As you all undoubtedly already know, Google Glass is finally here. Well… sort of. The consumer version of Glass isn’t slated to arrive in your grubby little consumery hands until next year sometime. A developer’s preview edition is what’s already being worn by thousands of eager geeks. For the pleasure of being a first adopter, you get the opportunity to pay Google $1500.
And it’s probably the product’s exclusivity that’s spurred all these (lame) articles about how this alpha product doesn’t live up to the expectations of the consumer market. Until Google releases Glass to the public, stop flooding my Twitter feed with this nonsense. I would like to ask that this crap doesn’t get written in the first place, but we all know that that won’t happen, as any article about Glass is linkbait (cue my hypocritical chuckle). (more…)
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According to Merriam-Webster, the word meritocracy has two definitions: a system in which the talented are chosen and promoted on the basis of their achievement; and, leadership selected on the basis of intellectual criteria. However, given the amount of times I’ve heard this word used (improperly) to describe the tech industry over the past couple of years, I think Merriam-Webster must have gotten it wrong. I think they actually meant to define it as “nonsense; especially foolish insolent talk;” also known as b&llsh*#.
Silicon Valley has been rocked by the announcement that a female partner at Kleiner Perkins sued the prestigious venture firm for sexual harassment. And while I actually have nothing to say about the case, I do have something to say about the response. Greg McAdoo, a partner at Sequoia Capital, said in response “This business is a meritocracy by and large. I have no doubt that there are pockets of issues, because in humanity you’re going to have that.” McAdoo said this on stage as a member of an all-male panel of venture capitalists at the Techcrunch Disrupt conference when he was was questioned on the state of sexism in the industry. Does that sound familiar, almost like an all-male congressional panel being convened to discuss the legality of birth control for women? Don’t get me wrong, I have an immense amount of respect for Greg McAdoo. The one time I pitched him, I found him to be a sharp individual with some piercing questions and extremely deep insights. But on this issue, he’s wrong.
Last fall, after CNN’s Black In America did an hour-long segment on race in Silicon Valley, it raised a debate about how the tech community was a meritocratic society; only that time it was in response to racial bias instead of gender bias. Michael Arrington (creator of the TechCrunch Disrupt conference and founder of TechCrunch itself) famously tweeted, “there’s zero race or sex bias in Silicon Valley.” Violet Blue encapsulated the problem of the Valley’s racial bias well in her ZDNet column. That was the last time we started bandying about the word “meritocracy” like it was a lifeline to our virtue.
Do you want to know the truth? We in the Valley hide behind the word “meritocracy” because we don’t want to confront our pernicious underlying issues. According to a New York Times article from several years ago, women graduate with a disproportionate number of honors degrees at universities all over the country. Fifty-five percent of the women from Harvard in 2006 graduated with honors while nearly half the men struggled to graduate with honors. At some universities, 75 percent of the honors degrees handed out were given to members of the fairer sex. I’m looking back at the definition of meritocracy and wondering why the most intelligent don’t have greater presence in the finance side of an industry that prides itself on hiring the smartest.
Hell, why don’t we have more women in this industry period? While the number of female graduates with engineering degrees has declined over the last 15 years (Jolie O’Dell has an excellent breakdown on the reasons why this may be the case), the numbers from universities tech usually likes to recruit from are sharply different. Forty two percent of MIT’s engineering graduates in 2010 were women; 27 percent of Stanford engineering grads are women; and 21 percent of Berkeley’s engineering grads are women. Fully half of all the top students at each of those universities are women. And yet only an estimated 20 percent of tech is female; even less are engineers.
It’s clear that women are succeeding in greater numbers than ever before from an academic perspective. Why then is that success not translating into greater numbers in our own industry? When are we going to confront our issues with gender and race inequality? Why do our tech luminaries like Michael Arrington continue to deny the problem even exists? We pride ourselves on looking at the numbers when we’re building our companies using the lean startup method, but when the numbers tell us that just 6 percent of tech CEOs at the top 100 tech companies are women, we hide behind the word meritocracy. When the numbers tell us that just 14 percent of venture capitalists are women, we hide behind the word meritocracy. When the numbers tell us that 56 percent of women leave their tech jobs halfway through their careers, we hide behind the word meritocracy.
We can’t acknowledge that we’ve created an industry with some intolerance towards minority groups because then it would be our fault. We barely blame ourselves when our companies fail, we just embrace the failure so we can iterate on it. By hiding behind the flawed concept that we’re a meritocracy we’re shifting the blame to those groups who are already dramatically under-represented in our industry. We’re not solving the problem and we’re definitely not iterating. The next time we run into an issue about race or gender, it won’t be our fault because that’s foolish and insolent talk. It won’t be our fault because if it was our fault we’d have to find a way not to smell our own b&llsh*#.
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There is one major player left in the search game now and it’s not Microsoft or Google; it’s Facebook, which just raised $16 billion in its IPO.
First, a little history. Yahoo! used to have skin in the game, but it decided Microsoft should power its search engine, instead. While you would think losing a player would have made things boring in the search space, it’s actually anything but. The spectre of Facebook encroaching on their turf had every major player so scared that Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft all tried to buy the social networking giant at one time or another. When they realized that Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t going to capitulate, they moved on to Plan B and scrambled to come up with a better answer to the question that keeps Larry and Sergei up at night: how do we make search more relevant?
In the beginning, this was Yahoo!’s game to lose. Yahoo! acquired Delicious in 2005 in the hopes that Yahoo! could leverage the wisdom of the crowd to tailor their search results. Yahoo! had the capability to define the social search space, but it dropped the ball. Not taking advantage of that acquisition was a significant lost opportunity. Then, in January of this year, Google launched “Search, Plus Your World”. To say it was badly received would be an understatement. Combine the privacy concerns with the terrible search results Google was suddenly putting out, and people switching search providers was suddenly a real concern for Google. Which brings us to this “future of search” moment.
According to Hitwise, Bing now powers 30.01% of U.S. searches. I’m one of the people who switched. I use Bing on all of my mobile devices now because I found the quality of its mobile search results not only more concise but significantly better than Google’s. I’ve become fatigued with seeing 100,000,000 potential search results returned knowing that after the first page, those results are useless. I especially despise it in a mobile environment. I just want the right answer and I want it now. Thus, I switched to Bing. And I haven’t looked back. Clearly I’m not the only one who decided to make the switch.
These stats are not only amazing, but also very timely for Microsoft. Microsoft just announced its plans for social search and after using it, I’m intrigued enough to switch to Bing as my desktop search provider. The best description of it is a combination between Yahoo! Answers and your regular search engine. Immediately upon using it, you’ll see a grey sidebar that shows Facebook friends that may have some input on what you’re searching for. It even goes one step further and allows you to post directly to Facebook, asking those friends specifically about the topic of your search. This makes search social (and potentially viral) and integrates it in a non-intrusive way. I get advice from people I value about the topics I care about. By all indications, Microsft has a winner in this product. But a winner for whom?
Don’t get me wrong, Microsoft (itself an investor in Facebook) certainly gets a lot of credit for putting together an awesome product in Bing. However, the big winner here is definitely Facebook. What’s funny is that this horse race started out as a way to stop Facebook from entering the search arena and it’s Facebook who will end up being the biggest winner in Microsoft’s search successes. Why? Because with this move Facebook becomes even more indispensable to our online lives.
I already can’t read the news, interact with my friends, watch videos online, or do basically anything online with running into Facebook Connect. Now Facebook is integrated directly into my Internet searches in a way that actually makes sense. If this integration takes off, the amount of data Facebook will collect about each of us and our search patterns is astounding. Add to that the fact that we’ll probably only be sharing the searches that truly matter to us and Facebook gets some of the most valuable data out there. Want proof of that? Just look at how much money Google makes off of that same data with AdWords. Facebook is making a bold move into search and challenging Google directly through its investor Microsoft. Meanwhile everyone is looking the other way and applauding Microsoft for being the comeback kid. Brilliant.
So let’s tally this all up. Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft all tried (and failed) to acquire Facebook. Yahoo! ended up not only dropping the social search ball, but being forced to get out of the game altogether. Google screwed the pooch and took five steps backwards in search relevancy due to a horrible Google+ integration. And now Microsoft hands the keys to the search kingdom to Facebook; the very same player all of them were trying to defend against in the first place.
I, for one, am both intrigued and scared; no one company should be as indispensable as Facebook is now. I am going on record as saying Facebook is the Future King of Search.
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The Trayvon Martin case has monopolized the nation’s attention both online and off for months now. As with nearly every topic these days, aside from the opinions present in the professional media, the conversation has spilled over into the world of social media. Bloggers of all stripes have added fuel to the fire by creating their typical constituent-focused linkbait so all the trolls can bring their scintillating opinions to the table (I’m guilty of this myself). And now here come the lawyers.
On April 28th, Mark O’Mara of the George Zimmerman Legal Defense Fund announced that they were going to get involved in the online conversation going on around Trayvon Martin’s killing. More to the point, they put it out there that they’re going to try to shape and mold the conversation. They say they want to make sure the facts don’t get distorted and that fraudulent social profiles and websites don’t start dominating the social media discourse.
I’ll say this: if I were on trial for anything (even a controversial parking ticket), I’d expect my defense attorneys to have a PR and marketing strategy in place. And in today’s world, any such strategy must include social media. As a defense attorney, there are countless reasons why this is a good thing. Not the least of which is the chance for you to use the crowd to shape your defense strategy. Imagine being able to start trial with the wisdom of online trolls, I mean crowd, at your fingertips. You’d have a much larger sample size to try out trial strategy on. Not only that, but you’d get instant responses from a wide range of demographics. So there are definitely major advantages from the defense’s side. That doesn’t mean I like it, though.
My problem with social media getting involved is simple: money. This takes equality further out of the system and brings it all back down to who has the most money. That’s a fundamental issue that already exists within the justice system today. Unfortunately, because under-represented minorities (apart from OJ Simpson) don’t often have as much access to capital, I worry that victims and their family won’t receive the justice they’re looking for. And on the flip side, I worry that innocent people might get sent to prison because they couldn’t afford a social media campaign.
Traditionally, PR used to be a one-way medium. Not anymore. Social media brings about the capability to have a dialogue with the public, and get people emotionally invested in your cause. And that emotional investment then leads to polarization. The interesting particulars about the Trayvon Martin case, though, are that social media was a large part of what led to George Zimmerman’s arrest in the first place. Without that public outcry, he may have never been charged. Things are already tainted, and that polarization can only get worse with continued conversation.
Social media changes the game in any public relations campaign because of the increased scale and emotional engagement. It can create a grassroots campaign that will force an arrest in the first place. However, that power can also be used for ill. Considering the case hasn’t even started yet, I wonder where this will lead? Will the jury come in there with their opinions fixed to such a degree that Zimmerman can’t get a fair trial? I don’t know. However, I don’t believe that social media buzz is a good thing for the justice system. It will just drive up the cost of a trial and make it harder for individuals to get a fair trial unless they have even more money.
But the lawyers will sure be happy – their billable hours are about to skyrocket.
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As you all undoubtedly already know, Google Glass is finally here.
Now streaming: the archive of our Google Hangout On-Air with Jesse Vigil of Psychic Bunny, one of the designers of the new audio adventure game FREEQ (iOS/Android).
We’ve featured dancer Matt Luck’s work before.
I first encountered Sifteo Cubes back at IndieCade last October, and spent some time playing around with the little blocks which I first mistook for iPod Nanos.
Over the weekend I was having a conversation about the new Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Museum that’s been announced.