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Articles on this Page
- 04/21/17--00:15: _Mindy Kaling Goes N...
- 04/21/17--01:00: _The Surprising Ways...
- 04/21/17--01:50: _“Free Fire...
- 04/21/17--02:00: _How I Survived Near...
- 04/21/17--02:00: _When It Comes To Cl...
- 04/21/17--02:00: _Airbnb Is Quietly T...
- 04/21/17--03:00: _Is Your Hiring Proc...
- 04/21/17--04:00: _From Googlers’...
- 04/21/17--04:21: _That Virtual Gorill...
- 04/21/17--04:40: _The New York Times ...
- 04/21/17--05:00: _Could Universal Env...
- 04/21/17--05:00: _How Trying To Be Li...
- 04/21/17--06:00: _This App Shows You ...
- 04/21/17--06:30: _How In-Home Package...
- 04/21/17--06:40: _This Climate Change...
- 04/21/17--07:17: _Samsung’s New...
- 04/21/17--10:00: _How to Prevent R...
- 04/21/17--22:00: _How The Most Produc...
- 04/22/17--22:00: _How I Knew When Say...
- 04/23/17--05:00: _We Need To Figure T...
- 04/21/17--01:50: “Free Fire” Director Ben Wheatley On How You Make Every Bullet Count
- 04/21/17--02:00: How I Survived Nearly A Decade Of Underemployment
- Wrote, edited and researched feature articles
- Created health and wellness editorial content for XYZ.com, which increased site traffic by 35%
- 04/21/17--02:00: Airbnb Is Quietly Testing Flexible Payment Options For Guests
- Prepare candidates with a full interview schedule in advance, and give them any materials that will help them better understand the role, team, and company (no, it isn’t “doing their homework for them”).
- Make sure everyone who’s going to interview the candidate draws up interview questions in advance and compares notes so the candidate doesn’t have to repeat themselves.
- Have each interviewer save 10–15 minutes for the candidate to ask questions about the role and team, not the cursory two- to three–minute wrap-up that’s usually tacked onto the end.
- Respect the candidate’s time and make sure your interview process stays on schedule.
- 04/21/17--04:40: The New York Times Shows Just How Hard It Is To Find The Truth
- 04/21/17--05:00: Could Universal Environmental Education Spur A Green Revolution?
- 04/21/17--05:00: How Trying To Be Likable Nearly Killed My Career
- When I feel nervous, I determine my objective. It can’t be an emotional or fuzzy objective like “I want people to like me.” It’s a concrete, verifiable thing like “learn more about organization X” or “book a speaking engagement.”
- Choose my next actions.“I’m going to show up on the early side to this networking event, introduce myself to the host, and ask to be introduced to members of the organization,” or “I’m going to call the bar association and find out who’s the decision-maker in booking speakers.”
- Focus on the other person. The human CPU is built to monotask, which means that we can either focus on our internal chatter (“what are people thinking about me? Am I making a fool of myself?”) or we can focus on the reality around us. By making the effort to really listen to my conversation partners, I do not have the bandwidth for the anxiety-producing internal chatter, and I have the added benefit of being able to participate fully in the conversation.
- 04/21/17--06:00: This App Shows You What Life Will Be Like When The World’s Ice Melts
- 04/21/17--06:30: How In-Home Package Delivery Could Save E-Commerce
- 04/21/17--06:40: This Climate Change Doc Is A Wake-Up Call For Trump’s Administration
- 04/21/17--10:00: How to Prevent “Move Fast and Break Things” From Breaking You
- 04/21/17--22:00: How The Most Productive CEOs Keep Email In Check
- 04/22/17--22:00: How I Knew When Saying “Yes” Was Hurting My Productivity (And Worse)
- A super emphatic, fist-pumping, “Hell yeah!” where you’re just shaking with excitement to do it—in which case you do it; or,
- Literally anything else at all—in which case you don’t.
- 04/23/17--05:00: We Need To Figure Things Out For Ourselves
I’m sure there were more than a few people–particularly those in advertising–who saw McDonald’s new campaign with Mindy Kaling this week and immediately held their noses. The gall! The presumption! The wasted opportunity to clearly cash in on a quirky, if altogether pretty decent celebrity endorsement! But beyond the data and insight behind the spot–outlined pretty clearly in the New York Times–it also assumes that smart, savvy people will understand and enjoy it. You know who likes to think they’re thought of as smart and savvy? Everybody. And for those who didn’t know the ol’ Coke thing before now, it’s new water cooler fodder to soak up some of that awkward silence between coworkers when you’re waiting for your report to print at the office copier. Win-win. Onward!
McDonald’s “That Place”
What: A new campaign starring Mindy Kaling that aims to tap into the power of word of mouth by not mentioning the brand at all.
Who: McDonald’s, We Are Unlimited
Why We Care: Last week’s sly Google Home trick from Burger King was cool, but this is taking things to a new level of trying to game the ol’ search giant. This campaign doesn’t even appear on McD’s social feeds or YouTube page. It’s cheeky, but also rooted in the insight that most young people are on their phones while watching TV, a real question around a quirk of quality between Coke and McDonald’s, and a real fan of the brand in Kaling.
Nike “Giannis Come Out Of Nowhere”
What: A new Nike spot for its Come Out of Nowhere campaign that tells the unexpected story of Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Why We Care: Okay, look, I’m a Toronto Raptors fan. Grew up a Celtics fan, but once my hometown got a team of its own in 1996, I went deep for the purple. And here we are in the NBA Playoffs, with the Raps in a tight series with the Bucks– battle of the Basketball Hinterlands! Dinos vs. Deer!–and the Greek Freak is tearing the dinos apart. Still, this is a great story, told in a quick, engaging way that makes even me want to read more.
IBM Watson “The Voice of Art”
What: IBM’s Watson becomes an art museum guide in Brazil.
Who: IBM, Ogilvy Brazil
Why We Care: The brand created an interactive guide that lets people have conversations with the artwork in the Pinacoteca de São Paulo Museum. A Watson-powered program built with data from books, newspapers, magazines, biographies, interviews, and the internet, replaced the traditional audio guides, and Watson’s AI capabilities were utilized to answer spontaneous questions about the museum’s collection. A pure example of innovation as marketing tool.
What: A unique–and totally legal–hack of stock photo site Shutterstock to change the perception of what a “beautiful woman” looks like to advertisers by submitting photos tagged with the terms that didn’t involve a bikini.
Who: Dove, Mindshare Denmark
Why We Care: The brand and agency teamed with leading ad photographers to take and upload shots of women in non-stereotypical settings–car mechanic, rugby player, academic–tagged to alter stock photo sites’ algorithms to force them to offer a more a realistic picture of women in today’s society. One cool effort, and a reminder we still have a long way to go, no matter what ol’ Mr. Hardee says.
MACMA “Everybody Loves Boobs”
What: A new nipple-tingling singalong PSA from the folks who brought us #manboobs4boobs last year.
Who: MACMA, David Buenos Aires
Why We Care: Last year, the Breast Cancer Help Movement (MACMA) launched an award-winning PSA campaign around breast cancer awareness that dodged social media platforms’ algorithmic censorship of nipples by performing breast exams on dudes. While it’s no #manboobs4boobs, these melodic mammaries–no doubt inspired by the 2004 video for Death From Above 1979’s “Sexy Results”–still get the point across.
If there’s ever a time in our lives when everything we do will be scrutinized, it’s when we’re at a job interview.
With that in mind, many of us spend hours preparing what we’re going to say to wow the hiring manager. And while this part of the pre-interview process is extremely important (just make sure that you’re preparing the right way), you also want to make sure that you don’t neglect the nonspeaking part of the interview. After all, a bad first impression is extremely difficult to undo.
Here are some things that can ruin your chances at a job interview, even before you open your mouth:
Sweaty palms, attempting a fist-bump, or trying the “shake and hug” on the hiring manager can all create unfavorable first impressions. According to a 2016 Harris Poll conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder, 22% of responders listed weak handshakes as the biggest body language deal-breaker. On the other hand, 9% listed “having a handshake that was too strong” as the biggest physical gesture mistake they saw.
A good handshake needs to be strong, but not so much that you almost crush the other person’s hand. And don’t hold the handshake for too long, as that would just be awkward.
Not Making Eye Contact
The same CareerBuilder survey also saw 67% of responders listing lack of eye contact as one of the main factors that ruined an interviewee’s chances. Crystal Barnett, senior human resources specialist at HR services provider Insperity, previously told Fast Company that a failure to look someone in the eye could be interpreted as a lack of confidence.
In the case of group interviews, Barnett advised candidates to “initially maintain eye contact with the person who asked the question.
“In the course of responding, the candidate should also look at other interviewers to read their nonverbal cues and keep them engaged,” Barnett suggested.
Have you ever been to an interview where the hiring manager asks for a copy of your resume and you have to embarrassingly say you don’t have it? It’s true that we live in a digital world, and your interviewer could probably easily pull it up on their phones or walk to their desk and hit “print.” But remember, at a job interview, it’s on you to make the case of why you’re the best for this job.
As Fast Companypreviously reported, bringing hard copies of your resume, portfolio, and copies of references can “show that you’re prepared to move forward with the job should an offer be forthcoming.”
Wearing Inappropriate Clothing
When you’re in a job interview, you want to make sure that you’re presenting the best version of yourself. That said, what you’re wearing should be reflective of the company culture. So while it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed, you probably wouldn’t want to show up in a three-piece tailored suit if most of the office wears jeans and T-shirts. That may signal that you’re not a culture fit.
So pay attention to your industry, the company’s website, and the type of role you’re being interviewed for to figure out what the best version of you should look like. Surveys have shown that colors can convey meaning. Black, for example, signals strength and authority—meaning that it’ll probably be a good choice if you’re going for a management role, while purple suggests uniqueness and creativity—a great pick for those seeking jobs in the creative industry.
The one color that you should probably avoid? Orange. In one survey, 25% of employers indicated that it’s “the color most likely to be associated with someone who is unprofessional.”
Being Last In Line To Interview
Unfortunately, being the last candidate on the hiring manager’s interview list can have a negative impact. It’s one of those subconscious biases that humans have, particularly if the candidates before you were all good candidates. You might be as qualified and talented, or in some cases, even better, but the hiring manager is more likely to think critically of you if you’re one of the last ones to be interviewed.
Being Too Late Or Too Early
Arriving after the time you are scheduled to meet is an established faux pas. Diane Domeyer, executive director of staffing agency The Creative Group, previously told Fast Company that “showing up even a few minutes late might signal to the hiring manager that you have little regard for his or her schedule.”
But being too early to your interview can send the wrong signals, too. Yes, showing up extremely early to steady your nerves may be useful to you, but it doesn’t always translate to an impressed hiring manager. They might have something already scheduled for that time slot and probably won’t appreciate the interruption. The sweet spot is 10 to 15 minutes early, no more, no less.
Your LinkedIn Photo, Twitter Account, Or Facebook Post
You should assume that when you submit a job application, prospective employers will conduct a background check on you, starting with your social media accounts.
And unfortunately, sometimes it’s not necessarily your unflattering spring break pictures from Cancún 10 years ago that tip the scale. It might be your heavily filtered LinkedIn photo, your explicitly political post, or your Twitter rants full of typos and grammatical mistakes. It might seem unfair, but it’s just part of the application process these days. Remember that when you make a post public on social media, it’s technically available for the whole world to see, including your prospective employers.
Free Fire, the crime comedy/thriller directed by British filmmaker Ben Wheatley and starring Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, and Sharlto Copley, was born out of a very particular document that Wheatley unearthed back in the ’90s. While researching an idea for a script he wanted to write, he discovered an FBI transcript documenting what occurred during a shootout in Miami, and the idea was hatched.
“The transcript was a blow-by-blow account of this incident, and it read like a short story,” Wheatley recalls. “It was really incredible–they were saying what weapons were used, where they were shot, how long it went on, what happened when each person fired and who they were firing at, and it went on for a long time. It was really horrible and painful and messy, not clean or clinical in the way that you see in Hollywood movies. And these are highly-trained people, but it’s still a tragic situation, in very close quarters. And I thought, ‘There’s something in this,’ and I couldn’t figure out what it was for a long time, and it just sat in the back of my head for a long time, ruminating.”
Wheatley went on to make a series of other films, raising his profile and establishing a unique style with the horror-comedy Sightseers, the period psychological horror A Field In England, and the J.G. Ballard-adapted dystopian sci-fi thriller High Rise before returning to the idea. As he did, it combined with another subject that Wheatley had been researching–the troubles in Northern Ireland, especially as they played out in the 1970’s. He latched onto a story about guerrilla fighters buying weapons in the U.S. to take back to Ireland to use in the struggle and realized that he had the potential for something special if he combined the two.
There is no shortage of crime thrillers, and many of the films in the genre use some variation of stock characters–gangsters or low-level criminals that you buy off the rack, in movies that range from transcendent and award-winning to trashy late-night fare. Wheatley didn’t want his characters to feel like their backstories were just lifted off of The Godfather, so he brought the idea of a closed-environment, real-time shootout together with his research about Northern Irish fighters, recognized the opportunity to pay homage to the ’70s crime films that inspired him, and created Free Fire.
“That appealed to me, as well, because it’s kind of what I’m doing,” the England-born filmmaker says. “I’m someone who’s coming over from a different culture, coming into this culture and making a film about it. And I wanted to go back to that ’70s feeling of when action was a bit more personal and on a bit smaller scale. It’s still effective emotionally, but the scale that we’ve got now is just everything blowing up all the time–and I just wasn’t feeling that as much as I used to be.”
Wheatley cites experiences he had watching two unlikely movies–the James Bond installment Skyfall and the first Austin Powers–as films that helped him realize what he was looking for in this kind of story. He gushes about the scene in Austin Powers in which, after a henchman is run over by a steamroller, the action breaks and we cut to the henchman’s family, who mourns his death.
“It’s really sad, and you go, ‘Oh my God, this is what’s happening in all of these movies all the time. I think about in Skyfall, when the helicopter goes to the mansion and James Bond blows the helicopter up–well, where’s that helicopter from? That’s coming from Glasgow. It’s a commercial hire from Glasgow. That’s the closest airport to that Skyfall mansion. That guy is just doing a job, and he’s just got burned to death. It’s not like an International School of Evil helicopter pilot. He’s just some guy,” Wheatley laughs. “And that’s a thing in our entertainment. ‘Are you not entertained?’ So many people are getting slaughtered in these things, and you want to know who they are, these poor slobs.”
That’s something that Wheatley explores in great detail in Free Fire. The cast helps–Armie Hammer gives a confident, poised, movie-star turn as the arms dealer Ord, while Brie Larson (who joined the project before she won an Academy Award for Room) offers a capable facilitator in the role of the intermediary, Justine. Murphy, Copley, Michael Smiley, Jack Reynor and Babou Ceesay, as the parties who are on each side of the transaction, ably fill their roles–but it’s Sam Riley and Enzo Cilenti, who play the hired muscle that the Irish fighters bring to the transaction, who set the film’s plot in motion.
In most other films, we wouldn’t spend much time with the dimwitted muscle at an arms deal gone bad, but Wheatley’s as fascinated by the characters in the background as he is in the stars in front, and the result is a film where every bullet matters. Free Fire is violent, and funny, and absurd–there’s an element of early Tarantino to it, where style and ’70s aesthetics combine with brutality and humor to create something unique–but each time a shot is fired in the film, we become acutely aware that it’s going to land somewhere, and that when it does, the world of the film we’re watching is going to change. A character who could run is going to stumble with a limp; a character who swaggered is going to clutch at a wound for the next forty minutes. Shooting in real-time makes all of those stakes high, and it’s something that Wheatley is keen to drive home for the audience.
“A lot of films have become one guy mowing down an army of faceless characters. You know you’re in trouble when your hero starts fighting guys in balaclavas or gas masks or something, because you know they’re just going to be recycling stuntmen again and again and again,” Wheatley says. “This is a weird film in that it’s a symmetrical war film, where you’ve got both sides, you know both sides, and there’s no black hats or white hats in this. And so you take it personally when they’re hurt–as you should do. You have empathy. You feel sad about it at the same time you’re enjoying the action. So what do you like about it? Why do you enjoy this stuff? And that’s a question for me, when I enjoy action movies, and when I’m thrilled by them because, at the same time, they’re kind of appalling.”
To that end, Free Fire avoids the other easy trap of action movies–not only do we get to know the characters that normally spend these movies in the background, but the characters played by actors we’ve seen star as heroes in bigger movies in the past aren’t untouchable here the way that they might be in their previous work. And Wheatley, who’s extremely interested in the consequences of the sort of violence we see in movies, recognizes the way that his film zigs where you expect it to zag–and what it means to be making an action movie where every bullet counts.
“The film really should have been Armie Hammer falling in love with Brie Larson as they went on all sorts of capers all over Massachusetts,” Wheatley laughs. “But it never escapes the first scene of the film, and the film is broken by characters who should really be extras. They shouldn’t have any emotional moments in this film. They’re the people who just get shot.”
I couldn’t figure out what to wear, my bed had turned into a pile of outfits that had all been vetoed. Still, I managed to get into the office on time that morning. But if I’d known that it was going to be my last day of steady full-time employment for nearly a decade, I would have saved myself the trouble and marched in there in my pajamas.
It was a few months before the official start of the recession in October 2007 and I was laid off from a startup company that had just fallen apart. It was also the kickoff of what would become my eight-year battle for a stable, full-time job. Over the next several years, my life became a blur of resume submissions, job interviews, temp positions, filing for unemployment extensions, crying on my bedroom floor, and borrowing money from my mother.
I accepted four full-time jobs during that period, but none of them lasted longer than eight months. Most of those businesses fell apart, thanks to the recession and/or bad management.
It felt a little like being marooned at an airport with a standby ticket. I knew I would be able to board a flight eventually, but there was no way of knowing how soon it would come along.
During my prolonged underemployment, I employed a number of tools that helped set me up for future success as well as maintain my sanity.
Professional Resume Help
Even though my funds were limited, about a year into my job hunt, I shelled out about $120 to have a specialist revamp my resume. The last professional who helped me piece together this all-important sales document was my college career counselor 10 years before, so it was time for a serious upgrade.
I tossed aside dated space wasters, like including my home address and an “objective” at the top of the resume. In their places, I inserted a summary of my skills:
Senior editor with experience in
writing, editing, and managing print and digital content.
developing content that engages readers and increases site traffic.
a broad array of subjects including food, health, fitness, and relationships.
There was also no need to include the exact months that I had been employed at my previous jobs—only putting the year was good enough.
But learning the importance of integrating statistics and job achievements into my resume was perhaps the most helpful tip I received. I swapped out run-of-the-mill bullet points, like:
The former example could apply to anyone, but the latter offers a more targeted look at what I achieved at my previous job.
Volunteering To Help Refocus
On the advice of a friend I began volunteering at a local homeless shelter. Not only did it get me out of the house and away from the job-hunting grind, but it also gave me an opportunity to stop focusing on my bad luck and work toward helping others who were living through much worse circumstances.
Writing To Offset Stress
Studies have shown that losing a job can lead to high levels of stress and poor health, but journaling can help offset those negative side effects. So I found myself spending a lot of time writing about the ups and downs of this seemingly never-ending period of my life. That journaling also inspired me to pursue freelance writing opportunities, which brought in a decent amount of pocket money.
My resume was not the only promotional tool that employers would be taking into consideration, so I invested some cash into a new domain name, a website redesign, and new business cards. I left cards with every single person I had a face-to-face interview with, and each one of them made a comment about how beautiful and professional the cards were. The cards may not have always led to a job offer, but at least they made it easier for potential employers to remember me.
The last interviewer who was impressed by my business cards was the person who offered me my current job. In 2015, I applied for a position from an online job board, and I’ve been with the company for almost two years—officially ending my laid-off-in-less-than-a-year streak. My eight-year job-hunting roller coaster turned out to be an elaborate exercise in patience, preparation, humility, financial resourcefulness, and hope. All bad things must come to an end, and when the tide finally came in, I was ready.
Dana Robinson is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Follow her @danarobinsays or get in touch at Dana-Robinson.com.
Capital & Main is an award-winning publication that reports from California on economic, political, and social issues.
Eric Noble works in the automobile industry, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t worry about climate change. When he and his two sons, 11 and 15 years old, travel south to surf on Baja’s Pacific Coast a few times a year, they can see the impact greenhouse gases are having on the earth. “We can see the sea level rising,” he says. “Little coastal roads we used to be able to drive on are inundated now. This is happening.” He understands that transportation is responsible for more than a quarter of the greenhouse gases that linger in our atmosphere, and light-duty vehicles—passenger cars, mostly—emit close to two-thirds of that pollution.
And so Noble, who is president of the Orange County, California-based automotive consulting firm CarLab, also worries whether California’s strict zero-emissions vehicle strategy, which forces automakers to market exhaust-free hydrogen-fueled and battery-powered vehicles in the state, is really the most consumer-friendly and egalitarian way to tackle the problem—not just in California and the nine states that have followed its lead on emissions standards, but throughout the nation.
The Trump administration, responding to auto industry complaints, has already signaled its intention to revisit an Obama-era rule calling for automakers to steeply raise the average fuel efficiency of their fleets—standards written to provide consistency with the California market. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has threatened to reexamine California’s independent authority to regulate tail pipe emissions as well (though it’s uncertain whether he can). But even if nothing changes at the national level, the greater problem is that zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs), just aren’t selling. “There is no demand,” Noble says. “There never has been. If federal subsidies are pulled or California loses its exemption, ZEV sales would go to next to nothing.”
A 2015 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Electric Power Research Institute found that electrification of the national vehicle fleet could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to 80 million to 100 million average passenger cars by 2050. But those numbers assume that more than half the miles drivers log will be powered by grid electricity, and that the grid gets the majority of its power from carbon-free sources. After all, electric cars that run on coal-fired electricity might be doing more harm than good.
California is moving rapidly toward low-carbon electricity generation. But even with a cleaner grid and solar charging stations in home garages, it’s not enough for automakers to sell a handful of clean cars to do-gooder early adopters. People have to buy them in sufficient numbers to make a difference. Even with substantial perks for drivers—a $7,500 federal tax credit for a pure electric vehicle, carpool lane privileges, the quiet power of an electric motor—manufacturers still lease their cars cheap, and at a loss.
Alleviating “Range Anxiety” But Losing Money
“There’s not a single automaker that makes money on an electric car,” Noble says. Tesla, with its rising stock shares and fame, turned a slim profit in the third quarter of 2016, but that’s likely due to the $139 million in ZEV credits it sold to less-green manufacturers. General Motors expects to lose money on every unit it sells of its new Chevrolet Bolt, the all-electric car pitched as an answer to “range anxiety,” because, if you’re careful not to drive it too hard, it can last for 238 miles on a charge.
The problem, says Noble, is not just that at current prices it costs less to fill a tank than to charge a long-range battery. It’s that current EV technology doesn’t fit the pattern of most drivers’ habits—what Noble calls a “duty cycle.” To benefit from a battery-powered electric vehicle, which at its low end has a range of 85 to 130 miles, “you have to own your own house, have an enclosed garage that’s securable, preferably with a 240-volt power outlet,” Noble says. “You’ve got to have a 20- to 50-mile commute, ideally with HOV lane access.” If you live in an apartment, park on the street or in a structure without an EV charging portal, “you’re out.”
Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles would suit a broader range of drivers, but “hydrogen is eons away. It’s not even worth talking about.” Even if there were enough fueling stations spread across the state to give drivers confidence, there wouldn’t be enough hydrogen: No one has quite figured out a hydrogen-production process that doesn’t squander more energy than it creates.
The way Noble sees it, California would do better to promote “milder” forms of low-emissions vehicles—hybrids, conventional engines with efficient transmissions—cars that people already want, and that serve their duty cycles. The state air board, however, is trending in the other direction. In the 2018 model year, incentives to market plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt, which run on both gas and electricity, will decline. Eventually, they’ll go away: By 2030, the state has ruled, only hydrogen fuel cell and pure battery-electric cars will earn automakers the credits they need to do business in the state.
Noble thinks that’s a mistake, and a strategy almost guaranteed to put California far behind on its mandated goal of reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 40% of 1990 levels by 2030. Worse, it won’t make a dent in the climate.
Setting The Standard For The Country
Noble’s grim assessment of California regulation runs counter to the state’s official narrative, which is that for the last half century or more, it has done more than any regulating authority in the world to clean up cars. In 1959 the state legislature ordered the Department of Public Health to establish standards for ordinary pollutants like carbon monoxide and particulates; in 2006, the state legislature passed the world’s first law to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, including tail pipe emissions. The auto industry and George W. Bush’s administration resisted mightily, but in 2009 California got the waiver it needed under the Clean Air Act to enact tough greenhouse gas emissions standards for mobile sources. Within the next three years, the California Air Resources Board developed its Advanced Clean Cars program, a set of mandates and strategies aimed at reducing the heat-trapping gases, along with the soot-and-smog forming contaminants, emitted by cars and trucks.
California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle program has been in effect since 1990, but the Advanced Clean Cars program ramped up its goals dramatically. It operates like a cap-and-trade program for cars: Automakers are required to earn credits toward their green-vehicle quotas every year by delivering super-low or zero-emission vehicles for sale. If they can’t do that, they can buy credits from manufacturers who have more than they need. Unsurprisingly, Tesla, which sells long-range battery-electric vehicles exclusively, has made more than $500 million dollars since 2009 selling credits to other manufacturers. Fiat Chrysler, known for its Jeeps and trucks, bought many of them.
“It’s what we call ‘technology-forcing’ regulation,” says David Gerard, a professor of economics at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, of the ZEV program. “They’re saying, ‘You can’t do it now [but] you’re going to figure out how to do it. It doesn’t matter whether you can make money doing it.’ They’re forcing you to make a commercially viable product out of something that is not commercially viable.” It’s not a new practice: In 1961, California required automakers to install “positive crankcase ventilation” valves on new cars to mix more fresh air into tail pipe emissions; a decade later, the EPA began requiring automakers to reduce emissions of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides from tail pipes, knowing that, in most cases, it could only be done with a certain technology known as the three-way catalytic converter.
Such regulations inevitably cost manufacturers money, and they may or may not create jobs; Gerard, who’s written extensively on this topic, thinks they probably don’t. (One researcher who concluded they did, Michael Porter, has seen his famous “Porter Hypothesis” both debunked and upheld at regular intervals.) But they do force technology to evolve. In the first five years of the Advanced Clean Cars program, the number of ZEV models in showrooms has grown from 3 in 2011 to 35 in 2016, according to a presentation by General Motors’ Britta Gross at a CARB symposium last September. Engineers have gone to work on making lighter, cheaper, more powerful batteries that charge in minutes, sometimes even without plugging in. Utilities and municipalities have begun to install charging stations on major roadways throughout the state.
Gross, GM’s director of advanced vehicle commercialization policy, argues that some of those technology advances would have happened anyway. “There was a real confluence of events that got us to where we are today,” she says, including the company’s experience with the EV1 in the 1990s, a car that originally ran on a plain lead-acid battery before it moved to the more robust nickel-metal hydride. Making the lithium battery automotive-capable was “an evolution of physical chemistry” that simply took time, she says. “It’s not like we could take a lithium battery from your laptop and put in a vehicle.”
And yet it’s no coincidence that the majority of those lithium-battery powered vehicles ride on the highways in California, and the nine states that have adopted California’s tail pipe emissions standards. “Some of this stuff would have happened [without the ZEV program], to be sure,” said Steve Flynn, the director of air resources division in one of those states, New York, at a March 24 CARB hearing. “But I don’t think any of us believe it would have happened in the time frame that we’re looking at now.”
And when you’re talking about arresting the global temperature rise, Flynn noted, “Time is important.”
Hybrids Are Hit And Miss
There’s no question that plug-in hybrids, and hybrids in general, are a clean-car technology that’s easy to love. By driving one, you save gas, gain some environmental cred, and never have to suffer from range anxiety. But CARB, in a January review of the Advanced Clean Cars program, found that while plug-in hybrids “can generate significant benefits over conventional vehicles,” in actual use, they don’t quite pack the climate-and-smog relieving punch of ZEVs. Drivers of the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt tend to fall back too often on the convenience of their gas tanks.
Besides, says David Gerard, the point of technology-forcing policy is not to reward companies and people for doing what they already do, but to guide people into habits and technologies that will better serve society’s goals. Car manufacturers were more heavily rewarded for marketing hybrids when hybrids were rare; as they achieve, in Eric Noble’s words, “ubiquity in the market,” they need fewer incentives to maintain their presence on the roads.
In a way, technology-forcing is like the space program: It may not yield immediately practical results, but over time, it pays off in ways no one previously imagined. When the EPA started forcing manufacturers to use computers to monitor cars’ emissions systems, for instance, automakers figured out they could use computers for all kinds of other functions, like climate control and collision avoidance. “The guys at EPA would tell you that they helped the industry,” Gerard says. “Automakers never thought about using computers before that.” By forcing a solution to noxious tail pipe emissions, the EPA helped trigger a market for newer luxury cars.
Nor is technology the only way to go about reducing tail pipe emissions; Gerard, like most economists, would much prefer to slap a carbon tax on gasoline, although that’s a steeper hill, politically. Local and state regulators could also go further in their ambitions, fixing not just the automobile society’s problem with air pollution but with parking and congestion and expensive fixes to freeways: They could direct their efforts toward designing a public transportation network that’s so appealing and clean and convenient that people willingly give up their cars.
The Looming Transportation Divide
According to a survey of experts conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis, autonomous vehicles could one day bring about a dream scenario for transportation, where inexpensive, emissions-free robot cars pick you up at home or work and deliver you, on demand, to a transit hub. They could also produce a nightmare, in which only the rich ride around in gas-powered driverless cars, leaving the rest of us to battle it out in increasingly congested roadways and inadequate public transit. The difference, says UC Davis professor Daniel Sperling, founder of the university’s Institute of Transportation Studies, will be whether local and state governments look far enough down the road to make the dream happen.
The advantage of autonomous vehicles, says Sperling, is that they’re not yet widely available. “So we have an option to guide that technology with policy.” The state can require that autonomous vehicles sold in the state be electric, for instance. It can encourage carmakers to design “passenger-centric” instead of “driver-centric” vehicles, making ride sharing easier with backseats just as comfortable as the ones in front.
GM has already begun to use the Bolt, driver attached, in a San Francisco ride-sharing program. Starting in 2018, the company will partner with the ride-sharing company Lyft to turn thousands of driverless Bolts loose in the city. “This isn’t just a retail market,” Gross says. “This is a commercial opportunity.”
Sperling, who is also a member of the air board, rejects the criticism that the ZEV program has been a failure because it hasn’t sold as many cars as projected. “Outside of a few places in China or Norway where they’ve dumped massive subsidies, the California policy is the most effective in the world,” he says. But that’s not necessarily because it’s aimed at putting a zero-emission vehicle in every garage, though he believes it will someday. It’s because it’s done what technology-forcing regulation is meant to do. “It’s been the most effective at motivating the auto industry at building these electric vehicles, and motivating local governments to think about how to do permitting for charging stations.” It has meant that, when Volkswagen got caught installing smog-test-defeat devices in its diesel cars last year, its punishment included paying out $800 million to build out electric-vehicle charging infrastructure around California.
All of that progress could support the dream scenario Sperling prophesies, but only if the right rules get written for our driverless, ride-sharing future. It won’t matter what decisions are made at a federal level. “There’s no big role for the national government in what we’re talking about here,” Sperling says. “A lot of it has to do with how we use vehicles, which is the prerogative of local and state governments.” Our transportation habits, it turns out, have more to do with what happens close to home than what happens at the EPA.
This weekend I was staring at my computer screen and trying to picture myself lying prone on a chaise, under a blue umbrella, on a sunny day somewhere along Italy’s Amalfi coast. I’m in the lucky position of planning my honeymoon—that wonderful rest period that comes at the end of what should be simple exercise in party planning, but is in effect an invitation for all your friends and family to reflect on your unsatisfactory aesthetics.
Plotting out my destination, I was nosing through Airbnb and salivating over a darling house embedded in the rocky hills of Conca dei Marini, complete with a cracked concrete stairway that leads directly down to the surrounding cerulean waters. The price was agreeable, but I was still nervous about putting down my cash on this insanely beautiful property for a weeklong stay in July. My fiance, too, had reservations. The property was new, completely unrented by anyone before us, and lacking reviews. What if the host is a hoverer or, conversely, not available enough? Also, what exactly did she mean when she said that thing about needing to traverse 360 stairs to get from the street to the house?
So what helped us make the decision to book this stunning property? It was a new little feature that Airbnb is quietly testing among a small group of users. The listing allowed me to put a deposit on the property for half the total cost of the apartment. I’ll pay the remaining balance two weeks before we arrive. That’s a departure from Airbnb’s typical policy—guests are normally required to pay the full amount up front. As is standard procedure, I still have 30 days before check-in to cancel and get a full refund. But not putting down the full amount up front felt like less of a commitment.
Airbnb confirmed the partial-payment feature is part of a small test the company is running. “We’re always looking for ways to make booking with and paying for Airbnb listings easier for guests, but have nothing to announce at this time,” company spokesman Tim Rathschmidt told me via email.
He didn’t divulge further details, but I suspect this is being piloted among people who have booked far enough in advance and above a certain minimum price to make the feature worthwhile. For instance, according to our honeymoon economic calculus, between our first payment and our next we’ll each receive four paychecks each, giving us at least the feeling of not being stretched thin.
Since its inception, Airbnb has looked for ways to make itself distinct from traditional hotels. Renting out homes instead of hotel rooms is the most obvious difference, but another way it’s done that is through price. Airbnb has typically been viewed as more affordable than hotel accommodations. And in broadening its footprint, it’s also had to invent payment systems for regions where paying with an international credit card online isn’t a viable option, like Cuba and Brazil.
Paying in increments for a trip is yet another way Airbnb is setting itself apart from conventional travel institutions. It could potentially allow budget travelers who want to book longer stays to financially recuperate between payments. But it may also entice those reserving larger fare homes—like those within its recently purchased Luxury Retreats. Putting a down payment on a more expensive housing arrangement could lower the barrier to such purchases.
There’s no telling whether this functionality will be rolled out more broadly, but it’s clear that one of the ways the company is thinking of luring people into more luxe living quarters, or perhaps more prolonged trips, lies in offering its users more monetary flexibility.
As most job candidates are probably sick of hearing by now, emotional intelligence is a coveted skill recruiters look for when they’re making hires. There’s tons of advice out there for candidates to adjust how they speak and answer questions on job interviews in order to dial up interpersonal skills. But a lot of the time, emotionally intelligent applicants don’t make it through to the interview stage at all. They get lost in hiring processes that are emotionally unintelligent to an alarming degree. What if the reason companies keep saying they’re having such a hard time finding emotional intelligence in the job market is because their hiring processes are devoid of humanity?
The Crushing Inhumanity Of Your Company’s Hiring Process
Think about the last time you looked for a job. What was that process like for you? How many interviews did you walk away from feeling valued, important, and relevant? What about feeling human?
Knowing he was up against a battery of automated “applicant tracking systems” (ATS), one industrious job seeker recently tried to fight fire with fire. As Robert Coombs told Fast Company last month, he cobbled together a bot to apply to thousands of job openings in one go, customizing his application materials to each listing. It was an epic failure. “It doesn’t matter if you submit two, three, or 10 times as many applications as the average candidate,” Coombs concluded, “they’re rarely going to work out in your favor, for factors beyond your (or your robot’s) control.” He added, “By trying to game that system, I inadvertently learned how powerful it really is.”
As Coombs found out the hard way, modern hiring systems are built for speed and efficiency. Most companies look at hiring as a numbers game, measuring success by outdated metrics like time-to-fill (which has been dragging out longer than ever over the past few years). They value speed and quantity over quality of hires, and often fall short of both. This reality doesn’t help the fact that searching for a job is as already an emotional, stressful experience. So if you want to hire emotionally intelligent people, your hiring process should reflect the same level of people skills you’re on the hunt for.
And to do that, the bar really isn’t even that high. Most candidates just want an idea of what to expect when they apply and to be treated with dignity throughout the experience. Here’s a quick checklist for building a more emotionally intelligent hiring process.
Set Expectations That Show Empathy
The term “black hole” isn’t just a well-earned epithet for where so many applicants’ resumes wind up in most companies’ hiring processes—it’s also a good metaphor for the cold, empty void in those processes where empathy should be. It’s not just an aggravation for candidates and no skin off your back; you have a problem, too, when applicants never hear back.
According to CareerBuilder’s 2016 North American Candidate Experience Report, 38% of survey applicants received no communication back after applying. Maybe your application review process takes eight weeks, or you conduct four phone screeners before an in-person interview. Fine—you’ve still got to let candidates know up front how long the process might take, and you’ve got to do it as soon as you make contact. This is way easier than actually accelerating the experience, by the way; whatever your hiring quirks are, candidates just want to know so their expectations are set.
An example of proactively setting expectations is NPR’s Candidate Experience Pledge. Navigate to the “applying” section of the organization’s career site, and you’ll find a relatively simple overview of its approach to hiring, including the resume-review process and timeline, how to check the status of your application, some notes on the interview and offer process, ways to contact the recruiting team, and general FAQs.
Job descriptions are another way to set expectations. According to Allegis Group’s 2016 Global Benchmark Study, 72% of hiring managers say they write clear job descriptions, while only 36% of applicants agree. Ditch the standard boilerplate job descriptions and practice “radical transparency,” an admittedly annoying term for a really important idea: Rather than another dry laundry list of job responsibilities and objectives, just be honest. What will the human experience of working in this role actually be like? Focus on the success measures, deliverables, and even the negatives of the job. That detail and candor may not lead to more candidates, but it will lead to more of the right candidates.
Train Your Interviewers
Many companies bring a cross-section of team members into an interview without training them to interview effectively. The result is a haphazard process filled with redundant questions that leave the candidate confused and the interview team without much to work with beyond the resume, even after all that conversation.
Successful interviewing is a skill built over time. Good interviewers know how to structure an interview in order to probe for behavioral qualities and eliminate their own unconscious biases as best as possible. Lack of budget shouldn’t deter you from investing in interview training. There are open-source resources from Facebook, Google, and others for free, like Lever’s exhaustive guide to developing diversity and inclusion, Salesforce’s 16 training modules dealing with different aspects of workplace bias, and this resource from Workable on training hiring managers to be more effective interviewers.
Interviewing Is A Two-Way Street
Many companies approach interviews as one-sided affairs. They run candidates through a gauntlet of questions, often on a tight schedule with minimal breaks, and only let the candidate ask questions at the very end. It’s debatable how well this lets companies vet candidates, but it rarely lets the candidate gauge how they might fit into the organization.
According to LinkedIn researchers, a whopping 83% of candidates say that a negative interview can make them change their mind about a position—no surprise there, right? On the other hand, 87% say a good interview experience can do the reverse. For companies, that might be good news in disguise; demonstrating emotional intelligence is just as powerful as failing to demonstrate it is destructive. All it really takes is putting yourself in the candidate’s shoes. Think of the best aspects of every interview you’ve personally been on, and it’s easy to see how the secret is simply in getting the little things right—like these:
None of these things are difficult to do; they just take the commitment to do them. Investing in building an emotionally intelligent interview process will help you build advocates among all your applicants who will walk away with a great impression of your company—even if without a job offer in hand.
This week we learned what questions recruiters at Amazon and Spotify wish candidates asked them more often, what you need to say in every type of salary negotiation, and a few lessons one Googler has picked up in her first few months as a manager.
These are the stories you loved in Leadership for the week of April 16:
1. Five Things I’ve Learned As A New Manager At Google
Nine months ago, Amber Yust became a manager for a team of privacy engineers at Google. Like anyone stepping into a new role, there were aspects of her job that she didn’t anticipate. This week she shared how she discovered, among other things, how to be more than just a “crap umbrella” for her direct reports.
2. The 7 Questions Recruiters At Companies Like Amazon And Spotify Wish You Would Ask
Job interviews are unpredictable. But often you can count on the hiring manager wrapping up with, “So do you have any questions for us?” What you say from this point on is just as important as the answers you give beforehand. Fast Company spoke to hiring managers at employers like Amazon and Spotify to find which questions they love being asked, and how posing them the right way can show off your skills, personality, and priorities.
3. Six Job Interview Questions You Should Have Asked (Much Earlier)
While questions at the end of your interview are important, you should also be thinking about weaving them throughout your interview. This way it feels more like a genuine conversation where you and the interviewer can both learn about each other. Plus, getting in your questions earlier can help you get more insightful answers out of the hiring manager. Here are six questions you might want to bring up sooner rather than later, and where to slide them in.
4. Exactly What To Say In These Four Common Salary Conversations
There are many awkward things in life, and conversations about salary are one of them. Striking the right tone, using the right medium, and nailing your delivery can prove decisive. Here’s a handy guide for what to say (or write) before any type of salary discussion—from how to make a savvy counteroffer to asking for a raise.
5. The Only Five Recruiter Emails Your Job Search Will Ever Need
It always feels good when recruiters are coming to you for job opportunities. But when you’re planning to stay put or aren’t sure if it’s the right opportunity, knowing how to respond can be tricky. To help, here are five templates you can use, whether you’re looking to stay in your current job, jump ship, or haven’t made your mind up either way just yet.
The world’s most famous cartoon band, Gorillaz, had previously infiltrated our reality by performing as holograms. Now they’re inviting us into their reality.
After a seven-year absence, the bouncy, eclectic outfit led by Damon Albarn returns with the new album, Humanz, and a real-life interactive experience. Since Sonos is releasing their new home audio speaker, Playbase, around the same time as the album, they partnered with Gorillaz to create something plucked right from the dreams of hardcore fans. The Spirit House is a chance to physically explore the cartoon architecture the band has established over the years in videos.
The first taste of the Spirit House arrived with the VR video for “Saturnz Barz,” released late last month. In it, viewers got a glimpse of a memorably grimy residence in which the band has a somewhat disturbing cosmic experience.
A couple weeks later, the band released a Gorillaz AR app that lets users explore the world even further, walking through the virtual space to see what’s between its nooks and crannies. This new installation, however, goes far beyond the AR realm, though, by actually putting fans inside a physical replica of the house–crawling with easter eggs for those who’ve been paying extra attention over the years.
The Spirit House installation is in Brooklyn this weekend, before moving to Berlin the following weekend, and then Amsterdam on May 6. Fans of the band currently in New York would do well not to miss out, however, at the very least for a preview of some new Gorillaz music. For an idea of what other delights await, have a look through the slides above.
Back in February, The New York Timesdebuted its first-ever Oscars ad, a simple spot–just black type on a white screen–that came down to one conclusion: The truth is hard, and it’s more important than ever. Today, the Times launched the next phase of its “Truth Is Hard” campaign by giving us a peek into the process behind some of the striking images we see in its pages and online every day.
Created by agency Droga5 and directed by Darren Aronofsky, the new ads take us on the photographic journey behind two stories, accompanied by commentary from Times photojournalists Tyler Hicks and Bryan Denton, from their time covering the refugee crisis in Greece and ISIS in Iraq, respectively.
The simple, powerful spots clearly illustrate how much effort, dedication and considered thought goes into the work these journalists do, despite the blithe criticism lobbed its way from as high as the White House.
For first time the failing @nytimes will take an ad (a bad one) to help save its failing reputation. Try reporting accurately & fairly!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 26, 2017
These ads, along with two more set to debut next week around feature stories from Chicago and Venezuela, are the advertising equivalent of that infamous Front Page scene, when David Carr takes the Vice guys down a peg, illustrating the extent to which these journalists go to get the stories the rest of us take for granted will be there every day. These journalists will never claim to be performance artists.
Droga5 executive creative director Tim Gordon says if the first part of the campaign was a kind of grand acknowledgment, almost empathizing with the world for the lack of places to turn for truth, this second phase is around the dedicated journalists. “We wanted to hone in on the proof in the pudding,” says Gordon. “To focus on showing that, not only do we recognize the truth is hard, but we’re incredibly dedicated to quality and independent journalism and going after the hardest stories.”
The agency’s original idea was, we always see the great shot that lands on the front page, but photographers snap thousands of frames, so what could we learn about the process by seeing the photos around that one image? And could they use those photos to tell a simple story of dedication? Gordon and his team then worked with the Times to figure out which stories might best fit the idea.
“We had the idea and some sense of the types of stories we might want to talk about, but we worked closely with them in that process,” says Gordon. “It was a bit like a Venn Diagram of, can it tell a story of mental or physical dedication? Is it an important story we feel needs coverage, whether it’s refugees, Venezuela, ISIS… and then some practical aspects like, are there enough photos to work with?”
All the photos in the ads are real shots from the hard drives of those journalists, even the camera shutter noise in each ad is that of the same camera model that photographer uses. Viewers might not be able to hear the difference between a Nikon and a Canon, but Gordon says that level of detail matters when the campaign hinges on the idea of finding truth. It’s also a small detail in ads that take a very simple approach to storytelling.
“We started out with some grander ideas of how we would treat it, but as you spend more time with them, you realize it’s the pictures and interview that matter most, and the most powerful way to present it is to strip it back and not get in the way,” says Gordon.
The biggest creative challenge behind the ads was not making them five minutes long. Or 10 minutes. Or 30 minutes. Let’s face it, if the Times wanted to it could create an entire video series around how its photographers and journalists build their biggest stories. “From a creative level, one of the biggest challenges was that the stories, and these journalists, are so robust, We had these long, amazing interviews with the journalists, and you leave these just saying, ‘Wow!’ It was about trying to find a simple, powerful thread we could find to focus on because we didn’t have all the time in the world. So to capture that was a real challenge, but an exciting one.”
Kentucky’s two senators, Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, are both “skeptical” that human behavior has caused climate change. But since 2011, when, following years of planning and collaboration by scientists and educators, the state approved its Environmental Literacy Plan, students there are taught the reverse. High schoolers, in chemistry class, learn how methane emissions alter the makeup of the Earth’s atmosphere and contribute to global warming. In a historically coal-producing state, they learn about the harmful effects of the industry; now, at public-school hosted career days, representatives from the “green economy”–from wind turbine technicians to energy-use experts–are required to be on site to offer advice.
Even though Kentucky’s voting population runs red, the state is among the most progressive in the country when it comes to environmental education. The United States, however, currently has no formalized environmental education policy (and under the current administration, is unlikely to implement one), but volunteers in 48 out of the 50 states have drafted their own plans. The results have been mixed. Earth Day Network (EDN)–the advocacy organization that emerged from the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970–surveyed the status of environmental education across the 50 states.“Some are decent, some are horrible,” EDN President Kathleen Rogers tells Fast Company. “Some have the right idea but haven’t made progress.”
The theme of Earth Day 2017 is environmental and climate literacy, and part of the goal of the theme, Rogers says, is to rectify the country’s uneven educational landscape, and develop an environmental education platform that can be applied across the world. The educational goals are part of EDN’s larger five-year strategy, launched in 2015 and timed to Earth Day’s 50th anniversary in 2020, to advocate for environmental awareness and action around the globe; other efforts include planting 7.8 billion trees (one for each projected person on the planet) and building the world’s largest environmental service project, Billion Acts of Green, that encourages citizens to take small steps toward reducing their environmental footprint, like eating less meat and discontinuing use of disposable plastic.
To launch the environmental literacy campaign this Earth Day, EDN has partnered with the March for Science, which will pass through Washington, D.C., as well as over 517 other cities that have registered as “satellite marches,” this April 22. At the center of the EDN campaign launch will be a series of teach-ins–a nod to the educational model that activated the first Earth Day–held on the National Mall; organizations from the National Audubon Society to the Princeton University Press have registered to host sessions in Washington that day. EDN and the March for Science have also developed a downloadable toolkit so any community can host a similar educational initiative.
But through its three-year campaign, EDN aims to see environmental literacy move out of the grassroots realm and into policy. EDN has developed an environmental curricula for year-round use in K-12 classrooms; it’s the organization’s goal to promote mandatory environmental education in schools both in the U.S. around the world and to have its strategy serve as the backbone of that effort. Along with the World Bank Group, EDN will conduct a study of the state of climate literacy in over 50 countries and will work with educational ministers, NGOs, and other stakeholders to understand how best to promote mandatory climate education in each country.
In the U.S., EDN will advocate for environmental literacy to be added to the Common Core State Standards, which so far have been adopted by 42 states and four territories. Taking a district-by-district approach, and focusing particularly on states like West Virginia, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Idaho, which reject current scientific standards, EDN will train formal and informal educators alike in using their online resources to teach students.
The current scattershot state of environmental education in the U.S., Rogers says, could jeopardize the country’s future as a global economic force. By failing to consistently educate the next generation on issues related to climate and the environment, “you won’t build an educated workforce; you won’t build an educated consumer base,” Rogers says. “We need to prepare our citizens for what we know will inevitably be the green industrial revolution—regardless of what Trump says, it’s coming.” Though education, Rogers says, is often treated like “the poor stepchild” of the environmental movement, overlooked in favor of advocating for other environmental and climate goals, that has to change. “We need a national policy that drives this kind of education not just for political reasons; we need a uniform process of educating our kids so they can grow up and get jobs,” she says.
Other countries around the world are already far ahead of the U.S.: EDN has been in talks with countries like Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, and Italy, all of which are moving forward with the idea of mandatory environmental education. “They want to have an educated consumer public and they want to have an educated workforce,” Rogers says.
Even though the anti-science and climate-change denying veil over the U.S.’s current administration appear like a roadblock in the environmental movement as a whole, Rogers believes it’s a temporary hiccup. “Irrespective of the political nature of anti-science thought, we will move ahead with this. It’s inevitable. It’s progress. The sun is free, the wind is free, it’s less toxic, and it makes economic sense,” Rogers says. She compares the current shift toward sustainable practices and development with the first industrial revolution when people clung to their horses and outhouses out of fear of change. The thing that bent their mind toward modernity and progress, Rogers says, was education. “You have to educate people to get them excited about changes,” she says. “We are going to see some retrenchment on the way toward implementing this educational policy, but that’s just the way it goes. It’s two steps forward, one step back, but it will happen.”
A long time ago, in a law firm far, far away, when I was a mid-level associate, I was assigned to work on a project with a senior associate.
He seemed like a nice person, and we got along fine. I felt comfortable enough to make suggestions that seemed above my station, such as a particular idea for settling the case and getting our client out of a jam. Senior Associate nodded his head.
Then, at our team meeting, he said, “so, I was just thinking…” then proceeded to tell the partners my idea—without crediting me.
The partners loved it.
I was less impressed; I was dumbfounded and offended. But I didn’t speak up. Not at the meeting, nor privately with Senior Associate.
Why? Because I wanted to be liked. By everybody. Including by Senior Associate, even though he turned out not to be a particularly nice person after all. I conducted myself exactly as I did before this incident not because I was afraid for my job, but because I wanted everybody to be my friend. I ignored the conflicts because then I could continue to believe everyone liked me.
Social Anxiety Defined How I Worked
But the moment didn’t pass so easily. It jarred me into noticing how I operated in the world, and my singular motivation in all interactions. When negotiating to buy a car, I wanted the car salesman to like me; when buying a house, I wanted to be seen as reasonable, accommodating—someone the sellers could befriend.
My attempts to seek friendships in all the wrong places were the result of overwhelming shyness and social anxiety. Growing up, I moved around constantly, attending 8 schools in 11 years (changing four cities, two countries, and two languages in the process). Being the new kid all the time didn’t affect my academic performance—I graduated high school two years ahead of schedule—but it did a number on my social confidence.
Until the episode of the stolen idea, however, I hadn’t considered all the different ways in which my social anxiety was hindering my professional life. Even though I understood that one cannot build a career on smarts and academics alone, I hadn’t understood the full ramifications of my fears.
Wanting to be liked, but being convinced that you’re socially inept, means giving up all opportunities to shine (what if I forget a word and look stupid? What if they think I’m a show-off?).
It also means being compliant with the bad behaviors of others so as not to create conflict (and thus be unlikeable). It means avoiding opportunities to build stronger ties with your colleagues and bosses, because you’re afraid that the more you speak, the more likely you are to screw up and make them not like you. It means convincing yourself that you’re bad at business development because you always feel off-balance in your relationships.
It means avoiding people in a futile preemptive effort not to get hurt. It means being unreliable, bailing on activities at the last moment when you just can’t power through and force yourself to go to an event, even with people you know.
It means wasting hours replaying past interactions in your head and trying to figure out what you could have done better, even if nothing actually was wrong. Those hours. They were hours that could have been spent doing productive work, or enjoying a hike.
Related:10 Habits Of Well-Liked Bosses
What Helped Me Reduce My Social Anxiety
Insidiously, social anxiety is not easily amenable to fact-based evidence. It didn’t matter that I had solid relationships, negotiated successfully with opposing counsel, and had a track record of making small talk with people I just met. My vision of myself was that I didn’t know how to do any of these things.
I wish I could write a listicle of 10 things guaranteed to lessen the burden of social anxiety, which afflicts as many as one in eight adults during their lifetime. But it’s not that simple; what works varies from person to person. Generally, cognitive behavioral therapy has shown very good results. So has meditation-based stress reduction.
For me, personally, the simplest and most effective method turned out to be a set of steps learned at improv, all designed to get me out of my head and into the reality around me. When I go into a potentially fraught social situation, I do the following:
How I Work Now: Free And Calmer
A week ago, I sent an email to a prominent individual in the legal industry asking for a short interview for an article I’m writing about expert witnesses. I haven’t heard back. A few years ago, this simple chain of events would have sent me into a tailspin–why isn’t he responding? What was wrong with my email? How can I fix this? Why doesn’t he like me?
Now, I work with the facts: I’m writing an article; he didn’t respond to my email; I need to find another source with answers to my questions.
This, to me, is what victory over social anxiety looks like.
When our persistent carbon output melts all the ice on Earth, the seas will rise over 230 feet and cover the whole Atlantic seaboard, and make islands out of the hills around San Francisco. The Caribbean will disappear.
This is daunting to contemplate, but it’s far off, and, from where we sit, it remains theoretical. But a new app, created by the New York-based artist Justin Guariglia, brings this eventuality firmly into the present day. Called After Ice, the app detects your location and allows you to visualize the effects of climate change through augmented reality by overlaying an image of yourself in your current environment with water-level projections.
When I open After Ice in New York and hold my phone up to my face, I see a gentle wave of water rolling somewhere right over my head. Occasionally, a fish swims past. The app tells me that at 79% of total melt, sea level will be at 208 feet above current levels in my neighborhood; at 100% melt, sea level is expected to rise as much as 263 feet. Even though scientists estimate that the 5 million cubic miles of ice on Earth will likely take 5,000 years to melt, it’s been happening, slowly, for years. The app takes the same approach to sea level rise predictions for the year 2080–when many young people will still be alive. Though the app works everywhere in the world, the last demonstration shows the Wall Street Bull in 2080, so even those whose locations would be above sea level in that year could get a sense of the effects of the projected 7-foot rise.
In 2015, Guariglia began joining NASA scientists on the polar survey flights conducted as part of Operation IceBridge, which images the region to better understand how it is affected by the global climate system. As a trans-disciplinary artist who frequently collaborates with scientists and philosophers to inform his work, Guariglia “went out there to be able to get access to this thing that I knew nothing about, which is the ice sheet,” he tells Fast Company. Through his work, Guariglia explores existential issues, and when looking at climate change, he ran up against the fact that “as humans, we are not biologically evolved to understand and compute climate change and sea level rise. We know how to feed ourselves and clothe ourselves, but this great ecological crisis is outside our scope of comprehension.”
With After Ice, Guariglia wanted to turn this vast, abstract existential threat into something that could be felt viscerally, in the here and now. “We’re so disconnected from this concept, but when you experience it in augmented reality through an app, or even just walk down to the waterfront and recognize that that water comes from ice melting in Greenland, it becomes real,” Guariglia says. “And when that’s felt, when something has that sort of impact on someone, they’re more likely to do something about it.”
After you scroll through all the simulations in the app, you reach a screen that reads “Take Action.” That page links through to a site that contains a poster that can be printed out and wheat-pasted on posts and walls to signify where water levels will rise to in 2080. On Earth Day, April 22, Guariglia will be mobilizing a crew of volunteers to travel through New York City, putting up the posters, which read: “Warning! Imminent Flood Zone.”
“Nobody registers what kind of effect sea level rise will have,” Guariglia says. “I discovered all of this by working with people at NASA, and I just thought: The science is so contained. It’s got to come out of the lab. As an artist right now, it’s so important to be politically and socially engaged, so the app is an extension of those two ideas.”
Would you allow UPS to drop off a package inside your home when you’re not there?
That question is at the heart of a three-month pilot program that smart lock maker August tried out last winter with 76 of its users in an attempt to see if the company could help jumpstart the e-commerce industry.
Sitting in a conference room in August’s San Francisco headquarters last month, CEO and founder Jason Johnson explained that lofty ambition: It turns out, he said, that one of the biggest barriers to people shopping online is that they worry about what happens if their package arrives when they’re not home. It could get stolen or rained on, they fear, or be sent back to the shipper if there are too many unanswered reminders. Maybe they’ll have to drive to a store to sign for it.
“That cognitive load causes people to think twice before ordering online,” Johnson argued. “People have to go through machinations to facilitate [their package delivery]. These issues are the number one thing restricting e-commerce shopping.”
But what if consumers didn’t worry about the fate of their precious package? That would make buying online as easy as going to the store, Johnson said. That’s why numerous retailers and delivery service providers are thinking about ways to solve the problem.
And that’s what led to the August pilot program.
The company emailed a bunch of its customers and asked if they would participate in a test. They already know the benefits of their smart lock–which can auto-unlock when they approach, and which lets them give one-time, specific-time, or anytime access to anyone they like. But would they be willing to let delivery companies come inside to drop off those packages when they’re not at home if they had a camera and could watch the whole process, either live or later on?
A lot of people would be resistant to trying such a thing. There’s all kinds of potential problems. Theft. Pets escaping. Damage. Heck, what if the delivery guy saw a picture of your wife or daughter and decided to stalk her?
“It’s appropriate to use an analogy like Uber,” Johnson said, “where if I told you eight years ago that you’d have some 19-year-old in a Corolla pick you up, with no training, no skills, etc., and drive you to the airport. You’d say ‘No, thank you.’ I think there’s plenty of people who would say no way.”
Delivery companies and retailers would likely have their qualms as well, especially around their liability for any of those issues listed above, for example.
But August still thought it was worth finding out if in-home delivery was possible. So it gave 76 of their lock owners a Nestcam and a keypad that lets someone punch in a code that opens the lock and asked them to start allowing such deliveries. All August wanted in return was to get the videos of the deliveries and some feedback.
The guidelines were simple: During the three months of the pilot, participants were asked to place between 5 and 10 orders from the vendors of their choice, each time giving the delivery provider instructions for dropping off the package inside–in other words, give them a code for the August keypad, anything they needed to know about pets, and that was it. And then point the camera at their entryway.
Over the course of the experiment, participants got a total of 250 deliveries.
One of the keys to the trial was that August didn’t ask delivery companies to train anyone on how to handle in-home situations. It was important that those making the deliveries had to figure out what to do on their own–such as reading the instructions the customers had left for them.
Turns out, that wasn’t such a big ask. Many delivery companies have been dropping packages off this way–albeit without being enabled with technology like August’s–for years. Many locks have analog pin codes, and delivery companies often have access to the codes, or are even given keys to people’s homes, Johnson said.
August’s users were super happy with the results of the pilot, Johnson said. “The overwhelming response was ‘This is great,’” he said. “People were a little nervous, but overwhelmingly, they said, ‘This is how I want everything delivered to my house.”
Before the trial, an August survey found that participants had an extremely negative view of the idea of “unsecured” deliveries, a -42 Net Promoter Score, to be exact. Afterward, that score improved to +16. Further, 90% of the participants said they would continue to accept in-house deliveries from merchants–if it was available.
Kristin McGee, a teacher who lives in rural, coastal California, is on board.
Although she was initially adamant that she’d never let a delivery person in her empty house–“I was like, ‘Not happening,'” she said. “I don’t want to let some stranger into my house when I’m not there.”–she’s now a convert.
“I feel like I am one of those millennials who’s finding ways to get out of all her chores,” she said, sheepishly, adding that she now orders groceries to be delivered when she’s not home from two to three times a week. And the combination of the camera and the keypad is what won her over.
“My primary initial fear was that there would be someone in the home when I got home,” she said. “But with video, it kind of eliminated that fear. I would know that someone was gone before I even got home….Then I ended up loving it. It was super safe. I felt it was a secure system.”
What About The Vendors?
Getting customers on board is obviously a big step forward. But what about delivery companies and other vendors?
At the same time that August was running its pilot program with customers, it also had a separate trial going on with Sears Home Services, one of the largest appliance dealers and home service providers in the country. The idea was the same: Make it possible for Sears technicians to be able to easily get inside customers’ homes to make deliveries, service appliances, or even respond to emergency plumbing problems, all when no one is around.
Access to people’s homes is vital for the company’s business said Ryan Ciovacco, president of connected living for Sears Holdings. “We need to have someone there. More often than not, that’s causing someone to take a day off from work, or plan their [weekend] around it. We wanted to test how receptive people would be to allowing a technician in their home” when they’re not there.
Sears selected 20 homes and ran the experiment for two to three weeks. “It was a really successful pilot for us,” he said. “Every customer who participated said that they would pick Sears Home Services over a competitor because of this flexibility, the benefit of being able to give keyless entry to the home.”
Ciovacco said that customers are always going to have some concerns about something like deliveries when no one’s home, but added that he thinks those concerns can be allayed when the vendor is a trusted company or brand. Plus, he said, “it’s a tradeoff. They think the value outweighs that very, very rare chance that something bad could happen.”
For Sears, expanding from the pilot program and making such service calls and deliveries available nationwide isn’t something that can happen overnight. It would have to integrate access to August’s locks directly into its own apps and devices. “But once we figure that out,” Ciovacco said, “we’ll probably do something” larger.
Although August isn’t revealing who else it’s talking to besides Sears, Johnson said the company is now in active discussions with numerous retailers and delivery providers about how they could provide home delivery services when no one’s around. “It’s a question of working with those providers to make this something that’s commercialized, with training,” Johnson said. “We’ve already completed trials with some, and some are moving toward commercialization plans.
The trick will be to get people to the point where they take such things for granted, much as we all do now with things like taking rides with Uber or Lyft, or staying in people’s homes via Airbnb.
That day is coming. “I think so,” said Ciovacco. “There are always going to be some sorts of issue, and that’s going to happen across the board with every new service and technology, and I think we just have to all work together to remove as many of those [issues] as we can.”
McGee, who used to live in a city and regularly grappled with packages being stolen from outside her house, agreed.
“For big city life, I think it’s a must,” McGee said. “I think it changes everything for deliveries.”
When the topic of climate change comes up, people are either armed with the latest damning statistics, ready to deny its existence, or caught somewhere in the middle between acknowledging the need for action and mustering up the energy to do anything themselves.
Co-directors Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent are gunning for that last category with their documentary Tomorrow.
After gaining significant traction upon its release in France two years ago, selling more than one million movie tickets and winning the 2016 César Award for best documentary, Tomorrow has come stateside with a new approach for addressing climate change and the apathy that comes with it. Instead of relying on the scare tactics of natural disasters, Tomorrow relentlessly digs past the surface of climate change into agriculture, energy, the economy, democracy, and education, threading it all together to show that because of the complexities of the problems at hand, there are no immediate solutions, just a guiding point toward reevaluating decisions.
“I’ve been an activist for the last 10 years and I co-founded an ecological movement in 2006. For years I had the feeling that we couldn’t really mobilize people in the right way because we were asking them to quit many things, like to quit eating meat, quit taking baths, and so on. It was not really efficient to make them move and act,” Dion says. “I wanted to show that everything is connected and that we cannot address, for example, the problem of agriculture without thinking about energy. I wanted to explore these connections and also as a way to build the story because I didn’t want the movie to be a catalog of solutions one after another—I wanted the movie to be really pedagogical.”
Dion credits two things that set Tomorrow into motion: a terrifying study in the journal Nature that dated the extinction of mankind to occur before the end of the 21st century, and environmentalist George Marshall’s book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate.
“He’s explaining that when we hear terrible news and something bigger than us, the brain is just trying to defend itself by refusing the news and diving into denial,” Dion says. “I had the feeling that we needed some new vision for the future something that could emphasize the creativity and the energy of people. And if we could put it together in a new story for the future, maybe that would be more efficient than only showing the catastrophes.”
Dion and his crew traveled across the world to spotlight ideas like urban farming, permaculture, and community currency that, if applied on a broader scale, could provide the world with a better framework for actual progress. Tomorrow debuting in the U.S. feels prescient given the Trump Administration’s seemingly steadfast desire to torpedo the Environmental Protection Agency and Obama’s legacy in fighting climate change. Much like the impact Davis Guggenheim and Al Gore’s 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth had in raising awareness of the dire state of global warming, Dion is aiming for Tomorrow to spark a movement, starting at the absolute ground level.
“We need to start something where we live, in our neighborhood, in our day-to-day lives, in our jobs, just to try to be able to take back some power in our world and on our destiny,” Dion says. “That’s the reason why I think we need a a big vision, like something that we can follow and try to figure out how we can implement something here and now.”
Learn more about Tomorrow and its initiatives here.
Part of the reason for Samsung’s Note 7 exploding battery crisis was that the company was in a big hurry to get the phone to market before Apple could announce its new iPhone 7. The batteries had design flaws, and quality assurance was lacking in their manufacture.
Samsung’s first post-Note 7 phone—the S8/S8+—goes on sale today, and while we know of no quality assurance problems, some aspects of the device—particularly the implementation of the fingerprint reader and the Bixby personal assistant—suggest that Samsung is still rushing new devices to market before they’re fully baked.
Those considering buying an S8 in the next few days should be aware of this, even if doesn’t end up being a deal-breaker. The S8 is arguably the strongest smartphone in the world right now; what it gets right it gets very right, and lots of people will like it. That makes it all the more confounding that Samsung would release the device with such glaring shortcomings.
Fingering The Culprit
One of the things Samsung needed to do in its new phone to stay ahead of Apple was to put a bigger and brighter display on the S8. It did, and the critics love it. But there’s a design trade-off there. To remove the bottom bezel, the “chin” on the front of the phone and replace it with screen area, Samsung needed to find a new place for the fingerprint scanner, one of three biometric methods of logging onto the phone and almost certainly the most popular.
Samsung placed it awkwardly on the top back of the phone near the camera. This raises the risk that the user will smudge the camera. Worse, as numerous reviewers said, it’s difficult to locate the button with one’s finger while looking at the front of the phone, and difficult to rest one’s finger on the sensor just right to get proper read.
This shortcoming shouldn’t be underplayed—it’s arguably the hardware feature we use most on our smartphones. And it’s not something that can be fixed with a software upgrade; it’s there for the life of the phone. Samsung told The Verge that it could not place the scanner further down on the bottom of the phone because of the placement of the battery inside.
To make matters worse, the other two biometric buttons for unlocking the phone don’t work that well either. The iris scanning in the Note 7 took a lot of eye positioning and eye widening for a successful read, and by the sound of the reviews the S8’s iris scanner is largely the same. There’s also a new facial recognition unlock method, which Samsung quickly admitted is far from secure.
Samsung was noticeably late to add its own smart voice assistant to its phones, after the failure of its not-very-useful S-voice assistant feature. Then came news of a new smart voice assistant called Bixby, which developed from Samsung’s acquisition of Viv, the AI startup founded by some of the same people who built Siri. Samsung expects Bixby to play a role in many functions and apps in the phone. Mobile CTO Injong Rhee told Mashable that the Bixby voice assistant is nothing short of an “interface revolution.”
Samsung even built a special hardware button into the S8 just to activate the Bixby voice assistant. But, for the most part, Bixby won’t be present in the phones that went on sale today. Pressing down on the special button on the left side of the phone won’t call up the voice assistant. Samsung says that function will be activated through a software update coming later in the spring. One function that’s already in the phone is Bixby Vision, which can scan text and analyze images. However, my colleague Harry McCracken notes that once he began using the S8’s camera the phone begged him over and over to use Bixby Vision and there was no obvious way to make it stop.
Having a dedicated personal assistant button on the phone is probably a very good idea—better than putting it on the Home button, which often causes the personal assistant to be accidentally activated. But if Bixby is so important to the way Samsung phones will be used, why release it in such a half-baked form? As others have pointed out, users’ first impression of Bixby will likely influence how much they use it in the future.
It’s hard to imagine Apple shipping a phone with a dead button. (Although Apple did release the dual-camera iPhone 7 Plus before Portrait Mode was ready.)
Samsung already had delayed the launch of the new S8 by a couple of months so that it had extra time to make sure the battery was safe from explosions. If it was willing to do that, what would have been the harm in delaying the launch for another few months to find a better location for the fingerprint reader, and to get Bixby ready for prime time?
Samsung has said it hopes to sell 60 million of the S8 and S8+ phones this year. It already has a million preorders, reports say.
My advice for anyone who is on the fence is to wait at least until the Bixby update comes out to buy an S8. Or better yet, wait until this fall when you’ll be able to compare the S8 and Apple’s new phones side by side.
While the examples given above suggest Samsung may have shipped some hardware and software features that weren’t quite done, I’m not suggesting Samsung might have repeated the same quality assurance mistakes that led to the Note 7 battery explosions. Given that the Note 7 crisis presented an existential threat to Samsung’s consumer devices business full stop, it simply can’t happen again, and the company surely went above and beyond to make sure it doesn’t.
More than most people, Jonathan Taplin has seen firsthand how the rise of digital behemoths like Google and Facebook has irrevocably transformed the life of artists and musicians.
A former tour manager for Bob Dylan and the Band and a movie producer for Martin Scorsese, Taplin has become an expert in digital media, and has observed how the original decentralized vision of the internet in the 1990s has morphed into an industry controlled by monopolistic companies that wield inordinate influence over the future of music, film, television, book publishing, and journalism. This concentration of power has decimated those industries—newspaper and music revenues have plummeted 70% since 2001, while Google’s YouTube pays for only 11% of the total streaming-audio revenues received by artists though it controls 60% of the streaming-audio business, according to Taplin.
Taplin, who now spends his time focused on the challenges that new methods of distribution present to creative types, sits on California’s Broadband Task Force and is the director emeritus of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab. He just came out with a new book, Move Fast and Break Things whose subtitle sums up his thesis with a punch to the gut of Silicon Valley’s self-righteous posture: “How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture And Undermined Democracy.”
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Fast Company: Reading your bio, I was struck by the fact that you co-produced one of my favorite movies, Wim Wenders’s Until The End of the World. And now I need to see it again, because I totally forget how everyone carries around these handheld screens and can’t help getting lost in watching old videos from their past. That movie came out over 25 years ago, and it was so prescient.
Jonathan Taplin: We’re trying to get the studio to release the full five-hour version—Wim and I are trying to get the long version of it released. They’re open to it. We have to have a negotiation.
FC: What prompted you to write this book?
JT: Ironically, it was at a Fast Company conference back in 2012, where I was debating Alexis Ohanian of Reddit about artists’ rights. And he was saying that artists don’t have the right to make money from recorded music but to make money as live performers. And he was so proud of how he gets all this music for free. So I told him the story of Levon Helms, who was literally fighting for his life while this conference was going on. He got throat cancer. When Napster arrived, all those royalties took a hit and that very point he got throat cancer. And he didn’t even have enough money to pay for health insurance. Some friends got together and organized what became known as the Midnight Rambles, and put on shows in his barn and people would pay some money, and that sustained him for a while. And then he died. After he died, there was a benefit for his wife. And it seemed so unfair.
And here you have [Alexis] saying that artist should make money as they did in the 18th century. Meanwhile, we have 5 billion smartphones in the world, and he’s telling me we can’t make money off of that? It’s not like there isn’t money available.
And I looked at it and saw that what happened was that the big monopoly platforms were getting all the money. On the Amazon side, they’re what’s known as a monoposony [a market situation in which there is only one buyer], as the middle man forcing lower prices. Essentially, the artists got screwed. With the advent of YouTube and other streaming services, revenue for musicians has fallen 70%.
FC: I was reading somewhere that Daft Punk only got something like $13,000 from Spotify for “Get Lucky,” which was streamed literally tens of millions of times.
JT: Yeah, that’s right. If you had a song that had a million downloads on iTunes, you would get $900,000. On YouTube, you’d get $900.
It just became clear to me that these three companies, Google, Facebook, Amazon, have such a dominant role—Amazon has 75% of the book business—that in any normal society these would be considered monopolies and we would want to do something about it.
But that’s not how they feel. Peter Thiel says that competition is for losers. It came out of a incredibly libertarian point of view that Thiel, Bezos, and Larry Page all embraced, that this digital transformation only works if there’s no regulation and no taxes. And that attitude has had a huge impact. Jeff Bezos put 2,800 bookstores out of business … It’s made it very hard to make a living if you’re creating content. Authors are getting less money and book publishers have been devastated. In journalism, over half the journalists are out of the business.
FC: How is it impacting film and TV?
JT: The same piracy problems that existed in the music business are going to infect the film and TV business. HBO has a huge piracy problem: Half the viewers of Game of Thrones are not paying for it. The other problem? The whole fake news situation could not exist without Facebook and a Google AdSense account. Those kids in Macedonia making $6,000 a week, they had two tools—a Facebook page and a Google AdSense account. And that was enough to enable them to create this whole ecology. Now they’re starting to face pushback from advertisers over fake news and other content. Proctor & Gamble is just not interested in having ads next to ISIS videos.
I’m going to Nashville tomorrow to talk to a reporter at the big local paper and he says, “Only in the last four years am I being judged by how many clicks and likes I get. This is all new to me, and I don’t like it. And I have to write stuff that is essentially clickbait.” And it’s happening all over. News organizations get more than 50% of their traffic from Facebook.
FC: I strongly feel that the obsession with clickbait has helped create this distrust in the media. When even the Washington Post is doing clicky and hyberbolic headlines, people get turned off. They end up clicking but then they’re annoyed. They don’t want to be told what to think or what to feel—they just want the straight news.
JT: That’s why the second part of the book’s title is “undermining democracy.” One way is exactly what you talked about. If nobody believes anything, then there’s no institution, whether the New York Times or Washington Post or Breitbart, that anyone has any trust in—and people throw them all in the same bag.
And the second problem is that when you have so much monopoly power, you also have political power. The FTC was going to sue Google because it was killing services like Yelp, because when you search for something it would push you to the Google version of Yelp. And then the political connections put an end to that. People would make the argument that Eric Schmidt was essentially Obama’s chief of staff. The CTO of the White House was from Google. The regulatory capture was stunning and the politicians overruled the [FTC] staff. That’s political power.
And the third thing, as [former Obama budget director Peter] Orszag and [former chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers Jason] Furman write, these big companies have also helped drive more economic inequality. If the top five corporations in the country are all tech companies, and the people who run them own gigantic shares of stock, it’s going to lead to economic inequality.
FC: Isn’t that always the case? That the CEOs of the biggest corporations, whether it’s GM or Google, will have lots of power.
JT: It’s different now. Take Rex Tillerson, when he ran ExxonMobil. If he owned 1% of the company, I would be shocked. The CEO of GE owns maybe 1% of the stock. But Mark Zuckerberg owns a huge chunk of Facebook, Jeff Bezos owns a giant share of Amazon.
FC: It’s also so different because the classic giants employed so many more people. Walmart has 2.2 million employees, GM has a million, while Apple and Google have much smaller workforces. That increases income inequality because they’re worth billions, but they’re in these small enclaves in Silicon Valley and that wealth isn’t spread out across the country. And it also would seem to make the tech giants less aware of what’s happening in small towns in the Rust Belt.
JT: Think about the number of people that GM hires—close to a million. Facebook has a far higher market cap than GM, and yet Facebook’s workforce is less than 20,000 [actually, 17,048 full-time employees as of December 2016].
Think about the amount of capital and the amount of net worth concentrated in Silicon Valley, it’s not spaced out anywhere. Yes, Amazon has warehouses everywhere, but the people who work there don’t earn much and they have to move from one place to another in a certain amount of seconds [referring to how warehouse workers are timed on certain tasks they perform]. A few years ago, it was so hot in one fulfillment center that they had to park ambulances outside to treat people who fainted instead of putting in AC.
It is not helping society at large if there’s only a few places where this wealth is stored.
FC: Do you think that Silicon Valley can help bridge the digital divide?
JT: Not sure if that really helps. If you’re Mark Zuckerberg, you go on a PR tour and get your picture taken in the Deep South and pretend you know what’s really going on. Quite frankly, their biggest worry is PR.
They’ve held on to this techno-determinism. Nobody has questioned their view of where the world is going, even to the level of asking, “What’s wrong with having robots do everything?” Who’s thinking about what happens when there are no jobs for people who haven’t gone to college? Marc Andreessen says we’ll come up with jobs that they haven’t thought of yet, but I haven’t seen examples of that yet except for people making money off that.
FC: So, what are your solutions to these problems, especially for artists, from musicians to writers to filmmakers?
JT: I’ve talked about resistance to this system. That takes many forms, like musicians insisting that their tunes not be on streaming services. At first, it depends on the ones who really have clout, like Taylor Swift and Beyonce. That’s a start.
Then it moves to the possibility of removing the Safe Harbor provision that allows you to put up anything without anybody’s permission and you can’t sue them. That would make a big difference, taking down the terrorist videos and violent videos. If they had to take responsibility for what was on their platform like any TV station. If that [the Cleveland killing video that was uploaded to Facebook last weekend] happened on any TV station, the FCC would have taken away their license.
And the third thing is antitrust. These people are such market fundamentalists, whenever Google gets in trouble with antitrust, they pay people to say switching costs is zero. That’s nonsense. I have all my data on Google, my calendar in Google—the switching costs are not easy. If Bill Gates spends maybe a billion dollars on Bing and it barely has 4% of the market, what rational person would decide to enter the search business? Maybe there is a natural monopoly. And if that’s the case, then there are other remedies like treating them like a utility and regulating them so.
FC: To get back to this disconnect and the crisis of unemployed coal miners, Silicon Valley’s congressman Ro Khanna recently went to eastern Kentucky where he met with coal miners who are learning to develop mobile apps. Is that a start?
JT: Let’s posit that I’m an autoworker and I’m in my early 50s and I got laid off because I was replaced by a robot. Is Google going to hire me as a coder? I don’t think so. First of all, they’re obsessed with hiring young people. Second thing is, and the election showed, these people in their 50s and 60s whose jobs are gone, they’re screwed by the global economy. And Silicon Valley doesn’t have answers for them.
If you read Thiel, all he cares about is the entrepreneurs. He says that 98% of people don’t have a clue.
It would take some political leadership. I read a quote from [Treasury Secretary] Steve Mnuchin, that he thought it would be 100 years before we have to worry about robots. These people are clueless, surrounded by people trading futures on Wall Street and they don’t realize that this isn’t 50 years ago. This is 5-10 years away when the autonomous truck business takes away 2 million jobs.
There is hope. There are little signs of resistance everywhere. Last week [it was] reported that the New York Times told Facebook that they wouldn’t be in Instant Articles anymore. They realize that it’s just a trap that Facebook set for them. Once you get hooked on a monopoly, they get to determine how much you’ll get. That’s why a musician gets paid $900 for a million plays on YouTube.
How many hours a day do you spend sifting through your inbox? Does the idea of taking up arms against a sea of emails each morning feel hopeless? You aren’t alone. Some of the most productive people out there struggle with email—or used to, before coming up with some useful hacks and regimens to help them. Email may not be going away anytime soon (even the pros at group messaging companies like Slack and HipChat still rely on it for a few things), but there may be a few ways to make it more manageable. Here’s how some of the busiest execs keep their email time to a minimum.
Getting To Inbox Zero . . .
Some people find the idea of “inbox zero” a totally unwarranted holy grail of email productivity; others swear by and achieve it. Many CEOs strive to clear their inboxes daily, or at the very least weekly, a goal that forces them to stick to certain habits for staying on top of their incoming messages. Typically, that means setting aside multiple windows of time during the day—usually one in the morning and one in the evening—to wade through their inbox.
Brad Smith, the CEO of Intuit, the maker of TurboTax and parent company of Mint, sums up his email approach as “read, act, file, or delete.” By limiting himself to these four options—and requiring that he performs one of them—Smith says he manages to clear his inbox daily without the help of an assistant. It “requires real commitment,” he concedes, but the goal is simple: “Never touch something more than once.” In order to leave time for regular inbox maintenance, Smith schedules meetings that can’t run longer than 45 minutes so he can catch up on emails during the 15 minutes in between meetings.
BaubleBar CEO Amy Jain is smart about how she uses downtime, too. She spends her subway commute sifting through her inbox and flagging messages. “Once I get to my desk, I take care of the flagged emails first so no one is waiting on me for time-sensitive things,” Jain says.
. . . Or Close Enough
Some execs manage t0 keep email to a minimum without quite hitting inbox zero. “Twenty emails in my inbox is too many,” says Alex Friedman, co-CEO and cofounder of organic tampon brand Lola. “I try to keep it below 10.” Like Jain, Friedman makes good use of her commute. “A trick I’ve learned over time is that I can keep replies more succinct if I reply on the go,” she says.
One of the most effective ways to trim your inbox, of course, is to send fewer emails in the first place. Karl Iagnemma, CEO of the self-driving car startup nuTonomy, is so sparing with email that he aims to cap his sent messages at 25 a day. Whenever he finds himself exceeding that threshold, it “usually means that I’m not spending enough time on more important activities,” Iagnemma says. “Most emails get forwarded or deleted; a few get a brief response; still fewer get longer treatment.”
A number of CEOs I spoke to said they didn’t respond at all to emails that weren’t addressed to them directly; if they’re simply copied on a thread, they assume someone else will handle it. Some CEOs use a folder system to organize their inboxes or turn to scheduler tools like the Boomerang extension, in order to set email reminders and manage when their messages go out. Other execs say they’re diligent about taking the time to unsubscribe from mass email lists or else bundle the newsletters they subscribe to using tools like Unroll.Me.
Forsaking Inbox Zero (And Living To Tell About It)
But if you’ve failed to reach or maintain inbox zero (as I have), you’re still in good company, productivity-wise. Many CEOs say it simply isn’t realistic—and still manage to get quite a lot done anyway.
“It’s impossible and something that will give you too much unnecessary stress if you spend too much time trying to get there,” says Yarden Tadmor, CEO of job-search app Switch. Tadmor also echoes what execs of both persuasions on the inbox-zero question typically say: If someone really wants your attention, they’ll reach out again.
Keeping this in mind can be liberating. Michel Morvan, U.S. CEO of the CoSMo Company, which makes systems-modeling software, noted that even if he did someday manage to hit inbox zero, it probably wouldn’t last for more than a few days. “My job isn’t to manage email,” he points out, “it’s to manage a business. Email is only a tool in that regard.”
Taking It To Slack—Or Maybe Offline
When it comes to external email, chances are you have little control over how many emails you receive. But internally, CEOs can set expectations about how their employees should—and shouldn’t—be using email, all of which impacts their own productivity.
“Say what email is for,” Amol Sarva, CEO of office-space startup Knotel, recommends. The notoriously productive Sarva also suggests that CEOs lay out explicitly to their teams how they prefer to use various communication mediums, from email to Slack, texts to phone calls and even meetings. But there’s more to it than just setting guidelines and hoping your employees will follow them. “Model the behavior,” he adds. “Don’t email things that should be saved for meetings.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, CEOs often point to Slack for helping them cut back on superfluous email back-and-forth so they can give priority to the fewer internal emails to do trade with their teams. Some execs recommend other tools for diverting conversations away from their inboxes, from video-conferencing system Zoom to project-management platforms like Wrike and Trello.
Zoom CEO Eric Yuan uses Zoom’s chat feature for most internal conversations, and he’s not alone in turning to video to keeping in contact with his team; Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes shared his “video selfie” technique with Fast Company last year. Says Yuan, “It’s a faster way to communicate, especially since I can immediately turn any conversation into a video meeting.”
Sarva uses his own product, the note-taking app Knotable, as a “non-urgent, asynchronous channel” for issues that employees want to alert him to but don’t need addressed immediately. When it comes to more time-sensitive stuff, some CEOs say they encourage employees to use the chat feature in Google Hangouts or just fire off a text message to reach them quickly.
But sometimes good, old-fashioned talking is just more efficient—and more effective. “An actual conversation, where you can hear the tone of a person’s voice rather than text or emoji, saves hours in an endless loop of messaging and lost productivity,” says Ajaz Ahmed, CEO of digital agency AKQA. Ahmed likes to hold walk-and-talk meetings with his employees, he says, because they’re “more focused and don’t have the distraction of devices.”
Sarva agrees that one of the most effective ways to keep email at bay is just to be more present offline. “Walk around enough,” he advises. Because chances are, “the people who email you don’t see you enough.”
Years ago I got divorced and went from married suburbanite to urban bachelor in the span of a few weeks. Talk about a bumpy landing. I didn’t have any friends, family, or social support downtown, so it took me time to develop a new two-word philosophy to rattle myself out of the wallowing.
That two-word philosophy was simply “Say yes!”—to anything, anytime, with anyone. And I don’t regret it. It’s brought lots of opportunities my way that I’d never have encountered otherwise. But for everything I gained in new opportunities, I paid the price on productivity. The more you’re given a chance to do, and then actually do, the less time you have to do it all.
Here’s how I knew it was time to rein it in, and the method I use to keep everything in balance today.
The (Limited) Virtues Of “Yes”
Defaulting to yes actually worked well for me in those first few years. I went to charity events for organizations I’d never heard of before, I was the guy at the concert who doesn’t know the songs but buys the album anyway, and I always had some internet friend crashing on my couch.
I also had lots of nights that didn’t end well. Stutter stops, missed connections, cold lonely walks home from some get-together that didn’t go anywhere. But I also said yes to doing a TED Talk that was ranked one of the most inspiring, and said yes to writing blog posts that turned into The Book of Awesome and sold a million copies.
And then, over time, something happened. I suddenly had more options, more choices, and more invitations than I had time to take advantage of. This transition happens to many of us. You go from parent of one kid to parent of three. You inherit a team of 10 people after a new promotion.
You look back and realize that you said yes to more—more meetings, more opportunities, more family members. Life accelerated. Your career jumped forward. And then it hit a point where you suddenly have too much to do.
“Hell Yes!” Versus Everything Else
My friend Derek Sivers has a great philosophy that I’ve adopted as well. It’s called, “No or hell yeah!” and it’s really quite simple. Here’s how it works: You receive an invitation to do something (a date, a job, a social event, whatever), then take a minute to observe your authentic reaction—which is invariably either one of two things:
The beauty of this model is that it filters every other positive reaction into a no: “Um, sounds good!”, “Lemme check my calendar, I think I’m open,” or the dreaded, “Can I get back to you?”
No, no, all no!
Those are lukewarm reactions that remain positive until just before you get to the commitment and realize you wish you’d said no instead. Maybe you even bail last-minute, which destroys trust and hurts your reputation. It’s much easier to simply filter your options through Sivers’s model up front, to make sure you’re only committing to things you really want to do.
“Great” Is The Enemy Of “Life Changing”
What’s the benefit? You don’t kill those invisible opportunities you haven’t dreamt up yet—those big projects you need time to dive into, and all the downtime your mind needs to create space for what matters.
I knew it was time to switch from “say yes” to “no or hell yeah!” when I looked at my calendar and realized I was swamped, morning to night, on things I really enjoyed doing but—and here’s the crucial part—only some of which I loved so much as to call life changing. If “good” is the enemy of great, then “great” is the enemy of “life changing.”
Why does it need to be life changing? Because, trite as it unavoidably sounds, life is short. There are already loads of different options and obligations you simply can’t say no to because they’re part of your work or family responsibilities. And that’s fine. But that often leaves precious little room for your personal and social commitments, which makes it all the more important to set a really high bar for those. When you do, you’ll free up time to focus on what you care deeply about. And the benefit of doing that will start leaking into your work and family life, too.
Personally, making this transition wasn’t easy. In fact, it was downright painful. And it continues to be. It’s not just saying no to a podcast so you can write a book chapter. It’s also missing a family dinner because you’re flying to interview someone. These hurt—deeply. It’s hard to say no to friends, fun projects, and fly-away ideas. You sometimes have to stare in horror as a brand-new relationship you know could take off if you only had the time to put into it, then watch it sputter and die. There’s nothing pleasant about that.
But the alternative? Well, those giant regrets haunting you later in life—that maybe you could’ve tackled your dream job, that perhaps you should’ve done something that felt more meaningful—those are harder to brush away than the obligations cluttering your calendar next week or next month. Because plotted on a long enough timeline (your lifespan, for instance), saying yes to everything doesn’t just tank your productivity, it also eats away at your sense of purpose.
That’s a prospect it’s actually easy to say no to, don’t you think?
A week after the election, Yale history professor Timothy Snyder posted an ominous warning on his Facebook page. “Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism,” he wrote. “Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.” The post, titled “20 Lessons From the 20th Century,” quickly went viral, accumulating tens of thousands of shares. In a new book, On Tyranny, Snyder expounds upon those lessons for our own era of upheaval. Here’s one.
Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on the internet is there to harm you. Take responsibility for what you communicate with others.
In 1971, contemplating the lies told in the United States about the Vietnam War, the political theorist Hannah Arendt took comfort in the inherent power of facts to overcome falsehoods in a free society: “Under normal circumstances the liar is defeated by reality, for which there is no substitute; no matter how large the tissue of falsehood that an experienced liar has to offer, it will never be large enough, even if he enlists the help of computers, to cover the immensity of factuality.”
The part about computers is no longer true. In the 2016 presidential election, the two-dimensional world of the internet was more important than the three-dimensional world of human contact. People going door-to-door to canvass encountered the surprised blinking of American citizens who realized that they would have to talk about politics with a flesh-and-blood human being rather than having their views affirmed by their Facebook feeds. Within the two-dimensional internet world, new collectivities have arisen, invisible by the light of day— tribes with distinct worldviews, beholden to manipulations. (And yes, there is a conspiracy that you can find online: It is the one to keep you online, looking for conspiracies.)
We need print journalists so that stories can develop on the page and in our minds. What does it mean, for example, that the president says that women should be punished for having abortions, calls them “slobs,” “pigs,” or “dogs,” and says that it is permissible to sexually assault them? We can learn all of these things on various media. When we learn them from a screen, however, we tend to be drawn in by the logic of spectacle. When we learn of one scandal, it just whets our appetite for the next one. Once we subliminally accept that we are watching a reality show rather than thinking about real life, no image can actually hurt the president politically.
The better print journalists allow us to consider the meaning, for ourselves and our country, of what might otherwise seem to be isolated bits of information. But while anyone can repost an article, researching and writing is hard work that requires time and money.
Try for yourself to write a proper article, involving work in the real world: traveling, interviewing, maintaining relationships with sources, researching in written records, verifying everything, writing and revising drafts, all on a tight and unforgiving schedule. If you find you like doing this, keep a blog. In the meantime, give credit to those who do all of that for a living.
The Czech dissident Václav Havel dedicated his most important essay, “The Power of the Powerless,” to a philosopher who died shortly after interrogation by the Czechoslovak Communist secret police. In Communist Czechoslovakia, this pamphlet had to be circulated illegally, in a few copies, samizdat-style. “If the main pillar of the system is living a lie,” he wrote, “then it is not surprising that the fundamental threat to it is living in truth.” Since in the age of the internet we are all publishers, each of us bears some private responsibility for the public’s sense of truth. If we are serious about seeking the facts, we can each make a small revolution in the way the internet works.
“What is truth?” Sometimes people ask this question because they wish to do nothing. Generic cynicism makes us feel hip and alternative even as we slip along with our fellow citizens into a morass of indifference. It is your ability to discern facts that makes you an individual, and our collective trust in common knowledge that makes us a society. The individual who investigates is also the citizen who builds. The leader who dislikes the investigators is a potential tyrant.
We do not see the minds that we hurt when we publish falsehoods, but that does not mean we do no harm. Think of driving a car. We may not see the other driver, but we know not to run into his car. We know that the damage will be mutual. We protect the other person without seeing him, dozens of times every day. Likewise, although we may not see the other person in front of his or her computer, we have our share of responsibility for what he or she is reading there. If we can avoid doing violence to the minds of unseen others on the internet, others will learn to do the same. And then perhaps our internet traffic will cease to look like one great, bloody accident.
Adapted from On Tyranny, copyright © 2017 by Timothy Snyder. Used with permission of Penguin Random House, New York. All rights reserved.