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The Hustle, aka. your new best friend
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IBM keeps things hip internally with some surprisingly old technology.
The Hustle Wed, Nov 23

IBM’s student union for grown ups

One of the biggest challenges that large corporations face is building a sense of community within the company.

How do you get Dustin from sales to connect with Lisa from operations? It’s no easy task. Heck, even Greg and Kevin don’t know each other and they have the same exact job, just in different cities.

IBM may have discovered the solution

About a year ago, Miroslav Azis and a few other IBM designers realized that, despite their shared interests and goals, they didn’t really talk much.

So they came up with an idea: Let’s build an internal radio station.

And after a day of tinkering with some software on some spare servers in Raleigh, North Carolina, IBM radio was born. Suddenly every employee within the company’s firewall (all 370k of them) had their own NPR.

It’s grown a lot since then…

Today, IBM offices all over the world have their own radio “studios,” with Austin, Texas serving as HQ.

IBM Radio runs nonstop from 9am – 6pm CT, reaches around 6k listeners a day, and although it was started by a bunch of designers, employees from all over the company now have their own programs.

These range from call-in shows on career advice, to discussions about what’s going on at the company, to a show where IBM’s upper-level execs just tell interesting stories. They’re humans, too!

In many ways, this is IBM’s version of a student union

“This whole thing is about the community of people,” says Azis. “We want to be able to talk product strategy, talk road maps. This is for IBMers by IBMers.”

The ultimate goal for IBM Radio is to broadcast 24 hours a day, which could be tough considering it’s a side project for everyone involved.

But ya know what, these guys built Watson. They beat Ken Jennings in Jeopardy (aka. the dude who won 74 games in a row) for crying out loud. Ken Jennings!

They can do anything.

 
Suck it, Trebek!
 

Fender’s coming in hot with new tech

More and more people are picking up smartphones over guitars. Best case scenario, they’re grabbing Rock Band’s plastic version of a Stratocaster… but Fender doesn’t see a dime of that, do they?

To combat this trend, the 70-year-old company’s recently hired CEO, Andy Mooney, is transforming the electric instrument manufacturer into a much more digital — and consumer — focused company.

Which means…

More apps, more connected devices, more cowbell.

Over the next few years, Fender will be releasing a suite of digital products that Mooney hopes will recruit new guitar players, bring high school boy band shredders back, and get sales back on track (annual is at $500M, down from $700m in 2011).

The first is a tuning app. Duh. The second is a practice-room app that will allow people to play along to any song in their music library, and the third is a tone app that makes amps emulate the sounds of famous guitarists.

Speaking of amps, in 2017 they’re also debuting a Bluetooth-connected amp that will seamlessly connect to all of its apps.

“Hey Mooney, any plans to get more into e-commerce?”

The answer is no… which is surprising since online sales from Fender’s website make up less than 2% of their total sales in North America.

But at the end of the day, people want to touch the guitar and do their best Jimi Hendrix impression in the mirror before they buy one.

So, using the internet to educate potential buyers and create a better and more connected experience for current players, which their upcoming apps do, just makes sense.

 
Clapton or Hendrix?
 

Out with the old, in with the blue

Facebook has finally surpassed traditional media companies like Disney and Comcast in ad revenue, generating $9.1b in 2016. And nobody’s surprised.

This means — brace yourselves — targeted digital ads are working way better than old-school mass marketing.

We get it, you probably already saw that coming. So instead of picturing Zuckerberg’s entire family scrolling through their news feeds at Thanksgiving dinner, we’re calling an audible.

Need some aloe for that burn, Zuckerberg?

Looks like he’s out of luck. Tests performed by Bloomberg News on aloe vera products in CVS, Wal-Mart, and Target show that they’re all missing one crucial ingredient: Aloe vera.

It seems insane, but according to FDA regulations, there’s no review process for cosmetic product labels, so it’s pretty much a free-for-all.

Which begs the question…

WTF have we been rubbing on our beach bods?

Seriously, are they telling us that we’ve been slathering ourselves with mystery goop every spring break? Not cool.

According to industry insiders, aloe is harvested from the plants by hand and can cost up to $240 per kilo. Enter Maltodextrin, a common filler used since the ‘80s in aloe imitators to simulate the real thing.

To be fair, there is no conclusive scientific research confirming the healing power of real aloe anyway… so this may be a case of “what we don’t know can’t hurt us.”

 
It stings…
 

The best thing since SunChips

Tesla announced that it is now running the island of Ta’u almost completely on solar energy, because Elon Musk is a ray of human sunshine.

The remote island, previously reliant on shipments of diesel to keep its lights on, is now supported by a grid of solar panels courtesy of SolarCity and Tesla Powerpacks.

Not only will this save the island 300 gallons of fuel per day, it ensures that the people of Ta’u don’t have to worry about their hospitals shutting down because their gasoline boat got delayed.

Aaall according to plan…

Turns out that Tesla and SolarCity have been working on the project behind the scenes for the past year, so this announcement comes conveniently on the heels of their $2b merger, which officially went into effect yesterday.

These two technologies working together successfully means Elon is well on his way to achieving his Master Plan, Part Deux, the first step of which is to combine SolarCity’s panels and Tesla’s batteries into one product.

Only time will tell if Tesla can effectively bring them together under one solar powered roof, but here’s the thing:

It’s always sunny in Ta’u

The island is pretty much the ideal situation when it comes to solar power. Despite the Powerpacks, which can support the island for 3 days in the event of clouds, Ta’u is virtually always sunny. Plus, it’s only home to about 600 people.

The real test will be bringing the technology inland to areas with less sun and more complicated infrastructure. So watch out Seattle, your forecast could be cloudy with a chance of Elon.

 
Still looking for AAA’s
 
 
from the blog
 
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Editor's note: We're off tomorrow and Friday for turkey day celebrations and whatnot. Sorry, that means no shower thoughts. Have a nice holiday and we'll see you on the other side.

 
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