM Studio, a graphic design and branding consultancy that has had some clients for more than 10 years, is considering a new client, she looks for more than “a walking dollar sign,” she says. She promotes her firm as a “conscious marketing practice.” She wants to know that the customer’s values and hers will work together. “Some people think that’s touchy-feely, but it really does work,” she says.

    She’ll interview the client to be sure they understand the process of branding and graphic design and that she believes in their work. And while some projects are one-offs, she looks for the potential for a long-term partnership where she can help them grow their business. New clients don’t need to tick all of the boxes, but more they fit that profile, the more likely they are to be a long-term clients, she says.

    Rosenberg adds that when you find the right clients with long-term potential, you can focus on quality over quantity. A few good clients who value your work and are also looking for long-term partnerships usually lead to a better work environment than lots of clients who assign only one or two projects and then look for cheaper options. If you’re competing on price alone, you’ll always lose to the cheaper option.

    Get To Know Them

    Freelance creative Meg Matteo Ilasco, co-author of Creative, Inc: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Freelance Business, says that getting to know your clients really well is essential for keeping them long term. “Learn about their values, interests, aspirations and goals–and figure out ways to help them meet them,” she says.

    That goes beyond doing the initial research to land the client, she says. Instead, truly understanding your clients and their needs is something that happens over time. “Follow the client as they grow and evolve. Ask them questions. Learn why ideas get rejected. This level of care and interest will help you pitch ideas of value, offer opinions that are well received, and will make you a trusted partner and team regular,” she says. Make yourself as indispensable as possible to secure your relationship.

    “I’ve been on the freelance-hiring end for magazine editorial and art and it’s so easy to spot a story pitch that is generic or shopworn, where someone is just looking to see if something sticks. It’s clear when a person hasn’t taken the time to understand the magazine,” she says.

    Deliver Added Value

    Once she has some insight into the client, freelance writer and marketer Megy Karydes, who has had some of her clients for more than five years, looks for ways to add value. How can you use your contacts, talents or resources to bring benefits that other providers can’t? Karydes uses her professional network to look for opportunities that will benefit her clients and her contacts. For example, two of her clients are organizations of scientists. She makes introductions when it’s useful to those clients and looks for opportunities that can benefit both of them.

    “That’s when you become part of the team. You start looking at it as if you really are a team member because that’s what makes you more valuable. That’s why they want to keep working with you because you understand their business,” she says.

    Know Your Numbers

    To have staying power, clients need to pay you a fair rate on time. To understand what that is, you need to have a good handle on your revenue goals, expenses, and the bottom-line rate you need to meet in order to be profitable. And you need to be comfortable adjusting your rates throughout the relationship, McCloskey says. That’s easier when you’ve become part of the team and contribute ideas and value beyond your immediate role, she adds. When it’s time to up her rates, McCloskey explains why–costs and pay rates go up for everyone–and demonstrates the impact she has had on the organization.

    Ensuring you’re paid fairly also prevents the resentment that feeling nickel-and-dimed fosters. In addition, it gives you the space to be more creative and a better team member because you’re not always hustling for business and working on projects to make ends meet, Karydes adds.

    Establish Good Business Practices

    Don’t reinforce the “flaky freelancer” stereotype. Treat your business like a business and you’ll already be ahead of the game. “Be consistent and be on time. Create consistent high-quality work and submit your deliverables on time or early if possible. If there are any hurdles, communicate them early on in the process. Avoid being that person that’s always asking for extensions or providing excuses for late deliveries,” Ilasco advises.

    That also includes getting help when you need it, Rosenberg says. Look for ways that you can affordably build an infrastructure to support you and ensure your time is free to do your best work. As your business grows, you may look to subcontractors, virtual assistants, or even an in-person assistant who can take rote tasks off your plate and leave you free for higher-value (and billable) tasks.


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  • 05/23/17--05:30: The Unicorn Craze, Explained
  • A month ago, the Melbourne-based skincare company Frank Body announced on Instagram that it would be launching a new body scrub that leaves your skin with a sparkly glow. The brand isn’t a fan of kitschy product names, so it marketed the powder (which came in an iridescent pouch) simply as a “Shimmer Scrub.” But the Aussie company didn’t realize that its latest offering had a built-in pop culture hook. Right now, the best way to sell American millennial women anything vaguely shiny, glittery, or colorful is to “unicornify” it. That demographic is mad for the mythical horned creatures: Searches for “unicorns” reached an all-time high in the month of April.

    “Unicorn was not a word that we would have used to describe the scrub,” Jess Hatzis, cofounder of Frank Body, tells Fast Company. “But it just so happened that its release was quite timely, right on the cusp of a trend that was sweeping through the States–though not so much here in Australia.”

    Shimmer Scrub [Photo: Francisco Marin, courtesy of Frank Body]
    Teen Vogue, Marie Claire, and Fashionista immediately dubbed Frank Body’s newest offering a “unicorn scrub”–and consumers could not click “buy” fast enough. A waitlist exploded to 50,000 on the company’s website, and when the product hit stores, it sold out. “I think it has something to do with the broader cultural and political landscape in America,” Hatzis says. “Unicorns represent every happy dream you ever had as a child, and that is useful when you’re living in an age where things are darker and scarier than you’d like.” (Now hip to the trend, Frank Body touts Shimmer Scrub as the go-to product “for the days you feel like being a unicorn.”)

    Over the past year, American brands have been slapping unicorns onto pretty much everything. Unicorn-themed makeup popped up on drugstore aisles: You could purchase Wet n Wild rainbow highlighters, unicorn tears lip gloss, and even a glitter gel called Unicorn Snot. You could go to a salon and ask for a manicure that made your nails look like sharp, glittery unicorn horns.

    Glitter is always in our nightly routine ????✨

    A post shared by Unicorn Snot (@unicornsnot) on

    Then, unicorn food became a thing. Pinterest lit up with homemade “unicorn toast”– bread covered in cream cheese spruced up with psychedelic food coloring. (Sprinkles too if you want to get fancy.) You could buy cakes and macarons bedazzled with unicorn horns. For four days in April, Starbucks sold a pink and purple Unicorn Frappuccino that “magically” transformed from sweet to sour.

    And just in time for the summer, enormous unicorn floats with rainbow colored manes are appearing in pools around the country. Etsy and Amazon have become unicorn cornucopias, selling duct tape, leggings, cookie cutters, house slippers, tape dispensers, stuffed animals, and more.

    Our fascination with unicorns is nothing new. For at least two millennia, people in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East have imagined horned horse-like animals with magical powers. But at various points in history–depending on the cultural climate–unicorns have represented different things. They’ve been terrifying beasts that would pierce you in the stomach or sexual-charged creatures associated with virgins. “Every generation has its own version of any monster,” Diana Peterfreund, the author of two popular books about unicorns, tells me.”In the Middle Ages, the unicorn was connected to the Christ figure. In Scotland, the unicorn was symbolic of the battle for independence.”

    So what does our current obsession with unicorns tell us about our own culture?

    Giant Unicorn by #Floaty [Photo: Gremly Media, courtesy of #Floaty]
    “One distinct quality about unicorns we’ve clung to lately is their rarity,” Peterfruend says. “People talk about spotting a unicorn or finding a unicorn as something that is extremely rare.”

    Unicorns started appearing more frequently in conversations in 2013, when Eileen Lee, a venture capitalist, started referring to startups that had achieved billion-dollar valuations as the “unicorn club.” The term then started to become synonymous with “unique.” Finding the right guy became locating a “unicorn boyfriend.” Sex writer Dan Savage referred to a bisexual woman interested in getting into a threesome with a couple as a unicorn.

    But a year ago–around the same time that the U.S. election went into full swing–the unicorn became a signifier of happy, fun-loving, and cute. “To people here in America in the 21st century, what we think of the most when it comes to unicorns is the sparkly part,” Peterfruend says. “We don’t think of hooves or horns or virgins. Our current culture’s idea about unicorns is based less on actual legends about unicorns and more on the fact that we all had that Lisa Frank Trapper-Keeper in our teens. Unicorns are now inextricable from rainbows.”

    This makes sense. Aminata Tall, communications director at Wet n Wild–which has recently released an entire unicorn makeup line–believes that the trend has everything to do with nostalgia. The version of unicorns we’re seeing now are inspired by touchstones of children of the ’90s: Lisa Frank, My Little Pony, Care Bears. For women in their twenties and thirties, that might seem like a happier time. “People are looking for an escape from reality,” Tall says. “One of the main reasons for this is probably that the current climate is not the brightest.”

    Wet n Wild targets consumers in their teens, but it also has a strong base of older customers who remember using those products when they were teens. “We’re the brand that women tend to buy first because it’s affordable,” Tall says. “When they are teens they can add makeup to their mom’s basket at the drugstore. For the young, the unicorn trend is just fun and colorful, but older millennials are drawn to it because it reminds them of something they grew up with. It’s a reminder of what they used to play with, watch on TV, and love.”

    Of course, generations prior to millennials remember unicorn pop culture too. In the ’70s, the creatures galloped onto T-shirts and posters (frequently accompanied by their best friend the rainbow); in the ’80s, they dominated Trapper Keepers and were among the hottest items in the sticker collecting craze–especially the puffy, glittery ones. “I first remember them in stickers growing up,” says Jen Gotch, founder and creative director of Ban.Do, a lifestyle brand known for spotting and amplifying trends. “I’m 45, much older than our millennial customers, but unicorns remind me of my childhood too.”

    Gotch is at least partly responsible for the eight-foot long unicorns–and matching floating cupholders–currently floating around in pools all over the country. Last January, she noticed that a brand called #Floaty had started producing the inflatable beasts. Gotch insisted on selling them on Ban.Do’s site, much to the consternation of her sales team. “Nobody believed that a giant $99 unicorn float would sell,” she says. “But I had an instinct that unicorns were about to make a comeback: They seem to come back into our consciousness every few decades. And the floats–which I admit are a little ridiculous–immediately sold out.”

    Other companies have been quick to capitalize on the trend as well. A year ago, an Esty cosmetics shop called Bitter Lace Beauty created a $22 rainbow highlight palette called “Prism.” It became a viral hit, quickly selling out and showing up on eBay for $1,225. In September 2016, Wet n Wild created its own rainbow highlighter for $5.99, which it marketed as Unicorn Glow. “It sold out in three hours on our website,” Tall, the brand’s communications director, says. “The three hours included server issues because we weren’t prepared for how many customers were going to flood the site.”

    But something like a unicorn trend can come and go in a flash, so it takes a nimble brand to produce something that customers want for only a brief moment. Tall says that Wet n Wild is equipped to do this because it controls its supply chain. The company can make a small order and receive products within weeks, as opposed to the six-to nine-month product development period that is more typical in the beauty industry. After the success of the rainbow highlighter, Wet n Wild created an entire Unicorn Glow Box that has a highlighting brush in shape of a unicorn horn, iridescent lipsticks with unicorns carved into the side, and packaging featuring a holographic unicorn.

    Magical forests have them. Now so can you. #UnicornFrappuccino ????✨ (Participating stores in US, Canada, & Mexico only.)

    A post shared by Starbucks Frappuccino (@frappuccino) on

    Even brands that haven’t created entirely new products simply put a unicorn spin on what’s already there. A cafe in Brooklyn started making healing unicorn lattes and an Orange County deli sold rainbow colored unicorn bagels. “Take the unicorn Frappuchino at Starbucks,” Peterfreund points out. “There’s nothing unicorn-y about it. It doesn’t have a horn or anything: It’s just rainbow colored.”

    Observing the U.S. unicorn craze from afar, Frank Body’s Jess Hatzis interprets it as evidence that Americans are very deliberately seeking out symbols of hope and joy–and perhaps even projecting this desire onto things that wouldn’t ordinarily be associated with mirth (like toast). “I can see how people have made the connection,” she says. “When you look at a lot of illustrations of unicorns from the ’90s, they’re often glimmery and sparkly and leaving holographic trails in the sky. But if you think about it literally, a unicorn is a horse with a horn.”

    So how much longer will the world be awash with these exquisite equines? It’s hard to say. In 2015, I wrote a story about the mermaid trend in pop culture. Bars brought in water tanks in which “mermaids” would perform shows, companies made fins for kids to wear in the pool, and fitness companies offered aquatic “mermaid” aerobics. Two years later, the sirens still have a presence: It’s not uncommon to find cafés that offer mermaid drinks alongside unicorn ones.

    But brands are not expecting magically long-lasting results. “It’s just a trend,” says Wet n Wild’s Tall. “This is going to last maybe another month or two, and then it’s going to be something else. That’s why we’re creating limited edition unicorn collections, rather than products that are part of our permanent collection.”

    Much like the elusive horned creature itself, this trend could disappear at any moment.


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    According to Gillette’s research, 84% of guys said their go-to source for information is their phone, while just 13% said they turn to Dad first. And  72% of guys said their phone was the one source of information they can’t live without, and only 10% said Dad. Those are some sad stats for dads.

    So for Father’s Day, agency Grey New York created a follow-up to last year’s ad, aiming to get more young men real-talking to their fathers with another edition of “Go Ask Dad.” Last year it was a tablet, while this year the brand disguised the dads as a Siri-like personal assistant app.

    Once again, it’s a fun, if a bit overtly emotionally manipulative, idea around the role of male role models and fathers in modern society. It’s clear they’re aiming right at dudes’ cryballs, looking to pull off some Dove-style sadvertising. But the sentimentality feels a bit rushed here, What do these young guys think of their dads? How would each describe the other? Without any kind of context, it feels like we’re running straight to the waterworks without setting up the emotional stakes. Maybe I should ask my dad what he thinks about it.


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    Since launching in 2015, Facebook Live has been a huge focus for the social network. Originally just a live-streaming option for celebrities and special events, the service became available for everyone in April of last year, prompting an influx of live streams from regular people featuring everything from important breaking news events and documentation of social injustice to concerts and interactive interviews with A-listers. Facebook says that people comment 10 times more on Facebook Live videos than they do on videos that are just posted to the platform. Today it unveiled a few new ways for you to interact with your friends while you’re watching or broadcasting a Live video: Live Chat With Friends and Live With.

    Live With

    Live With is a feature you may have already seen being used by some celebrities on Facebook. Available to all profiles and Pages on iOS starting today, Live With allows you to have a guest appear along with you in a video side by side, or in a picture-in-picture-type smaller screen similar to what you might see when placing a video call. So, you could host a show with a friend who’s across the country, or just include a friend to briefly comment on something you happen to be talking about.

    Live Chat With Friends

    When Live videos are streamed by news agencies covering a big event or celebrities with a huge following, sometimes you want to discuss what’s happening in the video with just your friends rather than everyone tuned into the stream.

    Now, using Live Chat With Friends, you’ll be able to invite friends to join you in a private conversation about a Live broadcast that’s taking place. Invites can be sent to those you know who are already turned in, as well as any other friends you think would enjoy watching. You can jump back and forth between the public conversation and your private one throughout the broadcast, and continue the conversation with your friends after the broadcaster has decided to stop streaming.

    Unfortunately, this one won’t be available to everyone just yet. Facebook says it’s testing the feature out via mobile in several countries right now, with the plan to roll it out to everyone later this summer.

    If you’d like to try out Live With, you can find step-by-step instructions on how to get started on Facebook’s website here.


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    Today Pinterest announced new ways for users to collect, search, and explore recipes–positioning the popular image-collecting site to further compete with cooking sites like Epicurious.com.

    On Tuesday, the company released updates to Pinterest Lens, a feature that recommends recipes for ingredients and suggests related recipes when a user searches for a specific dish. That means that if you search for “lemon,” you might be directed to a lemon chicken recipe. (And it’s just another reminder of how prescient HBO’s Silicon Valley is, with its recent plot line on the development of a “See-Food” app.)

    Lens now offers “full dish recognition,” a visual discovery technology tool that utilizes AI to recognize meals and suggest inspired recipes.

    “We’re applying computer vision technology not just to identify an ingredient, but show you how to make the dish itself,” PR manager Dyani Vanderhorst wrote in a press release.

    That means that should you go to an Olive Garden and take a selfie with an eggplant parmesan, you can then use that photo to search for similar recipes–straight from your phone. Before this new update, you could search by a specific singular ingredient (say “cucumber” or “raspberry”) but not by posting an image of a full dish, like waffles or quesadillas.

    This will prove extremely useful for brands and ad networks, which are specifically interested in visual capabilities.

    “As more and more people turn to Pinterest for meal inspiration and use these new features to help them find and make the recipes they love, this provides even more opportunities for brands to be discovered,” a Pinterest spokesperson told Fast Company in an email. “We encourage businesses to get all of their recipe content on Pinterest to increase their chances of coming up in search results right when the Pinner is looking for it.”

    The San Francisco-based company sees over 250 million visual searches a month, and is currently “applying sophisticated machine learning to the problem of identifying what’s in all those images,” according to the company website.

    Pinterest Search, meanwhile, now offers new food filters, such as cook time, ingredients, and dietary preference (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc). The company found that, year over year, “U.S. Pinners are saving 52% more vegan recipes, 63% more gluten-free recipes, and 88% more dairy-free recipes, which reflects the changing consumer mind-set.”

    Pinterest’s top pizza recipe, for example, is vegetarian, while the top sandwich doesn’t even contain bread. Cashew milk is now a “go-to ingredient” for dairy-free ice cream.

    In its most substantial nod to fellow recipe sites, Pinterest will now also feature star ratings and written reviews for each recipe. This includes feedback and photos from fellow Pinners who have made the dish.

    Food and drink is a top category on the site, with over 15 billion ideas catalogued. And Pinners cook at home and spend 5% more on groceries than the national average, according to a new study.

    “With more people searching for recipes on their phone (mobile searches on Pinterest have increased 40% year-over-year), we wanted to make it easier to find recipes on the go,” says the spokesman. “Right now we’re focused on making it easier for Pinners to find and make the recipes they love, which means even more opportunities for our food partners to serve up content right when Pinners need it most.”


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    Slightly less than a half-decade ago, Microsoft made one the most memorable announcements in its history: For the first time, it would design and sell its own PCs, in the form of a new line of Windows tablets known as Surface. And then, for the next few years, the company ignored the skeptics–who were legion–and not only stuck with the Surface, but used it as a tapestry for experimentation.

    The company tried different screen sizes until it settled on the current 12.3.” It attemptedtwice–to introduce a lower-cost, non-Pro incarnation of the Surface idea. It took signature Surface design elements like the hinged kickstand and svelte keyboard cover and refined them repeatedly in ways that were instantly noticeable. It identified design weaknesses, such as the wimpy magnetic power connector and dinky trackpad, and fixed them.

    But the Surface Pro 4, which was introduced in October 2015, has been on the market for a long time by gadget standards. Earlier this month, Surface honcho Panos Panay told Cnet‘s Dan Ackerman that Microsoft would only release a Surface Pro 5 device “when it’s meaningful and the change is right.” That led some folks to conclude that no successor to the Surface Pro 4 was imminent.

    However, at a Surface event held in Shanghai today, Microsoft’s big announcement was a new Surface Pro. In fact, that’s what the company is calling it: the new Surface Pro, without a model number. (Apple has been known to take a similar branding approach with iPads, including the new $329 model.)

    The new Surface Pro doesn’t reflect a fundamental rethink of the Surface Pro 4. But neither is it the sort of thing that tech nerds call a “speed bump”–the same old model in the same old case with a slightly faster processor. Actually, there’s quite a bit that’s new:

    • A new configuration with an Intel Core M3 processor emphasizes power efficiency over raw performance, offering up to 13.5 hours of battery life. Both the M3 and Core i5 versions of the device sport fanless designs, making them the first silent Surfaces.
    • Microsoft will offer models with built-in LTE connectivity–finally matching one of the things I like most about my iPad Pro.
    • The Surface Pen now has 4,096 levels of sensitivity (quadruple the previous number), lays down digital ink with less lag time, and, like Apple’s Pencil, lets you lay down shading by drawing with side of its tip.
    • The pen has also lost its clip and is a $100 extra-cost option–just like Apple’s Pencil–rather than being bundled in the box.
    • You can fold back the kickstand until the Surface lies at an angle that makes it feel like a drawing table–sort of a miniature version of the jumbo-sized Surface Studio desktop PC.
    • The Type Cover, which is already much better than Apple’s Smart Keyboard for the iPad, has added even more travel to its keys.
    • The tablet’s industrial design, while in no way a departure from previous models, is a bit curvier.

    One thing you might have expected the new Surface Pro to change remains the same: its approach to ports. It still has full-sized USB ones and a proprietary power connector rather than the more versatile USB-C. That design decision–which Microsoft also made for its new Surface Laptop–reflects caution rather than a bold willingness to dump aging features. But it’s also defensible. Especially given that a lot of Surface Pro owners use it for pro-caliber purposes such as design work–a group that tends to include people who prefer proven technologies over new standards and the need to futz with adapters.

    When it comes to holding flashy media events–and pleasing the Twittersphere–incremental improvements of the sort seen in the new Surface Pro may be too subtle to inspire wild applause. But if this new model closely resembles the Surface Pro 4 in most respects that matter, it doesn’t strike me as a failure of imagination on Microsoft’s part. It’s just that the decisions the company made over multiple previous upgrades have resulted in a machine that doesn’t require reimagining at the moment.

    Which is not to suggest that it’s impossible to substantially improve the experience it offers. It’s just that the most obviously fertile ground may be software-based improvements rather than hardware ones. Even after five years, the Surface Pro’s combination of tablet, detachable keyboard, and pen is a new idea that cries out for software designed with it in mind.

    Indeed, Microsoft has been busy on that front. It’s previewing a new app called Microsoft Whiteboard designed to let multiple people write and sketch on a shared blank slate. And when I met with Microsoft executives last week to get a sneak peek at the new Surface Pro, they devoted as much time to showing how Office leverages it–with features like a fancy set of drawing tools availabile across Word, Excel, and PowerPoint–as they did talking about the hardware.

    It’s entirely possible that the next new Surface Pro after the new Surface Pro will aim for great leaps forward. In his Cnet interview, Panay made reference to a theoretical “Surface Pro Next” that sounds like it might be such a device. For now, though, the new Surface Pro’s emphasis on sensible refinements is a sign that Microsoft has come closer to fulfilling the goals that Panay, former CEO Steve Ballmer, and former Windows chief Steven Sinofsky detailed on stage at the original Surface’s June 2012 launch event in Los Angeles than most people would have guessed. Including me.


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    ISIS has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed at least 22 people, including children, and wounded nearly 50 others at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in England on Monday night. It’s the latest attack in a string of tragedies perpetrated by the Islamic extremist group, which has staged more than 140 attacks in 29 countries, killing at least 2,000 people, since it became active in 2014.

    In less than 24 hours, however, Britain’s local Muslim community had issued its own response, one that among Muslims, in particular, has become an increasingly popular way to express their support of communities affected by a group that’s obviously not representative of the values and religion they hold dear. A campaign entitled “Muslims United for Manchester” appeared on LaunchGood, a crowdfunding site that works like a blend of both Kickstarter and GoFundMe. The service allows anyone to raise money for both projects and cause work that empowers Muslims in need, and for the Muslim community to return the favor, promoting their own fundraising efforts to improve or support some broader social good.

    To that end, “Muslims United for Manchester” seeks to raise at least $65,000 in short-term aid for the arena-bombing victims and their families. The campaign is led by the British Muslim Heritage Center, with support from a coalition of national Muslim rights and culture organizations including Forum For Change, The Federation of Student Islamic Societies, the Islamic Society of Britain, European Academy of Quranic Studies, and the Altrincham Muslim Association.

    “We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action,” reads the fundraising description, which includes a positive faith-based message: “Our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “Have mercy to those on earth, and the One in the Heavens (God) will have mercy upon you.” And the Quran teaches to “Repel evil by that which is better” (41:34).” (As Fast Company has reported, distributing funds in situations like this is incredibly tricky, but the group will likely consult with in-country crisis experts for how best and on what timeline to distribute those funds.)

    “What we did with LaunchGood this morning was weld together a coalition of local actors, which is quite powerful.” [Photo: Lindsey Parnaby/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]
    Obviously, such campaigns only work if they go viral. But in this case, the pathway that this campaign travels in doing so may be equally important. As part of their mission statement, the creators are asking for like-minded Muslims, mosques, imams, and community leaders to “endorse and promote” the message, providing a front of support, the sort of outpouring that makes it clear just how much ISIS’s views are universally rejected.

    “What we did with LaunchGood this morning was weld together a coalition of local actors, which is quite powerful,” says Muddassar Ahmed, who heads a UK-based public relations firm that works closely with the United Nations and U.S. State Department, and serves as a UK governmental advisor on Muslim communities. To do so, Ahmed connected many of those groups directly with LaunchGood, which helped shape the message.

    After all, he set up a similar campaign, “Muslims United For London,” in March, after an ISIS-inspired driver intentionally plowed through a crowd of people on the Westminster Bridge, killing at least four people and wounding more than 40, including the fatal stabbing of a police officer at the Houses of Parliament. During the attack, Ahmed was barricaded in one of the government buildings. The campaign raised roughly $38,000 from 1,200 supporters, although the service itself has had many larger successes. “I think their ability to [reach across] Muslim communities is a unique value add, particularly when it’s Muslim organizations that are involved doing the work,” Ahmed says.

    LaunchGood was cofounded in Detroit in 2011 by Chris Blauvelt, Omar Hamid, and Amany Killawi-Began, three Muslim entrepreneurs who groomed the company through a local incubator program called Bizdom. The site officially launched in October 2013, and now has an all-Muslim team of roughly 20 people in five countries.

    While numerous campaigns work to directly support everything from scholarship funds to rebuilding mosques to paying for bone-marrow donations, the group has sadly grown exponentially over the last three and a half years as its projects supporting victims of mass violence have gone viral. That includes “Rebuild with Love” which focused on rebuilding black churches and supporting arson victims after a rash of fires in June 2015, about this same time as a deadly church shooting in Charleston, and “Muslims United for San Bernardino” in response to another mass shooting in California, which because of the shooters’ proclaimed support of ISIS, took on the much the same tone as the current response to the arena attack. Those campaigns engaged thousands, raising $100,000 and $250,000, respectively.

    So far, the company, which takes 5% of every transaction, has raised $19 million for more than 1,800 campaigns in 83 countries and has more than 100,000 donors. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to GoFundMe’s multiple billions raised by contributors in the double-digit millions but the question for all crowdfunding platforms is whether their donors will continue to give repeatedly.

    By focusing on the cultural connection, the group has established a target audience of donors that continues to show up, one of the more massive challenges such services face. In February, the U.S-based campaign like “Muslims Unite to Repair Jewish Cemetery” raised over $150,00 from nearly 5,000 donors, drawing supportive tweets from Ellen Degeneres and J.K. Rowling.

    An annual 30-day giving club called the Ramadan Challenge, which started in 2015 and launches again on May 27, has enough pre-registrations that it should draw 5,000 donors. That would be more than a two-fold increase from last year, when the group raised over $1 million for various causes, including $100,000 for the victims of Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.

    LaunchGood CEO Chris Blauvelt says that part of the reason for the group’s success is that it’s sharing platform development and engagement lessons with a similar company, Patronicity, which he heads and cofounded. That service helps community groups and nonprofits launch crowd granting campaigns for civic projects that, as they get funded by the locals who support them, can trigger a match from state economic development agencies, which will clear away red tape for fast progress.

    In both cases, the idea is that as much as the money being doled out helps fund things, it’s also a sign of political support. “When something like this happens in Manchester you feel so helpless, like, I can’t do anything, I’m thousands of miles away but I want my voice to be heard,” says Blauvelt.

    Crowdfunding changes that in a way. It can’t stop tragedies from happening, bring back loved ones, or make up for pain and suffering, but, when done thoughtfully, may at least provide those affected with a strong signal of sympathy and support. “This is led by the Muslim community in the UK,” he adds. “They are British too. They’re also from Manchester. They’re also victims of this terrorism. Our faith doesn’t tolerate this kind of ideology, and this approach, and this belief. Crowdfunding just makes it so easy to take action.”