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Wed, 8/23

Medium gives bloggers the clap

Following founder Ev Willilams’ bombshell post about how the blogosphere is broken, Medium has finally unveiled its new and improved content monetization strategy: claps.

The “clap” button, which they rolled out a couple of weeks ago, allows readers to click a little hand icon as many times as they want to show appreciation for an article.

And writers can make money off them

Huh… As The Verge puts it, it seems like a strangely arbitrary, easily gameable model. Theoretically, some basement blogger’s mom could sit at home giving all their posts a standing-o, right?

But let’s suspend judgment for a second: assuming that individual claps aren’t worth enough for someone to make a living off content only a mother could love, it could be an interesting way to reward bloggers for having more “super fans.”

AKA, having a cult following

There’s a lot to be said for creating content that’s hyper-relatable to a specific group of people, say hot tub entrepreneurs (AKA, hottubpreneurs) and growing a small, but highly engaged readership.

In other words, pretty much the opposite of the current click-obsessed mega-blogs dominating the ‘net, at the expense of those writing unique, valuable stuff.

So in theory, makes sense. In practice, we’re guessing there’ll be a few bugs to work out…

Wed, 8/23

Vanilla is outperforming Netflix stock

Back in March, Cyclone Enawo ripped through Madagascar — the producer of about 50% of the world’s vanilla beans.

The result of that? In the present market, a pound a vanilla beans now runs about $272-320 per pound — a 400% increase over what the spice cost before, and a record high.

Today, most vanilla-flavored products use the fake stuff (Vanillin, or other synthetic garbage). But the flavor warriors who demand nothing but authentic tinges on their tongues are paying quite a premium for it.

Even at these prices though, vanilla is nowhere near the world’s most expensive spice: saffron, at $5,000 per pound, costs 18x more.


While vanilla’s price is a little volatile lately because of a bad break in the weather, saffron is always sky-high, thanks to an incredibly labor-intensive harvesting process.

Wed, 8/23

No more Mr. Bad Ride

Amidst Uber’s tumultuous relationships with the press, employees, board members, and top executives, Uber’s US market share dropped 7% in the first half of the year (from 84% to 77%). Meanwhile, Lyft’s bookings increased 135% year-over-year.

Now, desperate for some good PR, Uber is hoping it can salvage at least one of these burned bridges — and get back on their drivers’ good side.  

They’re finally letting them hop out of the Pool

As part of its “180 Days of Change” campaign, Uber will now give drivers “more flexibility” to choose which kinds of trips they accept (UberPool, UberX, UberXL, and UberEats).

Unfortunately for drivers looking to avoid low fares and cranky carpool passengers, UberPool and UberX are grouped together, so opting out of the former could cost them valuable ride opportunities.

The new, “friendlier” Uber will also let them decline more trips without hurting their rating, specify a desired area to pick up/drop off in, and give them a heads up for “long trips” (so they don’t get blindsided by an 8-hour Uber from Chicago to Buffalo).

But it may be too little too late

Over the past several years, Uber has earned a reputation for cutthroat price cuts and ongoing legal battles to keep drivers classified as contractors (and therefore withhold the benefits offered to full-time employees).

As a result, their 2m drivers have little loyalty to the platform, and typically double-dip with Uber and their “nice guy” alter ego, Lyft, for ride opportunities.

Wed, 8/23

Should the word “google” belong to the people?

Google — much like the thermos, the zipper, or the trampoline — has reached the point where it’s as much of a verb or noun as it is a company.

As the term has become genericized (i.e. “I googled your mom last night”), it’s gotten harder for the tech giant to defend its intellectual property. Turns out, the more popular a trademark gets, the more it belongs to the public.

Last week, a petition filed with the US Supreme Court argued just that: the generic use of “google” as a verb is now so commonplace that Alphabet’s trademark on the word should be rendered void.

But isn’t more exposure a good thing?

It’s kinda like the sun: too much exposure can be really damaging.

Under US trademark law, a trademark that becomes widely used as a word could potentially be considered “abandoned.” This happens when a product or service (i.e. Kleenex) dominates a market so completely that that term becomes an indicator of the item (a sheet of nose-blowing paper), rather than the specific company it came from.

Law geeks call this “genericide” — and companies fiercely fight to prevent it from happening, mainly by dissuading wider public use of their protected terms.

Google passionately hates “google” as a verb

The company has actively discouraged the generic usage of the term — even going so far as to pick a fight with dictionary-makers.

In 2006, the OED and Merriam-Webster both added “google” (verb; lowercase) to their volumes, defining it as such: “to use the Google search engine to obtain information on the Internet”.

Google (the company) penned a non-enthused response on its blog. “Bad. Very, very bad,” it wrote. “You can only ‘Google’ on the Google search engine.”

Well, a lot of folks disagree…

Including Chris Gillespie, the man who filed the Supreme Court petition last week.

In 2012, Gillespie registered no less than 763 domain names containing the word “google” — all of which redirect to an adult website. ICANN (which regulates domain names) filed a petition to enter “google” into the public domain, but it failed, and now Gillespie has to hand over his domains to Google.

Gillespie appealed the case to a federal court in Arizona and lost again. Now, he’s giving it another shot at the highest level — and in the next 2-3 months, we’ll see if Notorious RBG and the gang are interested in taking it on.

Tue, 8/22

Looking for a job? Get Slacking

Slack is no longer some hip, up-and-coming app. It’s become so ubiquitous in the workplace that even your Aunt Kathy likes to /giphy her favorite Mean Girls quotes to the #main channel.

But the messaging platform apparently has a few lesser known applications — including a growing cohort of folks who use it to land jobs.

It starts with Slacking in public

For the uninitiated, we’re referring to the roughly 1k public Slack communities that anyone can join across companies (as long as the admin approves them).

Topics are mostly industry based — IT, product, programming — but there are also 240 location-based Slack Groups with granularity from continent down to city, and apparently this is where the money is at.

Specificity is key

According to Angela Bortolussi, a partner and manager at Recruiting Social, there is a protocol to follow when Slacking for a job.

First up: you gotta join a group centered around your location and interest(s), and be as clear as possible what you’re looking for. Groups like Denver Devs and PhillyDev boast as many as 2.7k members, and others like PIGSquad (a Portland indie game squad) cater more to the “you’ve probably never heard of it, bro” crowd.

From there it’s just a matter of staying active, networking, and making yourself accessible by including things like your personal email in your profile.

Tue, 8/22

Cave O’ babies

An estimated 1% of the U.S. subscribes to the Paleo Diet — a “caveman-style” dining plan that endorses eating only vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots, and meat.

Now, one enthusiast wants to bring the diet to babies.

Like Whole Foods in a blender

Offered by Serenity Kids, the baby food includes liquified uncured bacon and organic kale, has the highest meat content of any pouched baby food, and costs roughly 2.5x the price per ounce of a typical Gerber offering.

But it’s a concern whether a high-protein diet designed mostly for adult weight loss is right for babies. One Australian Chef has already gotten into legal trouble for publishing a Paleo cookbook for babies (dieticians warned it lacked some crucial nutrients babies need).

People have lost their minds… right?

This is a little tricky.

On one hand, Serenity Kids is developed by a woman who “discovered” that breast milk was “nature’s perfect food for infants”. Almost as if that were its sole purpose…

On the other hand, almost all current baby foods are indeed high-sugar fruit based products, while also lacking the healthy fat and protein recommended by doctors.

But at the end of the day, when we have to decide between feeding our babies pureéd organic kale and bacon or a product with 19 grams of sugar per 4-ounce serving, maybe it’s time to cool it on the extremes.

Tue, 8/22

The solar eclipse, in one chart

Yesterday, a total solar eclipse made its way across America — the first in a century to traverse the country coast to coast.

Millions of Americans witnessed the spectacle. They reported feelings of awe and wonder. They cried tears of joy. They reveled in the grandiosity of the universe.

And some — despite countless warnings — just didn’t understand that when you look at the sun for prolonged periods of time without protective eyewear, you burn the sh*t out of your retinas.

Yesterday’s Google Trends result for “My eyes hurt” explains it all:


Among the safety-adverse: our own POTUS, Donald Trump, who was pictured at the White House, squinting at the sky, sans glasses.

Twitter abound with face-palmers who seem to enjoy learning the hard way: “I looked at the sun for like a split second and now my eyes hurt super bad,” wrote one young man. “[S]cience was not lyin man.”


Tue, 8/22

You’re the Apple of my Spotif-eye

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple will be spending $1B on building out video content.

That’s an impressive figure — but it’s a heck of a lot less than what Netflix ($6B), Amazon ($4B), or HBO ($2B) dish out for original programming.

And given that hit shows typically cost $2-5m per episode to produce (as much as $10m for Game of Thrones), it’s not exactly the kind of investment needed to compete with the video titans.

But here’s a thought: Apple’s may be going after Spotify instead.

Here comes the doc’s favorite fruit

Apple plans to use their $1B investment (relatively small, compared to their $261.5B piggy bank) to produce up to 10 TV shows through their Apple Music platform.

This short-term play gives consumers another reason to choose to pay for an Apple Music membership — which already has an extensive catalogue and exclusive releases — over the more popular Spotify.

See, as the rooster crows, Spotify has twice as many paid subscribers (50m) as Apple (27m). And Royal Bank of Canada analyst Amit Daryanani says Apple “only need[s] to attract 7-8 million new subscribers to offset the $1 billion investment over the next three years.”

Big little bet

Apple already generates roughly $4.1B in revenue every year from renting movies and television shows through iTunes, but it has yet to heavily invest in its own premium video content (original programs like “Carpool Karaoke” have not fared well for them).

It’s plausible that this $1B investment in video is the sexy piece of bait that will tip the scale in their favor. And then, all of us can enjoy more terrible shows like “Planet of the Apps.”

Mon, 8/21

Re: That report you wanted :)

Yeeeah, if you could just go ahead and stop putting emojis in your emails, that’d be great. M’kay?

Trust us: it’s for the best. In a recent study, researchers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University found that people who include emoticons in emails — 😀 , 😁 , 😂 , etc. — are perceived to be professionally inept.

Emojis are a communication mainstay

We now live in an age where a pixelated image of an eggplant, heart, or smiling pile of crap is considered to be a perfectly valid response to another human’s text.

Emojis are used in a wide range of contexts to reduce ambiguity, emphasize statements, or convey something that might otherwise be missed with written word. Usually, emojis make people seem friendlier — so researchers initially thought that using them professionally would shift perception positively.

Not so much…  💩

For the study, 549 participants were asked to read work-related emails from strangers — some including emojis, some not — and evaluate the messages on warmth and professional abilities.

The finding? People who included emojis in emails were perceived to be less competent, and respondents were less likely to share detailed information with them.

All to say, maybe take a pass on that monkey covering its eyes next time you email your boss about a mistake you made.

Mon, 8/21

1 click away… from the public domain

In a few weeks (September 11, to be exact), Amazon’s “1-Click” checkout patent will expire.

The tech allows a user to go from the product page to the order confirmation page instantaneously, without entering payment info manually every time — and its expiration is actually a huge deal in ecommerce.

20 years in the Amazon

When Amazon first filed for the 1-Click patent back in 1997, the technology of one-click checkout wasn’t anything special. As Quartz writes, it was a system “any novice programmer could code.”

Amazon simply won the race to the patent office — and for 20 years, it’s paid off for them in a very big way. They’ve licensed it to only one company, Apple, which has paid a princely annual sum to license the tech for use in its online store and iTunes app.

Amazon’s aggressively gone after other online retailers who use their own versions of one-click checkouts without permission.

Open market

Until now, 1-Click has been one of Amazon’s biggest advantages — some analysts even claim the technology is partly to thank for the retailer’s massive growth, as customers more likely to make repeat purchases on a streamlined platform.

In anticipation of Amazon’s patent expiration, Google and other major tech companies are already developing their own one-click tech, meaning soon, there’s about to be a whole bunch of new places to accidentally purchase that box set of Nicolas Cage movies.

Mon, 8/21

Millennials are tuning in to Snapchat

Things are finally looking up for everyone’s favorite struggling ghost.  

Less than a month after launching, “Stay Tuned” — NBC’s original daily news segment on Snapchat — has garnered 29 million unique viewers, 60% of whom are in the coveted under-25 age bracket.

The 2-3 minute show gained 1m of these subscribers the first 2 ½ weeks, making it one of the fastest growing shows ever on the platform.

And it’s not beginner’s luck

Snapchat has been engaged in a concerted effort to develop original content (re: shit Zuckerberg can’t steal) — and it’s been working out pretty decently.


They’ve previously seen major success on their Discover feed, including 12m views for Discovery’s “Shark Week” and 8m average views for episodes of E!’s “The Rundown.”


But “Stay Tuned” marks Snapchat’s first foray into harder news — and proof that the company can sustain more than just video tutorials on Kylie Jenner’s lip kits.

Just one thing…

In Snapchat’s case, a “view” is just someone opening a video, which means we don’t know how many people are engaged viewers (i.e. snapping their way through the news) vs. dropping off after a couple milliseconds.
Regardless, these successes helped propel Snap, Inc. stock to its best week ever last week (a 19.4% gain). Though, they’ve got a long way to go to get back to IPO prices — and investors are still unsure how exactly these view numbers will translate to earnings.

Mon, 8/21

Internet gatekeepers go all in on hate speech

Following the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, many of tech’s biggest players have taken action by swiftly banning groups and individuals considered to be aligned with white supremacy.

Apple cut off Apple Pay for 3 Nazi and white-nationalist apparel sites. Airbnb deactivated accounts and blocked Charlottesville bookings from individuals they believed to be hosting white supremacy gatherings. OkCupid permanently banned a prominent alt-right personality from their dating platform.

Add to the mix similar initiatives by Uber, Paypal, Spotify, GoFundMe, Google, MailChimp and GoDaddy, and we’re seeing a movement of tech companies becoming arbiters of morality.

A socially-conscious brotherhood

In the wake of a tumultuous, politically divisive year, tech companies have increasingly decided to take a strong stance, often working collectively to dispel subject matter they deem to be unsavory.

For instance, after Neo-Nazi site, The Daily Stormer, posted an inflammatory article, GoDaddy booted them from its servers. Several hours later, Google followed suit, issuing a temporary “Client Hold” which barred the site’s owner from moving the domain to another service. Subsequently, Facebook removed all links to the site, and web security provider, Cloudflare, terminated their service.

The collective effort virtually scrubbed The Daily Stormer from the clearnet, and they are now looking to subsist in the depths of the dark web.

But who watches the watchmen?

Despite widespread public condemnation of the hateful content promoted by such groups, certain entities — including the established digital rights lobby, Electronic Frontier Foundation — believe corporations now wield too much power over the parameters of free speech.

“[E]ven when the facts are the most vile, we must remain vigilant when platforms exercise these rights,” the EFF wrote in a memo last week. “Because Internet intermediaries… control so much online speech, the consequences of their decisions have far-reaching impacts on speech around the world.”

It’s a sentiment the CEO of CloudFlare later grappled with after dropping The Daily Stormer.

“Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet,” he said. “No one should have that power.”

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